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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

China/Belarus relations, Tatsiana Khoma, Clinton, Riots in Azerbaijan, Kseniya Sitnik, Fralou/Stsyapan

“Yes, I admit that we apply very serious pressure on the media. But this does not mean that I am crushing them. Media means a lot. But we are under conditions of an information war and there is a tightening ring of enemies which we cannot ignore. Yes, there is pressure and I am significantly involved in this process."

Alexander Lukashenka

From the Top


Interfax & ONT

President Lukashenka and members of the Chinese press corps
MINSK. Nov 28 (Interfax) - Belarussian President Alexander
Lukashenko said that China may play a key role in helping Belarus
bolster its economy.

"The gigantic economy of China, a country looking into the future,
can help the Belarussian economy begin growing faster," Lukashenko told
Chinese journalists in Minsk on Monday ahead of his visit to Beijing.

"Not only do we assess our current relations with China positively,
we see that these relations have sound prospects both in politics, the
economy and diplomacy," the president said.

"Belarus and China can cooperate without looking into the past,
because we are still committed to our previous agreements and have never
let China down," he said.

"We are open to everything in our cooperation with China. We are
ready to meet all the needs of the Chinese economy, guarantee any
interests of the Chinese leadership in Belarus and represent them in
other regions in Europe," Lukashenko said.

The two nations' trade turnover exceeded $500 million over the
first nine months of the year, the president said. "We are determined to
bring our trade turnover to $1 billion," he said.

Lukashenko also expressed his gratitude to China for its support
for the political processes inside Belarus. "China, which has always
been very cautious from the point of view of politics, voiced its
support during a recent referendum in Belarus. That was welcomed by our
people," he said.

The experience of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and
the way it has been functioning should serve as an example for the CIS,
he said.

"Today we are eyeing the SCO, which is a rapidly developing
organization. Its latest steps allow many peoples around the world to
hope that this world will cease to be mono-polar," the president said.

"The CIS, which was built on the ruins of the former Soviet Union,
could be much more successful. But today the CIS has more problems than
solutions," he said.

"Neither the Americans nor Europeans will ever agree that we can
have fraternal and alliance relations within the CIS. Rather, they would
like us to be divided," Lukashenko said.

"The establishment of the CIS envisioned pursuing a common policy
and introducing a single legal tender, but the paths of certain
countries have diverged for various reasons," the president said.

Though the CIS has certain problems, "the very fact that the CIS
exists and its presidents and prime ministers continue to meet and
discuss these problems is an achievement," he said.

Today's "circumstances will make us develop the CIS and hold on to
this organization, this enormous market. As far as resources and capital
are concerned, the CIS is a huge part of the planet that can cooperate
and compete, in a good sense, on the international arena. All CIS heads
of states are very well aware of it," Lukashenko said.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko will make an official visit to China on December 4-7 on the invitation of the Chinese President.



Tatsiana Khoma: Expelled for political reasons?
According to the information provided by the current president of ESIB Vania Ivoshavich to "The Union of National Students' Associations of Europe ESIB contacted its partner the European Association of Universities, of which Belarusian State Economic University is a member. The issue of reviewing the membership of this university in this European organization is now being considered. Also, ESIB calls on all foreign partners of BSEU to suspend all contacts with this university.

We continue to watch the situation. Tatsiana Khoma is going to appeal the expulsion decision. The protest will be passed over to the Ministry of Education, and then Tatsiana will go to court.


From the NLIPRB

Senior research officer of the United Nations Environment Programme /UNEP/ Garislav Shkolenok will pay a visit to Belarus on November 28-December 4.

As BelTA was told in the foreign ministry’s press service, the UNEP representative will hold a number of meetings in the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly, the ministry of natural resources and environmental protection, the economy ministry and the ministry of agriculture and foodstuffs.

The sides are set to consider the preparation of the national plan on the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and also the intensification of cooperation between Belarus and UNEP in this sphere.



