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Saturday, November 11, 2006

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From the Top

Head of the Belarusian State Starts His Working Visit to Russia

From: Office of the president, Belta, Ria Novost, Interfax
The Head of the Belarusian State Alexander Lukashenko has begun his working visit to the Russian Federation. In Moscow, the presidents of Belarus and Russia will be holding talks on the problems of current importance in bilateral cooperation.

The issues related to the development of bilateral cooperation, including union construction issues, were discussed by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and President of Russia Vladimir Putin in Moscow on November 10.

The Belarusian leader underscored that that “the session of the Supreme State Council is due to take place. One should determine the agenda, the issues that are ready today to be discussed. First of all, I refer to the Union State budget, which is in fact ready.”

The present meeting of Belarus and Russia presidents should give a boost to the resolution of certain economic problems the bilateral relations involve. Addressing Vladimir Putin, the Belarusian president said, “You remember we agreed that if the governments fail to resolve any issues and leave them for us to decide on, we will combine the issues into groups to consider them at the presidential level. We now have 4-5 these groups of issues you and me are supposed to address. If we fail to resolve them because some issues involve economic entities, then we should give some boost to the decision-making”.

Belarus president also noted that he would like to discuss actions taken within the Union State framework with his Russian counterpart. “A sitting of the Supreme State Council is forthcoming. Decisions have to be made, issues, which now ready for discussion, have to be considered. First of all, the Union State budget, it is practically ready”, said Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarus leader added, he intends to seek counsel of Vladimir Putin concerning several international problems Belarus faces.

Alexander Lukashenko expressed confidence the present negotiations of the two heads of state will be very productive.

In his words, the Belarusian side is ready to talk over issues related to the forthcoming CIS summit.

In turn, Vladimir Putin confirmed readiness to share views on the preparation for the CIS presidential summit, which is scheduled to take place in Minsk on November 28. “I would like to hear your assessment of the prepared documents and would like to talk over the bilateral relations, directions of the Union State development and economic affairs”, said Russia president.

Vladimir Putin stressed, Belarus-Russia “relations are developing very successfully, the trade turnover is on the rise, but there are things which need close consideration at our level”.

The presidents of Russia and Belarus said Friday they will be guided by free market principles as they seek to broaden bilateral economic ties, the Kremlin press office reported.

Russia has moved to raise natural gas prices for its former Soviet allies to a European level since switching to a free market economy, triggering bitter disputes with some of them.

For Belarus, which currently pays about $50 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, Russia has announced a four-fold price increase as of 2007.

Russia is concerned that oil delivers to Belarus significantly surpass Belarus' domestic need for oil," the source said.

"The practice of duty-free oil exports Belarus, where it is processed and delivered to third countries, has resulted in enormous losses to the Russian budget," he said.

"A major focus was given to issues related to the buildup of the [Russia-Belarus] Union State, as well as bilateral trade and economic relations. The heads of state said relations will be developed on a mutually beneficial basis in keeping with market principles and with account for a high level of relations between the two countries," the Kremlin said, without elaborating further.

Russia and Belarus are staunch advocates of the 11-nation CIS, which has been criticized by some of its members as ineffective and Russian-dominated. Belarus will host the CIS summit November 28 on the agenda, including economic integration, spending on CIS organizations in 2007, and reform proposals from the energy-rich Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan.

The two have also been working to create a Union State since 1997, which envisions a common economic, customs, and political space, but talks stalled recently over a host of issues, including gas prices.

Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom, which has unsuccessfully sought to acquire pipelines in Belarus, demanded in early November that the country pay $200 per 1,000 cubic meters for gas deliveries starting in 2007. Lukashenko has blasted the move as tantamount to "severing economic ties" between the long-standing allies.

Russia has also sought to prevent losses being inflicted on the Russian budget from oil supplied to Belarus, refined there, and then re-exported to third countries.

Russian officials said the volume of crude supplied to Belarus significantly exceeds the country's domestic demand, and the Russian budget sustains major losses from exporting its oil duty-free to Belarus, which sells it to third countries after refining it, since "all taxes go to the Belarusian budget."

In a bid to find alternative energy sources, Belarus has held talks with energy-rich Caucasus republic of Azerbaijan, Venezuela, and other countries.

Beginning of Meeting with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Dear Alexander Grigoryevich,

Let me wish you a warm welcome. I am very happy to see you in the run up to the CIS summit in Minsk. You have scheduled the summit for November 28?


