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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Belarus takes Warsaw, Poland is wiped off the map; no casualties reported as invasion takes all of eight hours.

Belarus Invades Poland; EU does nothing to stop it.

Exclusive from the BEING HAD Times
Lukashenka: If I knew it would have been this easy, I would have done it long ago
The military forces of the Republic of Belarus crashed through the border into Poland and took Warsaw within eight hours yesterday. In a startling turn of events, the entire country of Poland has now been annexed to be a part of Belarus.

"It wasn't really all that hard to do," Said Alexander Lukashenka, president of Belarus and the lands formerly known as Poland "We simply offered a few rubles to some of the high ups in the Polish military and they agreed to look the other way. And besides, there were only 67 Polaks remaining anyway. All the rest had long ago run away. C'mon, tell me we can't handle 67 Polaks!"

Sergei Sidorski, prime minister of Belarus said that the idea came from watching CNN's coverage of the Israeli invasion of Southern Lebanon.

"We were sitting around one day and the thought struck us: They're right; Enough is enough. A man can't even hear himself think around here with all of the noise those guys make. So we called Fidel and he agreed that it was probably time to do something about it and so we did. Best idea we ever had. Much quieter now. Much…"

But perhaps the most startling aspect of this non-violent military invasion is that neither the EU nor any individual European country offered even the slightest assistance in the fight.

"They were never really Europeans." said Tony Blair, prime minister of Great Britain, "We just pretended to let them in to do something about the price of plumbing services. These blokes will come out at any hour of the day or night and work on the cheap as well. What, do you think when someone thinks of going to Europe for holiday they're speaking of bloody Poland? Come on!"

"We were never in favor of their returning to the world anyway." said president Horst Köhler of Germany, "We thought we had done away with them in the 1700s. When they managed to squirm back on the map, we wiped them out in four days. I think it is better this way."

Poland's twin leaders capitulated quickly to the invasion as per Polish tradition. And also as per Polish tradition, were tried and convicted of war crimes quickly in a Polish court in which there was complete agreement between judge, prosecution and defense as to the outcome before the trial even started. Both twins were sentenced to public spanking. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin brother of former president Lech is said to have enjoyed it quite a bit.

Anatoly Lebedko, fiery leader of the Polish opposition party has been granted title of governor over the lands formerly known as Poland.

"It was an easy choice." said President Lukashenko, "He likes the Polaks and he needed something to do to help keep him out of trouble."

Alexander Milinkevich, leader of the combined democratic opposition was unavailable for comment and is said to be vacationing on his estate in the South of France. A member of Milinkevich's election campaign, now living on public relief, told the BHTimes that Milinkevich had recently received some large amount of money from somewhere.

"He just jumped up in the air, said yahoo! and took a cab straight to the airport." said the ragged former politico, "We knew he was into something, but we at least thought he would share."

Public opinion concerning the takeover from inside Poland was surprising.

"It's about time!" Quipped Boleslawa Gryczdzhwytscoski, a truck driver from Wroclaw, "We never really wanted to be in the EU. We knew we had it good under the Soviets. We just said all that bad stuff about them because they made us. Thank God…uh…that is to say, really, thanks for coming back!"

"News from the former Poland is on the way," Said the director of the Belta News Services, "and certainly there is nothing to fear. From now on there will be only good news about happy subjects and Poland will be free of scandal and corruption, just as it should be."

When asked whether the complete destruction of Poland would mean the end of the BEING HAD Blog, Adam Goodman quipped:

"Yea, that would be enough."
  • Note: April Fools...

  • From the Top...
  • #191

    President will make official visit to Venezuela soon, Hugo Chavez will come to Belarus afterwards

    From: Belta
    Alexander Lukashenko answering the reporters' questions during his visit to Minsk Vegetable Factory
    In the near future president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko will make an official visit to Venezuela and president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Hugo Chavez will visit Belarus later in the year, the presidential press-service told BelTA after president Alexander Lukashenko held a working meeting with Viktor Sheiman, the state secretary of the Security Council of Belarus and co-chairman of the Belarusian-Venezuelan joint high-level commission.

    Viktor Sheiman has informed the president about the results of the recent governmental visit to Venezuela.

    In the course of the visit, the Belarusian delegation signed a total of 24 agreements, contracts and memoranda. Under the contracts, Belarus will sell tractors, trucks, road-building equipment, refrigerators and food to Venezuela. The parties reached agreements on cooperation in agriculture, machine-building. For example, a decision was taken to start assembling some types of Belarusian equipment in Venezuela.

    Under an agreement with Hugo Chavez, Venezuela will provide Belarus with land plots with well-developed oil production infrastructure where Belarus will be able to extract no less than 2 million tons of oil every year beginning 2008.

    Belarusian delegation reached an agreement that Belarusian specialists would construct a brick factory in Venezuela with the annual capacity of no fewer than 100 million bricks, and a reinforced concrete structures factory.

    The parties also discussed opportunities for cooperation in the international arena. The countries share positions on the majority of urgent international political issues, Viktor Sheiman said.

    The president has said Belarus and Venezuela have developed great mutual trust in all issues of bilateral interaction.

    In a related story, Belarus' state-owned Belarusneft has already begun oil-prospecting work in Venezuela, according to Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Syamashka.

    "The Belarusian side has received the so-called Junin-1 block for carrying out prospecting and certification work," he said. "It is a promising block in the basin of the Orinoco River. Huge volumes of oil can be extracted there in the future. It will be handed over to the Belarusian side for further development."

    The comments were reported by Belarusian radio Thursday.

    Syamashka said production plans may be devised by the end of this year.

    Starting in 2008, Belarus plans to extract at least 2 million tons of oil annually in Venezuela, South America's No. 1 producer.

    A joint venture for oil extraction will be set up in Venezuela under deals signed between the two sides.

