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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, August 13, 2006

Soldiers coming in, Russian hazing, Ukrainian politics, SoCal woman comes to Belarus, Orthodox issues, Reimo Smits, Gazprom, Belarus wins at EU's

From the Top

Over 12,000 young soldiers to take oath on August 13

From: Belta

More than 12,000 newly enlisted soldiers will take the oath of allegiance to their country on August 13, BelTA was informed in the defence ministry’s press service.

The solemn ceremonies will be held in all military units of the Belarusian armed forces. Among those due to take the oath are about 3,000 reserve soldiers. Leadership of the defence ministry, veterans and relatives of young soldiers will attend the solemn events.

The military buildup is a part of president Lukashenko's plan to strengthen and fortify the defenses of Belarus against potential foreign attack.

“The state has been effectively meeting its own needs in highly qualified military personnel. The country’s leaders do all that is needed to provide professional training for officers at military educational institutions which complies with the most advanced requirements of the military science ,” emphasized President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko speaking at the reception for the graduates from the command and staff faculty of the Military Academy of the Republic of Belarus and from military educational establishments of the Russian Federation.

"In future Belarus will continue improving the present system of counteracting the existing challenges and threats, will continue developing the military organisation of the state." Said the president.

"Unfortunately, the world around the stably developing Belarus is not getting safer," stressed Alexander Lukashenko. "The international climate is heated by local conflicts in various parts of the planet and the growing activity of terrorist organisations," he noted.

Hazing Trial Bares Dark Side of Russia’s Military

From: New york Times

It is becoming clear now what happened New Year’s Day in the barracks of the Chelyabinsk Tank Academy, when the Russian military’s singular means of enforcing discipline claimed its most famous victim.

The details are trickling out in a windowless courtroom here in a trial that has illustrated the darkest aspects of Russian military service and exposed the commanders’ refusal to address them, despite public pledges to the contrary.

A sergeant, possibly drunk, meted out punishment to a younger soldier, Pvt. Andrei S. Sychyov, who, like him, was a draftee. Rousted from bed at 3 a.m., Private Sychyov was forced to squat for three and a half hours. When he complained, as the pain worsened, the sergeant stomped on his ankle twice.

The episode might have ended there, an unremarkable instance of an abusive system of discipline known as dedovshchina, or the rule of the grandfathers. But Private Sychyov suffered injuries that resulted in infection, then in the amputation of his legs and genitals and finally in a public scandal.

Private Sychyov’s fate forced initially dismissive leaders, including the minister of defense, Sergei B. Ivanov, to respond to the furor. They vowed to punish those responsible and to crack down on such abuse.

The trial, however, has cast doubt on the military’s prosecution and showed how deeply rooted dedovshchina (pronounced de-DOV-she-na) remains in Russia’s barracks, still largely filled with conscripts despite overwhelming opposition to the draft.

The prosecution’s case against the sergeant, who is charged only with exceeding his authority, appears to be faltering.

One witness who testified against the sergeant recanted and stopped appearing in court. Others have reversed statements to investigators that they had seen or heard what happened. Witnesses revealed in court that an army general had told three soldiers not to testify at the trial, though they defied him and testified anyway.

Private Sychyov’s mother, Galina, said she had received repeated offers from an unknown official with free access to the grounds of a military hospital to drop the case in exchange for an apartment and $100,000. The official stopped, said her daughter, Marina A. Muffert, only after the family complained publicly.

Spokesmen for the Ministry of Defense and the military prosecutor declined to discuss the accusations of bribery and the general’s attempt to pressure witnesses, though the new military prosecutor, Sergei N. Fridinsky, has vowed to investigate.

The chief military prosecutor, Aleksandr N. Savenkov, had called it the most “cynical and audacious crime” he had seen in his career, but he was replaced last month in a shake-up of the Prosecutor General’s Office. His successor boasted on Aug. 4 that incidents of dedovshchina had declined, contradicting statistics provided the same day by his boss, the new prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika.

Ms. Muffert, who attends the trial every day, traveling from her home in Yekaterinburg, 120 miles north of here, said the military was deliberately undermining the prosecution, even as senior leaders cited the trial as evidence that they were serious about punishing abuse.

