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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Belarus/Georgia relations, Brown coal, Polish spy case, Economy, Vladimir Gostyukhin, BY at UN, Russian art, Iranian Nukes, Beatroot and Sammy

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  • #240

    Belarus prepared to step up relations with Georgia

    From: The office of the president and
    Meeting with the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia, Ivane Merabishvili
    Belarus is fully committed towards restoring and augmenting relations with Georgia, said the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, at today’s meeting with the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia, Ivane Merabishvili

    “I am very glad that today – and this is why your visit is so remarkable – we have an opportunity to draw the line at the period of chaos, muddle and uncertainty in our relations. We are fully determined to have good relations with Georgia, firmly resolved to bring them up onto a higher level than that in the times of the Soviet Union,” said the Head of State. The upcoming opening of the Embassy of Georgia in Minsk and the Embassy of Belarus in Tbilisi will be a good evidence of it, he said.

    Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus and Georgia had had a patchy relationship history, but “the Georgians, since as early as in the Soviet period, have felt a close kinship with the Belarusians.” Good relationship has been established with the incumbent President of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, Alexander Lukashenko said.

    "We are fully committed to restoring and developing ties with Georgia, making them even stronger than during the Soviet period," the Belarussian president's press office quoted Lukashenko as saying.

    Referring to the goods turnover between both countries, Alexander Lukashenko noted that its current level does not accommodate the potential of Belarus and Georgia. In view of the Head of State, we should strive to increase the bilateral trade volumes to at least $ 100 million a year.

    As to security issues, Alexander Lukashenko gave assurances that Belarus is prepared to make every effort to promote growing relationship in this sphere.

    Ivane Merabishvili, for his part, expressed the hope that in two-three years the relations between both nations would become more intensified and result-yielding.

    The meeting marks a change in tone in the relationship between the two countries.

    Last year witnessed a deterioration, with Tbilisi openly backing the Belarussian opposition in the March 19 presidential elections. The Georgian Foreign Ministry condemned the polls as undemocratic and said they were held in “an atmosphere of intimidation.” President Saakashvili even described Lukashenko’s regime as “a dark force” trying to oppress democracy.

    Belarus interested in brown coal projects

    From: Office of the president and BelTA
    Belarus is interested in developing investment projects aimed at extracting and processing brown coal and shale oil, said the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, at today’s meeting with Nikolay von Keler, the Polar Star Group S.A. President and CEO.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus regards energy security as a critical issue, vital for the national independence. “Therefore, any relevant project is very important for us now,” he said.

    At the meeting, Nikolay von Keler presented two investment projects related to the extraction and processing of brown coal and shale oil in Belarus. The projects had been considered by the Belarusian government before. According to the Head of State, “[such projects] entail multi-billion spending”, therefore they must be approved by the President.

    “Our analysis of your companies has shown that you have earnest intentions,” Alexander Lukashenko said to the businessman.

    These projects, the President added, belong to the realm of national security and independence. If they are materialised, Belarus will succeed in making considerable progress in addressing national security and independence issues, he said.

    Alexander Lukashenko expressed interest in these projects and gave assurances to Nikolay von Keler that the Belarusian side was ready to provide all relevant assistance required.

    The respective investment agreements are expected to be signed in the near future. The projects are to be implemented within the period of 5 to 7 years.

    The total brown coal resource in Belarus is estimated at approximately 1.5 billion tonnes. The greatest deposits are found in Gomel region (Zhitkovichi, Tonezh, Brinev deposits).

    As to the their quality properties, the Belarusian coals are similar to those of the South Urals basin (Russia) and the Dnieper basin (Ukraine) which are currently extracted to meet the energy sector needs.

    The potential application areas for Belarusian brown coals are direct combustion of coal in boiler plants to generate electric power or both electric and thermal power; c oal gasification for converting coal to producer gases; thermochemical processing to obtain such end products as motor fuels or methanol.

    Currently, there are high-efficiency technologies of producing energy from brown coal and shale oil. Belarus has such technologies too.

    The final choice as to the way of utilising brown coal and shale oil will be made in Belarus following a comprehensive study into the practicability of the relevant projects.

    Spies Testify against Each Other

    From: Kommersant
    Russian ballistic missile complexes
    The closed trail of Russian Army Maj. Sergey Yuren began yesterday in the Moscow District Military Court. Investigators say Yuren and four officers of the Belarusian Army gave Polish intelligence agents information about the facilities of the Russian-Belarusian unified air defense system. The Belarusian officers were sentenced in that country to prison terms of 7-10 years on September 14. Yuren testified against them at their trial and head of the Belarusian KGB Stepan Sukhorenko was dismissed in the resultant scandal.

    Yuren is accused of violating article 275 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“treason in the form of espionage”). The prosecution claims that Yuren, along with Belarusian officers Vladimir Russkin, Viktor Bogdan, Sergey Kornilyuk and Pavel Petkevich, gathered information and various defensive objects located in Belarus, especially S-300 ballistic missile systems.

    The activities allegedly began after Russkin was detained on the Polish-Belarusian border several years ago for smuggling ethyl alcohol. He accepted the offer to cooperate with Polish intelligence and began to smuggle copies of secret documents out of the country hidden in a compartment in a fire extinguisher in his car. Poland denies that it has intelligence activities in Belarus.

