Uralkali CEO moved to house arrest in Belarus: lawyer

Thu Sep 26, 2013 3:39pm EDT
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MINSK (Reuters) - The chief executive of Russian potash producer Uralkali (URKA.MM: Quote) has been moved from jail to house arrest in Belarus, signaling that a diplomatic spat over the collapse of a sales cartel could be nearing an end.

Vladislav Baumgertner was detained while visiting Belarus on August 26, about a month after Uralkali withdrew from a marketing alliance with state-owned miner Belaruskali, an important source of income for Belarus.

He has since been held in a KGB prison in Minsk and could face up to 10 years in jail on charges of abuse of office.

"He was transferred to house arrest yesterday," Dmitry Goryachko, Baumgertner's lawyer, told Reuters.

Russia said last week it expected Belarus to hand over Baumgertner soon, and the development came after the country's presidents and prime ministers discussed his arrest at separate meetings this week.

Uralkali said on Thursday that 6,000 of its employees had signed an appeal to Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, asking for the release of their chief executive and expressing confidence in a swift resolution.

"We all hope that the company's CEO will be released soon. I am sure that the support expressed by Uralkali's employees is of considerable importance under the current circumstances," acting chief executive Victor Belyakov said in a statement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met Lukashenko again on Thursday when the allies held joint military maneuvers in Belarus and in Kaliningrad, a Russian outpost between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.

But while Putin's spokesman said they may have discussed the situation surrounding Uralkali, their meetings produced no sign of an agreement to return Baumgertner to Russia. An expected joint appearance before reporters never materialized.   Continued...

Dmitry Goryachko (C), Darya Lipkina (L) and Anna Slavina, lawyers of CEO of the potash producer Uralkali Vladislav Baumgertner, speak to the media in Minsk, September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko