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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Belarus and Kazakhstan, Reserves to $3b, US presses for change, Nukes, Russian vacuum bomb, Fradkov out, Polish scandal, Blogs and Sport…

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  • #238

    New presidential decrees signed into action

    From: Office of the president
    The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, visiting the Hotel d'Europe in Minsk
    On September 10, the Head of State Alexander Lukashenko signed into action Decree No 425 “On the introduction of additions, amendments, and on declaring invalid some normative legal acts of the President of the Republic of Belarus regarding customs regulations.”

    The document declares invalid some acts of the President regarding the activities of customs bodies and Belarus’ free economic zones. In also introduces amendments and changes into the afore-mentioned acts.

    The Decree has been issued in order to bring the existing legislation into conformity with the Customs Code of the Republic of Belarus.

    Specifically, in accordance with Article 325, Para 5, of the Customs Code, the officials of customs bodies and organizations subordinate to the State Customs Committee who have been bestowed with personal ranks shall assume disciplinary responsibility as per the Disciplinary Statute of the officials of customs bodies.

    The President also signed Decree No 422 “On some particular features of the formation and allotment of land plots related to real estate”.

    The Decree is aimed at creating favourable conditions for locating facilities which construction is carried out either under national programmes approved by the President of the Republic of Belarus and the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus, or in pursuance of the presidential decision to locate them outside auction.

    Besides, the Decree stipulates that the auctioning off of state-owned real estate on the territory of the Republic of Belarus shall be accompanied by selling the right for concluding the respective lease contract which is necessary for managing the property concerned.

    Belarus and Kazakhstan can reach $500m turnover soon, Sergei Sidorsky says

    From: BelTA
    Belarus and Kazakhstan have possibilities to reach a $500 million turnover by the end of the year, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky stated at the opening ceremony of the BelarusEXPO-2007 exhibition in Astana, Kazakhstan.

    Over 180 Belarusian companies take part in the exhibition. The exposition occupies 980 square meters indoors and 440 square meters outdoors. According to Sergei Sidorsky this “bears testimony to the fact that Belarus has a serious approach to the development of trade-economic relations with Kazakhstan”.

    “The purpose of today’s event is to bring the Belarusian-Kazakh economic relations onto a new level, to broaden the spheres of business cooperation, to establish long-term contacts between companies of the two countries,” he added. Since Kazakhstan is one of Belarus’ largest economic partners its market was very important for Belarus, the PM stressed.

    In his words, Belarus has been creating favorable conditions for Kazakhstan’s companies and has been doing it utmost to promote the bilateral cooperation.

    Speaking at the opening of the exhibition Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Masimov stressed that it was a significant vent for the two economies. “It marks a new stage in the cooperation between our companies,” he said and noted that Belarusian goods, especially trucks and tractors, enjoyed great demand in Kazakhstan.

    Last year the trade turnover between Belarus and Kazakhstan totaled $334.3 million and grew by 55.8% as against 2005. Belarusian exports rose by 42.3% to $261.1 million; imports – by 135.8% to $73.3 million. Thus, Belarus reported a $187.8 million trade surplus.

    In January-July 2007 the bilateral trade turnover soared by 71.4% to reach $305.1 million as against the same period of 2006. The Belarusian export grew by 43.5% to $211.7 million. The trade surplus totaled $118.3 million.

    Belarusian international reserves hit $3 bln despite gas payout

    From: RIA Novosti
    Belarus's gold and foreign currency reserves reached $3 billion as of September 6, despite a massive payout to Russia's Gazprom in August to cover a natural gas debt, the Belarusian central bank said.

    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, when agreeing to pay $460 million to the Russian gas monopoly to cover debt for gas supplies accumulated in the first half of 2007, said at the time that the government would have to empty its reserves make the payment.

    However, the chairman of the country's central bank, Pyotr Prokopovich, told the president at a meeting Tuesday: "Despite substantial expenditure in August due to the [Belarusian state pipeline operator] Beltransgaz's debt payment to Gazprom, the task of increasing gold and foreign currency reserves has been achieved."

    The central bank chief also said monetary and credit policy was being successfully implemented. "Stability of prices and the national currency have been ensured for 2007," he said.

    Gazprom's multi-million-dollar bill to Belarus was the result of a hike in the gas price to Russia's former Soviet ally agreed on at the beginning of the year. Although the price was more than doubled, from $46.68 per 1,000 cubic meters to $100, it remains well below Gazprom's export price to European Union countries.

    While demanding more money for its gas, Gazprom has pushed for substantial control over Belarus's pipeline network, which the state-controlled giant uses to pump its gas to Europe, sparking angry accusations from Lukashenko that Russia is trying to privatize his country.

    In late December, the countries signed a protocol allowing Gazprom to acquire a 50% stake in Beltransgaz for $2.5 billion in installments over four years. Gazprom has so far paid $625 million for a 12.5% stake in the Belarusian pipeline operator.

