Kozulin gets five ½ years, US,EU in uproar, G8 to begin; Russia, Putin in spotlight, India, Azerbaijan, Belarus II in Brooklyn
From the top
President: it is necessary to actively involve private companies in logging
“Time has come to allow private business to manage forest resources. Our forests are in a mess yet. At the present stage we should use all opportunities,” the head of state said while visiting the Ivatsevichi integrated logging-lumbering enterprise.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, “wherever we work together today, private business works better than a state-run company.”
At the same time the head of state said that activities of private companies in this sphere should be closely monitored. Moreover, only up-to-date technologies should be used in logging and in managing logging waste.
“We should allow private companies manage forest resources but under control. If one fails to meet what has been agreed upon, he won’t be allowed to manage forest resources any more. Private companies will have to work honestly and with diligence, otherwise they will lose money,” the Belarusian leader said.
The president has also ruled out the possibility of engaging any foreign companies in logging at present.
This year the state will give money to help the national timber industry reach the level of European states like Sweden, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said today at a meeting focusing on the issues of improving the performance of the timber and wood-processing industry of this country.
The head of state pointed to the necessity of urgent modernization of the existing companies and building of new ones which would run on timber. “This is a task of major importance. If we fail to bring this industry in good order, we will lose our strategic resource. We can become much wealthier if we learn how to efficiently process timber,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
The president confirmed his fundamental position that starting from January 1, 2007 irrational management of forests will be legally treated as a crime. Companies should perform the full cycle of logging operations with 100-per cent utilization of wood waste.
As the head of state said, “it is those who know how to work in the timber industry who should work there.” According to him, it is advisable involving reliable private producers. “There is a need to allocate territories for those who is ready to process timber, minimum for five years for them not to do legwork begging for pieces of woodland,” the president said. He went on saying that the relevant state bodies will painstakingly carry out monitoring of activity of companies involved in timber industry.
The head of state commissioned premier Sergei Sidorskiy and forestry minister Piotr Semashko to ensure the implementation of the afore-mentioned instructions. Within the ensuing six months it is necessary to streamline the price formation for timber goods sold both inside and outside Belarus
Kozulin sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison
Dr. Kozulin, 50, rector of Belarusian State University between 1996 and 2003, was accused of two counts of hooliganism under Part 2 of the Criminal Code's Article 339, and of the organization of group actions disturbing the public peace under Article 342.
The hooliganism charge originates from an incident that occurred on February 17, when Dr. Kozulin elbowed his way into the National Press Center to hold a news conference there as a newly registered presidential candidate, and his March 2 attempt to register for the Third All-Belarusian People's Assembly. The other charge was brought in connection with a demonstration staged on March 25. Dr. Kozulin was beaten up and arrested when an opposition crowd was walking toward the detention center on Okrestina Street.
The public prosecutor demanded a six-year prison sentence for the politician, while the defense team insisted that Dr. Kozulin should be acquitted on all charges.
In a bizarre ending of the six-day trial, the judge ordered all people out of the courtroom before pronouncing the ruling after Dr. Kozulin called him a "hangman" and the politician's supporters started chanting "Freedom to Kozulin." Reporters and diplomats also were removed from the room, with only the prosecutor, Dr. Kozulin's chief lawyer and the court secretary staying to hear the verdict.
Kozulin, in his final comments in court, denounced his trial as "unfair" and called the judge "an executioner."
The politician was expelled from the courtroom and barred from making a final statement on Wednesday. He was expected to be allowed back to the courtroom only to hear the ruling.
Prosecutors on Thursday demanded a six-year jail term for an opposition leader on trial in Belarus for organizing an unauthorized protest of the disputed election of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.
"Kozulin's guilt as a person dangerous to society is now fully established," prosecutor Sergey Bortnik said, asking the court to sentence him to six years in prison.
His lawyer, Igor Rynkevich, complained that Kozulin was denied the right to make a final statement, calling it "an unprecedented, harsh decision that shows the lack of independence of the Belarusian courts."
"We will now appeal this sentence to all [higher courts], and our only hope is international support and an international court, because I'm sure that in our country we will never obtain justice," Iryna Kazulina, Kazulin's wife, told RFE/RL's Belarus Service after the sentence was announced.
Earlier today, the judge ordered Kazulin and media removed from court. Kazulin's defense attorney described the proceedings as "a farce."
The 50-year-old former bureaucrat has been in jail since leading the protest march six days after the disputed vote, which officials said was soundly won by incumbent Alexander Lukashenko but was condemned as rigged by the opposition.
