Russia once enjoyed superpower status but the current economic scenario is in stark contrast to its achievements in the Soviet era. But an even bigger problem is the extent of corruption and scandals in Russian politics.
They have not only created a bad reputation of the country’s political system, but have also led to many problems for the Russian people. Here are a few such scandals that have tainted Russian politics.
1. Voting Scandal
2. Russian Opposition Parties Sex Scandal
3. Valentin Kovalev Scandals
4. Pavel Borodin Scandal
5. The Three Whales Corruption Scandal
6. NATO Espionage Scandal
A video showing Russian deputies running from seat to seat pressing voting buttons for colleagues who were absent that day has been doing the rounds recently. This is the latest political scandal disgracing the State Duma, which is Russia’s lower house of Parliament. A drunk-driving law being debated in the State Duma was passed by almost 440 deputies even though just 88 members were present on that day.
In a bizarre chain of incidents, a woman who goes by the name Katya, seduced a number of politicians from Russia’s opposition parties on different occasions. The videos of the sexual escapades were uploaded on different sites and disgraced the opposition.
Those involved include the founder of the banned National Bolshevik Party Eduard Limonov, Alexander Belov, former leader of the nationalist Movement Against Illegal Immigration and upcoming young politician Ilya Yashin. They have accused the current government for using the seductress as bait to embarrass them in the public eye. The scandal has been termed as ‘Katyagate’ by the Russian media.
Former Russian Minister of Justice Valentin Kovalev was arrested in February 1999 after being charged with embezzling $50,000 from state funds and illegal possession of firearms. In 1997, he had been forced to resign after steamy videos of Kovalev and some women in a sauna were published on a Russian website.
The grainy video was filmed through a keyhole at a nightclub belonging to criminal gang Solntsevo. Rumors of Kovalev having links to criminal organizations were also validated after the video was leaked.
While it caused a sensation in the tabloids, what was more surprising was how the government had done nothing to cover up the scandal or prevent it from reaching the media. Russian ministers have a tight security cover at all times and private revelations are usually nipped in the bud by the government. It was later alleged that this was the government’s way of making him relinquish his post.
Pavel Borodin, State Secretary of Russia and Belarus Union, was arrested in 2001 on allegations of bribery and money laundering. He allegedly received bribes of upto $25 million from Swiss companies Mabatex and Mercata for contracts to renovate Kremlin.
Borodin was later released on a bond of five million Swiss francs paid by the Russian government. He was not even questioned by the Geneva Court- the bail fees handed out by Russia had guaranteed his freedom. The case against him was closed in 2002.
The Three Whales Corruption Scandal involved furniture companies and government officials of the Russian Federation. A 2000 investigation revealed that the owner of furniture shopping complex Three Wales (Tri kita), Sergei Zuev, had not paid custom duty amounting to $5 million and provided inaccurate information on imported goods. The suppliers Bastion and Liga Mars were accused of smuggling 400 tons of furniture into Moscow.
A probe by investigator Captain Pavel Zaitsev was halted by the then Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov. The reason was that the shop was controlled by former FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation).
The accused companies had paid officials from the Prosecutor General Office upto $2 million dollars to hush up the case. Witnesses were threatened with death and some were also attacked to prevent them from testifying. After subsequent investigations, Ustinov and all other officials who had tried to cover up the case were suspended.
Two Russian diplomats were kicked out of NATO after accusations of espionage relating to secret NATO documents. It started in February, when Estonian defence chief Herman Simm was found guilty of selling thousands of highly classified Nato documents to Russian intelligence officials. This transfer of information had been going on for 12 years before he was finally caught.
The espionage by Russian intelligence had seriously compromised the security of fellow NATO countries. In an ironic and embarrassing coincidence, the Russian officials were booted out on the same day that Nato took up talks again with Moscow following an 8-year suspension on account of Russia’s war with Georgia.
The Russian media today enjoys more freedom of expression than during the Soviet era. But with an authoritative government, politicians seldom care if scandals make public news. In fact, some have been known to capitalize on the publicity to further their careers. Most scandals go unpunished, with the Russian government protecting the accused officials, especially those who are deemed important.