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Today's Headlines for:
Friday, December 09, 2005

Compensation for victims of corruption, Color revolutions, Bomb blast, Milinkevich, Russian, China lends money, EU sanctions

From the Top


Sergei Sidorsky
On 8 December, President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko met with Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky to receive his report.

Sergei Sidorsky informed the Head of State that the next meeting of the Union State Government would be in Moscow on the 19th of December. Among other things, the meeting will focus on the fuel and energy balance of the Union State for the period until 2020.

The agenda of the meeting comprises a wide range of issues for the Union Construction in the year to come, first of all – readiness of the package of agreements on equal rights of the citizens of Belarus and Russia. For one thing, it refers to applying equal rules for tax payments by the citizens of both nations within the Union State, equal rights to medical and social services. According to Sergei Sidorsky, the packages of these documents are almost ready, and they should be officially approved and submitted for consideration to the Heads of State of Belarus and Russia.

The President was reported that the Government had coordinated the fuel and energy balance for 2006 with the Russian side. In particular, the amount of oil to be delivered will not be less that 19.5 million tons. The talks with the Russian gas company “Gasprom” have also been completed and an agreement has been reached on 21 billion cubic metres of gas to be delivered to Belarus next year at a price of US$ 46.68 per one thousand cubic metres. Gasprom will deliver the whole quantity of gas needed by Belarus’ economy.

The President was also reported on other issues related to the development of economy. Industry of this country achieved higher results in November. Salary growth is also reported – in October average monthly earnings were equivalent to more than US$ 235.

The Government expects to reach, on the whole, all the indicators of socio-economic development of 2005 and the five-year period that terminates this year. All social programmes are being fulfilled; pensions and benefits are being paid in time.

The issue of the days off in 2006 was also discussed at the meeting. The President charged the Government to declare the 2nd of January 2006 as a day off.




The editor of the BEING HAD Times aplauds this development.
The Council of the Republic of the National Assembly has ratified today the Civil Law Convention on Corruption adopted by European countries in Strasbourg on November 4, 1999. Presenting the bill chairman of the permanent commission for international affairs and national security Nikolai Cherginets has informed that the convention seeks to strengthen international cooperation in the fight against corruption.

The document provides for effective remedies for persons who have suffered damage as a result of acts of corruption, the senator said. This international agreement also obliges the participating countries to provide in their internal legislation for effective remedies for these persons to have the right to initiate an action in order to obtain full compensation for such damage, including loss of profits and non-pecuniary loss.

The parties to the convention shall provide in their internal law for appropriate procedures for persons who have suffered damage as a result of an act of corruption by its public officials in the exercise of their functions to claim for compensation from the State or appropriate government bodies.

Nikolai Cherginets noted that the ratification of the convention would enable the country to organize mutually beneficial cooperation with other states in civil legal procedures on corruption cases.

The convention has been signed by 40 countries of Europe. Twenty-five of them have ratified it. The Russian Federation has not joined the convention. The convention comes into force in Ukraine on January 1, 2006.



Speaker of the Chamber of Representatives Vladimir Konoplev congratulated Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Kazakhstan to Belarus Gaziz Aldamzharov on the victory of president Nursultan Nazarbayev in the recent election.

The results of the election in Kazakhstan “once again confirmed that the heads of state who work for the benefit of their citizens will never allow for any “color-coded” revolutions – no “orange”, no “jean”. The citizens understand and appreciate this”, Vladimir Konoplev said.

The Belarusian policy maker expressed his confidence that president of Kazakhstan would do all in his power within the upcoming 7 years to improve well-being of the Kazakhstan people and would make the capital of the country a “northern Abu-Dhabi”.

Vladimir Konoplev also noted that Belarus and Kazakhstan cultivated warm and friendly relations due to the efforts of the presidents of the states.

In turn, Gaziz Aldamzharov informed the Belarusian official that the election in Kazakhstan were transparent and open”. Today the economy is on a rise in this country. The confidence of the people in the president is very big. The diplomat added that about 11 thousand observers took part in the election monitoring who detected no serious violations of the procedure.

The ambassador of Kazakhstan invited the chairman of the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus to partake next January in the events dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the Kazakhstan parliament.



The Belarussian Council of the Republic
MINSK. Dec 8 - The Belarussian Council of the Republic
unanimously approved a draft law stipulating a criminal penalty for discrediting the state of Belarus and its authorities on Thursday.

The House of Representatives approved the bill by a majority of
votes last Friday.

