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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Minsk celebrates 940th anniversary, Mirney/Azerenka take US Open, Zubr wild in Poland, Iranian nukes, Oil and gas, Sammy, Russophobe, TOL and more…

  • From the Top...
  • #237

    Alexander Lukashenko urges to speed up reconstruction work in the historical part of Minsk

    From: Office of the president
    The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, visiting the Hotel d'Europe in Minsk. The seven-floor hotel with a renaissance atrium and two panoramic elevators offers its guests 67 different-class rooms. It also has a hairdresser’s, a night club, a Turkish sauna, a swimming pool, a gym and a phyto-bar.
    On September 7, while visiting the newly-opened Hotel d’Europe, the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, gave instructions to speed up the reconstruction activities in the historical part of Minsk.

    The Hotel d’Europe is a part of the large-scale project on the reconstruction of the historical centre of Minsk – the Upper Town. In 2004, Alexander Lukashenko tasked Mikhail Pavlov, the Chairman of the Minsk City Executive Committee, to recreate the Hotel d’Europe, an architectural monument dating back to the early 20th century and destroyed during the Great Patriotic War. The reconstruction team had to tackle the issue of densely occupied space in the historical centre of Minsk. On the eve of the 940th anniversary since the founding of Minsk, the Head of State inspected the progress in fulfilling that instruction.

    The hotel was known as early as the 19th century. At first, it was a small two-storey building. The hotel got its name in 1884, following a major renovation. In 1906-1908, the hotel was remodelled into a modern-style building. It went on to become the biggest civil edifice in Minsk before the October Revolution and the largest hotel in what was then the North-Western Territory. At that time, the Hotel d’Europe was a 130-room hotel which housed a top-notch restaurant, hairdressing saloons, a reading hall and an array of shops.

    Today, the hotel is also a modern-style edifice which exterior virtually copies that of its predecessor with one exception: The seven-floor hotel with a renaissance atrium and two panoramic elevators offers its guests 67 different-class rooms. It also has a hairdresser’s, a night club, a Turkish sauna, a swimming pool, a gym and a phyto-bar.

    The furniture is custom-made by the Belarusian furniture manufacturers Bobruiskmebel and Pinskdrev. the modern-day Hotel d’Europe has seven floors. It is a 67-room, 120-bed, atrium-type hotel.

    Alexander Lukashenko went to see the interior of the hotel; he visited the conference hall, VIP suites, the restaurant, the banquet hall, the hairdressing saloon, night club and the sports gym.

    Experts say there’s no better hotel in Belarus at the moment. Nearly 80 percent of all the materials used in the construction of the hotel have been manufactured in Belarus. The Hotel d’Europe boasts custom-made furniture manufactured by Bobruiskmebel and Pinskdrev.

    The President remained content with the results of implementing his instructions and liked the newly built hotel. Giving his impressions, the Head of State said: “Got done with quality. The centre of Minsk turns beautiful.”

    Alexander Lukashenko had a discussion with the Mayor of Minsk on the plans for the improvement of the city’s environment and amenity.

    The Head of State also urged not to procrastinate the reconstruction of the historical part of the Belarusian capital and its infrastructure as a whole. He emphasized the need for a tender in choosing contractors and investors who will be carrying our building work. “Whoever wins, whoever proposes an optimal project will be carrying out the construction work. The same refers to all major and important facilities in Belarus, including the Park of High Technologies, - Alexander Lukashenko pointed out. – Everything must be done honestly and openly.”

    Mikhail Pavlov also assured the Head of State that Minsk is fully ready for the celebrations of the city’s 940th anniversary.

    IN a related story, delegations from 17 countries are taking part in the celebrations of Minsk 940th anniversary, BelTA was told by chief of the protocol and foreign links department of the Minsk City Council Valentina Kovalevskaya.

    According to her, more than 100 high guests from Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Astana, Bonn, Berlin, Vienna, Vilnius, Delhi, Yerevan, Kishinev, Kaliningrad, Lodz, Moscow, Beijing, Riga and Belarusian regions have arrived in Minsk. Moreover, commanders of large landing ship “Minsk”, escort ship “Minsk” and surface-to-surface missile cruiser “Marshal Ustinov” joined the celebrations as well.

    The foreign guests will visit museums of the Belarusian capital and will make a tour Minsk-Belarusian State Museum of Folk Architecture in Strochistry-Mir Castle-Nesvizh Palace.

    Minsk is ready to celebrate City Day, Mayor of the Belarusian capital Mikhail Pavlov told reporters.

    “The city is 100% ready. All the scheduled events have been prepared,” he said.

    “I expect several my colleagues to come. This is an excellent opportunity for us to discuss cooperation, to make new plans and to boost partnership relations between cities,” Mikhail Pavlov stressed.

    The Mayor also noted that the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko had praised the newly-built Hotel d’Europe. According to the Mayor many guests coming for the celebrations will stay there.

  • Gas and oil...

    Belarus eyes Turkmen gas

    From: Earth times
    Belarus says it is in talks with Turkmenistan on natural gas supplies, an apparent bid to reduce supplies from Russia.

    "Talks are being held with Turkmenistan to make sure there is Turkmen gas in the Belarusian balance through barter schemes in the midterm," Uladzimir Tsimashpolski, a deputy presidium chairman of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences, said Thursday.

    The comments were reported by ITAR-TASS.

    The move is a bid by Belarus to diversify its energy resources. Ties with Russia, once close, have become frosty over Gazprom's decision to raise rates to international levels and cut off supplies when bills aren't paid.

    Belarus is also in talks with Azerbaijan on the allocation of quotas for drilling Azeri oil, ITAR-TASS reported. Similar discussions are being held with Iran and Venezuela.

