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Friday, February 17, 2006

Elections Month Begins, Protestors Arrested in Minsk, Iran. Russia Nuclear Scandal, Russian Gas, Business, Culture, Olympic results

From the Top

Belarus is prepared to deepen cooperation with the Audit Chamber of the Russian Federation

From the office of the president

Alexander Lukashenko with Sergei Stepashin
On February 16, President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko met with Chairman of the Audit Chamber of the Russian Federation Sergei Stepashin.

The Head of State said that Belarus is prepared to deepen cooperation with Russia’s Audit Chamber, not only within the framework of the Union State but also within the CIS.

According to the Head of State, Belarus subscribes to the initiative on forming an integrated structure which will include all the supervisory bodies of all the CIS countries.

The President expressed his satisfaction with the level of cooperation between the State Control Committee of Belarus and Russia’s Audit Chamber. He also valued highly the cooperation of both governmental bodies in controlling the use of the budget of the Union State. “It has been a good initiative on the part of the State Control Committee and the Audit Chamber. Inspections were carried out and they were very effective,” the President emphasized.

  • Elections

    Belarus: Month Of Election Campaigning Set To Begin


    Critics say Alyaksandr Kazulin's political ambitions have prevented the opposition from uniting forces
    On 17 February Belarus will officially announce the names of people registered to run for election in the 19 March presidential poll. Of the four likely candidates, two are opposition figures -- Alyaksandr Kazulin and Alyaksandr Milinkevich. Some opposition supporters might have hoped the two would join forces, putting forth a single candidate who could provide more of a threat to incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. But Kozulin and Milinkevich are keeping their campaigns separate.

    Candidates for the March poll will be announced Friday, marking the start of a cramped campaign period that will last just one month.

    Analysts expect four candidates will compete for the highest post in the country. They include incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, united opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich, Liberal Democratic Party leader Syarhey Haydukevich, and Social Democratic leader Alyaksandr Kazulin.

    Empty Streets?

    It may be a quiet campaign. Kiril Poznyak, the editor in chief of "Belaruskye novosti," says the candidates will have to ask permission to organize rallies.

    "They will have the right to communicate legally with the population. They will be allowed to meet voters," Poznyak said. "However, restrictions are already being imposed. Authorities in Minsk have announced that in order to meet voters, they will need to get permission. However, the election law says no such permission is required."

    The opposition considers this move unconstitutional.

    A poll taken by the Gallup/Baltic Surveys in the first half of January found that nationwide, nearly 55 percent of Belarusians intend to vote for Lukashenka. For Milinkevich, that figure is just 17 percent.

    Advantages Of Office

    Poznyak says Lukashenka enjoys many advantages as an incumbent president.

    Stae-owned media supports President Lukashenka and is critical of opposition candidates
    Stae-owned media supports President Lukashenka and is critical of opposition candidates (file photo) (CTK)"[State-owned] newspapers, radio [and television] clearly favor Lukashenka, giving him the most attention. Practically some 70-90 percent of the media's focus is given to Lukashenka," Poznyak said. "Reports about him in the newspapers and on television are largely positive. The attitude to opposition candidates is largely negative."

    Officially, the candidates are prohibited from campaigning until their final registration is announced on 17 February. But authorities say Lukashenka's wave of media coverage is related not to the campaign but simply to information about his current presidential duties.

    At the same time, Poznyak says, the state-owned media appears to be stepping up its critical coverage of the political opposition overall and the individual candidates in particular.

    As the president, Lukashenka also has the protection of antidefamation legislation, which makes public criticism of him almost impossible.

    Where's The Opposition?

    Even without the support of the media, Lukashenka is likely to win the race. The odds are so overwhelmingly in his favor that many observers are wondering why the opposition was unable present a more serious challenge.

    Valery Karbalevich, an analyst with Strategy, a Minsk-based political analysis center, says the political ambitions of Kazulin, a former rector of Belarusian State University, are to be blamed for the failure. Both Milinkevich and Kozulin have repeatedly said that they will not entertain the idea of a partnership with the third candidate, Liberal Democratic Party leader Syarhey Haydukevich.