VLADIMIR PUTIN: I very much wanted to exchange views with you on preparations for the summit and on your assessment of the documents that our experts have drafted. I would like to discuss our bilateral relations with regard to building the Union State and also with regard to economic issues. Our relations are showing good growth and bilateral trade is on the increase, but there are also issues that require close attention, including at presidential level.

Thank you for accepting our invitation. I am very happy to see you.


ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO: Thank you for the invitation to come here, Vladimir Vladimirovich.

You have mentioned very precisely the exact issues that we need to discuss. For our part, we have also prepared for a discussion on issues related to the Commonwealth of Independent States summit and to our bilateral relations, in particular, as concerns steps to be taken within the framework of the Union State. We need to settle the question of the State Council and we need to discuss the issues that are ready for discussion today, above all the Union State’s budget, which is practically ready for next year. Speaking frankly, I would also like to consult with you on a number of international issues facing Belarus today and that we also need to resolve. And then there are our bilateral relations. As you recall, we agreed in Sochi that if our governments do not resolve a number of questions and leave them to us to examine, we would put them together in groups of issues and examine them at presidential level. We now have four or five of these groups of issues that you and I will need to discuss and if not resolve, for some of these matters concern economic issues, then at least provide the impetus for their resolution. So, although we prepared separately for this meeting, we have put together the same agenda.

Thank you once again for the invitation. I think that today’s meeting will be very productive.

Belarus ready to normalize relations with U.S.

From: People's Daily
Belarus is ready to bring relations with the United States back to normal, the Belarussian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

"Belarus is ready to establish normal, pragmatic and mutually advantageous relations with the United States as much as our U.S. counterparts want," the head of the ministry's information department, Andrei Popov, was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

"There are enough proposals and areas for cooperation -- the war on terrorism, the fight against drugs and human trafficking and other challenges that are high on the international agenda for sustaining peace and stability," he said.

Belarus has repeatedly announced its readiness to change the character and the content of the dialogue with the U.S. "Now the ball is on its half of the field," Popov said.

"We hope that our U.S. counterparts will assess domestic political processes in Belarus with respect to the Belarussian people's opinion," he said.

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said last month his country stands ready to develop relations with the United States as equal partners.

The United States is the biggest source of foreign investment in Belarus. Trade with the United States accounts for about 3 percent of Belarus' foreign trade.

Belarus retaliates for travel ban

From: UPI
Belarus retaliated to an international travel ban on its politicians by refusing to grant visas to a group of German politicians and journalists.

Two lawmakers and two journalists were denied entry to the former Soviet republic in retaliation for international travel bans on Belarusian officials.

"We have been obliged to take this step as a symmetric reaction to limitations placed on our country by the European Union, the United States, and other countries," Russian news agency Interfax quoted Andrei Popov, a Belarus Foreign Ministry spokesman, as saying.

The Germans planned to attend a forum on Belarus-related issues in Minsk but had their visas revoked, while other politicians were let in.

"This is again a clear sign that Lukashenko's system seals itself off from any kind of critical dialogue," German lawmaker Marieluise Beck, who was denied entry, said according to Deutsche Welle Online. "This almost brings us back to Stalinist times."

Beltransgaz, Gazprom top executives meet in Moscow

From: Belapan
Dmitry Kazakov, director general of the Beltransgaz natural gas pipeline operator, met with Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller in Moscow on November 8.

As the Russian gas giant's press office told BelaPAN, the executives discussed key matters of next year's bilateral cooperation. Particular attention was devoted to the appraisal of the Belarusian company's assets, which is expected to be completed before this December.

The press office noted that Gazprom plans to sell gas at a market price to all customers and "Belarus remains the last country to enjoy a low price of Russian gas in 2006, which is connected with several decisions made by Belarus that meet Gazprom's economic interests." However, the press office added, the Russian company is set to charge Belarus a higher price in 2007.

Belarus currently pays $46.68 for 1000 cubic meters of gas, the lowest price among all importers of Russian natural gas. Gazprom warned that it would raise the price to $200 in 2007, but it is said to be prepared to compromise if Belarus sells a controlling stake in Beltransgaz.

Speaking in Moscow on November 7, Aleksandr Medvedev, Russia's deputy prime minister and deputy CEO of Gazprom, stressed that CIS countries would not buy Russian gas at a reduced price next year. He indicated that a price of $230 for 1000 cubic meters set for Georgia "corresponds to a level set for all other countries."

