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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Prez meets with new Gov, Gazprom plays hardball; asks $200, Russia, CES, Business, Aviation and Sports

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New Members of the Government Continue Their Reports to the President of the Republic of Belarus

From: The office of the president

New members of the Government continue presenting their reports to the President of the Republic of Belarus. On June 12, the Head of State met with Minister of Communications and Informatization Nikolai Pantelei to receive his report. Development prospects of the communications sector were the main focus of the meeting.

Alexander Lukashenko emphasized that communications are a science intensive and highly profitable sector of economy. Pursuant to the programme of the country’s development for the current five-year planning period, the CEOs of the Ministry of Communications and Informatization are to turn this sector to the innovation way of development. The same task was put forward before the national economic complex as a whole.

The President charged Nikolai Pantelei to ensure broad introduction of the systems that use information resources. In doing so, one should be guided both by the existing technologies of information transfer and by the new technologies that are scheduled to be introduced within the current five-year planning period. Scientific progress in the field of communications and information technologies continues at a very fast pace throughout the world, so Belarus must not be lagging behind in this race, Alexander Lukashenko believes.

The President underscored that special attention in the work of the Ministry of Communications and Informatization should be drawn to implementation of the conditions that are required for Belarus’ accession to the World Trade Organization. Above all else, it implies liberalization of the market of communication services and ban on cross-subsidizing of various services in that field.

The Head of State received a report on the plans of the Ministry of Communications and Informatization for the development of the sector as a whole. Prospects for cooperation between both state sector and private sector market participants were also discussed, so as to meet the individual and common interests in that sphere.

Alexander Lukashenko valued highly the work of the former Minister of Communications and Informatization. In his words, Vladimir Goncharenko did a lot to preserve the best achievements of the sector and to develop new approaches in the communications sphere in our country. “The Ministry’s staff has a high level of professionalism. But at some stage, far more should have been “added.” For this reason, we agreed that this sector should be placed in charge of a new minister,” the Head of State noted.

Belarus compiles list of EU and US officials subject to entry visa restrictions


The Belarusian party has drafted a list of officials which will be denied entry to this country, spokesman for the foreign ministry of Belarus Andrei Popov has told a briefing today.
“The measures apply to corresponding officials of the Eueopean Union, United States and other countries that have officially supported the EU and US sanctions against Belarus,” Andrei Popov said.
He noted that the list includes the most odious political figures who had been repeatedly shown biased attitude towards Belarus and deliberately distort information about the political and economic situation in the country as well as persons who had attempted to interfere with the domestic affairs of this country during the presidential election and called for large-scale sanctions against it.
In line with the Belarusian acting legislation the names of personas non grata will not be revealed, spokesman for the foreign ministry of Belarus said.

Gazprom Multiplies Belarus by Four; Charges the country $200 per 1000 cu. m. of gas

From: Kommersant

Gazprom officially acknowledged yesterday that it had sent a contract for 2007 natural gas supplies to Belarus. The price indicated in the contract is $200 per 1000 cubic meters of gas, up from the current $46.68. Now the price can be changed only on a higher than corporate level, according to deputy chairman of the Gazprom management board Alexander Ryazanov. Experts say that the Belarusian economy will collapse under a price of even half that amount. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko responded by saying that the contract was politicized and that he would agree to the price hike if Russia raised its domestic price for gas proportionally.
Kommersant has learned that last week's negotiations in Moscow between Gazprom and Beltransgaz “were unproductive and added no small amount of new annoyances with Minsk for Moscow.” The same source commented that Lukashenko will now “try to blame all socio-economic hardships that arise on Russia and its leaders.” A high-placed source close to the Gazprom management board told Kommersant that a gradual price increase has been proposed to Minsk with the possibility of a stabilization credit as well.
A source in the Finance Ministry has said that that ministry is trying to settle the issues of payments by Belarus to the Russian federal budget for Belarusian exports of petroleum products and full unification of Russian and Belarusian export duties. That source said that Russian leaders acknowledge the possibility that their policies will cause socio-economic collapse in Belarus. Lukashenko stated yesterday at a meeting with Altai Territory Governor Alexander Karlin that “Belarus does not expect preferential treatment from Russia. We only want to function in the economy as one country.” Thus, he added, Belarus agrees to the price rise “but the same price on a parity basis should be established for subjects of the union state.”
Belarus could preserve its low gas prices, for several years at least, by selling Gazprom a controlling share in Beltransgaz, the national gas transporter. Lukashenko confirmed again yesterday that Beltransgaz would not be sold for its balance-sheet value. Ryazanov countered that there was no discussion of selling the gas pumper for its balance-sheet value. Gazprom and Beltransgaz tried to have the company assessed last year, but were unable to agree on an assessor. Negotiations on Belarusian gas supplies are expected to continue through the autumn.

