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Putin’s Biggest Failure Is Fight Against Corruption, Poll Shows

Vladimir Putin’s fight against corruption and bribery in Russia is the biggest failure of his decade in power, according to a poll by the Levada Center.

Putin’s second-biggest flop was his attempt to rein in so-called oligarchs and reduce their influence, the Moscow-based researcher said today on its website. The poll of 1,600 Russians was taken at the end of July, before widespread news coverage of fires ravaging central parts of the country.

Putin, who became prime minister in 2008 after two terms as president, is Russia’s most popular politician, according to earlier surveys. A Levada poll conducted last month showed Putin winning 27 percent of the vote in a presidential election, 7 percentage points ahead of his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev.

Given a list of Putin’s possible failures, 37 percent of respondents named the struggle with corruption, 24 percent the taming of billionaires and 18 percent the fight against crime. Putin’s main successes were improving relations with the West, picked by 23 percent of respondents; improving living standards, 20 percent; and strengthening Russia’s international prestige, 19 percent.

Putin was first elected president in 2000, promising to establish a “dictatorship of the law” and clip the influence of moneyed power brokers in the Kremlin. Critics say that buoyed by eight years of rising oil prices, bureaucrats demanded ever greater bribes while the number of billionaires ballooned.

Medvedev succeeded Putin, who couldn’t run for a third consecutive term because of a constitutional ban. Putin is eligible to run for president again in 2012.

A lawyer, Medvedev has also made the fight against corruption a priority of his presidency. Medvedev says he wants to end Russia’s dependence on natural resources exports, which made billionaires out of well-connected businessmen, favoring a knowledge-based economy with a strong middle class.

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