"The dissemination of deliberately wrong information about the political, economic, military or international state of Belarus and the legal status of Belarussian citizens, in a way that discredits Belarus or its authorities, to a foreign state, a foreign or international
organization shall be punished with six-month arrest or up to two years in jail," the bill says.

Appeals to a foreign state, a foreign or international organization for actions that may damage Belarussian security, sovereignty,
territorial inviolability and capacity for defense, as well as distribution of such appeals shall receive the same punishment, the bill says.


Charter ‘97

Interior Minister of Belarus Uladzimer Navumau
The anti-revolutionary law, adopted by the council of republic, would allow to step up measures aimed at stabilization of the situation in the country, said the Interior Minister of Belarus Uladzimer Navumau to journalists.

As said by him, “introduction of criminal and administrative responsibility for discrediting the state would allow to further stabilize the situation in the country,” the AFN informs with a reference to the Interfax.

As said by Navumau, the law is “timely, and especially in view of a number of crimes, although not terroristic in their nature, but high-profile having large public,” referring to the blasts in Vitsebsk.

“When persons who discredit the state would be prosecuted under administrative code, an administrative commission would pass verdicts for them, and if criminal proceedings would be instituted against them, they would be sentenced by the court,” the minister said.

“Recently there are more accidents of dissemination on Internet of patently false information, which in fact is aimed at discrediting the state. Thanks to this law we [police] would be able to prosecute those who place this information,” Navumau stated.


Charter ‘97

Alyaksandr Milinkevich
“It’s more difficult to hold a party rally today, than at the front,” told a 90-year-old dweller of the village of Azyarshchyna (Rechytsa region) Syarhei Pinchuk. At the meeting with the leader of democratic forces Alyaksandr Milinkevich the Second World War veteran, a holder of five war decorations, a member of the Communist Party since 1939 expressed his indignation at the order forced into application by today’s Belarusian regime: crackdown on independent media, disrespect and changes of the Constitution.

“The myth that all veterans are ardent supporters of the president is incorrect,” Milinkevich underlined, summing up the results of the meeting held in the framework of his visit to Rechytsa, AFN informs.

In Rechytsa Milinkevich held meetings with the representatives of different target groups of Rechytsa region, and consultations with democratic activists and intellectuals. At the meeting a citizens’ participation in the campaign next year was discussed.

Also yesterday, as one of the readers of the Charter’97 internet-site informed, the chief doctor of the Homel city clinic hospital number 1 A. Saukou, informed the heads of the units of the hospital about the directive of the higher authorities that they are strongly recommend to exclude meetings with labour collectives of the oppositional candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich, and to ban visits to enterprises for him. All chief executives of enterprises are strongly recommended to bar all possible contacts of Milinkevich with labour collectives.


Moscow is ready to deliver the gas
Gazprom chief Aleksei Miller confirmed during his talks with Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Syamashka in Moscow on 6 December that Gazprom is ready to deliver gas to Belarus in 2006 on the same terms as this year, ITAR-TASS and Belapan reported. The two sides reportedly renewed talks on the creation of a joint gas-transport company based on Belarus's Beltranshaz enterprise. Under the gas supply contract for 2005, Gazprom should deliver 19.1 billion cubic meters of gas at $46.68 per 1,000 cubic meters. The charge for Russian gas transit across Belarus amounts to $0.75 per 1,000 cubic meters per 100 kilometers of transit via the Beltranshaz network and $0.46 via the Gazprom-owned Yamal-Europe pipeline.



Minister Mikhail Fradkov
MOSCOW. Dec 8 (Interfax) - Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has approved a draft intergovernmental agreement on extending a $146 million loan to Belarus, the Russian government press service reported on Thursday.

Fradkov instructed the Finance Ministry "to hold negotiations with Belarus and, upon reaching an agreement, sign a deal on behalf of the Russian government, with the authority to make amendments of a non- radical nature," the instruction says.

The loan will be extended "to ensure balance in settlements in mutual trade between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus," the draft agreement says.



Zbigniew Kowalewski
The policy pursued by Poland towards Belarus is “categorically inadmissible”, one of the leaders of the Polish trade union Solidarnosc Zbigniew Kowalewski told BelTA.

According to him, the manner of contacts the official Warsaw is practicing towards Belarusian authorities is “much like demagogy”. There is a search for leverage with which Poland could exert pressure on Belarusian authorities. In Poland they try to represent it as a campaign for human rights and against dictatorship. All this is much too far-fetched, the authoritative policy maker believes. Besides such propaganda in regard to the neighbors helps to divert the Poles from the domestic problems, Zbigniew Kowalewski noted.

