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Today's Headlines for:
Monday, July 31, 2006

BelKa Launch fails, Latvian porn scandal, Milinkevich detained, Opposition trials, Hugo Chaves, Drinking essay

From the Top

BelKa Crashes!

From: DNA India, Belta, Naviny, Ria Novosti

A Russian Dnepr rocket carrying satellites crashed shortly after take-off late on Wednesday from the Kazakh launch pad of Baikonur, Russian media reported. IA Novosti said the first and second stages of the rocket failed to separate correctly after 86 seconds of flight, causing the Dnepr — a converted intercontinental missile — to crash.

“No harm was caused to the villages in the surrounding areas,” Yuri Nosenko, deputy head of Russia’s space agency, told reporters according to Interfax news agency. The agencies said the rocket was carrying the Belka, a monitoring satellite that would have been the ex-Soviet republic of Belarus’ first man-made object in space, along with 17 other satellites.

Russian and Belarussian media reported earlier that Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko had travelled to Baikonur, which is in the middle of Kazakhstan’s steppes and was the launchpad for the Soviet space program’s most spectacular successes, especially to witness the launch. They did not report his reaction to the crash.

Carrier rocket Dnepr was a converted intercontinental ballistic missile RC-20. The rocket's reliability had been proved by over 160 test launches and 6 service launches. Dnepr rockets have been used as carriers for spacecrafts since 1999.

The Belarusian satellite BelKA was designed by the Russian rocket and space corporation Energia using universal space platform Viktoria on the order of the National Science Academy of Belarus.

The satellite was a low earth orbit, small size spacecraft. BelKA was designed to take regular and up-to-date high resolution photos of the Earth's surface in the visible and near infra-red bands.

The satellite equipment was produced by Belarusian companies Peleng, Cybernetics Institute and several other bodies.

Note: For some other interesting photos from the crash, please click"HERE"

Lukashenka takes news of the crash calmly

A representative of Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) said that Aleksandr Lukashenko had taken the news of the Belarusian first-ever satellite's failed launch "with fortitude."

The Belarusian leader traveled to Kazakhstan to observe Wednesday's launch of Russia's RS-20 Dnepr rocket carrying BelKA (Belarusian Spacecraft) and 16 other satellites from the Baikonur spaceport. The Dnepr, a converted intercontinental missile, crashed back to Earth after 86 seconds of flight. The crash was blamed on failure of the first-stage engine.

"After realizing that the rocket expected to carry Belarus' first satellite BelKA into orbit had been lost, Aleksandr Lukashenko showed no signs of anxiety, vexation or agitation," the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Roskosmos spokesman Igor Panarin as saying.

Mikhail Myasnikovich, head of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences (BNAS) who accompanied the Belarusian leader on the trip to Kazakhstan, said that the $9-million satellite was insured, according to official information sources.

Built by Russia's spacecraft company Energiya in cooperation with Belarusian experts, the satellite was to provide mapping data for agencies working on the ground. Special stations were established in Belarus to receive and process data from the satellite.

The project was to pay off within a year and BelKA was expected to stay in orbit for five years.

The launch of BelKA was initially scheduled for June 28. It was delayed until July 26 over faulty equipment aboard a Dnepr rocket. The rocket was replaced with another Dnepr that successfully passed all testing.

A second space satellite can be made for Belarus within 18 months, Irina Gomenyuk, spokeswoman for Russia's Korolyov Rocket and Space Corporation (RKK Energiya), told reporters in Moscow on July 27.

According to her, the Belarusian government has already confirmed that it would like to have a new satellite instead of the one that was lost during a failed launch at the Baikonur spaceport on Wednesday. "The potential of RKK Energiya allows us to fulfill this task so that a new sat will be launched in a year and a half," Ms. Gomenyuk said

Remains of Rocket found

From: Naveny

Searchers have found the wreckage of a Russian carrier rocket that crashed shortly after liftoff on Wednesday in Kazakhstan, the Federal Space Agency said on Friday.

The Dnepr rocket carrying a Russian satellite and 17 foreign satellites, including one from Belarus and others from Italy and the United States, crashed shortly after blasting off from the Baikonur cosmodrome late Wednesday.

The wreckage was found 150 km south of the launch pad, a piece of land on Kazakh steppes that Russia leases to launch its spacecraft, agency spokesman Igor Panarin said, quoted by the Interfax news agency. "The rocket caused no environmental or other damage at the crash site," he added.

Experts of a special commission that looks into the crash will examine the crash site on Friday, Panarin said.

