Putin Set to Withdraw Russia from Europe’s Anti-Corruption Convention

Published: 12 January 2023

Vladimir Putin Kremlin Presser

Russian President Vladimir Putin submitted to the State Duma Monday a draft law that would see Russia withdraw from the CLCC. (Photo: President of Russia/Kremlin.ru, License)

By Henry Pope

Russian President Vladimir Putin submitted to the State Duma on Monday a draft law that would see Russia withdraw from the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (CLCC), a European body dedicated to criminalizing corrupt practices within all of its member states.

In his address to the lower house of the Russian Parliament, Putin explained that he sought to cease Russia’s continued membership with the continent’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO)—CLCC’s supervisory body—after the Council of Europe expelled Russia from its alliance on March 16 last year.

A force multiplier of sorts, GRECO improves its member states’ ability to combat and deter corruption via a transparent mutual evaluation process. Through cross-examination, members can better identify shortcomings in their respective anti-corruption policies and subsequently enact legislative and institutional reforms when necessary.

But as a result of the Council of Europe’s decision to expel Russia last March, in the wake of Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, Russia lost its council participation and GRECO voting privileges.

“In continuation of the war of aggression waged by the Russian Federation against Ukraine…the Russian Federation has escalated its military activities against Ukraine to unprecedented levels, causing thousands of civilian casualties, displacing millions of people and devastating the country,” according to a European Parliamentary Assembly opinion, as the continental body debated Russia’s continued membership the day before the vote.

But despite its expulsion, as a GRECO signatory, the Kremlin is still bound by the convention’s obligations. Such conditions, Putin explained, are intolerable in the eyes of Russia.

In an effort to control the narrative that it was actually the Kremlin’s decision to withdraw from the Council of Europe, Russia’s Foreign Ministry preemptively submitted to the council’s Secretary General a notice of Russia's intent to withdraw from the alliance a day before the unanimous vote took place.

This notice also included the Kremlin’s denouncement of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Should Russia ultimately defect from the CLCC, it will no longer be held to the same standards of its fellow member states to deter criminal activities such as bribery, money laundering, insider trading, or any other acts of corruption.

Additionally, the Kremlin’s domestic anti-corruption bodies would no longer be bound to cooperate with their international counterparts.

The CLCC also acts as a pseudo-extradition treaty between its signatories, should two members not have an official one between themselves; withdrawing would sever any obligations Russia was once held to in this regard.

This was hinted at by Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, as he told local media that “certain difficulties may arise in the extradition of suspects and defendants.”

Despite this revelation from Putin, Peskov told reporters that it “in no way undermines our [Russia’s] legislative potential - the internal legislative potential to combat corruption.”

Russia has been a signatory of the CLCC since 1999.