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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Alexander Lukashenko: Accusations absurd, Trade deficit, China, Western press, Charter '97, Internet blocking, International theater festival, Blogs

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  • #251

    Alexander Lukashenko: accusations of religious and national discrimination are absurd

    From: BelTa
    President Alexander Lukashenko meeting with the participants of the International Conference “The Dialogue of Christianity and Islam in this Age of Globalisation”
    Having worthily survived all the trials, the Belarusian nation has acquired a strong immunity against any manifestations of inhumane ideologies and opinions aimed at separating and destroying people. Which is why Belarus appreciates peace and mutual respect between nations so much and any attempts to accuse the Belarusian leadership of religious or national discrimination are absurd. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko made the statement as he met with participants of the international conference “Dialogue between Christianity and Islam in globalisation conditions” on October 26. The conference takes place in Minsk on October 25-27, the press service of the Belarusian head of state told BelTA. Eleven representatives of Christian, Muslim and Judaic organisations of Belarus, the Vatican, Azerbaijan, Serbia and Finland took part in the meeting with Alexander Lukashenko.

    “If somebody claims that anti-Semitism flourishes in Belarus or that we oppress the Muslim population, don’t believe it. These words are said by foes and enemies of Belarus. Only they can defame this holy land and this holy nation. Internationalism is the foundation of our country’s policy. It is not just a declaration, we demonstrate it far and wide. And it will be so for ever,” the President assured.

    “There is no ‘Jewish problem’ in Belarus at all. The history of our country is most closely related with the Jews. In times of the Russian Empire Belarus was behind the Jewish pale of settlement, which is why nationalities got so intermixed here that it would be foolish to think that Belarusians have a grudge against Jews or Poles,” remarked the head of state. “Does somebody think that I, the President, profit from seeding discord and enmity in the society? It could be advantageous to anyone else but not me,” he stressed.

    The President also refuted claims about Belarus’ having “a Polish problem” as untenable. “Not a single Pole is oppressed in our country. They are our citizens we will stand up for. For Belarus Poles are a great national asset that we cannot neglect,” stated Alexander Lukashenko.

    The President reminded, Belarusians and Poles, Tartars and Jews have lived as good neighbours in the Belarusian land for centuries. An Orthodox Christian church, a Catholic church, a mosque and a synagogue have been standing together, in the same square, in towns and villages. “The unique historic experience has taught our people to understand and accept each other. Today Belarus remains a common, calm and comfortable home to people of 140 nationalities and 25 confessions.”

    Speaking about the international conference held in Minsk, the head of state expressed confidence, such a forum is extremely topical in the modern world. “We see aggressive forces cynically trampling under foot all divine commandments, starting bloody wars innocents die in. The mankind has approached a dangerous threshold when everyone has to think about how relations between countries and nations should be built from now on, how problems should be solved — using force or using wisdom, mercy and justice,” said the President.

    In his words, nowadays mass media wind up the pressure around the so-called conflict of civilisations, a conflict between the Christian and Muslim worlds. “Your face-to-face dialogue testifies that nobody, even powers that be, will manage to blackmail and bring you up against each other. You show to the entire world that there is no conflict of religions now,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko. He remarked, the participation of leaders of respectable and authoritative religious associations of the West and the East in the conference demonstrates not only the concern about the state of affairs in the world but expresses hope and belief that all confessional discords can be overcome through working together. Alexander Lukashenko said he was confident Belarus’ experience of building equivocal, friendly relations between representatives of different denominations will be interesting and useful to other countries.

    Throughout its entire history Belarus has never initiated wars between nations or religious conflicts. The country has everything necessary to make every man feel socially protected and confident in the future. “Belarusian laws tolerate no racial, national or religious discrimination and guard the freedom of conscience. Belarus is becoming a promised land for people from various countries where armed conflicts blaze. Here they are guaranteed stability and peace, opportunities for raising children and working, preserving their traditions and culture,” stressed the President. He also added, the government’s policy concerning ethnoses and confessions is the guarantor of civil peace and accord in the society. “If a man has a home and a job, has a good family and respect of the others, he will never take arms and use them against a neighbour of another nationality or belief,” Alexander Lukashenko is convinced.

    “Evaluating the benefit of the dialogue that the conference you take part in demonstrates, I can draw an important conclusion: if the West did want Belarus to be the way it says the country should be, the West would at least dialogue,” remarked the President. “If the dialogue is substituted by an ultimatum, it means the West desires Belarus to match the negative image that is maintained,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    The head of state reminded, Belarus continues developing economic relations with Western Europe, with fewer and fewer trade barriers left. “As far as politics is concerned, I am confident, in its time Europe will understand it cannot live to the full without Belarus, its heart,” said the President.

    “The economic and social-political model of, let’s say, the West cannot be blindly copied and enforced in the countries where totally different, sometimes more demanding approaches to the social order and morals exist, where centuries-old values are prioritised,” stressed the President.

    “Formally the Church and the state are separate from each other in Belarus. But how can it be when we address common problems, guided by the common care for actually the same people,” said the President. “The Church’s separation from the state is a purely juridical fact. Actually only through uniting forces we can secure fruitful results,” he added.

    The head of state once again underlined, Belarus makes no distinctions between small and large confessions. In the country equal rights for all are preached. The oppression of interests of religious or national minorities is totally non-existent. According to Alexander Lukashenko, the country’s largest confession — the Belarusian Christian Orthodox Church — is guided by the principle “If you are large, help the little”.

    “Religious organisations should help every person to find the way to the temple, avoiding enforcement of their values. May the God aid you in it!” concluded the President of Belarus.

    In turn, Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch for All Belarus Filaret, who took part in the meeting, remarked that the purpose of the present conference was to make a stirring attempt to reveal the image of a genuinely open meeting of representatives of different denominations.” “We, the clergy of the one God, should show the secular society and the congregation an example how the dialogue about what unites all of us can be and should be led,” he said.

