Russian ex-minister Ulyukayev: I am victim of 'monstrous set up'

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Former Russian economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev, accused of taking a $2 million (£1.5 million) bribe from Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin, told a court on Thursday he was the victim of “a monstrous and cruel provocation.”

Russian former Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, who was charged with accepting a bribe, is escorted by bailiffs after a court hearing in Moscow, Russia December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

State prosecutors said the bribe was given last year on Nov. 14 in exchange for Ulyukayev approving the sale of state-controlled oil company Bashneft to Rosneft.

Ulyukayev denies the charges. He says he thought the bag holding the bribe was a gift of expensive alcohol.

“A monstrous and cruel provocation was carried out against me,” Ulyukayev told the court in his final statement before it hands down a verdict on Dec. 15.

“This trial has aroused public interest similar to that of a circus,” he added. “The charges are absurd, the evidence is absurd, and at its base lies the cruelty and impunity of the provocateur.”

Rosneft head Sechin, a witness in the trial and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, has not appeared in court, citing work commitments.

Russian prosecutors earlier this month sought a sentence of 10 years in jail for Ulyukayev.

Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Osborn

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