Russia's former economy minister found guilty of corruption

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A court in Moscow on Friday ruled that former economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev demanded and took a $2 million (€1.7 million) bribe from Igor Sechin, the CEO of oil giant Rosneft.

The sentence includes a $2.2 million fine.

State prosecutors said that Ulyukayev had asked for the bribe in exchange for approving the sale of the state-controlled oil company Bashneft (BANE.MM) to Rosneft.

The ruling will be appealed, defense lawyers for the former minister said. The defendant noted that there was a provocation, orchestrated by the Federal Security Service (FSB) and that there was no sound evidence in the case, aside from testimony provided by Sechin. Some media outlets have speculated that Sechin is now the second most powerful man in Russian Federation after Ulyukayev's arrest; right behind Putin himself. Following the announcement, he was taken into custody and escorted from the courtroom.

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Ulyukayev testified at the trial that he thought that the bag contained several bottles of wine that Sechin had earlier promised as a gift to him.

Most Russians did not need a trial to have an opinion on Ulyukayev.

Ulyukayev also warned the Kremlin elite that anyone could be falsely accused next.

Former Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin, an adviser to President Vladimir Putin and a strong advocate of less state control over the economy, criticised the verdict. The verdict says that Sechin "agreed with the unlawful claim of Ulyukaev", but then turned to the law enforcement bodies.

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In his emotional final argument, Ulyukayev pleaded not guilty to "those absurd accusations" and likened himself to an "elderly gladiator with a paper sword" trying to fend them off.

Sechin was summoned for interrogation four times but he failed to appear in court.

He said he was guilty of a different thing: "I too often compromised, looked for easy ways and put my career and well-being above defending principles".

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