MOSCOW, August 31 (RIA Novosti) – The Belarusian Prime Minister reportedly said Saturday that “there is no politics” in the dispute between fertilizer producers in Belarus and Russia that triggered a CEO’s arrest and a trade war between Moscow and Minsk.
Earlier this week, Russia targeted two mainstays of the Belarusian economy by imposing cuts on oil exports and threatening food imports following the Monday’s detention and charges against Vladislav Baumgertner, chief executive officer of Uralkali, the world’s largest potash producer.
Baumgertner was detained in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, and charged with abuse of power and official duties. He faces up to 10 years in jail.
Belarusian authorities accused him and four other Uralkali executives of causing losses of about $100 million by pulling out of a cartel it operated with Belaruskali in late July, Bloomberg reported. The pull-out caused global prices for potash, one of Minsk’s most vital exports, to crash, and the value of Belaruskali to plunge.
Belarusian Prime Minister Pyotr Prokopovich told a news agency Saturday that the dispute is nothing but “normal relations between two business partners.”
“They used to work together and now they have split,” he was quoted by Belta as saying. “There is no and will never be no politics.”
Russia and Belarus have a long history of quarreling over economic matters. Russia, keen to prop up one of its last political allies, has in effect subsidized the Belarusian economy with cheap oil and gas and loans, but Moscow appears to be increasingly impatient with what it sees as Belarus abusing that largesse.