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Friday, January 20, 2006

It’s Cold!! Union State, LUKoil gets a boost in BY, Elections: Milinkevich, Haydukevich; Katya Damenkova wins and gets a contract, Siabry gets a star

From the top

The Editor of the BHTimes will confirm from personal experience that it is very, very cold at the moment in Belarus
President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has charged the Government to ensure greater safety measures because of the sharp drop in temperature and to submit daily reports on the situation in the country as a whole and in all the national economy sectors.

The President has drawn the attention of the Government especially to the situation in agriculture and in the housing and communal service sector.

The Head of State said that “the people will be undoubtedly provided with appropriate heating in their houses. Sufficient heat will be provided for schools, kindergartens, hospitals and other institutions of the social sphere.” At the same time, one must not ignore the production sphere, not under any circumstances, the President stressed.

Alexander Lukashenko demanded that the Government should ensure thrifty and economical use of fuel and energy resources. The chairpersons of the regional executive committees and the chairman of Minsk municipal executive committee have been directed to place the serviceableness and proper functioning of engineering networks and communications under special control.

The President has also directed the Government to transfer the working day from Saturday, the 21st of January, to the next Saturday, the 28th of January. This measure will make it possible to save a considerable amount of fuel and energy resources.

Russia-Belarus Union vote possible in 2006 - Gryzlov

(RIA Novosti, Belarusian ForMin website, RFE/RL )

Boris Gryzlov
MOSCOW - Russia and Belarus may hold a referendum on a constitution for a mooted union state between the two nations in 2006, a senior Russian parliamentarian said Thursday.

"I hope that during this year we will be able to hold a referendum on a constitutional act," Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, said.

The idea of the state initially emerged in 1997 to foster political and economic integration, in particular by standardizing taxes and tariffs, but has largely remained on paper. Belarus was to have adopted the Russian ruble as a single currency for the state in 2005, but the move has been postponed

On January 24, a meeting of the Supreme State Council discussed the residence of Russian and Belarusian citizens in each others' countries and the provision of equal rights to health care and equal tax liabilities.

"We can confidently say that the process of developing the Union is moving in the right direction," Gryzlov said.

Also today, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a statement the constitution issue would top the agenda of the upcoming session of the Higher State Council of the Russia-Belarus Union State, which will take place in S t. Petersburg on 24 January.

Russia and Belarus in 1996 created a union state, which exists mostly on paper. There are at least nine draft versions of the union state constitution.

Russia-Belarus Union State ups 2006 draft budget

RIA Novosti

Vladimir Konoplyov
MOSCOW, The Russia-Belarus Union State increased its 2006 draft budget by 17% year-on-year to more than 3 billion Russian rubles (about $106 million), a senior Belarusian parliament member said Wednesday.

Vladimir Konoplyov, the chairman of the lower house of Belarus' parliament, said Russia and Belarus were consolidating their union and, therefore, increasing the union's budget.

He said the draft budget provided for the financing of about 40 union programs. According to Konoplyov, the union budget will allocate 30% to industry and energy projects, about 12% to anti-terrorist efforts and the strengthening of the union's borders and more than 12% to social policy and cultural events.

Konoplyov said experts from the two countries were currently studying amendments to the draft constitution of the union state prepared by Russia in October 2005 and that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Russia-Belarus Union State would discuss the preparation of the draft Constitution Act at its 29th session Friday.

Russia and Belarus announced their plans to establish a union state several years ago, but have failed so far to edge closer to their integration largely due to disagreements over the division of powers.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he was against turning Belarus into another province of Russia. The plans of introducing the Russian ruble in the republic as a single currency have also not been realized.

Valeria Novodvorskaya: “To Subsidize Lukashenka’s Dictatorship is Ruin and Disgrace”

Opposing voice from CFharter '97

Valeria Novodvorskaya
“As a patriot of Belarus, who reads Belarusian authors without a dictionary and knows the anthem Pahonya by heart, I can say that the union with Russia is not needed, it is a noose. Belarus has almost lost its national identity because of all these talks about this union. Everybody who disappeared without traces, who was murdered, they all have perished as a consequence of these talks about the union, because Russia allows anything at all just to continue these honey-words,” the leader of the party “Democratic Union of Russia” Valeria Novodvorskaya said in her interview to the Russian service of Radio Svaboda. “And as a patriot of Russia I can say that we do not need it either. We do not need to have a millstone about our neck; we do not need one with a plough, seven with a spoon. We do not need to feed anybody, everybody should support oneself. And we must not pay for dictatorship by a cheap gas, as in this way we support the dictatorship financially, we subsidize repressions, subsidize a kind of Cuba. It’s a real ruin, it’s a real disgrace. As the situation with the dictatorship and absence of freedom in Belarus is getting worse, Russia is dragged further in this direction as well.

