MOSCOW, August 27 (RIA Novosti) – Russian potash producer Uralkali’s board chairman, Alexander Voloshin, on Tuesday demanded that Belarus release the Russian fertilizer firm’s CEO, who had been detained in a case some Russian experts claim is political.
A spokesman for the Belarusian Investigative Committee said Monday that Vladislav Baumgertner, CEO of Uralkali, one of the world’s largest producers of potash fertilizer, was detained in Minsk and charged with abuse of power.
Some Russian experts have claimed the detention was political as it came after Uralkali recently quit a trade partnership with Belarusian potash producer Belaruskali over a foreign sales dispute, but Belarusian authorities denied a political context, saying Uralkali executives had inflicted huge financial losses upon Belarus.
Baumgertner, who is also a member of the oversight board of the Belarus Potash Company, a joint venture of Uralkali and Belarusian firm Belaruskali, is being investigated for possible abuse of power and abuse of official duties, the Belarusian Investigative Committee’s Pavel Traulko told RIA Novosti on Monday.
Baumgertner, who arrived in Minsk at the invitation of Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich, was detained at the airport shortly after meeting with him, Uralkali spokesman Alexander Babinsky said.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said Monday that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had “given all the necessary orders” regarding the situation and had called on the Russian Foreign Ministry to use “all the possible tools” to settle the dispute.
Andrei Klepach, a Russian deputy economic development minister, did not rule out on Tuesday that Russia might employ certain retaliatory measures.
Russia’s ambassador in Belarus, Alexander Surikov, on Tuesday demanded that Belarusian Prosecutor General’s Office free Baumgertner pending trial. Prosecutors said they would consider the request and review the case.
Uralkali and Belaruskali had previously worked together under the umbrella of the Belarus Potash Company and channeled all their exports through one trading company.
But Baumgertner said in June that Belaruskali had started to sell potash independently last year and, in doing so, “destroyed the fundamentals of our prolonged fruitful cooperation.”
Minsk said Tuesday that Baumgertner’s detention was not political and was in line with the law, and said it hoped Moscow would not be guided by emotions.
“The talk is of a significant economic damage to the interests of the republic of Belarus,” the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
Earlier, the Belarusian Investigative Committee said the damage allegedly inflicted by Uralkali executives was worth some $100 million.