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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

President of Belarus pushes for economic results, Russian nukes, US clampdowns, human trafficking, Budget deficit, Polish scandal, New blogs and sport

  • From the Top...
  • #256

    Belarus needs to try hard to achieve bigger GDP figures

    From: Office of the president
    The president at the meeting focused on the resutls of socio-economic development of Belarus
    The national budget of Belarus in 2008 will retain its social orientation; but the economic parameters provisioned therein must be as ambitious as possible. These priorities were identified by the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, on 13 November at a meeting focused on the drafts of socio-economic development forecast, national budget and the basic guidelines of monetary and credit policy for 2008. The meeting participants also held an in-depth discussion as to the performance of Belarusian economy over 9 months of 2007.

    At the meeting, the President emphasised the need for taking advantage of the current auspicious market trends so as to derive maximum benefits for Belarus. Belarusian economy must work as a modern-day economy, without missing favourable opportunities for stepping up efficient production.

    The Government should intensify its efforts in scanning for beneficial economic projects for Belarus, according to the Head of State. “Unfortunately, something makes me think that the current Government is getting bogged down in ooze. I would not like to resort to the staff rotation principle, but you must understand that your task is not just to draw graphs and write reports, but rather to apply efforts so that the society could see real progress in your activity,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    “I am confident, there are no such problems that we cannot solve today, and the world’s experience bears witness to it. Take China, for example. What prevents our Government and ministries from working in a similar manner when we are speaking about expanding our exports, expanding the production of competitive products?” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    Belarus President demands 20% GDP growth in 2008

    With the existing demand for Belarusian products the targeted GDP growth should exceed forecasts the government makes.

    “We are arguing about the next year’s GDP. With the demand for our merchandise that high, the GDP growth should be 20%,” said the head of state. He stressed, the rising foreign trade deficit threatens the development of the Belarusian economy. “If next year the trade deficit continues rising as fast, all our achievements will be threatened,” remarked Alexander Lukashenko.

    “We have to sell more than we buy, that’s all,” underlined the President.

    Alexander Lukashenko added, the GDP volume should be doubled by the end of the five-year plan. “We should thank God for such a favourable economic situation on the international market, when there is demand for clothes and footwear, when BelAZ and MTZ products sell well abroad,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    The President especially underscored the necessity of the vigorous build-up of the Belarusian civil engineering industry. “Vice Premier Viktor Burya told me the civil engineering industry needs only $60 million per year to yield billions in profits. Why don’t we do it?” concluded the head of state.

    Alexander Lukashenko also wondered when working groups set up by the government, schedules for ensuring breakeven performance of companies, and personal responsibility of top executives will produce tangible results.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Russian capital to host 4th Belarus-Moscow Business Cooperation Forum

    The 4th Belarus-Moscow Business Cooperation Forum will be held in the Russian capital on November 18-22. Participants of the forum will discuss the Belarusian-Moscow cooperation in various fields, BelTA learnt from the embassy of Belarus to Russia.

    Different expert groups will work during the forum. For example, joint commissions for consumer market and for cooperation in architecture and construction will hold their sessions. A special working group will consider issues relating to the creation of industrial-financial groups for the production and supply of foodstuffs to Moscow. Roundtable meetings dedicated to the cooperation in science, industry, housing and municipal services and transport will be arranged as well. Roundtables will also take place in the prefectures of the Moscow administrative districts.

    A key event of the forum will be a session of the business cooperation council of Belarus and Moscow scheduled for November 20. A Belarusian delegation will be headed by Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky; the Russian one – by Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov.

    An exhibition Belarusian Quality-2007 will be dated for the action. It will run in the building of Moscow Government in Novy Arbat Str. and will feature products made by 45 companies from all oblasts of Belarus and the Belarusian capital.

    The session will focus on cooperation in the scientific, innovation and food spheres, interaction in the consumer market. It will also consider the course of implementing joint investment projects. Forecast indices of the mutual supplies of goods for 2008 will be approved at the session. The sides also plan to introduce amendments and addenda to the programme actions aimed at promoting trade-economic, scientific-technical, humanitarian-cultural and social cooperation for 2007-2009.

    In January-August 2007 the trade turnover between Belarus and Moscow totaled $2 billion 646.3 million and grew by 16% as against the same period of 2006. The Belarusian export reached $1 billion 695.2 million (up by 17%) and the import - $951.1 million (14%). Belarus had a trade surplus worth of $744.1 million.

    Belarus mainly exports tractors and truck tractors to Moscow, trucks, textiles, cheese and cottage cheese, milk and condensed cream, ready or tinned fish, polymer materials, plastic and goods made of plastic, articles made of ferrous metals, furniture, knitwork, insulated wire, tires, etc. Belarus imports oil and oil products from the Russian capital, polymer materials, plastic and goods made of plastic, electrical energy, equipment and mechanical appliances, copper wire, pipes and pipes made of ferrous metals, billets and iron-and-steel scrap.