    The group was uncovered in January of this year after Yuren gave himself up to the FSB. Yuren claimed to have worked with the Belarusians in 2005 and 2006, but decided to confess because he was dissatisfied with the compensation he received. Yuren admits his full guilt and expressed regret for his actions. The convicted Belarusian officers will testify in Yuren's trial.

    Belarus asks Russia to leave 2007 quota on haulage permits at 2006 level

    From: Naveny
    Belarus has asked Russia to leave 2007 quota on haulage permits issued to Belarusian carriers unchanged at the level of 2005 and 2006, said the press office of the Belarusian transport ministry.

    The issuance of permits was under discussion at Monday’s meeting of a group of Belarusian and Russian transport officials working on the development of the Union State’s single transport system.

    The delegations reportedly exchanged proposals for creating favorable conditions for the operation of the two countries’ haulage companies.

    They agreed that work on preventing long detentions by the traffic police of vehicles on international routes should continue, the press office said.

    They both emphasized the need to relax a registration procedure for Belarusian trucks traveling to Russia. The procedure, introduced by Russia on January 1, 2007, led to long lines at the border between the two countries.

    The delegations also decided to ask senior officials of the Belarusian and Russian customs agencies to discuss the customs escort of goods in Belarus and delays in deliveries at their next meeting as board of the Belarusian-Russian Union State Customs Committee

    Russian caught using cup to dig tunnel to EU

    From: Reauters
    A Russian man was caught trying to use a metal cup to burrow under the border between Belarus and the European Union, Belarus border guards said on Tuesday.

    The 19-year-old Russian was detained by border guards as he embarked on his great escape to EU member Poland by digging under the border.

    "The man tried to tunnel under the security system and at this interesting moment was detained by border guards," a spokesman for the border guards said.

    "He would have had to tunnel for about 1 kilometre to get to Poland," the spokesman said.

    It was unclear why the man was using a cup to dig his tunnel. He also had army rations, camouflage, maps and a textbook on survival.

    The man, who faces a fine of about $300, said he was heading for Germany to see his girlfriend.

    But border guards suspect he wanted to go to France to join the Foreign Legion.

    Belarus’ deficit in goods trade reported up significantly in first seven months

    From: Naveny
    Belarus had a $2.05 billion deficit in foreign trade in goods in the first seven months of this year, said the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis.

    In the same period of 2006, the deficit amounted to $992.4. million, with the deficit in trade in goods with Russia rising from $3.73 billion to $4.07 billion year-on-year in January through July 2007.

    The deficit in the first seven months of this year was due to increased imports of “intermediate products” such as energy, raw materials and components that reportedly soared by 23.5 percent to $10.83 billion. Exports of intermediate products amounted to $8.92 billion, outstripping imports by $1.91 billion, up from the $861.3 million in the first seven months of 2006.

    Belarus also had a deficit in trade in energy, $791.2 million, compared with the same period of the previous year when it had a $226.6 million surplus in the trade. Energy exports dropped by 6.6 percent to $4.23 billion.

    In an accompanying comment, the ministry blamed the deficit in energy trade on higher natural gas prices this year and a significant decrease in oil exports that reportedly fell from $387.1 million year-on-year to $78.5 million in the first seven months of 2007.

    Imports of “other intermediate products” increased by 30 percent to $5.8 billion and their exports by 38.8 percent to $4.68 billion. The country’s deficit in trade in the goods rose from $1.09 billion to 1.12 billion.

    Belarus: gross grain yield totaled 7.43 mln tonnes

    From: Agrimarket
    According to Central Administration of plant-growing under Ministry of Agriculture and Food of Republic of Belarus, gross grain yield in all the enterprises of Belarus in 2007 totaled 7.43 mln tonnes, down only 300.000 tonnes as compared to 2004.

    The agrarian enterprises threshed 6.89 mln tonnes of grain, up 78.000 tonnes against 2004 level. The yield of spiked cereals in bunker weight was 31.2 c/ha, up 1.7 centners as compared to the last year.

    They harvested about 280.000 tonnes of malting barley to provide the execution of State order for this crop in full volume and provide needs of processing plants.

    According to official data, the terms of harvesting campaign were quite tight - by September 15 it was completely finished.

    International conference on mobile technologies to take place in Minsk

    From: Naveny
    An international conference on mobile technologies is to be held in Minsk on September 20 and 21.

    According to the forum’s organizers, the market of mobile services in Belarus, where 60 percent of its population own mobile phones, is just beginning to take shape.

    The conference will focus on issues ranging from the specifications of new handhelds to the sale of tunes and pictures. Twenty reports will be presented during the two-day conference, both for experts and lay persons.

    Delegates will also participate in roundtable discussions on September 21, exploring the development of the local market of mobile content and the prospects of the legal mobile phone market in Belarus.

    In attendance will be experts of such Russian and Ukrainian companies and dealerships as Comnews Search, Microsoft, I-Free, Nokia, Samsung, Bemobi, Fresh-media etc. The Belarusian national telecommunications monopoly Beltelecom will launch its latest service called Universal Mail. Microsoft will present its Windows Mobile 6.0 operating system for PDAs.

    The total number of the conference’s participants, including those following it online, is expected to exceed 1000.

    Vladimir Gostyukhin, Mikhail Finberg and Sergei Artsibashev win Union State Arts and Literature Prizes

    From: BelTA
    Vladimir Gostyukhin
    On September 18 the winners of the 2007-2008 Union State Arts and Literature Prizes were announced. They are People’s Artists of Belarus Vladimir Gostyukhin and Mikhail Finberg, People’s Artist of Russia Sergei Artsibashev.

