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Monday, April 23, 2007

Sobbotnik day, France makes business, Budget, Agro, Union of Poles, Nukes, Brits, Minsk Ghetto, Opinion and Blogs

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  • #197

    Alexander Lukashenko takes part in the nation-wide day of voluntary work

    From: Website of the President and BelTA
    The nation-wide day of voluntary work: the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, working in the construction site of the multifield cultural and sports complex “Minsk-Arena”
    On April 21, following the tradition, the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, took part in the nation-wide day of voluntary work (subbotnik).

    As a rule, the Head of State works on construction sites of the facilities which are nationally important – he had taken part in the reconstruction of the Khatyn memorial complex, in the erection of the new building of the National Library of Belarus. This year, and a year before, the President was working on the construction site of the multifield cultural and sports complex “Minsk-Arena.”

    The complex will comprise a sports and performance arena that will be able to house 15 thousand spectators and where it will be possible to hold competitions in more than 20 kinds of sport, an ice skating stadium for three thousand seats, a cycling ground for two thousand seats, and also a parking place and a parking lot for two thousand vehicles. Currently, the work is progressing ahead of schedule. It is expected that the construction of the complex will have been completed at the end of 2008.

    The head of state heard out a report on the progress in building the Minsk Arena. He was interested in details of the construction technology, the funding of the project and the overall performance.

    After that as part of a construction crew, which also included Belarus Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov, Minsk Mayor Mikhail Pavlov and sportsmen, Alexander Lukashenko placed concrete for floors in engineering structures of the Minsk Arena.

    After completion of the work, the Head of State met with reporters and answered their questions.

    Specifically, the President said that the construction of large facilities of national importance, like the Minsk-Arena complex, would be continued in Belarus. “The conditions become more complicated, one has to pay more, but we have enough reserves that make it possible to compensate twice the amount of that price rise by better organization and reduction of the construction costs,” Alexander Lukashenko explained.

    The President was concerned about high construction costs, including the cost of building sports facilities, social infrastructure and homes. The head of state criticised the government’s performance in reducing construction costs and said he intends to revise the problem in the strictest way in H2 2007.

    Speaking about high prices for new homes, the President said, the demand largely exceeds the supply, sending prices higher. “We all live in market conditions”, he said.

    However, Alexander Lukashenko stressed, the government had interfered in the process. “We now keep an eye on home waiting lists, we have restored these lists, while no other country has retained them. We have waiting lists for people without homes and people in need of better housing. We control the prices — they are half of the market ones. We give loans with preferential interest rates to young Belarusians. That is we are trying to control prices for public welfare homes”, said the president.

    Yet prices for all kinds of homes are on the rise. There are also objective reasons such as higher energy prices as well as higher prices for construction materials, the cost of restoring the civil engineering industry, which will be accomplished only at the end of this five-year period. “You remember in the early 1990s nothing was built, construction companies were closed down. Now we have to revive the construction industry anew, with the cost covered by end consumers”, said the head of state.

    “But people and I have a lot of questions to ask the government and the construction companies themselves. In the near future we will table the issues. People will be informed about the decision we will arrive at”, stressed the president. “We will see what can be done with the prices, though the prices in Belarus are already at its lowest, as the government is interfering in the process”, said Alexander Lukashenko.

    The President stated, low construction costs entail low salaries for construction workers, low prices for construction materials, while “the construction materials industry also has people to feed and facilities to upgrade”. “It should be understood that low prices bring some positive effect, but we have to deprive someone of their due share”, noted the president

    Commenting on the results of his recent visit to Oman and India, Alexander Lukashenko pointed out that in Oman the Belarusian delegation became acquainted with the potentialities of that country and identified the long-term avenues of bilateral cooperation. As regards India, Alexander Lukashenko underscored that “this is a colossal country and an enormous market.” In his words, India is prepared for a serious presence of Belarus in its market. A clear indication of that is the proposal by the Indian leaders to increase the trade turnover with our country up to US$ 500 million by the year 2010.

    The media representatives were also keen to know why the agreements with some countries on drawing investments had not always been duly materialized. Replying to the question, the Head of State said: “Investments are not the main things today, the main things are projects.”

    He explained that foreign investors often propose the projects whose terms are not suitable for our state, for instance, projects without paying taxes. Another reason behind the failure to materialize some projects is sluggishness and bureaucratism of Belarusian officials.

    Over 10.7 billion rubels transferred to local budgets as result of national subbotnik

    From: Naveny
    A painting titled "Lenin at subbotnik" was later used as a stamp
    Belarusian companies and organizations have transferred more than 10.7 billion rubels to bank accounts of the local executive committees as a result of a national subbotnik (day of voluntary unpaid work) on April 21, according to the press office of the Council of Ministers.

    More than 3.4 million people reportedly took part in the subbotnik, including more than 677,500 people in Minsk, 550,000 in the Homyel region, 476,500 in the Vitsyebsk region, 452,500 in the Minsk region, 437,900 in the Brest region, 416,600 in the Hrodna region and 405,300 in the Mahilyow region.

    The subbotnik yielded 4.5 billion rubels for the local budget in the Minsk region, 1.6 billion rubels in the Homyel region, 1.05 billion rubels in the Vitsyebsk region, 992.2 million rubels in the Mahilyow region, 895.8 million rubels in the Brest region, 863.7 million in the Hrodna region and 835.4 million in the Minsk region.

    More than 14.2 billion rubels worth of industrial products were reportedly produced in the country on April 21. The cost of “contract work” carried out on this day totaled more than 3.8 billion rubels, according to the cabinet’s press office.

    The local executive committees are expected to spend the funds on child support measures.

    Belarusian and French private manufacturers to boost cooperation

    From: BelTA
    Belarus and France intend to boost cooperation between private manufactures, unions of manufacturers and businessmen, economic entities. The statement to this effect was made by Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorskiy at a meeting with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Belarus Mrs. Mireille Musso.

    “We are ready to discuss issues on integration of the economic entities, unions of manufacturers and businessmen, to tell about advantages our economy provides for investors,” the head of the Belarusian government said. Sergei Sidorskiy also spoke with approval about the forthcoming meeting of the Belarusian unions of manufacturers in France.

