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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gas Crisis real, Belarus Beat Swiss, in ¼ finals vs Fins, Interpol Boycotts BY, USA Bans and Freezes, Azerbaijan, Latvia

From the Top

Lukashenka re-states that there is still a great relationship between Russia and Belarus

From: Office of the president

Russia has always been and will be the most reliable brotherly state with which Belarus will be building the union relations, said the Head of State Alexander Lukashenko at his meeting with the delegation of the Northwest Federal District of the Russian Federation on May 15.

Alexander Lukashenko gave assurances to the Russian guests that “no matter what our relations are going to be, be aware that you have the most reliable friends in Belarus,” and he added that nobody would ever succeed in driving a wedge into the cooperation between both countries.

Alexander Lukashenko finds the allegations that Belarus wants to buy Russian gas or Russian oil “for a friendship” to be groundless. “It is not so. We are able to cooperate with the Russian Federation, because our economy is functioning well in all the directions,” the President said.

The Head of State underscored that it is difficult for the Belarusian manufacturers to work in a competitive environment, including competition within the Union of Belarus and Russia.

The President stressed that prices for Russian natural gas or oil will not have impact on the Belarus-Russia relations. “Whatever gas problems may arise they cannot hinder friendship between Belarus and Russia,” the Head of State emphasized.

Having noted that today there is a lot of talks about a slowdown in bilateral relations Alexander Lukashenko said “In some areas we are slowing down while in others we are accelerating”. He also emphasized that over 10 years there was an almost threefold increase in the Belarus-Russia turnover. “Can you cite another example of such fruitful cooperation?” the president said.

“The potential of cooperation between our countries is even greater and we will develop it,” the president stated.

Historic win over Swiss puts Belarus into quarter-finals

From: IHWC 2006
Second only to beating Sweden in the 2002 Olympics, what happened Tuesday afternoon at Skonto Arena was a huge moment in Belarusian hockey history. With a 2-1 win over Switzerland, Belarus clinched third place in Group F with six points and a quarter-final berth versus Finland.

"I've been an athlete, and I know what it feels like when you're on the ice and you have everything to lose and the other team doesn't," Belarus Head Coach Glen Hanlon said of the pressure the Swiss team faced. "In this situation, a loss would have been disheartening, but we've accomplished a fair amount up to this point. So I think we came out and we weren't as tense, and we were better able to play our game."

Andrei Mezin continued his bid for Best Goalie honors with 29 saves

Switzerland's fate, meanwhile, depends on the outcome of the Ukraine-Slovakia game: a Slovak win or tie puts the Swiss out and gives Slovakia the fourth and final quarter-final berth.

It is the first time Belarus has ever cracked the Playoff Round at an IIHF World Championship. The nation finished eighth in its 1998 elite division debut, but that was before the current playoff format was instituted.

In this tight-checking affair, Andrei Skabelka led the Belarusian attack with a goal and an assist, while Sergei Zadelenov also scored. Martin Pluss replied for Switzerland.

Goalie Andrei Mezin made 29 saves for Belarus, while David Aebischer countered with 19 stops in the Swiss nets.

"We found ourselves in a hole for the fifth time in this tournament," said Swiss Head Coach Ralph Krueger. "But we had a strong reaction after falling behind. Looking at Belarus, they had the most exceptional tournament they've ever played. They're outstanding with the lead, they have Mezin, and they play great defense."

The victory continued a remarkable run for Belarus, which has only been definitely outclassed once so far in this tournament with a 4-1 loss to Sweden.

In the early going, the teams played cautiously with the majority of the play along the boards, and when the goalies were tested, it was only with harmless long-range shots.

The Belarusians opened the scoring at 9:04 when Andrei Skabelka circled out of the corner to Aebischer's left and fired a shot from the faceoff circle over the goalie's glove.

At the other end, Mezin alertly blocked an Ivo Ruthemann wraparound attempt and picked off a high Mark Streit drive from the point just over a minute later.

