News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lukashenka talks oil, Lithuania borders, Iran deal, Human trafficking, Germany, Russia, Yermoshina, Architecture, Blogs, Opinion and Sports

  • From the Top...
  • #168

    President: Naftan should become essential in ensuring energy security of Belarus

    From: BelTA
    Naftan Oil Refinery should become a key enterprise in ensuring energy security of Belarus, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said today at a sitting in Novopolotsk focusing on the preparedness of Belarus to work in new energy pricing environment.

    The main task is to elevate Naftan to the highest world level, the president said. The company needs to be upgraded in such a way so that it could become as attractive for oil processing companies as possible; so that the latter seek to cooperate with Naftan.

    For this, there is a need to focus on such factors as the level of oil processing, specifications and quality of products, diversification of material sources and efficiency of all departments and manufactures of the company. “Why is the preference given to Naftan? Because this company has a good experience in upgrading production and has good development prospects,” Alexander Lukashenko said. The tasks are the same for Mozyr Oil Refinery and other companies of the petrochemical industry of the country, the Belarusian leader said.

    “The analysis of work of concrete companies of the petrochemical industry should become a basis for the development of optimal measures for the entire national economy in connection with a dramatic change in energy prices,” the head of state said.

    Belarusian oil refineries should not suffer from oil shortages despite the complicated relations with Russian suppliers. “We should take oil from those, who agree to work with us”, noted the president.

    If Russia does not agree to sell oil according to terms Belarus favours, “let’s do serious projects and resolve these issues right up to building new pipelines to ports where we will buy oil, but nobody will bring us to our knees”, the head of state told today’s session, which tabled Belarus readiness for new fuel and energy prices in Novopolotsk.

    “Today the world has a lot of oil and metals. One just has to buy them. But prices make the difference”, noted Alexander Lukashenko.

    “We always cry out that we have the sovereignty. Let us work then in the conditions of sovereignty and independence. Let’s protect them. It is the most precious thing for every one of us”, stressed the head of state.

    There are no winners in the oil and gas conflict of Belarus and Russia, Belarus president believes.

    “Neither Belarus nor Russia has gained victory in the oil and gas conflict”, Alexander Lukashenko told today’s session, which tabled Belarus readiness for new fuel and energy prices in Novopolotsk.

    “What happened in late 2006-early 2007 was the peak of the crisis. It started in 2004 when our gas supplies were shut off with the air temperature as low as 25C”, noted the head of state.

    He said, after the conflict “there is one positive result for us”. The president explained, “We have a fixed price for the oil we buy”. “It is now profitable for the business and the national budget”, noted Alexander Lukashenko.

    The head of state underlined, the key drawback was the fact that in previous years Belarus had bought oil at more expensive prices than the present pricing formula could have secured.

    Russia should pay for the services Belarus provides. In his words, in 2007 Belarus will lose $3.5 billion in comparison with 2006 due to the changed conditions of Russian gas and oil supplies to Belarus. “Which is why we should suggest that in line with the international law Russia should pay for the land the pipeline uses, for oil transportation and other services. It should be done calmly, without prolonging the negotiations till the end of the year. We shouldn’t lose $3.5 billion”, underlined the head of state.

    On the whole, the president believes it is necessary to base Belarus relations with Russia on international principles. “We should secure our benefits. Today Belarus buys oil at global prices from Russia. Gas profitability for Russia in Belarus almost equals that in Germany”, noted the president.

    He also stated, so far Belarus has no alternatives to Russian oil supplies “and even if we have them, we have not worked out them enough”. “If some Russian oil-extracting companies have no desire to work with Belarus, we should charge them more for transporting their oil to Europe”, believes Alexander Lukashenko.

    While visiting Naftan, the head of state was informed that the company produces environmentally friendly fuel (sulphur-free).

    Russian oil producers will not lose interest in cooperating with Belarusian refineries, first vice-premier of Belarus, Vladimir Semashko, said today commenting upon the prospects of the Belarus’ oil refining industry in a new pricing environment.

    “Our refineries have always been attractive for the Russians because Belarusian oil refineries are better modernized than those in Russia, and provide deeper conversion of oil,” Vladimir Semashko said.

    An investment program has been drawn up in Belarus, he said. Implementing the program, the country plans to reach the world level of oil processing.

    “The pipe which runs through Belarus represents the shortest way of shipping oil to Europe,” the first vice-premier said. “Therefore the Russians have to take this into account,” he added.

    By 2010, the Naftan, a major Belarus’ oil processing company, is set to increase the annual oil processing to 12 million tons, the Naftan general director, Vyacheslav Yakushev, has told president Alexander Lukashenko today as the head of state is visiting the company.

    This goal is set out in the Naftan development program designed for 2005-2010. The document stipulates further deepening of oil conversion (downsizing the output of black fuel oil to 8-10%) and the production of a whole range of goods in line with European requirements.

    The company plans to build facilities for slow carbonization of fuel-oil residue. This is a well-practiced technical process that is much cheaper than other deep processing processes, the general director said. This process gives good yield of light-oil products.

    The program consists of 20 integrated investment projects. Besides from building new and modernizing existing facilities, the Naftan will place effort in enhancing management mobility. The program is thought to help the Naftan maintain its leadership in the CIS given ever more fierce competition in the European market of oil products.

    The funds needed to implement the Naftan development program are estimated at $500 to $550 million.

    The Naftan provides a 35% share of the overall production volume of the Belarus’ petrochemical concern Belneftekhim in actual prices.

    In 2006, the Naftan met all its socio-economic development targets. The output was worth of Br3,4 trillion, or 128.3% as against 2005. The processing of hydrocarbon materials reached 10,7 million tons, or 109.8% as against 2005. The share of the company’s own hydrocarbon materials was more than 3,5 million tons (33%). Exports accounted for more than 70% in the overall sales pattern.

    Modernization helped the company to significantly downsize its energy-intensity. The energy-saving index accounted for minus 18.7%.

    Belarus to demand Russia pay rent for land under gas, oil pipes

    From: Charter '97
    Lukashenko: "Without fuss or ambitions, we will take corresponding measures in line with international law, and will demand that they pay us."
    Belarus will demand that Russia pay rent for land under pipelines that it uses to pump its oil and gas to Europe, the country's president said at a government meeting Tuesday.

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka declared that the Belarusian party had to demand from Russia payments for services rendered to this country. “Without fuss and ambitions, subject to the international law principles we must insist on the payment,” Lukashenka announced at his meeting with the government in Navapolotsk on Tuesday. According to him, the government today must struggle and not “kick the bucket” crying “oh, my!”

