News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lukashenka says Belarus to retain sovereignty in Union State, Gov in Ukraine explodes, Partnerstva 4 guilty, Minsk kiddy porn duo get 25 years, Sport

From the Top

Union state with Russia not to violate sovereignty of Belarus: Lukashenko

From: People's Daily (China) and Belta

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday that the building of a union state with Russia would not violate his country's sovereignty, according to reports from Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

Lukashenko said building an integrated Russian-Belarussian Union State is always a priority for Belarus in the past and at present, said Itar-Tass News Agency.

Together, Belarus and Russia are building a union on equal terms, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said today during a meeting with recently-appointed representatives of Belarus to interstate bodies.

“The creation of a full-fledged Union State has always been our main priority,” the Belarusian leader said. No matter how worthless policy-makers may speculate on the topic, Belarus will not lose its sovereignty, he added.

The Union State Treaty and Programme of Actions to Implement the Treaty constitute the legal basis for the unification of Belarus and Russia, the head of state said. The major objective of the Standing Committee is to pursue activities aimed at fulfilling these documents which ensure the main principle of the Union State – equal terms for economic entities and equal rights for citizens of the two countries, Alexander Lukashenko said.

The president has criticized efforts in the information sphere. He is confident that there is a need to improve the system of informing the population of Belarus and Russia on the advantages of the Union State and the two countries’ achievements in various branches.

Relevant, as Alexander Lukashenko says, are issues of development of the customs infrastructure which, on the one hand, should become a visiting card of the Union State, and, on the other, a reliable shield against transboundary threats which come from outside.

The head of state has also added that in order to gain substantial progress in the unification process, there is a need to toughen responsibility of executive bodies of the two states. “It is necessary to strive for timely and full implementation of decisions and agreements,” the Belarusian leader said.

The president added that his country would work with Russia to construct the union on the basis of equality, and to eliminate outside interference on Belarus exercise of state sovereignty.

It is necessary to introduce to people of both countries the benefits and achievements that have been made during the construction process, said Lukashenko.

Russia and Belarus signed an agreement to form the union state at the end of 1999, which went into effect in January 2001.

According to the agreement, the two countries would form a union state while maintaining their own sovereignty, in order to accomplish economic integration.

Lukashenko appoints new ambassador to Russia, UK

From: Naveny

Aleksandr Lukashenko on August 4 appointed new ambassadors to Russia, Britain and Kazakhstan, as well as two new presidential aides.
In particular, the Belarusian leader appointed Vasily Dolgolyov, formerly deputy prime minister/authorized representative of the president to Russia, as ambassador to the Russian Federation; Vasily Gapeyev, another former deputy prime minister, as ambassador to Kazakhstan; and Aleksandr Mikhnevich, formerly a deputy minister of foreign affairs, as ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and to the Republic of Ireland.
In addition, the head of state appointed Vladimir Puzyrevsky as presidential aide/chief inspector for the Brest region, and Anatoly Sivak as presidential aide/chief inspector for the city of Minsk.
While speaking to the newly appointed ambassadors, Mr. Lukashenko suggested stepping up efforts to increase Belarus' exports to Kazakhstan, Russia and the UK.
He noted that Russia is a strategic partner of Belarus. He pointed to the advancement of national interests and an increase in trade as the main tasks of the embassy in Moscow and Belarus' representatives in the Belarusian-Russian integration agencies.
The head of state directed the new ambassadors to Kazakhstan and the UK to diversify Belarus' exports to those countries.
He tasked Mr. Gapeyev with looking for new forms and areas for the development of relations with Kazakhstan.
He noted that the UK is one of the most influential nations in the world in both the economic and political spheres. Belarus should strengthen and expand ties with that country and look for new forms of cooperation with it, he said, suggesting that Belarus should supply Britain with not only tractors but also machine tools, optical instruments, other goods and even agricultural produce.
Mr. Lukashenko said that both the UK and Ireland provide considerable humanitarian aid to Belarus. According to him, the two countries should switch from purely charitable activities to the "generation of serious mutually beneficial investment projects," including those aimed at the rehabilitation of Belarus' Chernobyl-affected areas. He added that banks could be involved in such projects.
Apart from performing the functions of an ambassador, Mr. Mikhnevich will have to deal with matters concerning Belarus' bid to join the World Trade Organization, Mr. Lukashenko said.

