News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Friday, October 13, 2006

Belarus opposed to Transdniestria break-off, Local elections, Russia, Iran, Gay Porn case dropped, Religion, Blogs, BY 4 Slovinia 2

From the Top

Sergei Gaidukevich: no external political conditions to recognise Transdniestria sovereignty

From: Belta
Transdniestrian Moldovan Republic as a sovereign independent state. The opinion was voiced by member of the international affairs and CIS relations commission of the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly Sergei Gaidukevich.

He noted, such issues “cannot be dealt with quickly”. They need an all-round and very considerate approach. “At present there should be no such question. I think it’s no use expecting the CIS states to approve of the idea,” stressed the MP.

The parliamentarian informed, the Belarusian parliament is aware of results of the independence referendum held in Transdniestria in September 2006. In his words, MPs heard out the information with interest. The opinion of Transdniestria residents “is understandable and respectable”.

Let us remind you that Transdniestria parliamentarians adopted an appeal to the State Duma of the Russian Federation, the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus, Ukraine Supreme Rada and the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly.

"We hope Moldova territorial integrity will be preserved," BelTA was told by Nikolai Cherginets, chairman of the international affairs and national security commission of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly.

"Meanwhile, Belarus understands Transdniestria’s desire for independence. According to the Belarusian politician, actions of some state leaderships, in particular, Georgia leadership, encourage self-proclaimed territorial units to demand separation. But negotiations aimed at settling the conflict is the best way out.

“Belarus has official relations with Moldova as a whole. A well-thought-out approach is needed to prevent new conflicts from sparkling,” said Nikolai Cherginets to comment today’s appeal of the Supreme Council of Transdniestria Moldovan Republic to the State Duma of the Russian Federation, the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus, Ukraine Supreme Rada and the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly.

The document appeals for initiating the recognition of Transdniestria Moldovan Republic as a sovereign independent state on the basis of the democratic manifestation of Transdniestrians’ will during the independence referendum on September 17

Moldova’s Breakaway Region, Transdnestr, asks Russia to recognize it sovereignty

From: Reginum and Mossnews
Transdnestr ask Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and other CIS countries to recognize the Transdnestr Moldavian Republic as a sovereign independent state.

Such appeal is made in an address by the TMR Supreme Council to the Russian State Duma, the Belarusian National Assembly, the Ukrainian Supreme Rada, the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly. Transdnestrian MPs passed the address on October 11.

“We ask the deputies of Russia’s State Duma, Ukraine’s Supreme Rada, Belarus’ National Assembly and the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly to initiate the acknowledgement of the Transdnestr Moldovan Republic as a sovereign independent state,” the address of the republic’s parliament said.

“In conditions of political uncertainty and continuing economic pressure, Transdnestr used the institution of direct democracy, which is what a referendum is, to express ways Transdnestr can develop,” the document said.

The MPs note that the address is based upon the people’s will expressed democratically on the independence referendum on September 17.

It is worth mentioning, in connection with this address Moldova’s parliament intends to issue a statement on October 12.

According to data released by the Transdnestrian Central Election Commission, 97.2% voters supported the idea of Transdnestr independence and its further joining the Russian Federation.

Transdnestr proclaimed its independence from Moldova in the early 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Armed clashes between Moldova and Transdnestr ensued, and Russia has retained a military presence in the breakaway region ever since.

Ukraine and Russia are mediating negotiations on the status of the predominantly Russian-speaking region.

The talks stalled last March after Ukraine, which supports Moldova in the dispute, toughened its customs regulations for the breakaway province, demanding that Transdnestr exports pass customs clearance in Moldova before they are allowed across the Ukrainian border.

Officials in Ukraine and Moldova presented the new rule as an anti-smuggling measure. But Transdnestr’s leadership said it effectively amounted to a trade blockade, and responded by calling a referendum on the self-proclaimed republic’s independence — a move Chisinau and Western mediators refused to recognize as legitimate.

Moldovan authorities said they were willing to extend autonomy for the separatist region, which still has no international recognition, but brushed away the idea of granting it independence.

