Lukashenka’s State of the Nation, Poll: Belarusians satisfied, Churches fined, New statue for “Iron Felix”, Flag of Belarus flies on top of Everest
From the Top
State of the Nation Address
From: The office of the president
Now, when positive political and economic tendencies inside the country are secured, the top priority of Belarus is to integrate into the global economy preserving all national interests, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has declared today in his State of the Nation Address.
The president noted that Belarus had been pursuing the policy on entering new markets. Yet this has to be done even more aggressively, the president believes.
The market should be regulated not by a fence on the boarder, as some officials would like it to be, but rather by speedy introduction of progressive technologies, upscale goods of national manufacture and reasonable prices. Although Belarus is not a WTO member, we have been living according to the laws of this organization,” the president emphasized.
Belarus has established stable economic ties with many countries worldwide. This year this country presides the Eurasian Economic Community and Collective Security Treaty Organization. Minsk will soon host a regular CIS summit. “These are favourable factors that let us determine the integration strategy in the post-Soviet zone in order to enhance the role of the Republic of Belarus in the interstate formations,” Alexander Lukashenko declared.
Belarus will set up favourable conditions for people’s self-fulfillment, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has declared today in his State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian People and the National Assembly.
“Today we can proudly say that we have ensured social and political stability. We realize that only by uniting efforts of all social forces can we reach modern large-scale goals,” the president said. “It is a well-known fact that one cannot leave in society and be free of it. It means that we have to be able to both rule and obey,” he added.
According to the Belarusian leader, the objective of the national authorities is to ensure the right balance between the interests of the state, society and an individual.
Alexander Lukashenko noted that public organizations pay a leading role in protecting civil interests and supporting specific categories of people. “Confidence placed in the president during the election is the confidence placed in the whole authority. We have to repay the debt to the people and the most important thing is to back and thank them for the colossal support,” the president said. He also noted that not only state officials but also public organizations should do so, as well as public movements and political parties. “We are ready to listen to everyone who constructively work for the sake of the Motherland, who wants to work not earn money on political campaigns,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
BELARUS: THE MYTH OF "PEOPLE POWER"
On May 23 Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka delivered a "state of the nation address" that was broadcast live on Belarusian TV and lasted a relatively modest 51 minutes. The speech was significant for being his first major post-election broadcast, and it provided some rationale behind his personal mode of leadership while outlining his world view. The speech was a curious mixture: some ideas seemed to be expropriated from the presidential campaign of opposition candidates Alexander Milinkevich and Alexander Kazulin, whereas others were more familiar to television viewers.
Lukashenka began by focusing on what he termed "people power" and the resolution of the most important issues through popular participation in elections, referendums, and all-Belarusian assemblies. In what may have been a response to Western criticism, he claimed that civil society already exists in Belarus and is expressed through labor collectives, more than 2,000 public associations, 41 trade unions, and other organizations that provide for partnership and cooperation between these organs and the state. He intends to adhere to the contentious labor contracts and maintains that the Federation of Trade Unions should expose abuses in the labor relations system.
In contrast to other states -- none are cited but Russia may have been in mind -- Lukashenka has no plans to create a "party of power." Though he valued the role of the former Communist Party in the Soviet Union, he would not establish such a party from above; it could only be developed from the grassroots. In his view, there is no crisis in Belarus and therefore no reason for such a party to emerge at present. Belarusian society is based on four foundations, in his view: trade unions, councils of deputies, and youth and veterans' organizations. Some local councils, he stated, have "run to extremes," and the opposition is seeking "revenge" for its presidential electoral defeat by focusing on local elections. Thus there is work to be done by pro-government youth and veterans organizations with students and young people.
The concept of the "people" and popular support for his rule was repeated throughout his speech and is interpreted as confidence in officials, civil servants, and the president. However, Lukashenka was frank when it comes to his main problems, which are refined to two major issues: rising energy prices and constant threats of sanctions and other "preposterous measures" by the European Union and United States. He perceives a way out of this impasse by an aggressive "multidirectional policy" and support for a multi-polar world rather than one dominated by "barefaced diktat" -- a direct attack on the United States.
