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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Business in Mogilev, Belarus at the UN, Oil Biz, Toys for Madaleine, EU, Polish apple thieves, Nukes and Biker blogs…

  • From the Top...
  • #243

    Alexander Lukashenko: Mogilevkhimvolokno’s upgrade will be leap in petrochemical industry development

    From: BelTA
    Working trip to Mogilev region
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko went to the Mogilev oblast on a working visit on September 28. The press service of the head of state told BelTA, Alexander Lukashenko was made familiar with the social and economic development of the region and visited industrial and social facilities.

    In particular, Alexander Lukashenko visited petrochemical company Mogilevkhimvolokno. The fulfilment of the orders the President had given earlier as well as the company’s technical development concept for the next five years, assimilation of new technologies and modernisation with a view to manufacturing products competitive on the global market were in the centre of attention.

    The head of state got familiar with the cutting-edge production of non-woven fabric used for roofing materials and visited a weaving and finishing workshop. The President took part in launching a new polymeric plant at Mogilevkhimvolokno’s synthetic fibre works.

    Visiting the company premises, Alexander Lukashenko said the first stage of Mogilevkhimvolokno’ upgrade had been completed successfully. “I recall coming here in 2004 and being briefed on the state of affairs. I had my worries then,” remarked the President. “Suggestions were made to cut down the output and sack people. It was a genuine headache. I demanded that several effective projects should be worked out to give the company a jolt of fresh air”.

    Out of the nine projects outlined by Mogilevkhimvolokno’s production development programme for 2004-2007, eight projects have been implemented and produced the expected results. Another project is in progress.

    In line with the development programme before 2007 the company started producing structural materials and polymeric concentrates of colorants based on polybutylene terephthalate and polyethylene terephthalate. The company also rebuilt the organic synthesis plant racking up its output to 105,000 tonnes per annum, started using tube-spinning to produce polyester base for roofing materials. Mogilevkhimvolokno also started producing high-modulus industrial threads and poly bicomponent fibres, launched a continuous condensation polymerization plant, and is getting ready to produce microfilament fibres. The starting up of the production of high-duty and low-profile industrial threads is close to completion.

    The President was told, this year Mogilevkhimvolokno plans to earn over Br1.1 billion in net profits.

    Yet the company is dependent on imported raw stock, with domestically available raw materials accounting for only 10% of the total. Belarus-made resources cover half of the demand for paraxylene. Unavailable locally, the raw materials are imported from Russia and far abroad countries.

    The high degree of Mogilevkhimvolokno’s dependence on foreign raw stock suppliers, first of all, Russia, makes the company vulnerable to fluctuating prices for major kinds of the raw materials on the global market. In order to decrease the dependence on imported raw stock, energy and materials consumption, Mogilevkhimvolokno put together a long-term concept to guide the company’s technical development for the next five years. The concept provides for building installations to turn out 320,000 tonnes of terephthalic acid. At present major Chinese and Korean competitors produce paraxylene using terephthalic acid.

    The concept also provides for reconstructing the synthetic fibre plant through adding a new polycondensation assembly with the capacity as large as 200,000 tonnes per annum to the existing production facilities. The concept also envisages the replacement of weaving and finishing equipment.

    The new production facilities will cut down energy costs, simultaneously boosting quality parameters of polyether products and processing technologies.

    The President of Belarus gave an instruction to Mogilevkhimvolokno to start up the production of terephthalic acid in H1 2011. Alexander Lukashenko underscored, Mozyr Oil Refinery should start up the production of paraxylene at the same time.

    The new manufacturing facilities will allow entirely refitting Mogilevkhimvolokno by 2011. It will be a major leap of the Belarusian petrochemical industry, stressed Alexander Lukashenko.

    The President gave an instruction to pay special attention to getting jobs for the personnel to be made redundant by the modernisation projects.

    The same day the President of Belarus visited a zoological garden of the Mogilev State Agriculture and Forestry College named after K.P. Orlvosky. Ecological education and the training of forestry personnel at the zoological garden were discussed.

    Mogilev Oblast Governor Boris Batura told the President, the zoological garden will be used to create a unique museum of fish resources, to build a mini railroad and arrange regular pleasure cruises down the Dnepr. Alexander Lukashenko gave an instruction to prepare a project for developing this unique facility.

    Issues concerning ecotourism and the revival of folk crafts as part of the national culture were discussed as Alexander Lukashenko visited a tourist attraction XIX Century Belarusian Ethnographic Village, which is located not far from the zoological garden, in the village of Buinichi, Mogilev region.

    Opened in 2006, the compound has already become a popular tourist attraction. For example, the town of craftsmen showcases the XIX century life of Belarusian craftsmen, featuring houses and workshops of a weaver, a baker, a potter, a smith.

    The President commissioned the Sports and Tourism Ministry with working out the possibility of making these facilities part of sightseeing excursions.

    While in Mogilev Alexander Lukashenko got familiar with the progress in reconstructing Lazarenko Street and the construction of a bridge over the river Dubrovenka. The projects are supposed to drastically improve the ecological status in Mogilev’s downtown by contributing to decreasing exhausts of urban traffic. The reconstructed Lazarenko Street will become a recreational zone.

    The head of state expressed a positive opinion about the work the local authorities had done.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    UN member states support Belarus’ call to respect diversity of national development

    From: BelTA
    Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the United Nations member states unanimously supported the Belarusian initiative on the necessity to respect diversity of social systems, cultures and ways of national development of different countries at the meeting on inter-religious dialogue and cooperation for peace in the UN Headquarters. A relevant statement was issued, BelTA learnt in the permanent representative office of the Republic of Belarus at the United Nations Organization.

    Attending the meeting was Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov. In his address to the participants of the meeting he spoke about the efforts made by Belarus to strengthen inter-religious and ethnic tolerance basing on the socially oriented policy.

