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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Belarus moves forward, CSTO, Spy trial begins, Gutseriev, Iranian oil, Russian nukes, UNSTAD, Culture, Blogs and Sport

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  • #236

    Belarus is confidently moving forward towards the outlined goals

    From: The office of the president
    Alexander Lukashenko conferring the Order of Francysk Skaryna upon Pavel Yakubovich, the editor-in-chief of the daily Sovietskaya Byelorrusiya
    Despite all the difficulties, Belarus is confidently moving forward towards the outlined goals, consistently fulfilling the prognostications of the country’s socio-economic development. A statement to this effect was made on September 4 by the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, when he was bestowing state awards on the representatives from different administrative regions employed in various sectors of the economy.

    Most of the awardees were workmen, specialists and managers of industrial enterprises. According to the President, they have been building the most solid foundation of the Belarusian society - a modern highly developed economy.

    Alexander Lukashenko bestowed the Order of Honour on the chief of a directorate at the heavy stamping blacksmith factory, Ivan Ovchinnikov; the crane operator at Minsk Vtorchermet plant, Anatoly Yerkovich; the workers at V. I. Kozlov Minsk Electrotechnical Plant, Alexei Markov and Yekaterina Radchenko.

    The second largest group of the awardees included media professionals, workers of culture and arts, of higher and secondary learning institutions.

    The President has bestowed the Order of Francysk Skaryna upon Pavel Yakubovich, the editor-in-chief of the daily Sovietskaya Byelorrusiya. Other members of this newspaper have also been honoured with various awards.

    Vyacheslav Pavlyut, the higher category artist at Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre has been decorated with the medal of Francysk Skarina in recognition of his artistic mastery and considerable personal contribution in developing Belarusian culture and arts.

    The honorary title Merited Artist of the Republic of Belarus has been conferred upon pop singers Inna Afanasyeva and Irina Dorofeyeva; Olga Gaiko and Lyudmila Kudryavtseva, the leading masters of the theatre arts at the National Bolshoi Academic Ballet Theatre; Vyacheslav Grushov, the leading master of the theatre arts at Yakub Kulas National Academic Drama Theatre.

    Also various state awards have been given to some government officials.

    “Everyone has walked his own path to the award. But what unites all of you is that you have been gearing your every-day fruitful work and energy, talent and intellect toward serving the people, the benefit of Belarus, toward reinforcing this country’s economic, scientific and intellectual potential,” said the President to the awardees.

    Alexander Lukashenko has awarded Nikolai Bordyuzha, the Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation [CSTO], and Piotr Klimuk, a pilot-cosmonaut and adviser at the Embassy of Belarus in Russia, with the Order of Friendship of the Peoples.

    According to the President, they have been honoured with that award in recognition of their considerable contribution in consolidating friendly relations and co-operation between the CSTO member states.

    CSTO yields impressive results under Belarus presidency

    From: BelTA
    Alexander Lukashenko has confirmed Belarus’ adherence in strengthening collective security in the CSTO region during today's talks with CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordiuzha, BelTA has learnt from the presidential press service.

    Nikolai Bordiuzha noted that Belarus’ presidency in the CSTO yielded fruitful results. According to him, during the period the organization finalized and signed the most important clarifying regulations that had not been coordinated for several years. The CSTO enjoyed great success in cooperation at the international arena as well. In particular, the organization made several pivotal statements in the UN, OSCE and other organizations. Nikolai Bordiuzha underlined that during the chairmanship Belarus paid special attention to the development of the military field of the organization.

    The CSTO Secretary General informed that all member-states of the organization declared their readiness to sign a set of peace-making documents. To date the CSTO is handling issues relating with the supplies of special technics, coordination of foreign policy initiatives and joint efforts in combating terrorism, illegal migration and drugs trafficking.

    Nikolai Bordiuzha thanked the President of Belarus for the Order of Friendship of the Peoples. “I consider this award as confirmation of the Belarus’ important position in the CSTO and the sign of high confidence. I will do the utmost to further develop integration processes to make the organization reach an efficient collective security system,” the CSTO Secretary General said.

    In a related story, during the first stage of the international operation Channel 2007 of the Collective Security Treaty Organization about ten tonnes of drugs were detained. The operation was held on August 28 – September 3, BelTA learnt in the press service of the Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service.

    The main purpose of the operation was to block channels of synthetic drugs trafficking from Europe and to liquidate clandestine drug laboratories. As a result, about 700 illegal firearms and 9.7 tonnes of drugs were confiscated, of them 4.3 tonnes of opium and 4.3 tonnes of marihuana.

    Channel 2007 is conducted by law enforcement bodies of Belarus, Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

    Additionally, an agenda of the forthcoming session of the Committee of Security Secretaries (CSS) of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has been drafted. The session will be held in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, on September 20, BelTA learnt in the CSS press service.

    In the narrow format, CSTO security secretaries are expected to discuss trends of development of the military and political situation in the CSTO zone and measures to respond to modern challenges and threats, as well as progress done in implementing CSTO international acts and decisions.

    At the plenary session security secretaries will discuss the annual report of the CSTO secretary general and priority targets of the organization for H2 2007 and H1 2008.

    The session will also consider an opportunity of setting up an antiterrorism committee of heads of special services and law enforcement bodies of the CSTO member-states and coordination councils on fight against illegal migration and handling emergency situations.

    A set of documents regulating CSTO peacemaking activities, namely, an agreement on peacekeeping activities, regulations of collective peacekeeping forces, regulations of an operative working group on preparation of peacekeeping operations, regulations in respect to the head of the CSTO peacekeeping mission, and some others will be coordinated.

    The draft agenda has been coordinated with all the CSTO member-states.

    Belarus tries 4 former military officers on charges of spying for Poland

    From: IHT, Javno and M&C
    Four former military officers went on trial Tuesday in tightly controlled Belarus, accused of spying for neighboring Poland, a court official said. They could be sentenced to death if convicted of treason.

    "Four people are to appear before the court and each is charged with gathering and transferring to a foreign state data sought by foreign intelligence," a court representative said before the hearing opened.

    "One of the accused is also accused of organising spying activity by a foreign national."

    The charges were announced in July, as already antagonistic relations with Poland worsened over U.S. plans to deploy part of a missile defense system in Poland, a NATO and European Union member.

    Security officials in the government of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko have said the officers transported documents across the border into Poland inside the kind of fire extinguisher motorists in Belarus are required to keep in their cars.

    When the arrests were announced, the deputy chief of the Belarusian KGB said Polish intelligence was eager to obtain information on Russian anti-missile defense systems in Belarus, especially long-range S-300 air defense missiles.

    Belarusian authorities also said at the time that a Russian military officer was detained in Russia after confessing to the Federal Security Service, but Russian officials have not commented on the issue.