Riot police broke up that march, beating demonstrators with truncheons.
Western nations called the vote undemocratic and have since imposed travel and financial sanctions on Belarusian officials, including Lukashenko, and called for Kozulin's release.
Police have reportedly arrested two assailants who attacked supporters of opposition leader Aleksandr Kozulin during an authorized demonstration in a park in Minsk.
The assailants beat up one demonstrator, stole his cell phone, and ripped up clothes and signs of other supporters.
The demonstration was timed to coincide with Dr. Kozulin's trial, which opened in the Moskovsky District Court in Minsk on Thursday.
EU, OSCE Criticize Belarus For Jailing Opposition Leader
OSCE chairman-in-office, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, condemned the sentence, calling it "harsh" and said the he found "the entire handling of the alleged offenses... gravely disturbing."
De Gucht said he called for restraint by Belarus authorities but said "Belarus has basically ignored these calls."
The EU released a statement accusing Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of using the country's law-enforcement apparatus to oppress his political opponents.
The statement said the court's decision "contradicts basic freedoms."
Note:According to an interfax report, Judge Alexei Rybakov and Prosecutor Sergei Bortnik, who took part in the trial over former Belarussian presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin, have been included on the list of Belarussian officials who are banned from entering the United States.
U.S. Condemns Conviction, Sentencing of Belarus Opposition Leader
From: US Gov
Convicted of "hooliganism" and disturbing the peace, Kozulin was sentenced to five and one-half years in a medium security colony by the court of Maskouski district in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
“The entire trial was a politically motivated process designed to punish Kozulin for expressing his political views,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack in a statement released July 14.
“As we have done in the past, we will take steps to impose appropriate sanctions on those responsible for this abuse of a Belarusian citizen's rights,” McCormack said.
“The verdict of the court contradicts basic freedoms, the rule of law and international commitments of Belarus,” the Embassy of Germany, which represents the EU in Belarus, said in a statement July 13. The statement further called for the immediate release of Kazulin and other political prisoners.
In the July 14 State Department statement, McCormack called on Belarusian authorities “to free Kozulin and all those being held on politically motivated charges, including the four civic activists associated with the non-partisan monitoring group Partnership."
Partnership is a Belarusian nongovernmental organization devoted to training Belarusians to be election observers and educating Belarusians on their voter rights under Belarusian law.
Mushroom and berry pickers violating border with Belarus
From: 5TV (Ukraine)
More than 700 Ukrainians have been caught at the Belarusian border in the past two weeks.
There are primarily people residing near the border who cross the heavily forested border in search of berries and mushrooms. Border guards complained that the villagers return to their favorite mushroom and berry-picking spots even after being warned not to do so. On Monday alone, 150 adults and 70 children were caught illegally traversing the border between Ukraine and Belarus.
The Project on Transitional Democracies Releases Open Letter to G7 Heads of State on Democracy in Russia
The Open Letter was sent to Garry Kasparov, an organizer of the "Other Russia" summit currently taking place in Moscow, a conference of Russian opposition leaders and proponents of democracy in Russia. Kasparov read the letter to conference attendees and expressed his gratitude for the international support.
An Open Letter to the G7 Leaders
"The Other Russia"
We wish to express our gratitude to the courageous men and women attending "The Other Russia" Summit today and tomorrow in Moscow. This alternative to the G8 summit has been organized by Garry Kasparov, Lyudmila Alekseyeva and other Russian human rights and political leaders. The laudable purpose of the "Other Russia" Summit is to focus the world's attention on the increasingly autocratic and repressive policies of the Russian Government.
"The Other Russia" will bring together distinguished diplomats and politicians, academicians and civil society leaders from Russia, Europe and the United States to examine the deplorable state of human rights and the rule of law in Russia. Experts will document Russia's alarming number of political prisoners, the Kremlin's control over the media, the dangerous increase in government corruption, the continued violence in Chechnya and the return of a one-party state.
"The Other Russia" Summit will examine these economic and political trends, hoping to provide the Russian people with a clearer picture of what the further loss of human and political rights will mean to them. The gathering is also meant to impress upon the G7 leaders, who will be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin this coming weekend in St. Petersburg, that there is another Russia -- a Russia at odds with the corrupt, authoritarian regime which President Putin and those around him appear resolved to impose.
We urge our leaders -- Prime Minister Tony Blair, President George W. Bush, President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Romano Prodi -- not to equivocate when they meet the Russian President this weekend. He must be put on notice that Russia's current domestic and foreign policies are unacceptable to its neighbors, to the international community and to many of its own citizens.
