The notion of charging one of the oligarchs with stealing state property may strike a popular chord with a Russian electorate that has seen this handful of powerful men grow impossibly rich by exploiting their connections to political power. But of course Gusinsky is only one of a number of oligarchs, and thus far there have been no signs that the new president plans to spread the pain to those, such as rival media tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who are viewed as being close to the Kremlin. "Shocking as it is, Gusinsky's arrest wasn't entirely unexpected," says TIME Moscow correspondent Andrew Meier. "He's been under steady attack for some time now and many believe the Kremlin is trying to warn him off ever misbehaving again."
Rival oligarch Berezovsky may be even more gung ho in the battle against Gusinsky, and on some unusual fronts: A new chief rabbi was elected for Russia on Tuesday, and many observers saw the vote as a thinly disguised coup in which a Gusinsky proxy was replaced by a candidate chosen by Berezovsky. If so, it may have been a maneuver designed to begin undercutting some of the international support Gusinsky could muster as head of the Russian Jewish Congress. But unless Putin is seen to be going after all the oligarchs regardless of their political preferences, Gusinsky's arrest will be protested as political persecution.