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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Belarusian-Vietnamese co-operation, Beer, Bush, B1 from Moody's, Nanomaterials, Not-so-free theatre, S-400's, internet censorship, Football and Blogs

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  • #232

    President: Belarusian-Vietnamese co-operation is very dynamic

    From: The office of the president
    On August 20, the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, met with the Minister of Public Security of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Le Hong Anh.

    A Belarusian-Vietnamese top level meeting will take place in the next few months, said Alexander Lukashenko. During the meeting, the two presidents will thoroughly discuss various political and economic aspects of Belarusian-Vietnamese co-operation.

    According to the President of Belarus, the Belarusian-Vietnamese dialogue is very dynamic. “For Belarus, Vietnam is a very important state in the region of South-East Asia. This is a fulcrum state for our country in this region, just like Belarus is a fulcrum state for Vietnam in Europe,” the President said. Alexander Lukashenko pointed to the robust development of trade and economic relations between the two countries. Every year, the trade turnover between Belarus and Vietnam increases by approximately 25 percent. At the same time, the trade turnover worth of $49.3 million “is very small taking into account the existing potential,” the Belarusian leader said.

    In his words, Belarus and Vietnam produce plenty of goods that the two countries can exchange with each other. Alexander Lukashenko said that before his visit to Vietnam, the sides would thoroughly analyse the ways of reaching the agreements that would help improve the bilateral trade and economic relations.

    “The agreements reached between the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus and the Ministry of Public Security of Vietnam will be the foundation of the relations between our states in the security sphere,” the Belarusian leader said. Referring to national security of the two countries, Alexander Lukashenko said: “Belarus will resolve any problem both at state level and at the level of any particular person, any Vietnamese expatriate, if a relevant request comes from the Vietnamese side.”
    Belarus and Vietnam hold the same positions on the issues of the international agenda and co-operate closely in the international arena, Alexander Lukashenko said. He also expressed conviction that Belarus and Vietnam would continue developing active bilateral interaction in international organisations.

    Le Hong Anh, for his part, conveyed to the President of Belarus the greetings from the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the President of Vietnam. The Vietnamese guest expressed gratitude to the Belarusian side for the support given to the delegation of the Ministry of Public Security of Vietnam during their visit in Minsk.

    Alexander Lukashenko: state must not lose highly lucrative brewing industry

    From: BelTA
    The state must not lose the highly lucrative brewing industry, Alexander Lukashenko stated during today’s meeting dedicated to the brewing industry development.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted that it is very important to determine whether to give this lucrative industry to foreign or domestic companies. “What country with such a vast market and unsatisfied demand as ours will give away such high-yielding business? Why are we abandoning it and giving it to foreign companies? Not even to private Belarusian companies but to foreign ones? Why did the state decide to leave this economic sector?” the Belarusian leader asked.

    The head of state reminded that a year ago he instructed the government to work out terms and conditions of a tender for investment offers in the brewing industry. However the government has no clear stance on the issue, the President believes.

    More than $125 million is needed to retool the Belarusian brewing industry.

    “In order to reach the state-of-the-art level like the one, say, Krinitsa brewery has, we need about $125 million. Just $125 million to modernise the entire industry in order to produce the beer we want,” stressed the President.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted, the capacity of the existing breweries lag behind the rapidly growing demand. Besides, modern consumers are not satisfied with the quality of Belarusian beer, which is a way lower than that of well-known foreign brands.

    The head of state noted, it is necessary to satisfy the domestic demand for beer and to increase Belarusian beer export. “Is it true we import more and more beer and what are the reasons for that? What impedes beer import reduction and increase in beer export?” the President asked those present at the session.

    The breweries of Belarus should be supplied with home-grown barley.

    As far as I was informed there is no problem with brewer’s barley in the country this year. Today the government will report on how they are going to secure the public brewer barley purchase order which stands at 150 thousand tonnes this year, the President said addressing the participants of the meeting.

    There are 12 breweries of various forms of ownership. In line with the brewer industry development programme for 2006-2010, Belarus is set to increase the production capacities from 46.3 million decalitres of beer in 2005 to 64.1 million decalitres by 2010, the production of beer from 27.2 million decalitres to 60 million decalitres respectively.

    In 2006, the brewing companies of Belarus manufactured 33.2 million decalitres of beer, in January-July 2007 – 21.15 million decalitres.

    Last year the exports of Belarusian beer amounted to 516.500 decalitres (74.4% from 2005). In January-June 2007 the exports totaled 209,800 decalitres.

    In 2006, the imports of beer made up 6 million decaliters, or 45% up from 2005. Over the six months of this year the imports came to 4.09 million decaliters. The imports are projected at around 7 million decaliters.

    Belarus to retaliate on visas for U.S. officials

    From: Reuters
    George Bush: Will not be allowed to come to the party
    Belarus said on Wednesday that it was retaliating against punitive Western measures by toughening rules for U.S. officials wanting to visit the ex-Soviet state, but promised to make entry easier for other travelers.

    The United States, following the lead of the European Union, last month expanded a list of Belarussian officials barred entry in connection with human rights violations and the disputed re-election last year of President Alexander Lukashenko.

