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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Independence Day speech, Russian Gas and the problems for the proposed Union State, Mirnyi wins at Wimbledon

From the Top

President: we are all united by one goal – to build strong and prosperous country

From: Belta

On the eve of the national holiday – the Independence Day – president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko gave most distinguished Belarusians state awards, the president’s press-service told BelTA on May 30.

As the president put it, in 2006 Belarus made a good start in implementing a new socio-economic program. The GDP growth in the first five months of 2006 made 10.5 per cent instead of the projected 7 per cent. The biggest gain was recorded in the industrial sector (12.5 per cent), the production of food (13.5 per cent), in the sphere of services (17.5 per cent) and in wholesale trade (20.5 per cent).

Rapid economic advancement fuels growth in people’s incomes, the president said.

The peculiarity of today’s ceremony lies in the fact that a significant group of people were awarded the title “Distinguished Worker”. This title is given not for a one-time achievement but for long-term and fruitful work, Alexander Lukashenko noted. “This really means great public recognition of the contribution of an individual to the cause of the working collective and of the whole economy branch”, the president said.

According to him, significant are the merits of directors, researchers and specialists of Minsk Automobile Plant and the National Academy of Sciences in intensifying the production of new vehicles, agricultural equipment and other goods of industrial application.

The achievements of the best representatives of the companies Minskmetrostroi, Minsk Large-Panel Construction Factory No 1 and joint stock company Soligorskpromstroi have been recognized by awarding them the title “Distinguished Constructor of the Republic of Belarus”. Their professional achievements are many, the president said.

Prestigious state awards were given to the best village workers, representatives of the transport industry, communications sphere, social security branch, education, culture and sport industries.

The president decorated head of the National Symphonic and Pop Music Orchestra Mikhail Finberg, artistic director of the youth variety art theater Vasiliy Rainchik and artistic leader of the band Siabry Anatoliy Yarmolenko with the Orders of Francysk Skaryna.

The honorary title “People’s Artist of Belarus” was conferred on Alexander Tikhanovich and Yadviga Poplavskaya, artist of the National Academic Bolshoi Opera Theater of the Republic of Belarus Vladimir Petrov and soloist of the National Symphonic and Pop Music Orchestra Nikolai Skorikov for their considerable contribution to development of the national culture and preservation and popularization of the best musical traditions.

The president presented the breastplate “Honored Artist of the Republic of Belarus” to singer Anzhelika Agurbash.

According to Alexander Lukashenko, the conferring of honorary titles on cultural and art workers is a testament to the big attention the state pays to the creative intelligentsia and to talented people in the republic on the whole.

The head of state also awarded officers of the law enforcement bodies of the republic, who maintain peace, order and social stability in the society.

Labor services of state officials were recognized as well. The president decorated his aide – chief of the head ideological department of the presidential administration Oleg Proleskovskiy with an Order of the Motherland Third Class.

“We are all united by one goal – to build a string and prosperous country”, the Belarusian leader said.

He wished happiness, prosperity, new labour and creative achievements to all the awarded.

Belarus-US relations to depend on US goodwill – Lukashenko

From: Itar Tass

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said relations with the United States would depend on its goodwill.
Speaking at a solemn ceremony devoted to Independence Day on Saturday, Lukashenko said, “This depends on when the American ruling elite realises new historical realities, gives up destructive claims on its sole world supremacy and understands that the proud, wise and independent people live in Belarus.”
“Despite the world boom, Belarus continues its efforts to form a ‘belt of good-neighbourliness’ – develop good relations with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. We hope for considerable progress in developing good-neighbourly ties with Ukraine.”
The Belarussian president noted that he expects trade turnover to increase with the European Union.
“The EU remains Belarus’ foreign trade second partner after Russia,” Lukashenko stressed. At the same time, the president noted that he “is ready to develop not only economic contacts but also the whole spectrum of relations with the EU on equal conditions.”
In his words, Belarus attaches exclusive significance to cooperation with China, “a superpower of the 21st century”.
Earlier in the day, Lukashenko said Minsk will not sell its national enterprises, including Beltransgaz, for an old song. “You know about ‘a shaggy dog story’ around Beltransgaz. Gazprom want to get this enterprise. We are not against to run shares, but no one, even the president, has right to sell it for an old song.”
In his words, “it is necessary to pay a market price how this enterprise costs.”
Lukashenko said the country does not give up foreign investments. “But we clearly determine conditions – they should not infringe upon our people and should not destroy the state. Thus, we ensure our security, sovereignty and independence.”
In his view, “the inflow of investments may lead to losing sovereignty and independence, and the land.” “In a split second you’ll live outland and you won’t govern the state,” Lukashenko stressed.
At the same time, the Belarussian president said Minsk considers the development of integration processes with Moscow its foreign policy priority. “Integration with Russia responds to the will of the Belarussian people,” he said, adding, “A union with Russia meets the interests of the Belarussian people. But this should be the union of sovereign states.”

