MINSK, August 26 (RIA Novosti) – The CEO of Russian fertilizer firm Uralkali, one of the world’s largest producers of potash fertilizer, has been detained in Minsk and charged with abuse of power, a spokesman for the Belarusian Investigative Committee said Monday.
CEO Vladislav Baumgertner, who is also a member of the oversight board of Uralkali’s Belarusian partner, Belaruskali, is being investigated for possible abuse of power and abuse of official duties, the Investigative Committee’s Pavel Traulko told RIA Novosti.
Uralkali has confirmed Baumgertner’s detention but denounced it as a gross provocation by Minsk. The company’s share price fell 2 percent on news of the CEO’s detention.
Baumgertner, who arrived in Minsk at the invitation of Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich, was detained at the airport shortly after meeting with him, the company’s spokesman Alexander Babinsky said.
Alexander Voloshin, Uralkali’s board chairman, and Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, an Uralkali shareholder, had also been invited, but they did not arrive for the meeting. Pavel Traulko, a spokesman for Belarus' Investigative Committee, told the Belta news agency that Kerimov was under investigation over his alleged involvement in “illegal activity.”
Uralkali and Belaruskali had previously worked together under the umbrella of the so-called 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.”
"We believe this is a rather strange situation, bearing in mind the nature of our relationship," Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said. He said Russian 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.
The Russian Embassy in Minsk has sent a note to Belarus’ Foreign Ministry asking for a meeting with Baumgertner. A spokesman for Belarus’ Foreign Ministry said it is up to the Belarusian Investigative Committee now to decide on the meeting.
Belarus is also seeking the arrest of four other Uralkali executives who have been accused of abuse of power “for lucrative purposes” that resulted in "large scale damage" to Belaruskali and the Belarus Potash Company.
Updates with Shuvalov's statement, details