    "From the very beginning, Alyaksandr Kazulin and his team did not participate in the opposition's coalition games. Their theory was that the opposition did not enjoy the support of society," Karbalevich said. "[They suggested] that some new people and some kind of third force should appear to oppose both Lukashenka and opposition."

    Ambitions Outweigh Cause

    Karbalevich says that Kazulin has continued along this path despite the fact that his popularity has registered at just 3 percent.

    Poznyak of "Belaruskye novosti" says that both Kazulin and Milinkevich have put their ambitions ahead of the opposition's cause. He says both politicians suggested different scenarios for possible unification, but offered terms that were unacceptable to the other.

    In the end, however, Poznyak says it is difficult to understand why Kozulin has chosen to go it alone.

    "It is clear that both have ambitions. Of course, a stronger force is behind Milinkevich -- the united opposition," Poznyak said. "As far as Kazulin is concerned, he is supported only by one force -- the Belarusian Social Democratic party."

    Both Milinkevich and Kozulin have repeatedly said that they will not entertain the idea of a partnership with the third candidate, Liberal Democratic Party leader Syarhey Haydukevich.

    They say Haydukevich, a lawmaker in the House of the Representatives, is too close to Lukashenka.

  • Protest

    Dozens arrested in Belarus demos

    BBC News

    Police officials have not commented on the arrests
    Dozens of protesters have been arrested during anti-government protests in the Belarus capital, Minsk.
    The demonstrations were being held to remember opposition figures who have disappeared or been imprisoned under President Alexander Lukashenko's rule.

    About 200 people gathered in a central square to defy a ban on public rallies.

    The protesters were also showing their support for the main opposition candidate in the presidential election which is due to be held on 19 March.

    Several people were beaten and violently dragged into waiting police wagons, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.

    Police also dispersed a second rally held near the building of the Belarussian KGB security service.

    Oles Atroshchenkov, a youth activist, said at least 30 activists were arrested, including one of the rally organisers, Irina Khalip.

    The main opposition candidate the election, Alexander Milinkevich, has said only a united opposition can challenge President Lukashenko.

    "Our candidate is Milinkevich. Today our rally has a particular meaning. We want fair elections," Sergei, a 20-year-old student, told Reuters news agency.

    Mr Lukashenko has dismissed the criticisms, but has warned that there will be no revolution in Belarus, saying he will preserve stability, whatever it costs.

    Milinkevich to present his election platform in Moscow

    Charter '97

    Aleksandr Milinkevich
    Aleksandr Milinkevich, the presidential nominee of Belarus’ united opposition forces, will present his election platform at a meeting at the head office of Russia’s Union of Right Forces (SPS) in Moscow on February 16, said the press office of Belarus’ opposition United Civic Party (UCP).

    The meeting was reportedly initiated by the SPS and the All-Russian Civil Congress.

    Apart from Mr. Milinkevich, the Belarusian delegation will include UCP Chairman Anatoly Lebedko, UCP Deputy Chairman Yaroslav Romanchuk, and Sergei Kalyakin, leader of the Belarusian Party of Communists and head of Mr. Milinkevich’s campaign team.

    Mr. Milinkevich’s election platform is based on the Program of Advocates of Changes, which was devised by the National Committee of United Pro-democratic Forces (the opposition’s shadow cabinet), the press office quoted Mr. Lebedko as saying. According to him, the program titled, “Be the Master of Your Own Country!” has already become known to thousands of Belarusians and welcomed be them.

    “People put forward their thoughts and suggestions regarding the program and shared their views of the future of Belarus, that is why I can safely say that the “Be the Master of Your Own Country!” program is truly popular,” Mr. Lebedko said.

    Belarus Opposition Candidate Warns Of Protests


    Supporters of Alyaksandr Milinkevich gathering signatures in Minsk last month
    The main opposition presidential candidate in Belarus says next month's election will not be democratic and warned that protests could follow.