“I would like to believe there will be justice,” she said during a break on Monday, “but I have less hope each day.”
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    Ukraine's shadow across Eurasia

    From: Asia Times

    Modern Ukraine's most famous son, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, once said, "He who cannot eat horse meat need not do so. Let him eat pork. But he who cannot eat pork, let him eat horse meat. It's simply a question of taste."
    The predicament facing the United States over the death of the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine is somewhat similar. The choice is whether to do business with the incoming pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich or to destabilize him in the coming months by consorting with the mercurial opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. The dilemma is acute insofar as Washington doesn't have a genuine "taste" for either of the two Ukrainian leaders.
    The choice would have been easy if Moscow had placed its cards on the table. But Moscow is not helping matters. It is eschewing
    polemics and is not stating preferences. Instead it is putting on a poker face - an exasperating correct median line. No sooner had Yanukovich assumed office in Kiev on Friday than Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov extended customary greetings and expressed hope for the development of bilateral ties.
    President Vladimir Putin took another three full days to add his felicitations. On Monday, significantly, he first telephoned Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to congratulate him for putting an end to the political crisis emanating out of the latter's rift with his "orange partner" Tymoshenko. And only then did Putin congratulate Yanukovich.
    With characteristic understatement, Moscow drew attention to the great strategic defeat that the US has suffered in Ukraine. It is common knowledge that the US actively worked behind the scenes after the March elections to put together an orange coalition of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.
    Washington was eager to see an orange coalition in power in Kiev so that at the summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in November in Riga, Ukraine could be formally invited to a membership action plan, which in turn would qualify Ukraine potentially for full membership at the 2008 NATO enlargement summit. But in the event, Yushchenko simply would have no truck with Tymoshenko.
    Fearing that his popularity, which is already below 10%, might plummet even further if fresh elections were held because of a hung parliament, Yushchenko opted for a grand coalition with Yanukovich despite the US administration's deep suspicion of the latter as a menace to the United States' geopolitical interests. Worse still, as a former American diplomat put it, "pretty much everybody ... was surprised" by the undercurrents that swept Yanukovich to power.
    Washington has put a brave face on the geopolitical shift in Kiev. The US State Department spokesman claimed satisfaction that Yanukovich's return to power was "in the old-fashioned, democratic way" and, therefore, Washington would seek a "good relationship" with his government, "just as we would with any other democratically elected government".
    Yet such grandstanding couldn't hide that in three broad directions at least, Yanukovich's ascendancy signifies a shift in Ukraine's policies that profoundly hurt the US position. First, developments in Ukraine conclusively debunk Washington's claims that a wave of US-sponsored freedom and democracy was on the march. President George W Bush himself had listed in his 2005 State of the Union address the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine as one of the "landmark events in the history of liberty".
    As Russia scholar Anatol Lieven wrote, these assumptions on which the US strategies have been based stand contradicted today; Ukraine "demonstrated that the processes which the West has encouraged in Central Europe and the Baltic states cannot be extended seamlessly to the former Soviet Union. Societies, economies and national identities and affinities are very different, links to Russia are closer, and both the US and the EU are weaker than appeared to be the case a few years ago."
    Indeed, the reverberations of the collapse of the "orange project" will be felt far and wide in the post-Soviet space. Belarussian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will feel vindicated in his assertion that there will be no rose, orange or banana revolutions in his country. Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia, on the other hand, will worry that "color revolutions" are not irreversible.
    Kurmanbek Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan would be gratified that his early burial of the "Tulip Revolution", and his choice of indigenous and regional moorings as the mainstay of power, were after all the correct choice.
    Across the length and breadth of the post-Soviet space a realization will have dawned that the era of the "color revolutions" has ended and that with all its awesome power as the sole superpower, there are serious limits to the US influence in bringing about regime changes. Certainly, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine - or, wherever Washington has let the genie of "democracy" out of the bottle - pandemonium prevails.
    The Bush administration faces a serious credibility problem in the post-Soviet republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus, which will pose a difficult legacy for the next administration. The less said the better for Washington's "Greater Central Asia" strategy or any mediation in settling the "frozen conflicts" in Moldova or Transcaucasus. (Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin visited Moscow on Tuesday to discuss with Putin key issues of finding a settlement to the Transdnistria problem.)
    Equally Ukraine, with its 50 million people, its advanced military-industrial complex, its strong agricultural base, its highly strategic geography, and not least of all its near-mystic appeal to Mother Russia, should have been the fulcrum around which an entire geopolitics was conceived by the US. With Ukraine cut adrift once again in the midriff of Eurasia, issues are wide open.
    Democracy may or may not have changed Yanukovich. But one thing is certain: Moscow is back in serious business in Ukraine - that is, if it ever was out of it in real terms. In his first remarks within hours of assuming office, Yanukovich told the Russian government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta that Ukraine-Russia ties will run on an altogether different track than under the orange regime. He said: "We need to stop quarrelling with our neighbors and learn to have respectful discussions ... The new government is not going to foster anti-Russia sentiments in Ukraine."
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    Prime Minister and the President of Ukraine to wrestle for SBU

