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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zubkov Vows to Tackle Corruption

Itar-TassMikhail Fradkov arriving at his last Cabinet meeting as prime minister on Thursday. A reshuffle is widely expected.
Viktor Zubkov, President Vladimir Putin's nominee for prime minister, said Thursday that fighting corruption would be the main theme of his administration, but analysts expressed skepticism that the crackdown would be effective except at the lowest levels of government.

"Corruption is the major issue in our efforts to increase the effectiveness of the state administration," Zubkov said, according to an account to reporters by State Duma Deputy Sergei Glazyev of a meeting with him Thursday.

Zubkov, an official with anti-corruption credentials thanks to his efforts in getting Russia off the Financial Action Task Force's blacklist, is widely expected to receive the Duma's approval for his appointment Friday.

On Thursday, outgoing Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov was holding his last Cabinet meeting, one day after handing in his resignation to Putin.

Ahead of the upcoming Duma and presidential elections in December and March, respectively, Putin has pushed the fight against corruption to the forefront of the political agenda. Zubkov, a close Putin ally, has headed up the Federal Financial Monitoring Service since 2001, putting him at the sharp end of the government's efforts in fighting money laundering.

Duma Deputy Gennady Gudkov, who sits on the Duma's anti-corruption commission, said Zubkov was ready to "seriously tackle" the issue. He said, though, that there was a lot of work to be done.

Speculation has raged about who will stay in the Cabinet following Fradkov's resignation. Acting Economic Trade and Development Minister German Gref and acting Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov, two liberal ministers who have come under fire from allies of Putin, could be the highest-profile casualties of the expected shake-up.

The new Cabinet is expected to revive a stalled anti-corruption bill, Glazyev said.

Meanwhile, the Security Council is to meet in October to discuss the findings of an interdepartmental working group on how to tackle corruption, Vedomosti reported. The group, which is preparing a package of anti-corruption legislation, is headed by Kremlin aide Viktor Ivanov.

But analysts said combating graft was beyond any single official.

"Corruption is ubiquitous in Russia. It is the very texture of Russian life," said Masha Lipman, an expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center. "It would need a deep restructuring of the whole political system and the process of policymaking. What drives corruption is the large-scale involvement of the state."

"Everything here is rotted by corruption. I don't think Zubkov ... is going to position himself as a reckless warrior against corruption," said Stanislav Belkovsky, head of the Council for National Strategy and a former Kremlin adviser. "[His appointment] is just a public relations campaign. It is designed to concentrate people's minds on the problem of corruption and distract them from other issues."

Kirill Kabanov, head of the nongovernmental National Anti-Corruption Committee, said he did not see any efforts by the government to address corruption other than at the lowest levels.

"I would like to see issues such as systemic corruption and the independence of the judiciary tackled," he said.

Zubkov "will look to establish his credentials with a high-profile corruption arrest of a senior bureaucrat," said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at UralSib. "This will set up him nicely to keep Putin's seat warm."