Former Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has again refused to answer investigators' questions over a multimillion-dollar property fraud case.
Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for Russia's Investigative Committee, said Serdyukov refused to speak on the grounds that his statements could later be used against him.
"Of course, Mr. Serdyukov, as any other Russian citizen, has the right [to refuse to answer questions], but believe me, such a position is incomprehensible to the investigation, to say the least," Markin said. "If the former defense minister believes that he was not involved in the events that have now become the subject of investigation, it would be completely logical for him to answer specific questions posed by the investigators."
When he first refused to answer investigators' questions in December, Serdyukov cited his lawyer's absence due to illness.
Serdyukov is currently a witness, not a suspect in the case.
But Markin said his refusal to answer questions could be viewed as an attempt to obstruct the investigation.
"The position taken by Mr. Serdyukov does not guarantee that he will remain a witness in this case. It is quite possible that his status might change," Markin said.
Serdyukov's lawyer, Genrikh Padva, said the former defense minister gave "as much evidence as he saw fit." The former minister submitted only a written statement on the case.
$100 Million Losses
Serdyukov has been implicated in a scandal involving a Defense Ministry-controlled company currently under investigation.
The company, Oboronservis, is accused of selling state-owned property to insiders at a loss of nearly $100 million.
Markin said Serdyukov could have helped establish what happened by answering investigators' questions.
"The investigation has a lot of questions for Serdyukov, particularly about how decisions about the sale of Defense Ministry property were made and the particular prices paid in those deals," Markin said.
Serdyukov was fired by President Vladimir Putin after the scandal broke in early November.
A subordinate of his, Yevgeniya Vasilyeva, has been charged with fraud and embezzlement.
Serdyukov's relationship with Vasilyeva, 33, has been a target of speculation after reports he was present when she was arrested during a raid on her Moscow apartment.
Serdyukov is the son-of-law of former Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, a close Putin ally.
Based on reporting by Interfax and ITAR-TASS