    The Oil and Gas Journal estimates that Venezuela, the world's No. 8 net oil exporter, had 79.7 billion barrels of proven conventional oil reserves.

    Belarus government promises to simplify business-regulating administrative procedures to attract foriegn investment

    From: Belta
    The Belarusian government has prepared a draft resolution meant to improve and simplify administrative procedures. The step is believed to contribute to the investment attractiveness of the country, said Belarus prime minister Sergei Sidorskiy summing up results of today’s session of the Foreign Investment Advisory Council.

    He noted, in the near future Belarus will pass several other legal acts to foster business development. “We will remove red-tape barriers hampering investors in buying land for building new facilities in Belarusian towns”, said Sergei Sidorskiy. “You can build hotels, enterprises instead of tailing officials requesting permissions. These norms are regulated by the presidential decree on the allocation of ineffectively used land”. A step has been made to promote effective utilisation of unfinished facilities. Investors can buy them for one basic amount, informed the prime minister.

    According to him, foreign investors have been expressing ever stronger interest in Belarus lately. The interest has been fuelled by economic and social stability in Belarus and by the presence of highly-qualified specialists in this sphere.

    At the same time, the premier has acknowledged Belarus faces serious problems connected with the increase in energy prices. However, regardless of the difficulties, economic entities have been meeting the targets set out by the government, the premier added. Belarus has taken measures to promote innovations. For example, over 100 new high-tech companies and more than 400 new manufactures will be opened in Belarus.

    According to the premier, the government has set a task to extensively use new technologies, this also concerns small and medium-size companies. By this means Belarus can modernize its production facilities rather quickly. The state innovation-based development programme for 2007-2010 provides for specific projects which implementation requires investment resources. “We have opened a field for business. Belarus has created a transparent scheme for investment activities, and Belarus offers investment projects in all economy branches,” Sergei Sidorskiy added.

    The golden share institution does not hamper foreign investors working in Belarus. The prime minister reminded, the application of the golden share in the country’s banking industry had been banned.

    On the whole, the prime minister underlined, Belarus is not the only country to have such an instrument. “There are golden shares in other civilised countries, which use them as an instrument for improving the effectiveness of property management”. Sergei Sidorskiy underlined, in Belarus the golden share is used very reasonably, an exhaustive list of circumstances, under which the golden share can be enforced, has been compiled. As an example the premier referred to OAO Alesya, which had been driven to bankruptcy by its owner. After the golden share was introduced, the company has been refitted and mastered new technologies. “We have no example of the poor application of the golden share right”, added the prime minister. He noted, the golden share is not used in joint-stock companies with no state-owned shares.

    Economy minister Nikolai Zaichenko said, in Belarus the golden share had never been used in a company with foreign investments. “The golden share has been used eight times only: at four national companies and four municipal ones. It is less than one hundredth of one percent of the number of joint-stock companies in Belarus”, he said. Meanwhile, speaking about the possibility of the golden share being cancelled, Nikolai Zaichenko said, “We will think about it”.

    Belarus has been receiving loan offerings from various European banks. The obtaining of a sovereign credit rating will be of great support for Belarus in its activity in the international lending market, he added.

    Today the sum of Belarus’ foreign debt is $700 million. The government has been entitled to attract up to $2 billion of outside resources on its own, he added

    The government of Belarus has taken loans from the Russian Federation twice. They have already been fully paid off.

    Major Belarusian banks also take foreign loans today. “They have individual credit ratings what helps them successfully attract resources,” the head of the Belarusian government said.

    The cost of companies put up for privatisation in Belarus will be determined taking into account their price inside the country and trends in oil prices. Belarus is open to the idea of privatisation of its big manufacturing enterprises. Every year the country adopts a privatisation programme. “We see what companies badly need foreign and domestic investments and put them up for privatisation,” he said.

    Belarus welcomes any investor who would be willing to come and work in this country. But companies will be sold at their real market price only. This will hang on both inside and outside factors. In this respect he cited the recent growth in oil prices which have doubled in the world market. Of course, this factor influences the market price of Belarusian companies and “naturally, the capitalisation of our plants grows”, he noted.

    Anyone who would like to participate in privatisation of Belarusian companies should take into account for afore-mentioned conditions, he said. A foreign investor can participate in the privatisation of Belarusian companies paying their market price only. “It is to state how much our companies cost in the market that we have capitalised our industry. They cost as much as many products they manufacture and as much the whole business costs,” he added. “We have abandoned the stage of privatisation when we could sell the companies at the price of its machinery and equipment. Today they main thing in this process is the cost of business. It is to modernise our companies that we have invested money in them for,” the government leader said.

    Many factories have been investing $100-300 million every year into their upgrade programmes. This is why their capitalisation is rather high.

    Sergei Sidorskiy has categorically rejected any possible propositions concerning selling Belarusian factories for peanuts. “This will not happen, even if we are forced to this step,” he said.

    Foreign investors in small towns will get preferences for three years. He noted, after the term expires, the tax remissions for investors in provinces may be extended if the process goes smoothly. The prime minister stated, Belarus is interested in foreign investors working in small and medium towns of the country, in their developing businesses there, manufacturing specific commodities. The government has named a list of commodities the country needs, including import-substituting commodities, which will be produced in provinces. The list of commodities is extensive and varies from consumer goods to industrial equipment. The government will also welcome the development of hi-tech production facilities, information technologies, processing industries, and pharmaceutical enterprises. Such companies will work to secure the future of our economy and we will do our best to further their development, said the Belarusian head of government.

    Sergei Sidorskiy noted, the Belarusian environment for investors is translucent, regulations have a direct effect.

    “It is not for the sake of investments that Belarus attracts investments,” he added. The village revival programme is in progress in Belarus; small and medium-size towns are developing their manufacturing base. In this respect, Belarus welcomes foreign investors in the sphere of high-technologies, in various branches of economy, for example, in agriculture, pharmaceutical and processing industries, he added.

