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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Returning to normal; detainees let go, criticism of elections decline, Kazulin, Milinkevich protest elections, Gazprom raise prices, polish scandals

From the Top

President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko Congratulates Belarusians and Russians on the Unity Day

From:The Office of the President and Belta

Lukashenka and Putin
Chairman of the Union State Supreme State Council, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko extended congratulations to president of Russia Vladimir Putin on the 10th anniversary of the Unity Day of the Belarusian and Russian nations which is marked on April 2, BelTA has been told in the press service of the Belarusian leader.

“Ten years ago Belarus and Russia made a right choice in favour of integration and union. That was the only right step meeting the interests of the two brotherly peoples”, reads the message.

Alexander Lukashenko is convinced that the Union of Belarus and Russia is one of the most effective integration associations among the former Soviet Union republics. The two countries expand trade-economic links, strengthen defense cooperation and have similar positions on the international arena. An important event was the signing in January 2006 in St. Petersburg of a package of agreements which would enhance the social security of Belarusians and Russians.

President of Belarus thanked Vladimir Putin for the consistent support of integration and expressed confidence that in the future the strategic union of Belarus and Russia will be getting stronger for the benefit of the two peoples.

The Belarusian leader has also extended congratulations to first president of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin and state secretary of the Union State Pavel Borodin.

Alexander Lukashenko send felicitation messages to top-rank officials of Russia, in particular, to chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union State, chairman of the government of the Russian Federation Mikhail Fradkov, chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly Sergei Mironov, chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Belarus-Russia Union, chairman of the State Duma Boris Gryzlov.

The president of Belarus congratulated Russian president’s chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin, mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov, governor of Moscow oblast Boris Gromov, deputy of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly Gennadiy Seleznev, president of the chamber of commerce and industry of Russia Evgeniy Primakov.

In a message to Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexii II Alexander Lukashenko notes: “Our countries have made the only right choice which is the key to the revival of their economic and political power”.

“Today one can say with full certainty that the Union of Belarus and Russia is actualized. Its vitality lies in our unity, in guaranteeing a worthy future to the generations that follow,” the President believes.

“I am profoundly convinced that, following the principles of equal partnership, we will build a new model of the effective interstate amalgamation where many peoples will be living in comfort, Alexander Lukashenko pointed out.

In other news, Alexander Lukashenko has sent messages of thanks to the heads of state and public figures who congratulated him on his re-election as President of the Republic of Belarus.

In particular, the messages have been sent to President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, the first President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II, President of the People's Republic of China Hu Jintao, and to the leaders of the CIS and other foreign states.

  • Post elections blues

    80 political prisoners released

    From:Charter '97
    A happy protestor is reunited with her mother after a 10 day lockup
    Today night 80 political prisoners were released after the arrest for participation in the meetings against fraudulent presidential elections results. Families and friends met the prisoners of conscience with flowers and scanned: “Long live Belarus!” Parents were crying, hugging their children, friends gave them red and white carnation. Though the Belarusian patriots were released at 3 a.m., not only friends and relatives, but common citizens came to greet them and show respect to their courage. The released prisoners were saying that they are ready to continue their fight for the freedom of their country. (Click the headline for many more photos from Charter '97)

  • Belarusian Opposition Figures to Face Additional Criminal Charges

    Alexander Kozulin and Alexander Milinkevich could face charges of organizing the mass protests
    Prosecutors in Belarus say they are considering additional criminal charges against Belarusian opposition leaders in the wake of demonstrations contesting this month's presidential elections.

    Prosecutor-General Pyotr Miklashevich Wednesday said opposition leaders Alexander Kozulin and Alexander Milinkevich could face charges of organizing the mass protests, which carry a 15-day jail sentence.

    In addition, Kozulin has been charged with hooliganism, and faces a possible six-year prison term.

    Prosecutors say more than 500 activists were detained since last week for protesting what they considered fraud in the March 19 vote, which officials say produced a landslide victory for President Alexander Lukashenko. Opposition activists put the number of those detained at more than 1,000.