    Speaking to journalists in Moscow, Alyaksandr Milinkevich said President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's determination to stay in power and widespread doubts about the legitimacy of the 19 March elections could make for a volatile mix.

    He urged Russia to drop its policy of support for the Belarusian leader.

    Most of the Belarus opposition has united around Milinkevich as its main candidate to challenge Lukashenka, who is standing for a third term.

    On 15 February, Austrian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Hans Winkler said he thought Belarus's election would not bring about "sweeping change." Austria holds the current EU presidency.

    Central election commission bars party leaders in Milinkevich`s camp from attending candidate announcement ceremony

    Charter '97

    Lidiya Yermoshina
    The central election commission has denied permission for the leaders of opposition political parties to attend the commission`s February 17 meeting at which it is to announce who of the four presidential contenders have been granted access to the ballot.

    In her reply to opposition presidential nominee Aleksandr Milinkevich`s request, the head of the central election commission, Lidiya Yermoshina, said that the commission`s rules of procedure require that its sessions may be attended by persons whose issues are under consideration, candidates, foreign and international observers, reporters, and the commission`s officers. "The presence of other persons at sessions of the Central Commission is not provided for," Ms. Yermoshina said, according to Mr. Milinkevich`s press office.

    The opposition presidential nominee described the reply as more than strange.

    "The Electoral Code suggests that any electoral process should be transparent and open, including the central commission`s ceremonies," Mr. Milinkevich said. "It turns out that the central commission wants to conceal something. This confirms once again the declarative nature of the Electoral Code and its dependence on the central commission`s decisions."

    In addition, press photographers of the Associated Press, Reuters, ITAR-TASS, France Press and others also won’t by able to attend the ceremony of registration of Belarusian candidates for presidency. The press service of Alyaksandr Lukashenka said to journalists that only the official news agency BELTA will make pictures during the registration.

    “We cannot be suspected of unprofessionalism. We think that the authorities are simply afraid of uncontrollable, ideologically ‘wrong’ pictures,” news photographers said to the Charter’97 press center.

    Lida: Road Police Detain and Search Car of Activist of Aliaksandr Milinkevich's Initiative Group


    No end of problems in site for the oposition candidate
    In the evening of 13 February on the highway Minsk-Hrodna the police detained the car of the chair of Hrodna regional headquarters of Aliaksandr Milinkevich Anatol Khatsko, its deputy head Siarhei Malchyk and the chair of Hrodna city headquarters Siarhei Antusevich.

    The road policemen wanted to search the car, but Mr. Khatsko and his friends didn’t agree to it. Then some more policemen arrived. They escorted the car to a police station in Lida. There the car was searched. The search was recorded on video camera. The policemen confiscated 1 2000 copies of Narodnaia Volia newspaper without composing any report. Mr. Malchyk informed RFE/RL the police Xeroxed Antusevich’s documents without his permission and searched Khatsko.


    Russia seeks market relations with Belarus in gas sector


    Russia is speaking about raising the cost of natural gas to Belarus
    MOSCOW, February 16 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian diplomat reiterated Thursday that the country was seeking market-based relations with Belarus in the natural gas sector.

    "Russia plans to base its relations on market prices," said Valery Mikhailov, the deputy director of a CIS department in the Foreign Ministry. "What holds for Ukraine, holds for Belarus as well."

    Mikhailov's comments followed reports of possible price hikes for Russian natural gas supplies to Belarus. But, under the agreement for 2006, Russia is to supply gas to Belarus for the same price as in 2005, or $46.68 per 1,000 cubic meters.

    "We should above all look after the economy. Belarus is certainly a fraternal nation and part of the [Russia-Belarus] union state, but it is still a different country, and this [market prices] is a correct and justified measure economically," Mikhailov told the lower house of parliament Thursday.

    Meanwhile, Viktor Spassky, the head of the CIS economic cooperation department of the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, said that while Russia was delivering gas to Belarus at privileged prices, Belarus was establishing barriers against Russian goods.

    "Hence, we offer a privileged regime, and Belarus sets more barriers for Russian goods than for European," Spassky said, adding that plans were in place to work with Belarusian organizations to avoid such discrimination.