    One foreign company is willing to invest $500 million in the creation of a tech-park in the Belarusian High-Tech Park. In May, this project will be analysed in details, Sergei Sidorskiy said.

    Latvia claims compensation from Belarus for river pollution

    From: RIA Novosti and IHT
    Evening by the Daugava River. by Konrad Ugbans 1967.
    Latvia will demand compensation from Belarus for polluting the Daugava River with oil derivatives and endangering the country's environment, the Latvian prime minister said Friday.

    About 100 tons of diesel fuel spilled into the Western Dvina River and reached Latvian territory following an oil pipeline rupture in Belarus.

    "The Environment Ministry was directed to assess the environmental damage and estimate the cost of a clean-up operation," Aigars Kalvitis said, adding that the Belarusian government would then be asked to foot the bill.

    Latvian emergency services had to work for about a week to contain the oil slick and stop it from reaching the capital Riga.

    Latvian authorities believe the Belarusian side understated the scale of the accident, since the oil slick extended over 100 kilometers (60 miles) downstream, not 10 kilometers (six miles) as Belarus reported.

    Latvia has struggled to contain an oil spill in its central river, the Daugava, that occurred as a result of a pipeline rupture in Belarus, officials said Thursday.

    Guntis Pukitis, the Environment Ministry's state secretary, said that oil was flowing into Latvia from Belarus. The spill now stretches 150 kilometers (90 miles) to Jekabpils in central Latvia, he said.

    He added that Belarusian officials had informed the Latvian ministry that they had the origin of the spill — the Unecha-Ventspils oil products pipeline in northern Belarus — under control.

    But as the Daugava is wide and the current is fast, workers are struggling to stretch the booms across the river, Pukitis said.

    "The size of the spill is constantly fluctuating," he said. "The main concern is that the leakage will continue longer than we predicted initially."

    A ruptured Russian-owned pipeline spilled about 100 metric tons (110 U.S. tons) of diesel oil into a northern Belarusian river on Friday but was only announced by authorities there on Monday.

    Pukitis said a group of Latvian officials were going to Belarus to examine the spill.

    "Belarus is cooperating — we believe that they did everything possible — but the exchange of information could have been better," Pukitis said.

    The clean-up effort is now international, as Estonia has dispatched six volunteer workers and Sweden has sent booms that will be stretched across the Daugava, he said.

    Belarus begins evacuation of its citizens from Somalia

    From: Itar Tass
    Belarus has begun a rescue operation to evacuate its citizens from Somalia, Belarussian Foreign Ministry’s press service said.

    A total of ten Belarussians were taken from the Somali capital Mogadisho to the Balidoogle military base airfield Thursday by a convoy of troops of the African Union.

    African Union peacekeepers also delivered there the bodies of eleven Belarussians who died March 23 in a crash of the Ilyushin-76 cargo jet belonging to the Belarussian airline Transaviaexport.

    At Balidoogle, the Belarussian citizens got aboard a jet of the Russian airline Continental and left for the Persian Gulf.

    The jet is expected to make two stopovers for refueling – in Yemen and Oman – and to land in Minsk on the morning of Friday, March 30.

    Transaviaexport jets did air haulage in Somalia under the UN Security Council’s auspices.

    In the first incident involving its jets, an Ilyushin-76 came under fire from the ground while landing at Mogadisho airport March 9. It caught blaze because of shelling but the crew managed to land and no one aboard suffered.

    Another Ilyushin-76 was sent on a mission from Minsk to dismantle equipment on the damaged jet. March 23, it took off from the airport on a return flight.

    While on the takeoff, the jet also underwent shelling from the ground and then crashed. All the eleven people aboard – seven crewmembers and four engineering staff – died in the accident.

    Two biofuel plants to start operation in Belarus this year

    From: Check BioTech
    Two plants that will make environmentally friendly fuel from plants are to start operation in Babruysk, Mahilyow region, and Hrodna this year, Vasil Pawlowski, deputy minister of agriculture, told reporters in Minsk on Wednesday.

    One such plant already operates in Navayelnya, Hrodna region.

    "The entire world is switching to environmentally friendly fuel. In addition, we need to look for other energy sources because of increasing oil and diesel fuel prices," Mr. Pawlowski said.

    The official noted that domestic plants could use locally grown rape crops to make bio-ethanol. Some 147,000 tons of rape seeds was produced in the country the previous year. The government projects this year's yield to increase to 200,000 tons this year and to 600,000 tons by 2010.

    Some experts raise objections to the development of biofuels made by producing ethanol, an alcohol fuel made from maize, sugar cane, or other plant matter. They argue that it would increase pressure on valuable arable land and might push food prices up. They also say that using ethanol rather than gasoline reduces total emissions of carbon dioxide by only about 13 percent because of the pollution caused by the production process. They also say that the grain required to fill the gasoline tank of some cars with ethanol is sufficient to feed one person per year.
  • For a bit more on BioFuels, see HERE

    Slovakia to support Belarus in accessing to WTO

    From: NLIPRB
    Slovakia is ready to render assistance to Belarus in accessing to the World Trade Organization. This intention was articulated during Belarusian-Slovak ministerial consultations in Bratislava on March 28. The Belarusian delegation is headed by deputy foreign minister Valery Voronetsky, the Slovak side is headed by political director of the Slovak foreign ministry Miroslav Lajcak.

    Issues on Belarus’ possible expulsion from the EU preferential system (the decision may come into force in June 2007) were discussed as well, Valery Voronetsky told BelTA.

    The Belarusian side thanked the Slovak counterparts for support in this issue and hoped that this attitude would not change.

    Slovakia also will urge reduction of the Schengen visa fees for Belarusian citizens.