According to the RIA Novosti, the West has consistently refused to recognize Transdnestr’s independence. In response, Russia claims that recognizing the sovereignty of Kosovo — actively sought by the predominant Albanian population in the historically Serbian region — would serve as a precedent for legalizing the status of other separatist regions in former Soviet republics.

Moldova, the USA, the European Union, the OSCE and other international institutions and world countries did not recognize outcomes of the referendum.

Central Election Commission approves main resolutions on holding local elections

From: Belta
The Central Election Commission of Belarus approved today the main resolutions on holding elections to the local councils of deputies.

Chair of the Commission Lydia Yermoshina reminded that in line with the president’s decree the local elections will be held on January 14, 2007. Among the priority documents approved by the Commission is a time schedule of the election campaign, which describes procedures of setting up local election commissions and voting stations, drawing up voter’s lists, nominating and registering candidates for deputy and fixing the dates of the election campaign.

The Central Election Commission also approved a resolution regulating publicity issues. It concerns the order of nominating candidates, accreditation and activity of observers and the course of covering the election campaign in mass media outlets. When discussing this issue Lydia Yermoshina noted that the Russian experts consider that the election legislation of Belarus gives wider opportunities for observation than in other CIS member states. “It means that in Belarus bigger number of certain entities can send their observers: labor collectives, citizens, political parties and public associations”, Lydia Yermoshina said.

The Central Election Commission also approved resolutions concerning record keeping forms. Documents of the Commission will be kept five years after the elections to the Commission and then will be transferred to the National Archives. Ballot papers and signing lists will be kept within six months and then will be destroyed. During the forthcoming elections ballot papers are expected to be of different colors depending on the level of the council, which deputies are elected.

Belarus sanctions farce sheds light on EU machine

From: EU Observer
EU member states have kicked into the long grass plans to impose mini-trade sanctions on Belarus in a move that says more about the mysterious inner workings of the EU institutions than about EU-Belarus relations - leaving the European Commission with a red face.

EU diplomats had planned to vote on Thursday (12 October) to impose tariffs on €390 million a year of Belarus imports after Minsk over the past 18 months failed to put in place 12 demands on trade union rights made by the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation (ILO).

But EU diplomats cancelled the vote, giving an official explanation that Belarus deputy prime minister Andrei Kobyakov plans to meet with ILO chiefs in Switzerland on 19 October and could make fresh concessions on trade unions, potentially leading to the labour organisation withdrawing its complaint.

The move means that EU member states will not get another crack at imposing the sanctions until March 2007 at the earliest, with the whole process - which involves the ILO making a fresh recommendation to the European Commission which in turn has to make a new recommendation to EU member states - taking at least six months.

The cancellation is embarrassing for the European Commission, which has pushed strongly for sanctions, saying in the past few weeks that "the political fallout would be just huge" if the move failed and that "the EU has to recognise that this regime [Belarus] is carrying out flagrant abuses."

"We remain fully committed to our proposal, but we are currently evaluating whether new elements could be added to supplement it," a commission spokesman added on Thursday.

ILO meeting 'not real reason'
But the u-turn by member states is less to do with Mr Kobyakov's ILO visit and more to do with Chinese shoes, Polish-Lithuanian worries over cross-border trade and the risk of political precedent, with EU political will for the sanctions ebbing away, diplomats say.

"Nobody really believes the ILO will withdraw the complaint no matter what Belarus puts on paper," an EU official told EUobserver. "But we got into such a mess on trade with antidumping tarrifs on Chinese shoes that nobody wants to see fresh trade retaliations from Poland and Lithuania just now."

Back in September, Italy blocked an earlier 26 September vote on the Belarus sanctions because it wanted to retaliate against pro-Belarus sanction states such as Germany, the UK and Sweden, which had gone against an Italian-led campaign to impose penalties on imports of cheap Chinese shoes, the contact explained.

The shoe war is over. But in the sensitive, post-shoe war trade climate, nobody wanted to see Poland and Lithuania use the Italian tactic and start voting against other EU trade measures to get back at member states who ignored their protests that Belarus sanctions would hurt cross-border trade.

