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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, January 08, 2006

Lukashenka takes the ice, Embezzlement at BelAz, BY joins land mine accord, Union State, Hotel Minsk Gets an award, Elections; Milinkevich, Voytovich

From the Top


From the office of the president

On January 5, the Head of State Alexander Lukashenko took part in the opening ceremony of the second Christmas International Tournament of Hockey Lovers for the prize of the President of the Republic of Belarus.

The Belarusian leader emphasized that a good tradition to start a new sports year with the Christmas International Tournament of Hockey Lovers symbolizes the continuity of professional and mass-scale sports, the unity of veterans and fans of hockey.

According to the President, the mass-scale and fascinating sport paves the most reliable ways towards health. It brings people strength of mind, vivaciousness, optimism, plenty of emotions, and joy of victory.

Alexander Lukashenko expressed the conviction that this year’s tournament of hockey lovers would become a real holiday for all. “I am greatly pleased to welcome here, in the Palace of Sports, the outstanding hockey players from Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Finland, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland, from great hockey powers,” the Head of State added.

The President particularly noted that participating in the hockey competitions would be not only professionals but also amateurs in this kind of sports. “I am sure we’ll see not only a captivating performance but also a school of mastery for junior hockey players,” the Belarusian leader underlined.

Alexander Lukashenko wished successful game to all the teams.

Upon completion of the official ceremony, a match was played on the ice hockey playing-field between the team of the President of the Republic of Belarus and the hockey players from Sweden.



Mikhail Myasnikovich
On January 6 chair of the Supervisory Board of the High-Tech Park /HTP/ Mikhail Myasnikovich held a working meeting “On the current state of affairs and short-term prospects of forming the High-Tech Park, development and approval of the legal-treaty base”.

The meeting was held in the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus and was attended by about 50 national and foreign IT-companies – future HTP residents.

Head of the HTP administration Valeriy Tsepkalo informed the meeting about the course of development of the legal-treaty base. In particular, he noted that within a fortnight the HTP Charter will be approved by the head of state and by the end of January registration of residents and projects is expected to be started.

Specialists have already put forward proposals to include the unfinished “Specialized design office with model shop of Institute of Physics” in the investment program of the government. The building has the area of 13 thousand square meters and is considered to be park-forming. Offices and a small business incubator will be located in the building. When the building is finished its premises will be leased at a privileged rate – 0,5. Small and newly opened companies will enjoy this privilege, Valeriy Tsepkalo said.

In turn, chairperson of the Supervisory Board Mikhail Myasnikovich called upon those present not to waste time and start discussing their projects with potential investors represented by banks today. Mikhail Myasnikovich also drew attention of IT companies' directors to the necessity to think about creating daughter enterprises. The move is necessitated by the fact that the business of the majority of domestic software developers is diversified, while the HTP Charter provides for one kind of business only — programming. These actions will allow the company to save time and get down to work right after the registration, stressed the head of the Supervisory Board.



A BelAz heavy truck
Reports from Belarus say a vice director of BelAz, the country's main car factory, has been arrested and charged with embezzling over $150,000.

Two other people -- including a Russian national and the Belarusian director of one of the factory's affiliated distributors in Ukraine -- have also been detained on related charges. The identities of the detainees have not been made public.

The Belarusian Interior Ministry said the arrests were made possible thanks to assistance offered by authorities in Ukraine's eastern Dnipropetrovsk region.

Belarusian law-enforcement agencies say they are looking for other suspects.



Block apartments in Minsk
Construction organizations of Moscow will build in Minsk a big residential area soon, prefect of the southern administrative district of Moscow Piotr Biriukov told reporters today after signing a cooperation agreement between the Minsk City Council and this prefecture of the Russian capital.

According to him, mayors of the two cities Mikhail Pavlov and Yuri Luzhkov had reached a corresponding agreement on the issue.

Pavel Biriukov expressed confidence that such big new residential area would be good for Minsk, which has been recently showing excellent construction results recently.

As BelTA was informed by deputy chair of the Minsk City Council Viacheslav Kushner, the area will be located in the Moscow district of Minsk in the region of Dzerzhinskiy Avenue.

Representatives of the construction organizations of Moscow and architects will come to Minsk at the end of January this year to discuss the details of the project, he added.



