August 29, 2013 - 18:08 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A Belarus-Russia dispute over control of potash exports has escalated, with Belarus threatening to prosecute a billionaire Russian businessman, BBC News said.
Suleiman Kerimov is the main shareholder in Uralkali, a Russian potash firm reported to control 20% of the world market in the chemical, a key ingredient in fertiliser. Belarus says it suspects him and other managers of wrongdoing. Russia now says it will reduce oil deliveries to Belarus next month. The deliveries will be cut by 400,000 tonnes, pipeline operator Transneft said, without linking the decision to the potash dispute.
Transneft vice-president Mikhail Barkov, quoted by Interfax news agency, said the reason was a need to upgrade an obsolete section of pipeline. He did not say when the repairs would be completed.
Uralkali's CEO Vladislav Baumgertner was arrested in Belarus on Monday. Belarus has already put four other Uralkali managers on Interpol's wanted list, including sales chief Oleg Petrov. They are accused of abusing their authority "for mercenary goals leading to substantial damage to state and public interests" in Belarus.
The row centres on the Belarus Potash Company (BPC), a joint venture set up to manage sales for Uralkali and the Russian firm's Belarusian partner Belaruskali.
On 30 July, Uralkali pulled out of the BPC venture, saying it wanted to boost its own production - a move expected to lower potash prices.
Potash - a term used for various compounds containing potassium - is a key export for Belarus. State officials in the ex-Soviet republic still keep a tight grip on the economy and price competition is minimised.