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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Belarus science conference, Energy issues, Italy and the EU, Communist gather in Minsk, China, Regional News, Sport and Blogs

  • From the Top...
  • #253

    President: Science should play leading role in developing economy and enhancing national security

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus participating in the 1st Congress of Scientists of Belarus
    Science should play a leading role in the innovation-based development of the Belarusian economy, implementation of investment projects, modernisation of industry, and in enhancing the national security, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at the First Congress of Belarus’ Scientists in Minsk on November 2.

    The President placed a stress on the main objectives of the Belarusian science. Among the most important ones he cited increasing the volume of domestic R&D projects, enhancing the role of science in creating import-substitution high-tech equipment, ensuring food and energy security, promoting the use of alternative sources of energy and natural resources, training highly qualified personnel.

    Alexander Lukashenko believes that Belarus has set up optimal conditions for effective application of scientific discoveries. The funding of scientific research has been constantly growing. In the last six years it went up eight-fold to exceed Br 500 billion.

    The President noted that the academic reform conducted several years ago yields impressive results today.

    The National Academy of Sciences of Belarus has done a lot recently. However, the contribution of science to the country’s economy is not sufficient so far, the head of state believes. In his words, there is a need to integrate the science and production to the maximum. It would be better to unite the efforts of various agencies and organisations to solve complex tasks rather than disperse funds on separate smaller structures and themes.

    Belarus is going to intensify cooperation with foreign research centers, for example, in space exploration, the President said.

    Ensuring energy security is a strategic task, the President underlined. Belarus has adopted the energy security concept by 2020. An important element is the diversification of fuel and energy resources. The concept has mapped out two main objectives: to diversify supplies and to use alternative energy. Belarus has established friendly relations with oil-and gas-bearing countries such Venezuela, Iran, Azerbaijan. “These countries are ready for an all-round economic cooperation with Belarus. We should not miss this opportunity – I mean the opportunity to extract oil on their territories, Alexander Lukashenko said. – Especially important are the projects on joint production and refining of hydrocarbon resources. Belarus will be able to get oil for own needs and to sell it on the world market as well.”

    Alexander Lukashenko drew attention to the necessity to develop simultaneously fundamental and applied science.

    According to the head of state, last year the Third All-Belarusian People’s Congress adopted quite an ambitious programme for the social and economic development of the country in 2006-2010 with a view to further improving living standards of the people. “The programme provides for an innovation-based development of the economy, stimulation of effective investment projects, structural remodelling, technological retooling and refitting of manufacturing industries, reinforcement of the national security. It is science that is called upon to play the leading role in reaching these goals. We have the conditions for that,” stressed the President.

    The First Congress of Belarus’ Scientists gathered the best scientists, the scientific elite, the most respected people of the country, who represented the leading research institutions of Belarus. This is why, the President said, the talk will be a large-scale one, touching upon the most important problems of the national development.

    According to the head of state, the Congress should determine the key tasks of the contemporary science and ways to handle them. “The scientific and technical development strategy we will determine will in many ways shape the image of the republic in ten years and later”, said Alexander Lukashenko.

    Belarus’ brain drain plugged

    The brain drain from Belarus has minimized, Mikhail Myasnikovich, the Chairman of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences, said at the First Congress of Scientists of Belarus on November 2.

    In his words, fewer young highly skilled people have been leaving Belarus recently. The problem is not that urgent today. The Belarusian research organisations need to intensify cooperation with scientific centres of the European Union, Mikhail Myasnikovich believes. – Thus, we will be able to contribute not only to the development of the national science but also to international research activity.” The first experience in this field, the High Technology Park, has proved that such interaction is effective.

    Belarus ranks 59th in the world in terms of the knowledge index and is the CIS leader in the volume of IT realized in the country Mikhail Myasnikovich noted.

    He believes that science is the main resource of Belarus’ national economy. In his opinion, the scientific activity should be more effective. Inefficient scientific projects should be discontinued and the money allocated for their implementation should be paid back to the budget. “Sixty inefficient projects have been recently discontinued in Belarus. Over several past years the scientific activity has gone through major changes in the country. The quality has improved and, subsequently, the results of R&D. Eleven comprehensive task programmes, which are currently underway, are aimed at addressing many tasks of national importance. “They are directed at modernising the economy, enhancing the competitiveness of domestic products,” he said.

    Research centres and organisations in Belarus have been growing more efficient, Mikhail Myasnikovich added. Five research-production agrarian centres have been set up recently. Along with other new organisations they make a great contribution to the development of science in Belarus and also to the national economy.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Surging fuel prices are test for Belarus - Lukashenko

    From: Itar Tass
    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko sated that power generation became a major world problem of the 21st centaury. "Shortages of electricity, gas and oil become a cause of international tensions and conflict," he stated at the 1st Congress of Belarusian scientists on Friday.