    The first group of prisoners convicted in connection with protests against the reelection of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka were released today after serving their sentences.

    Human rights advocates say some 80 prisoners were released early today from detention centers in Minsk after spending up to 10 days in jail.

    In Oslo, visiting Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov called the election fair. He urged the international community to embrace Belarus, saying any attempts to isolate the country would be counter-productive.
    (Note: Some material for this article was taken from The Turkish Weekly

    Simmons rejects Western view of Belarus vote

    From:The Royal Gazzette
    Ottiwell Simmons
    Government Chief Whip Ottiwell Simmons has disputed international claims that a controversial eastern European election was severely flawed.

    Former trade unionist Mr. Simmons travelled to Belarus last week to act as an official observer of the country’s presidential election. He told The Royal Gazette that he witnessed democratic voting and was satisfied that the election was fair and unbiased.

    Both the US and EU have condemned the election on March 19, which saw President Alexander Lukashenko win 82.6 percent of the vote and a third term in office.

    And the OSCE, Europe’s main election monitoring body, said there had been harassment and detention of opposition activists, biased media coverage and obstruction of independent monitors. A rival observer mission, from the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States, said the election was open and transparent.

    Protests by thousands of opposition supporters have been held in the capital, Minsk, leading to the arrest and detention of more than 150 people, including election runner-up Alexander Kozulin, who claims to have been beaten by Police.

    Mr. Simmons, who returned from his trip with fellow Bermudian and PLP member Michael Markham on Tuesday night, said: “When the balloting was over all of us shook hands and were satisfied that the voting was fair, it was democratic and it was without bias.”

    He said he visited about 12 polling booths and spoke to vote counters and saw fair procedures in each case.

    “My duty was to ensure that the elections were carried out in accordance with the rules laid down and that the rules were democratic rules which gave each candidate and each voter a fair and democratic choice to make,” he said. “That is, for the candidates to represent any party or independent philosophy and for the voters to freely vote for a candidate of their choice to be president of Belarus.”

    Mr. Simmons, who was invited to attend by an organisation called the Spiritual Development Group, said he was disappointed that the “western Press” took a different view of the election.

    “None of them have done the observing that I have done,” he said. “The western Press says there was corruption. I saw none.”

    But Mr. Simmons said he was impressed with the country, its Government and Police, whom he described as “polite”.

    “Belarus is a place that you can almost see developing. It’s certainly not a Third World country from an infrastructure point of view.

    “I’m made to understand that it’s economy is growing and they have no unemployment. The people were not quite Bermudian friendly but they were certainly not uncouth.”
    He said Europe and America had not been the “best friend of Belarus” but that officials in the country were reaching out to the West and did not want conflict.
    Mr. Markham said the election was “very well done and well organised”. “We actually met, in various polling booths, observers from the various political parties, he said. “We talked to them and we observed the counting of the votes. It was very fair and open. In terms of certifying a vote, that was conducted properly.”

    But he added: “What we didn’t certify and what apparently the issue is is whether the democratic process is up to the same standard in Belarus as it is in western countries. That’s a political issue more than whether the votes were cast fairly.”
    He said he and Mr. Simmons had witnessed demonstrations about the election in the centre of Minsk.

    And he added: “Mr. Simmons also had a short dialogue with the President Alexander Lukashenko, where he sent greetings from Bermuda. The President complimented Mr. Simmons in front of the international press for his accurate and astute observation of the elections.”

    Why did voters in Belarus reject the "Denim Revolution"?

    by British Helsinki Human Rights Group (BHHRG)
    Helsinki committee: The OSCE, prejudged both the conduct and result of the poll, deeming it to be neither free nor fair before a vote was cast.

    In the presidential election held in Belarus on 19th March 2006 the incumbent Alexander Lukashenko won a convincing 82% victory. This result had been widely predicted as had the international community’s hostile response – in the weeks leading up to the election the main observer mission, the OSCE, prejudged both the conduct and result of the poll, deeming it to be neither free nor fair before a vote was cast.