    World Bank expects Belarus’ economic growth to continue

    From: Naveny
    A World Bank (WB) officer has predicted Belarus’ economic growth to continue but highlighted concerns about increasing energy prices and a possible impact of trends in world markets.

    Paul Birmingham, the WB regional director for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, told reporters in Minsk on Monday that the Belarusian government had coped with economic problems well in the past and the WB expected the authorities to cope with increasing energy prices as well.

    He however said that there were grounds for what he called great uncertainty about the country’s economy, citing possible energy hikes and a recent instability in world markets, which might affect Belarus, a part of the global economy, as well.
    He said that it was very difficult to give any more exact forecasts in such a situation.

    When assigning sovereign credit ratings to Belarus, both Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's Ratings Services warned that rapidly increasing energy prices may have significant consequences for the country.

    Mr. Birmingham arrived in Belarus on Monday with several more WB officers to study the country’s economic situation and look at facilities renovated under a joint project of the Belarusian government and the WB aimed at modernizing the country’s social facilities.

    U.S. says Belarus will get improved relations only by subscribing to democratic principles

    From: IHT
    The United States rebuffed efforts by Belarus for improved relations and said Tuesday that U.S. sanctions will be continued and strengthened unless President Alexander Lukashenko's government accepts democratic standards.

    In a statement, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack criticized the Lukashenko for increased intimidation of Belarusians, mentioning especially the secret trial of former opposition lawmaker Andrei Klimov.

    Klimov's wife said last week in Minsk she had learned her husband had been convicted Aug. 1 and sentenced to two years in prison "for insulting the president and calling for revolution." McCormack said Klimov was accused of publishing material on the Internet criticizing the Lukashenko government.

    The U.S. spokesman also spoke of mass arrests of peaceful demonstrators, of performers and the audience of a play and citizens trying to participate in the commemoration of a medieval battle.

    "The Lukashenko regime has expressed its desire for improved relations with the United States and other democratic nations," McCormack said. "As long as the Belarusian authorities are not ready to abide by democratic norms, the United States will continue to maintain and strengthen sanctions on those responsible."

    He said the Belarusian government should release all the prisoners.

    Nizhniy Novgorod hosts Belarus National Exhibition

    From: NLIPRB
    The kremlin of Nizhny Novgorod
    On September 12-16, the National Exhibition of the Republic of Belarus is being held in Nizhniy Novgorod (the Russian Federation) within the framework of the International Industrial Economic Forum “United Russia”. Attending the exhibition are 69 companies and organizations of the ministries of industry, energy, agriculture and foodstuffs, the State Committee on Science and Technology, Belarus’ National Academy of Sciences, concerns Belneftekhim and Bellegprom, BelTA learnt in the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

    The Belarusian delegation is led by Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov.

    On September 13, the 3rd session of the Business Cooperation Council of the Republic of Belarus and the Nizhniy Novgorod oblast and a meeting of Andrei Kobyakov and Valeriy Shantsev, the Governor of the Nizhniy Novgorod oblast, are expected to be held. The Belarusian delegation will pay a visit to OAO GAZ.

    Issues related to implementation of the documents of the 2nd session of the Business Cooperation Council, development of industrial cooperation, cooperation in nuclear energy and technological modernization of agricultural production, development of commodity distribution networks, exhibitions and fairs holding will be high on the agenda of the forthcoming session.

    As for the sphere of the interregional cooperation, the sides intend to sign agreements on establishing twin town relations between the Belarusian towns of Molodechno, Borisov and the Russian towns of Bor and Pavlovo of the Nizhniy Novgorod oblast.

    Breast-feeding Doesn't Ward Off Asthma, Allergies, Belarusian Study Shows

    From: Bloomburg
    Breast-feeding, long thought to protect children against asthma and common allergies, failed to reduce the risk of developing these ailments in a study published on the Web site of the British Medical Journal.

    Researchers followed almost 14,000 youngsters born in Belarus, whose mothers had been encouraged to nurse them as infants. They tested the children for asthma, hay fever or eczema at age 6, and found the efforts failed to ward these off.

    ``Whether breast-feeding protects against the development of allergy and asthma has been frequently studied and hotly debated for more than 70 years,'' said Michael S. Kramer, a doctor at Montreal Children's Hospital in Canada, in the report. His team's findings ``indicate that the experimental intervention to promote breast-feeding did not reduce the risk.''

    Women participating in the study had been encouraged to breast-feed their babies exclusively, according to World Health Organization and Unicef recommendations, in the early months of their lives. They continued nursing them until the babies reached the age of 1. A total of 17,046 mother-infant pairs were enrolled in the study, of whom 13,889 were followed up later.