    Sergei Martynov placed a special stress on the necessity to recognize and promote the ideas of diversity of progressive ways of development as an important factor of maintaining international peace and security.

    This idea was first voiced by the President of Belarus at the UN Summit in September 2005. Then it was repeated at the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in 2005.

    Among other measures which according to the Belarusian side should be taken at the international level to promote inter-religious dialogue and understanding, Sergei Martynov listed extending student and professor exchanges, using latest information technologies, raising accountability of mass media.

    During the visit to New York the Belarusian Foreign Minister met with his counterparts from Jordan, Costa Rica, Kuwait and the Republic of South Africa to discuss bilateral trade-economic cooperation, extending legal base and enhancing cooperation within the United Nations.

    The Belarusian delegation will focus on promoting initiatives of the President of Belarus about recognition of diversity of ways for progressive development and forming global partnership against slavery and trafficking in people in the XXI century.

    Special attention will be paid to the discussion of the issues formulated in the UNO Millennium Declaration of forming just global economic order via building an open, just and multilateral trade system which abides by the generally accepted rules as well as via renunciation of usage of unilateral exterritorial economic measures of forcing as means of exercising political and economic pressure on independent states.

    The Belarusian party plans to promote a draft of UN General Assembly resolution on strengthening international cooperation and coordination of efforts to study and mitigate consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe as well as to implement a proposal of the Minsk International Conference 2006 to declare “The Decade of Revival and Sustained Development of the Regions Affected After the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Disaster”.

    Promotion of amendment to Appendix “B” to Kioto Protocol of UN Frame convention on Climate Change concerning quantitative obligations of the Republic of Belarus to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, which will allow the Republic of Belarus to contribute to the international efforts to prevent climate change and take part on full-scale in the implementation of the Protocol mentioned will serve national interests of our country.

    The Belarusian delegation will also continue to stand for constructive international cooperation in the sphere of human rights protection based on equal and mutual respect of human rights.

    The Belarusian delegation will focus in detail on the issues of further renewal and development of working methods in the main UNO organs (General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Secretariat), as well as increasing quality and effectiveness of UNO system activities at the country and regional levels.

    Belarus to up export duty on oil, petroleum products on Oct 1

    From: Interfax
    The Belarussian government will increase the export duty on oil and petroleum products to the level of Russia on October 1, 2007, the Council of Ministers said in a resolution.

    The export duty on oil will be $250.3 per tonne on October 1. The export duty on light petroleum products will be $181 per tonne. The duty on heavy petroleum products will be $97.5 per tonne.

    According to an intergovernmental agreement of January 12, 2007, the export duty on oil and petroleum products will be unified to the level of Russia. According to the agreement, the new export duties on oil and petroleum products should be introduced in Belarus at the same time as in Russia.

    The special duty on oil exports from Russia to Belarus will grow to $73.3 per tonne on October 1 from $65.6 per tonne, which has been in effect since August 1 and is calculated based on the coefficient of 0.293 against the Russian duty on oil in line with a Belarussian and Russian agreement.

    The Russian duty on crude oil is a mechanism to divide Belarussian export duties on petroleum products and to increase them to the Russian level. The duty on crude oil in annual terms corresponds to 70% of the export duty on petroleum products produced from Russian oil.

    The descending coefficient against the Russian export duty on oil for Belarus will be 0.335 in 2008 and 0.356 in 2009. rm

    Toys for Madeleine go to Belarus

    From: BBC
    Friends and family of missing four-year-old Madeleine McCann are sending 2,000 toys left by well-wishers to children in eastern Europe.
    The toys were left at the war memorial in Rothley, Leicestershire, in the weeks after she went missing in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in early May.

    The gifts were removed over the summer along with thousands of ribbons tied to railings in the McCanns' home village.

    The toys are now set to be shipped to children in Belarus.

    L1m fund

    The gifts were cleaned by parents from the village's two primary schools.

    Janet Kennedy, Madeleine's great-aunt, will be among a handful of people packing the toys into shoeboxes. Each will be sent with a small picture of Madeleine.

    Friends of Madeleine's family also urged holidaymakers to continue the search for Madeleine.

    Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns' spokesman, said: "Clearly, the search for Madeleine will continue and I would appeal for everyone to refocus their efforts to achieve her safe return."

    Individuals and organisations have so far given just over 1m Pounds to Madeleine's Fund, a non-charitable not-for-profit company.

    Portuguese police made Madeleine's parents, Gerry and Kate, formal suspects in the inquiry into their child's disappearance earlier this month.

    The couple insist she was abducted while they ate at a nearby tapas bar with friends.

    Man arrested in Stockholm for Belarus murder

    From: The Local
    A man working as a building labourer has been arrested in a Stockholm suburb on suspicion of being a suspected murderer on the run from police in Belarus.

    The man was arrested under an Interpol warrant. According to Expressen he came to Stockholm six years ago.

    The man, 34, is a Belarusian citizen. He was arrested on Thursday at Helenelund station in northern Stockholm. He is suspected by Belarus police of carrying out a murder in Bulgakov, Belarus.

    It is believed that the man was living in Sweden under a false identity. He had worked as a building labourer and in the transport sector.

    The suspect has been taken to ?ster?ker prison near Stockholm while extradition proceedings take place.

    The man denies all accusations against him, according to Expressen.

    Sergei Sidorskiy: Belarus is ready to cooperate with all EU member states

    From: BelTA
    Belarus is ready to cooperate with all EU member states, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky said on September 28 when meeting with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Lithuania to Belarus Edminas Bagdonas.

    “We are building deliberate and good-neighbour relations with all countries of the European Union including Lithuania,” said Sergei Sidorsky. At the same time he underlined that “the Belarusian Government would like the EU to treat Belarusian products and economic entities with respect.”

    Addressing the ambassador the Prime Minister said: “We are always grateful to Lithuania for the support it renders us within the framework of the European Union, especially when the matter concerns preferences to Belarus.” According to Sergei Sidorsky, relations between the EU and Belarus are sometimes rather strained. The EU mass media give distorted information about Belarus. “However, this is just misunderstanding which affects the relations between the sides,” the Belarusian PM underlined.

