How Belarusian Potash Scandal is perceived by Russian public

By Slava Tsukerman

Vladislav Baumgertner, CEO of the world’s top potash producer Uralkali, was detained on August 26 while visiting Republic of Belarus at the invitation of its Prime Minister Alexander Lukashenko. This scandal is now one of the most discussed issues in Russia.

In 2008 there was created a joint venture between Russian potash producer Uralkali and Belarusian state potash producer Belaruskali. The alliance became a monopolistic producer of 43% of the world potash, capable of creating and controlling high prices for potash in the world market.

After the prices went up Belarusian dictator Lukashenko ordered Belaruskali to sell potash abroad not only trough the joint venture, but also separately. Russian partner didn’t like it and had broken the alliance. All the best marketing specialists were working for the Russian company and Russians very fast pushed their former Belarusian partner out of the world market. Vladislav Baumgertner, CEO of the Uralkali, stated: “It’s natural. In the past we were partners, now we are competitors”. This   outraged Lukashenko. The situation can have a major impact on the economy of Belarus, where the fertilizer accounts for 12 percent of state revenue. Belarusians estimate that their loss will equal $100 million.

Lukashenko invited several top Russian authorities, which had some relationship to the potash business to celebrate “Day of Miner” in Minsk, capital of Belarus. Of all invited only Baumgertner had come to Minsk. There he was arrested and thrown into prison.

In spite of the protests of Russian government Vladislav Baumgertner is still in the Minsk prison.

Vladislav Baumgertner

Baumgertner’s sell in the Minsk prison.

Alexander Lukashenko

Here is how Reuters covers the event.

I first learned about this event from the article in the website of the one of the most popular Russian official newspaper Izvestia.   The New York Times had chosen Izvestia as a partner for Russian publication of a joint supplement “The New York Times in Izvestia”.  In 2009  TNS Media Intelligence, a leading world media monitoring service, named Izvestia the most often quoted internationally Russian source of information.

There was nothing special in the way Izvestia covered the event. What surprised me were commentaries of Russian readers. I realize of corse that commentaries to web sites are usually written by a very special kind of people and cannot be equalized to the public opinion polls.

Still, in this case, the unity of the opinion of all commenters impresses me very much.

Out of several dozens of Russian commenters, who to my surprise excitedly praised Lukashenko for the arrest of the representative of Russia (!), only one expressed opinion, which looked logical from my point of view:

“The story is quite dirty. A Russian citizen, a guest of Belarusian Prime Minister was handcuffed. Whatever the arguments of Lukashenko, his behavior is not acceptable.  It is disrespect to Russia. “

This comment was aggressively opposed by many other commenters:

“In order to make Russia respectable it’s necessary to put all the thieves and scum like owners and rulers of Uralnikel into prison. There is no reason to respect us the way it is now”.

“The place of this ‘citizen of Russia’ is in prison. And if Putin and his scam are too week to put all this ‘capitalists’ into prison, Old Man Lukashenko is more efficient.”

“Well done, Belarusians! At least one of our thieves, crooks and other oligarchic villains was put to prison by Lukashenko, while in Russia these thieves had legalized ownership of the goods, which they had stolen from our country and feel completely save.”

“It is necessary to organize a super-mega-VIP tour of our oligarchs to Belarus. Take them all there with charters. If our authorities are afraid of the West to imprison them: ‘God forbid West wouldn’t like it’, let the Old Man to make the job for our rulers”.

“The crook, who caused damage of at least $ 100 million to the state treasury of Belarus, was arrested. It does not matter how he was caught and where he was caught. In Russia, where crooks like this one, permanently cause damage that is thousands of times higher to our country, these crooks go to the boutiques, have servants, write poems, go to each other’s homes and celebrate their present in anticipation of the wonderful future.”

Well, I read dozens of the comments to the Belarusian scandal, published in Izvestia. They all were more or less similar to those translated here.  Probably I wouldn’t be shocked if these comments were published in some leftist obscure web site. But Izvestia is the most popular, traditionalistic pro–government mass publication in Russia!

The day I’ve read the comments, I had a telephone conversation with my friend in Saint Petersburg. I’ve started telling him about my surprise in connection with the comments in Izvestia. He interrupted me before I had a chance to tell him what shocked me:

“Of course they all thanked Lukashenko for arresting Baumgertner! Don’t you understand it? In today’s Russia almost everybody hates all Russian rich and all Russian officials. Nobody believes that the privatization of 90s was fair. Everyone every day experiences the corruption of the officials. Every day even State TV channels show top officials steal billions! And none of them is imprisoned! To ordinary Russians all these Russian wealthy people are thieves, because they’ve stolen national property of poor Russians. Anyone, even an enemy of Russia, who puts any wealthy Russian into prison, will be praised in today’s Russia!”

Something to think about.

Communism is no more.

Communist mentality reign supreme.

Updated: September 18, 2013 — 11:31 am © 2016