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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Minsk extends boundaries, China, Russia and Gas, Border issues, EU, Belneftekhim, Listapad, More Polish corruption, Blogs and Sport

  • From the Top...
  • #259

    Minsk extends its administrative boundaries

    From: The office of the president
    The president on a working trip to the Mogilev region
    On 22 November, the President of the Republic of Belarus signed a Decree extending the administrative boundaries of the city of Minsk. Under the Decree, the territories under the Shabany industrial area and those belonging to the closed joint-stock company Atlant and communal unitary agricultural enterprise Sovkhoz Rassvet Agricultural Company have been brought under the administrative subordination of the city of Minsk.

    The changing of the Minsk city boundary has been caused by the necessity to streamline the system of administrative and territorial subordination and establish uniform approaches to taxation.

    The lands brought under the administrative subordination of the city of Minsk by the afore-mentioned Decree lie within the area indented for development under the long-term development plan of Minsk.

    No allocations from the national budget are required to materialise the afore-mentioned decision.

    President attends capsule-laying ceremony in Mogilev

    On 23 November, during his working trip to the Mogilev region, the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has participated in the ceremony marking the beginning of the reconstruction of the Mogilev city hall. A capsule with an address to the descendents has been laid down in the foundation of the building. After the ceremony, the Head of State had a warm conversation with the students of Mogilev higher education institutions.

    The Mogilev city hall is an outstanding historical and cultural monument built in 1698. It was considered a masterpiece of civil architecture of the 17th century, the symbol of Mogilev.

    President of Belarus to get familiar with development of car-building industry in Belarus

    On November 23 President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko will go on a working trip to the Mogilev oblast, BelTA has been told in the head of state’s press service.

    Alexander Lukashenko is scheduled to take part in an official ceremony of laying down a capsule with a message to future generations into the foundation of Mogilev Town Hall which is currently being constructed. Then the head of state will visit the companies of Belarusian Auto Works. For example, Alexander Lukashenko will get familiar with the production and economic activity of Mogilev Auto Works named after Kirov and also with the course of implementation of his instruction on the development of the car-building industry during his trip to Mogilev coach building works.

    In 2006, Mogilev coach building works had the output of Br32,3 billion. The growth was 231.3%. This year the production is projected to amount to Br37 billon, or 82.6% up. Sales products are expected at the amount of Br496 million, net profits – Br347 million. Monthly wages at the company are Br685 thousand.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Russia’s Accounts Chamber concerned about Union State’s growing unused budget funds

    From: BelTA
    The Accounts Chamber of Russia is concerned about the growing unused budget funds of the Union State, the press service of the Accounts Chamber told BelTA after a session of the Accounts Chamber board held in Moscow on November 23.

    A joint examination by the State Control Committee of Belarus and the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation showed that over the first nine months of 2007 Union State budget expenses were less than half of the target. The money spent on Union State bodies totalled 81.3% of the allocated funds, the money spent on fulfilling programmes, subprogrammes and measures — 54%.

    The examination revealed that surplus balances on accounts at national treasuries and main managers steadily grow. As of October 1, 2007 surplus balances of the Union State budget exceeded RUB2 billion, 68.1% of the revenues, 100% up since early this year. Budget surpluses of the main managers in Russia alone have tripled since the beginning of the year to total RUB515.3 million.

    During the session of the Accounts Chamber board it was noted that the poor organisation of fulfilment of Union State programmes, including failures to submit payment justification papers to national treasuries, by the client states was the key reasons the budget surpluses are on the rise. Delayed tenders for choosing the performers of services, supplying goods, resulting in delayed contracts and funding were also named among the reasons the budget surpluses are on the rise.

    Concerns are growing with regard to the fulfilment of the programme “Design and batch production of high-performance agricultural machines based on a universal mobile 200-450 hp energy unit in 2006-2009”. Before now the Russian Industry and Energy Ministry has failed to take measures to start the practical implementation of the programme and assimilation of Union State budget funds. The delay in the programme’s fulfilment in Russia may disable the fulfilment of the programme at all. Out of RUB733 million of the planned expenses Russia did not make any while in Belarus the expenses totalled 97.9% of the budget plans.

    The board of the Accounts Chamber of Russia decided to forward a report to Boris Gryzlov, Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Belarus-Russia Union, and a letter to Chairman of the Union State Council of Ministers Viktor Zubkov.

    Moscow forum to consider Union State programmes

    In a related story, the goals and prospects of the Union State programmes will be considered in Moscow at the 2nd forum of Union State draft programmes. The event will take place in the Russian Chamber of Trade and Industry on November 26, BelTA learnt from the Union State Permanent Committee.

    The forum is expected to generalize the experience of the implemented programmes in industry, agriculture, science, social sphere, culture and education and to outline new promising projects. Special attention will be paid to the development of the regional cooperation as it is the key point in Belarus-Russia integration, the Permanent Committee noted. The forum will also discuss the results of the trade-economic cooperation between the two countries.