    From: axis

    After election of Viktor Yanukovich as Ukraine’s Prime Minister the Ukrainian secret services have ben expecting new reforms, the Kiev-based daily Delo writes today. It quotes Alexander Skipalsky, a former Vice Chairman of the country’s Security Service (SBU) as saying that «we shall move on strengthening special services, but chose the Belarus variant». In his opinion, secret services will be orientated more to « the will of the leader». He considers that struggle for influence in this sphere between the President and Prime Minister would develop soon.
    In opinion of the security structures employees, today it is improbable to minimize the influence of foreign secret services. According to the retired Colonel Alexander Manachinsky, the only thing that it is possible to do is to limit the admission of foreign colleagues to a number of objects in Ukraine. It revolted the old man when the foreigners were taken to visist the radiocenter in Brovari, the paper writes.
    Ukrainian secret service members think that the strengthening of influence of the American secret services is not expected in the near future. Ukraine is «not the pressing question» for Washington now, they say.
    Igor Drizhchany, the SBU Chairman, says that the SBU actively works in the direction of preventing activity of spying under diplomat’s skin. He has noted that counterspionage has found out interest to Ukraine practically of all the world secret services, except for Latin American. Military experts claim that today many Ukrainian secret services members are recruited by the Russian secret services. In fact, the majority were trained in Moscow and there was a good recruitment, concludes Skipalsky. The Delo emphasizes that it is interesting, that in 1992 Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement on which they do not conduct intelligence activity against each other.

    Ukraine agrees to dealwith Russia on gas; parliament to pass local government law by September-PM

    From: Ria Novosti

    Ukraine’s newly appointed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich said on Thursday, Aug. 19, that his government will respect an existing gas deal with Russia.
    As MosNews had reported, Moscow and Kiev had a bitter price spat at the end of last year, which resulted in short-term shut off of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine. After the shut off, which disrupted gas deliveries to Europe, Kiev and Moscow signed a new price deal in January. In it Kiev agreed to a nearly two-fold increase in price.
    Ukraine now pays $95 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas compared with $50 previously. The deal was criticized by many politicians in Ukraine and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has repeatedly called for its review.
    But Yanukovich said he had no such plans.
    “I have never said that we are going to change or review anything,” Yanukovich, who was quoted by Reuters, said during his first formal news conference since parliament approved him as prime minister on Friday.
    Ukraine still has to agree on gas prices and supplies for next year. Yanukovich said he would raise the issue during his visit to Moscow planned for Aug. 15-16 —- his first foreign trip as Prime Minister.
    “We are working to secure adequate gas supplies and optimal gas prices for our country. In the very near future I will visit Moscow and then I will be able to give a more concrete answer on gas issues,” he said during the conference broadcast live by the UT-1 state television channel.
    Yanukovich’s Energy Minister Yuri Boiko visited Moscow on Wednesday and held talks with senior managers at Gazprom. Ukraine is a key transit route for Russian gas to European markets.
    I othr news, the Ukrainian parliament will adopt a law establishing the jurisdiction of local governments, Ukraine's new prime minister said Saturday.
    "In September, local authorities should receive sufficient powers to perform their functions effectively," Viktor Yanukovych said. "I believe new legislation will be passed in September-October and we will start working within the bounds of a new Constitution."
    The bill was drafted and submitted to the Supreme Rada by the pro-Russia Party of Regions, led by Yanukovych.