Meanwhile, the mini-sanctions move - which would involve expelling Belarus from the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) on trade - could have raised prickly questions on why countries such as Cuba and Uzbekistan - not known for their trade union credentials - are allowed to stay in the GSP herd.

"I really don't know how this [Thursday] decision came about. It wasn't any single person or cause. It was a sort of creeping institutional wisdom," the official added.

Legal quibble
On top of all this, the Thursday vote would have encountered a small legal problem, as EU rules stipulate that an official European Commission recommendation - issued on 4 August in this case - must see a member state decision no later than one month down the line to be valid.

The legal quibble - which means the old 26 September vote could have been overturned even if it had gone the commission's way - was an added factor in member states' negative Thursday move.

"The commission overslept on this one. Or maybe somebody did it on purpose, tabling the 4 August recommendation in a month when nothing happens in Brussels," a diplomat close to the talks stated. "Either way, it shows what a big mess the whole thing has become."

Belarus Denied Friendship of Russia

From: Kommersant
The transport monopoly of Russia, Transneft, will curtail crude shipment to Belarus by 30 percent in the fourth quarter. Transneft attributes the reduction to pressure relief in Druzhba (Friendship) pipelines. But the analysts speak about an attempt to pressurize Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko in the gas dialogue.
Russia’s Technological Oversight Service, Rostekhnadzor, ordered Transneft to lower pressure in Druzhba trunk pipelines running towards Belarus. The reason is continued inspection of defects revealed after the breakdown, Transneft Vice President Sergey Grigoriev said yesterday.

Transneft intends to meet representatives of the state-run Belneftekhim [controls Mozyrsk and Novopolotsk refineries] to go through the shipment of crude. “We will talk to them, show what is happening, and we will see then,” Grigoriev explained.

Rostekhnadzor proved unable to shed light on the situation Wednesday. Belneftekhim refused to comment as well. Representatives of Novopolotsk refinery said they knew nothing about the drop in deliveries and count on receiving the crude in the previously agreed amount, i.e. 610,000 tons a month. Mozyrsk refinery doesn’t expect the reduction either.

But there are problems, sources familiar with the situation in Belarus’ refineries said off-the-record. In October, Novopolotsk refinery will get no more than 520,000 tons of crude instead of the scheduled 610,000 tons, while Mozyrsk will have to confine to 440,000 tons instead of 725,000 tons.

Belarus president considers Iran's nuclear program peaceful

From: Islamic Republic News Agency
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and doesn't aim to produce atomic weapons.

He made the remark in an interview with the Russian daily Zaftra, which was published on Wednesday.

Turning to his recent meeting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he said, "Both of us believe that the world should be free from nuclear weapons."
Lukashenko referred to the US charges against Iran on its attempt to develop nuclear weapons as baseless and not based on reality.

"Similar charges were raised against Saddam Hussein's regime by the US administrators several years ago, but after his downfall it was verified that there were no such weapons in Iraq," he added.

The Belarus president pointed to Iran as a wealthy country deserving to access nuclear energy.

Lukashenko said that given Iran's rich energy reserves, imposition of sanctions against it will not be effective.

He underlined that his country expects the countries possessing nuclear weapons, in particular the US, to start annihilating their arsenals rather than producing more weapons and carrying them to the space.

The Belarus president urged the stance of his country on nuclear weapons, referred to them as a killer type of arms and added that no country should access them.

"While under present conditions, developing countries are gaining power, the trend of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons cannot continue and more countries will attempt to access atomic bombs," he noted.

Lukashenko believes that as long as the countries owning nuclear weapons are not disarmed, some states will access this type of arms.

Belarusian Prosecutor General's Office drops pornography case against Latvian diplomat

From: Naveny
The Belarusian Prosecutor General's Office on Tuesday issued a statement to announce that it had dropped a pornography charge against Latvian diplomat Reimo Smits.

The charge against the second secretary at the Latvian embassy in Minsk was brought after police raided his apartment in Minsk on July 25, allegedly seizing videocassettes and CDs containing pornographic material.

"A preliminary criminal investigation into Latvian diplomat Reimo Smits was completed. The criminal case was dropped. The material was delivered to the Latvian side as required by the February 21, 1994 Treaty between the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Latvia on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations in Civil, Family and Criminal Matters," the statement reads.