    According to him, in particular, Russia has to pay for the land housing its oil and gas pipelines.

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka stated that “all arrangements on oil and gas are not beneficial to us in comparison with the previous year.“ Lukashenko stressed, in particular, that Belarus was to increase the payment for gas deliveries by USD 2.5 billion and for oil - by USD 1 billion.

    “These are USD 3.5 billion and not those fragile figures given by the President of Russia,” announced Lukashenka. ”We should not lose those USD 3.5 billion, but we shall neither loose the temper while searching for profit,” he emphasized.

    Lukashenka considers that “we shall not quarrel with Russia”. ”If any of the Russian oil companies does not want to cooperate with Belarus, we should make them pay for transporting their oil to Europe, “ Belarusian ruler said.

    “I have been also told that Veinshtok (Semion Veinshtok , chief of the “Transneft” Joint-Stock Company) declared that he would not pump the oil of the companies cooperating with Belarus. Then we shall not transport his ( S. Veinshtok’s ) oil. You pump our 20 million tons but we pump your 80 million tons,” concluded Lukashenka.

    “Nobody won in this conflict, neither Belarus nor Russia”, remarked Lukashenka. To his mind, ”we succeeded in establishing a concrete price for oil.” ”It is profitable both for the business and the budget. Then who interferes with your functioning today? ” Lukashenka asked.

    According to Lukashenka , the oil clash showed that “the crime” is that Sidorsky (Sergei Sidorsky, prime minister of Belarus) and Semashka ( Uladzimir Semashka-deputy prime minister of Belarus) were previously buying oil for higher prices. Higher by USD 60-80 dollars –that is bad, we should admit this,” the president remarked.

    According to him the government today must struggle and not “ kick the bucket” crying “oh, my!”

    Lukashenka also said “ Russia has got its natural resources from God .We were not given them by God, but we have been given another strategic resource –our geographical geopolitical location and we must employ it the way Russia employs its resources.”

    He also added “we have to fight, let it be either “hot” or “cold” war.”

    If, according to Lukashenka, the government is not going to do this “then let us agree with Russia’s proposition and become Russia’s another state or region”. ”But nobody will make us kneel down,” announces Lukashenka.

    Belarus tightens customs control on Belarus-Lithuania border for cargo coming from Kaliningrad

    From: NLIPRB
    “Kaliningrad transit” rules are used for illegal shipments of goods to Belarus, according to the results of an investigation held in 2005-2006. “47 freight shipments with the total value roughly at $10 million coming from Kaliningrad oblast never left Belarus,”
    This year Belarus tightens customs clearance rules on the Belarusian-Lithuanian border for cargo coming from Kaliningrad to other parts of Russia and back through Belarus. The aim is to stop the flow of goods illegally shipped to Belarus under the guise of Russian goods, a representative of the state customs committee of Belarus told BelTA.

    Besides, “Kaliningrad transit” rules are used for illegal shipments of goods to Belarus, according to the results of an investigation held in 2005-2006. “47 freight shipments with the total value roughly at $10 million coming from Kaliningrad oblast never left Belarus,” the source in the state customs committee reported.

    Thus a part of goods shipped from Kaliningrad oblast to the rest of Russia and back get involved in illegal turnover in Belarus because of a simplified customs clearance procedure applied to Russian goods coming through Belarus, the source said.

    Since 8 January 2007, the Belarusian authorities has stopped accepting guarantee certificates, documents issued by Russian customs officers verifying payment of customs fees, at issuing permits for transit of vehicles bought outside the Belarus-Russia Union State. The reason behind the move was refusal of the Russian side to make up for unpaid customs fees caused by a failure to ship two vehicles. The vehicles were being shipped by natural persons using Russian guarantee certificates.

    The Belarusian customs service was accepting guarantee certificates as an alternative to paying customs fees since 2003 in line with decisions made by the Board of the Customs Committee of the Belarus-Russia Union State.

    Iran, Belarus ink MoU on defence cooperation

    From: Islamic Republic News
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Belarus Defense Minister Leonid Maltsev
    President Ahmadinejad met with the visiting Belarus Defense Minister Leonid Maltsev, who heading a top-ranking delegation, arrived in Tehran on Sunday for a two-day visit.

    "Progress and power of the two independent states of Iran and Belarus will be in interest of their nations.

    "The two countries can complete each other in various fields with respect to their great potentials and capabilities," he said.

    He added that Tehran and Minsk have a common stance on regional and international issues, saying, "Tehran welcomes and supports expansion of relations with Belarus in all fields."

    Ahmadinejad urged the two countries' officials to speed up putting into practice of agreements already signed between Iran and Belarus, saying the contracts showed determination of the two governments and nations to boost mutual ties.

    Maltsev, for his part, pointed to Iran's eye-catching progress in various fields and called for promotion of Minsk ties with Tehran.

    He said that quick implementation of agreements would prepare ground for enhancing the level of cooperation.

    Iran and Belarus here on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation.

    Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar and his Belarussian counterpart Leonid Maltsev inked the MoU at the end of the second round of negotiations.

    According to the ministry's Public Relation Department, the two sides referred to the willingness of the senior officials of the two countries to expand bilateral ties in all fields including bolstering defense cooperation between Tehran and Minsk.

    Exchange of specialized delegations, technical and training cooperation as well as continuation of negotiations between defense ministers of the two countries are among other substances of the aforementioned MoU.

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday stressed the importance of bolstering relations with Belarus with respect to the two countries' strategic position.

    Belarus Not to Draft Married to Army

    From: Kommersant
    The masterminds reasoned that encouraging young people to marry by service delay will help them establish good families
    In an effort to improve demographic situation in Belarus, Defense Ministry of the country ordered not to call to arms the married young men. This new initiative of the ministry hasn’t been legalized yet, being introduced this year as an experiment, TUT.BY portal reported referring to Ezhednevnik (Daily) internet edition.

    Previously, a draftee should have a wife on the pregnancy leave or a child below three years of age or two children depending on him to get a delay. But this practice has borne no fruit, the Defense Ministry said, as the young men had to leave their wives and go to the army straight after marriage. Additional flaws are that some young wives won’t remain faithful to their husbands, negatively affecting moral and psychological condition of soldiers.

    So the masterminds reasoned that encouraging young people to marry by service delay will help them establish good families. The marriage status of a draftee will be checked each year to avoid pro forma marriages.