    Oman Sultanate, Belarus hold talks

    From: Times of Oman
    An official session of talks between the Omani side, headed by Sayyid Al Mutassim bin Hamoud Al Busaidi, minister of state and governor of Muscat; and the Belarusian side, headed by Michael Pavlov, chairman of the executive committee and mayor of Minsk, was held here yesterday.

    Sayyid Al Mutassim expressed his delight over the landscaping and heritage of the city and praised the relations between the two friendly countries. He also stressed the role of the joint committee of the two countries in cementing the ties in the economic, educational, cultural and other spheres.

    The mayor of Minsk expressed his country’s readiness to carry out all that could strengthen the cooperation between the two countries.

    The minutes of the joint meeting was signed from the Omani side by Mutassim and by Michael Pavlov from the Belarusian side

    The session was attended from the Omani side by Khalil bin Abdullah Al Khonji, chairman of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and a number of officials from the Muscat governorate and it was attended by the deputy mayor and a number of senior officials from the Belarusian side.

    Mutassim arrived at Minsk earlier yesterday, on a several days’ visit and was received by the deputy mayor of Minsk and a number of officials in the city.

    Iran, Belarus ink buyback oil deal

    From: Press TV
    Iran and Belarus have concluded their first petroleum buyback deal in Tehran despite the pressures exerted by the US on both countries.

    According to the agreement signed between the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), the Belarusian Oil Company is authorized to explore the Juffair Oil Field, thus replacing Iran's former partner, India.

    The news on the signed oil contract has been widely covered by various international and regional news agencies.

    The project is expected to be implemented in two phases, the first, comprising of 8-10 oil rigs, is to yield 15,000 barrels of crude per day and the second, including six rigs, is projected to boost production to 25,000 bpd.

    The project is scheduled to be commissioned in 24 months. The two phases are estimated to cost $250m and $200-250m respectively, which is to be divided equally between the Belarusian Oil Company and NIOC's subsidiary, PetroIran Development Company (PEDCO).

  • Other news...

    High-ranking officials named organizers of Miss Belarus 2008 beauty pageant

    From: Naveny
    The state prepares for Miss Belarus 2008
    A number of high-ranking officials have entered the organizing committee for the Miss Belarus 2008 beauty pageant.

    The lineup was approved by the Council of Ministers in late August.

    Deputy Prime Minister Alyaksandr Kosinets and Aleh Praleskowski, head of the Presidential Administration's Main Ideology Department, were named co-chairmen of the committee.

    Culture Minister Uladzimir Matveychuk, Education Minister Alyaksandr Radzkow and Volha Syarozhnikava, head of the National Beauty School, will be deputy chairpersons of the committee.

    The lineup also includes Deputy Finance Minister Uladzimir Amaryn; Alyaksandr Zimowski, chairman of the Belarusian State Television and Radio Company; Leanid Kavalyow, first secretary of the Belarusian National Youth Union; Alena Sivalobava, chief of the Council of Ministers secretariat's Department for Social and Cultural Sphere; Mikalay Korbut, deputy head of the Presidential Administration's property management department; and representatives of the regional executive committees.

    Miss Belarus 2008 contestants will be picked at regional selection rounds next January and February. The winner of the Miss Minsk 2007 contest, which will take place in the Belarusian capital this weekend, also will get the right to enter the national pageant.

    Seventy vendors march on headquarters of district executive committee in Rechytsa over dispute with market owner

    From: Naveny
    A group of some 70 market vendors marched on the headquarters of the Rechytsa District Executive Committee on Friday to urge local officials to intervene into their dispute with the owner of a market in the city in southeastern Belarus.

    As small business activist Aleh Shabetnik told BelaPAN, Donaprys, the company that owns the Slavyanski market, has recently notified the vendors of its plans to sell the market's stalls at an auction.

    The news came after a row between the owner and the vendors over the market's redevelopment. Donaprys managers suggested that each stallholder should contribute four million rubels ($1,860) for the project, but the vendors did not agree and found a different contractor who was ready to charge each stallholder only 2,860,000 rubels ($1,330). «But the Donaprys management did not like our independent move and they told us today that the company would renovate the market at its own expense and then auction off all stalls,» Mr. Shabetnik said.

    Five of the vendors were received by Vyachaslaw Pamaleyka, deputy chairman of the district executive committee, and informed the official about their woes.

    A representative of the Homyel Regional Union of Consumer Cooperative Society, which controls Donaprys, was expected to visit the market on September 8 to discuss the dispute with stallholders.

    Belarusian Government, World Bank to discuss prospects of Belarus’ development

    From: NLIPRB
    group of experts of the World Bank headed by Paul Bermingham, World Bank director for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, will visit Belarus on September 10-14, 2007, BelTA learnt from the World Bank Representative Office in Belarus.

    The World Bank experts are expected to meet with officials of the Belarusian Government, businessmen, representatives of public and international organizations to discuss the recent economic changes and prospects of development of Belarus as well as medium-term cooperation projects of the World Bank and Belarus.

    On September 11 the World Bank experts are planned to visit Minsk Gymnasium #8 where an energy saving project was implemented. Besides, the project was carried out within the framework of the programme “Modernization of Social Facilities” the World Bank gave a loan for.

    Belarusians win 11 awards at 20th International Book Fair in Moscow

    From: BelTA
    Representatives of Belarus won 11 awards at the International Contest of the CIS member states “Art of Book” which was held within the framework of the 20th Moscow International Book Fair. Ukrainian book publishers received 5 laureate diplomas. Representatives of Russia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia won 3 awards each, Moldova and Tajikistan – 2 awards each.

    Belarusian book publishers became laureates of 9 nominations from 10 ones. Representatives of this country did not receive awards in the nomination “Art-Book” only. However, Belarusian books became the winners of the nomination “Published in Commonwealth”: an illustrated edition “Postage Stamps of the Republic of Belarus” issued by the publishing house Marka took the first place, a book “Britannica. Encyclopedia” published by the Yakub Kolas Printing Plant took the second place, a small books series “Whisky”, “Cognac”, “French Wine” issued by the Minsk publishing house Harvest took the third place.

