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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

EurAsEC, Agriculture output, Moscow, Amendments to the criminal code signed, Al Qaida, MIG-29's

From the Top


From the office of the president

A.G. Lukashenko and Grigory Rapota.
On December 20, President of the Republic of Belarus, Chairman of the EurAsEC Interstate Council Alexander Lukashenko met with Secretary-General of the EurAsian Economic Community Grigory Rapota.

The Head of the Belarusian State is convinced that the EurAsian Economic Community must become an “economically powerful organization.”

“Some may think that the EurAsEC does not exist. We ought to prove the opposite: that it is a living organization and it has prospects. It should be made an economically powerful organization, a viable customs space, and it should prove all those who have doubts that it is able to tackle many problems,” Alexander Lukashenko noted.

The President of Belarus underscored that in the second half of January 2006, the EurAsEC heads of state would meet together in St. Petersburg and discuss the basic issues. Admission of a new state – Uzbekistan - to this organization will be one of the most important agenda items. The Belarus leader believes this factor is a symbolic one: “The Uzbekistan moves towards joining the EurAsEC are indicative of many things, first of all, of the fact that this organization must not be discarded.”
Also on this day the President of the Republic of Belarus met with Chairman of the Constitutional Court of Belarus Grigory Vasilevich.

Grigory Vasilevich informed the Head of State on the activities of the Constitutional Court in 2005, on the work with citizens' petitions. Nearly two thousand petitions were sent to the Constitutional Court over that period, nearly six thousand citizens placed their signatures on them. By and large, most of the petitions touched upon socio-economic problems, taxation issues, protection of citizens’ rights in the area of criminal-procedural law. For instance, there were petitions on problems related to the introduction of personal identity numbers in passports, on the status of Ozarichi death camp where Belarusians were kept prisoners by Germans during the war, on reimbursement of depreciated bank savings.

Over the past year, the Constitutional Court also examined 29 petitions from the deputies of the Belarusian parliament, and it analyzed 46 draft enforceable enactments.

The Head of State underscored the need of handling the citizens’ petitions attentively on the part of the bodies which are charged with examining these issues and resolving them. He gave directions to verify the appropriateness of placing foreign travel permission marks in passports, and to examine the possibility of including certain types of labour activities in the civil servants’ record of service.



No doubt the new “Motovelo” technologies will help
The Belarusian agriculture output should increase by 50 percent by 2010, academician Vladimir Gusakov, deputy chairperson of the Belarusian Science Academy Board, told a roundtable sitting.

In his words, such an output will be in demand both on the home and foreign markets. However, the scientist believes, it is important to ensure intensive development of the agriculture using contemporary technologies in the next five years.

Today scientists assist in elaborating regional development programmes. The average annual output growth is expected to make 8-9 per cent, thus increasing the production by 50 percent by 2010. Preliminary results of this year performance confirm, Belarus will be able to handle these targets.
Vladimir Gusakov thinks, sales will become an urgent problem within the next five years. It is important now to raise the competitiveness of the make. In 2006 Belarusian agricultural organisations should reach the normal expenditure level. They do not meet the norms now, therefore the prime cost of their make remains high.

The future of the Belarusian village is stable production and introduction of modern technologies, underlined Vladimir Gusakov. The factors caused enlargement of the agricultural organisations. While in 2003 the number of such organisations in Belarus stood at 2500, by the end of 2005 the figure will drop to 2100. Agricultural organisations operating in the red are expected to disappear by the end of the year.


The share of agriculture in the Belarusian GDP in 2006 will climb to no less than 16 per cent, head of the main economic department of the Belarusian agriculture ministry Anna Andrievich reported at a round table meeting.

According to the specialist, today the agriculture amounts to 11-12 per cent in the Belarusian GDP while the figures reached 20 per cent in the fat years. Today, the agrarian sector is steadily increasing the share of agriculture in GDP. The Ministry is confident, next year they will manage to push the index to 16 per cent.

To that purpose, it is planned to step up the agricultural output. The projections for 2006 have already been made. These include 6,9 million tons of grain, more than 9,3 million tons of potatoes, 3,3 million tons of sugar-beet and about 2 million tons of vegetables. New technologies in plant growing and cattle-breeding are expected to feed the growth, the specialist said.