    "We already see runaway increases in prices of fuels; and it's a test for Belarus, because we have no oil and gas fields of our own," Lukashenko said.

    He underlined that taking into account the difficulties the country is facing, Belarus had adopted a concept of energy security, which empathizes diversification of energy resources and transition to alternative energy sources.

    The president noted that much work had already been done, and friendly ties had been established with countries that possess large reserves of oil and gas, such as Venezuela, Iran and Azerbaijan.

    "I believe we'll be able to come to terms with Russia, too," Lukashenko said.

    Belarus leadership is ready for cooperation and should not miss the opportunity to launch its own production of fuel in these countries. Belarus can produce hydrocarbon fuels not only for its own needs but also for sale.

    In his view, it is important to secure an effective refining of hydrocarbons at the country’s oil refineries. "The difficulty is that the profitability of this branch is a mere 1 percent," he went on to say.

    The president believes it is necessary to allocate funds for improving refining technologies, in particular at the Mozyr refinery. "The production of petroleum should fully conform to European standards by the content of benzene hydrocarbons," he noted.

    On alternative sources of fuel, he said it was necessary to make the best use of local resources which may make up at least 25 percent in the national energy balance.

    The construction of a nuclear power plant in the country was inevitable, Lukashenko underlined.

    But nuclear physicists should explain to the people the necessity of this propjet and the safety of the technologies they would apply.

    "One has to enlist specialties and discuss these issues in the press, so that people do not worry," the president noted.

    Meanwhile, a nuclear power plant will be unable to resolve all problems. It is necessary to use recoverable sources of energy: hydropower, solar energy and geothermal waters.

    He also underlined the significance of using water resources. Belarus has some 63 million tonnes of explored oil reserves, 99 million tonnes of brown coal and one billion tonnes of oil shale.

    Italian MPs to help Belarus in lifting EU sanctions

    From: BelTA
    Italian parliamentarians intend to persuade the European integration institutions to lift the sanctions imposed on Belarus, Mr Oliviero Diliberto, National Secretary of the Party of Italian Communists and a member of the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament, said in Minsk on November 2 when meeting with members of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus.

    “Our task is to inform Italians about the real state of affairs in Belarus and to spare colleagues from distorted information images of Belarus,” the Italian parliamentarian said.

    The Party of Italian Communists can use its political influence for this purpose, he noted. “We intend to speed up ratification of many Belarusian-Italian treaties,” Mr Oliviero Diliberto added.

    At the last parliamentary elections the Party of Italian Communists was supported by 900 thousand voters and got 17 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and two seats – in the Senate. Since 2006 members of the party have been holding posts in the Italian Cabinet (Minister of Labour, Deputy Justice and Health Ministers).

    The improvement of relations between Belarus and the European Union was discussed as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Valery Voronetsky met with National Secretary of the Party of Italian Communists Oliviero Diliberto. A delegation of the Italian parliament is visiting Minsk on November 1-5.

    BelTA learnt from the General Office for Europe of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, Belarus is interested in assistance of Italian parliamentarians in enhancing relations with the European Union, facilitating visa regulations for Belarusian citizens, stepping up cooperation with the leadership of Italy and business circles of the country.

    During the meeting the sides discussed the development of trade, economic, credit and investment cooperation of Belarus and Italy as well as contacts in the banking sphere. The sides agreed that the mutual trade potential is far from being exhausted and the existing trade turnover can be multiplied several times over. Italy has an interest in Belarusian products, while Belarus is interested in Italian investments and new technologies.

    The possibility of arranging a visit of Italian businessmen to Belarus was discussed. The Belarusian side stressed it is ready to foster the establishment of trade and economic relations with Italy in all avenues, including cooperation in the credit and investment sphere.

    While in Minsk, members of the Italian delegation are expected to partake in meetings with members of the International Affairs and CIS Relations Commission of House of Representatives of the National Assembly, the working party of the Belarusian parliament in charge for cooperation with the Italian parliament, to hold negotiations at the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly. Italian MPs will also partake in the International Meeting of Communist and Working Parties in Minsk on November 4. Visits to the Khatyn Memorial and the Glory Mound, the National Library of Belarus and several Minsk companies will be arranged.

    At the last parliamentary elections the Party of Italian Communists won votes of around 900,000 electors and 17 seats in the lower chamber of the Italian parliament and 4 seats in the Senate. Since 2006 the Party of Italian Communists has been holding posts in the Italian government, in particular, offices of the Labour Minister, Deputy Justice Minister, and Deputy Healthcare Minister.

    A delegation of the Defence Affairs Commission of the Senate of the Italian Republic is expected to visit Belarus on November 29 – December 2 following an invitation of the International Affairs and National Security Commission of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus. Meetings at the House of Representatives of the National Assembly will be held to talk over various issues, including international collaboration.

