Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev has been arrested on allegations that he accepted a $2 million bribe to approve a deal, prosecutors say, making him the highest-ranking Russian official to be detained since 1991.
Ulyukayev is alleged to have accepted a $2 million payment on Monday in return for a positive assessment that allowed oil giant Rosneft to acquire the government's 50 percent stake in Bashneft, which is another oil company.
Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for Russia's Investigative Committee, confirmed on early Tuesday morning that Ulyukayev had been arrested and that a criminal case had been opened on suspicion of bribery of a significant size.
Ulyukayev, who had been under investigation by the Federal Security Service (FSB), is accused of having resorted to threats in order to extort the bribe, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti. Other details were not immediately released.
Ulyukayev's arrest makes him the highest-ranking Russian official to be detained since the coup attempt in August 1991, when Russia was still part of the Soviet Union. The failed coup led to the arrest of several high-ranking officials, including Soviet Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov.