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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, November 11, 2007

Belarus building EU engines, Gasprom price hike due, Visa restrictions lifting, Film festival, New Blogs and Sport

  • From the Top...
  • #255

    President congratulates Amkodor on 80th anniversary since founding

    From: The office of the president
    Alexander Lukashenko meeting with Wen Jiabao, the Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China last week in Minsk
    The President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has congratulated the staff of the open joint stock company Amkodor on the 80th anniversary since the founding of this enterprise.

    Amkodor is now producing nearly 90 models of equipment and machinery for virtually all economy branches, continually improving them and creating new ones. In his message of congratulations, the Head of State is convinced that the company’s effective use of their potential, experience and modern-day technologies will help them in stepping up the production of competitive equipment, expanding mutually beneficial links with their the CIS and non-CIS partners and cementing the positions of Belarus on the international market.

    In addition, the president has also issued congratulations to the King of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Norodom Sihamoni, on Cambodia’s national holiday – Independence Day and to Valery Serdyukov, the Governor of Leningrad region of the Russian Federation, on his birthday.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Minsk Engine Plant launches first Euro-4 engine

    On November 9 Minsk Engine Plant launched the first Euro-4 engine D-249.

    Aide to Belarus President Sergei Tkachev congratulated the personnel of the company, partners and all mechanical engineers on this big event. He also noted that Belarus as well as Russia, which is a major consumer of Belarus-made engines, has got a new high-quality and competitive product.

    In Q1 2008, Minsk Engine Plant will conduct relevant performance tests using MAZ and ZIL trucks. Next week the company will carry out bench scale tests.

    The project shows that Minsk Engine Plant is one of the leading players in the international mechanical engineering market, Valentin Gurinovich, a Deputy Industry Minister of Belarus said at a presentation ceremony.

    According to Nikolai Lobach, the director general of the company, the plant’s prior history of designing and manufacturing engines proves the D-249 will go into mass production according to the schedule.

    Minsk Motor Works allocates $1.5 million per month for production upgrade

    Minsk Motor Works (MMW) allocates $1.5 million a month to upgrade its production facilities, MMW director general Nikolai Lobas told a press conference on the occasion of the presentation of a new Euro 4 diesel engine on November 9.

    He has noted that MMW has been constantly boosting its production capacities. Now the plant can produce 200,000 four cylinder engines a year. In 2007, 132,000 engines of all types will be produced.

    As for the investments in the Euro 4 engine, the director general did not cited any specific figures. In his words, all the investments are distributed depending on the importance of projects. Apart from MMW funds, the investments also include funds from the state sci-tech programme Belavtotraktorostroyenye.

    Nikolai Lobach reported that every year MMW investments soared by 26%-30%. The dynamics is expected to be preserved till 2010, he added.

    Belarus wants to launch joint engine production with American International Co.

    Belarus is also negotiating a project aimed at setting up a joint engine production with the American International Co.

    According to Valentin Gurinovich, Deputy Industry Minister of Belarus, Belarus is interested in investments of the American company. “These should be investments in Belarus’ economic sector. We are ready to manufacture such engines not only for Belarus but also for other countries,” said the official. The joint production could expand the power range of the Belarusian motors. At present the Belarusian companies produce 360hp truck and 300hp tractor engines. To make more powerful machines Belarus needs foreign investments, the Deputy Minister considers.

    Gazprom offered participation in major Belarusian investment projects

    From: BelTA
    Belarus has suggested that OAO Gazprom should take part in implementing investment projects at Bereza State District Power Plant and OAO Grodno Azot, the press service of the Belarusian Energy Ministry told BelTA.

    According to the source, First Vice Premier of Belarus Vladimir Semashko and Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller met in Moscow on November 8 and discussed Belarusian proposals for the joint implementation of investment projects in the field of power engineering and the production of mineral fertilisers.

    In particular, the sides discussed Gazprom’s participation in building a 400-500MW power unit at the new site of Bereza State District Power Plant, which annual power generation output will reach 3-3.5 billion kWh. The cost of building the new power unit has been provisionally estimated at $330 million.

    The participation of the Russian side in the programme for building up the production capacity of OAO Grodno Azot was also discussed. The total need for investments necessary to implement this project is estimated at around $1,080 million.

    During the meeting the sides confirmed the invariability of terms of the contract OAO Gazprom and OAO Beltransgaz signed on December 31, 2006 to specify gas supplies and delivery in 2007-2011.

    Union State PA session to highlight draft budget for 2008

    In a related BelTa story, The 32nd session of the Parliamentary Assembly (PA) of the Belarus-Russia Union State scheduled for November 13-14 in Moscow will consist of two plenary sittings and meetings of profile commissions, BelTA learnt from the PA press service.

    The key issue on the agenda will be the draft budget of the Union State for 2008. At first, the document will be handled by the PA profile commissions. After a session of the PA Council, the deputies will give the budget its first reading. The first day of the session will end with a sitting of the conciliation commission on the Union State budget.

    On the second day the conciliation commission will hold another sitting. At the second plenary sitting the parliamentarians are set to adopt the budget in the final reading. Next year’s budget is expected to increase by 10% over this year.

    The parliamentarians will hear a report of the Union State Council of Ministers about the performance of the budget in previous years and will consider several organizational matters.

    CSTO to offer SCO joint projects aimed at post-conflict development of Afghanistan

    From: BelTA
    The first thing they want us to build is a bomb shelter!
    The fourth meeting of the working group for Afghanistan under the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation /CSTO/ took place in Moscow on November 9. Attending the meeting were national coordinators for Afghanistan of the CSTO member states, CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordiuzha, representatives of the EurAsEC Integration Committee and experts of the Russia-Afghanistan business council of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation.

    As BelTA learnt from the press service of the CSTO Secretariat, participants of the meeting discussed measures aimed at rendering assistance to Afghanistan in its post-conflict development stipulated in the resolutions adopted at the Dushanbe session of the Collective Security Council. They also focused on tendencies of development of the situation in Afghanistan and in the region on the whole.

    Members of the working group highlighted difficulties arising in the process of the post-conflict development of Afghanistan and stressed the necessity to adequately respond to terrorist and narcotic threats coming from its territory. Despite all the problems participants of the meeting came to a conclusion that “there is a sound foundation for resolving most urgent tasks in Afghanistan.”

    In line with the memorandum of understanding between the CSTO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation /SCO/ Secretariats signed in Dushanbe on October 5, 2007 participants of the meeting authorised the chairman of the working group to put forward cooperation proposals to the SCO contact group for Afghanistan.

    Belarus readying to accede to IWC’s Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War

    In a related BelTa story, Belarus is getting ready to accede to Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War to the Inhumane Weapons Convention (IWC). Belarus fully shares goals of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects. The statement was made by Sergei Aleinik, Permanent Representative of Belarus to the UN Office and other international organisations, in his speech during an annual session of the IWC member-states, which takes place in Geneva till November 13.

    The press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry told BelTA, Belarus is a participant of the First, amended Second, Third and Fourth Protocols to the Convention. Sergei Aleinik remarked, Belarus had welcomed the enforcement of Protocol V and fully shares the concern of the international community about the problems of explosive remnants of war. Even now dozens and hundreds of unexploded ammunition left in the Belarusian land since World War Two are dug out. At present Belarus is working hard preparing for accession to Protocol V.

    The official underlined, in accordance with resolution of the Third Review Conference of the Inhumane Weapons Convention Belarus had prepared and submitted information about the country’s fulfilment of obligations the Convention outlines to the UN. Belarus has also presented information about the fulfilment of the plan of actions meant to universalise the IWC and its additional protocols. The representative of Belarus also informed participants of the annual conference about the progress of Belarus’ utilising antipersonnel mines with financial and technical assistance of respective foundations of NATO and the European Commission.

    Annual IWC events attach much attention to discussing the existing international humanitarian norms as part of the problem of explosive remnants of war as well as discussing prospects of developing additional legal instruments to dispel the concern of the international community about cluster ammunition.

    The United Nations Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention was adopted in Geneva in 1980 and came into force on December 2, 1983. The Convention bans the application of indiscreet effect weapons and weapons, which may cause excessive suffering or excessive injuries among combatants and civilians. The Convention has additional protocols. The Second Review Conference amended Article 1 (came into force in 2004) to extend the Convention’s effect onto subnational armed conflicts.

    The Republic of Belarus has been a member of the Convention since 1983.

    Visa issues: Interior Ministry drafts decree to facilitate visa procedures for Belarusians

    From: BelTA
    The Interior Ministry has prepared a draft decree to annul the stamps that are put in Belarusian passports to allow their owners to leave the country, representatives of the Belarusian Interior Ministry told BelTA.

    The draft decree provides for cancelling the stamps starting January 1, 2008. At the same time, there are plans to set up a common database listing persons, whose leaving the country is temporarily restricted in line with the legislation. The draft decree is now being adjusted by national state administration bodies.

    Interior Ministry: cancelling country exit stamps needs legal framework

    The Interior Ministry and the State Border Committee of Belarus are ready to switch to the new procedure of letting Belarusians travel abroad starting January 1, 2008, provided the necessary legal framework is ready by then, BelTA learnt from Yekaterina Semusenkova-Shelegova, head of the information and public relations department of the Belarusian Interior Ministry.

    She remarked, following the instruction of the head of state to cancel permission stamps put in Belarusian passports to allow their owners to travel abroad as from January 1, 2008, the Interior Ministry together with interested state agencies have taken several organisational and practical steps. In particular, a bill has been drafted to amend the Belarusian law that regulates travels of Belarusian citizens to and from the country. The bill suggests cancelling the norm that requires putting the permission stamps in passports of Belarus citizens.

    A draft decree has been prepared to improve the procedures of travels of Belarusians abroad. The document provides for setting up a common database listing citizens, whose right to leave the country is temporarily restricted. Information about such persons will be submitted to the Interior Ministry for forming a common database, with authorised state agencies contributing to it. Then the Interior Ministry will forward the information to the State Border Committee and then to all border checkpoints.

    Belarus simplifies visa application procedures for Israeli citizens

    Belarus has decided to reduce the list of documents required from Israeli citizens for applying for an entry visa to Belarus.

    Israelis wishing to stay in Belarus for under 30 days will be able to receive a visa without submitting an invitation or other explanatory documents, BelTA learnt in the Belarusian Embassy in Tel Aviv.

    “The decision was taken by the Belarusian party as a gesture of good will in the unilateral order due to the efforts of the Belarusian Embassy to Israel and taking into consideration appeals of the All-Israeli Association of Natives of Belarus,” the Embassy noted.

    “The step will help Israelis to visit Belarus more frequently, to get familiar with history of relations between the Belarusians and the Jewish community, to see contemporary Belarus,” employees of the embassy hope.

    Belarus, Ukraine start gas price talks with Gazprom

    From: Reuters
    Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Thursday it had held talks with its key transit partners, Belarus and Ukraine, over 2008 gas prices, but reached no immediate agreements.

    Analysts and energy traders watch carefully for any signs of disagreement between Moscow, Minsk and Kiev over gas supplies, as previous pricing disputes have led to disruptions of Russian gas supplies to Europe.

    Gazprom, the world's largest gas producer, supplies Europe with a quarter of its gas needs, with some 80 percent going via the territory of Ukraine and another 20 percent via Belarus.