    “We agreed to make specific steps to settle the issue in favor of Belarus,” Valery Voronetsky told BelTA. In his words, the Slovak party is ready to support Belarus which insists that the cost of visas for Belarusians after Slovakia signs the Schengen agreement (in January 1, 2008) be not higher than that for Russians and Ukrainians.

    Valery Voronetsky stressed that similar negotiations were held with other countries planning to sign the Schengen agreement, namely Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary. “We will negotiate not only with the new EU members, but also with the EU founding countries,” Valery Voronetsky added.

    He also noted that the cost of visas is reduced on mutual basis that is why not only Belarusians will benefit from the reduction of visa fees.

    Belarus: grains sowings cover one third of planned acreage

    From: AgroMarket
    Rape seed flowers
    According to Ministry of Agriculture and Food of Belarus, sowings of spring grains covered 372.400 ha, that is one third of the total planned sowing area.

    The reasons for increasing of sowing campaign speed are concentration of enterprises on soil preparation for sowing campaign, receiving of fuel and sowing equipment. In addition, unfavorable weather conditions without precipitations lead to soil drying, thus enterprises try to finish sowing campaign in proper time for seeds growing in favorable conditions.

    According to Ministry of Agriculture and Food, by March 29 they prepared 492.000 ha for sowing, that is 21% of the total sowing acreage.

    In addition, farmers continue additional fertilizing of winter grains and winter rapeseeds. According to calculations of Ministry, they should finish the first additional fertilizing by April 1.

    Russia does not deny stabilization loan to Belarus, Ambassador Surikov says

    From: Naveny
    Russia does not refuse to provide a stabilization loan for Belarus, Ambassador Aleksandr Surikov said at Friday's news conference in Minsk.

    "One and a half billion dollars was officially requested," said Mr. Surikov. "However, media outlets now speak of a billion. The cash deficiency for purchasing gas and oil has apparently decreased."

    The ambassador emphasized the need "to work" to obtain the loan. According to him, it is above all necessary to "substantiate the repayment of the loan." "There could be the government's guarantees or the repayment of the loan could be guaranteed by a property complex. Words of honor don't work here," Mr. Surikov said, stressing that Russia's budgetary loan could be issued for one year at an interest rate of one-fourth of the central bank's rate. "There also could be bank stabilization loans," he added.

    On February 22, the Belarusian government asked Moscow for a $1.5-billion stabilization loan, citing the need to plug holes in the budget caused by a hike in energy prices. A week later, Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said that Moscow would decide on granting the requested loan within two months.

    Moldovan MPs protest establishment of company for wine exports to Belarus

    From: Naveny
    The standing committee on agriculture and food-processing industry in the Moldovan parliament has protested against the recent establishment of a Belarusian-Moldovan company that will export wine to Belarus.

    The company was set up by the Moldovan Agrovin Bulboaca wine producing company and the Belarusian State Food Industry Concern (Beldzyarzhharchpram) in an attempt to resume wine supplies to Belarus that halted in late 2006. The proposal to establish such a company was put forward by the Moldova-Vin winemaking department of the Moldovan agriculture ministry.

    Earlier reports had it that Maldbelvin had already concluded supply contracts and planned to export some 100,000 decaliters of wine material a month.

    A member of the parliamentary committee told BelaPAN that the lawmakers opposed the conditions on which the joint company had been set up.

    He said that they feared that the enterprise would "monopolize" the export trade in wine with Belarus. "This violates the constitutional rights of other producers and the principle of free competition that has been declared in Moldova," he added.

    The Moldovan Union of Wine Producers and Exporters also expressed concern about the establishment of Maldbelvin, local media outlets reported. They quoted the head of the union, Georgy Kozub as saying that the joint company wanted to sell wine at a price of $0.40 per liter. "After paying excise and value-added tax, Moldovan producers will have $0.28 left for one liter, which is less than a kilogram of grape costs," Mr. Kozub said.

    Kosher food in Pinsk for Passover

    From: Karlin Gazette
    A stream of babushkas and dadushkas were seen coming from the Beis Aharon synagogue in Pinsk this morning with bags filled with chicken, matzo, cooking oil, coco, grape juice and mayonnaise, all kosher for Passover. The food was all brought in especially to make kosher food available for the Jewish Community in Pinsk.

    "The price was very good for the chicken." remarked one grandma, a stout plastic shopping bag in each hand. "It costs much less than at the market. But it has so much fat! I have never seen such a fat chicken!"

    According to R' Moshe Fhima, the head of project for the Yad Yisroel Jewish outreach organization in Pinsk, 20,000 boxes of Matzo for the Passover celebration has been brought in to Belarus. In addition, over 10 tones of kosher foods were delivered to 13 communities around the country. Yad Yisroel, which also operates two schools for Jewish children in Pinsk, has been shipping in food for Passover every year so that the Jewish communities of the country have a chance to observe the mitzvah of only eating unleavened bread during the eight day holiday.

    "This is not an inexpensive project." Said the R' Fhima, who has been working in Pinsk for seven years now. "We make all of the food available at or below Belarusian prices so people here can afford it, plus we had to pay thousands of dollars in taxes at the borders just to bring the food in legally. However it is always worth it. What really sets this year off as being special is that this is the first year that it is possible to really do it right. The Jews of Pinsk never had the chance under the former communist regime to even practice Judaism openly. Now though, if a family really wants to be kosher, they can, it's possible."

    This year over a hundred foreign guests including 51 students from Israel, Germany, the US and Great Brittan have come to Pinsk to participate in the celebration. Four seders have been planned for the Beis Aharon synagogue and 30 more throughout the region. Also this year 21 families have committed to making their homes kosher, including the selling and burning of chametz, for the first time.

    "We never had this before." said Marrat Dournopieka, a retired dentist and a member of the synagogue's minion. "In the old days we were never allowed to even know. Passover is a mitzvah! This is what being Jewish is all about."

