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Russian corruption fight explodes on YouTube

By Mike Sefanov, CNN
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Corruption in Russia online
  • Russian police official sacked after making claims of corruption on YouTube
  • Government, local police say Alexe Dymovsky's claims are false
  • Row spotlaights Russia's ongoing struggle to combat corruption

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- The month of November has been a poignant one for Russia and its fight against corruption -- arguably its biggest vice.

It began on November 5, with a series of sensational whistle-blowing video postings on the Internet from police Maj. Alexey Dymovsky, who served in Russia's southern city of Novorossiysk.

In the postings, addressed to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the now-fired officer accused his superiors of forcing him to make false arrests and fabricate statistics in order to make their police department look better.

"My immediate boss promoted me to the rank of major in May in exchange for my promise to jail an innocent person. ... I am addressing you to ask you to carry out an independent investigation across Russia," Dymovsky said.

"I will turn the entire life of cops throughout Russia inside out, with corruption and all the rest -- ignorance, boorishness, recklessness -- when honest, really honest officers die because they have dumb bosses."

Three separate investigations have been launched because of the stark claims made in Dymovsky's video postings.

The Novorossiysk police department denied his accusations, saying "not a single allegation" could be verified. Russia's interior minister also addressed the issue, saying no evidence had been found yet to support Dymovsky's claims.

There have long been complaints about corruption through all Russian ranks, but never quite so publicly from someone within the fold. The videos quickly generated more than one million hits on YouTube.

There have been at least five more postings across Russia since, from others who served in law enforcement agencies, all coming out against corruption within their respective jurisdictions. In a country where most fear speaking out against the government, such public displays from within the police force are unprecedented.

But corruption in Russia has not been ignored by those in power. Since President Dmitry Medvedev took office on May 7, 2008, he has made it a priority to combat what he calls "one of the main obstacles to (Russian) development."

In his annual state of the nation address on November 12, Medvedev said: "It is clear that the fight against (corruption) must be waged on all fronts: from improving legislation, the law enforcement and judicial systems, to inculcating intolerance to all manifestations of this social evil, including domestic ones. ... To successfully combat corruption, all spheres of government must become more transparent."

However, in spite of Medvedev's efforts -- which analysts say are more words than action -- in a report published Tuesday, the independent watchdog organization Transparency International ranked Russia among the worst in perceptions of corruption. The nation placed 146 out of 180 nations on the group's Corruption Perceptions Index, on which the worst are ranked lower.

In its report, Transparency International said: "The president recently admitted publicly that corruption is endemic in Russia. The excessive role of government in the economy and business sector, which spurs the supply side of corruption, aggravates the problem."

Russia is the most corrupt of the Group of 20 nations representing the world's most industrialized countries, according to Transparency International.

With Dymovsky's postings, Transparency International's rankings and Medvedev's remarks -- and the headlines they have brought -- Russians are waiting to see to what extent, if any, the endemic problem of corruption in Russia changes.