    According to him, all this will not promote business but will lead to the closing of representative offices of the Belarusian economic entities in Europe.

    Lithuania supports Belarus in the sphere of relations with the European Union, Sergei Sidorsky noted. “We are grateful to you for understanding Belarus’ economy development model,” he added.

    The national exhibition of Belarus in Lithuania scheduled for October 3-6 in Vilnius will demonstrate the potential of the Belarusian economy and possibilities of integrating Belarus into the EU through Lithuania.

    Belarus seeks cooperation with Lithuania in energy field

    According to Sergei Sidorsky, being both transit countries Belarus and Lithuania adopt the same approaches to energy security issues.

    The Belarusian Premier informed Edminas Bagdonas that Belarus is implementing up large-scale programmes in order to reduce the GDP energy intensity by 30% by 2010 and by 50% by 2015. “These are ambitious plans. And we hope to do every possible to diversify our energy supplies not to be dependent on exterior sources,” Sergei Sidorsky underlined. In particular, Belarus will widely consume local fuels.

    “I think these issues are rather pressing both for the EU and Lithuania,” the Belarusian PM noted and added Belarus was ready to provide necessary support to the Government of Lithuania in implementing the analogous programmes.

    “We know Lithuania jointly with the neighbouring states intends to build a nuclear plant,” said Sergei Sidorsky addressing Edminas Bagdonas. Belarus is following the situation and is interested in the cooperation with Lithuania in this field.

    According to Sergei Sidorsky, Belarus is interested in such projects as it intends to build its own nuclear plant in the near future. Having noted that “the possibility to work with the Lithuania colleagues in this field deserves attention”, the Belarusian Premier expressed hope that the sides would be able to develop economic approaches for the welfare of the two countries.

    “We came to an agreement with the previous Government of Lithuania to set up a Belarusian-Lithuania working group composed of power engineering specialists and ecologists. They started discussing these problems and put forward proposals concerning the construction of a facility to store up waste produced by the Ingalina nuclear plant.

    “In pursuance of the commission given by the Belarusian leader I asked the Prime Minister of Lithuania to arrange a meeting to discuss these issues. We believe we have developed a constructive approach to settle all the problems. We think this will help up ease tension in the border regions and we will remain good neighbors,” Sergei Sidorsky stressed.

    Ministry of Defense worrying about Poles

    From: Charter '97
    Today the head of the Belarusian Ministry of Defense Leanid Maltsau summing up the results of the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) Council of Ministers session, declared that the US development of ballistic missile defense close to the Belarusian border (in Poland) can lead to unpredictable consequences; the BMD base will threaten the Polish territory directly.

    “The balance of force upset always leads to unpredictable consequences. The countries giving their territories for such systems (the elements of the US BMD) are in special danger, because they are the objects of the first and foremost attacks”, - Maltsau said.

    To Maltsau’s opinion, any disposal of any army groups always means military danger. Thus the attitude towards extending of the American BMD can be only negative, he remarked.

    As the head of the Belarusian Military Department declared, the problem must be solved, taking into consideration the opinions of all the sides interested including Collective Security Treaty Organization members.

    Lukashenko accuses Gazprom of overcharging Belarus

    From: Interfax
    Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday accused the Russian leadership and Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom (RTS: GAZP) of charging Belarus an exorbitant gas price and rapped them for planning to raise it further.

    "Gazprom earns decent dough, as they say, here and makes profit at our expense," Lukashenko told reporters.

    "Next year they want to raise the price for us by another 15 to 20 percent," he said. "I don't know what we have done wrong to get this punishment from the Russian leadership."

    "Some monopolists have been blinded by this green light, and all they can see is money," the president said.

    "Gazprom is making the same incomes and profits by selling gas to Belarus as in Germany. In other words, they are selling gas to us the same way as to Germany," he said.

    But "we won't go under," he added.

    He was asked whether he expected a replay in 2007 of last year's scenario in which Belarus and Gazprom signed a gas export agreement for 2007 minutes before midnight on December 31.

    "Anything is possible, all will depend on how negotiations go. But we will try to sign the contract before the Kremlin clock chimes," he answered.

    The Belarusian government "will link the issue of gas price to the issue of transit of hydrocarbons through Belarus," he said.

    He also argued that Russia's energy policy meant that proposals to set up a common energy market in the Commonwealth of Independent States were senseless.

    "We do stand for a common energy market based on civilized principles, but if states possessing advantages [rich in energy] want to see other states as being of secondary importance, such a market would be useless," he said.

    "We wouldn't be able to solve that problem even within the framework of our union with Russia," Lukashenko said. "It's big politics, the existence of dependence," he said.

    "I have suggested to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that Belarus produce 10 to 15 billion cubic meters of gas in Russia, but we haven't been able to come to an agreement on that either," Lukashenko said.

    Belarus eyes cut in gas use

    From: Earth Times
    Belarus plans to cut gas consumption by 700 cubic meters by 2010, Energy Minister Alyaksandr Azyarets said.

    The shortfall will be made up by using energy-saving measures; Belarus plans to save 7.5 million tons of fuel equivalent during the next three years, Belarusian TV reported.

    Some $3 billion will be invested in modernizing the energy system's production assets and another $5 billion on energy savings, the report said; $1 billion will be spent on boosting of local fuels.

    "We will get reliable and stable energy supplies. We will manage to decrease the energy consumption for the production of one unit of the" gross domestic product, Azyarets said. "We will be saving (energy) and will project the energy-saving percentage for all branches, probably including the population, who should also count money and be involved in energy saving.

    "Certainly, all this will be finally reflected in the production costs of electricity and thermal energy."

    National Bank to reduce refinance rate to 10 percent on October 1

    From: Charter '97
    The National Bank of Belarus (NBB) will lower its base refinance rate by 0.25 percentage point to 10 percent on October 1, one month after the previous reduction.

