Prokhorov buys into Uralkali as Russia seeks to end potash row
But, they add, a deal was a precondition to secure the extradition of Uralkali CEO Vladislav Baumgertner, who was arrested in Minsk and has been charged with exceeding his powers and embezzlement. He faces up to 12 years in jail if convicted.
Talks continue on the possible sale of the stakes in Uralkali held by Kerimov's partners. Filaret Galtchev owns 7 percent of Uralkali and Anatoly Skurov 4.8 percent, bringing their combined interest to just over a third.
Along with Prokhorov, businessman Dmitry Mazepin, co-owner of fertilizers producer Uralchem, and Russian state arms-to-technology group Rostec are interested in buying into Uralkali, several sources said.
Asked whether the deal was good politics or good business, one source familiar with all parties involved said: "It's business, as Kerimov is selling with a premium to the market."
Prokhorov was keen to bring in Belarussian-born Mazepin to help manage Uralkali and its relations with Minsk. "This asset is difficult," the source said.
Rostec, run by Putin's colleague at his KGB posting in 1980s East Germany, Sergei Chemezov, would serve as a "minder" for the state if it was brought into the deal, the source added.
Asked whether the Kremlin had given the deal a green light, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "This is totally a business issue and one doesn't need approval from the Kremlin."
Russian state company Rostec does not plan to buy Uralkali, a Rostec representative said.
Uralkali holds around 12 percent of its shares in treasury and these are expected to be cancelled within six months. Should Kerimov's partners also sell, the buyers' combined stake would rise to 38 percent, ensuring de facto control over the business.