    Overall, the draft committees of Belarus have around 50,000 registered as potential draftees. The plan is to call to color roughly 8,000 till the end of this January. But the problem of attempted evasion of service is still rather acute in the country, though its extent has lowered a bit once a criminal responsibility was introduced for the failure to show up at the drafting committee.

    Over 560 human trafficking crimes detected last year

    From: BelTA
    The human trafficking has been seen moving from Minsk and oblast cities, where the situation is rather well controlled, to district towns — Kobrin, Baranovichi, Pinsk, Orsha, Molodechno, and other towns
    Last year the Belarusian interior ministry detected over 560 human trafficking crimes, including around 170 grave ones, about 1,100 victims were ascertained. The ministry also seized 10 organised criminal groups and one organisation, deputy head of the drugs control and human trafficking counteraction department of the Belarusian interior ministry Sergei Koltun told today’s roundtable session at the Press House.

    He said, Belarus is still a country through which and from which human slaves are trafficked. In particular, last year the ministry shut off over 110 channels, which were used to export Belarus citizens to 17 countries, mainly Russia, the European Union, primarily, Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Austria, and the Middle East. New routes have been appearing lately — Canada, Pakistan and even Salvador in Latin America.

    The human trafficking has been seen moving from Minsk and oblast cities, where the situation is rather well controlled, to district towns — Kobrin, Baranovichi, Pinsk, Orsha, Molodechno, and other towns.

    The official noted, the problem of forced labour export is getting acute. Over the last two years around 350 victims of this criminal business have been ascertained. Last year 17 criminal cases were filed, over 90 victims were registered. Besides, in 2004-2006 18 forced labour victims, including Belarusians and foreigners, were detected in Belarus.

    Belarus authorities expel leading human rights group from its offices

    From: IHT
    Belarus authorities have expelled leading human rights organization the Belarusian Helsinki Committee from its offices, the group said Monday.

    "The government wants to take revenge for our human rights activities and are trying to destroy us," Helsinki Committee's head Tatyana Protko said.

    She said a presidential property management body had ordered the rights organization to vacate premises in a building it had rented from the state since 1998. Protko said the Helsinki Committee would appeal the decision, adding that the move to deprive it of a legal address came as it had stepped up contacts with Western Europe.

    Officials at the presidential property agency declined to comment.

    Belarus' Justice Ministry last year sought to close down the Belarusian Helsinki Committee — accusing it of posting unauthorized observers during 2004 parliamentary elections, occupying office premises reserved for residential housing and committing gross tax violations.

    The move against a persistent critic of the authoritarian ex-Soviet nation's leader Alexander Lukashenko followed unprecedented protests against his disputed re-election in March.

    In December, authorities confiscated the group's computer equipment and furniture but the courts stopped short of closing the Helsinki Committee.

    Belarus decided: Dmitry Koldun to Helsinki

    From: ESC today
    Dmitry Koldun
    Tonight, the Belarussian national final was held. Moments ago, it was announced that Dmitry Koldun will represent Belarus in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest with the song Work your magic. The jury decided the winner out of three contestants that were selected out of fifteen music acts that had taken part in the Eurofest qualifier round on 15th December.
    The show

    The show was opened by Andrei Kunets, who finished second in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2006. He performed his song Novyi den' once again. After Denis Kurian, host of the evening, welcomed the audience, Kseniya Sitnik entered the stage, performing My vmeste. With that song, she won the Junior contest for Belarus in 2005. The nine jury members (eight men and one woman) were now introduced by Olga Schlager.

    Diana Gurtskaya was the first to present her song How long. The stage performance was almost the same as in the semi final, featuring her wearing a black dress surrounded by male backdround dancers dressed up as angels. The vocal performance was again very strong.

    The Project were now performing S.U.P.E.R.S.T.A.R., a song that it supposed to be sarcastic criticism of the show business. The stage performance was as messy as in the semi final but should oviously reflect the humouric character of the song.

    Dmitry Koldun was number three. His new song Work your magic was illustrated by huge signs of the zodiac in the background. The stage performance was quite simple and kind of rock inspired.

    Alexandra & Konstantin opened the interval act with their song My Galileo. This song was the first Belrussian representative back in 2004 but - as all Belarussian entries - didn't make it to the final. The 2005 representative Angelica Agurbash followed on stage, performing her Love me tonight. The song was followed by another song Miracle. The singer wanted to compete with it in the final but was diqualified. No surprise that 2006 representative Polina Smolova entered the stge now. She didn't sing her entry mom (which she already performed as opening act in the qualifier round) but a new song. This weekend, she finished 18th in the Eurodance contest.

    Belarus competed for the first time in 2004 in the semi final round and has yet to make it to the Eurovision Song Contest final. In 2006, Polina Smolova finished 22nd - 2nd from last - with the song Mum. Therefore, Dmitry Koldun will have to go through the semi final in Helsinki.

    Secretary general of Germany`s ruling party to meet with opposition figures in Minsk

    From: Charter '97
    Ronald Pofalla
    The secretary general of Germany`s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was expected to arrive in Minsk on Tuesday on his third visit to Belarus within a year.

    As Aleksandr Milinkevich`s press office told BelaPAN, Ronald Pofalla is scheduled to meet with the former presidential candidate on January 23.

    "Germany will continue providing support to Aleksandr Milinkevich, leader of the pro-democracy movement, and help Belarus` pro-democracy forces. The courage that Belarusians display while fighting for democratic changes in the country is impressive," the press office quoted the CDU leader as saying ahead of his visit to Minsk.

    Mr. Pofalla will use his visit to study Belarus` political situation following the 2006 presidential vote and recent elections for local soviets, as well as call on the Belarusian authorities to release all political prisoners, restore political freedoms and remove obstacles to the operation of independent media outlets.

    The politician, who will visit Minsk in company with German MP Marieluise Beck, also plans to meet with imprisoned opposition leader Aleksandr Kozulin`s lawyer, Igor Rynkevich, prominent opposition figure Sergei Skrebets, who has been recently released from prison, and some public figures.

    Eindhoven mayor to visit Minsk in H1 2007

    From: BelTA
    Mayor of the Dutch city of Eindhoven Alexander Sakkers is expected to come to Minsk in H1 2007 on a business visit, BelTA learnt from Valentina Kovalevskaya, head of the protocol and overseas liaison department of Minsk city hall.

    According to the source, the programme of stay is being worked out. Members of the delegation are expected to discuss possibilities of cooperation in the high technologies field, higher education, and juvenile crime prevention with their Belarusian counterparts.

