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Sunday, December 10, 2006

!5th anniversary of the end of the USSR, US passes legislation, Kazulin, Gaz, Guns, Guitars, Blogs, Hleb's Brother

From the Top

President of Belarus: USSR leader was not resolute enough to stop disintegration

From: Belta and Charter '97
The USSR leader was not resolute enough to stop the union disintegration, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko stated in his interview with the Russian NTV channel. The First TV Channel of Belarus broadcast the interview on December 7 in antisipation of the December 8th anniversary of the breakup of the USSR.

“Mikhail Gorbachev was not a traitor; he never obeyed someone’s commands and realized everything. However, he followed certain pieces of advice”, the head of state underlined.

“A leader should be brave and resolute. He should not listen to advice given by wives, relatives or advisors - there is a moment, when he has to take fateful and crucial decisions”.

The chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus Stanislau Shushkevich didn’t have a right to sign the agreements, Lukashenka stated. “Yeltsin was a president. He could sign something... And our [leader] didn’t have such a right. This document should be deeply analyzed and went into… If the Supreme Soviet would have learnt about that earlier, Shushkevich most likely would have been dismissed from office,” the Belarusian leader believes.

“And they were writing everything on the go, they were lucky to have clever people there.” A. Lukashenka said. “We should do justice to Shakhraj and Burbulis, and our foreign minister Krauchanka was not a fool too. They were writing in progress, and it is seen by the documents they created that this way. But they knew, the Russians, which documents should be adopted. They scribbled signatures [to the documents] hastily, drank, celebrated, phoned whom they should and said that there was no such country any more, and departed”.

According to A. Lukashenka, “if there was at least one phone call to Belarus from Moscow, even not from Gorbachov, if he gave a command to the KGB and an order would be given to arrest them all”, it would be done “in a few minutes”. “In Belarus government agencies were disciplined and carried out orders from the center accurately”, A. Lukashenka said.

“Belarus was a very Soviet-style republic. And even now in its essence it is a Soviet one… Not only because the Soviets have been preserved… A Soviet one means an international one which carries out respective social policy, and so on. Belarus was planned to live in one Soviet Union. In 1991, when the fever has got the country in its grip, there was no such crisis in the economy. There were manageable elements of a crisis… We had everything; we only lacked planned firm and purposeful guidance. Everything was liberated, and it was easy to crease a crisis in any direction,” A. Lukashenka believes.

“A system of power was not limited by anything, it was ill-considered, and couldn’t be controlled… Unbalanced, unrestrained power,” that was the reason for the USSR’s collapse, according to Lukashenka. This position was expressed in an interview to the NTV channel.

“It was good when sober-minded people headed the country, as there were periods when we developed in a right way,” A. Lukashenka said. “But when they dies while being in office, it was bad”.

“I am an adherent of a strong power, but not in such a state. It is impossible to govern from Moscow. It’s not like in Belarus, when I see from here what is going on in Vitsebsk and Minsk, I see it perfectly. But the power should have been modernized in the Soviet Union, It was simply decaying,” A. Lukashenka believes.

Besides, as said by him, “immeasurable riches” of the USSR “was corrupting everybody inside the country”. “This all was inherited by Russia. It can bring Russia to destruction. This is the main thing, and not that we were lacking something. We had everything needed,” A. Lukashenka is convinced.

The Soviet Union’s government authorities should have been modernized as they were decaying. And all this happened in the country, which had enormous natural resources. And riches deprave people”, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko stated in his interview with the Russian NTV channel.

Being sorry that the Soviet Union collapsed, the president explained the reasons why it happened – imbalance and uncontrollability of the governmental authorities, enormous natural resources, which “were depraving everybody in the country”. “We thought we were so rich that could maintain the whole world”, Alexander Lukashenko underlined. “Nobody was saving money, as nobody could make these officials responsible for their actions. Nobody was elected – all officials were appointed. This is the main reason, why the USSR collapsed”, the Belarusian leader added.

