Free Russia Foundation is happy to present an English version of Ilya Yashin’s “Criminal Russia Party” Report.
“The United Russia party has become a consolidating force that guarantees political stability,” President Vladimir Putin believes.
However, not many Russian citizens share the president’s opinion. In fact, in recent years, Russians have been increasingly referring to United Russia as a party of crooks and thieves.
A considerable part of the Russian population associates the ruling party with crime and corruption.
According to a poll conducted by the Levada Center, on the eve of the 2011 parliamentary elections 33 percent of Russians agreed that United Russia is a party of crooks and thieves. A similar poll conducted in 2012 showed that 42 percent of respondents shared this opinion.6 Furthermore, in 2013, according to pollsters, more than 50 percent of Russians considered United Russia to be a party of crooks and thieves. The same poll also showed that 62 percent of the population believed that Putin’s subordinates are only interested in strengthening their personal authority and satisfying their material interests.
This attitude of Russians toward the ruling party is hardly surprising. Over the years of a de facto political monopoly, many top United Russia representatives have been involved in widely publicized criminal cases. With ever increasing frequency, State Duma members, senators, governors and mayors representing the ruling party have been imprisoned on charges of corruption, bribery and even masterminding murders.
In the 1990s, criminal organizations either opposed the state or bribed its representatives. However, the turn of the 21st century was marked by a new trend: organized crime began actively penetrating government structures using United Russia’s potential and resources. Thugs from the 1990s traded leather jackets and golden chains for business suits, procured party membership cards and were being increasingly seen occupying government offices.
Criminal elements began essentially using the structure of the country’s main political party as a means of upward social mobility allowing them to integrate into the government system and gain access to budget resources.
This process led to a dramatic increase in corruption and a wide-scale theft of the national wealth. Criminal structures were establishing strict control over entire industries of the Russian economy. Several Russian regions were left indefinitely at the mercy of organized crime groups acting under the protection of the United Russia party.
Numerous criminal cases and arrests of United Russia members show the scale of the problem without actually solving it, since over the recent years this problem has acquired s systemic character. During its years in power, United Russia has learned not only to generate corruption but also to build mechanisms guaranteeing immunity for the political regime that is based on thievery and lies.
Today, United Russia leaders openly say that the fight against corruption represents a threat to the Russian state. Thus, Irina Yarovaya, Chairperson of the State Duma Committee on Security, declared that the “fight against corruption can destroy the state’s sovereignty.” Meanwhile, as it became known in 2013, Yarovaya’s family owns a luxury apartment in downtown Moscow that costs around 100 million rubles, which by far exceeds State Duma members’ official income. Yarovaya seems to have “forgotten” to declare this apartment.
The present report intends to show Russian society how organized crime groups supported by the ruling party establish control over Russia and simply steal the national wealth. A key objective of our country’s survival in the 21st century consists in opposing this phenomenon and delivering Russia from this octopus of corruption hiding behind patriotic rhetoric.