Referendum on Russia-Belarus Union State possible this fall

From: Ria Novosti

A referendum on a constitutional act of a Russia-Belarus Union State may be held as early as this fall, a Russian official overseeing the project said Thursday.
The constitutional act will be a transitional constitution for the Union State, which the two countries have been mulling since they signed an agreement on April 2, 1997. The project should establish common economic, customs and political regulations, but negotiations have stalled recently over a number of issues, including a Russian proposal to raise gas prices for Belarus.
Pavel Borodin, the state secretary of the Russian-Belarus union, said that he hoped the Union's Supreme Council would meet in July or August to set the dates for the referendum and for parliamentary elections.
"In practice, we can hold the referendum this fall and elections to the future parliament either this fall or next spring," Borodin said.
The Union State has a common budget totaling about $2.6 billion. Belarus, whose population of 10 million equals only 7% of Russia's, contributes one third and Russia the remainder to the joint budget.
The two countries have also adopted measures including a common visa space and a joint customs committee.
Borodin said earlier this month that the common currency - the Russian ruble - would be put into circulation before the end of 2006.
But negotiations on the ruble have been advancing slowly, and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said earlier this month that the common currency issue had to be spelled out in the referendum.
The Russia-Belarus Council of Ministers convened Wednesday in Moscow to discuss further progress in integration. Borodin said the customs union had been on the agenda.
"We have built a customs center and set up customs checkpoints but we still have about 1,500 differences in customs rates," he said, adding that ministers had agreed to prepare a financial program for customs points and continue working to harmonize customs legislations.
Borodin also said that the Council of Ministers had considered the gas issue and a proposal by Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom to increase gas prices for Belarus. He said the parties had managed to ease tensions on some of the relating issues.
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    Higher gas prices won’t affect common currency – Minsk

    From: Itar Tass
    On Friday, Belarussian National Bank Chairman Pyotr Prokopovich said an increase of Russian natural gas charges on Belarus will have no influence on the common currency project.
    “Higher energy charges will not affect the common currency,” he said. However, the growth of prices “may slow down the integration in the Union of Russia and Belarus,” he remarked.
    “To our mind, higher gas prices are unfounded, as they are bad for the integration and strengthening of the Union,” he said.

    ABN Amro to broker a Gazprom Belarus deal

    From: TimesOnline

    ABN AMRO, the Dutch bank, has been handed the highly sensitive task of brokering a deal between Russia’s Gazprom and the Government of Belarus, as the two sides try to agree on a new price for Russian gas, The Times has learnt.
    Gazprom wants to quadruple the price Belarus pays for Russian gas from January 1, 2007.
    This would be a blow for Belarussian dictator Aleksander Lukashenko, whose popularity in Belarus depends on the country’s strong social security system, which in turn depends on cheap Russian gas.
    As a compromise, the two sides are now looking at Belarus giving Gazprom some key economic assets instead. Gazprom announced this week that ABN Amro has been appointed the evaluator for the assets.
    Gazprom deputy chairman Alexander Ryazanov said: “We are interested in the gas mains of BelTransGaz, Beltopgaz distribution networks and the Mozyrsky refinery.”
    These assets are worth anywhere between £2 billion and £6 billion. It is estimated that ABN Amro could net fees of up to £120 million.
    The two sides differ over which assets should be sold, and how much they are worth. They appointed Deloitte & Touche to evaluate BelTransGaz in 2004, but couldn’t agree on whether it would be the Moscow office or the London office.
    Gazprom wants to control Belarus’s pipeline system so that it can ensure stable supplies to the EU. But analysts say the deal could also be the first step in a Kremlin move to force Belarus to reunify with Russia.

