19 September 2013 23:36 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is open to sending Uralkali CEO Vladislav Baumgertner back to Russia, he said Thursday, if the Belarus government is assured that the fertilizer executive will be prosecuted for the allegations for which he has been incarcerated in Minsk since 26 August.
Baumgertner was arrested on charges of abusing his authority as head of the Belarusian Potash Company (BPC) and now faces a sentence of up to 10 years if guilty. His detention sparked a further dispute between Belarus and Russia that started in July when Uralkali exited BPC over dissatisfaction with partner producer Belaruskali.
Speaking to state media, Lukashenko said that the issue over Baumgertner should not be allowed to become an issue that divides the two economic and political allies.
“If Russian investigators are interested in the extradition of a Russian citizen who was detained by us, then I do not see any special obstacles,” said Lukashenko.
"We are absolutely not holding on to him, if they do actually treat him in accordance with the law," he said. "The damage is colossal there; it can be seen with a naked eye."
Looking towards repairing damage to their equal interest in the stability of the global potash market, Lukashenko said Belarus is agreeable toward working with Russia to restore their trading venture.
But keeping with the defiant tone that has marked much of the recent interchange between the nations, he said Belaruskali would go forward regardless, suggesting that a change of ownership at Uralkali would help to reach an accord. He predicted a re-formation of the trading venture would result in an immediate upswing in the market.
“If you are going to leave, then leave. But do not impede us to work here. We are ready to work on our own,” Lukashenko said. “Another option is to continue the joint operations and the owners will change and people will come who are interested in producing potash at Uralkali and we are ready to work with them.”
“The restoration of our partnership alone will inevitably increase the prices of this commodity by one and a half times in the course of this year, early next year.”
Russian officials and Uralkali management have been infuriated by the actions of Belarus authorities and have repeatedly demanded that Baumgertner be released, labelling the detention as being politically motivated.
Adding to the tensions, Russia has banned imports of hogs and pork products from the neighboring country, as well as placed sanctions on oil and dairy products.
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