How is such a world to be constructed? First, Lukashenka perceives the emergence of new centers of power, and China is mentioned several times as a close friend of Belarus with a similar outlook. High energy prices have benefited Iran and allowed Russia to get back on its feet. India, Latin America, and other regions wish to become more independent in their policies.
As for Belarus, it intends to stand closely beside Russia and to deepen its relationship because "the benefits of unification are indisputable." It will also work within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States, though Lukashenka acknowledged the need for reform of this institution, and each state must take on more responsibility for its improvement. Belarus also wishes to expand significantly the role of the UN as an arbiter of international problems and to strengthen international security.
Most people in Kazakhstan, Belarus satisfied with life - poll
The way citizens of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine describe the quality of their life differ significantly, as is evident from sociological polls that the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) conducted in these countries in April and May.
Most respondents in Kazakhstan (73%) and Belarus (70%) said they are basically satisfied with their life, and 24% and 28% said the opposite.
In Russia, the share of people dissatisfied to some extent with their life amounts to 58%, while 41% are satisfied.
In Ukraine, 66% are dissatisfied with their life, and 30% are satisfied with it.
The respondents were also asked in what countries or associations of countries they would like to live.
A plurality in Ukraine (36%) and Belarus (30%) would like to live in a union of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, while a plurality in Russia (33%) and Kazakhstan (36%) prefer to live in their own country.
VTsIOM polled 1,585 people in Russia, 2,103 in Ukraine, 1,101 in Belarus and 1,000 in Kazakhstan. va jh
CIS prosecutors sign agreement on terrorism fight
From: People's Daily (China)
The prosecutor generals of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) signed an agreement on cooperation in fighting terrorism and other violent manifestations of extremism in Minsk on Thursday, Russian news agencies reported.
The problem of uniting efforts in the fight against terrorism acquired particular importance at a regular session of the Coordinating Council of Prosecutor Generals of CIS member countries.
"The necessity of uniting efforts in the fight against terrorism is stressed in many international legal documents," Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov said.
"The realities of life force us not only to maintain the strength of crime fighting, including antiterrorism and extremism combating efforts, at a high level, but also to cooperate more closely," Belarussian Prosecutor General Pyotr Miklashevich said for his part.
In this connection he drew attention to the fact that "a substantial experience of cooperation and interaction between law enforcement agencies has been accumulated within the CIS framework. "
An agreement on protection of the rights and interests of minors was also signed at this session.
BELARUS: "Divine freedom is given by God, but state freedom you have to pay for"
From: Forum 18
In what seems to be an increasing trend, a Belarusian Pentecostal pastor has been fined for leading worship without state sanction. "Divine freedom is given to us by God," Pastor Ilya Radkevich remarked to Forum 18 News Service, "but state freedom you have to pay for." Natalya Lutsenko, head of the administrative commission which fined Pastor Radkevich, totally refused to say why an individual had been punished for holding a peaceful religious service. Radkevich's fine is the latest to be imposed on some Baptist, Pentecostal and independent Orthodox groups, under a legal provision punishing violation of legislation on religion or the foundation and leadership of an unregistered religious congregation. The 2002 Religion Law bans unregistered religious activity, thus violating Belarus' international human rights commitments. A regional assistant bishop of a separate registered Pentecostal Union has told Forum 18 that the number of fines for worship by groups in private homes – which is illegal without state sanction even for registered communities - would be much greater if such worship did not take place discreetly.
In what appears to be an increasing trend, the pastor of a Pentecostal community close to the Ukrainian border has confirmed that he was fined in mid-May for leading worship without state sanction. "Divine freedom is given to us by God," Ilya Radkevich remarked to Forum 18 News Service from the small south-western town of Povitye [Povits] (Brest region) on 24 May, "but state freedom you have to pay for." He was fined 150,000 Belarusian roubles (438 Norwegian Kroner, 56 Euros or 72 US Dollars).
