Complete coverage of the president’s speech to the Council of Ministers; Belarus shocks Slovakia at Riga world's, Opposition news and more
From the Top
Alexander Lukashenko Congratulates Veterans and Compatriots on the Victory Day
From: OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
The Head of State pointed out that the 9th of May is a symbol of national pride and memory for the Belarusian people. This date has forever been inscribed in gold lettering on the annals of Belarus.
It is impossible to underestimate the contribution of Belarusians to the Victory, of Belarusians who fought selflessly against the hateful enemy and endured the incredible ordeals and hardships of the longest and bloody war, Alexander Lukashenko is convinced.
“The feat of the participants of the Great Patriotic War inspires us to attain the high goals: strengthening of the might of Belarus and development of comprehensive cooperation with brotherly peoples,” the message of greetings says.
(Note: See below for Belta's coverage of the president's speach to the Council of Ministers)
Spreading democracy in post-Soviet states impossible without Russia - expert
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the lower chamber's committee on international affairs, said Belarus and Russia saw what the euphoria of post-Soviet democratic neophytes prevented them from seeing.
They see that the political systems of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova have not changed radically, and their people have not become more prosperous or embraced new ideas and elites. What did change is their geopolitical standing, which these countries interpret as severing relations with Russia.
Democratic change is not the main but mostly a secondary goal for these countries, which are suffering major losses in their economies, stability and sovereignty. Many Belarusians - even those who want change - are negative about the experience of "orange" countries. But Europe and the United States do not seem to understand this.
Kosachev said that it would be silly and shortsighted for any country to support post-Soviet neo-democrats who turn their back on it even though this contradicts the interests of their people.
It is logical that Russia does not share the enthusiasm of its European and American partners over the "newly democratic" states, which value their geopolitical interests more than democracy. Russia refuses to understand or support this policy, which complicates the development of democracy in these states with inevitable tensions and the possibility of latent conflicts flaring up.
The spread of democracy to the post-Soviet states without the assistance of Russia can lead, at best, to a replacement of one bad regime with another.
Energy giant Gazprom ridiculed by Belarus
Generally severe and steadfast, the company's top managers are hesitant about a new deal with Belarus. However, they are resolute in private when they say they would make Belarus accept the new prices. There are plans to raise the current gas price of $47 per a thousand cubic meters by about three times for Belarus in 2007. Nobody has yet disclosed the exact conditions of a new contract, because negotiating with Lukashenko is like playing cards with an experienced cardsharp. He would probably use a nice political pretext to review all previous agreements at the last minute. Gazprom has never been more vulnerable and damaged.
Belarus is in no hurry. The republic is confident it will be able to offer its Russian friends some weighty arguments. A deal with Belarus is a serious challenge to the Russian leadership and the Gazprom management, the distinction between which has lately been blurred in the eyes of the global community.
Gazprom has raised gas prices for all of its neighbors, but its price hikes for Ukraine and Belarus have provoked heated political debate. Most Russian politicians speak of the greediness and dishonesty of the "orange" Ukrainian leaders, but in the case of Belarus, they now question Gazprom's position.
The Communist faction in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, is insisting that the government justify why Gazprom should raise the prices for a "brother" country. Members of far-right LDPR and even pro-presidential United Russia echo the Communists. However, not a single defender of Russian interests objected when the gas price for Armenia, Russia's main ally in the Caucasus, was trebled last year.
FAU students plan bike trip to aid Belarus
From: PALM BEACH POST
Roefaro, 19, doesn't even own a bike.
But that hurdle hasn't hindered the trio's enthusiasm for Bike2Belarus.
The event, which attracts students from throughout Europe and from the United States, raises money for projects that help children who have cancer as a result of the 1986 reactor explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. About 70 percent of the radioactive material from the explosion landed on Belarusian soil, greatly harming the people who live there.
Doing Time in Belarus
A journalist speaks about her time spent in a Belarusian jail.