    Also returning to town this year is R' Yohannon Berman. R' Berman was responsible for the all of the original ground work for recovering and rebuilding the Beis Aharon synagogue and was also at the center of the reestablishment of the Jewish community in the city. This year marks the 17th year in a row R' Berman has been in Pinsk to celebrate Passover.

    "Passover in Pinsk feels to me as if I am experiencing first hand the Jews' exodus from Egypt. It's a rebirth here now, just as it was then for the whole Jewish Nation." Said R' Berman who now lives in New York and manages Z Berman Jewish Books. "I remember my first year here. We managed to get together a minion of exactly 10 Jews and I asked them who could we get to come to a seder. One looked at the other and they talked it out and eventually, 150 people came to participate. Later we had over 600."

    Long gone are the days when observing Jewish tradition could mean a visit from the authorities. This year's first sedar starts Monday at sundown at the Beis Aharon synagogue. Seders will also be held at both the girl's and boy's schools. As these words are being written Jewish families all over Pinsk are cleaning and kashering their homes in preparation for Passover, some for the first time and others with the aim of simply doing these mitzvahs perfectly. The celebration, commemorating the Jews' exodus from Egypt continues on for eight days.

  • Around the region...

    Migrants banned to sell at Russia’s markets as of April 1

    From: Itar Tass
    Foreign citizens will have no right to sell at Russia’s markets and retail outlets as of April 1.

    Late last year laws regulating relations in migration policy, including the government’s decree on quotas for foreign workforce for 2007 came into force.

    As of January 15 migrants from CIS member-states, who came to Russia by visafree rules, were banned to work in retail trade of alcohol, including beer, and of pharmaceuticals.

    Before April 1 the number of migrant workers at Russian markets was reduced to 40 percent of the total number of workforce, but beginning from this day only Russian citizens will have the right to be employed on these jobs.

    The Russian Federal Migration Service deputy head Vyacheslav Postavnin said migrants have the right to work on Russia’s markets “as loaders, cleaners, wholesalers, managers or to take workplaces on lease.”

    Taking such steps the authorities plan to drastically upgrade management of migration flows and ensure compliance with the effective laws, including protection of undeniable rights of migrants themselves.

    Postavnin pointed out that amendments to the legislation were aimed at increasing the number of legal migrants.

    “The law met expectations – people really began to go out of shadow, it’s very good,” he said.

    Over 240,000 migrant workers have been registered in migration offices of Moscow alone since January 15. Around of 160,000 work permits have already been issued since.

    The Federal Migration Service reiterated that a migrant worker, who comes to Russia from a visaless country, just has to receive a migration card upon his arrival. In a train or plane a migrant is given a form to be filled in and marked by border guards.

    “Having this migration card, an application, a passport and 1,000 roubles (around 35 US dollars), a foreign worker will get a work permit in ten days. During 30 days he/she should bring to the migration office a health certificate,” Postavnin said.

    Federal Migration Service chief Konstantin Romodanovsky said last year 1.2 million legal migrants worked in Russia, up by 64 percent as against 2005.

    According to the Russian federal state statistics service, most migrants are employed in Russia’s trade and construction sectors.

    Romodanovsky believes that the number of legal migrants continues to grow.

    But he expressed concern over slow creation of a common migration control system in Russia.

    He said citing the Federal Security Service’s estimates around 22 million migrants, mainly from the CIS, come to Russia a year. Experts say at present, there are 10 million illegal migrants in Russia.

    Following 'tape scandal', Poles lose trust in the Left, says poll

    Poles are losing trust in the left of the political scene, following last week's revelation of the tapes recorded secretly by Aleksander Gudzowaty, a businessmen closely connected with the post-communist leftist politicians. This is according to a public opinion poll published by one of Poland's major public opinion researchers, TNS OBOP.
    66% of respondents have said that the tapes have discredited former post-communist Prime Minister Józef Oleksy, 52% have said that they have discredit former post-communist president Aleksander Kwasniewski and 42% feel that the tapes have damaged the image of the whole Democratic Left Alliance party.

    On the tapes, Poland's former Prime Minister Józef Oleksy of the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance party has been recorded as suggesting in a private conversation, that prominent leftist politicians, including Poland's former president Aleksander Kwasniewski, have been involved in large scale corruption.

    The revelation of the tapes has been widely commented and caused confusion on the left of the political scene. Poland's former president, post-communist Aleksander Kwasniewski, who planned a comeback to politics has now been discredited, say 52% of the respondents in the recent poll.

    Ukrainians attend rallies amid political standoff

    From: St Petersburg Times
    Tens of thousands of demonstrators called on Ukraine's president Saturday to defeat a challenge from the rival prime minister by dissolving parliament and calling new elections, a move that could throw the ex-Soviet republic into crisis.

    A smaller rally supported the prime minister.

    President Viktor Yushchenko accused Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych of trying to usurp power by recruiting lawmakers allied with the president. Yushchenko told a party conference that if the situation did not change, "I will sign the decree to dissolve parliament."

    The party passed a resolution appealing to the president to dissolve parliament, and more than 70,000 supporters waving flags and banners rallied on Kiev's Independence Square, the heart of the 2004 Orange Revolution mass protests that ushered Yushchenko, who calls for closer ties to the European Union and NATO, into power.

    About 20,000 supporters of Yanukovych, an ally of Russia, protested in a nearby square.

    Dissolving parliament could spark a crisis, particularly if Yanukovych's coalition - which denies Yushchenko's allegations and argues there is no constitutional basis to dissolve parliament - refuses to abide by the president's decision. But if Yushchenko backs down, he could find himself politically weakened and isolated.

    "It is not the right of the president (to dissolve parliament), it is his obligation," said former Orange Revolution leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who called the demonstrators to Independence Square to press for the dissolution of parliament.