Anna Andrievich noted, in 2006 special attention will be attached to 700 agricultural businesses with profitability at 0-6 per cent. They will be technically renovated. A part of the businesses are expected to show even higher profitability already in the first half of the year. On the whole, some Br1,9 trillion will be allocated from the fund for encouragement of agricultural businesses and agrarian science. The money will be channeled for modernization of the companies.



The Republic of Belarus and Moscow will draw up a middle-term program on development of trade-economic and scientific-technical cooperation. Such decision was taken on December 20 in the Russian capital at a meeting of the business cooperation council of Belarus and Moscow.

The participants of the meeting took a decision to intensify in 2006 participation of Tushino Machine Building Plant in assemblage of MAZ buses and “Belkommunmash” trolley buses.
The department for science and industrial policy of the government of Moscow, the ministry of industry and the State Committee for Science and Technology of Belarus have been instructed to continue establishing direct links between industrial companies of Belarus and Moscow.

The meeting called as priority development of commodity distribution networks of the Belarusian companies in Moscow and Moscow companies in this republic. The meeting recognized as expedient to set up a joint commission to coordinate the work on promoting Belarusian goods to the trading network of Moscow.

The sides also agreed to consider an issue on establishing air communication between Moscow and Minsk through the airport Vnukovo in the Russian capital.
The next meeting of the business cooperation council of Belarus and Moscow will be held in May 2006 in Vitebsk.


From Viasna and CIVICUS

The emblem of CIVICUS
World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS) joins Belarusian human rights centre Viasna, in expressing their concern that recent amendments to the Belarusian criminal code will further endanger civil society’s freedoms of association, expression and assembly.

On 20 December urgent amendments to the Belarusian Criminal Code will come into force which impose jail terms of up to two years for anyone who facilitates or participates in group activities, works with unregistered organisations, appeals for assistance from foreign governments and organisations, or ‘discredits’ the Republic of Belarus in any way.

The vague wording of the amendments provides wide discretionary powers to the authorities, allowing them to label legitimate civil society activities as illegal attempts to discredit or harm the Belarusian state.

These amendments further constrain a civil society that has been under attack by the government since 2003. In the last three years, almost all critical non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Belarus have been systematically silenced by a series of repressive laws and regulations. Registering a new NGO or legally obtaining foreign aid has become impossible. Most human rights organisations are currently working as unregistered, underground groups.

Some of the new amendments include:

The introduction of criminal sentences for the coordination of activities by an association or a foundation which has been suspended or liquidated (Article 193). Anyone who organises such activities may face a fine and six months in prison. In vaguely defined “serious cases,” one can be subjected to a “restriction of freedom” sentence for up to two years.

A regulation making “education or other forms of preparation” for mass demonstrations, or financing such actions illegal, and punishable by imprisonment for up to six months, or a ‘restriction of freedom’ sentence of up to three years (Article 293). Training or preparation of people for participation in group activities which “grossly violate public order,” as well as the financing or material support of such activity, can also lead to a jail term of up to two years (Article 342).

A new article on “discrediting the Republic of Belarus” which punishes those who provide “false information” to a foreign government or organisation, which is interpreted to misrepresent the political, economic, social, military or international situation of Belarus, its government agencies or the legal situation of its citizens. Such actions are punishable by six months in jail, or a “restriction of freedom” sentence of up to two years.

Punishments for any person who appeals to foreign states or international organisations, “to the detriment of internal security, sovereignty or territorial integrity”, or disseminates material with such a call. Those who issue such appeals could be sentenced to prison for a period of six months to three years. If the information was distributed through mass media, those responsible could face jail terms from two to five years.

We fear the above amendments will further restrict the activities of independent civil society in Belarus. We urge the government of Belarus to:

Immediately repeal the new amendments, and refrain from introducing any future regulations harmful to freedom of association, expression and assembly in Belarus.

Review the restrictive registration and funding laws introduced over the last three years, particularly the Law on Public Associations adopted in August 2005, and repeal those articles which curtail the activities of civil society.

Recognise the vital role that civil society and independent media can play in ensuring a free and fair election in 2006, and work to guarantee they are able to operate freely without undue restrictions.

For more information, contact CIVICUS at or +27 11 833 5959; or Viasna at

Note: according to Charter ’97, the Law of the Republic of Belarus of December 15, 2005 number 71-Z “On Amendments and Additions to Some Laws Increasing Penalties for actions aimed against a person and public security” has been registered today, on December 20, in the National registry of legal acts of the Republic of Belarus. Thus, it means that Lukashenka has signed the amendments to the law, which had been adopted by the two chambers, secretly, as on December 15 noting was informed officially about that. The law is to come into force in 10 days after adoption.

