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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Lukashenka meets with Commies, Wages (and prices) to go up, Helsinki to stay, Energy News, Vandals, Internet, Koldun, Kalinkina, Kerry and US Pariahs

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  • #171

    Alexander Lukashenko for responsible freedom of press

    From: BelTA
    Meeting with the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) Gennady Zyuganov
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko agrees that there should be freedom of press, though journalists should be responsible for what they write.

    “I agree there should be freedom of press and Belarus is pursuing this policy today. But the most important thing is that a journalist should be responsible for what he/she writes starting from a comma to a paragraph and the entire article. Then, there will be no hatched works,” the president said when meeting with chairman of the Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party Gyula Thurmer.

    Alexander Lukashenko also believes that journalism should be ethical. “When one speaks about a person or his personal qualities one can criticize his position but should try to avoid getting into this person’s private life. I do not accept it when reporters start showing their personal attitude or start lying. All the rest is critics and one should not be afraid of it,” the president said.

    Belarus president refutes accusations he destroys union with Russia

    Alexander Lukashenko is convinced, Belarus and Russia have different approaches to the Union State construction.

    “I’m blamed for destroying the Union of Belarus and Russia, that I’m the archenemy there. It is fiction”, stressed the head of state at today’s meeting with leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Gennadiy Zyuganov.

    “Let’s have a look at the Union State Treaty and see who hasn’t done what. Last year we were to have held a referendum to adopt the constitution of the future union. They [the Russian side — BelTA] don’t need it and they offered the Russian ruble as the single currency to Belarus. But this issue is regulated by the constitution. For us to get the blame, they are starting suggesting Belarus should be part of Russia”, added Alexander Lukashenko.

    The president was indignant at Russian mass media’s presentation of his interviews with western media. “I would like not to react to this”, said Alexander Lukashenko. “But this carrion is reeking all the way from Moscow to Minsk”

    “I am blamed that Lukashenko has swung to the West using the conflict with Russia. I am very well aware of how the West sees me and what the West wants of us”, said Belarus leader.

    The pressure against Belarus is applied in line with orders of the Kremlin, Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko stated today.

    “Belarus is being strangled, attacked. We are just being bullied — you can see what mass media are doing. But they do it following orders the Kremlin issued, I know it for sure”, the president stressed while meeting with leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Gennadiy Zyuganov today.

    As an example Alexander Lukashenko mentioned that on the eve of his possible visit to Moscow the conference room of a news agency had been sealed to prevent the press conference of Belarus leader.

    “That’s the Russian democracy for you, that’s the conduct of the Russian leadership”, concluded Belarus president.

    Alexander Lukashenko has declared today that Belarus is interested in boosting cooperation with Hungary.

    “We would like to see our cooperation with Hungary intensified. The current $200 million trade turnover is not sufficient,” the head of state highlighted when meeting with chairman of the Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party Gyula Thurmer.

    Accordign to Alexander Lukashenko, “Belarus is very interested in Hungary”, particurlaly in the trade-economic sphere.

    Hungary ranks 14th among trade-economic partners of Belarus outside CIS.

    Vladimir Semashko: average wages in Belarus to reach $350 in equivalent by end 2007

    From: BelTA
    Vladimir Semashko
    The average wages in Belarus by the end of 2007 will reach $350 in equivalent, first deputy prime minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko declared during a sitting of the national council for labour and social issues.

    The increase in real wages depends on nominal wages and inflation. According to the estimates, due to the rise in gas and oil prices, a 1,5% or 2% increase in inflation is expected this year. Yet, the government will do it utmost to keep the inflation within expected limits.

    Speaking about employment, the first vice premier said that Belarus was planning to set up 100 new manufactures by 2010. “The government has such projects and, though slowly, they are advancing,” Vladimir Semashko said. He also mentioned that new manufactures can be set up in a “plant within plant” pattern. Such a project is under implementation now at Belarusian Steel Works in Zhlobin where a new pipe manufacture is being set up. The pipe manufacture will provide 800 new jobs, the first deputy prime minister said.

    The energy prices should be raised synchronously for the Belarusian and Russian consumers, first vice-premier of the Belarusian government Vladimir Semashko has stated today at a meeting of the national council on labor and social issues.

    He has explained that the Russian government had to follow a principle of equal incomes and to push up energy prices including in the domestic market. According to this principle, a provider of energy resources should receive the same profits when selling energy resources to all consumers. In 2007, Russia raised gas prices for Belarus more than two times on average. In Russia they were increased by 15%. By 2011 prices for the energy resources should be leveled in the domestic and foreign markets.