Land mine results…
Belarus intends to sign the Explosive Remnants of War Protocol (the so-called protocol #5 of the Inhumane Weapons Convention), chief of the Belarusian Armed Forces Engineer Corps Major-General Sergei Luchina told a press conference on January 6.

The document regulates issues related to international assistance in mine clearing of territories. According to Sergei Luchina, the protocol was adopted by the international community two years ago. "Belarus is ready to sign it, but, however, we have not got an authentic Russian translation yet. In the coming months the UN will send the text and we will be able to get down to the ratification procedure", said the head of the Engineer Corps.

Sergei Luchina also informed, so far Belarus cannot partake in humanitarian mine clearing missions abroad. For the purpose Belarus would need essential funding, as the mine clearing methods involve combat engineers and special K9 units as well as radio-controlled machinery.

In 2006 Belarus will destroy more than 200 thousand TNT containing antipersonnel mines, Luchina added.

At present Belarus has about four million antipersonnel mines left after the Soviet Union. In their stocks the republic takes the seventh position in the world. In line with the Ottawa Convention these mines will be destroyed till March 2008, Sergei Luchina said.

Land mine removal gear
According to him, within the framework of the mine destruction project Belarus closely cooperates with the NATO Maintenance and Supply Organization. The first stage of the project is financed by Canada and Lithuania. “EUR 205 thousand will be spent on the mine destruction. The financing scheme is transparent. The money will be transferred to the amount of the Defense Ministry of Belarus, so international auditors
will be able to control their spending”, Sergei Luchina stated.

Belarus will spend about EUR 185 thousand at this stage of mines destruction to finance non-direct spending (transportation costs, salaries, etc.)

A draft contract between Belarus and NATO has already been coordinated and is expected to be signed soon. After this about 150 thousand mines will be blown up in small portions at a former firing ground in Gomel oblast. The method applied to destroy them is ecologically-friendly and has been coordinated with the nature protection ministry, Sergei Luchina said.

Other TNT containing antipersonnel mines, in particular, ОЗМ-72 and army mines МОН will be converted into guided mines which are prohibited by the Ottawa Convention. To that end the mines will be deprived of fuses which use the principle of stretching. These fuses are to be destroyed at Tsentrolit factory in Gomel, the chief of the Engineer Corps explained.

According to him, following the destruction of the mines, Belarus will have to get rid of 3,3 million liquid content mines ПФМ-1.

At the same time representatives of the Belarusian Engineer Corps actively learn experience of international humanitarian mine clearing from Lithuanian specialists.

In Belarus the largest concentration of Great Patriotic War remnants is registered in Dubrovo district. The total area of the territory subject to mine clearing exceeds 300 square kilometres, added Sergei Luchina.

Union State


An "old" Ruble
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree to approve signing an agreement on co-operation in setting up an integrated currency market of Eurasian Economic Community member-states.

Belta learnt from the presidential press service, the document was adopted to develop currency integration and form a common financial market of EurAsEC member-states.

The agreement implementation will enable EurAsEC member-states' banks to perform interbank conversion operations under conditions not less favourable than those enjoyed by the resident banks in their countries. The measure will expand the area of Belarusian currency usage for the purpose of servicing foreign trade of the country.

The draft agreement was approved by a sitting of the EurAsEC Council at the government head level on September 27, 2005. The signing of the document is scheduled for the next sitting of the Council, which is to take place in St Petersburg on January 25, 2006.



Minsk in winter
A representative office and a trade house of Moscow will be built in Minsk, Minsk deputy mayor Vycheslav Kushner told BelTA.

In his words, the Moscow's representative office will be situated in Osvobozhdeniya Street next to Moscow-Minsk bank.

"All the work — design work and construction — will be done by the Moscow party. On our part we will create conditions to make the first two stages happen fast", said Vycheslav Kushner.

Let us remind you, the negotiations to open a representative office of the Russian capital have been underway for around one year. The issue was tabled by a Gomel sitting of the Belarus-Moscow Business Co-operation Council on August 18-19. Then negotiations were resumed during the first Belarusian-Russian Economic Forum in Minsk on September 6-9.

