Hugo Chaves comes to Minsk, Interview with George Kroll, Rowing gold, Poles begin commie purge, cell phone news, BelKa to launch this week
From the Top
Lukashenko expects relations with Venezuela to develop into long-term, all-round partnership
"Both Belarus and Venezuela have many common interests and one main goal — securing higher living standards for their citizens and peaceful conditions for materializing constructive plans. I'm sure that we will manage to successfully put everything that we are planning into practice in the cause of the development and prosperity of the Belarusian and Venezuelan peoples," official information sources quoted him as saying at Tuesday's ceremony at the Military Academy outside Minsk.
The Belarusian leader said that many criteria are used to assess a country's level of development but the main one is "the pace of economic development and the reliable system of national security." "I want to reiterate that our military doctrine is based on the principle of collective international security efforts," he stressed.
Mr. Lukashenko used the ceremony, which was attended by visiting Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, a harsh critic of US policies, to lash out at Western countries for "unprecedented" pressure and attempts at forcing Belarus and Venezuela into adopting "an alien ideology and morals" and "pseudo-economic reforms." "When a people says "No" to such "well-wishers," the country is accused of the absence of democracy and human rights abuse. But we have always said that we will build our home on our own, without foreign "architects" and their "contractors." Our countries have defended and will defend this sacred right by all available means," Mr. Lukashenko was quoted as saying.
The Belarusian leader stressed that the country advocates a fair world order without external pressure. "Each state has the right to follow the course chosen by its people," he said.
"I have come to Minsk to conclude a pact of unity and lay the foundation stone for future relations between Belarus and Venezuela," he told reporters upon his arrival in the Belarusian capital.
"We feel that we are among friends and brothers [in Belarus]. We don't want anyone to be capable of deceiving and colonizing us," said Mr. Chavez, a leftist former army lieutenant colonel who is widely known for his anti-US rhetoric.
The Venezuelan leader stressed that he shares Aleksandr Lukashenko's views on international relations.
Messrs. Lukashenko and Chavez were expected to hold talks on Monday.
The Venezuelan president set out on a two-week world tour on Wednesday. Apart from the Belarus visit, his itinerary also includes stops in Russia, Qatar, Iran, Vietnam and Mali.
The visit yielded a number of bilateral agreements. In particular, Aleksandr Lukashenko and Mr. Chavez inked a joint declaration of the Republic of Belarus and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela which outlines long-term strategic partnership priorities. Apart from this, interstate agreements on cooperation in the spheres of science, technologies, energy and petrochemistry, as well as memoranda of understanding in the spheres of political consultations between the two countries' foreign ministries and agricultural cooperation were signed.
While in Belarus, Mr. Chavez visited the Military Academy, the Stalin Line WWII memorial and a filling station in Minsk, and laid flowers at the monument on Victory Square.
Venezuela's Chavez pursues arms deals in Russia, Belarus
From: Monsters and critics
US-Venezuelan relations have badly deteriorated over the last several years, but the United States has dismissed as absurd Chavez' allegations that the United States wants to invade Venezuela.
Chavez began the three-day visit in the southern city of Volgograd before travelling to the military rifle-producing centre of Izhevsk and then to Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday or Thursday.
Cooperation in oil and gas exploration is another key topic. Chavez is due to meet with Russian oil company representatives to discuss construction of the world's longest pipeline running 8,000 kilometres across South America.
Speaking earlier Tuesday in the Belarusian capital Minsk, Chavez said his country had 'to keep a sword handy' to defend itself and would enter into new strategic alliances for the same purpose. Before flying to Russia, Chavez visited Belarus, which is considered the last authoritarian state in Europe.
Russia and Venezuela have signed contracts on the supply of more than 100,000 AK-103 rifles, a modification of the AK-47 assault weapon, and on licensed production in Venezuela of the rifles and ammunition. According to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, Caracas will also buy 30 Sukhoi Su-30 fighter-bombers and 30 military helicopters in a deal worth more than 1 billion US dollars.
The United States has lodged a formal protest with Russia over the possible sale, which it fears could upset the balance of power in South America. Russia rejected the objections as groundless, stressing that the deals with Venezuela do not break international law.
In Washington, US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey reiterated US concerns over the sale and suggested the money could be better used to improve the lives of Venezuelans. He urged the Russians to reconsider any potential deals for weapons contracts.
'We repeatedly talked to the Russian government (to say) that the arms purchases planned by Venezuela exceeded its defensive needs and are not helpful in terms of regional stability,' Casey said.
