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Friday, February 03, 2006

Customs amendments, KGB, Gaisenok, Hadids ask for their papers back, ILO, EU Sanctions, polls say Lukashenka still has 75%, Belarus supports IAEA


Alexander Lukashenko Congratulates Boris Yeltsin on His 75th Birthday

From the office of the president

Yeltsin and Lukashenko from 1997
President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has congratulated the First President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin on his 75th birthday.

“It is my pleasure to express the words of profound gratitude to you, the First President of the Russian Federation, who stood at the outset of the Belarusian-Russian unity,” the message of felicitation says.

The Head of the Belarusian State noted in his message that this year, the year of the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on the Creation of the Commonwealth of Belarus and Russia, one can say with confidence that the time has proved the rightfulness of the choice made.

Alexander Lukashenko expressed the conviction that the enormous social and political experience of Boris Yeltsin, his vast knowledge in the building of the state would for many years continue to be useful for Russia.

The head of state has also congratulated Ms. Tarja Halonen on her election as president of Finland.

Alexander Lukashenko hopes that Belarus and Finland will continue developing mutually beneficial cooperation.

President of Belarus approves enactment on free customs zones in free economic zones


Free customs zones are to be enacted in the free economic zones
On January 31 president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko signed decree #66 “On approving the enactment on free customs zones in the free economic zones”, BelTA has been told in the president’s press service.

To ensure appropriate control over movement of goods in free economic zones the document introduces the term of a free economic zone as a territory, defines its status and the requirements it should meet (including the availability of barriers, alarm and video surveillance system), the order of functioning of free customs zones, the rights and obligations of their owners.

In line with the decree, if an owner of a free customs zone violates the customs legislation or fails to fulfill his obligations, he might be denied the right to carry out operations with goods while a free customs zone might be abolished.

Customs Officers Confiscate Video Cassettes from Ukrainian Journalists and Pass Them to KGB

viasna, interfax

The KGB would check out whether the cassettes contain any “anti-state information
In the evening of 27 January the customs officers of Novaia Huta customs office stopped the car that was driven by a Ukrainian citizen. They searched the car and found three video cassettes with materials concerning the preparation to the presidential election in Belarus. Later the press-service of the State Customs Committee of the Republic of Belarus informed Interfax information agency that the cassettes were passed to KGB for expertise in accordance with Art 226 of the Customs Code. The KGB would check out whether the cassettes contain any “anti-state information”.

On 28 January the representative of the Belarusian Embassy in the Ukraine was called to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. There he was given a note with the request to discriminate into the situation and return the cassettes.

We should remind that in 2004 the customs officers also confiscated a video cassette from a journalist of the Swedish TV4 channel. The cassette contained the interview with the well-known Belarusian human rights activist Hary Pahaniaila, vice-chair of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee. In this interview Mr. Pahaniaila expressed his suspicion concerning the involvement of the highest level officials (including Aliaksandr Lukashenka) into the kidnaps and possible murders of their political opponents. On the basis of this interview a criminal case upon part 2 of Art 367 of the Criminal Code (slander of the president of the Republic of Belarus accompanied with accusations of felony commitment) was brought against him in November 2004. However, in November 2005 the procurator’s office had to close the case because the absence of corpus delicti in Pahaniaila’s actions.

Viktor Gaisenok partakes in IAEA Board session


Viktor Gaisenok
A regular session of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency /IAEA/ has opened today in Vienna. Iran’s nuclear program highlights the agenda of the meeting. The IAEA session is attended by representative of Belarus, deputy foreign minister Viktor Gaisenok, acting head of the information department – press secretary of the foreign ministry Andrei Popov has told a news briefing.

“The Republic of Belarus considers that every participating state of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons has an indefeasible right to carry out a peaceful nuclear activity. Belarus supports the efforts of the IAEA and its general director to address the issues connected with the Iran’s nuclear program. We call upon all interested sides to fruitful cooperation with the IAEA based on transparency and good will to make the rest of the issues to be regulated within the agency’s framework”, the official has underscored.

