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Kremlin Aide Sees Belarus Releasing Uralkali CEO to Russia Soon

OAO Uralkali Chief Executive Officer Vladislav Baumgertner probably will be handed over to Russia soon, after almost a month in a Belarus KGB prison, according to the Kremlin.

“Yesterday’s remarks by the Belarusian president allow us to reckon that the issue will be settled in the very near future,” Kremlin foreign-policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters today in Moscow.

Baumgertner’s ordeal stems from his July decision to end a a trading joint venture between Uralkali, the world’s biggest potash producer, and Belarus’s Belaruskali, roiling the $20 billion market. Export volumes of the crop nutrient have been “paralyzed,” according to Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. Chief Financial Officer Wayne Brownlee.

Belarus may hand Baumgertner over to Russian investigators, state-owned Belta news agency said yesterday, citing Lukashenko at a meeting with officials in the capital, Minsk.

The Uralkali CEO was detained at the Minsk airport on Aug. 26 after talks at Belarus Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich’s invitation. The executive has been held since then in a prison nicknamed Amerikanka, or “the American,” on charges of abuse of office as chairman of Belarusian Potash Co., the joint trader that once controlled about 40 percent of global potash exports.

Prosecutors from the two former Soviet republics have discussed options for Baumgertner’s release, Interfax said yesterday, citing an unidentified person familiar with the situation. One possibility is releasing him on $100 million bail, the news service reported.

Baumgertner’s lawyers haven’t received any official proposals from Belarus about changing the terms of his detention, Alexey Basistov, Moscow-based attorney for CEO, said by e-mail late yesterday.

Uralkali rose 0.8 percent to 180.78 rubles by 3:45 p.m. in Moscow, after losing 1.8 percent yesterday.

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