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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

President gives interview to Le Monde, Budget, Venezuela, Rechitsa Hardware, Diplomatic missions, Ethanol, Gazprom, Sailing champions and Blogs

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  • #220

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko gives an interview to the French daily Le Monde

    From: BelTA
    Interview to the French daily Le Monde
    Today President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko gave an interview to the French daily Le Monde, BelTA learnt in the presidential press service.

    The interview lasted more than two and a half hours. Alexander Lukashenko answered 47 questions covering a wide range of issues like cooperation between Belarus and the European Union, opportunities of establishing a dialogue with France, cooperation between Belarus and its neighbors which had recently joined EU, cooperation with new political partners like Venezuela, construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus, Belarus’ accession to the World Trade Organization, prospects of the Belarus-Russia Union State formation.

    The French reporter also asked how Belarus managed to cope with the consequences of the increase in prices for Russian energy carriers. Alexander Lukashenko expressed his opinion about NATO eastward expansion, deployment of USA missile defence systems in Europe, situation in Ukraine, prospects of further unification processes in the post-Soviet zone.

    The interview also touched upon urgent domestic issues like relations between the authorities and the opposition, recent streamlining of social benefits, reasons of why there is no so-called ruling party in Belarus.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus welcomes serious dialogue with the new authorities of France. “We would like the new French leadership to consider the relations between Belarus and European Union and to make corresponding conclusions. We will welcome if the new leadership of France pays attention to this and we will engage in a truly serious dialogue as was the case 8 or 10 years ago,” the head of state said.

    According to the President, the NATO expansion and deployment of the US missile defence system in Europe is the issue of security for Europe rather than for Belarus.

    “Without any consultations with the European partners the USA has been building up its presence in the region. The Europeans pretend they notice nothing and keep silent. But we know what this silence can lead to,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    According to the President, Belarus gives the energy cooperation a key place in the dialogue with the European Union.

    “The energy issue is the most important, first of all, for Europe. The Europeans should have started addressing the problem long ago never waiting for the crisis in the relations between Belarus and Russia which had a big impact on the EU, Alexander Lukashenko said. As the key issue in the dialogue between Belarus-EU we have chosen the energy issue rather than some ephemeral problems. Owing to inertia the Europeans do not see these problems. But believe me these problems will hurt those politicians in the EU who do not see these problems today”.

    “I hope the new President of France and the new energetic young leadership will see these problems and will then appreciate Belarus,” Alexander Lukashenko added.

    Le Monde is an influential French public-political daily publishing various serious political, economic, cultural and analytical reviews. Founded in 1944, the daily has the largest circulation among similar French newspapers, ahead of Liberation and Le Figaro. The newspaper is proud of about 4 thousand employees.

    Belarus will welcome an effective dialogue with France’s new leadership, said President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko during today’s interview with the French newspaper Le Monde.

    “We would like the new French leadership to look into the situation and into what is happening today between Belarus and the European Union, Belarus and France, and to draw appropriate conclusions. We will be glad if the new leadership pays attention to this; we will conduct a truly effective and cogent dialogue like we did approximately 8 to 10 years ago,” the Head of State emphasised.

    In 2007 customs payments to budget total Br4.380 trillion

    From: BelTA
    In 2007 customs payments to the budget doubled as against 2006 and totaled Br4.380 trillion, Chairman of the State Customs Committee of Belarus Alexander Shpilevskiy informed Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko today.

    As BelTA was told in the presidential press service, Alexander Lukashenko and Alexander Shpilevskiy discussed a wide range of issues relating to the work of the customs bodies, in particular budget execution, customs services and law enforcement activities.

    A new Customs Code of Belarus came into force on July 1, 2007. According to Alexander Shpilevskiy, in this conjunction the Belarusian customs bodies did their best so that the transition to the new requirements created no difficulties for citizens and foreign economic entities.

    Alexander Lukashenko and Alexander Shpilevskiy also discussed issues concerning the activity of the republican unitary company Beltamozhservis. The Belarusian Head of State demanded to improve the work of the enterprise. According to the Chairman of the State Customs Committee, Beltamozhservis turnover reaches Br60 billion a year.

    The President was also informed about the reorganization of the customs bodies. Alexander Lukashenko approved the transfer of full rights to carry out criminal investigation to the Belarusian customs bodies.

    In other financial news, in June inflation in Belarus stood at 0.4%, BelTA was told in the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis of Belarus.

    In June this year the Consumer Price Index grew by 3.6% as against December 2006. The average monthly increase in prices has made 0.6% since the beginning of the year.

    As BelTA informed earlier, in line with the guidelines of the monetary policy of Belarus for 2007 the inflation rate should make 6-8%.

    Also, in H1 2007, Belarus’ GDP made up 108.6% as against the same period last year, BelTA learnt in the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis of Belarus. According to the forecast, in 2007, Belarus’ GDP should reach 108-109%, in H1 – 107.5%.

    In January-June 2007, Belarus’ GDP grew by 7.7% (the forecast for the year – 7.5%-8.5%). Within this period, production of consumer goods increased by 5.8% (8.5%-9.5%). Production of foodstuffs fell to 98.9% as against the same period of 2006 (the forecast for the year - 9%-10%). Production of nonfoods increased by 11.9% (8%-9%).

    According to the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis, in January-May 2007, the GDP energy intensity reduced by 14.4% while the projections are 6-7%. In the period under review, the level of profitability of sold products made up 12.8% while the annual forecast is 14.5%. Productivity of labour in January-May increased by 8.3% (the 2007 projections – 7-8, 6%).

    Belarusian government delegation on visit to Venezuela

    From: Naveny
    A government delegation led by Viktar Sheyman, state secretary of the Security Council, is staying in Venezuela, said the Council's press office on Wednesday.

    The delegation that includes government officials and business executives arrived in Caracas on July 9 for the purpose of "working out joint measures aimed at increasing the efficiency of cooperation between the two countries and making relations dynamic." It is to stay in Venezuela until July 14.

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka on July 7 reportedly signed an edict appointing Mr. Sheyman to lead the delegation and act on behalf of the Council of Ministers.

    While in Caracas, the delegation held talks with the ministers of basic industries and mining, energy and oil, infrastructure, housing and habitat, and defense.

    The press office said that the talks have showed that "the Venezuelan side attaches a priority importance to cooperation with Belarus." "Venezuela is ready to actively solve issues regarding the purchase of Belarusian products, as well as the construction on its territory of joint enterprises for oil production and the manufacture of tractors, road and quarry equipment, household appliances, construction materials, and other enterprises, also in the services sector," it said.

    The agenda of the Belarusian delegation's talks also includes preparations for a large exhibition of Belarusian products expected be held in Venezuela by the end of this year as agreed by the two countries' leaders. The press office said that Venezuela "sharply needs the large spectrum of products and technologies made by Belarus' economy."