    From: By David Marples for Jamestown
    The issue of building a domestic nuclear power station in Belarus has cropped up several times of late, but there is no definitive program in place. A year ago, the issue appeared to be resolved, with a proposed location in Mahileu region and a timetable for bringing the first reactor on line (Belgazeta, September 12, 2006). Recent statements by leading figures in the Belarusian government, however, indicate that the question has not been thought through properly and may constitute simply a reassuring message to the public in light of the continuing problems of reliance on supplies of Russian oil and gas.

    The Belarusian media has reported in the past that following exploration of possible sites for a nuclear plant in the mid-1990s that a VVER (water-pressurized reactor) station would be completed by 2013-2015 and would reach a maximum capacity of 2,000 megawatts (i.e. two 1,000-megawatt reactors). One of the chief advocates has been Mikhail Myasnikovich, a close associate of President Alexander Lukashenka, and the chairman of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences (EDM, December 6, 2006). Despite the current ban on building reactors, which expires in 2008, as well as the continuing medical problems and contaminated land that resulted from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the Belarusian government declared that construction would begin in 2010.

    In a recent interview, Deputy Chairman of the Academy of Sciences Uladzimir Tsimashpolsky noted that geographical conditions in Belarus, with a preponderance of lakes, are unfavorable for construction of any facilities. As a result, the costs for building a station are $2,000 per kilowatt of capacity, well above the world average of $1,600. However, Tsimashpolsky’s outlook was optimistic, and he surmised that Belarus might become an exporter of nuclear power to Russia as a means of alleviating the costs for natural gas imports (, September 6).

    He also surprised the audience by stating that the nuclear plant’s location was not yet fixed, and that there were three possible sites. Since two had been cited earlier, determined from 54 original possibilities, he was asked about the third, and replied that it was in the Hrodna region of Western Belarus. As the Lithuanians proposed to bury nuclear waste from the Ignalina RBMK-1500 (graphite-moderated) station directly on the border with Belarus, then why should the Belarusians not use this same area to build their own plant, he wondered (Komsomolskaya pravda v Belorussii, September 7). He acknowledged that one of the sites in Mahileu region was the most likely location, however (BELTA, September 6). The two Mahileu locations are at Krasnapalyanskaya (Bykhau region) and Kukshinauskaya (Shklou region).

    At a press conference on August 30, Uladizmir Babrou, head of the Chief Administration of Future Development and Investment of the Ministry of Energy, declared that the important issue was the relative significance of economic expediency and the energy security of the state. In his opinion the first unit of the proposed station could not be brought into service before 2015, and realistically it could be two years after that date, with the second unit ready by 2020. Belarus lacks qualified builders and planners, particularly people with a specialized education and hands-on experience, as well as licenses from the IAEA. The station must therefore be constructed using the experience of foreign countries such as Ukraine, Russia, and Lithuania. Babrau also stressed the importance of developing other forms of energy (such as hydroelectric and wind-power) and the possible building of an inter-state electrical power line from the Rivne nuclear plant in Ukraine. The latter has aroused interest in several countries because of the forthcoming closure of the second power unit at the Ignalina plant, an important energy supplier for the Baltic states (Belorusy i rynok, September 3-10).

    What is evident from these announcements is a fundamental difference of opinion within the scientific and political hierarchy of Belarus regarding the government’s demand to resolve the energy impasse with Russia by resorting to domestic production through nuclear power. Belarus lacks the wherewithal and resources to build its own station. The initial timetable offered a foolhardy and even callous approach -- particularly regarding the location of the station in a contaminated zone (EDM, December 6, 2006) -- and could not have been met without sacrificing safety standards.

    Interestingly, since Belarus cannot construct its own reactors, it would likely turn to the Russians for assistance. Then the question arises as to whether the fuel for Belarusian reactors would need to be purchased at world prices; thus a Catch-22 station would be in place. Ukraine expanded its existing program with the help of the G-8 countries and to compensate for the shutdown of Chernobyl in 2000. Belarus has no such negotiating power or indeed friends in the industrialized countries of the West.

    Further, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that political posturing has replaced reasoned and scientific analysis of the various sites and building plans. The notion of exporting nuclear energy to Russia seems far-fetched given the scope and ambitions of Russia’s own civilian nuclear program. Last September, Rosatom declared that its goal was to provide 23% of Russia’s electricity from nuclear plants by 2020, by which time nuclear capacity would be increased by 2-3 times ( Even given the possible depletion of gas reserves by that year, it is unlikely that the Russians would need imported electricity from Belarus. The Belarusians clearly need to rethink this issue.

    Belarusian, Chinese scientists to research hydrogen power together

    From: BelTA
    The Lykov Heat and Mass Transfer Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus and the New Materials Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Chinese province Shandong have signed a cooperation agreement, BelTA learnt from representatives of the International Relations Department of the Lykov Heat and Mass Transfer Institute.