    At first sight, the proportions of Mr Lukashenko’s victory seem barely less grotesque than the stratospherical electoral triumphs of the West’s favourites. Over the last 15 years, the Western-controlled OSCE observer missions have swallowed without demur a 97% victory for the “rose revolutionary” Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia in 2004 or a modest 89% from Kyrgyzstan’s “tulip revolutionary” Kurmanbek Bakiev, or 92% for Georgia’s Eduard Shevardnadze back in 1992 when he was still Washington’s favourite reformer, or even Heydar Aliev’s 93% in Azerbaijan in 1993. Yet the same team which never raised an eyebrow about elections where one regime insider was endorsed as the successor of a predecessor whom the West had tired of could not conceive that 82% of Belarussians voted for Alexander Lukashenko.

    The West, the EU in particular, threw its weight behind the candidature of Alexander Milinkevich, a little known former academic of Polish extraction, inviting him to Brussels in the pre-election period to be officially endorsed. 2 other opposition candidates were ignored by this august body. However, any candidate who stood on the West’s familiar reform platform of privatization of both industry and public services was going to have an uphill struggle in Belarus where life has improved over the past ten years under Lukashenko led governments. A workable, social democratic model of the type once favoured by the EU now flourishes in Belarus where everyone is all too familiar with the costs of the reform agenda that has ravaged other post-Soviet republics.

    BHHRG visited Belarus in the pre-election period returning three weeks later to observe the conduct of the poll. The Group has monitored elections in the country on a regular basis since 1994 when Lukashenko came to power. During the past 12 years its regular monitors have witnessed the vast improvements that have taken place in the republic’s economy and standard of living as well as the stirrings of a genuine, home grown civil society. Yet, politicians and journalists in the West continue to refer to the country as a Stalinist outpost and economic basket case. However, the debacle in Iraq and the ignominious collapse of Ukraine’s Orange revolution in 2005 have led some to begin to question these people’s bona fides when it comes to nation building. It is to be hoped that the Belarussian people can be left alone to sort out their own problems without yet more meddling from politicians and journalists discredited for their clumsy, failed interference in the affairs of others.

    Belarus Opposition Leaders Seek to Declare Presidential Elections Invalid

    From:Mos News

    The Supreme court of Belarus

    Belarus opposition leaders who lost the recent presidential elections to Alexander Lukashenko have filed suits to Belarus Supreme Court demanding to declare the elections invalid, Itar Tass said Saturday.

    Alexander Kozulin’s and Alexander Milinkevich’s elections staff filed separate suits Friday, seeking to declare the elections of March 19th invalid.

    Alexander Milinkevich’s complaints, including violations in the pre-elections campaign and the elections management, are listed on 700 pages.

    Kozulin’s complaints include Lukashenko’s illegal running for a forth presidential term.

  • Belarusian energy

    Gazprom steps up pressure on Belarus to sell gas pipeline stake - report

    Gazprom is planning on raising significantly the price of gas sold in Belarus.
    MOSCOW (AFX) - Gazprom is putting increased pressure on Belarus to sell it a 50 pct stake in the Beltransgaz gas pipeline, and is linking the issue to the threat of higher gas prices, following the re-election of hardline President Alexander Lukashenko of the former Soviet state, Kommersant daily reported.

    Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller yesterday signalled an end to the low price the company charges Belarus for gas, saying it would 'be aligned with European prices' from 2007, Kommersant said.

    In reality, the size of the gas tariff hike will depend on Belarus' willingness to go ahead with a long-discussed sale of 50 pct of Beltransgaz to Gazprom, the newspaper added.

    'Gazprom waited for the end of the presidential election in Belarus ... Now Gazprom has established for Beltransgaz a very tight deadline for an answer -- April 30,' Kommersant reported.

    The main obstacle in agreeing the sale of a 50 pct stake in Beltransgaz has been the very different evaluations by the Belarussian and Russian governments of its value, the paper said.

    The Beltransgaz network is an important route for Russia's gas exports to the European Union, but it has received less investment than a newer pipeline that also runs through Belarus to Europe, the Yamal-Europe pipeline.