    Belarusian book publishers won two awards more. An edition “Mama, matsi, matulya…” published by Mastatskaya Litaratura took the highest award in the nomination “A Book of an Interesting Fate” and an encyclopedia “Belarusian Folk Art” issued by the publishing house Petrus Brovka’s Belarusian Encyclopedia won the highest award in the nomination “My Universities”.

    A book “The Commonwealth of Independent States Turns 15” by Belarusian news agency BelTA was awarded a second degree diploma in the nomination “Commonwealth”. A unique album of photographs “Russian Empire in color, 1909-1915” by Belarusian Exarchate took the second award in the nomination “Dialogue of Cultures”. A book “The Wild Swans” by the publishing house of the St. Elizabeth Convent was awarded a second degree diploma among the books for children.

    An encyclopedic reference book “Modern Belarus” by the publishing house Belorusskaya Nauka was awarded a third degree diploma in the nomination “My Country”. A book “Man’s Suit in Belarus” received the same award in the nomination “My Universities”. A books series “Life of Outstanding People” by the publishing house Mastatskaya Litaratura took the third place.

    On the whole, 210 editions from 9 countries were presented at the 4th International Contest of the CIS member states “Art of Book”.

    Three agreements on military-technical cooperation within CSTO framework drafted

    From: BelTA
    Map of CIS
    Three agreements on military-technical cooperation within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation were drafted by experts at the 4th session of the relevant interstate commission in Kazan.

    As BelTA was told in the CSTO press service, the first agreement is aimed at streamlining development, production, repair and use of military equipment. The second document concerns mutual protection of the intellectual rights in the military-economic activity. The third agreement will regulate cooperation between the CSTO member states in advertising and exhibition campaigns.

    All the documents are expected to be approved in October this year at the 15th session of the CSTO Collective Security Council in Dushanbe.

    CIS experts discuss concerted migration policy

    In a related story, a session of the group of experts responsible for putting forward proposals on the concerted migration policy of the CIS member-states has opened today in the CIS Executive Committee in Minsk. The session will last till September 7.

    According to the chairman of the session, Vice Minister of Labour and Social Security of Kazakhstan Almas Kurmanov, migration issues have always been one of the top priorities of the CIS member-states. Common history and traditions, deep-rooted cultural ties, lack of language barriers create favorable conditions for migration within the CIS countries. However these processes are regulated mainly by bilateral agreements. “We would like to have them identical for the whole CIS,” he added.

    Another problem is that the vast majority of documents regulating migration relations was adopted in the 1990s and does not meet present-day requirements.

    According to Almas Kurmanov, the group offers to adopt a declaration of the concerted migration policy of the CIS member-states and work out a migration policy concept. These initiatives will be submitted for consideration of the Council of CIS Heads of State this October in Dushanbe.

    Domicile certificates to be replaced with residence registration in Belarus as from January 1, 2008

    From: BelTA
    From January 1, 2008 unified regulations will be introduced in Belarus to keep record of Belarus citizens, foreign citizens and stateless persons, regarding their place of permanent residence or temporary stay in Belarus
    Belarus will replace the institute of domicile certificates with residence registration as from January 1, 2008 according to Decree No. 413 “Improvement of record keeping of citizens’ place of residence and stay” the President of Belarus signed on September 7.

    The press service of the President of Belarus told BelTA, unified regulations will be introduced in Belarus to keep record of Belarus citizens, foreign citizens and stateless persons, regarding their place of permanent residence or temporary stay in Belarus.

    Citizens are to get their permanent place of residence registered and can get their temporary place of stay registered, excluding citizens who travel to another location to go to school, university, and so on. The latter are to get registered for the duration of education.

    Applying for registration, a citizen has to contact the registration official twice: first, to file the necessary documents, second, to pick up the registration papers. The registration official will get the registration application registered with the local police department.

    A citizen no longer has to remove his registration prior to leaving for another residence, as it is obligatory according to the domicile certificate system. The police department in the new location the citizen intends to live in has to notify the police department in the previous place of residence about the new place of residence of the citizen, thus annulling the old place of residence record.

    The decree suggests that the government should ensure the adoption of a similar legal instrument to enable the same mechanism with regard to military registration.

    The decree provides a comprehensive list of documents a citizen has to file with the registration official. Following a citizen’s request the official may get the documents state agencies have forwarded to him.

    Within three years after the decree comes into force, the Council of Ministers can suggest other documents confirming a citizen’s right to the residential premises he is registered at. The measure will give citizens, who have not formalised their ownership of the residential premises, time to do so.

    A registration procedure will take up to three days if the documents are filed by the applicant and up to 13 days if the registration official has to get the necessary documents forwarded to him.

  • Around the region...

    Russia, Indonesia Set $1 Billion Arms Deal

    From: Washington Post
    During a one-day visit to Indonesia on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin witnessed the signing of a $1 billion arms deal that many analysts here see as part of a broader Russian effort to restore diplomatic and military clout in the Asia-Pacific region and make some money, as well.

    Indonesia, which until 2005 was under a U.S. arms embargo because of human rights abuses, will purchase Russian tanks, military helicopters and submarines. Last month, Russia said it would sell six fighter jets to Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, as part of the deal.

    "The deals signed in Indonesia are part of a Kremlin strategy to expand its influence in Asia and the Middle East," said Alexei Makarkin, an analyst at the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. "Russia is trying to pursue a multipolar policy in the world and considers itself to be one of its poles."

    But unlike the former Soviet Union, he added, today's Kremlin is willing to ship arms only "to those countries who can pay."

    Russia is helping Indonesia do that by providing a $1 billion line of credit, repayable over 15 years. Weighed down with foreign debt in the 1990s, Russia now has the world's second-largest foreign currency reserves after China because of soaring prices for its vast stores of oil and natural gas.

