RUSSIAN FEDERATION WEEKLY SITREP 16 June 2011

POLICE REFORM. According to the Minister, one third of the top police officers did not survive the screening and have been dismissed – 119 of 335. That is not a trivial percentage and to my mind shows the effort is real. The idea was that the senior officers would be vetted by the Presidential Administration and juniors by the seniors – perhaps it would have been smarter to wait until the seniors’ vetting was over before beginning the juniors. But the effort isn’t over yet.

CORRUPTION. It is almost a cliché in certain circles that Medvedev’s struggle against corruption has failed. Readers are invited, however, to consider this account of a successful effort to stop (corrupt) markups in medical equipment prices. That’s not been a failure. And, by the way, as to the other cliché that anti-corruption is Medvedev’s thing (and by implication not Putin’s), here’s Putin three years ago: asked “Which of Russia’s problems have you found the most wearying and difficult to resolve over these last eight years?”, he answered “Corruption”. Same program, different phase.

MILITARY CORRUPTION. Is a subject that is coming over the horizon. A recent assessment put the Defence Ministry at the top of the corruption list of government structures. This piece explains why and how: huge vague budget holes combined with “national security” make procurement programs into a corruption playground. So, what is to be done? Attempts for some years to get a grip on book-keeping do not seem to have worked. From time to time arrests are made but, if the problem is as widespread and systemic as it is thought to be, it will take many more arrests. I wonder if the “combing” process applied to the police will be done here.

LEGAL REFORM. Last week Medvedev submitted Criminal Code amendments to the Duma. They are aimed at moderating the process. Courts will be able to soften charges in certain cases and take mitigating circumstances into account. Sentencing will also be softened. As usual this will take time to take effect.

PRESUMPTION OF FAILURE. All the above are part of Medvedev’s attempt to reduce “legal nihilism”. In this connection I highly recommend this piece by Eugene Ivanov which persuasively argues that the campaign is having more effect than conventional wisdom thinks. I reiterate: relying on Western coverage of Russia will leave you very poorly informed indeed.

PRIVATISATIONS. It is policy to sell off some of the state assets acquired in the Putin era and both Medvedev and one of his staffers have called for speeding up the process. Apart from the fact that government control – arguably a good idea ten years ago when outright disintegration of the Russian state was a common fear – is now unnecessary, corruption is always easier when you start inside the front door of a large company.

MIRONOV. He has completed his move from the upper to the lower house, taking a seat vacated for him in the Duma last week and being elected leader of the Just Russia (Справедливая Россия) bloc this week. I can’t shake the suspicion that this is all manoeuvring to establish him as a presidential candidate running on the Just Russia ticket. From that bottomless well of talent in St Petersburg, he could be considered a member of The Team but at a bit of distance. See this for more thought on what’s going on.

LIBYA. Foreign Minister Lavrov expressed his disgust with NATO’s interpretation of the UN resolutions: it shows that “no one’s word can be taken” (another suggestion that promises made to secure Russia’s abstention have been broken). Meanwhile Medvedev’s envoy Mikhail Margelov is now in Tripoli. But, given that Medvedev has said Khadafy must go and Khadafy says he won’t, the effort may prove to be fruitless.

PEOPLE POWER.This not a charter but a scheduled flight… kindly make sure your top official does not turn up late”. The pilot (and passengers) lost this one but will they lose the next? An inquiry has been opened.

BUDANOV. Yuriy Budanov was murdered last week in Moscow. Many suspect this is revenge for Kungayeva.

JIHADISM. I don’t cover the subject much because Gordon Hahn does it better but here’s the last two weeks. Two Muslim clerics murdered (a common jihadist tactic); a major attack stopped; and shoot outs in Chechnya and Dagestan. It continues.

MISTRAL. Moscow and Paris have signed a protocol of intent. This is not quite what we were promised by Sarkozy and Medvedev: maybe there are serious difficulties as many suspect.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)