    The leader of the spy ring was Vladimir Russkin, a Belarusian air defence officer, according to Veger.

    News reports in the wake of arrests in mid-July listed five detainees: Russkin, retired Belarusian army intelligence major Viktor Bogdan; two Belarusian air force radio intercept specialists only by their last names Korneliuk and Petkevich, and a Russian army major with the last name Yuren.

    In July, Belarus state TV showed two of the alleged spies apparently confessing. Belarusian authorities reportedly turned Yuren over to the Russian government. Within days of the disclosure of the arrests, Lukashenko dismissed KGB head Stepan Sukhorenko and accused the intelligence services of unprofessional activity.

    Polish diplomats in Minsk attempted to downplay the incident, saying they were unable to comment due to insufficient information about the detention and the trial.

    Belarusian security teams arrested Polish military attache Kasimez Witaschy in April 2004 on spying charges. He was ejected from Belarus a few weeks later.

    In 2005, Belarussian riot police seized the Polish community's offices in the western city of Grodno, ousted its leaders and forced the election of more compliant executives.

    That incident prompted each country to expel the other's diplomats. Other incidents of alleged spying or interference have boosted tension, with Belarussian officials periodically barring entry to Polish officials.

    Belarusian media in 2006 accused diplomats in Poland's embassy to Minsk of acting as go-betweens between Belarusian dissident groups and western governments.

    The trial by the Belarusian Supreme Court's military branch is being held behind closed doors, court spokeswoman Anastasia Tsimanovich said. Belarus is the only European country that currently carries out the death penalty, human rights groups say.

    Gutseriev escaped to Turkey from Minsk

    From: Charter '97
    Former head of the Rusneft Mikhail Gutseriev who had been announced for international search was discovered in Turkey , the RIA Novosty informs referring to the Prosecutor General’s office representative. He also specified that the businessman was announced for international search only after the fact of his departure had been proved.

    The Russian Embassy to Turkey reported that they were unaware of the Mikhail Gutseriev’s location in the country, the informs.

    Previously the information appeared of the businessman’s staying in London.

    On Wednesday the Moscow City Court admitted the arrest of the former head of the Rusneft in absentia to being legal. Thus the court turned down the businessman lawyers’ appeal of the corresponding judgment of the Tverskoy court of Moscow. The arrest warrant was given 28 August after the evidences of the businessman leaving the country being submitted by the investigators. Thus he breached the previous non- departure signed statement.

    Mikhail Gutseriev faces charges of tax evasion and illegal entrepreneurship. The businessman himself considered the brought charges as “funny” and “beyond even superfluous criticism”. He quitted the post of the head of the Rusneft at the end of July.

    The businessman was met in public last time 23 August at the funeral of his son Chingiskhan, who had died in the car crash. The accident happened in Moscow but the funeral took place in North Osetia.

    The Russneft was established by merger of a large number of smaller mining companies. The process was governed by former head of the state-owned holding”Slavneft”. Now the company is among the top ten oil companies of the Russian Federation. In 2006, according to the central department of the fuel companies, the company mined 14.76 million tons of oil. Oleg Deripaska’s company ”Basic Element” has already been named as the wished applicant for buying the company.

    Iran, Belarus sign oil agreement

    From: Press TV

    Belarus will help Iran in development of Juffair Oilfield
    Iranian and Belarusian officials have agreed on development of the Juffair Oilfield, located 80 km southwest of Ahvaz in Khuzestan province.

    The contract for developing the Juffair Oilfield was signed in the presence of the Acting Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari.

    This contract was signed within the framework of the government's plan to boost exploitation of oil resources.

    Iran's oil production has currently reached 4.1 million barrels per day, showing an increase of 100,000 barrels. The project is worth approximately USD 500 mln.

    Belarus Slams US Allegations about Iran's N. Program

    From: Fars
    Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergey Martynov dismissed the United States' allegations about concern and opposition of the international community to Iran's nuclear programs and activities, underlining that the US has no right to speak on behalf of the world countries.

    Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) ministerial meeting on 'Human Rights and Cultural Diversity' here in Tehran on Tuesday, Martynov further described the recent report on Iran's nuclear activities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei as positive and promising.

    He further stated, "Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), this membership entitles Iran to certain rights and responsibilities."

    "As a member state, Iran should be able to use the NPT's advantages," he continued.

    The Belarusian top diplomat also opposed referral of Iran's nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council, stressing that the UNSC action is unjustified.

    "We believe that if there is a threat, it should be discussed within the International Atomic Energy Agency," he continued.

    Russia Not to Deploy Nuclear Weapons in Belarus

    From: Kommersant
    A view of nuclear warhead with rotating deceleration device. Russia does not plan to deploy nuclear weapons on the Belarusian territory, said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
    Russia does not plan to deploy nuclear weapons on the Belarusian territory, said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “Belarus has its [non-nuclear] status fixed by its Constitution. That settles the matter,” Lavrov told the reporters.

    Alexander Surikov, Russia’s ambassador to Belarus, said last week that Moscow would discuss with Minsk the issue of nuclear weapons deployment on Belarus’ territory if the Union State is created, as a response to the U.S. deployment of missile defense system elements in Eastern Europe.

    Meanwhile, Minsk took calmly the statement of Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “The issue has not been discussed yet, but you know we have high level of integration with Russia, including that in the military sphere. Moreover, there already are Russian bases on our territory,” said the Foreign Ministry of Belarus.

    In fact, the Belarusian authorities support the idea of deploying Russia’s nuclear weapons in the republic. Minsk is quite uneasy about the growing U.S. military presence in Eastern Europe, and hopes for Russia’s support and protection.

    Belarus to take part in UN climate change conference in New York

    From: NLIPRB
    Fifty heads of state and government have announced their intention to participate in a session devoted to the global warming, Richard Kinley, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, told a press conference. The session will be held in New York on September 24 – on the eve of the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly.

    About a hundred countries including Belarus have already announced their participation in the session initiated by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

    According to Richard Kinley, the session will focus on the issues relating to the mitigation of the climate change impact, reduction of the emissions of greenhouse gases, adaptation to the climate change, introduction of new eco-friendly technologies and financial support.

    Belarus raises VAT on sugar to 24% to restrict Russian imports

    From: Interfax
    Belarus has raised the value-added tax rate on white sugar to 24% from 18% starting from September 1, a source in the Taxes and Duties Ministry told Interfax.

    The Belarussian Economics Ministry said the hike would not lead to changes in fixed sugar prices.

    Belgospishcheprom, the Belarussian state food concern that initiated the VAT hike, and the Finance Ministry refused to comment on the reasons behind the hike.

