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Rosneft Chief Sechin Called To Testify At Russian Ex-Minister's Trial

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin (left) and Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev talk at the Kremlin in Moscow in May 2015.

The powerful chief of Russian state oil giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin, has been called to testify for the prosecution at the high-profile extortion trial of former Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev.

Judge Larisa Semyonova on November 8 granted the prosecutors' request to summon Sechin -- a longtime former deputy chief of staff to President Vladimir Putin who is seen as a close ally -- as a witness. Ulyukayev's defense team also supported the move.

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.

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.

Based on reporting by RBC, Dozhd, Interfax, TASS, and Reuters