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Sunday, October 01, 2006

President gives interview to Russian Press, Vika returned home- foster folks face kidnapping charges, Martinov, Economics, Sport

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From: Belta, Charter '97, Belapan
Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko gave a press-conference for the representatives of the Russian regional mass media on Friday afternoon. Belarusian national radio broadcast it live and it was shown on all Belarusian networks at 8:00pm

The event culminates the press-tour of Russian journalists across Belarus, a tour which has already become traditional (this is the fourth time Russian journalists visit Belarus). The team of Russian reporters includes 83 journalists who represent 73 mass media outlets from 48 regions of Russia. For most part of the journalists this is the first press-tour across Belarus.

Here is an abstract of the interview:

Opening a press-conference for the representatives of the Russian regional mass media, president of Belarus evaluated the all-round cooperation between Belarus and Russia as dynamic.

The head of state highlighted the importance of providing fair, objective and as full information about Belarus as possible, which is not sufficient today.

‘There are no other nations in the world which destinies would be interwoven as tightly as the destinies of Belarusians and Russians,’ the Belarusian leader said. ‘We lived and still do in a single economic, socio-cultural and information area. By our joint efforts we are setting up our Union and develop the all-round cooperation in a dynamic way,’ he said.

Alexander Lukashenko expressed readiness to answer all the questions and ‘not escaping them in a diplomatic manner, but to answer them in a sincere manner’.

Belarus is a socially oriented, legal and open state.

“We are building a strong and prosperous Belarus – the state for the people”, the head of state noted and added that “we have achievements to be proud of”.

Alexander Lukashenko has underlined that as a country having scanty natural resources Belarus should benefit from using its intellectual potential, innovations and active foreign economic activities.

“A little more than 10 years have passed after the USSR disintegration. We were not a kernel of the Union. We had to start everything from scratch. The main thing is that we have managed to build our state within a short period of time”, the president said.

According to Alexander Lukashenko, at the same time “the results you see today are not only our achievements. This is a merit of those generations, who left us the economy we have preserved and are trying to work with. The economy, we did not damage and did not reform thoughtlessly”, the head of state underlined.

At the same time the president of Belarus noted: “We do not want to idealize the situation: we face serious problems. However, we are openly speaking about them and the main thing – we are settling them”.

President of Belarus deems it useful for both Belarusian and Russian peoples that a group of Russian journalists representing dozens of mass media outlets from most regions of Russia visits Belarus at least once a year.

‘People in Belarus know very well how the brotherly Russia lives. Every day all the major Russian radio and TV channels, publications and the Internet media in detail without any restrictions inform us about it’.

‘Do they know much about Belarus in Russian regions? The answer is obvious: very little. Moreover, the information which reaches the grassroots in Russia is distorted either deliberately or accidentally. Most often this happens because of our local opposition activists or their western sponsors. But even in Russia there are forces for whom Lukashenko and today’s Belarus which has not been plundered and has been purged from criminal is not to their liking’, the president said.

“The success Belarus has reached is also a merit of those states we have diplomatic relations and trade with”. First of all, it concerns Russia. Today Belarus takes leading positions in the trade turnover of Russia.

“We have an open economy; we buy and import a lot, make products and export a considerable part of them”. Moreover, Belarus is located in the center of Europe, at the intersection of all transit roads where immense volume of freights is transported."

Belarus is against weakening the Treaty on Creating the Belarus-Russia Union State and the Constitutional Act of the Union State.

"The Constitutional Act which the leadership of Russia proposes to adopt at a referendum looks weaker. Explaining the reason for this, Russia says the Union State otherwise would be given too much authority.

"Today the Russian Federation does not want a more serious union with Belarus. However, there is an agreement ratified by both the parliaments which should be strictly adhered to by both the sides.

"The decision-making process in regard to the Union State issues may slow down a bit for the period of the forthcoming parliamentary election in Russia."

Belarus believes a Union State Constitution Act similar to the USSR would be acceptable.

The head of state told the press, earlier Belarus had suggested a Constitution Act of its own. A Belarusian-Russian joint commission had been set up to design a draft Constitution Act.

Meanwhile Russian leadership suggested shaping the Union Constitution like that of the European Union, said Alexander Lukashenko. In his words, Belarus has a different point of view. “Why should we start from scratch, if Belarusians and Russians used to live together in one country?” noted the president.

According to Alexander Lukashenko, the Constitution Act should be a synergy of the Soviet Union best practices, which are acceptable for the two states. Yet the head of state underlined building a USSR is not the point, “Such a union will never be reborn”. So far the two countries are intent on close unity, concluded Alexander Lukashenko.

The union with Russia is a priority of the policy of Belarus, president Alexander Lukashenko said today while answering the questions of the representatives of the Russian regional media outlets.

On the membership in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)

The membership in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) gives Belarus significant political and economic benefits, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said today while answering the questions of the representatives of the Russian regional media outlets.

‘The most important thing is economic interests. The Movement features the wealthiest countries of the world where over a half of the planet’s population live and 85 per cent of the world’s oil deposits are concentrated. This is a unique forum where it is possible to discuss many problems. We made preparations for it and agreed to exchange visits and sign concrete contracts for the supplies of our products and buying goods with many countries,’ the president said.

Besides, he moved on, Belarus has also political interests, too, while participating in the NAM. ‘They say Belarus is isolated. What isolation can be talked about if the country makes part to such a big organization?’ the president said.

As he added, the main idea of the Belarusian proposals at the Havana summit was that time has come to provide economic foundation for political relations. ‘Once we have close trade and economic relations, it will be easier for us to deal in politics,’ the president said.

The head of state said that all the political and economic proposals of Belarus were included in the final declaration and were supported by all the NAM member states. ‘This is very important for us from the political standpoint,’ he stressed.

‘After the conference people saw what kind of policy we have – the open and fair one. We spoke openly and were not afraid of expressing our point of view even if that concerned powers that be,’ Alexander Lukashenko said. For this, as he said, Belarus gained ‘great political support: we are supported not only in the CIS framework but also by most countries of the world.’

On setting up holding companies

By setting up holding companies Belarus managed to avoid privatization, to save underperforming enterprises and expand output.

“We did not carry out mass privatization. We started setting up holding companies. We do not need state-run companies for the president to retain power. We need them to save economy and companies, people work for. We started subordinating underperforming companies located in provinces and small towns to MTZ, MAZ, BelAZ and found out that underperforming enterprises can be saved by holdings. However, it is possible only when a company is managed by the state”, the president noted.