IAEA is an intergovernmental organization engaged in the sphere of atomic energy utilization. It was founded under the UN decision at the international conference in New York. Belarus makes part to the list of its member-states.

Rabbi asks Russia for 'sacred objects'

The ChaBaD people want their papers back from the soviet archives
MOSCOW, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The rabbi of a Moscow synagogue has asked Russian authorities to give back thousands of "Jewish sacred objects" that were seized in the Soviet era.

Speaking at a news conference at the synagogue, Yitzhak Kogan said that the approximately 12,000 manuscripts that are stored in the Russian State Library should be returned to the Lubavitcher Hasidic movement, the RIA Novosti news agency reported Wednesday.

"This is the heritage of Lubavitcher Hasids," Kogan said.

The manuscripts came from a library built up over 200 years in the town of Lubavitch, located in present-day Belarus, which was the center of the Lubavitcher branch of the Hasidic movement.

Soviet authorities confiscated the manuscripts and placed them in the Lenin Library, as the Russian State Library was formerly known.

In the early 1990s, Jewish activists organized regular pickets near the library to attract public attention, calling for the manuscripts to be returned to them.

Foreign ministry: no intention to turn down creative dialogue with European Commission, ILO


Belarus is pushing away from talks with the ILO
Belarus has never rejected creative and pragmatic dialogue with the European commission and the International Labour Organisation on issues related to improving laws regulating social and labour relations. The statement was pronounced by acting head of the Belarusian foreign ministry's information department Andrei Popov at today's press conference.

In his words, a recent visit of an International Labour Organisation delegation led by executive director Kari Tapiola is a proof. During the negotiations the parties discussed improvement of the Belarusian legislation in the social and labour field. The parties also considered ways and forms of rendering corresponding consultative and technical assistance to Belarus.

Andrei Popov confirmed the stance of the foreign ministry regarding European Commission statements about possible cancellation of privileges for Belarus. "We are deeply convinced, sanctions are not a proper international policy method. No problem has been resolved with sanctions. It should be borne in mind that the European Union itself has repeatedly stated it wished no harm for common Belarusian citizens. Meanwhile, if such a decision is adopted, it will seriously affect the very common Belarusians as well as interests of common European customers. We hope our European partners understand it very well", said the official representative of the ministry of foreign affairs.

EU Warns Belarus Sanctions Could Follow Presidential Elections

Charter '97

Milinkevich is gaining much European support.
European Union foreign ministers say they are ready to impose sanctions on Belarus if the March presidential election is seen as being rigged. In a statement issued in Brussels Monday, the 25 ministers said they are prepared to act if Belarus fails to uphold international standards in the electoral process, Radio Free Europe said Monday.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the measures could include visa restrictions and economic sanctions.

Hardline President Aleksandr Lukashenko is standing for a third term, and opposition politicians say they are coming under increased pressure in the run-up to the March 19 poll.

Belarusian opposition leader Aleksandr Milinkevich has said he has faced serious obstacles while campaigning.

Milinkevich met with Ferrero-Waldner and some EU foreign ministers on the sidelines of the EU ministerial meeting in Brussels.EU Warns Belarus Sanctions Could Follow Presidential Elections
European Union foreign ministers say they are ready to impose sanctions on Belarus if the March presidential election is seen as being rigged.

In a statement issued in Brussels Monday, the 25 ministers said they are prepared to act if Belarus fails to uphold international standards in the electoral process, Radio Free Europe said Monday.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the measures could include visa restrictions and economic sanctions.

Hardline President Aleksandr Lukashenko is standing for a third term, and opposition politicians say they are coming under increased pressure in the run-up to the March 19 poll.

Belarusian opposition leader Aleksandr Milinkevich has said he has faced serious obstacles while campaigning.

Milinkevich met with Ferrero-Waldner and some EU foreign ministers on the sidelines of the EU ministerial meeting in Brussels.

  • Elections

    The Central Election Commission reported that the collection of signatures for the candidates to the position of President did not have any "obstacles and significant conflicts.”