Belarus has completed the bilateral talks with the Republic of Cuba on the access to the commodity market. As a BelTA correspondent was told in the foreign ministry, this is the main result of a regular round of talks on Belarus’ accession to the World Trade Organization /WTO/ held in Geneva.

Permanent representatives of Belarus and Cuba Sergei Aleinik and Huan Antonio Rodriguez Palacios coordinated the relevant draft protocol and reached an agreement on its signing at the ministerial level in the course of the 6th ministerial conference of the WTO in December in Hong Kong.

As the foreign political department underscored, the meetings with the delegations of China, Turkey and Armenia were able to coordinate the talks on the commitments of Belarus in the sphere of the import customs tariff and conditions of the access to the market of services.



The first Belarusian-Hungarian ministerial consultations on information issues will be held November 28-29 in Budapest /Hungary/. As a BelTA correspondent was told in the foreign political department, the Belarusian delegation will be headed by acting spokesman for the information department of the foreign ministry Ruslan Esin.

The sides will exchange views on the work of the two ministries with the mass media and the public, consider forms and methods of informing on foreign political events and discuss possible guidelines in cooperation within the framework of international organizations, first of all, of the UN Committee on Information.

In the course of the visit, the Belarusian delegation will hold talks with representatives of Hungarian news agencies and TV companies interested in cooperation with Belarus. The Belarusian side will survey the activity of the Hungarian polygraphic companies issuing presentation products.


Kiev Post

Bill Clinton: Thinking orange
(AP) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Nov. 27 praised the reforms undertaken in Ukraine since last year's Orange Revolution, and called on Ukrainians to have patience.

"It takes time to build the kind of vibrant, progressive, forward-moving nation that you are all working to build," Clinton told journalists in a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko after their meeting in the capital, Kyiv.

Clinton came to Ukraine to offer his foundation's help to this ex-Soviet republic in its struggle against HIV and AIDS, and to hold brief talks with Yushchenko, whom Clinton called "my friend."

The Western-leaning Yushchenko came to power after last year's mass protests against election fraud. The United States played an important role in condemning the fraud-marred vote and calling for a revote, which Ukraine's Supreme Court ultimately ordered and Yushchenko won.

"I see a more vibrant democracy, freedom of speech, a more aggressive, free press and freedom of political assembly and the kind of disagreements that characterize any modern democracy," Clinton said.

Asked what advice he had for Yushchenko, whose approval ratings have plunged after a split with his Orange Revolution partners and allegations of corruption against some of his closest aides, Clinton said swiftly that "it's not my business ... (and) it looks like he doesn't need any advice."
Full story


By C. J. CHIVERS for the New York Times

A woman lay stunned on a street in the aftermath of the police action.
BAKU, Azerbaijan, Nov. 26 - Dense formations of riot police officers attacked a peaceful opposition demonstration here in the Azeri capital on Saturday, beating and chasing away thousands of unarmed people protesting rigged parliamentary elections earlier this month.

Azeri Demonstrators Beaten The lopsided violence, much of it against middle-aged men and women, immediately dispersed the rally, which had exceeded its legally permitted time by no more than three minutes.

The demonstrators, supporters of the Azadliq bloc of opposition parties, chanted "Freedom!" and, in a message to President Ilham Aliyev, "Resign!" until the police officers silenced them with clubs.

The officers attacked in tight ranks, clubbing those in their path, and beating and kicking many who fell under the first blows. As people fled, the officers pursued them, flushing them from courtyards with water cannons mounted on trucks, and clubbing, punching and swearing at those they could catch.

At least two women were knocked senseless and left behind by the retreating crowd. The two lay sprawled on the street in a bizarre tableau of lost hats, discarded shoes and dropped flags as police trucks with water cannons rushed past.

The United States Embassy here, which sent diplomats to monitor the rally, denounced the violence and released a statement calling on Azerbaijan to investigate the brutality.