    At the same time Vladimir Semashko believes that a sudden rise in the price for energy resources can give several advantages to the Belarusian consumers.

    According to the first vice-premier, at present Gazprom has approached a dangerous stage when lack of investments in exploration of new oil and gas fields may lead to the exhaustion of gas reserves. He has noted that in 2006 gas deficit in the domestic market of Russia made 4,5 billion cubic meters. According to estimates of independent specialists, in 2007 this deficit will near 10 billion cubic meters.

    To provide the domestic and foreign market with gas Russia has to annually inject about $60 billion in exploration of new gas fields. Over the past two years the volume of such investments has made only $8,5-9 billion, Vladimir Semashko said.

    Belarusian Rights Group Allowed To Reopen Office

    From: RFE/RL
    Belarusian authorities backtracked today, reversing a decision to evict a leading human rights group from its office in Minsk.

    Tatsyana Protska, the head of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, said the presidential administration, which owns the premises, had informed her that the lease had been extended for another year.

    The BHC was forced out of its Minsk office on January 29. The move deprived the BHC of a registered address, giving authorities a possible legal pretext to close down the group.

    The United States, the European Union, and international rights groups had denounced the move against the NGO as harassment by the authoritarian regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

    Russia, Belarus agree on oil price for Belarus refineries: report

    From: Platts and Itar Tass
    Russia's Rosneft, Russneft, Lukoil and TNK-BP and Belarus' Belneftekhim have agreed on a price formula for supplies of Russian oil to Belarus refineries
    Russia's oil producers and Belarus state refining and petrochemical company Belneftekhim signed a framework agreement on a new price of oil supplies to Belarusian refineries Monday, playing down the possibility of a new standoff between the two countries.

    "Agreements have been concluded with all companies which work with Belarus, foremost with Surgutneftegaz, LUKOIL, Tatneft, Rosneft and Rusneft," deputy chairman of Belneftekhim Mikhail Osipenko told reporters.

    The contracts have been concluded under a new pricing formula, quite advantageous for Belarus. According to Osipenko, the price of oil for Belarus will "be at least 130 dollars cheaper than for consumers of Russian oil in Poland, Germany and other countries."

    In this connection, no dramatic increase in prices of petroleum products is expected in the republic. "Perhaps, we may yet hike prices on the domestic market by five percent in the nearest future but no more price increases are likely until the end of this year, provided we have no force majeure circumstances," Osipenko noted.

    Concern over a new dispute between Russia and neighboring Belarus was raised over the weekend when Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko accused Russian companies of setting the price of oil sent to Belarus refineries above world levels and warned he could re-introduce transit duties on Russian crude destined for Europe.

    Russia's Rosneft, Russneft, Lukoil and TNK-BP and Belarus' Belneftekhim have agreed on a price formula for supplies of Russian oil to Belarus refineries, Russia's Kommersant daily said Tuesday, citing Interfax-West news agency in Belarus.

    Instead of forward contracts with fixing prices on the date of oil refining, the parties switched to the average spot prices for Poland's ports minus transport expenditures.

    Consequently, the prices of supplying oil to Belarus will remain at the last year's level of around $240/mt, but already including the export duty, the daily said citing an unnamed source in the Belarus government.

    Russia's companies declined to comment while Belneftekhim was not available for comment.

    Crude deliveries to Belarus refineries will be less profitable for Russian producers than last year, but they will be still attractive, analysts said.

    The export duty on oil deliveries to Belarus is set at just 1/3 of the standard export duty of $180/mt, making the destination attractive, said Yelena Savchik, an analyst with Moscow-based Renessaince Capital investment group.

    In 2006, Russian producers had been exempt from paying export duties on crude destined for Belarus but starting from January 1, 2007, they are to pay the duty of $53/mt.

    On January 12, Russia agreed to cut the crude export duty on sales to Belarus to $53/mt for 2007, a sharp reduction from the standard level of $180/mt it imposed initially from January 1. Simultaneously, Belarus agreed to lift a transit duty on Russian crude delivered to Europe via Belarus, which it introduced also from January 1. Russia said the transit duty was illegal.

    The January 12 agreement put an end to the row, which led to a three-day disruption of crude supplies to Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

    In 2007, Russia and Belarus have agreed to process a total of 21.5 million mt (430,000 b/d) of Russian crude at Belarus refineries, flat on the year, Kommersant said.

    According to Transneft's export schedule for the first quarter 2007, Russia's supplies to Belarus are to amount to 4.4 million mt, including 1.2 million mmt to be supplies by Surgutneftegaz, 1.15 million mt to be delivered by Rosneft, 900,000 mt by Slavneft, 700,00 mt by Lukoil.

    Oil Companies to Pay for Russia-Belarus Agreement

    From: Kommersant
    General view of oil depot at Druzhba pipeline at Belarussian town of Novopolotsk, some 230 km (143 miles) north of Minsk, January 4, 2007. Belarus said on Thursday it will guarantee the unhindered trans-shipment of Russian crude across its territory, after imposing a $45 per tonne oil transit duty in an escalating trade dispute.
    Belarus began working with Russian oil companies according to new tariffs yesterday. Instead of forward contracts with fixing prices on the date of oil refining, the parties switched to average spot prices for Poland’s ports minus transport expenditures. Consequently, the prices of supplying oil to Belarus will remain at the last year’s level of $240 per metric ton, but already including the export duty. Experts estimate that these contracts will not seize being profitable for Russian oil companies, even with the introduction of export duties since January 1.
    Russian oil companies Rosneft, Russneft, LUKOIL, and TNK-BP signed a framework agreement with Belarusian state holding Belneftehim. Oil prices will now be established by a joint commission of Belneftehim representatives and Russian oil companies on the base of the average spot price of ARA (Amsterdam—Rotterdam—Antwerpen) applied to Poland’s ports minus transport expenditures (including harbor dues and tanker freight).

    Surgutneftegaz and Mozyrsky oil refinery yesterday signed their first agreement based on new formula of price formation. Transfer prices in February will be by $15-20 per metric tons lower than in December. Contract price of oil for Belarus was $230 per metric ton in December. Export duty of $53 per ton was imposed since January 1, 2007. Mozyrsky oil refinery was buying oil at $275 per ton in January.

    Oil companies are in fact deprived of their excess profits. Indeed, the price for supplying Russian oil to Poland without taking into account export duties ($180 per ton) is $172 per ton. The companies will be selling oil in Belarus at $187 per ton averagely, even with the new price-formation formula.

    Milinkevich Faces Ban for Leaving Belarus

    The leader of the democratic forces Alyaksandr Milinkevich is obliged to pay a fine of 4 million 650 thousand BYR. He was fined by the court of Kastrychnitski district of Minsk, allegedly for “intentional illegal crossing the state border”. Today Alyaksandr Milinkevich has received a copy of the decree of the court and a warning that he is obliged to pay the fine before February 10, otherwise Milinkevich faces a ban for leaving Belarus.

    On January 25 the court of Kastrychnitski district of Minsk fined the leader of the united democratic forces of Belarus Alyaksandr Milinkevich 150 basic units (2 thousand dollars) for intentional illegal crossing the state border. The trial was held in Milinkevich’s absence. Milinkevich is on a business trip to Vilnius. He had a meeting with Lithuanian Foreign Minister.

    On November 26-29 the leader of the democratic forces took part in the NATO summit in Riga on invitation of Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga. On his departure from Minsk, border guards stamped his son’s passport by mistake. His name is Alyaksandr Milinkevich too. It was noticed only when the politician returned back. Border guards haven’t recognized their mistake. They accused Alyaksandr Milinkevich of intentional crossing the border with invalid documents.

    The politician is going to challenge the ruling of the regional court.

    “It is a serious misconduct in office not to notice that it was not my passport. It is obvious, and the fact of the border guard is written down in the decree of the court. There is no doubt who is to blame, and who is to incur liability. Nobody is going to execute the politically motivated ruling of the court. I believe that at the moment the regime is using the court trial for limiting by activities,” Alyaksandr Milinkevich said.

    Belarus Planning Training For Vietnam's Police

    From: Playfuls
    The Belarusian MVD would if necessary create a special faculty within the country's national policy academy for Vietnamese students
    Belarus' formidable Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) is planning a training programme for law enforcers from Vietnam, the Belapan news agency reported Tuesday.

    "Security leadership in Vietnam was by far most interested in this aspect of cooperation with Belarus," MVD chairman Vladimir Naumov told reporters in Minsk.

    "We are prepared to give the training at any time, if there is an agreement," Naumov said.

    Naumov made the comments one day after returning home from an official visit to Hanoi. The MVD, Belarus' national police force, is a key element in Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko's authoritarian control over the former Soviet republic.

    The Belarusian MVD would if necessary create a special faculty within the country's national policy academy for Vietnamese students, if Minsk and Hanoi decide on the training, Naumov said.