    According to the NBB, the decision was made considering the economic and financial stability in Belarus.

    The NBB raised the base refinance rate from 10 to 11 percent on February 1 to make the interest rates on rubel deposits more attractive amid surging demand for foreign cash at the beginning of the year but then lowered it 10.75 percent on July 1, to 10.50 percent on August 1 and to 10.25 percent on September 1.

    Belarus' consumer prices rose by 4.4 percent in the first eight months of 2007, the NBB press office said.

    The reduction of the base refinance rate is aimed at making bank loans cheaper and access to them easier, as specified in the country's monetary policy guidelines for this year, the press office explained.

    Following the move, the refinance rate will still remain higher than the inflation rate and allow rubel deposits with banks to be more profitable than deposits in foreign currencies, the press office added.

    The government had projected the base refinance rate at seven to nine percent at the end of 2007 and banks' interest rates at 10 to 12 percent.

    Belarusian scientist receives Silver Leaf Award

    From: BelTA
    Oleg Maslovsky, a scientist of the Institute of Experimental Botany of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences, received Silver Leaf Award from the international organization Planta Europa. Silver Leaf Awards are presented in recognition of excellence in plant conservation in Europe. The international scientific community appreciated Oleg Maslovsky’s work on creating the methodology of the European strategy on plants conservation.

    As BelTA learnt from Oleg Maslovsky, Belarus has become the first country among other CIS member states which determined the key botanical areas in its territory. These are: the National Reserve “Narochansky”, the Berezinsky Reserve, the National Park “Pripyatsky”, the National Reserve “Elnya”, the Polesie State Radiation-Ecological Reserve.

    These areas are ones of the main constituents of the European ecological system and they are in need of protection. At present, scientists of the Institute of Experimental Botany of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences are developing the plan of the measures aimed at their preserving.

    Specialists of the institute also study the meadow ecosystem of Belarus.

    The international organization Planta Europa unites more than 200 governmental, scientific and public organizations. Organization’s activity is aimed at conserving wild plants and mushrooms.

    The Institute of Experimental Botany of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences develops technologies in the field of reproduction, rational use and conservation of flora.

    In a related BelTA story, the international charitable public organization EkoDom plans to set up a center promoting energy saving technologies in the Lepel region of the Vitebsk oblast, BelTA learnt from EkoDom executive director Yuri Suprinovich.

    The main purpose of the center will be promotion of alternative sources of energy and energy-saving and eco-friendly technologies in the construction industry. The center will be set up in the village of Stary Lepel. According to Yuri Suprinovich, it is not by chance that this very village was selected as the first energy-saving and eco-friendly houses in the Vitebsk oblast were built there with the assistance of the local authorities and the German charity ‘Houses instead of Chernobyl’. The main building materials used were clay, chipped wood and cane. Construction of eco-friendly houses for settlers from Belarusian regions affected by the Chernobyl catastrophe started in the Lepel region in 2001. Built from local raw materials these two-storied five-room houses with the total area of 160 square meters with adjacent stables and barns perfectly conserve heat. According to Yuri Suprinovich, their heat saving coefficient is 2.5% as compared to 2% in brick houses. In addition, in the canteen of the local school a solar battery is used for water heating.

    According to Yuri Suprinovich, German charities are ready to render support in constructing eco-houses in Belarus. They are also ready to fund the establishment of the center promoting eco-friendly technologies in Stary Lepel. Local authorities have already allocated a land plot for the center which construction will start next year.

    Nokia Siemens Networks names Belarus’ market important

    From: BelTA
    Belarus is a priority market in the CIS states, Dmitry Sidorovich, Nokia Siemens Networks CEO for Belarus and Moldova, told reporters on September 28.

    The company is the leading supplier of telecommunication solutions in Belarus, targeting to preserve the existing sales and expand the number of customers.

    Speaking about the market development in Belarus, Dmitry Sidorovich remarked, the market is vigorously evolving. “It has good dynamics and a potential. We expect the arrival of 3G networks early next year. They will give another boost to the market growth,” he said.

    The growth depends on technologies. Belarus has a good infrastructure for the development of all branches of modern high-tech. For example, the company is working with existing operators to introduce digital interactive television services over data networks (IPTV). There are companies interested in introducing WiMAX. Some of the modern technologies can already be made available, stressed Dmitry Sidorovich.

    He remarked, telecommunication projects in Belarus progress well thanks to the presence of payable players. In turn their presence indicates that “end customers are ready to pay for the services our partners provide,” said the official. The largest customers of Nokia Siemens Networks in Belarus are landline communication monopoly Beltelecom, cellular communication companies MTS and Velcom, Belarusian Railways, petrochemical concern Belneftekhim, electrical concern Belenergo, and oil pipeline operator Gomeltransneft Druzhba.

    This week the company is presenting its key solutions in Belarus. An automobile is used to showcase products and key solutions Nokia Siemens Networks offers to customers in Belarus as part of a planetwide road show. “Belarus is the first CIS country where we present such an exposition, which testifies one more time to the importance of the market for our company,” said Dmitry Sidorovich.

    Nokia Siemens Networks is a global leading supplier of communication services and telecommunication solutions. The company offers the entire range of products for landline and wireless communication to satisfy the growing demand for accompanying services. The company employs around 20 thousand personnel in more than 150 countries across the globe. It is headquartered in Espoo, Finland.

  • Around the region...

    Russia Warns Against Space Weapons

    From: AP
    The chief of Russia's space forces on Thursday said Moscow would have to retaliate if others deploy weapons in space — a stern warning to the United States.

    While Col.-Gen. Vladimir Popovkin did not name any specific country, he was clearly referring to U.S. plans for space-based weapons, which the Kremlin had vociferously opposed.