"The United States Embassy strongly condemns the police violence today," the statement said. "We deplore the unjustified and unprovoked use of force against citizens peacefully expressing their right to freedom of assembly."

The British ambassador, Laurie Bristow, who attended the rally, expressed disappointment. "I very much regret that the authorities felt it necessary to disperse the rally by force," he said.

The government of Azerbaijan, a small former Soviet oil state on the Caspian Sea, is trying to strengthen relations with the West while maintaining the corrupt and centralized rule of elite clans. It has cooperated with the United States in counterterrorism efforts and the war in Iraq, and is becoming fabulously rich with oil.

But elections have proved difficult for Mr. Aliyev and his supporters, who make public nods toward democracy but have never held a free election. Mr. Aliyev's father, Heydar, seized power in a coup in the early 1990's, and he himself was elected in a fraud-tainted vote in 2003, months before his father died.

The government now faces a small but vocal opposition that has been emboldened by recent bloodless revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. And the country's parliamentary elections, held on Nov. 6, have pushed the repressive streak of the Aliyev government back into the public light.

International monitors declared that the elections failed to meet democratic standards, prompting the opposition to hold rallies seeking to have the results annulled.

Before Saturday, the opposition had demonstrated only within time slots granted by the government, typically for two or three hours. But on Saturday, with a two-hour permit set to expire at 5 p.m., it opted to extend its rally in an act of civil disobedience.

About 4:45 p.m., as about 10,000 demonstrators chanted for a sit-in or for tents, so they could pitch an encampment similar to that used by the Ukrainian opposition during the Orange Revolution in 2004, the speaker at the microphone, Ali Kerimli, leader of the Popular Front Party, told the crowd that if they wanted to sit down past 5 p.m., he would join them.

He said that if they wanted a sit-in, "I will sit with you," but he made it clear that they would not try to hold the square all night. At 5 p.m., the leader of the Liberal Party, Lala Shovkat, called on the police not to use force. It was too late.

Police commanders, who had posted phalanxes of officers in riot gear around the square, could be seen talking on their radios.

At 5:03 p.m., without warning or evident provocation, they attacked. One mass of officers jogged along the edge of the crowd, beating their shields to make an intimidating rumble. They cut off escape from behind the stage and then rushed the opposition leaders, swinging batons at those in their way.

Mr. Kerimli was beaten. The stage was swiftly kicked apart by plainclothes officers.

Simultaneously, formations of riot policemen in the square's center swung into motion, rushing into the thick of the demonstrators, wielding batons. The air filled with shouts and cries and the thumps and whacks of clubs striking jackets and flesh.

The demonstrators had no chance to hold their ground. They gave way and tried to flee. But with the police attacking from multiple directions, many who fled one group of officers were driven toward others and beaten anew. Those who fell were beaten more, and sometimes kicked and punched.

As their ranks collapsed and they were forced down the street, a few of the demonstrators began throwing stones, and several lime-size chunks of concrete could be seen falling short of the advancing police lines.

Oruj Zalov, a deputy interior minister, said 15 to 18 demonstrators were arrested and 21 police officers were injured, including 10 who required hospitalization. He said about 500 officers participated in the action. His information could not be immediately confirmed.

Ms. Shovkat said hundreds of the protesters had been injured, including as many as 300 women. "Let the world community see what kind of regime we are fighting - it's not Ukraine or Georgia, but a government like those in Uzbekistan and Belarus," she said, referring to two of the most repressive post-Soviet states.

She also wondered aloud why the West, which has said it is encouraging democracy in Muslim countries, has not stood more firmly against Mr. Aliyev, whose officers have often used force to disband protests in this secular Shiite state.

"Why is freedom and democracy not a top priority in Azerbaijan?" she said. "Is it because we are not Christian? Or is it because we have oil?"

Mr. Kerimli said the opposition would try to rally again on Dec. 3.



ewsround and esctoday

Kseniya Sitnik: Without question a glittering starlet

A 10-year-old girl from Belarus beat singers from 15 other countries to win the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.