    The Russian gas monopoly Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine at the turn of the year in a long-running dispute, which has subsequently been resolved, about how much Kiev paid for natural gas supplied by Gazprom.

    The company has also recently raised the gas prices for other former Soviet republics, Armenia and Georgia, and is in talks with Moldova over an increase.

  • Russia/Iran nuclear scandal

    Ambassador insists Iran does not plan to build nuclear bomb


    Professional state apointed liar Gholamreza Ansari
    At a roundtable in the Russian lower house of parliament Thursday, Iran's ambassador in Moscow reiterated that Tehran had no plans to build nuclear weapons.

    Konstantin Kosachev, who heads the State Duma's international affairs committee, said Gholamreza Ansari had answered the questions of principal concern to Russia, and reiterated that the Islamic Republic was prepared to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog.

    "Iran understands that the situation is very serious, and is ready to continue political dialogue, as well as an expert-level dialogue in search of solutions to the dispute," the legislator said.

    Ansari said an Iranian delegation was making thorough preparations for upcoming talks in Moscow, and that it would have the authority to conduct talks on Russia's proposal to set up a joint venture enrich uranium on Russian territory for nuclear power plants in the Islamic Republic.

    Originally, the talks were to take place February 16, but were postponed by Tehran until February 20. The Russian initiative is seen as a compromise in the international dispute over Iran's plans to enrich uranium, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons.

    Tehran, which has repeatedly denied western accusations over its nuclear plans and insisted on its right to develop peaceful nuclear technology, recently reopened its nuclear research centers, has demanded amendments to the Russian uranium enrichment proposal.

    Kosachev said possible changes to the proposal would be discussed at talks and consultations, rather than brought up for public debate.

    He noted that Tehran had denounced terrorism, including the most notorious terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda.

    Kosachev said Iran regarded Russia as a friendly country and its partner in the current standoff, and hoped the political process would continue.

    "We expect talks on February 20 to yield results," he said.

    However, the Duma member said the ambassador's explanations of the Iranian president's doubting the Holocaust and suggesting moving Israel to Europe late last year had not alleviated Russia's concerns.

    "Such statements are not conducive to Iran's positions in the world and its international image. We cannot approve of them," Kosachev said.

    Military escalation around Iran possible - Russian general


    Chief of the Russian General's Staff Yury Baluyevsky
    Russia's most senior military officer said Thursday that a military escalation of the situation around Iran's controversial nuclear program was a possibility.

    "I do not rule [it] out, but military action is not the best option," Chief of the General Staff Yury Baluyevsky said.

    Baluyevsky urged Iran, which the United States and some European countries fear is seeking to build nuclear weapons, to be sensible.

    "The real military capabilities of Iran and the United States cannot be compared," he said.

    He added that a U.S. aggression against Iran could cause unpredictable reaction in the Muslim world.

    "It is hard to predict what the reaction ... could be like but such a development of events may inflame the entire world, and this is something that must not be allowed to happen," Baluyevsky said.

    U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said earlier the military option of the standoff was still on the table.

    The European Parliament proposed Wednesday to establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, including Israel, and admitted the possibility of a military resolution of the conflict.

    Unlike Iraq, Iran has nuclear facilities all over the country located underground, including facilities near the town of Natanz about 1,700 kilometers (1,000 miles) from the border with Israel, which has a fleet of F-15I warplanes capable of flying about 4,500km without refueling. In 1981, Israel destroyed suspected nuclear facilities in Iraq in an air strike.

  • Property

    “Superfluous” land lots to be withdrawn in Minsk

    Charter '97

    Belarus considers retaking undeveloped land lots
    As head of the Minsk Executive Committee landing and geodesic department Aliaxandar Karobka said February 15, at a press conference in the city administration, the Minsk Executive Committee is to make inventory of land lots in the city.

