Russia's ex-economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev gets out of a car to attend a hearing at the Zamoskvoretsky district court in Moscow on November 13, 2017.

Moscow (AFP) - Igor Sechin, the head of Russian oil giant Rosneft and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, failed to appear as a witness Monday in the bribery trial of former economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev, according to an AFP reporter at the court.

Ulyukayev’s is the highest-profile criminal case against a top official in decades and the former minister has accused Sechin of framing him.

Ulyukayev was arrested a year ago while still a minister, allegedly caught red-handed taking a $2-million kickback to greenlight the acquisition by state oil giant Rosneft of a stake in another oil company, Bashneft.

Last week a Moscow court judge summoned Sechin to testify in the case.

But on Monday, as the CEO was due to appear in court, Rosneft press secretary Mikhail Leontiev said he had “not received” the summons.

Following Sechin’s absence, the Russian postal service told business daily RBC that it had delivered the demand.

After a wan-looking Ulyukayev arrived for the hearing, the judge said the court had summoned Sechin by fax, mail and courier but Rosneft employees had refused all requests.

The court ruled to summon Sechin a second time for a hearing on November 15.

The surprise arrest of Ulyukayev in November 2016 sent shockwaves through Russia’s liberal elite.

Ulyukayev had originally opposed the sale of the stake in Bashneft to Rosneft but later endorsed it after President Vladimir Putin said it could help fill state coffers.

Putin sacked Ulyukayev as economy minister – a job he had held since 2013 – in the wake of his detention a year ago.

Sechin became one of the most influential figures in Russia after building up Rosneft into the world’s largest publicly traded oil company.