    Belarus said then it would impose counter-measures but gave no details. On Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Vanshina said authorities in Minsk had no choice but to respond.

    "In response to the unfriendly act of the United States, Belarus will impose corresponding visa restrictions for specific categories of U.S. officials," she said in a statement on the ministry's web site.

    "But let me stress that retaliatory measures will in no way affect personal contacts between Belarussians and Americans."

    Vanshina's statement gave no further details. But she said U.S. tourists and businessmen wishing to visit would be issued visas to the country, which lies between Russia and three EU states, without having to provide letters of invitation.

    This was "an act of good will and underscores the friendly character of Belarussian foreign policy," she said.

    The U.S. restrictions expanded a list of judges and election officials to include more legal officials, officers in the interior ministry and the intelligence service, still known as the KGB, and heads of state enterprises.

    Washington said it had toughened the measures despite Belarussian moves to ease pressure on opposition activists.

    Both the United States and the European Union denounced as rigged Lukashenko's re-election to a third term last year.

    They also accuse the president of hounding his opponents and closing down independent media, and demand the release of what they describe as political prisoners.

    Lukashenko remains broadly popular and tells Belarussians he has spared them upheavals that have jolted other ex-Soviet states. He has called for improved ties with the West since quarrelling with traditional ally Russia over energy prices, but rejects any suggestion he must first improve his rights record.

    An opposition activist released earlier this year, Pavel Severinets, was sentenced on Wednesday to 15 days in prison on charges of illegal assembly when presenting a new book.

    The web site of Alexander Milinkevich, who challenged the president in last year's election, said other activists faced similar charges in connection with the incident.

    Severinets was jailed in 2004 but freed ahead of time last May in what the opposition said was an attempt by authorities to forestall the imposition of new EU trade sanctions.

    Belarus assigned 'B1' issuer ratings with stable outlook - Moody's

    From: Forbes
    Moody's Investors Service assigned to the Republic of Belarus a 'Ba2' foreign currency country ceiling and issuer ratings of 'B1' for foreign and local currency debt obligations of the government.

    The ceiling is based on the government bond rating and Moody's (nyse: MCO - news - people ) assessment of a moderate likelihood of a payments moratorium in response to a government default.

    Also assigned was a 'B2' foreign currency bank deposit ceiling along with a local currency country ceiling and a local currency bank deposit ceiling of 'Baa3'. The local currency country ceiling rating is the highest rating possible for any obligor domiciled in the Republic of Belarus.

    Short term ratings of 'not prime' were assigned to the government bond ratings, the country ceilings for foreign currency bonds and deposits, and the country ceiling for local currency deposits.

    All ratings carry a stable outlook.

    'The ratings reflect both the recent macroeconomic successes of Belarus and the likelihood that rapidly increasing energy prices from 2007 onward will occasion substantial restructuring of enterprises and may lead to a deterioration of some macroeconomic indicators,' said Moody's vice president Jonathan Schiffer.

    He added that 'while the Belarusian 'model' for promoting strong economic growth with relatively little social inequality has performed very well over the past five years, the degree to which existing institutions and mechanisms can cope with a qualitatively new economic environment is uncertain.'

    S&P Evaluated Belarus Ahead of Others

    From: Kommersant
    In the short run, the S&P rating will enable Belarus to release eurobonds to pay off the debts to Gazprom. In the long-term, it will make it possible for local companies to borrow outside CIS and the Baltic states.
    Belarus has obtained its first credit rating yesterday. Standard & Poor`s assigned the B+ score to the long-term foreign-currency denominated loans of the country. The short-term paying capacity of Belarus was evaluated equal to Georgia and Ukraine. In the short run, the S&P rating will enable Belarus to release eurobonds and set off the payments to Gazprom. In the long-term, it will make it possible for local companies to borrow outside CIS and the Baltic states.
    Standard & Poor`s Ratings Services announced yesterday it assigned the first credit ratings to Belarus. Similar to Georgia, Belarus got the B+ sovereign credit rating for long-term loans denominated in foreign currency. Its short-term sovereign rating stands at B (same as Georgia and Ukraine) and Belarus has the BB long-term sovereign credit rating for national currency loans. The outlook is stable for all ratings.

    The history of Belarus’ rating efforts commenced far back in 1996. But the problem turned into a political issue. President Alexander Lukashenko used to break negotiations with S&P on repeated occasions.

    In June 2007, Belarus Finance Ministry announced the launch of new talks with Standard & Poor`s, Moody`s and Fitch, but Standard & Poor`s outpaced its rating competitors and was the first to give its score to Belarus.

    “This fact will allow to attract investments to the country and place bonds under more advantageous terms, though of course, it is just in the long view,” Belarus’ Finance Minister Sergey Zdanovich said when commenting on the S&P rating. But the official didn’t specify any definite amount of the loans to be attracted by the government.

    Some time earlier, however, Belarus’ Finance Ministry has voiced the plans to launch eurobonds in the fall of 2007 to set off the reduction in financial reserves of the country resulted from gas payments to Gazprom.

    Besides, the sovereign credit rating of Belarus will materially reduce the cost of any corporate loans for it.

