Russian minister imprisoned for oil-related bribes released

The top Russian officials who went to jail in nearly 20 years were released on Thursday after serving more than half of their eight-year sentence on bribery charges.

Former Minister of Economic Development Alexey Ulyukaev applied for early release after working for more than five years. A court in the Tver region, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) northwest of Moscow, granted him parole last month.

He walked freely on Thursday, and television in the Russian state showed an image that said it was a convoy of cars taking him out of Tver prison.

Ulyukaev was detained in 2016 at the headquarters of the state-owned Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer. The prosecution said it had received a $ 2 million bribe from Rosneft’s influential chief executive officer, Igor Setin, for giving the company a green light to privatize another oil company.

The situation in the case aroused speculation that Ulyukaev was involved in the Kremlin’s power struggle involving Russian President Vladimir Putin’s longtime companion, Sechin.

Ulyukaev was arrested while trying to leave the Rosneft building with a bag full of cash that Sechin gave him as part of a sting operation by a major Russian intelligence agency. Ulyukaev thought the bag contained a bottle of wine and a basket of sausages, he told the court.

Immediately after his arrest, Ulyukaev was fired from his post. He remained innocent throughout the trial, claiming that Sechin launched him.

Associated Press