    Experts say the rate was raised to lower the economic appeal of importing sugar from Russia due to Moscow's restrictions on imports of Belarussian sugar. Belarus has fixed sugar prices that are higher than Russian sugar prices and this has led to increased imports from Russia, which, in turn, lowers the profits of Belarussian producers. At the same time, the VAT hike will not impact exports of Belarussian sugar to Russia because a zero VAT rate for exports is in effect.

    Belarussian sugar plants have begun processing sugar beets from the new harvest. The sugar beet harvest is estimated at 4 million tonnes, of which about 430,000-450,000 tonnes of sugar can be produced. The Belarussian market consumes 360,000-370,000 tonnes of sugar per year.

    Belarus has pledged to restrict exports of sugar produced from sugar beets to Russia to 180,000 tonnes in 2007 and 100,000 tonnes in 2008.

    IAEA arranges courses on counteracting illegal turnover of nuclear and radioactive materials in Brest

    From: BelTA
    IAEA-sponsored three-day courses on counteracting illegal turnover of nuclear and radioactive materials started in Brest today. Representatives of the border guard and customs services of Belarus, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland are taking part in the courses.

    Head of the Department for Technical Inspections of Metrology of Radioactive, Chemical and Biological Protection of the State Border Guard Committee of Belarus Mikhail Naumenko told the press, the courses are organised as part of a regional project of the programme for technical cooperation between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the State Border Guard Committee named as “Creating potential for modernising the national infrastructure vital for ensuring physical nuclear safety”.

    The courses are supposed to achieve several goals at once, namely, to discuss problems relating to illegal trade and contraband of nuclear and radioactive materials, to establish interagency and interstate cooperation and coordination of efforts in this area, to share experience of preventing the illegal trade in nuclear and radioactive materials, to address matters of mutual information exchange.

    Participants of the courses are expected to study the IAEA's radioactive security requirements, to get familiar with the latest products of Belarusian radioactive control equipment manufacturers Polimaster and Atomtex and to get familiar with using such equipment.

    The courses also involve field trainings at the state border and outside border checkpoints with a view to preventing the illegal turnover of nuclear and radioactive materials. The course participants will also get familiar with a mobile radiometric lab of the State Border Guard Committee of Belarus, which performs exposure tests of the military and individuals, who stay in radiation-polluted areas.

    Belarusian Police Detain Youth Activists At Protest

    From: RFE/RL
    Belarusian special forces today detained about 15 youth activists who were protesting the trial of one of their fellow campaigners.

    The activists, all members of the Youth Front (Malady Front) opposition movement, were detained by special police forces while rallying outside a courthouse in the city of Salihorsk.

    RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports that 12 of the detainees are to be released, but three are being held indefinitely.

    The activists had been protesting the trial of a fellow Youth Front member, 16-year-old Ivan Shyla.

    Shyla, whose trial started today, is charged with acting on behalf of an unregistered organization. As a minor, the maximum sentence he faces is six months in jail.

    Today's incident followed the overnight detention of four other activists outside the Salihorsk court. They were released after several hours.

    In total, more than 50 opposition and human rights campaigners attended the start of Shyla's trial, including representatives of the Belarus Helsinki Committee, Vyasna, and the United Civic Party.

    Other Activists On Trial, In Prison

    The trial of a second Youth Front activist was held today in the Belarusian city of Nyasvizh. Like Shyla, 25-year-old Nasta Azarka was charged with ties to an unregistered organization. She was found guilty and fined the equivalent of $600.

    Azarka's conviction brings to eight the number of Youth Front campaigners who have been found guilty of ties to an unregistered organization or "malicious hooliganism." That includes Youth Front leader Zmitser Dashkevich, who in November 2006 was sentenced to 1 1/2 years in prison.

    Yet another campaigner, Yaraslau Kryshchenya, is due to stand trial on September 10 in the city of Baranavichy.

    The trials of Shyla and Azarka come as a former Youth Front leader, Pavel Sevyarynets, was released today from prison after completing a 15-day sentence on charges of violating the law on meetings and mass gatherings.

    Sevyarynets had been arrested along with 28 youth activists during a reading of his recently published books in Brest, in southwestern Belarus. Several of them attended today's trials.

    The human rights watchdog Amnesty International on August 22 voiced concern over what it described as a "clampdown" on Belarusian youth activists. Amnesty International accused the Belarusian government of seeking to "intimidate and obstruct youth activists, and civil society as a whole, from exercising their rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression."

  • Note: According to a late breaking RFE/RL Story, the court in Salihorsk, Minsk Oblast, has sentenced two activists from the Youth Front (Malady Front) opposition movement to seven days in prison. Other activists on trial received fines of up to 150,000 Belarusian rubles ($70).

    UNCTAD experts may come to Belarus to prepare investment survey in October-November

    From: BelTA
    UNCTAD experts involved in preparing a survey of Belarus’ investment policy in 2007-2008 may visit the country in late October – early November 2007, BelTA learnt from Sergei Aleinik, Belarus’ Permanent Representative to the UN Office and other international organisations in Geneva, as he commented on results of a meeting with top officials of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

    The negotiations confirmed the readiness of the sides to execute plans outlined during the July visit of UNCTAD Secretary General Supachai Panitchpakdi to Minsk. Specific steps were determined. The first mission of UNCTAD experts, who may arrive in October-November, will be the beginning of vigorous work aimed at preparing a comprehensive review of Belarus’ investment policy, noted the diplomat. The document will include major elements of the national macroeconomic policy and legal instruments regulating investments. The project’s funding stands at $180,000.

    The meeting also touched upon technicalities of accomplishing the project for providing UNCTAD’s consultative and technical aid to Belarus in issues concerning the country’s entry to the World Trade Organisation. $150,000 will be allocated for the purpose. The active phase of the project is scheduled for January 2008, said Sergei Aleinik.

    The UNCTAD Secretary General highly evaluated results of his visit to Belarus.

    In July 2007 Belarus, UNCTAD and UNDP signed a memorandum on mutual understanding concerning top-priority avenues of cooperation in international trade, investments and development. In line with the document UNCTAD undertakes to provide consultative and technical aid to Belarusian experts in issues concerning the country’s entry to the WTO as part of the country’s project in association with the United Nations Development Programme. Moreover, UNCTAD and UNDP will keep surveying Belarus’ investment policy and aid the National Investment Agency in 2007-2008.

    Cooperation with UNCTAD is a top-priority avenue of Belarus’ participation in activities of international financial and economic organisations. Belarus was one of the initiators for convening the Conference and has been a member since the UNCTAD foundation in 1964.

