A diplomatic row has broken out between Russia and Belarus after Vladislav Baumgertner, the CEO of Russia’s largest potash producer, Uralkali, was arrested in Minsk on suspicion of abuse of authority.
Criminal proceedings have been launched against him as well as several managers from the Belarus Potash Company (BPC).
The move comes after a high-level meeting in Minsk at which Uralkali pulled out of a joint trading venture.
The Russian Ambassador to Belarus, Alexander Surikov said: “The embassy’s position is the following: we want the immediate release of Mr Baumgertner and an explanation why all this happened. He came here at the invitation of the Prime Minister of Belarus, and had a meeting with the Prime Minister.”
Commentators note that potash is a key foreign-currency earner for Belarus and that the collapse of the joint venture could mean falling global prices for potash – which is used in the production of fertilizer.
A Uralkali spokesperson called the arrest, which was made as Baumgertner prepared to fly out of Minsk, a “crude provocation”.