News / USA

Young Lawyer Leads Fight Against Corruption in Russia

Corporate Russian lawyer Alexei Navalny poses in his office in Moscow, Russia (File 2010)
Corporate Russian lawyer Alexei Navalny poses in his office in Moscow, Russia (File 2010)
James Brooke

With oil earnings flooding into Russia, corruption is at a record high.  Transparency International ranks Russia on a par with Cambodia and the Central African Republic as being among the most corrupt countries in the world.  But a 34-year-old lawyer is taking on the system.

Tapping on the keyboard of a computer laptop, Alexei Navalny is known as the biggest whistleblower on corruption in Russia.  Not an easy road to travel in a country ranked  as one of the world’s most corrupt nations.

But this is an election year in Russia.  Out-of-control corruption tops the list of concerns of Russia’s growing middle class.

Navalny, a standard bearer of Russia’s post-Soviet generation says corruption is now everywhere in Russia.

High level corruption rarely makes an appearance on television because the Kremlin tightly controls TV news in Russia.  As a result, Navalny uses the Internet, still largely free.

Last fall, while Navalny was on a fellowship at Yale University, he posted documents on his blog alleging that officials at Transneft, Russia’s state oil pipeline company, had stolen $4 billion earmarked for the construction of Russia’s first pipeline to China.

He says his blog registered one million visitors, and several thousand people posted comment.  Facing that kind of audience, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for an investigation into Transneft.

After 700,000 on-line viewers watched a Navalny debate on corruption, censored from state-controlled television, Russia’s political split was clear: between the young, "Youtube" generation and the older TV generation.

On his website, Navalny calls United Russia, the party of Prime Minister Putin, “the party of thieves and crooks.”

The head of Transparency International's Russia office, Elena Panfilova, says the Internet allows Navalny to draw thousands of supporters to his anti-corruption campaign.

“It is all about personal courage and certain way of understanding," said Panfilova. "I believe people back him and support him.  He has incredible sense of how to find information, and he does not over-extend himself.”

Panfilova says Navalny’s popularity reflects growing anger in Russia over corruption by government employees.

“The ultimate goal of those activities of Alexei and ours, is to change the bigger policy of governance,” she said.

Russian officials respond in different ways.  President Dmitry Medvedev, who is expected to position himself as a reformist in presidential elections next March, now speaks out against corruption.

At a meeting broadcast on national television March 30, he warned state officials: “Corruption’s grip is not weakening, it has the whole economy by the throat.”
Transneft, the state pipeline company, has taken a different position, taking Navalny to court.  
Transneft spokesman Igor Demin, referring to Navalny as a "fascist," says the figure of  $4 billion comes from what he calls "lazy" journalism.

In a country where crusading journalists and lawyers often end up dead, Navalny says he is not scared and will not back down.

“If everyone was scared, we would have a hard time living,” he said.

All the same, Navalny says he has given his wife a list of telephone numbers to call, just in case he disappears.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More