A Very Russian Story

Galina Stolyarova, writing on Transitions Online:

Toward the end of March, Nina Martynova, a 70-year-old retiree from Voronezh, paid for a loaf of bread and a carton of milk at her local grocery and then walked toward the door. She had taken only a few steps when she was stopped by security guards and ordered to follow them.

She was ushered into a small storeroom and searched. In Martynova’s pocket, the guards found two small chocolate bars. She hadn’t paid for them.

It seems the guards had ample evidence to detain her. A recording by the shop’s security cameras, part of which has been posted online, showed the elderly woman sneaking the bars into her pocket.

On the tape, Martynova seemed so shocked that she slowly fainted when the items from her pockets were laid on the table in front of her.

She at once went into cardiac arrest. An ambulance was called, but by the time it arrived she was dead.

Until her retirement a few years ago, Martynova worked as a maternity nurse at a local hospital. Her neighbors, interviewed by the regional media, said they often contacted her for medical help, which she was always willing to give. Martynova was also an enthusiastic member of her local community and campaigned on environmental issues.

“Nina was very poor and tried her best to make ends meet; she saved every kopeck,” a neighbor told Komsomolskaya Pravda Radio in Voronezh. “Before she went to that godforsaken shop, she told me a friend was coming to visit her to celebrate Nina’s recent birthday.”

Martynova’s tragedy was not only that at the end of her life she was granted a pension too small to keep her from going hungry, but also that, as she descended into petty theft, she was in all other respects a decent, good-hearted citizen with strong morals and social values.

She had most likely regarded theft as deeply shameful and unacceptable since her childhood days.

A wave of shame, and perhaps the fear of public scorn and disapproval, a very specific fear that anyone who grew up in the USSR knows all about, overcame her. In the Soviet Union, everyone knew that any criminal activity would ultimately lead to social isolation. An ordinary citizen dreaded becoming a pariah even more than the prospect of arrest, trial, and prison.

As of 31 March, an average old-age pension in Russia comes to 5,600 rubles ($193) a month, according to government figures. A kilogram of potatoes costs around 40 rubles, a kilogram of beef costs 250 to 400 rubles, a kilogram of sugar is 40 rubles. A 200-gram pack of butter is 50 rubles, and half a liter of sunflower oil is 70 rubles. By the time most pensioners have bought food for a month, there can’t be much left to pay heating and electricity bills and buy medications.

A cashier at my local fruit and vegetable store tells me she has to deal with “old cheaters,” as she calls them, every day. In this shop, fruit and vegetables are on open display, and there is a self-weigh system, where customers bag up what they want and put it on the scales. The machine calculates the price, and issues a sticker. The customers then go the cashier.

“For example,” says the cashier, “today, there was an old lady who was buying three bananas. When I saw the sticker with the price, I could immediately see that the woman had cheated. She had weighed two bananas, got the sticker, and then added another one.”

“Personally, I feel sorry for her. But if I forgive them all, and if there were, say, a dozen of them every day, I’d end up paying half of my salary to cover the shop’s losses. So I tell them – as gently as I can – that they probably made a mistake, and I go to the scales with them to weigh the stuff all over again.”

Martynova’s case has gained a fair bit of media attention and caused some public soul-searching. Russia’s Investigative Committee, which is part of the General Prosecutor’s Office, is now looking into the circumstances of her death – to see if the guards did anything unwarranted that could have brought on her heart attack.

The video from the store showed that the guards did not physically harass her. One of them even offered her some medicine when she began to collapse, while the other rang for an ambulance. But for the woman, apparently, the very fact of the search was too much to bear.

The video does not have an audio track, which makes it more difficult to tell if the woman was willing to go with the guards to the storeroom for a search. Some experts argue that taking her into a storeroom was illegal. Even the Investigative Committee’s head, Vladimir Markin, has made a sobering statement on the case, calling the guards’ attitude heartless.

“The poor woman’s weak heart could not bear the humiliating situation of her pockets being turned out. It was too much for someone, who, as her close relatives have testified, had led an honest life,” Markin told reporters last week.

Martynova’s case illustrates a deep conflict between social justice and law in Russia. The officials responsible for calculating a survival-level minimum food requirement and those who administer the social security system will remain unpunished. And so will the political leaders and parliamentarians who ultimately determine what is spent on social security.

