Despite a series of blasts in recent times in Russia, corruption scandals, the authorities actually rather cleverly mimic the process of combating corruption than do it actually. As recent scandals have shown only some tectonic shifts in the system, the Deputy Director of Transparency International — Russia Ilya Shumanov.
In an interview to Delfi he shared his view on the situation in Russia with the fight against corruption, spoke about what it means to work as a “foreign agent”, and what awaits Alexei Navalny with his presidential ambitions.
Delfi: In the last message of the President of Russia were largely denoted the internal problems, was made and the word corruption. In addition, we have seen the arrests of high-ranking officials, in particular speaker, etc. how do you explain the fact that the issue of corruption brought to front?
Ilya Shumanov: This sixth or seventh anti-corruption campaign, which was launched in Russia. A lot of discussions in Russian society about whether this anti-corruption campaign is really a fight against corruption or is it the struggle of clans, or the elimination of objectionable, either through reducing the corruption market are those people who fall overboard.
Someone connects it with the election campaign of the President that it had already started and there was a interception corruption agenda at public figures, non-systemic players. I am of the opinion that at the moment from the beginning to the middle of last year anti-corruption agenda has been usurped by anyone, not just power. OCCRP’s “the Panama document”, Alexei Navalny, BBC journalists, who were talking about the inner circle of the close people of the President and on the facts of corruption. In other words, the fight against corruption is an attempt of the authorities to seize the agenda.
— For example, Alexei Navalny, if he still registers as a presidential candidate?
— Including Bulk, international anti-corruption investigative teams. The state is the driver of the fight against corruption, that the government is trying to fix.
— Be a good driver. But how seriously should perceive initiated by the power processes? This is really a struggle, trying to restore order, or just a change of parties in the ruling vertical?
— I think the face especially will not change. Rather, it is some tectonic shifts. If something changed, then we will see after some time. In my opinion, this is due to changes in the Federal security service when the service of economic security changed management. This is due to the Administration of President — ppishel Anton Vaino. This is due to the conflict between state companies and ministries. It’s a whole series of some conflicts, including that result in some kind of anti-corruption war which we are witnessing.
— Take the example of history with Ulyukaev. How would you comment on it?
— This business just betrays oddities: a Federal Minister went to the state company after hours, took some cases of the cases was cash, he allegedly took the money for the approval of a transaction with the Ministry. Simultaneously, we understand that $ 2 million for the income level of the speaker is not the money, not serious. We’re talking about Colonel Zakharchenko, whose home is in the billions, and the Federal Minister just a few million. In my opinion, at the moment this story is one of the main mysteries of the interaction within the government. We see some echoes, public announcements, the speaker would insist that he was framed, it will support quite a large number of economists and major public figures. But at the same time there is the fact of bribery, marking his hands. I’d like to believe that this is the first call that opened the first valve, where law enforcement officers will be more effective. But I have the impression that this will not happen.
— It turns out that the presidential campaign starts with the anti-corruption cases. What else can you expect?
— I think there is a discussion including about the renewal of the role of Parliament in Russia. Put them in a more rigid framework. Now there is Mr. Volodin, who in a new form wants to renew not just the work of the Parliament as a “mad printer”, and as a kind of institution, distance from the presidential Administration, from the government.
Is quite noticeable as the group of law enforcement agencies, the FSB actually defeated MIA. Now it refers to the fact that the Department of own safety of the Ministry of interior and the Directorate of economic crimes and corruption will be exposed to in some way reform.
Simultaneously, criminal proceedings against employees of the Investigative Committee say that SK is under attack. At the moment, talking about the reform of SK. A whole series of events going on inside, but all this is based on the reduction of corruption market, any budgets, therefore the system began the tectonic shift.
— Whether to hope for its greater transparency under the current leadership?
— At least some of the competition we are beginning to talk. Of course, this is not a democratic principle, separation of powers, not the format state of law, independent courts and so forth, but within the system there are some conflicts that spill into us.