    Rechitsa Hardware Plant to channel $6 billion into reconstruction of its main facilities

    From: NLIPRB
    Rechitsa Hardware Plant will channel $6 billion into the reconstruction of its main facilities. The funds were borrowed from a Swiss bank under the guarantees of the Belarusian Steel Works, Director of Rechitsa Hardware Plant Adam Vashkov told a press conference dedicated to Day of Metallurgist.

    According to Adam Vashkov, regardless the doubling of the oil and gas prices for Belarus the profitability of the company grew two-fold due to the reduction of the implicit cost and rational policy.

    The fact that Rechitsa Hardware Plant was included into the production association Belarusian Steel Works (BMZ) also benefited the company. If earlier Rechitsa Hardware Plant bought raw materials from Krivoi Rog Steel Works, now it buys from BMZ owing to which the company has ensured a $55 million trade surplus this year. In addition, Rechitsa Hardware Plant uses BMZ commodity distribution network to boost its exports.

    Before the USSR collapsed there had been 16 hardware plants in Russia and eight in Ukraine. Today Rechitsa Hardware Plant exports as much as all the Russian hardware plants do and three times as more as Ukrainian. “We do our utmost to make high-quality goods and ensure their uninterrupted supply to our customers which makes them competitive. The company also benefits from comparatively low transportation expenses as compared with what Russian and Ukraine companies pay,” Adam Vashkov said.

    Founded in 1912 Rechitsa Hardware Plant is one of the first metallurgical manufactures in Belarus. Today it is a leading producer of nails and bracketry. It exports 80% of the output, of them 40% to the European Union.

    SAP opened office in Belarus

    From: Osprint
    SAP has announced the establishment of a representative office in the Belarusian capital. SAP used to ship its products to Belarus via its partners, International Business Alliance and Epam.

    SAP came to the decision to open an official rep office in Minsk as the information market development has been one of Belarus’ priorities in recent years. In the middle of 2006, SAP solutions attracted large Belarusian companies, Belarusian Railway and Belarusbank.

    The opened representative office will give Belarusian customers access to international SAP resources, letting them use experience of business consultants from all over the world for fast and efficient business development.

    The rep office will be focused on advancement in SAP's traditional industries, i.e. the oil and gas industry, the state sector and wholesale, the power industry and housing and communal services. SAP is going to develop solutions for management process improvement in insurance companies and the automotive industry in the future.

    Evacuation from Gaza begins

    From: Itar Tass
    The evacuation of Russian and CIS citizens from Gaza has begun. Thirty-five citizens of Russia and the CIS had arrived at the Erez border check point on the Israeli-Palestinian border by 10.00 a. m. Moscow time, the refugees told Tass. There are 160 people on the evacuation list, including 124 people who have Russian citizenship.

    The experience of the previous evacuation on June 21 showed the actual turnout might be 50 percent less. People might change their mind at the last moment for purely personal reasons; someone does not want to lose a job, while others simply do not want to leave their houses unattended.

    In the first stage of the evacuation in June seventy-three Russian citizens and seven citizens of Belarus abandoned the Palestinian enclave.

    The Russian embassy in Israel ensures safe evacuation in close contact with the Israeli, Palestinian authorities and the authorities of Jordan.

    The people will be evacuated by the same route used during the previous evacuation - first, transit across Israel and further on to Amman, from where the refugees will be taken on board a plane of the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations.

    Heads of Belarus' diplomatic missions abroad gather in Minsk for annual seminar

    From: naveny
    The heads of Belarus' diplomatic missions abroad will attend an annual seminar in Minsk from July 9 through July 19.

    According to the press office of the foreign ministry, top-ranking officials of ministries and other governmental agencies will tell the ambassadors about the priorities of the government's economic policies and efforts to develop the industrial potential of the country. The ambassadors will have the opportunity to thoroughly study the export potential of agricultural enterprises and the prospects for the development of tourism services.

    The ambassadors are expected to visit AAT Baryuskahramash (farm equipment company), AAT Belshyna (tire company) and AAT Fandok (woodworking company) in Babruysk, Mahilyow region; and the sugar refinery, cheese factory and meat-packing plant in Slutsk, Minsk region. The heads of the Belarusian State Petrochemical Concern (Belnaftakhim), the Belarusian State Timber, Woodworking, Pulp and Paper Industries Concern (Bellespaperapram), and the Minsk and Mahilyow Regional Executive Committees will meet with he diplomats.

    Men creating men in Belarus

    From: CafeBabel
    47-year-old Adam Globus started to write at the age of 21 and has never stopped. The essayist, novelist and poet has a list of erotic novels, haikus, an autobiography, travel journals and satirical tracts under his belt. 'A man can indeed create another man,' to use his expression, and so his books act as the starting point for other books. His father was a writer and his mother a librarian; they exerted a considerable influence on him, and very early on his private and professional lives became linked.

    From 1982 to 1991, Globus was part of a literary set which brought together philosophers, writers and other artists working as part of the Soviet counter-culture. In 1991, he considered leaving Belarus and going to France to study art and work more freely, before changing his mind. There are problems between artists and the authorities in every country, in one way or another, and he was not yet being prevented from working in his own country.

    However in 1995, a year after Loukachenko had been elected, the first stumbling block appeared that put paid to this good resolution: an anthology of Globus’s poems was banned. His books which had already been published were swiftly removed from sale. Nevertheless, family support meant he was able to set up his own publishing house with his brother. In this way he could publish his own works, even if it remained difficult to market them. The one work which was really ‘hounded’ was an anthology satirising president Loukachenko.

    Globus’s close connections with Russian publishing houses, which ranges from the writing of encyclopaedias to the marketing of his novels, allow him freedom from financial worry. If it has become more and more difficult to circulate his books, he by no means paints himself as the victim or blames the government for all his problems. 'The country is very young. It is normal that with the weight of the past there is still a lot of mental resistance. Belarus is being asked to evolve almost by herself.'

    As a result, there is no need to oppose the authorities. If this is necessary to continue being published, it can be done in other countries such as Russia or Lithuania. If authors have difficulties in finding a readership in their own countries, it is just as good to have their books translated for other countries.

    Belarus, Ireland to set up two joint ventures to produce ethanol fuel

    From: BelTA
    Two big joint Belarusian-Irish ventures will be set up in Belarus to produce ethanol fuel, the chief of Representative Office of Greenfield Project Management Limited in Belarus, Andrei Aleinikov, told reporters when presenting the project in Minsk.