    The standoff arose after 11 lawmakers allied with the president defected to Yanukovych's coalition, in violation of a new law that compels lawmakers to remain with the party they belonged to during the election.

    Yanukovych now has the support of 260 lawmakers in the 450-seat house, and his party has suggested they will soon reach 300 - enough to overturn presidential vetoes and make changes to the constitution.

    Police in bullet-resistant vests manned barricades separating the rival rallies.

    "I'm here to support Yanukovych. He's a true patriot and we've seen success," said retiree Valentine Ivanenko, 69. "Pensions have gone up. Industry is working."

    Yushchenko accused Yanukovych's parliamentary majority of violating the constitution by taking away presidential powers and failing to fulfill a unity agreement that Yanukovych signed before Yushchenko agreed to accept him as premier.

    In a related story by Interfax, Leader of the People's Self- Defense movement Yuriy Lutsenko has said that the rally staged by the united opposition is the precursor of a new revolution in Ukraine.

    "I see Ukraine's readiness to fight for parliament. Today's rally will become the pivotal point in a new revolution to which we have a constitutional right," Lutsenko told a united opposition rally in Independence Square on Saturday.

    Lutsenko also said that he could see Ukraine's preparedness to fight against the authorities. "Like millions of our compatriots I think that we must be offered a better life right away, tomorrow, on Sunday - or we'll find another government which will defend our wellbeing," he said.

    "The current regime is the most inefficient regime Ukraine has ever had," Lutsenko said.

    Lutsenko urged the president to fulfill his duty and disband the parliament. "The moment of truth has come for President Viktor Yushchenko. I am saying on behalf of all of you: We have hired you, Viktor Andreyevych [Yushchenko,] as the head of state to defend our rights and our country. Do your duty! Down with the parliament!" Lutsenko said. sd

    Mock Lithuanian republic celebrates 10 years of independence

    From: Gulf News
    The Montmartre of Vilnius is one of the oldest parts of the city where many artists live and create.
    In Lithuania, the best place to mark April Fools Day may be the Uzupis Republic, a Vilnius district celebrating the 10th anniversary of its playful independence.

    Anyone interested in joining in the fun should have their passport on them - because they will need to pass customs to join today's celebration.

    Uzupis - which means "place beyond the river" - is actually a former district of Bohemian types who in 1997 decided to enliven their artistic doldrums by declaring independence. Since 1997, the neighbourhood's 30,000 residents celebrate their mini-republic's April 1 birthday with a motley parade and festivities.

    Indeed, Uzupis has a constitution, a president, airport, fleet, customs and - until recently - an army of 10 men, which was "dissolved" when Lithuania joined NATO three years ago.

    Fun is statutory

    "Do not fight back. Do not surrender," the constitution of Uzupis reads.

    Romas Lileikis, President of Uzupis Republic, is probably the only head of state who wears a clown's hat during official occasions.

    "From the very start, we did not want to take it seriously, we want people to smile when they come to our place," says Marius Abramavicius, photographer and Uzupis' mock ambassador to Tibet.

    To give their arrangement a sense of verisimilitude, Lileikis and his friends invited foreign diplomats to bestow credentials upon the self-proclaimed republic. Foreign dignitaries stationed in Lithuania play along with the charade and visit the Uzupis Republic on April Fool's Day to pay respects to residents.

    Located in the heart of the capital, Uzupis was neglected during the Soviet era and acquired a murky reputation as a haven for crime and prostitution.

    In the first years of independence in the 1990s, struggling artistes snapped up dilapidated apartments in the neighbourhood for as little as $2,000, and to give themselves a public relations boost, they declared independence in 1997.

    Nowadays, Uzupis is a posh neighbourhood dotted with galleries, artistes' workshops and trendy cafes. With a mix of baroque and neoclassical architecture, winding cobbled streets, hills with a grand view of Vilnius, Uzupis is one of the reasons why the city's downtown area was declared a Unesco World Heritage site. Today, when Uzupis marks its 10th anniversary of independence, visitors are encouraged to bring their passports and get it stamped when crossing a checkpoint, erected on 16th century bridges over the Vilnia river.

    Cynics claim that Uzupis residents have become unabashedly commercial with their April Fool's independence show, but then even Mayor Arturas Zuokas has invested in property in the neighbourhood.

    Organisers, however, stress that they are just out to have a good time.

  • Opinion...

    Putin: 7 more years?

    From: Stratford
    Talk in Russia has once again drifted to extending President Vladimir Putin's term in office. Such talk hints at the truth of just how arranged the Russian political system now is.


    Russian Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov proposed March 30 that instead of Russia's president serving a four-year term, the term should be extended to "five, or maybe seven" years. He also proposed doing away with the current constitutional prohibition of more than two terms. The Kremlin quickly restated President Vladimir Putin's position that the constitution should not be amended and that Putin has no desire to extend his stay in office past the expiration of his term in March 2008.

    Such back-and-forth between adoring Putin fans and enthusiastic legislators is about the only thing that remains of political debate in the Russian Federation. Mironov's request was meant to show how democratic Russia still is by giving Putin a chance to decline, though the speaker would like nothing more than to have Putin stay. The "third term" issue has been on the table for some time, with Putin continually humbly declining it. It does give Putin the option in the future to bend to the masses and accept the nomination; however, Putin has not shown any movement toward accepting.

    After seven years of political consolidation under Putin's administration, Russia's post-Cold War democratization has been rolled up and packed away. The pro-Kremlin United Russia party handily swept the 2003 Duma elections, walking away with an unassailable two-thirds majority. And another Kremlin-created party -- the nationalist Rodina -- took half of the seats from the inaptly named Liberal Democrats of ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

    They are now joined by a third Kremlin-inspired political grouping: Just Russia (or Fair Russia, depending on the translation). Just as Rodina was explicitly designed to snag support from the far right, Just Russia's raison d'etre is to siphon support from the center-left -- which, in Russia, means the communists. It appears the Kremlin's goal is simple: to foster the development of a true multiparty democracy -- with all parties in the Duma pledging their loyalty first and foremost to the Kremlin. Political competition is not only allowed, but also encouraged -- so long as that competition is conceived, birthed, developed, raised, managed and scrupulously approved by the Kremlin.

