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Uralkali affair might worsen situation in 2 Russian towns

August 28, 2013, 13:59 UTC+3

Perm Territory Governor Viktor Basargin said Uralkali CEO had always acted for the benefit of the company taking into account the interests of Berezniki and Solikamsk residents

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Photo ITAR-TASS/Valery Sharifulin

Photo ITAR-TASS/Valery Sharifulin

PERM, August 28 (Itar-Tass) - Perm Territory Governor Viktor Basargin stood up for CEO of the Uralkali company Vladislav Baumgertner detained in Belarus, noting that his arrest might impact the interests of the towns of Berezniki and Solikamsk with a population of about 250,000.

"Over a year of work with Vladislav Arturovich (Baumgertner), I've never had reasons to reproach him. He's always acted for the benefit of the company he headed, taking into account the interests of Berezniki and Solikamsk residents, as well as the need to participate in the development of the regional economy and implementation of social projects in the Perm territory," the governor blogged on Wednesday.

Basargin acknowledged that "it is difficult to judge details of disagreements between Uralkali, the Belarusian Potassium Company and Belaruskali. However, resolving disputed economic issues at the international level by force is nonsense. It does not add credit to the Belarusian partners nor does it help strengthen economic relations."

The governor noted that the situation might unsettle the Uralkali operation on which Solikamsk and Berezniki residents rely heavily for their well-being.

"I asked the Russian government for additional assistance, and sent a telegram to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov requesting to step up the diplomatic measures towards protecting Baumgertner's rights. I also wish to urge the Belarusian authorities to understand the situation and find a civilized solution," Basargin said.

Uralkali CEO Vladislav Baumgеrtner was detained in Minsk on Monday. The Belarusian authorities accuse him of misuse of $100 million and said they would check the activity of the key company owner, Suleiman Kerimov, whose fund has a 21.75% stake in Uralkali.

The Belarusian Investigative Committee said Baumgеrtner had been arrested on the strength of evidence about company top managers' abuse of office powers. It caused damage to the state and public interests of Belarus, as well as to Belaruskali and the Belarusian Potash Company.

Belarusian investigators said Interpol had issued wanted notices for four top managers of the Belarusian Potassium Company /BKK/: board member Oleg Petrov, First Deputy Director General Konstantin Solodovnikov, Deputy Director General for finance Igor Yevstratov and head of the freight department, Dmitry Samoilov.

On Tuesday, Belarusian prosecutors promised to check Baumgertner's detention, following a 20-minute meeting with Russian envoy to Belarus Alexander Surkov.

First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said the Russian government believed that the detention of Baumgertner in Minsk was an unfriendly move. What happened is absolutely inappropriate. "We believe it's an odd situation given the nature of our cooperation. We regard it as absolutely strange, inadequate and unbefitting a partnership," he said.

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