    He noted that the company and the Belbiopharm concern have struck cooperation agreements to set up two joint ventures – at the Mozyr aggregate works “Ethanol” and Bobruisk hydrolysis plant. For the five years Greenfield Project Management Limited has been engaged in ethanol fuel projects. The future joint venture Greenfield Ethanol Bobruisk is expected to make 10 million decaliters of ethanol fuel a year while Greenfield Ethanol Mozyr – 55 million decaliters. The two joint ventures will be organized as joint limited companies. Greenfield Project Management Limited will own 80% of shares while Belarusian participants – 20% each. The investments will be provided by the Irish company. The project is currently at the stage of registration of the two legal entities – residents of Belarus. Andrei Aleinikov said that the company will invest heavy in the project. “The matter concerns several hundreds millions of euros,” he added.

    The ethanol fuel production is highly profitable and efficient in Belarus, he stressed. The profits are expected to total around EUR 350 million a year. This is an export-oriented project. At the first stage 100% of products will be exported to the European Union. Andrei Aleinikov said that today there is no domestic demand for this fuel in Belarus. He did not rule out though that in the future the Belarusian market would ripen for ethanol fuel as the relative treaty-legal base is formed. According to Andrei Aleinikov, ethanol fuel which will be produced in Belarus in several years has been already purchased.

    In Belarus ethanol fuel will be made from rye, triticale and wheat. About 30% of raw stock will be purchased in Belarus, the rest – in Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. In the future raw stock purchases in Belarus will increase. All in all, the annual demand of the two companies in raw stock will make up roughly 1,5 million tons of grain a year.

    The production of ethanol fuel may become a promising branch of the Belarusian economy, Deputy Chairman of the concern Belbiopharm Vladimir Mogilevets told a press conference in Minsk today.

    Ethanol will occupy a fitting place in the Belarusian export as soon as two Belarusian-Irish ultra-modern and high-tech plants in Mozyr and Bobruisk come fully on stream. The plants will be founded at the Mozyr-based company Etalon and the Bobruisk hydrolysis company. Belarus-made ethanol fuel will be sold to the European Union.

    The joint venture Greenfield Ethanol Bobruisk is expected to produce 10 million decalitres of ethanol fuel a year and Greenfield Ethanol Mozyr – 55 million decalitres.

    According to Vladimir Mogilevetsm, at present more than 15% of vehicles run on this eco-friendly type of fuel in the world. It is a rather new direction for Belarus and a corresponding regulatory framework has not been drawn up yet. “The project will be implemented in 1,5-2 years and we will manage to improve the legislation within this period,” he said.

  • Around the region...

    Gazprom targets for stock-market value of $1 trillion

    From: Itar Tass
    The Russian energy giant Gazprom has outlined plans to become the world’s first company with a stock-market value of a trillion dollars, a move that would make it twice the size of Exxon Mobil, the British newspaper Sunday Times said.

    Gazprom, which is majority-owned by the Russian state, would need to quadruple its current $251 billion (Ј125 billion) market value to achieve the goal. But Alexander Medvedev, deputy chief executive, told The Sunday Times: “It’s not just a nice figure.”

    Medvedev said the removal of gas-price controls in Russia, a revaluing of its reserves by western markets, the introduction of cost controls and a program of diversification and acquisitions would drive Gazprom to the $1 trillion threshold. He did not give a specific timetable for achieving the target, but it is understood that Gazprom executives believe it can be achieved within five to seven years.

    Medvedev dismissed suggestions that the company was a government tool as “absurd”. “The state has a majority stake, but we’re a listed group, with the remaining shares in the hands of private investors,” he said. The state’s controlling interest in Gazprom was in line with the practice in Norway, where the government had retained control of strategic oil and gas assets, he added.

    European consumers had nothing to fear from Gazprom’s strong position. “There is this myth that we are making all this investment in Europe so we can squeeze the customers. That’s ridiculous. We don’t invest huge amounts of money to squeeze people. It’s a mutual dependence ? We are heavily dependent on our European customers,” the newspaper cited Medvedev.

    Gas prices in Russia are strictly controlled, but by 2011 consumers will have to pay the same price as export customers, minus allowances for transport and duties. Medvedev said Gazprom’s “rough calculation” was that this would add $32 billion to annual revenues. “This is not properly appreciated by everybody ? and it’s why I agree with some investment-bank estimates that the fair value of Gazprom shares by 2011 will be double what they are today,” he told the newspaper.

    Medvedev said further boosts to the stock-market value would come from increased efficiencies and labor productivity. “We started on this path only five years ago. Last year our operational costs dropped by 5%, and for Gazprom 5% is a significant number,” he told the Sunday Times.

    The group also plans to diversify into oil and power generation, and into the manufacture of liquefied natural gas, which would eventually make it a big player in North America, and Asia. Medvedev confirmed the group was examining a spin-off of Gazprom-bank, which has become Russia’s third largest. He said the group was considering a float, or the introduction of a strategic investor.

    Gazprom is negotiating a strategic partnership with BP. The talks arose out of a dispute over the future of the Kovykta gas field, which was being developed by TNK-BP, BP’s Russian joint venture, but which has now been sold to Gazprom.

    On Friday, Gazprom announced the purchase of the British group Natural Gas Shipping Services, the sister company of Pennine Natural Gas, which it bought last year, the newspaper said. The pair sell gas to commercial customers, and now have 4% of the total market, with a plan to grow to 10%. Medvedev said Gazprom would also offer electricity to UK customers as well as a “carbon-neutral” gas package.

    According to the Sunday Times, Gazprom has since grown into the biggest extractor of natural gas and the sixth-largest company in the world, as shown by the following statistics. 29,100 billion cubic meters: Gazprom’s natural gas reserves, the largest in the world 547.9 billion cubic meters: the company’s gas production in 2005 155,000 kilometers: Gazprom’s Russian system for gas transmission 32: the number of countries that import Gazprom’s natural gas Ј41.6 billion: Gazprom’s sales (2006) Ј11.9 billion: Gazprom’s profits (2006) 440,000: number of Gazprom’s employees (2006].

    UEFA bans Poland's Legia after fan riot

    From: Servihoo
    European football's governing body UEFA has slapped a competition ban on Polish side Legia after a riot by its fans forced an Intertoto Cup match in Lithuania to be abandoned, the club said Wednesday.

    The flagship Warsaw side will be barred from European matches for the current season and for one further season, should it manage to qualify for any continent-wide competition over the coming five years.

    UEFA also ruled that match should be logged as a 3-0 win for hosts Vetra Vilnius, Legia said in a statement posted on its website.

    "This is a painful punishment. We are going to appeal," Legia spokeswoman Monika Repizant told AFP. The club has until July 14 to do so.

    "We are going to fight for the club to be able to take part in European cup matches in the 2008-2009 season," she said, adding that Legia "did not deserve" such a sanction.

