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The Daily Vertical: Making Corruption Top-Secret (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

So, don't look now, but high-level corruption is about to become a state secret in Russia.

Last week, the State Duma passed a bill that would classify the personal financial information of all top officials who are guarded by the Federal Protection Service.

So if you're protected by the state's bodyguards, your bank accounts, real estate holdings, and business activities will all become top-secret once this bill clears the Federation Council and is signed into law by Vladimir Putin.

Now, the obvious motive for this is to complicate the work of anticorruption activists like opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.

But when you think about it, there is also a deeper and more perverse logic.

As I've noted on numerous occasions, corruption is something that the Putin regime has effectively weaponized.

It's used domestically as a carrot and a stick to motivate and control the elite.

The loyal are allowed to steal, and they're only prosecuted if they step out of line politically.

And it is also deployed as a weapon abroad, where the Kremlin uses shady financial schemes to build and maintain networks of influence and establish Trojan horses and fifth columns.

Russia's banks are as important a weapon as its tanks.

It's pretty much standard practice for the development, and deployment of a weapons system -- be it a tank, a warplane, or a missile -- to be classified.

So in this sense, for the Kremlin it makes perfect sense to turn the corrupt dealings of the regime's top officials into a state secret.

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