    The document provides for joint scientific research into hydrogen power engineering. The source remarked, scientists of Belarus and China face similar tasks — development of energy-saving technologies, creation of renewable energy sources, production of alternative fuels, including hydrogen fuel elements. As part of the cooperation agreement a new lab will be set up to research alternative fuels. Issues relating to the funding and equipment of the lab are being handled now. This October representatives of the Lykov Heat and Mass Transfer Institute are expected to visit the Chinese institute to discuss peculiarities of implementing the first joint projects.

    In future the scope of joint Belarusian-Chinese research may be expanded. Creation of new nano materials and technologies looks promising for the joint research effort. The sharing of the best practices and skills is believed to be able to allow boosting research in these fields.

    The Lykov Heat and Mass Transfer Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus researches heat and mass transfer in capillary and cellular bodies, rheologic and unbalanced systems, turbulent nonuniform flows and plasma. The Institute develops new nano materials and technologies, fuel elements, furnace and boiler equipment, heat pumps, refrigerating equipment as well as thermophysical research instruments.

    The New Materials Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Chinese province Shandong researches biotechnologies, develops resource-saving technologies as well as materials and technologies for mechanical engineering and petrochemistry.

    Forthcoming session of Union State Cabinet may be postponed

    From: BelTA
    Mikhail Fradkov was Russia’s PM for three and a half years. “Within the period we did a lot to make the Union State programmes effective,” the Belarusian Premier said.
    The session of the Council of Ministers of the Union State of Belarus and Russia scheduled to take place in Minsk on September 21 is likely to be postponed, BelTA learnt from Anatoly Komissarchuk, Acting Head of the Representative Office of the Union State Permanent Committee in Minsk, as he commented on the resignation of the Russian government.

    In his opinion, Mikhail Fradkov will not attend the session, while the new premier will need time to get familiar with the issues on the agenda of the forthcoming session of the Union Cabinet. Moreover, the procedures the appointment of a new head of government involves have to be observed and will take some time.

    Anatoly Komissarchuk also said, the agenda of the session had been compiled and forwarded for consideration of the prime ministers of Belarus and Russia. The next year’s Union State budget was supposed to be the key issue. “The budget is virtually ready. Cardinal changes are unlikely,” said Anatoly Komissarchuk.

    The official believes, the resignation of the Russian government will not bring changes for the Union State development. “I think we will continue working in the same way,” remarked Anatoly Komissarchuk.

    Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky hopes Belarus will manage to preserve all the positive tendencies in the development of cooperation with Russia, as the new Russian government is appointed.

    Sergei Sidorsky told media in Astana today, he hopes the new government of the Russian Federation will do their best to reach the goal.

    According to Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Masimov, the resignation of the Russian government will influence neither relations between Russia and Kazakhstan nor cooperation of the countries within EurAsEC.

    The Union State programmes were properly implemented during Mikhail Fradkov’s premiership, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky told reporters on September 12.

    Mikhail Fradkov was Russia’s PM for three and a half years. “Within the period we did a lot to make the Union State programmes effective,” the Belarusian Premier said.

    In particular, Belarus and Russian launched mechanical engineering and radioelectronic programmes, created a supercomputer and were actively exploring outer space.

    “We met every three months since the appointment of Mikhail Fradkov Prime Minister of Russia,” said Sergei Sidorsky.

    “Sometimes our talks were rather strained,” the Belarusian Premier underlined. The matter concerns problems the sides encounter in setting up a Belarusian-Russian gas transit joint venture and a refusal of the Russian side to stick to the agreements reached earlier.

    However, Mikhail Fradkov took all necessary measures to resolve the problems within the framework of the Belarus-Russia Union State, Sergei Sidorsky underlined.
  • Note: For more on Fradkov's removal as Russian prime minister see below.

    In January-August, national currency and prices are stable, National Bank says

    From: BelTA
    In January-August 2007, Belarus ensured stability of the national currency and prices. All the main targets of the monetary policy are being met, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich reported to the President.

    Piotr Prokopovich also informed the President about the credit support to companies and the public rendered by the country’s banking system. Belarusian banks met the 2007 targets on real sector crediting within the eight months. Special attention was paid to providing loans to investment projects, housing construction and agricultural companies.

    Piotr Prokopovich reported that in the last three months NBRB cut the refinancing rate by 0.25 percentage points every month. As of September 1, 2007 the refinancing rate was 10.25% per annum. On the whole, the banking system of Belarus aims to promote household and corporate deposits and make loans more accessible.

    NBRB works hard to stimulate the growth of corporate and individual deposits. Thus, since the beginning of the year household deposits grew by more than Br1.7 trillion. As of August 22, 2007 deposits in Belarusian banks averaged Br 997,000 per capita, Piotr Prokopovich said.

    In January-August 2007 resources of Belarusian banks swelled by over 19% to make up nearly Br35 trillion. This year saw a major increase in the share of non-residents in the resources of the banks. In early 2007 the share of non-residents stood at 10.1% to reach 14.3% in early September. The increase is put down to Belarusian banks more vigorously using opportunities of the international financial market for developing the national economy.