    Actor Vladimir Gostyukhin was awarded for his films Ascension; Fox Hunting; I Will Take Away Your Pain; Our Armored Train; Enchained; Urga. Territory of Love.

    People’s Artists of Belarus, Director of the National Symphonic Orchestra of Belarus Mikhail Finberg was nominated due to a series of concerts dedicated to Belarusian and Russian composers such as Eugeny Glebov, Alexander Zatsepin, Vladimir Mulyavin, David Tukhmanov, Mark Fradkin, Alexandra Pakhmutova, Maxim Dunayevsky.

    People’s Artist of Russia Sergei Artsibashev was nominated for his plays Three Sisters, A Month in the Country, Karamazovy, Dead Souls, A Wedding staged in the Moscow Academic Theater named after Vladimir Mayakovsky and Pokrovka Theater.

    Only six nominees out of 30 were shortlisted for the prizes. Now when the winners have been selected by the Council of Experts they are to be approved by the Supreme State Council of the Union State. The prizes will be awarded in 2008 during the opening of the Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk.

    Culture Minister of Belarus Vladimir Rylatko noted that every year the selection procedure has been improved. This year two representatives of Belarus were shortlisted, he noted. “Although there are no quotas, in the last few years there were more Russian nominees. Experts considered their personal contribution to the development of the Belarusian-Russian cultural cooperation,” the Culture Minister said.

    Representative of the Art and Culture Council under Russia’s President Alexander Terekhin stressed that the significance of the prizes have been constantly growing. For many artists the prizes have become a great stimulus.

    According to the decision of the Supreme State Council of the Union State three prizes in literature and arts are awarded biyearly to people making significant contribution to the strengthening of friendship and all-round cooperation between Russia and Belarus.

    The first Union State Literature and Art Prizes were awarded in 2002 to Russian actor Alexei Petrenko, Belarusian playwright Alexei Dudarev and People’s Writer of Belarus Ivan Shamyakin. Among other winners of the prize are artists Mikhail Savitsky and Valentin Sidorov, actors Alexander Kalyagin and Rostislav Yankovsky, composer Alexandra Pakhmutova and poet Stanislav Kunyayev.

    Unemployment in Belarus down by 19%

    From: BelTA
    As of September 1, 2007 the registered unemployment in Belarus made up 48.6 thousand people, 19% down over the same period of 2006, BelTA learnt from the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis.

    As of the end of August 2007 the jobless figures were 1.1%, as of August last year – 1.3%.

    The highest jobless figures were registered in the Vitebsk, Mogilev and Brest oblasts (1.4%). In the Grodno and Gomel oblasts the index was 1.3%, in the Minsk oblast – 1%, in the Minsk oblast – 0.9%. In the capital the unemployment is usually lower than the nationwide level (0.4% to the people in prime working years).

    On the whole, in August 2007 some 18.9 thousand people applied to the state employment service, jobs were offered to 10.9 thousand people. The highest jobless figures in August this year were registered in the Brest and Minsk oblast (3.2 thousand people in each), the lowest unemployment – in Minsk (1.5 thousand people).

    According to the Ministry, in January-August 2007 some 217.1 thousand people applied the state employment service, of them 131.8 thousand people were recognized unemployed. For the eight months of this year some 136.4 thousand people were provided with jobs.

    In January-August 2007 some 57.8 thousand people, of them 36.3 thousand unemployed were involved in paid public works.

    The Ministry informed that the average unemployment benefit in August 2007 equaled Br46.5 thousand, or 25% of the subsistence wage.

    In a related story, in January-August 2007, the budget revenues in Belarus equaled Br30.1 trillion, BelTA learnt in the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis.

    Revenues from VAT, income tax and other economic activity taxes accounted for 44.4% of the total tax revenues with VAT accounting for 17.9%.

    According to the Ministry, as of September 1, 2007 arrears to the budget totaled Br204.6 billion, 12.8% down since the beginning of the year. VAT accounted for 41.6% of the total arrears to the budget, proceeds from the sales of goods and services – for 13.2%, real estate tax – for 8.3%, excises – for 7.4%.

    As of September 1, 2007 suspended arrears made up Br274.4 billion having reduced by 10.3% since the beginning of the year.

    Belarus to speak for fair world economic order at UN General Assembly session

    From: BelTA
    A Belarusian delegation led by Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov will take part in the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly. The session is scheduled to open in New York on September 18, the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry told BelTA.

    Among other priorities the Belarusian delegation will focus attention on continuing the realisation of initiatives put forward by the Belarusian head of state to promote the recognition of the versatility of ways of progressive development and the formation of a global partnership against slavery and human trafficking in XXI century.

    Special attention will be attached to discussing issues concerning the establishment of a fair world economic order through securing goals of building an open, just, rule-based, predictable and non-discriminating multilateral trade system in line with the UN Millennium Development Goals, rejection of one-sided exterritorial economic enforcement measures used to put political and economic pressure on sovereign countries.

    Belarus plans to contribute to the promotion of a draft resolution of the UN General Assembly concerning the reinforcement of international cooperation and coordination of efforts aimed at researching, alleviating and minimising consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe as well as the implementation of proposals put forward by the 2006 International Minsk Conference to declare “A decade of revival and sustainable development of Chernobyl-affected areas”.