Alexander Lukashenko denied statements made by some politicians that an economic crisis preceded the USSR disintegration. “There was no economic crisis in those times; there were controlled crisis elements… We had enough resources but did not have planned economic management”, Alexander Lukashenko underlined. It was not a landslide of oil prices that led to the USSR collapse. “Such empire as the Soviet Union could have overcome any crisis”, the president said.

A crisis in Belarus arose right after the USSR disintegration, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko drew attention to this fact when commenting upon the political and economic situation in the country after the signing of the agreements in the Belovezhskaya Puscha.

The head of state underlined that “the single currency disappeared, economic links were broken, prices started rising and companies stopped working in the early 1990s”.

“Everything collapsed”, Alexander Lukashenko said. He has noted that in those times Belarus’ leadership believed that Russia would not stop using the Soviet rubles as its currency but later Russia did it. “As a result we found ourselves poor and miserable having a lot of useless Soviet rubles in our pockets”. Belarus’ leadership did not keep pace with this tendency then, the president noted.

Soviet Leaders Mark 15th Anniversary of Soviet Union Breakup

From: MosNews, Belta
Friday the 8th of December was the 15th anniversary of the agreement between Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine that dissolved the Soviet Union. One of the signatories, Stanislau Shushkevich, who was the chairman of the Belarusian Supreme Soviet at the time, told RFE/RL’s Belarus Service that those who believe the Belavezha Agreement, signed in a Belarusian hunting lodge near Brest, was the act that broke up the Soviet Union “are wrong.”

Shushkevich said “the union had already been broken up by the putschists” who in August 1991 tried to remove the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev from power to prevent the transformation of the Soviet Union into what Shushkevich described as “a confederation.” “We had enough courage to acknowledge that [the breakup] had taken place,” Shushkevich said. Shushkevich said the threat of a violent breakup similar to what happened in Yugoslavia existed and that “there was no other way out of the situation than a divorce.”

In its place, Shushkevich, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk announced the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose political and trade union that now groups 12 of the 15 former Soviet republics.

On December 21, 1991, the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine signed a protocol to the agreement, making official the formation of the CIS. Georgia joined in 1993.

In an interview with the Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper to mark the anniversary of the Belavezha Agreement, Yeltsin called the fall of the Soviet Union “inevitable” and credited the CIS with playing an important role in preserving stability.

The CIS Turns 15 with Mixed Feelings

From: Kommersant andRia Novosti
The USSR was transformed into the CIS exactly 15 years ago. The All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion found in 1992 that 66 percent of Russians regretted the collapse of the Soviet Union. A Levada Center poll conducted last month found that 61 percent of Russians today share that attitude.

The survey said that most of the respondents who regret the collapse of the Soviet Union are in Russia, amounting to 68%, while in Ukraine the percentage is 59%, and in Belarus 52%.

Between 44% and 47% of respondents in the surveyed countries said it would have been possible to avoid the collapse, but a majority said the union cannot be restored, with 68% of respondents in Russia, 71% in Ukraine and 76% in Belarus holding that view.

Most of the respondents in Russia said the unification of their country with Belarus, Ukraine or Kazakhstan is possible. Sixty-four percent of respondents in Belarus said they favor a union with Russia, 30% with Ukraine and 23% with the European Union.

Respondents in Ukraine were divided along almost the same lines as Belarus.

The survey was conducted throughout November in Russia by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center (1,600 surveyed respondents), in Belarus by the Novak social laboratory (1,107 surveyed respondents), and in Ukraine by the Research and Branding Group company (2,215 surveyed respondents).

The pollsters observed that nostalgia for the Soviet Union was closely tied to income and age, with lower income and more advanced age being factors encouraging that nostalgia. Among Russians aged 18-24, only 26 percent regret the fall of the USSR, while 85 percent of those over 55 do. Only 18 percent of respondents were in favor of restoring the Soviet Union, however, with 23 percent supporting voluntary close ties and 19 percent in favor of integration on the model of the European Union.