Alexander Lukashenko considers as groundless statements that Belarus was allegedly working 12 years “for warehouses”. “A company can work “for a warehouse” 2-3 or 6 months but then it will be shut down. Most of the Belarusian companies normally sell their products. For example, BelAZ has conquered one third of the world’s market of heavy haulers. We compete with Americans, Japanese and beat them. We have won back the whole CIS market and export our machines to the Arab countries. The demand for MAZ and BelAZ trucks is enormous”, the Belarusian leader said.

On the GDP and Russian oil

‘The Union with Russia is one of the cornerstones of my policy,’ the head of state said.

As he said, the decision to create the Belarus-Russia Union State was made at a referendum. ‘Then I promised the people that we will not go away from Russia: Russians are our people,’ the president said.

"Today we are not just buying resources from you but also component parts for MTZ, BelAZ, MAZ from plants where 10 million Russians work. If you raise the gas price, 10 million people will at once become unemployed. Do you need this? No.’

People are the cornerstone of Belarus social and economic model.

The economy growth, which was revealed as the GDP doubling over seven years, also improved real incomes and living standards of Belarusians. “In the 1990s salaries often were as low as USD10-30, now people earn USD300. It took us several years to overcome consequences of the crisis and secure a steady rise of the living standards over the last five years,” said the president.

"The success of the Belarusian development model and the economic growth rate had been recognised by the International Monetary Fund. It is commonly acknowledged that IMF projects failed in many countries, but not in Belarus. But the Belarusian model is incompatible with what powers that be are trying to impose, trying to take control over entire nations and natural resources of theirs. “They don’t like us for our success,”

  • (Insert from charter '97)Alyaksandr Lukashenka believes that the International Monetary Fund “hates” Belarus for independent economical policy. “A year ago the IMF admitted high rates of economic growth of Belarus and our model, but they hate us for that greatly,” A. Lukashenka said in Minsk at a press conference for representatives of Russian provincial mass media.

    “By their recommendations they [IMF] ruined Brasilia, and we have kept our economy,” the president believes.

    He explained that “our economic model is incompatible with the models proposed by the power players of the world through the IMF and Soros Foundation.” In the beginning of the 1990ies they “quickly gathered here,” he added. However, “I have stated immediately that I would not carry out a policy of avalanching privatization,” Lukashenka underlined.

    Lukashenka reminded that the annual growth of Belarusian economy is 9-10 %. He noted that “we have created a socially-oriented economy, in which a person and his salary is placed in the focus”.

    Lukashenka believes that Russia’s withdrawing from the “union” agreement on equal conditions for formation of prices is “unprecedented”. “We have agreed that there should not be difference in prices if we build a “union state”. You make concessions in resources, and we in other issues,” he said, adding that one of those issues is transit conditions. He also said that the opinion that Belarusian economic wonder is based only in cheap Russian gas is incompetent. “We are buying oil in Russia at world prices,” Lukashenka said.

    He said that by forming gas price Russia should take into consideration the services provided by Belarus at Western border.

    "Successful economic development does not entirely depend on the prices for the Russian energy resources. The prices were fixed in line with agreements on equal conditions for the two countries within the Union State. At the same time, Belarus has been buying oil from Russia at global prices and has been paying 1,5-2 times more for gas.

    “We agreed that Russia would make concessions to us in terms of energy carriers, we would make concessions in terms of transit and defence facilities,” Alexander Lukashenko said. In his words, Russia transits about 100 million tons of cargo via Belarus. A raise in transit dues alone can exceed the difference between the active and suggested gas prices.

    "The market price of Beltransgaz open joint-stock company makes USD5 billion taking into account the company’s importance for the national economy and social development."

    "Belarus does not make Russia “pay 50 per cent of the company assets cost tomorrow”. The sum can be restructured, paid in gas. The president also suggested that Russia should allow Belarus to extract oil and gas on conditions accepted worldwide. And then “not Americans, but we, your allies, will extract 10 billion cubic metres of gas in Russia”. In the future Belarus will need 25 billion cubic metres. Now Belarus consumes 22 billion cubic metres. “We will be extracting and will hand over half of the property. It is a good proposal,” stressed the head of state. But Russia has had no answer to that for 2 years already.

    On the Union State

    “If Belarus wants Belarus to stay gas-dependent, we will extract 10 billion cubic metres and will buy 12 billion cubic metres from Gazprom. But we cannot live without gas,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    In his words, “Russian elite is against the Union. They are looking for ways to blame Belarus for braking the construction of the Union State and reproach Belarus for “playing with gas prices”.

    Alexander Lukashenko said, in 2006 Belarus GDP purchasing capacity will near USD100 billion in 2006. The one billion dollars Beltransgaz sale will bring is not the sum of vital importance for the country, he noted.

    He also reminded that earlier Belarus gas transportation system was not subject to privatisation. Beltransgaz privatisation took place according to a law adopted in 2003. “We made the decision and the decision to sell 50 per cent of the company’s shares to one country — Russia,” said the head of state.

    One more time Alexander Lukashenko made clear Beltransgaz will not be sold for the balance value.

    "Belarus will never be part of Russia. Russia often makes proposals for Belarus to become part of Russia. My answer is resolute no. We will not lose our statehood to become part of Russia,” emphasised the president. “We will never let Belarus become a province”.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted, “We have many people who will not accept Belarus becoming part of another state”.

  • (From Belapan) "If tanks start rolling from there to Russia, we will be dying here for Russia," he told a group of Russian reporters in Minsk on Friday. "And our people should be ready for this."

    "Do you have a single military unit between Moscow and NATO`s borders westward? You have only one, which is Belarusian," he stressed.

    "We are ready to defend you. This is our policy," he noted.

    The Belarusian leader complained that the Russian Armed Forces were reluctant to stage joint military exercises in Belarus, suggesting that Russia was fearing that the "West" would accuse it of turning into a military state. "We should communicate with each other on training grounds in order to be ready for signal support in the event of some emergency."

    "We give food and drink to Russians that are kicked out of Lithuania as dogs if they fall in discharge there for some reason," he said. "The Chechens that were travelling to Poland via Brest were thrown out of the train cars. Hundreds of people were there. We received and accommodated them, gave them food and drink. They bore children there and named them after me," he said.

  • (From another charter '97 piece)The gas price proposed by Gazprom for Belarus in 2007 would indisputably cause breaking Belarus-Russia relations. “Such a gas price rise is unequivocally breaking of all relations. And it’s a sure thing for economy at least,” Alyaksandr Lukashenka told at a press conference in Minsk for Russian provincial mass media.

    However he believes that nevertheless gas contract “should be concluded”. “We are to come to some agreement,” the president believes. At the same time “we are to insist on that [on the current gas price],” Lukashenka underlined.