— How your organization could work in such a thing as a “foreign agent”?
— We are no directly to work does not prohibit, the only thing we have to label our materials with the label “foreign agent”. We need to mention that we are a foreign agent, it works for all materials on our website. This naturally undermines the credibility of the organization in the society, but, in my opinion, meet on clothes, escorted to the business. This year we began to conduct anti-corruption investigation at the Federal level, it is also a new challenge for us. At the same time with the risks it carries some credibility from civil society, grassroots initiatives. Part of our investigation based on the complaints of citizens, of people unhappy spot buildings, for example. These investigations result in some investigation of the offshore. Of course, in such an environment it is difficult to work when the authorities are not ready to any cooperation, but this does not mean that we should not continue to work.
What is now in Russia, the level of perception of corruption? This indifference, or rejection as the norm?
— Every year, Transparency International measures corruption. I don’t know the results yet, which will be this year in the index, but I think that everything will remain the same. Despite a series of corruption scandals, people do not particularly believe that this is indeed the fight against corruption. In particular VTSIOM, which conducted a survey about Mr. Ulyukayev, posted on its website the results of the survey: 54% of respondents reported that they do not believe that the speaker is corrupt.
— In this case, calculates the power, initiating such things?
— I think it’s a skating rink, which is not always properly adjusted to the agenda. Somewhere some corruption groups try to settle scores, they do not care how it looks. The Governor, the Minister neutralized, the task is achieved, and the fact that people do not believe this question they really don’t care.
— Was the story of ex-defense Minister Serdyukov, which does not end….
— It is in the structures of state Corporation rostec, calmly holds a position on the Board of Directors of one of the state companies of the Corporation. Naturally, all this undermines the authority of the government, impact on the assessments of citizens as regards the fight against corruption.
— If to speak about public organizations that deal with corruption in Russia, the obstacles that arise when working?
— A complete disregard by state or near-state media’s information blockade. We are in an information ghetto, through which to work their way. Lately, when the line between civil activists and the media, we become media, and our website is a kind of information product. Extremely important work on social networks and with burning topics that people care about in the first place. We respond to public inquiry.
— How to link such things as the rating authority, Vladimir Putin and understanding of citizens of Russia the high level of corruption in this government?
— They interfere with each other, corruption undermines the credibility of the government, just a direct correlation between Putin and corruption processes. Direct parallel there. The Tsar good, boyars bad. This thesis we present for centuries. There are some sacred figures, which are not exposed to any reputational risk. The army, ROC, the President personally and the FSB. These institutions sacreligious and despite investigations, their credibility falls.
— If Bulk will allow to the presidential campaign, the fight against corruption in the eyes of voters will be a plus?
— There is no denying the importance of the fight against corruption. Even in government offices all speak about it, however, for the Bulk of trying to build another frame. They say that he is not fighting for corruption, that he is a populist. And mixing of the existing political doctrines and public anticorruptional doctrine generates in society a certain dichotomy. At the moment the representatives of the openly liberal views have distanced themselves from the Bulk. In my opinion, it is a challenge for Russia: whether citizens believe, to unite in the face of upcoming elections or we will go for another vicious circle in this system of power distribution. The issue is complex, but society is divided and not in favor of Bulk, and in favor of Putin. Patriotic public prevails over the people critical of government views.
In the eyes of the international community, Russia associate with corruption. In your opinion, the Russian authorities take any action to get rid of this Association?
— Of course, when you kick from the shameful labels, no one has cause for rejoicing. Another thing is that the international community now faces a number of other challenges — Pexit, trump, the regime of Orban in Hungary. This whole world’s security architecture and my sector, fight against corruption, will change, definitely. I think all will go to some institutions that are not in the local communities. On the community these organizations will build new line of the fight against corruption. But the Russian government is trying to rectify the situation. I’ve already talked about the interception of the agenda. They show the fight against corruption, but whether it is imitation or not, this question is the most important. In my opinion, the government cleverly mimics this process.