    Gazprom said in a statement its head, Alexei Miller, and Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Boiko discussed prices for 2008-2011.

    The two men will meet again next week. Boiko has previously said he hopes for an agreement this week.

    Gazprom insists it will know prices for Ukraine only after it reaches a gas import deal with Turkmenistan, which is also seeking to raise prices in 2008.

    Ukraine currently pays $130 per 1,000 cubic metres compared with an average of $250, which Gazprom charges in Europe. The Russian firm says it hopes to bring prices to "market levels" for Ukraine by 2011.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month Moscow would raise gas prices to Ukraine softly in order not to damage its former Soviet neighbour's economy.

    Gazprom said Miller also met Belarussian First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko and the two sides confirmed they would stick to an earlier deal, under which gas prices for Belarus change together with global energy prices but are adjusted by a number of discounts.

    Belarus currently pays $100 per 1,000 cubic metres.

    Gazprom also said Semashko offered Gazprom the opportunity to buy into Belarussian power generation and fertiliser firms, but did not elaborate.

    Belarus Gets Rare Praise From EU After Marches

    From: Javno
    The European Union gave Belarus rare praise on Thursday for the way its authorities handled two opposition marches over the past month.

    The EU and the United States frequently criticise President Alexander Lukashenko for ruling the ex-Soviet state with an iron grip and accuse him of shutting down media outlets, holding political prisoners and rigging elections. Thousands demonstrated last month and 1,000 more last week to denounce Lukashenko's policies. The protests were largely free of trouble and marked by a degree of restraint from the police, despite minor scuffles, according to a Reuters witness.

    "The (EU) Presidency... notes with satisfaction some positive movements on Belarussian side, expressed in increased respect for the rights of assembly during the (marches)," a statement issued by the Slovene embassy in Minsk said.

    The EU presidency, to be held by Slovenia next year, did however criticise Belarus for repressive practices, in particular for the imprisonment of several activists. "The ... Presidency expresses deep concern ... about those citizens of the Republic of Belarus who are considered, on the basis of expert assessments by international human rights bodies, to be political prisoners," it said. Both the EU and the United States have barred Lukashenko from entry, accusing him of rigging his re-election to a third term last year.

    Lukashenko, who has called for closer ties with the West after a falling out with Russia over gas prices, says his rule has spared Belarussians the turbulence and troubles that other ex-Soviet states have experienced since the fall of Communism.

    Belarus’ vice premier, Gazprom CEO confirm commitments under five-year gas supply contract

    From: Naveny
    Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Syamashka and Aleksei Miller, chairman of the Gazprom Board, confirmed the parties’ commitments under a five-year gas supply and transit contract at their meeting in Moscow on November 8, the Russian natural gas monopoly said in a statement posted on its official Web site.

    According to the statement, Messrs. Syamashka and Miller also discussed the Belarusian government’s proposals for Gazprom’s investment in power generation projects and the production of mineral fertilizers in Belarus.

    Under the contract, signed a few minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve 2006, Belarus was to pay $100 for 1000 cubic meters in 2007 compared with $46.68 in the previous two and a half years. The price was to gradually increase to the European market level by 2011. It was to be 67 percent of the level in 2008, 80 percent in 2009, 90 percent in 2010, and 100 percent in 2011.

    The contract stipulated that the price of transit via Belarus should be $1.45 for 1000 cubic meters and should not change during these five years.

    Belarusian officials to go to Moscow for talks with Gazprom on conditions of gas supplies in 2008

    In a related story, Belarusian Energy Minister Alyaksandr Azyarets and Uladzimir Mayoraw, director general of Beltranshaz, Belarus’ government-controlled gas pipeline company, plan to hold talks in Moscow on October 11 to discuss the conditions of Gazprom’s gas supplies to Belarus in 2008 and some issues concerning supplies before the end of 2007, said government news sources.

    In late August, Nikolai Kupriyanov, spokesman for the Russian natural gas monopoly, said that Gazprom has a contract with Belarus for five years and therefore there is no need for additional negotiations.

    Under the contract, signed a few minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve 2006, Belarus was to pay $100 for 1000 cubic meters in 2007 compared with $46.68 in the previous two and a half years. The price was to gradually increase to the European market level by 2011. It would be 67 percent of the level in 2008, 80 percent in 2009, 90 percent in 2010, and 100 percent in 2011.

    Aleksandr Surikov, the Russian ambassador to Belarus, said in late August that the 67 percent of the European market level would be in a range between $125 and $150. The Russian newspaper Kommersant said on October 15 with reference to Maksim Shein of Brokercreditservice that Gazprom would sell natural gas to be Belarus at between $108 and $120 per 1000 cubic meters in 2008.

    However, eight months after the contract was signed, Minsk found “some flaws” in it. Beltranshaz deputy head Vinery Valchuha said on August 30 that the parties differed in interpreting the “price calculation formula” stipulated by the contract. The formula’s components “cannot be felt now and they depend on the price situation for petroleum products among other things,” he said. "Work has begun and I think that we’ll complete it by October 1. We already approximately know how the formula specified in the contract should be used. Our view and Gazprom’s of its use should fully coincide."

    “It’s evident that Gazprom obviously makes good money on our country,” said Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka in late September. “Next year they want to further raise the price by 15 to 20 percent. This means that the profitability rate for Russia in Belarus will be higher than in Germany.”

    “I don’t know in what way we’ve offended the leadership of Russia,” Mr. Lukashenka said, adding that the Russian people do not support Russia’s gas price policy regarding Belarus.

    He noted that Belarus would advance its national interests at talks with Gazprom, and that the gas price for Belarus should “certainly be tied to payments for our transit services via Belarus.”