Working with a two-man advantage for 1:14, Switzerland couldn't cash in as Mezin blocked another Streit blast and the Belarusian penalty-killers maintained a disciplined box formation.

"A lot about this tournament comes down to special teams," said Hanlon. "That's what it takes to be successful. The 5-on-3 kill was tremendous for us."

At 16:37, Belarus got a power play opportunity after Swiss defenseman Goran Bezina hauled down Dmitri Meleshko cutting around Aebischer's net. On one shift, the Belarusians managed to hobble both Julien Vauclair and Martin Pluss with hard shots off the ankle, but couldn't penetrate the net for their second goal.

Mezin continued his heroics on a Swiss power play in the sixth minute of the second, turning away tough Streit and Sandy Jeannin shots from the line with traffic in front.

Just seconds after a Swiss penalty to Thierry Paterlini ended, the Belarusians capped two minutes of intense pressure when Sergei Zadelenov tried to convert a pass from Skabelka and then snared his own rebound at the left side of Aebischer's net before popping it high over the fallen goalie for a 2-0 lead at 9:58 of the middle frame.

"It's critical that [Belarus] got the lead," said Krueger. "Andrei Mezin is one of the best, if not the best, goaltenders in the tournament."

Another Swiss power play saw Mezin foiling Valentin Wirz on a close-range shot with two seconds left before the minor to Sergei Erkovich.

At 8:17 of the third period, the Swiss finally broke through to make it 2-1 when the Belarusians turned it over in their own zone and Ruthemann whacked it toward the goal, where Martin Pluss deftly tipped the puck past Mezin.

"We gave it everything we had in the third when we scored," said Swiss forward Kevin Romy. "We were close to another goal, but couldn't score. We should have had a much better start to this game."

Zadelenov stripped Mark Streit of the puck inside the Swiss blueline with just over six minutes remaining and swept in on goal for a great chance, but Aebischer averted his deke attempt.

The Belarusian checking became even more tenacious down the stretch. Mezin was there to prevent occasional opportunities like Thomas Deruns's backhand at the side of the net with 2:32 remaining.

Aebischer was pulled for the extra attacker in the dying moments as the Swiss battled for the equalizer with pressure in the Belarusian end, but to no avail.

"We owe our success to Glen Hanlon," said Belarus forward Dmitri Dudik. "He came all the way from North America to coach this team again. He is the reason we are successful, and he has us believing in ourselves."

Attendance was 3,170.
More coverage of this story can be found "HERE", and "HERE", and "HERE", and "HERE", and "HERE"

Finnish Lions to meet Belarus in World Championship quarter-finals

This year's IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships, which have been somewhat overshadowed by the drama at the Torino Olympics of a few months ago, have reached the knock-out stages with just eight of the original sixteen teams left in the tournament.
Finland, silver medallists in Torino, are among the last eight, and will play Belarus tomorrow evening (20:15) for a berth in the semi-finals. The winner of Thursday's match will play either Russia or the Czech Republic for a shot at the brightest medals.
The Finns might consider themselves a little fortunate to be playing Belarus rather than old rivals Sweden at this stage.
In their last round-robin match, the Finns were beaten 4-2 by Canada, and if the Czechs had - as was anticipated - beaten the United States in their last game, then Finland would have finished 3rd in the group, obliging them to play the runners-up in the other group, in this case Sweden.
However, the Americans pulled off a handy 3-1 win, leaving the Finns still perched in 2nd spot and primed to meet the Belarus team. Belarus have never progressed further than 8th in the World Championships, but they did spring the biggest surprise of the 2002 Olympics by dumping out Sweden in the quarter-finals.
The Finnish team, which has a 4-1-1 record in the tournament so far, is missing many of the star NHL players who took them to the brink of Olympic glory in February.
The squad suffered a further setback against Canada when #1 goaltender Antero Niittymäki was forced out with a thigh injury. Niittymäki was the Tournament MVP in Torino.
The other quarter-final pairings at the tournament in Riga, Latvia are:
Canada vs. Slovakia (Wednesday 15:15)
Sweden vs. USA (Wednesday 19:15)
Russia vs. Czech Republic (Thursday 16:15)
All times local Finnish time.