    With Vetra leading 2-0 after 45 minutes in Sunday's match, several hundred of the estimated 2,500 visitors wrecked the stands and invaded the pitch after the half-time whistle.

    The Legia fans hurled concrete, bottles and flares at the around 200 police officers who were on duty at the ground, and ripped up advertising hoardings to to try to block the horses, tear gas and baton charges which the security forces used to bring them under control.

    The riot caused around 21,000 euros (29,000 dollars) of damage at the stadium.

    A total of 26 Legia supporters were arrested before and during the game. Ten were subsequently released.

    On Tuesday, a Lithuanian court jailed seven fans for between five and 15 days, and ordered nine to pay fines of up to 300 litas (87 euros, 118 dollars).

    Polish supporters, and Legia fans in particular, have gained a reputation for violence.

    Sacked Polish deputy prime minister rejects corruption allegations

    From: PR INside
    Andrzej Lepper,
    Poland's former deputy prime minister, Andrzej Lepper, on Wednesday rejected corruption allegations hanging over him as a deliberate «political provocation,» but reiterated that his party would remain in the shaky governing coalition.

    Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski fired Lepper, who leads a junior coalition partner, Self-Defense, as deputy premier and agriculture
    minister Monday after anti-corruption police linked him to a major corruption case.

    But the story, which has gripped Poland, took a new twist Wednesday after two daily newspapers, Dziennik and Rzeczpospolita, published articles saying that the Anti-Corruption Office, created by Kaczynski's Law and Justice party, had conducted a sting operation against two allegedly corrupt businessmen who had boasted of their ties to Lepper.

    The papers reported that the law agency, which used high-tech bugging devices and falsified legal documents in its sting, also wanted to collect evidence of alleged corruption on Lepper's part.

    The reports did not give named sources, although Rzeczpospolita cited an anonymous prosecutor overseeing the investigation.

    The Anti-Corruption Office declined to comment, but the agency's chief scheduled a news conference for later Wednesday.

    Lepper called the alleged sting operation as a «prepared political provocation» aimed at him, and called for the parliamentary committee for special services and the justice committee to investigate the issue.

    «According to my information, I can tell you today that the provocation was prepared against me as a person, someone who is a threat as a party chief and eventual candidate for president in 2010 elections,» Lepper said.

    Lepper was a candidate in the 2005 presidential race. He took 15 percent of the vote in the first round of the two-round contest, finishing third behind eventual winner Lech Kaczynski, the prime minister's twin brother.

    The premier dismissed Lepper's criticism of the Anti-Corruption Office and said it had engaged in «normal, legal» actions.

    «The operation was not directed against Andrzej Lepper, but instead against two men who have been arrested, who started to talk ... saying that for a lot of money they could rezone farmland,» Kaczynski told reporters in the Baltic port town of Swinoujscie. «Nobody knew at the beginning (of the investigation) that it would lead to Andrzej Lepper.

    On Tuesday, Self-Defense opted to stay in the governing coalition, but demanded that authorities present proof by Friday of Lepper's alleged wrongdoing.

    The prime minister brushed aside that demand, saying that presenting such evidence is a matter for prosecutors and courts.

    Self-Defense's decision to stay put staves off the immediate threat of fresh elections, and keeps the governing coalition's majority in parliament intact _ at least for now.

    In comments published earlier Wednesday in the Fakt daily, Prime Minister Kaczynski praised Self-Defense's decision, calling it «the best way out» of the current turbulence.

    But, he added guardedly: «We'll see whether it will last.

    Russian Navy chief says new Black Sea base complete by 2012

    From: Ria Novosti
    The construction of a new base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the port of Novorossiisk will be completed by 2012, the Navy Commander said Wednesday.

    President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in 2003 setting up an alternative naval base for the Black Sea Fleet in Novorossiisk after Ukraine demanded the base in Sevastopol be withdrawn by 2017.

    "In five years, we will finish the construction of breakwaters and piers," Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Masorin said. "As a result, the base will be able to accommodate up to 100 ships of the Black Sea Fleet."

    Russia has allocated 12.3 billion rubles (about $480 million) for the construction of the new base between 2007 and 2012 under a targeted federal program.

    Masorin said three piers had been constructed and the work was underway on building breakwaters.

    The construction of other infrastructure at the base, including facilities for coastal troops, aviation and logistics units, will continue beyond 2012, the admiral said.

    Meanwhile, Ukrainian leadership has been pushing for the withdrawal of Russia's naval base in Sevastopol in Ukraine's Crimea Autonomy by 2017, in compliance with a previous bilateral agreement.

    "The Black Sea fleet must leave the Crimea by 2017. Period," the Ukrainian Defense Ministry quoted Anatoly Hrytsenko as saying in May.

    Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in 1997 stipulating that the Black Sea Fleet's main base in Sevastopol, on the Crimean Peninsula, be leased to Russia for 20 years, with the possibility of extending the term.

    The annual rent of about $100 million is deducted from Ukraine's debt for Russian energy supplies. In addition to the main base, the Black Sea Fleet maintains two airfields and a ship re-supply facility on the Crimean Peninsula.

    But Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said Tuesday that the current rent could be increased in the future.

    "Certainly, the rent for the Black Sea Fleet base in the Crimea will be changing because it is linked to other factors that determine the final amount," Yushchenko said in an interview with the Vremya Novostei newspaper.

    Ukraine-NATO exercises draw protests

    From: Itar Tass
    The Odessa region’s administrators and chiefs of the NATO information and documentation center discussed Ukraine’ s integration in NATO at a roundtable meeting in the regional administration on Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, several hundreds of supporters of the Progressive Socialist Party picketed the building of the regional administration with posters “Hands away from Ukraine”, chanting: “We will not let NATO lead the Ukrainian people to slaughter!”

    The protests against the conduction of NATO-Ukraine exercises Sea Breeze-2007 in have been continuing for the sixth day.

    Main rallies moved to the Chabanka Range located 25 kilometers from Odessa.

    The protesters set up a tent compound at which over 1,500 citizens of Lugansk, Sevastopol, Lvov, Poltava, Odessa, Kharkov, Simferopol and Kiev are staying.

    Organizers expect more supporters to come from all regions of Ukraine.

    Opponents of the exercises suspended their protest actions for two daysi in Odessa, because the Ukrainian football supercup is held, drawing great crowds of fans from Donetsk and Kiev, the chief of the anti-NATO committee, Valery Kaurov said.

    However, the protests of a still larger scale will resume on Thursday, he said.

    Members of the public organization Oko also take part in pickets near a sea terminal in Odessa.

    The organization’s press secretary Anatoly Petrov said provocateurs were constantly sent to the protesters.

    “They tried to provoke a fight with the protesters, but nothing came of it. The picketers are law-abiding people and will not take provocations,” he said.

