Gazeta Wyborcza: Ulyukaev was arrested to intimidate other Russian officials

Russian government authorities were very surprised by the arrest of the Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, Alexey Ulyukaev. Ulyukaev became an expert-savior, who managed to keep the Russian economy afloat despite the pressure of sanctions and low oil prices. He has now been accused of corruption by the Investigative Committee, as reported by Gazeta Wyborcza.

“I respect him very much. Ulyukaev isn’t one of those, who I would suspect of something like that. Nothing is clear now,” the Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank of Russia, Sergey Shevtsov, said. Meanwhile, more and more mysteries appear in Alexey Ulyukaev’s case.

The next morning, Russian media began to spread information that the Minister had been suspected and wiretapped for years. Ulyukaev was arrested during an interaction where he accepted a bribe. After that, information emerged alleging that the bribe was found in the Minister’s safety deposit box.

“You would have to be a mad man to threaten Rosneft and demand a $2 million bribe from Igor Sechin, who remains one of the most influential people in Russia, one month after the approval of a transaction,” the former Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Economy, and current Chairman of the Union of Russian entrepreneurs, Alexander Shokhin, stated when commenting on the situation.

Shokhin recalled that, one month ago, Vladimir Putin publicly endorsed the sale of shares of Bashneft to Sechin’s company. “I can’t wrap my head around the idea that a man of such a position as the Minister with experience in political life could get into such a situation,” Shokhin added.

At the same time, the Chairman of the Yabloko Party, Grigory Yavlinsky, believes that the arrest of a loyal and very important official, is a demonstrative act of intimidation, mostly to government officials.

“Everyone should see that this can happen to anyone at any time. That is the main message,” the opposition activist believes, adding that Ulyukaev was fully loyal to Putin and supported his actions – war against Ukraine, the annexation of the Crimea, war in Syria, reprisals in Russia, etc.

Meanwhile, observers believe that the detention of the Minister of Economic Development may be a part of an ongoing conflict between Sechin and the liberals who worked in the Government of Yegor Gaidar in the early 1990s, which includes Ulyukaev.

“Currently, there are a lot of questions surrounding Alexey Ulyukaev’s case. An objective investigation is required,” said the former Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation, Alexei Kudrin, who is believed to be a key figure in the liberal party.

The arrest of Ulyukaev will probably reduce his chances to return to authoritative circles. It seems that this could have happened as a result of Putin’s placing Kudrin in charge of the Economic Council, and assigned him to formulate Russia’s economic strategy until 2018.

Bloomberg reported that the case against Ulyukaev can become a harbinger of large-scale purges in Russia. According to the Chief Economist for Russia at the ING Group, Dmitry Polevoy, the worst case scenario would be if the case against Ulyukaev turns out to be an offensive by the Kremlin’s hawks against liberals in the government, who tried to balance the Russian budget and minimize the consequences of the collapse in oil prices.

  Russia, Putin