    According to the authority, the inventory is to concern, first of all, the territories of the Minsk region that were joined to the city in 2003. A.Karobka emphasized, the inventory will be held within Belarusian President’s edict # 58 of January 28, 2006, “On certain issues of withdrawal and granting of land lots”. The authority informed there were undeveloped land lots on the joined territories.

    “Moreover, we will revise the decisions of the Minsk Executive Committee of the last 5-7 years to define the land lots which are not used”, - A.Karobka said.

    We shall remind one of the issues of the edict: if a legal entity or an entrepreneur within 6 months and a legal resident within one year starting from the day of gaining the certificate on land lot state registration and obtaining the right for it do not use the land lot (construction or other activities), the local authorities are empowered to decide on land lot withdrawal.

    US embassy expresses deep concern about recent articles and broadcasts from Belarusian state media outlets

    Charter '97

    The Embassy of the United States of America has expressed deep concern about what it calls Belarusian state media outlets’ false statements and conclusions about the US government.

    “The most egregious example of this disinformation campaign to date was the February 7 Belarusian Television (BT) broadcast of the ‘Agent 590’ series,” the embassy says in its February 14 statement. “The program preposterously asserts that the United States Government is financing the efforts of sovereign countries to orchestrate scandals in Belarus, with a goal of discrediting the country in the international community. Based on the sharp rise of negative and inaccurate information disseminated in state media over the past few months, one can plainly see the attempt by the Government of Belarus to misrepresent and discredit both the United States of America and our diplomatic mission in Minsk.”

    The embassy insists that it carries out all diplomatic activities in a transparent and open manner and in a way that is entirely consistent with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. “The Government of Belarus is informed on a regular basis regarding the Embassy`s programs and activities,” the embassy stresses.

    ”It is unfortunate that the Government of Belarus chooses to maintain a virtual monopoly on delivering information to the Belarusian people, through media outlets that are controlled and funded by the government and by placing insurmountable administrative hurdles on the ever-dwindling supply of objective media,” the statement says. “The Embassy would like to underscore that a vibrant and independent press is a prerequisite for a healthy democracy and a functioning free market and urges the Government of Belarus to allow independent, objective information to flow freely to the Belarusian people.”

    As evidence of Belarusian state media`s disinformation campaign against the United States, the embassy cites two Belarusian Television reports aired on February 13, which it describes as “particularly outlandish.”

    In particular, Yevgeny Novikov, the anchorman of the program "Human Rights: Look at the World," charged that the US embassy is planning the "liberation of the Belarusian people from the dictatorship." According to the embassy, he also made unfounded comparisons, using aggressive and inappropriate words and phrases such as "rockets" and "bombs with uranium."

    “Mr. Novikov`s statements are not only offensive and irresponsible; they are potentially incendiary to the viewers of his program, who will surely take away a decidedly inaccurate and skewed view of the true purpose of our diplomatic mission here in Belarus,” the US embassy says in a statement issued on February 15. “The Embassy categorically denies the claims put forth in this program and reasserts its commitment to working with the Belarusian people.”

    According to the embassy, Belarusian Television, in its the February 13 “Panarama” night news program, “preposterously asserted that the U.S. Government has decided to stop educational programs in Belarus because they do not bring a certain “desired effect.’”

    “The Embassy would like to remind Belarusian Television and its viewers that it has not cancelled any of its programs and has no plans to do so,” the statement says. “The Embassy continues to value very highly our educational programs, which provide benefits both to Belarusian participants and the Americans with whom they interact. We have been working tirelessly to overcome recent hurdles to the implementation of these programs presented by the Belarusian government. The Embassy believes that most Belarusian people share our views on the true value in educational exchange programs.”

    Russian airbase to be deployed in Belarus


    3 Russian Migs
    KANT, Kyrgyzstan. Feb 15 (Interfax-AVN) - Russian Air Force Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Mikhailov told reporters at the Kant airbase on Wednesday that the issue of deploying a Russian airbase in Belarus
    was being discussed.

    "We intend to deploy a standby airbase in Belarus," he said.

    According to him, no new bases are expected to be established in Central Asia, hosting the Kant airbase.

    "Given the current situation, there are enough forces in the region," Mikhailov said.