Natalya Lutsenko, the head of the administrative commission which fined Pastor Radkevich, declined absolutely to explain why an individual had been punished for holding a peaceful religious service. "It is impossible to talk about this case," she told Forum 18 from the town of Kobrin on 26 May. "We don't discuss administrative cases over the phone." Insisting that all religious communities have to register with the authorities before they can function, she put the phone down.
Protests greet tribute to secret-police boss
From: Seattle Times
A monument to Soviet secret-police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky was unveiled Friday in the Belarusian capital Minsk, provoking protests from human-rights defenders and opposition politicians.
Dzerzhinsky helped establish the first Soviet secret service, called the Cheka, in 1917 under Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin. The Cheka, a forerunner of the KGB, was responsible for mass arrests and executions.
The towering 10-foot bronze figure, a copy of the statue of Dzerzhinsky that pro-democracy crowds tore down in front of KGB headquarters in Moscow in 1991, occupies a spot inside the grounds of the Military Academy. Dzerzhinksky was known as "Iron Felix." He was born in modern-day Belarus.
'Minsk' to go under hammer again
From: Shanghai Daily
THE aircraft carrier Minsk will be auctioned again next Wednesday after its last auction failed because of lack of buyers, Nanfang Daily reported today.
Bidders must pay a 10-million-yuan (US$1.25 million) deposit by Tuesday, compared with the 25 million yuan deposit required for the first auction.
The initial bid price at the last auction was 128 million yuan, however, no one accepted the offer. Guangdong Xutongda Auction Co didn't reveal whether they would decrease the price.
The carrier's owner, Minsk World Industries Co Ltd, went bankrupt a year ago.
The aircrafts carrier, which is also a theme park, attracted many tourists since it opened to the public in September 2000.
Burdened with interest payments from both a huge bank loan and mortgage, the owner of the Minsk filed for bankruptcy.
The auditing report said the company had liabilities totaling 867 million yuan and total assets worth 675 million yuan. The Intermediate Court of Shenzhen appointed a liquidation team to take over the gigantic vessel last February.
The theme park is still open for business and hosted 33,000 visitors during the Spring Festival.
Minsk, a decommissioned Russian aircraft carrier, was previously a flagship of the Russian Pacific Ocean Fleet. It was sold to a South Korean businessman in 1995, and later sold to Shenzhen Minsk World.
EurAsEC is nucleus of integration in post-Soviet space – president
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko called the Eurasian Economic Community the only effective body in the post-Soviet space, a nucleus of integration processes.
“We ourselves have never expected the EurAsEC to become the most effective body in the post-Soviet space and, perhaps, the only one which can be relied on in maintaining the nucleus of integration which can be joined by other countries if they wish”, the Belarusian leader said in a meeting with the heads of parliament of the EurAsEC member states today.
Pointing to the processes underway in the CIS, the president said that there are two formations which are really effective at the moment. These are the EurAsEC and the Belarus-Russia Union State. However, “it is too early to speak about us being able to advance in the EurAsEC as far as we have done in the Belarus-Russia Union State”, Alexander Lukashenko added. According to him, the experience gained in the forming of the Belarus-Russia Union State might be useful for the development of integration processes in the EurAsEC framework.
Belarus is an active supporter of integration processes in all spheres, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said when meeting with heads of delegations of CIS prosecutors general.
“We believe that if there are common interests any union is helpful. If there are common problems, it is better to settle them together,” the president emphasized.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, the top priority of any state is to ensure law and order, peace and tranquility as well as to tackle crime. These issues are paid great attention to in Belarus.
The president noted that recently Belarus has become a venue for many international events within CIS and EurAsEC. Today Minsk hosts a CIS coordination council of prosecutors general and EurAsEC parliamentary leaders.