    'It has been evident for two years that Gazprom and Belarussian authorities have a very different market evaluation of this stake. Then, Gazprom valued it at about 500 million dollars and Belarus at 2.5 billion dollars,' Kommersant said.

    The low price Russia charges Belarus for energy is seen by analysts as one important reason for the public support Lukashenko still enjoys in Belarus.

    Gazprom currently charges Belarus 46.68 usd per 1,000 cubic metres of gas -- well below the price it charges other European countries that have left Moscow's political orbit.

    Belarus to be stung with massive price hike
    Former Soviet satellite state Belarus is to be hit with a five-fold increase in the price of gas it receives from Russian gas titan Gazprom.

    AdvertisementThe alarming increase from the current rate of $47 per 1000 cubic meters represents the end of special rates for the Russian neighbor and a readjustment to bring it into line with prices for the rest of Europe, the gas major said.

    Gazprom chief Alexei Miller told the Belarusian energy minister that Russian gas "must be supplied at prices equivalent to the European level", the BBC has reported. The new price rate will be applied from the beginning of 2007.

    The development means that all of Russia's neighbors which had received a 'special' discount rate have now had their prices increased. At the end of last year price increases for supplies to Ukraine and Georgia hit the headlines because of the acrimonious atmosphere which surrounded those developments. In fact, following a dispute, Gazprom no longer supplies gas directly to Ukraine.

    Gazprom currently delivers around 21 billion cubic meters of gas to Belarus per year

    Belarus accepts only smooth gas price rise

    Gazprom chief Alexei Miller

    Belarus and Russia should develop creative and mutually beneficial approaches to the development of gas industry co-operation. Beltransgaz OJSC director general Dmitriy Kazakov told the press today, the recent negotiations of Gazprom and Beltransgaz shaped a qualitative change, which will enable the companies to develop a joint policy for the future.

    He believes, at present Gazprom strives to improve its business effectiveness. In turn, Belarus is interested in an evolutionary increase in gas prices to ensure the stable development of the country's economy.

    Dmitriy Kazakov reckons, this year there are no problems in relations of the two companies. "We fulfil every requirement of Gazprom. In turn, Gazprom ensures irreproachable gas supply to Belarus as long as Belarus keeps the present attitude to payments", emphasised the Beltransgaz OJSC director general.

    He also expressed confidence that the sides will find an optimal solution.

    When commenting upon the decision of Gazprom to apply market principles in gas price formation Dmitriy Kazakov noted that “prices cannot be suddenly pushed up” – it can affect the country’s economy and cause instable development of companies and even their bankruptcy.

    As BelTA informed earlier, the Belarusian side offered Russia to take part in beneficial joint projects in order to promote accepting of stipulations by the two sides in the gas pricing field.

    Price for Russian gas for Belarus should be fixed in line with Union State agreements

    Belarus and Russia have a legal base for their bilateral cooperation, in particular the Union State Treaty. It is compulsory for the parties and envisages creation of equal conditions for economic entities of the two states, energy minister of this republic Alexander Ageev stated today after the meeting of shareholders of the open joint stock company Belgazprombank. Moreover, there are several other agreements including on the cooperation in the gas sphere and on price terms for energy resources, he underlined.

    Alexander Ageev has noted that the cost of the Russian gas supplied to Belarus should be the same as for Smolensk oblast of Russia. These were the terms of 2002-2003. However, due to the transition to the new VAT collection scheme in 2005 the cost of the gas for Belarus was not reduced by the VAT sum (18 per cent). At present the price makes USD 46,68 for one thousand cubic meters. According to the minister, “we consider it to be commercial price for Belarus”. Undoubtedly, the sudden price escalation exerted influence upon the Belarusian economy, but it worked normally.