    "We agreed to develop our cooperation in energy, mining, aviation and the telecommunications sector," said Putin, who stopped in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on his way to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Australia. "There's also a good perspective in defense and military."

    For Indonesia, the country's defense minister said, the deal comes with none of the strings that encumber similar purchases from the United States and Western Europe.

    "Requirements for purchasing arms from Western countries are complicated, with preconditions attached, such as human rights, accountability, not to mention licensing," Juwono Sudarsono told reporters in Jakarta. "In our past experience with Britain, we were not allowed to use Scorpion tanks in Aceh, even though we were facing armed separatists."

    In 2005, a peace agreement between rebels and the government ended three decades of conflict in that province. Since the lifting of the U.S. embargo later that year, Indonesia has mostly obtained spare parts and technical support from the United States, once its primary arms supplier.

    Sudarsono said Thursday that he was glad to be able to "reduce dependence on the United States."

    Under Putin, Russia has become determined to project its military, diplomatic and energy power into the Pacific, an area it neglected after the fall of the Soviet Union. Besides the arms deal, Russian companies have signed billions of dollars worth of deals in the mining and energy sectors with Indonesian companies, Russian officials said.

    This year, Putin signed a $200 billion, seven-year rearmament plan for Russia's military. The package includes money for the Pacific Fleet, a major Pacific submarine base and new land- and sea-based intercontinental missiles. Last month, Russia resumed global patrols by its long-range strategic bombers, sending two of them far across Pacific Ocean waters to the vicinity of Guam island, site of a major U.S. base.

    On Thursday, Britain and Norway scrambled jets to trail Russian bombers conducting the new patrols. The Russian Defense Ministry described the flights by eight strategic bombers as a "routine exercise" and said that although the aircraft had encountered planes from NATO countries, there were "no incidents."

    Last month, Russia conducted a joint military exercise with China, one of its major arms customers. And it has made or is negotiating other arms deals across Asia, including with India, Malaysia, Burma and Vietnam.

    Some observers remain skeptical that Russia will become a major competitor of the United States and, increasingly, China for influence in the region.

    "In my view, what is happening is that when certain rough edges appear in relations between the USA and such countries as Malaysia or Indonesia, Russia immediately makes an attempt to squeeze in and fill this gap," said Alexander Golts, a military analyst and journalist in Moscow. "Its policy is developing these kind of niches. But we can hardly talk about any serious influence."

    After a meeting, Putin and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said they had discussed Iraq, North Korea and Iran, among other subjects, and they obliquely criticized the Bush administration's approach to global issues.

    "The two presidents strongly believe that international and regional conflicts . . . should be settled by peaceful means," they said in a joint statement. "The use of force is admissible as the last resort and only in accordance with the United Nations charter."

    Iran, Russia still talking on nuclear plant completion

    From: Times of India
    Iran on Sunday said it was still holding discussions with Russia to agree a date for the completion of its first nuclear power plant, a much delayed project being built by Russian engineers.

    "Discussions are continuing about Bushehr (nuclear power plant) and until these are concluded we cannot say exactly when the power station will be completed," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters.

    Russia started work on the plant in the southern city of Bushehr in 1995 but completion has been delayed amid Russian complaints Iran is not paying on time and Iranian accusations the United States wants to derail the whole project.

    The plant is a cornerstone of Iran's controversial nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is solely aimed at providing electricity for a growing population but the United States says masks an atomic weapons drive.

    Despite the problems, Iran is now insisting that Russia is committed to finishing the plant and providing the required nuclear fuel as outlined in previous agreements.

    "We need to wait for the end of negotiations but the important thing is the willingness of the Russians to finish the power station," Hosseini added.

    Russian officials have said in recent days that talks will continue until the problems that have appeared over the past six months are resolved and a timetable has still not been fixed for the completion of the plant.

    According to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, the issue of the Bushehr plant will be discussed during an upcoming visit to Tehran by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    The presidents of the five countries bordering on the Caspian Sea -- Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Russia and Turkmenistan -- are to meet in Tehran on October 16, Iranian officials have said.

    Wandering bison injures woman, bull in eastern Poland

    From: IHT
    A wayward bison that wandered out of a reserve injured a woman and a bull and demolished vegetable gardens in two villages in eastern Poland. Armed police and veterinarians were put on alert, a police spokesman said Saturday.

    On Friday, the bison entered a farm in the village of Augustynka and attacked a woman, throwing her in the air before running away.

    The woman was hospitalized with bruises and an armed police patrol was sent to the site to protect residents, but did not encounter the animal, Romuald Leoniuk told The Associated Press.

    Earlier, the bison, a male, fought bulls grazing in the village's pasture, injuring one of them, said Leoniuk, a spokesman for police in the nearby town of Siemiatycze.

    The first complaints were made to police on Thursday, after the bison, believed to have come from the Bialowieski Park Narodowy reserve about 80 kilometers (50 miles) away, overturned fences in the Michocze village, ate vegetables and then lay down on the village road.

    After that, it went back into the woods.

    Veterinarians and reserve employees were looking for the wayward bison. The Environment Ministry is responsible for seeing that the bison is caught and taken back to the reserve, Leoniuk said.

    European bison, which are somewhat larger but less heavily built than the American bison or buffalo, are a protected species. They live in woods, in contrast with their plains-roaming cousins on the other side of the Atlantic.

    More than 1,000 of them animals live in reserves in Poland
  • Note: The Bison, here referred to as a zubr, is a national symbol in Belarus. This is not to say that this story is in any way metaphorical, but nevertheless, it seemed worth mentioning

    Polish Murder Stranger Than Fiction

    From: Time
    The Polish author Krystian Bala was sentenced to 25 years in jail for directing the killing of Dariusz Janiszewski.
    In his debut 2003 novel Amok, Polish author Krystian Bala describes the torture and murder of a young woman whose hands are bound behind her back with a cord that is then looped to form a noose around her neck. According to a judge's ruling this week in the western Polish city of Wroclaw, Bala was drawing not on his imagination for that scene, but on his own experience.