    Citizens of 28 countries apply to join Mars-500 experiment

    From: Interfax
    People from 28 countries have applied for participation in an experiment intended to simulate a flight to Mars, which will take place at the Moscow-based Institute of Medical and Biological Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the institute's spokesman told Interfax-AVN on Wednesday.

    "Two hundred of the applications received meet the requirements announced by the institute. Nineteen of them are from women," he said.

    Seventy applications have come from Russia, eight from Ukraine, five from Belarus, seven from the United States, three from the United Kingdom, three from Iran, and all the rest from Armenia, Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, Germany, Greece, Colombia, Latvia, Mexico, Estonia, and other countries, the spokesman said.

  • From the blogs...

    Back to Borisev

    From: Daryl goes to Belarus
    Ok so yesterday was ummm hmmm Tuesday... and we first took a tour of Minsk by foot with Kristina.. Doug's wife... our Amerianytz friends... we saw old old old city.. very cool.. being a Western boy.. not used to much being older than a hundred years or so.. we drove by this city.. the sign said 1047... ummm that's the year the city was founded.. DING!!!

    So much of this country was demolished during WWII that many buildings didn't make it through that war..

    We saw some churches that survived... it's pretty wild..
    Then we came back for a five minute rest and off to the 'youth meeting'.. (anyone under 35.. ) and they sit around a long table in a small room.. sing some songs.. (both in English and in Russian) and ate snacks and drank tea... Then I played with them.. did a couple of tunes on my own.. Doug and Mike Ricker talked.. Mike talked about his 'church' with the homeless people and how he does it etc... then Doug turned to the locals and asked 'how do you treat someone who keeps doing the wrong thing? Or is unloveable? Or isn't pretty?'

    Chris... Doug's 16 yr old son is with us.. he's been videoing everything... then he was asked questions about his church youth group back home and his school and what he does.. and the teenage girls are all over him... it was fun to watch.. Chris is now the rock star..

    Afterwards we stayed and were mobbed w/ people asking questions to all of us about this and that.. much English spoken.. mostly broken.. but we can manage half a world away... and hey.. i've still got my guitar..

    Today.. Wed.. a day off... I will cook dinner tonite for my hosts.. and we're off to the open markeplace. Heidi Barnes is coming in late tonite from Korea and she and I will be doing a 'mini'concert' in the flat here on Karl Marx on Sat eve as well as singing in two churches on Sunday. Yikes.. I've got a lot of prep to do.. gotta go!
    Palmer out

    Свободные мысли... - Дресс-код...

    From: Sammy_Belarus
    Сегодня я решила отойти от стандарта...
    (черный, деловой костюм, светлая блуза)...
    Я пришла на работу в розовых штанах.. розовой блузке, в пиджаке с розовыми тонами..
    и с розовой сумкой....
    Нет, не пугайтесь - все подходило в тон!...
    Мне сделали мои сотрудники комплименты.. и даже руководство...
    Все больше улыбались мне.. они всегда приходили и приходят на работу в обычной одежде.. а не следуя дресс-коду, которого в компании в принципе нет...
    Вообщем, со мной сегодня общались намного легче.. намного ближе...
    потому что я была к ним ближе.. в одежде.....
    Я была потрясена, когда мне сказали, что когда я - руководитель оделать вот так... я перестала быть какой-то далекой для своих сотрудников.. стала ближе... и мне так лучше...
    Во как! Оказывается!
    Нужели деловой стиль вот так гнетет?
    Но завтра не могу одеться так (по-проще) - важная встреча с важными людьми на их территории....

    Метки: работа

    Belarus intends to produce cars in biofuel

    From: Blog.BMP
    Belarus should make the engine running on biofuel. The prime minister Sergei Sidorsky said at a government meeting, which focused on the development of the domestic auto industry.

    "The engine must create, and to make export," state information agency quoted BELTA words Sidorsky.

    According to the prime minister, the project should be completed in time for 2 years.

    At the same time, Belarus to create biofuels, says the head of government.

    The development of the Belarusian automotive stipulates that by the year 2010, Belarus will be more than 50,000 vehicles to be equipped with domestic electronics manufacturing. The government described at the meeting, Vice Premier Anatoly Rusetsky.

    In particular, it is planned that there will be an annual 30,000 more cargo MAZov and about 20,000 Iranian passenger cars Samand assembled a joint venture Yunison.

    Topic biofuels in Belarus has been actively debated in the current year, following the increase of Russian energy resources. The government promised to find alternative supplies of oil and gas from Russia to reduce dependency on that country.

    Brooklyn, NY - One Man in Custody and Two Others Sought in Police Shooting

    From: Yeshiva world news
    Brooklyn, NY - Police took one suspect into custody and are searching for two others in the brutal shooting of two young police officers during a traffic stop of a stolen SUV, as was reported here on Vos Iz Neias.

    Among the men being sought was a former employee of a Long Island car dealership where the black BMW sport utility vehicle was stolen, said an official. State records show that the 34-year-old parolee has assault, robbery and weapons convictions.

    One of the officers, Belarus-born Russel Timshenko, 23, remained in grave condition on Tuesday with a severe head wound. His family is at his bedside. [AP]

    The driver of the SUV has been arrested, after 24 hours of questioning, on charges of attempted murder, still searching for the two others.


    From: A Russia of My Own
    Russia is for Russians. Yes, comrades, we have all seen the graffiti. We’ve heard these words shouted on trams, buses, in our faces, all over the place. They are not true. Maybe a little true, but there is also another part of the truth which is all the more funnier – Russia is for Russians AND Russophiles. Many countries can pride themselves on bringing home lots and lots of foreigners, giving them apartments and jobs and social security, like for example, the best country in the world, also known as my home country, Saudi Arabia that is, oh Saudi Arabia my home and native land as we sing in our national anthem every year on the 6th of June. But no other country, and I may seem very bold to say this but it is not just my imagination, it is part of the truth too, has such an amazing international community as Russia. Despite that we don’t get any apartments, jobs or social security whatsoever [however once in a while we get a slap in our face and that’s just as sweet since you know it’s from the heart and soul of a Russian – the object of our obsession]. Never mind that Russia doesn’t like the foreigners who have come to love her, or that a disease among the Russian people called “patriotism” has killed off many of us in big cities such as Pete and Masskva over the years. We are still a hilarious bunch and we aren’t afraid to show you just how hilarious we can be.

    Russophiles are twice as nerdy as those nerdy scholars on exchange programs from Oxford University that study folklore at state colleges in Kazakhstan. Yeah, that’s nerdy for you. We are indeed too nerdy for our red t-shirts with CCCP written on them, fur hats, leather boots, dictionaries and textbooks.