The incident has dealt a fresh blow to Russia's space program, which has suffered a series of mishaps since last year.

Belarus Accuses Latvian Diplomat

From: RFE/RL, MosNews

Belarusian authorities have accused an employee of the Latvian Embassy in Minsk of distributing pornography.
Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov said pornographic materials were seized during a search on July 25 of the home of the embassy employee, who has not been identified.
“Porn materials were confiscated from him,” the official said.
The police have obtained information that the diplomat “was involved in the activity for a long time. However, it was difficult to establish his identity before,” Naumov said, adding that the man has not been placed under arrest.
The Latvian Foreign Ministry said the raid was a breach of an international convention on the treatment of diplomatic staff.
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    Spokesman: Belarus opposition leader Milinkevich detained by police

    From: Associated Press

    Police detained opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich and his wife yesterday after stopping their car as they were driving north of the capital, his spokesman said.
    Milinkevich - who ran unsuccessfully against authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in March- was stopped on his way to visit a jailed opposition youth leader in Polotsk, 150 miles north of Minsk, said spokesman Pavel Mazheika.
    Police brought Milinkevich and his wife, Inna Kulei, who is also an opposition figure, to a precinct house in Polotsk, Mazheika said. He said police did not explain why the two were detained.
    Police could not immediately be reached for comment and attempts to reach Mazheika for further information were unsuccessful.
    Milinkevich spent two weeks in jail following an April 26 protest that attracted about 10,000 people, an unusually large turnout in the tightly controlled country.
    Alexander Kozulin, another opposition politician who also ran in the March 19 election, was convicted July 13 of organizing an unauthorized rally against the disputed vote and sentenced to 5 1/2 years in jail.

    Partnerstva trial begins

    From: RL/RFE

    Four Belarusian opposition activists went on trial today in Minsk. The organization to which they belong, Partnerstva (Partnership), is an election observer group.
    The trial is being held behind closed doors.
    Ambassadors of several European Union countries, as well as opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich arrived at the courtroom but were not allowed in.
    The four were arrested in late February, in the run-up to the disputed March presidential election, in which President Alyaksandr Lukashenka was reelected.
    Tsimafei Dranchuk, Mikalay Astrejka, Enira Branitskaya, and Alyaksandr Shalajka are accused of belonging to an unregistered organization "infringing upon the interests and rights of citizens."

    Lyabedzka let go

    From: RL/RFE

    Anatol Lyabedzka, the leader of the Belarusian opposition United Civic party, was released from a detention center in Minsk late July 26 after serving a 10-day prison sentence.
    Lyabedzka was arrested on July 16 on his way to the Russian Embassy to take part in a demonstration against Moscow's support for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
    Lyabedzka served another 10-day jail sentence in March for taking part in a demonstration against Lukashenka's reelection.

    Chavez courts support in bid for UN seat

    From: Boston Globe

    The itinerary reads like a speaking tour with leaders from countries the Bush administration might dub the axis of evil or the pretty-darn evil: Iran, Belarus, Cuba, and Vietnam. North Korea got scratched at the last minute.
    In a pointed slap at Washington, Venezuela's feisty leftist president, Hugo Chávez, is on a twoweek world tour, campaigning for the chance to challenge what he calls ``the American Empire" from a bully pulpit: a two-year seat on the powerful UN Security Council. Further worrying the White House, Chávez last week finalized $3 billion in Russian arms purchases during a visit to Moscow, sealed an ``anti-imperialistic" alliance with the Belarusian leader widely reviled as the last dictator in Europe, and underscored his solidarity with Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.
    Now flush with more oil money than ever and capitalizing on growing anti-US sentiment, Chávez could win enough support on this ambitious trip, which also includes stops in the Persian Gulf and Africa, to boost himself from a mere thorn in Bush's side to an international player with the power to subvert US foreign policy.
    ``This century is . . . the end of Washington's empire," Chávez declared confidently during his stop in Moscow.
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    U.N. Vote Becomes Referendum on U.S. Policy in Latin America