    Attending the meeting will be the chiefs of large companies and leading research centers of Belarus and Russia, representatives of the executive and legislative power, administrations of the Russian regions and Belarusian oblasts.

    Union State programmes are one of main tools of implementation of the social and economic policy of the Union State. Over 70% of the Union State budget is channeled into the programmes every year. At the moment several projects qualify for being listed in the programmes in the fields of aviation and rocket science, machine making, biotechnologies, medical and chemical industries, agriculture, software support.

    The forum is organized by the Union State Permanent Committee in partnership with the Union State Parliamentary Assembly and the Belarusian Embassy to the Russian Federation.

    The first forum of the Union State draft programmes was held in December last year. Its main topic was private and state partnership in carrying out the programmes.

    About 100 companies of China show interest in business forum of Minsk companies in Changchun

    From: BelTA
    About 100 Chinese companies took part in the business forum of Minsk companies which was held within the framework of the Days of Minsk in Changchun (China).

    Minsk businessmen presented more than 100 projects of cooperation including the projects in automobile construction, optical industry and electronics, agricultural food processing and also in the sphere of construction, education and others.

    The head of the Changchun commercial department expressed a wish that the Chinese side will determine interesting projects and establish mutually beneficial cooperation.

    The Changchun-based companies have already implemented a number of joint projects with the Belarusian partners. These were the 1st Automobile Plant of Changchun, the pharmaceutical company Huatun, the trading industry company Ifa and others. In September this year, the Belarusian-Chinese Technological Park opened in Changchun. It will produce high-tech products – laser equipment, nonlinear optics and other goods. The first joint venture Soral specialized in production of industrial laser devices has been already registered in Changchun as well.

    In the course of the business forum in Changchun, the sides outlined the further cooperation. The leadership of the Minsk television information network discussed the supplies of cable products to Belarus and the supplies of up-to-date technological equipment to develop cable television in the Belarusian capital. Representatives of the Minsk Instrument Making Plant discussed the possibilities of the joint production of consumer goods. The Minsk-based Integral discussed the export of semiconductor devices and the Minsk-based BelOMO – the supplies of optical devices. The Minsk Car Repair Plant and its Chinese partners discussed the prospects of export of passenger cars.

    The Days of Minsk is running in Changchun on November 21-24. Changchun is a twin-city of Minsk. The population of the city is 7.6 million people. The number of people from provinces totals 26.4 million. The city has well-developed scientific, motor-car construction (cars are produced under German and Japanese licenses) and optical instrument-making industry.

    Belarus continues negotiating gas prices with Gazprom, Eduard Tovpenets says

    From: BelTA
    Belarus continues negotiating gas prices for 2008 with Gazprom, first deputy energy ministry Eduard Tovpenets told reporters on November 22.

    He stressed that the negotiations about the gas prices were constructive “there is a price formula and a contract”. At the moment Gazprom considers Belarusian offers.

    Speaking about the recently established Belarusian-Russian gas transportation company, Eduard Tovpenets noted that “the Gazprom policy became more thought-out”. Both the Russian and Belarusian parties realize the necessity to do their best for ensuring profitable operation of the company.

    Construction of second line Yamal-Europe can be highly efficient

    Construction of the second line of the Yamal-Europe gas main can prove to be a highly efficient project, first deputy energy ministry Eduard Tovpenets stated at today’s session of the 10th Minsk Forum.

    Yamal-Europe is one of the key pipelines transporting gas to European consumers and the construction of the second line will boost the volumes and increase reliability of gas supplies. When the first line was constructed Gazprom offered Belarus $220 million tax and customs preferences.

    The main advantage of the project is that it is twice as short as the Ukrainian corridor. Eduard Tovpenets noted that the construction of the second line can be carried out stage-by-stage. At the first stage transit capacities of the Belarusian gas transport system can be used. This will allow boosting gas supplies to Poland and Germany by 23.5 billion cubic meters a year. A reminder, the design production capacity of the first Yamal-Europe line is estimated at 33 billion cubic meters a year.

    Belarus may import oil through Baltic ports

    Belarus may import oil through the Baltic ports, BelTA learnt from Belneftekhim Concern.

    At present the northern branch of the oil pipeline Druzhba, which runs through Belarus, stands idle. In this conjunction Belarus may use this branch in the reverse mode to import oil from the Baltic ports, Belneftekhim specialists underlined.

    One more potential route of supplying oil to Belarus is the oil pipeline Odessa-Brody. However, Belarus cannot use this facility now as Ukrtransnafta Co. concluded a contract with the Russian side for pumping oil through the line till 2009. Some 9-12 million tonnes of oil are annually delivered to Ukraine via Belarus’ territory.

    Belarus to temporarily bar 100,000 citizens from traveling abroad - minister

    From: Interfax Russia
    About 100,000 Belarusian citizens will be put on the list of those temporarily barred from leaving the country, Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov told journalists on Saturday.

