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President Putin against harsher corruption sentences in Russia - 1

(Recasts para 2, adds details, background in paras 2-10)

MOSCOW, October 1 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian president spoke out Monday against stricter sentences in Russia for economic crimes and corruption.

Vladimir Putin said laws have been toughened in the economic sphere in the past few years. "Further toughening of criminal responsibility could lead to arbitrariness, which means increasing corruption," he told a congress of the pro-presidential United Russia party.

Putin called corruption one of the main social and political problems. "Businessmen, investors, any normal person, need reliable guarantees of their rights. They need an independent and competent judiciary, honest officials and law enforcement officers," he said.

Putin said that despite measures taken so far - personnel shifts, criminal investigations - the situation has not changed. "Many people quite rightly say that no problem can be solved without a bribe," he said.

Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said September 28, Russia is set to adopt a new anti-corruption federal law.

The announcement followed a decree revising the structure of federal executive bodies. The decree was signed by President Putin on September 25 as part of a highly-publicized, anti-corruption campaign.

In his brief speech to lawmakers on September 14, Zubkov pledged his commitment to policies pursued by President Putin, highlighting the war on corruption as one of his top priorities.

According to the decree, the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring), a former subdivision of the Finance Ministry, will now answer to the Russian government.

The state-run agency aims to counter money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The watchdog was established in November, 2001, and was headed for the first six years by Viktor Zubkov, Russia's newly elected prime minister.

The latest restructuring means that PM Zubkov will supervise the committee he so recently left.

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