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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Take the High Road Against Corruption

Anatoly Serdyukov has resigned as defense minister for the right reason. His father-in-law is the new prime minister. The appearance of nepotism is never good, but it threatens to be lethal when the relatives involved are anti-corruption campaigners. Serdyukov had been cleaning house at the Defense Ministry, while his father-in-law, Viktor Zubkov, had been fighting money laundering on a government task force. Zubkov, whose anti-corruption credentials probably played a major role in his promotion last week, would have had zero credibility in any future crackdown on government corruption if Serdyukov had stayed on.

It is curious that it took six full days for Serdyukov to submit his resignation. President Vladimir Putin certainly has known about the two men's ties for some time. And Serdyukov and Zubkov, as anti-corruption campaigners, surely must have felt uncomfortable for the past week. Yet no one uttered a word about any conflict of interest.

Russia, thankfully, is not like other former Soviet republics such as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, where the presidents' families play prominent roles in their countries' political life. The closest Russia got was in the late 1990s, when Boris Yeltsin hired his daughter Tatyana Dyachenko as an adviser.

In announcing Serdyukov's resignation Tuesday, Zubkov linked it to their family ties. A Kremlin spokesman went on to explain that the law prohibits close relatives from working together.

With Serdyukov, the government is sending a clear signal that it is taking the high road, and this should be applauded. The government now should go a step further and take the high road in other possible conflicts of interest. It probably would be unfair to make a big deal out of the marriage of Justice Minister Vladimir Ustinov's son to the daughter of Kremlin deputy chief of staff Igor Sechin. But the mere fact that Zubkov and Serdyukov, a former Federal Tax Service chief, headed federal agencies for years does raise a myriad of ethical questions.

Moving beyond the upper tiers of government, the issue becomes a bit more gray -- especially when the worlds of politics and business collide. In a prominent example, Dyachenko is married to Aeroflot CEO Valery Okulov. The children of many prominent officials in the current administration also seem to have it made. The sons of acting First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov work in banks: Sergei, 26, is a vice president at Gazprombank, while Alexander, 30, works at Vneshekonombank. Sergei Matviyenko, the son of St. Petersburg's governor, is vice president at VTB. Dmitry Patrushev, son of the Federal Security Service director, reportedly oversees loans to oil companies at the same bank. Patrushev's younger brother, Andrei, 26, advises Rosneft chairman Igor Sechin. The list could go on and on. But hires that combine business and politics take place all over the world. Let's face it, Tim Brenton, the son of Britain's ambassador to Russia, works at Renaissance Capital.