At the same time, many Russian pensioners, unwillingly forced into theft to stay alive, will face charges and a terrifying court ordeal. And in some extreme cases such as this, no doubt their humiliation will lead to their deaths.

87 responses to “A Very Russian Story

  1. That Vladimir Markin character is a hypocritical bastard, the guards just did their job, while the government, of which this Vladimir Markin is a representative, isn’t doing theirs, which, in Russia, includes taking care of the elderly.

    • Taking care of the elderly and children, and widows and orphans, and the disabled and such other helpless persons is the most sacred duty of any society. This story almost made me cry and it told me everything I need to know about the modern day Russia.

      By the way, are those prices correct? 40 rubles for 1 kilo of potatoes makes it (at 30 rubles per $ and 2.2 lbs in 1 kilo) about 60 cents per pound which sounds very expensive. Coincidentally, I bought some potatoes today, 3lbs for $1. Out of 15 or so kinds of potatoes available at the store, I bought not the most expensive kind, but not the cheapest either, and it’s half as much as that price in Voronez. Beef prices also look very high.

      We’ve been told many times on this blog that the real per capita income in Russia is higher than simply the GDP per capita because of lower prices than in the West that offset lower earnings (purchasing parity it’s called, is it?)

      But with prices like these, I wonder how anything could be “offset.” So, do those prices appear realistic to you? And in general, does this story ring true? Please tell us. You are the only Russian on this blog who I respect and trust. All others just lying, out of “patriotic feelings” or whatever.

      • I haven’t bought potatoes in a while; my girl friend has relatives in the country so we get our potatoes from them for free, but 40 roubles per kilo sounds about right, my understanding is that it varies between 30-40 roubles depending on the region and type of potatoes. Some chain stores offer ‘bargains’ at 28 roubles per kilo. The thing is that in the past couple of years inflation has been in the double digits here (two years ago you could get a kilogram of potatoes for 15-20 roubles, so potato prices have effectively doubled in the past two years), everything has been getting more and more expensive thus the ‘purchasing parity’ argument would no longer hold any water in today’s prices, even if we assume that it was valid to some extent three or four years ago ( I remember when I went to Finland a couple of years go the prices for groceries there were significantly higher than in Russia, but since then Russia’s been closing the gap at a very brisk pace, while real wages have fallen hopelessly behind)

        • Thanks Igor

        • Igor, I know you are not an economist, but you appear to be able of using logical thinking. What do you think happen to retail sales in a country where real wages are going down? Now look up retail price stats for Russia. If you don’t trust the Rosstat data, look up AC Nielsen data or data of any other market research company. If you think those are inaccurate, look up sales of any Russian retail company traded at NYSE or elsewhere. People who earn less cannot spend more in real terms year after year. Also, based on your post, its great to be a potato grower in Russia or to import potatoes into the country – what is wrong with this?

          • Actually people who earn less can spend more if they take out loans to buy stuff and as I’m sure you’re well aware the banking industry in Russia has been growing explosively in the naughties despite relatively high interest rates. I don’t have the statistics but I’m fairly sure that if you look at the percentage of sales on credit in total retail sales, you’ll find that there has, in all probability, been a considerable increase there. I’m not saying that it’s necessarily a bad thing (Although with the kind of interest rates most banks charge for consumer loans I’d say poor Russians are getting ripped off big time), but consumer loans are exactly the kind of prop that can keep retail sails on the rise even in an economy where real wages are stagnating.

            Loans can be a good thing in that they can help people buy stuff they need but can’t afford. However, there’s a downside – a couple years ago I spent a few months working in a real estate agency and at the time we had quite a few clients seeking to sell their apartments to pay off their loans. Like there was this one woman (not the sharpest tool in the shed, naturally) who got a pre-approved credit card in the mail one day, went out and bought a refrigerator, a washing machine and a TV set and some other stuff, a few months later the global crisis caught up with Russia, she lost her job and was stuck with about RUR 60,000 in credit card loans, on which the bank soon started charing a totally insane interest plus penalties for failure to pay the interest and repay the principal on time. So by the time she contacted our agency she was already over RUR 100,000 in the red. Eventually she had to sell her apartment and buy a room in a dormitory, the difference in price went to pay off the debt and pay our agency. Well, naturally all those purchases she made added up to the retail sales statistics for that year. And she wasn’t our only client like that and that was just one agency in one city.
            So there goes another very Russian story for you.

