Corruption. Well, there sure are a lot of investigations going on and they reaching levels within sight of the top of the power heap: after all Serdyukov was appointed by Putin who stuck by him for years against the resistance of the generals. This blog entry enumerates some of the biggest corruption investigations: it mentions the Defence Ministry property scandal (the new Minister has just fired another official, but probably not for that connection); RosTelekom; a former Agriculture Minister; GLONASS; a big one in St Petersburg and a swindle in Perm Region. Kommersant estimates the total bill at 57 billion rubles (about US$1.8 billion). And maybe more from the Defence Ministry: there are reported to be 60,000 empty apartments for military retirees. A fraud case has opened in Yekaterinburg. Arrests for mistreatment of convicts and perhaps more coming after the prison riot in Chelyabinsk last month. Typically, a lot of Western coverage sticks to its favourite meme – everything in Russia is other than it seems – and tries to paint this as an internal power struggle (ie Serdyukov’s father-in-law). But this is a lot and it’s getting fairly high up. Here’s a website’s list of the “top ten” convicted officials. Russia’s high level of corruption stands in the way of many of the Team’s goals: attracting foreign investment, modernising the economy, improving infrastructure, pinching pennies. Putin’s speech yesterday (“Hold your applause, you may not like what is coming”) called corruption “a threat to national development prospects” and laid out the next level. While we still haven’t seen someone close to him led away to prison (but the investigators aren’t finished with Serdyukov), the tumbrils are in the neighbourhood. It’s will be long campaign and one that is never completed in any country. The best we can hope is that a big bite will be taken out of it.