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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Minsk City, CIS, UN, China, Moody's report, OKI, Belarus tractors, Steve Balmer, Genetic engineering, Culture, Regional news and the Blogs...

  • From the Top...
  • #252

    Belarus President urges to expedite construction of business centre Minsk City

    From: BelTA
    The ice hockey team of the President of Belarus has scored a 9:6 victory over the team of Riga. The match took place on 28 October at the Sports Palace in Minsk. Participating in the game was the Head of State who had a goal and several assists.
    The construction of the business centre Minsk City should be accelerated, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told a session involving top executives of ITERA International Group of Companies. The session was dedicated to the construction of the business centre Minsk City.

    “The construction should be done much quicker. Twelve years is an impermissible luxury,” stressed the Belarusian head of state.

    The President criticised the ongoing construction of the business centre. According to the head of state, last year “nothing changed but talks”. “If in order to develop 300 hectares, we need time till 2020 and maybe after that, it’s not worth talking about. I will then invite foreign specialists, who will come up with variants of the territory’s development,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko. He remarked, such an enormous construction project in the centre of the capital is a tempting deal because it is needed now. “Who can guarantee the demand for Minsk’s downtown will be so high tomorrow?” wondered the head of state.

    During the session the President intends to get answers about how the construction is organised, why the process is so slow, why the aircraft repairs plant is not relocated.

    The President instructed to complete relocation of Minsk Aircraft Repair Plant by January 1, 2010 and launch the large-scale construction in 2010. The business center will occupy an area of 300 hectares with over 1.5 million square meters of housing, thousands of offices and social facilities. Minsk City will provide over 55,000 new jobs.

    According to Minsk Mayor Mikhail Pavlov, this will be the biggest project the country has ever implemented.

    ITERA International Group of Companies will be the main contractor. It will set up a joint venture with the Minsk City Council. Several subcontractors will be involved in the construction as well. The investments will total $7 billion. According to chairman of the Minsk City Council Mikhail Pavlov, “this is a well calculated project” which will be fully funded by investors. The project design is estimated at $200 million. In accordance with the project, Minsk Aircraft Repair Plant will be relocated without job cuts.

    The whole business center is set to be constructed within 10 years, but some facilities will be put in operation earlier.

    Chief architect of Minsk Viktor Nikitin reported that the design offered by the Russian party was approved by Minsk architects and that the construction of Minsk City could be started.

    Head of the ITERA International Group of Companies Igor Makarov assured the President that the company had enough assets, including financial ones, to successfully carry out the project. He also said that the company was ready to start.

    On the whole, Alexander Lukashenko approved the approach to the business center construction and set a task to prepare all the necessary documents for the construction to be launched.

    According to chairman of the Minsk City Council Mikhail Pavlov, “this is a well calculated project” which will be fully funded by investors. The project design is estimated at $200 million. The project envisages relocating Minsk Aircraft Repair Plant to a new location without job cuts.

    Head of the ITERA International Group of Companies Igor Makarov assured the President that the company had enough assets, including financial ones, to successfully carry out the project.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Harmonisation of laws regulating fight against terrorism, crime and drugs high on agenda of CIS IPA session

    From: BelTA
    A session of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States takes place in Saint Petersburg on October 30-31. A delegation of the National Assembly of Belarus led by Speaker of the House of Representatives Vadim Popov and Speaker of the Council of the Republic Gennady Novitsky takes part in the session.

    A session of the united commission for harmonising laws regulating fight against terrorism, crime and narcotic business will take place on the first day of the CIS IPA. The session is supposed to consider draft model laws “Counteraction of human trafficking”, “Assistance to slave trade victims”, “Counteraction of extremism”. The commission will also table a draft revision of the model law “Counteraction of corruption” and draft recommendations for unifying and harmonising the CIS states’ law against human trafficking.

    Apart from that, as part of the CIS IPA sessions of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly’s permanent commissions on defence and security issues, agrarian policy, natural resources and ecology, legal affairs will take place. A session of the CIS IPA Council will be held.

    At the same time, Saint Petersburg hosts sessions of the EurAsEC IPA and the CSTO Parliamentary Assembly. The EurAsEC IPA will include sessions of permanent commissions on legal affairs, economic policy, social policy, agribusiness policy, nature management and ecology. The CSTO Parliamentary Assembly plans to hold sessions of permanent commissions on defence and security issues, political affairs and international cooperation, social, economic and legal affairs.

    CIS to continue coordinating migration policy in 2008

    The CIS member states will continue coordinating migration policy in 2008, Sergei Mironov, Chairman of the CIS IPA Council, Chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia, stated at a session of the CIS IPA Council in St. Petersburg on October 30.

    Sergei Mironov underlined that it was one of the pivotal issues this year. In 2008 the issue will be considered at a PACE-CIS IPA conference scheduled for April in St. Petersburg.

    Intention to adopt environmental safety convention

    The CIS countries intend to adopt an environmental safety convention. The draft was discussed on October 30 at a session of the permanent commission on agrarian policy, natural resources and ecology of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly held in St. Petersburg.

    As Mikhail Rusyi, the chairman of the permanent commission on agrarian issues of the House of Representatives of Belarus’ National Assembly, told reporters, many European and other countries have already signed the analogous documents. The CIS convention will describe concrete obligations concerning single approaches to environmental protection, assessment of actions which can damage environment and other issues. The convention will be subject to obligatory ratification in the countries, which will sign it.

    According to Mikhail Rusyi, participants of the session also discussed draft model laws “On packaging and packaging waste”, “On prevention and comprehensive control over pollution” and “On zones of ecological disasters”. Kazakh MPs informed members of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly about the adoption of the Ecological Code in Kazakhstan. Representatives of Belarus spoke about the use of model laws in the Belarusian legislation adopted at the initiative of the permanent commission on agrarian policy, natural resources and ecology of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly.

    Belarus works hard to be part of UNSCEAR

    From: BelTA
    The Belarusian delegation to the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly works hard to secure Belarus’ membership in the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), BelTA learnt from the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Belarus to the United Nations Organisation.

