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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Rhythmic Gymnastics made a priority, Talented youth, Oil hikes, Barowski scandal, Pentecost, Polish border arrests, Russia, Ukraine, Blogs and Sports

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  • #209

    A new rhythmic gymnastics centre to be launched in Belarus by 2010

    From: Office of the president
    Meeting with the members of the national callisthenics team of the Republic of Belarus
    Support to the Belarusian sport should not be provided chaotically, it should be lended through large-scale projects, said the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, on June 1 at a meeting with the coaches and athletes of the national rhythmic gymnastics team of the Republic of Belarus.

    “The period of the chaotic support is over. We should switch over to large-scale projects in gymnastics and in all kinds of sport,” the Head of State emphasized.

    Alexander Lukashenko became familiarized with the plans for the development of the Dynamo sports complex in Minsk which served as a basis for the setting up, in 2005, of the Republican Olympic Centre for training in rhythmic gymnastics. He could also assess the progress in implementing the assignments given by him during his previous visit in November 2003.

    One of the major tasks of the Centre is to provide the national team of the Republic of Belarus with the training they need for successful performance at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

    In the near future, a fencing room will be opened in the Dynamo complex which will contribute to the training of the national team members in this kind of sports.

    A new callisthenics centre is expected to be built in Belarus by 2010, said the President.

    Belarus has everything for developing skills and talents of young people

    From: BelTA
    Belarus has created every condition for developing skills and talents of young people, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said as he met with winners of international academic competitions, art contests and festivals, awardees of the President’s special foundations for the social support for gifted students and talented youth on May 31.

    The President’s press service told BelTA, at present major efforts are exercised across the country to create conditions for intellectual, physical and spiritual development of the young generation. Both the country’s leadership and public organisations pay special attention to gifted children. According to Alexander Lukashenko, the fact is proved by the successful accomplishment of the programme Belarus Young Talents.

    More than half of Belarusian school students get various forms of education fine-tuned to the degree of their academic excellence. They can study at 165 gymnasiums and 36 lyceums. There are many specialist classes and classes offering advanced training in certain subjects.

    Over half a million young Belarusians take part in national academic competitions every year. Belarusian teams excel at international academic competitions and tournaments. Between 1990 and 2006 286 Belarusian school students won medals at these prestigious competitions.

    The President noted, today Belarus has over half a thousand children’s art schools as well as art universities, vocational schools and colleges. State production centres in Minsk and regions of the country are being set up. Last year over 200 young talents became laureates of international and national contests and festivals.

    Alexander Lukashenko named Andrei Kunets’ and Dmitry Koldun’ performance at Eurovision Song Contest significant creative achievements. “The Belarusian contestants displayed not only their talents, but outstanding professional capabilities and, most of all, the true fighting spirit. Millions of people in Belarus and the entire Europe liked their performance”, said the head of state.

    The President underscored, the state leadership recognises successes the youth make. In 2006 the President’s special foundations commended over 1,700 students, professors and scientists, over 200 artistic youths and 18 music groups.

    The President’s special foundation for supporting talented youth works hard to raise the future elite of the Belarusian nation. Last year saw Br677 million appropriated for the purpose, including Br274 million in scholarships, prizes, grand bonuses and other individual incentives. All in all, last year the foundation provided support to 223 people and 18 music groups, with the laureate title given to 39 talented youths and eight music groups.

    For the eleven years of the existence of the President’s special foundation for social support for gifted students over 14,000 students, professors and other people, who made a personal contribution to raising the talented youth, have received financial support.

    Following an order by the head of state, databanks of laureates and scholarship holders of the President’s foundations were set up. The destiny of the registered young Belarusians is kept track of. Information about them is handed over to top executives of Belarus’ largest companies and state-run enterprises. The move creates the necessary prerequisites for exploring the potential of talented Belarusians to the full extent.

    According to the President, a nation’s weal is determined primarily by its creative potential, an ability to create cultural values, to build up science and manufacturing fast. Addressing participants of the meeting, the head of state underlined, “Your success and your talents are a national asset, a true gold reserve of the country”.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted, the role of selfless professionals and true patriots is invaluable for the spiritual and intellectual evolution of the nation. “Commending successes of our youth today, we pay tribute to your capabilities and believe in your future road to the genuine mastery and service for the Fatherland”, he said.

    The President called upon gifted students to treat their seniors and mentors, who had helped forge the road to the victory, with respect and to fight the star sickness. “Remember that one’s talent is made up of 10% of inborn abilities and 90% of hard labour. Only incessantly improving yourself, will you be able to reach genuine mastership in your chosen trade”, stressed Alexander Lukashenko.

    The President said, the state must be a reliable support for a gifted person on his way to success. The more we invest in culture and science today, the better we will live tomorrow, said Alexander Lukashenko.

    “Belarus loves you and respects you. I have a lot of hope the love will be mutual. Work for the good of the beloved Motherland — you will have no other”, the head of state told participants of the meeting.

    Alexander Lukashenko congratulated students on the landmark event in their lives and awarded them certificates and lapel badges of the head of state’s special foundations for the support for gifted students and talented youth as well as letters of thanks of the President of the Republic of Belarus.

    A concert by laureates of the Belarus President’s special foundation for the support for talented youth took place after the ceremony.

    Russia Hikes Crude Oil/Petroleum Export Duties

    From: Kommersant
    Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov
    Russia has hiked today the duty on crude oil exports to $200.6/ton from $156.4/ton. Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov sealed the respective ruling in mid.-May. Oil companies still find way to cope with changing duties, increasing exports ahead of the hike and planning a drop in sales abroad in summer.

    In addition to crude oil, the duty on refined oil exports reached $147.5/ton, and the duty on dark oil product exports grew to $79.4/ton; previous indicators were $117.7/ton and $63.4/ton respectively.

    Oil export duties are reviewed in Russia every other month, benchmarked to world oil prices. Following spring trading, the government decided to raise rates for exporting crude. Russia sold 22 million metric tons of oil abroad in March. Higher export duties can bring an extra $970 million a month to state coffers, the government hopes. The duties go down following the global drop in prices.

    Of interest is that Belarus has also stepped up crude oil duties today, making them equal to Russia’s duties. This unification was specified in the intergovernmental agreement that Russia and Belarus concluded January 12, 2007.

    Meanwhile, customs officials reminded that there is no way to declare exports under previous duties. Earlier, exporters were able to declare oil beforehand paying old duties for the next month delivery, a loophole in the Tax Code that authorities stove to plug. The Supreme Court of Arbitration has recently a decision to ban this procedure.