    The Prime Minister of Belarus is confident that the bilateral contacts will be improved. The bilateral turnover has been posting an upward trend. Sergei Sidorskiy reminded that in 2002 during his meeting with the former ambassador of France the bilateral turnover stood at $140 million. In 2006 the figure grew in more than three times to $473.3 million. At the same time the Prime Minister stressed that business circles of Belarus and France are even more eager to intensify cooperation than the governments of the two countries. He cited some figures to illustrate that. Thus, Belarus has 40 companies with participation of the French capital in the statutory fund. This is a good index. Along with that, the dynamics of the trade-economic relations with other EU countries (such as Germany and Italy) is greater than that with France. “In improving our trade relations we pin our hopes on you as an ambassador,” Sergei Sidorskiy said.

    He also noted the importance of the development of the Belarusian-French relations in the cultural sphere. “We know how France appreciates our fellow country man Marc Chagall,” Sergei Sidorskiy said and called the parties to establish closer ties between theaters of Belarus and France.

    The ambassador thanked Sergei Sidorskiy for the meeting and expressed confidence that the economic relations between Belarus and France would be successfully developed. She believes that the relations in the sphere of the European cultural values may be considerably fostered. “It is important that we have learnt more about each other not only in the economic field, as not long ago Belarus became a neighbor of the European Union”, the ambassador said.

    In 2006, France ranked 11th among the European trade partners of Belarus in terms of foreign economic trade turnover and export and 6th – in terms of import. In January-February 2007, France also ranked 11th in terms of trade turnover, 18th – in terms of export and 6th – in terms of import. In 2006, the trade turnover grew by 5% as against 2005 and reached $473,3 million. At the same time the export totaled $202,9 million; the import – 270,4 million.

    Belarus mainly exports to France oil products, basic metals and goods made of them, furniture, machinery, carriers, woodworking products and chemical goods.

    France mainly exports chemical products to Belarus, mechanisms and equipment, foodstuffs and agricultural products, electrical equipment and vehicles. Investment and staple goods (without foodstuffs and consumer goods) accounted for 62% of the total number of the French products imported to Belarus.

    Over the past five years Belarus attracted $5.8 million worth of French investments including $1.7 million in 2006 (of them $0.7 million – direct investments and $1 million – others). Some 40 commercial organizations with the French capital have been registered in Belarus (21 joint ventures and 19 foreign companies). The contribution of the French investors in the authorized fund has made $2.1 million.

    Addiotionally, France is ready to continue negotiations on construction of a nuclear plant with Belarus, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Belarus Mrs. Mireille Musso.

    “French participation in this project is a complicated issue,” she said. It cannot be settled within several months. The ambassador listed some conditions which should be taken in consideration before launching construction of a nuclear plant. In particular, an intergovernmental non-proliferation agreement should be signed, Belarus should be signatory to several agreements of the atomic energy organizations. In addition, certain financial, technical and legal conditions should be met, the ambassador said. Belarus has to discuss them not only with France but also with other countries.

    Mrs. Mireille Musso also said that France was ready to offer Belarus certain information and assistance in the area.

    At the same time she admitted that the discussion and negotiations of the topic had been progressing very slowly since the companies had to communicate with their numerous partners before making a decision.

    Belarus’ national budget surplus 6.9% above target in Q1 2007

    From: NLIPRB
    In Q1 2007, the revenue side of the budget amounted to 106.9% of the target, securing 25.9% of the planned annual revenues in January-March, Maksim Yermolovich, head of the central department for budget policy of the Belarusian Finance Ministry, told a press conference today.

    “These are very good indicators of the revenues growth in comparison with the previous year despite the existing arrears”, he said. According to the official, the growth of state budget revenues reflects the stable development of the national economy.

    In money terms, the budget surplus amounted to Br1.8 trillion in Q1 2007.

    Export duties on oil products set as high as those of the Russian Federation contributed to the replenishment of the budget revenues and secured the growth of the budget earnings in the first quarter, noted Maksim Yermolovich.

    He also mentioned several other factors, which helped the budget replenishment. The Finance Ministry is working hard to increase the effectiveness of budget expenditures. Unconditional funding is granted to primary protected expenditures of the budget and priority expenditures. All these expenditures were fully covered in Q1. Less-than-prime expenditures were essentially curtailed and postponed.

    In Belarus on fields the tractor on biofuel works

    From: AgroPerspective
    The John Deer 7920
    In Belarus in area Postavskom (Vitebsk area) on fields SPK «novoselki» the tractor first in republic on biofuel works, chairman of committee on an agriculture and the foodstuffs Vitebsk oblispolkoma Leonid Pleshko has told, BELTA.

    Before a sowing campaign the facilities has bought a German tractor «John Deer-7920», as fuel for which serves rapsovoe oil(butter). According to landowners, work of a new tractor nothing differs from tractors on diesel fuel. Manufacture of oil is adjusted in most SPK «novoselki». On the import equipment while it has produced about 130 kg of oil at a time, however its capacities allow to make more than 500 kg at an o’clock. Oil almost in 2 times is cheaper some usual fuel.

    As has noted L.Pleshko, in Vitebsk area the question of manufacture of biofuel from maslosemyan rapsa with attraction of the foreign investor is considered examined. In this year in the field of there will be poseyano 50 thousand in hectares of this maslenichnoj cultures.

    Dialogue between Council of Europe and Belarus should be held with due regard for Belarusian authorities' views

    From: Naveny
    The dialogue between the Council of Europe and Belarus should be held on a balanced basis and with due regard for the views and stance of the Belarusian authorities, Andrey Papow, spokesman for the foreign ministry, said in a press statement issued on April 18.

    "At the present moment we are establishing pragmatic relations with the Council of Europe with regard to all the elements that are of mutual interest at both the parliamentary level and the level of the CoE Committee of Ministries," the spokesman said.

    While speaking at a news conference in Strasbourg on April 16, Rene van der Linden, president of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), expressed hope that the Belarusian authorities would stop jailing people for expressing their views and taking part in demonstrations, which he said would signal Minsk's readiness for cooperation with European organizations.