From: WASHINGTOM POST
We introduced ourselves and helped calm one another. One girl, who had sneaked in her cellphone, called her sister. "Masha, tell everybody that I am attending an academic conference in Polock," she whispered. "Don't tell anybody that I am in jail."
After a while we began to sing, and the men in the neighboring cell joined in. They shouted out "Long live Belarus," nearly screaming, and we replied just as ferociously. Before long at least half of those who'd been arrested joined in.
North Korea, Burma lead media shame list-(Belarus also named)
From: CHINA POST
Citing a media that stifles all criticism, publishes propaganda and keeps "bad news" from the people, North Korea's rigid press has in Cooper's words, "reached ridiculous, even dangerous levels." She stated that during North Korea's massive famine in the 1990's that affected millions, the subject was judged "too sensitive" for Pyongyang's press to cover. For the few million North Koreans who died from malnutrition the coverage would have still been their only sad epitaph.
4th general meeting of Autonomous Action in Plyos, 20th-22nd of August 2004
Most of the anarchism in Belarus is revolving around DIY punk scene, activities of which are however not much more than organising concerts. Cops, fascists and KGB (in Belarus chekists prefer the good ol' label) have worked in a touching cooperation when closing open concerts. As for the closed concerts, officials are aware of them but do not bother to interfere.
In last spring radical anti-fascism faced a wave of repression in Minsk, when as many as 7 anti-fascists faced different charges. These problems have now been solved, but propably number of active anti-fascists will now leave underground activities, expecially when nazis managed to find their home addresses.
All grains were sown as soon as practicable in Belarus
In Belarus all grains were sown as soon as practicable. Sowing campaign of other spring crops is finishing now, except maize and sugar beet, reported Leonid Rusak, Minister of Agriculture and Food, on the 4th of May, 2006.
As it has been already mentioned, the main feature of sowing campaign was resowing of more than 180.000 ha of winter crops.
In general, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food in Belarus, as of the 4th of May, area planted with spring crops totaled 1534.470 ha (71.1% from planned).
Area under spring wheat totaled 155.000 ha (104%), spring barley - 535.500 ha (106.8%), spring rape - 17.100 ha (44.4%), and flax - 47.800 ha (63.7%).
Maize was sown on 106.400 ha (20.2%), including area for grain - on 17.700 ha (73.6%). Area planted with sugar beet totaled 89% from the scheduled territory or 94.700 ha.
Youths picked up by plainclothesmen at media exhibition in Minsk for defiantly displaying pro-opposition newspapers
From: CHARTER '97
More young people were apprehended at the entrance to the center and near the stalls of Belarusian Television and another government-controlled television channel, ONT. Some of them wore either white-red-white colored T-shirts or badges featuring a symbol of opposition forces.
Decision of council of president’s special fund on social support of gifted students approved
Head of state Alexander Lukashenko has approved the decision of the council of the president’s special fund on social support of gifted students, BelTA has been told in the press service of the Belarusian leader.
The council of the fund decided to award the prizes to 116 students who won the first-degree diplomas at the final round of the nationwide Olympiad in school subjects in 2005, 197 prize winners of international contests, winners and prizewinners of the CIS Olympiads and also to the students who won the second-degree diplomas at the final round of the nationwide Olympiad in school subjects in 2005. Prize money will be awarded to 336 winners of the republican conferences, contests and tournaments and also the students who won the third-degree diplomas at the final round of the nationwide Olympiad in school subjects in 2005.
Financial assistance will be rendered to 19 students who have made great achievements in studying the humanities and natural sciences, and in creative activity.
Prize money will also be given to 120 teachers, scholars and other persons who have made personal contribution to the development of talented youth.
In line with the decision of the council of the fund, financial assistance will be given to the student scientific society of Grodno State Medical University.
The decision will ensure target purposeful support to young talents and will encourage fruitful activity in science and education.
Belarus shocks Slovakia at Riga world's
Ivan Ciernik scored for Slovakia.
After an uneventful first 10 minutes Mezin saved a Aleksandr Makritsky drive and smothered the puck in front of the crease. Mezin robed Marian Hossa on a 2-on-1 chance at the end of the first period.