“Does not Poland have its own social difficulties and unsettled issues on democracy?”, Zgibniew Kowalewski enquires.

Mr. Kowalewski told that Belarus was brought to the spotlight on the eve of the parliamentary elections in Poland. Instead of speaking about internal social issues and considering parliamentary programs, the Polish television was obsessed with the situation in Belarus. According to Mr. Zgibniew Kowalewski, unfortunately this issue was not only touched upon in the mass media outlets but also reached the state level and influenced diplomatic relations between the two states.


Cellular News

In a press conference yesterday, MTS Belarus announced that it has passed the 2 million subscriber mark. Speaking at the press conference, Belarus' Minister of Communications and Information Vladimir Goncharenko emphasised that the company's success was due to joint efforts by MTS and the Ministry.

MTS president Vasili Sidorov said that average revenue for MTS currently stands at $11 per user, $2 higher than in Russia. MTS is planning to invest $145m into developing its network in Belarus in 2006 and will also start GPRS services early next year.

Mr. Sidorov also stressed that MTS hopes to get controlling interest in MTS Belarus. At present MTS owns 49 per cent of MTS Belarus, with Beltelecom holding the other 51 per cent. It is expected that the Belarussian government will sell its controlling stake in 2007, when the de-monopolisation process will be launched in Belarus.

The MTS president emphasized that the company does not consider BeST, the state owned operator, to be a serious competitor for them: 'By the time BeST starts operations, MTS' penetration will be much higher than now.' Meanwhile, Minister Goncharenko informed journalists that BeST's financial problems had been solved, and that the mobile operator will start functioning this month.


Charter ‘97

Not much information about this, but scary nonetheless.
On December 5 at about 5.30 a.m. in the town of Zhlobin, Homel region, by the building number 24 in Metallurgi Boulevard a blast took place. TUT.BY was informed about it by an anonymous source. According to the preliminary information, an improvised explosive device has exploded. As TUT.BY was informed by the press service of the Internal Affairs Ministry of Belarus, a man was killed by the blast. He is unidentified yet. Supposedly, the man is 15-30 years old. The explosion smashed in all the windows within a radius of 80 meters from the explosion place. The route of the city bus number 7 has been changed temporarily. The details of the accident are being clarified.


Charter ‘97

Kurapaty Memorial
Minsk Regional department of Internal Affairs has initiated a criminal case on charges relating acts of vandalism in the wooded area of Kurapaty. In 1993 Kurapaty was entered on the State register of historical and cultural values of Belarus as a historical monument of international importance, the “Place of mass executions of political repressions’ victims in 1930ies–19410ies”. As the BelaPAN was informed by the deputy head of preliminary investigation department of Minsk Regional department of Internal Affairs captain Syarhei Cherap, the case was initiated on December 6 on charges relating violation of the Article 341 of the Criminal Code (defilement of buildings and wilful damage).

As the head of Legal Protection of Journalists Center by the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Law doctor Mikhail Pastukhou said to the BelaPAN, law-enforcing agencies had given too mild legal treatment to the acts of vandalism in Kurapaty. “In the acts of desecration of the memorial area I see elements of crime under the Articles 130 (incitement of racial, national or religious enmity or discord) and Article 344 of the Criminal Code (intentional destruction or damage to historical or cultural monuments), the scientist said. He believes that initiation of the criminal case on charges relating to the violation of the Article 341 is an idle excuse of law-enforcing agencies”. “Our society should give more principled assessment of these acts of vandalism,” M. Pastukhou said.

Recently the memorial site of Kurapaty was subjected to several acts of vandalism. On November 29 historian Ihar Kuznyatsou saw that an icon of Our Lady of Kurapaty had been desecrated; the Clinton’s bench (a monument “To Belarusians from the American people”), a memorial plate “To victims of Stalin regime” had disappeared, many crosses and other memorial signed defiled.

On December 5 another incident occurred. Unknown vandals painted red swastikas on the chapel-icon “Our Lady of Kurapaty of all innocently executed”, on a monument to executed Jews and Muslims and a Kurapaty stone. A memorial sign “To Belarusians from the American people” has been poured by red paint.


Cellular news

China Eximbank
MINSK, Dec 7 (Prime-Tass) -- Belarus’ state-controlled GSM mobile operator Belarus Telecommunications Network, or BeST, has signed an agreement to take out a U.S. $184.2 million loan from Export-Import Bank of China (China Eximbank). The agreement was signed during Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s visit to China.