    I didn’t think I’d get friends from all over the world when I moved to Russia three years ago. All I thought was that I was going to get me some Russians and that would be enough. Boy, was I wrong! In Saint Petersburg I mostly made friends with other Swedish Russophiles, and we had such a blast together that some of us stayed friends even after they went back home and I headed East to conquer Siberia. One of them I sometimes, when she’s not looking of course, call my best friend. In Siberia I first made friends with an American and we lived next door for six months and now we write to each other every month and his letters are the best I’ve ever received. I’ve saved them all in case the grandchildren would want to have a look at them one day. In Omsk I also met a crazy French chick who I had a speedy friendship with that ended as fast as it had all begun but never the less – she’s still with me now, somehow. I guess it’s because she’s a writer and I’m a writer and writers never loose touch of each other, no matter how many years may pass or how many miles we may travel. I won’t even get you started with all my Chinese comrades that I have shared good deep propaganda studded conversations with over the years. I think I know half of the population of People’s Republic of China and that, I’ll tell you, is quite an achievement. I’ve gotten to know enough French people to start my own colony somewhere. [In Russia?] There have been quite a few Japanese fellows to cross my path. I know a Polish chick who now lives in London. I used to give love advice to a fifteen year older guy from Austria who used to come into my room in Omsk once a day and complain about the females in Siberia. I know people from all kinds of Asian countries that I’ll probably never visit, not because I don’t want to but just because there’s never enough time or money and will never be enough time and money, not for me anyway, that’s just the way I am, like for example Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, India, and so on and so forth. I used to party with a beautiful married with kids woman from Australia when I just made my way into the Urals. She hooked me up with her stunning cousin from Belgrade. When it comes to Europe, I’ve been almost everywhere, and where I have not been yet, there I already have friends. More Americans than is healthy for me know me and know I lack an accent and try to pass for a chick from Texas whenever people are drunk enough. Knowing people from all over the world, rubbing shoulders with a vast array of foreigners and hearing broken Russian spoken around me all of the time, has become the normal state of affairs for me. Before, when I lived in my home and native land of Saudi Arabia, where Socialism is king and they only sell rye bread [they are afraid of white foods, so they only eat chocolate ice-cream] and some people say we have a problem with too many people being single lonely divorced depressed these days, I used to think that becoming close friends with someone from another culture was difficult. I believed it was so because the Saudi Arabian authorities at the gymnasium in the suburb where I went told me so. There were many people from other countries or with parents from other countries who went there and the authorities were always doing “integration” with them there and because they were always doing it, it never really worked out for anyone. Saudi Arabians are a stubborn kind of people, we always want to do things our way and never want to put up our flag on national holidays or admit that we don’t mean shit to the rest of the world. Except for our rich neighbor Dubai, who is smaller but richer. To them we don’t mean crap and there’s a difference, however small, between crap and shit. And it’s not just because I’m a philologist.

    People back home in Saudi Arabia were quite surprised when I told them that I wanted to move to Russia and become a Russophile. But that’s so nerdy, they said. I didn’t believe them because I thought studying Russian language was the coolest thing in the world. Anyway it seemed way cooler than living off of social security back home in my lush hometown, second biggest in Saudi Arabia mind you. It’s so scary in Russia, they also said. But it’s the country that gave us Thomas Edison, I said. No, Thomas Edison was from South Africa, they corrected me. Shoot. So I decided to read up on my new home country since I was firm in my mind that I had to leave Saudi Arabia because I wanted to live on my own and get away from Saudi Arabian backwards mentality that always tells us we should be “lagom” [ancient word from the Arabic language, it only exists in Arabic language, if translated it would perhaps mean “ordinary”] because I didn’t want to be like everybody else in my lush hometown. To the East! Many people then told me that Russia is located up north, not to the east from where we’re looking at things, and that it is very cold up there and I said shut up I know I read a book about Santa Claus. Now you’re thinking Finland, they said. Stupid Saudi Arabians always think they’re so much better than everyone else just because we have a good life and a good car and a good economy but we don’t get that the rest of the world is laughing at us. Not with us. When I arrived in Russia I tried to wash all that was Saudi Arabian off of my hands. I started to dress like Russian girls did, the high heels short skirts plunging neckline you name it, and write only in English and Russian, never in Saudi Arabian anymore because I thought it was useless to know a language spoken only by 10 million people. But in Russia I started to change and my views also started to change and in a way I guess you could say that the world in general changed a lot during these three years. Just think about the orange revolution in Moldavia! Or was it in Belarus? Or maybe not in South America at all? Okay, so the point is another – with the new world around me I found in it a whole new shiny me. And that new me was essentially Saudi Arabian. When people asked me about Saudi Arabia in the beginning I never wanted to talk about it, I acted like I was from Dubai even sometimes; I didn’t even want to talk about the Harry Potter books that made our country famous as a wonderful country of wonderful books for children. I guess it was Siberia that did me in, as she did me in in so many many ways during the year and a half that I lived in her mighty bosom. Nobody in Siberia even knew that Saudi Arabia existed and this made me very mad angry sad and eager. Eager to fill them in on what they didn’t know yet but should at any cost know everything about. I started talking about my home and native land. I told them about our way of life, the way we are, what we think of and dream of and wish for and what it’s like to be Saudi Arabian and grow up in Saudi Arabia and look at the world from our little clean comfortable corner where nothing ever happens. Many Russians admire my home and native land. Some of them could even see themselves living there, not just because the standard of living is so high if you know what I mean, I hope. Others want to go to Saudi Arabia on vacation to see the fjords. They are the best thing because it is also desert in my home and native land but not really desert as in desert landscape but as in desert of the soul.

    I guess what I wanted to say is that I understand why people come to Russia. We come here for two reasons, and two reasons only – to learn Russian language or to run away from our home countries. Very simple formula, am I right or am I right? We don’t come here because it’s the best country in the world [we may be nerdy but we’re not stupid] or because it has something that other countries lack [it is actually the other way around] or because we love it [but you can’t hate Russia that’s the other side of the coin] but because it is the only way to go about things for us, the Russophiles that the world has forsaken [and righteously so!]. Do you feel offended, dear Mother Rossiya? But don’t. Don’t be. Don’t think of these words the way you hear them. In what I say there’s a silence between every word and in that silence there’s an endless ocean and that ocean is filled with a fluffy warm cozy feeling. You can close your eyes now Mother Rossiya, because when you open them it will be another world here and in the new world you will be different but we’ll still be together. After all you are not Saudi Arabia and you should be proud. Be proud, Mother Rossiya, but never let it go to your head. Eat some humble pie. Humble yourself. Open your eyes. Listen. Learn. But stay the way you are. Stay true to yourself. After all, who would we be, we the Russophiles, who would we be and where would we run away to if you had not existed?

    Nobody. Nowhere. Not me anyway.

