ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday it was necessary to resolve a potash dispute with Belarus, which led to the arrest of the boss of producer Uralkali, but said it was important to avoid escalating the problem.
These were Putin's first comments since potash group Uralkali pulled out of an export venture with Belarus. This prompted Belarus to arrest Uralkali's head Vladislav Baumgertner. Minsk kept Baumgertner in jail for nearly two weeks.
Putin has not yet discussed the matter with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, Russian President told journalists after a Group of 20 Summit in St Petersburg.
"This is because we want to resolve the problem and not to drive it into a dead end - which would be very easily done if we kicked up a fuss," Putin said in response to a question.
"This problem needs to be resolved," he added.
Putin's spokesman said earlier on Friday that Russia needed to study all Belarussian claims against Uralkali before coming to any conclusions.
The Kremlin's comments on the issue have been much less emphatic than statements by deputies of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, suggesting a split between the Kremlin and Medvedev's government in their commitment to support Uralkali.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich have called the detention of Baumgertner, CEO of the world's top potash producer, "inappropriate" and "not acceptable".
(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Writing by Polina Devitt; editing by Megan Davies and Jane Merriman)