    He explained that the position of the Belarusian side is based on the principle of equal competitive positions for Belarusian and Russian enterprises. “If MTZ would buy gas at 200-250 USD, and Volgograd tractor plant at 30 USD, what kind of competition is it?” Lukashenka asked.

    “It’s not a question of price, but of maintaining equal conditions. Let the price be even 500 USD, but equal for all at the common economic space,” Belarusian president said.

    He reminded that Beltransgaz is continuing negotiations on gas contract for 2007. As said by Lukashenka, “The Russians believe that if the single gas transportation system would be created, if we sell half Beltrasgaz to Gazprom, then the gas price would be the same as in Russia”. He also noted that the governments of the two countries “have at last reached an agreement on Beltransgaz evaluator. “This evaluation is taking place now,” he added.

    At the same time Lukashenka said inconsistently that “resignation of the union with Russia is a crash of all my policy”. He also noted that he had managed to convince the majority of Belarusians that building relations with Russia is “our foundation”. “There are many stones in the basis of those relations, including economic ones. “Today we are buying not only raw materials in Russia,” he said. As said by Lukashenka, at present Belarus is buying component parts for machine-building industry in Russia. “By raising a gas price 10 million of people [workers of Russian enterprises] would stay unemployed,” he said.(end Charter '97)

    The president is convinced, the Union State construction can be based on equality only. “Today we can find the solution within the Union and equality is the key principle of the Union,” he said. “The equality principle means equal rights of citizens, medical service, education, travelling, and no borders,” believes the head of state.

    "The leadership of Belarus does not intend to create a 'party of power'. Such a party, as the head of state believes, could work fruitfully in case it is not created artificially by the authorities. Such a party should be initiated by the grassroots. There have been no such processes in Belarus yet, this is why there is no need to artificially create a party of power."

    "But Belarus has ratified four out of five documents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko signed during a session of Belarus-Russia Supreme State Council in St. Petersburg in January 2006. However, Russia has ratified none of the documents.

    "The final agreement Belarus has not ratified yet regulates Union property matters and is undergoing ratification by the parliament."

    Alexander Lukashenko reminded in Saint Petersburg the sides had also signed agreements on equal rights of citizens to freedom of travelling, choice of residence and stay in Belarus and Russia, equal rights to medical service, social security, and a protocol to the intergovernmental agreement on taxation."

    "Issues on introduction of the single currency in Belarus and Russia should be considered only after the referendum on the Union State Constitution Act.

    “Before we introduce the currency of another state everybody should clearly understand why we are doing that. The answer is in the draft Constitution Act which we will have to adopt at the referendum. Then we will understand what Russia wants from us,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    “Currency is a factor of sovereignty and independency of a state. We realize that and the Russian Federation also should realize that,” the president of Belarus noted.

    "The relations between Belarus and Moscow oblast have a great development potential. In the future, the trade turnover between Belarus and Moscow oblast of Russia is expected to be pushed to USD 4 billion. Belarus is interested in the experience of Moscow oblast in the field of construction of social facilities and development of small towns."

    Speaking about the Days of Belarus in Moscow oblast which run September 25-30, Alexander Lukashenko expressed gratitude to the administration of the oblast for the support in the development of trade relations with Belarus. Land plots are allocated in Moscow oblast for Belarus so that Belarusian companies are able to construct warehouses, shops and other wholesale outlets.

    In January-July, 2006 the trade turnover between Belarus and Moscow oblast was USD 725,4 million (the 3rd place on the list of the major trading partners of Belarus among Russian regions), up 38.4 per cent from the same period in 2005. The exports of Belarus rose by 34.1 per cent to USD 421,9 million and imports – by 56 per cent to USD 303,5 million. The bulk of the Belarusian exports to Moscow oblast includes heavy-duty trucks, tractors, TV sets, dairy products and iron rods.

    On the privilege system

    Improvement of the privilege system allowed Belarus to spend more money on more important projects.

    According to the head of state, the number of Belarusians enjoying privileges has been decreased by 80 per cent regardless of however unpopular the step was. At present privileges are granted to Great Patriotic War veterans, invalids, who sufferedduring the Chernobyl disaster, and others.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted, the free money was spent on important social projects, in particular, education programmes (baby food, schools, boarding schools).

    On Belarusin orphans

    In Belarus, children from children homes will be transited to children’s homes of family types. The head of state noted that there were a lot of projects on setting up children’s villages and homes of family type in Belarus. According to him, these facilities provided optimal conditions for education and upbringing of orphans.

    Alexander Lukashenko informed that the country was planning to close down big children’s homes with up to 100 children.

    On corruption

    The head of state believes that it is impossible to tackle corruption if state officials are involved in business. In Belarus it is impossible for a man to be involved in state management and business at the same time. This is prohibited by the law. Moreover, top officials are appointed by the president,” Alexander Lukashenka said.

    The president emphasized that the ruling elite of the country included true professionals with vast experience and solid knowledge of the field they work in.

    On NAM

    "Belarus and other member states of the Non-Aligned Movement can and will contribute to creating new centers of power in the international arena. Such centers are already visible today – these are Europe and China. We hope that Russia will eventually become such a center too as well as such countries as Belarus and other states of the Non-Aligned Movement,’ the head of state said.

    "Speaking about the multi-polar world order, a system cannot function without many points of support. This is why Belarus and other states of the Non-Aligned Movement can and will contribute to creating new centers of power in the international arena,’ the president said.

    At the same time the Belarusian leader noted: ‘Belarus will never become an independent center of power and a new pole in the world but it can contribute to this. There are many such countries, the majority of countries in the world who should do this. This is, by the way, one of the decisions of the Havana summit’. A time has come, the president said, ‘when new poles are being formed’. ‘You see how aggressive the United States are. One of the reasons why it happens is because this is the only way it can be: the world, so to speak, is coming out of the subordination and new centers of power arise. One has to take this into account, it is inevitable. The stronger Russia becomes, for example, the more pressure is being exerted upon it – this we also see,’

    On transportation of its cargos through Baltic ports

    Belarus will diversify transportation of its cargos through the Baltic ports. According to the Belarusian president, Lithuania should not regulate tariffs on transportation of the Belarusian freights by rail the way to transship cargoes mainly through the Lithuanian port.

    “If Belarus transships a part of freights of potash fertilizers through the Kaliningrad ports the volume of cargo transportation through the ports of Lithuania will reduce”, Alexander Lukashenko noted. That is why in a bid to keep incomes constant Lithuania sets high tariffs on transportation of the Belarusian freights by rail from Kaliningrad and it is not advantageous for this republic.

    According to the Belarusian leader, Belarus counts on Russia in settlement of this issue “as Lithuania depends on it in many respects”. “I think this is a matter of time”.

    On proliferation of nuclear weapons

    “No one should possess nuclear weapons, these dreadful deadly weapons”.

