Can YouTube stop Russian corruption? Policeman's video appeal to Putin

Russian policeman Alexei Dymovsky accused his boss of corruption on YouTube. He got fired, but dozens of people followed suit – and the Interior Ministry agreed to look into it.

MOSCOW – Early this month Alexei Dymovsky, a police officer in the southern city of Novorossisk, posted a series of angry “open letters” in video form addressed to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (in Russian), in which he accused his superiors of shrugging off corruption, fabricating crime statistics, and abusing their positions.

“My immediate superior promoted me to the rank of major in May in exchange for my promise to jail an innocent person,” he said in one. “I am appealing to you [Putin] to carry out an independent investigation across Russia.”

The Novorossisk police department subsequently fired Mr. Dymovsky, and denied all of his allegations.

But his action has spawned dozens of imitators around Russia, and persuaded the Interior Ministry to open a probe into his case. (See Dymovsky’s first posting, with English subtitles, here.) The rise of such grass-roots anticorruption activities has attracted massive attention in Russia’s still uncensored Internet.

Some experts argue that nothing will change until there is fundamental reform of the political system, which has grown increasingly centralized and tightly controlled over the past decade.

“The sources of corruption in Russia are bound up with the very foundations of the political system, which features an unaccountable bureaucracy and empowers individuals through informal, nontransparent arrangements,” with officialdom, says Masha Lipman, an expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow.

“You want prices to come down?" she asks. "That should happen when there’s competition, but it won’t work that way in Russia until there is some accountability, transparency and open democracy in the system of power.”

Read more here about corruption in Russia – a problem that costs Russians as much as $318 billion per year, or more than one-third the gross domestic product (GDP).

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