Russia’s economic development minister [Alexei Ulyukayev] has been charged with large-scale bribe taking and placed under house arrest following his detention overnight in a case that has sent shock waves through the country’s ruling elite.
It appears to be a case of trumped-up charges or entrapment, the sorts that threaten to backfire and destroy those who brought them. The opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny sounds a somewhat cynical note: he does not believe in Ulyukayev’s integrity but has little doubt that the charges against him are completely bogus. Navalny notes that the chief investigator in Ulyukayev’s case is the same officer who cooked up, out of thin air, the so-called Yves Rocher case against him and his brother Oleg in 2014-15:
He’s that kind of special investigator (they brought him from Volgograd) that gets used for political cases when everything, and I mean everything, has to be made up. A master of fakery.
It sounds like a bad joke, and one can’t believe a single word from the investigators…
The true reason for the arrest, in my view, is simply a planned nightmaring [zakoshmarka] of the elites… He [Putin] fears their betrayal, so he’s doing what all authoritarian leaders do in such cases… From time to time, he persecutes some unexpected character so others would fear more, chitchat less and inform on each other more actively.
But this time the “character” is a loyal, hardworking, old-time lieutenant. A reliable workhorse with a limited political ambition. Putin is not known for throwing loyal bureaucrats to the wolves. Something has changed.