'Given the fact that this aircraft costs between 30 million (dollars) and 45 million (dollars) each, depending on which model you're talking about, kind of raises some questions about Venezuela's priorities,' he added.
Chavez' socialist government also aims to arm and train up to 2 million Venezuelans against a potential incursion.
The Venezuelan leader used his three-day visit to Minsk, in Belarus, as a backdrop for further vociferous attacks on Washington, using Communist-era phrases now heard rarely in the former Soviet republic.
'The national projects of our countries are aimed at creating a multipolar world and are directed towards the destruction of imperialism, which tries to create a unipolar world,' Chavez said in a speech at a Belarusian military academy.
'Countries like Venezuela and Belarus must keep their hands on their sword,' he added. 'America has tried to close off our countries ... with its hegemony and imperialism.'
The two states, both antagonistic to the West and targets of US diplomatic isolation efforts, have formed a 'strategic alliance,' Chavez declared. Military trade would form a key part of relations between the two states.
BUSH TO NOMINATE STEWART AS AMBASSADOR TO BELARUS
From: US Info
President Bush intends to nominate Karen Stewart to be the next U.S. ambassador to Belarus, the White House said July 21.
A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Stewart now serves as the director of the Office of Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus Affairs at the Department of State. She earlier served as deputy chief of mission in Minsk, Belarus, and in Laos.
The president also plans to nominate Mary Ourisman, a former member of the board of directors of the Smithsonian Institution, to be U.S. ambassador to Barbados and to serve concurrently as the U.S. ambassador to St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
US Ambassador George Krol: This Effort Is Showing that Belarus Matters
GK: Let me clarify that there is a difference between the Belarus Democracy Act and financial sanctions — an executive order signed by the President. They are, in a way, two separate issues but with the same goal in mind.
The Belarus Democracy Act was signed into law in 2004 and required that the executive branch of the government, that is the President, submit to the Congress reports on the assets of the President of Belarus Alyaksandr Lukashenka and those around him, and on arms sales from Belarus to countries that are of concern to the United States. The reports should have been submitted within 90 days after the Act was signed but were conveyed much later, a week before elections in March 2006. There was certainly an effort to try to get the report out as soon as possible. But it's the matter where getting information is difficult and there isn't a lot of transparency on the Belarusian side.
I don't think it was simply coincidental that the reports were released just before the elections. The White House wanted to show to the world and to the Belarusian people concerns about Lukashenka and his family. There is considerable, although not concrete, evidence of large sums of money that they may have at their disposal. A lot of facts have been taken from press accounts, through interviews with various Belarus individuals like the former head of the bank Vinnikava, who is now in the United Kingdom.
We may not know if the reports affected people when they went to the polls, as the voting, as we know, was probably falsified.
Before and after the elections, both the United States and European Union warned the Belarusian leadership that, in the event elections were not conducted freely and fairly, and if international standards were not met, particularly as regards the treatment of their fellow citizens in the course of the campaign, there would be serious considerations of travel and financial sanctions, as well as the freezing of assets. And following through on these decisions, the U.S. and EU imposed sanctions on those who were considered most responsible for the repression of Belarusians. The EU has their bureaucracy, and Americans have their own and, although it's a joint decision, it couldn't be conducted simultaneously.
V: Where there any assets belonging to 10 officials on the list actually found in the US?
GK: This executive order doesn't require the U.S. government to find assets. American banking institutions and banks have to look in their accounts to determine whether they are associated with these individuals. They are also not to engage in any financial dealings in the future with these people. It's up to the banks to ensure that they follow U.S. law. Now, there are American banks that are part of the global banking system. This is where they could work together with our Treasury Department, which is responsible for implementing the order.
Some people from the list, like Sheiman [state secretary of the Security Council] and Yarmoshyna [chairwoman of the central election commission] said they don't have any accounts in American banks and that they are not allowed to have any. But there may be concealed ones, not in the U.S. necessarily, but in European banks. In this case, we just have to see what the banking community will come up with to comply with the decision made both by the U.S. and the EU, as it also has undertaken asset freezing.
V: Would you describe the joint actions and sanctions of US and EU as effective?
GK: We'll have to see over time how effective they are. They are part of a more comprehensive policy to make it quite clear that the individuals who are most responsible for repressive actions against Belarusians are not welcome in travelling to the countries of EU and to the U.S. and whatever financial transactions or assets they might have will be restricted or denied. The sanctions were developed in a way to have an immediate impact on those responsible.
But sanctions are also a warning sign to those who collaborated. Sanctions may have an effect on other people in a way that if they, too, are involved in repressive actions that they can also be added to this list - it has been made clear by the U.S. and the EU that this list might be extended. I think that's the key effort - there's a certain stigma attached to it and what we call a dissuasive effect on those who might be more reluctant to engage in repressive actions.