    The five-year contract stipulates that the price of transit via Belarus shall be $1.45 for 1000 cubic meters and shall not change during these five years.

    Gazprom: There will be market price for gas for Belarus

    From: Charter '97
    Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller has stated that by 2011 gas imported to Belarus will have market cost. Thus, according to experts, it would be at least $250 per 1000 cubic metre.

    Gas cost for our country was mentioned in Moscow during the today’s Miller’s meeting with Ukrainian Fuel and Energy minister Yuriy Bojko, Interfax informs.

    As said by Gazprom chief executive, since 2011 gas for Russian consumers will be sold at market prices based on the principle of equal profits with European export.

    As we have informed, gas price for Belarus for 2008 is to be announced only in December. Now experts think it will be $120-150 per 1000 cubic metre.

  • Culture...

    20 films from 18 countries to take part in Listapad 2007

    From: BelTA
    20 films from 18 courtiers will take part in the contest program of the 14th International Film Festival Listapad 2007 which will be running in Minsk on November 15-24, director of the festival Valentina Stepanova told a press conference on November 8.

    Films produced by filmmakers from Hungary, South Korea, the Czech Republic, India and Turkey will take part in the contest program for the first time.

    Belarus will be represented by two movies: “Enemies” by Maria Mozhar and “Chaklum and Rumba” by Andrei Golubev.

    On the whole, 45 films from 34 countries worldwide will be demonstrated at the festival.

    The 14th International Film Festival Listapad 2007 will open in the Palace of Republic on November 17. Film “Actress" by Stanislav Govurukhin will open the forum.

    Documentary film contest to be held at Film Festival Listapad 2007

    A documentary film contest will be held within the framework of the 14th Internal Film Festival Listapad 2007 which will be running in Minsk on November 15-24, director of the festival Valentina Stepanova told a press conference on November 8.

    30 documentary films from 15 countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Venezuela, Great Britain, Vietnam, Denmark, Iran, China, Cuba and others will take part in the contest program. The jury panel will be led by Valentina Gurkalenko (Russia).

    The contest will start on November 15 and it will be held in the cinema and video center of the Stolitsa Trade Center.

    The program of the documentary movie will also present a retrospective demonstration of the films from the gold reserves of the Belarusian documentary art. This program will be displayed at capital’s movie theater Pobeda.

    Kira Muratova’s film “not banned” from Listapad 2007, Culture Ministry says

    Internet-based claims that the movie “Two in One” directed by Kira Muratova has been denied entry to the XIV Minsk international cinema festival Listapad 2007 are false, Director of the Cinematography Department of the Belarusian Culture Ministry Maxim Budanov told a press conference in Minsk on November 8.

    “The producers have not sent the movie to the organisers of the cinema festival. We’d be glad to watch it but we just don’t have it,” said Maxim Budanov.

    The organising committee starts watching contest movies in January, added Valentina Stepanova, Director of the Minsk International Cinema Festival Listapad. But this movie has not been entered into the participants’ list. “If the movie by the director we respect was presented, we would definitely allow it to take part in the contest,” she said.

  • Around the region...

    Man held over ‘spying for Russia’

    From: Times UK
    A 23-YEAR-OLD man has been arrested under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly attempting to pass military information to the Russians.

    The suspect, who lives in Yorkshire, had worked at a government establishment but is not a former serviceman. He was arrested in a Metropolitan Police operation on Wednesday.

    A Scotland Yard spokeswoman confirmed a suspect was being held at a Yorkshire police station. She said he had been arrested under the Official Secrets Act and for a suspected explosives offence after certain materials were found.

    It is claimed the man, from Skipton, North Yorkshire, was trying to leak military secrets from his previous occupation to the Russians.

    Scotland Yard would not comment on the allegations. Police have searched a residential and business address linked to the suspect. He had only recently moved to Yorkshire.

    One of the most recent cases of an arrest under the Official Secrets Act involved Ian Parr, a former employee at BAE Systems Avionics. He subsequently admitted the offences and was jailed for 10 years in April 2003.

    Parr, from Rochford, Essex, tried to sell the Russian confidential details of seven defence projects, including a missile system then being deployed in Iraq. He met his “contact” in a pub but later found out he was in fact trying to betray his country to an undercover MI5 officer.

    Sentencing Parr, Judge Michael Hyam said the sentence reflected the seriousness of the offences. “I cannot accept that you were so naive that you did not know what you were doing was a risk to the nation’s security,” he said.

    UK-Russia relations have deteriorated in the last two years. There was particular anger that the Russian authorities refused to extradite suspects thought to be involved in the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB officer who died of radiation poisoning last November.

    Last July the British government expelled four Russian diplomats from London in response to the lack of cooperation over the Litvinenko investigation. The Kremlin responded by expelling four British embassy staff.

    The security and intelligence services are known to be on alert over the passing of British defence secrets to Russia. Just two days before last week’s arrest Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, warned of the continuing espionage threat from Russia.

    “There has been no decrease in the numbers of Russian intelligence officers conducting covert activity in the UK, despite the cold war ending nearly two decades ago,” he said. “MI5 is expending resources to defend the UK against unreconstructed attempts by Russians, and others, to spy on the UK.

    “The size and nature of this threat means that MI5 still has to devote significant amounts of equipment, money and staff to countering this threat, when they could be devoted to countering the threat from international terrorism.”

    Last night Peter Hill, 23, a risk analyst, was charged for possession of explosive materials including sodium chlorate and a metal hollow tube. He will appear in court on Monday. He was bailed until April next year pending further inquiries into alleged breaches of the Official Secrets Act.

    Russia will soon cease to be a world power

    From: Telegraph
    Flush with oil wealth and facing elections in the new year, Russia under President Vladimir Putin grows more assertive and belligerent by the day.