    Minsk has been successfully cooperating with Eindhoven since 1994. Various joint projects were accomplished within the period, in particular, an environmental protection project, in which framework an ecological bureau Burenko was set up. The cities have established contacts in the youth policy field: 8 Minsk schools have direct contacts with educational establishments of the twin city while students of Belarusian State Agrarian University get traineeship at Eindhoven universities every year. Eindhoven charity organisations provide aid to Minsk disabled persons.

    Besides, Eindhoven and Partizanskiy district of Minsk are implementing a project Social Mobilisation of Children’s Rights as part of the juvenile justice concept. The project is targeted at problems of crime prevention among children and the underage.

    In December 2005 the successful cooperation of Minsk and Eindhoven was praised by experts at the 20th annual meeting of cities-members of the Eurocities Association in Lyons (France). Minsk-Eindhoven bilateral projects were named best in the nomination East-West.

    Minsk was the first Belarusian city to find a twin city. In 1957 it was twinned with English Nottingham. Now the Belarusian capital has 14 twin cities such as Japanese Sendai, French Lyons and Bulgarian Sofia.

    Gennadiy Nevyglas: Lidia Yermoshina was leading candidate for CEC chairperson post

    From: BelTA
    Lidia Yermoshina “has proved herself to be a politician adhering to principles, a highly qualified lawyer and a very charming person”
    When candidates for the post of the Central Election Commission chairperson were discussed, Lidia Yermoshina was in the class of her own, head of Belarus President Administration Gennadiy Nevyglas said at today’s extraordinary session of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus.

    BelTA reported earlier, the upper chamber of the Belarusian parliament had approved Lidia Yermoshina’s appointment as chairperson of the Central Election Commission.

    Gennadiy Nevyglas noted, Lidia Yermoshina “has proved herself to be a politician adhering to principles, a highly qualified lawyer and a very charming person”. Her management helped arrange most important election campaigns in Belarus. Gennadiy Nevyglas reminded, Lidia Yermoshina had been the CEC chairperson for over 10 years and a CEC member since 1992.

    “Lidia Yermoshina attaches much importance to preserving the Central Election Commission an open institution. Her constant readiness for a sincere dialogue invokes respect of mass media and even the opposition as well as representatives of the neighbouring states. She made a great personal contribution to the establishment of Belarus electoral system”, said Gennadiy Nevyglas.

    As the CEC chairperson, Lidia Yermoshina takes a great personal responsibility for her office duties. She will continue contributing to building up the legitimacy in the Republic of Belarus, the establishment of a legal state, the development of a genuine democracy, Gennadiy Nevyglas is convinced.

  • Opinion...

    Building for the bad:
    Alexander Hosch looks at the uneasy marriage between autocrats and star architects

    The National Library of belarus in Minsk
    The politically correct architect of today is confronted with the following kinds of questions. Can I glaze the towers of the new headquarters of the Russian energy leviathan Gazprom with a clean conscience? Should I abandon my construction sites in Thailand because of the military putsch? How about buildings for squeaky clean Western democracies erecting extra-territorial torture chambers in Cuba? There are, as we see, good reasons for architects to repress politics from time to time.

    To treat building as a moral issue in these globalised times is no easy matter. Is it really so objectionable to build luxury hotels in Dubai, or a business HQ in St. Petersburg or an Olympic stadium in Beijing? Fifteen of the twenty world's largest architectural firms have projects in China. Almost all the stars are involved and many Germans are providing the plans for model cities. As in the United Arab Emirates, the insane tempo of the economy of world's fastest growing population is having nasty side effects, the migrant workers have no rights and are paid slave wages if at all. But China wants new cities. Abu Dhabi wants a Louvre by Jean Nouvel and a Guggenheim by Frank Gehry. The recent Munich Expo Real was awash with XXL plans for Dubai. There too the leading firms and Pritzker prizewinners are up to their necks.

    It will always be possible to find an architect to do what you want. The question of realism versus opportunism goes to the core of the profession. A comprehensive guide to this can be found in Observer journalist Deyan Sudjic's book "The Edifice Complex. How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World" (Penguin 2005), which demonstrates how consistently taste has won over justice. In the history of construction, the masters of style were also set designers, charged with brand-marking power. From Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon to Nero, from the Popes and French kings to Hitler and Stalin, not only tyrants but all leaders exercised power over the master builders. The Chancellery in Berlin would have looked very different without Helmut Kohl. That goes for Peter Eisenman's Holocaust memorial as well. And the Très Grande Bibliothèque of Paris is the very image of Mitterrand

    Some architects would like to see a reversal of these power relations. In 1922, Le Corbusier drew up Le Plan Voisin: a cross of 18 skyscrapers designed to change the face of Paris. In 1935, he went looking for an "unknown authority" who would put a signature under his radical plan for the city of lights. First he became sympathetic to the cause of the far right, the Redressement Francais, then he warmed to Mussolini, the Soviets and the Vichy regime, one after the next. He would have been content with any ruler willing to implement his plan of a city machine for healthy, modern, constantly mobile people. But he didn't find one.

    Mies van der Rohe was the director of the Bauhaus when the Nazis shut it down in 1933, but he remained indifferent to the Hitler regime. The most significant German architect of his time decorated his competition plans with swastikas and provided Speer with the German contribution to the World Exposition in Paris in 1937. Mies van der Rohe shared with Walter Gropius the assumption that the modern form could be applied to anything, totalitarian or not. Dismissing the nearly social democratic didactic which the Bauhaus founder had developed for the unique art school in the Weimar Republic, he was quite captivated by the idea of sprucing up the Reichskulturkammer for the dignitaries. This chumming around did little harm to the posthumous reputation of these three star architects of modernity. From the perspective of the posterity, their building style outshone all other considerations.

    But shouldn't one proscribe building for dictators in democratic times? There is an axis of evil in architecture today: it passes through Belarus and Turkmenistan. Critics are flexible on this. While helpless glassy gates in China and Russia are being welcomed as "signs of things to come," the triumphant glass polygon of Alexander Lukashenko's new national library in Minsk is being referred to as the "star of death." It didn't help much that the pillar craze, no longer a universal wish of despots, was not honoured. Likewise, the recently deceased Turkmenistan head of state Niyasov, who for years has had magnificent buildings built by the French company Bouygues, could expect little mercy from the aesthetes.