Ukraine Fires Government over Gas Pressure

From: Kommersant

Ukraine's Supreme Rada assembled yesterday to discuss the agreement with Russia on natural gas and fired the country's government, accusing it of “inability to defend national interests.” In response, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko threatened to dismiss the parliament and his party, Our Ukraine, called for direct presidential rule until parliamentary elections in March. Although the current government is continuing to function, the ministers are being called “acting.” This is a heavy blow to Yushchenko, not least because big business is supporting the opposition. Ukrainian industrialists are not happy with the agreement or with the government.
A political crisis broke out in Ukraine yesterday after the unexpected dismissal of the Cabinet. The no-confidence vote in the Supreme Rada led to a complex situation. Even though it has dismissed the government, the Supreme Rada cannot appoint a new one until after the parliamentary elections in March because political reform in Ukraine will only give it the right to do so then. The president cannot dissolve the Rada nor appeal its decision to the Constitutional Court because that court does not exist in the Ukraine – the Rada is blocking the confirmation of the judges.
Clouds began gathering overt he government last week. “It is time to stop the attempts by a high-placed party to experiment on Ukraine,” Rada speaker Vladimir Litvin said, adding that “the government and people in the gas industry should read documents before they sign them… I think that the Supreme Rada will come to the same conclusion.”
Addressing the Rada yesterday, Prime Minister Yury Ekhanurov gave a long but vague explanation of how Ukraine will “unconditionally win” from the new contract because “$95 is not bad price for gas considering European market conditions.” He said that it was impossible to preserve the barter system with the price of $50 per 1000 cu. m., although Ukrainian negotiators were considering moving the conflict into the courts. “We could go into retreat and not sign any documents. But a trial in the Stockholm court would last several months, if not years. Who would our victory help if we go without gas for several years with ruined industry and social services?” Ekhanurov asked rhetorically. He also said that, because of the unexpected success of negotiations, the government would not raise gas prices to the public by 25 percent, as it had decided to do before the end of last year.
Ekhanurov gave shallow answers to penetrating questions. In particular, he would not say what the price of gas would rise to in the second half of 2006 and was unable to explain why Ukraine agreed to the participation of the RosUkrEnergo Co. in making supplies. He said that he did not know who the founder of that company was. The prime minister's comment that negotiations were not finished and a concrete text with specific prices had not been drawn up yet. “Negotiations are continuing. The necessary specifications and explications will be made and the necessary foreign trade agreements will be signed,” he stated, adding that the next round of talks would take place in Astana on Wednesday during a meeting between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine, who will be in Kazakhstan for the inauguration of President Nursultan Nazarbaev.
After Ekhanurov's address, parliament members spoke. It soon became clear that the prime minister had very few allies present and they were in a state of confusion. The speech of Yury Orobets, chairman of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine Party, was characteristic. He was the first member of the party to speak and read his speech from a text. He said that the criticism of the government's actions was in essence electioneering. “The gas conflict is over... I suggest that we stop belittling our own government,” he said. He went on to comment on the role of RosUkrEnergo in supplying gas to Ukraine. “No one is naming the owner of that firm,” he said. “For some reason, everyone is afraid of the name Putin.”
  • Text continues...

    CIS: Georgia, Kyrgyzstan View Ukraine's Political Shift

    From: RFE/RL

    As the dust settles in Ukraine after last week's drama in parliament, what has been the reaction -- if any -- in the rest of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to the outcome?

    There will be little talk of colored revolutions in Georgia this week. The euphoria that swept the young team of Georgian ministers when the Orange Revolution triumphed in Ukraine in January 2005 has all but dissipated.
    For a few heady months, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili saw himself -- and Georgia's own Rose Revolution -- as the catalyst for change throughout the CIS. Ukraine was followed by Kyrgyzstan and perhaps Saakashvili could imagine a region ruled by presidents fashioned in his own image.

    Now it's time for a reality check.

    Instead of Yuliya Tymoshenko, Ukraine has Viktor Yanukovych.