As far as the Moscow trade house is concerned, it will be placed in Pobediteley Avenue not far from the XXI Century business centre. The land plot has been stripped of all buildings. The trade house is planned to include administrative, business and trade centres, added the Minsk deputy mayor.



Lukashenka shaking hands with a veteran. It has in fact been a policy of the state not to forget. N
In 2005 the Union State financed recuperation of some 165 veterans of the Great Patriotic War, head of the department for the affairs of veterans and elderly people of the main social support department of the ministry of labor and social security Ivan Nagibin has told BelTA.

He has noted that in 2005 more veterans enjoyed an opportunity to undergo recuperation and treatement than in 2004 when the Union State financed 144 vouchers. So, some 309 Belarusians were given a chance to recuperate in the year of the 60th anniversary of liberation of Belarus from the Nazis.

According to Ivan Nagibin, the veterans recuperated and underwent treatment in Belarus.



Nikolai Zhuravskiy: It is a kind of Oscar in the travel industry
The Minsk Hotel got a prestigious prize from World Travel Awards for 2005 – it won the nomination “Best hotel of Belarus”. For the first time in the history of the national tourism business a Belarusian hotel got such prize. Representatives of the hotel did not attend the 12th awarding ceremony, which was held in London in November last year, so the award was delivered in Minsk only today, on the eve of Orthodox Christmas.

As BelTA was informed by general director of the hotel Nikolai Zhuravskiy, the ceremony World Travel Awards was founded in 1993. “It is a kind of Oscar in the travel industry”.

This annual ceremony becomes a significant event in the tourism world. The 12th ceremony was one of the biggest actions of the international tourism calendar of 2005. Some 176 thousand professionals in the tourism sphere including 110 travel agents voted this time.

Travel agencies across the world voted online in more than 200 countries. There are many nominations divided by geographical characteristics: Africa, Asia, Middle East, Europe, Central and Latin America, North America and South America. Then nominations in each region are divided into special business achievements. Besides, there are additional awards for certain kinds of services. Hotel Minsk was named the best Belarus hotel. Many travel agencies voted for the victory of Hotel Minsk.

Last year was successful for the hotel. The company won the gold crown at international contest in Moscow by becoming a laureate of the Tourist Leaders Industry award in nomination "Quality of Service — Hotels".

Politics and the Upcoming Election


Charter '97

Alyaksandr Milinkevich
As of January 5, 32, 429 signatures have been collected for nomination of the leader of opposition Alyaksandr Milinkevich for the presidential race. Thus, the democratic forces’ candidate for presidency is an absolute leader in signatures collection at the moment.

The team of Alyaksandr Milinkevich assesses the results of signatures collection as “normal”. “The process of signatures collection could have been even more active, if it were not for the New Year and Christmas holidays, and impediments by police. Policemen were illegally trying to hamper collection of signatures, by detaining members of initiative group of Milinkevich and not allowing collecting signatures in the most populated places,” the press-center of the Charter’97 was told by the press secretary Paval Mazhejka.

As for other candidates, the campaign headquarters of the former Belarusian State University rector Alyaksandr Kazulin inform that 25,000 signatures have been collected in his support. The campaign headquarters of the former deputy, General Valery Fralou, informs that about 5,000 signatures have been collected before the New Year, and now their number is about 8,000. According to the information of the ex-speaker of the “council of republic” Alyaksandr Vajtovich, 15-18,000 signatures have been collected in his support. The campaign headquarters of Zyanon Paznyak refused to give information about the quantity of signatures collected. The headquarters o the leader of the Liberal-Democratic party Syarhei Hajdukevich states that about 20,000 signatures have been collected by them. It is unknown how many signatures have been collected for Lukashenka, but a lot of reports are received stating that at state-owned enterprises and in universities people are compelled to sign for his nomination.

To get nominated as a candidate, every nominee has to collect at least 100,000 signatures. The collection of signatures is to last till January 27.


Viasna and Charter '97

One of the buildings of the BSU
A student of the Belarusian Non-state Institute of Jurisprudence phoned to HRC Viasna and stated that during the exams a worker of the dean’s office came up to the students and warned they had to sign for registration of Lukashenka as a candidate to the election in order to have good marks. Besides, on the walls of the institute somebody stuck the posters ordering the students to come to the exams with their passports. The students also said that one of his friends was permitted to re-take an exam only on the condition that he would sign for registration of Lukashenka as a candidate to the presidential election, which he had to do.

