19 January 2018, Friday, 10:17

Moscow not to yield to Lukashenka's blackmail


Russia doesn't agree with the conditions for Baumgertner's extradition proposed by the Belarusian ruler.

Kommersant reports it referring to own sources.

Lukashenka in fact demanded Uralkali yesterday to pay a ransom for Vladislav Baumgertner, who is under house arrest in Minsk on accusations of embezzlement. The extradition to Russia was estimated at $100 million. Well-informed sources gave to understand that Russia is not ready to compensate for the alleged damage on these conditions. The fate of Vladislav Baumgertner, who was placed under arrest in absentia in Russia, may be determined after the change of Uralkali's owner.

Lawyer Yuly Tai, who represents senator Suleiman Kerimov's interests (who is thought by Belarus to be involved in frauds at Belaruskali), noted that Lukashenka in fact “demanded a ransom, which is an unprecedented step from the point of the law”. According to the lawyer, compensation is usually paid “after the court delivers its decision and it takes force; as we don't have it, no payments are possible”. Tai thinks “the case should be given to Russian investigators to remove the political aspect from the investigation. Things had been moving in this direction until yesterday.

After the talks between Russia's Prosecutor General Yury Chaika and his Belarusian counterpart, the parties agreed that the issue of Vladislav Baumgertner would be solved in the framework of the Minsk Convention on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations with Respect to Civil, Family and Criminal Matters adopted by the CIS member states in 1993.

Under the Convention, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office received 19 volumes of Vladislav Baumgertner's case and filed them to the Russian Investigative Committee. The Committee carried out a preliminary inquiry and opened a criminal case under part 2 of article 201 of the Criminal Code of Russia (abuse of power) against Uralkali CEO and Konstantin Solodovnikov, a former first deputy general director of the Belarusian Potash Company.

Under the Minsk Convention, the Russian Instigative Committee applied to Moscow's Basmanny District Court with a motion to arrest Vladislav Baumgertner apparently to prove the seriousness of the Committee's intentions. The court sustained the motion and ruled that Uralkali CEO should be arrested just after his extradition to Moscow. The Investigative Committee expected the decision to be made before the businessman's term of arrest expires in Minsk, but it became clear that the arrest may be extended until Lukashenka gets the compensation.

A well-informed source says that the Belarusian authorities already proposed unofficially to extradite Vladislav Baumgertner in exchange for $100 million of compensation. It's not big money for the company, which could pay it if an acceptable scheme is found, for example, a bail. However, the company didn't agree on it, because paying for the damage would mean to accept the company's guilt and confirm the charges against Vladislav Baumgertner and other top managers.

Some sources believe Uralkali CEO will be released only after the company's main owner is changed.