    In 2006 the trade between Belarus and Italy swelled by 20.9% to $669.1 million, with the Belarusian export as large as $172.2 million, $12.5 million up on the year. In January-July 2007 the trade turnover expanded by 26.9%. The main Belarusian exports are lighting fixtures, glass fibre, leather, hardware products, wires and carbon steel intermediate products. Machine-tools and equipment used to upgrade production facilities, materials and components used to turn out ready-made goods constitute an overwhelming part of Belarus’ import from Italy.

    In 2006 Italian investments in Belarus’ economy amounted to $21.3 million, 27% up on 2005. In H1 2007 the investments totalled $11.1 million. There are 87 companies in Belarus with a share of Italian investments, including 47 joint ventures and 40 foreign-owned companies. Every year new joint projects are implemented in such areas as energy saving, wood processing, production of medical goods, tourism.

    Delegations of more than 80 communist and labor parties to attend international meeting in Minsk

    From: BelTA
    Delegations of more than 80 communist and labor parties from all over the world will take part in the international meeting devoted to the 90th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution which will be held in Minsk on November 3-5.

    As BelTA learnt in the Central Committee of the Belarusian Communist Party, attending the forum will be leaders of parties, secretaries and members of central committees, representatives of international departments, deputies of national parliaments, famous scientists, state and public officials from the CIS member states, Greece, China, Italy, Vietnam, Cuba, Lithuania, Serbia, Venezuela, Nepal, Bulgaria and other countries.

    The aim of the meeting is to comprehend the ideas of October 1917.

    It is important that the meeting devoted to the 90th anniversary of the Great October Revolution is held in Belarus. “It is the country where the 1st Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) was held. This party became the party of proletariat, the beginning of the organized communist movement,” a representative of the Central Committee of the Belarusian Communist party noted.

    The agenda of the international forum includes speeches, developing and adopting various documents.

    The decision to hold a regular meeting of communists in Belarus was adopted by the Working Group of the International Movement of Communist and Labor Parties which joins more than 110 parties worldwide. This initiative was undertaken by Belarusian and Russian communists.

    After Minsk, delegations of communist and labor parties will leave for Moscow where they will take part in the events conducted by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

  • International relations...

    Zyuganov urges Kremlin to proceed with building union with Belarus

    From: Interfax
    Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov has called on the Russian government to abide by its commitments on building a union with Belarus.

    "There is an agreement on building a union, and so please go ahead with implementing it - set up common administrative bodies, pass common laws, and so on," Zyuganov said at an international congress of leftwing parties in Minsk on Saturday.

    Zyuganov also urged the Russian leadership "to stop blackmailing Minsk and arguing with Belarus who will be president of the union."

    "The West is dreaming about separating Belarus from Russia and incorporating it into NATO and the EU," Zyuganov said. He added, however, that this "will never happen" and called on socialist forces to combine their efforts to prevent this scenario.

    "Everything should be done so that the union should develop," he said.

    China, Belarus enjoy sound, stable development of bilateral ties

    From: People's Daily
    China-Belarus relations have enjoyed a healthy and stable development since the two countries established diplomatic ties 15 years ago, marked by political mutual trust and support and mutually beneficial economic cooperation.

    The two countries have enjoyed a long friendship and share a broad range of common interests in political and economic fields. The bilateral relationship has entered a new stage of all-round development and strategic cooperation.

    Bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various fields have been fruitful since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992.

    In recent years, exchanges of visits by top Chinese and Belarussian leaders have become more frequent, which has helped enhance the friendship and mutual trust.

    Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has visited China four times. There are no political differences between the two countries, the president has said.

    China, seen by Belarus as a friendly partner, has long been its foreign policy priority. China also regards Belarus as a reliable friend.

    The China-Belarus friendship is built on a solid political foundation.

    The two countries share similar views on major international issues. Both favor the creation of a multi-polar world, support the authority of the United Nations and oppose unilateralism.

    China respects Belarus' right to decide on its foreign policy and choose its own paths of development, and supports its efforts to safeguard its sovereignty and uphold national dignity, maintain domestic stability and develop its national economy.

    China appreciates Belarus' adherence to the one-China policy and has thanked it for its long-standing and valuable support to China over such issues as Taiwan and Tibet, which bear on China's sovereignty.

    Belarus, in response, understands and supports China's lndependent foreign policy of peace and oppose the "China Threat Theory."

    Trade and economic cooperation, a component part of bilateral ties, has also been boosted.

    Bilateral trade surged from less than 460 million U.S. dollars in 2004 to nearly 800 million dollars in 2006, which also represents a 30-percent increase over 2005.

    During January-July this year, bilateral trade reached 466 million dollars, a 71.8-percent increase over the previous corresponding period.