Charter '97 adds that more e-mails are coming in to their press center from students who have been forced to sign for nomination of Alyaksandr Lukashenka as a candidate for presidency. “News sites have been writing that students of the chemistry department of the Belarusian State University are forced to sign for Lukashenka. The same things are taking place in all faculties of the Belarusian State University. Every morning before every examination students are obligated to sign for Lukashenka. Even passports of the students are not necessary for that, as dean’s office has all students’ data. The same things are taking place in mathematics, history, economy, philosophy, philology and journalism and other departments. The same thins are taking place in hostels. Is it legal? Jan, a third-year student of the BSU,” the letter we have received today reads.


Charter '97

Aleh Manaeu has received a bureaucratic warning
On 30 December Stanislau Novikau, senior investigator of the Procurator’s office of Belarus summonsed Aleh Manaeu, director of the Independent Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Research that is registered in Vilnius and warned him about “inadmissibility of law violations”.

The warning was signed by Mikalai Kupryianau, vice-Procurator General, who stated that IISEPS continued conducting public polls despite the fact it had no registration in Belarus.

“In the case you repeat the established order for conduction of social polls during the period of preparation to the presidential election of the Republic of Belarus, your actions will be considered as a law violation, for which you can be punished”, -- read the document.

Professor Manaeu considers this warning groundless, because the procurator’s office referred to the ruling of the Soviet of Ministers that regulated the order of accreditation of the juridical bodies that conducted polls, while he dealt with this activity as a private individual, which wasn’t mentioned in any legislative act.

According to RFE/RL he can complain against the warning, but haven’t yet decided whether he would do it.



Mikalai Lazovik
The Central Election Commission calls a current election campaign uncommonly calm. “The peculiarity of the current election campaign is its calmness even uncommon calmness. However we’re expecting a splash in political activity during an agitation campaign,” the CEC spokesman Mikalai Lazovik said in his interview to Interfax. He also noticed that initiative groups’ members can collect signatures everywhere: in the street, markets, or visiting flats. “We addressed the police asking them not to prevent from signatures collection,” he said.

According to Mr Lazovik no violations in signatures collection have been noticed so far. “The contenders have not delivered the collected signatures to the CEC yet. As a rule it happens during the last two or three days before the expiry day,” he said. He reminded that signatures are proved during 10 days and this is enough for careful studying. He added that election commissions can invite different specialist to check signatures.

He told that the CEC organized special trainings for territorial commissions’ members.


A short interview with Alyaksandr Voytovich, the former head of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences and the leader of the upper chamber of the Belarusian Parliament in 2003-2004


Alyaksandr Voytovich
Alyaksandr Voytovich is registered as an independent candidate in the country's presidential vote in March. Along with seven other contenders -- including the incumbent, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka -- needs to gather 100,000 signatures of support from eligible voters in order to be formally listed on the ballot. Voytovich recently spoke to RFE/RL Belarus Service correspondent Siarhey Navumchyk about the role of the opposition in the upcoming race, and other issues.

RFE/RL: Alyaksandr Voytovich, do you consider yourself as belonging to the Belarusian culture, or to some other culture, like Russian?

Alyaksandr Voytovich: I, of course, consider myself as belonging to the Belarusian culture. I was born in a Belarusian family, one which spoke Belarusian. I have grown up on this territory. I not only agree with, but am also deeply convinced, that only through national self-determination -- different from that of Poland, Russia, or Ukraine -- will we be able to become an important nation in the world.

RFE/RL: Do you think there is a systematic campaign to destroy the Belarusian language in the country, or is it happening more spontaneously?

Voytovich: I really think there is a campaign of destruction of the Belarusian language is underway in Belarus. I think it's being spearheaded by Lukashenka, who said long ago that it's a substandard language. I think the problem is that he was a bad student at school. I think that once Lukashenka's regime is a part of the past, the fate of the Belarusian language will improve radically.

RFE/RL: If you succeed in gathering the 100,000 signatures of support required to be on the ballot, do you plan to then withdraw your candidacy in favor of a united opposition candidate?

