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Belarus Orders Uralkali Shareholder Held

Businessman Suleiman Kerimov pictured here in 2012 (file photo)

Businessman Suleiman Kerimov pictured here in 2012 (file photo)

Belarusian authorities have launched a criminal investigation into the major shareholder of Russia's Uralkali potash-producing company.

A spokesman for Belarus's Investigative Committee said on September 2 that an order had been issued to detain one of Russia's richest citizens, Suleiman Kerimov, who owns 25 percent of Uralkali shares.

The spokesman said Kerimov was suspected of abuse of office and faces up to 10 years in jail.

On August 26, Belarusian authorities detained Uralkali General Director Vladislav Baumgertner in Minsk on the same charge.

The move sparked tensions between Belarus and Russia.

Baumgertner was chairman of the Belarusian Potash Company (BKK), a now-defunct joint venture between Uralkali and a Belarusian potash firm, Belaruskali.

His announcement in July that Uralkali was leaving BKK led to a steep drop in the commodity's price, affecting the Belarusian economy.

Potash is the name given to various salts that contain potassium. It has a number of industrial applications, but is primarily used in the production of fertilizers.

Based on reporting by Interfax and ITAR-TASS