    If the Belarusian government agreed to invite independent experts to give their opinion on whether or not Belarus has political prisoners, this would be another sign indicating its intention to forge closer ties with European organizations, according to the PACE president. He stressed that he could meet with Belarus' top-ranking officials if Minsk showed its readiness for cooperation and dialogue.

    Azeri Press Agency: Belarus President to visit Azerbaijan

    From: APA
    Baku, Azerbaijan
    Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is scheduled to pay a state visit to Azerbaijan in the first half of 2007, Belarus ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Azerbaijan Nikolay Pastkevich told journalists, APA reports.

    Belarus President has accepted official Baku’s invitation. The ambassador said the visit is being prepared now. Pastkevich added that nearly 20 documents are intended to be signed between the two countries.
    “More than 10 documents are ready for signing. These documents are agreements on friendship and cooperation between the two countries, veterinary and phytosanitary inspection, pension, agreements on cooperation between banks and scientific institutions,” the ambassador said.

    “Azerbaijan is our strategic partner. We are glad to witness the dynamic development in Azerbaijan,” Belarusian ambassador to Azerbaijan Nikolay Paskevich told a press conference, APA reports.

    The ambassador said that the Belarus government is ready to help Azerbaijan in transporting Caspian oil and gas to Europe. Nikolay Paskevich said the volume of trade turnover between the two countries amounted to $28mln last year and $7.3mln in the first three months of this year.
    “We plan to increase the trade turnover by $50mln. in 2007. The amount of goods export from Belarus to Azerbaijan was 124% last year and 135% from Azerbaijan to Belarus,” the ambassador noted.

    Criminal lawsuit brought against Union of Polish People in Belarus closed

    From: Chart '97
    Angelika Borys, center, leader of the Union of Poles in Belarus
    The criminal lawsuit brought against activist of the “Union of Polish People in Belarus" public association (UPPB) Andjei Lisousky was closed. That was reported by A. Lisousky himself. It is to be mentioned, that 20 October 2006 in the evening the custom’s officers found unknown powder in the activist’s car that was then used by the UPPB leader Angelica Boris (not acknowledged by the authorities) for her coming back from Vilnius. Later, head of the Grodna regional customs office Yuri Syanko declared that the powder was amphetamine. A. Lisousky was suspected of drug trafficking.

    “Yesterday I was phoned by the investigator of the Grodna regional department of the KGB Aleg Grinevich who allowed me to take back my car which at that time had been arrested and kept at the regional KGB parking. He also said that the criminal lawsuit brought against myself was terminated. But he also added that the investigation of the criminal lawsuit on drug trafficking was to be continued”, A.Lisovski reported.

    According to him, that day he came to collect his car from the parking. “It so happened that my car accumulator had been changed for an old one, A.Lisovski declared. I don’t know who changed it. Exactly after the car’s arrest I gave the car documents and keys to the customs office‘s staff. And I don’t know at what stage my accumulator disappeared”.

    Meanwhile, A. Lisovski pointed out that the belongings which had been removed from the car when it had been arrested were returned to him

    Belarus to Lose Most Precious Asset

    From: Kommersant
    Russia is ready to lend up to $1.5 billion to Belarus but claims as security the stocks of its state-run gas transport enterprise, Beltransgaz, in an attempt to speed up creation of Gazprom-Beltransgaz venture. But Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko will hardly yield to this requirement – the emergence of such venture will bring the country’s main gas pipelines under control of Russia’s gas monopoly.

    Gazprom BOD will deliberate on “having an interest in Beltransgaz” at April 25 meeting, the news service of Russia’s gas monopoly announced past Friday. The decision to set up a venture based on Beltransgaz, where Gazprom will buy out 50 percent plus a stock, was one of the core provisions of agreement on gas sales to Belarus in 2007

    Gazprom agreed to the price of $100 per a thousand cu meters instead of the initially requested $200 per a thousand cu meters once Belarus undertook to set up a venture based on Beltransgaz assets prior to June 1, 2007.

    But the parties have failed so far to come to terms about the deal provisions. Gazprom yielded to the H1 price for Belarus in amount of $55 per a thousand cu meters instead of $100 per a thousand cu meters, i.e. it will derive just $1.155 billion from delivering 21 billion cu meters to the neighbor in 2007. The remainder of $0.945 billion will be settled via the loan granted by Russia’s Finance Ministry to Belarus.

    Belarus, however, is dragging out the venture’s creation, blaming the delay on official circumlocution and the lack of time to agree on the deal by Alexander Lukashenko.

    Lithuania’s Ignalina nuclear plant under public pressure in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    The Ignalina nuclear power plant
    The community of the Braslav district, Vitebsk oblast, calls upon Lithuania to do its utmost to remove highly active nuclear waste from the Ignalina nuclear power plant and send it for processing. The statement is part of the protocol compiled after public hearings on nuclear waste disposal in the Braslav district, BelTA learnt from Romuald Zhmurnya, chairman of the Braslav District Council of Deputies.

    Besides, the general public believes it is necessary for Belarus and Lithuania to continue discussing methods and ways of nuclear waste disposal and to constantly monitor the environment, keeping the local community informed. An article of the protocol requests mass media’s objective and professional coverage of the closedown process of the Ignalina nuclear power plant and discourages incompetent remarks. “A functioning nuclear plant is much more dangerous than a waste storage and a burial site, which will be constantly monitored”, stressed Romuald Zhmurnya.

    According to the source, during the public hearings representatives of the Lithuanian side informed residents of the Braslav district that the waste storage will be built by experienced German specialists at the power plant site. Besides, around 100,000 tonnes of low active nuclear waste will presumably be buried at the Ignalina nuclear power plant.

    The public hearings took place in the Vidzy Rural Council in the Braslav district on April 20-21. The public hearings gathered around 300 people representing all the rural councils of the district as well as engineering specialists of the Ignalina nuclear power plant, Lithuanian scientists, representatives of environmental watchdogs of Belarus and Lithuania. Those were the second hearings arranged to discuss the disposal of nuclear waste produced by the Ignalina nuclear power plant. In line with international agreements the hearings took place in the Braslav district.

