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Today's Headlines for:
Friday, September 22, 2006

By doing business with Denmark, Vika/Maria still at large, Russian economics, Madonna is going into space, Potato scandal, Viasna, EU, Iran, Kozulin

From the Top

President of Belarus to discuss investment offer in cattle breeding with Danish businessmen

From: NLIPRB and Belta
Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko gave his consent to the implementation of an investment project for setting up a modern pig breeding facility in Belarus by Danish businessmen. By the end of the year the businessmen together with central and local authorities will have to choose the location of the future facility.

Belarus president warned government officials against using any red tape practices in considering the project, the press service informed.

Head of the Danish businessmen delegation Torben Andersen noted, Denmark businessmen visited Belarus two years before to find the country the best place for the project. In particular, they were attracted by Belarus political stability, dynamic economic growth, highly qualified manpower and the favourable geographical location — Belarus borders on the European Union and Russia at the same time.

Speaking about advantages of the future project, the businessman drew attention to the application of only cutting-edge technologies, which will allow the facility to get an international certificate of the European Union in the future.

It was noted Belarus chose to use the Danish technologies, as Danish pig breeding practises are among the best ones in Europe. Denmark is well-known for observing European strict ecological standards and biological security norms. The Belarusian project will observe all the requirements and standards as an example for the rest of the industry, the president’s press service noted.

The matter will concern the setting up in Minsk oblast of a hog-breeding farm for 66 thousand head. The total investment in the first four years is estimated at EUR 15 million. According to preliminary estimates, the farm will generate first profits in two years after the construction is launched.

Belarus believes that the successful implementation of the project might become a good model for similar productions in the country.

The farm will produce 5,6 thousand tons of meat a year. The project has been designed by the Danish company Danish Crown (the annual exports stand at EUR 3,7 billion, or 56 per cent of the aggregate pork exports of Denmark).

The Danish investors plan to use Belarusian construction materials in construction of the hog-breeding farm and relevant facilities. The equipment meeting world best analogues will be exported. The products are expected to be sold in foreign markets.

Belarus calls on all countries to stop violence and military operations

From: Belta
Belarus calls on all belligerents on the planet to stop violence and military operations, councilor of the department of universal international organizations of the office of international organizations of the foreign ministry of the Republic of Belarus Galina Bubnovskaya told a press conference today in the national press center.

She has reminded that on September 21 all countries will celebrate the International Day of Peace – the day of global reconciliation, when people from all countries will stop military operations for one day.

As BelTA informed earlier, a minute of silence will be observed on September 21 in educational establishments, companies and organizations of Belarus. It will be the highlight of the day. A minute of silence will be observed at the suggestion of the UNO in all countries at 1200hr (local time) in tribute to the memory of civilians who were killed in regional wars and victims of terrorist acts.

Moreover, various actions dedicated to peace and global reconciliation will be held in the republic on this day. “Peace lessons” will be given in all educational establishments of the country. Children will take part in contests and quizzes and will write compositions on peace. All these initiatives will help children gain a better understanding of the idea of peace and the International Day of Peace.

Minsk will soon take stock of the exhibition “Earth – house of peace and unity” and contest “Children voices against violence”. Best posters will be selected to represent Belarus at the international contest in UN Headquarters in New York. The Minsk State Palace of Youth and Children will host a concert “Children – ambassadors for peace” on September 21. Boys and girls will sign a “message for peace” and hand it over to a UN representative in Belarus. On September 23 Minsk secondary school #196 will stage performances “Messages for peace by Belarusian youth”. Kids from children’s houses will attend the event.

This year’s action was organized in close cooperation with the UN Office in Belarus, Belarusian education ministry, public association Belarusian Peace Committee, Altera volunteers.

The Peace Day has been celebrated since 1982 when the UN General Assembly proclaimed September 21 the International Day of Peace.

Minsk hopes Belarusian orphan will be returned, foreign ministry spokesman says

From: Belapan
Minsk hopes that the Belarusian orphan girl will be returned to Belarus, Andrei Popov, spokesman for the foreign ministry, told reporters in the Belarusian capital city on Thursday.

"We believe that Italy is a law governed state and that it will finally implement an Italian court's order to unconditionally return our citizen to the Republic of Belarus, her home," he said.

Mr. Popov stressed that the "Belarusian side" does not want tensions sparked by the incident to be "artificially heated."