Interpol Meeting Opens in Minsk

From: Moscow Times
MINSK -- An Interpol regional conference opened in Belarus on Wednesday amid a boycott by the European Union -- a move that drew sharp criticism from the international police agency's head.
Only 12 out of 46 countries in the region are taking part in the two-day conference, after the EU prevented police representatives from attending. That move was meant to protest the recent disputed re-election of hardline Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Interpol is the world's largest international police organization.
"To let politics influence how police information is exchanged is a dangerous path to follow and will only further increase the risk to people around the world from those who would profit from such decisions," Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble said.
Belarussian Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov accused the EU of "benefiting criminals" by staying away from the conference.

EU boycott of Minsk conference breaches Interpol charter - Noble

From: Interfax
European Union member-states have violated Interpol charter regulations in refusing to send their officials to the organization's 35th regional conference in Minsk, Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said.
The EU should not introduce its own rules to the activities of Interpol, the world's largest police organization free of political influence, Noble said, adding that the EU will not face any sanctions.
Interpol combats crime and does not seek to cause tensions, he said.
Minsk was chosen to host the conference by top police officials from Interpol's 45 member-states in a transparent and near-unanimous vote a year ago, Noble said.

Belarus slams EU's refusal to attend Europol conference

From: Ria Novosti
The Belarusian Interior Ministry said Wednesday the EU was pursuing a policy of double standards by refusing to attend a Europol conference in the country's capital, Minsk.
"We cannot qualify the EU's step as anything other than a new attempt to demonstrate its policy of double standards towards Belarus," a ministry spokesman said before the conference opened Wednesday. "The demarche staged by Europol countries is not guided by the interests of their citizens."
The Minsk conference is expected to discuss measures against terrorism, organized crime and making interaction between the Interpol national offices and its central bureau more effective.
The spokesman added that the Europeans' refusal to come to the Belarusian capital could be interpreted as a political ban on Europol representatives attending a conference in Belarus.

EU Freezes Lukashenko's Money

From: Kommersant
The European Union is to announce freezing foreign accounts of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and thirty other high-ranking Belarusian officials, The Financial Times reported yesterday. The decision was to be upheld at the meeting of EU’s foreign ministers in Brussels yesterday. However, there was not enough time to translate the official document into twenty official languages of the European Union, as the proceedings require. Minsk responded to the reports denying that Alexander Lukashenko has ever had any accounts abroad.
European officials have been considering the sanctions against Belarusian authorities for the last few weeks, according to The Financial Times. It is not the first sanctions imposed on Belarus’ top officials. Alexander Lukashenko and thirty other high-placed functionaries were declared personae non grate in the European Union back in early April, after the presidential election in the country. The move must have little effect on the officials, judging from their reactions. Leonid Kozik, the chairman of the authority-friendly Federation of Trade Unions, was the only one to become outraged. “I’m not going to put up with it. I will write letters and ask why you made the decision, Sirs,” he said and promised to suit the European authorities.
The decision to freeze bank accounts of Belarusian top officials is a more difficult process that the visa ban. The news about the resolution became known a few days before its endorsement from an unofficial source, since EU authorities were afraid that the Belarusian officials might draw out the money and transfer them to banks in Switzerland or any other country. The draft resolution aims to freeze European accounts of Belarusian President Lukashenko, Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov, Prosecutor General Pyotr Miklashevich, KGB Chairman Stepan Sukhorenko, Chairman of the Parliament’s Lower Chamber Vladimir Konoplev and functionaries at the president’s administration.
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    10 000 USD can be imported to Belarus by one person without customs declaration

