Belarus extends house arrest of Russian potash CEO

Mon Oct 28, 2013 6:21am EDT
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* Potash chief detained in Aug after cartel collapsed

* Belarus infuriated by move that caused huge losses

* Russia may extradite Baumgertner

MINSK, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Belarus has extended by two months the detention of the chief executive of Russian potash giant Uralkali, who was arrested in August following the collapse of a sales cartel which infuriated Russia's small ally.

Vladislav Baumgertner, 41, who has been charged with abuse of power and embezzlement, has been held under house arrest. Russia has said it will request his extradition - a possible face-saving formula for both sides.

"The term of the investigation has been extended by two months... He (Baumgertner) remains under house arrest," Pavel Traulko, an official for the Belarussian investigative committee, said on Monday.

Uralkali's withdrawal from a lucrative joint venture with state-run Belaruskali in July rocked the global potash industry and threatened Belarus, which is heavily dependent on cheap Russian energy and financial aid, with big losses.

The soil nutrient accounts for 12 percent of Belarus's state revenues and about 10 percent of export income. The cartel's demise angered President Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus's authoritarian leader.

Extradition could save face for Lukashenko, who has said his country could hand over Baumgertner as long as Russia took steps to prosecute him.   Continued...