Research carried out by the sociological services of a number of CIS member states last month as part of the Eurasian Monitor project showed that residents of Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus have less nostalgia for the Soviet Union than Russians do. That poll also showed 30 percent of Russians and 25 percent of Kazakhs would prefer to live in their own countries without any form of union with other states. Only about 10 percent of residents of Kazakhs, Ukrainians and Belarusians would choose to live in a new Soviet Union, while twice that many Russians would. About 20 percent of residents of Belarus and Ukraine found the EU model preferable.

The Eurasian Monitor project found nostalgia for the Soviet Union receding fast among young people of all four countries. However, young people in Ukraine and Belarus would like to see their countries integrated into the EU, while those in Russia and Kazakhstan would prefer full sovereignty.

Legislation Promoting Human Rights in Belarus Approved

From: US Newswire
Legislation authored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) to provide sustained support for the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the Republic of Belarus was approved by the House of Representatives today.

"As one who has worked for freedom in Belarus over many, many years, I remain deeply concerned that the Belarusian people continue to be subjected to the arbitrary and self-serving whims of a corrupt and anti-democratic regime headed by Alexander Lukashenko," said Smith - chairman of the Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations Subcommittee and co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission - said during debate in the House. "Since the blatantly fraudulent March 19 presidential elections, the pattern of repression and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms has continued. While those who would dare oppose the regime are especially targeted, the reality is that all in Belarus outside Lukashenka's inner circle pay a price."

The "Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act of 2006" (H.R. 5948) passed the House by a vote of 397-2. The bill reauthorizes the "Belarus Democracy Act" (P.L. 108-347), which Smith authored and passed into law in 2004. Smith received assurances from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that the legislation would be considered under unanimous consent in the Senate as soon as it arrives, paving the way for the bill to be sent to President Bush before the 109th Congress adjourns.

Belarus continues to have the worst rights record of any European state, rightly earning the country the designation as Europe's last dictatorship. During the debate, Smith said the Belarus Democracy Act has had positive effects despite the fact that human rights conditions in Belarus are continuing to deteriorate.

"Prompt passage of the Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act of 2006 will help maintain this momentum aimed at upholding the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people. With the continuing decline on the ground in Belarus since the fraudulent March elections, this bill is needed now more than ever," Smith said.

Specifically, the bill authorizes funding for each of fiscal years 2007 and 2008 for democracy-building activities such as support for non-governmental organizations, including youth groups, independent trade unions and entrepreneurs, human rights defenders, independent media, democratic political parties, and international exchanges.

The bill also authorizes funding for each fiscal year for surrogate radio and television broadcasting to the people of Belarus. In addition, this legislation expresses Congress's will that sanctions be imposed against the Lukashenka regime, and that senior officials of the regime - as well as those engaged in human rights and electoral abuses, including lower-level officials - be denied entry into the United States.

"The beleaguered Belarusian people have suffered so much over the course of the last century and deserve better than to live under a regime frighteningly reminiscent of the Soviet Union. The struggle of the people of Belarus for dignity and freedom deserves our unyielding and consistent support," Smith said.

Alyaksandr Kazulin Promises to Think Over Hunger Strike

From: Charter '97, houston Chronicle
Today, on the 50th day of a hunger strike (Dec 8th), an administration of the penal colony No.3 in Vitsebsk allowed the former presidential elections in Belarus, a political prisoner Alyaksandr Kazulin to speak on the phone wit his wife. Iryna Kazulina told to the Charter’97 press center that during the conversation wit her husband, she informed him about the moves of the Belarusian opposition for Kazulin’s demands realization. In particular, the Political Council of the United Democratic Forces addressed the UN Security Council with an appeal to consider the Belarusian question, and adopted an address to Belarusian Prime Minister Syarhei Sidorski with a call to take upon himself a temporary discharge of duty of the leader of the state, as Alyaksandr Lukashenka occupies the position of a president illegally.

“My husband comforted me and told that nobody is feeding him forcibly. I begged him to stop the hunger strike, and he told that he would think it over and decide. He told that he feels well,” Iryna Kazulina told to the Charter’97 press-center.

As we have informed, Alyaksandr Kazulin is on a hunger strike since October 20. His major demand is to put the Belarusian question on the agenda of the UN Security Council, as, according to him, Alyaksandr Lukashenka is in power illegally; sweeping human rights violations are taking place in Belarus.