    The president believes that “until tens of countries have nuclear weapons and do not think about disarmament we will witness emergency of new weapons in various parts of the glob”.

    “Who, for example, can prevent appearance of nuclear weapons in Brazil? Nobody. But if the entire world agrees to destroy instead of enhancing nuclear potential it will be fine,” the Belarusian leader believes.

    At the same time he is not against peaceful initiatives of several states, like Iran, for instance, to develop own nuclear programs.

    "Belarus has no ambitions to deal with geopolitical problems, which is why securing the country’s economic interests is the foreign ministry’s top priority. Belarus is ready for mutually beneficial co-operation with all sides interested in it. Dwelling on the aspects, Alexander Lukashenko informed Belarus plans to partake in exploring oil fields in Venezuela. Several projects in more than ten directions of the bilateral co-operation will be implemented in the country.

    Alexander Lukashenko also regretted that there is no progress in decision-making on whether Belarus will be allowed to explore Russian oil and gas fields.

    On the revival of villages and small towns

    The revival of villages and small towns is one of the priorities of the state policy in Belarus. The state accumulates funds for this purpose. Small and regional towns play host to all-republican festivals. The whole country prepares for them and due to joint effort these towns change for the better. For instance, the town of Bobruisk, which is preparing for the grain-growers’ festival Dazhynki-2006, has changed a lot. And gradually Belarusian towns start to look like the Europeans ones.

    The president also informed that huge funds are allocated for construction of large social facilities, for example, the National Library of Belarus.

    We attach great importance to brining order to the country, Alexander Lukashenko said. However, very often efforts of residents are enough to put their town in order.

    Modernization of the agricultural sector should be completed and the whole necessary infrastructure should be created in Belarus in five years. Belarusian agricultural products should compete in the Russian and European markets. “This is the goal we want to achieve, otherwise tomorrow will be late”, the president underlined.

    At present the level of the Belarusian agro-towns is higher than the one in the CIS member states, Alexander Lukashenko is confident. Today they have achieved encouraging progress. Many Russians come there to be given a job and a place of residence, the head of state noted.

    The president stressed the importance of creating all necessary living conditions for people – hot water supply, social infrastructure. At the same time production basis should be developed there as well (production complexes, grain storage facilities, farms).

    Alexander Lukashenko has noted that the state does not finance such projects. As chairman of the board of the National Bank of Belarus Piotr Prokopovich informed the Russian reporters today, some Br70 billion will be funneled into development of the agro-towns within five years. At the same time the biggest part of the resources – about 70 per cent – will be own funds of companies (kolkhozes and sovkhozes) and about 30 per cent – bank loans.

    Russian journalists could see the results of this work – nice and well-kept towns and villages around Belarus.

  • Notes from the BHTimes

    In general, the press seemed to grab onto the issues concerning the rift caused by the cost of Russian oil and how this might affect the potential Belarus/Russian Union State. Most European press though seem to misread the statements by the president confusing Belarus becoming a part of Russia with the signing of the Union State agreements and saying that this is something that the president has long opposed. The truth is however that the president absolutely and entirely wishes to have a connection with Russia and that a connection also exist between Russian and the former Soviet States as well. He is only opposed to Belarus becoming less than a sovereign, individual nation. Yes, the distinction is blurry, but harping on this as an issue is of course, propaganda.

    From KavKazcenter:

    Belarus president railed Friday against a proposed merger with Russia, warning it could lead to violence and disorder worse than in Russian-occupied Chechnya.\

    From the IHT:

    "As soon as Belarus becomes part of Russia, it'll be worse here than in Chechnya," he said. "We'll have people coming in from Georgia, from Russia, Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic countries. They are ready today to come with weapons."

    This situation is not an entirely happy one because of the gas issue, however, contrary to these news reports, it will not be the deal breaker and during the speech, Lukashenka specifically said that the overall budget surrounding Belarusian Gas and Oil is much larger than the $1billion hole that would be left by a 400% price hike. Here are two articles closer to the truth:

    A quote from Reuters:

    "A price hike to such levels would mean full severance of all ties, particularly in the economy," Lukashenko told Russian journalists at a news conference broadcast live by state radio.

    "We will survive, but you will lose the last ally. You will simply lose face."

    And finally, here are two articles about the situation from Naveny and Charter '97:

    Gas Price Hike Would Sever Relations; Lukashenka

    From: Belapan
    The gas price proposed by Russia would lead to a break of all relations, Aleksandr Lukashenko told a visiting group of Russian provincial reporters on September 29.

    "What can we talk about if the MTZ [Minsk Tractor Works] will buy gas at a price of $250, and the tractor works in Volgograd at $30?" the Belarusian leader said. "Are these equal conditions? The point is not that we want to buy gas cheaper, but there should be equal conditions in the entire economic space."

    "The Russians believe that if we create a common gas transport system, that is, give them Beltransgaz [Belarus' gas transport company], the prices [for Belarus] will be the same as for Smolensk," Mr. Lukashenko said. "We finally agreed that an appraisal [of Beltransgaz's assets] would be made by a Dutch bank. We have to conclude a [gas supply] contract anyway, that is why we will reach some agreement."

    When asked how Belarus can do without external borrowing, Mr. Lukashenko said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had once provided some $300 million, "being unaware of how we are going to work here." "If we asked [for money] now, they wouldn't give," he noted. "Different conditions, mainly political. I then ordered the government not to touch that 300 million. We gave them back, didn't touch, so that nobody could blame us for living at the expense of the IMF. We had some investments and budgetary support for the development of the economy. We accumulated these funds, ...developing enterprises and the economy and concentrated them in the main areas. We threw money into some enterprises, developed the enterprise and it gave us money afterward. This is how we gradually, in a master-like manner, got out of the hole."

    "We intentionally didn't borrow money," Mr. Lukashenko added. "And now the state doesn't borrow money as well. We just give guarantees for a certain enterprise if they take loans in banks."

    Belarus leader expects no progress in ties with Russia for 3 yrs

    From: Chart '97
    Belarus` president expressed pessimism Friday about any progress in relations with Russia over the next three years, when its ally will be focused on parliamentary and presidential elections.

    Russia will be electing a new parliament in 2007 and a new president in 2008.

    "The Russian Federation is entering a busy period - parliamentary and then presidential elections," Alexander Lukashenko said.

    "Over the next three years, we will avoid making any serious or radical decisions in our bilateral relations," he told Russian journalists, adding that normally officials abstain from any dramatic moves in the economy or politics at such times.

    The two countries have been in talks over the formation of a Union State since December 1999 when Lukashenko and then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a treaty to that effect. The treaty was designed to restore the common political, economic, legal, defense and humanitarian ties of the two countries.

