MOSCOW -- Russian investigators today launched a criminal case against the detained head of potash giant Uralkali in a move aimed at winning his extradition from neighbouring Belarus.
Uralkali CEO Vladislav Baumgertner was arrested in Minsk in August on suspicion of devising a scheme to enrich himself and other executives at the expense of Belarus, a major producer of the fertilizer component.
The Russian executive was moved from a Belarussian KGB holding centre to house arrest in Minsk on September 26.
Baumgertner's detention drew protests from top Russian officials and put Moscow's uneasy relations with Minsk under renewed pressure.
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said last week he may allow Baumgertner to return to Russia provided that Moscow prosecutes him for allegedly corrupt business practices.
Russia's Investigative Committee responded today by announcing it had opened a criminal case against Baumgertner on abuse of authority charges.
Baumgertner's arrest came after Uralkali, one of the world's largest potash producers, stunned the markets by pulling out of a joint venture with the Belarussian state potash firm.
The decision broke up one of the two global cartels of the fertilizer product and delivered a heavy blow to the Belarussian economy as prices tumbled.
Belarus generates about a fifth of its revenue from potash sales. Baumgertner was arrested at Minsk airport after he attended a meeting with Belarussian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich to discuss the dispute.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013