  • Around the region...

    'How we made the Chernobyl rain'

    From: Telegraph
    Russian military pilots have described how they created rain clouds to protect Moscow from radioactive fallout after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

    Major Aleksei Grushin repeatedly took to the skies above Chernobyl and Belarus and used artillery shells filled with silver iodide to make rain clouds that would "wash out" radioactive particles drifting towards densely populated cities.

    More than 4,000 square miles of Belarus were sacrificed to save the Russian capital from the toxic radioactive material.

    "The wind direction was moving from west to east and the radioactive clouds were threatening to reach the highly populated areas of Moscow, Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl," he told Science of Superstorms, a BBC2 documentary to be broadcast today.

    "If the rain had fallen on those cities it would've been a catastrophe for millions. The area where my crew was actively influencing the clouds was near Chernobyl, not only in the 30km zone, but out to a distance of 50, 70 and even 100 km."

    In the wake of the catastrophic meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, people in Belarus reported heavy, black-coloured rain around the city of Gomel. Shortly beforehand, aircraft had been spotted circling in the sky ejecting coloured material behind them.

    Moscow has always denied that cloud seeding took place after the accident, but last year on the 20th anniversary of the disaster, Major Grushin was among those honoured for bravery. He claims he received the award for flying cloud seeding missions during the Chernobyl clean-up.

    A second Soviet pilot, who asked not to be named, also confirmed to the programme makers that cloud seeding operations took place as early as two days after the explosion.

    Alan Flowers, a British scientist who was one of the first Western scientists allowed into the area to examine the extent of radioactive fallout around Chernobyl, said that the population in Belarus was exposed to radiation doses 20 to 30 times higher than normal as a result of the rainfall, causing intense radiation poisoning in children.

    Mr Flowers was expelled from Belarus in 2004 after claiming that Russia had seeded the clouds. He said: "The local population say there was no warning before these heavy rains and the radioactive fallout arrived."

    Brits Skeptical of Russia’s Business

    From: Kommersant
    Russia’s business never doubts its presence in Britain will profit both parties. But in Great Britain, they think different, perceiving a clear threat in Russia’s expansion, signaled the joint survey of Britain’s YouGov and Russian Axis Ltd held ahead of Russia’s Economic Forum in London.

    During the survey, Russia’s and Britain’s entrepreneurs were asked to ponder over the most distinct features of each other and investment climate in both countries. “The results have shown Russia’s businessmen are sure the growth in their presence in Britain is a plus for both parties, but their Britain’s colleagues see a threat in Russia’s expansion,” said Vadim Malkin, general director of Russian Axis.

    According to the Brits, a Russian businessman is inclined to risk and breach laws, dishonest and unreliable, ruthless but naïve, rather well-educated but too haughty. The Russians are of much better opinion of their Britain’s counterparts. They think an average businessman of that nation is cautious and law-abiding, very educated, technologically sophisticated and haughty, very reliable but not too honest.

    Of interest is that both parties relatively agree on an issue of investment climate. Both the Brits and the Russians regard corrupt practices (77 percent and 50 percent of respondents respectively) and protectionism of authorities (60 percent and 37 percent) as core hurdles en route of the Britain’s business in Russia.

    But opinions have drifted apart on issue of Russia’s investment attractiveness. Only 3 percent of the Brits but 43 percent of the Russians view Russia very attractive for investing and 24 percent and 39 percent respectively find it rather attractive.

    Predictably, Russia is just the 12th for the Brits in business expansion preference. Poland is the leader and it is followed by China and India.

    Asked about Russia’s investments in Britain, 33 percent there fear Russia’s expansion will lead to dissolution of morals, and 25 percent in Great Britain and 49 percent in Russia regard it the mere capital outflow.

    Loss of building workers problem for Poland

    From: RTE
    Polish Workers
    Despite evidence of a slowdown in house sales jobs in the construction sector are still being created, with many of the new positions being filled by qualified migrant workers from Central and Eastern Europe.

    Last week, figures from the Central Statistics Office confirmed that numbers employed in construction are more than 1% higher now than they were this time last year. However, because of skills shortages many Irish firms have to recruit directly in Poland.

    Emma McNamara travelled to Poland last weekend and spoke to some architects who've decided to come here to work - Mariusz Przytula and Katarzyna Talaga.

    Their skills are needed in Ireland where house building may be slowing, but commercial and infrastructural development speeds up.

    Almost 14% of the Irish workforce is employed in construction. In its monthly survey of vacancies FÁS consistently finds that positions for skilled construction workers, like architects and quantity surveyors, are the most difficult to fill.

    In Warsaw last weekend Mariusz and Katarzgyna were interviewed by an Irish architecture firm, and their reasons for leaving Poland? Lack of opportunity, unhappiness with government there and low pay.

    Katarzgyna says that in Poland architects earn the same in one month as they would in one week in Ireland. One million Poles have left Poland since it joined the European Union in May 2005. Most of those who have left are skilled and educated young people between the ages of 20 and 35.

    Since the second half of last year employers in Poland have been finding it difficult to recruit skilled labour in Poland as so many have left. Irish firm CRH employs 4,000 staff there. Its regional director Declan Maguire says recruiting and holding onto skilled staff in Poland is now a problem.

    And what will happen to migrant workers here as house building slows? Will they stay here or go back to Poland? The Construction Industry Federation's Peter Stafford says that migrant workers will transfer to the repair and maintenance market, and bigger infrastructural projects.

    So it seems it would take much more than a housing slowdown in Ireland to stop architects Mariusz and Katarzyna coming here. And as they prepare for their move do they think they'll ever go back to Poland? They don't know, but less red tape in business, better pay and strong economic growth there could be a deciding factor in the future.

    Ukraine president, prime minister meeting over crisis settlemen

    From: Itar Tass
    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has begun a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.

    The president’s press service said that Yushchenko and Yanukovich were discussing ways of settlement of the political crisis.

    Their meeting is the seventh since Yushchenko’s ordering the parliament dissolved and calling early parliamentary elections.

    Yanukovich said after meeting the president for the sixth time on Friday that they had agreed “to lift all differences” by Monday.