    From: NLIPRB
    The National Bank of the Republic of Belarus and the State Customs Committee of the Republic, by the Decision No 44/22of March 23, 2006, brought in changes and amendments to the Instruction on the order of import, export and transfer of foreign currency, Belarusian rubbles, payment documents in foreign currency, certified securities in Belarusian rubbles and in foreign currency by natural persons through customs border of the Republic of Belarus.
    The new legal act raises the amount of imported foreign currency which must be declared to the customs bodies. On entering Belarus with more than 10000 USD (in equivalent) of foreign currency a natural person must declare this sum to the customs body of the Republic of Belarus in written form. If a visitor on entering Belarus has less than 10000 USD (in equivalent) of foreign currency the declaration of this sum is not necessary. Before the new act came into force a natural person had been obliged to declare 3000 USD (in equivalent) and more of imported foreign currency.
    The Decision also eases the declaration terms for the foreign currency imported from the states which signed the Agreement of the Customs Union and Common Free Market Zone from February 26, 1999. It allowed to import to Belarus 10000 USD (in equivalent) of foreign currency per one person without customs declaration from the states which signed the Customs Union Agreement. Before that, the minimal sum for declaration had been 3000 USD (in equivalent) for each driving-in or driving-out person.
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    Belarusian Officials Don't Want to Go to the States

    From: Kommersant
    The isolation of the Belarusian authorities is increasing. On Monday a ban was placed on travel to the United States by Belarusian officials, their relatives and businessmen with “ties to the government.” The move comes in answer to election fraud, human rights violations and corruption in that country. “I have determined that it is in the interest of the United States to take all available measures to restrict the international travel, and to suspend the entry into the United States… of members of the government of Alexander Lukashenko and others," reads directive signed by U.S. President George W. Bush.
    U.S. Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice was made responsible for compiling a list of those who fall under the ban. It is not yet know who those persons are or how many persons there are on that list. It is likely, however, that the list will contain the same names as an analogical list of personae non gratae in the European Union countries. That list was compiled at the beginning of April, just after the presidential elections in Belarus, and contains the names of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and 30 high-placed officials in his government. Belarusian officials have long been accustomed to travel restrictions and many, including the country's president, have made statements about their lack of interest in international travel.
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    More coverage of this story can be found "HERE", and "HERE"

    Why Iran, Belarus will not join Shanghai Cooperation Organization this summer

    From: Ria Novosti
    Iran, Belarus and other countries expected to become full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, will not join it in the foreseeable future.
    The reason is the organization's need to address economic integration of Central Asia and creation of a common sphere of humanitarian regional cooperation. This was evident from the meeting of SCO foreign ministers' council, held in Shanghai a month before its anniversary summit. The SCO will celebrate its 5th anniversary simultaneously with the 10th anniversary of its predecessor, annual summits on common border security.
    It was the anniversary that prompted SCO member states to realize that without clearly defined borders of the region, the organization will fall into a crisis, when geopolitical games hinder its real efficiency.
    The ministers' meeting was a working one, and no sensations were expected. Activities of the SCO as an international organization are increasingly divided into many separate topics and programs, carried out by defense ministries, culture and education ministries, economic ministries, and so on. The six foreign ministries unite all this work in a single system and also support the order in the SCO structure. Apparently, they sense a dangerous tension in its structure. Six SCO member states do not have time to deal with the increasing number of new initiatives that flood the organization and its staff, so now everything superfluous should be discarded. First of all, they will block indefinitely accession of any new members.
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    Belarus to set up stab. fund to guard against energy price jump

    From: Ria Novosti
    Belarus plans to create a stabilization fund to minimize the impact of an increase in oil and gas prices, the country's first deputy prime minister said Wednesday.
    Vladimir Semashko said the fund would be similar to Russia's Stabilization Fund, established to accumulate windfall profits from high oil prices and hold back inflation by sterilizing the influx of petrodollars, and it would draw on various sources, including profits from state enterprises.
    "We have highly profitable companies owned by the state, which manages their profits. Their surplus profits are used for other goals."
    The deputy premier said the creation of the fund would be dependent on the price of energy imports from neighboring Russia steadily increasing. "Under any price increase scenario, even if it will be 11%, the fund will be set up."
    The former Soviet republic has enjoyed significantly subsidized prices for natural gas from Russia - at $46.7 per 1,000 cubic meters it currently pays well below the price Gazprom charges other consumers - but the Russian energy giant has said it will seek a substantial increase in the future.
    Gazprom is in talks with Belarus' Beltransgaz to take a stake in the pipeline company. The Russian giant has failed so far to gain control over the Belarusian pipeline network, which is widely seen as a condition for preserving the price subsidies.
    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko dismissed suggestions Monday that his country was seeking to maintain friendship with Russia to continue enjoying subsidized energy prices.