    Of interest is that S&P is quite positive about the condition of Belarus’ budget. When compiling the score, it took into account rather high GDP of the country and its low debt (9 percent of GDP). Given that Russia hiked gas prices for Belarus, S&P forecasts its balance of payments deficit to go up to 8 percent to 11 percent of GDP in 2007 to 2010 and the state budget shortage to grow to 9 percent by 2010. The rates of economy advance are predicted to slow down to 4 percent a year in 2007 to 2010 (vs. today’s 7 percent to 8 percent).

    Belarus Clears Its Debts to Gazprom

    From: Moscow Times
    Belarus has fully paid its July bill for Russian gas deliveries, the country's state gas operator said Wednesday, in a move that will further soothe fears over a resumption of pricing disputes with Russia.

    A Beltransgaz spokesman confirmed that the July gas bill had been paid in full but did not say how much the country paid.

    In July, gas export monopoly Gazprom threatened to reduce supplies to Belarus, which is also an important transit route to Europe, to punish Minsk for not paying $465 million for gas deliveries in the first half of 2007.

    Belarus fully redeemed the debt for January to June, which arose from the fact that the country was given a grace period of six months to switch to new prices for gas of $100 per 1,000 cubic meters, up from $46 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2006.

    From July onward, Belarus said it would pay for gas deliveries on a monthly basis at the new price.

    Belarus is seeking to borrow up to $1.5 billion from Russia to help its economy withstand the higher gas prices.

    Russia and Belarus to Develop New Nanomaterials Together

    From: Russia IC
    Nanorobot approaching a neuron
    Scientists from Belarus Institute of Solid-state Physics and Semiconductors started developing new cooperation programme for joint scientific research in nanotechnologies with Russia.

    Main goals of the programme are creating new nanomaterials, their production techniques and management of said production. Today experts are developing a complex of specific actions for Russian and Belarusian Academies of Sciences.

    Think-tank of the Institute of Solid-state Physics and Semiconductors plans to exchange equipment and experience in nanotechnologies and nanomaterials with Russian colleagues, which definitely gives rise to research productivity.

    Belarus "Free Theatre" is Under Attack by Militia in Minsk, Belarus

    From: American Chronical
    On August 22nd, 2007 at about 22:30 pm in Minsk, Belarus, belarussian militia have rushed into the private house in area of Bangalor where a premier performance of Edward Bonda's play "11 shirts" by "Free Theatre" was taking place. More than 50 people were taken to the Soviet District Militia Station for a pure interrogation (probably, under duress, as always). After 3 hours 30 of them including a French director Christian Benedetti (Art-Manager of French Theatre-Studio "Artfoville") and two professors of one of the Dutch theatrical schools were released.

    Nevertheless, there are more than 10 people, including the Art-Director of "Free Theatre" Nikolay Khalezin, his spouse Natalia Kolyada, youth leader Paul Yukhnevich and other actors and simple spectators are still in the station.

    "The author of the play Edward Bond allows to play performance only in informal places for a youth audience. The Bonda's play "11 shirts" shows in details how the violence destroys young individuality. To us it became clear, that theatre today is the opponent of the authority, and by quantity of employees of law enforcement bodies which have rushed now to us on performance, problems with freedom in the state will be solved only when our theatre would not be touched ", - has said Nikolay Khalezin before he was taken to the station.

    "Free Theatre" - the independent theatrical project which today plays the performances on prestigious platforms of Europe, however and for sure, it is forbidden in Belarus. Also "Free Theatre" became a member of the European Theatrical Convention (ETC) and has been nominated for reception of the most prestigious European theatrical award - "Premiums of Europe". On August 4th, 2007 Belarus "Free Theatre" delegation had a chance to meet a world-famous politician and playwright, and ex-President Vaclav Havel in Czech Republic.

    Belarusian air force and air defence taskforce successfully performs live firing during Combat Commonwealth 2007

    From: BelTA
    The S-400 missile system
    The Belarusian air force and air defence taskforce successfully accomplished a firing field exercise during the CIS manoeuvres Combat Commonwealth 2007. The active phase of the manoeuvres took place at the firing range Ashuluk in the Astrakhan oblast on August 22.

    According to the plan of the manoeuvres, a simulated Western alliance tries to force Armenia to break relations with the Russian Federation and to oust Russia from the oil-rich Caspian Sea regions. To accomplish the goal, extremist and nationalistic forces in the Astrakhan oblast and Caspian Sea areas of Caucasus and Central Asia are used. A 3,000-strong taskforce compiled of military of Russia, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan is set up to counteract the move. Fighter jets, assault planes, bombers as well as attack helicopters are used to suppress enemy guerrilla units.

    Four Belarusian fighters Su-27 covered assault planes and reconnoitred the area where enemy guerrilla units were located. Two fighters Su-27UBM modernised by the Baranovichi Aircraft Plant carried out a strike on several mobile enemy guerrilla units. Meanwhile, Belarusian fighters based on the Privolzhsky airfield destroyed two targets, which imitated transport planes of the enemy.

    S-300 units of the 115th Air Defence Missile Brigade performed live firing exercises. Following a decision of the Caucasus Air Defence Commander, the Belarusian air defence troops together with Russian ones successfully shot down Pischal targets, which imitated ballistic missiles. A 5V55 missile fired using an S-300 ADMS destroyed a 50-strong guerrilla unit. The missile’s fragment injury distance is as large as 250 meters, allowing the missile to be used to destroy not only air targets but surface ones as well.