Just after the first intermission Mezin made another miraculous save when Martin Strbak shot from close range.
Maleshko opened the scoring at 14:18 of the second period when he flew down the right boards and danced around goalie Tomas Harant.
Slovakia answered back three minutes later when the puck found Ciernik alone in front of the net and he banged in the equalizer.
At the end of the second frame Belarus retook the lead. Mikhail Grabovsky stick handled into the Slovakian zone and found Andrei Skabelka. Skabelka picked out Antonenko who whipped the puck into the back of the net.
Belarus beat Slovakia once before, 4-3 on April 18, 2000 in a match before the IIHF World Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia. Belarus have Russia next while Slovakia take on Kazakhstan.
He shoots, he scores, he cracks wise; The London Knights have had a few comedians over the years, but none quite like Sergei Kostitsyn.
From: LONDON FREE PRESS
None carried it off in two languages, though.
"He's always smiling about something," Knights' head coach Dale Hunter said, "even on the bench."
It's the smile, the wisecracks in broken English, the quickness of his repartee that makes the Kostitsyn schtick work.
Every team needs some comic relief. As the Knights prepare to open their best-of-seven OHL final against the Peterborough Petes tonight at the JLC, it's even more important to help keep people loose.
So, what is it about this 19-year-old from Belarus that makes him so funny?
"It's the accent," goalie Adam Dennis says. "He was quick to pick up certain words (read cuss-words) and the way he says them is hilarious."
Iceland keep their cool in Belarus
The President's address to the newly apointed council of Ministers
Speaking about the cabinet reshuffle, the president emphasized that the efficient performance of the main economic headquarters of the country will be secured by the principles of management succession and renewal.
The Belarusian government has been refreshed by six new members, namely, Victor Buria – deputy prime minister, Alexander Ozerets – energy minister, Nikolai Pantelei – minister of communications and informatization, Vladimir Potupchik – minister of labour and social security, Vasiliy Zharko – minister of healthcare, Alexander Seleznev – minister of architecture and construction.
“Before the presidential election I made it clear that Sergei Sidorskiy will remain prime minister and the majority of the ministers will retain their posts,” Alexander Lukashenko said. He explained the decision by successful performance of the Council of Ministers over the last five years when all the targets were met and a good start for the next five-year period was made.
Under a severe external pressure successful foreign trade is indispensable for the survival of our state.
The head of state stressed that the government and the foreign ministry will have to settle large-scale tasks to expand Belarus presence on the world market, pursue an aggressive foreign trade policy.
The president pointed out, the adopted national export development programme for 2006-2010 is the strategic reference point. According to Alexander Lukashenko, it is necessary to promptly respond to the changing market competition, be able to forecast the situation development and precisely coordinate the efforts.
Alexander Lukashenko believes today that ensuring Belarus' energy security is the central goal. He made the statement at today's session of the new Council of Ministers.
The issue is supervised by the first deputy prime minister, the post, which is filled by Vladimir Semashko. The head of state pointed out the latter's high ability to work and good organising skills. "He is an experienced, strong-willed, and very determined man".
The president made the first vice-premier and new energy minister Alexander Ozerets personally responsible for implementing the state programme of the national power engineering modernisation, energy saving and increasing the share of domestic fuel and energy consumption by 2010.
The head of state demanded the goals should be reached at minimum cost. Wasting government money is not an option. In particular, after the tender to supply equipment to Minsk heat and power plant #3 was held, it turned out the project could have cost EUR 30 million less.
Intensive integration of science and production should become a most important direction of government efforts.
"In this field we still follow traditions of Soviet times, when enterprises and scientific establishments functioned independently of each other," stated the president. "For years the former manufactured serial products, while the latter stocked theses on shelves".
Alexander Lukashenko is convinced, the present day life demands completely different approaches. Proprietary science is required, that is research and development directly at large enterprises. In short, the science should be as close to the production as possible.
