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Medvedev Redefines Anti-Corruption Drive

President Dmitry Medvedev has refined his anti-corruption campaign by topping up his "National Plan Against Corruption" with a new "National Strategy."

Both are contained in a 4,500-word presidential decree published Wednesday. The strategy portion lays out a midterm government policy, while the plan is to be updated every two years, the Kremlin said in a statement published on its web site.

"Analysis of the work of government and nongovernmental organizations … has shown two separate documents are necessary," the statement said.

The new strategy, key elements of which were announced last week by Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin, envisages harsher fines, greater public oversight of government budgets and sociological research.

Transparency International?  ranks Russia 146th out of 180 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index, saying bribe-taking is worth about $300 billion a year. Medvedev has made the fight against corruption a hallmark of his presidency since taking office in 2008.

Anti-corruption campaigners were divided over the benefits of Wednesday's decree, with cautious praise coming fr om Transparency International. "This is good news because for the first time we have a road map of wh ere to go," the organization's country director for Russia, Yelena Panfilova, told The Moscow Times.

But Panfilova said the main deficiency was a widespread absence of public debate about how to tackle the problem.

"Such a strategy should be the subject of public discussion, but instead it has been developed within the executive without much participation from society or the media," she said.

Anatoly Golubev, the head of the Committee to Fight Corruption , a grassroots organization, said civil control over bureaucrats had to be improved before things would get better. "There are just no mechanisms to control government decisions," he said.

Georgy Satarov, the president of the Indem think tank, said Wednesday's decree probably reflected Medvedev's frustration with the fact that the 2008 plan had yielded little result.

"So he tried to change it into a more general document, but it is still not a real strategy because it contains insufficient analysis," he said.

The decree states that research into corruption should be stepped up. It also calls for measures to be adopted to meet the country's obligations to the Group of States Against Corruption, the Council of Europe's anti-corruption body.

Moscow joined the group in 2007 and must submit a compliance report to GRECO this summer.

A December 2008 report by the organization found that "corruption is a widespread systemic phenomenon in the Russian Federation."

As president, Vladimir Putin had a six-member council to fight against corruption. The council has expanded to 24 members under Medvedev.

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