    Cultural and educational exchanges are also on the increase. A Confucius institute was established in the State University of Belarus in Minsk in January, which is expected to facilitate teaching of the Chinese language and the spread of the Chinese culture in the country. Meanwhile, more than 1,300 Chinese students are currently studying in Belarus.

    Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Belarus will undoubtedly further promote bilateral cooperation in various fields and push the development of Chinese-Belarussian ties to a new height.

    Khristenko opposes 2nd gas link via Belarus

    From: Reuters
    Russia's Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko said on Thursday he believed it made no economic sense to build a second stretch of a pipeline to Germany via Poland and Belarus, known as Yamal-Europe-2.

    Khristenko's statement contradicted an earlier comment by Russia's Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, who said last month he supported revisiting the idea of the second link.

    Belarus has called on Russia to drop the idea of a new pipeline to Germany under the Baltic Sea, known as Nord Stream, saying it would be more profitable to build a second parallel link to the existing onshore pipeline.

    "I think there is no justification for Yamal-Europe-2," Khristenko told reporters.

    Belarussian officials have said the second Yamal-Europe link could cost $2-3 billion, much lower than the 5 billion euro ($7.21 billion), slated for the underwater section of Nord Stream.

    Gazprom has said it would not revive the idea of the second link until gas demand in Belarus and Poland increases.

    It has also said Nord Stream would allow it to reduce dependence on transit states and improve Europe's energy security, which suffered badly from gas supply cuts following Gazprom's pricing disputes with Ukraine and Belarus.

    The first Yamal-Europe link was commissioned early this decade and is trans-shipping around 30 billion cubic metres of gas per year. The second stretch could in theory double its capacity.

    Nord Stream's capacity is projected at 22.5 bcm, gradually rising to 55 bcm.

  • Business...

    Belarusian oil refineries intend to enhance oil refining

    From: NLIPRB
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko believes that the Belarusian oil refining capacities are underused.

    “It is important to not only import crude oil into the country but to also make sure that it is fully and efficiently used. The situation when the profitability of the super profitable industry is just 1% cannot be satisfactory,” the head of state said at the First Congress of Belarus’ Scientists in Minsk on November 2.

    According to him, Belarus channels great funds into the oil refining industry. An alkylation facility has been built at Mozyr Oil Refinery due to which the petrol produced at the company will fully comply with the European standards. This is very important since 80% of the output is exported, the head of state noted.

    He stressed that the construction of new facilities enhancing oil refining continues. “All that will open new opportunities for boosting production of high-octane petrol which will significantly increase the competitiveness of products and the company’s rating in the foreign market,” Alexander Lukashenko added.

    Belarus may create mining and smelting industry of its own

    From: NLIPRB
    Belarusian scientists are considering the possibility of setting up a domestic mining and smelting industry using Byelorussian Steel Works, President of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus Mikhail Myasnikovich told the First Congress of Belarus’ Scientists on November 2.

    According to calculations the scientists have made, using Belarus-mined iron ore will result in a high economic effectiveness. The National Academy of Sciences of Belarus together with interested agencies is ready to work out details of this innovation project.

    Mikhail Myasnikovich noted, Belarus needs to modernise its chemical industry, which seems to have some drawbacks, in particular, with the production of plastic and polymeric materials. Companies of Belarusian petrochemical concern Belneftekhim should extend the product choice, improve the quality of products to comply with requirements of the global market.

    Apart from that, Belarus should not miss the opportunities the domestic production of LEDs can offer, as LED technologies used in lighting devices are a promising trend today.

    A new ideology should be worked out to guide the development of information technologies in order to allow Belarus to become one of the world’s centres of computer design. According to Mikhail Myasnikovich, the lack of qualified specialists is the main barrier for a breakthrough in this area. “High competition for IT professions at universities means we have a lot of talented youth. But they should be given opportunities to make their dreams come true in their own country. This reasoning unearths the issue of decent salaries for scientists, effective stimulation of scientific efforts, better funding for major scientific projects,” stressed the President of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.

    Belarus increased grain import by 29.6% in January-August

    From: agrimarket
    According to the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis of Belarus, in January-August the country increased the import of grain by 29.6% as compared to the analogous period last year.

    The average price per tonne under the import contracts during the reported period was $232, up 27.8% as compared to the same period last year.

    The highest volume was delivered by Kazakhstan (205.700 tonnes). During the same period in 2006, Kazakhstan delivered only 45.500 tonnes.

    Besides, Belarus imported also 200.900 tonnes of grain from Ukraine (down 10.1% as compared to January-August 2006) and 77.000 tonnes from Russia (up 2.1 times).

    In addition, Moldova - 14.800 tonnes (+53.1%), Pakistan - 9.700 tonnes (+15.7%), Lithuania - 9.100 tonnes (down 8.3 times) were also among the suppliers of grain to Belarus.