Belarus unlikely to accept Gazprom's suggestion

From: Ros Business news
It is unlikely that Belarus will agree to buy Gazprom's gas for $200 per 1,000 cubic meters, analysts say, commenting on Gazprom's possibly proposing this basic rate for Belarus. The price is too high for the republic to be able to pay it, they say. Gazprom's intention to raise prices to the European level is obvious. However, this is not a purely economic issue, experts note. Gazprom may be aiming at obtaining more favorable conditions for gas transport within Belarus.
In order to refuse this proposal Belarus will have to point to Russia's supply agreement with Ukraine that pays $95 per 1,000 cubic meters. This proposal is just a part of Gazprom's negotiating strategy, experts note. They expect a political solution to this issue.
Negotiations are likely to result in setting the gas price between the one suggested by Gazprom and the current price - at around $100-150 per 1,000 cubic meters. However, Belarus may agree to Gazprom's participation in Beltransgaz, which may help decrease the gas price.

Ukraine’s Yushchenko Party Says Russia Inciting New Crimean War

From: Mos News

Pro-Russian forces believe it would be “high treason” to join Nato and feelings run particularly high in Russian-speaking Crimea where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based as a hangover from the Soviet-era. Many locals feel closer to Moscow than Kiev and want the Russian base at Sevastopol to remain. The pro-Western “orange” politicians running the country have told Moscow they will not renew its lease on the base when it expires in 2017. Anti-Nato and anti-U.S. feelings came to a head at the end of May, when a ship carrying US Marine reservists docked in the Crimean port of Feodosiya ahead of Operation Sea Breeze.
The Marines were supposed to help refurbish a Ukrainian naval base for the exercise but their arrival has instead triggered a firestorm of protest that shows no sign of abating. The Marines have been stoned, subject to bomb hoaxes, been trapped in their accommodation, ridiculed in the Russian press, and construction supplies have been blocked at the port. Opposition has been led by die-hard Communists, Russian nationalists and by the neo-Communists, headed by the MP Natalya Vitrenko.
Russian MPs have flown in to offer their support, a development that has prompted Yushchenko to rush through legislation allowing him to deport foreigners taking part in the protests. Pro-Russian forces accused Yushchenko and Nato of planning to build a Nato base in Crimea and of shipping in toxic waste. Both allegations have been denied and the government has suggested Russian special forces have had a hand in whipping up the protests.
The Our Ukraine party went even further yesterday, accusing Moscow of directly fomenting the crisis. “The deliberate incitement of Crimean residents over the multinational military exercises by certain political forces directly supported by Moscow endangers not only the international image of this country, but also the national security and interests of Ukraine,” it said in a statement.
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    Gorbachev Buys Into Kremlin’s Most Vocal Critic


    Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and State Duma Deputy Alexander Lebedev have purchased a 49% stake in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, known for its critical coverage of developments in contemporary Russia, the Interfax news agency reported.
    “My friend Alexander Lebedev and I have bought 49% of shares in the popular Novaya Gazeta newspaper,” Gorbachev said at a Wednesday meeting with editors-in-chief on the sidelines of the world newspaper congress in Moscow.
    The newspaper’s staff will continue to control the remaining 51% of shares, he said.
    NG’s chief executive Sergei Kozheurov hailed the deal adding that new owners had no intention to revise the paper’s editirorial policy. Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief, told Ekho Moskvy radio station: “We will continue to pursue our policy of investigative journalism. We want to know everything about corruption.”
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    Russia to Establish Naval Base in Syrian Port of Tartus — Paper

    From: Mosnews

    Russia has begun works in the Syrian port of Tartus seeking to built a full-scale naval base for the ships of the Black Sea Fleet, currently based in Ukraine’s Sevastopol, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Friday, quoting unnamed sources in the Defense Ministry and the General Staff of the Russian Navy.
    The paper noted that this is the first time Russia is setting up a military base outside the CIS since the fall of the USSR and that the base will allow Moscow to pursue its own line in the Middle East.
    Russia has also started work in the port of Latakia in Syria, the newspaper said. The base in Tartus and the new mooring in Latakia will be able to serve the needs of the Black Sea Fleet and possibly the North Sea Fleet as well.
    The newspaper quoted its sources as saying that in the nearest future the Russian Navy will form a squadron headed by the Moskva missile cruiser which will permanently operate in the Mediterranean, taking part in joint exercises with NATO forces.
    The sources said that the new base would allow Russia to strengthen its positions in the Middle East and also enhance Syrian security.
    However, the Russian Defense Ministry has refuted the report. Russia is not building a military base in Syria, spokesman for the Ministry Colonel Vyacheslav Sedov was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying.

