Russian economy minister arrested

Russia's Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev was detained late on Monday night on allegations of bribery. He is the highest-ranking politician to be arrested in Russia since 1991. Ulyukayev is a representative of the liberal wing of Russian politics, commentators note, and speculate that a bitter power struggle is raging behind the scenes in Moscow.

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La Stampa (IT) /

A sign of a fierce power struggle

The allegations of corruption charges are just a pretext, La Stampa believes:

“In a country where corruption is not only endemic but forms the basis of the balance of power within the political elite, people only get arrested for bribery when it's in the context of a power struggle. And that struggle must have taken on unprecedented dimensions. … For many years two rival factions within the tsar's Kremlin have been at war with each other: the reformers and the conservatives, the doves and the hawks, the liberals and the nationalists, the opponents and the advocates of cooperation with the West. One of the president's rules was that neither of the two conflicting parties should gain the upper hand. Another rule in Putin's code of honour was that loyal supporters would be spared arrests or removals from office. … In the case of Ulyukaev, who is one of the leading liberals, these two rules were revoked. The balance has been removed and the hawks have closed ranks.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

The Kremlin's disciplinary measures

For the Neue Zürcher Zeitung the arrest proves the omnipotence of the Kremlin:

“Whether or not Ulyukaev is guilty is likely to be of secondary importance for the elite. For them it is a sign that no one, no matter what their position, is safe from repression. The action can be interpreted as a disciplinary measure by the Kremlin to keep competing clans in line and to rein in those who get too greedy. Ulyukaev's fall from grace fits in with the observation that the more liberal wing in the power apparatus is losing the battle against the conservative hardliners. Politically, this doesn't mean instability but rather that the Kremlin power structure is growing stronger. Because it is unlikely that there will be any serious friction or strong opposition to the measure. The cake is still big enough for everyone right now.”