Forty-Two Percent Of Russians Believe Corrupt Officials Have Performed Silent Coup

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Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on counterwork against corruption at the Kremlin in Moscow, January 26. The meeting came after the U.S. accused him of corrupt dealings over the course of his presidency. Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin/Reuters

Nearly half of Russians agree that a quiet anti-constitutional coup has taken place in the country through changes of law that favor corrupt officials in power, according to pollster the Levada Center.

The survey of 1,600 Russians was conducted at the end of December 2015 and involved two groups of 800 people. The first was asked if "recent changes to Russian legislation defending highly ranked corrupt officials at the top of the national government and increasing the crackdown on those who deal in criticizing and unmasking them are all testament of a quiet, anti-constitutional coup in the country."

Forty-two percent were either entirely in agreement or somewhat in agreement, while only 4 percent completely disagreed. Thirty-six percent struggled to respond.

The other group of 800 was asked virtually the same question but was also told that this view was held by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who recently said the Russian system was so flawed that a revolution was "inevitable".

More found this question challenging, with only 31 percent either agreeing entirely or somewhat, while 41 said they struggled to respond.

During the early days of Putin's presidency, Khodorkovsky accused him of condoning corruption and was eventually found guilty of fraud in a trial widely thought to have been politically motivated.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on counterwork against corruption at the Kremlin in Moscow, January 26. The meeting came after the U.S. accused him of corrupt dealings over the course of his presidency. Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin/Reuters

A spokesman for the U.S. Treasury told the BBC's Panorama program that Putin "supposedly draws a state salary of something like $110,000 a year."

"That is not an accurate statement of the man's wealth, and he has long-time training and practices in terms of how to mask his actual wealth," added Adam Szubin, who oversees Treasury sanctions. He branded this imbalance "a picture of corruption." However, the Kremlin dismissed the accusations as not worth addressing seriously.