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In his state of the nation address this week, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev vowed once again to reduce the level of corruption in his country. His announcement comes on the heels of renewed allegations of widespread corruption and abuse of power among the country's law enforcement officials. And, the Russian prosecutor's office is being inundated with corruption complaints.
President Medvedev began speaking out against corruption since before his inauguration in May 2008. In July of that year he cautioned that the anti-corruption effort itself can be corrupted. He renewed his pledge to fight for an honest society on the first anniversary of his inauguration. And during his state of the nation address this week, he said zero tolerance of corruption should become an intrinsic part of who Russians are as a people.
Mr. Medvedev says corruption is one of main obstacles to Russian development. He says it is clear that the fight against it must be waged on all fronts: from improving legislation, law enforcement and judicial systems, to an informed citizenry that does not tolerate any form of corruption, even the most ordinary types of this social evil.
In its latest global corruption index, the independent watchdog organization, Transparency International, places Russia in 147th place among 180 nations it monitors. The group's executive director in Russia, Elena Panfilova applauds the government's anti-corruption measures. But, she says President Medvedev has a tough road ahead of him, if he really wants to stamp out corruption. "The rejection and sabotage against these reforms will be enormous because in Russia we have people in senior positions that see their positions as a position for access to elicit enrichment. They resist efforts against the president in an administrative way. You change one word here, postpone one decision here. It's all starting to stagnate. The only kind of ally the president has is society," she says.
Police Major Alexei Dymovsky agrees. Dymovsky says corruption has invaded his daily work as a police officer in the southern Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. He says the problem bothered him so much that he spoke out about it on YouTube. Dymovsky says senior officers have pressured subordinates to charge innocent people with crimes to meet statistical targets. He continues with an appeal to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for help.
Dymovsky, however, was fired for alleged slander against law enforcement after he posted the video. But the former police officer says he will not abandon his struggle. Dymovsky says he wants to proceed and to achieve justice, adding that he wants to revive respect towards policemen.
Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev says there is no investigation into the officer's allegations, but rather an administrative review. Nurgaliyev also criticizes Dymovsky for taking
his allegations public rather than going through channels.
But the officer's charges seem to have struck a cord with the ordinary Russians. His online video has been viewed about one million times. Muscovite Kirill Nesterenko says he thinks it is admirable that Dymovsky is trying to do something about corruption. Nesterenko says Dymovsky has found the strength and courage to do this, and this is worthy of respect. So he thinks that is an important first step.
Meanwhile, the Russian state prosecutor's office says it investigated at least 35 thousand corruption complaints, and that was just in the first half of this year. In this week's address, President Medvedev offered more data about the prosecution of corrupt officials.
The Kremlin leader says that in just six months of this year, authorities have reviewed more than 4,500 cases of corruption, convicting 532 federal and local officials, and more than 700 law enforcement officers. Mr. Medvedev says these figures unfortunately show the extent to which corruption has infected Russian society.
The Russian leader says simply incarcerating a few will not resolve the country's corruption problem, but he says they must be locked up.