    Promotion of amendments to Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change concerning Belarus’ quantity obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will serve national interests of the Republic of Belarus, allowing the country to contribute heavily to the international effort for preventing the climate change and will enable full-scale participation in the realisation of the Kyoto Protocol.

    The Belarusian delegation will also continue promoting productive international cooperation for the protection of human rights on the basis of equivocal and mutually respecting dialogue about human rights as well as counteracting attempts to harden confrontation when human rights issues are considered by UN agencies.

    The Belarusian delegation will place emphasis on further renovation and perfection of working methods used by key UN bodies (the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Secretariat) as well as on raising the quality and effectiveness of UN efforts at national and regional levels, said the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

    In a related story, the substantive session of the UN Committee on Conferences closed in New York. Besides, the committee was chaired by the Republic of Belarus. As BelTA was told in the permanent representative office of Belarus in the UN, the main result of the forum became the unanimous adoption of the resolution “Plan of Conferences”.

    On the initiative of the Belarusian side for the first time the resolution of the committee included a provision on the necessity to open sessions in the UN at a designated time. Jointly with delegations from other countries Belarus has succeeded in highlighting, in the committee’s resolution, the importance of professional continuity and commitment of the translation services staff given the increasing recruitment of younger professionals.

    The consensus on the text of the resolution was reached due to the close cooperation between Belarus, Russia, Egypt, Syria, Jamaica and the European Union member states – Austria, Germany and France.

  • Around the region...

    Billionaire Usmanov to present Rostropovich collection to Russia

    From: RIA Novosti
    Kremlin-friendly tycoon Alisher Usmanov, who bought Monday the art collection of deceased cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, said Tuesday he will present it to the state in full.

    "The entire collection will be transferred to the state in full. It belongs to Russia and to the Russian people," Usmanov said in a statement late on Tuesday.

    The billionaire's statement followed a number of doubts as to whether Russia would receive the collection. Marina Loshak, of the Proun Gallery in Moscow, and advisor to Sotheby's Russia and CIS office chief on the collection, said earlier in the day that the collection would definitely remain with Usmanov, and that "there is no talk of it being presented to the state."

    The collection was built up by Rostropovich, who died in April, and his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, after they were forced out of Russia in 1974. It was intended to create a "Russian atmosphere" in their homes abroad.

    The collection was due to be sold Tuesday-Wednesday, but Sotheby's cancelled the auction on Monday after it had been "acquired privately in its entirety."

    Usmanov, who co-owns major steel factories as well as heading a subsidiary of the state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, told the Kommersant daily his mission was to preserve the unique collection of Russian art in its entirety and return it to its home country.

    "My aim was to return the large collection of Russian art to Russia. This helped persuade Sotheby's to sell it in full... I am by no means going to keep the collection in my possession. Museums will decide its fate," Usmanov told the paper.

    Experts said a museum to exhibit the collection, which comprises paintings by Nikolai Roerich, Valentin Serov, Ilya Repin and Karl Bryullov, was being chosen at the moment. They suggested it could be split into porcelain, which could be displayed in the Kremlin museum, and paintings and sculptures to go to museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The collection has been estimated as being worth about $40 million,

    The Russian billionaire also increased his stake in Arsenal soccer club to 21% Tuesday, becoming its second largest shareholder. In August, he acquired 14.65% in the English Premier League club.

    Russia: no political obstacles to Iran atom plant

    From: Reuters
    Sergei Kiriyenko: There are no political constraints to building Iran's first nuclear power station if payment hitches are solved
    Russia's nuclear chief said on Tuesday there were no political constraints to building Iran's first nuclear power station in a signal it could be finished if payment hitches are solved, local media reported.

    Russia is helping to build the Bushehr nuclear power plant on the Gulf but has repeatedly put back the start-up date citing Iranian payment delays. Tehran denies any payment problems.

    "The Bushehr atomic power plant does not present any threat to the non-proliferation regime," Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russian state atomic energy agency Rosatom, said in Vienna, RIA news agency reported.

    "There are no political constraints to the completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant and should be none," he said.

    Kiriyenko discussed the completion of the plant at a meeting with Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, on Monday.

    "I am satisfied with the results of the meeting," Kiriyenko said.

    Russian officials insist that millions of U.S. dollars in missed payments have delayed the plant.

    But some analysts say Russia is stalling because it does not fully trust Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and fears an international backlash if it delivers nuclear fuel to Bushehr.

    Under current Russian forecasts, the reactor at the plant could be started up in 2008. Nuclear fuel would have to arrive at the plant six months before the reactor could be started up, Russian officials say.

    First indictment in Polish football corruption scandal

    From: News PL
    The Appellate Prosecutor’s Office in Wroclaw is to send to court the first indictments concerning the Polish football corruption scandal.

    Almost 100 people have been charged in an investigation which started over two and a half years ago.

    They include, referees, Polish Football Association (PZPN) observers, activists and coaches.
    ,br>According to unofficial information gained by Polish Radio, Worclaw prosecutors are preparing a special presentation for a press conference, where Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro may be present and where more details of the case will be revealed.

    Clubs form all three leagues are involved in the scandal.

    Earlier this year the Polish government suspended the entire board of the Polish Football Association for not doing enough to tackle corruption in the national game.

    This brought the government into conflict with FIFA who said that local football associations must remain independent.