    The author, 34, has been sentenced to 25 years in jail for having a role in the murder of a Polish businessman whose body was discovered in the river Oder with a cord binding his hands behind his back that was also looped into a noose around his neck. "The evidence gathered gives sufficient basis to say that Krystian Bala committed the crime of leading the killing," the judge, Lidia Hojenska, told a packed courtroom. She added: "There are certain shared characteristics between the book's narrator and the author."

    Prosecutor Liliana Lukasiewicz told TIME that the sentence, in her view, fits the crime. "We are satisfied," she said. Bala, who has protested his innocence and who contends that the details in his book were gleaned from press reports, is planning to appeal, according to his lawyer.

    The verdict caps months of intense speculation in Poland about Bala's role in one of the grisliest murder cases in recent memory. The body of the victim, Dariusz Janiszewski, showing signs of torture, was discovered by fishermen in the river Oder four weeks after he went missing in 2000. But police were unable to make progress in their investigation, and six months later they shelved the case. The publication of Amok, a sex-driven potboiler about a group of sadists recounting their exploits and taunting police revived speculation about the murder. But it was another two years before an anonymous tip-off about the contents of the book prompted police to reopen their investigation.

    In their arguments, prosecutors said that Janiszewski was believed to be seeing Bala's ex-wife at the time of the businessman's disappearance. (Bala has denied knowing him.) They also noted similarities between the character Chris in the novel, and the author, who also goes by that nickname while traveling abroad and in email communications. In addition, police traced the sale of the victim's mobile phone on an Internet auction site four days after his disappearance to an account registered to Bala. And they said that a phone card was used to place calls to the victim on the morning of his disappearance as well as to Bala's girlfriend and parents.

    In Amok, which has turned out to be a best-seller in Poland, Chris is never caught and gets away with murder. Fiction imitated life, it would seem, but only so far.

    Oh, Brother: Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski

    From: Time
    The former child film stars and identical twins who have been governing Poland for the past two years, Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, have been the butt of many jokes. Some play predictably off their diminutiveness. Others, more bizarrely, involve potatoes. One Berlin newspaper last year splashed a photo of a spud on its front page alongside one of Lech, the Polish President, and inquired: "Which one is coming to visit?" A Polish satirist recently lamented the shortage of humorists to cope with the volume of material that the twins are generating: "Life just surpasses my capabilities," said cartoonist Szczepan Sadurski.

    But a government in full-blown crisis is no laughing matter. And that is where the world's first serving identical twin heads of a national government now find themselves. On Aug. 13, Jaroslaw, the Prime Minister, announced that there will be early elections this autumn — probably on Oct. 21 or Nov. 18. The announcement followed a summer of political turmoil that culminated in August in the sacking of four Cabinet ministers and the effective dissolution of the three-party governing coalition. The Prime Minister characterized that move as an improvement "both morally and intellectually."

    That may be, but the reshuffle might not help his government hold onto power. The most recent opinion polls suggest that the opposition Civic Platform, a center-right grouping ostensibly more friendly toward Europe and business interests, would take first place in an election with more than 30% of the vote, vs. 17-24% for the Kaczynskis' conservative Law and Justice Party, which has dropped 10 points in 12 months. Many in Europe have greeted that prospect with relief, but it would be foolish to count the twins out. And even if the Civic Platform wins, it may not produce as drastic a change as some hope. The roots of the crisis go back to the founding of the government. In 2006, unable to secure the votes to rule alone or to hammer out a coalition with other mainstream parties, Jaroslaw invited two fringe political groupings — the nationalist Self-Defense Party, or Samoobrona, and the ultra-Catholic League of Polish Families — to join the government in exchange for Cabinet posts. Samoobrona leader Andrzej Lepper, a pig farmer who has been convicted of slander and assault, became Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister, while League of Polish Families leader Roman Giertych, the former head of an ultraright nationalist youth group with a reputation for anti-Semitism and homophobia, was anointed Education Minister.

    Prime Minister Jaroslaw said he thought the responsibility of governing would help the two political parties mature; instead they taught him a lesson in the perils of coalition building. Within months Lepper was publicly calling Jaroslaw a "boor." (Kaczynski responded that Lepper was a "brawler.") Lepper subsequently weathered charges of trading jobs for sex, but was eventually sacked in July of this year over allegations of corruption. (Lepper denies all charges against him.) The Interior Minister, a Kaczynski ally, then lost his job in the face of allegations that he had hindered a corruption investigation into Lepper's Agriculture Ministry. On Aug. 13, Jaroslaw fired the remaining four ministers from the two parties.

    What happens next is less clear. More than 20% of the electorate say they are undecided about whom to vote for, and disillusionment with Poland's political circus is so rampant that voter turnout is expected to be less than 50%, making the shape of the next government hard to predict. If the opposition Civic Platform wins, it will probably need a coalition partner. But given the souring of relations between the parties, no one knows which party that will be. Analysts like Piotr Kaczynski (no relation) at the independent Institute of Public Affairs in Warsaw say that Jaroslaw is unlikely to stay on as Prime Minister whatever happens, although his party will probably remain the biggest opposition grouping. Meanwhile brother Lech, who occupies a directly elected post, will remain President with influence over foreign policy until at least 2010.

    A new government led by the Civic Platform is unlikely to be the tonic that the Kaczynskis' critics expect. Founded in 2001 by ex-Solidarity trade-union dissidents and academics, the party's leaders may be more sophisticated than their Law and Justice rivals, but their basic principles are similar. (The Kaczynskis were also Solidarity members.) The Law and Justice Party, for example, has been criticized for its vigorous pursuit of the policy of "lustration," which requires officials and professionals who had dealings with the former communist secret police to confess their collaboration or lose their jobs. But the Civic Platform has proposed even more drastic measures to investigate who may or may not have collaborated in the past. (In practice, neither effort is likely to bear fruit following a recent high-court order that struck down the latest lustration law).