    "We don't want to wage a war in space, we don't want to gain dominance in space, but we won't allow any other nation to dominate space," Popovkin said in televised remarks. "If any country deploys weapons in space, then the laws of warfare are such that retaliatory weapons are certain to appear."

    President Vladimir Putin has criticized U.S. plans for space-based weapons, saying it could trigger a new arms race.

    When China tested an anti-satellite missile in January, Putin said that the move was a response to U.S. plans for space-based weapons.

    Russia and China have strongly pushed for an international agreement banning space weapons, but their proposals have been stymied by the United States.

    "It's necessary to legalize the game rules in space," Popovkin said. He warned that the complexity of space weapons could trigger a war.

    Satellites may fail on technical reasons, but their owner could think they were incapacitated by an enemy and could be tempted to retaliate, Popovkin said.

    "If that happens, a nation might ask a legitimate question: could it be the beginning of an effort to deafen and blind it," Popovkin said.

    President Bush signed an order last year tacitly asserting the U.S. right to space weapons and opposing the development of treaties or other measures restricting them.

    Bush also had pushed an ambitious program for space-based missile defense, and the Pentagon is working on missiles, ground lasers and other technology to shoot down satellites.

    The U.S. plans have worried Russia, which also has strongly criticized U.S. plans to deploy missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic. Putin has rejected U.S. assertions that the missile defense sites in Europe were necessary to confront a prospective missile threat from Iran and said they threatened Russia's nuclear deterrent.

    The dispute has badly damaged the Russian-U.S. relations, also strained over U.S. criticism of the Kremlin's backsliding on democracy and rifts over global crises.

    Popovkin said Russia would modernize components of its air and missile defense systems. He said, in particular, that the military would build a new early warning radar near Armavir in southern Russia's Krasnodar region to replace aging Soviet-built radars it currently shares with Ukraine.

    Such radars are intended to detect the launch of an enemy's ballistic missiles.

    Popovkin also said that Russia in 2009 would start testing a new generation of satellites to spot missile launches. He said more than 60 military and dual-purpose satellites are currently in orbit.

    U.S., Russia disagree on new sanctions against Iran

    From: China view
    The United States and Russia differ over the issues of imposing new sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

    Russia is currently opposed to impose new sanctions, which will be the third if it is adopted by the UN Security Council, according to reports by Russian media available here on Thursday.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is here attending the UN General Assembly, was quoted as saying in a briefing to Russian reporters in New York that the UN Security Council should give Iran more time to carry out its agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

    In response to what Lavrov said, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters the IAEA agreement was a technical one and should not delay any action by the Security Council.

    "That cannot be used as a shield to protect Iran from its lack of implementation of the demands of the Security Council in regard to the enrichment of uranium that Iran has been asked to suspend twice," he said.

    The UN Security Council has adopted two resolutions - one was in December 2006, the other in March this year - to force Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities.

    It was reported that Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice exchanged sharp words at a meeting of major industrial states here Wednesday when he condemned Western moves to take unilateral sanctions outside the U.N. framework.

    Turbulent Ukraine chooses new parliament

    From: Reauters
    Ukrainians, buffeted by months of political turmoil, were choosing a new parliament on Sunday in an election that President Viktor Yushchenko said offered a choice between "false stability and change."

    The pro-Western Yushchenko, swept to power in the 2004 "Orange revolution," has been sharing power grudgingly with the man he defeated in that upheaval, Viktor Yanukovich, who has bounced back to challenge him as prime minister.

    The president has rejoined forces with Yulia Tymoshenko, a former premier who roused vast crowds in the Orange revolution, sparked when an election was rigged to ensure Yanukovich became president.

    "The choice is between two alternatives -- false stability and change," the president said alongside his wife and daughter at a polling station in central Kiev, awash with warm sunshine.

    "And I believe the nation will opt for change."

    Yanukovich's campaign has stressed stability and economic growth of 7.1 percent last year. Casting his ballot in Kiev, he said voters would decide "just who is more pragmatic."

    Tymoshenko said an "Orange" team would waste no time if it won. "We know that we will have to accomplish 10 days' work in a single day," she said in her home town, Dnipropetrovsk.


    Reforms and policy initiatives have stalled over the last year as president and prime minister bickered. Confusion over contradictory orders was compounded by ill-defined changes to presidential powers.

    If the opinion polls are right, no clear winner is likely in Sunday's election, called by Yushchenko after he accused Yanukovich of an illegal power grab, and long talks to form a coalition are almost certain.

    Differences in orientation towards the West and Russia, key in 2004, are all but absent. Yanukovich, backed then by Russia, now describes himself as pro-European and focuses mainly on the living standards of voters earning on average $260 a month.

    Voters were being processed with few of the queues or other difficulties that have plagued previous post-Soviet elections.

    "Orange" parties were still likely to win most support in the nationalist west, the centre and Kiev, while Yanukovich's power base remains in the largely Russian-speaking east.

    "The main thing is stability and calm, no fuss," said businessman Igor Krivosheyev, who voted for the Regions Party in Donetsk, its eastern stronghold. "Things were crazy with an Orange government. Legislation, taxation -- always changing."

    In Kiev, Yuri Maximov, 49, backed Tymoshenko's pro-Western agenda. "This will bring us closer to Europe. This is probably a unique chance when I can change something by voting."

    Polling stations to elect the 450-member assembly opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) and close at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT). Exit polls will be made public immediately afterwards, with official results available from Monday morning.

    The last opinion polls, dating from two weeks ago, showed Yanukovich and his Communist allies just ahead of the combined tally of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine and Tymoshenko's bloc.

    Only one other bloc among 20 entries, headed by centrist former parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, is given an outside chance of clearing 3 percent of the vote to win seats.

    Tymoshenko is almost certain to become prime minister if the Orange camp wins. She was Yushchenko's first premier in 2005, but he sacked her amid debilitating infighting in her team.