    The necessity of expanding the UNSCEAR has been discussed by the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (the Fourth Committee) of the UN General Assembly.

    Efforts meant to secure Belarus’ membership in the UNSCEAR have been made over the last several years. Last year Belarus managed to include an invitation allowing interested countries to apply for the UNSCEAR membership into the resolution of the 61st session of the UN General Assembly. The intention for considering the possibility of enrolling new UNSCEAR members during a session of the General Assembly was also included. Apart from Belarus applications for UNSCEAR membership have been filed by Spain, Pakistan, the Republic of Korea, Ukraine and Finland.

    Commenting on Belarus’ peculiar vigorousness and perseverance in this area, the Belarusian delegation drew attention to the fact that Belarusian specialists have long and rich traditions of scientific and empirical research concerning atomic radiation and have been able to acquire unique knowledge and experience in the field due to the tragic destiny over the last two decades.

    BelTA has been told, in view of the Chernobyl aftermath UNSCEAR is a key structure, which data and expertise are vital for Belarus for working out effective strategies for the radioactive protection of the people and rehabilitation of the environment.

    A General Assembly resolution approved by the Fourth Committee for the first time welcomes the nomination of new UNSCEAR members and suggests that every nominee should appoint a scientist as observers to attend the next UNSCEAR session. The UN Secretary General will also have to present a comprehensive report about financial and administrative consequences of expanding the UNSCEAR membership to the next session of the General Assembly.

    Belarus points out IAEA’s growing role in creating national nuclear energy programmes

    In a related story, in the modern world assistance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to its member-states, which are interested in creating nuclear energy programmes of their own, is on the rise. The statement was made by the Belarusian delegation at a plenary session of the UN General Assembly.

    During discussions about an IAEA report the growing number of countries, which declare their intention to implement national nuclear power engineering development programmes, including projects for building nuclear stations in their territories, was pointed out.

    Belarus named the consideration of new approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle with a view to ensuring guaranteed supplies of nuclear fuel to interested customers a prospective avenue of the IAEA work.

    According to representatives of the Belarusian delegation, any country, which fulfils its obligations within the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, should have unhindered access to the development of nuclear technologies.

    At the session of the General Assembly Belarus noted with satisfaction, the resolution “Building up the agency’s efforts in technical cooperation” of the IAEA General Conference reflects the need for the IAEA’s contribution to the international efforts put into overcoming consequences of the Chernobyl power plant disaster.

    PRC Premier to visit Belarus

    From: BelTA
    On November 4-5 Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Wen Jiabao will visit Belarus, BelTA learnt from the Belarusian part of the Belarusian-Chinese commission on trade-economic cooperation.

    Several bilateral documents are planned to be signed during the visit. At present economic relations between the two countries are based on more than 70 treaties and agreements.

    Important trade-economic agreements were reached in Minsk on October 26 at a session of the joint commission. In particular, Belarus and China agreed to carry out 27 investment projects to the tune of $2.7 billion within two-three years.

    Both the countries are working hard to intensify their contacts in all spheres. The trade turnover continues rising. In January-August 2007 the mutual trade totalled $797.7 million and grew by 60.7% as against the same period of 2006. The export reached $325.4 million (up by 57.2%) and the import - $472.3 million (63.2%). Belneftekhim Concern is increasing supplies to China due to Belneftekhim Shanghai Co. opened in China not long ago. In January-August the export of the Belarusian potash fertilizers to China reached $182.2 million.

  • Business...

    Moody's report on Belarus

    From: Reuters
    In its annual report on Belarus, Moody's Investors Service says the country's B1 government bond ratings are supported by recent excellent macroeconomic performance and low debt, and are constrained by the inflexibility of Belarus' tightly regulated and industrially concentrated economy.

    The government bond ratings, along with Moody's assessment of a moderate risk of a payments moratorium in the event of a government default, serves as the basis for Belarus' Ba2 foreign currency country ceiling for bonds.

    "The ratings reflect both Belarus' good record of economic growth over many years and the changed circumstances and challenges now facing the government," said Moody's Vice President Jonathan Schiffer, author of the report. "This may lead to certain economy-wide difficulties in efficient adjustment to external shocks." The Republic of Belarus recently concluded an agreement with OAO Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) of the Russian Federation whereby Gazprom will purchase 50% of Beltransgaz transit pipeline over several years, and Russian gas import prices will rise significantly, said Schiffer. According to the analyst, the new, substantial rise in energy prices will have a significant micro and macroeconomic affect on the Belarusian economy. According to the analyst, a common energy policy, with common energy tariffs for Belarusian and Russian enterprises, excluding transport costs, is unlikely.

    "In fact, the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan are moving step-by-step towards a customs and trade union - expected to be finalized within three years. This represents a downscaling of initial expectations from 2002, when discussions were aimed at full political and economic union," said Schiffer.

    The rating agency's report, "Belarus: 2007 Credit Analysis," is a yearly update to the markets and is not a rating action.

    OKI Printing Solutions Launches Belarusian Office

    From: businesswire
    OKI Printing Solutions (the brand name of OKI Data Corporation) has expanded its operations by opening a representative office in the Republic of Belarus. The new office will provide enhanced customer service and after-sales care for customers, building stronger relationships and expanding its distribution channel.

    While mono printers account for a large share in the Belarusian business printing market, color page printers are expected to grow seven-fold by 2010. This move represents a good opportunity to expand its share of the color page printer market and to affirm presence in the area.

    Mikihiko Maeno, President and CEO for OKI Data Corporation, says: “The investment in the local office in the Republic of Belarus demonstrates our commitment to building strong relationships with our customers. Building strong relationships is a cornerstone of the OKI Printing Solutions business strategy, and we believe that by establishing a local presence wherever we can, we can ensure our customers always get the very best experience and support from our company.”

    Nikolai Pakhomov, who heads the Belarusian office, says: “OKI has been operating in Belarus for twelve years and we have established a strong position in corporate users market. Moving forward, we will further strengthen our partnerships and in turn, grow OKI Printing Solutions brand as the business printing specialists.”