    On matters of foreign policy, Civic Platform leaders are just as staunchly nationalistic as their rivals. On Aug. 15 — the same day that Lech Kaczynski paraded alongside columns of tanks and troops to celebrate a great Polish victory over Russian Bolshevik forces in 1920 — the Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk, a prospective Prime Minister, did his own bit for Polish patriotism by trying (unsuccessfully) to enter Belarus to celebrate the holiday with Polish nationals there. Economists, for their part, say that while the Civic Platform is friendlier toward business than the current government, it still may not have the political will to effect the tax-system and public-spending reforms that Poland desperately needs. "Economic conditions won't deteriorate, but it's hard to say whether they will improve," says Jacek Wisniewski, chief economist at Raiffeisen Bank in Warsaw.

    Polish sociologist Kinga Dunin, writing in the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, described the difference between the two groupings by invoking potatoes, again. If the Kaczynskis are plain old tubers, she wrote, the Civic Platform politicians are French fries. The cut is different and their appearance may attract more consumers, but "the thing is that French fries are made of potatoes and it is not possible to hide it." To be sure, some things will change. What critics regard as Jaroslaw's preference for loyalty over competence — evidenced, they say, by key appointments in his Cabinet — may not be repeated. And some moderation in the tone of Poland's public diplomacy can also be expected: it is unlikely that the Civic Platform would repeat the less-than-convincing argument, made by Jaroslaw this summer, that Poland should get more votes in European Union councils because of Polish population losses at Nazi hands during World War II. It's also doubtful that an official will propose investigating the sexuality of Tinky Winky, a character in the children's TV show Teletubbies, as one government appointee did earlier this year.

    On the other hand, the Law and Justice Party has achieved some things in office that its successors may want to emulate. They include the streamlining of government spending to properly disburse billions of euros in E.U. assistance to new member states; greater budgetary discipline; and an overdue housecleaning of former communist officials in the country's military intelligence service. Unemployment fell by four points from a high of 18% on the Law and Justice Party's watch, and the economy is growing at an impressive rate of 6%. No doubt the Kaczynskis will seek to stress that part of their record in the upcoming election campaign. Given the mishaps of the past two years, however, their party seems unlikely to close the gap with Civic Platform as it did back in 2005. But humorists can take heart. The twins are likely to remain political players in Poland for some years to come.

  • From the blogs...

    Polish election coming – spend, spend, spend

    From: The beatroot
    Polish politicians are going nuts. An election is just around the corner and politicians are throwing money at the electorate in the hope of buying a few votes.

    There is an expression in Poland – the election sausage. Political parties organize little fetes and political meetings, and in amongst the rhetoric there would be a few sausages, a beer and other ‘gadgets’ thrown in for free.

    Well, politicians are not dishing out sausages anymore in Poland, they are dishing out child benefits, tax breaks on having kids, longer maternity leave and much more besides.

    Take yesterday in the Polish Parliament. The government was determined to get through tax breaks for Poles who have kids. It had promised an extra 3 billion in a tax give away. So what did the parliament – all sides of the parliament – do? They voted to increase the give away to...6.5 billion!

    Ooo, look at the size of that sausage!

    The finance minister, Zyta Gilowska, was a little surprised and described the vote as ‘madness’ and the Polish equivalent of a parliamentary ‘cock up’.

    The opposition - all types of it - had the gaul to criticize the government last week for coming to an agreement with the Solidarity trade union to increase the minimum wage. The largest opposition party, Civic Platform, claimed that such a move, just before an election this autumn, was a blatant election sausage if ever they saw one.

    The government replied that they were just keeping to promises they had made earlier.

    On Monday the government forced through parliament an increase in the length of maternity leave and an extra few zloty payment for each child born.

    These 'pro-family' policies are in keeping with the government’s belief that if you pay Poles a few extra zloty for having children then everyone will go home and have an ‘early night’.

    It’s the equivalent of a ‘child friendly sausage’ - or maybe even 'child abuse'.

    But all this is going to leave the government’s budget plans in a bit of a mess. The next government – who ever that may be – is going to have to pick up the tab for a pre-election spending spree.

    The Parliament will probably dissolve itself tomorrow which makes an election in late October a certainty.

    More Outrageous Neo-Soviet Nuclear Provocation of Britain

    From: Russophobe
    Tupolev Tu-95 Bear bombers
    The RAF was forced to scramble early this morning (Thursday, September 6th) to head off eight Russian bombers, it has emerged. Four of its F3 Tornados were hurriedly launched to meet the Russian aircraft, which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said were eight Tupolev Tu-95 Bear bombers. The Tornados, together with a midair refuelling aircraft, were launched from RAF Leeming in Yorkshire and RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire in accordance with standard procedure. The Russian planes had previously been tracked by the Norwegian air force. Responding to reports that the aircraft had been heading towards the UK when the bombers performed a u-turn and headed back for Russia, an MoD spokesperson said: "They were not heading towards British airspace."

    The incident comes at a time of strained diplomatic relations between Russia and the UK, with Moscow's refusal to extradite Alexander Litvinenko murder suspect Andrei Lugovoi frustrating the Foreign Office. Last month Russian president Vladimir Putin announced his country's air force planned on resuming long-range bomber patrol flights for the first time since they ceased in 1992. The move is part of the Kremlin's more aggressive foreign policy stance taken so far in 2007, which has already seen it engaged in arguments with neighbours Georgia and Belarus and with perennial antagonists Nato and the US.

    Have you read a report recently about Russia scrambling fighters to ward off a British threat of this kind? Russia is baiting World War III in the crazed, pathological manner of a regime gone amok.