    In search for other ways to capitalize on duty rates, oil companies boosted exports throughout spring, anticipating higher in summer. In June, oil firms plan to take a break and cut down their export flows.

    Gazprom Neft Sets Up Subsidiary to Operate Oil Fields

    From: Kommersant
    LUKOIL President Vagit Alekperov (left) and Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller
    Gazprom Neft is planning to give away the operation of Gazprom’s oil fields to a new subsidiary, the gas monopolist reported. Analysts note that the gas giant will still be able hand over its new oil assets to Gazprom Neft. However, the process may be delayed for two more years until Enineftegaz which bought 20 percent in Gazprom Neft from YUKOS agrees to sell the stake to Gazprom.

    Gazprom Neft, where Gazprom holds 76 percent, is creating a subsidiary to develop oil fields of the gas firm, Gazprom’s corporate magazine said Tuesday. The Russian gas monopolist owns fields with 67.3 million metric tons of proven and 232.2 million of probable oil reserves, according to DeGolyer & MacNaughton. The company, however, extracts as little as 1 million tons a year. Gazprom Neft is supposed to act as a contractor and operator for oil fields.

    The Gazprom magazine reports one contract to be ready, five more in the offing this year and four to be signed next year. Gazprom’s total oil production is expected to reach 11 million tons by 2015, the magazine says. Gazprom Neft is going to form a unit, Gazprom Neft-NOVAK, to operate Gazprom’s ten oil fields. A well-informed Kommersant source says that Gazprom Neft will retain its contractor functions.

    Industry analysts are convinced that the new company is not going to come in the way for Gazprom Neft if it receives the ownership for fields’ operation licenses from Gazprom.

    However, the matter is still up in the air, a source in Gazprom Neft admits. Gazprom said last year it would not hand over licenses to Gazprom Neft unless it receives YUKOS’ 20 percent in the subsidiary. The stake was sold in a YUKOS bankruptcy auction in April to Enineftgaz, a firm of Eni and Enel, which granted Gazprom a two-year option to buy the share. Eni, however, later said that it would like to keep the stake.

    Kyrgyzstan Willing to Join Russia-Belarus Union

    From: Kommersant
    "People have already voted with their feet for a union with Russia,” Felix Kulov says
    A Kyrgyz opposition leader on Thursday suggested creating a confederation of Russia and Kyrgyzstan. In an effort to win Moscow’s succor in his rivalry with President Kurmanbek Bakiev, Former Prime Minister Felix Kulov is willing to share with Russia national currency, budget and even parliament.

    “Kyrgyz citizens who live and work in Russia strengthen its economy and help their compatriots. People have already voted with their feet for a union with Russia,” Felix Kulov told a news conference in Bishkek on Thursday. “We only have to make it official somehow.” Kyrgyzstan’s former prime minister spoke in favor of common economic space of the two countries, common budget, tax policies, currency and even parliament.

    Felix Kulov is going to declare the initiative at the upcoming conference which has already been called the second national assembly of Kyrgyz citizens. The first gathering was held in Mr. Kulov’s village and attracted 500 people. The second event is expected to gather 2,500 in the capital of Bishkek. The opposition leader is going to collect 300,000 signatures in support of the union to put the issue on vote at a national referendum.

    Felix Kulov is evidently determined to put up opposition against his main rival, President Kurmanbek Bakiev who dismissed him in January and broke up an really in April, arresting some of his allies.

    Kurmanbek Bakiev, who has recently become more Russia-leaning, might have to come up with a similar initiative to confirm pro-Russian stance.

    It is not clear how Kremlin officials will feel about the offer. Moscow is still struggling to create a union with another former Soviet republic, Belarus. But officials say that Bishkek only have to voice its bid, and it will become the third party in the union.

    Deputy Chairman Volkaw to fill in for arrested head of state petrochemical conglomerate

    From: Naveny
    Alyaksandr Barowski
    Uladzimir Volkaw, deputy chairman of the Belarusian State Petrochemical Industry Concern (Belnaftakhim), has been named acting chairman of the conglomerate to fill in for Alyaksandr Barowski arrested earlier this week.

    The Council of Ministers appointed Mr. Volkaw to substitute for Mr. Barowski on May 30, the day after the official's arrest, but announced the appointment only on Friday.

    Mr. Barowski is reportedly suspected of corruption and abuse of office. Prosecutor General Pyotr Miklashevich broke the news of his arrest at a news conference on Wednesday.

    The Committee for State Security (KGB), which arrested the official, has declined to give any details of the case.

    Petrochemical industry experts link the case to Belnaftakhim's woes caused by Russia's move to introduce a duty on crude oil exports to Belarus earlier this year. There are reports that Mr. Barowski did not take part in January's negotiations on Russian oil exports to Belarus and criticized the deal resulting from the talks.

    The amount of crude oil processed by Belarus' two oil refineries in the first three months of 2007 dropped by 10 percent compared with the same period of the previous year. Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski blamed it on Belnaftakhim top officials.

    Mr. Barowski was said to have directed that the refineries should import crude oil themselves after most Russian companies refused to supply oil to the companies for processing on a give-and-take basis. The refineries had to borrow to buy crude oil and currently find it hard to pay off the loans, experts suggest.

    A few more officials, presumably representing Belnaftakhim's Belarusian Oil Trading House, are rumored to have been arrested in the case.

    Pentecostal believers raided on Pentecost Sunday in Belarus church

    From: Christian Today
    United Pentecostal Church's sign
    The church — which has state registration — has been refused permission to rent premises for public worship, so has to meet in a private home. Local lawyer Sergei Lukanin told a western news service that Pastor Bokun told the court he had broken the law only because it went against the law of God, according to a news article by Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service.

    Fagan reports that Fellow church member Jaroslaw Lukasik, a Polish citizen married to a Belarusian, who faces deportation in early June, was also held for several hours. Although he did not preach at the service, he faces administrative charges on accusations of conducting unauthorized religious activity as a foreign citizen and hence violating laws on the presence of foreign citizens in Belarus.

    Fagan writes : « After police held him overnight, a court in the capital Minsk has today (May 28) handed down a large fine to Antoni Bokun, pastor of John the Baptist Pentecostal Church. The prosecution follows a police raid on the 100-strong congregation’s Pentecost service yesterday (May 27), held at his home because the authorities refuse to allow the church to rent a building for worship. »Pastor Bokun was detained following the Sunday service and spent the night in custody at Minsk’s Central District Police Station. On 28 May Minsk’s Central District Court fined him 20 times the minimum monthly wage, or 620,000 Belarusian roubles (1,740 Norwegian kroner, 215 Euros or 290 US Dollars), for holding an ’unsanctioned mass meeting.’ "

    Local lawyer Sergei Lukanin was present with approximately 100 other supporters at the hearing. He told Forum 18 that Pastor Bokun told the court he had broken the law only because it went against the law of God. He was prosecuted under Article 23, Part 34 of the Administrative Violations Code, which punishes violation of regulations for holding demonstrations or other mass events with a fine of up to 30 times the minimum wage or 25 days’ imprisonment, Fagan says in her report obtained by ANS.