The loan is to be guaranteed by the Belarusian government. No other details on the loan conditions were provided.

BeST plans to spend the loan on paying for telecommunications equipment it purchased to launch its network. In October, BeST signed an agreement with China’s Alcatel Shanghai Bell to purchase the Chinese company’s telecommunications equipment for $234 million.

The other $50 million was provided to the company by the Chinese government, BeST said earlier.

BeST was registered on November 5, 2004 and received a license to provide communication services in Belarus on March 24, 2005.

BeST was set up by Belarus’ state-controlled fixed-line monopoly Beltelecom, which controls 25% in the company, and state-owned company Agat, which controls 75%.

BeST said earlier that it plans to start commercial operation by the end of this year and to attract 500,000-600,000 subscribers by the end of 2006. However BeST has still not yet started operations.

The total number of subscribers in Belarus amounted to 3.6 million as of October 1. Belarus’ population amounts to slightly less than 10 million people.


Charter ‘97

Yes, there is a lot of bureaucracy in Belarus
“It looks like the upcoming elections in Belarus have made the head of the state demented. After prohibiting discrediting of the country for the journalists, going abroad for students and models, Alyaksandr Lukashenka proceeded to… physicians. They are the main keepers of the most important state secrets,” to this opinion the newspaper “Moskovskiy Komsomolets” inclines, having red ate document distributed by the Health Care Ministry of Belarus among the medical institutions of the country.

The document states that foreign trips of health professionals, not related to their professional activities, in a written form are to ask for an agreement of the chairman of the health care committee. Besides, after returning from the foreign trip, the chairman of the committee is to be informed about possible contacts with foreigners, which had not been planned in the program of the visit…

The newspaper reminds of the presidential decree prohibiting going abroad for studies without agreement of the Education Ministry. Notably, the permission is to be signed by he minister personally. The Belarusians cannot go abroad for work legally too. They are to receive authorization of the Internal Affairs Ministry. State officials are another category of citizens for whom foreign trips limited. They are to authorize their trips. And now health professionals are added.


BR23 Blog

EUA is not taking this Tatyana Khoma situation lightly
It looks like we’ve got the first serious reaction from European structures regarding that student which was expelled from BSEU.

Following the decision by the Belarus State Economic University to expel a fourth year student, Ms Tatsiana Khoma, for participating in a meeting of the National Unions of Students in Europe (ESIB) without the permission of the university, EUA has suspended the university’s EUA membership, and calls upon its members to cease all cooperation with the institution.

On 25 November, EUA President, Professor Georg Winckler, on behalf of EUA’s individual and collective members, addressed a letter to the Rector of the university, Professor Shimov (Shymau), when it was learned that Ms Khoma had been threatened with expulsion as a result of her activities on behalf of national and European students. In this letter, Professor Winckler expressed concern at these developments, referring to the fundamental values and principles of the Association enshrined in the 1988 Magna Charta Universitatum, which include the duty of each university to “ensure that its students’ freedoms are safeguarded”.

Despite this letter, Ms Khoma was expelled on Friday, 25 November, and ejected immediately from the university dormitory where she was living. On 29 November, Professor Winckler wrote again to Professor Shimov (Shymau), insisting that this decision be revoked immediately, and stating that if this were not done that EUA would have no option but to suspend the Belarus State Economic University membership of EUA until the university is able to guarantee the common values and principles of European universities.

Professor Shimov (Shymau) has not answered these letters, and has instead issued a statement on the university website that the expulsion of Ms Khoma was justified by her violation of university regulations…


NOTE: This story was from the ZUBR site and is about a ZUBR protest. ZUBR is the group that has been sponsoring the “16” days of solidarity as well.


Students protesting for Tatyana
"Tanya to University! Luka to Babruysk!" (Babruisk is a small provincial town in Mahiliou region of Belarus) – with such slogans a theatrical demonstration was held on December 2 at the Belarusian
embassy in Paris in support of Taciana Khoma, who has been expelled from the Belarus State Economic University for performing public activities.

The organisers tried to give to the Belarusian ambassador a letter signed by a group of French parliamentarians (Martine Billard, Marie-Christine Blandin, Alima Boumediene-Thiery, Yves Cochete, Jean
Desessard, Noлl Mamere, and Dominique Voynet). However, after lengthy discussions, employees of the Belarusian embassy refused to accept the

The protesters next put on a small performance across from the embassy. A young student created a university building out of a cardboard box, which was then demolished by a person dressed up as Lukashenka wielding a wooden axe.

