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Russian President says Anti-Corruption Drive Can Be Corrupted

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev is calling for legislation by the end of this year to fight corruption. But as VOA Moscow Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports, the Russian leader expects corruption of the anti-corruption effort.

Speaking in Russia's parliament, President Medvedev said it is painful to say corruption is a way of life for a huge number of people in his country. The Russian leader says corruption is such a normal part of daily life that bribe takers do not feel any risk.

Mr. Medvedev says people confronted with such crime are reconciled to it. He says it is easier to simply pay up than to create problems by turning to law enforcement or the judicial system.

The Russian leader presented draft legislation he wants adopted by the end of 2008. He says the country should enter the new year with a modern set of anti-corruption laws that Russians will not be ashamed of. But he acknowledged that corruption could emerge from the struggle against it.

He says anything can be used to make a lot of money, included the anti-corruption fight, but the Russian leader says that does not mean people should just throw up their hands and do nothing.

Dmitri Medvedev's predecessors, presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, also waged public campaigns for honest government.

The chairman of Moscow's Eurasia Foundation, Andrei Kortunov, says discussion of reforms includes removing incentives for corruption, such as higher salaries and better career advancement for bureaucrats.

He says the absence of free media to expose dishonesty and the practice of appointing, rather than electing, governors also stand in the way of clean government. Kortunov says other obstacles include complicated and opaque regulations a corrupt bureaucrat may interpret to his advantage.

Kortunov says if everything is well written, procedures are simple and clear, and little depends on a given bureaucrat, then there are fewer possibilities for corruption.

But columnist Alexander Minkin of the Moskovskiy Komsomolets newspaper is skeptical about the success of Mr. Medvedev's campaign. He says many of the people the president needs to enlist in the struggle - governors, generals and ministers - have used tainted money to buy lavish homes in Russia and abroad.

Minkin traces corruption to moral decay in Russian society.

He says only a moral person can fight corruption, adding that it is very difficult to struggle against the phenomenon with money, because it is impossible to pay somebody enough. Minkin notes that a bureaucrat's salary can never be higher than the amount he can get from bribery.

Recent estimates on the amount of bribes paid in Russia puts the figure between $33 billion and $120 billion each year. Transparency International, an international non-governmental organization, ranks Russia as one of the most corrupt nations. Russia holds 143rd place out of 179 nations on the list beside Gambia, Indonesia and Togo.