By Gordon Hahn
Despite claims that nothing is changing in Russia and, more specifically, that Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s anti-corruption drive is going nowhere, the fact is that the campaign is picking up steam and has a chance of making a real dent in Russia’s massive, endemic corruption. Let’s begin with the least impressive but by no means insignificant of the recent steps. In his May press conference at Skolkovo Medvedev called for a relaxation of the technical inspection of automobiles during the registration process; something that would reduce GIBDD presonnel’s opportunities for demanding bribes. By the end of the month, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had prepared a government resolution waiving the requirement for new automobiles to be inspected upon their initial registration or during their first year on the road (Aleksandra Smarina, “Voyazh Medvedeva na ammita utonul v potoke informatsi o Putine,” Nezavisimaya gazeta, 27 May 2011). This deprives the auto inspection department of a key opportunity for soliciting bribes; another step in Medvedev’s anti-corruption drive.
More importantly, the anti-corruption fight is generating a purge of high-ranking officials across the board, from the MVD, undergoing its own internal reforms, to the prosecutor’s office to the military-industrial complex to the military. Thousands of MVD personnel are going through an attestation or re-certification for corruption and incompetency, leading to the removal from office of numerous high-ranking MVD generals. In January Deputy Chief of the Moscow MVD’s Main Administration Vladimir Chugunov was fired (“Medvedev uvolil nachal’nika kadrovogo upravleniya GUVD Moskvy,” Nezavisimaya gazeta, 26 January 2011). The terrorist suicide bombing at Domodedovo Airport allowed Medvedev to dismiss from office four top MVD officials, including Maj. Gen. Andrei Alexeyev, head of the transport police for much of western Russia, including Moscow, the chief of the transport police division at Domodedovo Airport and two other MVD officers (Jim Heintz, “Russian president fires police chief after bombing,” Associated Press , 26 January 11).