    On the night of July 26 the Russian Dnepr rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kyzylorda region, Kazakhstan, and crashed 74 seconds after launch. The 250-ton Dnepr booster rocket was meant to carry 18 foreign satellites into space, the most important cargo aboard being the first Belarusian earth exploration satellite, BelKA. Undoubtedly it was a disastrous blow for Minsk’s ambitious satellite program. Observers in the Belarusian capital city were waiting for information about their first satellite and had prepared a sizeable celebration. Instead, a frustrated President Alexander Lukashenka, who came to Baikonur only to witness the apparent loss of his country’s multi-million dollar satellite, left the launch site without saying a word to waiting journalists.
    The search group dispatched to the crash site in Karmakshy district of Kyzylorda region, on the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, found a 17-meter deep crater caused by exploded rocket parts. Fragments of the Dnepr were located as far as 190 kilometers away from the launch site. Kazakh authorities were especially concerned about the possible contamination of the crash area by highly toxic heptyl, used by Russian rockets as a propellant fuel. The fuel tank of Dnepr supposedly held 40 tons of the toxic fuel when it crashed. Although environmental experts found no traces of fuel contamination in the area, residents of the Komekbay village complained of strong headaches and nausea. Children from nearby villages reportedly were affected by an unknown disease (Aikyn, August 2).
    Experts from Kazakhstan’s Emergency Ministry estimated that the fuel contaminated several square kilometers of the area, but Russia refuted these allegations outright. However, five days after the crash the Russian side agreed to set up a joint team of experts to investigate. The behavior of the Russian Roskosmos space agency clearly points to Moscow’s attempt to downplay the environmental contamination and health hazards from the rocket crash. “It took two and a half hours for Russians to inform the Emergency Ministry of the crash. By that time we already knew every detail of the disaster,” said Deputy Emergency Minister Bolatbek Kuandykov (Ekspress K, August 2).
    Russians did not begin to search for debris, scattered across Karmakshy district, until the morning of July 27, while teams of experts from Kazakh Emergency Ministry were sent to the area within 90 minutes. Whatever the joint commission of experts concludes (its meetings are held behind closed doors and journalists are being given no information) the Dnepr crash raises questions about what Kazakhstan gains from space cooperation with Russia. The incident certainly does not raise confidence in Russian space technology. Roskosmos spokesman Igor Panarin explained that the catastrophic failure of the Dnepr was triggered by a malfunctioning rocket engine (Delovaya nedelya, July 28).
    But the Dnepr crash was not the first failure since the start of the year. In February the launch of an Arab telecommunications satellite from Baikonur ended in disaster. Likewise the launch of the Kompas-2 scientific satellite, designed to forecast earthquakes and launched from a submarine of the Russian North Fleet, was an ill-fated adventure. In June some of the solar panels of a Kosmos-2421 military satellite launched from Baikonur failed to unfold. In 2000 a Proton booster rocket landed near the village of Koktas in Qaraghandy region (Central Kazakhstan).
    With this grim record, Kazakhstan and Belarus have little reason to hope for successful future launches as long as they are using Russian booster rockets. Even before the joint commission convened, experts at Roskosmos hastened to announce that there was no danger of contamination of the area by toxic fuel. But even Russian experts are not unanimous on that point. The director of the Russian Environmental Policy Center, Alexei Yablokov, asserts that it takes decades for the highly toxic heptyl fuel to decompose .
    When Belarusian President Lukashenka arrived in Baikonur he was fascinated by “exceptionally high professional level” of space specialists at the cosmodrome. But the crash of the Dnepr raises strong doubts about the reliability of Russian boosters not only in Belarus, but also in Kazakhstan, where the government has always seen Russia as an unrivalled supplier of space technologies.

    Higher calling leads Southern California woman to Belarus

    From: San Bernadino Sun

    Dorothy Lindlahr had it all by some measures. In the mid-1990s, she was young, brash and making big money as a manager at UCLA Medical Center.
    By 2001, she was a corporate executive with an out-sized reputation and a luxury apartment in Beverly Hills.
    But she was unfulfilled.
    "Looking back, it seems like it was all fake," said Lindlahr, 39. "It took me a while to realize I hated the job. The corporate world didn't jibe with my makeup, with who I really am."
    Long having been concerned about the plight of children affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Lindlahr will accompany a team of American medical professionals in late October to share their techniques with Belarussians and work in facilities for babies with deformities in Vesnova, Belarus.
    "It's a little-known fact that children are still to this day born in Belarus with physical deformities from the nuclear fallout," Lindlahr said.
    "My mission is to do what I can to make their lives better and to train others to be able to do the same."
    Lindlahr's travels will be part of Chernobyl Children's Project International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian and medical aid to the 3-to 4-million children the United Nations recognizes as suffering from the effects of a lingering contamination from the nuclear meltdown.
    The organization sends small teams of American medical professionals to Belarus for 10-day aid and training tours every month.
    A documentary on the effects of the disaster, the Academy Award-winning "Chernobyl Heart," had a profound effect on Lindlahr.
    "The images of those children suffering are just excruciating," Lindlahr said.
    But the film shot with unflinching realism did more than shock and sadden Lindlahr, a mother who said she "loves babies."
    It inspired her to act.
    "I knew that I could contribute, I could help," Lindlahr said. "I want to teach the nurses how to massage these babies, babies which I could see in the movie were suffering needlessly from lack of stimulation."
    Lindlahr, who now lives in Tarzana but still has family in Rialto, will take precautions during her 10-day stay. She will not drink the water or eat locally produced food, and her mouth will be covered at all times when she is outdoors.
    But the danger is no deterrent. Lindlahr said she looks forward to teaching parents and caregivers how to massage their babies.
    Infant massage is about much more than massage strokes, Lindlahr said.
    It's about establishing trust, reading the baby's cues and enhancing the nurturing and loving relationship between parents or caregivers and babies, she said.
    Massaging babies might also help reduce pain, trigger deeper sleep and relax the digestive system.
    But while Lindlahr is no longer in the world of the corporate elite, she has retained a realistic outlook. She knows that what she can do while in Belarus is small, and the problem is big. The people of Belarus could use much more.
    "Hopefully, what I do will help shed more light on this horrible suffering that is ongoing, and inspire more people to get involved, to help."
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    Belarus simplifies order of customs clearance procedures for natural persons

