Igor Sechin, a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and CEO of the Rosneft state-owned oil giant, has failed to show up for the third time at a Moscow court to testify in the corruption trial of a former economy minister.
The judge at Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky district court announced on November 22 that Sechin's lawyer, Nikolai Klen, informed the court in writing that his client would not appear because he is currently on a business trip in Siberia.
Judge Larisa Semyonova said the statement added that Sechin believed his "earlier testimony could be read out in court," apparently referring to statements he gave to investigators.
The defense, however, insisted on the right to question Sechin and the court upheld that request, issuing a fourth summons ordering Sechin to appear on November 27.
Rosneft had announced on November 21 that Sechin would miss the hearing because he was escorting Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on a tour of Rosneft facilities in Khanty-Mansiisk.
Lawyer Klen also informed the court that his client had a full slate of business trips scheduled until the end of the year.
Sechin has been summoned to testify as a witness in the trial of former Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev, who is charged with extorting a $2 million bribe from Rosneft in 2016.
Ulyukayev has said he would like to testify only after Sechin has been questioned. Defense lawyers on November 22 said, however, that they will proceed with Ulyukayev's testimony if Sechin fails to appear in court for a fourth time.
Prosecutors the same day asked the court not to let the defense stall the proceedings over the issue of Sechin's testimony.
Sechin said on November 16 he was willing to testify "when we can agree on a schedule" and that his job as CEO of the state oil giant was more important than the trial.
Prosecutors say Sechin handed Ulyukayev the $2 million that the then-minister allegedly extorted from him in exchange for a favorable decision on a major acquisition by Rosneft.
Ulyukayev says he is not guilty and accuses Sechin and Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) of tricking him by telling him the case containing the money was full of wine.
Ulyukayev's trial began in August. He is under house arrest.
With reporting by TASS, RIA Novosti, Interfax, and Vedomosti