    According to the Patriarchal Exarch, such conferences have been held every year since 2002. “This most precious experience is very important for every man of good will,” stressed the Metropolitan. “An ancient wisdom says if you want to understand the soul of a nation, study its faith. If we are wanted to be heard, understood and supported, we should meet more often,” he added.

    Metropolitan of Minsk-Mogilev Archdiocese Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz remarked, he was glad he had returned to the home country, Belarus. “The world always changes. I see that Belarus, its cities Minsk and Grodno have changed a lot for the best. One can say these are favourable conditions for spiritual revival”.

    “We see the outside world bristle with problems that should not exist! Those are first of all terrorism, xenophobia, and moral relativism and secularism. There is only one way out — a dialogue between religions and between religions and the secular world,” stressed Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz. “Both the Church and the state were created for the benefit of people. They have a very wide area for joint work, which can secure a genuinely positive result,” said the Catholic hierarch. “The Roman Catholic Church will do its best for the sake of promoting a dialogue able to prove to everyone that Belarus is the home where all confessions and ethnic groups feel like brothers and sisters,” Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz assured the President of Belarus.

    Sharing his impressions of Belarus, President of the Spiritual Authority of Caucasus Muslims, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazadeh said he had seen with his own eyes that in Belarus people feel they are truly equal regardless of the language or faith. “We always ready to help you in suppressing any attempts to use religion in order to kindle dissension and terrorism,” Allahshukur Pashazadeh assured the President of Belarus. The leader of Caucasus Muslims presented a five-volume Russian-language edition of the Koran to Alexander Lukashenko and a picture with a view of Baku from President Ilham Aliyev.

    In turn, President of the Muslim Religious Association in Belarus, Mufti Abu-Bekir Shabanovich underscored, the cooperation of the state and various religious organisations should not be characterised by equidistance, but equal proximity. The Belarusian state policy is a positive example of it. Abu-Bekir Shabanovich presented a versed Russian-language edition of the Koran and the Sunnah to the President of Belarus.

    President of the European Jews Community of Azerbaijan Gennady Zelmanovich pointed out the major contribution of the Belarusian nation to saving Jews from the Nazi persecution during the Great Patriotic War. In turn, President of the Association of Judaic Religious Communities in Belarus Vladimir Malinkin stressed, in Belarus representatives of all religions, including Judaism, feel equally comfortable. “I feel no manifestation of anti-Semitism. The fact that new synagogues are vigorously built in Belarus means that Jews want to live and bear children in the land where they feel good,” said Vladimir Malinkin.
  • Note: In addition to this article, please see the JPost opinion article; "Right of Reply: There is no anti-Semitism in Belarus" by the Belarusian ambassador to Israel, Igor Leshchenya

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Growing trade deficit is main problem of Belarusian economy, Andrei Kobyakov believes

    From: BelTA
    The increasing trade deficit is one of the main problems of the Belarusian economy, Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Andrei Kobyakov told deputies of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus on October 26.

    He noted that in January-August this year the foreign turnover of Belarus soared by 21.6% with exports and imports up by 18.3% and 24.8% respectively. The trade deficit stood at $1.3 billion. “The deficit is attributable to the trade in intermediate and consumer goods,” Andrei Kobyakov specified. Although the import of investment goods soared by 37% since the beginning of the year, there is a $277 million surplus.

    According to Andrei Kobyakov, import of oil and gas has had the greatest impact on the growth of the trade deficit. After the increase in gas prices and customs duties on oil the cost of gas and oil import soared. Energy carriers alone account for $900 million of the total $1.3 billion trade deficit.

    According to the Vice Premier, the increase in imports is mainly attributable to the increase in imports of nonfoods. As for foodstuffs, they posted a $92 million surplus which is four times higher than a year before.

    Andrei Kobyakov stressed that the Government, the National Bank of Belarus, ministries and other state agencies have been taking measures to cut the trade deficit. Thus, if in January 2007 imports exceeded exports by 29.5 percentage points, in August the figure was reduced to eight percentage points. The Government aims to cut the figure to five percentage points.

    Belarus to float bonds on Russian market in Q1 2008

    Belarus plans to start floating its bonds on the Russian market in Q1 2008, Belarus’ Finance Minister Nikolai Korbut told the press on October 26.

    Earlier there were plans to place bonds in 2007. Nikolai Korbut attributed the delay to emerging liquidity problems in the world banking system as well as the possibility of floating the bonds at higher rates next year.

    “We constantly collaborate with Russia. Representatives of all the interested agencies have held the corresponding meetings. We enjoy full understanding regarding this issue as well as regarding what else has to be done to arrange the floatation,” said Nikolai Korbut.

    In January-September 2007 Belarus’ wages up 10% over 2006 same period

    Over the nine months of 2007 the Belarusian real wages increased by 10% as against the same period last year (2007 forecast – 8-9%). The index grew 11.3% in industry, 12.5% - in construction, 13.7% – in communications, 9.9% –in agriculture, BelTA learnt from the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.

    In January-September 2007, the average wages made up Br682.5 thousand, up 18.4% over the corresponding period of 2006 (2007 forecast – 15.6-18.8% growth). In September 2007 the average wages totaled Br713.4 thousand, or $331.8.

    The average wages in industry in September reached $371.8, in construction - $438.2, in transport - $390.9 and communications - $361.8.

    In January-September 2007 the average nominal wages in agriculture went up by 18.2% as against the same period last year to make up Br451.6 thousand, or 210.1 in September.

    Over the nine months of 2007, the wages in the budgetary sector of the economy upped by 14.3% as against January-September 2006 (the forecast – 13.2-19%) and made up Br601.4 thousand. In September the average wages of budgetary workers equaled Br603.4 thousand, or $280.7. The wages of medical workers, the teaching staff, scientists and artists reached $290-472 in September 2007.