Russia’s military facilities in Belarus cannot be issue of trade

From: Itar-tass
Russia’s military facilities in Belarus cannot be the issue of trade with regard to prices for Russian gas and other fuels, Belarussian Defence Minister Leonid Maltsev said on Thursday.

He denied the information that Belarus will reconsider a rent price for Russian military facilities at its territory, if Russia sharply increases gas export prices.

“This is a very serious theme. Military security has never been the issue of trade between Russian and Belarussian servicemen. I am confident that there will be a full understanding,” Maltsev told Itar-Tass.

“Nobody touches upon Russia’s military facilities as they ensure the two countries’ security and stronger defence capacity,” he said.

Russia Sends Missiles to Belarus

From: Russian Spy
Russia has sent anti-aircraft systems to Belarus in retaliation against the delivery to Poland of US-made F-16 warplanes, a source in the Moscow-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) said on Friday.

“Anticipating the arrival of the F-16s in Poland, Russia has sent to Belarus four S-300 anti-aircraft systems which have already been put into service,” according to a source at the headquarters of the anti-aircraft defence alliance of the CIS, quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency.

The CIS is made up of the former members of the Soviet Union less the three Baltic states.

The alliance was set up in 1995 by 10 CIS members (all bar Azerbaijan and Moldova) to protect the air borders of the former Soviet republics.

On Thursday Poland took delivery of the first four of the 48 F-16 fighters it has ordered from US plane-maker Lockheed Martin.


From: Azurtag
Ambassador of Belarus to Azerbaijan Nikolay Pastkevich on 8 November held a news conference.

Having noted, that diplomatic relations between two countries have been established on June 11, 1993, the ambassador has informed, that now have been signed 35 agreements making contract-legal base of relations between Belarus and Azerbaijan. Having reminded, that for the first time in history of mutual relations the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in October 2006 has made official visit to Belarus, the diplomat has told: “Now there is a preparation for Alexander Lukashenko's reciprocal visit. In the frame of visit of the President of Azerbaijan, have been signed a number of documents, including the contract on socio-economic cooperation until 2015”.

Mr. Nikolay Pastkevich has noted that for the further development of trade and economic relations between two countries in the future, in next year we plan to open in Azerbaijan a national exhibition of Belarus with participation of more than 100 enterprises and carrying out of the second Belarus-Azerbaijan business-forum.

Then, answering questions of journalists, the ambassador explained position of his country in the question of settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As stated, Belarus is for settlement of the conflict peacefully, in the frame of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

Belarus plans to import about 500.000 tonnes of wheat

From: AgroMarket
According to Minister of Agriculture and Food Leonid Rusak, Belarus plans to import 200.000-250.000 tonnes of milling wheat and about 300.000 tonnes of feed grain.

According to the Minister, the country would import grain at the level of the last year, and this volume of 200.000-250.000 tonnes of milling wheat and about 300.000 tonnes of feed grain is subject of animal growing industry.

In addition, he confirmed that the country would buy additional volumes in the countries according to the decision of tender commission.

Besides that, Minister informed that for today Belarus has already completed 50% of the task concerning brewer's barley (they planned to collect 150.000 tonnes). Additional 70.000 tonnes of brewery's barley (or 80.000 tonnes including malt deliveries) the country would import from abroad.

A brief interview with Eurovision star, Andrey Kunets

From:oiko times
Andrey congratulations for your victory in Belarusian selection; please tell us what motivated you to participate in Junior Eurovision and how did you inspired the song? We decide to try our possibilities on JESC together with my manager Svetlana Stacenko. I wrote the song “New day” (Novy Den) on which we have been working from May. With this song, we won the Belarusian national final.

What is this song all about?
This song is about friendship, love, goods, sun and peace. It is about all the things that get alive when new day comes.

Who will accompany you in Bucharest and on stage?
There will be girls from “Alexis” dance studio together with me on stage.

What were the first reactions of your family and friends?
All were very very happy! I got many good words from my parents, relatives and friends. It was incredible!

Describe to us how is your daily schedule and activities?
Well, usually I wake up early at the morning. Then I go to the school where I have 4-5 lessons each day. After school, I have free time. However, currently I need to spend more time on vocal classes. I have a vocal classes a few times a week. Every class gets more than an hour. Firstly, we warm up and after this we work on each concrete song. I like it.

What are you doing on your free time?
I sing, play school at home, play with my friends, watch a TV. I even have a favorite movie that calls “My excellent nurse”.

