Russia continues attempts to gain control over Belaruskali
On June 6, during a press conference in Minsk, the Russian Ambassador Alexander Surikov said he was confident that the CJSC “Belarusian Potash Company” (exclusive trader of “Belaruskali” and Russian JSC “Uralkaliy”) will be reserved.
Ambassador Surikov’s statement should read that the fate of the BPC depends on the fulfillment of certain conditions by Belarus, which were discussed at a closed meeting during the visit of Russian President Putin to Minsk on 31 May - 1 June. It is obvious that the main condition is the sale of shares in a Belarusian major mining company “Belaruskali”.
The recent reaction of the Russian leadership of “Uralkliy” implies its new owner Mr. Karimov was not satisfied with the response of the Belarusian partners and that he is seeking to gain more control over BPC (Belarusian and Russian stakeholders hold equal 50/50 stakes in BPC), which, in turn, will strengthen his control over “Belaruskali” (100% ownership by the Belarusian government). Recently, General Director of “Uralkaliy” Mr. Baumgertner said the main office of BPC was likely to be moved to Switzerland.
If the offices of BPC are successfully moved to Switzerland, the new management of the “Uralkaliy-Silvinit” holding will attempt to monopolize the management of BPC. In particular, a political argument – sanctions against Belarusian companies – could be used. In that case, the status of BPC as a sole potash trader will enable to control “Belaruskali” without its actual purchase. Previously Belarus was forced to shift the jurisdiction over Beltehexport company - subject to EU sanctions - to Russia, which means the company was sold.
Finally, a dangerous precedent, i.e. Switzerland’s joining the EU sanctions against 32 Belarusian companies on April 30, 2012, creates favourable conditions for some influential lobbyists to call for international sanctions against BPC or even “Belaruskali” in the future. If that is the case, Russia will have an additional leverage of pressure on Belarus concerning redistribution of shares in these companies.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.