Top News

Russians criticize Putin on corruption and oligarchs

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russians like Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for boosting Moscow’s image abroad and improving living standards but fault him for not fighting corruption or reining in billionaire oligarchs, a new opinion poll showed.

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin takes part in a video conference on the restoration of work at the Raspadskaya coal mine at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, August 11, 2010. REUTERS/Ria Novosti/Pool/Alexei Nikolsky

The poll by the independent Levada Center found that Putin’s overall ratings remained broadly positive. Fifty-nine percent said Putin was doing a good job or would do a good job sorting out Russia’s problems, down from 63 percent a year earlier.

When asked in detail about Putin’s achievements and failings, a more nuanced picture emerged.

On the positive side, 23 percent credited the premier, Russia’s paramount leader, with “strengthening Russia’s relations with the West” and 20 percent praised him for improving living standards. Nineteen percent liked him for “strengthening Russia’s positions abroad.”

But a much higher proportion -- 37 percent -- said Putin’s least successful action had been the fight against corruption.

A further 24 percent criticized him for not curbing the power of the country’s billionaire businessmen and 18 percent said he had failed to fight crime effectively.

Putin ruled Russia as president from 2000 to 2008 before handing over the Kremlin job to his chosen successor, Dmitry Medvedev, and becoming prime minister.

Most Russians believe Putin remains the final arbiter on important decisions and polls show he is the country’s most popular politician with approval ratings of over 60 percent.

Western politicians, media and human rights groups often criticize Putin for stifling democracy, choking media freedom and curbing opposition.

But the Levada Poll showed that Russians take a very different view. Slightly more respondents praised Putin for protecting democracy and citizens’ political rights than faulted him in this area.

But both the positive and the negative tallies on this score were very low -- four and three percent respectively, suggesting that the issue was not an important one for Russian voters.

Levada polled a sample of 1,600 people between July 23-26 for the survey, which had a margin of error of 3.4 percent. The poll was published on Thursday but was taken before Russia’s recent catastrophic wildfires.

Reporting by Michael Stott, Editing by Mark Heinrich