    "This list will be quite long. It will number about 100,000 people," Naumov said. The list will include people who have access to state secrets, outstanding criminal convictions, debts on alimonies, unsettled loans, and others, he said.

    It was reported earlier that the Belarusian Interior Ministry had drafted a presidential decree on abolishing the practice of sanctioning peoples' travel abroad by putting special stamps in their passports starting from January 1, 2008.

    The Belarusian Interior Ministry is currently compiling a database of people who would be temporarily barred from leaving the country. All other citizens will be able to travel abroad without seeking permission from the government.

    Belarus resumes Italian holidays for orhpans

    From: Reuters
    Belarus approved a deal with Italy on Thursday to resume sending orphans on holiday to live with families there, a year after it stopped the visits because an Italian couple tried to keep a child in their care.

    Before last year, some 30,000 orphaned Belarussian children went on holiday to Italy each year, many of them suffering from the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which struck Belarus more than any other country.

    Minsk suspended the holidays in 2006, after an Italian couple hosting 10-year-old Viktoria Moroz tried to hide her in northern Italy. The couple said she was being mistreated at her orphanage, a charge Belarussian authorities deny.

    She was eventually found by police. On Thursday, lawmakers ratified an agreement setting down rules for the holiday visits, allowing them to resume.

    "The accord sets down strict deadlines for the return home of Belarussian children after such holidays," Education Minister Alexander Radkov told the chamber.

    He said the pact does not allow families hosting the orphans in Italy to subsequently adopt them.

    Minsk has tightened conditions for the foreign adoption of Belarussian children on the grounds that they are protecting the children from negative Western influences.

    It authorised only 30 foreign adoptions last year, but Radkov has said he hopes to allow up to 200 in 2007.

    Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko is accused by Western countries of crushing fundamental rights, but remains popular at home for his policies of generous state benefits and firm state control of the economy.

    Remains of Napoleonic soldiers buried in Belarus

    From: International Herald Tribune
    Authorities on Sunday reburied the remains of more than 200 soldiers of Napoleon's army who died in a major battle in 1812.

    Tens of thousands of French troops and civilians perished when the Russian army attacked Napoleon's army retreating from Moscow as it was crossing the Berezina River in November 1812.

    On Sunday, the remains of 223 French soldiers were buried in a mass grave near the village of Studenka at Berezina's bank, some 115 kilometers (about 70 miles) east of the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

    "Today we must remember the suffering that befell these soldiers and forget about our disagreements," the French Ambassador to Belarus, Mireille Musso, said at the ceremony.

    The remains were found by war enthusiasts and government-sponsored teams digging in the area, which was also the site of a major battle during World War II.

    Today in Europe
    Sleuths say they've found the last RomanovsWorkers rescued from burning oil platform in North SeaPope prays for Annapolis summit, urges prayers of wisdom, courage among participants

    About 100 military history enthusiasts from Russia, Belarus and France, dressed in period uniforms, re-enacted episodes of the Berezina battle to mark the event.

    Foreign ministry official calls on EU to review approach to Belarus

    From: Belorusskie Novosti,
    Uladzimir Serpikaw, a senior official at the Belarusian foreign ministry's Europe department, has called on the European Union to review its approach to Belarus, defending Minsk's policies.

    Speaking at a meeting on the country's foreign and economic polices in Minsk on Friday, Mr. Serpikaw accused the EU's "political circles" of a "critical and biased vision" of the country, which he noted they formed a long time ago. "Few in the European Union really want to understand Belarus," he said.

    Mr. Serpikaw said that Minsk's policies "produced a result, with people supporting the government." "Many Belarusians prefer a gradual movement forward to erratic changes in the government, color revolutions and disturbances," he said.

    The official described Belarus as a reliable partner for the EU, citing efficient controls established at the shared border. He said that there had been 10 attempts of illegal border crossing at the Polish border and none at the Lithuanian and Latvian borders "during a year."

    He noted the need for Brussels to review its approach to what he called the constructive force.

    "People in Belarus absolutely do not understand steps such as an increase in visa fees or brakes put by the EU on the process of Belarus' accession to the World Trade Organization," he said.

    He expressed the opinion that the country could offer many opportunities of "mutually beneficial" cooperation to the EU, whereas the EU could help Belarus to develop, by moving to "normal cooperation free from prior conditions and trite ideological clichйs

    US subsidiary of Belnaftakhim hit by Washington’s sanctions, official says

    From: Naveny
    A senior official with the Belarusian State Petrochemical Industry Concern (Belnaftakhim) admitted that Washington’s sanctions had affected its US subsidiary.

    The US Treasury Department announced on November 13 that any assets found in the USA that belong to Belnaftakhim (Belneftekhim) should be frozen. Apart from Belnaftakhim, the department's sanctions target the conglomerate’s representative offices in Germany, Latvia, Ukraine, Russia and China, as well as the US subsidiary identified as Belneftekhim USA, Inc.
    Speaking at a Belarusian-German forum in Minsk on November 23, Uladzimir Sizow, chief of Belnaftakhim’s oil processing department, said that the conglomerate’s all offices but the one in the USA were operating as usual.