Telly watchers voted Kseniya Sitnik the winner in the competition on Saturday night, held in Hasselt, Belgium.

Dressed in a pale pink tutu, Kseniya said that she hoped to celebrate with a disco for her friends.

This is the contest's third year and it was watched by 8,500 people, including Belgium's Prince Laurent and 80 million TV viewers.

Kseniya sang a number called We Are Together (My vmeste ) and afterwards she said: "I never expected such a result. I never expected first place. I feel really excited. I can't express myself."

Spain came second and Norway third, with the UK's entrant, Joni Fuller singing How Does It Feel, coming in 14th place.

Head of state Alexander Lukashenko has thanked all the Europeans who gave their votes to young Belarusian Kseniya Sitnik at the Junior Eurovision Contest 2005.

“This victory is the recognition of a respectful attitude of the Belarusian state towards the problems of children”, The president stated.

Kseniya was born on 15th May, 1995, and lives in Mozyr. Her hobbies include singing, dancing and drawing. Kseniya has an older sister who also takes part in song contests for children. Kseniya started her career at a very early age. She has taken part in many festivals such as the Chernobyl Way charity show and the festivals Falling Stars in Nova Ruda, Poland and Star Light in St. Petersburg, Russia. Kseniya won prizes in the Golden Bee festival as well as the Grand Prix at the international children contest Vitebsk 2005 in Belarus.



From the Tobias Ljungvall on Belarus blog

The Belarusian regime is now seriously worsening the legal environment for organised opposition. The demand that all organisations should be officially registered is old, and the other year a law on the registering of coalitions was also adopted. The larger part of the opposition abides by this legislation, others are not allowed to register and some do not care to try. But in September, the Minister of Justice ordered that any organised activity, including coalitions of separate organisations, must be registered. After that, one could reasonably expect an increase in administrative sanctions against the opposition, including fines, short-term arrests, and closure of organisations entering into non-registered coalitions. This week, however, has hinted that the regime will not be satisfied with administrative sanctions against its opponents.

On Wednesday, Lukashenko submitted a new legislative proposal marked "urgent" to the parliament, and on Friday it was adopted in a first reading. (Legislation is passed in three readings.) The proposal stipulates up to two or three years of imprisonment for, among other things, the following activities:

1. Training of participants for mass disturbances, or financing this.

2. Public calls for seizure of power.

3. Discrediting Belarus.

4. Calls for foreign states or organisations to intervene. (Up to five years of imprisonment if the calls are made through mass media.)

5. Organising or participating in activities of closed organisations.

As for the last point, responsibility can be avoided. All one has to do is to voluntarily abandon the activity and report about this to "the proper state agencies." This apparently aims at making activists defect from whatever organisation the authorities decide to liquidate or temporarily close down. The other parts of the legislation seem to focus more on opposition leaders, and, which is somewhat unusual, on foreign sponsors who dare set foot in Belarus. So far, the latter are only being deported, not imprisoned.

According to KGB chairman Stepan Sukharenko, introducing the package in parliament, "there are plenty of those, in Belarus and elsewhere, who are taking steps to destabilise the political situation in our country… Leaders of opposition politicised formations… are using the tribunes of international forums, the OSCE and the Council of Europe… to spread consciously false information about political processes in Belarus… Emissaries of various foreign non-governmental organisations are arriving, using the money of western intelligence services to organise training seminars on how to carry out a revolution."

The rhetoric is not new, and people have been deprived of their freedom for organising protest actions or defaming the president before. But with this legislation, it seems that the potential for arbitrary imprisonment of regime opponents will grow exponentially. It is my understanding that the opposition is already dragging its feet in preparing for next year's presidential campaign. The prospect of ever more repression is not likely to increase its level of activity.


