Medvedev's legacy in Russia: small victories in Putin's shadows
Despite making little headway on corruption or human rights, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev did change Russia. 'The ice began to melt and Putin won't be able to refreeze it,' said one expert.
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"We've come to understand that it doesn't matter what Medvedev says. He's clearly not an independent political personage," says Sergei Strokan, a columnist with the Moscow daily Kommersant. "His political future depends on the continuation of the Putin system, of which he is a dependent and obedient part.... We just watched his last interview as president, and it was just as awkward and unconvincing as the whole four years of his presidency."
Sochi Olympics: $30 billion price tag shows growing cost of corruption
Medvedev himself admitted today that his signature campaign – war on corruption – has delivered little.
"It would be a massive exaggeration to say that nothing is being done," he said. "But if we are talking of results, then they are, of course, modest."
Russia improved its standing on the Berlin-based Transparency International's corruption perception index, rising from 154th in 2010 to 143rd the next year. But many experts argue that while the frequency of bribery and graft has fallen during Medvedev's tenure, the overall cost of corruption has grown markedly.
Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister who is now a key opposition leader, says the sheer cost of major projects betrays vast amounts of corruption built into them, and that those costs are rising.
"The price tag for construction of the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics has exploded, and it's likely to come to around $35 billion," says Mr. Nemtsov. "That's many times more than any Olympics has ever cost before. The costs of preparing for the Vladivostock APEC Summit has soared to around $20 billion." The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit is to be held next November in Russia's far east.
Official sources agree that total costs for Sochi will exceed $30 billion, which would make it at least four times higher than total costs for the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010.