    From: NLIPRB

    Belarus has introduced a new control system of customs clearance procedures of goods transported by natural persons for their personal use; BelTA was informed in the State Customs Committee (SCC).
    Decree #507 “On improving control over the natural persons crossing the state border of the Republic of Belarus and over the crossings of the goods and vehicles which are not intended for production or commercial activities” introduces notions of green and red channels into the Belarusian legislation.
    The green channel is for those who imports goods and vehicles which are not intended for commercial activities and hence are not subject for mandatory customs control. This will significantly save the time of customs clearing procedures. The red channel envisages all types of control stipulated by the Belarusian legislation.
    The decree focuses on crossing the border by car. Vehicles registered abroad produced less than 7 years ago temporary imported to Belarus will enjoy the opportunity to pass via the green gates. “As a rule such vehicles are quite expensive so it is not expedient to import them in order to sell for spare parts,” SCC employees informed.
    In addition, according to the European legislation, vehicles older than 8 years are ranked as ecologically unfriendly and due to high taxes are very expensive to be kept. That is why these cars are often sold abroad. When crossing the border, these cars will have to pass via the red channel.

    BELARUS: An Orthodox state?

    From: Forum 18

    Belarus' President Aleksandr Lukashenko publicly stresses the role of Orthodoxy. However, Forum 18 News Service has found little evidence that state support for the Moscow Patriarchate is more than nominal. For example, every month a network of Ideological Departments sends state policy on topics such as youth, trade or housing to every state organ in the country. However, there appears to be no insistence upon familiarity with Orthodox doctrine. One Orthodox priest commented to Forum 18 that the 12 apostles would be illegal under Belarus' Religion Law. He also noted that registered religious organisations are banned from using state school premises, even outside school hours, and that there have been no substantial moves to introduce Orthodox instruction into state education. Discussing why the state gives nominal support for Orthodoxy, rather than a more active pro-atheist policy, the priest pointed out: "You can make a reservation for it, in which it is tolerated as a museum of culture and turns into something that fulfils 'religious needs' instead of preaching the Gospel."
    While President Aleksandr Lukashenko stresses the role of Orthodoxy in Belarus and there is an accepted view among Protestants that the Belarusian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is becoming a pillar of state ideology, Forum 18 News Service has found little evidence for this to be the case.
    The Baptist Union elder for Minsk region, for example, recently joked to Forum 18 that the Orthodox Church had replaced communist ideology: "They attend all state events," Gennadi Brutsky remarked. "I wouldn't be surprised if we soon see priests blessing intakes of children into the Pioneers!" (Based on the Soviet-era youth organisation.) Musing on the possibility of optional lessons on Orthodoxy in state schools, a Minsk Pentecostal maintained that in Belarus "optional" meant "having to fight for the right not to take part in it. You can't even call your child what you like, the name has to be in the registry office directory. When I suggested Dominic, they said 'How about Dmitri?'"
    Despite the prominence of different confessions at different stages in Belarusian history (see F18News 13 November 2003, President Aleksandr Lukashenko has repeatedly affirmed his support for Orthodoxy. In recent years he has variously described the Belarusian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) as "the basis of our faith," "the most important origin of correct decision-making at state level" and, prospectively, "one of the most important pillars of our state." In addition to similar sentiments expressed during his November 2005 meeting with the Church's synod, the Belarusian leader's official website notes, Lukashenko referred to state support for both Orthodox church construction and seminary education. In the absence of much commercial advertising in Belarus, Forum 18 noted collection boxes for the Belarusian Orthodox Church prominently sited in every Minsk metro station and most major shops.
    According to the 2002 Religion Law, the Orthodox Church plays "the defining role in the state traditions of the Belarusian people," something which government officials are obliged to take into account in their dealings with other religious organisations. In its 2003 concordat-style co-operation agreement, the Belarusian state also guarantees the Orthodox Church "the right of ecclesiastical jurisdiction on its canonical territory" and endorses its collaboration with a broad range of government ministries
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    Diplomat Reimo Smits will not return to Belarus

