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Leaked US diplomatic cables indicate that senior US officials believe that Russia has become a virtual "mafia state" with widespread corruption, bribery and protection rackets.

This may not be surprising news for Russians, but it is certainly likely to make it much harder for Washington to win friends and influence people in Moscow.

How damaging are the leaks to already temperamental Russian-American relations, and do ordinary Russians believe that their country is an oligarchy run by the secret services?

Joining Inside Story to discuss this are: Ivan Eland, a senior fellow and director of the Centre on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute; Federico Varese, a professor of criminology at the University of Oxford; and Dimitri Babich, a political analyst from Russia Profile Magazine.

This episode of Inside Story aired on Thursday, December 2, 2010.

Source: Al Jazeera