    Hanoi police officials also reportedly are interested in acquiring "special technical materials" used by Belarusian law enforcement - a Belarusian euphemism usually meaning crowd control kit for police such as truncheons, tear gas, electric shock weapons, and personal armour.

    Naumov's MVD in addition is feared by opposition activists for its agents' ability to penetrate anti-government groups, and to monitor their communications using wire taps and secret telephone monitoring.

    "Experts from both sides will be studying this aspect of technical cooperation in the coming weeks," Naumov said.

    Like most senior Belarusian officials, Naumov is banned from travelling to many developed nations, because of his alleged part in repression of opposition to the Lukashenko government.

    His recent trip to Vietnam received wide play in Belarus' state-controlled media as "proof" Belarusian officials were welcome in foreign countries.

    Belarus vandals demolish rare US monument

    From: Monsters and Critics
    The US government funded the construction of the bench to memorialize brutal Stalinist repressions in Belarus during the 1930s and 1940s.
    Belarusian vandals destroyed a rare monument erected by the US in the former Soviet republic, the information company BelaPAN reported Wednesday.

    A granite bench unveiled during a 1994 visit to the Belarusian village of Kuropaty by then-US President Bill Clinton was smashed into fragments, said Igor Kuznetsov, a historical researcher.

    The US government funded the construction of the bench to memorialize brutal Stalinist repressions in Belarus during the 1930s and 1940s. Kuropaty was the Soviet government's preferred execution site for Belarusian political prisoners.

    Relations between Minsk and Washington soured in subsequent years. US State Department spokesmen have routinely accused Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko of running the least democratic nation in Europe as a private fiefdom.

    For practical purposes, no other US-financed memorials exist in Belarus.

    Thieves and vandals had attacked the Clinton-era bench ten times prior to its destruction in January. Raiders in earlier assaults tore off metal decorations and even pried up paving stones.

    A cast-iron wreath signifying the undying memory of innocent persons murdered by the Soviet regime was stolen on December 2, Kuznetsov said.

    The Belarus police force have never charged a suspect. US diplomats have requested, but failed to receive, a permanent guard for the memorial.

    Belarus plans to team up with WIPO to implement national innovation-based development program

    From: NLIPRB
    Sergei Aleinik
    Belarus plans to cooperate with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to implement national programs on the protection of intellectual property and on innovation-based development which are designed to run through 2010. This issue will top the agenda of a visit of WIPO general director Kamil Idris who arrives in Minsk today, Sergei Aleinik, permanent representative of Belarus to the UN Office and other international organizations in Geneva, told BelTA.

    The cooperation between Belarus and the WIPO is quite robust, the diplomat said. “The WIPO appreciates the Belarus’ innovation-based development model which helps enhance the competitive power of the country’s economy,” he added.

    Kamil Idris’ visit is expected to give a new impetus to the cooperation between Belarus and the WIPO and bring more technical assistance and expert knowledge of that credible international organization to Belarus. During the neogitations the sides will focus on the ways how to spur up innovation activities in Belarus and how to boost the development of a system of protection of intellectual property.

    An intellectual property training center has been established in Belarus. The WIPO Academy provides strong assistance to the center. The center is essential for Belarus since it helps form an intellectual property system wich is in sync with international standards.

    Large-scale events featuring WIPO representatives are held regularly in Belarus, Sergei Aleinik said. For example, in 2006 Minsk hosted an international conference on education in the sphere of intellectual property and a workshop where delegates considered issues connected with the protection of intellectual property rights in the context of the accession of Belarus in the WTO and with the development of a system of protection of intellectual property rights in Belarus.

    Information Minister Confirms Regime’s Intention to Regulate Internet

    From: Charter '97
    Belarus plans to study the international experience on issues of regulating Internet at lawmaking level. It was stated by Information Minister of Belarus Uladzimir Rusakevich. As said by the official, the decision to regulate mass media on the web was taken not in Belarus only, but in many other countries as well.

    As Telegraf informs with a reference to BelTA, such a decision of the Belarusian side has been stated by the minister at an opening ceremony of III International specialized exhibition “Health is the mode” Week opened in Minsk.

    As said by Uladzimir Rusakevich, because of extensive development of the Internet, Information minister plans some amendments to the Law on press.

    “We are not planning to interfere with the work of Internet, but we think it is out duty to study activities in this sphere of state agencies in other countries, and to amend the law on press correspondingly,” Uladzimir Rusakevich said.

    On January 31 at a final session of ideology department of Hrodna regional executive committee, first deputy head of the main ideology department of the Department of Presidential Affairs Alyaksandr Slabadchuk stated that without mass media it would be impossible to carry out ideology work effectively.