    Polish police exams cause trial to adjourn

    Exams in a police school in Pila, western Poland, taken by one of the defendants is the reason for adjourning the trial of nine policemen who, in 2004, were involved in the shooting and consequent death of a 19-year old.

    His friend was also seriously wounded their friend.

    In December last year the court acquitted the perpetrators, though the prosecutor’s office appealed.

    The court decided that the policemen’s use of guns was justified and remained within the limit of their competences and therefore saw no grounds for punishing them.

    The prosecutor’s office, however, is of a different opinion thinking the policemen were not carrying out their duties properly and went beyond their powers.

    The accident happened in April 2004 when 19-year old Lukasz T. was driving a car with his friend as passenger. Police wanted to stop him thinking he was a dangerous criminal whom they were looking for at the time.

    Lukasz T. did not pull over. Right after the car chase started, the policemen fired at his car.

    The driver died on the scene, while his friend, Dawid Lis, was seriously wounded. He will sit in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Neither he, nor his friend were sought after criminals.

    In a separate civil case a court in Poznan awarded the wounded 19-year old almost 1 million PLN in damages. The family of Lukasz T., the boy who lost his life in the accident, received 200,000 zloty compensation.

    Stranger than fiction: It was the perfect murder. There were no suspects and the trail had gone cold. Then writer Krystian Bala bizarrely retold the story in chilling detail in his first novel. Not so clever...

    From: Guardian
    The police took note, and earlier this month he was jailed for 25 years. Elizabeth Day recounts the remarkable story, and travels to Poland for the first interview with Bala from his prison cell

    It seems curious, given the circumstances, that Krystian Bala should feel the need to be polite. When a man is serving 25 years for murder, you do not expect him to apologise for smoking a cigarette. 'Do you mind?' he asks, fishing out a pristine packet of 'Red & White' from his shirt pocket. 'I gave up a year and four months ago but then I started again since all of this.'

    He gestures vaguely with his hand, taking in his surroundings with a brief, unconcerned glance: the grubby prison visiting room, the grey-suited warders, the small metal cage he must be locked inside before being allowed to speak to anyone from the outside world.
    'It is ridiculous what's going on here,' he says, shaking his head. 'That I should be in jail just because someone drew the wrong conclusion from an innocent work of fiction.'

    Balanced on the narrow ledge in front of him is a slim, black book, its pages carefully annotated in blue Biro, corners folded over to mark relevant passages. Its Polish title is typed on the cover in yellow print: 'Amok by Krystian Bala'.

    As he talks, Bala bends back its spine and thumbs through the volume urgently, his eyes, framed by square wireless spectacles, skimming rapidly across the page. When he finds the phrase he is searching for, he slides it through a letterbox-sized slot cut into the metal bars.

    'I can defend every single sentence,' he says, jabbing at the typed pages with stubby fingers.

    As he gets more animated, his stilted conversational English breaks into the hiss and spit of quickfire Polish. This is the first time Bala has agreed to speak to a journalist since his incarceration - and he has plenty to say. 'Of course, the book is brutal, vulgar, the dirtiest I could write, but that's how art must be provocative. Just because I write a murder, doesn't mean I did it in real life.'

    The Polish courts drew a different conclusion. On 5 September in a court in the Lower Silesian city of Wroclaw, Bala, 34, was found guilty of co-ordinating the torture, semi-starvation and eventual murder of his ex-wife's former lover. It was the most sensational trial in recent Polish history, its every detail pored over by the local press and recounted breathlessly to a stunned public. One of the main pieces of circumstantial evidence against Bala was his own book, in which an eerily similar murder was committed by the protagonist. According to the prosecution, Bala's narrative contained a level of detail about the actual killing of Darius Janiszewski that only the investigating police officers or the murderer could possibly have known.

    It was a peculiarly specific crime. The bloated, semi-naked body of Janiszewski, a 35-year-old advertising company director, was discovered by anglers on the banks of Wroclaw's River Odra on a washed-out, grey December morning in 2000. He had been missing for more than a month. The corpse bore livid bruises from repeated beatings and a series of knife wounds. Over the subsequent days, the police pathologist would find that Janiszewski had been denied food and water for three days before his death.

    The first police officers on the scene were struck by the strange way the victim had been tied up: his feet had been bound together, bent backwards and attached to a noose around his neck with a single piece of rope. Trussed up like a human's cat's cradle, Dariusz Janiszewski would have strangled himself had he flexed his legs too suddenly. No one knows whether he suffocated in this way before being thrown in the Odra or whether he drowned there.

    It was a brutal death, but it would have an even more gruesome coda. The first police investigation was abandoned in May 2001 after officers failed to find a single lead. Then, a year later, during a routine police review of unsolved cases, it was noticed that Janiszewski's mobile phone had never been recovered from the murder scene.

    The service provider traced his SIM card and, astonishingly, discovered that it was being used by an unsuspecting businessman who had bought the mobile from an internet auction site on 16 November 2000 - three days after Janiszewski's disappearance and several weeks before his body was found.

    The phone had been sold for 244 Polish zloty (about Ј44) on the Allegro website by someone with the internet username 'ChrisB7'. A cursory police search revealed that ChrisB7's account was registered to a Krystian Bala. That, in turn, led them to his weblog, a series of demented personal ramblings that would, three years later, be published as Amok.