    Union State budget 2008 passed in first reading

    In a related story, The Union State budget for 2008 was passed in the first reading on November 13 during the 32nd session of the Union State Parliamentary Assembly in Moscow.

    The draft budget 2008 was presented by State Secretary of the Belarus-Russia Union State Pavel Borodin. He reported that the 2008 budget would exceed RUB 4 billion. The budget revenues are estimated at RUB 4 billion 61 million, of them RUB 2 billion 640 million will be allocated by the Russian Federation and RUB 1 billion 421 million – by the Republic of Belarus.

    According to Pavel Borodin, budget funds will be channeled into 38 Union State programmes and sub-programmes. Besides, the budget 2008 provides for expenditures to fund several new programmes which are expected to be adopted in 2008.

    Some 34.6% of budget expenditures will be funneled into industry, power engineering, construction, transport and communications; 13.1% will be used for military and technical cooperation, law enforcement activities; 9.8% will be spent on environmental protection and handling emergencies; 13.7% will be aimed at social policy, healthcare, physical education, culture, mass media, education.

    Alexander Kosinets: Belarus is reliable partner in migration legislation issues

    From: BelTA
    Belarus is a reliable partner in migration legislation issues and acts as a barrier on the path of illegal migration and human trafficking, Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Alexander Kosinets said on November 14 in Minsk at an opening ceremony of the international conference “Migration Processes and Demographic Security”.

    According to him, Belarus pays scrupulous attention to legal migration and combating human trafficking. The work done in this field gives positive results. For example, for the nine months of the current year the Belarusian law enforcement agencies detained 35 illegal migrants while in 2002 – 150 such groups (over 2 thousand illegal migrants). “Though the number of persons crossing Belarus’ borders has considerably increased,” Alexander Kosinets added.

    The number of crimes committed by foreigners on the territory of Belarus has declined as well. For the nine months of the current year the Belarusian law enforcers registered 1,2 thousand such crimes. To compare: there were more than 2 thousand crimes registered in Belarus within the same period of 2006.

    According to the Vice-Premier, Belarus has been implementing the National Demographic Security Programme designed for 2007-2010. One of the major tasks of the programme is to increase the birth rate and to reduce the death rate and to ensure migration processes. For example, for the nine months of the current year Belarus’ birth rate made up 10,7 per one thousand people; the death rate – 13,7 per one thousand.

    Alexander Kosinets: morbidity should be halved to ensure demographic safety of Belarus

    According to Alexander Kosinets, it is necessary to promote healthy lifestyle, reduce the number of abortions and cases of temporary incapacity to labour. He noted that the government had been drafting a bill on public health banning alcohol consumption under the age of 21.

    Alexander Kosinets stressed that the decrease in morbidity will have an immediate effect. Thus, if the morbidity is reduced two-fold, GDP will increase by 2.5%.

    The Vice Premier specified that every year a citizen of Belarus in prime working years reports sick 12 times on average and the national economy loses about Br 500 billion on sick leaves.

    Prevention, periodic health examinations, healthy lifestyle will help reduce morbidity, Alexander Kosinets said.

  • From the international press...

    Russia May Supply Missiles to Belarus

    From: Forbes
    A senior general warned Wednesday that Russia could send short-range missiles to Belarus as part of efforts to counter planned U.S. missile defense sites in Europe, Russian news reports said.

    Col.-Gen. Vladimir Zaritsky, the chief of artillery and rocket forces for the Russian Ground Troops, said that "any action meets a counteraction, and this is the case with elements of the U.S. missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic," the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

    The U.S. plan would install a radar base in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland - both former Soviet satellites that are now NATO members. It is part of a wider missile shield involving defenses in California and Alaska that the United States says are to defend against any long-range missile attack from countries such as North Korea or Iran.

    Russia strongly opposes the idea, saying Iran is decades away from developing missile technology that could threaten Europe or North America, and it says the U.S. bases will undermine Russia's own missile deterrent force.

    President Vladimir Putin and other officials have warned that Russia could target the planned U.S. defense sites in Europe with its missiles.

    Zaritsky was responding to his Belarusian counterpart, who said Russia could provide Belarus with its new short-range Iskander missiles, which are believed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

    "Why not - given adequate conditions and an adequate Belarusian opposition," Zaritsky said.

    Although sending the missiles would apparently place them under Belarusian rather than Russian command, both countries' missile forces are seen as working in unison.

    "There is a common task and we are prepared to work with them," Zaritsky said.

    Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, a pariah in the West for his relentless crackdown on dissent and free media, has relied on Russia's support and the two nations have developed close political and military ties.

    Iskander's current version has a range of 190 miles; a new version equipped with cruise missiles capable of striking targets at a distance of 310 miles has been tested earlier this year, ITAR-Tass said. Zaritsky said the upgraded version would become operational in 2009.

    Placing Iskander missiles in Belarus, which borders Poland, would likely put planned U.S. missile defenses there within range; a site in the Czech Republic would likely be out of reach.

    Russian news reports also quoted Zaritsky as saying that Iskander's range could be extended beyond 310 miles if Moscow decides to opt out of a Cold War-era treaty that banned intermediate-range missiles.