    But how serious a blow is this to the proponents of democratic change? Salome Zurabishvili was foreign minister of Georgia at the time of the Orange Revolution and responsible for forging a strong strategic alliance with the new democratic Ukraine.
    "This is bad for Georgia from the point of view that Russia will conclude that these revolutions are not irreversible, and that with a little help it is possible to reverse the process," Zurabishvili said. "So all of Georgia's efforts at this time should be directed at assuring the Georgian people, Russia, and international society that this process in Georgia is irreversible."
    But while Ukraine may no longer be so steadfast an ally of Georgia in the face of Russian pressure, some see here a triumph for Ukrainian democracy -- and, by association, the values that both the Orange and Rose revolutions are built on. Cory Welt, the deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for International and Strategic Studies in Washington, said that what "we have seen in Ukraine is the most democratic outcome that we could have envisioned."
    "So, in that regard it doesn't change anything. What it does change is the fact that they had linked the democracy agenda to this pro-Western agenda. And I think nobody had anticipated that in Ukraine those wouldn't necessarily go together," he said.
    Erkin Alymbekov takes a similar view. The deputy speaker of the Kyrgyz parliament told RFE/RL's Radio Azattyk that last week's events in Ukraine had been a triumph of common sense.
    President Viktor Yushchenko (right) shakes hands with Viktor Yanukovych in Kyiv on August 3 "About half the population of Ukraine is supporting Yanukovych, and his political stance is very popular there. Yushchenko -- who did not play a game around the colored revolutions, and who put his personal, patriotic, and presidential duties higher than ordinary ambition in order to deal with the political crisis, who put forward Yanukovych as the prime minister of the coalition government -- this, I suppose, is the fair and right stance," Alymbekov said.
    Indeed, as far as Kyrgyzstan is concerned, said Martha Brill Olcott -- a senior associate with the Russian and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. -- the reality is that little will change.
    "I don't think it will affect Kyrgyzstan honestly except that it will make its foreign policy easier -- just because their foreign policy is closely oriented to Russia," Olcott said.

    Problems In Central Asia

    Indeed, there are few in Kyrgyzstan likely to mourn the fading of the Orange Revolution. Any hopes harbored by democratic reformers that the so-called Tulip Revolution would become a model for democratic change in Central Asia have so far proved premature.
    In fact, if Olcott is correct, it is one of the more authoritarian regimes of the region that may have more cause for concern.
    "Ironically, Kazakhstan may have more problems. I mean Kazakhstan is one of those places that did build very explicit bridges to the new regime and Ukraine, and with the new government of Ukraine," Olcott said. "Kazakh-Ukrainian economic cooperation was pretty good before and I think they saw this as strengthening the free market in Ukraine and in Kazakhstan's interests."
    Yet, here too "business as usual" seems the more likely outcome. Kazakhstan and Ukraine have a mutual interest in seeing business relations develop.
    Konstantin Gabashvili, the chairman of the Georgian parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, takes heart too from the fact that Yushchenko still controls Ukrainian foreign policy and Yanukovych's commitment to continue democratic reforms.
    "As for [Ukraine's] main political course, the main thing for us is that according to the document they signed, it shouldn't really change. Yushchenko guaranteed that the course would remain unchanged, and if anything happens, Yushchenko will react on that," Gabashvili said. "I can't say that the situation is easy in Ukraine, but it's not tragic and it is not worth giving any reaction but support the main course of Ukraine."
    No tragedy but, for the moment at least, the end of the colored revolutions. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in 2005 there will be no rose, orange, or banana revolutions in his country. This week he must feel time is on his side.

    Kinakh: Ukraine will intensify cooperation with Russia and Belarus

    From: ForUm (Ukraine)

    Despite the fact that Ukraine’s strategy is Eurointegration course, our state will intensify equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia and Belarus, as Our Ukraine deputy Anatoly Kinakh told journalists.
    “Commodity turnover with Russia made 20.3 billion dollars last year, and turnover with Belarus increased twice. It is thousands of working places,” the deputy declared.
    Additionally, Kinakh underlined that Russia and Belarus are our neighbors. “As the proverb states: a good neighbor is better than a distant relative,” the deputy noted