    From:Naveny and the Baltic Times

    Latvian diplomat Reimo Smits will not continue his diplomatic service in Belarus, Normunds Penke, state secretary of the Latvian foreign ministry, told the LETA news agency on Thursday.
    Mr. Smits is currently on vacation, the official said, adding that the diplomat might take up some diplomatic post in another country.
    The second secretary at the Latvian embassy in Minsk left Belarus after police raided his apartment in Minsk on July 25, allegedly seizing videocassettes and CDs containing pornographic material. Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov said that the diplomat was facing a pornography charge.
    After the raid, the Latvian foreign ministry accused Minsk of breaching the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic immunity and sent a protest note to the Belarusian foreign ministry demanding an explanation.
    Minsk replied two weeks later, insisting that the raid was lawful.
    Last week the Latvian foreign ministry expelled Dmitry Krayushkin, the first secretary at the Belarusian embassy in Riga, for "performing actions that are incompatible with the status of a diplomat," and recalled the country's ambassador to Belarus, Maira Mora, for "consultations regarding the events."
    Last week after Belarusian law enforcement officials accused a Latvian diplomat of distributing pornography after searching his Minsk apartment and confiscating personal belongings. Later, on July 30, during a report on the Latvian diplomat, Belarus state television showed video footage of two men engaged in sex, implying that the diplomat, Reimo Smits, was leading a decadent lifestyle.
    According to the information of Belarus law enforcement authorities, the Latvian diplomat had been doing this for a long time, but authorities could not identify him.”
    Naumov stressed that Smits was not detained and that Smits would not have to stand trial.
    “The diplomat won’t stand trial in Belarus, but his actions will be evaluated according to international standards,” the Belarus Interior Ministry told the Interfax news agency on July 31.
    Latvia’s Foreign Ministry reacted bitterly to the news. The ministry said the incident was a provocation against the Latvian state and its diplomatic corps and is a serious violation of the norms and practices of diplomatic conduct.

    Gas price will rise by 50 to 100 percent for Belarus next year

    From: Naveny

    Russia is likely to raise the gas price for Belarus by between 50 and 100 percent next year, according to the country's 2007 social and economic development projections posted on the Russian economy ministry's webpage.
    Russia's Gazprom warned earlier this year that it planned to increase the price of 1,000 cubic meters of gas supplied to Belarus to $200 in 2007, a fourfold hike compared with the current rate of $46.68.
    The forecast identifies Belarus as a major consumer of Russian energy resources among CIS countries, saying that investment projects and closer cooperation will contribute to a rise in fuel supplies to the Belarusian market, the AFN news agency reported.
    According to the document, Russia's Lukoil giant is to invest in the manufacture of high-quality oil additives and oil refining, and Gazprom will be involved in projects on the modernization of the Grodno Azot fertilizer manufacturer and the construction of a subsurface gas storage facility.
    The document forecasts a rise in Russian oil deliveries to Belarus' refineries in Mozyr and Novopolotsk

    Iran establishes new car assembly plant in Belarus

    From: China View and Iran Mania

    A new assembly plant for Iranian-designed cars has been inaugurated by Iranian Minister of Industries Ali-Reza Tahmasbi in the Belorussian capital of Minsk, the official IRNA news agency reported on Saturday.
    The assembly line for "Samands," a model of passenger car of Iran's Khodro Industrial Group, the biggest automobile manufacturing company in the Middle East, was inaugurated in the Unison Company in Minsk on Friday.
    Belarus' first deputy prime minister said in Minsk that with the establishment of the Samand automobile assembly line in Belarus his country has joined the world's top car manufacturers, MNA reported.
    Vladimir Semashko made the remarks at a meeting with Iranian Minister of Industries and Mines Alireza Tahmasbi during which the sides discussed further expansion of Tehran-Minsk relations.
    For his part, the Iranian minister voiced Iran's readiness to boost economic and industrial cooperation with Belarus.
    Iranian investors are keen to invest in different areas in Belarus such as in the construction of hotels and trade centers as well as power plants, he said.
    The plant will assemble up to 1,000 Iranian-designed "Samands" car by year's end, and up to 6,000 by next year, according to the report.
    Khodro, which "had mapped out plans for entering East European markets since five years ago," picked the Belorus's Unison Companyto carry out the project "taking into account the country's valuable car manufacturing experience", Tahmasbi was quoted as saying.
    The Iranian minister also predicted that the car assembly line would boost the annual volume of trade exchanges between Iran and Belarus to 100 million U.S. dollars, the report said.
    Belorussian Minister of Industry Anatoly Rusetsky, who also attended the inaugural ceremony, hailed the importance of bolstering economic relations with Iran and noted that the two countries were cooperating on several joint projects.

    Belarus, Russia migration services to develop joint documents

    From: NLIPRB

    Belarusian and Russian migration services will have to develop joint documents as the Russian Federation has adopted new migration laws. The information was released by deputy director of the Russian Federation Federal Migration Service Alexander Ledenev, who had taken part in today's conference on Belarusian-Russian law enforcement co-operation in Vitebsk.
    In his words, the new Russian migration laws, which will enter into force, will largely facilitate registration procedures for foreigners and reinforce responsibility for illegal stay in the Russian Federation. "The Belarusian side pursues the same goal and it will be easy to adjust our laws within the framework of the adopted acts," Alexander Ledenev believes.
    Belarus deputy interior minister Viktor Filistovich added, Belarus has migration processes under control. The law on legal status of foreigners and stateless persons, who stay in the Republic of Belarus, works effectively.

