Det brygger opp til tiltale mot tidligere statsminister Kasyanov. Samtidig ble det sist uke vedtatt nye valglover som gjør det svært vanskelig for opposisjonen å komme inn i nasjonalforsamlingen.

In a case that echoes that of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, jailed this year for fraud, the government is now investigating former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. On Friday, Russia’s deputy prosecutor general accused Mr. Kasyanov – an undeclared yet much touted presidential candidate – of paying only a «symbolic amount» to purchase a state-owned luxury villa while he was premier.

Kasyanov has close ties to Russia’s oligarchs, and, like his oil friend, it’s highly unlikely this charismatic politician has a corruption-free past (his early nickname: «Misha 2 percent»). But what’s the motive for singling him out when corruption is so widely practiced by Russia’s government and business elite? Could it be that, like Mr. Khodorkovsky, Kasyanov was becoming a political threat to Mr. Putin and his government?

Last week, the upper house passed a series of changes that raise the threshold for parties to gain seats in parliament from 5 to 7 percent of the vote. It also disallows them from forming voting blocs previous to an election. Domestic independent observers, including journalists, will no longer be allowed to monitor ballot counts. Kasyanov says the changed law, which awaits Putin’s signature, «practically establishes a monopoly of power.»

Russian Housecleaning