News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, February 19, 2006

Elections Special

From the Top

Alexander Lukashenko Registered as Presidential Candidate

From the office of the president

The president shaking hands with the head of the central election commission, Lidiya Yermoshina
Alexander Lukashenko has been registered as a candidate for the office of president of Belarus. The appropriate registration certificate was handed in to him at the session of the Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus for Elections and National Referenda (CCE) on February 17.

According to the member of the CCE Nadezhda Kiselyova, 1 903 069 signatures of Belarus citizens have been collected in favour of Alexander Lukashenko’s presidency.

Alexander Lukashenko pointed out that the current election campaign is held strictly in keeping with Belarus legislation. In this respect, our country is positively different from other regions of the planet where election campaigns often result in public upheavals.

Alexander Lukashenko expressed the confidence that the upcoming presidential election would constitute another step towards further strengthening of Belarus’ statehood.

“Only the Belarus people will be electing its president, independently, without any outside pressure, in keeping with our Constitution. As the current Head of State, I do guarantee it,” he stressed.

The President thanked the members of the territorial commissions and the CCE chairman Lidiya Yermoshina for a high organisational level of the election process, for an efficient and coordinated work. He also pointed out that in pursuance of the current legislation the central and local authorities would be rendering necessary support to the electoral commissions so that this important election campaign could be held strictly within the legal framework.

“I am confident, that on March 19, Belarus will once again demonstrate consistency and openness of its policy to the international community. First of all, we are guided towards well-being, tranquility, and prosperity of our Fatherland,” the Belarusian leader added.

Alexander Lukashenko congratulated all the registered candidates for the presidency of Belarus and greeted the domestic and international observers. The observers will be ensured all the conditions for their effective work. Special thanks were expressed by him to the Belarusian citizens who had given a vote of confidence to the current Head of State by having put their signatures in his support.

Belarus names election hopefuls

Milinkevich shows his emotions at being named a candidate.
The election commission in Belarus has released the list of candidates who will contest the presidency in March.

They include Alexander Milinkevich, the leading figure opposing pro-Moscow President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power for nearly 12 years.

Milinkevich, who leads a coalition of opposition parties, slammed current political conditions in the Belarus, a country of 10 million people that lies between Poland to the west, Russia to the east and Ukraine to the south.

"The conditions for the race are very unequal but I am going to take part to tell people the truth, to prove to them that those who want change are in a majority," he added.

Opinion polls suggest Mr Lukashenko, who has dominated election coverage on state TV, will win a third term.

"I want the election campaign to proceed in strict accordance with the law, unlike in other corners of the planet," the president said on Friday as each candidate was given a chance to speak at the election commission headquarters.

"I warn you that only the Belarussian people will elect the head of state, without pressure from outside," said Lukashenko, who is accused by rights campaigners and the West of clamping down on free speech and political opposition.

The list of four candidates - including Social Democratic Party leader Alexander Kozulin and Liberal Democratic Party leader Sergei Gaidukevich - was announced in a solemn registration ceremony on Friday.

"Belarus is stuck in the past," Kozulin said in his speech. "Before you, Belarus had no enemies, and now we have enemies everywhere... Belarus today is a pariah country."

Critics accuse President Lukashenko of running an authoritarian state

It was the first and last time the candidates would meet during the campaign, as there will be no joint debates.

Candidates will be restricted to two half-hour pre-recorded speeches each on national television.

Appearing on television for even 30 minutes is a huge success for the three opposition candidates, says the BBC's Kyril Sukhotski in Minsk, as monitoring data over the past two weeks shows that they received considerably less television coverage than Mr Lukashenko.

Airtime of candidates for presidency decided by lot

Milinkevich and others will recieve free telivision time to make their platform clear
At a sitting on February 17 the central election commission of Belarus approved the schedule of free airtime of the presidential candidates. The free airtime was decided by lot.

Every candidate will have an opportunity to speak two times on the First National TV Channel and two times – on the First National Radio Channel. One appearance should not exceed 30 minutes.

In line with the schedule Alexander Lukashenko will address the TV audience on February 21 at 18h30 and March 1 at 18h00; radio audience – on February 24 at 8h30 and March at 8h00.

The free airtime of A. Milinkevich on TV is February 22 at 18h00 and March 2 at 18h30, on radio – February 27 at 8h30 and March 6 at 8h00. S. Gajdukevich will show up on TV on February 21 at 18h00 and March 1 at 18h30, radio – February 24 at 8h00 and March 3 at 8h30. A. Kozulin will be provided the free airtime on TV on February 22 at 18h30 and March 2 at 18h00, radio – February 27 at 8h00 and March 6 at 8h30.