    UNCTAD divides all the countries into four groups: A (Africa and Asia), B (developed countries), C (Latin America), and D (Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS — former socialist countries). Belarus has been working as a coordinator of the group D since September 2006. in May 2007 the group D included 21 countries: Azerbaijan, Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Croatia, Czech Republic. The development of a common opinion of the group concerning the agenda of UNCTAD’s XII session scheduled to take place in Ghana in April 2008 is one of the major achievements of the Belarusian delegation.

  • Cultural notes...

    Minsk residents to see unknown films by Tom Tykwer before Russians and Ukrainians

    From: BelTA
    Minsk residents will see short films by cult film director Tom Tykwer Because and Epilog before Russians and Ukrainians. The films will be shown in the House of Cinema on September 14-16 within the frames of the first Fest of German Cinema in Minsk, Alexander Bogdan, the director of the House of Cinema, told a press conference today.

    The short films of the German director who gained world recognition due to his blockbusters Run Lola Run and Perfumer have not been shown yet in Eastern Europe. In Russia and Ukraine they will be shown in six months.

    According to Alexander Bogdan, the films were made in the early 1990s. The show in Minsk was organized by the German company InterFilmWostok in partnership with German Films and with the assistance of Belarusian and German consulates.

    InterFilmWostok representative Valery Kanishchev noted that another Tom Tykwer’s short film was shown in Minsk earlier this year as part of the motion picture Paris, Je T’Aime. Now Belarus will see the rest of Tom Tykwer’s short films, he said.

    Apart from Tom Tykwer, the programme of the Fest of German Cinema in Minsk includes two German short films Summer 04 and A Friend of Mine.

    During the press conference it was also noted that in December 15-17 this year the House of Cinema will show short films made by students of Hamburg Media School. Now the House of Cinema conducts negotiations with several St. Petersburg bands which are offered to accompany the shows.

  • Two Belarusian theaters will take part in the International Festival of Puppet-Shows which will be held in the Russian town of Volgograd on September 7-13. Theaters from Minsk and Brest have already participated in the previous festivals. Then, the Belarusian performances were a hit. So, the leadership of the Volgograd Puppet-Show Teremok invited Brest producer Dmitry Nuyanzin to put on the stage his play “Stories of Old Parrot” based on Italian fairy tales. Taking part in the festival will be 16 theaters from Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and a number of regions of Russia.

  • The exhibition Best Typography of Belarus in Kishinev on September 7 will be initiated by the Belarusian Embassy to Moldova.

  • 150 names of books from 60 countries worldwide are presented at the 20th Moscow International Book Fair which has opened in the Russian capital today. The fair will be held not only in huge pavilions of the All-Russia Exhibition Center but also all around Moscow: in book stores, literary clubs, centers of culture and other establishments of the city.

    The Moscow Fair is one of the most prestigious book forums of the world. Belarusian book publishers traditionally present their united national booth at it. About 600 names of books published by Belarusian state and private publishing houses will be presented there. Belarusian publishers will showcase fiction, training, educational, scientific, popular scientific, reference, encyclopedic and business literature. The Belarusian exposition will occupy 40 square meters.

  • On September 8-14, the 12th International Theater Festival Belaya Vezha will be held in Brest. Taking part in the festival will be representatives of 25 countries including theatrical troupes from Russia, Poland, Germany, the USA, Moldova, Ukraine, BelTA learnt in the culture department of the Brest Oblast Executive Committee. This is the first time theaters from Venezuela, Denmark, Luxemburg and Tajikistan will arrive in Brest.

  • Around the region...

    Russia uranium deal doesn't concern Rice

    From: Sydney Morning Herald
    The United States has no concerns about Australia selling uranium to Russia for domestic use, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says.

    Dr Rice said Russia already had a large stockpile of nuclear weapons, and she rejected fears the uranium could end up in Iranian hands.

    "We have been very supportive of Australia's good work in the nuclear area," she told ABC television.

    "This isn't an issue for us.

    "The Russians have plenty of weapons, let's be realistic about it. The cold war produced more than a surplus."

    Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in Sydney on Friday, the first Russian or Soviet leader to visit Australia.

    He will meet Prime Minister John Howard on the morning of his arrival and they are expected to sign a nuclear safeguards deal allowing the export of Australian uranium to Russia for use in its nuclear reactors.

    Australia already exports uranium to Russia for processing, but under the current agreement it must be sold on to other countries that Canberra permits.

    Dr Rice rejected concerns that Russia could sell uranium to Iran, saying it was a lot closer to the rogue state than was the United States or Australia.

    "I really suspect the Russians understand the threat of an uranium nuclear weapon," she said.

    "I know they would be very careful about the proliferation of any material to Iran."

    Dr Rice said Russia and the United States were already cooperating on the issue of nuclear proliferation.

    Mr Putin and US President George W Bush several years ago signed a treaty to reduce their nations' arms, she said.

    And the United States wanted to work with Russia over its missile defence system.

    "This question of weapons really isn't an issue," she said

    Boeing, Aeroflot Finalize Order for 22 787 Dreamliners

    From: CNN
    Boeing and Aeroflot, Russia's flagship carrier based in Moscow, today announced they have finalized an order for 22 Boeing 787-8s. The order was contingent upon Aeroflot shareholder approval, which was granted yesterday. The order is valued at $3.6 billion at list prices.

    Aeroflot said the 787 will upgrade its existing widebody fleet, as well as provide for fleet growth to meet increased demand for air travel.

    "The 787 is an excellent match for many of our requirements thanks to its efficiency, operational performance and passenger comfort. The 787 will open new market opportunities as we further modernize our fleet and expand our international reach," said Valery Okulov, Aeroflot general director.

    Aeroflot did not announce an engine selection for its 787s.

    "Throughout the process we worked closely with Aeroflot to understand its requirements and to demonstrate how the 787 meets those requirements," said Craig Jones, vice president of Sales for Russia and Central Asia, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "The 787 will reinforce Aeroflot's leadership position. It will be a tool for profitability and help Aeroflot offer an all-new passenger experience to its customers."

    Boeing developed the 787 for the mid-sized jetliner market, estimated at 3,500 aircraft over the next 20 years. Fifty percent of the 787's primary structure is made of advanced carbon composites which allow higher cabin humidity, a lower cabin altitude and the largest windows in the industry.

    High-efficiency engines combined with a lighter airframe and improved aerodynamics will enable the 787 to produce seat-mile costs normally associated with much larger aircraft.

    In addition to bringing big-jet ranges to mid-size airplanes, the 787 will provide airlines with unmatched fuel efficiency, resulting in exceptional environmental performance. The airplane will use 20 percent less fuel for comparable missions than any similarly-sized airplane. It will also travel at speeds similar to today's fastest widebodies, Mach 0.85. Also, airlines will enjoy more cargo revenue capacity.

    Boeing has logged 706 orders from 48 customers for the 787 Dreamliner.

