[JURIST] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday pushed for [speech text] the adoption of sweeping anti-graft legislation [plan materials] while opening the first meeting of the newly-established Anti-Corruption Council [JURIST report]. Deflecting rumors that the legislation had stalled after the Russian conflict with Georgia [NYT report; JURIST conflict news archive], Medvedev described the urgency of the situation:
Corruption in our country has taken on not only massive dimensions and occurs on a massive scale, it has also become commonplace and routine something that characterizes the lives of our citizens. And as you know, it is not banal bribes regardless of their size that I am referring to, but rather a serious illness which affects our economy and corrupts all of society. In this regard fundamentally lowering the level of corruption is, of course, a strategic challenge facing our country. The achievement of this goal is directly connected with the protection of property rights in Russia, strengthening the legal and judicial systems, and the expansion of free enterprise.Medvedev called for clarity and certainty in drafting the final version of the package, which consists of a central bill and amendments to 25 current laws, as well as secondary legislation, organizational measures, and training programs. Among the proposed amendments is a measure that would require state and municipal employees and their family members to disclose their income, property and assets [RIA Novosti report]. If approved by the Anti-Corruption Council, Medvedev will present the package to members of the Russian lower house of parliament, the State Duma [official website, in Russian], over the next two days. The Moscow Times has local coverage.
Medvedev vowed to clean up corruption in his May inauguration speech [JURIST report] and has made judicial reform and independence a priority of his administration. Corruption is a long-standing problem in Russia, where in 2006 bribes totaling $240 billion were reportedly accepted by corrupt officials. In June, rights group Freedom House [advocacy website] released a report [JURIST report] finding that corruption and repression are increasingly threatening legal rights in former Soviet republics like Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, with Russia's court system in particular showing significant deterioration of the rule of law.