V: Given the concerns about Russia's policy in the region, do you think the Union State of Belarus and Russia threatens independence of Belarus?
GK: It's the sovereign right of each country to determine its own future. However, the issue that bothers the U.S. is the conditions that currently exist in Belarus, as well as between Belarus and Russia. If the Union State changes its substance, is it because the majority of Belarusian people want it, or is it simply the decision made either under pressure of one country or by leaders without consulting, or allowing a free and open debate? That also bothers some Belarusians. It's quite unclear what Union State means, if it means losing sovereignty and independence or if it's an absorption by the Russian Federation.
Whether the Union State would be recognised by the EU and the U.S. is very much the issue. The U.S. wouldn't recognize a result that is not clearly freely and fairly arrived at. Given the short history of referenda in this country, it's hard to believe that the result would really reflect the reality.
V: Is it that official relations between the governments of the two countries have an impact on the trade relations, investment, and people-to-people contacts?
GK: In some way they do. For instance, American companies are free to invest if they want. The reason why fewer companies do business here is not because the government forbids them. The U.S. Government agencies that facilitate trade and investment do not operate in Belarus, but the biggest obstacle American companies find in Belarus is that the conditions here are not conducive for doing business. This depends on the actions and policies of Belarusian authorities, who publicly say they welcome trade and investment. But the proof is in the pudding — they have to show successful examples of investment to attract companies.
We don't restrict Americans to travel to Belarus for tourism or other purposes and on a governmental level we have always promoted student exchanges. But the Belarusian Ministry of Education has restricted the participation of Belarusian students, claiming that studying in the U.S. will not prepare them adequately when they return to their school in Belarus. The Ministry doesn't see anything positive in exchange programs and believes it hurts the students. They only hurt themselves, unfortunately.
V: What could be the way to mend the relations between the two countries?
GK: The U.S. government is always open to a better relationship. We are consistent in our position that, if the Belarusian authorities were to simply respect their own constitution and fulfil their own obligations as members of the OSCE to respect the rights of all their citizens, regardless of their political beliefs, and to conduct elections according to international norms, then this would resolve the biggest problem between the American and Belarusian governments. As long as the Belarusian authorities continue to violate the rights of their citizens and their international obligations, there's no way to reach a better relationship. Change would come rapidly if Belarusian authorities just acted differently. But do they want to improve relations? We don't really find that there's been much substance, other than them saying that they want to improve them.
Ambassador George Albert Krol is a career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service. He joined the Foreign Service in 1982 and has held foreign assignments in Poland, India, the Soviet Union, Russia, Ukraine and also previously in Belarus. He most recently served as Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs at the United States Embassy in Moscow (1999-2002). He also served as Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d'Affaires in Minsk, Belarus (1993-1995). His Washington assignments include Director of the Office of Russian Affairs (1997-99) and Special Assistant to the Ambassador-at-Large for the New Independent States (1995-97). Ambassador Krol has received several State Department Superior and Meritorious Honor awards. He speaks Belarusian, Russian and Polish.
Uzbek head approves visa free regime with Belarus
From: UZ Report
President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov approved agreement between government of Uzbekistan and government of Belarus on mutual visits of citizens, which was signed in Tashkent on 19 January 2005.
The Uzbek leader signed a corresponding resolution on 12 July and entrusted Foreign Ministry of Uzbekistan to inform Belarusian side on completion of inter-state procedures.
The agreement envisages visa free travel, including transit, between Uzbekistan and Belarus based on documents, which certify identity and citizenship.
The document said citizens of two states will need their passports or certificate of citizenship (for those people under age of 16), diplomatic passport or service passport, to travel between countries.
Belarus wins rowing Gold!
From: world rowing
Alexander Kornilov of Russia has been struggling to get into the medals ever since becoming a Junior Champion in the single in 2003. But it looks like Kornilov has found his event. Teaming with international newcomer Nikael Bikua-Mfantse the duo had been making waves through the heats. Today they took off at the head of the final edging out in front of Dzianis Mihal and Stanislau Shcharbachenia of Belarus with reigning champions Matteo Stefanini and Federico Gattinoni of Italy just behind.
A piece by the Italians took them into the lead with Belarus following suit. Mihal and Shcharbachenia come to the double from last year’s gold medal quad and as the race progressed the Belarusian duo appeared to get better and better. With 500 metres left to row Belarus had found the lead with Italy giving it their best to hold on to second.
At the line Belarus had won gold, Italy take silver and Russia hold in for bronze.