    Belarus and China to implement 27 investment projects in next two or three years

    From: NLIPRB
    Belarus and China plan to implement 27 investment projects to the tune of $2.7 billion in the next two or three years. The issue is one the agenda of the session of the Belarusian-Chinese intergovernmental commission for trade-economic cooperation in Minsk on October 26.

    Attending the session are First Vice Premier of Belarus Vladimir Semashko, heads of various Belarusian ministries and state-run agencies, directors of manufacturers operating in the Chinese market, the Chinese delegation.

    The session is held in the National Library of Belarus. In this connection, head of the State Control Committee Zenon Lomat noted that two years before China had granted a $1 million loan for the construction of the library. A month ago the library received hundreds of books about Chinese history, culture and philosophy.

    According to China’s Deputy Commerce Minister, every year China imports more than $1 trillion worth of goods from Belarus and the country is ready to boost supplies of Belarusian goods.

    Over the eight months this year, the trade turnover between Belarus and China totaled $797.7 million, or 60.7% up on the same period last year. The exports reached $325.4 million (57.2% up), the imports - $472.3 million (63.2% up). Belarus has been exporting potassium fertilizers, caprolactam, dump-trucks and spare parts thereof, integrated circuits, metal products, chemicals, machines and tools. This year Belneftekhim has boosted exports to China due to the opening of its new trading company Belneftekhim Shanghai. Export of potassium fertilizers grew to $182.2 million, that of tires – to $6.7 million, that of polyamides – to $5.4 million.

  • From the western press...

    Belarus President Rejects Anti-Semitism Charges

    From: RFE/RL
    Lukashenka has denied charges of anti-Semitism. The presidential press service quoted Lukashenka as saying no one should believe there is anti-Semitism in Belarus, or that Belarusians oppress Muslims.

    The statement described such allegations as words from Belarus' enemies.

    Lukashenka, talking to a group of Russian journalists on October 12 about the past living conditions of the southeastern town of Babruysk, said, "It was scary to enter, it was a pigsty. That was mainly a Jewish town -- and you know how Jews treat the place where they are living."

    Lukashenka's comments were widely criticized. Israeli officials and Jewish organizations within Belarus have condemned his comments, which have raised questions about the rise of anti-Semitism in Belarus.

    Israeli Ambassador to Belarus Zeev Ben-Ari told RFE/RL's Belarus Service on October 22 that Lukashenka was drawing on an old, derogatory anti-Semitic stereotype. Lukashenka's speech "alluded to the myth that I thought had died, at least among the progressive part of humanity," Ben-Ari said. "This myth sees the Jews as untidy and dirty people who smell bad -- and is undoubtedly anti-Semitic."

    Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in a statement that "the role of leadership is to fight anti-Semitism wherever it raises its ugly head, all over the world, not to encourage it."

    Bush Administration Slams Lukashenko

    The Jewish journal reports that The Bush administration called on the president of Belarus to retract anti-Semitic remarks.

    "We have seen reports of President Lukashenko's disturbing and irresponsible comments," a State Department statement said. "We find them deeply offensive and call upon him to disavow these remarks. World leaders have a special responsibility to combat anti-Semitism, not perpetuate it."

    Your government's tolerance of state-sponsored anti-Semitism is well documented," says the letter to Lukashenko initiated by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), co-chairman of the Helsinki Commission, the congressional body that monitors human rights overseas, and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). "Anti-Semitic acts are only sporadically investigated and the Government allows state enterprises to freely print and distribute anti-Semitic material. Anti-Semitic acts of vandalism, intimidation and violence are on the rise. Amid this climate of anti-Semitism, your public statements are particularly dangerous."

    Belarus to send envoy to Israel

    According to the JPost Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko will send a representative to Israel next week to clear the air following angry reactions to what was perceived as an anti-Semitic tirade he made last week, Belarus Ambassador to Israel Igor Leshchenya told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday.

    According to Leshchenya, Pavel Yakoubovitch, the editor of the Belarus Today newspaper, will hold meetings with Foreign Ministry officials and the press. Yakoubovitch, who is Jewish, is considered close to the president.

    Leshchenya, who served as an assistant to Lukashenko for four years before becoming an ambassador, first to Egypt and then to Israel, said the president had a "kind attitude toward the Jewish people."

    In closed meetings with Lukashenko over the years, Leshchenya said, he never heard him utter an anti-Semitic sentiment.

    "He used to say that we need to be as clever as Jews are to build a prosperous state," the ambassador said.

    Belarus Jews Calm In Face Of Anti-Semitic Slurs

    The Jewish Times reports that Despite Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's anti-Semitic slurs against the city of Bobruisk and Israel, the prevailing mood of the isolated European nation's Jewish community is one of nearly surprising calm.

    "We are not concerned by the statement," said Dr. Yakov Basin, the first deputy chairman of the Union of Belarusian Jewish Organizations and Communities. "What worries us are other things -- in 20 years not a single person has been punished for anti-Semitic vandalism to the cemetery, etc. The Holocaust is not recognized as a unique historical phenomenon as it is in other countries."

    Behind the scenes, Jewish community leaders in Belarus believe that Jews were not the speech's intended recipients but may have been used as a scapegoat.

    A leading communal figure who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of business reprisals in the repressed former Soviet republic, confirmed that things have changed dramatically since Belarus and Iran became partners.

    "Since Iran has linked up with Belarus, there's been a distinct anti-Israel flavor in Belarus," the leader said.

    Despite the Belarusian Jewish community downplaying the statement, neither its significance nor potential impact could be ignored.

    Five days after Lukashenko spoke, 15 headstones were desecrated in an attack on the Jewish cemetery in Babruisk, according to the Belapan news agency.

    "You know, we always talk about the difference between state anti-Semitism and popular anti-Semitism," the communal figure said. "This, I think, is popular anti-Semitism. The only trouble is that it was the president expressing it and it was picked up."

    Maxim Yudin, the director of Hillel in Minsk, saw the comments as a verbal gaffe. "I'm 100 percent sure he didn't realize what he was saying," he said.