    Yanukovich has not ruled out a "grand coalition" between his Regions Party and Our Ukraine, a scenario favored by several economic analysts that would shut Tymoshenko out of government.

    Poland as corrupt as Cuba, claims watchdog

    From: News Pl
    Former President of the Republic of Poland Wojciech Jaruzelski and Fidel Castro
    Poland has been classified as 61st in the annual ranking Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by Transparency International – level with Cuba and behind such countries as Namibia and Costa Rica.

    Despite the fact that Poland’s position in the ranking has improved, the country still comes off rather pale in comparison with other EU countries. Poland is not the most corrupted of all Member States only because of Romania and Bulgaria who in 2007 joined the EU.

    The place in the ranking is not as important as the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) which is used to determine if the Poles feel that they live in a corrupted country. In the second year in a row the index improved slightly.

    “For two years in Poland there has been a lot of coverage on corruption. People have an impression that there is a fight against corruption going on,” says Piotr Kobza from TI. Kobza pointed out, however, that “an impression” is a key term here, as this does not mean any particular activities of state authorities.

    Transparency International – an organization fighting corruption worldwide - admits that Poles have a tendency to complain about bribery, especially in courts when they lose a case.

    The TI ranking comprised of 180 countries. In the lead were: Denmark, Finland and New Zeeland. Somalia, Iraq and Haiti came last.

    Poland: thieves in apple orchards due to high prices

    From: Fresh Plaza
    The apple thieves
    Stanislav Plutenko
    Because of high – for Poland – prices of apples used for processing, Polish growers have recently many problems with thieves in orchards. They can steal between 100 kg up to 5 thousand MT per night from one orchard in Mazovia region. The police from Grojec (the major town in the largest apple growing region in Poland) arrests several thieves every day.

    According to the Press Office of The Polish Police Headquarters in Radom, “expensive apples are the main reason of thefts. But because of good cooperation with growers we are able to effectively fight crime. Only during few days of last week police stopped 4 men trying to steal apples or sell stolen fruit.”

    In the village of Stara Wies the police arrested two men of age 30 and 51. Both gathered 450 kg of apples (worth approximately ? 132) ready to be moved out of the orchard. In the village of Wola Worowska, the orchard owner stopped a 21-year old man who already picked apples worth ? 318 and tried to sell them. In another case the owner of processing apple buying office informed the police about the suspicious transaction. The arrested man testified that he stole more than 100 kg of fruit only few hours before.

    This year the processing apples prices in Poland are approximately 4-fold higher than in 2006 and the average price per kilogram was ? 0,25-0,29 during last few days.

  • From the blogs...


    From: RSPuck
    Nearly a week ago, I came across an interesting website entitled, presenting the project "The Community of Young Economists and Entrepreneurs" which was organized as a reaction to the lowest level of education in Belarus. The project aims to give opportunities to young students in Belarus to support their scientific work. This particular initiative is very ambitious indeed. In fact, Belarus is croaching in Soviet-styled political dictatorship together with poor track on the respect of human rights, civil and personal liberties. Doing business is difficult and the economic environment is embroiled by government involvement, protectionism and widespread corruption. Also, the education system is instilled by staunch ideological propaganda (here and here).

    Regarding the practicing of human rights in Belarus, State Department reports:

      "Prison conditions remained austere and were marked by occasional shortages of food and medicine and the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Leila Zerrougui, chairperson of a UN working group on arbitrary detention who visited the country in 2004, reported that conditions in detention centers were worse than those in prisons because of poor sanitary and living conditions and restrictions on visitation, phone, and mail privileges. According to human rights monitors, conditions in prison hospitals also were poor...The government restricted access to the Internet. Credible reports indicated that the government monitored e-mail and Internet chatrooms. Many individuals and groups could not engage in peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by electronic mail. During the March 19 presidential election, there were numerous credible reports that the government blocked several opposition campaign and independent media Web sites. Many opposition groups and independent newspapers have switched to Internet domains operated outside the country because of the government's campaign against Internet freedom. There also were credible reports that authorities attempted to block Radio Liberty's Web site in the country during the March presidential elections. On November 7, the NGO Reporters Without Borders again included the country on its annual list of "enemies of the internet," countries that censor independent news sites and opposition publications and monitor the Internet to stifle dissident voices."
    Disclaimer: Capitalism & Freedom strongly supports "The Community of Young Economists and Entrepreneurs" in their efforts to pursue the ideas of individual and economic liberty, human rights, international awareness and knowledge development in Belarus.

    Ay Presidential Program

    From: TOL
    Moscow State University
    Right before the entry exams in MGIMO Moscow State University of International Relations) I was frequently asked whether I was a presidential program candidate (Presidential Program allows some outstanding individuals to study abroad covering their major, sometimes even all, expenditures ? eolonir).

    Once having dropped into a university polyclinics to pass some medical test, I was asked by an infectionist there:

    - So, you are from Belarus?

    - Yepp, I am

    - And you are a Presidential Program candidate, of course?

    - No, I am a regular student. We have agreements with Russia (which empower us to apply for universities at a regular basics as Russian citizens do - eolonir)

    - (provincials) That’s nonsense, I don’t know such programs! You want to say you are such a genius?

    - Just put the stamp, please!

    Lady silently stamped my papers and returned to her business.

    That often happened that some Russian would make ?oh? with their tiny mouth and start asking how things are running in Belarus. And that’s just because I needed to pass exams like everyone and did not use any shortcuts. An overwhelming majority of locals consider that Belarus is being governed by a hard but just ?nation’s father? who pressed down all oligarchs and governs the country like some 20th-century Solomon. This persuasion even led to a conflict with my first roommate Zhenia Medvedev who once came to me with a friend of his and started stubbornly proving me that Lukashenko is decisive, clever and just, and our opposition is a bunch of idiots who have no clear strategy. Whatever opinion I had about Lukashenko and the opposition, I was not going to turn an open ear to idiotic comments of those who have not experienced Belarusian situation themselves but have formed their opinion from Russian TV broadcasts. Having no official position at the moment, I have all rights to send Lukashenko to hell, as he is responsible for building a system which had nearly destroyed me.