    Foreign diplomats commemorate Stalinist terror victims at Kurapaty

    From: naviny
    The heads of the diplomatic missions of European Union countries, Israel and the United States on November 2 laid flowers at Kurapaty, a Stalin-era massacre site just outside Minsk, BelaPAN reported.

    The Slovak embassy, which has been the EU’s local representative on behalf of Portugal since July 1, 2007, earlier said that on this day, when many Europeans traditionally honor their dead, the diplomats will commemorate the height of Stalin’s terror against innocent Belarusians, Poles, Russians, Jews and people of other nationalities 70 years ago.

    Taking part in the commemorative ceremony also were members of a group spearheading the commemoration of Stalinist terror victims and opposition youths.

    The gathering prayed, sang the Mahytny Bozha anthem and laid flowers at the Cross of Sufferings, memorials to Poles and Jews, the Clinton Bench and the memorial stone fixed at the highest point at Kurapaty.

    The prayer services were conducted by Roman Catholic priest Yury Sanko and the priest of the Minsk-based Holy Spirit Orthodox church, Alyaksandr Shymbalyow.

    Historian Ihar Kuznyatsow, an expert in the Stalin purges, addressed the gathering. He said that Kurapaty was on the government’s list of protected sites, but memorials that had been put up there were not protected by the government.

    He said that three investigations had established that Stalin’s NKVD police had executed people at the site between 1937 and 1941. “Apart from Belarusian nationals, people from many European countries and the United States lie in the 510 graves,” he said.

    Mayya Klyashtornaya, coordinator of the Kurapaty Historic Heritage project, said that in the early 1960s when work was carried at Kurapaty to install a gas pipeline she saw three trucks removing human bones from the site.

  • Around the region...

    OSCE reluctantly accepts Russia vote monitor curbs

    From: Reuters
    Europe's election watchdog said on Friday it had no choice but to accept Russian limitations on its monitoring of a December parliamentary election expected to highlight President Vladimir Putin's strong hold on power.

    Washington has criticized the Kremlin's decision to slash monitor numbers to less than a quarter of those admitted for Russia's 2003 election; this in a country spanning 11 time zones and 11,000 km (7,000 miles) from the Baltic to the Pacific.

    Officials at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Russia's invitation, received on Wednesday, was two months late and its limitations could hamper any assessment.

    "(We) will attempt to observe the upcoming Duma elections by deploying a restricted election observation mission," said Urdur Gunnarsdottir, spokeswoman for the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, its vote monitoring arm.

    She said this would require swift issuing of visas and accreditation for up to 70 observers approved.

    "We will have to move quickly now, we have not been able to prepare as we normally do in other elections ... We hope that we may still be able to offer some assessment of the legislative framework and the very last stages of the campaign."

    Opinion polls suggest Putin's United Russia bloc will win a huge majority. Opponents say increased state domination of news media give the bloc an undemocratic edge.

    Putin, popular for his moves to restore central control after the chaos of the immediate post-Soviet years, must step down as president when his second term ends next year. But he has hinted he might use parliament as a continued power base.

    Gunnarsdottir said Russia's conditions were accepted "reluctantly" because there was no time left for negotiations.

    Diplomats in the OSCE see Russia's new restrictions as part of a Kremlin campaign to roll back what it regards as efforts to impose Western influence in the vast former Soviet region.

    The OSCE said Russia's 2003 vote had flaws, including a lack of equal access to media for opposition parties.

    Russia has also floated a proposal to the 56-nation OSCE's ministerial council that would permanently reduce monitor missions in seven former Soviet states and ban them from issuing public reports right after the election.

    The United States said on Thursday the proposal was likely to face majority opposition in Europe's biggest security and rights body, whose ministers make decisions based on consensus.

    OSCE foreign ministers are expected to discuss Russia's draft proposal at a November 29-30 gathering in Madrid.

    Kremlin-funded blockbuster casts Putin in a tsar role

    From: Sunday Herald
    Vladimir Khotinenko
    THE KREMLIN has turned to a tumultuous period in Russian history to foster a subliminal loyalty to President Vladimir Putin and erase the memory of a Communist national holiday.

    The event, an uprising in 1612 that drove a Polish-Lithuanian army out of Moscow, is romanticised in a new blockbuster film that detractors have compared to Soviet-era propaganda.

    It showcases key ideas being pushed by the Kremlin at a time when it faces parliamentary and presidential elections: the necessity of strong leadership; treacherous foreigners; and the importance of patriotism.

    The film, 1612, was released to coincide with a relatively new November 4 national holiday created by Putin to celebrate National Unity Day.

    The bank holiday was introduced in 2005 to replace the traditional Soviet November 7 national holiday that marked the Bolshevik revolution.

    Aimed at teenage cinemagoers, the film was commissioned by the Kremlin and retells the uprising of 1612 in a style reminiscent of Lord Of The Rings complete with a unicorn, a love story, and a decisive battle of good versus evil.

