Under Putin, Crime and Corruption Unabated

A brilliant editorial from Vedemosti, translated by the Moscow Times:

The phrase “the wild ’90s” was coined by then-President Vladimir Putin in 2007, on the eve of parliamentary and presidential elections. At the time, the Kremlin’s political strategists were trying to distance the administration from the turbulent period under former President Boris Yeltsin. But will the 2000s also be remembered as wild? And if so, who will be distancing themselves from whom?

Krasnodar Governor Alexander Tkachyov recently acknowledged that every district of his region has criminal gangs similar to the one that massacred a dozen people in the village of Kushchyovskaya on Nov. 5. “Unfortunately,” he said, “such gangs exist to varying degrees in every city in the region. Some have more of them, some have fewer, but they’re present … and their lines of support stretch up to the regional level.” That’s a rare admission from a governor, but it would be naive to believe that other regions do not have the same problem.

In another recent case, the police chief and his deputy in the Vladimir region town of Gus-Khrustalny were temporarily suspended because local residents wrote to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to complain about rampant crime in the city. Economically depressed cities in the Urals such as Nizhny Tagil have serious problems with drugs, not only because the locals want to shoot up, but because drug dealers have strong ties to local officials and police. In the Chelyabinsk region town of Miass, the situation is so bad that hundreds of thugs wielding metal pipes and baseball bats can be called into action at almost a moment’s notice. The peculiar relationship between the authorities and criminals in the Far East is such that former crime bosses have become political leaders and vigilante groups such as the self-proclaimed Primorye Partisans wage guerrilla warfare from the woods. In the Moscow region town of Khimki, inconvenient people are regularly beaten to within an inch of their lives.

We are deeply concerned that the Russian police have stopped performing their primary function — ensuring public safety. The tragedy that happened in Kushchyovskaya could have happened almost anywhere, and it shows that this problem cannot be isolated to a single public institution. Law enforcement agencies, the authorities and criminal business interests have become tightly intertwined. That commingling looks different from place to place, to be fair, it doesn’t always manifest itself as the savage mass murder of 12 people. Extortion in Moscow is different from how it’s done in Kushchyovskaya, and criminals shaking down business in the Far East have different methods than their “colleagues” in the North Caucasus. But despite the economic gains of the past decade, despite the years of stability and the government’s power vertical, criminal business interests continue to enjoy a wide range of opportunity.

The “banditry” of the 1990s is being repeated. Low levels of social development and education, severe poverty, the breakdown of morals, and so forth are all creating a supply of ready labor for criminal interests.

It is entirely possible for criminal businesses to evolve — to grow in scope, to acquire new property, and to come to the realization that it is more advantageous to make money legally. That’s exactly what happened to some of the businesses that got their start during “the wild ’90s.” In a normally developing society, the overall presence of legal business grows, criminal businesses become marginalized, and the use of gangland-style methods to resolve disputes gradually becomes ineffective.

That process has been very slow to take hold in Russia.

The gang operating in Kushchyovskaya was large, it owned property, and one of its leaders was even a deputy in the local legislature. And it should come as no surprise that the gang continued to use violent methods, since the current leadership has not made public safety a priority. Strong-arm methods not only work well in modern Russia; they inspire others to adopt the same tactics and become criminals.

The public has also failed to make strong enough demands that businesses clean up their act. That demand must be expressed through personal standards of behavior as well as through political action that would enable society to fight criminal forces, corruption and widespread injustice. But the current system only grants political license to the leaders at the very top. Ordinary citizens cannot, do not want and are afraid to try to influence the decision-making process.

But for now, presidential elections still exist in Russia. And for the upcoming elections, neither Putin nor President Dmitry Medvedev will be able to distance himself from the other by referring to the past decade as “the wild 2000s.” The ruling tandem is perceived as a unified whole. In fact, according to the Levada Center, 84 percent of Russians believe that even after stepping down as president, Putin continues to exert significant influence on the political life of the country. For that reason, all official references will portray the 2000s as a wonderful and stable period of economic prosperity — however divorced from reality that may be.

6 responses to “Under Putin, Crime and Corruption Unabated

  1. “Russian Mafia an International Concern for US Diplomats”:
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,732345,00.html
    By Uwe Klussmann

    Also, a few years ago, there was a national poll taken of pre-teen Russian youths, about what life-occupations they hoped to enter: the majority of girls said, ‘become a prostitute’. The majority of boys said, ‘to become a hitman’.

  2. We often hear about the rampant corruption that has the ordinary Russian citizen locked in its death grip, but most do not know or can not comprehend how much it costs the tax payer, hear is a sobering statistic I learned from watching Russian state media; In Germany it costs $8 million to build 1 kilometre of new road, in Russia because of the corruption it costs a staggering $135 million ( St Petersburg new ring road), it is little wonder that international investors steer clear they know the pit falls. Putin states the 2018 soccer world cup will cost $10 billion….and the rest….Russian leaders still has a Soviet mentality, they like to put on a big show…. while the people live in abject poverty.

    • If the Russian “leaders” were not the US bred oligarchs’ puppets, they would definitely demonstrate their Soviet mentality, and wouldn’t let Washington act as the world’s sicko. But the sad fact is that they are totally under Sicko’s control. And until Mr. Prokhorov is partying in Brooklyn and Yeltsin’s kids are sunbathing in Florida you guys shouldn’t be worried about neither Putin nor Medvedev.

      • GE, you are as brain dead as your moniker implies.

        Russia is the worlds sicko, supporting the most vile regimes on the planet and arming terrorist groups around the world, as it has done for the last, well forever.

        • yes it does! First and foremost it supports the bloodthirsty US government by keeping its currency reserves in dollars and spending money on their junked treasury bonds. We Russians need both Batman&Robin go as both are just another set of American puppets installed to feed the old and shabby bald American eagle. But relax this ugly bird will soon be swallowed by the Chinese dragon, and all the batmans and robins of the world will have to pay.

  3. Well said R John!

    One only has to look back into Russia’s history to realize that the Russian peasants mattered for ‘zilch’ in the Kremlin’s viewpoint. That is, the aristocracy/communists lived like kings, at the expense of the serfdom/comrades, who slaved away to eke out a substandard life.

    I ask you what has really changed?

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