Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Russia's Corruption Cop Gets Busted

Major Alexey Dymovsky, the former police officer from Russia's Krasnodar region, who shot to national and international fame after issuing a plea to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on YouTube to investigate rampant corruption in the Russian police forces, has himself been charged with embezzlement while serving as a police officer. Prosecutors in Krasnodar claim that Dymovsky embezzled $800 while working as a narcotics officer.

So, are the charges true? Quite likely, but if anything that only works to reinforce Dymovsky's original claim - that Russia's police forces not only tolerate corruption, but expect it as part of the job. In his original YouTube post, Dymovsky alleged that starting salaries for police officers in Krasnodar were so low, around $400 per month, in part because ranking officials just expected younger officers to supplement their incomes with bribes.

In that way, the charges levied against Dymovsky are much like those filed against Mikhail Khodorkovsky formerly one of Russia's richest men while CEO of Yukos, formerly one of Russia's largest energy companies. In 2004 Khodorkovsky was arrested on charges of fraud and tax evasion, he would later be sentenced to eight years in prison. Some of Khodorkovsky's defenders claim the charges against him were trumped up. Actually, the charges were likely legitimate, the problem is that they could have been levied against any of Russia's oligarchs - all of whom tended to take advantage of poorly-written and rarely-enforced laws to build their mega-fortunes. Yet Khodorkovsky was singled out for punishment, the allegation is because he violated a secret agreement between then-President Vladimir Putin and the oligarch class that Putin would give them a free hand in business if they agreed to stay out of politics. Khodorkovsky made a few relatively small donation to political parties in Siberia and soon found himself being arrested by Russian security forces.

Now Dymovsky who blew the whistle on police corruption has himself been charged with taking money shouldn't have. The question is whether this is the start of the oft-promised government campaign against corruption, or if Dymovsky will be just a blue collar version of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
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