Russian President Putin attends a news conference in Bishkek


  • The policy advisor said Russia's system uses corruption as a weapon
  • He also said Russia's model uses anti-corruption laws to attack people campaigning against corruption
  • Putin was previously linked to a corruption case in the early 2000s

Russian President Vladimir Putin is running the country through a system based on corruption, a senior policy adviser suggested Monday.

Speaking in an interview with Ukrainska Pravda, Paul Massaro, a senior policy advisor for the U.S. Helsinki Commission, said that Putin is running his country "through a circle of payoffs, corruption, bribery." He added that Putin's governance structure involves killing people who do not accept the payoffs.

"Russia's model is based on corruption. They use their anti-corruption laws to attack anti-corruption campaigners. They put their anti-corruption people in jail through anti-corruption laws. That whole system is run through corruption. And they view corruption as a weapon, of course," Massaro said.

In addition to mainland Russia, Massaro said its colonies are also "controlled through corruption," making it unlikely for anyone in the Russian Federation to fight corruption.

"When the Russians see somebody like the Ukrainians and they see somebody succeeding, they don't think, 'Oh, that's nice, we should try to be like that.' They think, 'How can we pull them down? How can we bring them to our level?' And that's what they want to do with the whole world. They want to make everybody as corrupt as they are. No, they can't fight corruption. The state form of Russia would have to evolve beyond empire to fight corruption," he continued.

As an example, Massaro named Ramzan Kadyrov, the Russian-installed head of the Chechen Republic, as an example of a person who Putin paid off to become his "crony." His forces, known as Kadyrovites, are fighting alongside Russian forces and have been known for being especially brutal. Members of Kadyrov's forces have regularly posted videos of them fighting in Ukraine on Telegram and TikTok.

In addition to Kadyrov, Massaro also named Sergei Magnitsky, a Ukrainian-born Russian tax advisor who was beaten and tortured by Russian prison guards after he exposed corruption and misconduct by Russian government officials.

Putin had previously been implicated in corruption cases. In the early 2000s, German authorities claimed St. Petersburg Real Estate Holding Company (SPAG) had been used to launder money out of and into the city from a variety of sources, which includes the Cali cartel. Putin was a member of the SPAG advisory board at the time, per the Wilson Center.

The Panama Papers, which was revealed in 2016, also found that a network of secret offshore deals and loans worth at least $2 billion was linked to Putin. The documents suggested that Putin's family directly benefited from the money made through the deals.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting in Sochi