          • No need for these Lies that Russia “has” equivalent of “Whole Foods”. I only eat organic food and wasn’t able to obtain such in Moscow, for any money.

            • Xani, if you read the thread, we are talking about market positioning, specifically as applied to pricing policies. Yes, Seventh Continent in Moscow targets the same market as Whole Foods in the US, which results in similar targeted margins. Also, you are right, specialty grocery retailers, including organic food chains and genuine discounters are not present in emerging market countries — this is a reflection how the retail industry tend to evolve globally. You, can, however expect those to emerge as GDP per capita approaches $30-$35K.

      • RV, where do you shop? I have not seen any $.3/lb priced potatoes at Whole Foods for a while, and even in Giant, potatoes go for $3.49/5lb bag on special today– just looked this up on the Web. It sounds like I should be moving to your area.

        • I never buy anything at Whole Foods, their prices are just grotesque. I am not familiar with Giant, we don’t have this chain in my area. I buy fruits and vegetables from smaller stores (often ethnic type and family owned) where the prices tend to be better as well as quality.

          • Well, if you cannot afford it, you cannot afford it. Igor, however, provided a link to a Russian version of Whole Foods, the Seventh Continent. Lots of people in Russia buy fruits and vegetables from smaller stores where the prices tend to be better as well as quality.

            • Yes, I can afford any price, but it does not mean I waste money or will buy anything just because it’s labeled “organic.” I am not convinced there is any difference in quality or taste. As far as Russian prices, two people here already confirmed that 40 rubbles per kilo is a common price.

              • Sure, the grapes, which are sold there, are sour anyway. I, on my part, cannot afford to know places where potatoes are cheap and get there at the right time — my time is too valuable for that. In any case, its gratifying to know all these comments on Russia come from a person that has to go at such lengths to buy cheap potatoes (although price is not an object for RV, yes, sure). I have no idea about the price of potatoes in Russia. It well maybe 40/kg, I don’t think I disputed that. My point was that most people don’t buy it for $.3/lb in the States either.

                • Yes, I am sure you are a very important person, and your time is super valuable, and the nation awaits with the baited breath your decisions made using that valuable time. But I am cheap and proud of it.

                  And even if it’s hard to find prices like I mentioned, even more common prices here seem to be lower than in Russia

                  • Luckily, I am important for a sufficiently large number of people, and I have no intention to waste my life barain hunting for cheap potatoes. I am also delighted by the fact that you are cheap. The more common price of $3.49 for a 5lb bag of Russel potatoes on special in Giant comes to $.7/lb, which is $1.54 per kilo, an equivalent of 42 Rubles, which is higher than the regular price in an equivalent of Whole Foods in Russia.

                    • larussophobe

                      Ha ha, that’s a good one! Russia has no equivalent of Whole Foods.

                    • Ha! It does!

                    • larussophobe

                      Oh really? A retail grocery store with outlets nationwide offering organic and natural foods as well as super high quality produce? Please name it, you lying goat!

                    • A nationwide retail chain with gross and EBITDA margin well comparable to that of Whole Foods, which is relevant to this discussion.

  2. For once in a million, la russophobe has written an honest article. One objection; the prices are false. I’ve never been to Voronezh, but they don’t come as high even in Moscow.

    • You mean published, not written. We didn’t write this. It was written by a Russian reporter who works for an English-language publication because she tells far too much of the truth to be employed by Russian media.

    • regarding potato prices, check out this ‘mail.ru’ answer
      http://otvet.mail.ru/question/54096841/
      People on there say that in Moscow the prices are between 30-50 roubles per kilo.

      • The price named was 40. Moscow ‘the most expensive city in the world (which is false)’ apparently has potatoes priced the same as Voronezh… awesome. When I lived for a month in Moscow (2009) my aunt easily landed 30p.