He reiterated that Minsk would act in strict accordance with the international law and Belarusian-Italian agreements.

Viktoriya Moroz was spending the summer in Italy as part of a program for children affected by the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

She was meant to have flown back to Belarus on September 8. Instead, her seasonal foster parents sent her into hiding. They say that the 10-yea-old child was repeatedly raped and tortured at the orphanage in Vileika, Minsk region.

The couple's lawyers held talks with Italy's deputy justice minister on Tuesday. The talks failed.

"The family's position remains uncompromising," the Belarusian ambassador to Italy, Aleksei Skripko, told Interfax.

"They will take a decision that will allow the girl to stay in Italy for at least one year for medical treatment," he said.

On Wednesday, the Belarusian foreign ministry issued a formal protest against the "deliberate abduction" of the child.

Child row upset Belarus-Italy ties

From: Naveny
The tug-of-war involving a 10-year-old Belarussian child continued to cause diplomatic tensions between Belarus and Italy on Wednesday.

Belarussian Ambassador to Italy Alexei Skripko renewed his country's demands that the child, who has been hidden away by an Italian couple, be sent back home immediately.

He stressed that the Belarussian foreign ministry regarded the case as a kidnapping.

"Bielorussia wants a full investigation into the circumstances of this prolonged kidnapping including the punishment of all those responsible for carrying out and aiding these illegal acts," the ambassador said.

The child at the centre of the row, who has been given the cover name Maria, was due to return to Belarus 13 days ago after spending the summer with temporary Italian foster parents.

But the foster parents, Maria and Alessandro Giusti from Cogoleto near Genoa, are refusing to hand Maria back after she revealed she had been sexually abused by other children in her orphanage back home.

The couple have taken Maria to a secret hiding place with the help of their own parents and are defying threats of arrest in their determination to prevent the child being sent back to Belarus.

They now want to adopt Maria.

Skripko said he was "extremely worried for the life and health" of Maria, whom he said needed urgent psychological assistance.

He said the Belarussian government insisted that the Italian authorities "guarantee respect for Italian law and public order".

Meanwhile, thousands of Italian foster parents fear the Giustis' actions could jeopardise the annual temporary adoption programme of which Maria was part.

Every winter and summer, thousands of Belarussian children travel to Italy to stay with temporary foster parents in a programme which was first launched after the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in neighbouring Ukraine.

Belarus has suspended the programme until the Maria case is resolved.

A Genoa juvenile court has ordered the Giustis to hand back Maria but the couple told reporters last week: "The child has been subject to terrible violence in her home country and has threatened to kill herself if she is sent back".

"The Italian State has to deal with this case. Our Constitution guarantees people's right to life, health and physical well-being," they said.

Attempts by Italian Justice Undersecretary Daniela Melchiorre to mediate in the affair have so far failed.

Melchiorre said on Tuesday that she was having difficulties in arriving at a solution because of the "intransigence of the parents".

"The family is refusing to respect international accords and we can only invite them to rethink their position and obey the law," she said.

The Giustis and their parents are all under investigation for child abduction by the Italian judicial authorities.

2 Russian banks stripped of licenses this week

From: Ria Novosti
Russia's Central Bank said Thursday it had withdrawn licenses from two Moscow-based banks in the last two days over violations of federal laws and banking-sector regulations.

The decisions came following the killing last week of a senior Central Bank official who led efforts against such violations and ordered the closure of dozens of banks, including for money laundering.

The commercial Russian Property Trust Bank was stripped of its operating license Thursday because it had failed to create reserves to cover possible losses and meet Central Bank requirements or meet them on time.

The license of Kumost-Inkass, a non-banking credit organization, was revoked September 20.

The Bank of Russia said the organization had given a total of $302.2 million (8.1 billion rubles) to clients between 2005 and 2006, whereas its currency reserve did not exceed $13 million (350 million rubles). Its clients also effected payments amounting to a total of 76.6 billion rubles ($2.8 billion) on commodity deals outside Russia's customs zone on behalf of non-residents.

"Kumost-Inkass' activity posed a real threat to its creditors' interests," the Central Bank said.

Both lending organizations were placed under provisional administration pending the appointment of external administrators required by Russian bankruptcy law.

