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Russia Gets Low Marks in Corruption Index


Participants march with flags and placards during an anti-government protest in Moscow

Participants march with flags and placards during an anti-government protest in Moscow

Transparency International has published its annual corruption perception index and Russia ranked near the bottom in the global index. The annual composite index is compiled through what Transparency International says is a combination of surveys and assessments of corruption, collected by a variety of "reputable institutions."

Countries are scored on a scale of zero to 100, zero being highly corrupt and 100 perceived to be very clean. Denmark, Finland and New Zealand scored 90 and came in tied for first place. Russia scored a 28, ranking 133 out of 176, along with countries such as Kazakhstan, Iran and Honduras. Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia received eight points, coming in last out of 176 countries.

Anton Pominov is research director at Transparency International Russia. He says the former Soviet Union suffers from every form of corruption.

"It's petty corruption, it's administrative corruption; I would say it's like a mid-level corruption and then there's political or grand corruption," Pominov explained.

Russians have been protesting what they call political corruption for the past year in the biggest demonstrations since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Rallies began last December after the ruling party, United Russia, won the country's parliamentary elections. Demonstrators claimed the party won by ballot-stuffing and vote-rigging. Party officials deny the charges.

United Russia's win last year paved the way for then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to win an unprecedented third term as president.

Putin's swap with then-President Dmitry Medvedev caused mass demonstrations. The masses claim that Putin runs the country through a tightly controlled political system and, most importantly, corruption.

For its part, the Kremlin has announced a war on corruption. When Prime Minister Medvedev was president, he vowed to stamp out corruption as part of his modernization effort.

In recent months, there have been repeated announcements of investigations into alleged corruption. Last month, state prosecutors opened an investigation into the country's Defense Ministry for allegedly selling military assets at well below market value. Then-defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov was fired, but prosecutors say they will bring him in for questioning only if they deem it necessary.

Masha Lipman, an analyst with the Carnegie Center in Moscow, says this anti-corruption campaign looks very strange. Lipman notes that with all the corruption cases that the government is opening there is hardly ever a sentence even when the case is clear.

Very often select officials are targeted and investigated for corruption, but very seldom are they convicted.

Pominov, with Transparency International Russia, says the government can open as many investigations into corruption as it wants, but the problem will never be solved unless those who are responsible face justice.

"In order to make people believe that something is changing we need to address impunity," said Pominov. "If we start investigations on some of the officials and we don't address everyone, this means this is a political decision not an anti-corruption campaign. We need impunity. That means that no matter who you are or which position you are in, this case will be investigated, no matter who you are."

Many analysts and human rights activists have consistently maintained that until the country has a change in leadership, Russia will remain corrupt.

In 2011, Russia ranked 143 out of 176 countries in Transparency International's perceived corruption index.

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