17 November 2016
Vladimir Putin has dismissed a high ranking Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev. He was arrested by agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) late on Monday night and was charged with taking a $2 million bribe on Tuesday.
The bribe was not personally received by the Minister but was left in a safety deposit box and was withdrawn by someone else. The bribe was allegedly paid by state owned oil giant Rosneft to facilitate purchase government-held stakes in its former rival Bashneft.
FSB had been tapping Ulyukayev’s phone since early summer this year.
Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, presidential economic advisor Andrey Belousov and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov are also under suspicion. RIA Novosti news service quoted an unnamed law enforcement official as saying up to seven more suspects could be charged in the case.
Some say that Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin, a former spy who served as Mr Putin’s personal secretary, was behind Ulyukaev’s arrest. Russian media reported that Oleg Feoktistov, head of security at Rosneft, had led the sting operation which led to Mr Ulyukaev’s detention. Others believe that this is a warning to proponents of liberal economic policies not to oppose Putin. Some say that there is a power struggle going on within Kremlin.
Experts doubt the size of the bribe and its feasibility. They say that a bribe for a market valuation is a strange accusation and the bribe of $2 million is ridiculously small money for this level of official.
The Investigative Committee said that there were no claims of wrongdoing against Rosneft in this case, since the company purchased the stake legitimately. Why would Rosneft pay a bribe if the purchase was legitimate. That is why some believe that the whole thing was rigged.
This case is undoubtedly also a blow to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. His political position had been very strong until Ulyukayev’s arrest. The arrest could not have taken place without Putin’s support. The Pamana Papers, published earlier this year, listed Ulyukayev’s 21-year-old son as the owner of an offshore entity in the British Virgin Islands.
So far nothing is clear and everything is confusing.