Charter ‘97

General Valery Fralou, Leader of the deputy group “Respublika” a potential candidate to the parliament from Hrodna
Belarusian politicians comment on the amendments to the Criminal Code, adopted by the so-called “chamber of representatives” in the first reading, and the statements of the chairman of the KGB (State Security Committee) Stsyapan Sukharenka (Stepan Sukhorenko). One of the articles proposed by the chief KGB man of the country is discredit to the Republic of Belarus. It envisaged arrest for the term for up to six months, or imprisonment for up to two years. The chairman of the KGB Stsyapan Sukharenka explained to the deputies that several camps for training militants allegedly have been acting in Belarus. According to Mr Sukharenka, “these camps have been training militants for participation in mass riots during the presidential elections next year”.

The chairman of the KGB stated that these camps have been working in Vilejka and Kruptsy regions. These camps are also situated outside Belarus, and their main objective is to repeat “colour revolution”. Stsyapan Sukharenka says that “In reality we are facing the entire industry in training of the so-called “militants of colour revolution”.

Commenting on these statements, a former deputy, one of the leaders of the “Respublika” group, General Valery Fralou said to the Radio Svaboda that if somebody had been training militants, those who had been doing that should have been arrested.

“This all is far-fetched. Where have you been looking at, if you knew about that?! And if you have not arrested anyone, where are the facts? It’s an idle talk, the more so, when isolated cases have been overlooked by them, which could be understood in view of coming young people to the KGB… And if they have failed to notice the whole industry, Stsyapan should go and hang himself somewhere. It’s a mere idiocy!”

The amendments to the Criminal Code have been called “a logical movement of the country on the path that has been selected by the regime – towards the year 1937”.

“To stifle, to prohibit, to hold back, to shot, to imprison – that’s the range of methods by which the regime rules. It is written down in our constitution in the first article that we have a democracy, a law-based, social, sovereign state. So we see that soon absolutely nothing would be left of this first article,” General Fralou said.


by By Georgie Anne Geyer for Yahoo news

Georgie Anne Geyer
WASHINGTON -- When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Western world breathed multiple sighs of relief. Not only was the Cold War over, but the West had clearly won the ideological fight -- Russia would now have to adopt democratic and free-market principles.

In Washington during those early '90s, a kind of spring madness seemed to overtake even sensible people. It was often repeated that "now we have no enemies!" Scholars discussed "the end of history," as though we had stopped time -- and soon George W. was looking into Vladimir's eyes and seeing Thomas Jefferson.

But it hasn't turned out that way. While there have been earlier signals of Russia's regression to its ingrown, paranoid past, the events of the last few weeks have confirmed it. By effectively throwing out any and all independent foreign-backed NGOs, think-tanks, and humanitarian and human rights organizations, the government of President Vladimir Putin has irrevocably turned Russia away from those early hopes -- and indeed, from the modernization that Russia so desperately needs.

The changes came just before Thanksgiving, when the lower house of the Russian parliament voted overwhelmingly -- 370 to 18 -- to approve legislation that would require probably as many as 450,000 private organizations (which exist to oversee and challenge regimes across the world) to register with the Ministry of Justice. Restrictions would be imposed on their ability to accept donations from foreigners, and foreign organizations would be prohibited from opening branches in Russia. They would have to register as purely Russian organizations, with all that means in terms of total state control.

This is serious stuff. In this finely balanced age, where government, military, guerrilla groups, NGOs, representatives of civil society and too many privately funded and motivated groups to mention influence and rule an immensely complicated world, Russia is deliberately and harshly removing the modern civil structures that make states accountable to their own citizens, to their own and the world's principles.

If this movement continues, the Russian state will again stand alone, as it has since the Mongol invasions of the 13th century: a cold, isolated, totalitarian state that refuses to change with the modern age or to interchange ideas, principles and judgments with the rest of the world.

At the moment, of course, the legislation needs to be passed by the entire parliament; but it has already been endorsed by President Putin's Cabinet and his political party -- he has already taken over independent television, eliminated the formerly free election of governors, sent corporate magnates into exile or Siberia, and driven pro-Western parties out of parliament -- so there is little chance it will not become law.