    Higher price for Russian gas no threat to Belarus - deputy PM - 1

    From: Ria Novosti
    A possible increase in the price of Russian natural gas will not provoke an economic crisis in Belarus, the country's deputy prime minister said Wednesday.
    Belarus has enjoyed significantly subsidized prices for natural gas from Russia - at $46.7 per 1,000 cubic meters it currently pays well below the price Gazprom charges other consumers - but the Russian energy giant has said it will seek a substantial increase in the future.
    But Andrei Kobyakov said natural gas prices were rising in Russia itself and so the rates for Belarus would be hammered out in talks.
    "The differences in prices for gas for Belarus and Russia are the subject of negotiations," he said.
    Gazprom is in talks with Belarus' Beltransgaz to take a stake in the pipeline company. The Russian giant has reportedly failed so far to gain control over the Belarusian pipeline network, which is widely seen as a condition for preserving the price subsidies.
    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko dismissed suggestions Monday that his country was seeking to maintain friendship with Russia to continue enjoying subsidized energy prices.
    "We do not seek that [cheap oil and gas], as we are capable of maintaining cooperation in the areas we have outlined," he said.
    "We not only talk about friendship and brotherhood, but want to prove that we are ready to help in a brotherly manner," he said.
    Lukashenko has repeatedly said that unlike other former Soviet republics, Belarus has not "betrayed" Russia by seeking integration into Western bodies.
    He also said Belarus provided jobs to over 5 million Russian citizens, and that bilateral trade had tripled in the past 10 years via a customs union, an economic project being pursued by Russia and Belarus along with two other former Soviet nations - Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

    Al-Ahmar Arrives in Moscow on way to Belarus

    From: SANA (Syria)
    Assistant Secretary General of al-Baath Arab Socialist Party Abdullah al-Ahmar arrived in Moscow yesterday on way to visit Belarus.
    Al-Ahmar will hold talks and meetings with Belarus Communist Party and Belarus senior officials.
    The aim of the visit is to develop bilateral relations between the two friendly peoples and parties.
    Arriving in Moscow, he was received by Ambassador in Moscow Dr. Hassan Risha, the embassy staff and members of the Syrian community in Moscow.

    Belarus opposition seeks Ukrainian asylum

    From: UPI
    Belarus opposition leaders have petitioned Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko for asylum.
    ForUm news agency reported Monday that Molodoy Front leader Dmitry Dashkevich, Vyacheslav Sivchik RAZAM Coordinator, Student Fellowship Chairman Oleg Yatsenko and others announced their request at a press conference in Kiev. Dashkevich has only been recently released from prison.
    The group of leaders identified themselves as "Minsk Maydan" and urged the pro-Western President Yuschenko "to raise a question before the heads of leading countries of the world how Russia may be a member of G8 if it implements uncivilized policy and supports odious dictatorial regime which violates all international laws."
    The "Minsk Maydan" group said Russia was reverting to being "the evil empire" again. They said that because of Belarus President Aleksandr Lushenko's growing closeness to Moscow, Belarus political independence was at risk.
    The press conference participants urged Ukrainian university rectors to consider admitting Belarus students who faced political repression into their institutions.
    The Belarus oppositionist leaders also urged Ukraine's democrats to monitor the situation in Belarus.
    More coverage of this story can be found "HERE"