A week after the raid, First Channel (known as Belarusian Television or BT) aired what appeared to be hidden camera footage of gay sex, claiming that the Latvian diplomat was involved.

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 about the raid.

Minsk replied two weeks later, insisting that the search was lawful.

Mr. Smits left Belarus after the raid. 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."

Still no Nobel literary prize for Belarus' nominees

From: BelaPan
Prominent Belarusian poet Rygor Borodulin has failed to win this year's Nobel Prize in Literature but still has a chance next year.

Mr. Borodulin has been nominated for the prize this year after the launch of his poetry book, Ksty.

Once nominated, candidates remain eligible for the prize until their death.

Prominent Belarusian writer Svetlana Aleksiyevich is also on the list of the nominees. The late novelist Vasil Bykov also had been there for several years.

The 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature was presented to Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, who gained a reputation for tackling controversial issues through his novels and has faced legal action in his homeland.

Awarded by the Swedish Academy, the Literature Prize comes with a check for 10 million kronor.

Last year's winner was British playwright Harold Pinter, a vociferous critic of the United States' foreign policy. That award triggered accusations that the Swedish Academy was anti-American, left-leaning and politically motivated.

The prize is awarded to "the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency."

It is given to recognize a body of work, rather than an individual book.

Belarus adopts law against extremism

From: Ria Novosti
Belarusian parliamentarians adopted almost unanimously a law on combating extremism on a second reading Wednesday.

The law defines extremism as activities aimed at the country's Constitution and its territorial integrity, coup attempts, the formation of illegal armed groups, terrorist acts, and attempts to incite racial, ethnic or religious discord. The law also envisages Belarus' involvement in international efforts against extremism.

Vladimir Borshchov, a deputy chairman of the Belarusian Permanent Commission for National Security, said: "The law has been fully coordinated with the republic's relevant bodies, and corresponds with the similar law of the Russian Federation."

He also said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had already approved the legislation.

Russia's lower chamber of parliament, the State Duma, passed the law on extremism on a third and final reading July 8.

Under the Russian law, the term "extremism" encompasses assassination attempts against statesmen and public figures, hampering the work of authorities, orchestrating riots, hooliganism and vandalism with ideological, political, religious, racial or ethnic motives, propaganda of racial, social, religious or ethnic superiority, and the production of corresponding printed, audio and visual materials.

130 Belarus Protestants on Hunger Strike Over Prayer House Seisure

From: MosNews
A total of 132 believers of the New Life Protestant church are taking part in a hunger strike that began in Minsk on Friday in the course of a stand-off against authorities, BBC quoted Belarusian human rights group Charter-97 as reporting on it website.

People from many Belarus cities arrive in Minsk to defend the church, representatives of the church said. Several dozen people stayed in the church building overnight. Some 500 people attended a service Monday.

The Protestants announced an indefinite hunger strike in an attempt to oppose the actions by the Minsk City Executive Committee. It was decided to hold prayer services every day and to organize a protest rally in Minsk’s Bangalore Square on 21 October.

In July, the economic court of Minsk obliged the New Life church to sell its building to the Minsk City Executive Committee for 17,000 dollars and to vacate the premises before 8 October.

Gay Marriage Roils Ukraine's Jews

From: Jewish Times
Boris Kapustin, 70, founder and chairman of the Reform congregation in the Crimean town of Kerch, quit his post in September.

While Ukrainian Reform leaders cite Kapustin's age and health concerns as reasons for his resignation, Kapustin told JTA his resignation stemmed from his opposition to the movement's acceptance of same-sex commitment ceremonies.

"I don't want to participate in a movement that has organized a chupah for lesbians, which happened in Moscow this year,” Kapustin said.

He was referring to Rabbi Nelly Shulman, who officiated at an April 2 commitment ceremony for a lesbian couple.

It is believed to be the first Jewish, same-sex commitment ceremony in the former Soviet Union.

A strong backlash greeted the move by Shulman, who insisted she officiated at the ceremony on her own private initiative and was not backed in any way by her group, OROSIR, the umbrella organization of Reform Judaism in Russia.