    From: New york Times

    Venezuela has set its sights on a seat on the Security Council and the United States has set out to block it, converting a normal Council rotation into a showdown with the country’s Washington-baiting president, Hugo Chávez.
    The United States has had strained relations with Venezuela since Mr. Chávez took power in 1998, and even appeared to support a coup attempt against him in 2002. Mr. Chávez regularly rails against American foreign policy, and has called President Bush an idiot. Making fast friends with Washington’s adversaries, he went last week to Belarus, which has cracked down on dissenters after an election widely believed to be rigged. This weekend he is set to visit Iran, and he says he wants to go to North Korea.
    John R. Bolton, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said Venezuela would be “disruptive” as a Council member.
    “I remember when Cuba was a member of the Security Council and it was just a disruptive influence,” he said. “We’d rather have a responsible government on the Council.”
    He said the United States was supporting Guatemala as a reward for what he called the recent progress it has made in becoming a peaceful, democratic country. Mr. Bolton and other American officials have been unusually public in expressing their support for Guatemala, and opposition to Venezuela, and are asking other countries to follow their lead.
    The seat in question, which opens in 2007, is one of 10 on the Security Council that rotate every two years.
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    Over 30 Hypermarkets To Open By 2010

    From: NamNaews

    33 hypermarkets are expected to open in Belarus by 2010, according to the Deputy Trade Minister Mikhail Sventitsky. He said that big-size stores are increasingly popular in the country, and in 2005, a total of six hypermarkets, ranging between 1,700 and 6,000 sq.m., opened their doors to customers. Three more hypermarkets are to start operation in the capital city, Minsk, this year.
    Sventitsky added that hypermarkets will be built in all regional capitals, noting that around 3,000 stores have already installed card-reading terminals, with the number expected to double by 2010. Belarus currently has around 27,500 stores with a retail space of 2.9m sq.m.

    Samand assembly line to be operational in Belarus in August


    The second assembly line for manufacturing 'Samand' automobiles will be operational in Minsk in August, said the Managing Director of Iran's giant manufacturing company Iran-Khodro Industrial Group here Saturday .
    Manouchehr Manteqi said the plant is the result of a joint investment by 'Unison' company and Iran-Khodro.
    He added the plant production capacity is 6,000 cars annually.
    Gradually with the increasing demand in the country and other regional states the plan calls for increasing the production capacity to 60,000 annually, he added.
    "We intend to use Belarus as a regional hub for production which will also exports cars to Russia, Armenia and Western Europe including Poland."
    He said the assembly line will be instrumental in transfer of technology from Iran to Belarus and boosting bilateral industrial and trade ties between the two nations.
    'Samand' trade name is now registered at the World Intellectual Property Rights Organization (WIPO).
    "The group is the first Iranian company whose product is registered at the WIPO," he added.
    The state will ensure against the fraudulent use of the name, industrial design, and copying of the product manufactured by the company worldwide.
    He said given the company's emphasis to promote exports, its new Samand manufacturing plants in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Syria herald a new chapter in the company's future.
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    Belarus delegation calls on Bangalore Mayor

    From: The Hindu

    A 10-member delegation led by Novitsky Gennady Vassillievich, chairman of the Republic of Belarus National Assembly Council called on Mayor Mumtaz Begum and the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) Commissioner K. Jairaj on Friday and discussed matters relating to exchange of ideas and best practices in the fields of information technology, education, business and culture.
    The delegation members recalled that the National Assembly Council of Belarus had signed a sister city agreement with the BMP in 1984, when Ms. Begum was the Deputy Mayor.
    "It was planned to have a common approach towards city development then, and accordingly we have made a lot of progress in the fields of information technology and biotechnology," Mr. Novitsky told the Mayor.

    Opposition leaders discuss forthcoming local elections

    From: Naviny
    Belarusian opposition leaders held a meeting on Friday to discuss the forthcoming elections for the local soviets of deputies. The Political Council of United Pro-Democratic Forces agreed that the campaign should be used a tool of promoting democratic change among the country's people, according to its spokesman Aleksei Shein.
    It also suggested that opposition activists should above all run in the elections for the regional soviets and the Minsk City Soviet. Local activists should themselves decide whether or not they should make a try to get on the ballot, Mr. Shein said.
    In the coming two weeks, the Council is expected to compile a list of persons who will participate in the election campaign, according to Mr. Shein.
    On Friday, the Council also discussed the possibility of holding the second Congress of Pro-Democratic Forces. It decided to send out questionnaires to the first Congress' participants to ask their opinion. The first Congress, held in October 2005, braced together many opposition groups and resulted into the election of Aleksandr Milinkevich as their leader.

  • Special!