    “Its [the US subsidiary’s] accounts have been frozen and as for other offices, including the one in Germany, they are operating in a usual mode,” the official said.

    Mr. Sizow expressed certainty that the sanctions would not hit either crude transit via Belarus or oil refining inside the country.
    The official said that the conglomerate “treats the US Treasury Department’s sanctions with regret.” “We don’t understand why these sanctions target Belnaftakhim if we don’t engage in economic activities, the concern is a managing body,” he stressed.

    Belnaftakhim includes more than 50 enterprises with a total staff of some 120,000. The conglomerate accounts for 19 percent of the country’s industrial output and a fourth of its export revenues. Seventy percent of the enterprises’ production is exported.

  • Culture...

    Czech film “Maharal- secret of talisman” wins Grand Prix of Listapadzik 2007 Film Festival

    From: BelTA
    The Maharal's Grave
    The film “Maharal- secret of talisman” by Czech film director Pavel Jandourek has won the Grand Prix of the 9th Minsk International film festival for children and youth Listapadzik 2007, Elena Dubrovskaya, the chairwoman of the viewers’ jury panel of the film forum, told reporters on November 23.

    The opinion of the professional jury panel was different. According to Gennady Pleskatsevich, the executive director of the film festival Listapadzik 2007, the German film “Rudi – a hound pig” by Peter Timm was awarded the prize for the best feature film. The Brazilian film “Players” took the prize for the best performance of a child’s role. The Russian film “Secret of Siberian Princess” by Alla Yuganova was awarded the prize for the best adult work in a children’s movie. The Iranian film “Lying Herdsman” by Sirius Hassanpour took the prize for the best film director’s work. The jury of the feature films was led by famous Russian actress Valentina Telichkina.

    The animated cartoon professional jury panel was led by Leonid Nosyrev. The cartoon “Kui Gorozh” by Sergei Merinov (studio “Pilot”) took the prize for the best animated film. The cartoon “Silly Girl” by Zoya Kireeva (studio “A-Film”) was awarded the prize for the best animated character. The cartoon “Rain top-down” by Ivan Maksimov (studio “Master-Film”) took the prize for the best pictorial solution. Moreover, the jury panel presented a number of special prizes as well.

    During the festival, 12 feature films and 40 cartoons have been demonstrated.

    Belarusian films Enemies and Chaklun and Rumba shortlisted for Listapad 2007 prizes

    Belarusian feature films Enemies by Maria Mozhar and Chaklun and Rumba by Andrei Golubev made top five at the 14th Minsk international film festival Listapad 2007. They scored 8.47 and 8.46 respectively.

    The Listapad 2007 favourite is Das Leben der Anderen by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck which scored 9.45.

    Shortlisted for the Listapad prizes are also films Obsluhoval Jsem Anglickeho Krale by Jiri Menzel (the Czech Republic – Slovakia) and Agitbrigada “Bey vraga!” by Vitaly Melnikov (Russia).

    A total of 21 films from 18 countries are taking part in the festival. Today is the last day of the contest presenting A Trap by Srdjan Golubovic (Serbia), A Trip with Pets by Vera Storozheva (Russia) and Ninas Resa by Lena Einhorn (Sweden).

  • Around the region...

    Russia braces for opposition protests after Kasparov arrest

    From: AFP

    Russian authorities geared for fresh protests Sunday, a day after opposition leader and chess legend Garry Kasparov was jailed for leading a march against President Vladimir Putin a week before parliamentary elections.

    Riot police flooded the centre of Saint Petersburg on Sunday to counter an unauthorised march of opponents to Putin.

    Police officers stood in line, each separated by about five metres (15 feet), the entire length of the city's famous central Nevsky Avenue, an AFP reporter said. Trucks full of riot police reinforcements were also visible in side streets.

    Kasparov was sentenced Saturday for five days for organising an unsanctioned rally and refusing to obey police orders, but told reporters the charges were "unfounded" and charged the Russian leader with taking recourse to scare tactics.

    "What happened in court today looks like something unthinkable. Procedure was grossly violated, naturally I will appeal, but there can be no talk of justice anymore," he said in comments broadcast by the Moscow Echo radio.

    "The authorities are going beyond all possible and impossible bounds, I call on all our supporters not to yield to the scare campaign," he said.

    Opponents of Putin plan to demonstrate again in Saint-Petersburg on Sunday.

    The arrest came during a march in central Moscow by members of The Other Russia coalition, led by Kasparov, and bringing together radical leftwingers, moderates and liberal reformers opposed to Putin's policies.

    Kasparov and one of his bodyguards were grabbed by riot police and forced into a police bus which then drove them away from the scene where hundreds of opposition activists were in a tense standoff with security forces.

    "Freedom! Freedom!" supporters shouted after the bus, AFP journalists said.