In a strongly worded statement, the Chabad-led Federation of Jewish Communities, the largest stream in the former Soviet Union, urged a boycott of the Reform movement. There were also repercussions within the Progressive movement, as Reform Judaism is referred to in the region.

In late April, Zinovy Kogan resigned as chairman of the movement's Moscow-based umbrella group. In August, a Reform congregation in the Ukrainian town of Pavlograd wrote to all Reform synagogues in the country, urging them to "renounce all religious contacts with the people who committed that crime," a reference to the lesbian ceremony.

Responding to the wave of criticism from their communities, the six Reform rabbis working in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus have agreed to ban such ceremonies for the time being, saying that post-Soviet citizens, including Jews, are not yet prepared to accept the Reform movement's liberal approach to homosexuality. Homosexuality was only decriminalized after the fall of the Soviet Union 15 years ago.

According to a recent poll, 37 percent of Russians still believe gays and lesbians should be criminally prosecuted.

Rabbi Alexander Dukhovny, the Kiev-based leader of the Reform movement in Ukraine, said that Reform Jews who criticize the ceremony "completely misunderstand Reform Judaism, which teaches tolerance and respect toward the choice of each and every individual."

Nevertheless, when Dukhovny is approached by same-sex couples who want to arrange such a ceremony, "I tell them that neither our community nor society is ready for this." Esfir Mikhailova, recently appointed as Kapustin's successor in Kerch, refused to speculate on this aspect of Kapustin's resignation.

"At our board meeting, Kapustin told us he decided to retire because of his age and problems with health," Mikhailova said. Dukhovny praised Kapustin's role in building a "strong congregation" in this Crimean town of 160,000.

The Kerch Progressive congregation, which Kapustin founded in 1997, has 1,000 members, virtually all the town's Jews and their families. It is considered a leading light among the 70-odd Reform communities in the former Soviet Union.

A retired Soviet navy officer, Kapustin is credited by many local Jews with building a strong and unified Jewish community.

That is a rarity in a region where Jewish life is often plagued by infighting among Chabad, non-Chabad Orthodox and Reform groups.

Also rare is the congregation's monopoly over local Jewish life. Kerch is one of a handful of Reform communities anywhere in the former Soviet Union that owns its own building, a 19th-century synagogue returned to them as part of a government program of religious property restitution.

The community restored the building and reopened it in 2001.

Chabad does not have a presence in the town.

"This is one of the largest, and the best functioning, congregations in Ukraine," said Alexander Gaydar, executive director of the Association of Progressive Jewish Congregations of Ukraine.

The congregation runs religious and cultural, educational and charitable programs, youth and women's clubs, a senior center, a family Sunday school, a Jewish museum and a theater group, with funds from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Almost everyone in the Kerch community credits Kapustin's leadership for their congregation's success. Kapustin's son, Rabbi Mikhail Kapustin, 26, was ordained a year ago at the Leo Baeck College in London.

The youngest of the six Reform rabbis in the former Soviet Union, he serves the Reform congregation in Kkarkov, Ukraine's second-largest city.

Neither he nor Reform Jews in Kerch believe the elder Kapustin's resignation will harm the congregation he built.

"Boris Kapustin has retired, but he built a good basis for the congregation, which will continue to develop," Dukhovny said.

Aliaksandar Milinkevich awarded with the Prize of Sergio Vierra de Mello

From: Charter '97
Leader of the united democratic forces Aliaksandar Milinkevich was announced the winner of the Prize of Sergio Vierra de Mello, UNO High Commissioner on human rights. The prize is given for activity in the name of peace and cooperation of religions and cultures. The solemn ceremony of the prize presentation has been held today in Krakow.

Aliaksandar Milinkevich is awarded for “his personal contribution to the defence of the human dignity, right for freedom, and for creating the civil unity structures, for the activity held for the sake of development of the Belarusian language and culture”, which was stated at the ceremony.

The prize was instituted in 2004 by the Association “Willa Decjusza”. The first winner of the prize was first Prime Minister of the post-communist Poland Tadeusz Mazawiecki.