    Whether probing the RAF's air defences or running spying rings on British soil, the message is unmistakable – Russia is back as a major player on the world stage and it views Britain as a vital adversary. Why is this happening and should we be worried?

    Russia's economy is overwhelmingly dependent on oil and natural gas and the country's prosperity depends on international commodity prices. At present, global oil prices are pushing upwards towards $100 a barrel and Russia's national coffers are overflowing.

    Hence Mr Putin has the resources to rebuild his threadbare armed forces. Less than 10 years ago, Russian finances were so parlous that the Kremlin was forced to default on its debts in 1998. Today, Mr Putin has amassed some of the biggest foreign exchange reserves in the world. Moreover, Mr Putin knows that a dose of assertive nationalism goes down well with the electorate - and presidential and parliamentary polls are due in March next year.

    Under the constitution, Mr Putin cannot serve a third term as president. He will get around this obstacle by becoming prime minister instead, while manoeuvring a loyal ally into the presidency. The centre of power in the Kremlin will shift from president to premier.

    The success of this plan hinges on Mr Putin retaining his standing among ordinary Russians. His popularity is the trump card. The more he can claim to have rebuilt Russia's national power, the better his chances of political survival.

    Yet there is a deeper reason for Russia's noisy resurgence. Over the past two decades, the country has suffered humiliation after humiliation. The collapse of the Berlin Wall and of the Soviet Union itself brought about the end of Russia as a global superpower.

    Political chaos and economic collapse under President Boris Yeltsin's erratic rule in the 1990s left the Kremlin dependent on Western aid, particularly from the old enemy, America. Above all, Mr Putin wants to send an emphatic message that this disastrous era of national decline is over.

    He may well be wrong and this is why the West need not be unduly worried. Oil prices are liable to fall as well as rise. When they do take a tumble, Russia's economy will plunge with them.

    Genuinely successful nations have innovative scientists, world-class universities and major companies turning out popular products. Russia has none of these assets. Instead, it has vast natural resources, and nothing else. World markets completely beyond Mr Putin's control decide the value of these commodities.

    Far from being a rising power able to decide its own destiny, the harsh truth is that Russia under Mr Putin depends on the whims of foreign oil traders. Bad times will almost certainly follow the present years of plenty.

    Russia's future looks disastrous. Emigration, alcohol abuse and the fact that its women have more abortions than live births brings down the national population each year. By 2050, there will be fewer than 100 million Russians, compared with 142 million today. Within decades, Russia will probably cease to carry any weight on the world stage.

    Polish police institute criminal proceedings in connection with knife attack on Belarusian journalist

    From: Naveny
    The Polish police have instituted criminal proceedings in connection with a knife attack on a Belarusian journalist linked to a child custody dispute with her ex-husband.

    Volha Klaskowskaya, who was granted political asylum in Poland two years ago, suffered at least 10 stab wounds after being assaulted by an unidentified man in a Warsaw park on the night between November 7 and 8.

    “One man attacked me. I had not met him before,” Ms. Klaskowskaya said in an interview with BelaPAN.

    The woman said that she had suffered wounds to the left part of her body, mostly the chest and the left shoulder.

    “The police have started investigating the case at once. As a policeman told me, this is the number one case at present,” she said.

    According to Ms. Klaskowskaya, the assailant resembled the man who accompanied her ex-spouse to a court hearing held in Warsaw on November 6, at which the Belarusian justice ministry’s request for the return of the divorced couple’s daughter, Miraslava, to Belarus was considered.

    The Belarusian ministry accuses Ms. Klaskowskaya of illegally bringing the daughter out of the country and keeping her in Poland.

    “After I had already emigrated and obtained the status of refugee, a Belarusian court, aware of all circumstances, terminated my parental rights,” she said. “Apart from this, a Belarusian prosecutor’s office declared me, my mother and daughter missing and demanded that the Poles should provide information about my whereabouts, my address and phone number to Belarus.”
    The woman’s former husband, Vital Naumovich, who arrived in Poland to attend the hearing was detained and questioned shortly after. He was released on the same day.

    Ms. Klaskowskaya said that the man had been interviewed as a suspect in a case opened in connection with her complaint. In particular, he is accused of threatening violence against the ex-wife and attempting to take the six-year-old Miraslava to Belarus. “A prosecutor brought a charge against him. But no one knows now where my former husband is,” she noted.

    The woman said that the daughter knew about the attack. “Of course, she has been frightened by all these events. But I’m happy with her mood and behavior. She even cheers me.”

    Ms. Klaskowskaya said that she and Miraslava remained under police protection on Thursday. “I’m staying at home. And if we go somewhere, police escort us. They are indignant and, given all previous threats, are very much concerned,” she stressed.

    Polish Ex-Deputy PM Charged in Sex Case

    From: AP
    Andrzej Lepper
    Polish prosecutors charged a former deputy prime minister Thursday with soliciting sex from two women who worked for his party, the latest development in a scandal that shook the outgoing government of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

    Andrzej Lepper, 53, head of the agrarian and populist Self Defense party, was questioned for more than two hours by prosecutors in the central city of Lodz before he was charged with two counts of soliciting sex from employees in 2001 and 2002, said Krzysztof Kopania, a spokesman for prosecutors.

    Lepper, who could face up to eight years in prison if convicted, has denied the charges, Kopania said. He was released on $20,000 bail.

    The allegations against Lepper and another party leader, Stanislaw Lyzwinski, surfaced in December 2006, when a woman who worked for the party said in a newspaper interview that she had had sex with both men in exchange for a political job.

    At the time of the interview, Lepper served as a deputy prime minister and agriculture minister in Kaczynski's government. He was, however, not yet in government at the time of the alleged wrongdoing.