    Azeri Embassy to open in Byelorussia – first Vice Premier

    From: Trend.Az
    Azeri Embassy will be opened in Byelorussia by President’s decree, reportedly said Abbas Abbasov, first vice premier of Azerbaijan, speaking at the news conference on the totals of session of intergovernmental commission for trade-economic cooperation passed in Minsk.
    The Embassy is opening within a month or two.
    Abbas Abbasov said also Byelorussian Ambassador to Azerbaijan is to be appointed in short.
    Summarizing intergovernmental commission for trade-economic cooperation, Abbasov said tasks and aims set by officials of the two countries are met successfully. Trade between Byelorussia and Azerbaijan rose in twice in 2006.
    More coverage of this story can be found "HERE" and "HERE"

    Working meeting between heads of border departments of Belarus and Latvia taking place in Riga

    From: NLIPRB
    A working meeting between heads of the border departments of Belarus and Latvia Alexander Pavlovskiy and Gunars Dabolinsh is taking place in Riga.
    As BelTA was informed in the State Border Troops Committee of this republic, Alexander Pavlovskiy and Gunars Dabolinsh will share the information about the situation at the Belarusian-Latvian border and the results of the work of frontier plenipotentiaries.
    The agenda also includes an issue on introducing amendments and addenda to the agreement between the government of the Republic of Belarus and the government of the Latvian Republic on border checkpoints of August 18, 1993.
    In the course of the meeting the parties will place special emphasis on the issues on completing the demarcation of the Belarusian-Latvian border and further drafting a treaty between the Republic of Belarus and the Latvian Republic on the regime of the Belarusian-Latvian border.

    Ambassador to Belarus to become Lithuanian FM

    Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus will approve Ambassador to Belarus Petras Vaitiekunas as the country’s new foreign minister very soon, according to a presidential spokeswoman.
    Vaitiekunas has said he plans no major revolutions in foreign policy.
    “Lithuania’s foreign policy has been developing for 16 years, it has very clear features, goals and visions,” he said, as quoted by BNS. “We are members of the European Union and NATO. We have good relations with neighbors. These principles should not be changed.”


    Reports circulated on May 12 that, three days earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin had signed a decree on fundamental changes in Russia's trade-economic and credit-financial policies toward Belarus. In turn, the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom reportedly plans a threefold rise in the price of gas it sells to the neighboring country in 2007, which currently stands at $46.68 per 1,000 cubic meters (Kommersant, May 12). What lies behind this apparent change of policy and how will it affect Belarus as Alexander Lukashenka begins his third term as president?

    It may be coincidental that such statements closely followed an important meeting between Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Tomsk on April 26. Though Belarus was not the main focus of that meeting, it was evidently discussed and the talks coincided with the arrest of several prominent leaders who took part in the Chernobyl Way demonstration in Minsk, including the united democratic candidate for president, Alexander Milinkevich, who was imprisoned for 15 days (Belarusy i rynok, May 3). Germany remains the most important individual partner of Russia within the EU and arguably the country with the most influence on the Kremlin.

    On April 28, Putin and Lukashenka held a meeting at Strelnya, near St. Petersburg, at which the Russian president, most unusually, drew attention to the disparate political forces in Belarus, and asked Lukashenka whether he would be able to unite them in order to resolve the most important problems of the state (Belarusy i rynok, May 3). In Minsk in mid-April, there were circulating accounts (that could not be corroborated conclusively) that the Russian president had berated Lukashenka for inflating his vote count in the Belarusian presidential election of March 19. Subsequently, Lukashenka did not appear in public for several days. All these recent events indicate a certain dissatisfaction in Moscow with the privileged position of the Belarusian government vis-à-vis Russia, but also with the political tactics of Lukashenka.

    There are different ways of interpreting Russia's moves and they may result from international pressure, particularly in view of Russia's forthcoming chairmanship of the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg: the Russian government's frustration at the way oil companies exploit the economic relationship with Belarus to re-export oil from Belarus without benefit to the Russian budget; Gazprom's insistence that Belarus cannot continue to be subsidized with gas prices well below the market level and demands for control of Beltransgaz; the declining role of Belarus as a trading partner of Russia (it has slipped from second to sixth); and Putin's frustration at the way Lukashenka has exploited the Russia-Belarus Union ostensibly for the benefit of Belarus but with little advantage accrued to Russia. The single currency has not yet materialized and the draft version of the Union agreement continues to be discussed.