    Belarus Hunts Terrorists on Its Borders with the Baltic Countries

    From: Kommersant

    The “Northwest Strategic Command forces command staff exercises” began in Belarus near the borders with Lithuania and Latvia yesterday. About 4500 troops and 50 pieces of armored equipment are involved. The Belarusian military will work on the interaction of strategic command organs and military units “in the organization and implementation of the antiterrorist struggle.”
    Military units from the Northwestern Strategic Command, the 103rd Independent Mobile Guard Brigade, territorial defense department organs, including district defense staffs and subdivisions of territorial forces of the Verkhnedvincky District of Vitebsk Region (on the border with Latvia) and the Vileisky District of Minsk Region (near the border with Lithuania), subdivisions of the 5th Independent Special Forces Brigade, an Air Force helicopter detachment and air defense forces.
    Those forces will work out actions against illegal armed formations and paratroopers. The 103rd Brigade and 38th Special Forces Brigade will be the illegal paratroopers. The exercises will last until October 2.
    The choice of location for the exercises is not chance. Belarus wants to show heightened military activity on its borders with the Baltic countries. Last Monday, the 15-day draft season began in Vitebsk and Minsk Regions, which both border on Baltic countries. Defense of military and state objects and military management organs is being developed. Belarusian Minister of Defense Leonid Maltsev stated at a meeting of officers of the Grodno Military Garrison (near the Lithuanian and Polish borders) that “an information war is being waged against Belarus” and, therefore, Belarus and Russia should stand up to potential threats from NATO with military might.
    “The armed forces of our state in alliance with the armed forces of Russia should guarantee a level of battle readiness and have the military might so that no one was tempted to threaten us,” Maltsev said. His statement coincided with a statement by Baltic Fleet commander Adm. Vladimir Valuev that Russia and Belarus plan to form a united system of air defense in the Western areas. “A system of information exchange already exists and the system for the use of aerodromes and raising forces and means from the republic of Belarus will depend on future agreement on the level of the ministries of defense of both countries,” Valuev said.
    According to the Belarusian Defense Ministry, Rosoboroneksport, the Russian state arms exporter, and that ministry signed a contract on September 10 for the delivery of S-300SP antiballistic missile complexes to Minsk. That, the military says, will significantly raise the effectiveness of the Belarusian air defense and Air Force and the unified air defense system of all the CIS countries.

    Partnerstva Four found guilty

    From: News Amnesty INTL and the New York Times

    A court in Belarus on Friday convicted four election observers whose arrests in February foreshadowed a broad crackdown after the disputed re-election of President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko.
    The observers, leaders of an American-financed organization called Partnership, were sentenced to prison for terms ranging from six months to two years under a law adopted late last year to restrict public protests.
    Formally, they faced charges of membership in an unlawful organization, though on the eve of the election in March, the chief of the country’s security agency publicly accused them of plotting a violent coup.
    Mikalay Astreyka, Enira Branizkaya, Alyaksandr Shalayka and Tsimafey Dranchuk, all of them in their twenties, are members of an independent election monitoring group, Initiative Partnership. They were sentenced on 4 August to between six months and two years' imprisonment for their intention to observe the presidential elections in March 2006.
    "These four young people have been sentenced for the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of association," said Heather McGill, Amnesty International's researcher on Belarus.
    Diplomatic representatives who observed the trial have condemned the sentences. The Chairman-In-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Karel De Gucht, expressed concern at the application of the criminal code in "a case linked to peaceful intentions to observe the presidential elections".
    According to Amnesty international, Mikalay Astreyka, Enira Branizkaya, Alyaksandr Shalayka, and Tsimafey Dranchuk were preparing to carry out independent monitoring of the presidential elections that were held on 19 March 2006 when they were arrested at their offices on 21 February 2006 by KGB officers. The KGB initially claimed that they were organizing fraudulent exit polls and planning a violent uprising after the election. They were formally charged on 3 March under Article 193 Part 2 of the Criminal Code for ‘organizing and running an unregistered organization that infringes the rights of citizens’. Initiative Partnership carried out independent monitoring of the parliamentary elections in 2004 and had attempted to register, but had been refused twice.
    Mikalay Astreyka was sentenced to two years in prison, Tsimafey Dranchuk was given a one-year sentence and Alyaksandr Shalayka and Enira Branizkaya were sentenced to six months. Alyaksandr Shalayka and Enira Branizkaya will be released on 21 August because of the time they have already spent in detention. Tsimafey Dranchuk’s wife gave birth to a son while her husband was in detention.
    Aleksandr Milinkevich, who himself has been arrested and jailed for brief periods since March, criticized the verdict on Friday as a “political execution” of those simply trying to hold the government’s electoral behavior to account.
    “This trial demonstrates the arbitrariness of administrative and command rule and the complete absence of any control over the power,” Mr. Milinkevich said in a statement.
    Partnership gained prominence for organizing election observers during elections in 2004 for a new Parliament and a referendum that same year that gave Mr. Lukashenko the right to seek unlimited terms in office. The group received money from the National Democratic Institute, whose representative for Belarus, David Hamilton, was also accused by the authorities of participating in the coup plot.
    The government refused to register the group and raided an organizational meeting last year, arresting dozens of members.
  • Full Amnesti INTL Text continues:"HERE"
  • NYTimes complete text is "HERE"