  3. Guys, here is online shopping at Sedmoi Continent, its a bit pricier, but not way too high: http://www.7cont.ru/catalog/390/1/0/2/

    Картофель белый 1кг: 37.90
    (white potato, 1kg)

  4. I came to Moscow straight from LA, to sell my flat, and the foot costs beat LA prices, not to mention the crappy quality and rotten stuff.

    • The food prices in Moscow are still below those in LA, but not very significantly, which is why the retail industry in Moscow has been growing faster than it has been in LA.

  5. Although – the point of the story got somehow hijacked by the food price discussion. Further, much as I think Galina is brave to write about this – she somehow martyrs the pensioner (old woman). I mean she was only 70 years old – which in America would put her at the early part of her golden years… Further, I knew and still know many pensioners not only in Moscow but around the country – and I cannot say that they have such noble hearts that go bust from shame and humiliation at being caught. Rather I see most of them, after having gone through the twisted game of survival in communist Russia, the sham liberalization of the 90’s, and the new feudal society of Putin’s oligarachic-autocracy, as being ready to adapt morally and action-oriented to whatever it takes to survive – and with little shame in it.

    Rather a better report should check just what the health of this old woman was, its possible that she was already at the end of her life expectancy in Voronezh anyway. And the lack of healthy nutrition and the probable rough treatment and language she would have received at the police station was just enough to put her over the edge into death. The contention should be that these folks are just on the razors edge between life and death already – and a little push in one direction or the other will be enough to tip the scales.

    That is the Russia of this day and age. We should all be ashamed that it is like that there…

    • Exactly, and realizing this the current administration is pumping lots of money into pension increases, although this is quite taxing for the rest of society.

      • Not as much as they are pumping into their own pockets through corruption AT.

        It is after all amongst the most absolutely corrupt places on earth.

      • You are truly disgusting, being an apologist for that totalitarian state, although of course lots of Russian emigrants are (as well as a few selected Western fellow travelers).

        About the pension, it should be a very east task to find funds for the elderly, considering that they drop dead well before they reach 70; so, not so many of them to support. But of course, the elderly, orphans, widows and disabled are not priorities. Propaganda, and promotion of the Russian “pride,” and building Potemkin villages and so on are the true priorities

        I guess it would help a lot more if they spent less money on palaces, and the Olympics etc. But of course their (and your) “pride” would suffer if the Paramount Leader has less than 20 palaces or dachas or whatever you call it. Cannot have less that what Saddam Hussein had.

        • Still, Russia does better on this front than pretty much any other ex-USSR state, what is wrong with that?

          • …and the life expectancy has been going up every year the current administration was in place, whether thanks to or despite of the “Supreme Leader” or not, so did pretty much every other human development statistic
            http://data.worldbank.org/topic/health

            • Not sure RV, why I should not be an apologist of something that is resulting in improvement of every aspect of the Russian life every year. Yes, there is poverty, orphans, Russia is 4 times poorer than, say the US and, as a result, a much less comfortable place to live in now. The progress made during the last 10 years has been impressive by all counts and has not been matched by any other country in Russia’s peer group, except for the Baltics.

              • You know what, I would agree with you if Russia came out and admitted that her peer group is Belarus, Moldova, Albania, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, etc. But Russia aggressively and very loudly insists that she is equal to the developed West, hence the membership in the G8. If Russia knew its place, my attitude would be different and I am sure that applies to other people’s attitudes too.

                Bu the way, China’s progress has been much greater

                • RV, we have already been there. As I said, there is nothing wrong with ambition. Its in Russia’s best interests to evolve into something more significant than its current peer group, so despite your being annoyed at Russia’s “insisting on being equal”, this is exactly what Russia needs to do if the country does not want to belong to the same category where it is now in 20 years. After all, you, RV, are cheap, poorly dressed, you waste time hunting for cheap potatoes, yet there is nothing wrong with your considering yourself equal to me, a highly successful professional with international career, a developed fashion sense and a propensity to overtip and to treat my friends to dinners ; )

                  • It’s not about “ambition” it’s about lies and propaganda. They don’t say they want to evolve into a higher category in 20 years. They insist they ALREADY are in that category.

                    By the way, what do you about how I am dressed and what I spent on what or whether I am poor or rich. I haven’t commented on your personal habits since I know nothing about them and expect the same.