    He pointed out that Russia also had an airbase in Armenia.

    In addition to the Kant airbase in Kyrgyzstan, Russia has an aviation force, deployed in Tajikistan.

  • Status

    UN ranks Belarus 3rd among CIS countries in economic growth


    Belarus is doing well in relation to its neighbor countries
    According to the UN rating, Belarus comes third among the CIS member states in the economic growth. In 2005 this index was at the level of 9 per cent in Belarus. The country was only behind Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan rich in natural resources – the main factor that helped the two countries achieve the highest economic rates.

    According to the information given to BelTA in the Belarusian foreign ministry, this data was made public at the organization session of the UN Economic and Social Council /ECOSOC/ in New York. UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Jose Antinio Ocampo delivered a traditional annual message to ECOSOC participants summing up the results of the global economic development in 2005 and giving evaluation to the current economic processes.

    According to Jose Antinio Ocampo, the year of 2005 was marked with an increase in the economic growth rates in the developing countries and transition economies, which includes Belarus too. According to Mr. Ocampo, in 2006 the average economic growth in these countries is expected to be at the level of 5.9 per cent.

    According to UN experts, Belarus will keep its economic growth at 9 per cent this year while other CIS economies, UN specialists say, are believed to report rather modest progress: Russia – 5.8 per cent and Ukraine – around 5 per cent.

  • Culture

    XX International Charity Event “Chernobyl Road – Path of Life” starts February 18 in Belarus


    The state ensemble Svyata will be performing at the 20th aniversary benifit for the Chernobyl tragedy
    The 20th International Charity Event “Chernobyl Road – Path of Life” dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is starting on February 18 in Belarus, head of the social and legal department of the Chernobyl Committee under the Council of Ministers of Belarus Vladimir Kudin told reporters at the national press-center.

    According to him, the event will start off in a newly constructed school in a resettlers’ village Peskovitsy, Grodno oblast. The itinerary crosses 28 regions of Gomel, Mogilev, Brest and Minsk oblasts of Belarus, three regions of Bryansk and Smolensk oblasts of Russia which suffered most in the aftermath of the Chernobyl tragedy.

    The charity marathon will feature well-known Belarusian composer, People’s Artist of the USSR Igor Luchenok, Distinguished Artist of Belarus Yakov Naumenko, soloist of the singing and dancing ensemble of the interior ministry Stella, Belarusian artists Georgiy Volchek, Andrei Shumak, Natalia Naumovich, the state ensemble Svyata and the children’s theater Fantasiya.

    They will make a number of performances in the contaminated regions as well as in children’s rehabilitation and recuperation centers.

    Vladimir Kudin reminded that “Chernobyl Road” has been held in affected regions of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine for 20 years already. The first five years after the catastrophe it was going on for 140-160 days a year in the villages and towns that had to be resettled. Due to the international status, “Chernobyl Road” has supported and helped quite a number of music schools, children’s arts and rehabilitation centers in the contaminated regions. Tens of young talents who were guided to the stage by “Chernobyl Road” study today at Belarusian arts educational establishments. Many of them have already become good artists, Vladimir Kudin said.

    “Chernobyl Road - Path of Life” is organized by the Belarusian Republican Youth Union, Chernobyl Committee at the Council of Ministers, ministry of culture and education, Belarusian children’s fund.

  • Memorabilia

    Belarus puts silver coins with amber inserts into circulation


    One of Belarus' new commemorative coins
    MINSK - The National Bank of Belarus has put into circulation "Twelve Months" commemorative silver coins in the "Fairy-Tales of the Peoples of the World" series on Thursday.

    The obverse side of the coin represents an embossed National Emblem of Belarus while the reverse side is made from natural amber inserts.

    The number of coins, minted in Warsaw, is up to 20,000. The coin's mass is 28.28 grammes, and denomination is 20 Belarus roubles (One US dollars equals 2,150 Belarus roubles).