    Added to these factors, however, appears to be an uncertainty -- perhaps exaggerated in Moscow -- about the extent of political opposition to Lukashenka within Belarus and the degree to which it may affect Russia's relations with its European partners. The united democratic forces have continued to develop beyond the purview of an election campaign. Milinkevich, Vintsuk Vyachorka (Belarusian Popular Front), and Syarhey Kalyakin (Party of Communists) were all released from jail last weekend. However, even in their absence, small protests took place on May 1, and the Political Council adopted several measures, including the formation of a regional initiative group to create a new movement called "For Freedom." The focal point for this new movement is the regional headquarters of Milinkevich's presidential campaign in Hrodna (Narodnaya volya, March 11 and 12).

    The new policy was elaborated by Vyachorka, who noted that street protests would continue but be strengthened by preparatory work in the regions. The democratic movement would focus on entrepreneurs, young people, students, and those working in industries that rely on imported energy resources. Vyachorka maintained that the lack of structural reform in Belarus would hinder the government's efforts to deal with the forthcoming energy crisis. Therefore the united opposition would develop its own anti-crisis policy (Belapan, May 12). Evidently it can also solicit support from small entrepreneurs. One of the leaders of the latter movement, Alexander Makayeu, commented that "a significant portion of businessmen understand that the economic situation cannot improve without political changes" (Narodnaya volya, March 12).

    The opposition's new focus on the economy is logical, since a stable economy has long been Lukashenka's main trump card. The question remains, however, to what extent Russia is prepared to weaken the position of the Belarusian government and whether it would contemplate seriously an alternative to Lukashenka. Clearly Belarus's present privileged position is coming to an end as a result of a combination of factors, including pressure from the Russian government on Minsk, EU (German)-Russian discussions, and Gazprom's demand for an end to what in effect are gas subsidies to the Union partner.

    There is little evidence that Russia has any support for the democratic opposition; rather it would prefer a reduced and more compliant Lukashenka regime that is less visible internationally than over the past few months; and at least pays lip service to democratic principles and human rights. But the changing nature of the partnership offers at least a glimmer of hope to the For Freedom movement led by Milinkevich.

    New Appointments by the Head of State

    From: office of the president

    The President of the Republic of Belarus has taken a number of personnel decisions. The following appointments have been made by the Head of State:

    BRYLYOV Valery Anatolyevich
    - Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus in the Kyrgyz Republic

    KACHANOV Vyacheslav Georgiyevich
    - Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus in the Republic of Bulgaria

    KUPCHINA Yelena Nikolayevna
    - Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus in the Republic of Hungary

    LESHCHENYA Igor Alexandrovich
    - Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus in the State of Israel

    PATSKEVICH Nikolai Yermolayevich
    - Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus in the Republic of Azerbaijan

    AGEYEV Alexander Viktorovich
    - Deputy Chairman of the State Control Committee of the Republic of Belarus

    RYBAKOV Valentin Borisovich
    - Assistant to the President of the Republic of Belarus

    KRASHEVSKY Viktor Kazimirovich
    - Chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence - Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus

    The President has given approval for the following appointments:

    YESIN Ruslan Olegovich
    - Consul General of the Republic of Belarus in Gdansk (Republic of Poland)

    APATSKY Alexander Nikolayevich
    - First Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection

    VOLCHUGA Galina Vladimirovna
    - D eputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection

    KAZAKEVICH Valery Vladimirovich
    - Chief of Staff of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus

    BAGEL Alexander Ivanovich
    - Chairman of the Glussk district executive committee

    ANDRIANOV Nikolai Viktorovich
    - General Director of the production association “Belarusian Steel Works” – General Director of the republican unitary enterprise “Belarusian Steel Works”