    No happy ending for Polish author jailed for murder

    From: Times online
    Writer Krystian Bala, who has been jailed for 25 years for inspiring and organising a murder that he had written about in a macabre best-selling thriller
    Truth, it seems, really is stranger than fiction.

    Novellist Krystian Bala was today jailed for 25 years for inspiring and organising a murder that he had written about in a macabre best-selling thriller.

    A court in the Polish city of Wroclaw found the 33-year-old philosopher and photographer guilty after an extraordinary trial that tested the boundaries of fact and fiction and, for a while, forced the police and prosecutors to become literary critics.

    Krystian Bala was acutely jealous of Dariusz Janiszewski, whom he suspected of being a lover of his ex-wife. In December 2000, Mr Janiszewski, the young owner of an advertising agency, was fished out of the river Oder, bearing signs of torture.He had been thrown into the river alive, trussed up with a noose round his neck.

    The police could find no motive and no suspect.

    But three years later Mr Bala published his book Amok, about a group of young intellectuals using sex and drugs to explore the meaning of crime, punishment and truth. The book contains an account of a murder, remarkably similar to that of Mr Janiszewski.

    An anonymous phone call to the police alerted Chief Inspector Jacek Wroblewski to the parallels. One theory is that the call was made by the author himself, playing a form of mind-game with his baffled investigator. When the case was presented on the Polish equivalent of the BBC programme CrimeWatch, the producers received calls from Asia describing the murder as “the perfect crime”. Mr Bala was in Asia at the time.

    Mr Bala even offered to sit through a police lie detector test — and held his breath using techniques that he had learned as an underwater photographer, reducing stress levels and giving him a positive result.

    ”He has two faces,“ said Judge Lidia Hojenska in her summing up. “One is the face we see in court, composed and thoughtful, and the other is very aggressive, aggravated by alcohol.”

    She recommended that he serve at least 20 years in jail since he was already gathering information on another suspected lover of his former wife.

    ”There are indeed similarities between the author and the main hero of the book, Amok,” said the judge, but stressed they were not the decisive proof of the crime.

    The clinching evidence, she said, was Mr Bala’s attempts to sell the telephone of his victim on the internet four days after his disappearance. Mr Bala claims to have found the phone in a cafe.

    That blunder wrecked the possibility of Mr Bala getting away with the perfect crime.

    The police had been mocked and criticised for taking fiction as fact. That was supposed to be Mr Bala’s defence: Poland, he argued, was gravely restricting the freedom of expression by taking his imagined murder as the literal truth.He was guilty merely of thorough research.”They seemed to know the book by heart,” said Mr Bala, in a statement which he released to the internet,”they quoted pieces from it that they found offensive and asked me about even the smallest detail.The police were treating the book as if it were a literal autobiography.”

    Inspector Wroblewski was not convinced. Neither was the court.

    Mr Bala is expected to appeal against the sentence. During the trial, the prosecutor amended the charges from direct physical murder to the organisation and inspiration of the crime. The actual killer may still be on the loose.

    Political spin doctor arrested on child porn charges in Poland

    From: New PL
    Piotr Tymochowicz
    Piotr Tymochowicz, high profile political PR specialist, has been arrested as part of a nationwide police operation against cild pornography.

    Zbigniew Urbanski from the Polish National Police confirmed Piotr Tymochowicz’s arrest in an interview with the Radio News Agency (IAR).

    He said that the spin-doctor was among 38 people arrested across Poland.

    According to the police, all of the detainees had downloaded child pornography from the Internet or distributed it.

    Urbanski said that analyses of hard drives would be necessary to determine if the charges should be in respect of downloading or distributing child pornography materials.

    Nine of the arrested have already pleaded guilty, but none has heard any charges yet.

    "It is too early for that", Urbanski explained and added that prosecutors’ procedure was under way in co-operation with the Interpol.

    Piotr Tymochowicz is a high profile public relations specialist who this year began working with former vice premier and agricultural minister, Andrzej Lepper.

    Polish special police arrest former interior minister

    From: IHT
    Masked special agents on Thursday arrested a former interior minister-turned-critic of Poland's conservative government, raising cries of protest from opposition parties who accuse Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski of using law enforcement against his opponents.

    Officers from the Internal Security agency arrested Janusz Kaczmarek on suspicion he was tied to a leak of classified information, prosecutors said. Kaczmarek had become a vocal critic of the government, accusing it of spying on journalists and opposition politicians.

    Two of Kaczmarek's associates, former national police chief Konrad Kornatowski and Jaromir Netzel, head of state-controlled PZU insurance company, were also taken into custody.

    Federal prosecutor Dariusz Barski said an arrest warrant was also issued for Ryszard Krauze, head of Prokom software and listed by Forbes magazine's Polish edition as the country's eighth richest person with a fortune of 2.1 billion zlotys (US$750 million; ˆ550 million). They did not make public the specific charge or say what Krauze's connection to the case was.

    The arrests deepened the political strife that has engulfed Poland since July, when the ruling coalition began to crumble. The country is getting ready for early elections expected in October.

    Opposition politicians slammed the government, calling Thursday's arrests politically inspired acts aimed at silencing critics.

    Roman Giertych, head of the ultra-Catholic League of Polish Families, a former coalition partner in Kaczynski's government, accused the prime minister of "using prosecutors and the secret services for political goals."

    The prime minister denied there were any political motives behind the arrests.

    "These (arrests) occurred in the normal run of the justice system, and placing them in any other context is groundless," he told reporters in Lubin, southwest Poland.

    Kaczynski also sought to portray the arrests as a success in the fight against corruption — his party's key campaign pledge when it won the 2005 elections.

    His party, Law and Justice, is eager to tout its accomplishments to voters ahead of possible early elections. Parliament is slated to vote Sept. 7 on whether to dissolve, which would trigger new polls.

    Kaczmarek has surfaced as a sharp critic of Kaczynski's government since his dismissal in August. He testified last week before the parliament's secret services commission, alleging the government used law enforcement to spy on journalists and dig for dirt on political opponents. His testimony was later read to all lawmakers in a closed-door session, many of whom called it "frightening" and clamored for a special parliamentary committee.

    The Law and Justice party has blocked efforts to set up such a committee.

    Kornatowski, a close associate who served as national police chief under the former minister, had been expected to testify on Friday in front of the secret services commission.

    Poland's Law and Justice-led governing coalition collapsed after an investigation into alleged wrongdoing at the Agriculture Ministry last month resulted in the firing of the agriculture minister and Deputy Premier Andrzej Lepper, who headed one of the two junior coalition parties.

    Poland's Anti-Corruption Office implicated Lepper after a six-month sting operation into alleged corruption at his ministry. Lepper has denied the allegations.