Women’s Eight (BW8+)
Pulled together from top university rowing programmes from throughout the United States the US women’s eight was definitely a force to be reckoned with and the other crews new it. From the start the US took the lead with Romania, Germany and Belarus going at it for the silver spot. First Belarus had it. Then Romania did a piece and had second. Then Germany tried to sneak up. With the United States still in the lead and doing a strong 36 stroke rate it was going to come down to the final sprint to decide the lesser medals. Belarus must have wanted it the most. Driving for the line Belarus hit a stroke rate of 41 and were so in the zone and oblivious to all around them that they kept rowing past the finishing horn. The United States win gold in the first ever under 23 women’s eight race, Belarus take silver and Germany leave with bronze.
Men’s Four (BM4-)
The Czech Republic with Olympian Karel Neffe Jr. in stroke seat, have spent this season doing the Rowing World Cup circuit. It must have suited them well. Looking relaxed and together, Jan Gruber, Jakub Zof, Milan Bruncvik Jr. and Neffe took off in the lead leaving the rest of the field to sort it out between themselves. But the rest of the field weren’t going to sit back on their laurels. Germany did their best to take on the Czechs with Belarus not far back.
Greece then began to move, taking the wind out of Germany’s sails in the process. At the line the flying Czechs, getting their stroke rate up to 43, had held on to first over Greece. The Czechs had also knocked four seconds off the under 23 World Best Time. Germany held on to the bronze medal.
Fear of McCarthy-style purge as Poles face sack for secret police links
From: The Guardien
The move is seen as central to the "moral revolution" promised by the Law and Justice party when it swept to power last autumn, led by Lech Kaczynski and his identical twin, Jaroslaw, who are now the country's president and prime minister, respectively.
The one-time child actors ousted the former leftist government with a vow to purge public life of corruption and of the many former communists who moved seamlessly into prominent and lucrative roles in capitalist Poland after 1989.
Under the new law backed by the Kaczynskis, all Poles born before August 1972 who hold so-called positions of public trust will not be allowed to continue in their jobs without a certificate showing that they were not collaborators.
Compulsory vetting will apply to diplomats, local officials, board members of state-owned companies, media bosses, headmasters, lawyers and journalists - a list that is expected to include hundreds of thousands of Poland's 38 million-strong population.
Anyone covered by the law who does not apply for clearance could be dismissed, while an employer who does not ensure that his workers request certificates could also be fired.
The security service files of communist-era public figures will be published on the internet under the new law, together with the names of former secret police officials.
"I am in favour of disclosing all informers, and in favour of screening," said Jaroslaw Kaczynski who, like his twin, was an activist in the Solidarity movement that toppled communism in Poland and undermined it across eastern Europe.
Belarus signs contract to resume potash fertilizer supplies to China
Belarus has signed a contract for the supply of potash fertilizers to China, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said while speaking to the heads of Belarus' diplomatic missions in Minsk on July 25.
According to official information sources, the vice premier insisted that the contract carried terms acceptable to Belarus, and that the target for the export of potash fertilizers in 2006 would be met.
Sources at the Belarusian State Petrochemical Concern (Belneftekhim) and the Belarusian Potash Company (BPC) refused to comment to BelaPAN on Tuesday.
On June 1, Mr. Semashko reported to Aleksandr Lukashenko that the export of potash fertilizers had fallen by 25 percent year-on-year in the first four months of 2006.
The decrease largely occurred because China, the world's second largest importer of potash fertilizers, has bought nothing from the BPC this year, as Belarus wanted the price to increase from $165 to $205 for a ton, whereas China suggested reducing it by $20.
According to Mr. Semashko, other countries in Southeast Asia bought and continue to buy Belarusian potash fertilizers at $217 to $235. "I guess even after the $40 increase, when the price of Belarusian potash fertilizers amounts to $205 per ton for the Chinese consumers, they will all the same have the lowest price as the largest buyers," he said.
Some 170 more Belarusians apply for evacuation from Lebanon
Increasingly more Belarusians seeking assistance in fleeing the war-torn country have contacted the Belarusian embassy in neighboring Syria, according to the Belarusian foreign ministry.
Many of the Belarusians were expected to be bussed across the Syrian border early on Tuesday and take a Belavia flight to Minsk on the night between July 25 and 26.
Over 300 Belarusian citizens had evacuated from Lebanon by Sunday noon. The Belarusian embassy in Syria and the foreign ministry's Consular Department continue examining the lists of evacuees to establish the exact number of compatriots still staying in the country.