Over the 8 month of detention and 50 days of the hunger strike Alyaksandr Kazulin has lost 41 kg. His health is under threat now. A quick weight loss can cause serious problems. A brain hypoxia starts at this stage of a hunger strike; brain lacks nutrients; kidney and heart problems could follow.

"The condition of his health is critical;" His wife, Irina, siaid "he can barely talk and I am preparing for the worst," she said.

The Belarusian opposition's main figure, Alexander Milinkevich, has called on Kozulin to end the fast.

"Kozulin's death would be a useless catastrophe. He is significantly more use to Belarus alive," Milinkevich said.

In related news, police detained more than 20 demonstrators in central Minsk who rallied Sunday to demand freedom for an opposition leader imprisoned for months, rights activists said.

About 50 opposition protesters gathered on the Belarusian capital's central square to urge the authorities to free Alexander Kozulin, who was arrested in March after leading a protest march following presidential elections in which he was one of four candidates.

Several minutes after the protest started, riot police disbanded the demonstrators, beating them with truncheons and rounding up more than 20, the Vyasna rights center said.

Belarus finds independent valuation of Beltransgaz valid

From: Itar Tass
Belarus considers as valid an independent valuation of its gas transportation system Beltransgaz by the Dutch bank ABN AMRO.

“Examination of the documents has shown that calculations of experts are, from the Belarussian point of view, economically valid and rest on a concrete economic rationale,” Belarussian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky said in the parliament on Thursday.

He said that talks on setting up a Belarussian-Russian joint venture at Beltransgaz were continuing.

The Belarussian side hopes that the “parameters that it presents at the negotiations will be positively met by the Russian partners in Gazprom”.

Sidorsky said that active talks are also in progress with the Russian government on the price of Russian gas for Belarus for the next year “on positions that remain not agreed upon”.

He said that the Belarussian side “adheres to the agreements and measures that were adopted within the framework of the union government for the levelling of conditions for economic entities of the two countries”.

Belarus proceeds from the assumption that the “gas price for economic entities will increase within Russia itself by 15 percent next year”, Sidorsky said.

He also said that the Russian government had approved a strategy of Gazprom’s development and a pattern of a price increase in the years to 2011.

The strategy is to lead economic entities to a commercial gas price, 180 dollars for 1,000 cubic metres.

Sidorsky said that the Belarussian government took this strategy into consideration.

Belarussian Finance Minister Nikolai Korbut told reporters on Tuesday that the government also projected a 15 percent increase in the gas price in the 2007 draft budget that is being reviewed by the parliament in the first reading.

Belarus concerned over consequences of uncontrolled spread of conventional weapons

Belarus fully shares the concerns over humanitarian consequences of the uncontrolled spread of conventional weapons, spokesman for the foreign ministry of Belarus Andrei Popov stated when commenting upon the position of Belarus on the resolution “Paving the way to the Arms Trade Treaty: establishing common international standards for the export, import and transfer of conventional arms”, which will be considered by the United Nations. Belarus abstained from the preliminary signing of the document.

“We support the idea of developing international criteria and rules which would reduce the risk of weapons falling into the hands of illegal traders. Taking into account the importance of the idea and the universal nature of the future instrument we would like to take part in further talks on this issue”, Andrei Popov stressed.

Belarus believes that the drawing up of the universal international legal document regulating the legal arms trade should be based on the phased-in approach embracing the preliminary study and consideration of the opinions of all future participants of the treaty.

Gomel to host international festival “Renaissance of Guitar”

From: Belta
Attending the festival “Renascence of Guitar” to be held in Gomel December 7-10 will be guitarists from Belarus, Bolivia, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, France and other countries.

Guitarists from Moscow, Chernigov and Vilnius will perform on the first day of the festival, chairman of the Belarusian club of guitarists Oleg Kopenkov told BelTA.

Several famous musicians will take part in the festival “Renaissance of Guitar”. Among them will be the prizewinner of international contests Anastasia Bardina from Moscow, the prizewinner of international contests Oleg Boiko from Ukraine and Algimantas Paulukyavichus from Lithuania.