The address of the candidates to the electorate will be recorded a day before the broadcast.

Chairperson of the central election commission Lidia Yermoshina informed that the election campaign has started right after the candidates’ registration on February 17.

  • From the Blogs

    Milinkevich is registered

    From the BR23 Blog

    All four potential candidates who’d collected more than 100,000 signatures were registered today by the Central Election Committee as presidential candidates. It means they can officially start campaigning.

    Alexander Lukashenka is an authoritarian ruler who’ll be using falsifications schemes and all kinds of illegal means to claim another “elegant victory” (just like he did in 2001).

    Siarhiej Hajdukevich is a puppet pseudo-opposition politician, a Russian-speaking snob, a guy who participates in all kinds of “elections” just to create an illusion that there’s freedom and “opposition” in Belarus. He was a friend of Saddam Husseyn, and he was probably involved in the embezzlement of big sums of money within UN’s “Oil for food” programme in Husseyn’s Iraq, but no one has produced clear undeniable evidence of that.

    Alexander Kazulin (Kozulin) is a dark horse, a kind of pseudo-opposition, a player that will most probably be helping Lukashenka. For many years he’s been a president of the Belarusian State University, a loyal supporter of Lukashenka, an enemy of the students, and then after he’s been sacked he suddenly became an “opposition activist” and a democrat.

    Also there are rumors that Kazulin’s Ph.D. is plagiarized, being an exact replica of another Ph.D. thesis from some Moscow scientist. I read about it today in a blog of a well-known Belarusian political science professor Koktysh from Moscow State University. He claimed he saw the two xeroxed copies, and that it looks very credible. As professor Koktysh put it in his blog, “a simulacrum of a scientist has become a simulacrum of a politician.”

    Alexander Milinkevich is our united opposition candidate. He’s our main hope, our ray of light. From what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen he’s a brilliant guy. He speaks four languages (Belarusian, Polish, Russian, French). He’s very calm, smart and knowledgeable. He’s totally pro-democratic, pro-independence, pro Western values. He was greeted by almost everyone abroad. He had meetings with many European presidents and EU Commission chief. The only problem is that Lukashenka and his gang will do everything to hinder Milinkevich. They’ll stop ay nothing. Here is just another example of this from today (one out of hundreds other cases):

    17 February 2006 — About 100 opposition supporters were arrested in Belarus today as they tried to join a celebration to mark the registration of their candidate Alexander Milinkevich for next month’s presidential election. AFP says the Milinkevich supporters were arrested on various pretexts, such as the state of their vehicles or problems with their identity papers.

  • Arts

    Alexander Lukashenko becomes laureate of Honorary Patron of Arts and Benefactor of the World Prize

    Moscow has recognised the president of Belarus as a patron of the arts
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko became a prizewinner of the international public prize “Honorary Patron of the Arts and Benefactor of the World – 2005” instituted by the international charity fund “Millennium Patrons of the Arts”. The prestigious award was presented to the head of the Belarusian state in recognition of his contribution to the development of culture and spiritual revival.

    Last year’s prizewinners of the fund are also president of Tajikistan Emomali Rakhmonov, president of Serbia Boris Tadic, president of Tatarstan Mintimer Shajmiev, governor of Kostroma oblast Viktor Shershunov, deputy of the State Duma Gennadiy Seleznev, culture minister of Russia Alexander Sokolov, deputy mayor of Moscow Vladimir Resin, artists Nikolai Baskov, Tamara Gverdtsiteli, Liubov Kazarnovskaya, Anita Tsoi and others.

    The official award ceremony was held February 16 in Moscow in the State Kremlin Palace and gathered together famous politicians, scientists, art workers and businessmen.

    Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Russia Vladimir Grigoriev received the award on behalf of the Belarusian president.

  • Union State

    Belarus-Moscow further cooperation aimed at setting up joint structures

    Beklarus and Russia are due to solidify the Union State some time in 2006
    The further development of Belarus-Moscow cooperation is aimed at setting up joint structures to produce consumer goods, develop contacts in the network structure field, create large wholesale warehouses for the benefit of the two sides, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Russia Vladimir Grigoryev told a sitting of the interregional relations and national policy committee of Moscow.