    Jewish cemeteries violated in Brest, Babruisk, Mahilou, Shklou and Barysau

    From: Charter '97
    In Brest, Babruisk and Barysau the criminal cases on the vandalism on Jewish cemeteries are conducted. According to the information of the Union of Jewish public organizations and communities of Belarus, all in all more than 30 Jewish memorials and monuments were damaged this year. What actions are taken there to stop the vandalism?

    Babruisk: “Stars of David on gallows are drawn”

    People in Babruisk speak not only about impunity of the vandals. They say Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s statements about Jews, he said 12 October, are provoking the unpredictable behavior of anti-Semites.

    “It the town, where anti-Semitism is flourishing. The walls are drawn with the RNU (Russian National Unity) symbols. Stars of David on gallows are drawn. The inscriptions such as “Jews get away!” appear. And the authorities turn a blind eye to these facts”, - Babruisk dweller Ales Chyhir said.

    Brest: Vandals broke murmur decoration

    This winter the memorial sign on the place of Brest ghetto was smeared with black paint in Brest. Later vandals broke the murmur decoration here and burned flowers.

    Today journalist Yauhen Aleksandrovich has told Radio Svaboda that the guilty have been found and the case is sent to court:

    “This information was given by Zmiter Shuryn, head ob the investigatory department at Leninski district department of Brest. He also said some more cases were investigated. In particular, memorial signs, especially near the former synagogue were damaged, smeared and broken 8 times”, - the journalist said to Radio Svaboda.

    Barysau: 16 Jewish memorials were broken on the cemetery

    In Barysau the criminal case was brought in May – soon after the act of vandalism. Then 16 monuments were broken on Jewish cemeteries.

    But, according to the head of local Jewish organization Mikhal Perats, the militia hasn’t found the evil-doers:

    “The official answer – the identity of the criminals has not been established. And nothing more. The similar affair was in 1998. It repeated this year, but the result is the same. The governmental structures don’t help us”, - said Perats.

    Mahilou area: Jewish cemeteries in Krychau, Shklou, Bykhau, Chavusy are almost ruined

    There are 15 violated graves on Babruisk cemetery now. But the situation in the region is much worse, said Mahilou journalist Ales Asiptsou.

    The journalist tells the cemeteries in former small towns and in Krychau, Shklou, Bykhau, Chavusy are almost ruined.

    “The activists of Jewish community say, it is possible to preserve the cemeteries if they receive the status of cultural and historical heritage. For example, there are unique grave-stones made by masters from Vilnius, Bialystok and Warsaw in Mahilou. But this question is hard to solve. The essential problem is search for finances”, - the journalist said.

    It should be noted that the Union of Jewish public organizations and communities is going to pay tribute to more than 50 places where Jews were executed during the WW II in Belarus. The latest monuments were installed in Haradzeya and Slutsk in Minsk Area, and in Brest and Hrodna.

    The way to block Internet in Belarus

    From: Charter '97
    USA Congress adopted unanimously “Act on Global Network Freedom.” Since that moment, the USA is to combat the attempts of certain governments to censor or limit access to the Internet in their countries as well as the regimes who threaten Internet users with legal persecution. The list of actual and possible enemies of the Internet includes: Cuba, Iran, Ethiopia, Laos, North Korea, China, Tunis, Vietnam, and a European country - Belarus.

    In the near future the US Department of State is to establish a new institution for monitoring freedom of the global Internet. Its principal task will be to protect and promote freedom of digital information abroad, radio Svaboda reports.

    US Department of State will get the support of US national investigation, Justice Ministry, General Prosecution and other structures of the US government.

    World Network needs protection from regimes

    This year Aliaksandar Lukashenka has repeatedly reminded his subordinates it was high time to bring order to the Internet, or “world dump,” as he put it. Certain cases of legal prosecution for information distribution are known.

    Politician Andrei Klimau was sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment for “appeals to throw down the regime or to change the constitutional system by the means of the mass media.” The legal actions were based on Klimau’s articles posted on the web-site of the United Civil Party.

    The bill “On information, information distribution and information protection” will imply even more rigid sanctions towards the Belarusian Internet. Deputies of the “house of representatives” plan to consider the bill at the first reading during the autumn session.

    According to Mikhail Pastukhou, head of the Center of Mass Media Legal Protection of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the document obviously leads to total control over Internet users, along with the intention to limit the access to the Internet for Belarusians. “The principal aspect we saw in the bill is a serious attempt of the state bodies to control information distribution via the Internet. The attempt to “arrange” the Internet in order to control the online resources is more alarming than the danger posed to the acting media (the press, radio and TV). Moreover, this is easy to implement in the country of a single provider (Beltelecom). And one more goal is to control Internet users, those who spread information in the Internet. That is why the international network must be protected from the state as long as possible,” Mikhail Pastukhou remakrs.

    To block the Internet is as easy as a pie

    With a determined decision to limit the access to the Internet, it will be as easy as a pie, programmer Vadzim Gerasimau, who is familiar with Internet resources filtration methods, is convinced. He believes that in Belarus there’ll be no need of Chinese technologies which are normally mentioned in the concerned bodies.

    “As a matter of fact, it’s possible to limit the access to the Internet using the technologies available, without buying something extra. The Chinese are well-experienced: they have banned the Internet in their country, but they have nearly 2 bln people. It was more difficult for them because of the population. The Internet in China is available and widely-spread - the amounts are different. That is why it’s technically much easier for us. And our practice shows: during some political events, certain resources become unavailable, because providers deny access to them. And to limit the access means to make a list of the banned resources and the addresses of the sites - that’s it. Technically it’s really easy. Just one programmer is enough to block a definite sector of the network,” Vadzim Gerasimau believes.

    By the way, according to the “Act on Global Network Freedom” adopted by the US Congress, “the companies dealing with Internet providing services cannot cooperate with the regimes of “repressing countries” for persecution of democratic activists.”