How is your relationship with school and courses? Which do you like and which you. "hate"? I like to have classes at school. However, sometimes I have to pass the classes because of concerts, performances, vocal classes. In these cases, I learn the lessons independently.

Have you ever before traveled in Europe? If yes where? What about Greece, have you been here? What do you know of Greece? I have been in Germany a few times. I have never been in Greece, but I know that the country’s placed in Southern Europe on a coast of the Mediterranean Sea. I would like to go there!

You represent the Belarusian nation. What is the message you want to send across to other kids from Europe with your song? I call all the kids to live in friendship and peace. I want goods and peace were everywhere on the planet.

Junior Eurovision is a music party but also a competition. Are you nervous at all? If yes why, if not why? Nowadays I take part in different concerts where I work off not only my voice but also my movements on stage. With every time, I can sing and dance better and better. Cause of that I am not nervous much.

If you were a President for one day, what would you change in the world?
I would like to dare peace and goods to the world and happiness to every kid.

To whom do you dedicate the song?
I dedicate my song to my mother, to my relatives and friends.

If you were asked to describe Belarus, as an ambassador of your country, how would you invite us to your country? Belarus is very beautiful country where live kind, clever and peaceful people. It is nice to be here. I invite all the people to visit Belarus!

How do you feel that you represent a country which last year won the contest?
I think it will be most hard for me to represent my country among all the participants. Last year Belarus won the JESC so it means that I have to represent my country with dignity.

Are you friends with Ksenya Sitnik?
Both Kseniya and I are originally from the same city, from Mozyr. Cause of that our relations are very friendly. We communicate, sing together on the concerts. She often helps me with advice. I hope that her own experience will be useful for me in Romania.

  • Opinion

    Lukashenko continues crackdown, as EU rejects sanctions

    From: Politicom Moldova by Tammy Lynch, ISCIP, Boston University
    On October 12, a European Union trade committee decided not to suspend Belarus from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). (1) Had they done so, preferential tariffs on goods traded with the EU would have been eliminated. Now, Belarus will continue to receive the same preferential trade treatment as countries like Turkey and Ukraine.

    Two weeks later, the European Parliament awarded Belarusian opposition leader Aleksandr Milinkevich its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The prize, which includes a 50,000 Euro award, recognizes “outstanding achievements in the fight to protect freedom of thought and expression against intolerance, fanaticism and hatred.”(2)

    The contrast between these two decisions is stark. Despite regularly and loudly criticizing Belarus for human rights abuses, despite decisions to freeze the bank accounts of Belarusian officials and extend visa bans on dozens its leaders, and despite ongoing questions about Belarus’ involvement in both human and weapons trading, the EU chose to avoid what would amount to minimal trade sanctions.

    The decision of the EU not to remove Belarus from the GSP followed a year-long investigation that found significant violations of International Labor Conventions. Following this investigation, the European Commission recommended that trade preferences be removed. “The EU has to recognize,” said one Commission member, “that this regime is carrying out flagrant abuses.” (3) At the start of the investigation, EU External Relations Commissioner Benito Ferrero-Waldner said, “Our grave concerns about trade union rights in Belarus have led to an investigation into alleged violations of freedom of association and also the right to collective bargaining, as defined in the ILO Conventions, especially within the framework of the GSP.” (4)

    However, Belarus’ closest neighbors–and ironically those countries that have most criticized it for human rights abuses–refused to back the sanctions, enabling Belarus to declare victory over the EU.

    Poland, Latvia and Lithuania suggested that the move would (a) undermine support for the EU within Belarus (b) harm the Belarusian people, and (c) damage cross-border business links.

    These three arguments are shaky, at best. In particular, the possibility that removing Belarus from the GSP would undermine support for the EU within the country is difficult to defend. President Lukashenko, who controls all media, has done a superb job of demonizing the EU and its membership on his own. He needs no help from the EU.

    There are, of course, large numbers of Belarusians who aspire to closer ties with Europe and even possible EU membership in the future. Milinkevich is among them. But Milinkevich repeatedly has expressed his desire for the EU to penalize Belarus for its domestic and foreign policies. In fact, Milinkevich traveled to several European capitals following the presidential election to advocate for tough sanctions against Belarus. To do so, he said, would be “important morally” for the country’s embattled opposition leaders. Removing Belarus from the GSP would have increased the organization’s stature in the eyes of those most supportive of it. (5)
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    The Political Reform or Revenge of Kuchmism?