    Washington condemns conviction of independent election observers

    From: Naveny

    The US Department of State denounced the conviction of four Belarus' independent election observers found guilty of running an unregistered organization named Partnyorstvo (Partnership).
    Judge Leonid Yasinovich of the Tsentralny District Court on Friday sentenced Nikolai Astreiko to two years in a minimum security correctional institution, Timofei Dranchuk to one year, and Aleksandr Shalaiko and Enira Bronitskaya to six months each.
    "As we have done in the past, we will take steps to impose appropriate sanctions on those responsible for abusing the rights of these Belarusian citizens," the AFP news agency quoted State Department spokesman Sean McCormack as saying on August 4.
    "The politically motivated trial continues a disturbing pattern by the authorities to intimidate civil society activists and to further erode the democratic process in Belarus."
    "We call on the Belarusian authorities to free the Partnership civic activists and all those being held on politically motivated charges," Mr. McCormack said.
    Messrs. Astreiko, Dranchuk and Shalaiko, and Ms. Bronitskaya, were found guilty of running an illegal organization that "encroaches" on people's rights under Part 2 of the Criminal Code's Article 193. The article was added to the Code in December 2005 as part of amendments that established harsh penalties "for activities directed against people and public security."
    Mr. Shalaiko and Ms. Bronitskaya are to be released on August 21, as all the four young people were arrested on February 21, 2006 and have since been held in a KGB detention center.

    Convicted Kozulin diagnosed with osteochondritis, myopia

    From: BelaPan

    Aleksandr Kozulin has been diagnosed with osteochondritis and myopia, his wife, Irina Kozulin, told BelaPAN.
    This past Thursday, the convicted politician was transferred from the national prison hospital back to the detention center on Volodarskogo Street in central Minsk.
    The former presidential candidate was taken to the hospital for medical tests the previous week after complaining that his eyesight had deteriorated. Dr. Kozulin linked the problem to poor lighting in a cell of Zhodino's pretrial detention center where he had been held before the July trial.
    Mrs. Kozulin said that her husband had never suffered from the diseases before.
    On August 4, the politician was allowed to meet with his mother. "The meeting left a pleasant impression on Aleksandr's mother. He looked well, calm and confident. The meeting lasted some 40 minutes," the wife said.
    She noted that her husband had regularly received newspapers. His relatives subscribed him to the BelGazeta, the Belorusy i Rynok, the Komsomolskaya Pravda v Belorussii and some other publications.
    Aleksandr Kozulin on Thursday was transferred from the national prison hospital back to the detention center on Volodarskogo Street in central Minsk.

    EU backs Latvia in sex flap with Belarus

    From: and Naviny

    Relations between Belarus and the European Union have hit a new low following a bitter "gay sex" diplomatic row between Belarus and Latvia, a Brussels-based news service reports.
    The Finnish EU presidency has thrown Europe's weight behind Latvia after a so-called "gay porn" raid by Belarussian authorities on a Latvian diplomat's apartment.
    Belarus' First National Channel also known as BT on Sunday aired the alleged sex video of the Latvian diplomat whose apartment in Minsk had been raided by police on July 25.
    The tape was played during the In Focus of Attention show and allegedly featured the diplomat having sex with another man. The host said that the intercourse had been filmed by a covert camera at the diplomat's apartment.
    The Latvian foreign ministry reacted angrily to the report, saying that is was "one more provocation against the Latvian State and its diplomat and is a serious violation of the norms and practices of diplomatic law." In retaliation, the Latvian foreign ministry has expelled the first secretary of the Belarussian Embassy in Riga, Latvia's capital, for "actions incompatible with diplomatic status."
    The EU is declaring Belarus in breach of the 1961 Vienna Convention that sets out protections for diplomats.
    The Latvian foreign ministry is awaiting further explanations from Minsk over the July 25 raid on Latvian diplomat Reimo Smits' apartment in the Belarusian capital city, Inga Saleniece, spokeswoman for Latvian Minister Artis Pabriks, told LETA.
    The reply that the Belarusian foreign ministry gave this past Friday cannot be considered a proper reply note, she said, noting that it was overly general and provided no answers to the Latvian ministry's questions.
    Ms. Saleniece stressed that the Latvian minister would not receive the new Belarusian ambassador to Latvia until Minsk gave "proper answers."