    Over half of economic space documents ready - Kazakh minister

    From: Ria Novosti

    Twenty-two out of 38 documents for a basic set of agreements on establishing a Common Economic Space (CES) in four former Soviet republics have been prepared, the Kazakh industry and commerce minister said Saturday.
    "We have to do everything possible to prepare this set of documents before the Minsk summit," Vladimir Shkolnik said at a meeting in the Central Asian country's largest city Almaty, adding that the remaining 16 documents were still being coordinated.
    The CES is designed to ensure free movement of goods, services, capital, and people between its member states, and ultimately to abolish tariffs and harmonize markets in the key areas such as transportation and energy.
    The organization, agreed on in principle in early 2003 by Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, the four largest CIS nations, would be open for other countries to join, and could eventually lead to a single currency.
    "If we fail to find an acceptable solution before June 22 for each of the three parties - while Ukraine is following its own path and its position is now unclear - then these issues will all the same be raised to an intergovernmental level," he said.

    Belarus and Altai krai outline new machine-engineering projects for 2007-2008

    From: NLIPRB

    Today prime minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorskiy and governor of Altai krai Alexander Karlin signed a protocol for agreements for 2007-2008 achieved during a visit of the Altai administration to Belarus.
    The a memorandum on cooperation between the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and interregional association of economic cooperation “Sibirskoe soglashenie” was signed by companies’ heads Vladimir Bobrov and Vladimir Ivankov respectively.
    According to the prime minister of Belarus, Altai krai represents a big machine-building complex of the Russian Federation. Its share accounts for 25 per cent of Siberia’s industrial potential. This is a powerful region nestling large manufacturers which work in cooperation with Belarus.
    According to the prime minister, Belarus and Altai krai “build up specific economic schemes of cooperation”. At a meeting in Minsk the parties agreed to fund joint projects in the area of machine engineering and discussed specific leasing schemes. The protocol is set to promote the trade-economic cooperation between Belarus and Altai krai, Sergei Sidorskiy emphasized.

    In 2006 Belavia to start using three 50-seat CRJ aircrafts

    From: Belta

    In the current year the national air company Belavia plans to start using three regional 50-seat aircrafts CRJ-200, BelTA was informed by aide to the Belavia director general Igor Cherginets.
    According to him, in the near future actions aimed to modernize the Belavia fleet will help enhance the competitive power of the national air carrier, increase the number of flights from Minsk, ensure stable development of the company and meet all the targets. The aircrafts will be leased. They will fly to Europe.
    As BelTA informed earlier, the new aircrafts will let take out of service old models of An-24 and Tu-134 and propeller planes.
    The purchasing of the new liners is envisaged by the state program on aviation development in the Republic of Belarus by 2006-2010.

    New Belarusian Air Code enters into force in June 2006

    From: NLIPRB
    The new Air Code of Belarus, adopted on May 16, 2006, enters into force in June 2006.
    The Code regulates legal relationships in the field of air space usage, aviation activity in Belarus and the activity of Belarusian aviation abroad. It also regulates traffic of foreign planes in the air space of the Republic of Belarus, establishes the responsibility of transporters and bases for claims, mandatory life and health insurance of the crew and onboard aviation personnel.
    A separate chapter of this code is dedicated to search and rescue activity, including cooperation with foreign states. The document also concretizes such terms as "air vessel", "objects of aviation", "controllable zone" and introduces new terms such as "warranty flights" and "experimental flights".
    The Code establishes new requirements for airports, landing zones, control authorities of general aviation and also for plane crews. It permits the aviation organizations and individual entrepreneurs to realize their commercial activity in the sphere of aviation.