The international conference “Unity of Dialogue” is to start today in Krakow. Aliaksandar Milinkevich is expected to open the conference with an introductory speech.

Sergio Viera de Mello was the UNO representative in maintenance of peace. The list of M.Viera’s achievements is impressive: implementing defence and resettlement programs for Vietnamese refugees, organizing UNO civil administration in Kosovo, guiding the UNO policies during the transmission period in Western Timor. In 2002 he was appointed to the post of the UNO High Commissioner on human rights. Since May 2003, he was working as the UNO Secretary General representative in Iraq. Sergio Viera de Mello died on August 19, 2003, in Baghdad in a terrorist attack.

Most Europeans don't know their union has 25 states

From: EU Observer
Most Europeans don't know the EU has 25 member states and don't think that countries such as Georgia or Syria are EU "neighbours" a fresh European Commission opinion poll on the EU's so-called "neighbourhood policy" has shown.

Fifty two percent of people said the EU has less than 25 states while a further 25 percent believed that it has more or said they simply don't know, with just one in four Europeans displaying knowledge of the most basic fact of the European Union.

The levels of knowledge were the highest in new member states such as Cyprus and Slovenia but the vast majority of Dutch people (78%), Finnish, Swedish and German respondents didn't have a good handle on the 2004 round of enlargement, saying the EU has less than 25 members.

The survey also cast light on ordinary Europeans' relationships with Mediterranean, eastern European and Black Sea countries, most of which are currently included in the EU's so-called "neighbourhood policy" of enhanced financial and political integration.

Over 50 percent of people feel that only those countries - Russia, Ukraine, Belarus - with a physical border with existing EU members are EU "neighbours", while slightly more remote countries such as Moldova, Georgia or Armenia scored as low as Mediterranean states Morocco and Tunisia on about 30 percent.

On top of this, just 51 percent said they were interested in what is happening on the EU's fringe, while almost one in two Europeans - 48 percent - indicated that they do not care or care little about events on the other side of the EU's borders.

The country breakdown on interest levels threw up some surprising results with over 60 percent of Poles, Czechs, Slovakians and Lithuanians displaying little interest despite their government's strong campaigning for EU integration of Ukraine and democracy in Belarus.

Despite the high levels of apathy and worries over the financial costs of intervention abroad, two thirds believe that EU assistance to nearby countries helps reduce the risk of war.

The survey also contributed to answering the vexed question of what are "European values" - a phrase often wheeled out in defence of democracy or gay rights but never strictly defined in a bloc of 25 different countries and at least six major faiths.

Human rights (39%) came in as the EU's strongest common value, followed by peace (38%) and democracy (37%) with market economy gaining 26 percent approval.

But for countries such as Turkey, Croatia and Macedonia (official EU candidates) the other Western Balkan states (officially on the road to accession) and Ukraine (which has said repeatedly it wants to join the EU) the survey's message on public support for enlargement is less than clear.

Seventy two percent of Europeans said the EU should keep on getting bigger but "not too fast" and 70 percent also support the creation of special relationships (that fall short of accession) with third countries.

But 52 percent answered "yes" to the question if the EU should stop after the "current round of enlargement" - suggesting Romania and Bulgaria - and give no special treatment to its neighbours at all.

Belarussian net foreign assets up 5% in 9 mths

From: Interfax
Belarussian net foreign assets grew 5% to $1.454 billion during the first nine months of 2006, the National Bank of Belarus said.

Net foreign assets grew 2.6% in September after dropping 1.3% in August.

Gross foreign assets rose 4.9% to $1.467 billion in the nine months, but gross foreign liabilities dropped 12.3% to $12.8 million.

Net foreign assets placed in freely convertible currency stood at $1.315 billion on October 1, 2006, down 3.9% from January 1. Foreign currency that is not fully convertible stood at the equivalent of $138.5 million on October 1.

Net foreign assets at monetary and credit regulatory agencies stood at $1.384 billion on January 1, 2006, up 60.4% from 2005 and up 43.5% from 2004.