The president expects the state science and technologies committee (chaired by Vladimir Matyushkov) and the National Science Academy (Mikhail Myasnikovich) to take concrete and effective measures to boost innovation processes in the country's economy and radically increase return on assets in the scientific field.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, the point is putting issues related to increasing the competitive ability of specific products and the economy as a whole into the centre of attention of every ministry, enterprise, research and development organisation.
Formation of the Belarusian government is taking place in a businesslike and calm manner without political excitement and social shocks. These advantageously distinguish Belarus from many countries where the process is long and scandalous.
He added, "The fact that the Council of Ministers does not get involved in political fights and electoral campaigns is the convincing testimony of the state stability, which is the basis for dynamic development of the country".
Today's session will table concrete government actions for the plans to succeed. The president stressed, within the next five years the Belarusian government will have to accomplish more than it had in the previous ten years.
The head of state reminded the economic targets to be hit in the next five years: the GDP up by 50 per cent, industrial output – 50 per cent, agricultural output – 40 per cent up, services to the population – 60 per cent up, inflation – down to at most 5 per cent.
According to the president, the major peculiarity of the new five-year plan is that innovations should become the basis of the economy development. "Introduction of science-intensive technologies, import-replacing and resource-saving technologies are the priority directions we will go along. We have the capacity for that," said Alexander Lukashenko.
Social security measures should be proactive. In his words, it is necessary to continue improving state regulation of prices and tariffs for socially vital goods and services.
The head of state said, he was worried by the employment and salary situation in Belarus regions. Approaches fit for each agency are required. The problem needs a comprehensive solution, taking into account development prospects of small towns and communities in connection with stable performance of the local companies.
Alexander Lukashenko pointed out the recent free economic zone issue. Now the situation has changed, but for that the president had to assume direct control over the situation.
Alexander Lukashenko demanded the government “to more thoroughly calculate the efficiency of investments projects and aid measures to companies”. The main thing is to get a maximum payback of invested funds.
As a negative example the head of state cited the Bellegprom concern which already utilized more than Br40 billion of state financial aid in 2005 yet achieved no visible results.
Alexander Lukashenko also demanded the government to take more feasible measures on crisis management. He noted: “If you think that your only objective is to grant benefits to the industry, you are mistaken. I am equally interested in the state of affairs in industry, agriculture, construction, energy and social spheres”.
The president recommended industry minister Anatoliy Rusetskiy to more rapidly upgrade manufactures and introduce innovational principles; this pertains to both industrial giants and minor branch companies.
Alexander Lukashenko demanded that finance minister Nikolai Korbut should take effective measures to prevent illegal expenditure of budget money.
The state control committee found Br 6.5 billion worth of misappropriations of budget money, groundless acquisition of budget subsidies and compensations in over 800 organisations.
The key task of the budget policy is closer coordination of activities with other controlling bodies for the sake of total prevention of misappropriations and illegal expenditure of budget money. In his words, due to the lack of efforts in the field the finance ministry has to correct the budget every month.
The president tasked Nikolai Korbut with paying close attention to the development of insurance market in Belarus. Incomes of insurance companies are the resource base of banks and budget revenues. Thanks to these resources state banks will be able to invest in government-sponsored projects, explained the Belarusian leader. "Money flow in the insurance field should be fully transparent and controllable," underlined the president.
The president of Belarus has demanded that the prime minister should mobilize all state bodies subordinate to the government for achieving the goals of the five-year plan.
The head of state also voiced a necessity in efficient and dynamic development of the country’s economy, active application of innovational principles. “This is the basis for meeting the main target of the five-year period, i.e. massive improvement of living standards.”
The president confirmed his intention to make the state for people.
Among the drawbacks of the prime minister’s work the head of state first all cited passivity and lack of initiative, failure to address negative phenomena. Alexander Lukashenko called it unacceptable the prime minister’s attempts to “correct” president’s instructions.
Deputy healthcare minister of Belarus Victor Rudenko was relieved of his post. The corresponding decree was signed by the president of Belarus on May 5, BelTA was informed in the presidential press service.