    The measurement of architecture and morality is more complicated in the seemingly softer, capitalistically oriented dictatorships. Those wanting to pass swift judgement on countries that are travelling a long path to democracy find themselves at a loss for arguments. German architecture associations encourage their members to export know-how to semi-authoritarian states with liberal economic policies. And indeed, the despots are as porous as membranes when it comes to capital flow and cosmopolitan style. But with laws and duties, the processes quickly become hermetic. Wolf Prix's bitterness over his failed China project (interview in German) tells us as much as the story of the un-built Zayed-Al-Nahyan mosque by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. In 2002, the dessert ruler of the same name contacted the two Swiss from his home in Abu Dhabi. They delivered preliminary studies, then didn't hear anything back. They're still running after their money. Something similar happened with four projects in China.

    Taking the German China-architects at their word, some of them seem certainly to feel a sense of unease. Albert Speer Jr. said about his "merely appended" satellite city Anting, near Shanghai, that it helps to "organise and control the otherwise wild growth there." On the website of the Goethe Institute, Munich architect Thomas Jocher speculates about the city Synai, planned by him for the East Coast and still in the drawing board stages: "It will take at least ten years before any sign of urbanity appears." For his part, Meinhard von Gerkan of gmp, Germany's largest architectural firm with around 50 construction sites in China – among them an ideal city for a population of 800,000 – is thrilled at the profitability of the contracts and the quick emancipation from projects right after the planning phase. The Chinese prefer to supervise construction themselves. Yet for precisely this reason he also fears a "gigantic museum of structural damage."

    Will the Germans stay if the Chinese want them to? Ole Scheeren, who oversees the new building for the state television network CCTV as partner of the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, believes: no! Unlike the majority of architects who plan from abroad, drop off their blueprints fatalistically and then take off, he himself travelled to Beijing to accompany the conception of the firm's largest building planned to date, he says. How can one give a state television broadcaster a smart architectural design? Scheeren puts his hope in the younger generation at CCTV: "They're keen to take on a different role." And as part of an anti-hierarchical programme made public worldwide (the design is now featured in a show at MoMA in New York), people will have free access right to the top of the building. "There are risks there," admits Scheeren. "We don't know what tomorrow will bring." Will this forced public presence work out? That will become clear when broadcasting starts up for the Olympics in 2008.

    Architects Herzog and de Meuron have also favoured an open design for the Olympic Stadium. Thomas Polster, who has been representing the company in Beijing for the last three years, emphasises how important it is to keep a close eye on the construction progress. The architectural language of the steel girders - which are interwoven like a bird's nest - results in a diaphanous construction of fluttery elegance. Large stairways lead through the supporting framework, and can also be used for activities other than sports. The philosopher Jürgen Habermas once praised modern architecture for its integral approach – the "demands of a style suited not only to representative buildings, but also to day-to-day praxis." Seen this way, several architects of Chinese hypermodernity are following in the footsteps of the Enlightenment.

    In China, Russia or Dubai, each project must be assessed on its own. Certainly, curiosity about Gerkan's plans (more) for the National Museum on Tienanmen Square is warranted. There the setting is dominated by large avenues suited to military marches, and intimidating neoclassical architecture whose niches give refuge to armed civil servants. The existing facade of columns is to remain intact. The new building, the world's biggest museum project, aims not to clash with the other buildings on the square, the Great Hall of the People and the Mao Mausoleum. Exactly that could be the problem.

    Merkel meets Putin

    From: Radio Netherlands
    Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel was wearing three different caps as she visited Russian President Vladimir Putin: at the moment, as well as being Germany's leader, her government holds the presidency of the European Union and is chairing the G8. She follows Mr Putin in the last post: Russia hosted the last G8 summit in St Petersburg.

    Relations between Moscow and Brussels have been strained for some time. Last year, two EU-Russia summits ended in failure, for the most part because Russia rejected the EU's energy charter. This aims at breaking the export monopoly held by Russian state gas company Gazprom to clear the way for importing alternative Russian gas supplies.

    The signing of a new partnership treaty between the EU and Russia was blocked by Poland. The government in Warsaw is only willing to vote for such a treaty if Russia lifts its import ban on Polish meat.

    The recent row between Russia and Belarus over oil and gas prices has also not done EU-Russian relations any good. At the beginning of January, Moscow suspended the flow of oil to Belarus, temporarily causing a reduction in supplies to Poland and Germany. Just as a year ago, Russia suspended gas supplies to Ukraine, raising European doubts about the reliability of Russia as a provider of energy. Chancellor Merkel called the Russian move "unacceptable".

    It is high time then for a chat with Mr Putin. He assured his guest that Russia will do everything in its power to fulfil its commitments as a supplier of oil and gas.

    Mr Putin said that Russia was hoping to become less dependent on transit countries such as Ukraine and Belarus. To achieve this, it plans to acquire control over the strategically important pipelines in these countries. In a clear warning to Belarus, Mr Putin declared
    "we say yes to partnership and co-operation, but no to parasitism".
    Meanwhile, Russia and Germany are closely co-operating on the construction of a new pipeline under the Baltic Sea. However, the new pipeline's capacity is not comparable to those of the links via Ukraine and Belarus.

    Russian help
    In Sochi, Mr Putin said he was not against connecting Poland and Sweden to the Baltic Sea pipeline. He also offered Russian help for the construction of extra storage facilities in Germany for Russian natural gas. Such facilities would make Germany a central distribution point in Europe for Russian gas. Mr Putin described the possible move as increasing the EU's energy security.

    The Sochi meeting did not just cover energy. President Putin and Chancellor Merkel also discussed international issues such as the situations in the Middle East and the Balkans. Mr Putin says Kosovo's future status should not be imposed on Serbia from abroad, and that any permanent solution must have the full support of the government in Belgrade.

    Mr Putin believes that, whatever its status turns out to be, the Kosovo solution will serve as a precedent for other regions with similar problems.

    Mr Putin was first and foremost referring to the 'frozen' disputes in the Caucasus, such as those in Abkhazia and South Ossetia; these regions are struggling for independence from Georgia. Moscow holds the view that, if Kosovo is allowed independence, these regions must be given the same choice. However, Mr Putin also warned that such a decision would have consequences for regions in Western Europe, which are pushing for independence.

    Russia: A Belarusian Pawn On The Global Chessboard

    From: RFE/RL
    Sergei Pereslegin
    While policymakers in the EU fret about Russia's reliability as an energy supplier, their counterparts in Russia interpret the conflict with Minsk differently. Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin argue that the rise of oil and gas tariffs for Belarus has more of an economic than political meaning.

    They point out that Russia’s forthcoming entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) requires the Kremlin to raise domestic prices to world market levels by 2011. This is impossible to do without first raising energy-export prices, which is precisely what Russia has been doing -- increasing gas and oil prices for its CIS neighbors.