After that, the young group displayed posters with the words: "Hands off students!" and "Tanya to university! Luka to Babruysk!"

The protest was organised by the Young Greens with the support of
other associations.


Also from ZUBR

An illegal search was held in room of Vitsebsk medical university campus where Zubr activist Lubou Kuchinskaya lived.

When the young lady was out three members of university administration and an unknown man in civil came to the room, searched it and taken about thousand copies of printed materials about Day of solidarity.

Today Kuchinskaya had conversation with president of the university Yatusevich. He said that he knew about Kuchinskaya’s participation in numerous actions of opposition. He also said that she would be expelled from university if they find printed materials in her room again or if she continues her oppositional activities.



By Tobais Ljungvall

Economic sanctions from the EU: Right or wrong?
Economic sanctions do not figure very often in talks on what could be done about the situation in Belarus. So, the other day I stirred up a real discussion by presenting this as an option for the European Union. This happened in Tallinn, where I had somewhat unexpectedly found myself in a conference panel along with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's rapporteur on Belarus, The Economist's Central Europe correspondent, and the vice chairman of the Estonian parliament's foreign affairs committee. None of them seemed to think that my idea was very bright. Frankly, I was not too sure myself either. Conventional wisdom has it that economic sanctions are ineffective or even counter-productive. Besides, they hurt ordinary and innocent people. And still I cannot get this idea off my mind.

It has always been said that the EU lacks leverage on Belarus, since there is so little economic exchange between us. But this is no longer true. In the last couple of years, the stream of goods in our direction has quickly multiplied. Over 40 percent of Belarusian exports now go into the EU. To a large extent this seems to be a result of efforts by the country's diplomatic missions abroad. Lukashenko, eager to lessen Russian dominance, has made trade diversification a top priority. He is probably counting on the EU, usually avoiding any hard measures, not to make serious use of its new leverage.

I think he is right. But still, the question begs to be asked. Could economic sanctions further a democratic breakthrough in Belarus?

The general view at the conference in Tallinn seemed to be that government propaganda would turn sanctions into an advantage for Lukashenko. They would confirm his picture of a Belarus subject to Western aggression, and increase his support among the population. Since the channels for distributing alternative information are so small in Belarus, countering this picture would not be possible.

Personally, I am not convinced by this line of reasoning. In terms of public opinion, the Belarusian population is divided into three large segments. One segment really dislikes Lukashenko. Another segment really likes him. Neither of them is likely to change its mind, regardless of whether we sanction Belarus or not. A more interesting question, therefore, is how the third and middle segment would react. These people are usually referred to as "the swamp" in Belarusian political discourse. Their allegiance to ideological values and political forces, including Lukashenko, easily shifts. They do, however, seem to constantly be in favour of their own perceived material interest. (Which of course is quite normal.)

Faced with economic sanctions, it is not obvious to me that this segment would put a bold stand against Western aggression above its own material well-being. Actually, even if they would feel that those sanctions were unfair and wrongful, my guess is that they would prefer to get rid of Lukashenko. As everyone knows, next year's presidential election offers the best foreseeable opportunity for this to happen. Consequently, striking Belarus with economic sanctions right now could produce maximum effect at minimum cost. A few months of possible economic ordeal and then, hopefully, an end to neo-totalitarianism in Belarus.

The EU does not seem to have considered this, though. Instead, a long process caused by Belarus' repression of labour unions will apparently lead to some sort of economic measures to be implemented next autumn. That is, well after the election.


Charter ‘97

Parody of Mikhail Gorbachev
14 years ago in the residence “Viskuli” Belavezha Accords were signed. They declared the Soviet Union dissolved. On December 8, 1991 the agreements were signed by Russian president Boris Yeltsin, Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk and the Chariman of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus Stanislau Shushkevich.

Heading for Belarus, none of the sides had a final text of the agreements. At the meeting itself is was proposed to create a “Commonwealth” instead of the union, but nobody could find an appropriate wording for terminating the existence of the Soviet Union. And suddenly somebody reminded that three out of the four republics – founders of the Soviet Union in 1922 gathered in Viskuli (Russia, Ukraine and Belarus). The forth was Transcaucasian Soviet republic, which was dissolved in 1936.

As a result, the countries agreed on dissolving the Soviet Union and established the Commonwealth of Independent States in its place. Two weeks later eight more presidents joined Yeltsyn, Kravchuk and Shushkevich in Alma-Ata, and the CIS was created. On December 25, 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the President of the USSR. The red flag of the Soviet Union was removed from the Kremlin, reminds.