Russia Qualifies For 2014 World Cup

Credit: Reuters/Denis Sinyakov By Polina Devitt and Alessandra Prentice MOSCOW | Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:09pm EDT MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has opened a criminal investigation into the chief executive of potash producer Uralkali, Vladislav Baumgertner, and will request his extradition from Belarus, federal investigators said on Monday. The step by Russian authorities opened the door for a face-saving resolution of a tense situation in which the head of the world’s biggest producer of the fertilizer component is under house arrest in Moscow’s neighbor and close ally. Belarus detained Baumgertner, 41, at Minsk airport in late August, about a month after Russian company Uralkali abruptly pulled out of a potash sales cartel with a partner in Belarus. Uralkali’s withdrawal from the alliance with state-run Belaruskali rocked the global potash industry and threatened Belarus, which is heavily dependent on cheap Russian energy and financial aid, with losses. The soil nutrient accounts for 12 percent of Belarus’s state revenues and about 10 percent of export income, and the cartel’s demise angered Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko. Belarus said last week that it had started selling potash on its own, but Lukashenko urged the two sides to put the lucrative partnership back together again. The cartel accounted for 40 percent of the world market worth around $20 billion a year. WILL KERIMOV SELL? Baumgertner was initially put in pre-trial detention but later moved to house arrest. Charged with abuse of power and embezzlement, he faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted. Russia’s federal Investigative Committee, which answers to President Vladimir Putin, said it had opened an investigation into Baumgertner on suspicion of abuse of power and would request his extradition. The extradition could save face for Lukashenko, who has said his country could hand over Baumgertner as long as Russia took steps to prosecute him. An extradition would not necessarily lead to a trial, however, and it could reduce pressure on the main owner of Uralkali, Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, to sell his stake so that the cartel can re-form. It would, though, put the asset more firmly in Putin’s hands.

The final score looked a little surprising as Azerbaijan equalized late Tuesday, but the ultimate outcome was more or less expected: Russia is back into the World Cup (as Group F winner, no less) after failing to qualify for Germany 2006 or South Africa 2010. Russia needed just a single point against Azerbaijan to book its latest spot under Capello, whose World Cup reputation was a bit in tatters following Englands unimpressive 2010 appearance. This will be Russias first World Cup since 2002, when the country failed to move beyond group stage. The Russians havent advanced past group stage in the tournament since the 1980s, in fact, when talented teams under the old Soviet Union banner advanced into the second stage in 1982 and 1986. Russia nearly made it to South Africa three-plus years ago but fell in a playoff to Slovenia. Capello was hired two years ago to shepherd the team successfully to Brazil, and the Russians took a bit step Tuesday when Alexander Samedovs wonderful ball cut up the Azerbaijan back line, leaving Roman Shirokov in alone to score the telling goal. A late goal from the hosts made the final 1-1, but was still enough to book Russias spot and to consign Portugal. Also worth noting here is that Russia will not play another World Cup qualifier until 2020. As hosts of World Cup 2018, the Russians qualify automatically. The updated list of teams that have now officially qualified: Australia

Russia detains Azerbaijani over Moscow murder after riots

The suspected killer was caught just outside Moscow and sent for questioning by the Investigative Committee, the Russian equivalent of the FBI which oversees major criminal probes, a police spokesman told AFP. Police and investigators identified the suspect as Orkhan Zeinalov, a 30-year-old native of Azerbaijan. The press service of Moscow’s police department later issued a statement saying that Zeinalov had “confessed his guilt in unofficial conversations with members of the police.” Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Zeinalov had lived in Russia for the past 10 years and made a living as a taxi driver. “It is known that he is quick-tempered and aggressive, abuses alcohol and does not have a permanent place of residence in Moscow,” Markin said in a statement. Thousands rioted in southern Moscow on Sunday over the killing several days earlier of 25-year-old local man Yegor Shcherbakov, who was stabbed to death in front of his girlfriend. The killer fled the scene but images caught on surveillance cameras suggested he could have been from Central Asia or the Caucasus. After a largely peaceful protest on Saturday, the rioting erupted Sunday when more than 1,000 protesters attacked a wholesale vegetable market where they thought the suspected killer was hiding. After the weekend riots investigators combed the place, with Markin saying the search exposed “crude violations of migration, labour and administrative legislation” at the market. Authorities have decided to suspend trading at the market, the statement said, adding that investigators were considering opening a criminal probe against its management. Muscovites have for years chafed at the huge numbers of Muslim migrants who travel to the Russian capital in search of work. Police routinely raid underground operations in which migrants are exploited by employers but police themselves are notorious for extorting bribes from them.