ASHWANI KUMAR LEADS HIGH LEVEL DELEGATION TO BELARUS
Dr. Kumar is leading a high-level delegation comprising Joint Secretaries of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Fertilizers and Coal. The Minister would have wide ranging consultations with the host country’s Ministers of Industry, Foreign Affairs and will call on the Prime Minister of Belarus.
The two sides are likely to discuss possibilities of cooperation in banking, road construction and a joint venture plant for the manufacture of tractors in Belarus. Cooperation between Export Credit and Guarantee Corporation and its counterpart 'BELEXIMGARANT' will also be explored. India is an importer of potash from Belarus while there is substantial opportunity for exports from India to Belarus including BHEL’s turbines for its power sector.
It may be recalled that Belarus has supported the Indian position on the restructuring of the United Nations Security Council and had also condemned terrorist attacks on Parliament and in Kashmir.
Belarus supports Tharoor for top UN job
From: The Hindu
The support for Tharoor's candidacy was conveyed by Belarus Prime Minister Sergei Sirdorsky to visiting Minister of State for Industry Ashwani Kumar.
The writer-diplomat is among four Asian candidates who have so far registered with the UN for the candidacy. Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathiarathai and Sri Lanka's Jayantha Dhanalapa are among the other candidates.
The UN Security Council is expected to conduct an informal meeting next week to select a candidate to be recommended for approval at the UN General Assembly. The final results are expected in September.
During the talks Sirdorksy assured Kumar that Belarus would work with India on major global issues including G-4 (India, Brazil, Germany and Japan) resolution on expansion of United Nations Security Council, according to a release.
He also condemned the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and expressed solidarity with the people and government of India.
Belarusian Prime Minister also invited Indian IT and manufacturing companies to collaborate with Belarus and set up facilities there.
Kumar offered India's help in developing IT and pharma industry in Belarus through joint ventures between suitable partners identified by two sides.
The Indian Minister also offered line of credit to Belarus to enable BHEL to upgrade thermal power station on Minsk. He also evinced interest in assembling Belarusian heavy duty dumpers in India.
Kumar also met Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martinov and exchanged views on a wide range of issues of mutual interest.
He said the visit of President Aleksander Lukashenko early next year would give a boost to ties between the two countries.
Tourism cooperation program draft submitted to Byelorussian government
From: The Trend (Azerbaijan)
The program has been drafted in accordance with the agreement the two countries governments signed on cooperation in tourism sphere. The program reflects the parties proposals on expansion of the further cooperation for the years 2006-2007. The decision on the program drafting was made during the session of Azeri-Byelorussian intergovernmental commission fro economic cooperation.
Azerbaijan included in program the projects on attraction of investments in development of tourism, setup of joint ventures, organization of tours to nice places of Azerbaijan and so on.
Belarus refutes Lithuania’s claims on violations of its airspace
"The Belarussian helicopter Mi-24 broke almost 100 meters deep into Lithuanian airspace in the Varena district," Lithuanian Air Force commander Arturas Leita said. "Radars of Lithuanian border forces registered that flight."
Lithuanian Air Force has opened an investigation over the incident. In the meantime, officials at the Belarussian Defense Ministry in Minsk strongly denied Leita’s statement.
"The information that a Mi-24 helicopter of our Air Force broke into Lithuanian airspace totally contradicts reality," Vladislav Remenchik, the chief press officer at the Defense Ministry said when Itar-Tass asked him to comment on the situation.
"Monday, scheduled flights were held at our airbase No. 181 and all the helicopters strictly observed the specified flight routes," he said. "None of them violated Lithuanian airspace, which is proved by data of objective control of Belarussian Air Defense Forces."
Earlier, the Defense Ministry strongly denied Lithuania’s claims that a Mi-8 helicopter had intruded into its airspace in the night hours of June 20
Guide to Russia's key energy clients
|-And can we have gas this evening?|
-You may, but pay the money first.
It is prepared to compromise if Belarus sells Moscow its pipelines, which include the second most important pipeline for Russian exports to Europe. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko offered to give up the pipeline during a dispute in 2004, when Russia briefly cut off supplies, but the two sides could not agree how much it was worth. This time they have appointed a Western bank to fix a price.
Russia's cheap gas has amounted to a subsidy for Belarus of $3bn or $4bn per year. The two countries are officially members of a loose union, the Russia-Belarus union, which was originally intended to provide the foundation for a common currency. Mr Lukashenko and some Russian politicians still occasionally lobby for full reunification.