As we have been informed, the amendments have been passed by the “chamber of representatives” on December 2 and passed by the “Council of republic” on December 8. The law was to come into force after signing by Alyaksandr Lukashenka.


From Charter ‘97

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Mr. Big at al Qaeda
Citizen of Belarus has been detained in Spain among 16 people suspected of being involved in Al Qaida operations. Spanish police arrested 15 people Monday on suspicion of recruiting and indoctrinating fighters for Iraq’s insurgency. The cell was reportedly in close contact with al-Qaida members in Iraq and had two people ready to be sent there to wage “holy war,” Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso was quoted by AP as saying.

One of the detained was Belarus citizen, 30-year-old Sergei Malyshev, who took the name of Amin al-Ansari after having become Muslim, Alonso said. Malyshev is said to be a chemical weapons expert. According to the information provided by European secret services, he took part in militants’ operations in Chechnya, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Other members of the cell were citizens of Lebanon, Egypt, Ghana, Algeria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, France and Spain as well as eight Moroccans. The cell was allegedly led by a 25-year-old Iraqi identified him M. Hiyag, the ministry said, adding that he had “very close access” to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born militant who leads al-Qaida in Iraq and is blamed for most of the terror attacks against the U.S.-led coalition.

A check of the Defence Ministry of Belarus makes it possible to state however that are there no record of any man with the names Andrei Misyura and Sergei Malyshev among regular personnel of Military forces of the country, and have never before, the Defence Ministry said to the Izvestiya.

On Monday Spanish police detained a Belarusian citizen, a chemical weapons expert. His real name is Andrei Misyura, who converted to Islam and took the name of Amin al-Ansari. He is also called by a Slavic name Sergei Malyshev. He is 30, and he took part in militant operations in Chechnya, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Spain Interior Ministry adds that police of a number of European countries has been searching them, and he is considered to be a chemical weapons expert.

Investigators have found out that the head of that Spanish network had “very close access” to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born militant who leads al-Qaeda in Iraq and is blamed for most of the terror attacks against the U.S.-led coalition. Spanish Interior Ministry informed that the group had two fighters ready to send to Iraq at the time of the arrests.

The Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry of Belarus earlier stated that they check the information about the citizen of Belarus detained in Spain suspected of terrorists’ links.



The Mig-29
Ukraine is considering a project to upgrade MIG-29 fighters at an aircraft repair plant located in the Belarusian town of Baranovichi, Ukrainian defence minister Anatoli Gritsenko told the press after negotiations with his Belarusian counterpart Leonid Maltsev. The meeting took place in the town of Chuguyevo of Kharkov region.

According to Anatoli Gritsenko, the Ukrainian side compared Belarusian and Israeli variants of MIG-29 modernisation. “The Belarusian variant suits us better”, said the Ukrainian minister.
The implementation of the project depends on parameters of the Ukrainian military budget in 2006, added Anatoli Gritsenko.

Along with fighter modernisation Ukraine is also interested in automated troops control systems up to the operational-strategic level, which is created in Belarus.

The Belarusian variant of MIG-29 fighter modernisation up to MIG-29BM enables the aircraft to engage ground targets besides air targets. In 2005 Belarusian pilots set 15 world records flying MIG-29BM aircraft.


Charter ‘97

On October 1, 2005 the population size was 9.762,500 people. As compared to the beginning of the year, it has dropped by 37.6 thousand people. The decrease is caused by the fact that the number of the deceased is 38.6 thousand higher that the number of newborn. In January-September 2005 67.5 thousand children were born in the country, which is six hundred more than the year before; and 106.1 thousand people died (which is 19 hundred people more than last year). Infant mortality rate has gone down from 7.2 to 6.4 of cases for 1,000 of newborns.

The largest figures for the natural shrinkage of the population are observed in Vitsebsk region (8.1 per 1,000 people). In Minsk region the natural decline of the population was 7.4 persons, in Hrodna and Mahilyou – 7, in Homel – 5.4, in Brest – 3.8, in Minsk – 0.3 per 1,000 of population.
Within 9 months of the year 2005 as compared to the same period of the year 2004, the mortality rate in the country in general has increased by 1.8% ( by 5.3% in Minsk, by 3.8% in Brest region, by 1.4% in Minsk and Mahilyou regions, b y 1.1% in Homel region, by 1% in Hrodna region). In Vitsebsk region the mortality rate decreased by 0.5%.