Oleg Boiko took part in the most prestigious international festivals and contests in Poland, Germany, France, Italy and the CIS countries. The guitarist performs in various styles – from baroque to modern music, from Latino American to jazz and blues.

Algimantas Paulukyavichus took guitar classes from Sigitas Shilinskas, one of the founders of the classical guitar trend in Lithuania. The guitarist also attended Belarusian State Academy of Music and Lithuanian Academy of Music. In 2000, Algimantas Paulukyavichus won the first prize at an international contest in Italy.

Chairman of the St. Petersburg club of guitarists Sergei Iljin will perform on the stage of the Gomel Music College, chairman of the Belarusian club of guitarists Oleg Kopenkov told BelTA. His repertoire includes compositions of the British, Spanish and Brazilian composers as well as his own creations.

Guests of the festival Diego Landivar (Bolivia) and Philippe Gide (France) will present a peculiar alloy of traditional flamenco and modern jazz.

On December 9, in the framework of the festival “Renascence of Guitar”, guitarists from Minsk, Kiev and Brno (the Czech Republic) will perform on the stage of the Gomel Town Center of Culture.

Czech guitarist Vladislav Blaha is a winner of several prestigious contests, which were held in Greece, Hungary, Germany and the Czech Republic. He gave concerts in Europe, the USA, Latin America and Asia. The repertoire of the musician presents the music from Renascence till the present days.

According to Oleg Kopenkov, lectures, seminars and master-classes of famous guitarists will be organized during the festival. A great gala-concert will be held on December 10.

CIS countries intend to create single catalogue of stolen cultural values

From: Belta
The CIS member states intend to create a single catalogue of stolen cultural values, chief of the first office of the head department on fight against organized crime of the police of the Republic of Armenia Ruben Dovlatyan told BelTA. Ruben Dovlatyan presides over a meeting of the CIS expert commission on fight against the theft of cultural values and on ensuring their return, held in Minsk on December 6-8.

According to Ruben Dovlatyan, the meeting of the expert group will work out an issue on obligatory creating the national databases of stolen cultural values and on producing the central catalogue. The information presented by the CIS member states will be accumulated in such catalogue. Such database is necessary to implement provisions of the CIS resolution on the fight against the theft of cultural values and on ensuring their return. The draft agreement was initiated by Armenia. “We tried to draw up such document, which will help counteract this evil of the international nature and to give cultural values back to the CIS nations”, the specialist underlined.

The draft provides for improving the regulatory framework in the field of the fight against the theft of cultural values, for taking coordinated actions in order to fulfill provisions of the universal and regional international treaties in this field, for analyzing the state and dynamics of crimes connected with the theft of cultural values, for taking additional measures to ensure the return of cultural values, etc. The agreement includes an indicative list of groups of cultural values. The date of signing the document has not been fixed yet.

Religious leaders meet in Minsk to to discuss issues of religious persecution

From: Karlin Gazette
For the first time in Belarusian history, an inter-religious meeting was held to discuss issues of religious persecution. Due to the recent anti-semitic vandalism of the Yama Holocaust Memorial, The Union of Belarusian Jewish Communities invited leaders of various religious groups to the Jewish Campus in Minsk to discuss what could be done about anti-religious acts. This meeting was not only the first of its kind at the Jewish campus, but the first of its kind in the Republic. Among those present at the roundtable were Catholic Cleric Vladislav Zavalnuk, Russian Orthodox Father Fedor Povney, and Abu-Bakr Shabanovich, the Mufti of Belarus.

Leonid Levin mediated the discussion and invited each religious representative to share his thoughts. Each leader agreed on the importance of promoting religious tolerance to young Belarusians, and was eager to collaborate. Participants in the roundtable agreed that it was important for the different religions to come together as a regular committee. Through this committee, they will keep one another updated on religious issues and collaborate in creating programs and seminars promoting tolerance.

Union State Permanent Committee seeks to speed up ratification of Union State agreements

The Belarus-Russia Union State Permanent Committee is taking efforts to speed up the ratification of the documents signed by Belarus and Russia in St. Petersburg on January 24, Leila Kotieva, the head of the legal department of the Union State Permanent Committee, told a seminar “Migration policy of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation in the framework of the Union State” held in Minsk today.