    I would have been a nerdy exchange scholar studying Kazakh folklore at the state college of Semipalatinsk. Please, have some mercy and don’t you ever let me go that low.

    Russia is for Russians AND Russophiles. Amen.

    Poland is in the hands of Satan!

    From: The Beatroot
    Over 330 exorcists from 29 countries around the world have arrived in Czestochowa for their annual behind-closed-doors meeting to discuss new ways of fighting Satan.

    And what better place to exorcise the devil himself but Czestochowa, the home to the shrine of the Black Madonna and annual destination for many pilgrims.

    European exorcists meet once a year, usually in Italy or Germany. This is their second meeting in Czestochowa.

    And what do you think that the exorcists are talking about today? Well, it must be that the Devil, the cloven-hoofed one, is running riot among Poland’s politicians. In the last few days we have seen His terrible work on this land:

    How else can we explain Father Radio Maryja Rydzyk calling the First Lady of Poland a witch (see previous post)? Rydzyk himself said that the ‘Rydzyk Tapes’ were the ‘work of Satan’?

    How else can we explain Andrzej Lepper getting booted out of the government?

    How else can we explain the resignation of sports minister Tomasz Lipiec?

    How else can we explain the vice president of the Polish Olympic Committee, Artur Pilka, being sacked from his post after being detained by police for purchasing a kilogram of cocaine over a three to four year period. He claims that the Columbian snow was for 'personal use only'. Sniff, sniff. The ex-sports minister was apparently in charge of getting rid of doping in Polish sport. I would hate to see the state of his nostrils!

    So the hand of evil must be at work in this land. But what will the Polish voter do about all this, if they get the chance?

    Will they do the exorcists' work for them? Or will they decide that it is better to stick with the devil you know, than the devil you don’t?

    Thinking Blogger Award

    Wow! I've been nominated for the Thinking Blogger Award! Thanks so much, Two Crows, of Preserve,Protect, and Defend. This has been an honor for me, especially since I've never been offered an award for thinking and speaking my mind. Usually I'm just told to shut up and go away! Not to be glib, I do feel honored that Two Crows would find my blog entertaining.

    So, as a nominee, it's my honor to nominate five blogs that I think fall into the category, "Thinking Blog". These blogs have had me thinking, I think you'll like them, too.

    Inside the USA: This is a French blog that is written by a great guy, Jerome, who started his blog when he was living in the USA and teaching at Penn State, from January 2003 to November 2005. He is now living back in France, but has continued his blog from across the pond. He writes about life in the US, US culture, French bashing, and election madness. It's a great place to go when you want to see what the Europeans are thinking of our politics and news. Don't worry, if you can't read French, Jerome has a Google translator on his site. No matter what your language, you'll feel welcome at Inside the USA.

    ThankWee Salon in the Land of Enchantment: This site is run by ThankWee aka anajo, who is an artist and lives in New Mexico. Her blog isn't all about art, though. She also discusses music, philosophy, France, Travel, and Politics. Just like the typical artist, she writes what she feels and her ideas go where the wind blows them that day. It's a fun and relaxing place to be, a bit of an oasis when you feel like you just can't deal with another political scandal. There are plenty of other artists who hang out there...and for some reason, we always get on the subject of sex, food, and wine. I don't know how that happens...

    Being Had: Adam Goodman is an American,who has been living in Belarus for 5 years. He has written a book "Being Had", many plays for theater, taught English and much more. His essays about life in Pinsk and the politics of Belarus are fascinating. I especially love his stories about home, farming, his daughter and the rest of his friends in Belarus. Adam has a style of writing that makes you feel as if you are right there with him, and I'm often left thinking about what he wrote long after I've turned off my computer for the evening. I look forward to his new posts every week and highly recommend that you check out his site.

    Left in Aboite: This is a great progressive blog written by John Good. Left in Aboite, has great commentary on all the up to date political news. More aptly described as, "Your home for Progressive news and entertainment in Aboite". John also has two other contributors, Paddy (who also writes for Cliff Schecter) and Stan Matuska.

    Washington Woman: I have just recently discovered this blog and was immediately impressed by the writing of T.Kelly. Washington Woman is all about "Thinking, speaking, writing, and being active on issues that affect women, children, society and the environment." It's a great blog and I hope to visit often.

    Now, here are the rules:
    1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
    2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
    3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.

  • Sport...

    Belarusian woman Wins ISAF Sailing World Championships 2007

    The wind built up to around 20-22 knots during the Laser Radial Medal Race. In an incredible finish, Sari MULTALA (FIN) was in a gold medal winning position until she underestimated the layline to the final mark and was forced into a double tack. This brought Tatiana DROZDOVSKAYA (BLR) up into contention and the two had a drag race to the finish line to decide the World title. They crossed the line fractions apart but with DROZDOVSKAYA ahead, giving her the World title with MULTALA winning the silver medal. Petra NIEMANN (GER), who led going into the Medal Race, took the bronze.

    DROZDOVSKAYA’s win in the Laser Radial is another surprise in the Olympic Class becoming more and more reliable at producing them. Before today she had never even finished in the top ten in a World Championship. Like the other medallists, MULTALA and NIEMANN, she formerly sailed the Europe, competing in both the Sydney and Athens Olympics, before making the switch to the Radial. At home in Belarus she sails on Minsk Lake – hardly similar conditions to Cascais, although she did reveal that Sunday’s conditions in the lighter and shifting breeze on race area 3, which caused a massive shake up the top ten, did bare some comparison.

    However these were not the conditions that greeted the Radial fleet today. After they sailed out to the start area, the wind was definitely shifty, but strong around 20 knots and gusting much higher, resulting in several capsizes on the course.

    NIEMANN lead going into the race but tacked too close to the first mark and had to take a penalty, relegating her to the back of the fleet. Although she fought back from there, she could not recover the deficit back to the leaders. In contrast Katarzyna SZOTYNSKA (POL) nailed the start and led right around the course. However she went into the Medal Race in ninth overall and was never really in the medal hunt.

    After a poor start DROZDOVSKAYA was stuck at the back of the fleet, but managed to make up ground on every upwind, with the big gusts causing carnage on the course around her. She gambled by going left on the final work and made a big gain on MULTALA, who was then second in the race and in a gold medal winning position. In the building breeze MULTALA then underestimated the layline to the final mark and was forced into a double tack. 'I maybe could have made the mark but I thought it was better to tack,' she revealed afterwards. DROZDOVSKAYA sailed past and then the two were neck-a-neck on the final downwind.

    With NIEMANN way back down the fleet, it was a run for gold. 'It was very hard because we were going together,' revealed DROZDOVSKAYA afterwards, literally shaking as she still seemed to be recovering from the shock of winning. 'I was very afraid of capsizing because it was very windy. I was looking at Sari and it was close, close, close.'

