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Uralkali chief Baumgertner to be extradited to Russia

Some three months after being arrested in Belarus, the CEO of Russian potash producer Uralkali will be extradited to Moscow. Russian prosecutors will investigate charges of embezzlement brought against the businessman.

Russia's Prosecutor General said on Thursday Belarus had agreed to extradite the chief executive of Uralkali, Vladislav Baumgertner (pictured). Baumgertner was arrested in Minsk in August over the collapse of a sales cartel threatening Belarusian revenues.

Minsk had charged Baumgertner with abuse of power and embezzlement and had held him under house arrest in the country's capital.

The extradition accord was seen by observers as a first move to end a political row that had unsettled relations between two former Soviet allies.

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But there are strings attached to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's willingness to let Baumgertner go. He would have to be detained and investigated upon his extradition, Interfax news agency reported.

It added there would also be a change of Uralkali's shareholder structure as desired by Minsk, with tycoon Suleiman Kerimov having agreed to sell his 21.75-percent stake.

Uralkali's withdrawal from a Russian-Belarusian sales alliance had rocked the global potash industry - also affecting Germany's K+S producer, which had seen its shares losing some 30 percent of their value in the process.

Lukashenko was reported to have called for the restoration of the former cartel which controlled 40 percent of the global potash market. But experts indicated that would be hard to imagine, given the industry's current overcapacity problems.

hg/ph (dpa, Reuters)

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