Andrei Kozlov, 41, a Central Bank deputy chairman, was gunned down last Wednesday. He had been at the forefront of efforts to enforce law in the banking sector. Two high-profile cases centered on the revocation of licenses from Moscow-based Sodbiznesbank in 2004 and Neftyanoi Bank this year, but the CBR has been withdrawing licenses almost by the week in 2006.

Madonna could be sent into space in 2009 - Russian Space Agency

From: Ria Novosti
The Russian Space Agency has no objections to Madonna's plans for a space flight, but the American pop diva could make a space trip no earlier than 2009, the agency's spokesperson said Wednesday.

Alexei Mitrofanov, a flamboyant lawmaker from the ultra-nationalist LDPR party, earlier proposed that Madonna's desire to make the trip, which she expressed during her two-day visit to Russia, be fulfilled - a proposal that met with rejection by Russian lawmakers.

"We are aware of today's debates in the State Duma [the lower house of the Russian parliament] as to the proposed flight by Madonna to the International Space Station," Igor Panin said.

"Although a precise schedule for the flights of the so-called 'space tourists' has been approved until the end of 2008, Madonna's request will not meet any objections, and her representatives can approach us even now," he said, adding that the pop star's physical fitness and finances guarantee that her space dreams might come true as early as 2009.

Madonna's world tour, which continues next week in Japan, has drawn widespread criticism from religious groups for its depiction of a mock crucifixion. In Moscow, Russian nationalists vowed to disrupt her concert, while in Germany the authorities briefly considered an investigation under the country's religious blasphemy laws.

Tuesday's Moscow performance at the Luzhniki stadium, which was guarded by up to 7,000 police, passed off without any serious problems.

The numbers add up to embezzlement

From: ONT television
The answer to this question concerning such an occasion was found in the committee of state control. A checking of agricultural books of the collective ownership enterprise showed that not all was in the order. Numerous disturbances had already deprived the post leader of one of SPK in The Pukhovichskeye region of his job, now it is looking like he replacement turned out to be even worse.

After reading a letter of complaint from one of the workers, the state inspection organization found that the old director had been embezzling for quite some time. In checking it was found that the cow shed at SPK "Zazerka" had been covered in torn cellophane rather than glass, a manure pump which had been paid for was still unprepared, the job of removal was left to the workers to do with shovels. The chief engineer was removed from his post and it was that this event would mean a change for the better.

In came Aleksandr Sidorik, aged 50 and chief "Agromnic" for Zazarka. The thinking was that he had vast experience in stock raising, unfortunately, he also had some experience in finding "left" money.

On paper all was running as smooth as glass. The milk yields sharply grew, though the real number of the monthly report of the chief accountant suddenly began not to coincide with the numbers, which the chairman, gave the division of statistics.

Marina Lishtvan, the chief accountant of "Zazerka" explains: "It turned out that this number was overstated in the statistics. Instead of our signatures - chief accountant and zootechnician - made his signature on false numbers. The real number was supposed to be 22 781 metric centners on one count, but in another form it was written as 1 389 metric centners more ". The potato harvest was also misquoted, this money going nowhere but to the pocket of the chairman. Today machine-operator Sergey Vasilyevich accurately knows, whose grass he mows, but here in the beginning of May he could not understand, why he was planting potatoes outside of the collective farm field: "I knew that the potatoes were not collective farm, while" Zazer'ya ", and for that matter, neither was the tractor. For whom they planted we never knew. We thought maybe it was to raise productivity, but I guess it could have been for something else. "

Looking at the fields showed almost 5 hectares overgrown with weeds, and that more than 16 tons of potatoes were planted. But, after digging more deeply, secret becomes explicit: The harvest from this area - about 100 tons, and the money from it - about $20 000 dollars went somewhere, though for the moment, other than speculation, there are still no hard answers.

Indeed there are no official documents to the purchase of potatoes, but nevertheless inspectors are prepared to bring charges of large scale embezzlement against the farm director. The penalty for the could be as much as 250 to a thousand base wages ($3000 to $12,000) and if he is found guilty, there can be a jail sentence for from 3 to 10 years.

Human Rights Chronical published by Viasna

From: American Chronical
Belarusian Human Rights Center "Vyasna" has presented the report "President of Belarus Elections Campaign Repressions, 2006" in which shows the number of people, who were arrested days before elections, during mass protest actions against falsifications of the results of the elections and after elections.

