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Russia PM urges greater anti-corruption efforts in wake of nightclub fire

[JURIST] Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian] said Thursday that last week's nightclub fire in Perm [BBC report] exposed widespread corruption [press release, in Russian; video, in Russian] among bureaucrats. At a cabinet meeting, Putin said that documents were falsified and officials were bribed to look the other way on safety violations. Putin said, "[t]his obviously reflects all the vices of our bureaucracy: its incompetence, its corruptness, its merger with business in areas where it is not needed, where it should not be allowed." Putin called for greater oversight of officials in order to end corruption. Putin's statement echoes similar remarks by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website, in Russian] in which he called for stricter punishment [AP report] for those who violate fire safety laws. Another victim died Friday, bringing the death toll to 142 [RIA Novosti report], with 88 remaining hospitalized. Perm's regional administration resigned [Moscow Times report] Wednesday.

Last month, Transparency International (TI) [advocacy website] ranked Russia 146th out of 180 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) [text; JURIST report]. In January, First Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Buksman [official profile] reported that corruption cases are increasing [JURIST report] in Russia and now account for about 1.5 percent of recorded crimes there. Last December, Medvedev signed anti-corruption legislation [JURIST report] imposing income reporting requirements on public officials and restricting gifts. Medvedev had urged anti-corruption measures since taking office [JURIST reports] in May 2008. In June 2008, rights group Freedom House [advocacy website] released a report finding that corruption and repression were increasingly threatening legal rights [JURIST report] in former Soviet republics like Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan, with Russia's court system in particular showing significant deterioration of the rule of law.

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