    And just as the outcome of the Duma elections in December is preordained, so too is that of next March's presidential election. The two "contenders" are the country's first deputy prime ministers, Sergei Ivanov and Dmitri Medvedev. Putin has worked with both for more than a decade, and state media have been drooling over both for the better part of the past year. Ivanov is a nationalist, but not a blind one. Medvedev is a reformer, but not a naive one.

    Taken together, the two will likely prove an able management team. And "taken together" is mostly likely what will happen. One (probably Medvedev, due to his mass appeal in Russia) will be president, while the other will serve as his No. 2, the prime minister. This decision will be made by Putin in the weeks -- or perhaps hours -- before the March election.

    The main questions arising from all this scrupulous scripting are: What about Putin? Will he take over a mammoth energy holding such as Gazprom and run the country's economic policy? Will he return to the Federal Security Service and adopt the role of spymaster-in-chief? Will he resign with a sigh, convinced he has done all he can and truly turn the reins of power over to his two allies? Or will he simply be the power behind the throne?

    At this point, Putin is probably the only person who knows the details of his plans. But it is publicly understood that while Putin's foreign and economic policies have not always met with success, his manipulation of Russia's political system has never missed a beat. He has immaculately tailored every aspect of the process, and whatever he explicitly desires to transpire is exactly what will. So what will Putin end up doing?

    Whatever he pleases.

    In Reconciling Its Past, Poland Is Divided Anew

    From: Washington Post
    Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, shown in 1997, faces charges that while Poland's military ruler, he illegally declared martial law in 1981 to suppress the Solidarity movement.
    Almost two decades have passed since dictatorship gave way to democracy in Poland, but after years of burying memories and avoiding the subject, this country is finally grappling with its communist past.

    On March 15, a controversial law went into effect requiring an estimated 700,000 civil servants, teachers and journalists to sign an oath declaring whether they collaborated with the communist secret police before the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. Anyone caught lying, or who refuses to sign, is to be fired.

    In January, the new archbishop of Warsaw quit after admitting he had been an informer. Since then, dozens of priests in this devout Catholic nation have likewise been outed as collaborators, shaking public faith in an institution that was long seen as the only reliable refuge from totalitarian rule.

    Meanwhile, prosecutors are expected this spring to put on trial an 83-year-old man whose unsmiling visage and dark eyeglasses still symbolize the country's tribulations under communism. Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland's former military ruler, faces charges that he illegally declared martial law in 1981 to suppress the Solidarity labor movement that arose in Gdansk's shipyards.

    The accusations and recriminations about who did what during the communist era have split Polish society. Proponents of the current purges say that they are long overdue and complain that ex-communists unfairly profited during the country's transition to capitalism. Critics, including many former foes of the communists, describe the campaign as a modern-day Red Scare that is driven more by political machinations than an honest desire to hold people accountable.

    Few people have gone unscathed, including Lech Walesa, the Gdansk electrician who led Solidarity and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 for confronting the communists. Walesa has had to go to court twice to clear himself of allegations that he served as an informer.

    "Some people will never believe that I managed to accomplish as much as I did without the help of the secret police," Walesa, 63, said in an interview in his office in Gdansk, where he has led a pro-democracy foundation since he served as Poland's president from 1990 to 1995.

    Walesa resisted opening Poland's communist-era intelligence archives during his presidency, saying the new republic was too fragile to endure a direct reckoning with its past. Today, however, he supports opening them and said the purges are painful but necessary.

    "Only cowards and those who didn't fight didn't have any files," he said. "But we need to get it over with as quickly as possible and do it once and for all. We need to make this issue disappear forever."

    Unlike in some of its revolution-minded neighbors in Eastern Europe, Poland's transition from communism to multiparty democracy was a carefully negotiated one.

    In February 1989, the country's communist rulers opened talks with a delegation of Solidarity leaders and other activists in Warsaw. After two months, they reached an agreement that led to the first partially free elections in the Soviet bloc. Although the communists soon lost their grip on power, for the most part they avoided prosecution; many, in fact, joined new political parties and restyled themselves as democrats.

    Some former Solidarity activists and other communist foes seethed at what they saw as a lack of accountability. After years of operating on the political fringe, they swept into power in late 2005, led by identical twins Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski.

    The Kaczynskis -- Lech is president, while Jaroslaw serves as prime minister -- have called for a "moral renewal" in Poland. "The problem of confronting the communist past in Poland was always addressed in a weak and inefficient way," said Ludwik Dorn, a deputy prime minister and a close ally of the Kaczynski brothers. "If problems are left unresolved, it's quite normal for them to resurface."
    Article Continues...

  • From the blogs...

    It Takes one to Know One

    From: LaRussophobe
    RIA Novosti reports that Alexander Lukashenko believes Russia is a "monster." Well, takes one to know one, so it's hard to argue. Once again, Russia is shown to be alienating every potential friend on the face of the earth, just as in Soviet times.

    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Wednesday his country will strive for a good relationship with Russia despite recent bilateral problems but called its eastern neighbor "a monster."

    Earlier this year, the neighbors were embroiled in an energy dispute after Russia doubled the natural gas price to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters and Minsk in response introduced a transit levy of $45 per metric ton for Russian crude pumped to Europe via Belarus. Russia briefly halted supplies to Europe, accusing Belarus of tapping its oil transits. Lukashenko said Belarus will develop good-neighborly relations with Russia and the West. "We have a huge monster - Russia - in the east and the European Union in the West," he said, adding that his country has developed trade with the EU. "As soon as we began talking to the European Union, Russians started crying that Lukashenko was betraying Russia. But Lukashenko is not a man to betray anyone," he said.