    Authorities have been trying to track down the source of a leak that the agency's chief, Mariusz Kaminski, has said resulted in Lepper being warned at the last minute of the operation against him.

    The Warsaw regional prosecutors office said Thursday's arrests were linked to the leak in the anti-corruption operation in the Agriculture Ministry, and Kaczmarek's lawyer, Wojciech Brochwicz, told reporters that prosecutors charged the former minister with hampering the investigation and submitting false testimony.

    Doing business, trading with Putin's Russia

    From: Jakarta Post
    Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit Indonesia on Sept. 6. The visit will be to reciprocate the visit by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the end of 2006.

    During his Russian tour, Yudhoyono invited Russian entrepreneurs to invest in Indonesia. During his return visit, Yudhoyono's Russian counterpart is certain to also do his bit to strengthen bilateral relations, including economic ties.

    According to informed sources, Russia is going to make good on its US$1 billion defense loan and seek to sell its Metis antitank armaments to Indonesia. The extent of relations between the two countries will be determined by various factors, with several economic aspects having roles to play.

    The volume of Indonesia-Russia trade has been relatively low up to now and there have as yet been no signs of sustainable growth. As indicated in the accompanying table, from 2002 through 2006 Indonesian exports to Russia increased at a relatively high rate but also showed great volatility. In 2002, Indonesian non-oil/gas exports to Russia totaled US$66.3 million, rising to $272.5 million in 2006. Indonesian imports from Russia rose from $151.3 million in 2002 to $416 million last year.

    With Indonesia registering deficits in bilateral trade with Russia over the last few years, one of the decisive factors in fostering trade between both nations is Indonesia's capability to expand exports to Russia. Because of this, President Vladimir Putin is also expected to include Russian importers in his entourage.

    A closer look at the Indonesia-Russia trade structure suggests the presence of ample opportunities for boosting bilateral trade. To date, Russian exports to Indonesia have been largely limited to the defense field. From Indonesia, Russian imports have only comprised some agricultural commodities and processed agricultural products. Diversification will promote bilateral trade.

    Both countries need to correct misperceptions of the opportunities within their economic relationship. Russia has always assumed that the goods they can export to Indonesia are mostly technology intensive products such as defense equipment. Indonesia has assumed that the commodities Russia needs are mostly agriculture-based.

    With the latest progress in trade and the ongoing process of globalization, the two countries should have a better grasp of their relevant markets. Bilateral economic and trade ties can be rapidly improved if they are based on the advantages and needs of both populations. Global competition has also made it necessary for the government to develop a level playing field in the domestic market by cutting regulatory barriers.

    Kommersant, a Russian online daily, on Aug. 22 reported that President Vladimir Putin's Indonesian visiting party would include delegates from the Russian Federation Chamber of Commerce, Alfa Group, the Executive Director of Altimo, Alexey Reznikovich, and the President of Alfa Bank.

    According to sources quoted by the daily, Alfa Group planned to use President Putin's upcoming tour to carry out its plan to buy shares in cellular phone operators, particularly Singapore Technologies Telemedia's 41 percent stake in Indosat.

    The news may simply be a rumor intended to hype up the visit, but nevertheless the reality is that the Alfa Group through its telecommunications subsidiary Altimo has shown great interest in Indonesia's cellular phone and telecommunications business.

    Alfa Group's desire to participate in Indonesia's cellular phone industry is very rational. As shown in the table, the business promises big profits. It is a fast growing industry and this trend will likely continue for several years to come. With cellular phone penetration in Indonesia still low, this industry will grow rapidly in the next few years in line with rising incomes.

    The question is why Alfa Group does not simply set up a new cellular phone firm in Indonesia and why it has to "force itself" to buy an existing company. Law No.36/1999 on telecommunications opened up a wide opportunity for those wishing to enter this sector. If Alfa Group is really interested in acquiring Indosat shares why don't they simply buy them on the stock market or the New York stock exchange? The company seems strong enough to do that.

    The Indonesian government itself has no intention whatsoever to sell its stakes in Indosat and Telkomsel, given the bright future of the telecommunications industry and its strategic importance.

    It would be improper and unethical if the Russian delegation were to ask the Indonesian government to lobby Singapore Technologies Telemedia to sell its shares in Indosat. If that happened, the whole world would blame Indonesia for making a discriminatory decision and violating the basic principles of cooperation with other countries, as well as the rules of the World Trade Organization.

    The era has passed when government influence could be used to advance or win business deals. In the current democratic era, with its high standards of transparency, such a "hostile" takeover would even be embarrassing for the Russian companies themselves.

    Although we strongly believe that the Indonesian government would not readily serve as the instrument of a company, we do still need to be alert to the possibility of Russian eagerness to disproportionately rely on the influence of government.

  • From the blogs...

    Poland’s Rubicon crossed?

    From: The Beatroot
    This is Editor of Gazeta Wyborcza Adam Michnik commenting after the arrests of an ex-interior minister, an ex-police chief and an ex-head of the PZU national insurer (see here, here and here) last Thursday.

      The Rubicon has been crossed; the Rubicon separating a law-governed democracy from the country of a creeping coup d'etat. There is no longer any doubt - the Kaczynski brothers and their milieu will use whatever means and tricks possible to hide the truth about the grim secrets and to remain in power until the elections….
    The opposition are saying that the Polish police force, public prosecutors and secret services are being used to intimidate, harass and gag political opponents.

    Michnik – imprisoned for being an anti-communist activist in the 1960s - draws some alarming parallels between the Kaczynski administration and even darker days in Poland.

      […] to arrest political rivals shortly before elections is something new. One is reminded of the 1946-1947 period when the Soviet-imposed communists invalidated electoral registers, imprisoned opposition candidates, and ultimately rigged the elections. After that, until 1989, there were no free elections in Poland.
    Hyperbole? Paranoid?

    But I have seen some very scared people in this country in the last two years. And that fear, whatever its justification, has had real effects. It’s not just Michnik who fears opening the door early in the morning and being confronted by men in a black balaclava on backwards, only their eyes peeking through the scary wool ware – as Janusz Kaczmarek was early Thursday morning.

    This government believes that a kind of Polish oligarchy grew up with the fall of communism. I think that is partially right. A lot of sticky fingers got their hands in the pie early. It is the same in all ex-communist countries.

    But the Kaczinskis go one step further than that. They see an organized conspiracy between ex-Stalinists and the new middle class liberals in the media and in business generally, in the old secret services, judges, constitutional courts….and even in organized crime.

    Hyperbole? Paranoid?

    The way the Kaczynskis have gone about breaking up the supposed oligarchy – the uklad – has been to create a parallel universe, the old Polish political tactic of cronyism. Nothing new there: Polish governments have been doing that for years. But they have done it with a zeal that few have seen since…well, back in those darker days.