    As part of the company’s ongoing strategy to enhance its local presence, the move closely follows the recent opening of a sales office in Hong Kong and representative offices in Shanghai and Guangzhou, both in China, this year.

    Representative Office of OKI Europe Limited (UK) in the Republic of Belarus is a subsidiary of OKI Europe Limited, which markets its products under the OKI Printing Solutions brand.

    Tractors export became unprofitable

    From: Charter '97
    Aliaksandar Lukashenka said he considered selling the control shares of the scientific research association “Integral” to the Russian finance corporation “Sistema.” At the same time, the tractor plant of Minsk is said to stop next week.

    Economist Leanid Zlotnikau comments on the possibility of selling “Integral” control shares to Russia in an interview to Radio Svaboda:

    “It’s hopeless. I remember, a couple of years ago Lukashenka visited the plant. And then he promised 40 mln dollars of aid if they present an interesting project. But what is $ 40 mln for such a huge enterprise? Nothing. For example, the Japanese invest $ 3-4 bln dollars in a similar industry.

    The state has no funds to upgrade “Integral,” which the authorities are perfectly aware of. They failed to produce even bicycles and motorbikes, not even to mention microelectronics.

    The state cannot do anything to restore these enterprises. The time goes by, and “Integral” is still half dead half alive.”

    Meanwhile, the tractor plant will stop production on November 3.

    Head of the Belarusian congress of democratic trade unions Aliaksandar Yarashuk said the plant was ordered to stop the production line by November 11. The plant’s administration refuses to give any reasons. Many experts believe the export of the tractors became unprofitable.

    Leanid Zlotnikau points to the fact that the tractor plant, just like “Integral,” is on the list of the enterprises subsidized by the state. Now, apparently, even this aid is of no assistance.

    The stock exceeds half-month production amount:

    “A month ago, the whole area there was filled with unsold tractors. The price on tractors became much higher. And it’s not surprising: the energy became more expensive and the price on the metal rose. The tractor plant is highly metal consuming,” the economist says.

    Another major enterprise - automobile plant of Minsk - is to face problems in the near future, observer of weekly newspaper “Belorusy I Rynok” Aliaksandar Alesin believes.

    He refers to the fact that MAZs, the machines produced by Minsk automobile plant, became more expensive than their Russian analogues KamAZs and much more expensive than Chinese trucks. With such high prices on oil, Russia can buy anything. But this year the sales of Minsk automobile plant are much lower than those of its rivals:

    “Nearly every plant has increased its sales: Volvo, Scania, Mercedes, KamAZ, MAZ. But MAZ sold 11 per cent more, while KamAZ - 30 per cent and Chines sell several times more. If Russia doesn’t get this amount of oil dollars, it will cut down on the demand. Then we will have big problems,” Mr Alesin emphasized.

    Microsoft President visited his ancestors’ motherland - Pinsk

    From: Charter '97
    President and Executive Director of Microsoft Company Steve Balmer visited Pinsk (Brest region) - the town where his mother’s father and grandfather lived.

    The businessman came to Pinsk with his sister. The trip was Balmer’s gift to his sister’s 50th birthday.

    The unofficial visit of Microsoft President to Pinsk took only one day - October 25. Blamer and his sister visited significant places of the Jewish history of Pinsk, the museum of the Belarusian Palessie with an exhibition of paintings by Jewish artists. A Pinsk historian showed the honorable guest his great-grandfather’s grave. Steve Balmer and his sister saw the building of the bakery that their uncle used to own. S.Balmer also visited Pinsk synagogue where he talked to Rabbi Moshe Fima and lit candles commemorating his ancestors.

    A special menorah brought from Israel, with the words “In honor of grandfather Shloma Dvorkin, mother Beatriche and 6 millions of Jews who died in Holocaust” was presented to S.Balmer together with souvenirs, books and paintings of the town of Pinsk and Pinsk district.

  • Science...

    First results of Belarusian-Russian genetic engineering programme presented at international conference

    From: BelTA
    For the first time Belarusian scientists took part in the UN-initiated XIII framework conference “Lactoferrin for revitalising the mankind” in France on October 20-25, BelTA learnt from representatives of the Animal Breeding Research Centre of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. Scientists from the USA, Japan, Israel, China, Russia, Germany and other countries took part in the conference.

    Belarus was represented by Academician Ivan Sheiko, First Director General of the Animal Breeding Research Centre of the National Academy of Sciences, and Alexander Budevich, Head of the Animal Reproduction Lab. The Belarusian scientists made reports about the Belarusian-Russian programme BelRosTransGen, which provides for assimilating human genes into goat DNA and breeding transgenic animals.

    The scientific community takes an interest in lactoferrin thanks to its benignant influence in the treatment of malignant tumours. Apart from that, the content of milk enriched with lactoferrin from transgenic animals is similar to human milk and can be used for artificial feeding of newborns. Lactoferrin-based medications are vital for Belarus, the country most affected by the Chernobyl disaster.

    “The research of Belarusian scientists met colossal interest, as our way of getting lactoferrin out of transgenic goat milk was recognised safest and original,” stressed Ivan Sheiko. In his words, scientists around the globe specialise in making lactoferrin out of cow milk. However, many believe the product does not fully meet ecological safety requirements. Multi-stage purification of the milk is required. Goat milk has been recognised healthier and ecologically pure in this respect.

    On October 27 the Biotechnological Centre made regular transgenic surgery and healthy offsprings from three she-goats. Samples of the animals’ tissues have been sent for examination to the Biogene Institute of Russia. Everything indicates the animals can be recognised as transgenic. If it happens, the purpose of getting transgenic animals using experiments has been accomplished.

    During the second stage of the Belarusian-Russian programme formulas of medications based on milk from transgenic animals will be worked out and the production of the medications will begin.