Among the organizations that would be taken over by the state in the tame old Soviet style are Human Rights Watch, Open Society, Amnesty International, the Ford and Carnegie institutions, the congressionally funded National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society and societies to help Russian children.

In short, having successfully eliminated all the internal checks and balances from what is left of the Soviet Union, the Putin government is moving to ban from its very gaze those organizations that could have given it space to modernize -- if it had really wanted to.

The government, not surprisingly, defends its actions by saying that these groups were " CIA-financed." In fact, in contrast to the past, these organizations are internationally transparent. In 2004, for instance, the U.S. government donated only $75 million to democracy and civil rights groups in Russia; the rest came from private groups and financing.

"There is a desire to turn civil society into a kind of waxwork, just as they converted parliament into a waxwork, and have successfully turned the mass media into a waxwork," Alexander Petrov of Human Rights Watch in Moscow was quoted in the Financial Times. "And that is essentially what is happening."

The real key to much of this is found in President Putin's statement last April that the collapse of the Soviet Union was "the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century." Many Americans, probably especially the American president, were shocked. They shouldn't have been; polls in Russia have shown constant regret at the fall of their superpower status, and there was never any chance that Russia, with her different and anti-Western history, would respond with joy at rejoining the West, as did the countries of Eastern Europe.

Adding an element of fear to remaining non- or anti-democratic societies, such as Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Belarus and China, is the specter of the new "color revolutions." These include the "rose revolution" in Georgia, the "orange" one in Ukraine and the "cedar" one in Lebanon. The remaining totalitarian/authoritarian states are terrified of the real or supposed foreign NGO influence in these historic events.

Every minute, the future of Russia becomes more dangerously uncertain. But what is certain is that one should not jump to conclusions about change when profound, historically rooted cultural realities are at stake.



Choi Tseveenpurev goes for a knockout in the title fight against Alexei Volchan
SHAW-based Mongolian boxer Choi Tseveenpurev won his second championship belt on Jack Doughty’s Sunday show at Tara Sports and Leisure Centre with a 10th round stoppage of Alexei Volchan of Belarus.

Choi beat the plucky Belarus fighter to capture the vacant WBF International featherweight title.

Volchan, deceptively slim and fragile-looking, proved to be a very tough competitor and in the early rounds he surprised the home fighter with his durability, speed and intelligent boxing.

Though under a lot of pressure from the ever-aggressive Choi, Volchan landed plenty of heavy right-crosses on the Mongolian’s strong chin.

By the middle rounds, however, the sheer brute strength of Choi began to swing the fight in his favour, and he constantly drove the Russian back, catching him with jabs, hooks and uppercuts. Volchan tired, and a stoppage seemed likely, but the brave visitor fought back valiantly and continued to hold the ferocious Mongolian’s assault.

Clearly behind on points, Volchan was sent out for the last round with instructions from his corner to attack and go for the knockout. It was a tactic which proved his undoing.

To attempt to out-box Choi was one thing, but to stand toe to toe and trade blows was another.

A tremendous left-hook followed by a right cross shook Volchan and he was quickly in trouble on the ropes. Another fierce burst of punches drove him into his own corner where Choi continued to pile on the agony before referee Mickey Vann jumped in to call a halt to proceedings and save the Russian from further punishment.

A great win for Choi leaves him eligible to fight for the WBF World crown, a contest which is likely to take place in the new year.

«Серебро» М.Нурутдинова wins silver medal

Norutdinovu vs Santos
Belarussian sportsmen took the silver medal at the world boxing championships In China. The medal was taken by Mohamed “The thinker” Norutdinovu in the 69 kilogram class who lost on points in the final bout against the experienced Cuban Ereslande Santos.