    DROZDOVSKAYA and MULTALA appeared to cross the finish line together with an almost imperceptible gap to the naked eye - MULTALA afterwards said 30 centrimetres. NIEMANN came across in seventh and the title had been decided. DROZDOVSKAYA herself did not even realize she had won until told by fellow competitor Tania ELIAS CALLES (MEX).

    Waterpolo - European 'B' Championships:
    Dominant Belarus give modest Malta no chance

    From: Times of Malta
    Belarus 20
    Malta 1 (4-0, 4-1, 8-0, 4-0)

    A dominant Belarus moved into third place in Group A with their first win of the competition in Manchester. They leap-frogged Malta with an emphatic display, which included 14 consecutive goals and a second-half shut out.

    Belarus won the first and second quarters comfortably, before rampaging through Malta in the third, winning 8-0. Vladimir Basic claimed seven goals.

    He got a hat-trick in the first period, the first coming when Steve Camilleri was out. Alexcei Zalugnyi added the fourth.

    Exclusions continued to flow and Belarus's 6-on-5 continued to function better than Malta's, with Ivan Kulakov extending the lead to five early in the second period.

    Basic received his second personal foul, but Malta failed once more in the man-up, while Belarus converted a 6-on-5 at the other end through captain Dzmitry Vankevich.

    Camilleri pulled one back with 4:40 left until the interval, but it did not mark a resurgence and Belarus scored twice more through Siarhei Fralou and Vankevich. Camilleri also had a penalty saved.

    Armenaic Elizbaran opened the second-half scoring, before a penalty was awarded against Clint Mercieca and converted by Fralou.

    Basic grabbed his fourth and fifth in quick succession, before Vankevich completed his hat-trick.

    Fralou also added his third. Andrayuk and Navumenka then each scored on the fast break to take Belarus's tally to 16.

    Fralou struck on the fast break for his fourth goal early in the fourth session. Basic lobbed Ian Bugeja for his sixth and scored from a man-up for Belarus's 19th. Andrayuk grabbed a second to complete the scoring.

  • Vladimir Ignatic of Belarus, 16, lost in straights to Donald Young 7-5, 6-1 in the junior final and Wimbledon, but the Sun Sentinel says that this teenager has an enormous future. He was blasting playable serves at 130 mph.

  • Endnote...


    From: Jamestown
    The president at the Gala Concert "For Independent Belarus'
    On July 3, Belarus officially commemorated Independence Day, and the month also marks the 17th anniversary of the declaration of sovereignty in the late Soviet era. In contrast to previous years, the authorities are now offering a new form of patriotism: the promotion of national culture and pride is being combined with a new movement for support of the Lukashenka government and celebrating what is described as the economic success of the past decade and the flourishing of the current state. The creation of a new public association called "Belaya Rus'," a pro-government organization formed in several centers simultaneously, could prove decisive in forthcoming elections to the Belarusian Parliament or municipal elections.

    July 3 was initially chosen as Independence Day to sustain the link with the events of World War II, specifically the liberation of Minsk from German occupation in 1944. This year, there was an initiative from the government to continue the cultural action "For Belarus!" that was associated with the controversial reelection of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in March 2006. It was followed by the president's speech advocating a bond with the people through public associations, official trade unions, and the like. On March 25, the Lukashenka government commemorated the anniversary of the 1918 national republic for the first time.

    The new propaganda campaign is now well under way. Aleh Praleskouski, head of the main ideological section with the Presidential Administration of Belarus, noted that the public and cultural program "For an Independent Belarus!" began on March 25 with a concert at the Minsk domestic airport. The most significant factor, he added was "the feeling of patriotism and unity in displaying love for Belarus and national pride." He acknowledged the ideological basis of the movement (, July 4). On June 29, Uladzimir Rylatka, first deputy minister of culture, reported that some 30,000 people would take part in a gala concert sponsored by the national public and cultural movement "For an Independent Belarus!" on July 3 (, June 30).

    The results were quite impressive, with the main concert in Minsk attended by Lukashenka, after some 200,000 people had watched a military parade down Masherau Avenue (Belorusskie novosti, July 7). Altogether, about 450,000 people took part in official celebrations in Minsk, which included a concert featuring Belarusian and Russian singers, and a fireworks display that was preceded by the singing of the national anthem (, July 4). Similar events took place in different cities, many several weeks earlier, including concerts in Homel (June 4, 8) and Zhlobin (June 9) (, June 9).

    Simultaneously, the public association Belaya Rus' was formed after a series of founding congresses in Hrodna, Minsk, and other cities. The Minsk city public association declared two basic goals: assistance in the construction of a strong and flourishing Belarus, and assistance in creating the conditions for uniting the progressive forces of society on the basis of the ideology of the Belarusian state in order to procure political and social stability, and the dynamic economic and spiritual-moral development of society. The associations include prominent government and parliamentary personnel, university rectors, and acclaimed athletes and cultural figures (Belorusskie novosti, June 22, and July 2).

    What is one to make of these events? Two conclusions can be drawn. First of all, the Lukashenka regime has evidently dropped its reluctance to the formation of a "party of power," recognizing that a besieged and isolated regime requires strong public support from within. Belaya Rus' officially is not a political party but clearly has the potential to become one.

    Second, the two phrases "For Belarus!" and "For an Independent Belarus!" offer seemingly harmless calls to national pride while barely concealing an obvious question: independence from what? One observer, Yaroslav Romanchuk, has pointed out that although the president has never stated it explicitly, it is plain that the two slogans are offered to distance Belarus from Russia while extolling the achievements of the present regime: "Lukashenka is trying to convince the population that the tsar is good" (Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta, July 6). Along with the "new nationalism" should be placed the transformation of the national capital Minsk into a model city, including the futuristic new library, new shopping centers, and plush new buildings occupied by banks and foreign car manufacturers.

    Belarusian citizens are hardly immune to such changes, but they are cognizant that the period of economic stability is rapidly coming to an end. Lukashenka also is facing the sternest test of his leadership in an emerging energy crisis, the uncertain relationship with the Moscow leadership, and an alarming balance of payments deficit with Russia, which is currently offering to build the new nuclear power station in Belarus (Itar-Tass, June 25).

    Under these circumstances, it is perhaps pointless to question the sincerity of the official campaign "For an Independent Belarus!" or the formation of the new public association, Belaya Rus'. The government that has repressed opponents and manipulated elections and referendums now wishes to persuade the public that it has the best interests of Belarus at heart; and a leader who once regarded the native language as subversive and a tool of the opposition has reincarnated himself as a closet nationalist. However, the entire campaign is intended to bolster the Lukashenka regime and shore up support against an ostensible threat to the independence of Belarus, and thereby to the authority of the "president for life."