    Savings of individuals constitute the larger part of the bank resources. On the one hand, the capacity of individuals grows as their welfare rises; on the other hand, the banking system is ready to attract the resources.

    The head of state also received a report about the progress in developing Belarusian rowing sports. As the Head of the Rowing Federation of Belarus, Piotr Prokopovich informed the President that the Rowing Canal in Brest will host the World Youth Rowing Championships in 2010 and European Rowing Championships in 2009.

    Piotr Prokopovich also reported about implementation of President’s instructions to develop agricultural companies managed by NBRB. Alexander Lukashenko demanded that special attention should be paid to saving material and energy resources in these agricultural companies to receive maximum return.

  • Around the region...

    President Putin accepts PM Fradkov's request to dismiss Cabinet

    From: RIA Novosti
    Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted Wednesday a request from Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to dismiss the government and form a new Cabinet.

    The president thanked Fradkov for his service as prime minister, and asked him to stay on as acting premier until the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, votes in a new candidate.

    Putin said: "The country is nearing parliamentary elections to be followed by presidential elections... We all need to think together about building the power and governing structure so that they can better meet the needs of the pre-election period, and prepare the country for the time after parliamentary and presidential elections in March 2008."

    In submitting his request at a meeting with Putin, Fradkov said the government's dissolution was needed due to upcoming political events, and the need to give the president freedom in making decisions, including staffing changes.

    Respected business daily Vedomosti on Wednesday cited a source close to the Kremlin as saying First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov would be appointed as the new premier.

    Russia flexes muscles with "father of all bombs" - Guardian

    From: RIA Novosti
    An article published in a British newspaper Wednesday has called Russia's testing of a new thermobaric bomb, Moscow's response to U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Central Europe.

    The Guardian said Russian statements concerning the development of the world's most powerful non-nuclear weapon, dubbed the "father of all bombs," were made "at a time of growing tension between Russia and the West."

    Russia announced the testing of the new bomb on its state-run Channel One television station Tuesday night, stating that the device was four times more powerful than the U.S. "mother of all bombs" thanks to a new, highly efficient type of explosives.

    The Guardian also said the "series of war games with China and four other central Asian states," along with Russia's resumed strategic nuclear bombers patrols were "designed to show the country's resurgent military power and the emergence of new regional alliances outside NATO."

    The Guardian quoted Sergei Rogov, director of the Russian Academy of Science's U.S. and Canada Institute, as saying that, "Relations could sink into a serious crisis in a few years," and "domestic and political factors will aggravate the situation rather than help overcome the differences."

    Known as a vacuum bomb, the air-delivered thermobaric bomb uses a fuel-air explosive and can create overpressures equal to an atomic bomb, said Alexander Rukshin, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.

    "It is environmentally friendly, compared to a nuclear bomb, and it will enable us to ensure national security, and at the same time stand up to international terrorism in any part of the globe and in any situation," he said.

    He stressed that the bomb does not violate any of the international agreements that Russia has signed.

    While the U.S. bomb is equivalent to 11 tons of TNT, the Russian one is equivalent to 44 tons of regular explosives. The Russian weapon's blast radius is 990 feet, twice as big as that of the U.S. design, the report said.

    Opinion: It's High Time for a New Start in Poland

    From: DW
    Polish voters will head to the polls on Oct. 21 to choose a new parliament after the old one dissolved following the break-up of the governing coalition. DW's Hubert Wohlan says a new beginning is desperately needed.

    It was high time for the Polish parliament, the Sejm, to dissolve itself. The loss of reputation for lawmakers and the damage to democracy would have been even bigger than it already is if they had waited even longer.

    The Sejm's self-dissolution brings to an end Poland's political crisis, which climaxed with the break-up of the governing coalition three weeks ago. Back in July, it had already been clear that the coalition had neared its end.

    The last weeks of political agony were dominated by the arrests of the interior minister and the top police commander and the dismissal of several ministers. All of this happened in the name of the fight against corruption. By the end of his premiership, Jaroslav Kaczynski was so concerned with fighting corruption that he had forgotten to govern.

    The Kaczynski party's two-year rule ended in an embarrassing way after starting out with a mission of renewal, ending corruption and creating a strong state. The moral renewal failed and the country's political culture has been damaged badly. The fact alone that the two Kaczynski brothers divvied up between themselves the two most important constitutional offices in the land and thereby battered the idea of separation of powers has damaged Poland's image.

    The Polish constitutional court wasn't the only body that criticized the government's daily practice and laws that were sometimes passed in a speedy fashion. The European Parliament expressed its concern on several occasions, too.

    The fatal legacy of this government can be most clearly seen in the badly damaged German-Polish relationship. The Kaczynski brothers have managed to largely destroy the trust and cooperation built between Polish and German governments since 1989.