    Amok did not sell particularly well when first published by Bala's friend, despite the enticing cover catch-line that it was intended 'for adults only'. The few who read it were treated to a pulp-fiction orgy of bestiality, pornographic Oedipal complexes and indiscriminate sexual violence. But they might also have noted - as police officer Jacek Wroblewski did - the vivid description of the murder of a young woman called Mary, tied up in almost exactly the same way as Janiszewski, stabbed with a Japanese-made knife and left to die. The narrator - referred to throughout as Chris B - even sells the bloodied murder weapon on the internet auction site Allegro.

    It made unpleasant reading for Wroblewski, a mild-mannered and jovial 42-year-old with close-cropped brown hair and a generous paunch that spills over his jeans waistband. When he smiles, his whole face reddens. 'For me, it's not a book,' he says, sitting in a small side-office at Wroclaw police headquarters, fishing out a Lipton teabag from a cup and placing it carefully on the saucer. 'It's hardcore pornography. It's very vulgar and it was hard for me to read it, but I knew I had to. There were specific elements which matched exactly the way the murder was carried out. And, more than that, there are pieces which show that Krystian Bala wrote this book as a kind of private diary.'

    There were other slivers of evidence, too. When 997, the Polish equivalent of Crimewatch, aired a television special in 2003, appealing for information about the crime, the producers reported getting hits on their website from computers in Singapore, South Korea and Japan. The police discovered that Bala was visiting those countries on a scuba-diving trip on the relevant dates.

    Bala was arrested one mild evening in September 2005 as he walked to the chemist in shorts and T-shirt in his parents' home town of Chojnow, southern Poland. Although he denied ever meeting the murder victim, a search of his bedroom revealed a stash of computer files containing information on Janiszewski and a pen bearing the logo of Janiszewski's advertising firm, Investor. A telephone card recovered in the search was later shown to have been used on the day of Janiszewski's disappearance to make calls to the victim's mother and his place of work. The same card had registered calls to Bala's family and friends.

    Further investigations revealed that Bala's ex-wife, Stanislawa, from whom he separated in 1999 and with whom he has a 10-year-old son, Kaspar, had been dating Janiszewski for a short period in the summer of 2000.

    Bala, a highly intelligent philosophy graduate with a seemingly unblemished past, now found himself accused of killing his ex-wife's boyfriend in a fit of jealous rage. 'Am I certain he is guilty?' says Wroblewski. 'I am 100 per cent sure.'
  • Article continues...

  • From the blogs...

    A week is a long time in Polish politics

    From: the beatroot
    On the first day of the election campaign last Sunday, Civic Platform was…nowhere.

    Instead of a rollicking barnstorming speech by the party leader, Donald Tusk, we got Jan Rokita – the other main personality in the party – in a very serious interview on television about some constitutional irregularity by the government on….snooze…

    And then, a couple days later, Platform GOT EXCITING, and unveiled a Big Catch – former defense minister for the Law and Justice (PiS) government, Radek (did you know my wife is ace journalist, Ann Applebaum, and I once was a journo in Afghanistan and I carried a gun….I really did!) Sikorski – the Polish political action man.

    Sikorski gave a short speech saying that he was, ‘Disappointed with Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski…etc,’ and then stalked off, smirking.

    So, a big coup for Platform. And then...

    Jan Rokita’s wife – Nelly - announces that she was going to work for …President Lech Kaczynski, to advise him on …‘women’s issues’!


    Quite apart from what she will tell the president about women – many wags have said that Lech’s brother, Jaroslaw, needs the advice about women (but it would be beneath the dignity of this blog to discuss such things), it was quite an embarrassing thing to happen to Civic Platform. What was one of the party’s leader’s wives doing going to work for the dreaded Law and Justice government?

    But Nelly – an eccentric character, who shares the same taste in hats as does her husband – had left Civic Platform a while ago, since Jan supported the PiS candidate in the last mayor election in Krakow.

    Then Rokita had a hissy fit last week when all Tusk’s mates were put on the election list in Krakow but none of his were.

    Rokita won that little battle by getting some of his mates back on the list and everything appeared to have calmed down.

    And then Nelly – the political elephant - went and spoiled it all and turned up at the presidential palace.

    Oh, dear. Enough for Jan, who has now ‘retired from politics’ and will now not be standing for election on October 21.

    Tusk said that he understood that Jan’s throwing in the towel was ‘personal’ and not ‘political’.

    Yeah, right. Rokita has never felt that comfortable in Civic Platform – he is more to the right and conservative than Tusk. Platform is really two different parties – as are all of Poland’s election machines, which are in effect, shaky alliances, waiting to break apart whenever someone sneezes.

    But Nelly could be a rather expensive luxury for the Law and Justice party. With Rokita out of the way, Platform are far more likely to go into a coalition with the ex-communists after the election – something Jan Rokita would never have stood for.

    So it is now not enough for Law and Justice to become the largest party in parliament. If they can’t form a coalition – and nobody really wants to get into their messy bed anymore - then it will be up to the Left and Civic Platform to form the next government.

    A week is a long time in politics, and last week was a particularly long one for the Platform.

    Belarus and Lithuania: 123 places’ gap

    From: Katherine Akudovich for
    Belarus and Lithuania, for a long time being a united great princedom, had not only one king and single territory, but the level of prosperity within the nations was practically the same. After princedom’s separation 235 years ago both countries for almost a hundred year more belonged to one great empire – USSR. 16 years passed since the great soviet empire was ruined and the differences between Belarusian and Lithuanian economics are seemed to be irresistible. In the rank of economic freedom of the world Lithuania is on 22 position and Belarus occupies 145 place – 12 from the end.