    Congress of Belarusian Scientists to sum up scientific activity in Belarus

    Science and innovations in Belarus should promote competitiveness of the national economy, Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Alexander Kosinets noted during the opening of the exhibition Science and Innovations dedicated to the 1st Congress of Belarusian Scientists.

    The 1st Congress of Belarusian Scientists will sum up the results of the recent scientific activity in Belarus, Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Alexander Kosinets noted during the opening of the exhibition Science and Innovations in Minsk on October 30.

    The congress will evaluate the competitiveness of Belarusian products and their position on international markets. “Belarusian scientists have valuable experience of creating up-to-date technologies and equipment in mechanical engineering, nano-technologies, microelectronics, space and bio-technologies, Alexander Kosinets noted. – We have achieved considerable success in enhancing energy and food security”.

    However, some problems still remain and the major part of them will be settled during the congress of scientists, the Vice-Premier said. Certain measures to boost the production of import-substituting products, to enter new sales markets, to strengthen our positions in the international arena are supposed to be discussed at the forum. Energy security and independence of Belarus will be high on the agenda. Scientists are set to discuss new technologies in oil processing which will allow the country to reduce the import of a number of energy elements including polypropylene. They are to consider the peculiarities of the cooperation between education, science and production, determine the ways to strengthen this cooperation.

    According to him, the forum presents the up-to-date developments of Belarusian scientists, the achievements of the Belarusian research community. The layout features more than 500 scientific developments in various fields including space and laser technologies, new equipment in the sphere of mechanical engineering, microelectronics and also technologies in the field of health care system, agriculture, construction and food industry. Attending the forum are leading organizations and companies of the country. “In the future, due to these developments the Belarusian researchers will create up-to-date resource-saving and energy-saving technologies which will improve competitiveness of the Belarusian products,” the Deputy Prime Minister noted.

    Alexander Kosinets noted that students of leading universities of the country, postgraduates and young scientists were invited to attend the exhibition. Their interest in science is growing. “It is very important for this country as young specialists are our future,” he highlighted.

    The 1st Congress of Belarusian Scientists will be held in Minsk on November 1-2. Taking part in the forum will be more than 2.5 thousand specialists.

  • Cultural scene...

    Molodechno to host open contest World of Beauty

    From: BelTA
    Elena Aladko represents Belarus at Miss World 2007
    The 10th open contest World of Beauty will be running in Molodechno from October 31 to November 1, BelTA learnt from organizers of the forum. Taking part in the contest will be about 130 participants from Belarusian regions and St. Petersburg (Russia) and also stylists from Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania.

    The contest has been organized by the Molodechno Regional Executive Committee and the Belarusian Association of Hairdressers and Cosmetologists. Attending the forum will be specialists engaged in hairdressing, cosmetology, nail-design, photo-artists and florists, wedding salons designers. Specialized exhibitions of cosmetic products, equipment for hairdressing saloons and beauty centers will be held within the framework of the forum.

    Participants of the contest will be able to visit master-classes, exhibition-sales, contest programmes. Hairdressers will compete in creation of various kinds of haircut. Competitions for podium makeup, body-art, nail-design and French manicure will be held there as well.

    The jury panel will be composed of 25 professionals engaged in hairdressing and design art. Konstantin Voitsekhovsky, the director of the Belarusian Association of Hairdressers and Cosmetologists, will lead the jury.

    Gomel Theatre praised at international festival in Tallinn

    The National Theatre-Studio Golden Orion from Gomel (Art Director Mikhail Gulakov) presented Belarus at the youth international festival Theatre Autumn in Tallinn-2007 held October 27-28.

    As BelTA was told by Consul General of Belarus to the Estonian capital Alexander Ostrovsky, the Gomel artists showed their version of the tale “Mio, my Mio!” by Astrid Lindgren. The Russian Culture Centre also welcomed theatres from St. Petersburg and Lipetsk (Russia), Tallinn, Maardu and Viljandi (Estonia).

    The competent jury headed by General Secretary of the Russian Amateur Theatre Federation Alla Zorina highly valued the Gomel performance and awarded the theatre with a special diploma.

    Alexander Ostrovsky presented Golden Orion with a diploma for the contribution to the development of Belarus-Estonia cultural cooperation.

    Belarusian film director Maria Mozhar to present her debut film “Enemies” at contest Listapad 2007

    Belarusian film director Maria Mozhar will present her debut film “Enemies” at the contest of the 14th Minsk International Film Festival Listapad 2007 which will be held on November 17-24, Valentina Stepanova, the director of the film festival, told a press conference on October 30.

    On the whole, 19 movies will take part in the contest.

    Apart from the contest, Listapad 2007 will present a big art-program. Events of the film forum will be held in the oblast centers and a number of regions of Belarus for the first time. Gala concert “For Gifted Belarus!” with the participation of guests from Russia, Ukraine and other states will become the main event of the festival. The Belarusian Video Center has prepared the program “Men of Faith” which will be presented in all the oblast centers of the country.

  • Around the region...

    Russia remembers Soviet victims

    From: Times
    President Vladimir Putin, long accused of resurrecting Soviet attitudes, was for the first time to mark publicly Russia’s day of commemoration for victims of Soviet repression.

    Putin was scheduled to visit a monument at Butovo in south Moscow, where more than 20,000 political prisoners were executed in 1937-38, the peak of the Stalin terror.

    In all 725,000 prisoners were shot in the Soviet Union from August 1937 to November 1938, according to Russia’s leading human rights organisation Memorial.

    The Kremlin has paid little attention to Stalin-era massacres, some of which are closely associated with the KGB predecessor of the FSB secret services, which Putin headed before his appointment as prime minister in 2000.

    The 70th anniversary of the worst Stalinist episodes has been marked with relatively high profile events, although other dark periods of Soviet history, whether the horrors of the Bolshevik take-over or the less bloody repressions of the latter Soviet period, are mostly ignored.

    Survivors gathered in Moscow yesterday to read out the names of 4,000 victims during purges carried out in Moscow during 1937-1938.

    And in August, a 12.5-metre wooden cross was raised during a religious service at Butovo.