    To his mind, they help the state to develop its priority areas of activities.

    Belarus: hilarious intervention of Russia in the Belarusian entry

    From: Okia Times
    Dima Koldun
    An unprecedent event takes place as we speak. Since yesterday the record label of Dima Koldun has created a crisis in the Belarusian entry. Koldun's record label is the one owned by Channel One. Dima Koldun as the winner of their reality show signed a contract with the label. The label doesn't believe Koldun is ready for such a big show such as Eurovision and therefore they have forbidden him to participate in the contest.

    The Belarusian national broadcaster is outraged with the Russia intervention which is ultimately an extention of the Belarus - Russia political relations which are in the worst level the past two years. So far Dima Koldun will keep performing his song as it is. It is still unknown whether he will ultimately compete in Eurovision as a court decision is expected on Monday.

    Russian broadcaster provokes
    Russian broadcaster seems to be in a dead end with the 2007 participation. Because it's hilarious to support that a new comer is not capable to represent in such a big event. In 2004 it was Channel One who send Julia Savicheva and Natalia Podolskaya in 2004 and 2005 Eurovision.

    Another question is why Channel One reacted now. It was in mid September that everyone knew that Dima Koldun submitted song to Belarusian broadcaster. Why the broadcaster didn't react back then?

    Why Channel One undermines the voting of the Belarusian public who gave the maximum of televotes to Dima Koldun on the semifinal of December 15? Russian broadcaster might be aware that the song is already popular among the fans and maybe they are affraid that their political adversary is close to go high in the contest this time, for the first time.

    But ultimately the case is whether Dima Koldun will participate in the national selection. It is sad to see a country like Russia using this kind of methods in the Eurovision Song Contest especially when its participating national broadcaster is also entering the contest. Shall we wonder why?

    In 2005-2006, Belarus puts Br26,4 trillion into village revival

    From: NLIPRB
    In 2005-2006, the country developed 413 agro-towns, of them 164 – in 2005 and 249 – in 2006.
    In 2005-2006, Belarus put Br26,4 trillion into the state village revival program, vice-premier Ivan Bambiza stated at a sitting of the Council of Ministers’ Presidium. The sitting on January 30 was chaired by prime minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorskiy.

    Some Br11,1 trillion was own funds of the companies, Br10,6 trillion – budgetary assignments, Br3,9 trillion – loans, Br0,8 trillion – investments.

    In 2005-2006, the country developed 413 agro-towns, of them 164 – in 2005 and 249 – in 2006.

    For the two years 17,69 thousand houses were built. Gas supply networks were extended: more than 17,1 thousand apartments were converted to use natural gas. Over the period under review 4,9 thousand kilometers of grids were constructed or reconstructed; 360 kilometers of water supply networks were renovated; 5,8 thousand kilometers of local roads were repaired. Transport services were launched between the regional centers and 413 agro-towns.

  • The Pot Calling the Kettle Black...

    Hunter slams Kerry remarks on U.S. being "international pariah"

    The Bush administration got labeled by John "Pariah" Kerry
    Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter criticized Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry on Monday for calling the United States "a sort of international pariah."

    Hunter, the California congressman who formally began campaigning for the presidency last week, blamed Kerry for making anti-American remarks while addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, over the weekend. Kerry said the Bush administration had isolated the United States by failing to cooperate with international efforts on global warming, AIDS, and other issues.

    "It was terrible for him to say that," said Hunter, noting that while the United States has come to the aid of many of the countries represented by the 2,400 business and political leaders at the forum, few had responded in kind after Hurricane Katrina.

    "They had earthquakes -- we helped. They had floods -- we helped. They had disease -- we helped. They were threatened -- we left the safety of our homes to defend them. I didn't see any of them in New Orleans," he told workers at Wilcox Industries, which makes night-vision equipment and laser targeting devices for the U.S. military.

    At least seven Congressional committees plan hearings or other oversight on how the $88 billion approved for Katrina relief is being spent, but "we won't have to worry about having a review of those nations' response to the hurricane, because none of them came to the American disaster," Hunter said.

    According to federal auditors, 36 countries sent $126 million in cash after the hurricane that devastated New Orleans, Louisiana and Mississippi in August 2005. A report released by the Government Accountability Office in April said another $400 million had been pledged but had not yet been received.

    A spokesman for Kerry said Hunter was out of touch with Americans who desperately want their country to regain the respect of the world.