    BELARUS: Anti-Protestant education policy persists

    From: Forum 18

    Belarus' state education system continues to teach anti-religious – and particularly anti-Protestant – ideas, Forum 18 News Service has found. Despite protests from religious communities, state textbooks continue to make false allegations such as associating charismatic churches and Hare Krishna devotees with the group behind the fatal gas attack on Tokyo's metro system, claiming that Adventists operate "on the same principle as any fraudster," and depicting the history of Protestantism in Belarus negatively. The impact of such textbooks varies, as does knowledge of them, Forum 18 has found. Forum 18 has spoken to schoolchildren who say that children aged 13 or younger regard one Minsk charismatic church "as a sect," with older pupils adopting a neutral attitude. Some teachers do not share the state's hostile attitude, but others do. In one Minsk school, the headteacher told teachers that 90 per cent of every class must join the Pioneers, a Soviet-style state youth organisation, "but that Baptists and satanists were permitted not to join." In another incident, one teacher told a class that "they shouldn't be friends" with a Protestant pupil.
    The Belarusian state education system continues to inculcate its citizens with anti-religious – and particularly anti-Protestant – ideas, Forum 18 News Service has found.
    A 2005 Russian-language textbook intended for students in higher education, for example, includes "Christians of the Full Gospel (CFG, neo-Pentecostals), also known as 'charismatics' " along with satanists and Aum Shinrikyo (responsible for the 1995 fatal gas attack in the Japanese capital Tokyo) in a section called "Other Neo-cults". Entitled "Religious Studies" and published in Minsk, Forum 18 recently purchased a copy of the textbook from a large, state-owned bookstore on the Belarusian capital's main street.
    A Belarusian-language textbook for secondary school pupils published in 2004, "The Basics of Living Safely" includes six pages on the dangers of "sects" – including Baptists and Adventists. While specific groups are for the most part not named, Baptists are said to have "ignored state obligations such as the registration of marriages and births" and "been characterised by fanaticism and hostility to dissenters." Adventists are alleged to operate "on the same principle as any fraudster."
    a Pentecostal mother told Forum 18 of a recent staff meeting in one Minsk school at which the headteacher explained to teachers that 90 per cent of every class must join the Pioneers (who are based on the Soviet-era organisation for 10 to 15-year-olds), "but that Baptists and satanists were permitted not to join." She also described an incident in which one 11-year-old Protestant girl refused to participate in a school game in which a team was called "Jolly Demons": "The teacher made her stand in front of the class and told the other pupils that they shouldn't be friends with her."
    As of this September, the same mother told Forum 18, there will no longer be an opportunity for parents to educate children in a religious spirit outside the state system. Signed into law by President Aleksandr Lukashenko on 5 July 2006, "On General Secondary Education" permits home schooling only if a pupil has a sufficiently serious medical condition. Even in such cases, state education representatives are responsible for providing tuition, and the law states in general that parents and guardians "may not interfere in the choice of instruction method (..) made by a teacher in accordance with Belarusian law."
    Speaking to Forum 18 in the Belarusian capital on 18 July, the main Baptist Union's elder for Minsk region confirmed continued state intrusion into such religious education as may be legally provided by churches. Gennadi Brutsky described how different state departments conducted up to four checks a day on this summer's Baptist-run youth camp in Kobrin (Brest region), western Belarus, even though all participants held written parental approval: "It made it impossible for us to work."
    Brutsky also told Forum 18 that some local authorities continue to try to obtain the names of children involved in Baptist Sunday schools (see F18News 13 October 2003. At their congresses, Baptist leaders urge churches not to comply with such illegal requests, he said, but one young pastor recently made the mistake of doing so: "Those children were called into the head teacher's office one by one, threatened and told to leave the Sunday school." Brutsky also described how one state teacher initially spoke to a class positively about church before asking children to raise their hands if they attended Sunday school: "But then the same thing happened." He was unable to provide Forum 18 with further details of these incidents, however: "There is always something like that happening somewhere. We're used to it."
  • Text continues...

    President Aliyev Receives New Belarus Ambassador To Azerbaijan

    From: Azertac (Azerbaijan)

    President of the Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev on 7 August at President Palace received the newly appointed extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador of the Republic of Belarus to Azerbaijan Nikolay Pastkevich.
    Ambassador Nikolay Pastkevich presented his credentials to Azerbaijani President, touching upon the present level of bilateral relations between two countries. ‘There are a lot of opportunities to develop relations between our countries in all spheres’, he stressed.
    President Ilham Aliyev noted that the Azerbaijan-Belarus relations have reached a new stage, as both states have opened their embassies.
    Head of the Azerbaijan State wished success to Belarus ambassador.