    Kasparov was also arrested last April after an opposition march in central Moscow was violently dispersed by riot police.

    "We were posing no threat to public order," he told journalists after interior ministry forces surrounded him and his supporters.

    "We wanted to peacefully march to the election commission. The powers that be are simply afraid of people who express their dissent."

    Saturday's arrest came after around 2,000 anti-Putin demonstrators held a rally, following which a few hundred marched toward the Central Election Commission office to deliver a petition denouncing the December 2 parliamentary vote.

    Putin's United Russia party is set to win a strong majority in the poll, which takes place just three months before presidential elections planned to elect a successor to the Kremlin leader.

    Police said a total of 13 people were arrested following the demonstration.

    Nationalist writer Eduard Limonov, a senior leader in The Other Russia, was arrested, while election candidate Maria Gaidar of the liberal opposition party Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) was briefly detained, spokesmen said.

    "Putin is a coward. We elected a coward. He's afraid of peaceful people," SPS leader Boris Nemtsov told demonstrators.

    Intimidation from the authorities limited the number of people present, said Nemtsov, who was nominated on Friday by the SPS as the party's candidate for the presidency.

    "People are afraid, they have been told there will be disorder, they have been told there will be an attack on me. The authorities want us to be afraid, but in fact it is they who are afraid," he said.

    In a statement ahead of Saturday's protest, The Other Russia acknowledged that Moscow authorities had not given permission for the march but said the group planned to go ahead with it anyway to protest the election.

    Hours earlier, police raided an office housing the coalition's website, a spokeswoman said.

    The Other Russia rally was one of around 10 political demonstrations that took place in the Russian capital on Saturday.

    Near Red Square in central Moscow, around 2,000 members of the youth group Nashi rallied to show their support for Putin, many holding white balloons which they said symbolised the "airheads" of the opposition.

    "These are our rivals," said Sasha Isayev, 20, pointing to his balloon. "They are stupid and ridiculous opponents."

    Elsewhere in Moscow, the Communist Party held a rally as did a handful of other pro- and anti-Putin groups.

    Around 3,600 police officers were on special duty, with more than half of them assigned to The Other Russia gathering alone, Moscow Echo radio reported.

    Separately, the SPS said its main office was vandalised by youths ahead of Saturday's rally.

    A number of participants and journalists covering a march of The Other Russia early this year were injured when riot police violently dispersed the demonstration, drawing international criticism.

    Subsequent public rallies in Moscow and other cities however have been largely peaceful.

    KGB 'killer' steps out of the shadows in crocodile shoes; The man accused of the polonium killing may become a Russian MP next Sunday, reports Luke Harding in Kursk

    From: Guardian
    Standing in a crumbling shop piled full of TVs and videos, Andrei Lugovoi - prime suspect in the killing of Alexander Litvinenko - explains what he will do if he becomes an MP. He says he wants to get a new lavatory for the village school. He will also donate a million roubles in libel damages to an orphanage, won from a Russian newspaper after it called him a murderer.

    'I'm new in politics, I haven't decided what to do yet,' Lugovoi admits. Outside on the icy street, an old woman in a large fur hat shuffles past. Had she heard of Lugovoi? 'I've only heard of Putin,' she says.

    One year after Litvinenko, a Russian dissident, died an excruciating death in a London hospital, the man who allegedly slipped polonium into his tea is embarking on a new career in Russian politics. Last month Lugovoi, a former KGB agent, joined the Liberal Democrats - a pro-Kremlin ultra-nationalist party. If elected next Sunday, when Russians go to the polls for a new parliament, Lugovoi will have performed the most improbable CV leap - from suspected assassin to celebrity politician.
    According to British prosecutors, it was Lugovoi who met Litvinenko in the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, London, on 1 November last year. Litvenenko died three weeks later. Since then Lugovoi has become synonymous in Britain with Vladimir Putin's new cold war against the West. In Russia, however, Lugovoi is hailed as a patriot.

    Over the past three weeks he has been crisscrossing Russia. Everywhere he has taken the same message: Britain is a rogue state. It is also not very good at football, he points out: 'We were joking on the plane over here whether we should congratulate the England team.'

    Lugovoi claims that the British had spirited away video evidence from the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square. He maintains that it was MI6 that killed Litvinenko. 'The Litvinenko affair is the greatest failure by the British secret services,' he said.

    He has little sympathy for Litvinenko's widow, Maria - who last week used the anniversary of her husband's murder to announce she was taking Lugovoi to the European Court of Justice. Russia has refused to extradite him. As an MP, he would enjoy immunity from prosecution. 'I understand the wish of the relatives to find justice. But someone is trying to politicise this,' he said. 'At the end of the day, Litvinenko was a spy spying on his own country.'

    Lugovoi was on the campaign trail last week in Manturovo, a village 60 miles from Kursk. He visited a state-of-the-art cowshed before dropping into an orphanage. After that, he addressed supporters in a pink-painted public hall decorated with a relief of Lenin.