Before the election campaign on March 19th, 2006 in Minsk 236 youth activists and people representing opposition candidates were penalized and arrested for a period from 4 to 15 days.

From the date of elections on March, 19th till March, 25th – 686 condemned in Minsk, about 50 condemned – in regions, from them only 5 penalties, other administrative punishments – arrests from 4 till 15 day.

Also, according to the Committee of Protection of the Subjected to Repression, 370 pupils and students have been excluded from educational institutions during the election campaign of 2006. All those students were subjected to repression not only for the participation in the presidential campaign but also for taking part in the actions of protest demanding to release political prisoners in Belarus. Thanks to the opposition efforts all of them have an opportunity to continue education in high schools, colleges and universities of the other countries close to Belarus.

Here is the List of Sentenced Political Prisoners (condemned in Belarus on politically motivated criminal cases - leaders and the activists of opposition who are serving time in jails right now):

- Kozulin Aleksandr (5.5 years) – Professor, the former candidate for presidency, former Rector of the Belarusian State University has been sentenced to 5 and a half years in a minimum security prison on July 13, 2006 by the judge Aleksej Rybakov. The politician was arrested during a brutal disband of a peaceful rally on March 25 this year and is in jail now.

- Mikalay Astreyka and Tsimafey Dranchuk (1-2 years), were members of an independent election monitoring group, Initiative Partnership. They were sentenced by the judge Leonid Yasenovich on 4 August, 2006 to two years and one year imprisonment accordingly for their intention to observe the presidential elections in March 2006. Both are in jail now.
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  • Note: Viasna's wensite can be found in the BHTime's links list

    EU to extend Belarus visa ban list

    From: EU Observer
    The EU plans to add up to four names to its list of Belarus officials banned from entering the bloc in response to the jailing for five and a half years of opposition leader Aleksander Kazulin.

    "There is a discussion on adding some names of those officials most directly involved in the trial, but it is 90 percent sure that it will happen," an EU official told EUobserver on Thursday (21 September).

    The final decision will be made at EU ambassador level "a few weeks from now" the contact added, after Mr Kazulin lost his appeal on Wednesday and declared that he plans to go on hunger strike.

    Minsk prosecutors sentenced the presidential candidate on charges of "hooliganism" in July after he led street protests following president Aleksander Lukashenko's disputed re-election in March.

    The topic of extending the visa ban list came up during a meeting between fellow Belarus opposition leader, Aleksander Milinkevich, and Finnish prime minister Matti Vanhanen in Helsinki on Wednesday.

    "We have found understanding on the issue of increasing sanctions against officials of Belarus who violated the electoral code and are involved in repressions against the Belarusian nation," Mr Milinkevich said after the talks, NGOs report.

    The extension would stretch the list of Minsk officials banned from the EU from 31 to 35, with president Lukashenko himself included on the register in a bid to discredit his regime in ordinary people's eyes.

    Belarus has in the past made light of EU sanctions, saying visa bans "show the lack of genuine political will on the part of the EU to engage in political relations" while cultivating contacts with states such as Cuba and Venezuela instead
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    Belarus-Iran ministerial consultations take place in Tehran

    From: NLIPRB
    Belarus-Iran ministerial consultations took place in Tehran at the level of deputy foreign ministers. Viktor Gaisenok headed the Belarusian party and Mehdi Safari – the Iranian. The consultations were aimed at developing measures to intensify the bilateral cooperation.

    As the Belarusian foreign ministry told BelTA, the sides discussed a wide range of issues concerning the Belarusian-Iranian interaction. The parties exchanged opinions on the key trade-economic, investment and inter-banking issues and considered the prospects of developing cargo transportation. During the visit, Viktor Gaisenok held negotiations with the minister of trade (chairman of the Iranian party in the Belarusian-Iranian commission for economic cooperation), minister of science and research and deputy trade minister of Iran.

    Also Mr Gaisenok paid a visit to the national exhibition of Belarus at the Tehran international fair. He attended the opening ceremony of a business-forum dedicated to the economic potential of Belarus and Iran.

    Justice ministry threatens to suspend Belarusian Party of Communists

    From: Belapan
    The Ministry of Justice is considering suspending the activities of the Belarusian Party of Communists (BPC), reported to the ministry's press office.