    “He (Yushchenko) has stated that he is almost ready to reverse the decree on the dissolutions of the parliament as soon as we come to agreement on all disputed political issues,” Yanukovich said.

    Yushchenko said on Friday that Yanukovich agreed with all the president’s proposals except for the early parliamentary elections.

    Nuggets' Kleiza makes most of his chance

    From: My San Antonio
    Linas Kleiza is proof that one man's misfortune can be another man's opportunity.

    Kleiza became a key performer out of necessity for the Denver Nuggets when All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony (15 games) guard J.R. Smith (10 games) were suspended for their roles in an ugly brawl with New York Knicks players on Dec. 16.

    Kleiza comes into today's Game 1 of the Spurs-Nuggets first-round playoff series as Denver's prime candidate to be the series' X-factor — a role player capable of making a difference, like Spurs veteran Robert Horry.

    "Even though I haven't seen him that much, I've been watching a little tape on him," said Horry, known as "Big Shot Rob" for his exploits in clutch playoff situations. "He's one of those guys we've got to be conscious of, stay in front of, and not give him anything easy."

    A 6-foot-8 forward from Lithuania who played two seasons at Missouri, Kleiza became a clutch 3-point shooter for the Nuggets during their 10-1 April surge into the No. 6 playoff slot. He made all three of his long-range shots in a crucial road victory over the Lakers on April3. He shot 37.6 percent from long range for the season.

    Nuggets coach George Karl nearly gave up on Kleiza early in the season. When the suspensions were issued, he had little choice but to use him.

    "The first 15 games of the season, we thought he might be a flop," Karl said, "But he's just stayed in it and worked hard and his confidence has just come along. He's one of the best young professionals I've ever coached.

    "He reminds me of Detlef Schrempf (whom Karl coached during his time with Seattle). He comes to the gym with a very serious attitude, a very professional attitude. I don't feel uncomfortable playing him at different positions."

    The scouting report on Kleiza early this season included advice to take advantage of his questionable defense. Now, Karl won't hesitate to have him guard the league's best scorer.

    "I remember at the beginning of the season how teams were always isolating him and just going at his defense," Karl said. "And now he's guarding (Lakers star) Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter of a big game.

    "Obviously, he's worked on his game at a very high level. I think the team has a lot of confidence in giving him the ball. He and J.R. are very important to opening up the middle and keeping a threat at the 3-point line. The more we play over there, the better we usually play."

    Kleiza understood he had to make the most of his opportunity while Anthony and Smith sat.

    "When all the suspensions came down, I had a chance to play," Kleiza said. "And after everybody came back, my time was consistent and I just kind of played fluid and got better playing. There were a lot of circumstances, but mostly it was just a lot of hard work I put in — just keep getting better every day."

    Spurs forward Michael Finley said Kleiza has earned the Spurs' respect.

    "He's been playing well of late off Allen's penetration and teams double-teaming Carmelo, so he's a very interesting player," Finley said. "I think he's underrated as an athlete. He's a big-time athlete, and he's put up big numbers. He's a guy we definitely will respect when he's out on the court."

  • Opinion...

    It’s a shame that there are such people in Belarus

    From: Charter '97
    Ambassador of Germany Martin Hecker paid Euro 1 thousand to the Minskovite who handed the stolen bronze memorial plaque to the diplomat. The memorial sign commemorates the Jews from Bremen perished in the Minsk ghetto.

    When handing the memorial sign at the Embassy of Germany the Belarusian national who had asked his name not to be mentioned reported that the plaque had been found near the non-ferrous metals reception in the Kalodzischi settlement of the Minsk district. According to the male who introduced himself as a staff member of the non-ferrous metals reception the memorial sign immersed in the machine oil had been found by him personally. The male considers that the people who had brought the plaque for selling didn’t dare to sell it after reading the sign on it and left the plaque on the ground not far from the reception.

    The Belarusian citizens present at the ceremony of the plaque handing proposed the male to turn down the reward for the reason that the sign commemorates tragedies of lots of people who had died at the Belarusian land. But the male didn’t agree either with decreasing the sum or with any moral gratitude such as, for example, the report about his deed with his photo published in press. The male turned down the proposal of his photo taken with the ambassador. The man is supposed to be an intermediary between the diplomats and those who stole the plaque.

    Disappearance of the plaque was found out 9 March. In 1992 it was installed by the representatives of the Bremen Jewish community at the façade of the 13 Ramanauskaya Slabada Street for commemoration of nearly 450 Jews from Bremen deported from Germany to Belarus who perished in the Minsk ghetto.

    6 March Ambassador of Germany announced the reward of Euro 1 thousand to those who would assist returning of the plaque.

    Further destiny of the plaque is to be determined by the leadership of the Union of Belarusian Jewish Associations and Communities. The offer of installing the plaque’s copy at the façade of the 13 Ramanauskaya Slabada Street and keeping the original at the Belarusian- German organization ”Historical Studio in Minsk” is among the alternatives for consideration, the BelaPAN reports.

    In a related story, BelTA reports that on April 22 a memorial sign on behalf of the President of the Republic of Belarus was officially unveiled in the territory of the former concentration camp Sachsenhausen.

    The memorial sign is a tribute to the memory of the prisoners from Belarus who died in the camp during the Great Patriotic War. It is a granite slab featuring vertical white stripes symbolizing the overalls that the prisoners wore. In the center of the slab there is a hole as if made by a bullet. The inscription says that here died the Belarusian prisoners. The memorial sign was made by sculptor Vladimir Slobodchikov and architect Igor Morozov.

    The ceremony to unveil the memorial sign was held within the frames of the commemorative events in Sachsenhausen to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the camp. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Germany Vladimir Skvortsov said that ‘the opening of the memorial sign is symbolic as part of the efforts aimed at promoting the complete reconciliation between the Belarusian and German peoples.” “It is a contribution to the efforts to immortalize the memory of the Nazi victims from Belarus, first of all, the prisoners of the Sachsenhausen death camp’.

    This is the second memorial sign that has been in Germany on behalf of Belarus. The first one was unveiled in April 2006 in the memorial compound “Ravensbruck” on the initiative of the Belarusian diplomatic mission to Germany.