U.S. diplomat comments on proposed Belarus-Russia union
Minsk. July 14 (Interfax) - U.S. Ambassador to Belarus George Krol said on Friday that the United States would not recognize a possible future referendum in Belarus on the country's proposed unification with Russia because, he argued, elections and referendums in Belarus were undemocratic.
Krol, who was talking to reporters in Minsk, said his country also felt concern over a possible Russian referendum on unification with Belarus.
Putin Will Host G-8 In a Russia Under Ever Tighter Control
From: Washingtton POst
While tolerating dissent in some pockets of society, the state is relentlessly tightening its control in parliament, political parties, regional governments, courts, activist organizations and the mass media. And it is bringing strategic industries such as energy, aircraft and automobiles back under its control or delivering them into the hands of compliant tycoons.
Russia is a profoundly different place than the country that was the engine of the Soviet Union. Moscow and St. Petersburg are temples of consumerism. The economy is growing quickly -- 6.4 percent last year -- driven by billions of dollars in revenue from the vast reserves of oil and gas and other resources that stretch from Poland to the Sea of Japan across 11 time zones.
Putin enjoys approval ratings -- now at about 70 percent -- that any president would envy. But under his direction, the Kremlin has reined in much of the debate and discourse that characterized 1990s Russia. Its fear of political challenge is felt in every corner of Russian life.
As parliamentary elections approach in 2007 and a presidential vote the following year, there is little serious doubt about the outcome: victory by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party and Putin's chosen successor, assured through control of major media outlets, new electoral laws and a stifling of both financing for and participation in opposition politics.
"They are building a fortress to protect their power," said Georgy Saratov, an official in the administration of former president Boris Yeltsin who now heads Indem, a private group that monitors corruption.
Western optimism about Russia's democratic growth has dissipated in the four years since Russia was awarded the 2006 chairmanship of the Group of Eight, a club of major industrialized nations that also includes the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan. The annual summit of its leaders will convene at a palace outside St. Petersburg.
Foreign governments have also expressed concern that Russia is increasingly using its vast, state-controlled energy resources as an instrument of coercion in foreign policy.
In January, a dispute with Ukraine led to temporary cuts of Russian natural gas supplies to that country and to Western Europe. Criticism followed that Russia was not a reliable partner, despite its stated desire to make "energy security" a key element of its G-8 agenda. The Russian government portrayed the matter as a simple pricing dispute with Ukraine, which it blamed for the cuts in supply farther west.
Critics also say Russia is using its sway against democratic governments in former Soviet republics on its periphery. It has cut off the sale of wine and other crucial export commodities from Georgia, which has a pro-Western government. And it has strengthened relations with Uzbekistan and its Soviet-style government.
Putin's system is often called a "managed democracy." Critics use the term to mean a drift toward authoritarianism under cover of law, while supporters depict the system as a period of state-building and stabilization that is a necessary prelude to an open society.
"We want to be a free nation among other free nations and cooperate with them according to fair rules," said Vladislav Surkov, Putin's deputy chief of staff, at a briefing for foreign reporters.
The Hungry Cabbie Eats The Outer Boroughs: Belarus II
From: The gothamist (New York)
One 24-hour food establishment that needn’t worry is Belarus II on the border between Coney Island and Brighton Beach. Three blocks inland from the boardwalk, Belarus II is a specialty grocery store that stays open all the time. They’ll give you attitude the way only disgruntled Belarussian food service night workers can if you come by in the middle of the night, but don’t be alarmed. If you brave the hard stares and avoid asking any stupid questions, you can still stock up on fresh-made potato pancakes from the prepared food section and delicious chocolate cookies imported from Minsk at any hour.
I go for the pickles. Yes, the deli around the corner sells Boar’s Head out of a jar, and 7-Eleven even has quarts of Claussen for sale. But down on Neptune Avenue, pickles don’t come in glass containers, they come in five gallon plastic buckets. At Belarus II, they sell full sour, half sour, and new pickled cucumbers at prices that make it difficult to break the $1 mark. My favorites are the new pickles because they are the crunchiest. An overload of dill along with sliced celery floating amongst the mustard seeds and coriander in the brine give them the most distinct aroma and zest. And when I’m in the mood for something that can’t be found at the 7-Eleven in any form, I grab a couple of pickled Golden Delicious apples from Belarus II.
Belarus II is a 24-hour store like none other in New York. And 7-Eleven certainly has nothing on it aside from Slurpees. Just like they do in your hometown's convenience store, the neighborhood kids congregate out front of Belarus II to smoke cigarettes, loiter, and be cool.