    Bjorkman-Mirnyi retain doubles Paris title

    From: The Gulf Timnes

    Swede Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi of Belarus rolled past the American Bryan brothers 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 7-5 on Saturday to win a second consecutive doubles title at the French Open.
    “It feels good, sweet,” said Bjorkman, 34. “It’s always nice with repeats. It’s been great two weeks. Clay is the surface where we really are doing well.” The outcome was a duplicate of the 2005 result, when the pair beat Bob and Mike Bryan for their first major together.
    The back-to-back success denied the Americans victory in their record sixth consecutive Grand Slam doubles final.
    “They played too tough,” said Bob Bryan.
    “We had chances. We put ourself in position to win that thing in the third. We had those four breakpoints. But they came up with the goods. They just played better than us today. That’s the bottom line.”
    The pair beat Bjorkman and Mirnyi for the 2005 US Open crown and now hold a 4-3 lead in a career series with their rivals, who have only been playing together for 18 months.
    After dropping the opening set in a tiebreaker, Bjorkman and Mirnyi claimed the next two sets for the title.
    It was the fourth final of the year for the winners, with four trophies to their credit. They won in 2006 at Doha, Miami and Monte Carlo.
    Bkorkman expects more meetings in big matches with the American twins.
    “Anyone can win when we go out there,” he said of the matchup.
    “It’s been good quality matches when we play, normally very good tennis, good doubles to watch. I think that’s going to continue for the rest of the year.”
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    Olga Khilko wins gold at Austria freestyle wrestling open championship

    From: Belta

    Belarusian sportswomen performed successfully at the Austrian freestyle wrestling open championship.
    The Belarusians won seven medals, a spokesperson for the Belarusian sport and tourism ministry told BelTA. The best sportswoman is Olga Khilko, who became the champion in the weight category of 76 kg. In the finals she beat another Belarusian Irina Tsyrkevich.
    By a tiny margin another three Belarusians – Marina Markevich (51 kg), Marina Yegorova (55 kg), and Anna Belyayeva (63 kg) – lost gold. Vasilisa Marzalyuk (72 kg) won a bronze. Young Belarusian sportswoman Olga Ignatyuk performed prominently by winning a bronze in the weight category of 70 kg.
    The Austrian competition was the final preparation of the Belarusian team for the Gold Series Grand Prix final, which is scheduled to take place in Baku (Azerbaijan) on June 24-25.

    Danish artists challenge Belarus's autocratic Lukanshenko with sticker protest

    From: China Daily News

    Two Danish artists launched a humorous protest Friday against Belarus' autocratic president, Alexander Lukashenko, putting up stickers at a border crossing with Poland that poke fun at the leader.
    Jan Egesborg and Pia Bertelsen plastered the provocative green stickers at a bus station and border crossing with Belarus in the eastern Polish town of Terespol where they could be seen by Belarusian travelers.
    "You know nothing," read one sticker, addressing Lukashenko. Others proclaimed: "You are beautiful like a potato" and "You are as wise as a cow."
    The Copenhagen duo, whose group is named "Surrend," have carried out similar protests against Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and Serbian war crimes suspect Radko Mladic. They say they want to undermine the grip on power of dictators.
    "Lukashenko has put people in prison for making satire," Egesborg told The Associated Press. "So we're taking art to the street to undermine dictators. It's a way of saying that you can conquer these mighty men."
    Some older Belarusians reacted angrily to the stickers, ripping them down and in some cases trying to paste them onto the artists' backs.
    "The older people were really against us doing it and they said 'how can you insult our president? Belarus is a very good country,"' Bertelsen told The Associated Press.
    "But young people came to us and asked if they could have the stickers to take back to Belarus. And we could see that some people given the stickers put them up of their own initiative."
    The artists said they staged the protest in Poland out of fear their stickers would be confiscated if they tried to enter Belarus with them.

    Major Belarusian web-money exchange station shut down?

    From: Charter '97
    The major Belarusian web-money exchange station - - is confronted with a problem: payments are not carried out. E-business incurs losses.
    The guides of the project are said to be arrested. The case was probably initiated by the department of financial investigations of the State Control Committee.
    Similar problems have already occurred to other official web-money exchange stations in Belarus. The Internet site was the first to be closed down. A criminal case on article 223, part 2 of the Criminal Code of Belarus was brought against the owners of the services accused of illegal entrepreneur activity. Later, the station also ceased web-money exchange.
    The Belarusian legislation does not imply non-bank payment systems; web-money exchange stations are thus illegal. Despite several raids already arranged by the State Control Committee, web-money exchange stations keep on working.

    Belarus taking part in OSCE-sponsored tolerance conference

    From: NLIPRB
    An international Tolerance Implementation Meeting dedicated to inter-cultural, inter-religious and inter-ethnic understanding started in Almaty (Kazakhstan) today. The event is organised by the Kazakhstan foreign ministry with assistance of the OSCE Belgium office.
    The press service of the Belarusian foreign ministry told BelTA, at the conference Belarus is represented by member of the education, science, culture and humanitarian affairs commission of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly and member of the human rights, national relations and mass media commission of the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly Sergei Shlopak.
    The conference agenda includes issues related to encouraging inter-cultural, inter-religious and inter-ethnic understanding in the OSCE region and the government role in the field, noted the press service of the Belarusian foreign ministry.