    On the morning of May 28, a police spokesman at Minsk’s Central District Police Station confirmed Bokun’s detention there to Forum 18. « So what ? » he remarked. Asked what charges Bokun faced, the spokesman replied, « for holding an unsanctioned meeting. » However, he insisted that he was unaware what type of meeting it was : « How should I know ? »

    Fagan writes that under the 2003 Demonstrations Law, all public events require the advance permission of the local state authorities. Under the restrictive 2002 Religion Law, religious events outside designated places of worship – even in the home — may take place only after a corresponding decision by the local authorities.

    Lukanin, the lawyer, told Forum 18 on May 27 that he was given access to Pastor Bokun, « but not immediately, and we had to insist. » While Pastor Bokun signed the protocol drawn up against him, he said, he explained that John the Baptist Pentecostal Church — which holds state registration — meets at his home without official permission only because it has been refused state permission to rent other premises : « They had no choice. »

    Fagan reports that ten state representatives — two in police uniform and eight in plain clothes — carried out the raid, Jaroslaw Lukasik, who assists at John the Baptist Pentecostal Church, told Forum 18 after himself being detained for several hours at Central District Police Station on May 27.

    Fagan reports states : « Two young men in plain clothes — whom he presumed to be KGB secret police — were present from the start of the 11am service, he said. Neither they nor the eight who arrived during guest preacher Bishop Sergei Tsvor’s sermon identified themselves, he added. The state representatives began filming while Bishop Tsvor was preaching and called those present out into a neighboring yard after worship had finished, he said. A truck of OMON riot police was also headed for the house church, added Lukasik, but by the time it arrived both he and Pastor Bokun were already being escorted to the police station. »

    Lukasik believes the purpose of the raid was to prosecute him further after his public refutation of a May 8 order under which he must return to his native Poland by 8 June, Fagan reported.

    While he witnessed and prayed at the Pentecost service, Lukasik maintained, there was « no basis » for the protocol police drew up against him since Bishop Tsvor had preached in his place, Fagan says.

    « So I refused to sign it, » Lukasik told her. Nevertheless he was accused of conducting unauthorized religious activity as a foreign citizen and hence violating laws on the presence of foreign citizens in Belarus. Lukasik is due to go before an administrative commission this coming Wednesday (May 30). Once two Polish diplomats were given access to him towards the end of his Sunday afternoon detention, he told Forum 18, police officers explained that he faces a fine of up to 20 times the minimum wage or immediate deportation.

    Fagan says the authorities in Belarus maintain tight controls on the religious activity of foreign citizens. A Polish Catholic priest narrowly escaped prosecution after he celebrated Mass without state permission while passing through Minsk last September. Foreign religious workers invited by local religious communities of various confessions are increasingly being barred.

    « This is the first time John the Baptist Pentecostal Church has been raided. In late 2006 a local policeman and a state representative in plain clothes inspected the empty premises — the basement of a free-standing house near the edge of Minsk — but there have been no repercussions until now, » Fagan said.

    Tsvor, the Pentecostal Union’s bishop for Minsk and Minsk Region, was similarly threatened with charges for unsanctioned worship in March 2006. However, he was spared punishment following the expiry of the legal deadline for his prosecution

    Kazakhstan overtakes Belarus to top list of countries viewed as Russia's allies

    From: Naveny
    Borat agrees that this is really fine news for his country
    Kazakhstan has overtaken Belarus to become top of the list of countries that Russians view as their nation's allies, according to a survey conducted by the Moscow-based Yury Levada sociological center in May.

    Thirty-nine percent of the 1,600 Russian nationals interviewed by the pollster named Kazakhstan as the friendliest country to their homeland, while 38 percent checked Belarus.

    Forty-seven percent named Belarus as the friendliest country to Russia, while Kazakhstan ranked second with 33 percent in a similar survey a year ago.

    Twenty-four percent checked Germany as the friendliest country and 19 percent pointed to China. Other countries named also included Armenia (15 percent), India (14 percent), Ukraine (11 percent), France and Bulgaria (nine percent both), and Turkmenistan and Italy (eight percent both).

    Estonia topped the list of what Russians think are the country's main adversaries with 60 percent. Trailing behind was Georgia (46 percent), Latvia (36 percent), the United States (35 percent), Lithuania (32 percent), Ukraine (23 percent), Poland (20 percent), Afghanistan (11 percent), Iraq (eight percent) and Iran (seven percent).

    Belarus border police arrest Polish fishing inspectors

    From: M&C
    Polish border police arrested a pair of Polish fishing inspectors said by Minsk to have violated the international frontier, the Belapan news agency reported Friday.

    The detention took place on the Western Bug River on the western edge of Belarus' Brest region.

    The two Polish game and fishing inspectors were aboard a small boat and did not resist when halted by a detachment of Belarusian border troops.

    It was not clear from the report whether the Poles had crossed into Belarus accidentally or intentionally.

    Belarusian authorities deported the Polish game wardens after citing them for illegal border crossing.

    Relations between Poland and its eastern neighbour Belarus have deteriorated dramatically in the decade since Poland joined NATO.

    Aleksander Lukashenko, Belarus' authoritarian leader, has accused Warsaw of conspiring with the US to overthrow him. Polish government officials have denied the charge, but repeatedly criticised Lukashenko for running the country almost single-handedly.

    Lukashenko in recent months has cracked down on ethnic Poles living in Belarus, fearing them as a potential source of opposition.

    Warsaw has protested the crackdowns, saying its support to ethnic Poles in Belarus is aimed at maintaining cultural links and has no hidden political agenda.

  • Around the region...

    Pole wakes from 19-year coma in democratic country

    From: Yahoo News
    A 65-year-old railwayman who fell into a coma following an accident in communist Poland regained consciousness 19 years later to find democracy and a market economy, Polish media reported on Saturday.

    Wheelchair-bound Jan Grzebski, whom doctors had given only two or three years to live following his 1988 accident, credited his caring wife Gertruda with his revival.

    "It was Gertruda that saved me, and I'll never forget it," Grzebski told news channel TVN24.

