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Top Russian Judges Quit Posts After Critical Comments

ST PETERSBURG (Reuters) -- Two Russian Constitutional Court judges have resigned from senior posts after speaking out against corruption in the judiciary, raising fresh doubts about a Kremlin bid to clean up the legal system.

A court spokeswoman said today that Vladimir Yaroslavtsev had resigned from the presidium of the Council of Judges, which represents judges on the national level, three months after he told a Spanish newspaper that Russian justice was "in ruins."

"The security services can do whatever they like and the courts are limited to ratifying their decisions," Yaroslavtsev said in the interview with "El Pais" on August 31.

Anatoly Kononov resigned his position as Constitutional Court judge as of January 1. He had publicly described Yaroslavtsev's comments as "a brave evaluation, much of which I support."

The court spokeswoman declined to say why the two resigned.

President Dmitry Medvedev, a former lawyer, has made fighting court corruption and nurturing a more liberal political climate top priorities, but critics say little has changed since he came to power last May.

Critics have accused senior government officials with links to the security services of pressuring judges to make politically motivated decisions in high-profile cases.

Sources in the Constitutional Court quoted by the Kommersant daily said the judges were pressured to resign after colleagues in the court had accused Yaroslavtsev of undermining the judiciary's authority.