    Slowly but surely Belarus is grinding its way to March 19th
    The Central Election Commission informed that the signatures collected for candidates (Siarhei Haidukevich has 150 504 signatures, Alaiksandr Kazulin has 158 014 signatures, Aliaksandr Lukashenka has 1 905 637 signatures, and Aliaksandr Milinkevich has 198 798 signatures. The most important thing is the authenticity of the signatures. Now territorial commissions examine the authenticity of the signatures collected, and the results are going to presented to the Central Commission on February 11. The main activity of the Central Commission involves consulting of the territorial commissions about the examination of the signatures. To perform this task the Central Commission sent curators to the territorial commissions.

    But the signatures were not properly calculated. For example, the Central Election Commission has discrepancies in the number of signatures collected for Milinkevich. The secretary of the Central Election Commission Mikhalai Lazavik said that the signature lists of the initiative groups of Milinkevich were delivered on the last day. He also said that the members of the initiative group of Zianon Pazniak worked in "a more honest way and their idea was the main force". But this candidate did not have "enough organization resource”'. The fact that Aliaksandr Lukashenka used his administrative power during the collection of signatures was commented on by the secretary of the Central Election Commission: “The representatives of the initiative groups of the opponents of the Lukashenka claim that the initiative groups of Lukashenka used his administrative power. But the citizens of Belarus did not inform the Central Commission about such facts and the Central Commission dos not have any ground for considering such a problem".

    According to the Central Commission, the decision about the registration of the candidates can be made from 16 through 19 of December. The Central Commission is preparing the ruling on election campaign in media. The Commission plans to give each candidate an hour in the first program of the Belarusian radio and one hour on the First National Belarusian TV Channel.

    More than 75 per cent of Belarus would vote for Alexander Lukashenko if elections were held today


    A happy Alexander Lukashenko is not much worried about the results of the polls in March
    If the presidential elections took place today in Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko would win an overwhelming majority of votes. According to the sociological poll conducted by the institute of social and political studies under the presidential administration of the Republic of Belarus, 76.7 per cent of the respondents stated they would vote for the incumbent head of state. About 2 per cent would vote for other contenders.

    The results of the poll attest that the majority of the population approves of the activity of Alexander Lukashenko at the post of the president. Thus, 87.5 per cent of the respondents evaluate it positively or rather positively (respectively 52.9 per cent and 34.6 per cent).

    According to the overwhelming majority of the questioned (88.3 per cent) Alexander Lukashenko keeps his election promises: 36.6 per cent of the respondents believe that he consistently keeps his promises, 51.7 per cent – tries his best to keep the promises. Only 3 per cent of the questioned assert that the president fails to keep his promises.

    According to the poll, the forthcoming presidential elections arouse interest among adult persons in the republic: 73.1 per cent of the respondents are very interested in the elections (64.8 per cent in 2001), 12.1 per cent – are not very interested, only 1.5 per cent – are not interested at all and 13 per cent found it difficult to answer. Thus, 85.2 per cent of the respondents show interest in the forthcoming presidential elections. In other words, voters really consider the presidential elections to be most important socio-political event in Belarus in 2006.

    The respondents were also asked the question “Do you find it important who will be elected president of the Republic of Belarus?”. Some 82.1 per cent of the polled answered “it is of great importance” (in 2001 – 72.6 per cent) and 12.2 per cent chose the variant “it is important but not of vital importance”. It means that it is important for the absolute majority of the population (94.3 per cent) who will be elected head of state.

    The absolute majority of the population (89.2) is also confident that the living standards of people depend to a great extent on who the president of the country is (in 2001 – 80.3 per cent). This is why at present 92.1 per cent of voters from all regions and social groups intend to take part in the elections (in 2001 – 86.7 per cent).

    At the same time the sociological poll shows that 43.5 per cent of respondents is sure that the presidential elections will be fair and open (to compare, some 21.3 per cent in 2001). Almost the same number of respondents (45,9 per cent) admits that there might be some minor violations which will not affect the results of the elections. Only 5.9 per cent of citizens declared that serious violations might happen at several polling stations which might affect the results of the future elections (some 20,2 per cent in 2001).