    "For 19 years Mrs Grzebska did the job of an experienced intensive care team, changing her comatose husband's position every hour to prevent bed-sore infections," Super Express reported Dr Boguslaw Poniatowski as saying.

    "When I went into a coma there was only tea and vinegar in the shops, meat was rationed and huge petrol queues were everywhere," Grzebski told TVN24, describing his recollections of the communist system's economic collapse.

    "Now I see people on the streets with cell phones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin."

    Grzebski awoke to find his four children had all married and produced 11 grandchildren during his years in hospital.

    He said he vaguely recalled the family gatherings he was taken to while in a coma and his wife and children trying to communicate with him.
  • NOTE: Do not believe a single word of this -ed.

    Ukraine stares, briefly, into the abyss: With the country's political process spiralling into a near paralysis, leaders have reached a compromise

    From: The Star
    Ukraine's three leading politicians emerged from eight straight hours of negotiations in the early hours last week, on the eve of the Orthodox Christian Trinity Sunday, to announce an unexpected breakthrough. Flanked by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and Oleksandr Moroz, speaker of the parliament, President Viktor Yushchenko declared Ukraine's prolonged political crisis to be over.

    Trinitarian symbolism aside, the leaders found a backroom solution that skirted the issues and sought to impose a compromise by fiat. Days later, even that momentary consensus is crumbling.

    Two months have passed since Yushchenko disbanded parliament to counter the emerging parliamentary coalition, led by Yanukovych, from stealthily building the 300-vote super-majority that could override presidential vetoes and push through constitutional changes.

    The lawmakers refused to budge and the country's political process spiralled into a near paralysis. Until last week, escalating battles between the president and the prime minister were fought via proxies, whether by means of the duelling demonstrations staged on the streets of Kiev or through their respective intermediaries and allies at government ministries, the courts and the security apparatus.

    Gazing into the abyss, the sparring rivals chose a sleight-of-hand settlement after long and secretive consultations.

    Agreeing to postpone the snap parliamentary elections first scheduled for May and then delayed by a month, Yushchenko withdrew his decree so that parliament can convene, vote on the necessary early election laws and disband itself in three days, paving the way for a poll in September.

    These pirouettes of accommodation held for part of last week, but the latest reports indicate that another bellicose retrenchment has followed. Interior Minister Vasyl Tsushko, loyal to Yanukovych, has found himself in the hospital with a heart attack, his supporters claiming he was poisoned, and statements from both sides suggest a new cycle of escalation.

    Yushchenko won presidential powers in a third round of voting in 2004 during the much-vaunted Orange Revolution, after the final runoff ballot was voided on account of massive fraud. Boisterous and resolute street demonstrations, along with an unprecedented world reaction, made his eventual victory all but inevitable.

    What has transpired since, however, resembles a continuous replay of that third round – with an increasingly less favourable outcome for the president.

    Yushchenko is a technocrat and an accomplished central banker, but utterly uncharismatic as a leader. His split from Yulia Tymoshenko, the true Pied Piper of the Orange uprising, has deprived the revolutionary coalition of the synergy that shook up Ukraine's politics.

    More disconcerting than Yushchenko's abortive promises of a nationwide transformation are the unsolved criminal cases that have mobilized the protest vote during the Orange Revolution.

    From the murder of independent journalist Georgy Gongadze, in which the previous president and Yanukovych's patron Leonid Kuchma was allegedly implicated, to Yushchenko's ghastly dioxin poisoning – blamed in equal part on his domestic adversaries and Russian secret services – the extensive and much publicized probes have yielded no results.

    Telling staged political theatre from real-life drama has become increasingly difficult in Ukraine. Discredited are not the democratic ideals of 2004 but the self-styled agents of change who failed to deliver.

    The events of 2004 were a kind of delayed bourgeois revolution, the mutiny of the educated, the impatient and upwardly mobile. Their disenchantment with the country's political elite now tilts the balance in Yanukovych's favour.

    If the current compromise solution holds, the elections now scheduled for late September are likely to bring back a parliament with a similarly ineffective breakdown of political factions. The groups that stand to lose the most are Moroz's Socialist party, which might not even pass the minimal 3 per cent threshold, and the pro-presidential Our Ukraine bloc.

    But even that outcome depends on overcoming the tensions that returned in recent days. After the key parties to the compromise questioned its basic premises, and work in the parliament stalled yet again, a phoned-in bomb threat disrupted the proceedings on Wednesday. In a memorable aside, several lawmakers refusing to leave the building said they will stay "to explode along with the Ukrainian democracy."

    For Ukraine, the fading prospects of integration into the European Union or the North Atlantic military alliance and the unappealing option of a closer partnership with Russia have contributed to creating a hybrid political system that seems exhilarating and dynamic when switched to a crisis footing but remains unable to function during the brief interludes of stability.

    Notwithstanding the numerous backers of the Orange Revolution in the West, democracy in Ukraine does not necessarily translate into an alliance with NATO or a textbook laissez-faire economy. Its energy-inefficient heavy industry calls out for a measure of protectionism, while the parochial interests of the eastern and southern Russian-speaking parts of the country reject a precipitous adoption of Western values.

    If the ongoing showdown has taught any lessons, it is that the stalemate is less a passing stage than a reflection of a system defined by a polarized electorate and estranged, intemperate, self-interested elites.

    Backed into a corner and unsuited for integration into larger international political blocs, however, Ukraine's trial-and-error approach may inadvertently point the way toward a distinct geopolitical place the country deserves

    Putin warns Russia may again target missiles at Europe.

    From: Itar Tass
    Russian missiles will again be targeted at military installations in Europe if the U.S. continues to insist on upsetting the global strategic balance, President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with a big group of correspondents from G8 countries.

    Excerpts from the interview were published Sunday by Corriere Della Sera daily in Italy.

    Putin indicated that if a certain part of U.S. strategic armaments moves to Europe and, as Russian defense experts predict it, begins to threaten Russia, then Moscow will have to make appropriate steps.

    Speaking about the specific steps that Russia might take, he said it meant, in the first place, the emergence of new targets, and as for the means of striking at the facilities that posed risk to the Russian Federation, it would be a purely technical matter to see if ballistic or cruise missiles could be used.

    He also indicated that Russia might use some totally new missile systems.

    TV and radio channels widely quoted Putin Sunday.

    On the other hand, Italian mass media also quoted the letter that Putin sent to Italian President Giordano Napolitano on the occasion of Republic Day.

    “Russian-Italian relations have attained a level of genuine partnership in recent years,” Putin wrote in it. “This applies to politics, trade, cultural and humanitarian spheres. Russia is ready to continue moving along the time-tested course of developing the entire spectrum of relationship.”