IHF president Hassan Moustafa arrives in Minsk to draw up program on developing Belarusian handball
One of the main goals of the visit of president of the International Handball Federation /IHF/ Dr. Hassan Moustafa to Minsk is to draw up a program on developing the Belarusian handball. Dr. Hassan Moustafa stated about it today in the course of a meeting with speaker of the lower chamber of the Belarusian parliament Vladimir Konoplev.
Dr. Moustafa underlined that when he was reelected IHF president in 2005 he gave a promise to help those states, which earlier used to have well-developed handball but later showed lower results. Belarus has good sport traditions and has always trained professional handball players. The IHF president has expressed hope that his federation jointly with the ministry of sport and tourism of the republic and the Belarusian Handball Federation will draw up an effective development program.
Vladimir Konoplev thanked the International Handball Federation for its contribution to development of the world handball. He emphasized that Belarusians are aware of Dr. Moustafa’s attention to the problems and prospects of the handball development in this country. With the help of IHF Belarusian handball will retrieve the leading positions it used to occupy in the 1970-90s, Vladimir Konoplev said.
The meeting was also attended by minister of sports and tourism Alexander Grigorov, chairman of the permanent commission on human rights, national relations and mass media of the Chamber of Representatives Yuri Kulakovskiy who also presides the Belarusian Handball Federation.
The IHF president will take part in celebrations dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Belarusian handball.
National Flag of Belarus flies on top of Everest
A national flag of Belarus was raised on the summit of the highest mountain in the world – Everest (8,848m).
This is a triumphant mountaineering, Alexander Goldevskiy, president of the Belarusian federation of alpinism, told BelTA. “It can be called the best showcase of the Belarusian school of alpinism and of all the traits of character which the Belarusians have: a will to win, persistence and indisputable courage”, he said.
There were three Belarusians who climbed the mountain: Viktor Lutov, Vladislav Kagan and Vladimir Telpuk.
The Belarusian mountain-climbers made their way to the top of the world’s highest hill – from their camp to the summit – without any carriers and guides unlike most expeditions to the Himalayas.
Today the Belarusians are descending from the mountain and have already passed the hardest part of the way – the so-called “death zone”, Alexander Goldevskiy says.
The only Belarusian who climbed the Everest earlier was Viktor Kulbachenko (1998).
First CIS personal exhibition of Zurab Tsereteli’s works opens in Minsk
The first CIS personal exhibition of Zurab Tsereteli’s works has opened in the national art museum in Minsk.
At the press conference president of the Russian Academy of Arts, People’s Artist of Russia, USSR and Georgian SSR, UNESCO Good Will Ambassador Zurab Tsereteli said he was glad to come to Minsk again.
The artist intends to present one of his works to the national art museum of the Republic of Belarus. Moreover, some his works can be presented to a new museum, which is planned to be opened in Minsk.
The exposition includes more than 200 art works. It was organized by the culture ministry and the national art museum of the Republic of Belarus, the Russian Academy of Arts and the Moscow museum of contemporary art.
The exhibition will be opened till June 9.
The Return of “Iron Felix”: A Hero for Lukashenka’s Time
From: Tol Blogs Belarus
On May 26, a new monument to Felix Dzerzhinsky will be unveiled at the Military Academy of Belarus in Miensk. The monument (more than 3 meters high) is a copy of the former monument in Lubyanka Square in Moscow, near the infamous prison where so many were killed. That statue was removed shortly after the failed coup in August 1991. In the spirit of “Iron Felix,” it was so well-constructed that it could not be simply torn down – it took a heavy-duty crane to take it away.
As usual, Belarusian authorities are not original in their thinking and actions. In 2002, Yuri Luzhkov, the Mayor of Moscow and a good friend of Lukashenka, was the first to suggest that the statue of Dzerzhinsky be restored. But while the idea was discussed publicly in Moscow, it was not broadly supported and therefore successfully buried, so to speak. In Miensk, the decision was simply made and implemented by state officials, without asking anybody’s opinion.