Note: This author has been there and can varify this article as the truth all the way around.
The oldest Catholic church in Belarus damaged by fire in Grodno last night
The agency has been told that the fire damaged the sanctuary, 20 square meters of the floor and church vessels. A call about the fire came to the fire station from the sexton at 03:40 last night and in five minutes a fire brigade arrived to the church. At present, the authorities are establishing the cause of the fire and the damage caused by it.
St. Francisco’s in Grodno was built in 1705. It has a historical value as one of the oldest and most beautiful Catholic churches in Belarus. The Russian Emperor Peter I and the Polish King August II attended its consecration in 1705.
The church, which used to belong to the Jesuits, and the monastery represent a 17th-18th century architectural monument. They used to be the richest in what was Poland and to occupy a whole block in down town Grodno. The compound included a collegium, a chemist’s shop, a library and several household facilities. The church is 30x60 m along the perimeter and about 50 m tall.
Treasure is discovered in Pinsk.
From: karlin gazette
Specialists called to the scene decided that the objects had to have come from a Jewish family who had hid them during the time of the Nazi occupation of Pinsk. The contents of the chest were then transferred to the Museum of Belorussian Woodlands.
After the initial chest was found, workers from "Pinskraygaza", specialists in metal crafts were called and they spent the better part of that week searching further for buried items.
Nikolai Zan'kovets says that he saw things that he would only have dreamed about as a child. At first, the worker who came upon the chest thought he had uncovered simple rubbish, and continued to dig the trench for the gas pipes. After understanding what they had found, the contents were transported to the museum where the value was assessed by specialists.
Firstly the cash was seen to have great historical value because before the war, 80 percent of the inhabitants of Pinsk were Jews.
The deputy director of the museum of Belorussian woodlands Svetlana lozyuk explained: "These objects must have come from a Jewish family, since they were found in a “kidushnye” container - these are purely Judaic things. Here people were gathered; they left in the ghetto and did not return ".
Practically all prisoners Of the Pinsk ghetto - 30 thousand people - were shot. On the German-silver instruments are engraved the letters - A also D. Most probably these are initials. The colleagues of the museum hope that they can establish who these things might have belonged to.
According to the law, the person who has found the treasure has right to one fourth of its cost. But the museum does not have possibility to pay these workers materially, there simply is no such money available to us. So Instead of this we are offering a lifetime pass to all exhibitions and exposures of the museum of Belorussian woodlands.
Belarus president orders import-replacing programme fulfilled
Over the period in question the gross domestic product went up by 10.1 per cent in comparison with H1 2005. "It is a very good GDP growth, which is made up of the confident functioning of the agriculture and the real economy sector," stressed the head of the government.
The fixed-capital and construction investments increased by 36.9 per cent.
According to Sergei Sidorskiy, in the near future several bulls will be passed to make every company certify their make for compliance with major European standards. It will be another boost to attracting investments to Belarus. The head of state was also informed about new investment projects, which are being implemented.
The president agreed to Br315 billion of additional loans to the economy this year. The money will be spent to retool over 200 farms, build poultry factories and other agricultural companies.
In H1 2006 Belarus built over 2 million square meters of housing, with the annual target set at 4.2 million square meters. In rural areas and small townships 862,000 square meters of housing was commissioned.
June inflation made 0.2 per cent, inflation in January-June 2006 — 3.1 per cent. The premier stressed, the annual inflation target of 7 per cent will be reached. It was also noted, monetary incomes of individuals are on the rise.
The president asked the government to check the import content and ordered to keep fulfilling the import-replacing programme.
The prime minister noted, there is a real possibility of increasing the Belarus trade turnover with the Russian Federation and Moscow in particular this year.
Speaking about the hot weather influence on the agriculture, Sergei Sidorskiy informed, the government are doing their utmost to ensure a good harvest and create the optimal conditions for the cattle industry. According to the prime minister, around 14,000 combine harvesters will be used during the harvesting campaign. The government ordered an additional number of Belarus-made combine harvesters to decrease the harvesting length in comparison with 2005.
Sergei Sidorskiy noted, Belarus has enough fuel for the harvesting, but several farms have problems. The government addressed the head of state with a request to lend at least USD20 million to ensure the agricultural companies get fuel on time.
Alexander Lukashenko okayed bills on financing the future harvest, grain processing, mixed fodder production, acquisition of mushrooms and berries from individuals. Bakeries are supposed to buy 2.3 million tons of grain. The measures will ensure the national food security. The president asked the government to bring in the corresponding documents for consideration.