    The new elections will take place on Oct. 21. The outcome is more uncertain than ever. The Kaczynksi party, Law and Justice, is much stronger today than it was two years ago. The party apparatus is more professional and the number of followers has grown; the party program is simple and easy to understand and includes a lot of populist elements. Competition is weak. The free-market liberal slogans of the opposition civic platform attract, if anyone, educated circles in large cities. The Left, which still suffers from the stain of its communist legacy, desperately needs fresh ideas and faces.

    The political parties that remain have been marginalized over the last two years and will probably not manage to make the 5-percent hurdle. Everything points to a success of the Kaczynski party. But it will not be able to govern alone: It needs a willing spouse. That's not good news when considering the experience of the past two years.

    But there are still some 42 decisive days of election campaigning left that can change a lot.

    Poland's Never-Ending Political Crisis

    From: Spiegel
    Poland's Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski is facing an election campaign.
    They had promised their countrymen a new, clean republic, one without corruption and scandal. But now the Kaczynski twins have tripped up over their own moral standards. Nevertheless, the duo's Law and Justice Party stands a good chance of winning the next election.

    The member of parliament from the liberal Citizens Platform party who has just taken a seat in the restaurant at the Sejm, Poland's parliament, wears a tailored suit and is all of 30 years old. He may not have his father's hearty moustache, but he does have his grayish-green eyes. He also has the same deep voice and uses similar lively gestures when he speaks.

    Jaroslav Walesa is the fourth child of Lech Walesa, who, together with the independent Solidarnosc (Solidarity) labor union he headed from 1980, ushered in the end of communism and was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

    The young man has ordered tea. He seems uncomfortable. "I am a part of Polish politics, but I am ashamed of the chaos that prevails here," he says. The young Walesa also resembles his father in this respect. Lech Walesa recently summarized the situation in Poland when he said that the men currently in power essentially aim to restore the martial law that prevailed under the communists.

    He was referring to the Kaczynski twins: Lech, the president, and Jaroslav, the prime minister. Their political adversaries claim that the two men have plunged the country into a permanent state of emergency. They also claim that the twins tapped the phones of journalists and members of the government, claiming national security concerns, and had their own interior minister taken away in handcuffs.

    "The country is filled with paranoia," says the young Walesa. "Everyone feels spied on. I have even heard that government agencies have been watching me. Despite the fact that I have nothing to hide, there is always a shadow."

    The Kaczynski twins have managed to take Poland to a new turning point. Late last Friday, the Sejm dissolved itself after a heated debate, paving the way for new elections tentatively set for Oct. 21. The Kaczynski twins' Law and Justice party (PiS) also voted for new elections. Unable to settle its differences with its coalition partners, the PiS-led minority government was forced to step down.

    New Elections, Old Poison in Ukraine

    From: Kommersant
    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko
    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has accused Moscow of hampering the investigation into his poisoning with dioxin in 2004. Yushchenko stated that poison of that type is produced only in the United States, Greta Britain and Russia, and Russia refuses to provide a sample of its product. Major newspapers around the world carried an interview with the Ukrainian president yesterday in which he said that “The role of all of the individuals that might be involved in this case is already determined. The investigation knows who, when, where, which substance was used.”
    Yushchenko said that there are three key figures in the case, all of whom are now in Russia. Extradition requests for those persons have been ignored. Yushchenko refused to name Russian authorities as the culprits in his poisoning, however, demurring that “If I respond to that question, then the investigation will have nothing to do.”

    The Medved Institute of Ecology and Toxicology in Kiev has just completed a study of the dioxin samples provided by the U.S. and Britain. Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine Nikolay Golomsha stated that Russia has ignored three requests for dioxin produced in that country. He added that commercial acquisition of samples would be beyond the framework of the legal field. Ukrainian presidential representative Nikolay Poludenny told Kommersant that attempts to purchase Russian dioxin were thwarted.

    Russian Ambassador to Kiev Viktor Chernomyrdin denied that Ukrainian authorities has contacted Russia for aid in the investigation. “I would most likely know if they had,” he commented. The Russian FSB and Investigative Committee made similar comments. Deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's information and press department Andrey Krivtsov said that the ministry would not make an official comment on the Ukrainian president's statements.

    Natalia Brusentseva of the Prosecutor General's Office of Russia told Kommersant that a request from the Ukrainian side was received by the Russian Foreign Ministry on September 7. “It is now under consideration. Ukraine will receive a response at the appropriate time. There is nothing else I can add,” Brusentseva said.

  • From the blogs...

    Poles in anti-Islamification protest in Brussels

    From: The Beatroot
    Maybe a hundred or two neo-Nazis, skinheads and far right types from Denmark, Germany, and even a few Poles now resident in the UK, turned up to shout slogans about how Islam is taking over Europe.

