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Russian Prosecutors Seek 10-Year Sentence For Ex-Economy Minister


MOSCOW -- Russian prosecutors have recommended a 10-year prison term for former Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev for extortion, while the defendant asked the court to acquit him and called for perjury charges against the head of state oil giant Rosneft.

The developments came as the sides delivered their closing arguments in the high-profile Moscow trial and Ulyukayev, accused of demanding and taking a $2 million bribe from a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, made his final statement before the verdict.

"I ask you to find Aleksei Ulyukayev guilty of bribe-taking," prosecutor Boris Neporozhny told the court, which adjourned until December 7 after the proceedings.

In addition to a 10-year prison sentence, he asked the court to fine Ulyukayev 500 million rubles ($8.5 million), strip him of all state awards, and bar him from holding government positions.

The prosecution said in its closing argument that it had been proven that Ulyukayev demanded and accepted $2 million in cash from Rosneft CEO Sechin in exchange for Ulyukayev approving the sale of state-controlled oil company Bashneft to Rosneft.

Ulyukayev repeated what he had said earlier: that he was framed. He asked the court to acquit him and urged the authorities to prosecute Sechin for what he claimed was "false reporting to law enforcement."

Ulyukayev's lawyer, Timofei Gridnev, also called for an acquittal in the case.

"Ulyukayev could not demand a bribe from Sechin because he could not in any way influence the decision on Bashneft's privatization," Gridnev said.

Ulyukayev, the highest official to be arrested in Russia since Putin came to power in 2000, has maintained throughout that he is innocent.

Sechin was summoned to the trial four times but never showed up, saying that he was busy with work connected to Rosneft. At hearings, the prosecution used his written statements given to investigators.

Sechin's failure to appear in court has attracted additional attention to the case, which has highlighted rifts between members of Russia's ruling elite ahead of a March 2108 election that is expected to hand Putin what could be his last Kremlin term.

Sechin is a longtime former deputy Kremlin chief of staff and is seen as one of Putin's closest allies.

Prosecutors said the bribe was paid on November 14, 2016, at Rosneft's compound in Moscow. They contend that Ulyukayev was caught red-handed, with $2 million found in a locked bag in the trunk of his car.

Ulyukayev was immediately arrested, and he was fired the next day by Putin. He is under house arrest pending a verdict and sentence.

Ulyukayev contends that he was set up, saying he believed the bag contained a gift of wine from Sechin. In his final statement, he repeated his argument that the bribery case was "a provocation" and that he was framed by Sechin.

He asserted that Sechin's behavior -- including his persistence in inviting Ulyukayev to Rosneft's offices and his failure to report to court despite four summonses -- proved that the case is unfounded.

With reporting by Current Time TV, RFE/RL's Russian Service, Interfax, and TASS
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