Voytovich: Signatures are now being collected and the process is intensifying. I'm considering the question of withdrawing my candidacy. This move would be not in order to support somebody else, but to show that Lukashenka's bid for a third term is not legitimate. I consider his participation illegitimate. I think, were I to make that move [to withdraw from the race], it would be a statement about the illegitimacy of his participation in the election.

RFE/RL: What is your most powerful weapon against the authorities?

Voytovich: The truth, which is being covered up by the authorities and by the official media, is my most powerful weapon. This truth should be brought to the people. I have to add that the authorities are stealing the future from our children and grandchildren. We must overcome this feeling of fear which rules so many in our country."

RFE/RL: Do you feel you have put yourself at risk by deciding to participate in the election campaign? Are you ready to face that risk?

Voytovich: To begin with, I should say that I am not afraid for myself. I am ready to risk my life. I'm concerned about it, but I'm ready. Secondly, as concerns possible bloodshed on the streets, we should do everything possible to prevent this. It would be terrible if we are divided by blood.

RFE/RL: In your opinion, what are the chances that power might change hands after the election?

Voytovich: Some people may not like it, but I always tell the truth. It's impossible to act otherwise when one is a scientist. That's why I say the possibility that there will be a change in power in three months' time is very low. As I have already said, there will in fact be no real election at all.


"In addition to Alexander Lukashenka, the main opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich, and a puppet pro-Lukashenka “oppositioner” Sergey Gajdukevich, there are several other potentials.

I talked with one of them on the phone two days ago, namely, with Alexander Vajtovich (or Voytovich). He’s a distinguished physicist who was a President of the Academy of Sciences for several years. And he was a chief of Lukashenka’s upper chamber of puppet parliament for several years, until Lukashenka realized that Vajtovich doesn’t like him and wants to express independent opinions. After that Lukashenka kicked him out (illegally, of course).

During our phone conversation I was quite surprised how well he speaks Belarusian. I somehow thought he’s totally Russian-speaking like most Minsk-based scientists. But, no. He has such a nice, soft Belarusian accent, it made me want to vote for him just for that.

But, in reality, of course, he doesn’t stand a chance. Ok, maybe one chance in a million. So I hope he’ll be smart and will join the united opposition front instead of going forward alone. And I hope they’ll be smart enough to welcome him aboard and find something useful for him to do. I think at this moment the ball is in their court. He’s not a member of any party structure and he’s not friends with any of them, so he was left out, although he’s a smart guy, and he has wide support among scientists and intelligentsia. I really hope our so called “united opposition” will really be united, and will not make a fool of itself by rejecting him."



Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz
Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz today said his country will begin broadcasting radio programs to neighboring Belarus ahead of the 19 March presidential election.

Marcinkiewicz made the announcement after meeting with Belarusian opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich in the northern Polish city of Bialystok.

Milinkievich, who is Belarus' leading opposition presidential candidate, said the planned radio station was "very important." He said it would supply independent information to his country.

Poland had previously said the broadcasts would include programs in Belarusian and Polish. Western Belarus is home to many ethnic Poles, whose rights Warsaw says are being violated.

Poland has positioned itself as a leading regional opponent to the authoritarian government of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Marcinkiewicz today said his country was considering sending observers to monitor Belarus's upcoming polls.



Dancer Inesa Dushkevich
A great success has turned out the recent tour of the National Academic Bolshoi Theater of Ballet of Belarus in Korea, literary manager of the theater Tatyana Alexandrova has told BelTA.

The recent tour across Korea is the third in the history of the company. The Belarusian masters have performed Chaikovskiy’s Schelkunchik (nutcracker) staged by head and art director of the theater, people’s artist of the USSR and Belarus Valentin Yelizariev. Within two weeks the company performed 10 plays in such cities as Busan, Degu and Sunchon. For the first time the Belarusians performed in the capital of Korea – Seoul giving four shows at one of the principal stages of the city – Olympic Hall. All shows were sold-out.

The Belarusian company is expected to perform in Minsk on January 8 in the Palace of the Republic a classic ballet Bayaderka which will feature a ballet company and students of the Belarusian state choreographic college.