    Samsung equipment may be assembled in Belarus

    From: Naviny
    Samsung Electronics considers contracting Horizont and Atlant, Minsk-based household appliance manufacturers, to assemble its equipment, Belapan reports.

    While talking to reporters on October 25, the head of the South Korean company’s office in Ukraine and Belarus stressed that Samsung products could roll off the assembly lines at the plants if the latter met the multinational corporation’s technical standards.

    He stressed that Samsung Electronics, which has recently opened its office in Belarus, planned to boost its sales in the country through closer ties with distributors and customers.

    Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest and leading electronics and information technology company, reported $63.4 billion in sales revenues and $8.5 billion in net profits in 2006.

    Horizont is said to be the largest television manufacturer in the post-Soviet region. It also makes cable television equipment, DVD players, radio sets, microwave ovens, and other household appliances.

    Atlant specializes in manufacturing single and two-door refrigerators of up to 400 liters, as well as large refrigerators with a capacity of up to 445 liters and freezers. It also makes electric kettles and built-in electric cooktops.

  • Cultural scene...

    International theater festival to open in Brest this week

    From: Naviny
    An international theater festival, Belaya Vezha, will take place in Brest between September 8 and 15 for the 11th consecutive year.

    The festival is expected to bring together a number of theater companies from 21 countries, including Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Iran, Israel, Korea, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and Ukraine, the director of the festival, Aleksandr Kozak, told reporters in Brest on September 4.

    The festival will feature performances by Russian-language theaters representing different countries, as well as performances by other companies working in various styles, including academic drama, modern experimental drama, street performances and dancing. The companies are expected to stage 25 drama plays and 24 puppet performances.

    The jury will be reportedly led by prominent Belarusian playwright Aleksei Dudarev.

    Belaya Vezha has become increasingly popular both with theater companies and spectators, and nearly all performances are to attract sell-out crowds, Mr. Kozak said.

    The festival is to take place on several stages, including the Brest Drama and Music Theater, the Brest Puppet Theater, the Brest Regional Palace of Trade Unions' Culture, the Center for Youth Art and at the central square of the city.

    About 30,000 people attended Belaya Vezha performances last year.

    Moscow Art Theatre and Theatre Art Studio to partake in festival Panorama in Minsk

    From: BelTA
    The third international theatre festival Panorama will host Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre headed by Oleg Tabakov and the Theatre Art Studio lead by Sergei Zhenovach.

    As Executive Director of the festival Panorama Anzhela Krashevskaya informed, November 2 Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre will present the play Last Victim by Alexander Ostrovsky and November 3 – Duck Shooting by Alexander Vampilov.

    The Theatre Art Studio will complete the festival with the performance Players. Belarusian actors and students of Belarusian State Academy of Arts will be able to talk to Oleg Tabakov, the People’s Artist of Russia, Art Director of Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre and meet with Valery Shadrin, honored figure of arts of Russia, deputy chairman of the Confederation of the CIS Theatre Figures Union, general director of the Chekhov International Theatre Festival.

    The Union State Permanent Committee’s support helped implement the programme on cultural exchange between the two countries, the Executive Director of the festival underscored.

    The National Yanka Kupala Academic Theatre produces the play Dreams about Belarus. Yanka Kupala Theatre will become the major venue for the international theatre forum. October 27 the Belarusian State Musical Theatre will invite the guests of the festival to watch Master and Margarita by the Vilnius Town Theatre.

    The festival running in Minsk from October 26 till November 10 will include a traditional project Theatre – on-line. Belarusian spectators will witness seven performances, improvisations created by art collectives from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Sweden. Besides, the event envisages an international club of critics, round tables “Theatre of the 21st century: problems in development” and “Producer and Playwright: problems of modern art”.

    The festival Panorama has been organized by the Culture Ministry of Belarus, the Minsk City Hall and the National Yanka Kupala Academic Theatre together with Belgazprombank.

    Theater festival organizers deny politics behind withdrawal of Polish, Israeli companies

    In a related story, Naviny also reports that the organizers of an international theater festival, titled Panarama have denied reports that two theater companies pulled out of the event for “political reasons.”

    Reports posted on several websites on Friday alleged that the Warsaw Dramatic Theater had refused to take part in the festival because of pressure on members of the Union of Belarusian Poles and visa denials to Polish politicians, while Israel’s Beit Lesin company had cancelled its trip to Minsk at the last minute in protest against Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s controversial remarks about Jews earlier this month.

    When reached by BelaPAN, a representative of the organizing committee said that the theater companies had withdrawn “for technical reasons.”

    The two-week festival is expected to feature performances by theater companies representing Belarus, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Estonia, Germany and other countries.

    Theater from Gomel to present performance “Mio, my Mio!” at international festival in Tallinn

    People’s theater-studio Golden Orion from Gomel will represent Belarus at the international festival Theatrical Autumn in Tallinn 2007 which will be running on October 27-28. The Gomel theater will present the performance “Mio, my Mio!” by Astrid Lindgren. Taking part in the festival will be theaters from St. Petersburg and Lipetsk (the Russian Federation), Maardu, Viljiandi and Tallinn (Estonia).

    As BelTA learnt from Belarusian Consul General in Tallinn Alexander Ostrovsky, recently the number of trips of Belarusian theatrical companies to Estonia have increased significantly. In September this year the Russian Theater and the Estonian State Puppet Show took part in the international theatrical festival Belaya Vezha in Brest.

    In October, a troupe of Tartu University took part in the 4th international festival of student’s theaters Teatralny Kufar 2007 which was organized y Belarusian State University.

    Moreover, Estonia will be represented at the 3rd international festival of arts Panorama which will open in Minsk on October 26. The Tallinn Theater of Drama will give performance “A months in the village” based on Ivan Turgenev’s novel. On the eve of the visit to Minsk, Tanel Thomson, the administrator of the theater, and producer Svetlana Yanchek discussed the establishing of the contacts between the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theater and the Estonian Theater of Drama.