    Although Lepper was fired in the summer on unrelated corruption allegations, the sex scandal proved an embarrassment to the government and is seen as a factor that contributed to the coalition's eventual collapse and triggered early elections.

    In that balloting, held Oct. 21, Kaczynski's nationalist Law and Justice party lost to pro-business Civic Platform party.

    Self Defense was also ousted from parliament after failing to garner the required 5 percent of the vote.

    Federer backs corruption crackdown to stop tennis gamblers

    From: AFP
    Roger Federer
    World number one Roger Federer backed tough measures to stop players betting on tennis matches as a corruption crackdown began on Saturday.

    Federer said officials should come down "very hard" on gambling as the ATP announced a nine-month ban and 60,000-dollar fine for Italy's Alessio di Mauro for betting on matches over several months until June.

    Di Mauro, 31, is the first player penalised under the ATP's Anti-Corruption Programme. There is no evidence the world number 124 bet on his own matches or tried to fix a "affect the outcome" of any matches, a statement said.

    Officials are battling a widening gambling scandal after suspicious betting patterns surrounding a match involving world number four Nikolay Davydenko in August. Several players have since revealed illicit approaches from bookmakers.

    "I've never been approached, I've never been on a (gambling) website and I'm happy to stay that way," Federer said.

    "You can bet on other stuff, there's a lot of other things you can do. But if you bet on tennis as a tennis guy, that's not right.

    "People should be fined or banned for a while, how long is up to other people to decide but we should be very hard on these people."

    The 26-year-old Swiss insisted the top players were clean despite an ATP investigation into Davydenko's defeat in Poland.

    "At the very top of the game we don't have any problems at all," he said. "It's more with the lower-ranked players who have the temptation.

    "With the Davydenko issue, we don't know what's going on there yet but once that's cleared we definitely don't have any of the top guys involved."

    Davydenko, also in Shanghai for the season-ending Masters Cup, said his wife and brother had been hauled in by investigators but laughed off their questions as "funny."

    "I asked my wife what happened and she said it was just funny. They were interesting questions so we were just laughing," he said.

    Gambling website Betfair refused to pay out after unusually large sums were wagered on 74th-ranked Argentine Martin Vassallo Arguello, who lost the first set in Poland but was handed the match when Davydenko retired injured.

    The match-fixing furore is one of number of controversies besmirching squeaky-clean tennis, along with Martina Hingis's revelation that she tested positive for cocaine and Tommy Haas's accusations of poisoning during a Davis Cup tie.

    But Federer backed the sport to bounce back next season.

    "I hope better times will arrive for tennis. I always believe if you're stuck in a hole and maybe things aren't going well you will come out stronger. Everything in life is this way," he said.

    The 12-time Grand Slam winner is seeded first for the elite, season-ending Masters Cup which features the top eight players and starts on Sunday.

  • From the blogs...

    Public choice

    From: News... from Tatsi ;)
    I am really tired to go agains the stream. It is so difficult to do something first on your own and at the same time to explain to people why it is important to do. One persone can not change the whole world, that's no doubts. One persone can change a bit "public opinion". There is one thing I can not understand, why are people afraid of new things, why don't they do something, what does not cost them anything... Ufff, people are lazy, ignorant and selfish... quite often. But I still hope most of them are nice, kind, active and know what solidarity means.

    the splin has gone. but my life became better

    From: Sidorov Ivan stuff
    the first:
    i have no more problem with one intereting girl )
    we became old type friends again! ^) i like it... she became more interesting to me
    she is the best! she is great. and this my part of life is great.!

    about university:
    i try to do my best. but this one is hard..
    well i don't have big problems.

    olga try skrew my mind up now, but this one did not working on me :)

    well about splin concert... that was one of the best. this was the greatest part of my life.
    i like to get bath-house.
    when i return i was so wet that i get under full rained day without any umbrella
    now this sport-shirt is in washing
    well songs and singing was great. vasiliev when he sing he get so much pleasure that he almost get like an orgasm.
    first song we with whiter4bbit stay at right of stage, but then we pput our jackets on restriction and go to crowd...
    for long three songs we get in fiveth row - and i can see vasiliev so good as posible!. this one was great..
    thereare was a lot of people.
    the most imortant parts is: when in song inserting unknown words (like : olya Baskov) all people start cry and get pleasure...
    the most known songs was about: me hears wasstoped, she is chew her orbit, pair don't sleep and other... also splin sang all songs from new album (dividing personality). thoose songs was great too!
    i like it all! thanks to them a much

    well the second one.. don't buy "long love" condoms they are stupid!

    Fortress Poland

    From: The Beatroot
    On December 21, Poland will enter the Schengen zone, enabling passport free travel and no border controls through most of the EU.

    One of the pleasures of traveling across much of Europe is that when you cross a border – say between Germany and France – you don’t really know that you have crossed a border, at all. I once drove through Belgium without even realising I was in

    But then try and enter UK or Ireland, and you are suddenly reminded what it is like not to have signed the Schengen Agreement.

    So it will make getting about the place for Poles all the easier. But what about Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians, trying to get in to Poland?

    Well, it is going to make things much, much more difficult. To get into Poland, Ukrainians will need a Schengen visa – costing 60 euro – a third of a months salary in much of Ukraine – and they will have to prove that they will come back, and keep to all kinds of restrictions set in Brussels, not Warsaw.

    Thousands of Ukrainians work as nannies in Poland – you are a social leper in some circles of Warsaw if you haven’t got your very own shiny, low maintenance, Ukrainian home help.

    And it is not as if it is easy to get into Poland from these countries as it is.

    Iza from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow sent me an email yesterday:

      I decided to write to you about our recent experience coming back into Poland from a study trip to Lviv and Kyiv.