    However, another group of domestic analysts, many of them nationalist, interpret rising energy export prices -- at least for a customer such as Belarus -- differently. They accuse "Western agents" within the government of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov of undermining the Russia-Belarus Union state agreement signed in 1997. One such critic, Mikhail Remezov, president of the Moscow-based National Strategy Institute, wrote in on 12 January that "the energy conflict makes the building of a Russia-Belarus Union state both impossible and meaningless."

    An Alternative Future

    One of the most provocative analyses of the Russian-Belarusian relationship has been put forth by Sergei Pereslegin, a specialist on alternative future analysis who heads the St. Petersburg-based research center Modeling the Future. Pereslegin, who is reputed to have earned Putin's attention and respect, argues that the Kremlin has in fact revised its entire strategy toward Belarus. Kremlin policymakers may eventually decide that political gains will offset the economic costs of absorbing Belarus.

    Much of Pereslegin's argument can be found in his book "A Do-It-Yourself Guide To Playing On The World Chessboard," published in 2006. The book was intended as a Russian response to Zbigniew Brzezinski's "The Grand Chessboard" of 1997.

    Lukashenka isn't looking at Russia from a position of strength (ITAR-TASS)According to Pereslegin, the Kremlin has refused to fully incorporate Belarus into the Russian Federation -- not because this is not its ultimate goal. Rather, the Kremlin is merely biding its time. Kremlin policymakers believe that Lukashenka's policies are bringing the country to a political and economic dead end. Russia only has to wait for "the fruit to ripen and fall down into its hands."

    Belarus is completely economically and politically dependent on Russia, according to Pereslegin. The Belarusian economy cannot exist independently of Russia's raw materials, which provide energy for Belarus's own industrial production. And Russia provides the only market for these finished products.

    Moreover, cheap Russian oil helps Lukashenka's internationally isolated regime maintain its political stability. Belarus exported and refined annually about 17 million tons of Russian oil, but consumes only 4 million tons. The rest Minsk sells to the West at a market price. The revenues from these sales underwrite Belarus's generous social-welfare programs. In this way, not only Belarus's economic but also its social order depends on Russia.

    Pereslegin also notes that Lukashenka's regime has no "national project" like that of neighboring Ukraine, which has been building its own independent state for more than a decade.

    Belarus's leadership, on the other hand, has relied on tactics without a strategy or a strategic objective, such as an independent state. Lukashenka has backed himself into a tight corner: He has no other option than to push for the quickest union with Russia conditional on the preservation of his own status as president of an "independent Belarus."

    "For the Kremlin it is clear that Belarus eventually cannot avoid joining Russia and the only agenda to discuss is the details of the integration," Pereslegin writes. Pereslegin suggests the Kremlin has in mind only one scenario: full reintegration through the incorporation of all six of Belarus's administrative areas plus Minsk as new oblasts of the Russian Federation. Kremlin policymakers believe that Lukashenka's policies are bringing the country to a political and economic dead end.

    Under this arrangement, Belarus would not even have the same status as the republics of Tatarstan or Bashkortostan. According to Pereslegin, Putin bluntly made this offer to Lukashenka in 2004, who angrily rejected it. "One can understand [Lukashenka's] position, since it would not only mean the inglorious end of the 'Republic of Belarus' but harshly upend the position of the Belarusian elite, including that of Lukashenka himself, " Pereslegin comments.

    But Putin is remaining firm, unmoved by Lukashenka's growing discomfort. According to Pereslegin, Putin knows Belarus has no choice. In fact, Russia will win more concessions the longer it delays the "acquisition" of Belarus. The more time that passes, the more "profitable" the Union Treaty will be for Russia, whose businesses will be able to come in and replace the owners of Belarusian assets.

    Biding Its Time

    At the present time, Russia would pay too high a price to absorb the unreformed, paternalistic economy of Belarus, according to Peresligin. The Russian economy is more open and market oriented than the Belarusian economy, which responds to the decrees of Lukashenka rather than market forces.

    Another problem is that the 10 million-strong Belarusian population has an average annual income lower than that of Russia. Well educated and technically proficient Belarusian workers earn lower wages than their Russian counterparts. They are now employed mostly in the machine-building sector, whose products are exported to eager Russian industrial enterprises.

    Belarusian exports depend heavily on the Russian market (RFE/RL)Full integration could trigger a massive influx of migrants from Belarus to Russia, which could trigger both social tension and a reduction of Belarusian industrial exports to Russia because of labor shortages.

    However, Kremlin policymakers may eventually decide that political gains will offset the economic costs of absorbing Belarus. The Putin government could score a big political success by retaking "lost Russian lands." What's more, Russia-Belarus integration could "create momentum for further integration and political pressure on Ukraine and Baltic states," Pereslegin suggests.

    Pereslegin notes that timing is the critical issue. The conditions have to be right. First and foremost, the resources of the United States and European Union must not be allied against the project. Second, Russia would need to quickly generate additional economic growth from the absorption of Belarus to offset the costs of the incorporation of new territories. These criteria relate not only to Belarus but also to any further efforts to reintegrate former Soviet states.

    These conditions, in Pereslegin's view, do not yet exist, but they are achievable in the medium-term. In the meantime, it will be expedient for Russia to delay formation of the union state, leaving Lukashenka dangling as if over a precipice.

  • From the blogs...

    Pass the Meatballs

    From: TOL Blogs
    Mikhail Khazin: "this whole saga, which lasted for almost a month, first regarding gas and then oil, has had a certain clearly-delineated overtone of theatricality."
    The recent oil and gas row between Russia and Belarus has demonstrated the divisions and differences between the two countries, but at the same time something positive may yet emerge from the present crisis, according to two studio guests on the Russian Mayak radio "Panorama" interview slot on 16 January.

    The guests for the 30-minute discussion chaired by Vladimir Averin were Igor Bartsits, deputy director of the Institute of Scientific Research and Information of the Russian Academy of State Service; and Mikhail Khazin, president of expert consulting company Neokon.


    Khazin noted that "this whole saga, which lasted for almost a month, first regarding gas and then oil, has had a certain clearly-delineated overtone of theatricality." He said there were "many forces external to Russia and Belarus which have an extreme lack of interest in seeing a strengthening of relations between Russia and Belarus."

    "Literally a few days ago," Khazin went on, "the European Union attempted to adopt new rules for the regulation of energy markets."