"Russia has always wanted to implement a plan Hitler Germany had realized concerning Austria, referring to family sentiments, “being one family”, neighbourhood and the same German language”.

“This phenomenon is called Anschluss, and it’s better to avoid it. Until Moscow deserves it, others would desire to make things lively for Russia. And as long as Russia is intermeddling in others’ business with its hoof, not even with a hand, it would be spited. As a Russian patriot I can say that we have deserved everything we hear from the Baltic states and Ukraine now, and we deserve even more,” the leader of the party stated.

LUKoil should expand its operations in Belarus - Lukashenko


A LUKoil station. The name should not be confused with that of the president of Belarus.
MINSK, Belarus is ready to support projects involving LUKoil, Russia's leading independent crude producer, aimed at reconstructing and modernizing Belarusian companies, the country's president said Wednesday.

"LUKoil's presence in Belarus should not be limited to its network of filling stations," Alexander Lukashenko said at a meeting with businessmen.

"I am grateful that you have quickly proposed areas of cooperation," he said. "It is important to avoid red tape and bureaucracy."

The Belarusian leader, who the U.S. State Department has called the "last dictator in Europe", said the country was also interested in increasing crude supplies from LUKoil for the country's oil refineries, he said.

"I think this would be in the interests of both the company, and the country."

The president said LUKoil was a respectable companies working transparently and honestly on the world market. "This is important," he said, "because there are many [companies] keen to work in Belarus. But we are trying to secure our economy, companies, and workforce against not entirely trustworthy partners. We are happy with LUKoil's work in this sense."

Lukoil plans to invest $500-600 million in Belarus


MINSK. The Russian oil company Lukoil is planning to invest $500-600 million in the Belarussian economy, counting on economic and political stability in that country, said Lukoil President Vagit Alekperov.

"Our company has invested about $100 million in the Belarussian economy, and we are prepared to launch new projects estimated at $500-600 million," Alekperov told journalists in Minsk on Wednesday.

Before entering any market, "we calculate all risks, including economic, financial, and political ones," Alekperov said. "We have calculated these risks in relation to Belarus as well," he said.

"Such political stability does exist in Belarus for the investor's work, for free movement of profits, and for reaching the profitability level," Alekperov said.


Belarus presidential candidates to be provided with $30,000 each

Charter '97

Sorry folks: Belarusian politics are simply not the big money game we play in the west...
Each presidential candidate in Belarus will be provided with about 70 million Belarussian rubles, or about $30,000, from the national budget to conduct their presidential campaigns, Belarusian Central Elections Commission chief Lidia Yermoshina told journalists on Wednesday.

"In addition to this money, they will be provided with free airtime and the chance to publish their programs in the leading national newspapers," Yermoshina said.

The candidates are banned from using their own money or donations from political parties, non-government organizations or individuals to finance their election campaigns, she said.

A total of 35.325 billion Belarusian rubles (2,151 Belarusian rubles/$1) will be allocated for the organization of the presidential elections; 29 billion will be spent on salaries and 4.35 billion on technical support.

The CEC decided to request the Belarusian government that it allocate 23 billion Belarussian rubles for the organization of the first round of elections. The first 10 billion Belarusian rubles had to be allocated by January 5, 2006, another 10 billion by February 1, and the rest by February 25.

The Belarussian presidential elections are due to be held on March 19, 2006.

Milinkevich set to challenge warning issued to his team

Charter '97

Milinkevich looking confident and dapper
Aleksandr Milinkevich, united opposition forces` presidential contender, described the central election commission`s warning as "far-fetched" and announced plans to contest it in the Supreme Court. The election authority on Wednesday issued an official warning to Mr. Milinkevich`s camp over alleged early electioneering.

"The warning is far-fetched, we object to it and will challenge it," the politician said. "We are well aware that this is psychological pressure, an attempt to slow down the fast pace that we`ve reached, make us less active and sow the seeds of uncertainty into the ranks of our allies."

The politician stressed that the warning is evidence of the authorities` fear of the united opposition forces.

"I appeal to everyone who cares about the future of our Belarus and who advocates healthy changes in our country. Despite pressure from the government, I personally and the united pro-democracy forces continue our work that includes tours of the provinces and meetings with people. Our objective is simple and specific - bringing freedom, truth and justice back to Belarus," the presidential hopeful said.

Funds Allocated For State-Run Mass Media to be Doubled

Charter '97

In 2006 more than 60 million dollars will be allocated from the state budget for development of mass media. It is 20 millions more that in the last year, and is twice as much as the sum allocated for the mass media in 2004, the press service of the Belarusian Association of Journalists informs.