    A total of 1583 people of various socio-professional and age groups in all oblast and regional centers, major cities and villages were questioned during the poll.

    Putin demands free elections in Belarus

    sabc news

    Russia is soundly backing Belarus in antisipation of the Union State

    Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader has demanded free and fair upcoming presidential elections in Belarus. Speaking at the Kremlin, Putin also lashed out at international criticism of over a lack of democracy and human righs in the neighbouring country.

    Alyaksandr Milinkevich, the Belarussian opposition candidate, has been holding talks with top EU officials in Brussels. Speaking through a translator, he said the European Union should step in to ensure standards in the March poll.

    "These are not democratic is critical that European institutions send a strong message to the Bellarussian regime, but if the Bellarussian elections are not free, fair and transparent - there will be grave consequences for this undemocratic regime, " he said.

    Applications of Zhodzina Democrats Remain Unanswered

    Interior minister: We are not going to twist necks

    Charter '97

    The government has stated again and again that the elections will be peaceful and orderly
    "We are not going to twist necks, but we will maintain stability and order and control processes so that the population of the republic will continue to live and work in peace," Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov told reporters on Wednesday.

    He was commenting on a statement made by Aleksandr Lukashenko four days earlier. "If there is any bodily movement toward destabilization of our situation, we`ll twist the necks of those who will do that and those who will encourage and finance them," the Belarusian leader said. "And the embassies of certain states should be aware of this and realize that we know what they are busy with. They will get kicked out of here within 24 hours and nobody will manage to stay here any longer."

    Mr. Naumov said his agency has studied other countries` experience in quelling unrests. "For some reason we believe that a state of emergency is something terrible. But it is a normal way of maintaining the law and order in France. We have studied responses to protests by anti-globalists, as well as the experience of our CIS colleagues. That enables us to plan and control any situation," he stressed.


    Opostion parties are finding it difficult to get involved
    Aliaksei Lapitski, leader of Zhodzina branch of the Belarusian People’s Front, informed RFE/RL that about two dozens of the local democratic activists applied to Zhodzina City Executive Committee, asking to include them into polling station election commissions as members. All of them abided by the existing procedure and gathered the necessary number of signatures from the citizens. They still have received no answer.

    According to Mr. Lapitski, the pretenders to membership in the commissions expressed their intention to personally attend the consideration of their candidacies at the sitting of the executive committee and Zhodzina City Soviet. However, they still have no information when it will be held.

    Belarus supports IAEA in Iran’s nuclear dossier dispute.

    Mohamed ElBaradei
    MINSK, February 2 (Itar-Tass) - Belarus supports the International Atomic Energy Agency and its Director General Mohamed ElBaradei in their efforts to tackle disputes over Iran’s nuclear dossier within IAEA’s framework, the head of the Belarussian Foreign Ministry’s information department, Andrei Popov, said on Thursday.

    He pointed out that Belarus “calls on all interested parties to closely cooperate with the IAEA on the basis of transparency and principles of good will.”

    This cooperation will allow to handle all problems within the opportunities that exist in the IAEA, Popov said.

    “Any state that is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty shall enjoy the undeniable right to implementing civil nuclear programs,” he said.

  • More Polls

    Most Belarusians state their improved financial position


    A worker at the Druzhba oil-pipeline, one of the foundations of the Belarus' improved economy
    Most Belarusians state their improved financial position for the last four years, the sociological monitoring carried out by the institute of the socio-political research under the presidential administration of the Republic of Belarus informs.

    As the poll has showed, Belarus demonstrates a stable tendency on growing number of respondents with average incomes. Thus, if in the 4th quarter of 2001 this figure equaled some 35.7 per cent of the polled, then in the 4th quarter of 2005 – it reached 69 per cent. At the same time the amount of those, who consider themselves poor, reduced from 14.3 to 52.2 per cent.

    The number of people considering their financial position slightly worsened for the last four years reduced from 44.2 to 12.2 per cent and the amount of those, whose well-being improved, grew from 14.3 up to 52.2 per cent.