    Schools divide "pirogues";
    City authorities searched for an additional billion rubles for the preparation of schools for the coming year

    From: The Brest evening News

    The school bell cannot be abolished and it will inevitability ring on 1 September. But its adults are working away trying to make sure that the children are comfortable, the roofs don't leak and the grounds are ready for the this year's classes. There is much still to do though and this work is compounded do to there having been camps during the month of June.
    But after 20 August will approach the work commission which will answer the question: Are they ready or are they not? This serious document , the serious document called the "passport of readiness", will be entrusted by the fact of a professional appearance and nothing else. The first inspections of the preparations of the schools of Brest for 2006-2007 training year will be examined on 3 August at the session of city executive committee.
    8 billion: much or is small?
    Reporting at the session of city executive committee about the motion of preparatory works, one of the Heads of Administration summed up the budget issue for this year in this way: "By 1 September it will be poor, but it will be pure". This argument of poverty however was not agreed upon by all in attendance. The mayor of the city of brest, Aleksandr Palyshenkov said "to the major and current overhaul of the schools of Brest region in this year will be spent 12 billion rubles, including of approximately 8 billion the portion of Brest comprises. It is understandable that there is a desire to have more, but with a reasonable approach this should be sufficient to most necessary ".
    Brest city has 31 average general education schools and 6 secondary schools.. The significant reduction of a quantity of students is observed with the sufficiently kept balance network of formation. The budget for the schools is based on the number of students attending classes.
    In the past training year of those, who occupied places at desks were 1200 people less than the previous year (there is no "fresh" data as to the quantity of students thus far). But this indeed an entire school! But, as it expressed hope the leader of the division of the formation of city executive committee Natalie Kozak, once in 2008, picture must radically change, since in 2002 demographic situation began to be improved. And to this it is also necessary to be finished with the reconstruction projects.
    To break and to construct
    The very solid volume of works on the major and current overhaul of school buildings is planned for July-August of the present year. Tt present, work is only on-going for 12 objects. The most significant of them in SSH N 19, where the reconstruction of a building, which was conducted into three stages beginning from 2004, until must be completed by 1 September. But here in SSH N 16, builders say they will have time prior to the beginning of academic year to return one block, and completely the completion of object is planned in 2007.
    In three urban schools where the roves had become fire hazards, the new roofing was arranged only on the ground next to the building. In two other buildings (SSH N 32 and SSH N 14) roves were also removed in the past year. But in SSH N 29 strengthening the construction of roofing will be produced by present summer.
    As far as improvement is concerned, most widely it is conducted in school N 3 on the Avenue of Cosmonauts. Builders have not so far completed that project and during this last week's rains, the roves flowed. The council understands that it is necessary now to correct imperfections.
    The food industries and service are not forgotten
    The basic special feature of the preparation of schools in 2006 Natalie Kozak described as follows: "even with the consideration of the budget of city during present yr we determined the priorities: on that it is necessary to accumulate means first of all? And they solved: to the reconstruction of food industries and service. In this year "transported" SSH N 5 and SSH N 19 and secondary schools N 5. To these three objects the complete replacement of equipment will leave the lion's share of means ".
    A certain hitch happened of the preparation for project-estimate documentation, which placed under the threat the timely delivery of units. But during several days this part of the work was completed after the session of city executive committee for mayor Aleksandr palyshenkov's order.
    On the turn - reconstruction of food industries and service in the 1st secondary school and in other schools of city.
    Without recalling about "korvetakh"
    As certified the chief of the administration of the formation of executive committee Mikhail Tikhonchuk, at the beginning of training year to the schools of city will be isolated 1 or 2 new computer classes. Additionally to those two, which were already stocked up in this year. Today in the establishments of the formation of 78 computer classes. - we thus far do not suffice to the norm - 1 computer for every 30 students.
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    Netherlands invites scholarship applications from Belarusian students

    From: BelaPan and Praguemonitor

    Nuffic, the Netherlands' national organization for international cooperation in higher education, this year launches a program that aims to help students from Belarus to take bachelor's and master's degree courses in the Netherlands.
    The Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has made €1 million available.
    In 2006, the Libertas Support Fund program will be open to students from Belarus only, but in the future it may be opened to other students "who find it impossible or extremely difficult to study in their home country because of the political situation there," Nuffic's press office said.
    Scholarships will cover a monthly allowance of €900, tuition fees, visa fees and travel expenses.
    There is no fixed number of available scholarships.
    Also, the Technical University in Liberec (Czech Republic) is prepared to enroll five Belarussian students who were sacked from universities over their participation in the movement for human rights and democracy, deputy vice-chancellor Oldrich Jirsak told CTK today.
    The university can enroll the students for a five-year programme as of the forthcoming semester within a project financially supported by the Foreign Ministry with the sum of 1.89 million crowns.
    The Belarussian students will get visas for free and the university will cover their transport costs and their health insurance and they will receive a scholarship.
    At present, 29 students from the former Soviet Union, especially Ukraine, are studying in Liberec. Recently, contacts with Kazakhstan have been established.
    The Czech Republic earmarked 20 million crowns for education programmes for Belarus. It has been offering 10 stipends for Belarussian students every year since 2000.

