>> He's the highest ranking Russian official to be arrested since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Authorities allege Economy Minister Alexey Ulyukaev, attempted to extort a $2 million bribe from a state run oil company, Rosneft. In exchange, they say, he approved its purchase of another state oil firm.
Ulyukaev pleading innocence. And some Kremlin watchers say the man, now under house arrest, could be a casualty in a power play of Moscow politics. Centering on this man, Igor Sechin, Rosneft's chief executive and an ally of President Vladimir Putin. Reuters Moscow Bureau Chief Christian Lowe.>> Igor Sechin is a man with a mission.
He's not content to be just the head of Russia's biggest oil company. He wants to be running one of the world's biggest oil companies. So that and he's expanding wherever he can. The Russian state was privatizing control of Bashneft. It's a mid-sized oil company. He says he wants to buy it.
It would give Rosneft access to more oil reserves, more refineries.>> But there was an obstacle. Some in government said Bashneft should go to private investors. Ulyukaev also initially opposed it, although he is not a Putin confidante or member of the opposing camp.>> The fear among certain people in the government is that this will spread further, that this could be just the beginning of a purge.
And what they've been saying to us today, is that what this could be is a show of strength by Sechin to demonstrate that he can take on his adversaries and the people in the government who oppose him. That potentially can open up a big internal conflict, a huge rift within the ruling circles in Russia.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev calling for a thorough investigation Wednesday, as Russian media report other suspects may come to light. Investigators say evidence against Ulyukaev was taken from a sting operation involving electronic eavesdropping on his communications after being tipped off by Rosneft. He faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.