'Putin corruption' report picks on dacha friends

28th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

A group of Russia's most prominent opposition leaders produced a scathing report Monday accusing Vladimir Putin of enriching his old dacha neighbours and friends during his decade in power.

The report -- entitled simply "Putin. Corruption" -- tries to chronicle the success Putin's friends and neighbours had in scaling the heights of big business since the current prime minister's rise to power in 2000.

"We have managed to provide the first detailed description of the enrichment scheme used by members of the Ozero dacha cooperative and Putin's friends," liberal former cabinet member Boris Nemtsov said at the presentation ceremony.

"Russia has never seen such thievery before," added fellow report co-author Vladimir Milov. "The leaders' friends and relatives are billionaires."

Several independent analysts and reporters have noted the remarkable success of members of the elite residential complex in Putin's native Saint Petersburg in getting plum government and big business appointments since his arrival in the Kremlin.

Putin has served as both president and prime minister in a decade that has seen his reported neighbours come to head not only Russian ministries and state corporations but also football clubs and private banks.

The opposition leaders' report most notably alleges that the Ozero group used secret schemes to divert some $60 billion in assets from the state-held Gazprom natural gas giant and take over the Russian energy export market.

The same charges have been successfully fought by Putin's allies in court both in Europe and Moscow.

But the survey released Monday also paints a broader picture showing Russia's corruption rankings sliding annually since 2000.

"The current situation with corruption is much worse than it was in the 1990s," the pamphlet says. "Corruption in Russia is no longer a problem. It is systemic."

There has been no official reaction to the report and its mention did not make it into Russia's state-run media services.

But the opposition leaders had a very public run-in with Putin last year when he unexpectedly accused them of stealing "billions" while holding various government positions in the 1990s.

"What do they want? Money and power. They have been pulled away from the trough, they've spent all they had, now they would like to return and line their pockets," Putin said in a nationally-televised question and answer session.

The group unsuccessfully tried to sue Putin for slander that same month.

© 2011 AFP

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