    Gross grain yield in Belarus is reaching 3 mln tonnes

    According to Vladimir Kuratnik, Minister of Agriculture of Belarus, by the 10th of August the enterprises of the Republic milled 2.732 mln. tonnes, up 187.000 tonnes as compared to the same date of the previous year.
    Grains and legumes are harvested from 945.000 ha, or 42.3% of total harvesting area. In Brest oblast grains are harvested in the volume of 65.5%, in Gomel oblast - 51.4%, in Grodnen - 48.2%. In Minsk oblast farmers milled 39.4% of crop, in Mogilevsk - 28.6%. The enterprises of Vitebsk oblast harvested 22.3% of area and for the previous day they reached the highest level of mowing - 3.7%.
    According to the specialists, all regions exceeded levels of the last year on milling the grain. In average the yield in the Republic is 29.3 c/ha. The highest one is in Grodnen oblast 36.7 c/ha. Yield of enterprises in Minsk, Mogilevsk and Vitebsk oblasts is higher comparing to the last year figure - 31.2 c/ha, 30.9 c/ha and 28.6 c/ha accordingly.
    Vladimir Kuratnik noticed that the terms of ending of harvesting campaign are unchanged - August 25 for southern and central regions and September 1 for northern regions. Soon the period of rains should finish and farmers are to increase the speed of mowing - by 5-7% per day.
    For today the stat has bought 249.200 tonnes of grains, almost 25% above the plan. 20.800 tonnes of grains are prepared for the state order for brewer's barley.
  • Note: Despite this report, it is widly known that due to the terrible frosts last winter, there was serious damage done to this year's wheat crop. One result can be found at the local bread shops where the cost of black bread just past the $.50 a loaf mark. Only two years ago, bread was $.25 a loaf.

    Double gold for Belarus in European throws

    From: Reuters

    GOTHENBURG, Sweden, Belarus dominated the throwing events at the European championships on Saturday with gold for Natallia Khoroneko in the women's shot put and Ivan Tikhon in the men's hammer.
    Khoroneko edged compatriot and world champion Nadzeya Ostapchuk to the shot title by one centimetre on another cool, damp day in Gothenburg.
    World indoor champion Khoroneko took the lead in the fourth round with 19.43 metres.
    Ostapchuk responded on her fifth attempt but it came up just short. Germany's Petra Lammert was third with 19.17.
    Tikhon, unbeaten in 2005, finally found his form to get his first win of the year with a season's best throw of 81.11 metres in the hammer.
    Finland's Olli-Pekka Karjalainen prevented another Belarus one-two, earning his country's first hammer medal since Ville Porhola won at the inaugural championships in 1934.
    He threw 80.84 to world silver medallist Vadim Devyatovski's 80.76. The top three were the only men to break 80 metres.
    Germany's Ulrike Maisch set a personal best to win the women's marathon in two hours 30 minutes one second.
    Silver went to Olivera Jevtic of Serbia, the top European athlete in the 2004 Olympic marathon where she was was sixth, in 2:30.27 and Russian Irina Permitina was third in 2:30.53.
    Hot favourites Russia were quickest in qualifying for Sunday's women's 4x400 metres relay final.
    Defending champions Britain and medal rivals France, missing 400 champion Marc Raquil, went through in the men's semi-finals.
    World and Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia was competing in the pole vault final and the man the crowd had come to see, Gothenburg's Christian Olsson, was due to take part in the triple jump later on Saturday.
    IN other news, Rita Turova of Belarus on Wednesday finished first in the women's 20-kilometer walk, a second medal won by the Belarusian team at the European Athletics Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.
    The 25-year-old Turova, who was just second shy of the podium at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, clocked the fastest time of 1 hour, 27 minutes, eight seconds. Another Belarusian walker, Yelena Ginko, did not finish. Alesia Turava emulated her sister Ryta on a grand Saturday for Belarus when she triumphed in the inaugural women's 3,000 metres steeplechase.
    Yuliya Nesterenko, the 2004 Olympics sprint champion, came in sixth in 11.34 seconds in the women's 100 meters. The Belarusian athlete won the Olympic gold in 10.93 seconds but has been plagued by injuries since.
    Ilona Usovich made the women's 400-meter finals after finishing in 50.74 seconds, Belarus' new national record, in the semifinals.
    Shot-putter Andrei Mikhnevich was the first Belarusian athlete to win a medal at the championships. He won silver on the opening day, August 7.