    What events made 2 brotherhood nations, who developed all the time together and in the same way, appear so far from each other? Why 16 years ago being at the same spot of nothing in nowhere one nation was able to become rich, liberal and happy and the second still having last totalitarian regime in Europe? Is it possible for a noble country in the heart of Europe to overcome the break in 123 positions which reflect the backlogs in each aspect of life? Why people who still feel their hearts so open to each other live in so amazingly dissimilar ways?

    Lithuania, being three times less populated than Belarus and having 1.5 bigger GDP at the right moment, in 1991 was as poor as Belarus. But the country decided to choose innovative and self-dependent way of development, while Belarus, found the simplest path possible, asked for help from big brother – Russia, who is still being the main belarusian economic sponsor, without whom all the country will be economically dead in a single moment. In conditions of open political competitiveness, budget transparency, freedom of mass media and rather high level of economic freedom Lithuanians were able to overcome rigid resistance of socialist traditions and soviet habits, which were able to ruin old market institutes and knowledge during the empire’s existence. Lithuania didn’t close from the outer world, and integrated the rules of globalization in national legislation. Before entering EU and even in the first period of being in, the country succeeded to minimize bureaucracy and yet didn’t let increase taxes and government expenditures. Objectively estimated financial abilities, Lithuanians didn’t resist to sell banking and financial system in whole to foreign capital. In the end they received contemporary, liquid financial market with wide choice of saving tools and investment projects. While Belarus is still remaining one of the most closed for foreign capital countries. Belarus gets only 20% of investment freedom while Lithuania has 70%. In 2002-2004 foreign investors started 101 “green field” projects in Lithuania and only 26 in Belarus. The total amount of direct foreign investments at the beginning of 2005 was 6.4 billons $ in Lithuania and only 2 billions $ in Belarus. In 2001-2005 Lithuania was able to double its GDP. IMF counted that in 2007 Lithuania will achieve 16,800 $ GDP per capita, while Belarus will get not more than 8500 $.

    Lithuania succeeded in the business climate reforms, achieving 15 position in the world for easiness of introduction into business. While the biggest problem of creating a private company in Belarus is the law itself. To open a small firm you need to gather tons of papers which nobody really needs and some of which are not able to be found. The majority of laws are made in such a way that they can be interpreted in different senses. And in that very situation any of the way you have chosen to follow while performing your company can be estimated as incorrect by the authorities. Scientific Research Mises Center (Belarus) counted that an average entrepreneur spends 9,27 hours (23,2% of all working time) each week for mutual relations with bodies of state management. Lithuanians became richer from the labor of private investors and entrepreneurs, while Belarusians get there income as the result of governmental factories profit distribution. The 80% of all jobs in Belarus are performed by the governmental firms where each worker has a pretty strong social support, what do not make the wish for personal company bigger.

    In 2001 – 2005 Lithuania demonstrated the features of real economic miracle: high growth speed, low inflation rate, stable rate of exchange, low external duty, high wages increase and growth of international trade – all together and by the rules of international organizations (while Belarus don’t follow a single rule of WTO). Average annual GDP growth in 2001-2005 was 7.5 % in Lithuania and 7.2% in Belarus, but we should consider the specific way of statistics counting in Belarus, which would be unfamiliar and strange to any country in the world. I should add that this high speed of growth Lithuania achieved with the oil and gas prices 3 times higher than in Belarus, who is subsidized by Russia.

    One more distinctive feature of Lithuanian model is relatively small size of the state and high budget discipline, especially before entering EU. The profit of the consolidated budget didn’t exceed 30 % of GDP till 2004. This particular policy gave a great opportunity for Lithuanian business to establish very quickly. Lithuanian government doesn’t let the country to get high budget duties, which reflects in the performance of Maastrichts requirements. Total duty of Lithuanian government in 2005 was 19.8 % of GDP, while in Belarus this rate can rise up to 55 % of GDP.

    It may sound strange but one of the things that saved Lithuania is the absence of strong high economic education institutions of soviet model. That particularly helped Lithuanian science elite change the mind of nation from state property and life to individual one quickly. Belarus, who had one of the highest levels of education in USSR still uses that soviet model of teaching. The model which was greatly described in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”: “… educational systems devised to stunt a child’s brain, to convince him that reason is impotent, that existence is an irrational chaos with which he’s unable to deal, and thus reduce him to a state of chronic terror”.

    Lithuania presents high standards not only in economic freedom, but in political and civil as well. All of them together provide a high living standard in that country. In Belarus we can’t speak about any kind of freedom at all. In order to achieve a high EFW rating governments should first of all protect individual property. In Belarus government is the only aggressor that people are afraid of when thinking about their belongings. Civil liberty is also a great problem of ours. The amount of independent politicians and journalists that died or disappeared in the recent years is huge.

    Finally I would like to say, that understanding of importance of economic freedom and as a result an active national fight against dictatorship is the only way for Belarus to become closer to Lithuanians brothers. By all means, Economic Freedom is the key to the prosperous and happy life of each citizen.

