MOSCOW, September 1 (RAPSI) – The Zamoskvorestky District Court of Moscow has heard testimony presented by two witnesses for prosecution in the criminal case against former Russia's Economy Minister Alexey Ulyukayev, who stands charged with extorting a $2 million bribe, RAPSI correspondent reports from the courtroom on Friday.

The stand took Andrey Baranov, the head of the Rosneft’s Investor Relations Department, and Oksana Tarasenko, the head of the Corporate Governance Department in the Ministry of Economic Development.

According to Baranov, under Ulyukayev the Ministry often provided no replies to Rosneft letters and the company had to rely on mass media reports citing the former Minister and other officials in its decision making. He said top managers of Rosneft were seriously concerned when seeing the news that Ulyukayev said the company was not an appropriate buyer as concerned oil company Bashneft.

Tarasenko told the court Ulyukayev had crossed out two phrases from a Ministry’s report supporting Rosneft’s purchase deal with regard to Bashneft; nevertheless, the witness said, this did not change the conclusion the report had arrived at that there were no legal grounds to prevent Rosneft from purchasing the oil producer.

The next hearing is to be held on September 5.

Earlier, Ulyukayev had claimed he was not guilty and stated that he believed the case was fabricated. 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 a testimony provided by Russian oil giant Rosneft’s head Igor Sechin.

Ulyukayev was arrested while receiving an alleged bribe in mid-November 2016. He allegedly demanded Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft’s representative to pay him $2 million for lawfully providing a positive review and evaluation of a deal that allowed Rosneft to acquire government’s share in mid-sized oil producer Bashneft. According to the Investigative Committee, the former minister threatened to create obtrusions for Rosneft with the use of his position.

On November 15, 2016, the ex-minister was put under house arrest. Later in the evening, President Vladimir Putin relieved Ulyukayev of his post because of loss of trust.

The Basmanny District Court has seized Ulyukayev’s property valued at over 564 million rubles (about $9.5 million).