Elections 2006


From partnerstva

The upcoming elctions will be closely watched
According to the Central Election Commission’s Head Lidzia Yarmoshyna of Belarus expects about 700-800 international observers are expected to arrive in the country for the presidential election’s monitoring. . “I think that there will be 700-800 of them, like it was at the presidential election last time in 2001 and the national referendum in 2004,” Lidzia Yarmoshyna said on Monday. She believes that “disproportionately great number” of international observers, as it was at the presidential election in Ukraine, “does not work for the good of the election process, but raises difficulties, turning it into a political issue”.

At the same time, she said, “we may not limit the number of international observers, as it is not envisaged by international standards”. As said by her, “National observers are very active” in the country. “Thus, last year at the referendum and parliamentary elections there were 24,000 of them, though there are only 6,500 polling stations in the country,” Lidzia Yarmoshyna noted.


Belarus is now in the space race
The final date for launching the first Belarusian optic-electronic monitoring satellite BelKA (Belarusian Spacecraft) will be set in February, president-general director of the Missile-Space Corporation “Energiya” named after S.P. Korolev Nikolai Sevastyanov stated at a meeting in Korolev on December 19. The sitting was chaired by prime minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorskiy.

According to Nikolai Sevastyanov, the main tests will be conducted in February. All the works meet the schedule. The project on developing the Belarusian satellite was launched in January 2004. BelKA is created by the Russian corporation on the basis of the universal space platform Viktoria on the order of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. The satellite will perform geodesic, cartographic and metrological works.

The approximate cost of the project is USD 9 million. The payback period is six months; service life is five years.

Opinion & analysis


By Gennady Yevstafyev for RIA Novosti.

photo from the New York Post
MOSCOW. A chain of scandalous revelations about Washington's human rights violations both in the U.S. and abroad is increasingly worrying even those who look with patience at the conduct of the current U.S. Administration.

These condescending people believed that the painful lessons learned in Iraq and other places would sober up the men in Washington, but this hasn't happened.

The recent arguments about secret U.S. jails in third countries, and "flying prisons" prove that Washington has not learned any lessons from previous scandals involving an illegal concentration camp for Afghans located at the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba, not to mention the crimes committed by U.S. officials in the secret Iraqi prison of Abu Grabe.

Let's examine the case of Khaled El-Masri, whom the American Civil Liberties Union helped take the CIA to court for creating a chain of secret prisons and torturing prisoners. Even though he is a German citizen, he was illegally abducted in Macedonia and subjected to illegal and prohibited methods of investigation: torture, regular beatings, and the use of drugs. It appeared that he was completely innocent, and was merely mistaken for someone else. This is not the only case.
Indicatively, a number of prisons were located in "new democracies," such as Poland and Romania, whose leaders are impudent enough to lecture Russia on "democratic principles." Indeed, they are the real veterans of Western democracy. Their mentors are much the same. While accusing North Korea of abducting the Japanese in the remote Cold War years, they are not at all squeamish about using the methods which have long become an anachronism in our enlightened times.

Leaders of the "Axis of the Good" have not proved to be so angelic. It is crystal clear that from the very beginning the republican administration has laid claims to a monopoly of some "legitimate" violence on a global scale. The world doesn't seem to notice a serious weakening of democracy in the country, which used to be its pioneer. It doesn't see that America has been habitually exploiting, for its own purposes, the language of freedom and equality since the times of Alexis-Charles-Henri Clerel de Tocqueville. But the words quite often hid the disgusting deeds which were mentioned earlier.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the only leader in the Bush administration, who still enjoys credibility abroad, was chosen to settle the scandal. Despite all the finger pointing, neither Rice, nor other U.S. leaders have apologized for the crimes of their compatriots. But even this deplorable fact is not even important in this situation. What matters is that it will get worse. Many facts of U.S. domestic policy bear this out. The emergence of new organizations is one of them.