    The events it is based upon marked a turning point in Russian history. During the so-called "time of troubles" in the early 17th century, Moscow slipped into lawlessness, foreign armies vied for control, famine stalked the land, and the tsardom lacked any leadership.

    The chaos in Moscow ended after an uprising drove the foreign invaders out, setting the stage for the Romanov dynasty to rule Russia for the next 300 years. Mikhail Romanov was crowned tsar in 1613, heralding the arrival of a period of Russian expansion.

    Putin's aides are keen to promote the idea that the events of 1612 have been replayed almost 400 years later.

    Post-Soviet Russia's "time of troubles" was, they say, the anarchic 1990s when Boris Yeltsin presided over a weak criminalised state heavily influenced by Washington. And of course it is Putin, they say, who is the country's latter-day tsar who has restored order and banished treacherous foreign influence.

    The film was in part bankrolled by oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, the man who in 2004 bought nine Fabergé eggs in the US so they could be repatriated.

    "It's important for me that the audience feel pride," said director Vladimir Khotinenko. "That they didn't regard it as something that happened in ancient history but as a recent event. That they felt the link between what happened 400 years ago and today."

    But liberals claim it is part of an attempt to mythologise parts of the country's history to build an aggressive new national identity that takes the "good bits" from the tsarist and Communist eras. They also argue it is a subliminal party political broadcast.

    "The picture ends with the election of Mikhail Romanov and the appearance of a glorious new tsarist dynasty," wrote Russian Newsweek.

    "We also have elections. We also have a glorious new dynasty. So the film is also hinting who and why we should choose for the good of Russia."

    Going into parliamentary elections on December 4, Putin has put himself at the top of the Kremlin-allied party United Russia's list, turning the vote into a referendum on his almost eight years of power. The party is expected to win almost 70% of the vote on the back of his phenomenal popularity.

    But Putin has a problem. The constitution prevents him from running for a third consecutive term. That prospect has Russia's elite in panic. Leading political figures have called on him to change the constitution and stay on, and in recent weeks the country has been gripped by rallies begging him to remain president.

    One of the most famous members of the film's production team has made it clear which way he wants things to go.

    Nikita Mikhalkov, whose 2004 film Burnt By The Son won an Oscar for best foreign film, has penned a public letter with other cultural figures to Putin urging him to stay on. "Russia needs your talents and wisdom," the letter said.

    So far, 1612 has received mixed reviews, with one critic calling it "Russian trash". But its ideological genus and message have drawn the most scorn.

    "With the help of culture you can create simplified versions of reality that are hugely beneficial to government," wrote historian Igor Dolutskii. Film directors had become, he added, representatives "of the oldest profession in the world".

    Police capture pedophile teacher in Poland

    From: News PL
    The police have arrested a physics teacher from Klodzk, Lower Silesia, privately a “connoisseur” of child pornography. Krzysztof P. has managed to collect tones of films and pictures, which, according to the police, explicitly confirm their assumption that the man is a pedophile.

    Though considered a good teacher at the workplace, the man indulged in his sick hobby, while at home.

    Police say the man transformed his house into a quasi-warehouse crammed with child pornography materials. He downloaded so many of them that, eventually, even foreign crime-prevention organizations became interested in him.

    It was actually Interpol that informed the Polish police of the man’s dangerous activity. Ultimately, it was the teacher’s IP address that gave him away, thus enabling detention by the police.

    Ukraine to reach 2008 gas price deal with Russia before

    From: Ria Novosti
    Ukraine will conclude talks with Russia on prices for 2008 natural gas supplies before November 20, First Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Friday.

    "The ministries should conclude talks with Russia on terms and conditions of natural gas supplies to Ukraine and sign relevant contracts by November 20," Azarov said at a conference devoted to pricing policy.

    Speaking at the same conference also attended by the president, Prime Minister Yanukovych said Ukraine would have to live with Russian gas prices approaching average European levels of $230 per 1,000 cubic meters, in line with the policy Russia is pursuing with its former Soviet allies.

    "The gas price for Ukraine will be approaching global levels," the premier said.

    Ukraine currently pays $130 per 1,000 cu m for a mixture of gas pumped from and via Russia. Media reports have suggested that in 2008 the price could appreciate to $180.

    Yanukovych said Ukraine would try to retain a privileged position in terms of gas prices next year.

    While instructing Ukrainian officials, earlier this week, to complete the deal in the near future, Yanukovych said the price for next year should not exceed $150-$160 per 1,000 cu m.

    Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister, is likely to replace Yanukovych soon and form a new government by the end of this year after the pro-Western coalition won snap parliamentary elections last month.

    The gas talks resumed after a week-long spat between Moscow and Kiev in October, when Russia demanded Ukraine pay off its gas debt and threatened to cut supplies otherwise, reviving memories of the early 2006 pricing row, which affected gas transits to Western Europe.