    "Putin has said in the past that the year 1937 should not be forgotten, but these words have never been transformed into concrete facts," said Memorial director Arseny Roginsky.

    "The participation of Putin in the ceremonies corresponds to the people’s expectations, which he is very sensitive to," he said.

    While Putin was attending Butovo, Russian human rights officials were to hold a separate ceremony at a small memorial on Lubyanka Square, a stone’s throw from the imposing KGB building, which now houses the FSB.

    The pro-Kremlin youth organisation Nashi was to follow with its own commemoration at the same site later today.

    "The fact that Putin is going to Butovo is a small advance in a society that adores Stalin," said Lev Ponamaryov, from the organisation For Human Rights. "It’s a public relations exercise."

    Russia's Lavrov seen to leave Tehran

    From: Reuters
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov left Tehran on Wednesday, the official Iranian news agency IRNA said, after fresh talks with Iranian leaders on Iran's nuclear plans that have aroused Western concern.

    IRNA provided no details on Lavrov's discussions on Tuesday with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

    Lavrov's visit took place ahead of a meeting this week of major powers -- the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany -- to discuss possible new U.N. sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear plans.

    U.S. officials said the big powers would meet in London to discuss new action over Iran's refusal to halt activities which Tehran says are aimed at atomic power but which the West fears are aimed at making bombs.

    Ahmadinejad said in a speech on Tuesday that Iran would not retreat in the dispute and dismissed U.S. offers of broader negotiations if Iran suspends its most sensitive atomic activities.

    Russia, one of the five permanent Council members, has rejected any talk of military strikes against Iran and says dialogue is the only way to ease tensions.

    The meeting of Germany and the five permanent Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- will be on Thursday or Friday, U.S. officials said.

    Lavrov on Tuesday suggested a united approach on the issue was still some way off. "Economic unilateral sanctions ... against Iran will not help the continued collective effort," he told Russian news agencies in an apparent reference to new U.S. punitive measures announced last week.

    Extradition for Pole who claims rape

    From: New Ham Recorder
    A FUGITIVE who claims he was raped in prison because of his Romany roots is to be extradited to his homeland.

    Forest Gate resident Jan Majewski, 42 - jailed for two-and-a-half years in Poland for two thefts and a burglary - must serve the rest of his sentence after allegedly breaching his licence.

    The father-of-one, who came to the UK in August 2006, told City of Westminster Magistrates' Court he fled amid racist persecution both inside and outside Polish jail.

    District Judge Caroline Tubbs ordered his extradition but stressed that authorities in Poland, which has signed the European Convention on Human Rights, must ensure he is not ill-treated.

    Condemning his former country as "corrupt" he claimed he was raped by members of an organised criminal fraternity while behind bars. He said he was too scared to report it at the time but as soon as he was freed he reported to local police.

    Majewski told the court through an interpreter: "I don't want to avoid my sentence, I just don't want to go through the same suffering as before.

    "I've been in the UK for such a long time and this warrant has only just been issued.

    "Poland is a country of corruption. I am Romany and a lot of Romany have left Poland because they are oppressed.

    "My car was stolen from outside my house. I have my company here. I have settled down and I have my family here."

    Majewski was jailed in February 2003. His early release came in 2005 but was revoked in May 2006.

    Police arrested him near his home in Woodgrange Road on September 10 after he was seen acting suspiciously.

    A European arrest warrant was discovered during their enquiries.

    Judge Tubbs said that, in order to be discharged, he would have to show that Poland had an ongoing record of human rights abuses or failure to protect vulnerable groups in prison.

    She said: "You have given evidence that when you were serving your prison sentence you were ill-treated by inmates at the prison and that you didn't report that treatment to the prison authorities at the time.

    "On that basis this court would be unable to find that Poland is unable or unwilling as a state to abide by its convention responsibilities.

    "Poland has signed the convention and it is required to ensure that you are not ill-treated.

    "There is nothing that has been put before me that would amount to a strong case that your treatment would amount to a gross violation of the relevant right.

    "I find that your extradition isn't incompatible with your convention rights, but I have asked the lawyer who represents Poland to convey to Polish authorities that I am making an order for your extradition on the basis that they will abide by their convention

    Russian nationalists claim responsibility for attack on Yushchenko's Web site

    From: IHT
    Hackers from several countries launched a massive attack and temporarily disabled the Web site of Ukraine's Western-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko, his office said Tuesday. A Russian nationalist group claimed responsibility.

    The attacks from servers in Russia, Britain, Kazakhstan, the United States, Israel and Ukraine began Sunday night and continued through Tuesday afternoon, the presidential press service told The Associated Press.

    Over 18,000 attacks have been carried out, temporarily blocking access to the site. The Web page could not be accessed Tuesday night.

    A radical Russian nationalist youth group, the Eurasian Youth Movement, claimed responsibility for the attacks in their blog, saying it was their retaliation for Yushchenko's office's alleged attack of their on Web site, which had been disabled.

    The group called Yushchenko's government a "fascist regime" and accused it of attacking the organization's Moscow office. Yushchenko's office denied the claims.

    The Eurasian Youth Movement is strongly critical of the West and opposes what it calls a U.S. encroachment on Russia's traditional sphere of influence.

    The group has opposed Yushchenko's campaign to bring Ukraine into the European Union and NATO, considering the former Soviet republic part of Russia's area of influence. Its leader, Alexander Dugin, has been barred from entering Ukraine.

    Earlier this month, the group claimed responsibility for desecrating a monument to Ukraine's independence erected on top of the country's highest mountain — an act that drew

  • From the blogs...

    Neo-Soviet Russia Obliterates its Internet

    From: Publius Pundit
    Four major news stories about the Russian Internet published in recent days show that the dictatorship of Vladimir Putin has launched an all-out assault seeking to obliterate this last vestige of freedom of expression and genuine information and finalize Russia's transition to a neo-Soviet regime.