    Pair get 25 years in online kiddie porn network

    From: AP
    The president and technical administrator of "Regpay," which prosecutors termed a child pornography and money-laundering enterprise, were both sentenced to 25 years in federal prison Tuesday for their roles in running the ring, which had thousands of subscribers worldwide.
    U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh also ordered Yahor Zalatarou, 27, of Minsk, Belarus, president of Regpay Co. LTD, and Aliaksandr Boika, 30, of Minsk, the company's technical administrator, each to pay a $25,000 fine.
    Authorities seized $1.15 million from the operation.
    "Child pornography and those who profit from it are a blight on civilized society," U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said. "These two defendants will spend their adult lives in prison because they care more about money than the lives of innocent young children."
    On February 28, 2005, the day before jury selection was to start, both Zalatarou and Boika pleaded guilty. Zalatarou pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport and ship, by way of computer, images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
    Boika pleaded guilty to conspiracy to advertise child pornography.
    Both men also pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy to commit money laundering.
    Regpay ran a global Internet pornography business that had thousands of paid memberships to dozens of Web sites featuring children. Along with operating several of its own Web sites, the company earned millions of dollars by processing credit card fees for more than fifty other Web sites. The Regpay Web sites were operated from Minsk, Belarus, and were hosted by Internet service companies in the United States and abroad.

    Child-porn defendants deny being in charge

    From: New Jersey Star Ledger
    The dismantling of Regpay, a credit-card processing network for child pornography Web sites, was a law enforcement prosecution that spanned the globe, netted more than 1,200 arrests and won White House accolades.
    But as the lead defendants in the New Jersey-based prosecution were sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison -- terms that had been negotiated as part of their pleas -- they suggested that the real bad guys got away.
    Yahor Zalatarou and Aliaksandr Boika said they were just computer programmers and straw men for Belarussian mobsters and government officials who actually ran the sprawling operation.
    "After I wrote the software, neither me or Mr. Boika were allowed to leave the company because we were under close monitoring by organized criminals and by the government agencies who provided support for that business," Zalatarou told U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh. "I couldn't go anywhere for help."
    Blaming another guy might be a time-honored tradition among convicts, and as the judge noted, Zalatarou offered no proof of his claims. But it was an unusual coda to a case that had been hailed as a groundbreaking law enforcement investigation.
    The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Dowd, acknowledged that both men had cooperated with investigators. He said it was "difficult to corroborate all the information" Zalatarou gave them, but declined to elaborate. He also would not comment on any efforts made to pursue the investigation in Belarus, but said the sentences handed out in Newark yesterday probably marked the end of the case.
  • Text continues...

    President sets task to downsize harvest losses as much as possible

    From: Belta

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has set a task to downsize the harvest losses as much as possible.
    Today, as never before, it is necessary to gather crops in without losses, he said, because, as specialists report, this year’s yield might be several centners less than it was last year. At its worst, the shortage of fodder grain might amount to 300-500 thousand tons, the head of state said today during a meeting focusing on the harvest of corn and fodder conservation.
    There will be no grain-for-food shortage, but the cattle-breeding industry might get hurt, he said. “This sphere has excellent outlook and we must not allow the decline of such an important component in the diet of the cattle as corn”, Alexander Lukashenko said.
    “The corn should be harvested up to the last seed,” he added. While the money saved on the purchases of foreign corn might go to galvanize the agriculture, in particular, to produce new harvesters.

    On arrival in Venezuela, Chavez announces three important measures

    From: VHHeadline (Venezuela)

    On arrival in Venezuela, President Chavez Frias has made several significant announcements. The first is domestic, making August 3 Official Flag Day.
    At a civilian-military parade in la Vela de Coro (Falcon) where Francisco de Miranda landed with the Venezuelan Republic's independence flag 200 years ago, the President decreed that as of 2007 Flag Day will be on August 3 and not March 12, which the opposition undoubtedly will continue to celebrate by flying its seven-star flag.
    The President's second measure has been to order home the Venezuelan Ambassador in Israel in protest over Israel's attack on Lebanon.
    Chavez Frias has criticized US efforts to prevent Venezuela from sitting on the UN Security Council for two years from November onwards. Mali has said it will support Venezuela, along with Benin, Vietnam, Iran, Russia and Belarus.
    "The US government has refused to allow the Security Council to take action to stop the genocide that Israel is committing against the Palestinian and Lebanese Peoples ... once again the mask of the North American Empire has fallen."
    The withdrawal of the Ambassador, Chavez Frias maintains, is the result of indignation caused by Israel's attack, bombardment, and assassination with US planes and US- supported military might.
    "While the world crosses its arms and sits back, the least Venezuela can do is raise its voice of protest."
    The third measure announced yesterday is that Venezuela will acquire a modern anti-air attack defense system. A deal to install the system was signed and secured during the President's visit to Russia and Belarus.