Choke off Belarus's deadly arms trade

From: IHT
As the United Nations monitors a delicate cease-fire in Lebanon while at the same time trying to field a peacekeeping mission to Darfur in Sudan, much attention has been focused on the weapons such as Katyusha rockets and Mi-24 gunships that have helped claim hundreds of thousands of lives in these two wars.

While focusing on the weapons and the combatants themselves, many overlook the fact that much of the weaponry that continue to fuel these and other regional conflagrations comes from the East European pariah state of Belarus.

If any cease-fire is to succeed in Lebanon, or if peacekeepers are to be successfully deployed in Sudan, then Belarus's role as a main supplier of weaponry for these conflicts must be addressed.

While few in the West know much about Belarus, the country is well known to unscrupulous arms dealers and state sponsors of terrorism as an eager and reliable supplier of illegal lethal military equipment. The United Nations is also very familiar with Belarus: During the late 1990s it identified the country as one of the worst violators of UN arms sanctions against Iraq. The Mi-24 helicopter gunships that today are raining down death and destruction in villages in Darfur were supplied by Belarus.

Alarmingly, over the last six years, Belarus has intensified its illegal arms shipment activities to the point of becoming the leading supplier of lethal military equipment to Islamic state sponsors of terrorism. During 2001 alone, according to Jane's Defense International, Belarus secretly delivered weapons worth more than $500 million, including Katyusha rockets, 120mm mortars, antitank rockets and mines, to Palestinian militants and countries including Syria and Iran.

Even after Sept. 11, 2001, Belarus not only continued to sell its impressive stockpile of weapons inherited from the breakup of the Soviet Union to almost all of the countries on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism - including North Korea, Sudan, Iran and Syria - but has defied Washington in doing so.

Belarus's president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, has not even attempted to conceal his assistance to Syria in modernizing its military capability - and that of Hezbollah. "No matter how severely we are admonished for it," he said, "we will continue to help Syria militarily because they have promised to help us in the same way."

If anything, Lukashenko seems to relish his role of international outlaw. With his relations with the West at rock bottom, it seems he feels he has nothing to lose. The only significant source of potential pressure on Belarus is Russia, its neighbor, but the Kremlin continues to prop up Lukashenko - not only so that Belarus remains within Moscow's orbit, but also because the country is a willing and convenient middleman, selling many Russian weapons to disreputable countries that even the Kremlin does not want to be associated with.

Over the past decade, the United States has made minimal effort in trying to convince Russia to rein in Belarus's rogue arms deals. Moscow has not only refused to cooperate with Washington in this regard but has actually increased its military cooperation with Belarus.

With conflicts such as those in the Middle East and Sudan today being fueled by Belarussian weaponry, the nominal, half-hearted diplomatic effort to stop Belarus's illegal arms sales to state sponsors of terror and groups such as Hezbollah needs to be transformed into a comprehensive effort led by the United States and the European Union to compel the United Nations to place sanctions on Belarus for its continued illegal weapons transactions.

The EU and Washington should also work closely to increase their intelligence capabilities to better detect and interdict illegal Belarussian arms transfers, including those via third-country transit points.

Unless more is done, Belarussian weapons will continue to undermine the prospects for peace not only in Lebanon and Sudan but in several other hot spots.

  • From the Blogs

    The fate of Paval Krasouski

    As we have already reported, Paval Krasouski, the youth activist from Viciebsk, faces grave charges. The leader of Young Front is under clear psychological attack. First, he was charged with organizing terrorist attacks in Viciebsk last year. On the day of explosions, he actually was abroad, btw. Now, new charges are put forward. Krasouski is accused of organizing a murder and committing rape in …. 1999!

    Ok, this weird thing needs some explanation. Those are two apparently unsolved crimes that were unearthed by the investigators to harass Paval. In 1999, Paval was just 16 years of age, which adds up to the absurdities of the claims. The possible theory is that he is pressured by these two cases (which, if successfully attached to him, could bring him to the death row) in order to wrestle from him confession of carrying ‘terrorist attacks.’

