Belarus Ex-Oil Chief Jailed for 5 Years

MINSK -- The former head of Belarus state oil refiner Belneftekhim was sentenced to five years in jail Thursday for abuse of office.

Alexander Borovsky took over Belneftekhim in 2005 and was arrested in May 2007 over irregularities in supply contracts. One of Belarus' most prominent companies, Belnefekhim brings in about one-third of its foreign currency earnings.

"The court sentenced Borovsky to five years in prison," a spokesman for the country's Supreme Court said. "He will serve his term in a standard prison."

Belarus' refineries sustained considerable losses in the first half of 2007 after Russia slapped duties on oil exports to the country, cut supplies and demanded that duties be imposed on Belarussian fuel exports.

Belneftekhim has become the focus of a diplomatic and human rights row between Belarus and the United States, with Washington last year barring its citizens from all operations with the company.

The U.S. ambassador left Belarus this month after authorities said additional sanctions had been imposed on the company, allegations denied in Washington.