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Kremlin says Russia losing battle on corruption
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday his administration had made almost no progress in fighting corruption since he took power two years ago.
Medvedev has repeatedly singled out corruption as one of Russia's biggest problems and he pushed through anti-graft legislation shortly after taking office in 2008.
Berlin-based NGO Transparency International named Russia joint 146th out of 180 nations in its Corruption Perception Index released last November, saying bribe-taking was worth about $300 billion a year.
"No-one is happy with our action against corruption," Medvedev told a meeting of lawmakers and officials. "I know of no significant successes in this direction."
"Often efforts toward fighting corruption are limited to energetically signing papers," he said.
Medvedev, who is half-way through his four-year term, faces growing criticism that he has failed to implement any significant reform. His efforts to reform the judicial system and boost democracy have been criticized as superficial.
He recently complained that officials are routinely failing to fulfill his orders.
Foreign investors consistently name corruption as one of the most serious barriers to doing business in Russia. Swedish furniture retailer IKEA said last year it was halting further expansion in Russia because of "the unpredictable character of administrative procedures in some regions."
Russian drivers often keep 500 rouble ($16.36) notes in their cars to pay off traffic police. Small businessmen say it is impossible to operate without paying off everyone from local police to fire inspectors.
In the most eye-catching element of his corruption reform -- which focused on creating a "legislative basis" to fight graft -- Medvedev ordered senior federal officials, judges and lawmakers to disclose incomes, real estate holdings and ownership of vehicles.
"We have to look at whether to expand the list of these individuals," Medvedev said on Wednesday. "I think this practice should be expanded to the level of regions and municipalities."
Anti-corruption activists have criticized the declarations, saying said much of the wealth of senior figures may still be hidden from the public as the rules do not require them to disclose corporate ownership.
Many Russians openly mock senior officials with lavish lifestyles who claim to earn middle-class incomes.
Medvedev, declared a 2009 income equivalent to 3.34 million roubles ($115,300). His political mentor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declared 3.89 million roubles ($134,200).
Putin has in the past dismissed suggestions that his wealth amounts to billions of dollars as "rubbish."
In his speech, Medvedev also called for a boost to the oversight powers of Russia's legislature and an increase in parliamentary inquiries into corruption.
But he did not say anything about reducing the role of government in the economy, a legacy of Putin's eight years in the Kremlin which Transparency International says is a major factor in spurring corruption.
Instead, Medvedev called on ordinary Russians to try to break a deep-set tradition of corruption that dates back to tsarist times, by refusing to give bribes.
"This problem is not only legal, it's a mental problem too," he said. "The bribe giver is no less a culprit than the bribe-taker.
(Editing by Angus MacSwan) ($1=30.57 Rouble)
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