    Cheap gas comes at a high price for Belarus

    From: TimesOnline

    SPEAKING in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius last month, Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, accused Russia of being an energy blackmailer. The unspoken grounds for this criticism were clearly Russia’s decision last January to stop supplying natural gas to Ukraine to secure a higher price.
    In reply to such criticism that Russia is using energy supplies for political ends, Russian officials have argued that, on the contrary, the highly subsidised gas prices which Ukraine and other former Soviet states had previously enjoyed were inherently political. By contrast, the new policy of asking customers in the former Soviet Union to pay for gas at the current European market price is the best way to de-politicise the region’s energy markets.
    In principle, Russia’s shift to market pricing of gas rather than government price-setting makes sense. Back in January, Condoleeza Rice, the US Secretary of State, said that it behoved Russia as a G8 member to continue subsidising the Ukrainian economy for a transitional period of several years. This was an interesting addition to the qualifications for G8 membership.
    The real weakness in the Russian “pro-market” position is the impression that it remains selective. Ukraine is required to pay the market price for gas, while other former Soviet states continue to enjoy cheap gas in return for political loyalty to Russia.
    But Moscow has an answer to that too. Several former Soviet countries have been able to buy Russian gas at a 50 per cent discount to the European market gas price in return for letting Gazprom, the Russian gas monopolist, into the local gas distribution business. In this “downstream” segment of the gas market, suppliers mark up the price paid for gas at the border before selling it on to local end users.
    Russia has been quite consistent in offering a discounted price for gas in return for giving Gazprom a share in local markets. Such arrangements are in place in countries ranging from traditional Russian allies such as Armenia to the Baltic States, which have a difficult and often tense relationship with Russia as the former colonial power. The gas price rise from $50 to $95 per thousand cubic metres which Ukraine finally agreed to last January was also consistent with this broader picture.
    Until recently, the one glaring exception to this picture has been Belarus. Aleksander Lukashenko, the President and effective dictator of that country, has managed to keep the price of Russian gas supplies down to $50 per thousand cubic metres, on the grounds that Belarus is building an ever closer union with Russia. But President Putin now seems tired of exchanging subsidies for vague friendship. For the past few months, Belarus has been put on notice that it too will have to pay more for gas. Mr Lukashenko’s priority is to keep the cash price low, since this essentially finances his dictatorship. Instead he is offering Gazprom a 50 per cent equity stake in his country’s gas pipeline company which ships gas westwards into the EU. Similar such offers in the past have come to nothing over valuation disagreements. But the fact that Mr Putin is sending in western banks to do the valuation work shows that this time, he means business.

    Belarus condemns gas prices


    The Belarusian government called Thursday for equal gas prices in Russia's Smolensk Region.
    "One cannot speak about equal conditions if we are offered the price of $200 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas," said Belarusian First Deputy Energy Minister Eduard Tawpyanets, Belapan news agency reported.
    "We do not say that the price should not go up but it should increase in proportion to its growth in the Russian Federation if we are creating the union state," he added.
    The Belarusian energy official said an increase in prices for Russian energy resources should be economically justifiable.
    "We will think it over if the price proposed by (Russia's) Gazprom has a clear economic foundation. But we do not understand the profit margin of 500 percent," Tawpyanets said.
    Tawpyanets said Belarus has studied the possibility of gaining gas supplies from Turkmenistan, but has not held official talks.

    Betransgaz should be sold to Gazprom at market prices - Lukashenko

    From: Interfax
    Beltransgaz should be sold to Gazprom (RTS: GAZP) only at market prices, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said at a meeting dedicated to Independence Day, due to be celebrated on July 3.
    "Gazprom wants Beltransgaz and we are ready to share; however, no one, including the president, has the right to sell it for a petty sum," he said.
    "One has to pay a market price, the real price of the enterprise," he said. "But if they do not want to pay, then farewell to them," Lukashenko said.