Belarus can raise export tariff for rape
The yield of winter rape this year is a bit lower as compared to the last season. In total about 40% of the crop were lost across the republic, and in Vitebsk oblast - 75%. The farms were forced to resow such crops in spring. To decrease losses of rapeseeds, the farms were proposed to use import machinery and high-production domestic combines "Lida -1300" while harvesting them.
In total the republic plans to prepare 120.000 tonnes of rapeseeds for industrial processing, including 90.000 tonnes directed according to state order
Belarus' BeST to invest $47 mln in network devt in 2006-2007
From: Cellular news
The funds will come from loans received in 2005 from several Chinese banks worth a total of $234 million.
BeST plans to install 120 base stations along the country's key highways in 2007, Poblaguyev said.
In 2007, BeST also plans to start installing payphones operating on a mobile network in rural areas, Poblaguyev said.
Belarusian state-owned company Agat holds 75% stake in BeST, while state-controlled fixed-line monopoly Beltelecom holds a 25% stake in the company.
BeST started commercial operations in the capital city of Minsk on December 21, 2005, and had 8,500 users as of June 1.
President of Belarus will be present at Baikonur during "BelKA" satellite launch
From: Gazetta (Kazakhstan)
ASTANA. Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus, is expected to be present at Baikonur cosmodrome during the launch of the first Belarusian satellite "BelKA," Yerzhan Ashikbayev, official spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, has said at a briefing in Astana, Kazakhstan Today correspondent reports.
Mr. Ashikbayev has reminded that a launch of the first Belarusian satellite "BelKA" intended for the Earth distant sounding is expected on 27 July from Baikonur cosmodrome.
Belarus calls on to immediately stop military actions in Middle East
He has reminded that today is the 13th day of the conflict. “Belarus is deeply concerned over the events taking place in the region. A real war is going on in Lebanon. The infrastructure of the independent and sovereign state, which democratically elected its government, has been destructed under the motto of the fight against terrorism”, Valentin Rybakov said.
At the same time Valentin Rybakov underlined that Belarus deeply sympathizes with the innocent people suffering from the armed conflict in the Middle East. “Hundreds of people were killed; hundreds of thousands had to leave their houses and go to the safe regions in the North of Lebanon or to the neighboring states”, Valentin Rybakov said.
“We hope that other countries will support our initiative or will offer some other forms of rendering aid to the countries, which have suffered and continue suffering damage in the course of the Middle East conflict”, Valentin Rybakov said.
When speaking about the situation in the region he underlined: “The number of children killed in the conflict zone terrifies. Children perish every day. Besides, children living in all states of the region, where military actions take place, suffer”.
In this respect, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko put forward a humanitarian initiative to receive children affected by the Middle East conflict. A corresponding letter was addressed to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
“It is well known that the United Nations Organization is a universal international organization rendering humanitarian aid to Middle East countries. The Belarusian side believes that UN could assist in transporting children from the affected countries to Belarus,” Valentin Rybakov noted.
At the same time he declared that Belarus in turn obliges to provide all the necessary constitutions for rehabilitation, restoration and recreation of displaced children. The president issued corresponding orders to the government.
This year joint venture MAZ Baltiya to produce 350 trucks
According to him, at present about 300 trucks – 10-ton and 20-ton dump trucks, truck tractors and other machines have already been assembled. “All these machines are made under individual orders and are supplied not only to the Lithuanian companies but also to the European ones”, the diplomat underlined. Every month MAZ-Baltiya can make 50-60 trucks, he added.
The Belarusian-Lithuanian joint venture was founded in 2004 by the Belarusian unitary enterprise MAZ and the Lithuanian company Zemgalos avtomobiliai. The joint venture assembles MAZ trucks equipped with the engines meeting the European ecological standards. The company sells about a half of its products on the Lithuania market and supplies the rest to other states. MAZ Baltiya also sells Belarusian truck tractors, mini buses and trailers.
China beat Belarus 3-1 at int'l volleyball tournament
From: world sport
The China's Tianjin Nankai team won the first set 25-19 before Belarus leveled it with 25-22. The Chinese players won the 3rd and 4th sets with respective scores of 25-23 and 25-18.
In other matches on the same day, China's Sichuan team whitewashed Thailand 25-19, 25-16, and 25-13 while Ukraine crushed Sri Lanka 26-24, 25-17, and 25-20. Hosts Vietnam clinched their first triumph over Indonesia 25-9, 25-10, and 25-20.
The seven-day tournament, taking place in Vietnam's northern Vinh Phuc province, features eight teams from China, Thailand, Belarus, Ukraine, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. The champion will get a cash prize of 5,000 US dollars.