    The fur-coated locals listened politely. Several times they even clapped. Lugovoi said that Britain was to blame for many of Russia's woes. The British had invaded Crimea and were still behaving like 'Anglo-Saxon imperialists'. He noted: 'If you look at Russian-British relations, the cold war never started and never ended.'

    What did villagers think of him? Did they really want to vote for someone famous for being - well - a suspected assassin? 'It's difficult to say,' said Viktor Shumakov, a veteran of Afghanistan. 'In Russia, many strange things happen all the time. Britain is a long way away. But I know you have nice apples.'

    Most in Manturovo, though, were preoccupied with simple issues: low pensions, high local unemployment and the fact that half the villagers were drunk.

    Ahead of the elections, the Kremlin has changed the rules - raising the threshold to enter Russia's State Duma from 5 per cent to 7 per cent. Although the move is designed to kill off Russia's democrats, it could also hurt Lugovoi's Liberal Democrats, currently on about 6 per cent.

    The Kremlin has long controlled Russian TV and many Liberal Democrat voters said that Putin would guarantee a landslide for the United Russia party by using the state's formidable 'administrative resources'. 'What happens is that the head of the village is told that he has to get a certain number of votes for United Russia. If he doesn't, he'll lose his job. He then tells everyone else to vote for United Russia or they'll lose their job. The fear factor is very effective,' said Alexander Gennadyevich, a Lugovoi supporter.

    Russia's election comes as the country moves into an uncertain new era. Putin has to step down as President next May, having served two consecutive terms. In reality, the Kremlin appears to be working on a plan to allow him to carry on as Russia's de facto leader.

    Lugovoi is a tentative performer. After a day in which he failed to meet more than a handful of voters, he did manage to pose with a folk singer playing an accordion. Nearby, his aides tucked into a buffet of stuffed fish and fruit vodka.

    With the Russian winter already gripping the countryside, Lugovoi took to the stump in a business suit, swirling purple tie and crocodile leather shoes. He looked utterly out of place among the helmet-like hairstyles of his Soviet-looking female electorate.

    Despite his dislike of all things British, Lugovoi has a love-hate relationship with the British media. By keeping in the public spotlight, he avoids the fate of ex-spies who know too much.

    Lugovoi used to travel to Britain frequently; diplomatic sources say he tried to poison Litvinenko twice before succeeding. Given that he cannot now go to London, is there anything about Britain he misses? 'I don't think so,' he told The Observer. 'I don't think about your Queen much. And I don't like beer. No, I can't think of anything,' he said.

    Poland police detain man for family abuse

    From: UPI
    A 24-year-old Pole has been arrested on charges he was brutally mistreating his wife, 20, his 18-month-old daughter and 4-month old son, police said.

    Krzysztof Piechaczek, police spokesman in the southern Polish town of Ruda Slaska near Krakow, said police usually do not detain people on family abuse claims but in this case they convinced a court judge the arrest was the only option, Polish Radio reported Thursday.

    Piechaczek said police were often called to the apartment of the 24-year-old man and during the last family fight he hit the baby son against the wall and kicked him, the Polish Rzeczpospolita daily said.

    The boy but was taken to a hospital and is now recovering.

    The Ruda Slaska court Monday ordered the arrest of the man, charged with beatings and threats to kill his wife and the children.

    If convicted the man faces five years in jail.

    The town's social welfare service would provide financial assistance to the family.

    Polish deputy health minister resigns

    From: Earth Times
    Boleslaw Piecha
    Poland's new prime minister Thursday accepted the resignation of the deputy health minister amid allegations he might be involved in a corruption scheme.

    Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who took over the office Nov. 11 following his parliamentary election victory last month, was informed about the resignation of Boleslaw Piecha as deputy health minister Wednesday, Polish Radio said Thursday.

    Tusk's liberal pro-European Union Civic Platform defeated the conservative, nationalist Law and Justice party, or PiS, of former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in the election Oct. 21.

    Piecha, a member of PiS, resigned in the wake of media allegations he had held private meetings with officials of pharmaceutical companies discussing a list of state-subsidized medicines.

    The Polish Dziennik daily Monday said Piecha added an expensive medicine to the list of state-subsidized drugs on the day he had the meeting with an official of that company that produces the medicine.

  • From the blogs...

    Big Mac Attack

    From: An American in Belarus: English Language Fellow Progam 2007-08
    I know, I know...why would I travel halfway around the world only to eat at McD's? I totally agree with you, but I thought it'd be fun to try it one time. You know, for the culture experience of comparison.

    I ordered a Big Mac and shared an order of fries with a friend. The food tasted exactly the same, but I giggled when we ordered "Dva Big Macs" for (two). The restaurant was very crowded and the service was great, they even helped us find a table. And we watched in awe as someone mopped the floor next to our table not once, but twice during our meal! Too bad we don't get this type of service back home. Don't worry, this McDonald's is in downtown Minsk so there's no danger of a repeat anytime soon. Wow! I just realized that the closet McDonald's is 300 kilometers away from me. How many people in the States can say that? Click the photo so you can see the cool Russian-style menu!