    At Luxemburg Place, near the EU Parliament, there was also the ritualistic pushing and shoving with the cops, who were expecting up to 20,000, not the pathetic amount the organizers could round up (see here and here).

    In fact, cops and media outnumbered protestors.

    The slogans on the banners included: No Sharia here! …etc.

    The demonstration was organized, among others, by Stephen Gash of Stop Islamisation of Europe and of the English Democrats, a party with some members previously in neo-Nazi organizations like the British Nationalist Party (see here).

    One Pole told IAR: “Muslims who come to England do not want to assimilate. Their lifestyle, their values, are completely opposite to what we believe in.”

    Which is, of course, not true. It is a few of the second and third generation Muslims in the UK (like the 7/7 bombers) who are getting turned on to radical Islam – not their parents.

    But the Polish press has been full of the ‘Islamic menace’ today, too.

    The Dziennik newspaper published an article by Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation and the security advisor to George W. Bush. He says:

      Poland still remembers tragic events of September 11, 2001. Among all Europeans, perhaps except for the Irish, Poles have the closest ties with America. Not long ago terrorist attacks were planned in Denmark and Germany. The next step of Al-Qaeda could be attacking Poland. Poles have their historic experience of blocking the expansion of Islam. [in 1683 a large-scale battle in Vienna was won by Polish-Austrian-German forces led by King of Poland Jan III Sobieski against the Ottoman Empire]. Nowadays they fight bravely in Afghanistan and they fulfill their mission in Iraq. Putting a halt to the spread of radical Islam is now crucial for the West. The United States and Poland will never accept Osama’s attempts to dominate in the world.”
    Of course, some nutters (who make sure they wear tight enough trousers before suicide attacks, according to one of the 9/11 bomber's suicide note - he also didn't want anyone to touch his genitals before burial - as if he would have any genitals left after flying a plain into a large building) might try something in Poland. And that would be horrible. But how is al-Qaeda, or radical Islam in general, going to dominate the West?

    A few bombs are shocking and barbaric but these people are not in a position to dominate anyone.

    It’s the weakness that many feel in Europe – and their lack of commitment to ‘our way of life’ – whatever that is - which is the only thing that could threaten that way of life.

    There are not enough radical Muslims in Europe, nor can they ever find enough suicide bombers, to be a threat to Poland or anywhere else in our continent.

    Time to calm down and for the few deluded Poles who came over from the UK to protest in Brussels to go and do something more useful with their time – and ours.

    I Told You So . . . Now You Tell Others!

    From: Publius Pundit
    I can't count the number of times I've been told by certain people that Vladimir Putin isn't stupid/evil enough to embark upon a new arms race with the U.S. That, in other words, he's no Stalin. Instead, they always said, he's going to limit his power play to the use of Russia's energy resources, knowing that a second arms race would end even more badly for Russia than the first one. It would certainly be impossible, such people always argued, for Putin to release news of such actions on 9/11, a date of particular sensitivity to Americans. This would obviously provoke them to new heights of creativity and ferocity, especially when they remembered the technology, weapons, cash and diplomatic cover that Russia has delivered to arch American foes like Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and Venezulea. I can't count the number of times I've sounded the warning call that these statements were pure, crazed propaganda and waiting for them to be proved wrong would be dangerous, calling for immediate action to preempt Russia's march towards oblivion -- not only for our sake, but the the sake of the Russian people as well.

    Now, to such people there is only one reply: Read this.

    Talk about the shot heard round the world! Hopefully, even the deafest simpletons on Capitol Hill heard this one.

    Fradkov's Resignation Speech

    From: Robert Amsterdam
    With Mikhail Fradkov's carefully prepared resignation speech, we are reminded that Russia is desperate to at least "go through the motions" of appearing like a functional democracy. It is astonishing that we are being asked to believe that this is a normal, voluntary, and legitimate resignation speech, rather than a docile employee following orders from his owners. More commentary on these developments to come.


      PRIME MINISTER MIKHAIL FRADKOV: Vladimir Vladimirovich, the country is on the eve of important political events. First the State Duma election and then the presidential election lie ahead. The Government is playing a well coordinated part in this process and working hard in my view. I understand the political processes taking place at the moment and I would like to see you have as free a hand as possible in making decisions, including human resource decisions. I think that the right course of action would be for me to take the initiative and ask to step down from the office of prime minister in order to give you full freedom in your decisions on the shape and organisation of the power structure in connection with the upcoming political events.

      I would like to thank you for the confidence and full support you have given me in my work as prime minister over more than three-and-a-half years, and I ask you to please accept my resignation.

      MIKHAIL FRADKOV: Thank you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, for your high assessment of the Government’s work and for the support and trust you have shown me personally. I think that this is the right decision. It is an objective decision and it will help to ensure continuation of the current policies and maintain stability in our country.

    Two Holidays, Two Countries

    From: TOL
    Two holidays were celebrated in our country on the day of September 8th, 2007. The first is a 940th anniversary of Miensk, the second - anniversary of Arsanskaja battle victory. Bit neither of them had been important for me.

