A new study by the antigraft group Transparency International (TI) suggests that corruption remains rampant across much of the former Soviet Union and the Balkans.
In the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index released by TI on December 3, all former Soviet republics excluding Georgia and the Baltic states stood at 50 or below on a scale in which zero means a country is perceived to be highly corrupt and 100 means it is perceived to be very clean.
Most Balkan countries were also below 50.
The study also ranked the 175 countries it covered in order, with higher rankings meaning more perceived corruption.
The study said Afghanistan is among the most corrupt -- ranked 172nd out of 175 -- but described it as one of "the biggest improvers" over the previous year.
Georgia ranked 50th out of 175 with a score of 52. Last year, it ranked 55th with a score of 49.
Svetlana Savitskaya, former Soviet countries coordinator at Transparency International (TI), said Georgia had improved its "transparency and efficiency" in government administration. She praised Tbilisi for prosecuting government and business officials for corruption-related crimes.
Neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan rank 94th and 126th, respectively.
Savitskaya said Azerbaijan's main problem is in its "clampdown" on civil society and independent media.
She added that the Baku government has a lot of work to do regarding "elite" and "political" corruption.
In the Balkans, Macedonia ranks 64th, Montenegro 76th, Serbia 78th, Bosnia-Herzegovina 80th, and Kosovo 110th.
Russia and Kyrgyzstan tied for 136th, while Ukraine ranks 142nd.
The rank is an improvement for Kyrgyzstan, which was in 150th place last year. Russia, however, performed worse this year, dropping nine places from 127th in 2013.
Uzbekistan tied with the African countries of Eritrea and Libya for 166th place, followed by neighboring Turkmenistan, ranked 169th, and Iraq, at 170th.
Iran ranked 136th, moving up from 144th place last year, while Pakistan ranks 126th, a small improvement from 127th place in 2013.
Praised for its strong rule of law, support for civil society, and clear rules governing the behavior of those in public positions, Denmark has been the top performer for several years, while North Korea and Somalia tied for last place.
TI said the study shows that when high-level officials abuse power and exploit public funds for personal gain their actions undermine economic growth and fuel corruption.
TI urged leading financial centers in the European Union and the United States to act together with fast-growing economies to fight corruption.
TI says the Corruption Perceptions Index is based on expert opinions of public-sector corruption.
It draws on data sources from independent institutions specializing in governance and business-climate analysis.