    In August Bolshoi Ballet Theater to go on big international tour

    From: Belta

    In summer and autumn this yea the company of the National Academic Bolshoi Ballet Theater of the Republic of Belarus will go a big international tour, a correspondent of BelTA was informed by head of the literarily department of the theater Tatyana Aleksandrova.
    In the first half of August the leading soloists of the theater will go on a concert tour to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. In early September the company will partake in the international music and dance festival in the capital of Thailand Bangkok. The ballets “Nutcracker”, “Romeo and Juliet” and “Spartacus” will be shown there. In autumn the company will also visit China and South Korea, where the Belarusian artists are very famous. At present the theater is holding active talks with Dutch impresarios on organizing tours around several European states: Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg.
    The National Academic Bolshoi Ballet Theater of the Republic of Belarus will close the 73rd season on June 29 with the play “The Legend about Ulenshpigele”. The music for the play was composed by Yevgeniy Glebov; choreographer – Valentin Elizariev. The primary arias are performed by Belarusian ballet stars Olga Gaiko, Denis Klimuk, Yuri Kovalev, Piotr Borchenko and Vitaliy Petrovskiy. The band-master – Vyacheslav Volich.
    The 73rd season was one of the most complicated for the theater. Because of the reconstruction of the building of the National Academic Bolshoi Ballet Theater of the Republic of Belarus the company worked in the Palace of the Republic. In spite of this fact the season was rich in various events. The theater has preserved its repertoire and prepared a premier – the ballet “Love under Elms”. Performances featuring guest actors from Ukraine, Japan and Great Britain and a prizewinner of international contests, graduate from Belarusian Choreographic College Ivan Vasilyev took part, were a great success as well. Two times the company went on a tour to South Korea and China with the ballets “Nutcracker” and “Swan Lake”.
    The Bolshoi Ballet Theater will open a new season on September 16, 2006 in the Palace of the Republic with the classical ballet “Swan Lake”.

    U.S. Catholic Students Clean Up a Jewish Cemetery in Belarus

    From: JTA

    They don't see many Americans in the Belarusian village of Vselyub. Certainly not many with weed-whackers in their hands.
    So one hot afternoon earlier this month, village chairman Vasiliy Korol looked bewildered as he watched a group of American college students, helped by local schoolchildren, work to clean up the town's Jewish cemetery, abandoned since the Nazis killed the entire local Jewish population 65 years ago.
    Some 160 gravestones with Hebrew writing had been set upright, and now stood in the sunlight, surrounded by a freshly painted aluminum fence featuring a big Jewish star above the entry gate. Just a few days earlier, Korol said, this was an empty field where kids played soccer.
    And if that wasn't enough, Korol learned that none of these American visitors had relatives buried at the cemetery. They were students at a Catholic university in New York -- the only Jew in the group was Michael Lozman, the 68-year-old New York orthodontist who organized the trip.
    "Why are you doing this?" was all the puzzled Korol could ask.
    Lozman has been asked that question many times since he started bringing groups of American students to Belarus five years ago to restore abandoned Jewish cemeteries.
    "Somebody has to do it," he answers. "Thousands of Jews did not return home from Nazi camps and are not able to take care of their cemeteries anymore. But we want to restore what we can, so our children and grandchildren have a place to come back to, to connect with their past," he says.
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  • Wimbledon