    I was not going to attend anything on the Miensk anniversary as I knew what end a state holiday usually has in our country. Neither I was going to Krapivina field to attend the battle anniversary celabration, although I knew Krapivina perfectly and have lots of friends there.

    Still, neither holiday passed me by.

    Arsanskaja battle anniversary is also called The Day of Belarusian Military Glory. It looked like that all my LJ friends honoured that day. Half of them sweared to protect Belarus, and this was impossible not to see. But I seemed to ignore that for some reason. And another half enjoyed the carka and skvarka treat which had become a symbol of wellbeing for Lukasenka electorate. But I had not travelled on bus 23 in the night after the feast, I would have ignored it to the full.

    The bus looked like a wastebin: Half of the bus sings prison shanson, another half looks like sleeping. Alcohol smell dominates the air in the vehicle; it is impossible to breathe.

    Another bus is full of people. A guy with a broken head stood nearby, drinking beer and allowing others to enjoy a dripping blood sight.

    Ты понимаешь, что живешь в 2007 году, когда:

    From: Sammi
    1. По ошибке, ты печатаешь свой пароль системного доступа на микроволновке
    2. У тебя список из 15 номеров, чтобы связаться со своей семьей, которая состоит из 3 человек
    3. Ты отправляешь e-mail своему коллеге, что сидит в соседней комнате
    4. Ты потерял контакт со своими друзьями или семьей, потому что у них нет адреса электронной почты
    5. После рабочего дня ты возвращаешься домой и отвечаешь по телефону так, словно ты еще на работе
    7. Ты впадаешь в состояние паники, если вышел из дома без мобильного телефона и ты возвращаешься за ним
    8. Ты просыпаешься утром и первая вещь, которую ты делаешь -подсоединяешься к Интернет, даже до того, как выпьешь кофе
    9. Ты склоняешь голову на бок, чтобы улыбнуться: - )
    10. Сейчас ты читаешь этот текст, ты с ним согласен и улыбаешься
    11. Еще хуже, ты уже знаешь, кому ты перешлешь это сообщение
    12. Ты слишком увлечен, чтобы заметить, что номер 6 в этом списке отсутствует
    13. Тебе понадобилась лишь секунда, чтобы пробежать еще раз по сообщению и убедиться, что номера 6 действительно нет

  • Sport...

    Sports festival Olympia to gather students of 22 Belarusian and Russian Universities in Grodno

    From: BelTA
    Over 230 students of 22 Belarusian and Russian Universities will take part in the sports festival Olympia in Grodno on September 13-18, deputy head of sports and tourism department of the Grodno oblast executive committee Oleg Andreichik told BelTA.

    Olympia is the first stage of the Union State Olympics among Belarusian and Russian students which will be held from October 14 to October 21 in Rostov-on-Don.

    According to Oleg Andreichik, students from such Russian towns as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaluga, Novosibirsk, Belgorod and several Belarusian towns will compete in mini-football, volleyball, tug-of-war and tourist all-round competitions. The tourist all-round competitions were suggested by Grodno organizers of the festival and will be held for the first time. The Augustov Canal and Grodno outskirts are perfect locations for competitions in orienteering and hurdling, Oleg Andreichik said.

    There will also be various concerts, discotheques and excursions during the festival.

  • At the WTA-BALI OPEN M MULLER (Germany, 6), bt T Poutchek (Belarus) 6-3 6-3

  • At the IAAF Grand Prix meeting at Rieti, Italy). in the mens Hammer, K Murofushi (Japan) 82.62m; 2 I Tsikhan (Belarus) 82.61; 3 V Devyatovskiy (Belarus) 79.59.

  • Also at Rieti, in the women's 800 meters run, 1 J Jepkosgei (Kenya) 1-56.29; 2 S Usovich (Belarus) 1-58.68

  • Endnote...

    Repression in Belarus

    From: US Department of State
    Belarusian authorities have stepped up intimidation of their citizens. Recently, opposition politician Andrey Klimov was convicted in a closed trial for publishing material on the Internet criticizing the Lukashenka regime. Police arrested people who were peacefully protesting the politically motivated trials of Young Front members, arrested the performers and audience of a play, and detained citizens attempting to take part in a commemoration of a medieval battle. Political parties planning to take part in elections next year have been threatened with deregistration.

    The Lukashenka regime has expressed its desire for improved relations with the United States and other democratic nations. However, as long as the Belarusian authorities are not ready to abide by democratic norms, the United States will continue to maintain and strengthen sanctions on those responsible. The United States calls on the Belarusian authorities to release all prisoners held on politically motivated charges, and to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Belarus, including their rights to assemble peacefully and express themselves freely. Belarusians are paying a severe price for exercising the basic rights that are taken for granted in democratic societies.