    I leave judgement to you. As for myself, I cannot speak about this without swearing. But I can make one conclusion. Last year, the regime adopted new regulations that established severe punishments for pursuing opposition activities, such as running an unregistered organization. Several people have already been arrested and sentensed according to these articles. But these repressions, even jail terms up to two years, failed to stop the youth activism. Now, having decided that this was too little, the regime simply decided to raise the stakes.

    Simply incredible….

    Scientists research Belarusian DNA

    From: Belarus News and Facts
    The group of the Belarus scientists started researches of the genetic portrait of the radical Belarusian.

    In Institute of Genetics and Cytology of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus for the first time they research the gene pool of the Belarus nation to recreate a portrait of the radical Belarusian.

    - The genetic portrait of the radical Belarusian will be made proceeding from molecules of DNA as a result of researches of a bank of genetic data available today. We learn, how much Belarusians are original people and how much we are related to other people, for example, Russians, - said director of Laboratory of Institute of Genetics and Cytology Oleg Davydenko.

    As he said, we shall have an opportunity to look at our ancestors, to learn whether they differed among themselves, what were the distinctions and when they have arisen.
    - Radimichi, krivichi, drigovichi. We know their historical places of life. There were archeological digs which have told us about their life and culture, the rest - only guesses, - said geneticist.

    Genetic changes of aboriginals of Belarus are at the moment investigated. Experiment is spent on the regions where least influenced a genetic pool of non-Belarusians, - in Pripyat and Dnepr areas.

    - More to the point the genetic portrait of the radical Belarusian will assist to solve some questions of public health services: predisposition to various illnesses in different places. In criminalistics we can use it too. The rare genes of the certain people are peculiar to the certain districts. Thus, it will be possible to find the place of the person residing.

    Belarus beats Slovenia 4-2 in Euro 2008 qualifier

    From: Naveny
    Sergei Kornilenko scored two goals Wednesday to help Belarus beat Slovenia 4-2 in European Championship qualifying.

    Denis Kovba gave Belarus the lead, scoring off a rebound in the 17th minute. But Bostjan Cesar headed in a corner kick from Valter Birsa a minute later to equalize.

    Klemen Lavric then put the visitors in the lead, heading in the corner kick from the left in the 43rd.

    Kornilenko headed in Timofei Kalachev's pass from the left in the 52nd to make it 2-2, and he restored the lead by scoring from inside the box six minutes later.

    Vladimir Korytko, who came on for Maksim Romashchenko in the 50th, later beat goalkeeper Borut Mavric with a free kick in the 85th. //АР


    Belarus: Vladimir Gaev, Alexander Kulchy, Denis Kovba, Sergei Omelyanchuk, Sergei Gurenko, Timofei Kalachev, Maksim Romashchenko (Vladimir Korytko, 50), Aleksandr Gleb (Oleg Strakhnovich, 69), Vyacheslav Gleb, Sergei Kornilenko (Artem Kontsevoy, 90).

    Slovenia: Borut Mavric, Branko Ilic, Bojan Jokic, Bostjan Cesar, Matej Mavric, Robert Koren, Milenko Acimovic (Andrej Komac, 70), Anton Melogar, Valter Birsa, Milivoje Novakovic (Miran Burqic, 82), Klemen Lavric.

    Group G Pld Pts
    Netherlands 4 10
    Bulgaria--- 4 8
    Romania---- 3 7
    Belarus---- 4 4
    Slovenia--- 3 3
    Albania---- 3 1
    Luxembourg- 3 0

    Next Match: Luxembourg at Belarus- 24/03/07

    President’s security team wins Bodyguard 2006 tournament

    From: Belta
    The security team guarding the Belarusian president has won the 8th international tournament “Bodyguard 2006” and secured the second place at the 10th Ukrainian Bodyguard Open, BelTA was informed by employee of the Dynamo press service Alesia Chernyavskaya.

    Twenty one teams took part in the challenge. The Belarusian team headed by colonel Gennadiy Shtaniuk included captains Anton Novik, Nikolai Seryi, Roman Shvaiba and senior lieutenants Anatoliy Mikheichik and Vladimir Stanchik.

    Anton Novik won the hand-to-hand fight and took the second place in rapid shooting. Anatoliy Mikheichik came third in car obstacle race.