    According to the press office, the grounds are that the BPC leadership fails to meet the requirements of the Political Parties Law. In particular, the party allegedly refused to provide the ministry with information about its membership and received an official warning from the ministry for that. The ministry ordered that the BPC should provide the required data until September 15, but the party never did it.

    In Wednesday's interview with BelaPAN, BPC leader Sergei Kalyakin accused the ministry of blackmail and said that the requirement was absolutely unfounded from a legal viewpoint. The information that the ministry has spread is false, he said. "Under regulations, we have one month to appeal to the warning to the Supreme Court," he noted. "We have notified the Ministry of Justice in writing that we will appeal against its decision in accordance with the established procedure. Under the law, the warning may come into force only if the Supreme Court upholds it. Only after the Court does it, the ministry may decide on initiating judicial proceedings to suspend the party's activities."

    Earlier reports had it that the ministry issued the warning over the BPC's failure to provide data regarding the membership of its chapters, in particular the names and addresses of all members. But the party leadership argued that the order was illegal, as regulations require the central committee to provide the justice ministry with information about only the head, deputy head and secretary of a cell and the number of its members. "The BPC Central Committee does not have to present the party's membership list to the justice ministry because it is the grassroots organizations that should maintain such lists under the law," Valery Ukhnalyov, secretary of the Committee, told BelaPAN in late August.

    Kozulin arrives in correctional facility to serve prison term

    From: Navany
    Convicted politician Aleksandr Kozulin on Thursday was brought to the number three minimum security correctional facility in the village of Vitba, Vitebsk district, for serving his prison term, his daughter, Yuliya Kozulin, told BelaPAN.

    Ms. Kozulin learned the news only after arriving in the village and meeting with a deputy head of the facility. The administration of the facility refused to tell her by phone whether her father had been there.

    "The deputy head confirmed that my father was at the facility. According to the officer, the father arrived in a good humor," she said.

    Ms. Kozulin was told that relatives would be allowed a meeting with the prisoner in a fortnight only. Food packages also will be accepted in two weeks only.

    Dr. Kozulin was transferred to the correctional facility two days after the judicial board of the Minsk City Court rejected his appeal. The politician's lawyer, Igor Rynkevich, told that a convict was normally transferred to prison two weeks after the rejection of the appeal by a court.

    Dr. Kozulin, 50, rector of Belarusian State University between 1996 and 2003, was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison at the Moskovsky District Court on July 13.

    The former presidential candidate was found guilty of hooliganism and the organization of group actions disturbing the public peace. The latter charge was brought in connection with the March 25 demonstration that ended in violence, with Almaz riot police officers beating protestors with truncheons.

    The European Union and the United States denounced the trial as clearly politically motivated.

    On Wednesday, Dr. Kozulin issued a statement threatening to go on indefinite hunger strike on October 20 in protest against Aleksandr Lukashenko's rule.

    He says that Mr. Lukashenko's reelection for a third term in power this past March was illegal, which means that he cannot be regarded as Belarus' legitimate leader of Belarus after September 20, the date when his second term in office was to expire.

    President of RK receives credentials from new ambassador of Belarus

    Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan, received Vassily Gapeyev, new Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to RK Thursday, Kazakhstan Today correspondent reports.

    At a briefing after the meeting with the President of RK the ambassador expressed a hope for further development of the bilateral ties. "I think that Kazakhstan and Belarus will increase their commodity turnover in the nearest future," - he said. According to Mr. Gapeyev, in seven months of the current year the export from Kazkahstan to Belarus grew 2.2 times, and the import correspondingly grew half as much again.

    The Belarusian diplomat also noted the high speed of the economic development of Kazakhstan. "Belarus follows the example of your country in some programmes of the economic development," - he has stressed.

  • From the WWIII file

    Poland is willing to host U.S. missile defense site

    From: Stars ad Stripes
    In seeking to host a U.S. base, Poland has some leverage: It and the Czech Republic are the only two countries willing to host a U.S. missile defense site, which U.S. planners would like to see installed as soon as 2011.

    The space-based interceptors are supposed to protect the U.S. and its allies against nuclear or nonnuclear long-range missiles fired by from rogue states such as North Korea and Iran. Nine interceptors have been installed at Fort Greely in Alaska, and two at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

    Civil protests against the site in the Czech Republic broke out in July, and four out of five of the country’s parliamentary parties have declared their opposition to housing the system. A national referendum is scheduled on the issue.