    He also indicated that “fair prospects open up before the two countries in a coordinated solution of pressing international problems.”

    Russia Balks at Extradition for Litvinenko Suspect

    From: NPR
    Russia has said there is no question of extraditing the man accused of poisoning the ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko in London. This week the suspect, another former KGB officer named Andrei Lugovoi, said that British intelligence was behind the murder.

    Britain says Litvinenko's murder is an extraordinarily grave crime that was committed in Britain against a British citizen — and so the case must be tried in Britain. But Moscow has poured cold water on that idea.

    Friday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said London is using the Litvinenko case as part of a political campaign that is damaging its relations with Russia.

    Critics say the stark dispute over the Litvinenko case highlights the differences between Russia and the West. Litvinenko himself painted a grim picture of his native country, beginning — publicly, at least — in an extraordinary 1998 videotape that came to light last month.

    In the video, Litvinenko and two colleagues testify to refusing to carry out orders from their superiors to murder and kidnap wealthy Russians. An agitated, youthful Litvinenko says his bosses were acting on their own for personal profit, and that he understood he was risking his life by speaking out against them.

    "I've never feared for my life. But I do fear for the lives of my wife and child," Litvinenko said in Russian. "I also know that even if they kill me, my wife and child, they won't stop. If these people aren't stopped now, this lawlessness will swallow the entire country. Things will be worse than they were under Stalin."

    Litvinenko's fellow officers said the video was a kind of insurance, to be played only if something were to happen to them. It was recorded by former television news anchor Sergei Dorenko, who also appears in it.

    Litvinenko, who died of radioactive polonium in London last November, was an outspoken Kremlin critic who on his deathbed blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering his poisoning. The Russian authorities strenuously deny the charge.

    Britain is charging former Russian security service officer Andrei Lugovoi with killing Litvinenko. But when Lugovoi appeared in front of reporters this week to dismiss the charge, he launched his own attack.

    Lugovoi accused Litvinenko of being a British spy who had tried to recruit him to find compromising information about Putin. He said the case has become part of a Western media war against both him and Russia.

    "They created a story of a Russian James Bond who snuck into a nuclear facility and cold-bloodedly poisoned his friend," Lugovoi said in Russian. "It was done for the British authorities to save face and compromise Russia."

    Whoever killed Litvinenko, the latest accusations from Lugovoi are contributing to a growing split between Russia and the West. Litvinenko's supporters say that may have been exactly what those who ordered his murder wanted to bring about.

    Belarus Called to Europe

    From: Charter '97
    In August a concert-festival “Be 2gether” is to take place in a several meters from the Belarusian border on the territory of Lithuania near Norviliskes Castle. As said by Deutsche Welle, organizers of the event, including Foreign Ministry of Lithuania, do not conceal that that appeal is addressed primarily to the Belarusians.

    The concert with participation of world-famous and Belarusian bands, is to take place in Lithuania, but theoretically it would be possible to listen to the music from the territory of Belarus, as the idea of the European integration would draw close to the Belarusian border.

    As said by the secretary of Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Zygimantas Pavilionis, this event is dedicated to the 50th anniversary of foundation of the European community. Its aim is to show that the Belarusians are waited for on the other side of the curtain.

    “We want to say to ourselves, and to the Belarusians, and to Europe, that forming Europe hasn’t been finished, and it should continue. We want to remind about existence of the Belarusian nation. For us, diplomats, it is not easy to find an appropriate form and remind Europe about this country, while such an event is a wonderful occasion,” Mr. Pavilionis said.

    “Music destroys walls” is the slogan of the concert. Participation of the legendary authors of the Wall, Pink Floyd, had been expected. Anyway, as said by the organizers, the list of Belarusian and Western stars would be top-quality and attractive.

  • From the blogs...

    Education Minister Giertych’s new school reading list

    From: The Beatroot
    More Pope, less literature...

    This is the latest great idea from the Roman Giertych Education Think Tank (which is about as subtle as a ‘tank’, but with very little ‘think’).

    Giertych said yesterday on the radio that ‘teachers all around the country have sent in suggestions for what should be on compulsory reading lists for school students.' He said that more about John Paul II should be put on the list but…

    Gombrowicz, Witkacy, Conrad, Kafka, Goethe, Dostoyevsky...

    ...should be taken off.

    These are, of course, some of the most significant names in literature in the last century, or so.

    The secretary of the late Witold Gombrowicz, Rita, for instance, told a newspaper this week that her former boss would have got the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1969, I think) if he had lived a little longer. Unfortunately he died that year and the prize went to …Samuel Beckett.

    So if Gombrowicz is good enough for a Nobel Prize then why shouldn’t he be good enough for Polish school kids’ reading lists?

    I am not sure that teachers all over Poland really have been writing in pleading for Gombrowicz et al to be – like gays – banned from Polish schools.

    So what has Giertych himself got against these writers, one wonders?

    Sex in the Neo-Soviet City:
    Moscow Does not Believe in Tears tips La Russophobe to the following item from the features section of the Moscow Times:

    From: LaRussophobe
    Neschastniy Sluchay
    Following last weekend's violent attacks on gay rights protesters, Moscow's largest club, B1 Maximum, will host a pop and rock event called "March of the Sexual Majority" on Wednesday. Its poster has the slogan "For the sake of life on Earth!" and shows a cartoon image of a man and woman holding hands, with a white circle marking the woman's womb.

    The event is organized by Alexei Kortnev, lead singer of the veteran rock band Neschastny Sluchai, which headlines the event, along with actors Mikhail Shirvindt and Igor Zolotovitsky. Among the other participants are Channel One presenter Valdis Pelsh, who is a former member of Neschastny Sluchai, the bands Khoronko Orchestra and Bi-2, and singer Irina Bogushevskaya.

    Speaking by telephone on Wednesday, Kortnev said that the timing of the event just over a week after the gay rights protest in central Moscow was a "very sad coincidence" since the concert had been planned four months ago. "We are categorically against the violent putting down of the protest," he said, calling it a "disgraceful punch-up."

    "I'm not against those people, we're not against those people," Kortnev said. "We are against the active popularization of homosexual values among young people." Such popularization was growing very quickly, he said. "Primarily it's on the stage and in pop music."

    He complained of "an erosion of the difference between men and girls" and "an assiduous denial of our sexual nature."

    The event will include games related to the topic, such as a contest in which audience members demonstrate their knowledge of how to use a condom correctly. The contest will be called "Stretch out the Pleasure," Kortnev said, consulting television presenter Pelsh at the other end of the line.