    From: Свободные мысли
    26 ноября 2007 года во Всемирный день информации Телеканал ОНТ открывает новую fm-радиостанцию

    Выбор даты открытия обусловлен тем, что Радио ОНТ – это радиостанция информационно-музыкального типа. Концентрация информационных и познавательных программ на частоте 101,7 fm гораздо выше, чем на любой другой белорусской радиостанции.

    Главная идея Радио ОНТ – создать первое мужское радио. Маркетинговое исследование подтвердило специфичность потребностей именно этой аудитории радиослушателей.

    В чем идея мужского радио? Формирование эфирного пространства включает тщательный подбор тем, потенциально интересных и полезных слушателю. Творческий программинг разрабатывается с учетом мужских интересов. В подаче новостей наиболее важны именно факты. Выводы мужчина предпочитает делать самостоятельно.

    Формирование информационных выпусков происходит с учетом интересов аудитории, а основой структуры эфира является ритм дня слушателя. С семи утра до шести вечера в эфире звучат только новости и музыка без ведущего. Также в этот промежуток времени включаются п ознавательные программы (о высоких технологиях, бизнесе, автомобилях, культуре и др.). Ди-джеи создают настроение уже после 18 часов.

    В fm-пространстве Минска уже работает 15 станций, существенно отличающихся индивидуальностью, главной идеей, содержанием; и в то же время в некоторых аспектах похожих друг на друга. Но ни одна радиостанция до сих пор не выбирала своим объектом именно такую (преимущественно мужскую) аудиторию и не предлагала полного набора программ, удовлетворяющего запросам этой категории слушателей.

    Радио ОНТ 101,7 fm – это информационно-музыкальное фоновое радио. Такой тип вещания представлен в Беларуси впервые. Музыкальный формат радио ОНТ – Soft AC EZ (Easy Listening) – мягкий, фоновый, ненавязчивый, с преобладанием спокойных, лирических песен и большим количеством проверенных временем хитов.

    Радио ОНТ всегда открыто диалогу со своим слушателем и стремится больше узнать о его потребностях и интересах.

    Tusk drones on for three hours; Meanwhile Kaczynski, Gosiewski and Dorn lose consciousness, as did most of Poland.

    From: The Beatroot
    It was agony. Like listening to paint dry. Donald Tusk, the new prime minister, delivered his ‘expose’ – or policy statement – outlining his government’s policy in parliament, this morning.

    He went on and on and on and on…for three hours and five minutes.

    At one point someone sent him a note: “It’s time to sit down..’. But he wasn’t finished yet.

    The main points were that he would be reducing taxes but increasing wages for public workers[!].

    He would be getting troops out of Iraq next year (as they probably would have been anyway) but staying in Afghanistan.

    He will be more cooperative within the EU and will even be nicer to the Russians.

    And there was some other stuff too, but I...fell asleep half way through.

    Who does Tusk think he is, with these long, long speeches? Fidal Castro?

    Nashi Unbound

    From: Publius
    "After 100 years of our country being in total crisis, we at last have a chance to live normally. Thanks to President Putin, we, the young generation, have prospects like never before."

    -- Robert Schlegel (pictured below, right), leading member of Nashi, the Kremlin's sycophantic Hitler-youth personality cult, and candidate for the Russian parliament in elections to be held December 2nd

    Indeed, Russian youth does have all kinds of new possibilities. Now they get to don gas masks and Soviet-red scarves and go out in the streets and crack skulls and shout down and turn in to the KGB anyone who dares to criticize the Putin regime, especially during an election cycle. Indeed, who dreamed such wonders would be possible ten years ago?

    Incidentally, if you said the name "Schlegel" to any Slavic Russian in the context of being someone criticizing Russia, they'd say that person was "not Russian" at all since his name "isn't Russian." This racism doesn't apply, however, to sycophants it seems.

    If this little boy thinks like this at his young age, do you dare to imagine how he'll think at age 50? If this is Russia's future, it's already doomed.

    Over the weekend, leading Russian opposition politician Garry Kasparov (pictured, left) was arrested and sentenced to five days in prison for daring to lead a peaceful protest march through Moscow ahead of parliamentary elections next week. During the speeches by Kasparov's group, "pro-Kremlin agitators [i.e., Nashi] boomed cackling laughter from loudspeakers behind police, who made no move to stop them. Russian political satirist Viktor Shenderovich noted in an interview at Saturday's rally that a similar stunt by the opposition would not last a minute if directed against President Vladimir Putin or a United Russia rally." The next day, at least 150 people were arrested preemptively in St. Petersburg to stop a similar march.

    The Kremlin is probing the West. The first time Kasparov was arrested, he was held only a few hours. There was no significant reaction from the West, so now, it's five days. If they get away with five days, maybe next time Kasparov will find himself in a Siberian prison cell next to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the last man to seriously challenge Putin for the presidency, for a term of years.