                    I can just say that “highly successful professionals” with “developed fashion sense” usually let other praise them. Humility is a hallmark of a true gentleman (or lady for that matter). By saying these things, you come across as a vulgar and revolting philistine, like a Russian oligarch or something.

                    • RV, you admitted you are cheap and proud of it, so I have a mental picture of you. The ill-fitting, yet quite bearable clothes from JC Penny and Loehmann’s, or — when you feel especially generous — from Macy’s on sale. A person scouring the town for cheap potatoes cannot look any different. Oh, I will have fun commenting on this, so keep your expectations low.

                      There is nothing wrong with insisting you are better than you are — quite a lot in this world has been done on pure arrogance and ambition. Don’t overestimate those.

                      …and whom did you call a gentleman? I can be vulgar, and I am proud of it. And I am a philistine, but a very attractive one. As for an oligarch… I wish … but no, a Russian oligarch wouldn’t waste his or her time sparring with you… In any case, don’t take this too serious, my el chipo friend…

                      By the way, I agree with you on China. From what I’ve seen of the place, its the world’s next superpower… and it will become one with all the gentlemanly humility, without any overt ambition, in a quiet, slow-but-sure fashion.

            • AT,

              According to russian statistics the expectancy has been going up. So in 2010 only 999 999 russians a year died of alcoholism, drugs and simple starvations as opposed to 2009 when the whole 1,000,000 died of alcoholism drugs and simple starvations…..a progress indeed….

  6. And unfortunately will continue to be in the near future. The elimination of corruption requires time. In any case, whatever goes into “their pockets” would not necessarily go into the pensioners’ pockets under pretty much any scenario.

    • Takes time yes, also takes intent and effort.

      Both the latter are sadly lacking in Russia AT, and I would hope you are man enough to admit it.

      I wonder if any pensioners will actually receive these increases, and will they simply be restoring the cuts to pensions made in the early Putin years?

      • The problem with corruption is that it is difficult to quantify. I see a substantial amount of effort going on in Russia, with more openness in government-related procurement process, the army and police reforms, as well as in many other areas. I feel improvements in the areas that concern me — mainly consular issues and bureaucracy in various personal business transactions involving my Russian assets. The pace of these changes is frustratingly slow, but the effort is there. As for the pensioners, yes their standard of living is much higher than it was in the 20, 15 and 10 years ago. This I know very well as I personally support four of them.

        • No RT, there are no substantial efforts going on in Russia, and corruption continues to worsen rather than improve by all markers.

          Hell even the government has admitted that corruption is increasing in the defence forces and police.

          They make a lot of public pronouncements but take no real action.

          You know this to be true.

          Russia has slipped to 154th place in Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Index, down 8 from last year, the organization announced on Tuesday.
          Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore tie for first place, while the bottom rungs are held by Iraq (175), Afghanistan (176) and Somalia (178), according to Transparency International.
          Russia, coming uncomfortably close to the end of the pack, has been outdone by most post-Soviet countries: Estonia was ranked 26th, Lithuania 46th, and Latvia 59th. Georgia (68) has also made the top 100. Kazakhstan and Moldova share the 105th position, Armenia ranks 123rd, further down the line is Belarus (127), while Ukraine and Azerbaijan tie for 134th place.
          The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is based on figures from country experts and business leaders at 10 independent institutions, including the World Bank, Economist Intelligence Unit and World Economic Forum.
          Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has launched wholesale reforms to clean up corruption and bridge the gap between the super-rich and ordinary Russians, but analysts say the effort has brought about little improvement.

          http://en.rian.ru/russia/20101026/161091496.html

          Russia is a Mafia with a state, rather than a state with a Mafia

          • “Medvedev admits fight against corruption so far unsuccessful”
            http://en.rian.ru/russia/20100714/159811331.html

            Rare image of Medvedev fighting corruption, while his super-clean sidekick Ramzan K. watches in (not really) shock and awe:

            • It looks like I became AR and even RT somehow. Well, the articles and even Medvedev can state the opposite from what I see. As I said, I don’t claim the lack of corruption in the country, I only said that, based on my personal experience and on experience of everyone I know, things are improving. As I said, my experience can be totally different from that of the author of the article.