    To show that the organizers do not support the official reaction to the gay parade, plans for the concert include a sketch in which gay protesters beat up OMON riot police, Kortnev said.

    The event did not receive state funding, Kortnev said, although he added that its aims fit well with President Vladimir Putin's initiative to increase the birthrate. Tickets cost from 600 rubles ($23) to 4,000 rubles. The Russian Orthodox Church is not involved, he said, pointing out that "half the musicians taking part are atheists."

    The event's poster had to be changed after a complaint from the Moscow city advertising committee, Kortnev said. It originally showed drawings of a man and a woman with a hint at sexual organs. "They asked us to put on pants, so we did," the singer said laughing.

    The idea of holding concerts to promote heterosexuality first came up about 10 years ago, Kortnev said, but it was only recently that the musicians revived it. They have lined up similar concerts in St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk. If the B1 Maximum concert goes well, the musicians plan to hold another event at the Malaya Sportivnaya Arena at Luzhniki stadium.

    The venue that now holds B1 Maximum was the scene of a protest by Russian Orthodox activists in April 2006. The club, then known as La Guardia, was holding a gay night when protestors blocked the entrance shouting anti-gay slogans and holding icons.

    Kortnev said he did not expect gay rights activists to picket the March of the Sexual Majority. "I don't think that there is anything here that they could protest against."

    Re-Building the Eastern Bloc

    From: New Zeal
    In recent years, Russia and China have worked together economically and militarily through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. most of the "former" Soviet Union's central Asian vassals are involved, while Iran, Nepal, India and Pakistan are observers, or have indicated they plan to join.

    Rest assured though readers-the Russians promise that SCO will not become a "military alliance".

    From Novosti

      - Russia will hold a counterterrorism military exercise with China and other members of the "Shanghai Six" in August, the Ground Forces commander said Friday.

      "The main [of the six international counterterrorism exercises planned for the year] will be a joint exercise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in August," a regional grouping dominated by Russia and China, Army General Alexei Maslov said.

      The exercise will be held in the Russian Urals and will involve 500 vehicles from Russia and China, about 2,000 Russian and 1,600 Chinese personnel, a company (around 100 men) from Tajikistan, and smaller units from other members, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the general said.

      While China has yet to decide how its troops would be transited through Kazakhstan, he has already suggested an alternate route directly across the Sino-Russian border in the Far East.

      Officially, the SCO focuses on fighting drug and arms trafficking, terrorism and separatism. Although it has conducted a number of joint military exercises since 2003, Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov earlier this month reassured critics concerned about SCO countering U.S. and NATO influence in resource-rich Central Asia, saying the grouping would not turn into a military bloc.

      Russia also held its first-ever joint military exercise outside the SCO framework with China in 2005, several exercises with SCO observer nation India, and has raised the prospect of the other two SCO observers Pakistan and Iran participating in such exercises in the future.

    The Horror of Russia's "Nashi" Youth Cult, Revealed in English for the First Time Right Here on Publius Pundit

    From: Publius Pundit
    In a photo taken from the Nashi ("us Slavic Russians") youth cult website, a young child, decked out in Nashi's colors and wearing a protest whistle hung from a Russian-flag ribbon, prepares to take his first Komsomol-like steps into the folds of youth cult oblivion.
    Through the good offices of La Russophobe's translator we are able to open a window into neo-Soviet Russia that would otherwise be closed to the non-Russian speaking world. In our "Articles" blog, you will find extensive translated extracts from the unabridged Nashi manifesto direct from Nashi's website. You can see the unabridged version in Russian, the juicy bits from which are translated below, here, and the shortened, brochure-like screed in Russian is here (a comic book version of the manifesto has been published and distributed by Nashi as a propaganda leaflet; it was translated into English here, but then the translation was mysteriously withdrawn; the Nashi website itself, as we previously reported, was blocked for a time from Western browser access, but at least for now is available; our prior commentary about the leaflet version is here). Click here to read Nashi's propaganda in its full, horrifying glory in our Articles blog. Just for instance, Nashi claims that the USSR simply "decided" to give up the arms race because of its own enlightenment, and likewise "decided" to allow German reunification on the same basis (and note too its obsessive focus on the idea of counterrevolution, now styled as "colored revolution," and the demonization of the U.S., linking Russia's "liberals" to foreign spies looking to subvert Russian independence). It attempts to take sole credit for the defeat of Hitler for Russia, implying that Russia saved Europe, yet does not mention Stalin's secret deal with Hitler selling Europe down the river.

    As you see Vladimir Putin channel the ideology of Vladimir "Lenin" Ulyanov, creating a brand-new "Komsomol" organization for youth indoctrination in ideology, you see the final nail struck into the Neo-Soviet coffin of Russia. Some have misled us, claiming that the new Russian dicatatorship lacks the ideological underpinnings of the old USSR. Nobody can read this translation and still think so. How long before this ideology makes its way into text books, how long before a "party" requires indoctrination in this ideology before assuming the mantle of power? How long before it becomes a crime, punishable by gulag, to publicly criticize this ideology or those who espouse it?

    Murder, lies and the spectre of a new Cold War

    From: Edward Lucas
    Bizarre claim: Suspect Andrei Lugovoi says he has been set up
    There was an old dictum of Cold War propaganda operations that instructed agents to: "Admit nothing. Deny everything. Make counter-allegations."

    Such a hostile approach to international relations seems almost comical in our more enlightened age. But now it appears those same aggressive tactics have been dusted off for use by a new generation of Kremlin goons.

    How else can we explain the bizarre press conference held yesterday by Andrei Lugovoi, the man whom British authorities have formally named as the man they believe murdered Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in London by contaminating his tea with a radioactive isotope?

    Lugovoi now asserts that he has been set up by the British security services, that Litvinenko was in the pay of MI6, and that they had tried to recruit him, too, to help discredit Putin and his cronies.

    All very intriguing. And all fabrication.

    The truth is that from the start of the saga surrounding Litvinenko's death, Russia has done nothing to help clear up the many mysteries in the affair, and everything to stonewall, distract and mislead both investigators and the outside world.

    Let us remember that the Kremlin's immediate response to Litvinenko's death was to blame Boris Berezovsky, the London-based billionaire tycoon.

    The argument was as simple as it was preposterous: Mr Litvinenko's demise had made Russia look bad. Mr Berezovsky is an enemy of Russia. Hence, Mr Berezovsky must be behind the murder.

    Yet astonishingly, some in the West were initially prepared to believe there might be something in that far-flung theory.