    In Sachsenhausen there are memorial signs from the countries whose citizens died there. This Nazi camp was located not far from Potsdam. More than 100 thousands prisoners were killed there.

    Russia's nuclear paradox

    From: Ria Novosti
    Winston Churchill famously called Russia "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." Well, here is one more enigma to add to the list: the paradox that though Russia is a great nuclear power, it is not "nuclear-intensive." Nuclear-generated electricity accounts for an average of 17.6% of its total energy output. Let's not forget, Russia built the world's first nuclear power plant in Obninsk in 1954, and 30 years later had 10 nuclear stations.

    The triumphal march of the Soviet "peaceful atom" was brought to an abrupt halt by the Chernobyl tragedy. Russian society has not yet fully overcome its deep-seared radiation phobia. Trying to overcome the shock, Russia suspended its entire nuclear energy program. At the same time, without batting an eyelid, the French learned from the Chernobyl disaster and moved forward. This is why France now leads the world in nuclear electricity generation, which accounts for approximately 80% of its energy production.

    Russia is fully determined to bridge the gap, and this is consonant with the nuclear renaissance taking place in the rest of the world. The government has just approved a master plan for the construction of energy generating facilities up to 2020. This road map embodies the plan that was initially outlined in the federal program for nuclear energy development adopted last year. Its main goal is to increase the share of nuclear-generated electricity in the total energy output.

    According to the road map, starting from 2009, one nuclear unit will be commissioned every year, and from 2012, two units a year; this buildup will continue until 2020. Russia's current aggregate nuclear generating capacity of 23 GW will increase by a factor of 2.3 or 2.5. The WWER-1000 (Water-Water Energetic Reactor, producing 1,000 megawatts of electric power) will be the backbone of the plan. Serial units of this type will be upgraded with the latest technology.

    However, Russia's Federal Agency for Nuclear Power advocates diversification and insists that these powerful reactors should be supplemented with medium-sized and even small units.

    Viktor Ivanov, deputy director of the Medical Radiological Research Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said this about the road map: "The methods used in the elaboration of the road map are correct, but it is necessary to add a 'risk analysis.' It will scientifically determine the best location for nuclear-generating capacity and calm down those people who are still mistrustful of nuclear energy."

    Russia is very rich in natural resources and has no reason to fear energy shortages. The government, however, is emphasizing nuclear energy because the world has no alternative in the foreseeable future if it wants a reliable source of energy. Moreover, the nuclear power industry will streamline the country's current absurd energy mix, in which 60% of thermal stations use gas. Gas must be replaced for the sake of both exports and future generations.

    Professor Rafael Arutyunyan, deputy director of the Nuclear Safety Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has expressed the following opinion: "In the next 50 years, the oil and gas issue will become more and more pressing. It would not be correct to rely on dwindling sources of energy, the demand for which will be tremendous on the global market. The nuclear power industry is capable of generating enough electrical energy not only in the medium-term but also in the long-term."

    He believes that even when Russia increases its share of nuclear electricity to 20%-25%, it will not be nuclear-intensive enough. Nevertheless, this program is an absolute must. In 50 years, Russia will have to have a powerful nuclear industry to meet its energy needs.

    Post-Traumatic Politics

    From: Moscow Times
    Why would an administration with a 70 percent approval rating resort to rubber truncheons to quash small, marginal political demonstrations? Was the recent suppression of rallies and marches in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Nizhny Novgorod part of the turn toward authoritarianism or just pre-election jitters?

    It was a bit of both, but behind both lies a deeper cause. President Vladimir Putin and his generation were shaped by the traumatic collapse of the Soviet Union, just as previous generations were shaped by revolution, terror or war. Their own personal relationship to the Soviet Union and its demise -- their sense of loss, regret and acrimony -- is dwarfed by the sheer magnitude of the event itself. Their shock resulted from seeing that something as mighty and gigantic as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics could vanish so suddenly and so easily. The Titanic of empires, it was the biggest ship of state that ever sank.

    Putin's often quoted and often misunderstood remark that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century" should be understood as much psychologically as politically. People will argue for years to come about the cause of its demise, but for people like Putin who were on board the ship of state as it began sinking, the one lasting lesson is that if something so seemingly invincible as the Soviet Union can go down so swiftly, there's no reason the same thing can't happen with the new Russia, which is smaller and less fearsome.

    A great deal of Putin's behavior -- the brutality in Chechnya, the fear of a Ukraine-style revolution and nongovernmental organizations, the centralization of authority, the control of the media and the beating of demonstrators -- makes more sense if seen as a pattern stemming from the trauma of the fall of the Soviet Union. Putin himself said in his book "First Person": "[M]y mission, my historical mission -- and this will sound lofty, but it's true -- consisted of resolving the situation in the Northern Caucasus ... and Chechnya [which is] a continuation of the collapse of the Soviet Union. ... If we don't put an immediate end to this, Russia will cease to exist."

    Russia has collapsed calamitously twice in the last 100 years, once in 1917 and again in 1991. (It has also rebounded vigorously both times, but success always leaves less of an impression than disaster.)

    It's not only the new Russia that can seem a shaky enterprise -- the current administration may not have much faith in itself. A 70 percent popularity rate leaves plenty of room to fall. At least 20 percent of people participating in any poll are probably going to respond positively about the president either because Soviet experience or simple savvy tells them that they have nothing to gain from speaking out against him (especially when dissenters are being clubbed in the streets). Putin and Company may figure they only really have half the country on their side and that this support is contingent on their ability to continue delivering the goods -- stability, prosperity and international prestige. Ultimately, that ability is based on the price of gas and oil, which current reasoning says will stay high, but which past history shows to be iffy. Much of Putin's support is solid and real, and for some has a fierceness that transcends the utilitarian. It is not the actual strength of that support that matters so much as the Kremlin's fear of how fast it might fade.

    The trauma of the Soviet collapse explains but does not excuse the strangulation of the media or the truncheons in the street anymore than the wound of Sept. 11 excuses Abu Ghraib. In fact, both countries are suffering from a form of post-traumatic politics. The presidents Russia and the United States will elect in 2008 will have a better chance of repairing relations if each takes the other's trauma into account.

