A Russian judge has summoned state oil company chief Igor Sechin to court a second time after the powerful ally of President Vladimir Putin failed to show up to testify in a high-profile extortion trial.
With Sechin absent from the much-anticipated hearing at Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky District Court, Judge Larisa Semyonova issued a summons for the Rosneft CEO to appear on November 15.
The developments added drama to a case that has grabbed headlines in Russia and underscored rivalries in circles close to Putin.
Sechin, a longtime associate of Putin and his former deputy chief of staff, had been expected to testify on November 13 as a witness in the extortion trial of former Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev.
Ahead of the hearing, a Rosneft spokesman said that Sechin had not received a summons.
After Sechin failed to appear, Semyonova said that officials at Rosneft headquarters had refused to accept the summons.
A summons was delivered to "Sechin's place of work at Rosneft. Employees declined to receive it," the judge said.
She later announced the order for a second summons, this time instructing Sechin to appear on November 15. She said that like the initial summons, it would be delivered by a court officer as well as by e-mail and fax.
Ulyukayev, one of the highest-ranking officials to be arrested in Russia since the Soviet era, is accused of extorting a $2 million bribe from Sechin in exchange for his ministry's approval for Rosneft to acquire a majority stake in regional oil company Bashneft.
Prosecutors say that Ulyukayev was caught red-handed -- accepting a case full of cash from Sechin at Rosneft's Moscow headquarters in a sting operation -- and Putin fired him shortly after he was detained in November 2016.
He is under house arrest and looks gaunt and pale in comparison to his appearance when he was in the government.
Ulyukayev, whose trial started in August, says he is not guilty. He has accused Sechin and the Federal Security Service (FSB) of setting him up, saying he thought the case contained bottles of wine.
Sechin served for years as deputy Kremlin chief of staff and is seen as a close ally of Putin.
The newspaper Vedomosti quoted an unidentified Russian official as saying that later on November 13 -- the day he had been summoned to court -- Sechin was to take part in talks led by Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, which is nearly 1,400 kilometers south of Moscow.
Vedomosti reported that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that, but there was no public statement from Peskov and Rosneft declined to comment.
Both the prosecution and defense have called for Sechin to testify.
With reporting by RBC, Gazeta.ru, RNS, Interfax, TASS, and Reuters