    This has created its own pinball of paranoia throughout the country.

    Whatever – the politics of paranoia gets results. The Kaczynskis zeal plays well with many in Poland. It’s basically the new Polish politics of class.

    Small traders, rural folk, those in unemployment black spots, who have not done as well as the shiny elites and new middle class, will vote for this type of populism.

    The shiny elites and new middle class – often same bunch and children of the old communist elites - despise the government and its allies. And it’s easy to see why.

    An election is coming. And after the election not much will change. Poland is now a country rife with good old fashioned class conflict – and when you strip away all the hyperbole and paranoia, that’s just about the long and short of it. An election will not solve that.

    S300 air defence systems and spies

    From: TOL
    The S-300 surface-to-air missile system
    Russian Kommersant reports: Belarusian Supreme Court is on the case of the strange spy ring, which relied on copying top-secret information on the S300 systems to regular SD-cards to carry it over the border and pass to the Polish intelligence.

    I bet there are better ways to hide sensitive information nowadays, in the age of implantable RFID chips, MP3 players and, well, the least logical choice — encrypted email. The trial will be closed. Here’s the story:

    The Military Panel of Belarus’ Supreme Court has set to the so-called Polish spies’ case, ITAR-TASS reported. The accussed are four residents of Belarus, while Russia’s major will be a witness in the trial.

    The trial will be closed for public at large for the sake of state secret protection, said sources with the Supreme Court.

    The defendants are four citizens of Belarus charged with high treason. One of them is also accused of arranging the spying by order of foreign intelligence. The laws of Belarus set forth imprisonment of seven to 15 years for the crimes of this kind.

    On July 15, Belarus’ KGB Deputy Chief Viktor Vegera reported unmasking a group of resident agents spying for Poland. “For the first time, we have revealed and completely uncovered activities of the resident group of five agents – four citizens of the Belarus Republic and a citizen of the Russian Federation, now already the former military men,” Vegera told the nation via All-National TV.

    According to KGB, the agents were collecting strategic information about the air defense system of Russia-Belarus Union State, paying particular attention to S-300 surface-to-air missile systems. The first suspect was caught red-handed when attempting to deliver secret information to the West. Then, three more citizens of Belarus were arrested for spying, while the major of the RF Armed Forces gave himself up to Russia’s FSB and will act as a witness during the trial.

    RA's Russia Daily News Digest

    From: Robert Amsterdam
    Russian President Vladimir Putin spent the day bowling at the Vilyuchinsk submarine base
    [In our ongoing effort to become your one-stop shop for what's going on in Russia, we are going to begin a daily posting of a digest linking to all (or at least most of) the top stories across the web.]

    The Moscow City Court has sustained legality of the absentee arrest of former Russneft chief Mikhail Gutseriev. According to former colleagues of Anna Politkovskaya, the lead investigator into her murder has been replaced, in what is thought to be political interference by the siloviki. Elsewhere it was reported that Politkovskaya’s case has been taken under the personal control of head of the Prosecutor General's Office special investigative unit Sergey Ivanov, the same department which investigated the case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Deutsche Bank has sold a new synthetic collateralized debt obligation bundling credit derivatives traded on Russian companies, proving investors still have appetite for such risky complex debt instruments despite recent credit turmoil.

    Meanwhile the United States has urged Russia to join the missile defence race, and a Ukrainian news source says that Gazprom will drive up gas prices on supplies to the CIS. Elsewhere, Gazprom mounted pressure on ExxonMobil to drop gas exports to China, saying it needs gas from Sakhalin-1 for domestic use; and a project off Sakhalin island by BP and Rosneft has prompted the companies to call on Russia to ease the tax regime for offshore projects. VTB Group’s finance costs on $5 billion in loans will rise by 1 percentage point due to the credit crunch; and VTB’s 13% share price drop will postpone the bank’s merger with Promstroibank. Garry Kasparov has accused his Russian publishers of axing publication of his new book due his opposition of Vladimir Putin; and in other news, Putin has lashed out at Economic Development Minister German Gref and ex-Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. Oleg Deripaska’s investment vehicle Basic Element has finally submitted an official request to the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service to buy Russneft - the most recent private oil company to be stolen by the Kremlin. Sedmoi Kontinent, the supermarket chain owned by Vladimir Gruzdev and Alexander Zanadvorov, has signed an accord to be bought by US buyout firm TPG. A bureaucratic glitch is being blamed for the delay in publication of a presidential decree, causing the late start of the Duma election campaign. In the Duma’s last session, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov vowed to resist populist principles, warning deputies against submitting bills that would increase social spending.

    Meanwhile the Duma has ratified Russia’s border treaty with Latvia, and has passed a new law on Stastistical Accounts, requiring businesses to provide Rosstat with any information it deems required. The Russian Standard Bank has lost 6 billion rubles in profit due to orders from the Prosecutor General's Office not to collect supplemental commissions for consumer credit. Gennadi Kryuchkov, a religious leader of the Soviet Union, has died. Australia will sign a multi-billion-dollar deal with Russia on Friday to supply uranium for civilian uses.

    Evil Leaders League, Semis 1st Leg

    From: harazquack
    This is the semifinals of the Evil Leaders League's second season. The playoffs will consist of two legs in this round, best aggregate score wins. The finals is a best of 3 series, but we'll worry about that when we get there. First we have the task of determining who is the evil leader to be relegated. Islam Karimov and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tied for 5th, so the winner of a one matchup tie-breaker will stay in the ELL for Season 3 and the loser will not return for next season.

    Karimov vs Ahmadinejad
    Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov doesn't want leave the ELL just as quickly as he came in. He's trying to avoid a one and done affair. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from Iran made the playoffs last season and would like another attempt to do the same next season.

    This matchup boils down to a simple formula. Karimov is a power-hungry man, who is planning on staying in power even though Uzbekistan is supposed to have a presidential election this year. He also boils people. Not personally, I'm sure he has one of his minions actually do the boiling. Ahmadinejad was democratically elected and must answer to his campaign promises. He throws out the occasional nuclear threat (not even a bomb, just an energy program) and the western world shits themselves. Sometimes words are more powerful than boiling people. I guess. That's pretty stupid actually, but I don't run the world... yet. Avenging his regular season loss and staying in the league...
    winner: Ahmadinejad

    Now for the semifinals. Here are the results from the 1st leg:

    al-Bashir vs Kim
    This is the rematch of last year's final, where Sudan's Omar al-Bashir swept through North Korea's Kim Jong-Il, 2-0. They've split their 2 regular season matchups. The Boston Globe reports that Sudan has actually blossomed in the face of US-imposed sanctions. I'm not sure how they reached that conclusion with a genocide continuing. Maybe the few people still alive can enjoy more of what's left. Omar al-Bashir constantly amazes me. Not only is he an economic god, but "triple 20" as he's known in the dart-throwing world just won his 18th consecutive Sudanese National Dart-throwing championship. That beats Jafar Numayri's run of 16 years in a row.

