Belarus court denies Uralkali CEO's release from detention

06 September 2013 20:46  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Uralkali CEO Vladislav Baumgertner remains in detention in Belarus after a district court in Minsk on Friday rejected a request by his legal representatives to have him released immediately.

The closed session hearing was held in the Partizansky District Court and the judge ruled that Baumgertner must remain in custody while authorities continue their investigation into the allegations that led to his arrest.

The decision came despite guarantees of support for the release from the governor of Russia's Perm region, Viktor Basargin, and parliament legislator Igor Barinov.

Baumgartner now faces up to 10 years of incarceration if found guilty. His detention has escalated a feud between Belarus and Russia that was sparked when Uralkali exited in July its trading venture with Belarus producer Belaruskali.

Baumgartner served as chairman of the venture, called Belarusian Potash Co (BPC).

He was arrested in Minsk on 26 August on allegations that he abused his authority as BPC chairman by allegedly making management decisions that favoured his company over the partnership.

The lead attorney representing Baumgertner, Dmitry Goryachko, said despite the ruling on Friday, he plans to keep challenging the decision to keep the Uralkali chief jailed. The lawyers had hoped if Baumgertner was not freed that, without specifying details, at least the terms of confinement would be relaxed.

"Our complaint was not satisfied by the court. We will appeal the decision in the Minsk City Court," said Goryachko.

Russian officials have repeatedly demanded that Baumgertner be released and have said the actions of Belarus could result in political and economic consequences. Since Baumgertner was incarcerated, Russia has banned imports of hogs and pork products from Belarus as well as placed sanctions on oil and dairy products.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladmir Putin commented on the potash dispute and the subsequent actions by neighbouring Belarus. Speaking to the media at the Group of 20 summit in St Petersburg, Putin said the issues needed to be resolved before the situation becomes worse between the economic and political allies.

He confirmed he has not yet spoken with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko regarding the breakup of the trading venture or the arrest of Baumgertner.

Unlike other governmental officials who have labeled the arrest as inappropriate and unacceptable, Putin was measured in his remarks on the situation, with his spokesperson later saying the legitimacy of the accusations against the potash producer and its top executive were currently being reviewed.

"We want to resolve the problem and not drive it into a dead end, which would be very easily done if we kicked up a fuss," said Putin. "This problem needs to be resolved."

By: Mark Milam
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