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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 19:20 GMT 20:20 UK
Corruption 'skyrockets' in Russia
By Steven Eke
BBC Russian affairs analyst

Banknotes of Russia's currency - the rouble
Bribes paid to bureaucrats have risen dramatically, the report says
Corruption in Russia has spiralled out of control, a report by a respected Russian think-tank says.

INDEM says the Russian state itself is "the country's biggest racketeer", with the shadow economy at least twice as large as the state budget.

The report says any interaction between citizens and the country's bureaucracy will inevitably involve corruption in the form of paying bribes.

Commerce and business are the worst affected areas, the think-tank says.

'Fact of life'

The report by the non-governmental non-profit public association confirms the findings of many international organisations, which have also charted the staggering extent of corruption in Russia.

Its annual report on corruption says that bribes paid to officials by businessmen may have grown as much as 10 times over the last four years alone.

The report estimates the total value of such bribes as 2.5 times the whole national state budget.

Among the most corrupt institutions, the report identifies education - where parents may buy university places for their children - and the army, where young people and their families pay to avoid military service.

The report says there are signs, however, that bribe-taking is decreasing in the health service and judicial system, and that the notorious traffic police are starting to clean up their act.

A top Russian industrialist has questioned INDEM's methodology, suggesting the apparent increase in bribery was the result of inflation.

But even he said corruption was such a "normal" fact of life, that businessmen just pay bribes without really questioning why they should do so.

The report also describes what it calls Russians' "mythologised view of corruption", demolishing the widely held view that Russia was more corrupt under the rule of former President Boris Yeltsin.

Revealingly, it also suggests ordinary Russians - unlike many experts - believe that corruption is not about institutional failings or a lack of the rule of law, but personal greed and simple criminality.

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