    Heads of the defence ministries of Russia, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan watched the manoeuvres.

    An agreement on setting up the united air defence system of Belarus and Russia is passing intrastate adjustment procedures in Belarus.

    The agreement has been developed for several years already. Commenting on this, Leonid Maltsev said: “In the Russian Federation the adjustment procedure took five years, in Belarus we started it in late 2006”.

    According to the Defence Minister, even after the agreement comes into force, Air Force and Air Defence troops in Belarus will be subject to the Belarusian command. “Whatever agreements may be signed, in Belarus Air Defence troops will be led by Head of the Army in any situation,” said Leonid Maltsev.

    Belarusian Defence Minister Leonid Maltsev believes that in the future Belarus may buy air defence missile systems S-400.

    “We’d better spend money on S-400’s instead of spending it endlessly modernising existing S-300 systems,” the Defence Minister told media today.

    In his words, the state programme for modernising arms and materials, which runs up to 2015, also provides for buying new military aircraft for Belarusian Air Force and Air Defence. “We will buy the aircraft, which are cutting-edge ones at the moment of purchase,” explained the Defence Minister.

    Working party in Belarus to study foreign practices of regulating Internet mass media

    From: BelTA
    "the regulations will be aimed at excluding the possibility of extremism, neo-Nazi, pornographic information and calls to violence appearing on the Web. Several countries have already adopted law-making regulations in these fields.
    There are plans to set up a working party in Belarus within a month with a view to studying the experience of the CIS states and Europe in the legal regulation of Internet mass media business, Belarusian Deputy Information Minister Alexander Slobodchuk told BelTA.

    In his words, the working party will include representatives of all interested agencies of the country. Besides, specialists from various bodies will be invited for detailed discussions of certain issues. Alexander Slobodchuk admitted the possibility of cooperation with specialists from other countries.

    “The working party will scrupulously examine foreign practices used to regulate Internet mass media in order to create a legislative base in this area in Belarus,” said the Deputy Minister. “Today there are no laws in Belarus to regulate mass media business in the World Wide Web. But the move should not be seen as the enforcement of control, censure and restrictions. Nobody is eager to do that and it is impossible. Defining terms of information distribution and regulation of Internet mass media business is the goal”.

    Alexander Slobodchuk explained, the regulations will be aimed at excluding the possibility of extremism, neo-Nazi, pornographic information and calls to violence appearing on the Web. Several countries have already adopted law-making regulations in these fields. In particular, Russia has some practices used to fight child porn, European countries have ways to combat terrorism and racial intolerance.

    Having thoroughly digested the experience from across the globe, the working party will pass a resolution. Amendments will be introduced to the effective Mass Media Law or the law will be expanded with a new section.

    Among other things the working party will consider the observance of copyrights by Internet media taking into account the existing legal base in Belarus. The issue is regulated by the Civil Code, the Criminal Code, advertising legislation, copyright regulations, noted the Deputy Minister. But nowadays the difficult part is that it is often impossible to define the website, which posts “stolen” information or information damaging honour and reputation. The issue will be discussed by the working party.

  • Around the region...

    Ambassador Igor Likhovyi: integration of Ukraine into EU and NATO will not affect relations with Belarus

    From: BelTA
    Independence Day of Ukraine will be celebrated on August 24th
    The integration of Ukraine into the European Union and NATO will not affect development of its friendly and mutually beneficial relations with Belarus, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Republic of Belarus Igor Likhovyi told a press conference in Minsk dedicated to the forthcoming Independence Day of Ukraine.

    “We are brotherly nations who have so much in common in the past and present,” Igor Likhovyi underlined. “Last year the trade turnover between the two countries increased by 27%,” he noted. According to the diplomat, Belarus is the third important trade partner of Ukraine among the CIS member states and the sixth – among non-CIS countries. “Dynamics of our trade-economic relations orient us towards search for new approaches to our cooperation,” he noted.

    The Ukrainian ambassador took note of the importance of development of joint projects in the high-tech sphere as the two countries have considerable potentialin this field. Moreover he dramatized the importance of the use of transit resources.

    “We often do not realize how the two countries are important for each other,” said Igor Likhovyi. Belarus and Ukraine should use less rhetoric and think more about benefits and responsibility, he noted.

    At present there are 80 Belarusian-Ukrainian joint ventures and 30 representatives of the Ukrainian organizations in Belarus. In the near future the Crimea plans to open a trading representative office in Minsk as well.

    Ukraine is not planning to impose visa requirement for visitors from Belarus.

    The issue would be on the agenda if Ukraine was accessing the Schengen zone. However, it is possible only if the country joins the European Union first. “By the time Ukraine enters the EU, this zone can be abolished, the ambassador said. The position of an average Ukrainian is that before entering something, make sure you need this and if there is an exit.” Examining the experience of Lithuania and Poland we see that the accession to the Schengen zone restricts to a certain degree the relations with the neighbouring countries. “In the foreseeable future we will hardly take any steps to restrict the bilateral relations with Belarus in this way,” Igor Likhovyi said.