    Lukashenko said Belarus is Russia's stronghold given U.S. plans to deploy elements of its missile shield in Central Europe and plans by Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO. He said Belarus, which is building a union with Russia, will fulfill its defense obligations despite recent difficulties in bilateral relations. "We will not blackmail Russia despite recent complications," the president said adding that defense was not a subject for blackmailing. "I think common sense and a desire to continue our relations on a decent basis will prevail in Russia. We are ready," he said. Lukashenko also said he will soon meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss bilateral issues and further steps on the creation of the Union State.

    Putin "President" for Life? Maybe it wouldn't be so bad . . .

    From: Publius Pundit
    You may remember Sergei Mironov (pictured above), Russia's equivalent to the U.S. Senate Majority Leader. When last we heard from him, he was watching approvingly whilst the security forces practiced pumping round after round into a target made out of the face of poisoned dissident Alexander Litvinenko.

    Now, the wires are burning with the news that Mironov has proposed legislation to lengthen the presidential term. The AP quoted Mironov as saying: "Four years is a short period of time for a large country like Russia. It is necessary to prolong the presidential term in office to five or maybe seven years." Presumably, if the constitution is changed to permit seven-year terms, Putin will be allowed to seek at least two of them -- and who says the two term limit would necessarily be retained once Pandora's Box is opened?

    The AP quoted Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Endowment's Moscow office saying: "In this nation, where there is no real parliament and the Cabinet is weak, a lame duck president would mean anarchy. Putin is deliberately uncertain about his plans, and Mironov is taking part in this game which Putin needs." Apparently, support for such an idea runs wide and deep in Russia. The AP quoted Chris Weafer, chief strategist with Moscow-based Alfa Bank, stating: "If it were to become a serious issue you would have a major upspike in the stock market. The issue of the third term just won't go away -- it does seem as though there is an eternal debate in the Kremlin."

    Many commentators seem to feel it would be a bad sign for democracy in Russia if Putin were to retain the official reigns of power after 2008 when his term in office must end under the current constitution. But they could be wrong. If Putin stays in office, that likely means he is so unsure of the anti-democratic changes he has wrought that he feels he must stay personally in place to preserve them. If he's willing to walk away from the formal corridors of power even though he doesn't have to, that may well mean he's so sure the forces of democratic action have been silenced in Russia that there is nothing to worry about.
  • Note: Kim Zigfeld was the writer for both of the above articles.

  • Sport...

    Tsylinskaya takes Bronze in Spain; Anne Meares sets new world record

    Anne Meares
    Defending champion Natallia Tsylinskaya of Belarus was third out of 21 riders in 34.430 in the women's 500-meter time trial at the world track cycling championships Saturday.

    However, the big news was that Olympic champion Anna Meares of Australia broke her own world record. The 21-year-old clocked 33.58 seconds in the two-lap event in the Palma Arena to regain the title she held in 2004. She set the previous record of 33.944 in November at the Sydney World Cup.

    "My season has just been getting better and better, but to be honest I wasn't really thinking about the record," said Meares, whose victory gave Australia its first gold at the championships.

    9-time world Champion Tsylinskaya says that next years Olympics will mark her retirment from the sport.

    Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus into doubles quarterfinals of European Table Tennis Championships

    From: BelTa
    Belarusian Vladimir Samsonov and Kalinikos Kreanga of Greece beat Swedish duo of Fredrik Hakansson and Jorgen Persson 3-1 to advance into the quarterfinals of the Liebherr 2007 European Table Tennis Championships in Belgrade (Serbia). In the quarters the Belarusian-Greek duo will play Russian Dmitriy Mazunov and Aleksei Smirnov.

    In the singles Vladimir Samsonov defeated Bartosz Such of Poland and will play Markos Freitas of Portugal in the next-round match.

    Belarusian Victoria Pavlovich registered a convincing victory over Russian Yulia Prokhorova – 4-0 in the women’s singles and will play a1/8 final match against Jiaduo Wu of Germany. In the doubles Belarusian Victoria Pavlovich and Russian Svetlana Ganina, Veronika Pavlovich of Belarus and Oksana Fadeeva of Russia advanced into the 1/8 finals of the European championships.

    Other Belarusian athletes – Vitaliy Nekhvedovich, Evgeniy Schetinin and Tatiana Kostromina lost their matches.

  • Alexandra Gerasimenia of Belarus won a50m backstroke silver medal at the world swimming championships in Melbourne, Australia. In the finals the Belarusian recorded the second result of 28.46 seconds. The gold went to Leila Vaziri of the USA with the result of 28.16 seconds. The bronze medal was awarded to Tayliah Zimmer of Australia.

  • Endnote...

    Belarus negotiates with West without prejudice to cooperation with Russia

    From: NLIPRB
    Lukashenka: But why shouldn’t we talk to our western neighbour? We have a huge eastern ‘monster’ — Russia — with which we build relations
    Belarus negotiates with the West without prejudice to the cooperation with Russia, Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko said during his working trip around the Minsk region today.

    “Moscow is stirring: Belarusians negotiate with the European Union, contact Americans to establish relations. But why shouldn’t we talk to our western neighbour? We have a huge eastern ‘monster’ — Russia — with which we build relations, but half the trade comes from the European Union. We have economic interests there. And just like people do why can’t we have normal relations with them? It doesn’t harm Russia”, stressed the president.

    “Some are screaming that Lukashenko is a traitor and so on. Lukashenko is not the man to betray anybody. More so to betray the country, which is close to us, inhabited by people, who will always protect us, regardless of the relations with the Russian leadership”, added the Belarusian leader.

    The president noted, “If common sense prevails in Russia and Russians are willing to establish relations with us on a proper basis, we are ready for that”.