    Blake Falls to the Beast


    Crowd favourite James Blake was dumped out of Wimbledon in a seesaw match on Centre Court. Max Mirnyi of Belarus beat him 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 to reach the fourth round for the third time in his career. He will face 2003 quarter-finalist Jonas Bjorkman, his doubles partner here and the player with whom he has won the Roland Garros doubles title for the past two years.
    The first set was a nightmare for Blake, who had never progressed beyond the second round at Wimbledon before today. He had four break points and converted none of them, whereas Mirnyi played well when it mattered and seized the single opportunity afforded him. The man from Minsk was winning lorry-loads of points at the net – as befits one of the best doubles players on the planet – especially on his opponent's second serve. Blake's frustration was both visible and vocal.
    Big-hitting Mirnyi is clearly confident on grass, having seen off Mark Philippoussis in the previous round. He is a player for the big occasion, having won four Slam doubles titles and two mixed. Moreover, when he led the Belarus team to victory over Russia in 2004, he was awarded his country's highest civilian honour, the Orden Otechestva. If that was not enough, he is nicknamed ‘The Beast’ for his fearless play. Would this match go the way of their only previous encounter, when the Belarussian won on the Madrid hardcourts three years ago?
    It seemed entirely possible at the start of the second set, when 26-year-old Blake played the wrong stroke to gift Mirnyi break point, which he gladly accepted. Moments later Blake handed Mirnyi a point for 3-0 with two breaks, by leaving a forehand which dropped in. But this chance went begging, and seemed to be a key moment. Blake was beginning to get his eye in, although it was only at the eighth time of asking that he succeeded in battering down Mirnyi's defences. A beautiful forehand pass sent Mirnyi the wrong way, and Blake was on the right road at last, to his patent relief. He moved to 5-3 with a super return, and then levelled the match.
    Blake was a man transformed. He was feeling so good about himself that at the start of the third set he successfully lobbed 6ft 5in Mirnyi, and to the crowd’s delight broke twice for 4-1. Of course, if charisma and popularity could win tournaments, then Blake would have held a major trophy aloft long ago. As it is, he currently holds a career high ranking of seven, up from 210 in April 2005. This year he has won titles at Sydney and Las Vegas, and made the final at Indian Wells and Queen's last week – all this following on from the high point of his career to date, that five set quarter-final defeat to Andre Agassi at the US Open last autumn.
    Mirnyi, however, was not keen to give way. He won eight successive points, taking one of the breaks back, before Blake stopped the rot and closed out the set. Everything appeared to be proceeding by the book. But then out of the blue Mirnyi broke for 2-0, and the momentum was back with him. He broke again for 5-1 and the match went into an unexpected deciding set.
    Mirnyi had the bit in his teeth and at once broke Blake yet again, opening the set with eight straight points. Blake was left holding his head in despair when he blasted a simple forehand out of court to hand Mirnyi another opportunity to break, and his misery was compounded when Mirnyi converted it – after scrambling back up from a fall to hit a clean winner. The match was disappearing over the horizon, and Blake could do nothing to bring it back.
    "He was red hot at the start and he was hot at the end," Blake said. Warming to his subject, he added: "Max Mirnyi is red hot on grass and not a lot of guys are going to beat him - the way he was serving, the way he was volleying, the way he was attacking my second serve. I don't know what else I can say."

    Mirnyi Also won his 2nd round doubles match with Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden

  • Other Belarusians at Wimbledon:

    Viktoria Azarenka Lost 7-5,6-4 to Agnieszka Radwanska in the first round

    Tatiana Poutchek & Anastasia Yakimova Lost 6-2,6-3 in th first round of the ladies doubles.

    Olga Poutchkova lost 7-5,7-5 to Kirsten Flipkens in the first round.

    Belarus to set up council to protect interests of entrepreneurs involved in foreign trade

    From: NLIPRB
    Belarus will set up an interdepartmental coordination council to improve the system of protection of the interests of entrepreneurs involved in foreign trade, a correspondent of BelTA was informed in the office of the Council of Ministers of Belarus.
    The system of legal protection of the interests of entrepreneurs as well as problems occurring in the foreign trade activities will be analyzed in line with resolution of the Council of Ministers #790. The document provides for training and improving vocational competence of specialists and heads of such companies and for improving their activities.
    The council will also give recommendations on concluding foreign trade agreements by state-run companies in order to avoid imposing penalties on the property of the republic abroad. Moreover, the council will promote international cooperation in the field of protecting the interests of businessmen involved in foreign trade.
    The council will be composed of representatives of the Supreme Economic Court, the ministries of justice, foreign affairs, economy, industry, trade, the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Belarusian State University and Belarusian State Economic University. Deputy prime minister Andrei Kobyakov has been named its chairman.

