Russian Economic Development minister Alexei Ulyukayev, foreground, back to a camera, listens to the verdict in a court room in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday. — AP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News
MOSCOW — The surprise arrest of Russia’s economy minister over a two-million-dollar bribe on Wednesday sparked shock and bewilderment in the liberal wing of the Russian government.
Alexei Ulyukayev’s dismissal after being slapped with bribe-taking charges on Tuesday marks the first time in Russia’s post-Soviet history that an active minister is detained and charged with a criminal offence.
Ulyukayev, 60, was put under house arrest on Tuesday. An uncharismatic official who had served as economy minister since 2013, he had been charged with the daunting task of pulling Russia out of a crippling economic crisis that has seen its currency collapse over Western sanctions and depressed energy prices.
His sudden fall from grace has sent shockwaves through the highest echelons of the Russian elite, with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev saying Tuesday it was "beyond comprehension."
Investigators said that Ulyukayev was caught red-handed as he was accepting a two-million-dollar bribe to greenlight state oil giant Rosneft’s acquisition of state-owned majority stake in Russian oil company Bashneft for US$5.2 billion.
The committee did not indicate who handed the alleged bribe to Ulyukayev, but described him as "threatening to create obstacles to the company’s activities in the future by using his official powers".
Ulyukayev had originally opposed the sale but later endorsed it after President Vladimir Putin said it could help fill state coffers.
Vedomosti business daily reported that several high-ranking government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, had also caught investigators’ attention during the probe.
RIA Novosti quoted unnamed sources as saying that other top bureaucrats could be caught up in the scandal, but the investigative committee said on Wednesday the case currently had only one suspect. — AFP