Associated Press

Edgar Zholtok, son of former Minnesota Wild center Sergei Zholtok, wipes away a tear during a pregame ceremony Saturday, Nov. 19, 2005, in St. Paul, Minn., to honor his late father, who died a year ago of heart failure while playing hockey in his native Latvia.
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Wild honored the late Sergei Zholtok with an emotional pregame program Saturday night.

Zholtok's 16-year-old son, Edgar, was presented with a framed jersey his father wore for the Wild from 2001-04 - when he had 110 points in 210 games as a right wing and became one of the team's leaders and most popular players.

Zholtok died last year at 31 in former teammate Darby Hendrickson's arms while playing for a team in his native Latvia, when his heart failed near the end of a game in Belarus during the NHL lockout. Zholtok had missed seven games in January 2003, while with the Wild, because of an irregular heartbeat.

Edgar Zholtok wiped away tears, and Wild captain Filip Kuba put his arm around him. The boy dropped the ceremonial first puck after a video highlighting Zholtok's life was shown on the scoreboard.

Former Minnesota defenseman Brad Bombardir conducted the traditional "Let's Play Hockey" chant, encouraging fans to be loud enough "so Sergei can hear."

Zholtok also played in the NHL for Boston, Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton, totaling 111 goals and 147 assists. He finished the 2003-04 in Nashville after a trade that March. The Predators played the Wild on Saturday night, and both teams wore "SZ" stickers on their helmets. There also was a display of commemorative Zholtok memorabilia near one of the gates at Xcel Energy Center.

Zholtok, one of only three Latvians to play in the NHL, had a career-best 26 goals for the Canadiens in 1999-00 and was a member of the Latvian team that won the silver medal in the 1994 world championships. While many NHL players skip the worlds each spring, Zholtok regularly suited up for his home country - where he was a celebrity.

Zholtok also is survived by wife Anna and 5-year-old son Nikita.


from the BEING HAD Times

Is it so taken as a matter of course that people have the right to speak their minds? Do westerners really believe that they have the real story?

There is indeed a scandal brewing in Belarus over freedom of information. The Regime has recently sought to acquire Chinese made internet blocking software, and this week has began the process of making anti governmental actions a crime punishable by prison sentences. And though these are striking items of news, it must be understood that Belarus is not the only one’s playing games with information.

Editorial policy is a strong tool. Every newspaper and news source in the world stifles certain stories and allows others coverage. The rational is diverse: for money, for influence (also money) or an expression of a particular moral or ideological stance. This is an accpted norm in the world

The No-pasaran blog mentioned a few days ago that the UN, during its World Summit on the Internet held in 2003 concluded that "governments SHOULD intervene . . . to maximize economic and social benefits and serve national priorities." The blog goes on to point out that though for “free” countries regulation might indeed be helpful (though he doesn’t say where or why) for dictatorships and state controlled societies such as the former USSR, China or Cuba (and Belarus) it is a catastrophe allowing citizens free access to information puts your government at risk.

But rather than allowing for the concession, why should people allow there to be any censorship of their information. Shouldn’t people have the right to listen and study the issues that concern their lives? And certainly, doesn’t the opposing view need to be stated in order that the truth be found?

Noam Chomsky made this point long ago when he commented publicly that a group of American Nazis had a right to demonstrate. The uproar over this was tremendous: How can we support fascism and hate? Chomsky’s answer was quite clear: They have an opinion, they have the right to state that opinion and that they have this right should be understood to be an essential part of any free society. The ideal of freedom needs to be upheld even if you don’t agree with it.

The president of Belarus has made a statement about this ideal in his aggressive stance toward the media and political opposition. And he has a right to do so. But the citizens of Belarus also have the right to say what they feel about this. Perhaps it is time for them to make it clear how they feel. And more so, perhaps they should also try to understand that agreeing not to say anything is also a loud and clear statement as well. However, it also must be understood that in the end, pacifism, agreeing to agree for the sake of agreement or agreeing out of ignorance or disinterest is also a right that needs to be respected. And this is true as well, even if you do not agree with it.