      In our group we have 1 Polish passport, 3 American passports, 1 Canadian passport, and 5 Norwegian passports. This means nothing to the Polish border patrol. We sat on a bus for over 14 hours at the border.

      Typical time usually runs around 5-6 hours. But for some reason (some claim the combination of the end of the Italian strike, All-Saints' Day traffic, and a truck falling over) it took over 14 hours. And this was just standing in line. The actual checking of passports and baggage (where there were no lines, because only one bus was allowed at a time) took in all about 30 minutes.

      We believe that the real reason is Polish border patrol being assholes (pardon my French). I don't know if this is an interesting topic at all, but we definitely don't see how Poland and Ukraine would ever be ready for the 2012 Euro Cup if a bunch of Polish/EU (almost EU) citizens can't get back into the country in an orderly fashion.
    How are the two countries going to co-host the Euro 2012 Football Championships if fans, players, officials...and ticket touts, can’t move freely between Ukraine and Poland? And since when has the EU, with its freedom of movement to visit, live and work from within, turned into some kind of fortress, putting up the barriers, manned by asshole border guards?

    We are at War with Neo-Soviet Russia

    From: Publius Pundit
    Whether we fully realize it yet is another question.

    Here's a little imagination exercise: The United States has presidential elections scheduled for November 2008. Let's just imagine that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran comes to visit the United Nations next week, and while he's here he uses some of his country's oil revenues to buy himself a few thousand protesters (he can get them off the rack at, cheaper by the dozen; a few members of Congress might even come along). Let's say they go down to Washington DC and camp outside the White House. They hang George Bush (let's say he's only on his first term) in effigy and call him a terrorist. They call for his impeachment, and they won't leave no matter what until Bush agrees to move up the November elections to January and stand for reelection right away.

    Should he do it? Should he prove to this cadre of wackos, lackeys of a foreign rogue regime, that the country really supports him?

    Well, that's what Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has agreed to do, in a nutshell. So much for him being anti-democratic! Can one be sure we would be as democratic in his shoes? In Russia, we know for sure than many of these protesters would already be dead or in jail -- Russia never lets such protests get started in the first place. That is the most fundamental reason why Russia is a creaking wreck of a country hurtling towards oblivion.

    Russia is now doing in Georgia exactly what it has already tried and failed to do in Ukraine -- use street protests by stooges to force the regime to call elections. It lost those elections in Ukraine, and we saw Yulia Timoshenko rise to power. Having failed, it's doggedly trying again in Georgia.

    It will fail again. And when it does, it will not stop. It will move to yet another level of barbarity, outrage and attack, and like the Terminator it will not stop until it has destroyed itself or regained these nations as slave states. The lessons of history mean nothing to Russians, nor do the lives of Russian citizens. Only the great imaginary "destiny" of Russia itself.

    Our duty is clear. But will we do it?

    Shklou: Trial of Dashkevich Ends with Fine

    From: Viasna
    In spring 2007 a leader of the Young Front Zmitser Dashkevich, who is still serving his 18-month prison term under article 193.1 of the Criminal Code (activities on behalf of unregistered organization) refused to testify in a criminal case against another Young Front member, Ivan Shyla, who received the same charges. As a result of this refusal the authorities brought another criminal case against Dashkevich to intimidate him. The second criminal case was brought under article 402 of the Criminal Code ‘Refusal or evasion of witness from testifying’. The maximal punishment under this article is 6 months of jail.

    The trial was surprisingly quick. The judge Kashkina found Dashkevich guilty and fined him 1 860 000 Belarusian rubles (about 865 US dollars). The trial was attended by the head of Minsk OSCE office. On the eve of the trial he applied to the minister of interior Uladzimir Navumau to be admitted there. Dashkevich was tried in Shklou jail, where he is serving the term. About 25 people dressed in T-shirts with his portrait gathered outside the prison.

    Thus, if nothing happens, Dashkevich will be released on 15 March 2008.

  • Sport...

    Canada West Advances to Semi With Win

    From: BCHL
    Thanks to a re-energized power play, Team Canada West is moving on to the semifinals of the World Junior A Challenge. Six power play goals sparked Canada West to a 7-3 win over Belarus last night in Trail in a game marred by a last-minute brawl that could possibly bring suspensions to both teams.
    Team Canada West captain Casey Pierro-Zabotel, of the Merritt Centennials, had the natural hat trick while Mike Connolly scored twice and Andrew Cherniwchan and Russell Goodman, of the Nanaimo Clippers, added singles. Artem Demkov scored twice for Belarus and Sergei Sheleg added his team's third goal.

    Canada West will now face Team USA in Nelson while Canada East, which defeated Germany 4-1 last night, will play Team Russia in Trail in semifinal action on Saturday.

    The game was broken down into three parts but the prevalent theme was a revitalized Team Canada West power play, which fired blanks in the club's 4-2 loss to Russia on Wednesday.

    The power play connected just 54 seconds into the game when Connolly picked up his first of the night much to the delight and relief of the 1,300 fans at the Cominco Arena.

    "It was a huge sigh of relief," said defenceman Damon Kipp of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. "We definitely came out stronger on the power play." Canada West head coach Boris Rybalka agreed 100 per cent.

    "It was a total difference (from Wednesday)," he said. "The boys executed well. The bottom line is we didn't do it (against Russia) but we're still in the semifinal which is what we wanted."

    Cherniwchan's power play goal gave the West a 2-0 lead after one period. However, Belarus opened the second with a power play goal of their own and kept things close as they searched for the equalizer. It came eight minutes into the third when Demkov's second power play goal knotted the game at 2-2.

    Suddenly what had the making of a rout in the first minute of play now had the makings of a huge upset.