    "Duncan Hunter is stuck in the tuba section of the Republican presidential parade, so he'll say anything for attention," David Wade said.
    Full text...

  • Opinion...

    Svyatlana Kalinkina: “Now Lukashenka Must Dismiss His Chief Propagandists”

    From: Charter '97
    “I agree with any freedom of a journalist, and today in Belarus we are carrying out this policy. But the most important thing is that a journalist should be responsible for what he had written. Then there would be less articles written on order,” Alyaksandr Lukashenka said yesterday during a meeting with the chairman of the Hungarian Communist Workers` Party, Vice chairman of the Party of the European Left Gyula Thuermer.

    “When you speak about a person, about a person’s qualities, you could criticize his position, but you shouldn’t drag out something from his personal life at the surface and stamp on it. I do not tolerate when journalists slide into ad hominem attacks and distort [facts]. Everything else is welcomed, let there be criticism, one shouldn’t be afraid of that,” A. Lukashenka said.

    “If A. Lukashenka was sincere, the first thing he should do now is to dismiss his chief propagandists from state TV channels,” told Svyatlana Kalinkina, an editorial director of the newspaper “Narodnaya Volya” to the press-service of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, commenting the words of the Belarusian ruler. “They are not only criticizing, not only stamping on personal life of oppositionists, but very often they report fictitious and untrue facts, and they even cannot be sued for that later”.

    “President is a public person and he must remember that he should be accountable for his words. In reality nothing is done for freedom of expression development in Belarus today”, S. Kalinkina said.

    According to the well-known Belarusian journalist, this issue has been brought up because of a struggle with Russian mass media that criticize Lukashenka’s policy.

    Protect Dictatorships!

    From: The Exile
    GAS WARS: Russian woman massages gas cannister hose in a suggestive manner, with the aim of weakening and controlling neighboring regimes
    Over the New Year's holiday season, most citizens in Belarus were busy celebrating the fruits of life under the hardline authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko, exchanging ration cards and toasting in communal fear. But then the Kremlin showed up and crashed the party, demanding that Belarus pay more for its gas...or else.

    Apologists for the Kremlin will try to tell you that that the reason Russia is demanding more money from Belarus is because Russia wants to earn closer to market prices - until this year, Belarus paid $47 per 1000 cubic meters, while the market rate is $260. However, this baloney about "demanding market prices" is just a red herring. Emphasis on the "red." As in "red communist." Okay, if you still don't get our play on words, what we mean is, as in "Russia is just the Soviet Union in disguise. A red herring disguise, to be exact. Yeah, they sell red herring disguises at the kid's costume store at Detsky Mir."

    Get it?

    We don't. Indeed, we completely forgot what we meant to say, and how we got on the subject of herring. Could someone call our offices and tell us what we're talking about? We're totally lost here. But we do know one thing: Russia is bullying its neighbors. By demanding that Belarus pay a 60% discount for its gas rather than an 80% discount, President Putin has proved once again that he is willing to use his country's vast natural gas monopoly for purely political purposes. What he wants is to undermine the fragile authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko.

    The Putin regime does not like the specter of having unfriendly authoritarian regimes on its borders. That would explain why the Kremlin also tried to bully the dynastic-authoritarian regime in Azerbaijan to pay market price for Russian gas last month.

    Who can't help but root for poor Azerbaijan, the only post-Soviet regime which established a family dynasty in 2003, when its president-for-life, Ilham Aliyev was installed by his ailing father. It hasn't been easy for Aliyev, who has been struggling to crush his country's democratic opposition. Add to this a hostile anti-authoritarian Putin regime, and you can understand why Aliyev was forced to shut down the opposition ANS TV station last November. In fact, if it wasn't for the courageous support of The United States, Aliyev might not be in power today.

    What is happening is clear. Let's call a spade a spade, instead of calling a spade a "nyegr." Putin's Russia is back to its old imperialist tricks. The European Union and the US must put their feet down, and demand that Russia subsidize these authoritarian regimes with cheap gas. And if Putin finally gives in and agrees to further subsidize these regimes, then the West must turn around and accuse Russia of subsidizing authoritarian regimes.

    Why? Here's why. Today Russia is going after Belarus and Azerbaijan. Tomorrow, who knows who's next. Russia could conceivably try to undermine Russia's own authoritarian regime. Putin might demand that his own country pay market prices for gas, and see his own grip on power weaken, simply to exert control over himself. Yes, Putin really is that evil.

    Wake up, world.

  • Note; For a bit more humor from these unconsionable assholes, check out today's endnote.

  • From the blogs...

    Belarus turns to West?