    From: Ukrayinskaya Pravda by Serhiy Soroka
    It is really difficult to state now that the Political reform in Ukraine was a well-thought strategic political project worked out by kuchmism ideologists aimed at keeping Ukraine in the stance of a political and economical uncertainty and balance under a criminal-oligarchic regime.

    Or was that an immediate reaction of Kuchma’s staff that failed to transfer power to their man resorting to election fraud?

    At the same time Kuchma himself seems to be far from the post soviet ideology known as kuchmism.

    Similar ideologies in Belarus, Serbia, Georgia (before the Revolution of Roses), Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan are associated with Lukashenka, Milošević, Shevarnadze, Akaev etc.

    Political regimes of these countries have much in common, i.e. Russia’s interest in preserving them.

    These are the common features of post-soviet ‘puppet’ regimes:

    - non-democratic or pseudo-democratic political system (absence of a strong opposition, factual freedom of speech, free democratic election and an independent court system).

    Such system makes it possible to appoint a ‘puppet’ head of state, controlled governments and transfer power to the next ‘puppet’ president,

    - international strife, language or regional disputes within the country which are timely and effectively actualized from outside the country,

    - ineffective commune economy which depends on energy recourses. The country may be plunged into crisis deprived of oil or natural gas.

    - internal corrupt bureaucracy in which every official is controlled following the frankpledge principle.

    Collapse of Milošević’s regime in Serbia, ‘Revolution of Roses’ in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and coup in Kyrgyzstan seemed to strike a violent blow at Russia’s influence in the region.

    However, Putin promptly altered Russia’s foreign policy in the countries-satellites: he set Serbia free, ‘tightened the screws’ in relations with Georgia, got back a loyal government in Ukraine and brought instability to Kyrgyzstan.

    At that former USSR countries were given clear hints on consequences of an extremely independent policy carried out by their governments.

    Postrevolutional Orange Ukraine could have caused the formation of a democratic pro-European zone around Russia. However, Yushchenko’s ignorance and misunderstanding of challenges in the modern world of geopolitics ‘put paid’ to plans of romantic democrats in Ukraine and Europe.

    Russia is growing in strength opposed only by the small Georgia at the moment.

    Since the enchanting gas operation of 2005-2006 which ended in the humiliating contracts of January 4, 2006, Ukraine has been losing its economical and political independence.

    Russia learnt a lesson from the year of 2005 when crisis in the gas and oil national markets concurred with the harvest did not end up with economical and social collapse in Ukraine.

    According to gas contracts signed in January 2007 Russia gained control over the entire economy and housing infrastructure through a shady RosUkrEnergo (RUE) company and UkrGazEnergo, controlled by RUE, being absolutely unnecessary for Ukraine.

    Obviously GRU (Russian Intelligence) drew necessary conclusions after the Orange Revolution which could have resulted in the loss of control over Ukraine and the whole region in general. Thus, Russian Intelligence has considerably intensified its work in Ukraine.
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    From: Presszoom
    By the resolution, adopted by a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 4 against ( Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States ), with 1 abstention ( Federated States of Micronesia ), the Assembly urged States that had such laws and measures to repeal, or invalidate them. It also requested the Secretary-General to report on the text’s implementation at the Assembly’s next session. ( For details of the vote, see annex II. )

    Prior to taking action on the text, Australia’s delegate submitted a first-ever amendment, which would have added an operative paragraph noting that such laws and measures “were motivated by valid concerns about the continued lack of democracy and political freedom in Cuba”. The additional provision would have had the Assembly call on the Cuban Government to release, unconditionally, all political prisoners, cooperate fully with international human rights bodies, respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and comply fully with its obligations under all human rights treaties to which it was a party.

    A “no action motion” tabled by Cuba’s delegation to suppress the amendment was adopted by a recorded vote of 126 in favour to 51 against, with 5 abstentions ( Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Samoa, Switzerland, Tonga ). ( For details, see annex I. )

    Introducing the motion, Cuba’s representative charged that the United States had drafted the amendment as a pretext for continuing and extending the unilateral embargo against the country. He said that concerns about human rights in Cuba should be channelled through the Third Committee ( Social, Humanitarian and Cultural ), but the United States feared the face-to-face debate that would ensue there. The real purpose of the amendment had been to legitimize the desires of the powerful to impose unilateral coercive methods on others.