    "We tried not go get down and tried to stay positive," said Pierro-Zabotel. "When we were up 2-1 we were hanging back too much," added Kipp.

    "They kept it close," explained Rybalka. "That's their style. "But they lost their focus and then they were done."

    A turning point may have come seven minutes into the third. With the referee calling a tight game, Canada West's Tommy Brown came out of the penalty box and flattened a Belarus player that drew no call.

    Play went down the ice and Belarus was tagged with a holding penalty, which drew a subsequent misconduct and a bench penalty giving Canada West a two-man advantage.

    That signaled the start of the Pierro-Zabotel show as the big forward fired three consecutive goals against a crumbling Belarus defence.

    When the scoring spree ended Canada West had five goals in an eight-minute span and a lock on the game.

    But that's when it turned ugly.

    The mess began with less than two minutes to play and a Team Canada West player on the bottom of a trio of Belarus players. Punches began to land after the whistle which prompted Canada West's Brooks Robinson to catapult himself into the pile.

    Once the dust settled Belarus had three players ejected including two with match penalties. Robinson was also assessed a match penalty.

    Hockey Canada officials said a match penalty does not bring an automatic suspension but the officials will review the game tape today before handing down a final ruling.

    "That was crazy," said Kipp. "They obviously started it. I don't think there was anything we could have done differently. You have to stick for your teammates."

    Rybalka warned the players of the repercussions of fighting in international competition prior to the tournament and commended his players for their discipline.

    "They had three or four guys jump off the bench which is totally unacceptable," said Rybalka. "I give our boys on the bench credit for listening. All of sudden we could have had three or four guys suspended. If it was junior hockey then it's a different story."

    Lost in the final-minute fireworks was a solid effort by Canada West goaltender Bradley Eidsness who stopped 21 shots including some tough ones when Belarus was keeping the game close.

    Meanwhile, Canada West peppered Belarus netminder Valeriy Pronin with 39 shots including 21 in the final 20 minutes.

    Belarus will now meet Germany in the consolation game Saturday afternoon in Trail.

  • Endnote...

    Mr. "President" Where's The Money? (or Is Belarus Becoming a New European Zimbabwe?)

    From: Charter '97
    In 1994 one of the main issues in Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s election agenda was “compensation of the population’s lost deposits of money according to the currency exchange rate of ruble to dollar in 1985” (that is, one US dollar for one Soviet ruble). And notably, Lukashenka promised to give back money partially in TV sets and refrigerators. In 1998, when he was a president already, he issued a special decree in line with which compensation was to be paid by January 1, 2008. And now, after 14 years of his “promising” rule, Belarusians who hadn’t been given TV sets or refrigerators, are being invited to Belarusbank. They are given back their deposits. But the exchange rate is amazing! 500 Soviet rubles are compensated by… 999 Belarusian. Just for comparison, metro ticket costs 600 Belarusian rubles… Isn’t it a mockery?

    The experience of post-Soviet countries suggests that lost deposits can be returned in the way the person is satisfied and the state doesn’t deplete pocket.

    For instance, in the neighbouring Lithuania not only land has been returned to its real owners, but deposits have been returned in proportion 1 to 4. It means USD 2,500 was given for 10,000 Soviet rubles. The exchange rate of one Soviet ruble for one LTL was chosen. Now one dollar costs 2.35 Lithuanian litas.

    “In the end of the 1980ies ruble/dollar ratio was about 1 to 4. That is why it is completely logical to set this rate. Economists’ calculations of that time are that the real correlation of labor productivity was 1 to 4 as well. The National Bank of Lithuania fulfilled obligations to return deposits. And it is an element of a rule-of-law state, and not simply a promise of some politicians,” a well-known economist Leanid Zaika told in an interview to the Charter’97 press-center.

    We have the situation quite the opposite. Having promised mountings, Lukashenka give Belarusians just a dab of money. Recently the news-paper “Express-Novosti” said: the children of the “palatka” member Mikalai Dubovik tried to go to Belarusbank and receive back their lost deposits.

    “My children have been uninvited to a bank recently, - “deputy” Mikalai Dubovik complained on the last plenary sitting. – We were five children in the family, we all have own children. Before an operation father made a deposit for all of his grandchildren – 1000 or 500 rubles. My younger sister bought a trailer at 500 rubles. As it has been found out, she did the cleverest thing. My second sister (younger, too) bought a big ring. At 500 rubles. But my children, if they come to a bank tomorrow, will receive 999 rubles. We can’t turn the youth against the government by such actions. Let’s stop it, if it’s possible. I, for instance, won’t let my children go to bank”.

    Dubovik didn’t say how to “stop it”. Probably, he meant not to give the deposits at all. Because one can became brutal when he or she will know the sum of such “compensation”. Or burst into tears because of humiliation.

    They suggest us less than 10 dollars instead of 10.000 soviet rubles, which was enough to buy built a flat. One was putting aside money for a flat – but can buy just half kilogram of good sausage.

    Such compensation…

    Can you imagine how much money wasn’t received? Tens of millions dollars… What it was spent on? On ice hockey stadiums, support of half-ruined kolkhozes (collective farms) and enterprises, different kinds of fests of kolkhoz level, on radiant slabs on Nezalezhnasti Square?

    But how many fridges and TV sets could have been given back to Belarusians?

    But if one doesn’t need so many fridges, there is another way to pay: “It’s possible to pay, it’s not a problem. They can give the money back by state property or land. Give 15-20 billions of state property is simple. Everyone would agree to receive 2 hectares of land or a storey in a new block of flats for those 10 thousands rubles. They have softened the issue. This is the last act of stealing. It is disrespect to the own country, own people”, Leanid Zaika thinks.
  • Note: A different form of this article can be foun at American Chronical by Michael Batiukov