    When commenting upon the decision of Gazprom to apply market principles in gas price formation since 2007 Alexander Ageev underlined that yesterday the sides started the talks on the issue. Now Smolensk oblast pays USD 42,8 per 1,000 m of gas. In line with Russia’s gas branch development strategy by 2010 the gas costs for the Russian consumers will go up by 10.5-11 per cent a year. Thus, in 2010 the maximal price for Smolensk oblast will be USD 64 per 1,000 m. In 2007 this figure will reach USD 47,5 per 1,000 m.

    According to Alexander Ageev, the future rise in gas prices for Belarus should be based on the abovementioned documents. The energy minister also said that this is an issue of corporation importance. In particular, Belarus offered 5 cooperation projects to Gazprom. “At the moment we are expecting the company to respond,” Alexander Ageev said. The Russian party has agreed to consider them and some of them will be implemented after being amended. This pertains, first of all, to construction of the second branch of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. According to the minister, the project will be implemented this year. “This pipeline will be more profitable than the North-European line. The surplus might reach USD 480 million,” Alexander Ageev noted.

    Belarus has also offered to participate in the project on Beloozersk CHP as well as a project on starting up a joint gas transportation company on the base of Beltransgaz. Modernization of the Belarusian GrodnoAzot will be put on the agenda as well.

    Belarus sugar retail prices fixed 10 per cent higher as from March 31

    The cost of sugar, along with pretty much everything else, is becoming more expencive
    The average retail prices for sand sugar will be pegged 10.3 per cent higher as from March 31. The Belarusian economy ministry made the decision following a proposal of Belgospischeprom concern. In line with the economy ministry resolution #55 retail prices for sand sugar sold by weight are set at Br 1,590 per 1 kg, retail prices for pre-packaged sugar — Br 1,720 per 1 kg.

    Commenting on the adopted document, representatives of the economy ministry attributed the growth to rising stock exchange prices for raw cane-sugar. In 2005 the price went up by 150 per cent, so far this year — by 16.7 per cent (data provided by New York Mercantile Exchange). Therefore, financial status of the sugar industry has essentially deteriorated.

    Analysing the sugar market situation, the source noted, the increase in raw sugar prices on the world market triggered a rapid rise of white sugar price in the Russian Federation. According to the Russian Institute for Agricultural Market Studies, wholesale prices for sugar in sugar-producing, sugar-consuming and central regions of Russia went up by 25.3 per cent on average by December 2005. In the period between December 1, 2005 and March 20, 2006 retail sugar prices in regions bordering with the Russia's Central Federal Region grew by 21-59 per cent to exceed existing retail sugar prices in Belarus by 37-55 per cent. Experts said, Russia has not seen such a rapid growth of sugar prices in last 24 years. In Ukraine the average retail sugar prices are 32 per cent higher than those in Belarus.

    Representatives of Belgospischeprom believe, the increase in retail prices for white sugar will partially compensate for the rise of imported raw sugar price, which makes around 80 per cent of the sugar cost. According to according to Belgospischeprom deputy chairperson Larisa Plisko, the rise will improve the financial status of sugar refineries. They will be profitable. The increase in sugar prices will slightly raise confectionery prices. In particular, caramel will get only 2.5 per cent more expensive.

    The sugar price rise will prevent illegal export of white sugar. Larisa Plisko stressed, Belarusian sugar companies do not export sand sugar made from raw cane-sugar to the Russian Federation.
  • Sciences

    Belarus expects birth of first transgenic goats

    A couple of medical lab $50 million super-goats
    In the next two weeks the animal breeding institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus expects birth of the first transgenic goats generated within the framework of the Belarusian-Russian program “BelRosTransgen”, BelTA was informed by institute’s director, academician Ivan Sheiko.

    According to him, this will be a results of great work conducted by the Belarusian and Russian scientists within last 2,5 years. Experts hope for a great breakthrough in the area of gene engineering as, if proved successful, the experiment will give the CIS member-states an opportunity to synthesize medical preparations based on gene constructions.

    The interlocutor noted that since the beginning of the year the biotechnical center of the institute performed more than 80 complicated operations on implantation of 40 gene constructions in goats. As a result 8 goats successfully withstood the implantation and in the next two weeks they are expected to breed.