    "The regulations are highly disadvantageous for Russian exporters and above all Gazprom. And the question that arises is this. Is it mere coincidence that what happened between us and Belarus and the fact that Europe is discussing its rules both happened simultaneously? If it isn't coincidence, I cannot rule out that it could be one element in a very long-term game."


    But Bartsits countered that the "European component in this conflict" was less crucial to Russians than the "rather interesting and important processes" that were taking place in Russian-Belarusian relations.

    "Chief among them, in my view, is the fact that the Belarusian leadership has been given a clear-cut choice: what, at the end of the day, does integration with Russia signify for it?"

    "In other words, what is in the interests of the Belarusian people: integration with Russia and the continuation of economic and political cooperation? Or is the slogan of integration no more than a slogan used by the Belarusian leadership for internal consumption within Belarus, within the republic?

    "So today we see a certain culmination of the logic proposed in the past, as we may recall, by the Russian president, who said the meatballs should be separated from the insects. We won't identify them by name, these insects. [Putin has in the past employed the image of keeping the meatballs separate from the flies with reference to Belarus.] Today we see a compartmentalization of this process, and Belarus must give us a clear-cut reply.

    "Russia's reply is fairly precise and simple: we are interested in integrationist development with Belarus. It is our economic and political priority. But it is obvious that the Belarusian government is failing to discern the changes taking place in Russia. It continues to live according to the realities of the late 1990s, sincerely believing that the Russian leadership will succumb to the same sort of slogans about unification as in the late 1990s. This psychological compensation of Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin's for the destruction of the Soviet Union – that is how I see the signing of the Union Treaty [between Russia and Belarus, in 1999 – TOL] – lacks the same consequences for the present Russian leadership, which is clearly declaring that it is guided by Russian state interests and the interests of Russia's economy and that it bases its actions on signed normative agreements."
    Text continues...

    What changed in Belarus people?-Belarus musician Veronika Kruglova talks about what has changed in Belarusian people lately.

    From: Belarus News and Facts
    Veronika Kruglova
    I start to notice some not so good things. For example, it is terrible tendency: everybody in Belarus has literally manically wish to take away something from other people. To not give the last, but, on the contrary, to take away. Certainly, I feel it all at a subconscious level.

    Why? What in general happens in Belarus? I understand that a life is heavy. But the life is complex everywhere. And when they tell me with barefaced envy: Well, you live in the Europe, you are well! I do not understand, why it is easier there?

    In Europe life is more difficult. It is necessary to plough so much for survive! Musicians live without a central heating, 15 people in an apartment and work round the clock - as waiters, barmen, even on construction to pay for this apartment! In Belarus everything is much more comfortable. Only people are more malicious for some reason.

    When we enter into the train still at the Berlin station, Belarus already begins. Because, when I change clothes in a compartment and I stand, sorry, without trousers, conductor breaks and starts to shout: Your tickets!

    We already knew, how it will be at customs, therefore we have told to daughter at once that at night in the car Santa Claus' and Snow Maidens will come. And they have rushed into the car at 3 o'clock in the morning such Snow Maidens in leather boots - knock keys, roar, include light. It is present nowhere, that at customs by night they awoke so aggressively. Why there are such people in Belarus? Why they are so unsympathetic? I do not understand…

    Russia's Crude Paradox

    From: Sean's Russia Blog
    Sebastian Junger
    As of Friday, the price of oil on the world market stood at $50 a barrel, the lowest it’s been since May 25, 2005. This is both bad and good news for Russia. As the world’s largest oil producer, Russia’s economy and international standing is measured in its ability to pump and sell crude. Russian independence is in relation to the price of oil. For the power elite in Russia the drop in oil prices bodes as a possible bad omen. But not quite yet. According to statements by Russian Development and Trade Minister German Gref, Russia’s Stabilization Fund, which now stands at $88.5 billion as of January 1, will not begin to take a beating until or if oil prices drop below $27 a barrel.

    However, for consumers in Russia, who pay an average of $1.45 for a gallon of gas in Moscow (1 gallon equals 3.785 liters and it is now 38 rubles to the dollar), the drop in oil prices provides more relief to an ever increasing autocentic nation where monthly income averages around $300 a month.

    But Russia’s, let alone the world’s other industrial(izing) nations, fortunes and misfortunes in regard to the price of oil might not be fully in their own hands. In the era of globalization, economic (mis)fortune is determined by the strength of the vast economic web that spans to every corner of the globe. Russian domestic economic policy is merely an afterthought when local conflicts in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East can veer the global economic rudder. The power of “peripheral nations” to affect the economic stability of “core nations” is a result of what analysts call the “resource curse.” Impoverished nations who have oil and gas as their sole economic resource are also some of the most politically unstable, making them an increasing factor in determining the economic future of the world’s powerhouses.

    Nothing points to this fact more than Sebastian Junger’s excellent article “Blood Oil” in the most recent issue of Vanity Fair. Junger argues that the world’s oil prices could potentially be held hostage by small militant groups like Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. Since January 2006, MEND has intensified attacks on Nigerian oil pipelines and infrastructure and has repeatedly kidnapped oil workers. The effect of one attack on a Shell oil field in early 2006 resulted “in roughly 250,000-barrel-a-day drop in Nigerian oil production and a temporary bump in world oil prices.” The group’s most recent incident occurred Sunday, when MEND members hijacked a cargo ship and took 24 foreign nationals hostage. It is too early to tell if this attack will have an impact on the price of oil when markets open on Monday.

    The threat of small power, Junger argues, can have nightmarish economic affects. In one scenario hypothesized by the Oil ShockWave conference:

    Near-simultaneous terrorist attacks on oil infrastructure around the world could easily send prices to $120 a barrel, and those prices, if sustained for more than a few weeks, would cascade disastrously through the American economy.

    Gasoline and heating oil would rise to nearly $5 a gallon, which would force the median American family to spend 16 percent of its income on gas and oil—more than double the current amount. Transportation costs would rise to the point where many freight companies would have to raise prices dramatically, cancel services, or declare bankruptcy. Fewer goods would be transported to fewer buyers—who would have less money anyway—so the economy would start to slow down. A slow economy would, in turn, force yet more industries to lay off workers or shut their doors. All this could easily trigger a recession.

    Granted, by Oil ShockWave’s estimation the American economy would most likely be directly affected by such attacks. As of November 2006, the United States imports 10,126,000 barrels of oil a day, 919,000 of which comes from Nigeria and 1, 444,000 from Saudi Arabia. But suffice to say, a slump in the American economy would send shockwaves around the world.