    From: Belarus News and Facts
    Belarus president Lukashenko said that Belarus should start seeking better ties with the West, denying that the recent damaging row with Russia over energy supplies was the reason.

    "We acknowledge that a declared multi-vector policy was carried out here as a single-vector policy in fact," official information sources quoted the Belarusian leader as saying on Tuesday during his meeting with visiting Gennady Zyuganov, chairman of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

    "It is very important for us to improve relations with the West. And the conflict [with Russia] is no reason. Europe simply has seen that it also depends on Belarus in energy supplies. Europe took a different look at Belarus. A new situation has emerged."

    Lukashenko went on to say that Belarus would not any longer "run enthusiastically" to Russia for the simple reason that the Russian authorities did not want this any longer.

    "What country can economically survive a double increase in the gas price within two years?" Lukashenko wondered.

    The Belarusian leader expressed confidence that it was the Kremlin that was behind energy "pressure" on Belarus. "They have started stifling and baiting Belarus. They are scoffing at us. You see what is going on now in the media. But I know for sure that they were told by the Kremlin to do this."

    Mr. Lukashenko said that ahead of some scheduled visit to Moscow, the conference hall of a news agency had been "sealed" to bar him from giving a news conference there. "This is what Russian democracy is about. This is what behavior by the Russian leadership is about," Lukashenko stressed.

    Blogging, Podcasting change lives in Belarus and Uzbekistan

    From: IFOCUS
    Evgeny Morozov
    The modern world powered by technology has drastically altered our traditional understanding of what a community is. However, in a shift from physical to the virtual, the term “community” has retained its validity, contrary to the gloomy predictions of doomsayers terrified by the atomization of individuals and the disaggregation of communities that never happened. Instead, many new communities sprung up to take advantage of the wealth of information that became available thanks to the Internet. And although “bowling alone” has often morphed into “blogging alone,” the latter manages to amplify and stimulate a truly global conversation in unprecedented ways.

    This new digital revolution has brought even more benefits to already existing communities, which have found new means of recruiting new members and establishing links with other communities. One cannot afford to remain passive anymore; one has to be actively on the lookout for partners, colleagues, etc. I think that the emergence of social bookmarking, for example, has greatly enhanced the intellectual lives of many users, who are now trusting each other’s surfing and browsing choices. Furthermore, I have a lot of examples from my current job, where blogging and podcasting creates a huge difference in the work of the real communities.

    Thus, a Transitions Online blogging project that started in Belarus allowed us to work closer with political and human rights activists, who with the help of blogging managed to raise awareness of their activities among their constituents. A similar blogging project affiliated with Transitions Online in Uzbekistan gave voice to activists concerned with women’s issues, who with the help of blogging managed to start a nationwide public debate about gender discrimination in the country. If not for the Internet, this community would have remained silent and certainly unable to speak with a loud, national voice. Raising awareness of certain marginalized communities—like the Roma in Europe—is another priority for us. Having the real Roma blog about the issues they confront in their daily lives offers the world a chance to feel the suffering of this community firsthand. It would be hard to recreate the same depth with writing an article or shooting a documentary.

    In my work with Transitions Online, I’m trying to build from scratch, with the help of blogging and podcasting, new online communities around specific issues or countries. At the moment, we are also trying to launch user-driven social content websites, which would extensively rely on online communities to rank the content. For this reason, exchanging know-how with other professionals from this field at the We Media 2007 conference would be extremely important for me.

    Evgeny Morozov
    Director for New Media, Transitions Online

  • Sport...

    Belarus backs Russia’s initiative to hold 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi

    From: BelTA
    On the beach at Sochi
    Belarus entirely supports Russia’s initiative to hold the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Belarus sports and tourism minister Alexander Grigorov said at today’s meeting with representatives of Belarusian and Russian media.

    According to the official, Russia has excellent chances of hosting this largest sport forum. Alexander Grigorov informed, he constantly maintains closest contacts with his Russian counterpart Vyacheslav Fetisov. The minister stressed, Belarus and Russia had established friendly relations in the sport field. Belarusian sportsmen and trainers successfully perform and train various Russian teams while Russians have made part of various Belarusian teams. In particular, many Russian hockey players play and share their experience with Belarusian colleagues in Belarus Open.

    Speaking about prospects of Belarusian teams’ taking part in championships in Russia, the minister said it is rather possible. An agreement has almost been reached for a Belarusian club to partake in a Russian hockey championship. Besides, the two sides have an experience of jointly training Belarusian and Russian athletes for the largest international competitions, including the Olympics, informed Alexander Grigorov.