    Explaining his opposition to avert Assembly action on the amendment, Australia’s speaker said the amendment had been intended to draw attention to the fact that, while States had the right to pursue their own economic and development path, they were also obliged to comply with the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To call for an end to the embargo, but not to call on Cuba to implement human rights norms, was a refusal to accept reality and the linkage between the two.

    Also supporting that action to go forward on the amendment, the United States delegate said that the annual resolutions of condemnation against his country were inaccurate in attributing the suffering of the Cuban people to the embargo. The Cuban Government’s own policies should be addressed, as those continued to deny the human, labour and economic rights of the Cuban people. He called on the international community to speak up for the Cuban people and on Member States to not turn a blind eye to human rights violators. The Assembly should not act as a protector, or an apologist, for regimes that violated human rights.

    Cuba’s Foreign Affairs Minister, whose delegation had presented the draft to the General Assembly for the past 15 years, said that the economic war waged by the United States against Cuba for more than four decades had been the longest and cruellest in history; it was an “act of genocide” and a flagrant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. The United States was pursuing plans to re-colonize Cuba, and further tightening restrictions. Those limitations encroached on family-related visits by Cuban residents in the United States and involved further restraints on academic, cultural, scientific, medical and sports exchanges with the United States.

    Many speakers, as evidenced by the resounding support of the text, echoed the call to lift the blockade, saying that Cuba had endured the embargo valiantly, but at a forbidding cost. The embargo had been particularly damaging to the Cuban population, in particular, to the women, children and the elderly. Many held the view that the sanctions imposed under the United States 1996 law, known as the Helms-Burton Act, had exceeded the jurisdiction of national legislation and encroached on the sovereignty of other States that dealt with Cuba. They deemed the Act to be incompatible with the principle of the sovereign equality of States and deemed the embargo to be a systematic collective punishment that ran counter to international law and prevailing moral and ethical values.
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  • Human interest

    Illness Brings Family to U.S., Then Splits It

    From: New York Times
    Natallia Biahliak’s two sons, Igor, 7, and Nikita, 10, started school the first week of September, just like many children across the country.

    But while Ms. Biahliak and her husband, Andrei, watched the children in their neighborhood in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, begin the school year, they could only hear about their own children’s first day in school over the telephone from Minsk, Belarus, their hometown.

    Their dream of finding better opportunities and medical care for Mr. Biahliak in America has evaporated as the separated family struggles emotionally and financially.

    Because Mr. Biahliak has brain cancer and is unable to work, he and his wife cannot afford to care for their sons. One month after they all moved to the United States in April, the Biahliaks sent their boys back to Minsk to live with Ms. Biahliak’s parents.

    Ms. Biahliak communicates with her sons through e-mail. Speaking on the telephone is too difficult for them.

    “When it happened with Andrei’s sickness, it was too much,” Ms. Biahliak, speaking with the help of a translator, said of the painful decision to send her children back.

    Mr. Biahliak, who was a tile worker in Belarus, found out in 2005 that he had brain cancer. Doctors there removed some of the tumor, but they said that parts of it were very close to a major artery.

    After receiving green cards to move to the United States, they moved in with a friend in Stamford, Conn., in April. But because neither of the Biahliaks speaks English, and the couple has no car, they found that their opportunities were limited.

    They decided that New York City — with its public transportation system, wider employment opportunities and large population of Russian-speaking immigrants — would give them a better chance of establishing a new home. Still, it proved too hard to keep their children with them.

    To help them adjust, a friend recommended the Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, a charity affiliated with UJA-Federation of New York, one of the seven beneficiaries of The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. In addition to providing advice and help with job applications and Medicaid enrollment, their caseworker, Yana Bril, drew on the fund for $800 to help with the Biahliaks’ rent, $825 a month, and other expenses.

    The Biahliaks were Ms. Bril’s first case as a social worker. On her first day of work, she read about the UJA-Federation’s involvement with the fund. As soon as she met the Biahliaks, Ms. Bril thought they were good candidates for the fund.

    “The family just got torn apart,” she said. “It’s very, very sad, and at the same time very inspiring. They’re trying to hold it together.”

    In Minsk, Ms. Biahliak, who has an economics degree, worked for the city statistics department. But her limited English prevents her from finding a similar position here. She has found work as a housekeeper and as a nanny to three sisters younger than 5. Her total take-home earnings from both jobs is $224 a week.

    As for Mr. Biahliak, doctors at NYU Downtown Hospital removed most of the rest of the tumor, and he began chemotherapy treatments. In a recent interview, he was visibly drained, resting his head — shaved and scarred — on his hand.