She noted, Belarus and Russia ratified only one of the agreement, namely on social security. The legalization of other documents has stumbled first of all in Russia because of bureaucratic procedures. “Our main goal is to make the Russians and Belarusians feel comfortable in the territory of the two states, Leila Kotieva said. – The citizens of Belarus and Russia should have equal rights”.

She also informed that in December this year Moscow will host meetings of the Union State Supreme State Council and the Council of Ministers. The Permanent Committee plans to submit a report to the presidents of the two countries on the situation with a view to speeding up the process of ratification of the documents and their coming into force.

According to her, the formation of the single economic space of the Union State is impossible without forming the single migration space. “This is a complicated and long process, she said. – Everything that has been done in this sphere is just the first steps. We will have to come a long way”.

In related news, The chief of the legal issues department of the Permanent Committee of the Union State Leila Kotieva stated today that the Union State Treaty provides for granting dual citizenship in the Belarus-Russia Union State.

“The law on dual citizenship will be passed after adopting the Constitutional Act and electing the parliament”, she said. “After that a dual citizenship institution will be introduced. A citizen of Belarus or a citizen of Russia will also have citizenship of the Union State”, Leila Kotieva underlined.

Swedish business associations set to assist to development of similar institutions in Belarus

From: Belta
Swedish business associations intend to assist to the development of similar institutions in Belarus, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Sweden Ingemar Nilsson told a press conference in Minsk on December 8.

“Members of Swedish organisations and Belarusian business associations feel the need to establish business contacts. We plan to expand them so that as many as possible Swedish and Belarusian companies could find new partners”, he noted.

President of Minsk City Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers (MCUEE) Vladimir Karyagin said, a programme of co-operation of Belarus and Sweden business associations is being co-ordinated now. One of the programme’s priorities will be the development of contacts between representatives of the two countries’ business circles.

The programme will continue the project launched in October 2002 by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Sweden, the Federation of Private Enterprises, and the International Finance Corporation. The project is meant to develop associations of Belarus’ small and medium businesses. The project aims to enhance association of Belarusian entrepreneurs, in particular, by developing their membership base, expanding the range and increasing the quality of services members of the associations receive.

“So far the project’s key result is the establishment of productive business contacts of heads of partnership organisations of the MCUEE and regional business associations of Brest, Vitebsk, Gomel, Grodno and Mogilev with Swedish companies”, noted Vladimir Karyagin.

Regular working sessions and seminars for specialists of Belarusian associations of entrepreneurs, heads of companies and self-employed businessmen were held as part of the project with assistance of IFC consultants and representatives of Swedish partner companies. Belarusian business associations studied the experience of Swedish colleagues in organising the co-operation with members and clients, providing services and promoting partnership companies to the international market. Representatives of Belarusian associations and companies visited Sweden several times. During the visits contact and co-operation exchanges were held. The negotiations resulted in a range of joint economic projects, informed Vladimir Karyagin.

  • From the Blogs...

    The return of prodrazverstka?

    From: VW of the TOL Blogs Team
    Three weeks before the new year (and, presumably, the new, subsidy-free era in Belarus-Russia economic relations), and the veil of uncertainty about gas prices, fate of Beltransgaz, etc., remain. The Belarusian authorities behave, at least in public, in some strange wave: for example, during the recent debates in the “parliament” on the next year’s budget, prime minister Siarhej Sidorski declared that the budget is calculated with the view of gas prices rising by 15 percent. His “overoptimistic” assessment irritated even some MPs who are usually pretty loyal, and who this time demanded from PM to “get real.”