    The letter to friends

    From: TOL
    There is almost nobody from my persons of the same age, whom I want to meet and drink a bottle of beer. Yet 3 years ago I had too many friends, with whom I would like to spend my free time. After a certain period of time some of them moved to Poland for study. After that, in 2006 first of them moved to Poland using so called “Kalinovsky program”. He even left the university for that. And today another friend went away in the same way.

    And there are only my friends. I don`t speak about my acquaintances, who also emigrated. I don`t wanna say that I am sentimental, but this situation considerably affected my life.

    Friends! I cannot understand: you say you are going to study abroad, but have low scores at the university. Can we tell after that, that you moved to Poland in the purpose to get a good education? It`s obvious that it is difficult to study in foreign language, but you had to understand that your way won`t be easy. As it`s not so easy to study in Belarus, where some of us was kicked out from the university because of terrible study.

    And I am interested, how you after coming back to Belarus will find a job with Polish diplomas? Non governmental organizations haven`t so much places for you. And it is a question if governmental organizations give you a job. No, I`m just saying – go away from here!
    I can`t also understand the words of the heads of the program, that you are the future elite of Belarus. In my view, the future elite are the people who are studying now in Belarus and working hard here. May be you are not wanted here… then go away!

    Some time ago I couldn`t wait for Saturday when we went together to a concert or just for a beer. I am often sitting with the elder people and talking about life, but it is boring! In spite of their huge life experience we are so different. So soon comes a moment when I go home after job and just drink a beer watching TV or sitting in the Web.

    Autumn comes, and then – f…ing winter. I hope it`ll be different, my friends. And then – go away to hell!


    From: Sammy
    Иногда мы встречаем кого-то, и нам кажется - это навсегда, а иногда провожаем, и понимаем, что так и должно было быть
    Иногда люди ищут всю жизнь, а иногда находят за день.
    Иногда мы ждём, ждём, ждём, а иногда заставляем кого-то ждать нас.
    Иногда мы плачем от смеха, но в последнее время всё чаще смеёмся, чтобы не заплакать.
    Иногда мы улыбаемся солнцу, подставив лицо к его тёплым лучам, а иногда надеваем громадные солнечные очки, пытаясь скрыть или скрыться.
    Иногда мы встречаем кого-то, и нам кажется - это навсегда, а иногда провожаем, и понимаем, что так и должно было быть.
    Иногда мы стремимся к общению, расширяем круг знакомых, куда-то спешим, к кому-то торопимся, а порой хочется просто закрыть глаза, и больше ничего не надо - только ты и тишина, вселяющая спокойствие в твою душу и разум.
    Да, и прав тот, кто говорит, что все люди по сути своей рождены одинокими. Действительно, все мы одни. И даже в миллионном окружении вспышек, камер, блеска и шика, ты можешь быть самым одиноким на свете человеком.
    Иногда мы требуем шикарных цветов, а иногда букет ромашек для нас роскошь.
    Иногда мы прячемся под крыши, навесы, и зонтики, скрываясь от надоедливого дождя, а иногда молим Бога, чтобы этот дождь никогда не заканчивался…
    Иногда нам проще простого сказать 'отстань', а после так нелепо начинаешь скучать по человеку который 'приставал' и хочется попросить 'пристань ко мне назад, пожалуйста', но произнеся эту фразу про себя, ты решаешь, что вслух она звучит ещё глупее и замолкаешь, в ожидании.
    Люди боятся выглядеть глупыми, люди вообще много чего боятся.
    Иногда так хочется высказать всё, что накипело, а иногда, чтобы понять друг друга нужно просто помолчать вместе так о многом.
    Иногда мы отключаем все телефоны, лишь бы нас никто не побеспокоил, а иногда сидим, обложившись телефонными трубками, и не в силах вздохнуть, дрожим от нетерпения в ожидание одного единственного звонка.
    Иногда мы ждём бурных страстей, как в любовном романе, а иногда одного поцелуя достаточно, чтобы почувствовать всю нежность и даже страсть.
    И потом, когда нет времени и сил что-то менять, мы мгновенно опускаем руки, и, поникнув головой, делаем затяжку-другую, и ноем, о том, какие мы бедные и несчастные, и как всё ужасно. И уходя, мы никогда не уходим до конца, и оставляем частичку себя тому, с кем прощаемся, и он, даже очень захотев, никогда не сможет выкинуть эту частичку 'в спам', потому что слияние и поглощение - основная суть этой игры с гордым названием 'жизнь'.
    И, прощая кого-то, мы пытаемся этим самым заранее оправдать свой проступок, и в душе всё равно, никогда не забудем той обиды, что засела как пиявка на сердце.
    Иногда нам так нужно просто обнять кого-то и услышать всего три слова: 'Всё будет хорошо', и заснуть на чьём-то плече, и выплакаться кому-то, и попросить кого-то остаться, и не оставлять тебя в одиночестве: И иногда, уходя, так хочется, чтобы тебя попросили остаться, остаться навсегда.

    Putin Invites Bush on a Fishing Trip

    From: Robert Amsterdam
    Following some brief talks at the APEC Summit in Sydney, Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin gave a short press conference, saying they discussed "important issues" and that the conversations have been "constructive" and "positive." In other words they said nothing at all.

    However, in response to a little quip from Bush that during the Kennebunkport visit, Putin was the only one of the two to catch fish, the Russian president extended the following invitation:

    PRESIDENT PUTIN: And we also agreed that we will go fishing not only in the United States but also in a Siberian river at some point.
    Uh oh, George! You know what that means! Macho time with the Russian Marlboro man!

    George better start working out - It seems that thanks to Putin, "fishing trip" has a whole new meaning. Perhaps Vladimir was feeling charitable toward his embattled colleague, who spent most of the summit making a colossal fool of himself.

  • Sport...