  • From the Blogs

    Belarus’ Solidarity Demonstration

    From the BR23 Blog

    Today there was supposed to be yet another solidarity demonstration in Minsk, but it was brutally dispersed by the police:

    BBC: Dozens arrested in Belarus demos (See article above)

    And tomorrow it’ll be finally known whether our main opposition candidate Milinkevich will be registered or not. There’s already a small scandal regarding the Central election committee. Lukashenka’s officials denied entry to tomorrow’s “open” conference to virtually all journalists and photographers (from Associated Press, BBC, France Press, everyone else), but BelTA, the Lukashenka’s pocket “news” agency. They also sent a warning to Milinkevich that he shouldn’t bring along any of his political allies, such as leaders of the opposition political parties.

    The good news is that if Milinkevich is registered, he’ll be able to start campaigning inside Belarus. By the way, he put an announcement on his website asking his followers to come to October square tomorrow at noon, “to congratulate him with a successful registration as a presidential candidate.” I guess, this is also a precautionary measure. If he doesn’t get registered, there could be some serious trouble, and he needs his supporters.

    On the other hand, Lukashenka’s regime doesn’t have strong reasons not to register him, because Lukashenka’s gang already is playing a well-known “cat and mouse” game with him and has a functional fool-proof falsification mechanism (that was successfully tested in 2001 and 2005). They can easily repeat the trick in 2006. Or so they think.

  • Sports

    Hewitt says he may skip Davis Cup tie

    Racing & Sports

    Hewitt said Australian players weren't getting the support they desired from Tennis Australia
    Lleyton Hewitt has accused Tennis Australia of not doing enough for its players and said he may not play in the Davis Cup tie against Belarus in April.

    Hewitt, who has only missed two Davis Cup ties since 1999, said playing for Australia was no longer his top priority.

    "This year the majors are the most important things to me," said Hewitt, who won his first round match against American Paul Goldstein at the SAP Open in San Jose.

    "I'll play the (Davis Cup) ties on their merits and on how my body is, and to where they fit into my schedule," he said. "I'll approach each tie differently."

    Hewitt, who missed Australia's Davis Cup win over Switzerland last weekend citing an ankle injury picked up at the Australian Open, said he was still unhappy Tennis Australia had opted not to make the courts at the Open faster.

    "It doesn't suit Australian tennis players," Hewitt said.

    "In the United States, their officials speak to (Pete) Sampras and (Andre) Agassi about the courts and balls.

    "It's disappointing to have no impact at all. They always say it's going to be done and nothing happens."

    Hewitt said Australian players weren't getting the support they desired from Tennis Australia.

    "I'd love all the Australian players to get backing," he said.

    "I don't think they are doing a great job for tennis in Australia at the moment."

    Complete Belarus results through February 17

    Olena Zubrilova's 5th place finsih in the Women's 7.5 km biatholon sprint is so far the best result from Belarus
    Aidarov, Alexei Biathlon
    (Feb 21 Men's 4x7.5 km Relay)

    Ananko, Ludmilla Biathlon
    (42nd place Women's 7.5 km Sprint//Feb 18 Women's 10 km Pursuit , 23 Women's 4x6 km Relay)

    Anisimov, Maksim Ski Jumping
    (33rd place Men's NH Individual//Feb 18th Men's LH Individual)

    Chaadaev, Petr Ski Jumping
    (45th place Men's NH Individual Qualification Round-DNQ//Feb 18th Men's LH Individual)

    Dashinski, Dmitri Freestyle Skiing
    (Feb 20, 23rd Men's Aerials)

    *Davydov, Sergei Figure Skating
    (14th place Men Short Program, 15th place Men's Free Skating)

    Dolidovich, Sergei Cross Country
    (disqualified for five days for high hemoglobin count//Feb 26 Men's 50 km Free)

    Dratchev, Vladimir Biathlon
    (43rd place Men's 20 km Individual, 63rd place Individual 10 Km//Feb 21 Men's 4x7.5 km Relay)

    Elsakova, Julia Short Track
    (20th place Women's 500//Feb 18th women's 1500, Feb 22, 25 women's 1000)