    Ok, enough for lyrics. I have not yet had an honour to meet those “Belorussians” which study here under the Presidential Program auspices. Ay Persidential program is a kind of agreement between two countries. It allows students with the best scores and high loyalty to study at MGIMO with further obligatory 2-year contract at the Belarusian Ministry of Exterior. They say that every candidate should be personaly approved by some inister, either that of justice or exterior. Naturaly, children of some high officials do also study here. Yet I coud not say anything about them for the reason mentioned above. However, today I have noticed a list of students on the wall in the room of my new acquaintance from international relations department. The forth of fifth position on the list had been marked with origin country “Belorussia”. I started a common lecture about official names and their translations, but she interruted me saying that the girl told this way herself.

    - Aaa. Is she from the preidential program?

    - Yepp, I guess so. They had a meeting of all Belarusians here, in the MID.

    - And where she said she was coming from?


    - From Belarus?

    - No, from BELORUSSIA.

    That was the first time in my life when I ran into a Belarusian from BELORUSSIA. Where, damn, they come from?

    Welcome to Belarus!

    From: Travel Blog
    Early morning I wake up - around 5:30 - probably because of my less than pleasant sleeping position: as we put the tent up on a slight slope, my head is actually about 10cm lower than my feet, which didn't make for a great night's sleep. Then I realise: it's 6:30! Forgot about the time difference again, I really must change my clock forward. As Hans is up as well, we decide to just get up, pack away our stuff and flee the still mosquito-infested meadow.

    In the next town on the way, Eliskes, we stop to get some cake for breakfast which we then, along with the obligatory coffee, have for breakfast a little bit further down the road. The following 30km go by fast: a slight wind from the side, good road conditions, and we're in Salcininkai in no time. On arrival, I go and get some money (broke again...), then use some of that to get provisions before we continue on towards Medininkai, now only 25km away.

    On the way, we're caught in a short shower, but the rain soon stops, allowing us to continue. Full of enthusiasm, I proudly predict that we'll be at the
    Going shopping...
    Lithuanian style!border crossing in an hour. Almost the moment I make that prediction, the roads turn back to washboard-style gravel-sand paths from hell and slow us down to a crawl, as we're forced to push most of the way. As this slows us down so much, a thunderstorm that has been sitting in our back for a while now catches up with us and we have to take shelter under a tree some 2km before Medininkai. Soon, the inhabitants of a nearby house - completely pissed drunk - decide to pay us a visit and stop by for a chat. While they talk at me, the rain stops and Hans takes the chance to take flight, forcing me to shake off our hosts and follow him. Soon, the thunderstorm catches up with us once again, and we take a break under the next tree down the road. We decide to make the best of our situation - time for a snack. Once the rain stops, we pass Medininkai and arrive at the border.

    Since we're visiting Belarus on humanitarian visas, there shouldn't be much of a problem at the border - humanitarian organisations usually get priority treatment. The Belarussian head
    Just one hour to go!
    At least that's what I thought...until this road came along!of the organisation sent us a list of documents to get us across the border, all in Russian, along with our passports, so we should be fine. The crossing is a drama on 4 acts: first, vehicle registration. The lady gives us a slightly confused look, not sure how to fill in the form asking for engine make and model when faced with two bikes, scribbles something in Russian and waves us through. Next stop, visa control. Border police wave us right past the line of cars to the front, where we have to fill in registration cards. A very nice and slightly amused soldier uses his entire 5-word strong vocabulary of English to explain what we need to do. Of course, the registration cards need to be filled in in Russian, 4 times. Good thing we have a template I can copy from, even though I don't have a clue what I'm writing on the forms. Our friend in the uniform keeps stopping by to make sure everything is ok.

    To make up for his kindness, I get a real Russian dragon at the counter where I hand in the visas, registration forms, and invitation letters, who threatens
    The rain's a-comin!
    to eat me alive, because she can't find my vehicle registration card in my passport. Two more stations on the way out: customs is no problem, I guess they assume we don't carry more than the allowance of alcohol and cigarettes in our panniers, and finally another stop with ladies checking the passports yet again, before we're released into the "unknown centre of Europe".

    We find ourselves on a large, dual carriageway road, fortunately with a wide shoulder. First stop by a petrol station to take in the new country. In the country for less than 5 minutes, I already manage to embarrass myself when asking to change Lithuanian currency to Belarussian rubels at the pay stance for the petrol station. Somehow, the sign above the ????? listing the variety of currencies accepted for payment must have confused me - they take Russian and Belarussian Rubels, as well as Euros and US Dollars. Go figure.

    It's another 23km until the next town, where we might find a hotel - and I would really like a room with a shower. Hans doesn't want to push that far and wants to just pitch the tent, while I want to go
    Caught... the rain...not too happy about that...on - sounds familiar? Anyway, another thunderstorm rolling over our heads makes the decision for us, and we seek shelter at a truckstop, Belarussian style: a grassy meadow with some wooden huts and a few trees. We push the bikes under one of the trees further from the highway, pitch the tent, and get inside, the thunderstorm over our heads. No point in even thinking of going any further, we call it a day.


    From: Sammy_Belarus
    xxx: я болела.
    yyy: чем?
    xxx: головой, в основном.
    yyy: а чем именно: депрессия? мания? шизофрения? паранойя?
    xxx: вот не знаю. ты опиши их, а я попробую различить.
    yyy: ну смотри
    yyy: депрессия - это когда ты говно, и весь мир - говно
    yyy: мания - это когда ты прекрасна, и весь мир прекрасен, но все происходит слишком быстро
    yyy: шизофрения - это когда тебе голос изнутри говорит, что ты - говно, хотя ты знаешь, что нет, но уже начинаешь сомневаться
    yyy: паранойя - это когда ты прекрасна, но мир - говно
    yyy: я понятно излагаю?
    ххх: слишком. сейчас все кто сидит рядом со мной различают свои болезни))) какой ужас!