    Mirnyi and Azarenka capture US Open mixed doubles title

    From: ATP
    Victoria Azarenka (L) and Max Mirnyi of Belarus celebrate with the winner's trophy after their 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) win against Leander Paes of India and Meghann Shaughnessy during the Mixed-Doubles Final of the 2007 U.S. Open, at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City
    The Belarus duo of Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka won the US Open mixed doubles final Thursday, beating India's Leander Paes and US veteran Meghann Shaughnessy 6-4, 7-6 (8/6).

    It was the seventh career Grand Slam doubles title for Mirnyi, who shared 1998 US Open and Wimbledon mixed doubles titles with Serena Williams and men's doubles titles at the 2005 and 2006 French Open and 2000 and 2002 US Opens.

    "It was great to have won," Mirnyi said. "Hopefully Victoria can learn from this and be a great champion."

    Paes and Shaughnessy seized a 5-1 lead in the tie-breaker but surrendered the last five points to lose, squandering four set points to hand the Belarus pair the crown when Mirnyi, 30, hit a forehand volley winner.

    "We just about thought we had done enough to win the second set but these two came up with the goods when it really mattered," Paes said. "Well done."

    Azarenka, 18, won her first Slam title after a run to the fourth round in singles, where she is ranked 41st.

    "It has been a most amazing two weeks," she said. "It's just so amazing for me to win the mixed."

    Paes, 34, was foiled in a bid for an eighth Slam doubles title, winning 1999 and 2001 French Open and 1999 Wimbledon titles with Mahesh Bhupathi, a 2006 US Open title with Czech Martin Damm, a 1999 Wimbledon mixed crown with Lisa Raymond and 2003 Wimbledon and Australian Open titles with Martina Navratilova.

    The winners split 150,000 dollars while the runner-ups divided 70,000 dollars.

    Romania beats Belarus 3-1 in Euro 2008 qualifier

    From: IHT
    Romania goalscorer Nicolae Dica (left) challenges Vladimir Korythko of Belarus
    Adrian Mutu scored two goals and Group G leader Romania beat Belarus 3-1 in a European Championship qualifier on Saturday.

    Mutu opened the scoring with a shot into the lower left corner in the 16th minute.

    Maxim Romashchenko equalized for Belarus four minutes later, scoring past goalkeeper Bogdan Lobant from inside the box.

    Nocolae Dica restored the visitors' lead three minutes before halftime, heading in a cross from Petre Marin.

    Mutu was pulled down by Romashchenko inside the box in the 77th minute and then scored on the penalty, hitting the ball into the center of the net as goalkeeper Vasiliy Khomutovsky leaped to the right.

    Unbeaten Romania tops the group standings with 20 points after eight games. Belarus has seven points. Belarus, in fifth, go to Slovenia on Wednesday.


    Belarus: Vasily Khomutovsky; Yan Tigorev, Artsiom Radkov, Pavel Plaskonny, Timofei Kalachev (Aleksei Skvernik, 77), Ihar Stasevich, Maksim Romashchenko, Aleksandr Gleb, Sergei Kornilenko, Vladimir Korotko, Vitaly Radioniov (Roman Vasilyuk, 61).

    Romania: Bogdan Lobant; Petre Marin, Cristian Chivu, Dorin Goian, Razvan Rat, Petre Ovidiu, Paul Codrea (Eugen Trica, 90), Nicolae Dica (Dorinel Munteanu, 67), Sergiu Radu (Florentin Petre, 56), Banel Nicolita, Adrian Mutu.

    IIHF experts to examine Belarus’ facilities for World Ice Hockey Championship 2013

    From: BelTA
    Head of the Evaluation Committee of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Ernest Aljancic and Chairman of the IIHF Marketing Committee Alexander Steblin are arriving in Minsk on an official visit, reports the press service of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation (BIHF).

    On the day Minsk will celebrate its 940th anniversary the officials will view the future Minsk-Arena sport facility, new hotels Victoria and D’Europe as well as other facilities listed in Belarus’ application for hosting the World Ice Hockey Championship 2013.

    The IIHF representatives are expected to meet with officials of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation to give recommendations concerning the preparation of Belarus’ presentation for the forthcoming IIHF congress scheduled to take place in Vancouver on September 19-22. The congress will decide which of the six countries — Belarus, Sweden, Hungary, Latvia, the Czech Republic or Russia — will host the World Ice Hockey Championship in 2013.

    New BIHF Secretary General Sergei Goncharov, who lives in Germany now, was one of the organisers of the visit of the IIHF officials to Minsk. He is also arriving in the Belarusian capital.

    According to BIHF Chairman Vladimir Naumov, if Belarus fails to get nominated as the host country for the 2013 Championships, Belarus will automatically seek nomination for the 2014 Championships.

  • Endnote...

    Congratulatory message of President of Belarus on occasion of 940th anniversary of Minsk

    From: BelTA
    A clock at the Minsk Town Hall:
    To Minsk residents

    Dear friends,

    I would like to cordially congratulate you on the 940th anniversary of Minsk.
    It was largely due to its geographic position that Minsk was made the national capital. However, within a very short period of time, Minsk became the leading city in the country. Minsk stands out among other capitals as a city that puts to good use the experience of big centres, that designs and applies progressive technologies in developing its manufacturing and social sectors, that provides comfortable living conditions and extends traditional Belarusian hospitality.

    The chronicle of Minsk Hero-City is the illustration of valour and courage shown during the Great Patriotic War, the illustration of the feats of labour by the Belarusians when reconstructing the city.
    Today, keeping its unique image intact, Minsk has become a modern-day, dynamic city. Minsk owes that to you, dear Minskers, to your talent, diligence and optimism.

    I am confident that, taking advantage of the existing potential, you will continue your fruitful work for the benefit of our dear Fatherland.

    I wholeheartedly wish you strong health, bright festive moods, joy and happiness.

    Alexander Lukashenko

    September 8, 2007