  • From the blogs...

    Are there any intelligent Belarusians?

    From: TOL
    Last week, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research held a one-day closed meeting for U.S. government officials on “Belarus One Year Later: An Assessment of the Year After the Presidential Election and What Lies Ahead.” While it is commendable that the U.S. government is focusing on Belarus and trying to educate its employees on this increasingly important country, especially in a non-election year, there was one key element missing— Belarusian experts.

    Of a dozen presenters, only one was a Belarusian expert from Belarus—the majority were none of the above. The speakers included a Russian expert on Russian agriculture, an American specialist on Russian security studies, a Russian foreign policy analyst based in Moscow, a former journalist from Great Britain who is an expert on Czechoslovakia, a State Department official who served in Georgia, and an American lawyer who is an expert on comparative cooperative governance. While most of the presenters seemed familiar with what is transpiring in Belarus , only four had written extensively on Belarus and can be considered as academic or practical experts on Belarus . This state of affairs was a bit strange, since there are a number of experts on Belarus working in North America, especially in Washington , who were not invited to the event and did not even know it was taking place.

    But what is more discouraging is that there seemed to have been little effort or success in identifying and bringing over experts from Belarus, who obviously have the best perspective on what is happening in their own country. Independent think tanks have existed in Belarus since 1992. The Belarusian Association of Think Tanks has about 15 members, including IISEPS, the Institute for Privatization and Management, Novak Research Center, and others. Despite the repressive environment of “Europe’s last dictatorship”, more than a dozen think tanks were created, trained and supported with assistance from foreign donors in the 1990s. While the work of this older generation of think tankers, most of whom were educated in Soviet institutions, varies in its professionalism, a new generation has come to the fore since 2001. Most representatives of this new generation, represented by Arche, BISS, Center for Political Education and others, have studied at West European or U.S. universities, speak English, have published in Belarus or abroad, and are well-known to experts work closely on Belarus. A number of these new Belarusian think tanks and independent analysts are quite professional. The Misus Research Center , for example, won a 2007 Templeton Freedom Award. In addition, there are a number of independent analysts and experts whose work regularly appears in Belarusian, Russian and western languages in the independent press and foreign bulletins, as well as on websites and blogs.

    The goal of the State Department conference was “to solicit the views of nongovernmental specialists and to facilitate the exchange of views between these specialists and government officials.” Sadly, for discussions on Belarus , this seems to really mean non-Belarusians who are specialists on topics other than Belarus. One can only conclude that the best minds of the U.S. government were unable to find, recruit or pay for more than one Belarusian expert from Belarus.

    Polish homophobia? It’s not a phobia

    From: Beatroot
    Thirteen people were detained by the police – five of them juveniles - after counter marches through the streets of Krakow, Saturday.

    Rival demonstrations took place from the Campaign Against Homophobia and the ‘Catholic-nationalist’ All-Polish Youth, which was recently expelled from the League of Polish Families because their far-right antics had become a PR disaster.

    About 2,000 people attended the ‘Tolerance March’; March for Culture and Tradition, organized by the All-Polish Youth, could muster just 300 supporters, according to police estimates.

    The All-Polish Youth had promised they were not going to allow ‘sodomites’ to enter Krakow.

    The march was part of a tolerance festival by the Polish Campaign Against Homophobia, which finishes Sunday.


    Of course, All-Polish Youth is made up of bigots, who’s youthful energies could surly be put to more productive use – like joining model aircraft, or stamp collecting, clubs, perhaps?. But are these guys ‘homophobes’?

    A phobia is a psychological condition – like arachnophobia – in which the sufferer cannot control himself and is a victim to his fears. Arachnophobes do not choose to fear spiders.

    So according to the Campaign Against Homophobia, All-Polish Youth cannot do anything about their ‘fear’ of gays and lesbians, and, presumably, need therapy.


    Prejudice against gays and lesbians is caused from political ideologies, which come from the top of society.

    These prejudices can only be got rid of through political argument and cultural development.

    There is free will - unlike fearing spiders - shown by members of All-Polish Youth when they decide to go on a demo, and throw eggs and the usual nonsense at gays on marches.

    They don't throw eggs because they have a 'phobia'. They chose to be there and bring the eggs (bottles, rocks, etc) with them. They then chose to throw them. It's not some psychological compulsion.

    So All-Polish Youth are not victims of a phobia, they are holders of bigoted opinions and far right political views.

    We do not need a campaign against homophobia, we need a political movement in Poland arguing for genuine equality and tolerance.

    So not Campaign Against Homophobia - it should be Campaign Against Bigots.

    Back to the USSR, Shame on U.S.?

    From: Publius Pundit
    From now on, at least 50 percent of the reports about Russia must be "positive." In addition, opposition leaders cannot be mentioned on the air and the United States is to be portrayed as an enemy, journalists employed by the network, Russian News Service, say they were told.

    Do you remember receiving assurances from "experts" on Russia, when proud KGB spy Vladimir Putin took power, that Russia could "never go back" to the dark days of cold war and dictatorship, that the Russian people had "learned their lesson," that Russia's democratic changes were "irreversible." Those people who told us that betrayed us, as surely as any spy who stole our secrets, and we must call the to account.

    The International Herald Tribune reported on Friday that Russian News Service, a radio broadcasting conglomerate recently taken over by state gas monopoly Gazprom, had brought in a new team of a managers and staff had been informed that America is now to be reported as the "enemy" and opposition politicans were persona non grata -- with mostly good news being reported about the nation's rulers -- just as in Soviet times. Over the weekend, the Kremlin shut down the website of the Glasnost Defense Fund, which reported on violations of press freedom. Its spokesman Boris Timoshenko said: "Russia is dropping off the list of countries that respect press freedoms. We have propaganda, not information." New laws are beign passed making public criticism of the regime illegal. IHT reports: "In a test case, Moscow prosecutors are pursuing a criminal case against a political activist for posting critical remarks about a member of Parliament on a Web site, the Kommersant newspaper reported Friday."