    On the other front, unconfirmed reports emerged last week that Belarus and Russia (gazprom) secretely struck a deal according to which the price will only be doubled, that is, from 46 to 90 dollars per thousand cubic meters, in exchange Belarus hands over to Russia 50% stake in Beltransgaz. The cost of the stake - 3.5 billion dollars, will be “taken into account when forming a gas price for Belarus.” In the other words, supply of cheap gas will be the way Russia will pay for the stake. In reality, such a deal would have meant a total capitulation of Lukashenka’s government before Gazprom. The discounts will run out once Belarus will consume enough gas to absorb the price differential. It is less than 2 year period (Belarus consumes apprx. 20 billion cubic meters of gas per year, which means that 110 dollars discount for thousand cubic meters converts into 2.2 billion dollars, which will be counted as Gazprom payment for Beltransgaz. By 2009, Belarus is defenseless before new hikes).

    But then, on 7 December, spokesman of Gazprom Sergei Kupriyanov declares his pessimism to the media regarding the probability that such a deal will be reached (even though he confirms that the “discount for shares” swap is indeed on the table).

    On the same day, Belarus finance minister Mikalaj Korbut announces that 200 dollars per thousand cubic meters will not be a problem for Belarus to pay. “If we need extra money, will will find it.” Where? First of all, they talk about the rising of export duties for processed oil. But this is unlikely to work because Russians cut down the oil quota for Belarus so that to block reexport. Moscow also demands from Belarus that 85% of the export duties it levies on exported oil shall go to Russia, because this oil is supplied, well, in excess of Belarus’s domestic needs at the discounted price.

    But then, the government probably counts on the “stabilization fund.” What kind of fund is it? Those who studied Russian history probably heard about prodrazverstka. In simple words, it is grain requisitioning, when Bolsheviks confiscated all the “surplus” harvest for the needs of the revolution and left a peasant something he would eat to stay alive (sometimes not even that). So, the stabilization fund is a creation of beautiful mind of our economic policy making that requires profitable enterprises to enumerate their excess profits - no taxation, no borrowing - just on order. Prodrazverstka, in other words. Moreover, the government sets targets that companies need to fulfill. For example, the recent order demanded that Naftan, the largest oil refinery in the North of Belarus, would increase their contributions from 22 to 450 billion Belarusian rubles - or from 10 to 200 million dollars! Belorusneft (gasoline retailer) had its “plan” raised from 11 to 257 billion BR (5 TO 100 million dollars), Belaruskali, our “number one exporter of potassium,” from 28 to 227 billion BR (10 to 100 million dollars).

    So, rip-off of three largest companies brings 4OO million dollars per year in extra revenues. Finance minister is optimistic, claiming that he needs just 600 million dollars so that the population would not feel any pay from price hikes for half a year. How about another half a year?


    From: Mike's Vacation
    Greenpeace is threatening the Belarusian envroment when they attempt to thwart the future development of a Belarusian Nuclear Power plant.

    There are many things the world should agree upon. All the world agrees that Nuclear power is very dangerous. The consequences of a nuclear disaster can be catastrophic! No country knows this better than the Republic of Belarus, the Bulk of the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster fell upon Belaurs, and she suffers to this day because of that 1986 disaster.

    I consider myself to be an enviromentalist. That is why I believe that there are several important reasons Belarus should pursue the planned Nuclear power plant.

    Belarus is the location of Europes oldest Virgin/primeval forest, also known as the "lungs of europe" . In a perfect world, a Belarusian Nuclear power plant would add an element of risk to this ecosystem. However, in todays world, where illegal logging and human encroachment upon the enviroment exist as ominous predatory risks to nature, a Belarusian nuclear power plant would actually help to protect the Belarusian enviroment.

    Belarus is at a very challenging crossroads both politicly and economicly. Belarus as a whole desperately needs to stabilize her energy supplies and ensure a reliable energy supply for the population.

    If the Belarusian economic condition deteriorates further, one can logicaly assume that the poaching of the Belarusian forests will increase also. If the Belarusian economy is not supported by the benefits of a nuclear power plant, is it not logicial that the countrys virgin forests will be needed to lend economic support in the form of "officially sanctioned harvesting" and in the form of "poaching trees" and "poaching animals" ? This phenomenon is seen globally in areas of severe economic need.

    Greenpeace is correct to feel that Nuclear power is essentially a risky propostion that has the potential for negative enviromental impact. Most people, including most Belarusians could testify to this.