According to the Law “On Budget of the Republic of Belarus for the year 2006” (National register of legal acts, number 7, 18.01.2006), 130 300 160.0 thousand rubles were allocated for the mass media, which makes 60.55 million dollars. From this sum 43.89 million dollars are assigned for development of TV and radio, USD 11.53 mln for periodicals and publishing houses; 5.12 mln for “other expenses of mass media”.

If compared with the budget of the year 2005, about USD 40.7 mln were allocated for mass media (33.73 mln for TV and radio; 5.85 mln for periodicals and 1.1 mln for other expenses of mass media). In the budget of the year 2004 the total sum assigned for development of mass media was about USD 29.7 mln (23.8 mln for TV and radio; 5.2 for periodical press and 0.7 for other expenses).

Belarus: Presidential Hopeful Haydukevich Says He Will Become President


Syarhey Haydukevich, who was born in 1954 in Minsk, served in the Soviet Armed Forces in 1976-91, rising to the rank of colonel. From 1982 to 1984, he was a Soviet military adviser in Iraq. In 1992-1994, Haydukevich was chairman of the government's committee for the social protection of employees of state security bodies, the Interior Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Border Troops, and soldiers who participated in Soviet military operations abroad.

As the head of the Belarusian Liberal Democratic Party, he has been criticized by party members for his allegedly authoritarian practices and for the party's poor performances during recent parliamentary and presidential elections. In the 2001 presidential election, Haydukevich won 2.5 percent of the vote.

In June 2005, a Minsk court ordered opposition daily "Narodnaya volya," to pay 100 million rubles ($46,500) in damages to Haydukevich for defaming him in an article published in March. The article suggested that Haydukevich was involved in the illegal sale of Iraqi oil under quotas received from the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Syarhey Haydukevich, leader of the Belarusian Liberal Democratic Party, is registered as a candidate in the country's presidential vote in May. On 10 January, Haydukevich answered questions posed by the listeners of RFE/RL's Belarus Service. The following are selected excerpts.

RFE/RL: Why do you want to become a president of Belarus?

Syarhey Haydukevich: I will become president. Everything is heading towards this outcome. The future belongs to us.

RFE/RL: What are your chances of being elected? Which of the candidates you would support yourself?

Haydukevich: I am moving forward all the time, my rating is growing, the image of the party is also getting better. Millions of people know me. I have enormous support. There the so-called "candidate of the united opposition [Alyaksandr Milinkevich] has no chance. I want him to think about that.

RFE/RL: What is your election slogan?

Haydukevich: Long live new Belarus; long live unity.

RFE/RL: What is your opinion about the EU after the bloc's enlargement?

Haydukevich: I support the EU and its enlargement. I think it is important for us to seek better relations with the EU.

And, RFE/RL's Belarus Service recently spoke with Valery Karbalevich, an analyst with the Strategy political analysis center in Minsk, about Syarhey Haydukevich's presidential chances.

RFE/RL: Is Haydukevich is serious political figure?

Valery Karbalevich: He is a tricky political figure. He tries to present himself as a politician, who is in between [President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka and the opposition. He has no stable position -- sometimes he supports Lukashenka, sometimes he presents himself as an opposition figure.... Of course he has no chances, he has no serious political structures, but he plays this role rather successfully. He plays the role of political clown. Though Haydukevich insists he is very popular, the numbers speak for themselves. He got some 3 percent during the presidential election in September 2001 but has taken this 3 percent from the country's opposition.

RFE/RL: Haydukevich seems to use the same political language as the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Is there anything more that the party name that unites the two politicians?

Karbalevich: Haydukevich deliberately uses elements, styles, of rude language characteristic to Zhirinovsky. By the way, Haydukevich's party was formed as a branch of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. Later, the two politicians split but many common elements remain.

Russian Observers Are Already Inclined to Recognize Upcoming Election?

Charter '97

Russia isn't worried about the upcoming elections one bit
“We are holding observation in the Republic of Belarus for the third time. We communicate with the Central Election Committee, analyze electoral legislation. To our mind, and we are clarifying all the recent decisions, related to the concrete presidential elections, the Belarusian election legislation comply with the international standards, and those legislative instruments passed in the framework of the CIS,” told the head of the observers’ mission of the Commonwealth of the Independent States in Minsk on January 18 the head of the CIS observation mission, Executive Secretary of this organization Vladimir Rushailo.

