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MOSCOW, September 23 (Itar-Tass) - The Presidents of Russia and Belarus, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko, will meet at the summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Sochi on Monday, although, probably, not face-to-face, for the first time since the start of the so-called potassium scandal and the arrest of the Uralkaliy general director in Minsk.
Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov told journalists on September 18 that Putin and Lukashenko might meet on the sidelines of the CSTO summit. "Of course, we expect them to meet," he said, adding that meetings with all participants will be held on the sidelines of the summt in this or that way.
Yuri Ushakov, Assistant to the RF President, pointed out, for his part, that a separate meeting between Putin and Lukashenko in Sochi is not planned but that the presidents may contact each other at summit events. "A bilateral meeting is not planned so far. However, the leaders (of CSTO countries) will meet in a narrow format and, naturally, separate contacts during the Protocol meeting are not ruled out either," Ushakov said. Besides, Putin's aide on Friday, Septeber 20, commented on Lukashenko's statement, made the day before, on the "potassium scandal". The Kremlin official said Moscow expects that Vladislal Baumgertner, General Director of the Uralkaliy, will be extradited to Russia. "The (extradition) process is being slightly dragged out already but President Lukashenko's yesterday's remarks make it possible to hope that the issue will be settled shortly," Ushakov pointed out.
This refers to Lukashenko's statement that the potassium scandal should not become a stumbling block between the two states. "If Russian investigators will be interested in an extradition of the Russian citizen who was detained by us, I do not visualize particular obstacles in this respect. We absolutely do not hold on to him," Lukashenko said. The President of Belarus also assigned official to hand over the materials on the Uralkaliy case to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation".
Putin had commented on the "potassium case" on September 6 at a press conference on the results of the G20 summit at Strelna. "I did not speak with to Lukashenko on this matter. The (present) lull is connected with the fact that we want to settle the problem, not to drive it into a deadlock," the Russian president said. In so doing he emhasized that "The problem must be settled, of course".
At the end of July, the Uralkaliy announced termination of sales via the Belarusian potassium company (BKK) -- the joint-venture company and the Belarusian state-run fertilizer producer Belaruskaliy. The Russian producer also proclaimd a new "volume above price" strategy.
A month later, on August 26, at the close of talks with BelarusianP remier Mikhail Myasnikovich, Vladislav Baumgertner, Uralkaliy general director who headed the BKK Supervisory Board, was detained in Minsk. He is charged by the Office of Belarusian Prosecutor General under an article referring to an abuse owing to a selfish interest. A maximum penalty under the article's provisions is up to ten years of deprivation of freedom with a confiscation of property. Similar charges were brought in absentia against four top managers of BKK, including Russian senator (member of the Federation Council upper house of parliament) Suleiman Kerimov, the major stockholder of the Uralkaliy.