    The ambassador noted that Ukraine would like Belarus to extend the period during which a Ukrainian citizen can stay in Belarus without registering with the interior agencies. Some time ago this period was 90 days. Then Belarus reduced it to three days. “This does not suit us. We have recently discussed this issue with the chief of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry and reached a compromise: the Ukrainians can stay thirty days in Belarus without having to register with the relevant authorities, the Belarusians in Ukraine – 90 days as it is now. In the future we hope to achieve the parity,” the ambassador of Ukraine said.

    Ukraine understands the desire of Belarus to protect the national market, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Republic of Belarus Igor Likhovyi told a press conference in Minsk when answering a question concerning supplies of the caramel from Ukraine.

    “We do understand Belarus protects its national market. Belarus protects itself from the Ukrainian caramel and Ukraine has the economic problems relating to the Belarusian tyres and artificial fibre. There is nothing extraordinary here. Every time when we want to buy or sell something we should project what effect it will have on the export-import balance,” said the ambassador.

    According to him, Belarus and Ukraine will try to find a balance not to cause trade problems in the bilateral trade and also for the national economies.

    Igor Likhovyi is confident that the trade between Belarus and Ukraine will reach $3 billion this year.

    Russia rejects Georgia's accusation of airspace violation

    From: China View
    Georgia's claims that Russian combat planes flew missions over its border this week were branded a "hallucination" by the chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Yury Baluyevsky on Thursday.

    Baluyevsky's remarks came after Moscow received a note of protest from Georgia on Wednesday. "They claim they again saw, using their air defense facilities, a violation of their state border in the Kodori Gorge on Aug. 21," Baluyevsky was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

    "It looks like our Georgian colleagues are having an hallucination," he said.

    Georgia has twice registered violations of its state border. The latest alleged intrusion by an aircraft from Russia into Georgian airspace occurred Tuesday near the village of Omarishara, in Upper Abkhazia (the upper part of the Kodori Gorge), the Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

    "The aircraft that ventured into Georgian airspace from Russia flew at an altitude of 4,000 meters at a speed of 470-490 km per hour and penetrated five km inside Georgian territory," the statement said.

    But Baluyevsky countered, "I am a ground forces man, but I know that no combat plane flies at a speed like this."

    Russian Air Force spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky supported Baluyevsky's comments. Drobyshevsky was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying that "Russian Air Force planes on Aug. 21 carried out no flights along the Georgian border and there were no violations of Georgian airspace."

    The Georgian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said it has "demanded prompt and clear explanations" from Russia.

    "The violation of the airspace was recorded by both military and civilian radar," Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Batu Kutelia was quoted by Interfax as saying Wednesday.

    He went on to say that the matter would have been "considered a simple violation" had it not been for the first incident on Aug. 6. As a result, it had now "gained particular importance," he said.

    Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Ustiashvili said on Aug. 7 that two Russian fighter jets on the previous evening "violated Georgian airspace and dropped a rocket near the Tsitelubani settlement" which failed to explode and caused no casualties.

    The village is located some 15 km from the Gori city and is close to the South Ossetia region.

    But Russia has denied the attack. Moscow said none of its fighter jets were in the area, although its peacekeepers in South Ossetia did see an unknown plane fire a missile but they said it arrived from over Georgian territory.

    Graduate student at U.S. university held in Russia over Soviet medals and currency

    From: IHT
    A Chilean graduate student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis has been detained in Russia for more than two months after customs officials found several Soviet medals and currency she bought from a street vendor.

    Roxana Contreras, 29, faces up to seven years in prison, her supporters say. She "acquired USSR state honors illegally" and attempted to export them, according to Russian court documents.

    Supporters in the United States say the physics student was visiting friends in the southern city of Voronezh and probably did not realize she was doing anything wrong when she bought the six military medals, currency and coins for $66 (€49) and tried to bring them on the plane home with her.

    "They were being sold by a street vendor, so she had no idea they were not supposed to be taken out of the country," said Sonya Bahar, the director of the Center for Neurodynamics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

    Rep. Todd Akin, who represents Missouri in Congress, has written to Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov inquiring about the case.

    Russia's right to protect its national heritage is "undeniable," he wrote. But, "there are many at the University who vouch for the integrity of Ms. Contreras and who are convinced that this incident is the result of an unfortunate error. It is my understanding that in similar cases contraband is rightfully confiscated, but that individuals are usually detained only for grave offenses."

    In a follow up letter, Akin wrote that the ambassador's office told him by telephone that Contreras had been released. However, her supporters said Russian authorities are still detaining her while she waits for a court date.

    Phone calls to the Russian embassy went unanswered Monday. An e-mail was also sent to the Chilean consulate in Moscow seeking comment. Attempts were also made to reach Contreras.

    Bahar has asked university officials, academics and politicians to vouch for Contreras' character. She fears the outside support may have an unintended consequences. "Whatever we seem to be doing to try and help seems to be making it worse," she said.

    Contreras has hired a lawyer and rented an apartment. Russian officials are reluctant to keep renewing Contreras' visa, but a judge there refused to write a letter explaining the situation to help, her supporters said.

