Bribery articles of the code: who and how tried in Russia?

In Russia they like bribery: bribes are often given and almost always taken. Both high-ranking officials and lower level civil servants, big businessmen, and modest entrepreneurs, as well as ordinary citizens do that. Russiangate analyzed how and who is prosecuted for committing these crimes.
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Articles 290 and 291 of the Russian Criminal Code set out punishment for those who receive and give bribes – officials and their recipients. It is possible to give and take bribes in various ways: personally or through an intermediary, for the commission of lawful (within the framework of official powers) or illegal actions or omissions, on a significant, large or especially large amount, by prior conspiracy or by an organized group, extorting a bribe or occupying a state post. Depending on these circumstances, investigation selects the part of the article, and court determines the punishment: one can get off with a fine, the other can go to the colony for a period of up to fifteen years.

Bribes in Russia are given twice as often as they are taken: since 2009, more than 25,000 people have been sentenced under Art. 291, while under Art. 290 slightly more than 11,000 recipients were convicted. For the same period, 126 of those sentenced occupied public positions of the Russian Federation or its subject or were heads of local government bodies, for example, the city mayors. In 2011, receiving and giving bribes in a significant, large and especially large amount were singled out in separate paragraphs of the mentioned articles. Since then, 41 people have been sentenced for giving a bribe in an especially large amount, that is, more than 1 million rubles. At the same time, 193 people were sentenced for receiving a particularly large one.

Under the Art. 290, high-ranking officials are often tried, and the Art. 291 is designed for the well-known businessmen.


Presnensky District Court of Moscow is questioning the former governor of the Kirov Region, Nikita Belykh, who is accused of bribe-taking from entrepreneurs amounting to more than $ 600,000. Belykh was detained in June 2016; according to investigators, at that moment, the official was receiving tagged bills that were part of a $ 400,000 bribe for patronage of Novovyatsky Ski Factory and Forest Management Company.

The officials of a higher level are also accused on bribe-taking. In November 2016, the FSB detained the then Minister of Economic Development Alexey Ulyukaev in the office of Rosneft. According to the law enforcers, Ulyukaev was caught red-handed at the time of receiving a bribe of $ 2 million from the head of Rosneft Igor Sechin, who handed over the case with special notes processed by a special substance during the operational search activities. According to the prosecution, Ulyukaev demanded money from Sechin for making a positive assessment of the Bashneft privatization deal.

Sechin himself at the trial said that Ulyukaev demanded a bribe, showing him two fingers while playing billiards at the BRICS summit. The FSB also filed a statement on extortion of a bribe, signed by former FSB officer and at the time of application head of Rosneft’s security service Oleg Feoktistov. The case was initiated only under paragraph 6 of Art. 290: bribe-taking on an especially large amount.

As early as 2016, Feoktistov, who then held the post of general of the FSB, participated in the arrest of Belykh. Both officials who appeared before the court deny their guilt. Belykh's lawyer asserts that the money was intended for urban needs, and the former governor himself told that during the detention he took a package with bills, thinking that there was a birthday present. Ulyukaev’s defense asserts that the minister also thought that in a bag with the money, there was wine. During the trial, both Belykh and Ulyukaev accused the FSB officers in the prepared provocation.

Belykh is not the first governor who was accused of taking bribes on an especially large amount, in the detention of whom General Feoktistov took part. Since March 2017 in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the case of Alexander Khoroshavin, the former governor of the Sakhalin Region, who was detained in 2015, is being considered. Khoroshavin is also accused of taking bribes from local entrepreneurs for patronage and committing acts in their interests as part of an organized criminal group.

Among the high-profile cases under the Art. 290, there is the case of Deputy Chief of the Central Department of Economic Security and Counteracting Corruption Dmitry Zakharchenko, who, according to the investigation, warned the defendants of the case of embezzlement of funds in Nota Bank about the forthcoming searches; the case of Denis Nikandrov, Mikhail Maksimenko and Alexander Lamonov, who held senior positions in the Investigation Committee and were accused of taking bribes for the release of kingpin Andrey Kochuykov; UFSIN Colonel Sergey Moiseenko, who oversaw the construction of the Kresty-2 predetention center in St. Petersburg  was accused of taking a bribe from the CEO of the contractor company for signing acts on the performance of works that were not actually carried out.