  • Around the region...

    Russia: Attacking Iran is attacking us

    From: Press TV
    Iran and Russia have agreed on plans to quash Washington's relentless drive towards launching an attack on Iran.

    Discussions took place during Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent visit to Tehran, according to the Asia Times.

    Putin held a face-to-face meeting with Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, where the agreement was finalized.

    According to a high-level diplomatic source in Tehran, the Supreme Leader and the Russian president essentially agreed that an American attack on Iran would be viewed by Moscow as an attack on Russia.

    The two states are officially united in a strategic partnership, in which World War III is definitely not on the cards.

    US Vice President, Dick Cheney, who is notorious for elevating the war rhetoric against Iran at any given opportunity, is now facing an increasingly difficult challenge in fanning the flames of war.

    The US president and top US officials, who often attempt to demonize Tehran as a threat to world peace, have themselves been threatening Iran with military force over the country's nuclear standoff with the West.

    Poland to get anti-corruption minister

    From: news pl
    Head of the anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International-Polska in 2001-2005, Julia Pitera is to become a Minister without Portfolio in the new Polish government formed by Civic Platform (PO), after their win in the general election.

    She is to be responsible for fighting corruption.

    “We want to create a commission responsible for these aspects of fighting corruption that were not included it the Anti-Corruption Bureau act,” said the future minister.

    “This will be a monitoring-analytic team dealing with all motions and information concerning irregularities in procedures,” explained Pitera.

    “Of course we should prosecute criminals, but first of all we need to limit the possibilities to commit a crime, eliminate temptations and loopholes in the state’s structure,” Pitera said.

    Apart from this the commission will be watching big tenders, such as those accompanying EURO 2012 organisation. Julia Pitera added that she intends to form a stable structure that would survive no matter what future elections results are. The new body will also suggest which law regulations are “corruption-prone” and should be changed. Pitera also plans to prepare regulations of legal protection for people who informed about corruption or administrative irregularities. “Such a person should be under protection of law, and we do not have proper reglations,” Pitera believes.

    Polish senator who doubted Holocaust gets top role

    From: Reuters
    A Polish senator who questioned the Nazi Holocaust has been given a top ceremonial role in parliament, drawing anger from the party that won Sunday's parliamentary election.

    Senator Ryszard Bender was named by President Lech Kaczynski as "speaker senior", a post that will give him ceremonial duties at the re-opening of parliament on November 5. The president's office said Bender was named because he was the oldest senator.

    Bender has said in the past that the Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz was "not a death camp, it was a labor camp". More than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed by German occupiers at the camp in southern Poland.

    "Someone like this should not have any political functions," said Stefan Niesiolowski, a senior official of the centre-right Civic Platform, which defeated the ruling party of Kaczynski and his twin brother the prime minister in the election.

    "We do not want to start with boycotts and fights, but this is a scandal," Niesiolowski told reporters.

    Bender is an ultra-nationalist who entered the senate on the platform of the Kaczynskis' Law and Justice party. The president's office said Kaczynski had no choice but to name him as chairman for the first sitting of parliament.

    "He is obliged to appoint the oldest senate member," a statement from the presidency said.

    In 2000, Bender questioned whether the Nazis had gassed people at Auschwitz in remarks echoing those from far-right politicians and historians who deny the Holocaust.

    "Auschwitz was not a death camp, it was a labor camp. Jews, Gypsies and others were annihilated there through hard labor. Actually, labor was not always hard and not always were they annihilated," he told right-wing Catholic Radio Marjya.

    After an outcry followed the comments, Bender complained at the law banning denial of the Holocaust.

    "Through the unfortunate law, Jewish fundamentalists seek to claim Auschwitz and Birkenau camps for their Holocaust, while those and other camps were the scene of the holocaust of Poles, too," he said.

    Many of those killed at Auschwitz were gassed and burned. Most of them were women and children seen by the Nazis as unsuitable for hard work.

    The president and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski have good relations with Jewish groups and Israel, but the prime minister's former coalition included a far-right party that was often accused of xenophobia.

    Poland had the biggest Jewish population in Europe until World War Two. Millions were killed in the Holocaust and many survivors fled anti-Semitic propaganda by the communists, leaving only a few thousand in the country.

    Ukraine publishes official election results

    From: Reuters
    Ukraine's Central Election Commission published the official results of the September 30 election on Saturday, paving the way for parliament's first session and the formation of a government.

    The announcement was held up by a case at the supreme administrative court, which on Friday rejected charges by some parties that the commission had made procedural mistakes during the counting of the votes.

    Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich's Regions party received 34.37 percent of the vote, ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko's bloc received 30.71 percent and the pro-presidential Our Ukraine party together with the Self-Defence party, 14.15 percent.

    The Communists received 5.39 percent and the party of centrist politician Volodymyr Lytvyn 3.96 percent, the only other parties to gain enough votes to enter parliament.

    Tymoshenko, the fiery ally of President Viktor Yushchenko during the 2004 Orange Revolution, is poised to form a government after the votes their parties scored translated into a slim majority in parliament over Yanukovich and his Communist allies.

    Under the constitution, the first session of the new parliament has to sit within 30 days of the publication of the results and a government must be formed within 30 days of the chamber's first sitting.

    Russian statue sparks clashes in Ukraine

    From: Russia Today
    Ukrainian nationalists and police clash in the city of Odessa at the unveiling of a monument to the city's founder - Russian Empress Catherine the Great.

    Hundreds of supporters of patriotic groups across Ukraine descended on the city to protest against the re-erection of a statue that was removed eighty years ago.

    The nationalists describe themselves as heirs of Cossacks. They accuse Catherine the Great of colonising Ukraine, and say her monument is an affront and a threat to Urkainian independence. Police cordon off area around the statue

    Nationalist leader Igor Vardanets says "honouring a woman who enslaved Ukrainian people" isn't right.

    "She made our country a minor part of Russia, and turned Ukrainians into serfs," he said.