    However, progress on the project has been stalled over a number of issues, including attempts by Russia, Belarus` main natural gas supplier, to make gas prices conditional on its gaining control over Belarus` gas pipelines leading to Europe.

    The Russian and Belarusian presidents signed agreements January 24 on the union of the two countries` property and on the right of their citizens to move freely on the territory of both countries. However, problems arose in the implementation of the property agreement.

    Lukashenko, whom the United States has branded "Europe`s last dictator," said bilateral contacts have become less intensive.

    Negotiations have been progressing with difficulty on a constitutional act, a transitional constitution for the Union State, which the two countries have been considering since 1997. The document is designed to establish common economic, customs and political regulations.

    The sides seemed close to an agreement last year and planned a referendum on the document`s adoption, but Lukashenko said Russia unexpectedly proposed new amendments out of concern that the Union State and its executive bodies would have too much authority.

    "It is not Belarus` fault that a Constitution has not been adopted or a referendum held," he said.

    Lukashenko said he disagrees with the amendments Russia has been proposing.

    "We are strongly against the Constitution being weaker than the agreement to create the Russia-Belarus Union State, currently in effect," he said.

    Last Thursday, Secretary of the Union State, Pavel Borodin, said the constitutional act could be put to a referendum by the end of 2006.

    "I believe it is realistic to hold a referendum by December," he said.

    Borodin also said that the Supreme State Council of the Union State will convene in November to discuss the document.

    "This November, we plan to hold a session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State to consider the draft constitutional act," Borodin said, adding that the session will also focus on the structure of the union`s executive bodies, a common currency, and a date for electing a union parliament.

    Borodin said in June that a common currency - the Russian ruble - will be put into circulation by the end of 2006. But negotiations on the ruble have been advancing slowly, and Lukashenko said the common currency issue also has to be spelled out in a referendum.

    On September 26, the Council of Ministers of the Union State gathered to discuss a series of common industrial production programs.

    In reply to frequent reproaches that he and Russia`s President Vladimir Putin are nostalgic for Soviet times, Lukashenko said he does not seek to restore the Soviet Union by uniting the two countries.

    But he added that it would be wise to borrow the best from the U.S.S.R.`s experience and reject those aspects that bring tanks out onto the streets.

    The VIKA MOROZ saga comes to an end...

    From: Petersburg Times, IHT, Ansa and BHTimes
    Italian Police Find Hidden Belarus Girl

    Italian police on Wednesday located a 10-year-old Belarussian orphan girl kept in hiding for nearly three weeks by an Italian couple who feared she would be abused if she returned to the orphanage in her home country.The case of the girl, identified in Italy as Maria to protect her identity and in Belarus as Vika Moroz, short for Viktoria, has gripped Italy and stirred a dispute between the two countries — with Minsk complaining formally about what it called her "deliberate abduction."

    She was found in Saint Oyen, a small village in Val d'Aosta near the border with Switzerland, in the custody of the Giustos' parents.

    The Giustos and their parents now face kidnapping charges .

    Maria had been due to return to Belarus 20 days ago after spending the holidays with the Giustos, temporary foster parents whom she has stayed with for the past three summers.

    Alessandro Giusto and Chiara Bornacin believe she has been sexually abused at the orphanage in Belarus. They sent Vika to a secret place with her foster "grandmothers" on Sept. 8.

    Acting in defiance of a Genoa court order for the girl to be sent back, the couple then informed police, saying they would rather go to jail than return her to the orphanage in Belarus.

    The Giustos said after Maria was taken away by the police that they were "desperate" .

    Speaking from Cogoleto, the couple told the press: "We are desperate and exhausted... Please have pity on Maria, who has suffered from the day she was born" .

    But the news was greeted with joy by the other parents involved in the foster scheme .

    The parents, who held a demonstrations in front of government offices in Rome on Wednesday, said the Giustos' actions had threatened to sink the scheme .

    They stressed that some 30,000 Belarussian children were allowed to visit Italy every year and that some 600 adoption applications were currently being processed .

    "The Giustos have behaved selfishly, not generously. They didn't take into account the serious consequences of their actions, which have damaged not only Maria but lots of other children, many of them orphans with major health problems," the association representing the families said .

    "Abduction must not be regarded as a solution to difficult adoption procedures... If a couple are faced with a child in need of help, they must not only follow their hearts. They must also trust public institutions and respect national and international law," it said .

    Former foreign minister Gianfranco Fini, who heads the rightist National Alliance (AN), held talks with representatives of the association .

    He said afterwards that while he understood the Giustos from a human point of view, their actions had "jeopardised the rights of thousands of other families and children and their dreams of adoption" .

    Belarus has not only demanded Maria's return but is also insisting that the Giustos face kidnapping charges .

    Belarussian Ambassador to Italy Alexei Skripko said last week that "Belarus wants a full investigation into the circumstances of this kidnapping including the punishment of all those responsible for carrying out aiding these illegal acts" .

    A Genoa juvenile court also ordered the Giustos 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 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 .

    Belarusian orphan sent home despite Italian couple's efforts

    A 10-year-old girl who said she was sexually, physically and mentally abused at an orphanage in her native Belarus has been sent back to the ex-Soviet republic from Italy, despite an Italian couple's efforts to keep her, officials said Saturday.

    "The girl is serene. When she left she was serene, smiling," Belarusian Ambassador Aleksei Skripko told reporters. "She arrived last night in Belarus, and was very tranquil."

    He said the decision to repatriate the child, who had been spending the summer with a couple from the northern city of Genoa, was made by juvenile court judges on the advice of psychologists who met with the child.

    "They asked us to immediately repatriate the girl so as not to cause her any further psychological damage," Skripko said.

    Lt. Col. Andrea Guglielmi, with the Genoa Carabinieri police, said the girl was accompanied by an Italian child psychiatrist and two psychologists — one Italian and one Belarusian — who will stay with her to "observe" her for the first few days.

    Belarusian state TV said the girl would be taken to Bobruisk, 150 kilometers (95 miles) southeast of the capital, Minsk, and put in a family-style children's home. The three such homes in Bobruisk and the children's shelter there could not confirm she had arrived.

    "Shame, you should be ashamed," a visibly upset Alessandro Giusto, the Genoa man who had tried to keep the girl, told reporters gathered at the airport Friday night. "She's a 10-year-old girl who was the victim of violence for two years, who has threatened to commit suicide. What kind of a democracy are we, if we can't defend a 10-year-old girl?"

    The girl, identified by her first name, Vika, spent the summer in Italy. Many children from Belarusian orphanages do this as part of volunteer efforts to give youngsters good food, sunshine and recreation during vacations from school.