              • …but while you know things from articles only, I have the advantage of first-hand experience…

              • Interestingly as I pointed out, the public perception of corruption in Russia shows it is getting far worse, with Russia slipping down the rankings again last year.

                Of course, given your support for Putinism, I suspect that your experience is as a beneficiary of corruption….

                • Well, Andrew, I’ve neither received, nor given any bribe in my life. Nor I personally know any Russian who, to my knowledge, has had to give a bribe. Granted, its just personal experience, nothing more.

              • @I only said that, based on my personal experience and on experience of everyone I know, things are improving.

                >>”It is obvious that no one is satisfied with our progress in clamping down on corruption,” Medvedev said <<

                Geez, "AT", stop being more papist than the Pope, so much. Or Medvedev might send his rags-to-riches (Russian-Way) sidekick Major General El Presidente Imam Ramzan to disappear you for embarrassing him.

                Video is "corruption" (being fought alright, but not by Dima M.), as Ramzan has hundreds of best cars at his private disposal – and officially only 1 Lada:

            • Robert, it looks like I pretty much said the same as the Medvedev article did in my posts.

              • No, you said there was a substantial effort and improvement in corruption in the police and military.

                Which according to everybody else, except Putin, is a lie.

              • Russia’s corruption keeps getting worse
                by Ed Bentley at 27/10/2010 10:08
                Russia has slipped eight places in Transparency International’s corruption index despite the government’s attempts to weed out bribery.
                The report put Russia 154th out of 178, in a group only slightly better off than war-torn countries such as Somalia and Afghanistan.
                Dmitry Medvedev had made tackling corruption a key aim of his presidency, but the country remains one of the worst in Eastern Europe. Russia was 20 places behind Ukraine and 27 below Belarus.

                Shame
                Elena Panfilova, head of the Russian branch of Transparency International, said it was a “national shame”, RTT News reported.
                Corruption remains a major deterrent for Western investors and Russia’s slip down the rankings is going to do little to attract the cash and expertise the country requires for its modernisation drive.
                “The fact that corruption is viewed as worsening in Russia is one of the major reasons why strategic investors remain wary of investing in the country,” Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Uralsib, wrote in a note to investors ahead of the results.
                Fund flows to Russia have lagged behind other emerging markets this year due to an increased perception of risk.
                The average price of a bribe has also shot up this year, according to Interior Ministry stats. This year personal pay-offs and small business backhanders rose to 44,000 roubles ($1,450), up from 23,000 roubles ($750) in 2009.

                http://www.themoscownews.com/society/20101027/188155959.html

              • Presidential auditor fired for bribes as corruption gets worse
                by Tom Washington at 30/11/2010 13:36

                A senior presidential aide has been fired for bribery, just as a damning Council of Europe report shows that Russia meets only one quarter of anti-corruption measures it prescribed, well below the passing grade of two thirds.
                Andrei Voronin, until yesterday a staff member at the presidential audit office, helped extort bribes from foreign companies supplying medical equipment to Russian offices.
                An investigation discovered a fraud ring which included former deputy health minister Alexei Vilkin and managers from large medical companies.
                “The management of audit office had doubts about the actions of one of the employees,” the interior ministry’s economic department said in statement. “It was established in the investigation that he helped the fraudsters. As a result, the head of one of the departments, A. Voronin, was dismissed for gross violation of duties and detained,” RIA Novosti reported.
                Against that background, a damning report from European anti-corruption bodies says Russia has succeeded in just 7 out of 26 recommendations about tackling the problem.

                Hardly a breakthrough
                Nikolai Petrov, Carnegie Centre analyst, is unimpressed. Despite Medvedev’s loud noises about cutting corruption he says there are no real efforts being made.
                “The reason why among 26 points only a handful were realised is a clear demonstration that the fight Medvedev announced is only a very limited fight against corruption,” he told The Moscow News.
                Ivan Ninenko, Transparency International deputy director, was equally damning. “Russia did not publish its progress report and still has not in full. This lack of transparency completely undermines president Medvedev’s anti-corruption drive,” he told The Moscow News.
                Not that Petrov reckons that drive amounts to much in the first place.
                “In many cases it is a tool which makes it possible for different elite clans to fight with one another,” he said by telephone.
                Referring to the case of Voronin he slated the Kremlin’s half hearted attempts at cracking down, “Instead of decreasing corruption these partial efforts only make it worse,” he said.