    Grishin, Alexei Freestyle Skiing
    (Feb 20, 23rd Men's arials)

    Ivanova, Ekaterina Biathlon
    (44th place Women's 15 km Individual, 37th place Women's 7.5 km Sprint//Feb 18 women's 10km pursuit, feb 23 women's 4x6km relay)

    Khatylyov, Aleksey Speedskating
    (feb 18th Men's 1000, feb 21 men's 1500)

    Korolik Shablouskaya, Ludmila Cross Country
    (44th place Women's 15 km Pursuit (7.5+7.5), 30th place Women's 10 km Classical//Feb 18 Women's 4x5 km Relay, Feb 24 Women's 30 km Free, Mass start)

    Kotyuga, Anzhelika Speedskating
    (Feb 19 Women's 1000 m)

    Kushnir, Anton Freestyle Skiing
    (Feb 20, 23 Men's Aerials)

    Lasutkin, Alexander Cross Country
    (Disqualified from team sprint because of Dolidovich//Feb 17 Men's 15 km Classical, feb 26 Men's 50 km Free, Mass start)

    Lopatina, Viktoria Cross Country
    (Feb 18 Women's 4x5 km Relay, Feb 22 Women's Sprint, Feb 24 Women's 30 km Free, Mass start)

    Mikhailov, Vitaly Speedskating
    (Feb 18 Men's 1000 m, Feb 21 Men's 1500 m)

    Nazarova, Olga Biathlon
    (7th place Women's 15 km Individual, 8th place Women's 7.5 km Sprint//Feb 18 Women's 10 km Pursuit, Feb 23 Women's 4x6 km Relay)

    Novikov, Sergei Biathlon
    (24th place Men's 20 km Individual, 32nd place Individual 10 Km// Feb 18 Men's 12.5 km Pursuit, Feb 21 6:00 am Men's 4x7.5 km Relay)

    Radkevich, Svetlana Speedskating
    (27th place Women's 500 m (29th and 26th place)//Feb 19 Women's 1000 m)

    Rak, Dmitri Freestyle Skiing
    (Feb 20, 23 Men's Aerials)

    Rudakova Bulauka, Ekaterina Cross Country
    (49th place Women's 15 km Pursuit (7.5+7.5)//Feb 18 Women's 4x5 km Relay, Feb 22 Women's Sprint, Feb 24 Women's 30 km Free, Mass start)

    Ryzhenkov, Oleg Biathlon
    (30th Men's 10 km Sprint 28:15.9//Feb 18 Men's 12.5 km Pursuit, Feb 21 Men's 4x7.5 km Relay)

    Sannikova, Alena Cross Country
    (43rd Women's 15 km Pursuit (7.5+7.5), 29th Women's 10 km Classical//Feb 18 Women's 4x5 km Relay)

    Slivets, Oly Freestyle Skiing
    (Feb 19, 22 Women's Aerials)

    Slivets, Timofei Freestyle Skiing
    (Feb 20, 23 Men's Aerials)

    Syman, Alexandre Biathlon
    (72nd place Men's 20 km Individual//Feb 21 Men's 4x7.5 km Relay )

    Tsuper, Alla Freestyle Skiing
    (Feb 19, 22 Women's Aerials)

    Valiullin, Rustam Biathlon
    (46th place Men's 20 km Individual, 25th place Individual 10 Km// Feb 18 Men's 12.5 km Pursuit, Feb 21 Men's 4x7.5 km Relay)

    Vasiljonok, Olga Cross Country
    (51st place Women's 15 km Pursuit (7.5+7.5)//Feb 18 3:45 am Women's 4x5 km Relay,Feb 22 Women's Sprint, Feb 24 Women's 30 km Free, Mass start)

    Zikounkova, Ksenia Biathlon
    (76th place Women's 15 km Individual//eb 23 Women's 4x6 km Relay )

    Zubrilova, Olena Biathlon
    (14th place Women's 15 km Individual, 5th place Women's 7.5 km Sprint//Feb 18 Women's 10 km Pursuit, Feb 23 Women's 4x6 km Relay )