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Business

Spat between Belarus and Russia over Uralkali widens

Belarus has threatened to confiscate assets of Russian potash producer Uralkali despite a fierce rebuke from the Kremlin. Authorities in Minsk said managers of the firm stood accused of abusing their official powers.

Uralkali boss Vladislav Baumgertner

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Belarus confirmed Tuesday it had accused three managers of Russian potash producer Uralkali of causing financial damage to the tune of some $100 million (75 million euros). Following the detention of the firm's CEO, Vladislav Baumgertner (pictured), in Minsk, local authorities kept investigating the possibility of seizing Uralkali's assets in Belarus.

The head of the world's largest potash supplier was taken into custody on charges of abusing his position and official powers over Uralkali's recent decision to quit the BPC joint trading venture it had belonged to for eight years and which had accounted for 43 percent of global potash exports.

Uralkali itself said it refuted any allegations of wrongdoing by the CEO and two other of its managers.

Global repercussions

It was the first time that a top manager of a Russian firm had been arrested in Belarus, a close ally of the Kremlin. "What happened is way out of the line," Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told reporters in Moscow, describing the situation as "odd, inappropriate and not fitting to a partnership."

Uralkali's announcement to walk out on the BPC joint ventures had sent shockwaves through the industry worldwide, with experts predicting potash prices to plummet by 245 percent in the second half of the year.

Shares of Germany's DAX-listed potash producer K+S lost about a quarter of their value within days. The company looked on its way to losing its blue-chip status, but the stock has been picking up again in the past two days.

hg/hc (dpa, Reuters)