    Many residents of Odessa, however, have welcomed the statue as a step towards reviving the city’s historic past.

    Lieutenant General Sergey Elistratov, the leader of another group describing itself as Cossack, described the protests as hooliganism.

    “They broke fences, washed their shoes in the fountain at the Pushkin monument. They are vandals," he said.

    "Today we are here to defend law and order, to defend our city”.

    Odessa was officially founded in 1794 as a Russian naval fortress.

    The first monument to Catherine was removed from the city by Soviet authorities in the 1920s.

    As part of a project to revamp the city centre, Odessa Council returned the statue of the Russian Empress back to the square that bears her name.

  • From the blogs...

    Do I or do I not need to think about this?

    From: Sammi-Belarus
    My working future is right now heavy on my mind. At the moment we are young, talented, full of energy and internal charisma. We work where we have our specialties (not all of us of course, but still…).

    But for whom will we work in 50 or 60 years? Where will we work? What will the future show us?
    Which organization will send us our pension checks?

    I understand that we don't like to think about such things right now and that it is better to live in the present and not dwell too much on the future.

    But nevertheless…

    I am not saying, for instance, that I might end up at age 55 as the head of a marketing group. Or a designer. Or a DJ at a radio station. Or in television.

    But really, at a ripe old age, will we just sit around and defend our money, our possessions and so on?

    Or will it be the opposite, will we be owners of our own businesses?

    Or maybe we will be living off a percentage of our investments and savings…

    And, in what workplace will I be when I come to retirement age?

    Better not to ask…

    Momentum Gathering in Europe Behind Human Rights in Russia

    From: robert amsterdam
    I apologize for my relative absence from the blog over the past couple of days. I have just come to the end of an extremely busy week in Europe, where there has been a noticeable groundswell of support on several of the issues I advocate for in Russia.

    In Germany on Wednesday, I appeared on ZDF Morgenmagazin and had the opportunity to meet with various political stakeholders to discuss Russia affairs and the Khodorkovsky case. In France, lots of attention is shifting toward Moscow as well, after the publication in Le Monde of what I think is one of the more important articles about this case. Andre Glucksmann, a French philosopher and frequent political commentator, wrote an impassioned plea entitled "Sakharov-Khodorkovsky: Same Cause" which comments on the media, political, and economic verticals of power that Khodorkovsky challenged and human rights in general. The article is causing quite a furor among commentators here, which has lead to additional coverage and commentary in Le Figaro and other newspapers.

    Glucksmann writes: "When threatened, Mikhail Khodorkovsky did not flee. He chose to defend himself in Russia. We underestimate this figure and the importance that he can have in his country. To understand, one should refer to Sakharov. I remember the remark Elena Bonner, his widow and my friend, made about a meeting in the Kremlin where the most powerful oligarchs were assembled around Putin: "When Khodorkovsky appeared, I thought that this one is too intelligent and too relaxed, courageous and reckless, and he's going to pay for it.""

    There is also movement on other fronts here. For the fourth anniversary of Khodorkovsky's arrest, there has been a considerable amount of interest from European media and commentators. The judgment against Russia from the European Court of Human Rights in the Platon Lebedev case have also generated significant attention.

    I suppose when people read that Khodorkovsky's parole is being denied on the basis of some bizarre technicality like not putting his arms in the right position following a walk, it becomes more and more difficult to believe the government's claim that he isn't being politically persecuted or treated unfairly.

    There remains much work to do, but this is one of those weeks where it seems to me that people are beginning to get it, and that momentum is building in Europe behind human rights.

    Respect for Russia

    From: Mark Mardell's Euroblog
    Vladimir Putin has a catchy turn of phrase and can’t seem to help himself, with pithy remarks about sanctions and missile defence.

    These were the headlines, but the summit itself was judged a success. This was in large measure due to the Portuguese who are in the chair, holding the EU presidency. They’ve worked hard and seem extremely efficient, but this is not what I mean.

    Prime Minister Jose Socrates and his cabinet have a very romantic view of Russia. They love its music and its literature and see it as an important part of European civilisation. They think it is wrong to speak loudly or rudely to Russia, and think the EU missed an opportunity in the last decades when Russia was reaching out towards Europe. For them a smooth summit with no explosive lectures was essential.

    They got agreements on steel, drugs, and an early-warning system if there are problems with energy supply.

    But as I say, Putin can’t help himself, and suggested a human rights monitoring organisation to examine abuses in Russia and the EU. One German journalist I spoke to saw this as hugely important, saying with reverence, "It will be based in Brussels." But people from the European Commission were bemused and I’m sure Putin’s taking the micky.

    These summits are odd affairs, essentially between the relevant commissioners, the presidency and the high representative for foreign affairs.

    If Poland, Estonia or Latvia had been in the chair, the mood would have been very different. (See my reports from Latvia and Poland earlier in the week.)

    One of the proposals in the controversial Lisbon Treaty (and it was also a key part of the constitution) is to replace the buggins’-turn presidency with a permanent figure - Tony Blair, some muse, though it’s more likely to be Anders Fogh Rasmussen or Jean-Claude Juncker.

    But how much will individual nations miss putting their own stamp on such affairs?

  • Sport...

    England 4-0 Belarus

    From: THEFA
    England secured three qualification points towards Euro 2009, and ensured they carried on where they left off at the World Cup in China with a dominant win over Group One rivals Belarus.

    Faye White was the only absentee through injury, but England built on their progress and took another step on the long qualifying journey to the next major championship in Finland in two years time.

    Alex Scott scored her third and fourth goals of 2007, while captain Kelly Smith and Eniola Aluko also struck to give a suitably emphatic tone to the scoreline.

    Just ten minutes into the game England took the lead through an unlikely source as Alex Scott found herself in the six yard box to head home the opening goal. The chance was created after a fine run and cross from Eniola Aluko, Fara Williams picked up the loose ball at the far post and crossed for Scott to glance the ball into the net.