Simplification of the Belarusian taxation system should be aimed at decreasing the number and rates of taxes and duties, optimising their calculation and payment procedures. Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko assigned the task to vice-premier Andrei Kobyakov, finance minister Nikolai Korbut and tax and duties minister Anna Deiko today.
"I am not going to issue more orders on this matter. I expect concrete proposals."
He added, the simplification cannot allow budget payment to shrink. "The task is to make the taxation contribute to getting additional revenues thanks to effective performance of real economy companies," he said.
Alexander Lukashenko also noted, he expects the government to put forward proposals to improve economic instruments in order to increase the competitive ability of producers.
The president of Belarus has criticized the work of the former government on settling local issues. “The Council of Ministers is responsible for everything what is going on in our state, not only for the national property.”
According to him, people address him with concern about the fact that the government focuses only on profit-making companies. “Loss making companies are also important. Everybody wants to have a decent life,” Alexander Lukashenko said. He added that this year the number of appeals to the president has doubled.
Addressing the government the head of state emphasized that the priority objective of the five-year period is the development of small towns and villages. “We have set the goal to ensure comfortable living condition for everyone in any region,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
He also noted that after the liquidation of the Belmestprom concern the government should not put all the responsibility for all loss-making companies of the branch on local authorities hence worsening their state even more.
Alexander Lukashenko warned the new Council of Ministers against taking hasty and unreasoned decisions in the field of small and medium businesses.
"Remember when the markets surged last year and the president had to step in. Businessmen ask little of us: they ask us not to worsen the rules of the game."
Privatization of Belarusian state-run companies is only possible on maximally beneficial terms.
“If you start privatizing this or that company, this should be done on maximally beneficial terms only,” the president said.
The Belarusian leader also pointed to the need in more efficient state property management.
Alexander Lukashenko demanded to advance the construction materials industry to the world level. Construction materials is one of the few industries, which mainly use domestic raw stock.
The president demanded to take measures to retool construction companies. Special attention should be paid to the development of construction materials companies. The architecture and construction ministry has not thought about prospective development of these companies to the sufficient degree. Last year it led to disruptions of cement and road metal supplies to construction companies, though Belarus has no problems with selling the make abroad. Efforts should be exercised in this direction, noted Alexander Lukashenko. The head of state ordered to increase cement production, introduce new technologies to keep the existing market area.
The Belarusian president dismissed several government officials from their duties, as they were transferred to other posts. The president inked the corresponding decree on May 5.
The Belarusian president's press service told BelTA, Vasiliy Gapeyev was relieved of his post as deputy prime minister, Alexander Ageyev – energy minister, Vladimir Goncharenko – communication and information technology minister, Gennadiy Kurochkin – architecture and construction minister, Vadim Melnik – chairperson of the state aviation committee, Antonina Morova – labour and social security minister.
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has set a task to boost the annual pharmaceutical output to USD 130 billion. The head of state also ordered to ensure production of 50 per cent of medicines from the list of the main medications.
The president insisted that there should be 1,7 times more of Belarus-made medicines in the domestic market by the end of the five-year period. He believes it necessary to boost export potential of the branch and reach out for global markets.
Apart from that, the president stated that Belbiopharm concern produced only 16 per cent of medicines demanded at the domestic market.
“The consumer demand for medical preparations is growing and we have to satisfy it first of all by our own produce,” Alexander Lukashenko said. He noted that this year the branch was showing a negative trend with the import increasing by almost 40 per cent over two months. The pharmaceutics is a very profitable branch, the Belarusian leader said.
The state is interested in rendering support to ministry of communications and informatization as this branch is quite profitable.
The head of state believes that the new minister of communications and informatization Nikalai Pantelei will make a feasible contribution to the development of this important and one of the most science-intensive and promising branches.
The Belarusian president ordered to improve the pension insurance system. "With all our achievements, the pension system is far from perfection. We are seriously lagging behind the targets we aim at."
In particular, according to the president, in the last five years the government failed to make retirement pensions comparable with the average salary. Besides, the connection between pension size and people salaries before retirement was lost.