In April 2017, the FSB detained former head of the Republic of Mari El Leonid Markelov on suspicion of trying to get 250 million rubles from local businessman Nikolay Krivash for the help in filing a fictitious transaction. Markelov's case is unusual: not only the recipient of the bribe, but also to the one who gave it were brought to responsibility. For example, in the cases of Belykh and Ulyukaev, cases of giving bribes were not initiated. 

In May, the Moscow Basmanny Court arrested Krivash on suspicion of giving a bribe to Markelov in absentia. The businessman, who, according to his lawyer Igor Trunov, was on treatment in Israel, was placed on the international wanted list. According to the investigation, the former head of Mari El promised the entrepreneur patronage and state support of his agricultural enterprises.

A bribery case was also initiated against the head of the Sakhalin company Energostroy, Nikolay Kran, who, according to the investigation, transferred money to the governor of the Sakhalin Region Khoroshavin. Kran was detained and acted as the main witness in Khoroshavin’s case; he faced more than three years of imprisonment, but the businessman died during the investigation.

One of the most high-profile cases under the Art. 291 is the one against the top managers of the Renova group of companies. In September 2016, the FSB detained businessmen Yevgeny Olkhovik and Boris Vainzikher, the former employee of the group, at that time, CEO of the telecom operator VimpelCom Mikhail Slobodin, was placed on the wanted list. All of them were accused of giving bribes to officials of the Komi Republic for their benefits and setting beneficial energy tariffs.

The Investigative Committee linked the Renova case to the case of former head of the Komi republic Vyacheslav Geizer, who was arrested in 2015, arrested on suspicion of creating a criminal group, fraud, embezzlement of state funds and bribery. According to the investigation, the top management of Renova gave bribes to Gaiser's entourage. In January 2017, the investigation into the Gayzer case was over, the defendants, Vainzikher and Olkhovik, were sent under house arrest, Slobodin was arrested in absentia. The investigation does not exclude that other persons of interest may appear in the case.


Not only high-ranking officials and heads of large companies are tried for bribes, but also ordinary civil servants. In October, the city court of Krasnoturinsk in the Sverdlovsk Region sentenced a penal colony employee to a fine of 80,000 rubles for taking a bribe of 4,000 rubles: in exchange for money, the man carried three card readers and a perfume to the colony.

In Mordovia, an employee of the Penitentiary Service, who carried mobile phones to the colony, was sentenced to three years on probation and a fine of 489,000 rubles. To get one phone to the colony usually costs a prisoner about two thousand rubles, but the penitentiary servant could not get back the money: he was caught with ten telephones the moment he tried to carry them.

In the Southern Urals, the court examines the case of a former investigator of the Regional MIA Department of the city of Yemanzhelinsk, who as a bribe received two tablets from a gypsy baron in exchange for terminating a swindling case. The verdict has not yet been passed, but the police officer has already signed a letter of resignation. A former head of the construction department, housing and communal services, architecture and landscaping of the administration of the Voskresensky Municipal District of the Saratov Region will also spend a year in the colony. He was taking bribes – with money and dried fish – for letting citizens brought to administrative liability off the hook.

The bulk of the defendants in cases under Art. 291 are those who tried to pay off the traffic police or police officers. Most of all verdicts are delivered under the part 3 of Art. 291: giving a bribe to a functionary for committing wittingly unlawful actions (inaction). So, a man who tried to bribe a traffic police officer in Penza was sentenced to 20 thousand ruble fine. The inspector stopped the car, in which there were three foreign citizens with expired Russian visas. The driver tried to pay off, giving the traffic police officer fifteen hundred rubles.

In Tyumen, a woman, who tried to bribe a predetention center employee with a certificate in a SPA salon, was sentenced to six months of imprisonment.