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By Paul Goble* for “Window on Eurasia”:
August 9 – Vladimir Putin may be tightening the screws on much of Russian society, but he is easing them on yet another group on which he would have to rely in the event of a serious political crisis: the Russian military, where the government has now proposed softening punishments for uniformed personnel found guilty of corruption.
In many ways, this is a logical next step to earlier plans to reduce punishments for corruption among businesses and politicians, two other Putin support groups; but even more than those moves, this new action suggests the Kremlin leader is worried enough about the situation in the country that he doesn’t want to alienate the ultimate defenders of his regime.
Under existing law, officers found guilty of corruption are to be dismissed from the military, but under the new draft law, approved by the government on Tuesday but posted on the Russian government’s site only on Saturday, their commanders would be free to choose whether to dismiss them or subject them to lesser penalties (government.ru/activities/19221/ and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=55C60F3F22F63).
Such a reduction in punishments, if the measure is approved by the Duma as it is almost certain to be, would be most welcome in the Russian military. On the one hand, that step would likely mean that corruption would continue at its current high levels because the costs of being caught would be so much less.
And on the other, many officers would undoubtedly see this move as a welcome tilt by the Kremlin and the government in their direction, an indication that the Putin regime values them as much as it often declares that it does, and a reason for them to support it if it is challenged.
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