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Sting Operation Snares Russian Border Guards Taking Bribes, Helping Criminals - 2003-07-01

Russian police have arrested a group of border guards at Moscow's international airport for allegedly helping wanted criminals flee the country.

Officials said the group, which included three guards working at Sheremyetevo airport, made fake passports for the suspects and then helped their clients cross the border.

Police spokesman Filip Zolotnitsky said the guards were caught in a sting operation and are charged with taking bribes, abuse of power and forgery. Authorities also seized 40 fake passports during the arrests.

Last week, Russian officials arrested a number of Moscow police officers and a general in the Emergency Situations Ministry in a what the Interior Ministry called a war on organized crime and corruption.

Reports from Moscow say more than 30 officials are suspected of extorting money from civilians who were falsely arrested on fabricated gun and drug charges. The group is also said to have demanded payoffs from local businesses and laundered money through commercial companies.

The Russian police force has been hit by several charges of corruption during the past year. Many state employees in the former Soviet Union are poorly paid, and consider bribes a legitimate way to supplement their income.