Corruption in Russia is 'endemic'

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In its annual study of the world's most corrupt states, Berlin-based Transparency International placed Russia 126th out of 159 (with 159 being the most corrupt). Last year it was 90th. Iceland was the least corrupt country while Chad and Bangladesh were accused of being the most corrupt.

Nikolai Kuryanovich, an MP from the nationalist LDPR, said bribes in Russia were a fact of life. "Life in Russia would be impossible without corruption," he told the Gazeta daily. "Our laws are imperfect, and this is compensated for by the system of bribes, which range from small gifts to huge sums of money. We should fight huge bribes. The phenomenon cannot be eradicated altogether, but we can try to minimise it."

President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that fighting corruption is one of his main priorities. Critics argue that little has been done to address the problem, but the authorities took action yesterday when two senior state officials were arrested for demanding $5.3m (£3m) in bribes from the Russian Capital Bank in return for dropping a tax demand of $50m.

Oleg Alexeyev, of the Federal Tax Service, was arrested taking receipt of a suitcase filled with $1m in cash at a Moscow hotel while Alexei Mishin, of the Central Bank, was found with a further $1m in his office in three different suitcases.