    Belarus: As Drinking Increases, Government Declares War

    From: RFE/RL

    Drinking has become such a problem in Belarus that it is threatening the very existence of the nation.
    That, at least, is the view of sociologist Mikhail Zaleski, who specializes in the problems of alcohol abuse. He says that official statistics show that it has become one of the main causes of early death.
    As a result, Belarus is toughening its fight against alcoholism. The Interior Ministry has prepared a draft presidential decree aimed at reducing alcohol consumption.
    The new measures target public drinking and introduces new penalties for selling beer to minors. There are also new restrictions on advertising alcoholic drinks, including beer.
    Life expectancy for Belarusian males has fallen to 63 years, and for females to 75. In neighboring Poland, the equivalent figures are 70 years for males and 79 years for females. Belarus also has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe.
    "People drink anything containing alcohol," Zaleski says. "They buy it and drink it on the spot. This is the modern culture of drinking.""If you make a statistical model and remove the factor of alcohol abuse, the average life expectancy of Belarusian men increases by seven years," Zaleski says.
    Zaleski says that at the beginning of the 20th century five people in 100,000 committed suicide, but that the number has now reached 60 and is growing. He says sociologists and medics agree that the main reason is alcohol abuse.
    After the collapse of communism, many Eastern Europeans changed their drinking habits and moved from strong drinks to wine and beer, says Alyaksandr Sasnou, deputy director of Socioeconomic and Political Studies, a Belarusian think tank.
    But this hasn't happened in Belarus, where beer drinking has also become more widespread, but the amount of spirits consumed has not fallen significantly.
    "People drink beer and it is sold almost everywhere," Sasnou says. "This was not the case in Soviet times. There are inebriated people everywhere. You cannot say they are drunk, insofar as they are not lying under a fence, but there are a lot of people under the influence."
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    Banned Belarussian rock

    From: Polskie Rasdio

    The small village of Haradok in eastern Poland is home to a music festival of the young Belarus named Basowiszcza [Basovishcha]. Held for the 17th time this year, the event is considered to be the largest festival of Belarusian music in the world. Many critics have labelled the festival as the ‘Belarusian Woodstock.’ During the two days of the festival the fans of Belarusian music live in tents on a site which is located very close to the stage. This year the stage hosted over 30 young bands from Belarus and other countries.
    The name Basowiszcza was coined in 1989 from the abbreviation containing the first letters of the organiser, the Belarusian Association of Students (BAS) which gathers young Belarusians born in Poland. Over its 17-year history the festival has been invariably held near the little village of Haradok in the Podlaskie province along the eastern borders of Poland, the home of the most numerous Belarusian minority groups living in Poland. This summer the festival was attended by a few thousand people, most of them coming directly from Belarus. In Belarus such a festival cannot happen because the authorities believe that rock bands are dangerous enemies, carrying messages of freedom and support for the Belarusian identity. Quite unimaginably for many Europeans, in the country governed by controveresial president Alexander Lukashenka the native culture of the nation, as well as the Belarusian language, are being pushed to the margin and replayed by the Russian as in the soviet days. Rock music defends Belarussian values which is why it is so unwelcome for the Belarussian authorities.
    Volha, a student from one of the Minsk universities who came to Basowiszcza for the first time this year says she cannot imagine such an event in her homeland. She is particularly glad to see so many national Belarusian flags which are banned back home. She says it is the first time for her to see so many people holding Belarusian flags and nobody ends in jail for what in Belarus is a bold act.
    'It’s great, it feels good and positive. It’s just amazing. I’ve never seen such a huge festival and it’s just impossible to imagine that an event like this could happen in Belarus. There is no opportunity in my country to hear so much Belarusian music, all in one place.’
    This year around 20 bands from Belarus took part in the concerts and 6 of them fought for the main prize: 40 hours of recording in one of the Polish studios plus a cash prize. Basowiszcza is the first big stage for young bands but it actually makes them popular: after performing here they can record albums, play concerts and give out autographs.
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    Belarus' veteran Martynov wins first world title at shooting worlds

    From: People's Daily

    Sergei Martynov from Belarus took his first world title in the men's 50-meter rifle prone on Wednesday at the 49th World Shooting Championships.
    "The final isn't great," said 38-year-old Martynov, "but the result is good."
    The two-time Olympic bronze medalist collected 599 points in the qualification round with two points adrift and led all the way in the 10-shot final, securing his first gold medal in the world-class tournaments by a total of 702.1 points.
    Jury Sukhorukov from Ukraine scored the highest of 104.9 points in the final and leaped from the starting seventh place to clinch the silver medal with a total of 700.9 points.
    Italy's Marco De Nicolo grabbed the bronze by a 10.8-point shot in his last final shot, finishing with a total of 700.6 points, one tenth of a point ahead of two-time world cup winner Mario Knoegler from Austria.