    Opinion: Belarus Is Ripe for G-8’s Attention!


    There are a number of valid reasons why the current situation in Belarus requires addressing at the July 15-17 G-8 summit in St. Petersburg. The non-legitimacy of the Belarus’ “head of state,” Aleksandr Lukashenka, is one of them. Another is that Belarus is on the verge of losing its independence and sovereignty by entering into a “union state” with Russia. A third is the continuing dismal human rights situation in the country.
    So there is a lot that can and should be discussed. For example, what to do with Lukashenka, who managed to change illegally the constitution last year so that he could run for president an unlimited number of times? The rigged presidential election this year and what to expect in the future—Belarus another Cuba or … a province of Russia. The Russian politicians would love the latter scenario. After ten years of jockeying, what is left is for Putin and Lukashenka to initial the draft union state constitution and have it approved by a national referendum in both countries. No doubt the Russians will go for it in the hope of recreating their lost empire. And in Belarus, it will be up to Lukashenka to determine what number of votes he needs to pass, or not to pass, the referendum. It will all depend on which number will better serve his own ego—the status quo, turning to Europe, or giving in to Russian pressure.
    One thing is certain: the knotty case of Belarus can’t be resolved without dealing with Russia. The upcoming G-8 summit presents the ideal opportunity to discuss this problem. Unfortunately, however, Russia will be presiding and Russia has made it clear that Belarus-Russia relations as well as Belarus’ internal affairs are strictly their own business. Russia will thus press hard to keep the issue off the summit agenda. Russia must not be allowed to succeed with this crude maneuver. According to some reports, the attempt will be made to raise the subject at the June 29 Moscow meeting of G-8 foreign ministers. And here again, the meeting will be chaired by Russia. It also should be noted that Russia is the current chair of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers.
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    Venezuela’s Chavez to Visit Belarus

    From: MosNews

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez plans to visit Belarus at the end of July to meet with his counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, the press service of the Belarusian parliament said Friday.
    Hugo Chavez will arrive in Belarus on July 23 or 24, the press service said in a statement following a visit of Adan Chavez, the president’s brother and Venezuelan ambassador to Cuba, AFP reported.
    A number of agreements will be executed by then, the press release added without further details.

    Profile: Hugo Chavez

    From: BBC
    Mr Chavez has seen off mass protests and a coup attempt
    Hugo Chavez, who has endured a rough political ride since first coming to power in 1998, is the subject of both adulation and loathing both at home and abroad.
    Venezuelans are split between a majority who says he speaks for the poor, and those who say he has become increasingly autocratic. Recent events have led to increasing tensions.
    Among them, a controversial programme of land reform launched by Mr Chavez that allows the state to seize underused ranches without compensation.
    Critics have argued that his plans violate property rights enshrined in the constitution, and have accused him of trying to emulate Cuba's communist system.
    The opposition has been trying to unseat the president by constitutional means since 2002 - after a short-lived coup against him - and in 2004 it managed to secure a referendum on his leadership.
    But the vote only served to strengthen Mr Chavez. He won by a large majority and insisted that he would run for another six-year term in the December 2006 elections.
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    Opinion: Europe Needs a Soft-Power Approach

