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Developments from The Kremlin: Russia detains economy minister over alleged $2M bribe for oil deal

By Sam Edem
Russia's Economy Minister
Russia's Economy Minister
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It may not be news to many around the world the stories of entrenched corruption that rocks President Vladimir Putin's Russia. This time it’s a bribery investigation inside the country’s highest cadre of government: the Putin’s cabinet.

Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukayev has been detained on allegations he took a $2 million bribe to help push through a major oil deal.

Ulyukayev is under investigation for allegedly taking money in exchange for his ministry offering a "positive assessment" of state-owned oil giant Rosneft's $5 billion deal to take control of smaller firm Bashneft, Russia's Investigative Committee disclosed on Tuesday.

Rosneft finalized the deal to buy the Russian government's controlling stake in Bashneft last month.

According to state news agency RIA Novosti, Ulyukayev had been under investigation for more than a year now.

The Investigative Committee said that Ulyukayev had been caught accepting the bribe. The group is Russia's top federal investigative and anti-corruption body, and its leader reports directly to Putin.

Rosneft who have declined to comment on the investigation, said the Bashneft deal were in accordance with Russian laws.

"We see no risks for the deal," Rosneft spokesman Mikhail Leontiev said.

Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev have discussed the minister's detention, according to state media.

"These are very serious allegations," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "And a verdict regarding the consistency of these charges can only be rendered by a court."

According to authorities, while the investigation is in progress, the Minister will remain in custody.

Serving formerly as deputy finance minister and central bank chairman respectively, Mr. Ulyukayev was appointed economic development minister over three years ago.

If found guilty, he faces a fine of as much as $200 million, or between eight to fifteen years in prison, according to Russian state news agency Tass. Moreover, this might also be a lesson on the fact that the Russian government is not as closed as many may assumed.