  • From the blogs...

    Top Communists Gather in Minsk

    From: New Zeal
    You won't hear much about this highly significant gathering in the MSM.

    These people are not holding a high school reunion. They are planning your future.

    Attendees include the three most influential communist parties in the world-Russia, China and the USA. The Russian Party effectively controls Russia, the Chinese Party controls a quarter of the world's population and a huge chunk of its wealth.
    The US Party has thoroughly infiltrated the Democratic Party and has huge influence in the US Congrss and Senate.

    Unlike most in the West, these people realise that their movement is very much alive and are looking forward to a very succesful next 90 years.

    From Belorussian State News

      Minsk is welcoming delegations participating in the international meeting of communist and working parties. The forum “The 90th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. Its Urgency and vitality. Communists Combating Imperialism and Backing Socialism.” will be held in Minsk on November 3-5. The Belarusian capital has already received representatives of the communist parties of Spain, Greece and Sudan. On October 31 a delegation of Bahrain is expected to arrive in Belarus, BelTA learnt from First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Belarus Tatiana Golubeva.

      The meeting will gather about 80 delegations of communist and working parties from all the continents. The total amount of the participants of the forum will exceed 150 people. Among them will be Gennady Zyuganov, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Greece Aleka Papariga, delegations of the communist parties of China, Cuba and Vietnam.

      The forum will focus on the anniversary of the October Revolution, several speeches will mark the event. Tatiana Golubeva will report on the role of the Revolution in the history of the Belarusian people.

      The participants of the meeting will consider the international communist movement, the situation in different regions of the world and adopt final documents. The event also envisages placing of flowers to the monument of Vladimir Lenin, the Victory obelisk and visits to the companies.

      Tatiana Golubeva noted that Belarus has been, for the first time, honoured of holding a meeting of the delegations of communist and working groups. Belarusian and Russian communists have passed a joint address to the working group of the International Communist Movement asking to hold meetings in Belarus and Russia – the document has been signed by Tatiana Golubeva and Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Gennady Zyuganov.

      Tatiana Golubeva considers that the decision of the working group of the International Communist Movement to hold a regular meeting in Belarus and Russia was influenced by the fact that the October Revolution Day is a state holiday in Belarus.

      After the meeting in Minsk, communist and working groups will go to Moscow to partake in the events held by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

    People Can Be 'Fined' for Complaining to State Organs

    From: Viasna
    On 15 January 2008 a presidential decree about additional measures on work with applications of individuals and legal organs will come into force.
    Since that time all Belarusian officials will accept private individuals and representatives of organizations on Wednesdays, not less than six hours at once and either start working not later than 8 a.m. or finish working not earlier than 8 p.m. so that people could come to them before or after work.

    According to the decree in the case a person sends a repeated complaint and the state organ sees no reason for reaction, the correspondence is stopped and the officials pay no more reaction. The second measure against complainants is that they can be obliged to cover the expenses for check-up of their groundless complaints. It is up to the officials to decide which complaints are and which are not groundless.

    On October 15th the President of Belarus signed edict # 498 “About additional measures of the work with appeals of citizens and legal entities”. The document establishes “quality-new approaches” to work with appeals of citizens. Earlier the procedure of appeal was regulated by the law, adopted in the nineties.

    Lawyer Yury Chavusau comments the situation with the new edict for the European Radio:

    “The edict radically changes the procedure of consideration of citizens’ appeals. The first thing which is evident is the fact that now citizens will not be able to complain to the center, to Minsk, to the national governing bodies.

    According to the President’s press service, 70% of all complaints are complaints to the central bodies.”

    Now the letters of Belarusians will be considered only by the local bodies, within the borders of a district. The letters will be returned to a district from Minsk or the regional centers. Yury Chavusau forecasts how the people would react on such a “new approach”:

    “Complaints to higher-ranking officers was the mechanism people still believed. They have lost faith in courts or prosecutor’s offices. But they believed complaints to high-ranking officers were a good mechanism they could rely on.

    The authorities cancelled the mechanism. I can forecast that, certainly, this is not enough to create a revolutionary situation. But the tension in the society will definitely grow.”

    There is also a positive aspect in the edict. Now the procedure of consideration of appeals also covers the appeals of mass media and legal entities.

  • Sport...

    Poor Irish beaten by Belarus minnows

    From: Independant
    THE Republic of Ireland U-19 side faces an early exit from the UEFA Championships after a disappointing loss to Belarus yesterday.

    A goal in each half handed the three points to an ordinary Belarus outfit in the Portuguese city of Povoa do Varzim, as Sean McCaffrey's side produced a jaded performance.

    A strike over from defender Danny Earls and a looping header from Graham Carey that keeper Artisiom Hamelka tipped over on the half-hour was all the Irish produced early on.

