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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev Receives War Plan On Graft

Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin on Wednesday submitted a long-awaited plan to tackle corruption, a problem that President Dmitry Medvedev has declared a top priority.

Naryshkin told Medvedev in televised comments that the draft strategy consisted of four stages, starting with new anti-corruption legislation being submitted to the State Duma by Nov. 1.

Measures then would be adopted to improve state management, followed by measures to enhance the effectiveness of professional training for lawyers. In the final stage, measures would be taken to put the plan into effect, said Naryshkin, who heads the new Anti-Corruption Council, which Medvedev founded and chairs.

Medvedev said he needed to "closely study" the plan.

"We will meet again and discuss it, and then we will hold a meeting of the council to put the final touches on the document," Medvedev said.

The president is expected to present a final draft of the strategy during an address to the Federation Council next Wednesday, Reuters reported, citing an unidentified official.

A Kremlin spokeswoman said no further details of the strategy were available.

Medvedev has said that corruption is slowing economic growth and undermining the state, but analysts are skeptical that he will have much success in rooting out a problem so deeply entrenched in Russian society.

Medvedev declared war on corruption immediately upon being elected, creating the Anti-Corruption Council and calling on it to draft legislation to address the problem, to protect businesses from corrupt bureaucrats and to guarantee judicial independence.

In an interview with Reuters released Wednesday, Medvedev called corruption the country's second-biggest problem, after poverty.

"Corruption is a systemic challenge, as a threat to national security, as a problem which leads to a lack of faith among citizens in the ability of the government to bring order and to protect them," Medvedev said.

"We need to strengthen the judicial and legal systems, and this is something we have already begun," he added.

Meanwhile, the State Duma Commission to Fight Corruption has drafted a bill that would eliminate opportunities for officials to use their positions for personal profit and set strict standards for government employees. The bill requires state officials and their families to declare their property and forbids former officials from working for companies they had previously been responsible for regulating.

Medvedev will present the bill to the entire Duma for a vote in the fall, and it is to be passed by year's end.

Other anti-corruption legislation is also in the works. The Investigative Committee under the Prosecutor General's Office has floated a bill that would eliminate a legal loophole that allows government officials to accept gifts worth less than 11,500 rubles ($490).

Kirill Kabanov, the director of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, an advocacy group, said Medvedev's plan to fight corruption was "generally fine" but that it was doomed to fail if unless nongovernmental organizations and the media are allowed to operate as watchdogs over bureaucracy.

"Medvedev is trying to introduce an administrative reform, and this is something we really need, but who is going to fight against corruption? The corrupt law enforcement bodies? The corrupt judges?" he asked. "How can the president fight a problem so engrained in everyday life without the help of a free press and a free civil society?"

Kabanov said the first step in fighting corruption is making people understand how the problem affects their everyday lives.

"People don't understand that corruption is posing a danger to their lives. If someone gets killed on the street because of a drunk driver who paid a bribe to a street police officer or terrorists who get into a building after bribing the police, people don't link these events to corruption," he said.

Kabanov said corruption could be rooted out from Russian society only when the society is willing to cooperate with the authorities in trying to solve the problem.

According to a study carried out last year by Transparency International, a corruption watchdog, everyone in Russia pays bribes. The study ranked Russia on par with Gambia, Togo and Indonesia in terms of corruption, placing it 143rd out of 180 countries surveyed.

According to Indem, a Moscow-based research center that tracks corruption, people living in Russia pay $319 billion a year in bribes. That amounts to about $2,250 for each of the country's 142 million citizens.

Read the Transcript of Medvedev Interview http://www.moscowtimes.ru/article/1009/42/368539.htm