    In the decade that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, Europe was concerned but not worried about the decline of Russia. The European Union did not at the time regard its great neighbor as a political or economic problem; Russia was retreating from empire, and as it grew weaker it appeared less threatening. Over the past five years, though, the Russian economy has begun to revive and Russia’s government has made gains in policy coherence, if not always in directions to Europe’s liking. Today, the question is whether Europe has the policy tools to deal with this new phenomenon.
    Europe has become the most successful peaceful power in history. It has rendered inconceivable the very idea of war in Western and Central Europe. In the Balkans, its strongest argument is that if the states of that region behave properly toward one another, they too can join the European Union.
    Europe cannot, of course, expand indefinitely, and each country must secure its own future. Nonetheless, Europe must recognize that its soft power is substantially reduced when dealing with any country that is barred from membership. It must therefore seek new sources of soft power.
    Where might the EU’s soft power lie in the case of Russia? Europe should consider three key steps: First, it should develop some middle ground between membership and rejection. Europe and Russia are today poised to pull Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine in two different directions. When the Orange Revolution took place in Kiev, major figures in Europe talked publicly about Ukraine now being on “their side.” Such an approach to the problems of Ukraine is disastrous. It is impossible to draw a new line between Russia and Ukraine without severe economic consequences for Ukraine, unless of course the European Union is willing to mount a major financial assistance program.
    Last winter’s gas imbroglio also sheds light on this issue. Whatever the deficiencies of the Russian approach, and there were many, it was and is a delusion for Europeans to believe that any Russian government would subsidize through cheap energy Ukraine’s drawing away from Russia to move closer to Europe. If Europe wanted Ukraine on its side, it would have to mount an aid program that would compensate Ukraine for the loss of an energy subsidy worth more than $1 billion per year. By the same token, some U.S. strategists are misguided if they believe that Russia would want to maintain its energy subsidy to Ukraine so as to ease Ukraine’s entry to NATO. No government in the world would consent to such an arrangement, so why should we expect Russia to behave any differently?
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    Former USSR hero Malofeev will relish return to Scotland


    THE name may not be immediately familiar to Hearts supporters, but Eduard Malofeev is not a complete stranger to Scottish football.
    The 64-year-old Belarussian, yesterday named as the club's new sporting director, will certainly recall his first visit to this country with great affection. It was in May 1967 that Malofeev played for the Soviet Union when they defeated Scotland 2-0 in a friendly at Hampden.
    Given the Scottish team of Jim Baxter, Denis Law & Co had declared themselves unofficial world champions after beating England 3-2 at Wembley just a month earlier, the boys from the USSR were clearly a class act.
    Malofeev didn't score in the win but he was an outstanding forward who enjoyed a notable playing career. A one-club man, who spent 14 years with his hometown side Dinamo Minsk, he became the first player from Belarus to score 100 goals in the Soviet Supreme League.
    Gaining a place in the Soviet squad was a considerable achievement for a player from one of the satellite republics, but Malofeev more than matched up to his colleagues from the bigger clubs in Russia and Ukraine.
    He earned 40 caps, scoring six times, including two in the 3-0 win over North Korea at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough in their opening fixture of the 1966 World Cup. Malofeev was an integral member of a highly talented side who reached the semi-finals, losing 2-1 to West Germany. He also played for the USSR in the European Championship finals of 1964 and 1968, progressing to the final of the former competition where they lost 2-1 to hosts Spain in Madrid.
    Malofeev had always been regarded as one of the most thoughtful and shrewd members of the Soviet squad and it was little surprise when he made an immediate impact as a coach. Placed in charge of his beloved Dinamo Minsk after hanging up his boots, Malofeev guided them to the Soviet title in 1982 at the age of 39. It was the only time a club from Belarus had eclipsed the giants of Moscow and Kiev to become champions.
    Since the break up of the Soviet Union, Malofeev has been coach of the Belarus national team and first worked with Vladimir Romanov as head of youth development at MTZ-Ripo Minsk. Romanov relocated him in January this year, placing him in charge of Kaunas, who are enjoying a stunning season in the Lithuanian championship, winning 17 and drawing one of their 18 matches so far.
    A health scare forced Malofeev to return home to Belarus for treatment in May and miss several Kaunas matches, but he appears to have made a full recovery. Hearts supporters will hope he can plot his way to more happy days at Hampden in his new role.

  • One final picture...

    On June 30, President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko met with Mr Uladzimir Tsialpuk, Mr Mikhail Melnikov, Mr Lutas Viktar, Uladzissau Kahan and Mr Nikolay Totmyanin, the Belarusian mountain-climbers who had conquered Everest in May this year.

    Alexander Lukashenko pointed out that the state intends to support the development of mountaineering activities, in which Belarusians have been gaining considerable victories. In his view, these achievements contribute to the country’s prestige. “I have always been saying to athletes: once there is a good result, you can count on support from the state,” the President emphasized.