    But she claimed she was severely abused at the orphanage, and Giovanni Ricco, a lawyer representing the Giustos, said a medical examination in Italy confirmed the abuse.

    Alessandro and Chiara Giusto refused to return the girl when her holiday was over and hid her for two weeks, refusing to comply with a court order to send Vika back to Belarus.

    Last week, Belarus issued a formal protest to Italian authorities, who had been trying to find the girl for days.

    Italian police found her on Wednesday in Valle D'Aosta, a tiny region in northwestern Italy, where she was staying with the mothers of the Giusto couple.

    Guglielmi, of the Carabinieri police, said the court ruling ordering Vika's repatriation was being appealed.

    Nearly 60,000 Belarusian children go abroad every year for health-related rest or treatment or vacations; 25,000 go to Italy, according to official statistics.

  • Notes from Belarusian TV...

    BT last night ran an interview with the children and staff from the orphanage where Vika had been prior to her Italian escapade. The children looked happy and healthy; they attend school there and are fed well. The children themselves all had good things to say about Vika, saying that they liked her, that she liked to play football and that she was normal and wanted. The Principal and teachers all expressed concern for the situation and were shaking their heads at the accusations. But in the opinion of this writer, and with complete cynicism intact, it was obvious that there was no difference between the system from which Vika came and the one in which our own 11-year-old participates. Sorry folks, though there might be too many orphaned children here due to a horrific financial situation and the accompanying problems of poverty, it is not a nightmare situation in Belarus for orphaned children when they are left in the care of the state. There is no Oliver Twist workhouse situation here.

    Certainly there is a problem with there not being enough money to fund all of the programs that the teachers and staff might want, certainly there is a difference between rural schools and city schools and most certainly there is an issue with the philosophy and teaching style in the classes as this pertains to the culture of the USSR and the culture of post Soviet Belarus, but in General Belarus loves its children as does every other country in the world I am sure. The staffs of these schools are as professional as they are in any school and are probably, and if anything might be more highly wound than European educators in similar positions because of cultural norms.

    This incident was uncalled for and the Italian family reacted inappropriately. If they wanted to adopt the child, there would have been any other number of legal ways to go about it other than creating an unnecessary and slanderous scandal. The girl will be fine just with her real name.

    Andrei Kunitz wins Junior Belarus Eurovision song contest

    From: BHTimes
    11-year-old Andrei Kunets won the Belarusian leg of the "Song for eurovision contest. The tight and professional singer won the contest with the song "Sing no matter what! Sing in spite of stuff! Sing to keep on dreaming! Sing for luck!" Andrey was born in Mozyr and lives there. He likes Russian literature and Universe. He wants to be a singer too. " I like singing and drawing. My hobby is cycling. I took up music from my mother's insistence. My favourite bands are UME's Studio and Mozyr. My JESC song is about a new day, joy, light and love. I've taken part in some music events as Land under the White Wings (1st place, Mozyr), Golden Bee (Grand Prix, Klimovichi), People’s Friendship (Grand Prix, Kaizerslautern). I took advice of my mentor and made up my mind to take part in Junior Eurovision." he says.

    After winning, Andrei thanked his musical coach and his mother and father for supporting him. All of Belarus is behind him in this year's competition. The Eurovision contest became very popular last year when Ksenia Sitnik won the overall prize. Ksenia became one of the most popular artists in Belarus right after her striking victory in 2005. Nowadays Ksenia takes part in almost every music festival and concert in her home country. She is undoubtedly the most popular kid in Belarus today.

    Sergei Martynov: free self-determination is the main ideology of the modern world

    From: Naveny
    Foreign minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov has delivered a speech at the general debate of the UN General Assembly 61st session.

    It is generally considered that the struggle of ideologies has passed into history together with the collapse of the bipolar world order. Yet in reality the world continues a painful quest for the system of ideas that could ensure its security, justice and prosperity. The 2005 World Summit and the current General Assembly debate are a good evidence of this quest.

    Nowhere but on this rostrum one gets such an acute sense that ideas and their struggle are not an abstract matter. They permeate the flesh and blood of millions and billions of people. I hope many of you would agree that free self-determination is the main ideology of the modern world. Isn’t it absolutely clear that as long as there is no independent Palestinian state which peacefully co-exists with all its neighbours, as long as Iraq is not free from occupation, terrorism and extremism will remain inevitable and invincible. Attempts to solve the problems of self-determination by violent — military or other — measures from the outside result only in the increasing ranks of their ruthless disciples.

    In the modern world free self-determination is not only an issue of state independence and sovereignty. This is also an issue of recognising — not in word, but in deed — a diversity of ways to progress of countries and peoples. We must provide Palestinians, Iraqis, Lebanese and other peoples with a possibility to build their own homes in the way they want. Any help should come only then and in such a manner as they wish it and not as deemed appropriate by the ideologists of crusades in some capitals. There are no clever and foolish, superior and inferior, righteous and vicious peoples and religions. There are just people of the planet who are equally eager for happiness, simple and worthy.

    Five years which have passed since 11 September 2001 proved with a painful clarity that ideology and practice of crusades do not bring peace and democracy. They lead to the devastation of states, the destruction of a fabric of life of entire nations, death of children, women, innocent civilians. They also result in an upsurge of terrorism, growing ranks of its followers and supporters.

    It is in the same way that religious intolerance, rejection of beliefs and conventions of other people do not bring spiritual harmony and unity. They cause an outbreak of radicalism, fanaticism and extremism.

    Encouragement of religious tolerance within societies should become a responsibility of political and state leaders.

    International security and global stability are inseparable from the solution of the world development problems. Security and development are inseparable. This is not some artificial linkage created in the halls of the United Nations. Its real nature has been clearly shown by the events in the suburbs of Paris.

    Are we — here, in the General Assembly, and our colleagues in the capitals of the richest countries — waiting for an even more alarming signal? Are we waiting for the spiraling extremism caused by the lack of prospects for the future? The situation is as clear as it can get. And it is clear that inadequate reflection of the priorities of development and development assistance in the 2005 World Summit outcome document was a serious mistake of the international community.

    How can we correct this mistake? Only by earnest — and not hypocritical — practical efforts to implement the Millennium Development Goals. Before too long we will see new proposals based on the results of the large-scale study on raising system-wide coherence and coordination of actions of the agencies of the UN system in the field of development assistance. Our task is to implement these important initiatives in deed.

    The Millennium Development Goals are clear. None is easily achievable. These problems are too old and too deep-rooted for them to be solved by incremental and shallow methods. Nobody treats a dangerous infection with aspirin. A serious task requires serious tools.

