Belarus moots repatriation of Uralkali CEO to Russia
Lukashenko on Thursday said the potash row should not be allowed to drive the two countries apart or spoil his relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"This potash scandal must in no way become a stumbling block in relations, not only between states but also between two presidents," he said, an allusion to past rows over Russian energy deliveries to Belarus.
"Do you know how difficult it was to restore these ties, we can not afford for them to be spoiled again," Lukashenko was quoted as saying.
His words clearly suggested that Baumgertner was seen as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Russia over the lucrative potash trade rather than as a genuine target for prosecution.
But he accused Uralkali's owners of distorted accounting and manipulation of financial statements and said he was prepared to share the findings of Belarus's investigations with the stock exchanges in London and Moscow.
In a statement, Uralkali denied the accusations and said its financial reporting had consistently been certified under international standards.
"We therefore conclude that the statements by the Belarusian authorities are inaccurate and part of an ongoing campaign of disinformation designed to harm Uralkali's reputation and its business," Paul Ostling, independent chairman of Uralkali's audit committee, said in a statement.
Though Russia at first threatened to restrict oil exports to Minsk and close the door to Belarussian pork imports, Putin himself has taken a more neutral line saying an end to the dispute had to be worked out.
Since then, Igor Sechin, head of Russian oil giant Rosneft and a close ally of Putin, has said Russia is committed to maintaining strong business ties with Belarus, a lucrative market for Russian energy firms due to an export tax waiver.
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