    The diplomat said, the point is new cooperation directions, which have not been thoroughly explored. "Moscow has a most powerful building industry, large trade networks, logistic structures. We need to find conditions of mutual presence in these spheres. It is the principle which guided the creation of the Belarus-Moscow joint plan of projects for 2006", he said.

    Vladimir Grigoriev has reported that the document envisages a number of projects to set up whole-sale and retail infrastructure of Belarusian companies in Moscow, investment projects including those aimed to develop scientific and technical programs and construction programs, fairs and exhibitions and creation of the Belarusian commodity distribution network.

    The priority programs include intensifying production of granite road-metal and cement in Belarus with Moscow investors for consequent stepping up of supplies to Moscow, construction of houses in Minsk and other purposes.

    Vladimir Grigoriev has stated that today the biggest interest is displayed in the field of food production. He has noted that the share of the Belarusian food in Moscow is no more than 10 per cent of the total. At the same the Moscow government allocates great financial resources for purchasing of food in Belarus and other Russian regions.

    “This is a great reserve to boost our turnover with Moscow,” the ambassador emphasized. “Belarus produces organic additive-free food which is in high demand in Moscow”.

    Moscow representatives noted that the mutually beneficial cooperation with Belarus had its roots in the necessity to produce competitive products for the common Belarusian-Russian market. According to them, Moscow has been following its own path on transition to the market economy which in many things was similar to that Belarus had chosen, therefore the parties have no serious disagreements in their approach to the mutually beneficial integration.

  • Growth

    Sergei Sidorskiy: 240 agro-towns to be set up in Belarus in 2006

    Sergei Sidorskiy(r): Belarus has implemented a "Village Revival Program" to increase jobs and agricultural production outside of the cities
    This year 240 agro-towns will be set up in Belarus or 100 agro-towns more than in 2005, prime minister of this republic Sergei Sidorskiy told reporters today in the course of his working visit to Gomel oblast.

    Intensification of the work on implementing the village revival program will task the government and local authorities with additional assignments. Nevertheless, the tasks set by the head of state will be undoubtedly fulfilled, the prime minister noted. At the same time, special attention will be paid to technical revamp and development of the social infrastructure in the rural areas. The living conditions of villagers will be brought closer to the ones of city-dwellers to the maximum, Sergei Sidorskiy underlined.

    The big workload requires economical spending of the state funds. According to the prime minister, the record of the agricultural company Druzhba-Avtiuki of the Kalinkovichi region can serve as a good example in this field. Besides, today the head of the Belarusian government visited the administrative center of Druzhba-Avtiuki – the village of Syrod.

    Last year a school, a library, a center of consumer services and shops were thoroughly repaired in the village. Besides, reconstruction of these facilities costs much less than construction of new ones. Other regions of Gomel oblast take the same moves. All regions of the republic should learn from this experience, the prime minister considers.

    Nikolai Zajchenko: business-planning system created in Belarus’ economy

    Economic minister of Belarus Nikolai Zajchenko
    A business-planning system has been created in Belarus. In 2006 it should start working, economy minister of Belarus Nikolai Zajchenko told a press conference February 17.

    He has noted that the system offers every company to draw up an obligatory business plan. The contract of every head of the enterprise says: the company should have a five-year business plan, a development program for one year and business plans of investment projects within its framework. According to the economy minister, “we attach great importance to the problem of capital investments, as the competitive power of our economy, branches and enterprises depend on it. We want our production and technologies to become progressive, raw material intensive, resource and energy saving”.

    This republic virtually does not collect revenues from selling its own natural resources, Nikolai Zajchenko reminded. The Republic of Belarus exports only final products. And the competition on the market of such products is considerably higher than on the feedstock market.

    The minister has also emphasized “that we should rationally use the potential which has been generated by the former generations and that is the competitive advantage of the Belarusian economy. We have inherited a complex economy as a result of the fact that Belarus fell out of the Soviet Union division of labour. Under the market conditions we should find a place we deserve. There is no alternative but to enhance the investment activity”.

    Nikolai Zajchenko has noted that the goals on capital investment were met last year. Investment grew by 23.2 per cent over 2004. The program of socio-economic development of Belarus for 2001-2005 has been implemented in full in terms of some parameters, and overfilled – in terms of some others.

    At the same time the minister has stressed that there are the problems the government will be working on. “We are aware of all our problems. There are quite a few of them. Yet, we know and understand what we should do to tackle them”, the economy minister has concluded.

    The price growth projected for 2006 will remain within the forecast, economy minister of Belarus Nikolai Zajchenko has told reporters today.