    This is why the time has come for the deep transformation of the Bretton Woods institutions. They were established in a different era. They were established for different purposes. They should be changed and made to serve the cause of global development.
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    Gross grain yield exceeded 6 mln tonnes in Belarus

    From: Agromarket
    Gross grain yield exceeded 6 mln tonnes in Belarus, informed Deputy-Head of Main plant growing Department of Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Vladimir Kuratnik.

    According to him as of the 27th of September 6.9 mln tonnes were milled. It is down 342.000 tonnes than a year ago. The average yield totaled 2.82 tonnes per hectare.

    By calculations of Ministry of Agriculture and Food total gross harvest will reach 6.1 mln tonnes.

    EU 'horse-trading' links Belarus and Chinese shoes

    From: EU observer
    Chinese shoes are threatening to block EU plans to impose trade sanctions on Belarus, with EU officials saying Italy is using Belarus in an unrelated antidumping dispute in a classic piece of EU political horse-trading.

    Rome on 26 September surprised Brussels by abstaining from a vote on the Belarus sanctions, thus clearing the way for Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to block proposals to expel Minsk from the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) on trade.

    But while the trio opposed the move on fears it could hurt small traders, EU officials say Italy did it to get back at the UK, Germany and Sweden for blocking proposed EU tariffs on cheap Chinese shoe imports, which are driving Italian shoemakers out of business.

    "There was a gentlemen's agreement that member states would protect each others' manufacturers," an EU diplomat stated. "The northern countries, which import shoes, broke it and now the EU shoemaking countries are attacking their policies in other areas."

    The Belarus GSP question will come up for a fresh vote on 12 October, but not before EU ambassadors meet in Brussels on 3 and 4 October to hammer out an agreement on the Chinese so-called "antidumping" tariffs.

    A European Commission official said "the political fallout would be just huge" if Italy sticks to its Belarus line in the 12 October vote, with the GSP expulsion based on an 18 month investigation into Belarus' violation of international trade union codes.

    "[Italy's] position is completely untenable," the commission contact stated. "I mean, the EU has to recognise that this regime [Belarus] is carrying out flagrant abuses."

    For its part, Italy hotly denies any connection between the China and Belarus dossiers, saying its Belarus abstention is designed to give Minsk a final chance to fall into line in a "carrot and stick approach."

    "Can you imagine Mr Romano Prodi's centre-left government doing something to go against the international trade union movement?" an Italian contact stated.
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    Secret School Teaches Liberal Values in Belarus

    From: Mosnews
    For three years, teachers at the Yakub Kolos lycee have been leading their pupils from one secret address to another. Moving mostly between private homes, the 90 pupils are defying the high school’s official closure in 2003 to try to encourage free thinking and foster Belarussian — the language associated with the small opposition in the ex-Soviet state.

    “The history course we teach has nothing to do with the version drafted by Belarus authorities,” Vladimir Kolos, director of the school is quoted by Reuters news agency. “And we conduct classes in good Belarussian. That’s rare these days.”

    Officials say the school building was closed as part of a move to consolidate facilities and save money. Staff believe it was shut down because they broke away from the official curriculum taught at state schools and nurtured Belarussian.

    They decided to keep their classes going, and resorted to the cat-and-mouse game after attempts to rent public halls led to confrontations or bureaucratic tangles with authorities.

    Teachers found that halls were mysteriously booked, unavailable or found to have failed fire or safety inspections.

    No one now discloses where the classes are held.

    Running the gauntlet of inspectors and Education Ministry officials has become commonplace for these teachers in Belarus, ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994.

    The opposition and Western countries accuse him of rounding up rivals, closing down media, rigging elections and hounding independent cultural associations.

    Children starting state school are given a book entitled “Belarus — my homeland” featuring four imposing photographs of the president.

    Re-elected in March in a poll denounced in the West as rigged, Lukashenko has reintroduced the Soviet notion of obligatory ideology courses for both state and private schools.

    However, the Yakub Kolos school helps its teenage pupils challenge this official ideology.

    “When we went to ordinary schools, we weren’t free to express our opinions,” said pupil Oleg Volotovsky. “That could get you into trouble.”

    For Elina Kazarskaya, whose two daughters attend the school, “there is no school in Belarus like this lycee. Its graduates get into the most prestigious universities.”
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    From: DIB online
    The National Bank of Belarus is preparing to sell a new consignment of 1,423 cut and polished diamonds containing stones weighing up to 3 carats, for a total weight of 348.22 carats, says a spokesman for the bank.

    The bank started to sell cut and polished diamonds in December 2005. The first batch consisted of 1,056 round-cut diamonds weighing between 0.05-0.8 carats for a total of 250 carats. These diamonds were priced at between US$30 and US$3,500 each.

    The bank buys rough diamonds from Alrosa, Russia's Yakutia-based diamond monopoly, and cuts and polishes them at its subsidiary, the Belgran plant in Gomel.

    Protestant Pastor Fined in Belarus Over “Illegal” Baptisms

    From: MosNews
    Baptizing 70 people in a lake has led to the pastor of one of Belarus’ largest Pentecostal churches being fined over $2,000 (or 150 times the minimum wage), Forum 18 News Service has learnt. This is the first time that a congregation of a mainstream Protestant Union has had such a huge fine imposed for religious activity without state permission.

    A municipal court in Baranovichi imposed the fine on Pastor Sergei Poznyakovich and fined the Pentecostal Union’s bishop for Brest region, Nikolai Kurkayev, a significantly smaller amount. Baranovichi’s state official dealing with religious affairs, Ruslan Krutko, told Forum 18 that Pastor Poznyakovich’s fine was so large because the church performed similarly unsanctioned baptisms in the same lake in 2005.

    Confirming that the authorities had not responded formally to a request to be allowed to perform the baptisms, Krutko nonetheless insisted that official permission must be obtained in advance. A church member commented to Forum 18 that “if we are fined again within a year, the authorities will have grounds to close the church down.”

    The pastor of one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Belarus has been fined the equivalent of over 150 times the minimum wage for performing baptisms in a local lake. “We didn’t manage to appeal against the court’s decision in time and now we’re deciding what to do next,” a member of Salvation Pentecostal Church wishing to remain anonymous recently told Forum 18. “If we are fined again within a year, the authorities will have grounds to close the church down.”

    Pastor Sergei Poznyakovich baptized some 70 people in a local lake on 2 July, a congregation member told Forum 18 from the small town of Baranovichi (Brest region) in south-west Belarus, where Salvation Pentecostal Church is located. As a result of the baptisms, Judge Oksana Kusheva of Baranovichi Municipal Court on 30 August fined Pastor Poznyakovich 4,650,000 Belarusian rubles ($2,171 US), the congregation member confirmed.