    First, scholar and blogger Paul Goble reported that new data indicates that access to the Internet is no longer growing, and in fact is shrinking. CNews reported stark results:

    The internet subscriber base formed [in Russia] within the last half a year has decreased by 2 million this summer as compared to spring. According to the latest survey "Internet in Russia," carried out by FOM, the subscriber base using the internet for half a year came to 26.8 million this summer, which is by 1.9 million lower than in spring. Monthly internet user base has decreased by 2.4 million to 22.4 million. Thus, 24% of the population above 18 used the internet in summer.
    Russia's Internet base, in other words, was already puny, but at least it was growing. Now, that's no longer the case. Other news indicated clearly that this result has been brought about directly by the Kremlin's policies, even as the incomes of ordinary Russians is supposedly rising, making them better able to afford access.

    For instance, the New York Times reported that Russia has become the leading source of Internet corruption, with Russian hackers becoming "something akin to national heroes last spring when a wave of Internet attacks was launched from Russia against Web sites in Estonia, the former Soviet republic." In other words, Russia's corruption is essentially state-sponsored and being weaponized for political gain (that's the Times graphic at the top of the page). The Washington Post reported that Russia is now the world leader in online child pornography, spam generation and outright theft by fraud.

    Next, the Post reported on how Russia, already having mobilized a malignant cadre of online terrorists to attack voices of dissent and having taken over all significant outlets of journalism in the print and television areas, is now aggressively looking to seize control of source material on the Internet.

    And finally, the Ukrainian Internet hub Maidan reported that the Kremlin is using the tactics of cyber attack, previously employed against recalcitrant foreign governments like Estonia, against domestic human rights organizations, who had retreated to the Internet as their last bastion after years of relentless assaults on their non-virtual activities.

    All this is happening even before Russia's upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections over the next few months, perhaps in an effort to assert even more control over the outcomes of those ballots. Do you dare to imagine what will occur when Russia's politicians are no longer constrained by them? Russia's Internet is on its last legs, and it is the last vestige of non-Soviet life. The time is now to act aggressively to protect it.

    Supreme Court Turns Down Complaint of Human Rights Defenders about Registration of Viasna

    From: Viasna
    Aljaksandr Bialiatski, founder of Viasna
    On October 26th judge of the Supreme Court Sviatlana Yakhnavets announced the decision on the complaint of V. Stefanovich, U. Labkovich, and A. Bialiatski, who asked to cancel the ruling of the Ministry of Justice about the denial of state registration to the organization and oblige the Ministry to register “Viasna”.

    Despite the fact that during the trial the human rights defenders refuted practically all arguments of the Ministry, and representative of the Ministry failed to answer numerous questions of the founders, the Supreme Court decided in favor of the Ministry of Justice. The complaint of the human rights defenders was turned down. The Supreme Court gave the following reasons: presence of the word “Viasna” in the titles of the closed down and new organization (“Human Rights Center Viasna” and “Viasna”), and the phrase on the bank letter of payment (“registration fee” instead of “state duty”).

    The decision of the Supreme Court about the closure of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” was made four years ago – On October 28th, 2003. During the present hearing the human rights defenders attached the materials of the UN Committee for Human Rights, which recognize liquidation of Viasna illegitimate and violating the Convention on Civic and Political Rights. The Committee made this decision in July 2007 and suggested that the Belarusian government should improve the situation in the course of 90 days. However, as we see, the Belarusian authorities completely ignore recommendations of international organizations: in stead of compensating the violated right to freedom of association (that could be re-registration of Viasna), they again violate the right to freedom of association in the same way.
  • Note: Please see in addition to this article, Viasna's petition to the courts HERE

    Play The Rules To Lose Forever

    From: TOL
    Devoted to the “humanitarian” students (historians, philologists, paedagogists and others).

    The thing is that I always bump into people who have very optimistic or idealistic apprehension of their nearest future. That’s, surely, no bad, but these are the humanitarians! Here is how most students of the history department are thinking: “Let me graduate first, we’ll do the thinking later”. Girls want to get a good husband, guys dream of working abroad or on Zhdanovichi market (the biggest market in Belarus - eolonir). A lot of students geniunly think that the study will guarantee the quality of their life in the future: they want to work as archivists, teachers, research within their branch. All in all, they genuinly believe that when these high schools are working, than the state needs that. “We should play the rules in this system”.

    These naive people don’t even understand which bomb is ticking under their lives. Reasoning like this might throw you away forever. And I really feel sorry for those students who geniunly try to study now. Morning - tea - university - beer - TV - seminaria preparation - sleep. A chain of 5-years long might take one to a disaster.

    I will give my reasoning here. You study for 5 years getting 80 USD scholarship a month. After graduation you are OBLIGED to work for 2 years for the state without any right to choose the place and sometimes - even the job, otherwise you have to pay back tuition fees for 5 years. But this is a fraud. When you are obliged to do something - it means that your studies had not been free from the very beginning. And you are now barred from the most natural of your rights - the freedom right. O.K., shall we take a train to our first 2-year “happy placement” location? And we find 120 USD salary for the archivists and 160 USD a month for teachers, sometimes even without covered accomodation. I was shocked when I realized that a retired archivist gets 140 USD pension + some other miserables!

    In addition, all male students have to throw 1 year of their lives away to serve in the army of the state which for some reason considers itself a leader of all criminal regimes in the whole world. You don’t need this army! After having returned home you will understand that you have lost all intelligence resulting from 5 years of the university studies.

    Here is what I want to say: forget the state. Study yourself and only what you consider interesting, develop your professionalism, travel, try other countries, study abroad, if necessary - forget the university, when needed - leave the country. Ok, ok, don’t kick me here, AAAAAAAAAA!

    Let this state lose professionals which define the essence of every nation, let it stink, let the proletariat dominate it. Let it all go to hell!

    Think only for yourself, forget any romatism. Everyone survives like he or she can. Don’t play the rules. Spirit and materia are fighting, and the spirit should temporarily retreat. Do just one useful thing for yourself, for the state, for the future, for freedom - improve yourself. Don’t waste yourself, keep for the future - it will come for sure!