    In this respect people assess more positively the socio-economic situation in the country. Thus, the number of respondents considering that the socio-economic situation in Belarus has worsened reduced from 50.5 per cent in the 4th quarter of 2001 to 7.9 per cent in the 4th quarter of 2005. At the same time the amount of people convinced in the improved socio-economic situation went up from 9.2 per cent to 38.2 per cent, people considering it stable – from 12.8 to 35.5 per cent.

    It is understandable that the stable social and economic situation takes the wind out of the sails of the so-called Belarusian opposition, which dreams of provoking large-scale street actions to earn the foreign money. The statement is confirmed by results of the social poll. In particular, 82.3 per cent of the respondents deny the possibility of their involvement in demonstrations under any circumstances, 85.2 per cent — in strikes, 84.7 per cent — in protests, 93.6 per cent — hunger strikes, 96.7 — armed clashes.

    Under the circumstances it is typical for more and more people to be positive about the government performance. For example, the Belarus president administration performance is appreciated by 73.8 per cent of the polled (38.1 per cent four years ago), government — 72.5 per cent (35.3 per cent), company directors — 69 per cent (43.7 per cent). More than half of the respondents positively evaluate performance of local authorities and ministries.

    Meanwhile, critics are less appreciated in Belarus: non-state mass media — 4.5 per cent (11.5 per cent earlier), free trade unions — 4.2 per cent (9.7 per cent), opposition parties — 0.6 per cent (4.1 per cent).

    The poll was conducted in all regional cities, district centres and rural settlements. 1,583 citizens were polled. The sampling is representative.

  • Opinion (From the Blogs)

    Visiting the European Union

    From the BR23 Blog

    Bundeskanzler Angela Merkel
    In the last two days there were lots of news about our main opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich everywhere (”Guardian”, “New York Times”, “EU Observer”, “Voice of America”, RFE/RL, CBS News just to name a few), so you probably heard that he’s in Brussels, meeting quite a few top EU officials, including the top official — the chief of the European Commission — whom he’s meeting today, on Febrary 1.

    There are good news and bad news.

    1) The good news is that there never have been meetings with opposition leaders from Belarus at such a high level in European Union. This means, EU is really serious about supporting our opposition and, namely, Alexander Milinkevich.

    2) The bad news is that this support will probably consist mainly of empty pathetic words (just like it’s been in the past — numerous empty “resolutions”). In reality, EU has always been very tolerant about mister Lukashenka, expressing concern only verbally, never taking any concrete action, politically or economically.

    3) I can already provide a wonderful example of EU way of handing situations, with the issue of entry visas. Milinkevich asked EU leaders to simplify visa procedures for simple Belarus citizens so they could travel to Europe easier, while extending a “black list” of high-rank Lukashenka officials. This idea was strongly supported by Lithuanian and Polish members of the European Parliament. Alas, EU leaders totally disregarded this request.

    Over all, in the last months, as EU officials talk about brining freedom and democracy to Belarus, Western European embassies kept tightening the rules for visa applicants and increasing visa fees, so it is actually getting more and more difficult for an average Belarus citizen to visit Western Europe.

    4) Good news is that Angela Merkel personally invited Alexander Milinkevich to Berlin, and he’s going there in a couple days.

    5) And, finally, “bad news” is that Milinkevich will have to fight for votes inside Belarus, not in Brussels or Berlin. Maybe, this time could’ve been wiser spent inside the country, going to small towns and villages, meeting all those simple people who have no political culture or understanding…

  • Sports

    Govortsova Loses in Canada

    Olga Govortsova

    ROCKFORD, Ill. (CP) - Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que., defeated Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 in the second round of an International Tennis Federation tournament Thursday.

    "I started the match very well but I made some costly mistakes in the second set while she didn't make too many and was able to come back in the match," said Dubois. "But I was very strong in the final set and did not leave her much room on the court."

    Dubois seems to be recovering well from a foot injury she sustained last December.

    "I can still feel some pain but I'm happy I was able to play the way I did today," she said.