    The absence of their sons is clearly a source of sadness for the Biahliaks. They wish they could afford a bigger apartment and airfare for the boys. But meanwhile, they are adjusting.

    “We couldn’t dream that here there was such a nice organization,” Ms. Biahliak said in Russian. “I would be completely lost in my problems without the help.”

    Belarus: Domestic Violence - More than a private scandal

    From: Amnesty Intewrnational

    "A lot of people consider that violence is a normal part of life, and this attitude needs to be changed". (1)
    Violence against women in the family exists throughout Belarus. Women from all social levels and backgrounds fall victim to this form of gender-based violence. Violence against women is an abuse of their basic human rights, including their right to physical and mental integrity, their right to life and their right to equality with men. Throughout the world women are hit, beaten, raped, and in some cases even killed by their intimate partners, while many more endure psychological violence and economic control. The stories they tell differ little from one country to another.
    In preparing this report, Amnesty International listened to the accounts given by Belarusian women and analysed the action being taken by the state to support the victims of violence and to prosecute the perpetrators. On the basis of this, the organization makes recommendations about how to combat impunity and better protect and support women.


    "I had been married since 1984. He drank, but I should have understood the situation. I took the child and went to my mother’s, because he didn’t just drink dreadfully, he insulted me, beat me. I worked at a factory and once a neighbour called me and said: ‘Raia, he’s going to the factory with an axe!’ He got into the factory and attacked me. It was pure chance that I survived. I still have the scar. It was hell. He had attempted to kill me at the factory not at home, so there was a court case and he got six years. In 1992, he was sent to prison and I stayed alone with the child. After the court case I divorced him. I blamed myself the whole time and when the six years were up I started to live with him again. I registered him in my flat. There was a feeling of fear that grew and grew."


    "A short time after we got married he started to go out at night. He didn’t come home, he was having fun. I understood that he had not yet got it out of his system. A wife wasn’t enough for him. We were 21 when we got married. The first time I took my things and went home to mother. He came after me a month later and begged forgiveness and said that it wouldn’t be like that anymore. The second time I was pregnant. He was working and hiding the income from me. It was really difficult financially. Once he came home, there was nothing to eat in the house and he brought himself something and sat down to eat and only thought of himself. I left and went to my mother. He didn’t want me to get pregnant, but again he came and said he was sorry. I decided to forgive him again. Our daughter was born and a short time later I was pregnant again. When I was pregnant he got drunk and bent my arms behind my back. He wanted to go out drinking, but I didn’t let him go out and that is how it all started. He swore at me and called me names."


    "The main problem was my former husband’s drunkenness… He beat me up very badly when the child was three months old. He beat me so badly that he broke the bridge of my nose. And as he was doing it, he was holding… And you know the most terrible thing for a mother is when she sees that a child is involved in all this willy nilly, especially when the child is so young… He was holding the child in his arms and beating me… You know it is really terrifying when the child’s clothes are covered in blood and he is laughing and saying: ‘There, you’ll get on your knees now and beg me not to kill you’."

    These women had all benefitted from the assistance of the service providers who put Amnesty International in touch with them, but there are thousands more women who do not have access to support and who do not dare to report the violence they suffer to the authorities.


    Vera allegedly suffered beatings and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband for 23 years before the violence led to her death in July 2005. Vera married Oleg in 1982 and the couple lived in a three-roomed flat with Vera’s mother and sister. Vera’s sister and mother could hear the sounds of fighting coming from the room where the couple lived, but Oleg put a lock on the inside of the door and locked Vera into the room with him. According to her sister, the police were called numerous times by neighbours who could hear the noise, and each time Vera ’s mother reported the violence. However, threatened by Oleg and fearful of his reprisals, Vera would withdraw the report. Vera’s mother would sometimes try to defend her daughter, but she was also beaten by him. Vera reportedly confided in her sister that Oleg gained sexual enjoyment out of partially strangling her. Vera’s sister knows of four occasions when she ended up in hospital because of the injuries inflicted by her husband. On each occasion, Oleg, a former policeman, checked her into the hospital under a false name. He boasted that he could bribe policemen and medical personnel so that his crimes would not be reported. On 25 July 2005, Vera was found dead in her room with a noose around her neck. On 26 May 2006, Oleg was charged with driving his wife to suicide, a crime which carries a maximum sentence of five years. Vera’s family believe that she was murdered and are contesting the charge.