    Belarus opened the scoring in the 37th minute after Ihar Zaniamonets put Valentin Radevich through to beat the exposed Irish keeper Shane Redmond.

    Two minutes later a long range strike by Andrei Varankou struck Ireland's left upright then rebounded back off Redmond before rolling wide.

    Redmond then kept out a header from winger Vladzimir Yurchanka six minutes after the restart. Ireland looked a lot livelier after the break but struggled to create chances.

    Belarus went 2-0 up with eight minutes left when Maksim Vitus beat Redmond from close range.

    Republic of Ireland -- Redmond (Nottm Forest); Moloney (Nottm Forest), Breen (Man City), Lowry (Aston Villa), Earls (Aston Villa), Carey (Celtic), Fitzgerald (West Ham), Cahillane (Celtic) (Hutton (Tottenham) 74), I Daly (Man City) (Arter (Charlton) 46), Onwubiko (Bray Wdrs) (McDermott (Man City) 46), Fagan (Man Utd).

    Belarus -- Hamelka; Kazlou, Palitsevich, Shmatko, Vitus, Radevich (Trachynski 87), U Yurchanka, Hrechyshka, Varankou (Zubovich 69), Zaniamonets (Matsveyanka 72), Yuzovich.

  • The indoor skating rink Yunost Minsk will host McDonald’s Cup 2007 on November 2 - 6. Junior ice hockey teams from five countries will take part in the challenge, namely, Yunost Minsk (Belarus), Kristall and Yamal (Russia), EJK -95 Panthers (Finland), Sokol (Ukraine), Metalurgs (Latvia). The cup is organized by the chain of fast food restaurants McDonald’s and HC Yunost Minsk with the support of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus.

  • The 25th Trampoline World Championships, which is the only qualifying event for next year’s Olympics in Beijing, opens October 31 in Quebec. A Belarusian delegation includes four men (Nikolai Kazak, Vyacheslav Model, Yakov Rakitsky, Evgeny Zhukovsky) and four women (Tatiana Petrenia, Ekaterina Mironova, Maria Gridchina, Tatiana Prischepova), BelTA has been told in the Ministry of Sport and Tourism. One of the leaders of the Belarusian men’s team, Vladimir Kakorko, who together with his partner Nikolai Kazak won the world championship 2005 synchronized trampoline, will not b able to attend the event due to injury. His substitute in Quebec will be Vyacheslav Model. By the way, this season the duo Kazak-Model won a bronze medal at the world cup in St. Petersburg in August.

  • Endnote...

    Political regime in Belarus is most repressive in Europe

    From: Charter '97
    The visit of Souhayr Belhassen, President of the International Federation for Human Rights is over. She has been in Belarus since 28 October and had meetings with the relatives of the political prisoners, representatives of political parties and public organizations in Minsk and Hrodna. The representatives of four ministries – justice, information, internal and foreign affairs, didn’t want to meet with the President of the International Federation for Human Rights.

    “I have seen myself that accusation against Dashkevich and Finkevich are ridiculous”, - Souhayr Belhassen said today. According to the human rights activist, all European representatives ought to ask that they should be present on the trial over Zmiter Dashkevich, otherwise the trial will be closed.

    The federation will also support the examination of a complaint concerning Aliaksandr Kazulin at UNO Human Rights Commission, Radio Svaboda reports.

    “There are four prisoners of conscience in European country, it is absolutely scandalous fact. The European community should be mobilized in order the prisoners of conscience to be released”, - the human rights activist said.

    After she returns to France, Ms. Belhassen is going to create an international committee in support of Andrei Klimau. She will offer the famous public figures to become its members.

    “Klimau was sent to the colony 328 km away from Minsk, and it is an outrage. He and the others won’t be amnestied. You begin to ask yourself: why then the amnesty has been organized? Klimau is suffering from heart troubles because of improper treatment.

    And we think the officials are responsible for his psychological and physical state. He wrote he was afraid to survive because he would see even more awful hell, - it means he is kept in unbearable conditions”, - Belhassen thinks.

    “Being the President of the International Federation for Human Rights I want to say how this visit was important for me - as a symbol. I wanted to come to this European country where the political regime is the most repressive in Europe. To demonstrate our support to the human rights activists and oppositional political parties”, - the President of IFHR said.

    She added: “I came here after the trial over the case of “Viasna” denial in registration. Unfortunately, the situation with the human rights center “Viasna” is not original. Many organizations are in the same situation and have to work on illegal conditions. They are constantly facing repressions”.

    Ms. Belhassen also had good impressions of her visit:

    “In spite of repressions, there are young people, political parties and non-governmental organizations who are mobilizing and try to resist repressions. Their motto today is resistance.

    I have met with the young people who are working actively to lead this country to democracy. I want to admit their courage”.
  • Note: for a bit more interesting reading, please see Con Coughlin's article for, Darkness is falling in Vladimir Putin's Russia