                Sinking sensation
                It’s hardly an isolated case, either, with the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption measures making little progress here.
                The latest progress report shows Russia has managed to fully implement just seven of the 26 recommendations, partially developing 14 and failing to tackle the remaining five, Vedomosti reported.
                While judges, tax collectors, and law enforcement officers have been receiving training in how to deal with corruption, gaping holes remain. Many corruption offences attract only limited liability, with indiscretions often treated as administrative crimes.
                And one man’s corruption is another’s legitimate practice. “There are huge numbers of immune persons in Russia, who don’t get prosecuted, Duma members, judges, prosecutors and so on,” Ninenko said.
                Public discontent

                Public feeling is mounting across the country and an angry crowd, pictured above, gathered in Kaliningrad on Tuesday to protest against corruption levels and to demand the dismissal of a string of regional Duma deputies and members of the city council, as well as criticising law enforcement and government structures in the region. Organisers claimed 1,000 demonstrators came out to protest, official reports say 500, Rusnovosti reported.

                Giving a break
                The Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) is taking a gentle approach towards Russia’s faltering fight.
                Moscow is being given a further 18 months to implement the proposals and currently faces no sanctions, in light of the drastic changes to the legal system that the measures would require, a source close to the Russian delegation in Strasbourg told Vedomosti..
                Another report is due in mid 2012.
                Getting worse
                Russia slipped to 154th place in Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Index, down 8 from last year, the organisation announced last month.

                http://www.themoscownews.com/politics/20101130/188242062.html

              • Medvedev admits failure in fighting corruption
                Last Updated(Beijing Time):2011-01-14 09:52
                Russian authorities have failed to cope with widespread corruption, President Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday during a meeting of the Anti-Corruption Council.

                Medvedev, who chaired the meeting, admitted that the situation was “sad and dangerous,” after the head of Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, said that 34 percent of all corruption crimes in 2010 were committed by law enforcement officials.

                “The law enforcement system is affected by corruption no less than the state officials are,” Medvedev said, “We created anti-corruption laws but they failed to reach their objectives.”

                Medvedev also expressed concerned over the scale of illegal schemes in the banking sector, saying that he had discussed the matter at a recent meeting with the head of the Central Bank.

                “The Central Bank has uncovered massive machinations connected with illegal asset stripping at a host of commercial banks. It creates an atmosphere that illegal actions in the banking sector go unpunished,” Medvedev said.

                Medvedev ordered the Federal Tax Service to detect any false income declarations filed by state officials.

                He said that officials who knowingly understate their income must be held responsible.

                “I am giving three months for this (reviewing government officials’ income declarations) so that by the end of the income declaration campaign, we know exactly who has violated what,” he said.

                http://en.ce.cn/World/Europe/201101/14/t20110114_22141245.shtml

              • Admitting Failure, Medvedev Asks Lawmakers to Fight Corruption
                15 July 2010
                By Nabi Abdullaev
                President Dmitry Medvedev acknowledged Wednesday that his much-trumpeted campaign against corruption has yielded no palpable results, and he urged lawmakers to use special investigations to tackle the country’s unmitigated graft.

                http://proxyma.themoscowtimes.com:8888/news/article/admitting-failure-medvedev-asks-lawmakers-to-fight-corruption/410426.html

  7. I personally see a fair amount of effort. I feel improvements in the areas that concern me — mainly consular issues and bureaucracy in various personal business transactions involving my Russian assets. The pace of these changes is frustratingly slow, but the effort is there. As for the pensioners, yes their standard of living is much higher than it was in the 20, 15 and 10 years ago. This I know very well as I personally support four of them.

  8. Isn’t it strange that to this day the moscovites don’t even have a
    word in their language , excuse me ; ” tongue ” , for the potato ? They
    need to ” borrow ” it from their great pals the germans .

    • Potatoes came to Russia and Ukraine from German-speaking territories, hence Kartoffel. Ukrainians use the term of the same origin — Kartoplya, as well as a term with a Latin origin — bulba (i.e. a bulb), as well as local bastardizations of these words. What is strange about it? What’s really strange is your need to mock a language and a culture that is probably the closest to your own in the entire world.

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