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Duma Passes Anti-Corruption Bill

A presidential bill that would allow suspects in economic crimes to be released on bail instead of being jailed won a tentative approval by the State Duma on Friday.

President Dmitry Medvedev has said the bill would help end abuses by corrupt police officers who place businessmen in jail and then extort money to set them free.

The Duma quickly approved Medvedev's bill in the first of three required readings.

Most lawmakers praised the measure as an efficient barrier against police corruption. "Corruption is the main enemy," Gennady Gudkov of the Just Russia faction said during Friday's debates.

Medvedev has cast himself as more liberal than his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, and promised to create a more tolerant environment for business and expand political freedoms.

Medvedev recently fired 20 senior Federal Penitentiary Service officials, including the Moscow prisons chief and the head of the jail where 37-year-old tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died of an untreated illness in November. Magnitsky, whose death caused a public uproar, was arrested in November 2008 on tax-evasion charges linked to his work with a British investor who was barred from Russia.

Last month, Medvedev also fired more than a dozen top police officials and slashed thousands of jobs in the most radical Interior Ministry shakeup since his election in 2008.

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