    The way is not clear in Poland, either, however. The possible deployment of interceptors would represent the first permanent U.S. military presence in the country.

    “Russia has very frankly communicated its unhappiness to us, the prospect of the U.S. planting a missile defense base in Poland,” Polish defense minister Radoslaw Sikorski said Sept. 13.

    Russia hasn’t just spoken, it acted, Sikorski noted. This summer, the Russian defense minister announced that Belarus — supposedly an independent state — was moving an S-300 anti-aircraft defense system to its border with Poland.

    “We respect Belarus’ right to have anti-aircraft defenses,” Sikorski said. “We’re somewhat surprised they have been put right on our border … [and] we did find a little strange the announcement was made by the defense minister of a third country.”

    Poland, Sikorski said, feels trapped in the middle.

    “Clearly, we have to take this Russian view, a power neighbor of ours, into account. And that makes us even more insistent on a package of measures that would hypothetically come with a missile defense base, if the U.S. asks for it.”

    Pentagon leaders have not made a decision on which European country should host the missile base, a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter, said Sept. 14. “And any decision would have to be followed by much more detailed negotiations.”

    But if Poland is tapped, as a democracy “we have to win a vote for it in the court of public opinion and in our Parliament,” Sikorski said. “We have to persuade our people that Poland’s security, overall, will increase as the result of such a U.S. facility.”

    Asked if the U.S. should “sweeten the pot” by offering base facilities, Sikorski laughed.

    “I couldn’t have put it better myself,” he said.

  • Opinion

    Commonwealth of Oil-Dependent States

    From: Kommersant
    Analytic centers believe that mid-term economic growth in CIS countries will remain, but the long-term growth strongly depends on oil prices and reforms in certain countries. Apparently, economic growth in such countries as Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan is dependent on exported raw material prices. However, the changes in raw material prices influences other CIS states as well, because their economies are closely intertwined. For instance, work migrants earn money in rapidly richening Russia and send it to their homes. Money transfers are economically important for such countries as Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldavia, and Tajikistan, according to IMF’s review of world economy.
    Ukraine’s, Georgia’s, and Belarus’ economies strongly depend on Russia’s oil and gas. Moscow now ties up political agreements on prices with the level of world prices on oil and gas. Thus, Belarus might lose from 2 or 3 percent to 9 or 10 percent of its GDP, depending on prices of energy resources from Russia.

    Georgia, who became the growth leader last year (9.3 percent of GDP growth), will keep it up this year as well. This is partially the result of liberal economic reforms and anti-corruption campaign. Yet, high growth rate in Georgia is also the consequence of fast economic recovery after decline. Georgia also has another important source for growth – foreign financial aid. Yet, the continuing debates between Moscow and Tbilisi might slow Georgia’s economic growth down to 5 or 6 percent in 2007.

    IMF thinks Ukraine might slow down as well, due to political instability. According to the estimations of ING bank, if Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan -- economic leaders of the CIS – join the WTO, their GDP growth rates will slow down by 0.2-0.5 percentage points in 2008, but will be accelerating by extra 0.5-1.0 percentage points beginning from 2009.

    Kutuzov enters self-imposed exile

    withdrawn his services from the Belarus national team after being dropped for his country's UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifier against the Netherlands, with coach Yuri Puntus citing a lack of fitness.

    Change of tune
    The 26-year-old from Serie A club Parma FC played the 90 minutes of Belarus's 2-2 Group G draw at home to Albania on 2 September, but was omitted from the 18-man squad for the 3-0 defeat in Eindhoven four days later. Kutuzov had initially seemed willing to accept his coach's decision, but two weeks on, has told the Belarus Football Federation, "I am asking not to be involved in the European Championship qualifiers because I want to regain full fitness and win a starting place at my club."

    Door still open
    The forward, who has scored nine goals in 32 internationals, will therefore be unavailable for the EURO games against Romania and Slovenia next month, although Puntus is keeping the door to the national team open. "We will be in touch again," the coach said. "When the emotions have died down, a final decision can be made." Kutuzov, who was loaned by AC Milan to Sporting Clube de Portugal and US Avellino before spending two seasons with UC Sampdoria, joined Parma this summer.