    In January this year the consumer price index of Belarus grew by 1.3 per cent from December 2005. According to the projections of the economy ministry, the index should have made 1.1 per cent.

    According to the minister, this inflation rate is not “threatening”. “There are no serious reasons that will prevent us from keeping the annual inflation within 7-11 per cent. I am sure that we will have no problems with that”.

    The economy minister has pointed to weather conditions and the growth of prices for fruit and vegetables as the factors which contributed most to the upturn in prices in January.

    Last month the energy consumption rose on the back of a snap of cold while the tariffs remained unchanged. In this respect, 0.6 per cent of growth of prices over the month (the growth amounted to 1.3 per cent) accounted for the increase in payments for heating and hot water supply.

    As for the increase in prices for fruit and vegetables, the afore-mentioned factors incited 0.14 and 0.18 per cent-worth inflation in January. According to Nikolai Zaichenko, “this is a seasonal factor and we should realize that the prices will trend upward in winter”. “To make the growth minimal is our priority task. Today the government is taking measures to stabilize the situation”, he stressed.

    “There are no reasons for worrying about the growth of prices in other fields”, the economy minister stated.

  • Russia/Iran Nuclear scandal

    Moscow Hamas talks unrelated to PNA-Israel mediation - diplomat

    PNA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Vladimir Putin
    Russia is entering talks with the radical Palestinian group Hamas without a view to mediating between the Palestinian National Authority and Israel, the country's special Mideast envoy said Friday.

    "There is no need for mediators as some wrongly believe that Hamas has brought everything under its control," Alexander Kalugin said, referring to the organization's growing political influence following its landslide victory in a recent Palestinian election.

    He said PNA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was still the official in charge of maintaining contact with Israel.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Hamas leaders for talks at a press conference in Spain earlier this month. The talks, due in Moscow in early March, were to have coincided with a visit by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, but Israel's top diplomat has now postponed the visit, citing technical reasons, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

    Putin's invitation stunned Israel and Western nations, who designate Hamas as a terrorist organization.

    "It is important that Hamas should transform itself into a political organization to resolve political issues with Israel," Kalugin said.

    "We will be pushing Hamas toward responsible decisions," he said, explaining that Russia, as well as the West, wanted the militant Palestinian group to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist.

    Also on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the upcoming Moscow talks with Hamas aimed to engage the organization into the peace process in the Middle East and would be held in keeping with the framework of the Mideast Quartet of peace mediators (Russia, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union).

    Hamas delegation to visit Moscow in early March

    The BHTimes cannot forsee any other results from he Russian/Iranian nuclear talks than this
    A delegation of Hamas, a radical movement that won the Palestinian National Authority's general elections, will arrive in Moscow early March, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

    The ministry said agreement had been reached but did not specify who would head the delegation.

    President Vladimir Putin announced during a visit to Spain last week that he was planning to invite the leaders of Hamas to Moscow for talks.

    Hamas has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on Israel and refuses to recognize the Jewish state as a country. Its victory has jeopardized Western aid to the Palestinian National Authority.

    "Today, [we] must recognize that Hamas came to power via legitimate, democratic elections in the Palestinian National Authority, which is why we must respect the choice of the Palestinian people," Putin said.

    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, DNF Women's 10 km Pursuit // Feb 23 Women's 4x6 km Relay)

    *Anisimov, Maksim Ski Jumping
    (33rd place Men's NH Individual,Men's LH Individual Qualification Round 36th)

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

    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; women's 1500 5th place in heat 2, 22nd overall// 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, women's 10km pursuit 29th place// feb 23 women's 4x6km relay)

    Khatylyov, Aleksey Speedskating
    ( Men's 1000- no results foun// 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, Women's 4x5 km Relay 15th place//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, Men's 15 km Classical 16th place// 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, Women's 10 km Pursuit 7th place// Feb 23 Women's 4x6 km Relay)

    Novikov, Sergei Biathlon
    (24th place Men's 20 km Individual, 32nd place Individual 10 Km// Men's 12.5 km Pursuit 32nd place// 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, Men's 12.5 km Pursuit 29th place// 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, Women's 4x5 km Relay 15th place)

    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, Men's 12.5 km Pursuit 28th place// Feb 21 Men's 4x7.5 km Relay)

    Vasiljonok, Olga Cross Country
    (51st place Women's 15 km Pursuit (7.5+7.5), Women's 4x5 km Relay 15th place//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, Women's 10 km Pursuit 25th place// Feb 23 Women's 4x6 km Relay )