Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Corruption in Putin’s Russia Ever More a Form of Governance, Ryklin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 29 – Proposed amendments to Russia’s anti-corruption law show that the powers that be want to limit the application of that law to lower-level officials so as to allow them to profit by taking bribes without risk of punishment when tough economic times prevent them from making money in other ways, Aleksandr Ryklin says.

            Specifically, the commentator says in Yezhednevny zhurnal, the changes free individuals from having to observe the basic bans of the law and be subject to the penalties it establishes if “objective circumstances” force such individuals to act in ways that would otherwise appear to violate those bans  (

            In short, Ryklin suggests, officials can no take bribes without fear of punishment if they can argue that they had no other choice but to do so in the performance of their jobs, an arrangement that allows those who do to serve as judge and jury to themselves and find themselves innocent.

            Significantly, he continues, the authors of the amendment don’t specify just what those circumstances might be, opening the way to the invocation of almost anything to justify taking a bribe or extracting money from others by one kind of a threat or another.

            Corruption, of course, is a major concern for the authorities. On the on hand, even official statistics indicate that it continues to grow. And on the other, combatting it is at the base of Aleksey Navalny’s opposition challenge to the regime, a challenge that has gained traction because most Russians don’t believe the authorities are really engaged in fighting corruption.

            There can be no doubt, Ryklin says, that most Russians will be extremely critical of these new amendments because they send a message to officials that the powers that be will do what they have to to ensure that those who work for the regime won’t suffer for what they do unless they run afoul of the top for other reasons.

            Like the recent restrictions on traffic police over when and where they can stop cars, “the upper ranks of state administration,” in this case, “are saying as it were to the lower ranks: ‘Times now are tough, there isn’t enough money in the budget for all, but we remember and are concerned about you so we are giving you the chance to take care of yourselves.’”

            While it may be interesting or even amusing to see what officials will come up with to excuse bribery, Ryklin says, we can already see that “the term ‘corruption’ when applied to relations between the domestic bosses and the population … has exhausted itself in principle.” It no longer has any meaning.

            Instead, he says, it has become “the form of state administration.”

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