    “As soon as the kids are born we will sent samples of their tissue to the St. Petersburg laboratory (the only in the CIS) which should confirm if they are transgenic or not,” Ivan Sheiko said. The scientists of the institute believe that the results will be positive.

    Now the Biotechnical center nurses about 200 goats. All of them are potential participants of the experiment. The labs of the center are equipped with micromanipulators to make micro-injections of human gene into embryos of animals. The equipment cost EUR 70 thousand. Considerable funds were allocated to purchase imported hormonal agents to proceed with the experiment.

    A total of RUB 50 million has been allocated from the Union State budget, of them 65 per cent was financed by Russia and 35 per cent – by Belarus. The joint Belarusian-Russian program “BelRosTransgen” is designed by the end of 2006. Some 90 per cent of the funds have been utilized already.

    Belarusian and Russian scientists insist on continuing the experiment to see the transgenic animals breed. Their milk will be used to manufacture modern medicines. This is the task which the animal breeding institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus sets out for 2007-2010. Milk of transgenic goats will be used to make medicines enriched with valuable protein. In particular, the preparations on the basis of lactoferrin will be used to feed new-borns.

    The second stage of the program has been drafted and introduced to the Union State Council of Ministers. It will require about USD 10 million.
  • Polish Scandals

    Poland seeks Auschwitz renaming

    From:BBC News
    "For the contemporary, younger generations, especially abroad, that association with Nazi Germany is not universal" Jan Kasprzyk
    Polish government spokesman
    Poland wants the official name of Auschwitz-Birkenau changed to remind the world that the death camp was built and run by Nazi Germany.
    The government in Warsaw is anxious that the grim history of the Auschwitz site, listed as a Unesco world heritage site, is not linked to Poles or Poland.

    Poland wants Unesco to change the official name to "Former Nazi German Concentration Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau".

    More than a million people, almost all Jews, died there between 1940 and 1945.

    The Nazi regime killed some six million Jews during World War II.

    Warsaw angry

    The twin camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, built in occupied Poland near the town of Oswiecim, were designed, built and operated by Nazi Germany.

    However, Polish officials have become unsettled by media references to Auschwitz as a "Polish concentration camp".

    German newspaper Der Spiegel this week called the camp "Polish", prompting anger in Warsaw.
    "In the years after the war, the former Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was definitively associated with the criminal activities of the national socialist Nazi regime in Germany," Polish government spokesman Jan Kasprzyk told a Polish news agency.

    "However, for the contemporary, younger generations, especially abroad, that association is not universal."

    'No doubt'

    Unesco's current description of Auschwitz says that the "fortified walls, barbed wire, platforms, barracks, gallows, gas chambers and cremation ovens show the conditions within which the Nazi genocide took place in the former concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest in the Third Reich."

    However, Mr Kasprzyk added: "The proposed change in the name leaves no doubt as to what the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was."

    The Polish government made the request to change the name in writing to Unesco - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

    The body added Auschwitz-Birkenau to its list of world heritage sites in 1979.

    Poland said it expected an answer later this year.

    For more polish scandals please see the BEING HAD POLICE AND ADMINISTRATIVE CORRUPTION PAGE

    Belarus temporarily recalls ambassador to Poland

    From:China View
    Pavel Latushko
    Belarus temporarily recalled its ambassador to Poland on Friday amid strained relations following criticism by Polish officials over the Belarussian presidential election and the detention of Polish citizens during opposition protests in Minsk.

    Belarussian Ambassador to Poland Pavel Latushko was temporarily recalled to Minsk for consultations, the Belarussian Foreign Ministry told the Interfax news agency.

    The Foreign Ministry also summoned Polish Charge d'Affaires to Belarus Aleksander Wasilewski to protest Poland's actions in relations to Belarus, saying they "have significantly worsened the climate of neighborliness between the two countries."

    Poland has decided to impose visa restrictions and likely travel bans against Belarussian citizens deemed responsible for the alleged rigging of Belarus' presidential election, according to the Polish Press Agency.