Defining the situation during the election campaign, he called is “quiet”. “We do not see any outrages. Everything is going on in a routine mode,” he added. This question was discussed by the CIS Executive Secretary with the chairperson of the Central Election Commission Lidziya Yarmoshyna. “Everything we have been observing so far, is carried out in line with the legislation in force. And our main aim is to make conclusions in our statement, whether all the stages of the election campaign and voting on the election day have been carried out under the existing laws. So far we do not see any reasons to ask serious questions to anybody,” V Rushailo

However, representatives of opposition are constantly drawing attention of the Central Election Committee to a huge number of violations registered in the period of collection of signatures in support of the candidates to presidency. Most of them relate to forcible collection of signatures in support of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. However, Rushailo have not mentioned that.

China's ZTE wants to build mobile telephone plant in Belarus

Cellular news

MINSK, Jan 18 (Prime-Tass) -- Chinese telecommunications equipment company Zhongxing Telecom Equipment Corporation (ZTE) plans to build a plant in Belarus to produce mobile telephones, Chinese Ambassador to Belarus Wu Hongbin told a news conference Wednesday.

"I know that ZTE Corporation is interested in this project and is looking for reliable partners in Belarus for its implementation," he said. No other details of the project were provided.

Other large Chinese companies are also interested in creating joint ventures with Belarusian enterprises, he said. "For successful cooperation partner states should create mutually beneficial conditions and remove red-tape obstacles, which hinder business development,” he added.


Girl from Belarus becomes Supermodel of the World in New York

The beautiful Belarussian girl has won a year contract in the sum of $250,000

17 year-old Katya Damenkova
A girl from Belarus, Katya Damenkova, won the World Supermodel Contest in New York. An 11th grader from Belarus's capital Minsk won the final of the annual contest held by Ford Models agency. The Belarussian girl was lucky to become the best of other contestants from 38 countries of the world.

Katya will have an opportunity to conclude a $250,000 contract with Ford Models. Contestants from Canada and the Philippines who took the second and the third places would sign $150,000 and $100,000 contracts respectively. Other prize-winners of the contest - girls from the Netherlands, the USA and Estonia - also won smaller contracts in the modeling business.

Damenkova with the staff of the BHTimes
Russia was represented in the contest by 16-year-old Olesya Boslovyak, the winner of Supermodel of Russia 2005. The Russian girl has not entered the list of prize-winners, Itar-Tass reports.

The winner of Supermodel of the World said that she is enormously attracted to the profession of a model because of an ability to travel and meet many well-known people. "The competition was tough at the contest. It was extremely pleasant for me to win," Katya Damenkova told reporters.

The Supermodel of the World contest is considered to be one of the most important springboards for young models. The first contest was held in September of 1980 in Monte Carlo. It attracts fashion magazine editors, photographers and designers from all over the world.

Alexander Lukashenko Congratulates the Popular Music Group “Siabry”

From the office of the president

The “Siabry”(trans: Friends)folk music group has been around for more than 30 years and is the only band on the post-Soviet scene which neither split up nor disappeared from the stage.
President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has congratulated the popular music group “Siabry” on the remarkable event – installation of the memorial sign of the group in the Square of Stars in Moscow.

“The Siabry Ensemble has rightfully become Belarus’ visiting card, and its beautiful songs have conquered the hearts of several generations of listeners. Patriotism, loyalty to the best traditions of the variety arts, performing excellence have brought you great success and well-merited recognition,” said the Head of State in his message of felicitation.



Some of the public papers from the Clinton administration
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Researchers can start requesting any of the millions of presidential records at Bill Clinton's library Friday, the fifth anniversary of his departure from the White House.

The library has 80 million pages of documents that will be available to scholars through the Freedom of Information Act.

"For someone like me, this is huge," said Margaret Scranton, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas. "This is big because this begins the process of getting those records."

Clinton has already opened several hundred thousand pages to the public, but most were domestic policy documents of White House staffers. The library has also opened its holdings for some federal court cases, including a lawsuit over Jewish property looted by Nazis in World War II.

Library Director David Alsobrook said getting documents would be a lengthy process. With just 10 archivists to handle requests, the library cannot provide documents quickly.

"It could take months. It could take years," Alsobrook said. "You're going to be bitterly disappointed if you're looking for something immediately."

Complicating Friday's release is an executive order signed by President Bush that requires his consent and the former president's before any documents can be released to the public.

Because of privacy and national security concerns, some of the documents will not be available Friday. But under the Presidential Records Act, those papers will be reviewed again in 12 years and more released.

Alsobrook said he does not know how many of those documents will be restricted from public view. "We won't really know until we get the request and get in there," he said.

Supervisory archivist Melissa Walker said the library is not expecting long lines of researchers. Most requests will come through the mail.

Also see:

Clinton library