    Some claim Kasparov is just a gadfly, not a serious threat to Putin. If that's so, why arrest him? Either Kasparov is far more formidable than the Kremlin's apologists imagine, or Putin is far more paranoid and unstable. Either way, Russia is on the precipice of total disaster.

    The world has just finishing wringing its hands over the actions of Georgia's president to quell unrest fomented by Russian agitators, claiming he has betrayed his democratic trust even though he has called immediate elections to let the people decide. Now the world sees exactly the same behavior displayed by Russia, a G-8 member. Its retribution against Russia must be sure and swift.

  • Sport...

    Victory over Dutch is not the reason to be euphoric, Bernd Stange says

    From: BelTA
    Belarus defeated the Netherlands 2-1 in Minsk in their final Euro 2008 Group G qualifier on Wednesday, November 21.

    “We are happy with the victory but this is not the reason to be euphoric,” Belarus’ German coach Bernd Stange told an after-match press conference. The Netherlands who have made it through to the finals brought fringe players to Minsk and it was a bit easier for the home side. Nevertheless the Belarusians played well, the coach said, Even after substituting Alexander Hleb, who had an injury in the second half, dominated the game and scored twice. Bernd Stange also said that he is through with the experiments with the roster and got determined with the members of the team who will be getting ready for World 2010 qualifying round.

    Dutch coach Marco van Basten said he was disappointed about the second half. “If we play without any focus and concentration like we did in the second half we are just an average team”, he said during a press conference.

    Belarus into 60th place of FIFA world ranking

    The November FIFA world ranking saw Belarus vault into 60th position, 34 up over October, most remarkable achievement among all football teams.

    Over the past month Belarus played two final Euro 2008 qualifiers – two wins over Albania and the Netherlands placed Belarus 4th in Group G. Owing to these victories Belarus scored 184 points to a total of 552.

    The rating leaders remain the same: Argentine on top (1523 points) and is followed by Brazil (1502) and Italy (1498).

    The post-Soviet nations are ranked like this: Russia - 22, Ukraine - 29, Moldova - 53, Lithuania - 61, Uzbekistan - 64, Georgia - 77, Latvia - 88, Armenia - 90, Kazakhstan - 110, Azerbaijan - 118, Turkmenistan - 127, Estonia - 128, Tajikistan - 135, Kyrgyzstan - 136.

  • Endnote...

    Does regime plan to settle accounts with Gazprom by property?

    From: Charter '97
    Sources in Russian Gazprom have stated that talks with the official Minsk on gas price in 2008 are proceeding “steadily”. The Belarusian side offers the Russian concern to participate in investment projects in Belarus.

    Another round of talks in Moscow has been held by a deputy Energy Minister of Belarus Rima Filimonava. In the conversation with Radio Svaboda correspondent she told that “a business trip had a confidential character”. But have they managed to agree on something?

    As said by Mrs. Filimonava, “the procedure of talks is underway. It was just a new stage to assess, to find one's bearings, to make calculations. The preliminary agreement was reached last year, when we concluded a contract until 2011,” a representative of Energy Ministry said.

    The first deputy of Energy Minister Eduard Tovpenets says that positions are being cleared. “There is a contract, a formula is being outlined, according to which the cost is to be calculated. But the parameters of this cost are to be specified, as they have many parts which need documentary proof,” the official said.

    According to the information of Gazprom press-service, the positive result and changed situation are confirmed by the fact that the sides are discussing not only the price, but the whole matter has been practically solved, only documents are to be prepared. And the Belarusian side has offered Gazprom participation in investment projects on the territory of Belarus in the spheres of electrical energy industry and fertilizers industry. These are decisions of another level. It shows the stability of the talks on the price”.

    As we have informed, according to the agreement, gas price is to be equal to about 67% of average European price minus transportation costs.

    Economist Tatsyana Manyonak believes that proceeding from gas price for Poland is logical, as it is a comparable market.

    “128 dollars is a price on which the budget for the next year has been based according to my knowledge. Belarusian officials haven’t denied that a price rise of about 15-20% is expected. They will bargain and offer some conditions to get this price, as our economy is based on it,” the expert said.

    The head of the analytical center “Strategia” Leanid Zaika do not exclude that a combined bargain is possible, where a state property could be mentioned.

    “In this case we, Belarusian citizens, have a right to know what exactly they will take from us and sell. And what is better? Maybe it’s better to pay for gas than to give your enterprises’ property? In this case the regime should be honest and open,” Zaika believes.

    The economist is convinced that Belarus should proceed to normal European gas tariffs as soon as possible.

    “Cheap gas is an addiction for economy. It’s a philosophy of the 1990ies, a philosophy of mediocrities. If a weak government does not have its investment programs, does not know how to solve the situation, than they start to put for sale a part of their property and wait prices to go down,” Leanid Zaika said.