    Memorial for a nameless partizan

    From: Babushka
    The Jewish Masha Bruskina is hanged with two other partisans, Kril Trus and Volodya Sherbateyivich. The sign around her neck reads in Russian and German: "We are partisans who shot at German soldiers."
    Oct. 26, 1941: Dispassionate SS officers parade a seventeen-year-old girl, a young man, and an older man through the streets of Minsk and hang them side by side at the gates of a yeast factory.

    This was the first public execution of partisans in the German-occupied USSR during the Second World War.

    The two men were accordingly identified and proclaimed heroes, while the teenage girl remained “unknown.”

    Her picture can be seen in the Minsk Museum of the Great Patriotic War and in any Russian book about the partisan movement, but despite eyewitness testimonies, she steadfastly remains “ne ustanovlivena,” unidentified, in official sources, and even on her memorial plaque.

    Despite conclusive historical sources which declare her unknown, many know her as Masha Bruskina, a Jewish resident of the Minsk ghetto who, in her tenure as a nurse, helped hospitalized Soviet personnel escape occupied Belarus to join the underground movement.

    A dogged Minsk Jewish community refuses to forget their most famous partisan maiden. The yeast factory where the gallows stood still stands, and this year, a group of Jewish and non-Jewish survivors, veterans, and bystanders gathered to honor Masha’s name, and the two others who were hanged with her, Volodya Sherbateyivich and Kril Trus.

    A classmate of Masha’s reminisced at the ceremony about how she and Masha studied for exams together and did their hair together. She will never forget Masha’s thick brown mane.

    About human rights...

    From: The story
    The trial of Alexander Pichushkin was not really a contest of guilt or innocence because basically, they had evidence and he agreed with pleasure that he had in fact bashed in the heads of between 48 and sixty people after inviting them to drink with him in the park. So basically the purpose of the trial was to make a public display of the man's endeavor, to show that the state had in fact removed one of the most reprehensible human beings in history from the general population, and of course to show that they are a legal and fair country because they did in fact try the man and hadn't just shot him in the head (or cut him into pieces and fed him to pigs) when they finally caught him. The thing is though; Russia and especially its president are firmly against the death penalty which means that the most the prosecutor could ask for is that Pichushkin live out the rest of his life in prison. My question is though, in a country where a pensioner only gets maybe $250 a month, paying for the maintenance of a guy who towards the end didn't even bother hiding the bodies seems a little foolish. A pensioner might only last say, 10 years after retirement.

    Pichushkin is only 30 or so and might live another 40 years. So really, don't you think in this case we all might really be better off just getting rid of the guy? You know, like with Saadam:

    Slip the noose
    Over your head
    Open the hatch
    Oops, you're dead!

    A little while back I was contacted by Simon Shepherd of Death Watch International concerning Belarus' continued use of the death penalty. At the time there had been demonstrations in Europe specifically because Belarus was of the last remaining countries still to employ this penalty. My argument at the time was that I thought that the situation was more in tune with European antagonism against Belarus. I also opined that with cases such as with Mr. Pichushkin, because we obviously have a situation where it may be impossible to justify even paying for the maintenance of a man who not only has no righteous part to play in humanity, but had actively and even creatively worked against it; that there is no reason to pay for the continuation of this psychopath's life. Why shouldn't we fulfill a social obligation to those he murdered by simply ending him? Simon Shepherd's argument is that we are dealing with a situation where the only question is whether or not there is a continued danger to society. If the danger is removed by incarceration, then there is no longer a threat and therefore no need to kill. This argument of course doesn't account for the possibility of escape or the danger to fellow prisoners or guards- or to himself for that matter. The point is hat no state or a human court of law should have the right to take life; that civilization should be above this.

    This is the question at hand and, I guess as Manson is also still alive and kicking, we all will have lots and lots of time to think about the situation.


    The reason I am writing about this today is that I received several messages over the last while explaining to me that there are many who would not support my BEING HAD project because I was against human rights. My position taken against the removal of the death penalty was one instance, and this mixed with my insistence not to be a Belarusian oppositionist, or at least not to actively support the idea that Belarus has not the right to govern itself as it chooses, has meant to many people that I am either the enemy, a fool, or simply too stupid to know when to quit.

    I have been thinking a lot lately about whether or not my image is actually one that is against the fight for human rights. It's a very knotty problem. I can see where on the outside the question actually might seem to have merit; because I am on the inside (I live in Belarus) the question therefore ties in to many areas of my personal life and beliefs. Also of course I write this way.

    On my side though the thought is absurd. What the hell am I doing here but for showing what a lack of individual rights or freedoms can do? I am not only speaking specifically of Poland here, but also about my having to deal with an obtuse, corrupt and unfair Belarusian bureaucracy right now. Day in and day out I am facing an enormous amount of prejudice as well as a wholly egregious financial problem which is exactly connected to all of the above. But I am writing about these things, aren't I? No, I am not saying that all of this is inherently bad or good, but I am making the picture as best as I can. I do leave the answer open to interpretation but at the bottom line I am trying simply to say what I see and therefore it is a legitimate contribution to the real argument. Ok I agree it may not do much for the populist argument from this side or that, but it does add legitimate input to the argument as a whole and therefore should be seen as a contribution to freedoms of speech, expression and choice.

    And really, if this is not human rights, what is it?

    But yet I am getting attacked as if I am pro-fascism or something like this. Again, I can understand that if I am not a staunch, absolute supporter of the opposition, the song must go that I must be with the bad guys. Or, if I happen to believe that there are circumstances, like the Pichushkin case for example, where simply finishing with an unrepentant sociopath is much more inexpensive and satisfying, I am of course sent off for being a killer. I suppose even if I were to say that these sorts of popular protests seem to me to run in cycles and often have absolutely no connection to actual political relief that this would make me part of the problem rather than the solution.

    So here is the question: Am I or am I not a human right's or even a pro-democracy guy?