    But Greenpeace should adopt more than a closed minded political posture where the subject of a Belarusian nuclear power is concerned.

    The world in general will have to be decrease greenhouse emmissions. That is a pure and simple fact, if we do not, we will face the ire of an angry Earth's Gaia.

    Belarus should be trusted to safely run a nuclear power plant. If any country in the world should be trusted to engeneer and run a nuclear power plant, it would be Belarus. Belarus posseses a large enough scientific brain trust that they will have no problem engeneering and staffing such a facility.

    The Soviets could never be considered enviromentalists, however the economic and social anarcy of post soviet times has multiplied the demands made upon nature in Russia and other countries, just look at the illegal logging problems of Russia, and remember the condition of the Sturgeon before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    I would also like to point out to Greenpeace that as they are against nuclear weapons, Belarus willingly gave up her nuclear weapons after the fall of the soviet union, and it will not create such weapons with its nuclear power plant.

    Greenpeace should adopt a more realistic political posture where Belarusian nuclear power is concerned, it is just not sound doctrine to unilaterally oppose ALL NUCLEAR POWER, no matter what. Yes, as I have agreed, Nuclear power is dangerous, but global warming is also dangerous, desperate economic conditions are dangeorus to natural resources, and if Greenpeace could come up with a more palatable and realistic plan than just to thoughtlessly oppose nuclear power, perhaps the world would be better off for it.

    I almost feel guilty at adding this small sidenote, but the enviroment in certain Chernobyl affected hot zones has actually been helped because of the 1986 disaster. I have been studying the city of Pripyat and apparantly, nature has begun to take over this city and the surrounding countryside. When people are too afraid to enter a zone because of radiation, nature begins to heal herself, except for the obvious fact that there is a radiation problem, there are many species of animals now alive and flourishing in Pripyat and the sourrounding areas. I am not insensitive to the plight of the people of Pripyat or to the victims of Chernobyl as a whole, just the opposite, I feel very sorry for them, but it should be noted that nature in this radiation affected area has somehow beneited in some ironic way.

    I love Greenpeace, but I am sorry to say that I don't agree with them about every little thing.

    Hleb's kid brother to try out for Hearts

    Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb's younger brother Vyacheslav is to have a trial at Hearts.

    The 23-year-old striker - who like his older sibling is a Belarus international - plays for MTZ Ripo Minsk, who are financed by Hearts majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov.

    The former Grasshopper and Hamburg player's agent, Nikolai Spilevski, told the Scottish Sun: "Vyacheslav will arrive at Hearts next week for training. The Belarussian season is over so he can do this.

    "They will take two weeks to decide whether or not he will stay there - but there is a chance this could become a permanent deal."

    The official lyrics to the Hymn of the USSR

    From: Wikopedia
    Союз нерушимый республик свободных
    Сплотила навеки Великая Русь.
    Да здравствует созданный волей народов
    Единый, могучий Советский Союз!
    Славься, Отечество наше свободное,
    Дружбы народов надёжный оплот!
    Партия Ленина — сила народная
    Нас к торжеству коммунизма ведёт!

    Сквозь грозы сияло нам солнце свободы,
    И Ленин великий нам путь озарил:
    На правое дело он поднял народы,
    На труд и на подвиги нас вдохновил!

    В победе бессмертных идей коммунизма
    Мы видим грядущее нашей страны,
    И Красному знамени славной Отчизны
    Мы будем всегда беззаветно верны!
    Unbreakable Union of freeborn Republics,
    Great Russia has welded forever to stand.
    Created in struggle by will of the people,
    United and mighty, our Soviet land!
    Sing to the Motherland, home of the free,
    Bulwark of peoples in brotherhood strong.
    O Party of Lenin, the strength of the people,
    To Communism's triumph lead us on!

    Through tempests the sunrays of freedom have cheered us,
    Along the new path where great Lenin did lead.
    To a righteous cause he raised up the peoples,
    Inspired them to labour and valourous deed.

    In the victory of Communism's deathless ideal,
    We see the future of our dear land.
    And to her fluttering scarlet banner,
    Selflessly true we always shall stand!