MOSCOW, Sept 20 Russia expects Belarus soon to
hand over the head of Russian potash producer Uralkali
, arrested last month in the Belarussian capital, a
Kremlin official said on Friday.
The remarks by foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov suggested
the two countries were closer to resolving a dispute that flared
after Uralkali quit a sales partnership that had been one of the
dominant forces on the global potash market.
Alexander Lukashenko, who will meet Russian President
Vladimir Putin on Monday, said on Thursday he was ready to
repatriate Uralkali CEO Vladislav Baumgertner but wants a change
of ownership in Uralkali that restores strong commercial links
"We expect that this Russian citizen will be handed over to
Russia," Ushakov told reporters. "Yesterday's comments by the
Belarussian president give us reason to hope that this question
will be resolved in the nearest future."
Lukashenko took a conciliatory tack after weeks of tension
following the collapse in July of the lucrative sales cartel
involving Uralkali, the world's top potash producer, and
He said he did not want the dispute to become a major
stumbling block in political ties with Russia.
Exports of potash, a major fertiliser ingredient, account
for 12 percent of Belarussia's state revenue. The pull-out by
Uralkali threatened to push potash prices down 25 percent - a
big blow to the former Soviet republic's fragile economy.
Belarus has accused the 41-year-old Baumgertner of abuse of
power and has twice turned down appeals for him to be released
provisionally pending investigation.
With the affair placing fresh strain on the close, but often
tense, relations between the two ex-Soviet allies, speculation
has mounted that billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, Uralkali's main
shareholder, may sell his $3.7 billion stake to an owner looked
on more favourably by the Kremlin.