A fifth of Russian defence spending is stolen

A fifth of Russia's state defence spending is stolen every year by corrupt officials, dishonest generals and crooked contractors, Russia's chief military prosecutor said in an interview published yesterday.

President Dmitry Medvedev has said endemic corruption was holding back Russia's development, but anti-bribery groups said the problem had become worse since Mr Medvedev was steered into the Kremlin by his mentor Vladimir Putin in 2008.

"Huge money is being stolen – practically every fifth rouble – and the troops are still getting poor quality equipment and arms," chief military prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky told the official gazette, Rossiiskaya Gazeta. "Every year more and more money is set aside for defence but the successes are not great," he said, adding kickbacks and fictitious contracts were being used to defraud the state.

Mr Fridinsky did not give specific figures, but Russia has set more than 1.5 trillion roubles (£33bn) for national defence in its 2011 budget, indicating theft of more than £6bn a year.

While Western countries have cut defence spending, Mr Putin has promised to spend nearly 20trn roubles over the next decade to renew the country's rusting armaments. Mr Medvedev has repeatedly warned Russia's notoriously corrupt defence sector to clean up its act and this month sacked several industry chiefs for not fulfilling contracts.