    Радио и белорусская музыка

    From: Sammy-Belarus
    A бел музыки как таковой;
    "нашим артистам не хватает "огранки"
    Сегодня на "Альфа Радио" в дневном эфире с Пашей Шестаковым (жаль, что Жора, который Колдун с ним больше не работает...) была поднята тема белорусской музыки...
    Прошу заметить - не 75% в эфире, а бел музыки как таковой...
    Мнения слушателей, естественно разделились...
    Были такие:
    "нашим артистам не хватает "огранки"..."
    Но больше всего меня поразило заявление Павла:
    "Наша бел.музыка ТАКАЯ от того, что наш белорусский народ устраивает именно это положение дел, что всемвсе нравится и никто не высказывает мнения о том, что нужно что-то менять..."
    Павел привел пример об одном артисте, который был когда-то популярен, а сейчас для "поддержания штанов" за 10 копеек ездит по городам Беларуси и дает дешевые концерты. народ ему аплодирует... А раз есть аплодисменты - значит менять ничего не нужно...

    И все же.. я думаю, что он не прав...
    А вот на счет огранки - замечено правильно...

    Обидно то, что у нас в стране вкладывают деньги не туда, куда нужно...
    Радиостанции "связали по рукам и ногам" концепцией о 75% - а как сделать их качественнее не придумали...
    Из-за этого идут банальные и надоевшие всем споры (о музыкальных форматах станций)...
    да и этот разговор, скорее пустой...

    Просто обидно за то, что, например, в Латвии, Литве, Украине - шоу бизнес развивается и идет в гору...
    А мы - страна с богатыми традициями и неплохими артистами сидим в ....
    А лучшие бегут от нас...
    Но, хорошо, что хоть они - сбежавшие считаются белорусскими исполнителями... иначе белорусский ФМ невозможно было бы слушать...

    Недавно слушала выступление Министра информации (или замминистра) на "Радиус ФМ"...
    Он нес такой бред...
    Такое ощущение, что мы живем где-то в 80х годах...

    Я люблю Радио и мне обидно, что из-за чиновников и вложений средств "не туда", оно теряет свою актуальность.

    В заключении отмечу, что рекламные агентства Минска уже отметили снижение эффективности радиорекламы и потихоньку перестают вкладывать в этот вид рекламы средства...

  • Sport...

    World Cup qualifier: Belarus - Norway 0-1

    From: Norway Post
    Norway won deservedly 1-0 against Belarus away Wednesday, in their last qualifier for the World Cup. Thorstein Helstad scored for Norway.

    For Norway this match was more of a good training match, as Hareide's men were already number two in their group and set for a play-off spot.

    They could now face the Czech Republic in the crucial playoffs in November, with Spain or Turkey the other options.

    This will be decided in a draw scheduled for Friday.

  • Endnote...

    Russia can’t afford crediting Belarus

    From: Charter '97
    According to the financial body of Russia the issue of granting a loan to Belarus is still on the government’s agenda. Deputy head of international financial relations Konstantin Vishkovsky remarked that the money for crediting Belarus has not been found, yet. According to him, the budget can’t provide the required sum.

    ”The loan was requested generally for overcoming the complicated period of transferring to the new calculation procedure of gas payments. The payments made by the Belarusian side do not mean the relaxation of payment tension-the complications have still remained”, Telegraf quotes Konstantin Vishkovsky referring to the Belarusian service of the Radio Svaboda.

    According to him the Belarusian party may encounter “certain temporal complications” with the Russian gas payments.” There is a request of the Belarusian side and we have been considering it, making necessary procedural drafting, creating preconditions for granting such a loan”, Konstantin Vishkovsky reported.

    The financial ministry of Russia remarks that the loan to Belarus can be granted only on the commercial basis. ”There are a lot of different factors. It is necessary to find the funding source for it. Due to the corrections introduced to the budget the USD 1.5 billion amount requested by Belarus from Russia has to be looked for somewhere. It is feasible theoretically but the practical work should be done for that “, Konstantin Vishkovsky declared.

    According to the Gazprom official representative Sergey Kuprianov, in compliance with the previously signed contract the deadline for Belarus to make settlements for the consumed gas is 23rd of each month.

    However, the Gazprom representative refused to either confirm or deny the fact of Belarus gas settlements for August. Sergey Kuprianov also mentioned that the gas price for Belarus is to be changed in compliance with the formula signed in the contract.

    Additionally, a related Charter '97 article tells us that a session of the council of ministers of the “union state” scheduled for 21 September has been postponed. That was declared in Minsk at the meeting of prime minister of Belarus Syargei Sidorsky with state secretary of the”union state” Pavel Borodin.

    As spokesman for the Belarusian prime minister Alyaksandr Tsimashenka reported to the BelaPAN, P.Borodin told Syargei Sidorsky that rescheduling of the session resulted from the changes in the Russian government, particularly, from the due appointment of the Council of Ministers staff after the new prime minister Viktor Zubkov had been approved by the Duma .

    A regular session of the council of ministers of the “union state” was previously scheduled for the third decade in September in Minsk. There are 17 issues on the session‘s agenda, 5 of them being dedicated to power enforcement structures activities in Russia and Belarus. Particularly, approval of the program of upgrading the external border of the “union state” for 2007-2011 was envisaged. Report on the “union state” budget implementation was scheduled for the first half of 2007. Several new union programs, the “Kosmos-NT” program being among them, are to be discussed at the forthcoming session. The parties are also going to discuss the draft agreement on pharmaceuticals and several other issues.