    They are concerned she will be in further violation of the law if her visa expires. Contreras, who previously studied in Russia, is trying to improve her language skills and bought a guitar to pass time.

    "Some days she's all right," Bahar said. "Other days she's just devastated."

    Contreras' boyfriend, Fred Scherrer, 41, of St. Louis, said, "She has been put on, we would call it, city arrest." He said officials want to be able to reach her at all times.

    He thinks the items may have been intended as a gift for him, but said neither he nor his girlfriend collected medals or currency.

    "We don't understand it from an American point of view. Why would they detain a traveler for two months?"

    Polish Police Arrest 48 in Child Pornography Raids

    From: Javno
    Polish police have arrested 48 people suspected of distributing child pornography over the Internet after early morning raids around Poland, police said on Tuesday.
    During the Monday raids at private homes, corporate offices and Internet cafes police also confiscated 92 computers, 43 hard drives and several thousand CDs and DVDs with suspected child pornography, which included pictures of children and animals.

    Police said the arrested men included priests, pensioners, students and businessmen.

    "There are also teachers, who should be expected to treat kids with care, but according to our evidence they were trying to take advantage of them," said a police spokesman in the southern city of Katowice, where some of the arrests took place.

    The raids were coordinated with Interpol, which provided information to locate the suspects.

    If convicted, they face prison sentences of up to eight years.

  • From the blogs...

    Putin Can't Have his Yellowcake and Eat it too: We Must Stop Russia from Getting its Hands on Australian Uranium

    From: Publius Pundit
    Although Russia is a land of vast mineral resources, it doesn't have sufficient uranium deposits to power its nuclear industry. Therefore, it must import uranium from abroad, and this gives the world a significant point of leverage over the course of Russia's political development, offsetting any influence Russia has based on its oil and gas resources.

    Next month, Russian "President" Vladimir Putin will travel to Australia in order to lobby for a huge new deal to purchase "yellowcake" uranium (like that pictured above) down under. Opposition politician Garry Kasparov, investigative journalist Grigory Pasko and attorney Robert Amsterdam are already there, sounding the warning call to Australian politicians that they should not go forward with the deal unless serious conditions and restrictions are imposed.

    As Kasparov states: "Should Australian uranium end up in the wrong hands - and it's not too far-fetched to suggest that Russia under Putin is already in the wrong hands - Australia will not be able to act innocent or to claim ignorance." Kasparov warns that the Kremlin cannot be trusted to use Australian uranium purely for domestic peaceful purposes, as is Australia's requirement, and it's equally clear that Russia is unable to safeguard the material it receives from falling into the hands of terrorists. Kasparov warns: "You can only be confident that the Kremlin will look out for itself, that they have zero obedience to the rule of law and that all sales are final."

    The U.S. must take immediate and dramatic action to prevent Russia from obtaining any source of ready supply of uranium in the Western world without making radical changes in its system of governance. If we don't seize the initiative, we'll suffer the consequences of an ever-expanding Russian nuclear threat. It's very plain that Russia intends to renew the cold war, and can't field a credible conventional military. Nukes are its only option, and we control its ability to get them. History is watching our leaders and will judge them severely if they fail us.

    Annals of the Neo-Soviet Crackdown on NGOs

    From: Russophobe
    At least 600 Russian NGOs, defending everything from consumers' to Communists' rights, have been deregistered for failing to comply with cumbersome new rules, a Russian media monitoring group said. The NGOs are, in effect, crippled, unable to open bank accounts or new offices. The Voronezh-based Interregional Group of Human Rights Defenders added that in some cases, the deregistering appeared to be politically motivated.

    Critics of the NGO registration law, which came into effect in April 2006 and requires NGOs to file lengthy annual reports, have lambasted it as an excuse to clamp down on Russia's nascent civil society. Opponents of the government can be deregistered over technicalities, they say. The government, however, argues that many NGOs are fronts for criminals or terrorists and need to be vetted. "There's an opinion among the country's leadership that the revolutions that happened in Ukraine and Georgia were begun by NGOs," said the report's author, Olga Gnezdilova, referring to pro-democracy uprisings in the former Soviet nations.

    In October, 77 NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, were temporarily forced to suspend activities after missing a registration deadline. Ella Pamfilova, a top adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, later admitted that the new law was suffocating NGOs. This year, only 216,000 of around 500,000 Russian NGOs were able to meet the registration deadline, the Kommersant business daily reported on Monday. The remainder can be taken to court and stripped of their registration. The new report, which collates media reports from eight regions, says that NGOs are being declared inactive by courts though some claim they filed all the necessary documents.

    Авг. 21, 2007 12:17 am Деткам в Боровляны от Гродненцев...

    From: sammy-belarus
    От имени всех деток, находящихся в онкологическом центре в Боровлянах выражаю глубокую благодарность всем откликнувшимся на просьбу о помощи и в частности

    Цыдик Татьяне - домохозяйке, маме двоих деток
    (такой большой пакет передала Татьяна, там и пазлы, тетради, игрушки, канцтовары и многое другое...)
    Огромное спасибо, Танечка! Счастья Вам и главное здоровья Вашим очаровательным девочкам!