  • Sport briefs...

  • Belarus vs. Sweden in the first round of the davis Cuup on Feb. 9-11. Belarus is hosting Sweden on hardcourts in Minsk with Max Mirnyi, Vladimir Voltchkov, Pavel Katliarou and Serguei Tarasevitch facing Robin Soderling, Jonas Bjorkman, Thomas Johansson and Simon Aspelin.

  • Vasilisa Marzaliuk of Belarus won a silver medal in the 72kg category at the freestyle wrestling tournament in the memory of Ivan Yarygin in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Belarusian Olga Khilko won a bronze medal in the 63kg category while Marina Markevich finished in fifth in the 51kg category.

  • On January 8-February 12, Gomel will play host to the international ice hockey tournament Cup of Polesie. Competing in the event will be the teams from Belarus, Latvia, Canada and also the Russian hockey club “Salavat Yulayev” (Ufa). The tournament is organized by the Belarusian ice hockey federation, The matches are seen as preparation games ahead of the upcoming world championships. Two matches will be played every day. On February 7, the Canadian team will play a friendly with the Gomel hockey club.

  • Endnote...

    Who Is "la Russophobe"?

    From: The Exile
    Artist's sketch of La Russophobe's ass. If you have seen this ass, write us and win big!

    A reader recently brought to our attention one of the strangest blogs we've ever seen. Wait, scratch that - just about every non-cash-earning blog is totally fucked up, in that they scream desperation of the "I'm so lonely and uninteresting in real life, but in the virtual world, I'm a whirlwind of opinions and passion! Look, I even built up a community of virtual friends!" sort. Put it this way: remember that freak chinaman in Fargo, the one who kept calling the sheriff at three a.m. to relate how great his life was going? Mikey Yamamoto or whatever his name was? If he were around in the 2000s, he'd definitely have a blog, and that blog would be updated three to four times per day, minimum.

    Which brings us to a blogger named "La Russophobe." It's exactly what the title says-an English-language blog by someone or someones who truly hates Russia. This isn't the semi-ironic Russophobia stance taken by our own Aspi Pahars. Rather, "La Russophobe" is a compulsively unironic, humorless hate blog, with said hatred directed at All Things Russian. Sort of like one of those psychos who writes obsessive letters to their local newspaper complaining about "big government."

    Now here's the interesting part. "La Russophobe" claims very conspicuously and revealingly to be "non-profit." It also claims to be written by someone named "Kim Zigfield." However, a local American journalist told us that there is strong evidence that this same "Kim Zigfield" used to write crazed letters to Johnson's Russia List and elsewhere under the name "Oliver Bronsen," obsessively attacking tennis-babe Maria Sharapova. This got our curiosity up, so with a little roving-reporting, we also learned that "Kim Zigfield" has used other fictitious names in bizarre email exchanges with other foreigners in the Russia-watching community.

    In other words, we have a Scooby Doo situation: Who is this freakish ghoul who haunts the blog world with her Russophobia, and what is his/her/their purpose? Donning our Thelma caps, we have two theories:

    a). She really is a she named "Kim Zigfield," and she genuinely hates Russia for the same reason all Western girls hate Russia: because Russian women are 142 million times hotter than all the Western girls combined (eesh, what a rank thought, all of the West's chicks combined! Hey, someone get me a frickin spittoon and a bottle of Listerine!). Hence, the obsessive hatred of Sharapova.
    b). La Russophobe is a poorly thought-out project of some NGO/government/etc that wants to undermine the Kremlin. Hence the awkward banner that "La Russophobe" is "non-profit."
    c). Or both: La Russophobe is an NGO project run by an angry, fat-assed Anglo/American chick who hates Sharapova.

    We want you, eXholes, to help us unmask this "Kim Zigfield." Why? Because it's just too weird to be left alone.

    Above we have an artist's sketch of Zigfield's ass, the only part that has been identified by witnesses. If any of you have seen or know the rest of the human being who is attached to this burdensome ass, please write to us at

    The reader who discovers the true identity of La Russophobe will win from us your choice of:

    1. A night out at the gentlemen's club "Violete" where everything - and we mean EVERYTHING - is on our tab. And believe us you, you will get EVERYTHING. You can even get your girl to wear a "Kim Zigfield" mask while you do her from behind.

    2.Dinner for two at the elitny restaurant Prado Cafe. We nit you shot.

    So readers, you've been given your assignment. And you know the reward. Time to hop into your virtual Mystery Machine, and solve this spooky mystery!