Policymakers in Washington had hardly regained their senses before the revelation, in the beginning of 2005, about the Strategic Support Branch, or "Project Icon," which has been active at the Pentagon for two years, when more unpleasant surprises were unearthed on the domestic scene. The U.S. press reported that the Pentagon has continued to expand its programs on the collection and analysis of intelligence within the U.S. Three years ago Donald Rumsfield set up an almost unknown Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) within the Pentagon itself. Its purpose is to investigate crimes in the U.S., including cases of treason, foreign and terrorist subversion, and even economic espionage.

Thus, the U.S. Department of Defense has received the right to keep a close eye on American citizens in the U.S. equaling that of the police, the Prosecutor's Office and other law-enforcement bodies, which are traditional in democratic societies.

Keith Martin, director of the Homeland Security Office, said that the FBI, chief policeman of the United States, was obliged to share information on individuals with CIFA, and that this removed one of the few remaining barriers preventing the government secret services from interfering in the private lives of Americans and compiling files on anyone whom they chose.

There is a reason behind this unparalleled mushrooming of secret services and organizations. The CIA sustained a major defeat and is losing its position. Now it has become a scapegoat for the disaster in Iraq. A huge mechanism of accumulating reports on "unclear activities" code-named TALON, is being set up outside the CIA. Apparently, the military is to play the leading role. At one time there existed serious restrictions on the collection of information concerning U.S. citizens by the military, a principle which had justified itself in the U.S. and other democratic countries. But under the circumstances, many restrictions, which have become major international principles, are in the way of the current White House team. The U.S. is slowly but steadily crawling into the ranks of few disreputable countries, mostly with military regimes, where police functions are steadily eroding their democratic foundations.

Prominent French political scientist Emmanuel Todd made this discouraging conclusion about the recent trends in U.S. domestic political life: "...God is not saving America these days. It sees evil all around, but this happens because things in the country itself are taking a bad turn. This degradation compels us to realize what we are losing: America of 1950-1965, a land of massive democracy, freedom of self-expression, expansion of social rights, defense of human rights. It was the country of the good."

This warning by Todd is quite acceptable albeit with serious reservations about "the country of the good." It is abundantly clear that having lost its global ideological resource, the United States has been increasingly leaning on the use of force and illegal methods.

Lt.-Gen. (Ret.) Gennady Yevstafyev served in the Foreign Intelligence Service.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


From the Kiev Post

Reactor "A" at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant just after the April 26, 1986 meltdown
The Kyiv Post’s recent article about author Mary Mycio (“U.S. author pens ‘natural history’ of Chornobyl,” Dec. 1) and her op-ed column about the Chornobyl aftermath (“Questions from the alienation zone,” Nov. 3), raise a number of important issues, and deserve elaboration.

Ms. Mycio has good reason to question the latest pronouncements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The UN report issued in September is not the first time the IAEA has tried to present itself as the ultimate authority on Chornobyl’s impact and to downplay the disaster’s health effects.

The lead author of the IAEA report, Dr. Fred Mettler, testified in July 1992 before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee chaired by Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Alan Simpson. At that time, Mettler claimed that his agency had carried out the most extensive studies available, and found no discernible increase in thyroid cancer in children. Lieberman pressed Mettler on this issue because other witnesses reported alarming increases downwind from the disaster site, but Mettler held firm in his denials.
Five weeks after that hearing, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the prestigious British scientific journal Nature shattered Mettler’s credibility with a detailed analysis that showed an 80-fold increase in thyroid cancer, especially in children living in or near contaminated villages in Belarus. By 1992 there was ample evidence of a major increase in thyroid cancer in Ukraine as well, especially in the regional children’s hospitals in Chernihiv and Zhytomyr, which served children from the most contaminated regions. If Mettler and his collaborators were in the least bit interested in comparing the incidence of thyroid cancer before and after Chornobyl, they could have easily reviewed the data from the central Institutes of Endocrinology in Minsk and Kyiv, where most thyroid operations were performed.


The WHO report was crucial because it mobilized the international community and local activists in Ukraine and Belarus to conduct effective thyroid screenings and physician training programs to improve the treatment of this otherwise very rare form of cancer in children. Thanks to this effective international response, very few of these children died, but nearly all will have to take thyroid replacement hormone for the rest of their lives, and thousands now bear the so-called “Chornobyl necklace,” a prominent scar across their lower throat where their thyroid gland was extracted. The spike in thyroid cancers has resulted in many personal tragedies and smaller heartbreaks that are never reflected in the cold statistics of public health research. I’m reminded of a teenage girl from the Svyatoshyn district in Kyiv, an aspiring opera singer, whose thyroid surgery permanently damaged her vocal cords and bloated her once youthful figure.