    Юлечке lilac_siren- преподавателю психологии.
    передала мягкие игрушки, книгу по бисероплетению, украшение из бисера, которая она сплела сама для Гурской Юленьки, а также раскраски, игрушки, компьютерные игры и еще коробку подарков...
    Тебе, солнышко, также огромное спасибо за твое доброе сердце!
    Юлечка также помогла привезти огромное количество пакетов с подарками, которые е передала Наталия...
    Спасибо тебе, моя дорогая за помощь!!!!

    Савчик Валера и его родители передали Богданчику Олежке большую (огромную) грузовую машинку с пожеланиями радости, любви, счастья и здоровья....

    Настя и Карина из Гродно передали комплект книг о Гарри Поттере и большую, красочную книгу "Волшебный меч", а также много других подарков...
    Карина и ее семья написали письмо Глебу Полянскому и дарят ему ему машинку, а другим деткам, чтобы в их душе был праздник: воздушные шарики, книжки, игрушки, погремушки, пазлы...

    Наталия и ее сыночек Герман написали письма: Марине Демиденко, Насте Щербаковой, Тимофею Савельеву, Ивановой Юлии...

    Папа Наталии от лица магазина "Шоу-Тайм" передал пакет компьютерных дисков, игр и фильмов!
    Спасибо Вам, милый и добрый человек!!!!
    Наталия передала огромное количество подарков!
    Спасибо, Наталия, да благословит тебя, твою семью и маленького Германа Господь!...

    Пока распаковала вещи - немного призабыла от кого (Наталии, или Насти и Карины) следующие подарки:
    Лошадка с набором для девочки;
    Письмо, памперсы и погремушки для Савельева Тимофея с пожеланиями скорейшего вздоровления;
    Машинка для мальчика, а также канцелярские принадлежности: фломастеры, ручки, тетради, пеналы, цветная бумага, ручки, клей, кошелечек и т.д.;
    Мягкая игрушка - собачка...

    Еще раз благодарим всех-всех!
    Низкий ВАМ поклон!

    Когда есть такие люди - не страшно за будущее..

    The Fruits of Obstruction

    From: Robert Amsterdam
    What does Russia get in return for supporting Serbia and blocking the UN from establishing independence for Kosovo? Today the Wall Street Journal has a brief report on the fruits of Russian obstruction - and once again we find energy imperialism as the core determinant of the Kremlin's foreign policy:

    "Somehow the juiciest assets end up in Russian hands," said Jonathan Eyal, a Balkan specialist and director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London. "It is a strategy to bind Serbia again to Russia." He warned that such a trend could damage Serbia's efforts to join the European Union. EU officials haven't echoed that, but they have said a failure to settle Kosovo's status would damage Serbia's membership prospects. ... Russia's goal, analysts say, is to build a new southern energy corridor to bring Russian oil and natural gas to market in Europe, bypassing troublesome transit neighbors Ukraine and Belarus, which lie to the north of Serbia. At the same time, large new Russian pipelines help undermine the financial viability of the EU's Nabucco gas-pipeline project, which would bring gas from the Caspian Sea region and Iran, bypassing Russia.
    Lukoil owns two oil refineries and more than 1,800 gasoline stations in Europe, the majority in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, including Serbia. A spokesman for Lukoil declined to comment on the tender for NIS. But he described the region as strategically vital for the Russian oil major as it seeks the refinery and transport capacity to sell high-value refined gasoline direct to consumers in Europe.

    "We started with the former Soviet countries, like Ukraine and Moldova. Now we are moving to the former socialist countries," where old ties remain and asset prices are affordable, the spokesman said.

    Confiscating USD 100 000 Goods: XXI century in Belarus

    From: TOL
    Belarus had transit goods traffic through her territory decreased 2 times since 2003 when Belarusian customs had been on peak of confiscating goods for a mere sake of money. Ground could have been one missing or wrong letter in the seller’s name. Confiscated goods shops flourished all around the country feeding budget with money. Starting 2003, most carriers reverted their routes to Ukraina or Latvia to guarantee security of transit.

    Belarusian government does not seem to be making conclusions from that. Or may be now the circle of people having access to “confiscated” money has seized to some 10 people - I don’t know. But the tax inspection has turned to other practices. Now they target entrepreneurs who have no Latvia or Ukraina at hand to revert their business.

    Yesterday a tax inspection wanted to confiscate a 100 000 USD batch of goods from a woman entrepreneur who failed to produce one of ten certificates. This provoked a random gathering and 100 entrepreneurs from the same marketplace gathered around and protested. They told that the tax inspection never inform them of law changes, that they use any reason to consiscate the goods. Militiamen could not disperse the crowd and they called for special force.

    Authorities will stop behaving like this only when they get a blow in return. On August 16th militia dispersed 200-strong youth meeting using brute force. Nasta Palazhanka, a Young Front activist had been kicked after being knocked on earth. An 18-year old girl had been brutally beaten by civil-dressed people when they kidnapped Mikita Sasim. Later he was charged with disobedience to police and sentenced to 10 days of arrest. Witnesses reported a case when one policement was beating a guy being hold by other two.

  • Sport...

    Belarus 2 Israel 1

    From: JPost
    Dror Kashtan's Israel team was dealt a reality check ahead of next month's crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against England when the side was beaten 2-1 by Belarus in a friendly game on Wednesday night.