    There are really only three prominent beacons of opposition left in Russia: the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, the Echo of Moscow Radio station and Garry Kasparov's "Other Russia" troop (one might also include the Kommersant paper, recently purchased by a Kremlin-friendly oligarch) . Even though none of them have a true national audience, they are all obiously in the Kremlin's sights. Echo has already been purchased by state-owned Gazprom and seen a flight of journalists defect (the same is true of Kommersant). As we previously reported, Kasparov has been called before the KGB and his lawyer is facing disbarrment. He could end up in a cell next to Mikhail Khodorkovsky any day now. Is this new announcment a sign that Echo of Moscow is being targeted? Is Novaya Gazeta next? Echo has a serious following among the intelligentsia, so the Kremlin would need to attack carefully, setting the stage. If/when these dominos start falling, we will know that the neo-Soviet vision for Russia has been fully realized. Whether we know it or not, the new Cold War has already begun (as we at Publius Pundit began warning many months ago).

    Now is the time for all of democracy's allies to rally to her cause, before it is too late. Fool us once on Russia, shame on you -- fool us twice, shame on U.S.!

  • Sport...

    President wants Belarusian ice-hockey players to show better results

    From: BelTA
    During a meeting focusing on the participation of a Belarusian ice-hockey team in the Russian ice-hockey championship, the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, said he was not satisfied with poor results of Belarusian ice-hockey players.

    The head of state admitted that the international success of the Yunost ice-hockey club, which won the Continental Cup in January this year, opened a new page in the history of the Belarusian ice-hockey. “But who today can guarantee a good performance by our team in Moscow at the world championship?” Alexander Lukashenko asked.

    The President also said the Belarusian national junior ice-hockey teams “have stuck between two floors”. “This means they make no headway,” he said. Unfortunately, he went on, objective information does not allow giving a definitive answer to the question about the quality and prospects of our ice-hockey.

    The head of state is confident that, to improve the situation, Belarusian ice-hockey players ought to hone their skills and show more zeal and determination to win.

    Belarus has been making huge capital investments in sport. In 2006 alone, nearly Br60 billion was utilised for the promotion and development of ice-hockey in the country. “No country invests such huge money ‘openly’,” the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, said today during a meeting focusing on the participation of a Belarusian ice-hockey team in the Russian national ice-hockey championship.

    Belarus is implementing a large-scale programme on construction of ice arenas, he added. These facilities are being built in towns with the populations of around 100 thousand people.

    The idea of a Belarusian ice-hockey team playing in the Russian ice-hockey championship has been mulled over by ice-hockey specialists and ice-hockey aficionados alike for quite a long time now, he said. There are many opinions ‘in favour’ and ‘against’ of the idea voiced by both fans and specialists. On the one hand, participating in the Russian championship would give Belarusians a chance to hone their skills, but, one the other, it may divert attention from domestic ice-hockey tournaments in Belarus. The President said the opinions of all the parties concerned would be thoroughly analysed today during the meeting.

    The meeting is attended by the Interior Minister of Belarus, Chairman of the Ice-Hockey Federation of Belarus, Vladimir Naumov, the Minister of Sport and Tourism, Alexander Grigoriv, the aide to the President of Belarus handling issues of physical culture, sport and tourism, Gennadiy Alekseenko, and chief Belarusian coaches and leading ice-hockey players.

  • Endnote...

    President of Belarus: security issues ought not to be used as political lever

    From: BelTA
    Security issues ought not to be used as a political lever in relationship between countries, the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, said today during a meeting with the Minister of Defence of Russia, Anatoly Serdyukov.

    Whatever the relationship between the leaders of Belarus and Russia may be, security issues are something sacred, Alexander Lukashenko said. The Defence Ministries of Belarus and Russia face many problems, he said, which they should address together. But these are challenges from outside. They concern the situation at the borders of Belarus and Russia.

    Building up the national defensive capacity is a key target for the Belarusian leadership. The Belarusian leader underscored the importance of the fact that the conversion of defence industries in Belarus had been stopped.

    According to the president, the Soviet Union had a precise scheme for coordinating the development, production and procurement of armaments and materiel. However, the scheme was destroyed when the USSR collapsed.

    “After the USSR disintegration the former Soviet republics decided to reform their defence industries, branding the process a conversion. Instead of military products the entire world needed the defence industries started manufacturing spoons, cooking battery, washbasins and things like that. Beginning the conversion, Belarusian defence industries largely reduced and in several cases ceased the production of military products, science-intensive and bleeding-edge products”, stressed the head of state.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted, curbing the conversion of the Belarusian defence industries had been one of the first decisions he made after winning the presidential elections.

    “We stopped the conversion of defence industries. It was said loud and clear that we will not use manufacturers of electronics, optics, including products for the space exploration and the army, to make pans. We did it sincerely and honestly and brought upon ourselves a lot of criticism voiced by the West and even certain ex-USSR republics. But we outrode it”, the president said.

    In his words, setting up the Military-Industrial Committee was the next step in Belarus. “We gathered all defence companies under one roof. We said distinctly and clearly that we will produce military products and dual-use goods. Moreover, we will support manufacturers and the turnout of defence industry products a way better than the USSR did. It was the main purpose the committee received”, added the Belarusian leader.

    Belarus has strengthened military-technical cooperation with other countries. “This was seen during the recent visits to Oman and India, where issues of military-technical cooperation were brought to the forefront,” the head of state said.

    The State Military-Industrial Committee, set up in 2003, has made a significant contribution to the strengthening of contacts with foreign partners, he said. Industrial, scientific and military maintenance companies and some other organisations were made subordinate to the Committee.

    That approach, Alexander Lukashenko said, was believed to allow for the broadest possible realisation of domestic scientific and industrial potential with a view to addressing issues connected with the creation, modernisation and repair of military equipment. It was also to improve the efforts aimed at fulfilling the government orders in the field of production of military equipment, to help preserve and build up the defence sector of the economy, to pursue state policy in the spheres of military-technical cooperation and exports control and to promote military exports growth.

    “Today it is possible to say that the decision [on the creation of the State Military-Industrial Committee, - BelTA reference] was right,” the President said.