    Mr Berezovsky is certainly viewed as a troublesome guest in Britain - he owes his right to stay here to a murky deal in which he brokered the release of two British citizens kidnapped in Chechnya.

    His increasingly vocal criticism of Mr Putin's regime, including demands for it to be overthrown "by force", is an unpleasant reminder of the way in which Russia's internal power struggles now spill over into Britain. But no serious evidence connected him to Mr Litvinenko's death.

    By contrast, huge unanswered questions surround the mysterious Andrei Lugovoi and his

    friends, who had left a trail of polonium across half of western Europe before their ill-fated tea-party with Mr Litvinenko in London on November 1 last year. And those unresolved questions were becoming a thorn in the Kremlin's side.

    Specifically, they risked undoing the work of the Russian authorities and big Russian companies who have splurged millions of pounds on PR companies to schmooze politicians, journalists and officials to dispel notions that Russia is effectively a fascist gangster state, run by ex-KGB thugs and riddled with crime and corruption.

    They were aided and abetted by greedy foreign bankers and brokers, who are determined that nothing should derail the spectacular gas-fired gravy train that trundles between Moscow, Frankfurt, London, and New York, dribbling fees and profits as it goes.

    Never mind about the crime and extortion, they murmur. Look at the money. Give Russia a bit of time. What's one murder here or there?

    Yet the oily charms of the Kremlin chorus could not silence the clamour created by Litvinenko's assassination.

    Even those who found the victim's past murky could not ignore the fact a British citizen was murdered in broad daylight on the streets of London, and that the lives of at least 17 wholly innocent residents of the city were endangered by the astonishingly casual and callous conduct of the poisoners.

    And when Mr Lugovoi was formally charged by the Crown Prosecution Service, the Kremlin responded by refusing the request for his extradition, and has now embarked on a shameless and cynical counter-attack.

    Whether or not Mr Lugovoi was involved in the squalid saga under their direct control from the start, he is certainly working to their instructions now, spewing out ever more bluster and confusion.

    Contrary to Lugovoi's wild claims, all the evidence suggests that MI6 was never even interested in Mr Litvinenko as a source of information. He had to organise his own escape from Moscow in 2001, using a clumsily forged passport.

    That does not suggest that any Western intelligence service was behind his departure. Had they been so, he would have been "exfiltrated" with great professionalism and secrecy.

    Similarly, when he arrived at Heathrow airport, no British officials were waiting for him: indeed, he found it hard to get into the country at all. Even after that, the British authorities showed little interest: had they done so, he would have joined Oleg Gordievsky, Vasily Mitrokhin, Vladimir Rezun, Vladimir Kuzichkin and other top defectors from the Kremlin's intelligence services, expensively provided with closely guarded new identities, jobs, housing and pensions courtesy of the British taxpayer.

    In fact, Mr Litvinenko lived publicly and rather poorly in North London, dependent on a small stipend from Mr Berezovsky and occasional consulting work.

    It is marginally more possible that MI6 would have been interested in Mr Lugovoi himself, as he alleged yesterday. It is impossible to prove or disprove.

    But it beggars belief that they would have discussed Mr Litvinenko with him, as he now claims. Secret services are notoriously grudging with information even inside the organisation, and certainly do not chat freely with their newly recruited sources.

    It is possible in theory that the British authorities might have belatedly decided to use Mr Litvinenko for some reason. But again, it is hardly likely. The whole thing would strain the credulity even of the most jaded consumer of spy fiction.

    So why does the Kremlin think these lies are worth peddling?

    Many people around the world believe that the British intelligence services are both supremely devious and supremely ruthless; it will be all too easy to convince the paranoid and gullible that it was the agents of the hated, duplicitous British state that murdered Mr Litvinenko, rather than anyone connected with the muchmaligned Vladimir Putin, whose only crime is to stand up against the Anglo-American drive for world domination.

    In short, the most likely explanation of Mr Lugovoi's bizarre allegations are that the Kremlin dezinformatsiya machine has just moved up another gear.

    It certainly fits a pattern: the Kremlin has returned to the authoritarian and xenophobic habits of the past in a way that the West is still pitifully unwilling to confront.

    Russia's rulers care nothing for solving the Litvinenko case. Instead, they have decided to cynically exploit the tragedy.

    The big question for the West is whether this combination of deceit and ruthlessness is merely the temporary revival of Soviet-era habits, or whether it presages the terrifying descent into a new Cold War.

  • Sport...

    Bulgaria Beats Belarus 2-0 in Euro 2008 Qualifying

    From: Novinite
    Bulgaria's national football team defeated Belarus 2-0 in a European Championship qualifying match Saturday evening in Minsk with Dimitar Berbatov striking twice.

    The Tottenham Hotspur striker scored in the 28th and 46th minutes to bring his side close to the top two in Group G, Romania and the Netherlands.

    That was Bulgaria's first victory under the management of interim coach Stanimir Stoilov. Stoilov was appointed caretaker manager for the two games against Belarus, after Hristo Stoitchkov surprisingly resigned to take charge of Spanish relegation strugglers Celta de Vigo in April.

    Bulgaria now has 12 points after six matches in Group G, while Belarus has seven.

    The two teams will meet again in Bulgaria on June 6.

    World champion Tikhon throws 81.03m in Minsk

    From: IAAF
    Ivan Tikhon unleashes his 81.11 throw to take European gold in Gothenburg
    The Cup of Belarus meeting which was held (1 June - Throws) at the Stajki Sports Centre in the suburb of Minsk was marked by high class results as usual.

    The running and jumping events were held in a stadium in Pinsk on Saturday (2 June).

    Throwing events

    Ivan Tsikhan (Tikhon) the reigning double World champion in the men’s Hammer Throw and his compatriot Vadim Devyatovskiy produced a riveting duel for the audience. Tikhon began from 79.87m, while Devyatovskiy, the World silver and European bronze medallist answered with 79.97m. Then in the third round Tikhon, who is also the European champion blasted out a 81.03m release for victory.

    "I’m not satisfied very much with the technical side of throwing,” Tikhon commented. “I’ve made my throws using force, instead of technique. I’ve fulfilled the minimum task, but it would be desirable to do better. There are not enough competitions in which there is enough competitive motivation for me. I will now compete at the Romuald Klim at home in Belarussia, then in Warsaw, and then in Ostrava.”

    The leader of Belarusian women’s hammer throwing, Oksana Menkova, who holds the national record (76.86), produced with her second attempt a 73.94m win. She was also over 70m with her last throw on Friday, 70.40m. Maryna Smalyachkova, took second place with a 71.74m effort in the first round.