    The squad showed up for the game in sub-optimal condition and failed to impress, falling prey to a stoppage time penalty by the hosts in Minsk.

    Belarus went 1-0 up in the third minute and kept its lead until the half hour mark when Shimon Gershon scored a penalty for Israel. The home side won the penalty in the 94th minute which Maksim Romashchenko slotted past substitute goalkeeper Nir Davidovitch to take the win for Belarus.

    Around 10,000 passionate fans made their presence felt at the Dinamo Stadium, creating a hostile and unfriendly atmosphere for the Israelis. The game was Israeli's last run-out before the September 8 England match to be played at the new Wembley Stadium.

    Israel is currently joint top of Group E, tied on 17 points with Croatia, while Belarus is currently in fifth position in its Euro 2008 qualifying group, winning two, drawing one and losing four of its matches to date.

    The Israelis had a difficult trip to Minsk, which included numerous baggage handling mishaps and charter flight delays. As a result of the transportation problems, Kashtan had to call off the team's Tuesday training session. Many players complained about the progressive fatigue, but pledged their commitment to the team.

    Kashtan decided to include no less than five Betar Jerusalem players in his starting line up, alongside his star players from overseas. Yossi Benayoun (Liverpool), Tal Ben Haim (Chelsea) and Roberto Colautti (Borussia Monchengladbach) were also included in the starting line up.

    The Belarusians, who entered the game as clear underdogs, stunned the visitors in the third minute of the encounter after a well-crafted counter attack. Roman Vasiluk, who played for Hapoel Tel Aviv in the 2004/05 season, netted the ball from close range to give his side the surprise lead.

    Kashtan's gameplan started paying dividends, as Barak Itzhaki started working his magic in attack. The Betar Jerusalem forward was fouled in the box and Israel was awarded a penalty in the 28th minute.

    Itzhaki's Betar teammate Shimon Gershon stepped up and converted the spot-kick to level the score.

    The game was played at a slower place in the second half, with both coaches deciding to rest their key players. The teams started concentrating on their defensive duties and settled for the occasional counter attack. Israel playmaker Benayoun was lacking match fitness and failed to get his teammates involved in attack.

    Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb almost scored the winner for the hosts in the 76th minute, but his shot missed the target by a couple of meters.

    Toto Tamuz and Salim Toema came on as substitutes in the latter stages of the game for Israel, but failed to make their mark on the game. Belarus had yet to say the last word.

    Just when it looked like the game was heading towards a draw, the hosts pushed ahead for one last attack. The referee awarded Belarus a controversial penalty, after spotting a foul in the box. Romashchenko stepped up and sent the local supporters into raptures with a perfectly taken penalty kick.

    Meanwhile Estonia defeated Andorra in the one game from Group E played on Wednesday night.

    Indrek Zelinski scored a goal in injury time to give Estonia the win.

    Zelinski took off his shirt to celebrate and was dismissed after receiving his second yellow card of the match.

    Estonia now has three points in the Group, while Andorra is last with no points.

  • Belarus made it three wins from three in Group 8 by seeing off Latvia as Russia, Cyprus and Poland got their 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying campaigns off to winning starts.

  • Endnote...

    EU urged to talk to people chosen by Belarusian nation

    From: NLIPRB
    Though perhaps popular in Europe, Alexander Milinkevich has not been popularly elected to any office in Belarus
    In order to adequately understand what is going on in Belarus and what the Belarusian nation does need, political institutions of the European Union should talk to politicians chosen through a nationwide election instead of dissidents with doubtful reputation, BelTA learnt from Sergei Gaidukevich, special representative of the Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs responsible for cooperation with European parliamentary institutions, member of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly.

    “Visiting Western Europe, I don’t meet with marginal opposition, but speak to the politicians their people has showed trust in at elections,” said Sergei Gaidukevich. “The European side should act likewise”.

    In his words, only the politicians authorised by the nation, namely the president and members of the parliament, may express genuine views, not contrived ones of the Belarusian nation.

    Sergei Gaidukevich thinks the marginal opposition is prone to one standard tactics: talking to representatives of European institutions they stick to one thing — “Everything is bad. Help us overturn the regime”. “The total political impotence of such ‘public figures’ and their inability to partake in a real political fight are obvious. They believe in political dissidence, which keeps them afloat in the eyes of Western Europe and the USA,” the politician is convinced.

    The official underlined the obviousness of Belarus’ advancing in building the civil society and democracy. “A long time, errors and trials are needed for the democracy to mature,” believes Sergei Gaidukevich.

    In his words, the young Belarusian state does not devise new democratic principles. “We agree we should learn. Providing aid on the way towards freedom and prosperity for the sake of the global stability should be the purpose of the European Union and the USA. Which is why a serious dialogue with the European Union is needed,” noted the MP.

    Sergei Gaidukevich expressed confidence in the need for a step-by-step strategy, frequent meetings and consistent dialogue between representatives of Belarus and European institutions. He reminded, his meeting with Hilde Hardeman, head of the Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova department of the Eastern Europe, Southern Caucasus, Central Asian Republics Directorate of the External Relations Directorate of the European Commission, is scheduled for September 14.