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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Report: Vyakhirev's Call Frees Sheremet

Federal prosecutors Friday freed one Sibur executive but continued to detain two others without charges, while the results of an investigation into alleged theft at the country's largest petrochemical holding remain unclear.

Sibur board chairman -- and Gazprom first deputy CEO -- Vyacheslav Sheremet was released by the Prosecutor General's Office under the condition that he not leave Moscow, local media reported. His release came after a telephone conversation took place between Rem Vyakhirev -- former Gazprom CEO and current board chairman -- and a high-ranking Kremlin official, the Kommersant newspaper reported Saturday.

Sibur CEO Yakov Goldovsky and Sibur vice president Yevgeny Koshchits continue to be held at police headquarters on Ulitsa Petrovka without charges, although they were detained along with Sheremet on Wednesday. According to standard procedure, detainees must be charged within 72 hours of arrest or released.

However, according to a loophole described in Article 90 of the Criminal Procedural Code, police can continue to hold suspects 10 additional days for questioning, Interfax reported.

The executives at Gazprom -- 38 percent of which is owned by the government -- and Sibur have been locked in a power struggle since President Vladimir Putin ushered in Alexei Miller as Gazprom CEO in May. Since its inception in 1995, Sibur has seen valuable assets mysteriously disappear from its balance sheet, and the holding company controls operations at plants where it holds zero equity, analysts say.

While this behavior was condoned by Vyakhirev, Miller and his new management team are showing less tolerance.

On Jan. 8, prosecutors opened a criminal case involving the illegal transfer of assets worth millions of dollars from Sibur, of which Gazprom owns 51 percent. The case was opened at the behest of Gazprom, which sent the Prosecutor General's Office reams of incriminating evidence last month. A search on Tuesday followed, and the three executives were arrested the day of an extraordinary meeting of Sibur shareholders.

At a news conference on Friday, Vladimir Kolesnikov, adviser to Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, said that disclosure of evidence would compromise the investigation.

"Investigation of the Sibur case will be carried out in strict accordance with the law," Kolesnikov said.

Kolesnikov also said that charges could be filed as early as late Friday, but as of Sunday evening none had been announced. He added that Vladimir Lyseiko, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation, preferred to wait a while before pressing charges in this particular case.

Sibur's sale of a Surgut natural gas-refining plant for $86 million to Surgutneftegaz was not mentioned at the news conference. Earlier, the press circulated reports that identified this sale -- finalized in late December -- as the springboard for the criminal case. However, analysts pointed out that prosecutors could not accuse Sibur of "abuse of authority" in the sale because Gazprom officials publicly approved of it.

The two companies have also recently locked horns over fundamental changes to Sibur's charter as well as Gazprom's participation in a Sibur share emission.

Gazprom's board of directors is scheduled to discuss the gas monopoly's relationship with Sibur at its next meeting Jan. 25.