    Founded in the 1920s, Salvation Pentecostal Church has some 1,500 adult members. The church holds state registration and worships at its prayer house, an imposing building constructed in the early 1990s.

    The baptisms should not have taken place in the lake, “due to a higher than permitted level of bacterial pollution in the water,” Ruslan Krutko said. He also claimed that this had been repeatedly explained to Salvation Pentecostal Church prior to the baptisms and alternative sites offered, “but they particularly wanted the lake right next to the church.”

    19 Top Officials Dismissed in High-Profile Furniture Smuggling Case

    From: MosNews
    Nineteen senior Russian officials, including several generals in the FSB secret services and a senior official in the presidential administration, have been sacked over smuggling of furniture, NTV television reported on Wednesday.

    “The general prosecutor’s office of the Russian Federation confirms that 19 highly placed officials from various departments have been removed from their posts as part of the so-called Tri Kita furniture smuggling case,” Tatyana Chernysheva, a spokeswoman for the general prosecutor’s office told NTV.

    The case relates to the alleged illegal importing of large shipments of furniture in 2000 for Moscow’s Tri Kita and Grand furniture stores, which sparked a long-running corruption scandal.

    “These dismissals are evidence that the General Prosecutor’s office continues to actively and comprehensively battle corruption, at all organs of state power, irrespective of the level,” Chernysheva was quoted as saying in the report on the station’s website.

    Officials from the general prosecutor’s office and the customs service were also dismissed, she said.

    Ukraine to Mark Anniversary of Nazi Massacre at Babi Yar

    From: MossNews
    Ukraine will commemorate on Wednesday the anniversary of a massacre at Babi Yar, a grassy ravine in Kiev where Nazi forces killed 34,000 Jews in two days 65 years ago, AFP reports.

    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, whose father was imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, will host Israeli President Moshe Katzav, as well as his Croatian and Montenegrin counterparts.

    Thirty foreign delegations, including from Moscow and Washington, are expected to attend the event and an exhibition about the tragedy that is set to open on Tuesday.

    The commemoration ceremonies are to start by the monument to the memory of the victims of the Babi Yar (Woman’s Ravine) massacres on Wednesday —- to be followed later in the day by an international forum entitled ’Let My People Go.’

    The forum on xenophobia and anti-Semitism is being organized jointly by Ukrainian authorities, the World Holocaust Forum and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

    ’The Holocaust didn’t come out of nowhere, it formed gradually. It’s only by examining closely the microbes called anti-Semitism that we can understand where they come from,’ said Moshe Kantor of the European Jewish Congress.

    The massacres at Babi Yar were on a scale that defies comprehension.

    Nearly 34,000 Jews, many of them elderly, women and children, were forced to gather at Babi Yar by German troops just days after the Nazi invasion. They were shot along the ravine’s edge on September 29 and 30, 1941.

    Some 800,000 Ukrainian Jews were killed in the war.

    Ukraine today has around 500,000 Jews —- the fourth largest Jewish population in the world after Israel, Russia and the United States.

    The ravine continued to be used for executions and up to 60,000 more people —- Jews, Roma, resistance fighters and Soviet prisoners of war —- were killed there until 1943.

    Before retreating from the advancing Red Army in 1943, Nazi troops exhumed and burned the corpses at Babi Yar in a last-ditch bid to hide the atrocities committed there.

    But the secrets of Babi Yar became part of the accusations against senior Nazi officials at the Nuremberg trials and a monument was erected in Soviet times to the memory of the victims.

    Soviet authorities, however, sought to play down the sensitive Jewish component of the history of Babi Yar. Anniversary gatherings were banned at the site and there was an attempt to build a stadium there in the 1960s.

    In 1991, the Jewish community erected a menorah-shaped sculpture nearby.
  • Note: MossNews also has a photoessay opf a rally held i Moscow in support of Israel. See this page HERE

  • From the Blogs

    No more law for officials

    From: TOL Blogs
    Belarus is shocked. Really.

    Alaksandar Łukašenka signed a decree that says that number of government officials could not be prosecuted without personal permission of head of state.

    This list includes all ministers and vice-ministers, chiefs of province administrations, chiefs of police, army, KGB, President’s security guard, chiefs of regional police departments, all judges and members of parliament and local councils, and some other persons. You can read about this in Russian here.
    All of the listed are now out of the juridicial system. Only one person in the country now has legal power to prosecute them. This may lead to dangerous situations, when people lose their fear, and serve not the country, but personally leader. And if it was possible to try and convince those, who breaks the law to stop this, now they are sure - while they do nothing bad for the leader, they are safe.

    Nobody can say what consequences we will face… But people are really worried by this (unfortunately, only those who are informed). Here are some hot discussions… What next? Where are the limits? Will our country turn to real dictatorship where law has no power? We hope not…
  • Note: Another very interesting article concerning anti-americanism in Russia by Kim Zigfeld can be found HERE

    Romania drop four overseas players for Belarus qualifier

    From: Reuters
    Romania coach Victor Piturca has dropped four overseas players for next month's Euro 2008 qualifier at home to Belarus, a team spokesman said on Friday.

    "Defenders George Ogararu and Pompiliu Stoica, goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont and striker Daniel Niculae will not join the squad after they failed to secure a place with their club teams," spokesman Paul Zaharia told Reuters.

    Ogararu plays for Ajax Amsterdam, Stoica is with FC Moscow, Lobont plauys for Fiorentina and Niculae is at AJ Auxerre.

    Romania will have only eight overseas players in the squad for the Group G match on Oct. 7 after having included at least 10 over the past 10 years for Euro and World Cup qualifiers.

    Piturca has been able to call on players from successful Bucharest teams Steaua, who are in the Champions League, and Rapid and Dinamo, who have reached the UEFA Cup group stage.

    After two games, Romania are third behind Bulgaria, who also have four points, and leaders Netherlands on six.

    Belarus upsets Indian archery team

    From: The Hindu
    The Indian team of Jayant Talukdar, Tarundeep Rai and Mangal Singh were upset by Belarus in a close first round match in the men's team recurve event at the Archery World Cup in Shanghai, China, today.

    It was a very close match with the scores being tied 210-210 and it needed a shoot-off to decide the winner.

    Belarus shot 27 with their additional three arrows, whereas the third ranked Indian team could only score 24 and failed to advance to the quarterfinals.

    counterparts by defeating Belarus enroute to team recurve quarterfinals, where they lost to China.

    Indian team of Chekrovolu Sworu, Reena Kumari and Punya Prabha, also ranked third, had defeated Great Britain in the prequarterfinals.

    In the women's team compound event, the fifth ranked team of Jhanu Hansdah, Manjuda Soy and Bhagyabati Chanu faltered against the fourth ranked Philippines in the prequarters.