    State Committee on Radio Frequencies will be attached to the Security Council of Belarus

    From: E-belarus

    According to the Presidential Decree "On State Committee on Radio Frequencies" of July 31, 2006, the new Committee attached to the State Security Council will replace the department on radio frequencies at the Ministry of Communications and Informatization. The latter has been functioning since 1994.
    State Committee on Radio Frequencies will be headed by Security Council Vice State Secretary Juri Krivosheev.
    The Committee is responsible for radio-frequency spectrum distribution based on state priorities.
    The new body will develop schemas of radio frequencies distribution, as well as databases of radio electronic and high frequencies devices used in Belarus. In addition to that, State Committee on radio Frequencies will be responsible for radio frequencies spectrum conversion.
    The Committee members will meet once in two months. Ministry of Communications and Informatization is to carry out all the activities between the sessions.

    Belarus, Italy preparing framework intergovernmental agreement on all-round co-operation

    From: NLIPRB
    Belarus and Italy plan to sign a framework intergovernmental agreement on co-operation in culture, education, science and technologies, sport and tourism, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Italy Aleksei Skripko told BelTA.
    According to the diplomat, the Belarusian side is now expecting Italy to introduce final corrections to the document. "It will be a significant agreement, which will lay down the basis for developing the bilateral co-operation in many fields. We could use the document to clarify specific issues of Belarusian-Italian co-operation in interagency agreements," stressed Aleksei Skripko.
    The ambassador explained, now the Belarusian-Italian co-operation develops using various bilateral initiatives.
  • For some more interesting reading about Italian/Belarusian relations, click "HERE"


    From: NLIPRB
    Belarus Legislation Databank "ETALON" is full-text search system containing more than 45000 legal acts issued by the President, Parliament, Government, National Bank, ministries, Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Economic Court, and international treaties. Russian and Belarusian version of the Belarus Legislation Databank can be acquired on CD's in our

    On-line version of the Belarus Legislation Databank contains the complete set of laws of the Republic of Belarus, acts of the President of the Republic of Belarus and the Government's decisions (only in Russian and Belarusian language). For search in the Belarus Legislation Databank go to the Russian variant of this page. More than 12000 legal acts are available there free of charge.

    Belarusian wins silver in shot put at Europeans

    From: BelaPan

    Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus won silver in the shot put on the opening day of the European Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.
    The 2003 world champion had led for much of the competition but had to settle for silver by two centimeters. Ralf Bartels of Germany won the competition with his final effort of 21.13 meters.
    Denmark's Joachim Olsen was third.

    BATE show first in Belarus


    FC BATE Borisov have been the first side to make their mark after the Belarussian season resumed following its mid-term break. BATE have won two of their three fixtures to go three points clear at the top, while previous pacesetters FC Darida Zhdanovichi have dipped.
  • Fine form
    BATE's only defeat in the second half of the campaign has come at second-placed FC Dinamo Minsk on 21 July, by 4-2, but the leaders have bounced back with three straight victories. Successes against Darida and FC Neman Grodno have been supplemented by a 3-0 aggregate triumph over Moldova's FC Nistru Chisinau in the UEFA Cup first qualifying round.
  • Dinamo surge
    With Darida collecting just one point in the meantime and dropping to fourth, Dinamo have taken advantage to become BATE's closest challengers following wins against the leaders and FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk. Dinamo returned from Soligorsk with a 2-0 victory and earned a further point in a goalless draw at Darida.
  • Lokomotiv solid
    FC Gomel, FC MTZ-RIPO Minsk and FC Lokomotiv Vitebsk are also in contention for a top-three finish. Lokomotiv are seventh, only four points behind Shakhtyor in third, and have the best defensive record having conceded just nine goals in 16 games, form that has brought a mere three defeats this term.
  • Relegation respite
    With ten matches remaining, FC Belshina Bobruisk, FC Lokomotiv Minsk and Neman are embroiled in a battle at the wrong end of the table, with two teams to be relegated. All three will get a welcome break, however, as the last 32 of the Belarus Cup takes centre stage. The league restarts on 20/21 August with BATE facing MTZ-RIPO and Darida taking on Shakhtyor.

    Levski signs Belarus defender Shuneiko

    From: Sports Network
    On Tuesday, Levski Sofia announced the signing of Belarussian international Vladimir Shuneiko from Russian Premier League side Krylya.
    The defender joined his new club on a free transfer.
    "We have a shortage of top-class defenders and are experiencing serious difficulties at the back. Shuneiko will be a real asset to us," Levski director Todor Batkov said.
    Shuneiko, 28, has earned 12 caps for the Belarus national side thus far.
    Levski is currently second in the Bulgarian top-flight table.