    Although she was deployed in midfield and attack during the World Cup, Scott returned to her familiar right-back role in this encounter, and took her tally toseven goals in 34 appearances for her country with the first goal of the match.

    In the moments that followed there was a flurry of chances to increase the advantage with Katie Chapman going close on three separate occasions. The second of her three efforts came after a terrific save from Sviatlana Novikava to deny Kelly Smith rebounded into her path, but she was unable to keep her header down.

    Rachel Yankey then went close with a close-range volley that narrowly went wide of the post, pouncing on a Chapman header and acrobatically driving the ball goalwards. Just after the half hour mark England doubled their advantage through skipper Kelly Smith, again with a headed goal as Alex Scott was scorer-turned-provider.

    It was an inch-perfect delivery from the Arsenal defender to pick out her teammate on the penalty spot, and Smith made no mistake as she headed the ball forcefully past Novikava.

    Shortly before the interval England had a golden opportunity to further cement their lead, Karen Carney burst through on goal having been found by Chapman and instinctively shot at goal when a square pass to Aluko would have surely lead to a simple tap-in for the Chelsea forward.

    The opportunity was a distant memory as the teams returned from half-time and Aluko added her name to the scoresheet. Kelly Smith played a perfectly weighted pass into her path and Aluko glided past the last defender and slotted the ball into the far corner.

    Aluko then played her part in a sweeping move that gave Hope Powell's side a fourth goal, and a second for Alex Scott. Aluko and substitute forward Lianne Sanderson swapped a superb one-two on the edge of the area before Sanderson angled the looping ball across goal for Scott to fire the ball into the roof of the net.

    It was little more than the Three Lions deserved as the growing strength of the squad was emphasised by substitutes Sue Smith, Lianne Sanderson and Jill Scott all coming on and making an impact on the game in the second period.


    England: 1 Rachel Brown, 2 Alex Scott, 3 Casey Stoney, 4 Katie Chapman (12 Jill Scott , 5 Mary Philip, 6 Anita Asante, 7 Karen Carney (16 Sue Smith 46), 8 Fara Williams, 9 Eniola Aluko, 10 Kelly Smith (c) (14 Lianne Sanderson 55), 11 Rachel Yankey

    Subs Not Used: 13 Siobhan Chamberlain, 15 Rachel Unitt, 17 Lindsay Johnson, 18 Jody Handley

    Head Coach: Hope Powell

    Belarus: 1 Sviatlana Novikava, 2 Viktoria Krylova, 3 Liudzmila Kuzniatsova (6 Irina Kozeeva 58), 5 Oksana Shpak, 7 Volha Radzko (16 Alena Ziuzkova 75), 8 Volha Novikava, 9 Svetlana Astasheva, 10 Natalya Ryzhevich (c), 11 Alesia Davydovic, 13 Sviatlana Ryzhova, 15 Irina Chukisova (17 Maryna Lis 53)

    Subs Not Used: 4 Volha Manzhuk, 12 Ina Batsianouskaya, 14 Alena Buzinova, 18 Tatsioana Kiose

    Head Coach: Vladzimir Kasakouski

    Attendance: 8,632

  • Endnote...

    Gleason: Belarus still seeks identity

    From: Claksdale Press Register
    There are flickering signs that Belarus, which endured the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, is gradually moving toward independence, the Rev. Bill Gleason reports.

    "Belarus has no natural borders. It's been difficult for the country to find its own identity," Gleason said this past week when he spoke to the Clarksdale Noon Lions Club.

    Gleason, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, reported on his trip to Belarus which was part of his ministry work in foreign countries.

    Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of Communism, Belarus found itself without an economic base and with a population depleted by the Nazi and Soviet purges, Gleason said.

    "All of the Jews were either run off or killed," Gleason said. "Belarus lost a third of its population during World War II."

    Whenever the underground killed a Nazi soldier, the Third Reich would retailiate mercilessly, he said.

    For example:

    "A German officer was killed by a sniper. A Nazi leader ordered his troops to track the people from that town, have them put in a barn and the barn burned," Gleason said.

    Records indicate that more than 2.2 million Belarians were murdered by the Nazis.

    For the record, Gleason said, Belarus is comprised of "very intelligent people."

    Many have master's and doctorate degrees, he added. Unfortunately, there is high unemployment in Belarus.
    "You could see a person with a graduate degree doing manual labor like sweeping the sidewalks," Gleason said.

    The ripple effect from high unemployment in the post-Soviet era has been a high incidence of alcoholism, divorce and family abuse.

    "The Soviets de-emphasized family life," Gleason said.

    Today, one could find many of the young women in Belarus dressed well but unmarried.

    "The young people are afraid of getting married," he said.

    Moving through his power point presentation, Gleason pointed to a vast amount of latter-day construction in Minz, for example.

    "Belarus is just now being rebuilt from the devastation of World War II," Gleason said.

    Life under the Soviets was not any better, he stated, citingcited one recorded incident of 40 truckloads of people being force to dig their own graves before the Soviets shot them en masse.
    There are still reminders of the horrors of WWII and the Soviet oppression, Gleason said.

    "There is a 150-foot solid granite monument that honors the memory of heroes who fought against the Nazis," Gleason said. "The wreath is changed daily."

    Among the more notable individuals who have lived in Belarus is Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated President John Kennedy, Gleason said.

    There are only about 100 Americans living in Belarus because "most Americans don't want to go there," Gleason continued.

    He and his wife stayed with associates and worked with the faculty at Minz Bible College.
    Christianity is slowly making its return since the death grip from Communist Russia, Gleason said.

    "About half of the country's 10 million population is still either atheist or agnostic," Gleason said.
    About 70 percent of those who believe in Christianity are Russian Orthodox, Gleason said.

    About 10 percent are Roman Catholic and about five percent of the people are either Protestant, Muslim or Jews, he said.

    "The people are becoming more open to Protestants," Gleason added.