    Poland's former ambassador to Belarus Mariusz Maszkiewicz was sentenced on Monday by a Minsk court to 15 days in jail for taking part in an unauthorized rally in Belarus. Journalist Weronika Samolinska of the Gazeta Wyborcza daily was also jailed for 10 days.

    Note: Viasna mentions today that Mariusz Maszkevich was taken from the jail to Minsk hospital # 1. Mr. Maszkevicz complained about severe pain in the chest. He was taken to hospital. Doctors suspect he has had a heart attack.

  • Sport

    Belarusian biathlete Rustam Valiullin comes fifth in Khanty-Mansiysk

    Rustam Valiullin
    Belarusian biathlete Rustam Valiullin came fifth in today's 12.5 km pursuit race at an international competition in the Russian city of Khanty-Mansiysk.

    Biathlon state trainer of the sport and tourism ministry Alexander Belyayev told BelTA, on the eve Ruslan was fifth to leave the starting line and had a good chance of winning a medal. He successfully passed two shooting ranges. Unfortunately, he missed two times. The unfortunate accident repeated one more time. With four penalty laps the Belarusian failed to win a medal.

    Oleg Ryzhenkov was 17th at the finish line. According to the source, just like Valiullin, Ryzhenkov was bad at firing from standing position. Vladimir Drachev did not gladden the hearts of fans either by coming 18th.

    The winners were Russian sportsmen Sergei Rozhkov, Ivan Cherezov, and Pavel Rostovtsev.

  • End piece

    “Blue maidan” – tombstone on the grave of old opposition

    The Blue Maiden's gaze by David Camp
    A “colour revolution” failed in Belarus because the power is strong and effective here, because the Belarusian people look into the future with confidence and link their lives with this power, aide to the president – chief of the main ideology department of the presidential administration of the Republic of Belarus stated in an interview with the TV program “Hard Talk” on the First Channel.

    He cited the British paper “Guardian” which on the eve of the elections wrote: “Would you expect a European leader who has presided over a continual increase in real wages for several years, culminating in a 24% rise over the past 12 months, to be voted out of office? What if he has also cut VAT, brought down inflation, halved the number of people in poverty in the past seven years, and avoided social tensions by maintaining the fairest distribution of incomes of any country in the region?”

    According to Oleg Proleskovskiy, from the first day of the election campaign Messrs. Milinkevich and Kozulin, being aware of the lack of prospects, called on the people to take to the streets, or to “maidan”. “However, after international terrorists came to help the opposition, the Belarusian opposition stepped out from the legal framework into the criminal one”, Oleg Proleskovskiy said. They called on people to gather on the “maidan”: yet, the opposition leaders did not know what to do with those few people who had come. Even one of the active members of the popular front Khodyko said that the opposition lacked a concrete plan of actions before and does not have it now.

    On March 19, on the Election Day, they “gathered on Victory Square turning the Eternal Fire into whether an ashtray or a lighter. Belarus has never witnessed such blasphemy. Having seen this on TV many veterans put on their war medals and went out to stop this happening”, Oleg Proleskovskiy said.

    He noted that “the whole world was laughing at this “blue maidan”. One Russian newspaper wrote: “Kiev had a revolution, Minsk – just a quiet improper sound”.

    The aid to the president pointed to another feature: “this pair of candidates betrayed their people who stood on the square in freezing temperatures. They have not even paid them. They betrayed them both financially and morally. The opposition leaders did not spend a night in the tent camp. They must now hear the curses of mothers of those children who undermined their health there”.

    Oleg Proleskovskiy also said that officially USD 12 million was invested to the “blue revolution” in Belarus. “Yet the figure was much higher”. The aid to the president believes that the West should require a financial report from Messrs. Milinkevich and Kozulin.

    “Remember what they were doing on March 25? They were wandering around and provoking the militia. Somebody called a Russian journalist on-site asking if they were beaten up already. He answered: “Not yet, but there is a hope…” The blue maidan is a tombstone on the grave of the old opposition,” the aid to the president concluded.