Dirty Duma's life of sex and drink

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The Independent Online
Politics has always been dirty work, and nowhere more so than in Russia. But even the cleaners were appalled about just how filthy a business it has become behind the stately walls of the Duma, the nation's parliament.

So outraged were they by having to clean up on the morning after the night before that they fired off memos to their supervisors which paint a horrifying picture of life within the cauldron of Russia's infant democracy.

Excerpts which were published by the popular newspaper Moskovski Komsomolets claim that, while the Duma shapes the laws by day, by night it becomes the venue for sex and drinking sessions.

Despite numerous security guards and metal detectors at the building's giant doors, not far from the Kremlin, crime flourishes within.

"Door knobs, locks, toilet paper, soap, glasses, cups, electrical hand dryers, telephones, mirrors - all disappear with horrible rapidity," said the paper, pronouncing the legislature a "foul place". Lavatory-roll dispensers have been stolen so often they are not replaced.

One cleaner complained that she had been ordered to clear up faeces in a hall. Sofas appear to be doomed - chunks of leather have been cut out of them "as if someone was making a jacket", the paper said.

Accounts of brawls, gun-toting parliamentarians and all-night boozing sessions have emerged before from the Duma, whose short history has been dotted by outbreaks of wild behaviour, including occasional fisticuffs on the floor of the chamber.

But this time the problem appears not so much to be the 450 members of parliament as their 10,000 or so assistants. There is no restriction to the number of aides an MP can have, and many work for nothing.

They have swelled to such a number that the Moscow city authorities have complained that the public transport system can no longer cope.

Nor, it seems, can the Duma's cleaners. Officials quoted yesterday quibbled about the details of their allegations but few disputed they were true.