    World Discus Throw champion Iryna Yatchenko is improving with each competition. This time she made quite a good series - three times the discus crossed the 60m line, - the best was her fourth attempt in which her implement flew to 63.80.

    In the men’s Shot Put, Dmitry Goncharuk led from the start with 19.40m, only for Jury Belov to take the win in the fourth and final round with 19.81m. Julia Leantsiuk took the women’s competition with 18.54m.

    Track and Jumps

    In Pinsk (2nd June), the Usovich sisters - Sviatlana and Ilona – better known as 400m runners instead took the 800m by storm. Sviatlana won in 2:02.43, with Ilona, second - 2.03.12. In their absence, the women’s 400m went to Yulyana Yushchanka - 51.75, with Irina Hljustova - 52.55 - the runner-up.

    Natallia Safronnikava beat Alena Neumiarzhitskaya at the 100m - 11.55 to 11.56 - , but swapped positions in the 200m distance – 23.54 to 23.81.

    Natallia Safronava won the women’s Triple Jump with 14.01m.

  • Endnote...

    Eastern Europe a victim of its own successes

    From: By William J. Kole

    Lauma, a lingerie maker based in Latvia, last year started transferring production to Belarus and Ukraine. Now it plans to outsource all new business to the two ex-Soviet republics because it can't hire enough Latvians to staff its sewing houses.
    When the communists were ousted across Eastern Europe, the capitalists moved in. For foreign companies from McDonald's to Microsoft, it was an exciting new frontier -- a cheap place to make things, with 70 million potential consumers to buy them.

    Now, 18 years after the East embraced economic freedom, come the first tentative signs that an unprecedented boom may be on the verge of going bust.

    Although big business is still expanding briskly across the region, wages, real estate and taxes are rising fast. Put simply, for companies looking to outsource manufacturing or services, the newest corner of the European Union just isn't the bargain it used to be.

    Analysts say the shift is subtle -- in some places barely perceptible -- but they warn that the rapidly prospering nations of Central and Eastern Europe soon could become victims of their own success by pricing themselves out of the market.

    "It has happened before -- Mexico, Singapore, Thailand -- and will continue to happen as long as there are 'lower cost' places with the human and political potential to be developed," said Charlie Barnhart, a senior consultant for Alameda, Calif.-based Technology Forecasters Inc.

    Mr. Barnhart thinks there could be a noticeable "sustained softening" of foreign outsourcing to the East in as soon as two or three years.

    It's happening already. Among companies that recently scaled back or pulled out:

    • Delphi Corp., a Troy, Mich.-based auto parts supplier that filed for bankruptcy in 2005, shifted some manufacturing from the Czech Republic, where workers earned about $6 an hour, to Ukraine, where the going rate is closer to $1.60.

    • Lauma, a lingerie maker based in Latvia, last year started transferring production to Belarus and Ukraine. Now it plans to outsource all new business to the two ex-Soviet republics because it can't hire enough Latvians to staff its sewing houses.

    • Lidl, a discount grocery chain headquartered in Germany, last year sold 50 parcels of land in Estonia and Latvia, where it had planned to open stores, after executives realized the cost of doing business in the Baltics was much higher than they anticipated.

    Guntis Strazds, who heads the Latvian Association of Textile and Clothing Industries, says a shortage of workers and high labor costs will prompt textile companies to outsource up to 40 percent of their production to cheaper countries "in the near future."

    "We're already giving orders to Russia and Belarus, and we're in the process of making contacts in Ukraine," he said.

    In Hungary, an American company that refused to be identified showed the Associated Press an internal chart it uses to decide where to open new factories. Russia and Ukraine were ranked far cheaper than Poland, Hungary and Romania.

    To be sure, there's no mass exodus of Western companies from those countries. In fact, consulting firm McKinsey & Co. predicts outsourcing activity in the region to triple by the end of 2008, creating more than 130,000 jobs.

    The region's chief advantages, according to McKinsey: Wages comparable to those in India, a skilled, innovative and multilingual labor force, a low-risk profile based on political and economic stability, and a cultural proximity to Western Europe that poses fewer challenges and headaches than places like Southeast Asia.

    Smaller mid-size cities are worth exploring because they're cheaper than capitals, yet often have large universities that produce a steady flow of skilled graduates, McKinsey says.

    An example is the northwestern Romanian city of Cluj, where Nokia announced last week it plans to open a cell phone plant and tech center. Nokia will invest $80 million in the project, which the government says eventually will create 15,000 jobs.

    Romania's IT sector grew by 35 percent in 2006 to over $1.6 billion. Valerica Dragomir, executive director of the Association of Software and Information Services Industries, a trade group, says the opportunities are luring back bright young specialists who left "because they didn't see a horizon for developing their careers and didn't see a better life here."

    Yet analysts say a shift is inevitable.

    In Poland, wages for the first time are expected to grow faster than productivity this year, said Magdalena Iga of Warsaw's Center for Social and Economic Research. That's significant because high productivity has been credited for maintaining Poland as a good deal for foreign investors.

    As countries develop, salaries, taxes and other social costs go up. Mr. Barnhart, of Technology Forecasters, says a location starts losing its allure as an outsourcing venue when wages rise to within 70 percent to 75 percent of U.S. salaries, and when local raw materials are no longer at least 8 percent to 10 percent cheaper than in a fully developed country.

    That gives an edge to countries such as India and China, which have kept compensation down to 3 percent of the U.S. level. By contrast, wages in some sectors in Romania already are 50 percent of U.S. levels and rising by 20 percent a year.

    Czechs are the top wage-earners in Central Europe. Last year, their average monthly salary rose by 6.5 percent to the equivalent of $963, the government's statistics office said.

    Although Czechs won't earn as much as Germans until 2037 at the earliest, their prosperity "is catching up with that of an average Western European citizen," analyst Marketa Sichtarova concedes.

    Yet high wages won't stop South Korean carmaker Hyundai from breaking ground in May on a new $1.3 billion assembly plant in the eastern Czech city of Nosovice, or Samsung Electronics from moving ahead in talks with officials in neighboring Slovakia on plans to build a new factory to make flat-screen TVs.

    Likewise, companies such as Microsoft, which has operated in Eastern Europe since 1992 and now employs more than 1,000 people in 19 subsidiaries, are in no hurry to walk away from that kind of investment.

    Underscoring his commitment to Romania, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates visited Bucharest in February to inaugurate a technical support center that will employ up to 600 software specialists.

    "The snowball of outsourcing is big," said Cosmin Mares, spokesman for Romanian software company Softwin. "And it cannot be instantaneously stopped."