One would think that the IAEA and Dr. Mettler would have been humbled by the WHO findings. A reasonable scientist genuinely interested in public health and the advancement of knowledge concerning radiation effects would have considered the possibility, if not the likelihood, that other types of cancer might also have been caused by exposure to radioactive particles and that these cancers deserved a closer look.

But as Ms. Mycio points out, there have been no serious studies of other forms of cancer and the IAEA completely ignored 400,000 nuclear cleanup workers who were among the highest risk groups when arriving at their rosy estimate that only 4,000 excess cancer deaths would ever be traced to the disaster.

When they could no longer refute the many follow-up studies that corroborated an explosion in thyroid cancer, the IAEA pursued a policy of damage control and tried to limit the scope of further research by claiming that any other health effects were purely anecdotal and unrelated to the Chornobyl disaster. It was a strangely circular but distinctly unscientific approach: If not thyroid, then not Chornobyl. In a perversion of Christ’s adage “seek and ye shall find,” the IAEA adopted a policy of “seek not or ye may regret your findings.” What’s worse, the IAEA has consistently carried out a virtual smear campaign against Chornobyl victims and their health workers, accusing those who presented evidence of health effects of suffering from hysteria and “radiophobia.” It is a familiar slur. Environmental activists and independent scientists who raised public awareness of the effects of DDT and asbestos and coal dust faced the same sneers from industry apologists until research proved them dead right.


Today, the scope of Chornobyl research needs to expand to the next generation. A joint Israeli-Ukrainian study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in the United Kingdom found that children born to Chornobyl liquidators had suffered a seven-fold increase in chromosome damage as compared to their siblings born prior to the disaster. Not all this damage will manifest itself in birth defects in the first generation. But despite the nuclear lobby’s vehement denials that this has anything to do with Chornobyl, widespread evidence of an environmental tragedy is being gathered.

I would invite Dr. Mettler and Ms. Mycio to visit the orphanages in the remote towns of Tsyuropinsk, Zaluchya and Znamyanka where children with severe birth defects are packed into crowded dormitories and kept out of sight and out of mind. Many of these birth defects have been documented in a Japanese study in Belarus in 1994 and in the Oscar-winning documentary “Chernobyl Heart.” In my last visit to one of our partner hospitals in Rivne, I learned that in the previous month there were nine children born in that facility with bizarre birth defects that should occur very rarely: Babies born without ears, with missing critical organs, with deformed arms, with multiple digits. Prior to Chornobyl, there might have been one isolated incident once every few years, but maternity hospitals and neonatal wards across Ukraine are reporting a noticeable increase in clusters of these defects. One can bend over backwards and insist that these deformities can happen naturally in the absence of some environmental insult, but at some point, this begins to strain credibility.

The glowing media reports of the so-called “magisterial” report offered by the IAEA never reported on the fervent dissents and contradictory evidence offered by respected scientists from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia who are working most closely with the relevant patient population.
We forget that for many years, physicians were prohibited from listing radiation-related illnesses as a cause of death, and public health researchers were intimidated and urged to eliminate references to Chornobyl fallout as a factor in the rapid decline of health of adults and children between 1991 and 2001. In Belarus, several researchers have been jailed for challenging the prevailing wisdom on Chornobyl’s negligible impact.


The IAEA is fond of proclaiming that there has been no increase in leukemia incidence since Chornobyl. Perhaps, but studies by Swedish and Greek scientists have traced an increase in leukemia in children in their countries to radiation exposure from Chornobyl, and it is hard to imagine that more pronounced increases would not occur closer to the epicenter of the disaster. It is well known that the latency period for many forms of cancer can be 20 years or more, and the half-life of the most widespread cancer-causing isotope dispersed by Chornobyl, cesium 137, is 30 years. So the greatest increase in cancer and leukemia could still occur in the next 10 years, or beyond. The international community needs to stay vigilant, and continue to strengthen Ukraine’s capacity for combating a second wave of cancers. Just as the IAEA was caught off guard by an early emergence of thyroid cancers, it may again have to re-evaluate all of its models and calculations should leukemia rates start to climb later than expected.