Dzerzhinsky was born into a Polish noble family on an estate in Kojdanawa, in today’s western Belarus, then a part of the Russian Empire. He joined the Bolshevik Party in 1917 and was appointed by Lenin to organize the first Soviet secret police force, the Cheka. He openly stated that “organized terror” was necessary in times of revolution. He also liked to say that “a member of the KGB should have a cool head, a warm heart, and clean hands.” In the six years following the Bolshevik Revolution, it is believed that about half a million people were executed by such hearts and hands. This Red Terror set the stage for Stalin’s systematic mass repressions.
UCP Would Not Allow Belarusian TV Channels Be Present At Its Congress
From: Charter '97
The steering committee of the United Civil Party has passed a fundamental decision not to accredit state-run Belarusian TV channels for the participation at its congress. “They have many times created forgeries aimed against the UCP,” the deputy chairman of the UCP Syarhei Alfer explained.
As the press service of the party informs, the UCP congress scheduled for May 28 in Minsk stirred up a rush in state-run media. A week before the congress the First National Channel started to attack the head office of the UCP with phone calls demanding accreditation. Then the Belarusian TV was followed by the ONT, STV channels, BelTA, Zvyazda, “Narodnaya Gazeta”, “Sovetskaya Belorussia”, “Respublika” and even by an farmers’ newspaper “Belorusskaya Niva”.
Official media are to be accredited at the congress. The prohibition for official TV channels is an extraordinary measure. “There are agencies that for some reason call themselves mass media,” Syarhei Alfer said. “But actually I would call them pupils of Goebbels. As for relatins with official TV Channels of Belarus, we are ready to work with them, if they would invite the leader of the party or other UCP leaders for a live television broadcast. WE are ready to appear in any TV program, to discuss any topics of current interest, but to be live on Belarusian television”.
Belarus Is Ready to Annul “Union” With Russia
From: Charter '97
Belarus can undo the so-called “union” with Russia in case Gazprom would deliver gas to the country at world prices. This warning in a veiled form is contained in a letter sent to the head of Russian government Mikhail Fradkov by Belarusian Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski (Sergei Sidorsky), еру Russian daily Kommersant writes. As the newspaper was informed by sources close to the Russian ministers’ cabinet, a confidential letter was sent by Sidorski on May 15. The situation in economy of the country and forecast of its development in connection with expected prices rise is described there.
In the letter of Belarusian Prime Minister it is said in particular that in case the Kremlin would keep low gas prices for Belarus the country would be ready to “proceed with the decision on creation of joint gas transportation organization”. It is the only concession the Belarusian authorities are ready to make, judging from he letter of the prime minister.
Then Sidorski noted that conversion to European gas prices “contradict first of all the Treaty on creation of the “union state” of Russia and Belarus”. A gas conflict is characterized by Sidorski as a “ruining of the foundations of the union state”.
Thus, Kommersant writes, for the first time the possibility of Belarus’ withdrawing the “union” with Russia is discussed in an official document, though in a veiled manner.
The Belarusian authorities strongly oppose gas prices rise by Gazprom planned since January 1, 2007. The price would be USD 130-150 per cubic meter compared to today’s USD 47. A scheme of VAT implementation and excise taxes in oil exported to Belarus for refining are to be changed as well. In its turn, Gazprom maintains that resources are to be delivered to Belarus at market prices.
Vneshtorgbank intends to organize artistic gymnastics cup competition
The public company Vneshtorgbank intends to set up an artistic gymnastics cup competition which would benefit from the participation of Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian athletes. The possibility of organizing such a competition is presently under consideration. The statement and proposal to this effect were made by president and CEO of Vneshtorgbank Andrei Kostin when he was meeting with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. Andrei Kostin has recently taken over as the head of the federation of artistic gymnastics of Russia.
According to Andrei Kostin, in order to win medals at international competitions, Belarusian and Russian sportsmen should train more and perform more at international competitions.