As a result, Alexander Lukashenko stressed, the correlation between pensions and pre-retirement salaries varies from 18 to 220 per cent. "Naturally, it won't do. Such averaging-out and re-distribution of pension money do not encourage earning future pensions. These problems should be resolved today, as they are bound to become aggravated sooner or later," said the president.
The head of state believes, one of the ways to approach the problem is saving resources of the social security fund. This year maintenance of the fund bodies will need around Br 60 billion. Besides, other expenses of the fund exceed Br 107 billion. "The money is enough to pay pensions to 53,000 pensions," stated the Belarusian leader.
The newly created state standardization committee has assumed the functions of the three structures. As president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko believes, this move would strengthen the state policy in the field of control over quality of products, construction, energy saving measures.
The committee is headed by very experienced executive Valeriy Koreshkov. According to Alexander Lukashenko, the main task of the committee is to rejuvenate the efforts on production standardization and tighten state supervision in all branches of the economy.
The head of state took note of the problems in construction sphere. The president criticized the constructors who build a site today and rebuild it tomorrow. “Neither quality, nor appropriate construction standards”, Alexander Lukashenko stated.
According to the president, the construction industry is the facade of the state. Alexander Lukashenko ordered minister of architecture and construction Alexander Seleznev to radically improve the work of the ministry.
By 2010 Belarus should solve the problem of the shortage of doctors.
According to the head of state, there is a need to strictly adhere to the social standards which regulate affairs in this sphere. He tasked Alexander Kosinets and new health care minister Vasiliy Zharko to take under personal control the implementation of the health care development strategy designed to run until 2007.
The program on the upgrade of operating and intensive care units of major regional hospitals needs to be constantly kept eagle eye on too, Alexander Lukashenko added. “The improvement of the primary medical assistance facilities is the least expensive way to develop health care. Tactful and sensitive attitude towards people should be brought to the forefront here”, Alexander Lukashenko said.
It is necessary to develop and use high technologies in the republican and regional health care centers, the president said. Cardio-surgical assistance should be rendered at the highest level in all regional centers, the Belarusian leader concluded.
Alexander Lukashenko demanded to ensure an effective system to guarantee quality and safety of goods imported from abroad by June 1.
Speaking about the drawbacks in trade, the head of state noted that Belarus has made little progress to develop trade on credit terms, e-commerce or trade by mail. Trading companies fail to tap the potential to reduce trading costs, improve labour productivity and increase wages.
Alexander Lukashenko ordered the trade ministry to accelerate efforts on creating commodity distribution networks in all regions of the world and supervise its activity jointly with the foreign political department.
Consumer services need improving. It is important that consumer services establishments do not make losses, he stressed. A special emphasis should be placed on the procurement of certain agricultural products which are grown on individual subsidiary farms and also wild berries and mushrooms. According to Alexander Lukashenko, more than 90 per cent of mushrooms and some wild berries are purchased by private companies and then exported. These are state-owned companies who should be involved in this kind of activity, the Belarusian leader stressed.
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko demanded that newspapers, journals and TV and radio broadcasting should be propelled to a qualitatively new level.
The Belarusian mass media lack in-depth analytics and systematic approach to counteracting heavy information pressure exerted on Belarus from abroad. The President’s Administration and the concerned ministries and agencies have no appropriate concept on that issue, Alexander Lukashenko noted.
The information ministry does not yet have an ideological core and well-structured system in ensuring the country's information security. In publishing activity – passiveness and unexacting attitude to business.
Referring to the sphere of education, the president underscored: “It is necessary to speak less about reforms for they have already been fulfilled and buckle down to work, first of all, to improving the quality of curricula and textbooks”.
In the field of culture, the head of state is confident, there is a need to take a more exacting approach to the development of the festival movement by trimming similar and less attractive events. The Belarusian leader tasked culture minister Vladimir Matveichuk to carefully analyze the work of the cinema-studio “Belarusfilm”, the system of concert activities of artists and bands and reconstruct historical sites of Belarus.