    Another International Evaluation, Another Pathetic Faililng Grade for Putin's Russia

    From: Russophobe
    Radio Free Europe reports on yet another international evaluation in which Vladimir Putin's Russia is not only failing but getting worse every year. Meanwhile, the benighted people of Russia continue not only to support him, but to reject all serious debate as to his policies, just as in the time of Stalin. It's a sick, pathetic country in dire need of catharsis.

    Corruption is getting worse in most of the countries of the former Soviet Union thanks in part to the growing influence of Russia. That's the view of Miklos Marschall, regional director for Europe and Central Asia at Transparency International. Marschall was talking to RFE/RL about the global corruption watchdog's new report issued today, The Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks 180 countries on their degree of corruption as seen by business people and experts. Marschall said there was no improvement overall in the region partly because there was less political will for reforms. "Wherever there is a stronger influence of the European Union, you see improvement," he said. "Wherever Russian influence is growing, the corruption situation is worsening." Uzbekistan was the worst performer in the region, sinking to 175th place, and one of five countries perceived as the world's most corrupt. At the other end of the scale, Marschall pointed to the progress made by the three Baltic states -- Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania -- on their road to joining the EU in 2004. "Successful reforms of the public administration and opening up the economy can change the situation. And of course this is because of European accession, which was a very powerful external force that pushed reforms in those countries," he said.

    He also noted one bright spot in the former Soviet area -- Georgia, which has moved up twenty places on the list to 79th spot.

    "It is clear that [Mikheil] Saakashvili’s government brought about significant changes and that is being reflected in the opinion of the international business community, and that is reflected by our score," he said.

    Russia itself ranks 143 on the list, a slide of more than 20 since last year, a position Marschall called "a great embarrassment for Russia" as it meant corruption was getting worse despite government pledges and commitments. [LR: Gambia, Indonesia and Togo -- those are the countries Russia is keeping company with on the latest index; oddly, none of those countries sit on the G-8 or wield veto power in the UN. Way to go, Mr. Putin! Maybe soon you will make Russia as good as Libya and Pakistan, countries that are currently less corrupt than Russia]

    RFE/RL: Would you give a general picture of the level of corruption in the countries of the former Soviet Union and also describe general tendencies -- if they exist?

    Miklos Marschall: The sad conclusion is that there is no improvement, generally speaking, and that is because of many reasons: because of geopolitical [reasons] -- there is a growing influence of Russia -- and there is less political will for reforms. Here I can refer to some geopolitics. Wherever there is a stronger influence of the European Union, you see improvement. Wherever Russian influence is growing, the corruption situation is worsening.

    RFE/RL: But the Russian authorities say they are fighting corruption very strongly and are doing all they can to rein in oligarchs and make the business environment less corrupt. How does Transparency International rate Russia?

    Marschall: The scores are disappointing and especially disappointing for countries like Russia, where a score of 2.3 puts Russia at the bottom of the global list of the index, which is really a great embarrassment for Russia. It shows the downward trend despite all the pledges and the commitments. According to the opinion of the international business community, the Russian public sector is pretty corrupt. And what is even [more alarming]: it is getting worse and worse, so there is no positive development.

    RFE/RL: Does Ukraine, which says it is reforming, score better than Russia?

    Marschall: In Ukraine, the score was 2.7, which is a very poor score. Nevertheless, Ukraine is ahead of Russia in our rankings, which shows that despite all the difficulties somehow the reform effort is paying a small dividend. Of course it will take decades -- and not years -- until real improvement will be seen. Nevertheless, some years ago Ukraine was behind Russia, now it is ahead Russia.

    RFE/RL: The Belarusian authorities also claim to be fighting corruption, but Belarus is in 150th place on the index. Why?

    Marschall: That is one of the most corrupt countries according to our ranking. Out of 180 countries, it has the 150th position, with a score of 2.1. It is one of the worst performers in the post-Soviet region. It shows that Belarus is a pretty closed country in the way that you cannot do business easily there and corruption seems rampant.

    RFE/RL: Are the countries of the Caucasus -- Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan -- doing any better?

    Marschall: [There is] not much change. Armenia scores 3.0 and Azerbaijan scores 2.1, which is a low score. In Georgia, it is clear that [Mikheil] Saakashvili’s government brought about significant changes and that is being reflected in the opinion of the international business community, and that is reflected by our score.

    RFE/RL: Is the situation changing in the countries of Central Asia?

    Marschall: I think the bad news is that Central Asia is generally perceived as a very corrupt region in the world -- from Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan, from Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan -- these are perceived as very corrupt countries. One of the most corrupt countries this year on our list is Uzbekistan with a score of 1.7. And Uzbekistan is among the ten worst performers. So, I think that reflects that Uzbekistan, once a promising country, has lots of political, economic problems.

    RFE/RL: You said that growing Russian influence correlates with growing corruption. So, what is the situation in the Baltic States, which joined the EU several years ago?

    Marschall: We have good news to tell you as well and the good news is about the Baltic countries. They are doing better. Estonia has made significant improvements but also Latvia and Lithuania have improved. And that fact is reflected in our scores. So it shows that successful reforms of the public administration and opening up the economy can change the situation. And of course this is because of European accession, which was a very powerful external force that pushed reforms in those countries. Estonia stands out with a score of 6.5 (eds: 28th on the list). But, you know, Latvia (eds: 51st on the list) and Lithuania (51st on the list) with a score of 4.8, also can take credit for some developments.

    RFE/RL: What is the corruption situation in another country which has been in the headlines for several years -- Iraq?

    Marschall: Iraq is really at the bottom of our index and no one should be surprised about that because it has hardly a functioning government. So it is not a surprise that the public sector is considered by everyone as very, very corrupt. Only Somalia and Myanmar are worse.