    Amnesty International is concerned that despite measures that have been taken by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to combat domestic violence, Belarus is falling short of its international obligation to protect women’s rights. The very low number of women reporting to the police means that impunity persists for domestic violence. There are insufficient measures and services to protect the victims of domestic violence such as temporary shelters and adequate and safe alternative housing. There is a lack of mandatory government training programmes for police, judges and medical staff, and staff of state crisis centres for women. Key agencies such as law enforcement officers and the courts fail to record cases of domestic violence in a systematic manner and to create reliable and comprehensive statistics disaggregated by sex, indicating the relationship between victim and perpetrator. As a result of a lack of public awareness and support many women are unable to escape the cycle of violence, and some return to violent situations even after the aggressor has been prosecuted and punished because they have nowhere else to go.
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    From the Blogs

    17,000 people vote against Internet enemies during 24-hour protest against online censorship

    From: Glutter blog
    17,000 people vote against Internet enemies during 24-hour protest against online censorship

    Internet users flocked to the Reporters Without Borders website to take part in a 24-hour protest against online censorship that has just ended, while symbolic demonstrations were held yesterday on the streets of Paris and New York. After receiving more than 100,000 visits in 24 hours, the protest webpage - - will remain open for a few more days so that Internet users can continue posting messages there.

    "We wanted to demonstrate that bloggers and Internet users the world over feel concerned about the problem of online censorship," the press freedom organisation said. "The scale of the participation shows that people are not indifferent about the fate of Chinese, Egyptian or Cuban dissidents."

    Reporters Without Borders added: "We have also once again seen that the way Yahoo! compromises its principles in China provokes a reaction of deeply-felt disapproval. It is high time this corporation took concrete steps to respect press freedom."

    Massive online participation
    - By 11 a.m. today, more than 17,000 people had voted on the Internet enemies map. Breakdown of the votes: Belarus (2,500), Burma (4,500), China (4,100), Cuba (1,000), Egypt (650), Iran (1,500), North Korea (200), Saudi Arabia (650), Syria (200), Tunisia (1300), Turkmenistan (250), Uzbekistan (150), Vietnam (250).
    - 3,300 Internet users posted a message of support
    - 340 messages audio messages were recorded online pour Jerry Yang, Yahoo!'s founder. These recordings will be handed in next week to Yahoo! France executives.
    - 55 blogs were created on the Reporters Without Borders blog platform:

    Reporters Without Borders urges Internet users to continue recording messages for Yahoo!'s founder on the webpage, which will remain open for a few more days. The most original messages will be posted prominently on our website.

    IFC, beverage maker pioneer Belarus private sector

    From: Reuters
    Belarus will allow a World Bank-backed brewer and beverage maker to open a juice factory and retail network nationwide, officials said on Wednesday.

    The World Bank's private sector arm, International Finance Corp., signed on Wednesday a $35.5 million loan with U.S.-based beverage and real estate conglomerate Detroit Investments Ltd. and took a $4.5 million stake in its Belorussian subsidiaries.

    "Belarus has an emphasis on state economic policies and state-owned enterprises, so the importance of these investments is in establishing the credibility of the private sector and generating a tremendous impact on consumers' lives," IFC agribusiness director Jean-Paul Pinard said at the signing.

    Nothing Known About Kazulin’s State of Health on 23rd Day of Hunger Strike

    From: Charter '97
    The Charter’97 press-center has been informed about that by the wife of the former candidate for presidency, Iryna Kazulina. As said by her, she still cannot reach on the phone the administration of the colony Vitsba-3 to find out about the state of health of her husband.

    As we have informed, on November 8 Iryna Kazulina visited the colony, however she was not allowed to meet with her husband, referring to the fact that all her short-term meetings allowances had expired. She would be allowed to meet the political prisoner no sooner than January 17.

    The head of the colony Vitsba-3 Vitaly Agnistsikau told to Iryna Kazulina that her husband feels “normal” and is under doctor’s surveillance.

    As we have informed, as before Alyaksandr Kazulin is prohibited meeting with the lawyer Ihar Rynkevich. Letters from Kazulin are received with a delay for a week.

    As we have informed, the former candidate for presidency in BelarusAlyaksandr Kazulin continues the hunger strike of protest since October 20. The political prisoner calls upon the UN Security Council to turn attention to the situation in Belarus. He protests against illegal rule of Lukashenka. Another political prisoner, former deputy Syarhei Skrabets, joined his protest in Vitsebsk colony.