    The summit between Kim Jong-Il and South Korea's Roh Moo-Hyun is scheduled for October 2-4 in Pyongyang. It would be the second meeting between the two countries since they were divided. I'm glad they're moving towards peace, but it's not very evil. North Korea was hit with heavy rain in recent weeks, leading to flooding. Kim Jong-Il was nowhere to be seen, drawing criticism from some. That's mean, but not evil. He also contracted gonorrhea. Not a good week for Kim.
    winner: al-Bashir by 25

    Putin vs Chavez
    Vladimir Putin, the leader of Russia, lost to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez in the regular season. Now he's building up his military. Putin is also reportedly very sexy. His body is more ripped than my $200 pair of jeans (I don't own a garment worth anywhere near that much). I want to run my tongue up and down the peaks and valleys of his chiseled stomach. Umm, wait, never mind. Awkward. Hugo Chavez bought 5,000 Russian rifles on ebay and totally jacked the studly Putin. Chavez changed Venezuela's time zone. His country donates more money to Latin America than the US. He's getting the military force, the popular support, and now a head start in his future war with the US (if we attack first). He's becoming a very dangerous person. Soon he's gonna be able to eat lighting and crap thunder.
    winner: Chavez by 3

  • Sport...

    Natalia Sokolova of Belarus wins mass start gold at world summer biathlon championships

    Today Belarusian Natalia Sokolova won a gold medal in the 5km mass start competition with four shooting bouts at the world summer biathlon championships in Estonia, BelTA has been told in the Ministry of Sport and Tourism.

    She ran a good race today with just four shooting errors. Yesterday she won the champion’s title in the 3km sprint. Another Belarusian Anna Tsvetova finished the mass start race in the top ten.

    The best performing Belarusian in the men's event was Alexander Ustinov (12th position). Alexander Fridman came in 15th and Evgeny Kirpichnikov 26th.

  • The Belarusian national team took the third place at the World Water Ski Championships in Linz, Austria. Belarus has already won six medals, BelTA has learnt from the Ministry of Sports and Tourism. Aleksei Zhernosek claimed two silver medals in the men tricks and the overall points. Another silver medal in the women's tricks went to Natalia Berdnikova who came third in the women jump. Oleg Devyatovski came third in the men tricks and second in the men overall.

  • Belarusian Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka beat Vincent Spadea and Vania King of the USA 4:6, 7:5, 10:7 in the US Open mixed doubles second round. In the men’s doubles third round Max Mirnyi and Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden unexpectedly lost to Brazilian duo of Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa 3:6, 4:6.

  • In the women’s singles Victoria Azarenka advanced into the fourth round and will play the fourth seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova from Russia.

  • Endnote...

    Permanent President Putin?

    From: Charter '97
    Videos have been released showing Mr. Putin in campaign mode, a vigorous 55, horseback riding and fishing, stripped to the waist. For months he has taken step after step to appeal to the majority of Russians who yearn for a return to the great-power status their country lost when the Soviet Union collapsed.
    Russia may be a democracy, but it is rapidly morphing back into an authoritarian state. President Vladimir Putin looks very much like a man running for re-election. The question is whether he plans to scrap the constitution and become president for life or rule from behind the scenes and return to office later.

    The constitution adopted in 1993 by the new Russia states in Chapter 4, Article 81, "No one person shall hold the office of president for more than two terms in succession." Mr. Putin was elected in 2000 and won re-election by a landslide 71 percent in 2004. He will complete two terms next year, so is ineligible under the constitution to stand for re-election.

    Elections to the Duma will be held Dec. 2, after which the political parties will nominate their candidates for the presidency. That election will take place March 2, with the new president taking office May 7. Barely six months before the election, Vladimir Putin dominates Russian politics like a colossus, with polls showing an approval rate as high as 80 percent.

    Videos have been released showing Mr. Putin in campaign mode, a vigorous 55, horseback riding and fishing, stripped to the waist. For months he has taken step after step to appeal to the majority of Russians who yearn for a return to the great-power status their country lost when the Soviet Union collapsed. He has been taking advantage of the booming global market for energy, renationalizing the oil and gas industry and using the proceeds to rebuild the Russian military.

    For years Russia has been developing the Topol-M mobile ballistic missile, the Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile, the S-400 missile interceptor, a new evading warhead, fifth-generation fighter planes and missile-launching submarines. Progress was slow and funds were scarce, but the surge in oil and gas wealth made it possible to overcome problems and accelerate these programs.

    Now Mr. Putin is using his improving military to throw his weight around, confronting countries from Georgia to Norway. He has resumed long-range nuclear bomber flights, refuses to cooperate with Britain on a KGB murder, claims the North Pole for Russia, sells air defense missiles to Syria and threatens to target NATO countries by basing missiles in Russia`s Kaliningrad enclave.

    Instead of joining Europe and America to oppose the threat of militant Islam, Mr. Putin has turned to China, Iran and other authoritarian regimes against the West. He is recreating the Warsaw Pact in Central Asia — the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Known as a "dictator`s club," it is led by China and Russia and includes four former Soviet republics but expected to grow with Iran and other countries seeking to join.

    All this is fine with most Russians, who have the strong leader they wanted. A poll by the Yuri-Levada Institute published in February found 68 percent of Russians said their top priority was "security." Democracy was hardly mentioned. Other findings were that 75 percent consider Russia a Eurasian state, while only 10 percent think they are part of the West.

    Mr. Putin has said he will honor the constitution. Nevertheless, he could decide to emulate his friend, Venezuela`s President Hugo Chavez, and make himself president for life. Amending the Russian constitution requires large majorities of both the Federation Council and Duma, which he undoubtedly could get from these rubber-stamp bodies, but it would require payoffs or concessions he may not want to make.

    So he appears to be grooming First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov as his successor. Since the constitution bars him from running more than twice "in succession," but leaves open the possibility of a later return, he may plan to have Mr. Ivanov run next year for one term and then replace him. Meanwhile, he would expect to control the country as a "gray eminence" from behind the scenes.

    But that is easier said than done. Mr. Ivanov is a highly capable former KGB officer and defense minister. If he wins the vast powers of the Russian presidency, it may not be easy for a former president to control him. Once out of power, Mr. Putin may find it hard to get back in. Of course, he could anoint a more pliable candidate to serve as caretaker president.

    Russian democracy is at risk. For the future of his country, Mr. Putin should honor the constitution and retire permanently next year.