Russian state oil company chief Igor Sechin, who was summoned twice this week to testify in an ex-economy minister's extortion trial but failed to show up, says he will appear when "we can agree on a schedule."
"As for my participation in court, I will strive to fulfill the requirements of Russian law," Sechin said after a meeting at the Kremlin on November 16, according to Russian news outlet RBC. "But at this stage, my main task is to fulfill my duties as president of Rosneft. As soon as we can agree on a schedule, I will certainly fulfill the necessary conditions."
Sechin was summoned twice by Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky District Court to testify as a key witness in the trial of former Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev.
Russian news agencies reported on November 16 that Judge Larisa Semyonova has issued a third summons for Sechin to appear on November 22.
Sechin stressed in his comments to RBC.ru that he has already "reflected his position in written testimony and in public statements."
A longtime former deputy chief of staff to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sechin is a key figure in the case. Prosecutors say that he 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.
The oil company chief's failure to appear in court so far has attracted additional attention to a case that has already highlighted rifts between members of Putin's circle of ruling elite.
It could raise questions about the outcome of the trial -- an unusual development in Russia, where rights groups say courts are beholden to the Kremlin and the verdicts in politically charged cases often seem obvious in advance.
Ulyukayev is being held under house arrest and has looked gaunt and grim in his court appearances. He is one of the highest-ranking officials to be arrested in Russia since the Soviet era.
He 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 the regional oil company Bashneft.
Prosecutors say the 61-year-old Ulyukayev was caught taking a case full of money from Sechin, 57, at Rosneft headquarters in a sting operation.
Ulyukayev’s trial began in August. He says he is not guilty and accuses Sechin and Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) of tricking him by telling him the case was full of wine.