    How would regional conflicts affect Russia? If the last year is any indication, the economic prognosis of high oil prices is good for Putin’s state. The war in Iraq, political tension and instability in the Middle East and West Africa, and ecological disasters like Hurricane Katrina has produced a boom for Russia. The macroeconomic success of the Putin Administration is funded by petrodollars. This is not to say that as the world largest oil exporter, global instability is only good for Russia. Multinational oil conglomerates have hardly complained about rising oil prices. At the bottom line, the real beneficiaries of high energy costs are the global elite.

    Still, the fact that 60 percent of Russia’s budget comes from oil and gas revenues makes it increasingly hostage to political (in)stability around the world. While, say, attacks by Nigerian militants in the Niger Delta might spike oil prices to Russia’s benefit, “at the same time,” writes Igor Nikolayev, “Russia is gradually becoming integrated into the international economic community. That means it is important to take into account economic-growth trends in industrial nations and emerging markets, the volatility of the world’s major currencies, and the movement of leading stock-market indices, among other factors.”

    Thus, a paradox. Economic forecasters in the Kremlin are hedging their bets that oil prices will remain around $61 a barrel for 2007. From this estimate they are predicting that the Russian economy will show a 4.8-4.9% percent growth rate from 2007-2009. High oil prices equal a continued economic boom.

    Yet, the maintenance of high oil prices comes at, albeit a long term cost. First, prices will rise at home, cutting into household and personal incomes creating dissatisfaction among the population. This is possibly the least threatening outcome since the Kremlin hardly responds to domestic political pressure. Second, high oil prices will raise tensions between Russia and importer regions like the European Union and its near abroad—Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia. It is no surprise that questions about Russia’s “reliability” come exactly when prices are so high that it gives Russia extra muscle against its customers. Nor is it strange that Russia’s problems with its near abroad have come when energy has become an effective political weapon against its former satellites. The cost of high prices here can potentially be costly, but that cost is more in relation to wider geopolitical struggles. If the English language media is any indication, Russia’s energy supremacy and its willingness to wield it have inaugurated a new Cold War. Third, and perhaps most costly, is that high oil prices resulting from geopolitical instability only hurt Russia in the long term, especially if its economic fate beyond petrodollars is increasingly tied with the economies of the United States, Europe, and East Asia. The Russian state might continue the fantasy that petrodollars can maintain its national sovereignty, but that may one day become a fetter on its economic solvency.

    Hence Russia’s crude paradox. Either way you cut it, in the long run oil is more a curse than a blessing.

  • Sport...

    Late rally helps Egypt win

    From: Gulf Times
    Belarus coach Yury Kurnenin: "We still have a chance to reach the last four if our players can improve on their fitness levels,"
    EGYPT staged a late rally to overpower Belarus 2-0 in the sixth Under-23 International friendly football tournament at the Qatar Sports Club yesterday.
    Substitutes Abdalla Shahat Ibrahim (69th) and Reda Mohamed El Weishy (87th) were the goal-getters for the winners in the only Group 'B' match of the day.

    In the game which came alive only in the latter half, Egypt were helped along by two opportunistic strikes by their substitutes after a mundane opening session. With the first half being confined largely to midfield exchanges barring for failed goalbound forays by both teams, the timely substitutions by Egypt's Portuguese coach Edward Manuel Vinchada to bring on Abdalla Shahat and Reda Mohamed to replace captain Karim Aly Mohammed and Mohamed Ragab proved crucial. The change of personnel added pace and energy to Egypt's frontline against the tiring Belarussians, as both the players made the most of the lapses in the rival defence and give their team victory.

    Egypt coach Edward Manuel attributed the victory to the superior display by his team in the second half.
    "The first game is always a special one as no team would like to lose. The win is thus a good sign and we hope to make the semis," he said.
    "Though both teams had scoring opportunities in the second half our players capitalised on the chances they got in the match.

    "Our players improved their confidence levels and performance as the game wore on. The two substitutes too did a wonderful job," he added.

    "We will aim to win the title but for now we will take one match at a time."

    Belarus coach Yury Kurnenin blamed the defeat on his players' inability to score goals in the second half.
    "The main season is yet to start in our country and the players are struggling for fitness," he said.
    "Our players are very much younger than our rivals and they were also hampered by their inability to summon sufficient energy in the second half.

    "We still have a chance to reach the last four if our players can improve on their fitness levels," he added.

  • Sport briefs...

  • Olga Vasiljonok ran the fastest time of the day on Monday to lead Belarus towards the victory of the women's 3x5km relay of the cross-country event at the Winter Universiade here, about 100km west to Turin. Vasiljonok, who timed 10 minutes and 42.9 seconds on the last leg, overtook Russia and Poland in the last 1,000 meters to win the gold medal with a total time of 34:39.9.

  • Darya Domracheva of Belarus conquered Sunday the women's 7.5km sprint event by beating a twin of Ukraine at the Winter Unverisiade.
    Domracheva's winning time was 25 minutes and 7.7 seconds, with Valj Semerenko finishing second on 25:27.7 and her sister Vita on third by 25:32.3. "It was really exciting to compete in the Universiade," Domracheva said. "The snow gave me some troubles, but I had fun. During the Universiade you can breathe a very special and young atmosphere. I am glad to be part of it."

  • Endnote...

    Saddam: Lukashenko to be appointed to the post of Prime Minister of Russia

    From: Telkagraph
    Putin and Lukashenka: Is there a deal going on?
    Duma Deputy Nikolai Ali (former member of the LDPR), told a press conference in Moscow, that "credible sources" provided him with information on the readiness of Belarusian President to agree to a Federal State with Russia in exchange for the post of head of government (Prime Minister) of the Russian Federation.

    "So far, the elite two states are unable to agree among themselves, and the idea of the federal state will be frozen" says Nikolai Saddam. Russian deputy believes that the integration of the two countries would not be held until 2008, has not yet held elections for the presidency of Russia.

    "Until that time, the draft federal state will be able to light lamps and stomping on the ground," said Nikolai Saddam.

    According to the Russian deputy, the Russian authorities could invite the President of Belarus to a unification of the two countries, in a such a way that Belarus would be "in the Russian Empire" with the special rights that Alexander Lukashenko could recieve the post of Prime Minister of Russia without the right to be elected to the presidency of the Union State.

    Saddam will be today, the 22 January, outside of the embassy of Belarus in Russia to picket in support of the integration of the two countries.

    However, Duma member said : "Against us is a plot." As the building Belarusian dippresentativestwa moved forces detained while sanctioned event.