    I say I am. I say that in the end what I want for Belarus and for the whole world really, is that people should have the best possible chances for a decent life that is possible. I also believe that the systems which we create to funnel people towards their various righteous goals need to be fair and unbiased; the world in general should be merit and character based rather than under-the-table.
    I also think the world needs to leave room for new ideas and I think there needs to be legitimate second and third chances for people who don't have all of the answers straight from the womb.

    I don't necessarily believe in competition for competition's sake outside of sports but I do believe in a free though arbitrated market.

    I also say that despite living in Belarus yes, I am in favor of accountability. I do not believe that anyone anywhere is above human law or justice. I also believe that humans are capable by design of doing the right thing (if given the chance) and that allowing for a greater extent of human responsibility might be the most important social reform humanity might ever make.

    I further believe in small business over big, bikes over cars, sport before drugs, kindness before hate and friendship and mutuality before status. I believe in the conversation, agreement, plain talk and dealing with one issue at a time. I believe in being kind to our environment- this includes the air, the water, the land as well as the noise and the landscape.

    I believe in conservation of resources. I believe in Planned Parenthood. I believe in freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, freedom to express one's political, personal or religious beliefs. I do believe in people's right to believe in G-d. I also however believe in the right not to believe. Actually, I believe in a human's inalienable right to follow any calling which precludes infringement on the rights of one's fellow man.

    I believe in kindness, in reason, in fairness and in trust. I believe that there are real solutions to the problems and that they can be found if only we could agree to simply... try.

    There is probably a lot more and no, you don't have to believe me. This of course is your right. But I don't think I have my head in the sand and I don't think I am fighting for the right or the wrong side. Frankly, I am not fighting, I am just trying to make the point that I believed in something once and thought it was worth checking out and that I had the right to do so. I still believe we all have the right to know the truth, don’t you? I mean, of course I am not sure I still believe in that project in the same way as in the beginning but as of the moment, I am still not actually convinced that I am ready to step off the horse. So because of all of this, I am going to put the Deathwatch banner up and people can click on it if they want. I myself would frankly much rather they hang Pichushkin up and then drop his carcass into the earth and have that be the end of the story. But I believe folks like Mr. Simon Shepherd have the right to have their say as well. We all do, right?

  • Endnote...

    Right of Reply: There is no anti-Semitism in Belarus

    From: JPost
    For more than four years, I served as one of the assistants to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. I know his attitude toward the Jewish people. And I know this without mediators.

    I participated in a meeting with the president when he said we need to be as clever as Jews are to build a prosperous state.

    And I can say that his attitude is especially warm toward immigrants to Israel originating in Belarus, He has repeatedly said that these people are still dear and not strangers.

    As the president said in July, 2006: "We are not indifferent to their lives.... There is conflict there - it hurts."

    I understand that the tragic history of the Jewish people over thousands of years makes them sensitive to any mentioning of the word "Jew" by any politician.

    On the one hand there are words, and on the other hand, there are actions, which show the true and kind attitude toward Jews in Belarus.

    This might be confirmed by those who once lived in Belarus, those who remember Belarusians before World War II, and those who know them now.

    During the past five or six centuries, Jewish people felt safe and secure on Belarusian land, as they did nowhere else in the region.

    There were almost no pogroms of Jews in the present Belarusian territories. This is confirmed by the Belarus Museum of Jewish History and Culture.

    According to the census of 1926 in eastern Soviet Belarus, the Jewish community comprised 8.2 percent of the population. In the 1920s and '30s, Yiddish was together with Belarusian, Polish and Russian one of the state languages of Belarus. There were even Yiddish words inscribed in the state emblem of Belarus.

    SIXTY-FOUR years ago, fascists exterminated the Minsk Ghetto, one of the largest in Europe and the second largest in the USSR after the Lvov Ghetto. There were up to 100,000 prisoners on several streets encircled with barbed wire.

    Jews from seven countries in Europe were brought here to be killed. Only 3,500 people managed to break through the fence and survive, supported by Belarusians.

    At present, 567 Belarussians have been awarded the title, "Righteous Among the Nations." However, searches for these people started only in the 1990s, when not only most survivors, but also witnesses of their deeds had already passed away.

    I am confident that if a thorough search of citizens of the Republic of Belarus had begun in 1967, Belarus would have been the top country in the list of the Righteous Among the Nations.

    World War II represented a common tragedy both for Belarussians and Jews. During the war, every third Belarusian and every third Jew died; a total of about three million people, 850,000 of them Jews.

    In 2001, President Lukashenko participated in the opening ceremony of the Yama Memorial in the former Minsk Ghetto. Inside a preserved building, a historical workshop was opened that is now a center for studying the Holocaust.

    Minsk also has a street named in memory of Mikhail Gebelev, one of the leaders of the anti-fascist underground organization. And a memorial tablet is mounted where Isai Kozinetz, the hero of the Minsk underground organization, lost his life.

    Bobruisk, which was a city with with a large Jewish population, has inaugurated an alley for the Righteous Among the Nations. This summer I visited Bobruisk with other heads of Belarusian diplomatic missions abroad.

    At present, the Jewish community in Bobruisk is not so large. But the city is literally saturated by Jewish history. It is remembered and taken care of. It is the pride of the city. Visiting Bobruisk, as ambassador to the State of Israel, I was the most popular head of any Belarusian diplomatic mission.

    A Jerusalem Post reader from Canada reported that two years ago, he visited Bobruisk, and "the town itself is nothing to write home about."

    In fact, the city was renovated and has gotten prettier. And it is a tribute of respect and remembrance to numerous generations of Jews who were natives of the city.

    Belarus and anti-Semitism are incompatible notions. Even quite subjective international Jewish agencies acknowledge that in our country, Jewish people are treated better than in other countries of the region.

    Beginning in 2003, for every two citizens of Belarus leaving the country for permanent residence in Israel, we find one citizen of Israel granted permission for permanent residency in Belarus. Jews would never go back to an anti-Semitic country.

    And Israel's Ambassador in Minsk, Ze'ev Ben-Aryeh, has repeatedly said that there is no anti-Semitism in Belarus as a state phenomenon.

    The writer is the Belarus ambassador to Israel.