Beyond cancer, there are many other health effects that deserve closer study. Peer-reviewed studies by Dr. Anna Petrova from the Robert Wood Johnson Health Network and Dr. Olesya Hulchiy from the Kyiv Medical University have found a higher rate of pregnancy complications and stillbirths among women living in areas contaminated by fallout.

Before the IAEA can close the book on Chornobyl, the world community would do well to demand some answers to the glaring omissions and errors that have riddled the Agency’s post-Chornobyl track record.

Alexander B. Kuzma is executive director of the Children of Chornobyl Relief & Development Fund.


From The Economist

Life is bleak for beleaguered democrats in Belarus. The country`s autocrat, Alexander Lukashenka, has put tight controls on the media, rigged elections, torn up the constitution and sent opposition activists to jail, exile, or--as many fear of four of them who have disappeared--the grave. Now a new law on public security will make it a criminal offence to "discredit Belarus`s standing abroad". If foreign-financed organisations, or the media, are involved, the penalty can be up to five years in jail. Training people to take part in street protests gets two years.

Milinkevich has been receiving a warm reception abroad.
Against this background, the opposition is backing Alexander Milinkevic, a physicist, as a joint candidate in the election due next year. He has had a warm reception abroad--most recently at a meeting in Ukraine of a new pro-western block of ex-communist states. But that it is not what really matters. Wowing the salons of Brussels (where Mr Milinkevic is going next month) is far easier than electioneering at home, where official harassment is crippling his campaign. The independent media, although nominally free, must overcome big bureaucratic obstacles. The opposition has made the 16th of every month an occasion for public protest. So far, numbers taking part have grown each time. But with the police now allowed to shoot demonstrators, it would be understandable if numbers fell. Many Belarusians have given up on politics, and are concentrating on making money. The economy is booming.

The only channel of information that the government does not control is the internet--and even that may change. Local geeks claim that the authorities have bought software from China to block opposition-related content in e-mails or websites. Parliament is debating a new internet law which may impose further restrictions. Mr Lukashenka lavished compliments on China on a visit last week; his hosts reciprocated with a loan.

That may give Belarus more room for manoeuvre with its big patron, Russia. President Vladimir Putin loathes his bumptious Belarusian counterpart, but seems to have given up hope of dislodging him—though some think a Russian-backed putsch is possible.

The opposition and its western friends hope for a Ukraine-style revolution in Belarus. It could be a long wait.



Lukashenka invites the Canadians to come and work out
President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has invited the Canadian national men’s hockey team to hold training in Minsk on the eve of the 2006 IIHF World Championship in Latvia. This topic was a subject of discussion on December 19 at the meeting of the Belarusian leader with the chief coach of the Canadian national men’s hockey team Marc Habscheid.

“I know that you are looking now for a worthy place for your players to acclimatize and to train before the World Hockey Championship in Latvia and that you would rather prefer Belarus to be such a place. If that is so, we will create all the required conditions for you,” underlined Alexander Lukashenko talking to Marc Habscheid.

Speaking about the interests of Belarus in this respect, the President noted that “we would like to see how you train your hockey-players for such large-scale competitions.”

“You’ve always been open for Belarusian specialists. If, this time as well, you allow us to learn from your hockey playing experience a little bit, we’ll be grateful and we’ll be inviting you here every year, not only to play hockey, but also to have a rest,” Alexander Lukashenko added.
The Head of State said he was very pleased to meet with the like-minded people, representatives of his favourite sports, and, specifically, with one of his favourite national teams.

“It is not only a tribute of respect. We proved it before: when we had problems about coaches we made a request to the Canadian specialists to help us cultivate the hockey that you play in Canada,” Alexander Lukashenko said.



Maksim Anisimov
Maksim Anisimov and Piotr Chaadaev from Belarus placed first and second respectively at the FIS cup in Kuopio, Finland.

As BelTA has been told in the ministry of sport and tourism, on the first day of the competition Maksim Anisimov scored the result of 101 meters in Jump 1 event and 96 meters in Jump 2. Piotr Chaadaev settled in second with the results of 95,5 and 99,5 meters respectively.

On the second day Piotr Chaadaev improved his standings having come first – 104,5 meters and 100 meters respectively. Maksim Anisimov was sixth (89,5 meters and 96,5 meters).

Both the athletes have earned the berths at the Olympic Games in Torino. Now they are getting ready for the world championships in Austria on January 13-15.