    Putin and other officials have warned that Russia could pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a landmark document signed by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in 1987 that banned the entire class of medium-range missiles.

    "Iskander complies fully with conditions of the INF Treaty, but if a political decision is made to withdraw from the treaty, we will improve its capability, including range," Zaritsky said. "Whatever the Motherland has to say."

    The statements from Zaritsky follows the Russian parliament's vote last week to suspend Moscow's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, a key arms control treaty limiting the deployment of tank, aircraft and other heavy conventional weapons across the continent.

    Putin announced the intention to halt its obligations under the treaty pointing at NATO's failure to ratify its amended version.

    The legislation still needs approval in the upper house, which is a virtual certainty, before it goes to Putin for his signature. It would take effect Dec. 12.

    Tensions over the U.S. missile defense plans and arms control agreements have strained Russia's ties with the West, drawing comparisons with Cold War times.

    Treasury Clamps Down on Belarus Company

    From: AP
    The Bush administration moved Tuesday to clamp down financially on Belarus' largest oil and chemical company for allegedly being controlled by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

    The Treasury Department's action is against Belarusian State Concern for Oil and Chemistry and covers its offices in Germany, Latvia, Ukraine, Russia and China and its wholly owned U.S. subsidiary, Belneftekhim USA. Any assets found in the United States that belong to the company must be frozen. Americans also are prohibited from doing business with the company and its designated offices.

    The government took the action under an executive order President Bush issued last year considering what the United States called "oppression" by Lukashenko and key members of his administration. The executive order, among other things, gives the U.S. government power to impose financial sanctions on people or companies determined to be responsible for undermining democratic processes or institutions in Belarus and for being owned or controlled by Lukashenko, who was previously designated under Bush's executive order.

    Tuesday's action "tightens our sanctions against Lukashenko and his cronies by imposing financial sanctions against a massive conglomerate under the regime's control," said Adam Szubin, director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, known as OFAC. The agency administers and enforces the government's financial sanctions program.

    Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, is often branded by Western countries as "Europe's last dictator." He won a third term last year in an election deemed fraudulent by Western governments. The Bush administration, which had called for new elections at the time, said Lukashenko's victory resulted from fraud and human rights abuses.

    In October, thousands of Belarusian opposition activists shouting "freedom" marched through the the center of Minsk, the country's captial, to pressure Lukashenko to forge closer ties to Europe.

    Lukashenko, meanwhile, has demanded that Washington stop supporting Belarusian opposition parties. In the summer, he vowed to shut down any nongovernmental group found to be receiving U.S. funding.

    Belarus considers response to U.S. oil sanctions

    From: Reuters
    Belarus said on Wednesday it was considering retaliatory moves against the United States in response to financial sanctions on oil processor Belneftekhim.

    The Bush administration, which has dubbed ex-Soviet Belarus "the last dictatorship in Europe", on Tuesday prohibited Americans doing business with the refining and petrochemical firm and froze any assets it has under U.S. jurisdiction. International banks often follow U.S. banks in such bans.

    "We appeal to the United States to refrain from the practice of trying to intimidate our country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Andri Popov told a news conference. "Should there be unfriendly actions by the United States, Belarus will be obliged to react in appropriate fashion."

    Belneftekhim, the Belarussian State Concern for Oil and Chemistry, has a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary, Belneftekhim USA Inc., and is made up of more than 50 petroleum and petrochemical businesses.

    Belarus depends almost solely on Russia for the crude oil it refines. Beleneftekhim controls two refineries in Belarus as well as a potash plant and provides one-fifth of all Belarus's foreign currency earnings.

    The United States and European Union accuse President Alexander Lukashenko of hounding and jailing opponents, muzzling the media and rigging polls, including his re-election to a third term last year.

    Since that election and the four days of large protests it sparked, Lukashenko and dozens of officials have been barred entry to both the United States and the 27-nation EU.

    The United States has little investment in Belarus and it was not clear what form any retaliation might take.

    Belarus has appealed for better ties with the West since quarrelling with Russia this year over energy price increases, but rejects any suggestion it must first improve its human rights record.

    Oil analysts said Washington's latest measure was likely to have little effect on the Belarussian economy as volumes of oil shipped to the United States were small.

    "Specific companies may suffer but in terms of the entire economy, the influence will not be great," said one market participant.

    He said the move, however, may have some effect on Belarussian plans from the end of this year to extract up to five million tonnes of oil in Venezuela, whose flamboyant president Hugo Chavez is close to Lukashenko. Minsk had planned to sell some of this oil on to the United States.

    Cihan Sultanoglu: I am leaving Belarus with sense that UN work is appreciated by Belarusian people

    From: Naveny
    Cihan Sultanoglu said that she was leaving Belarus with a sense that the United Nation`s work is "appreciated" by the Belarusian people.

    "This feeling is the best reward to me," she said in an interview with BelaPAN.

    The UN resident coordinator/UNDP resident representative left the country on November 11 upon the expiration of her term in the position.

    She told BelaPAN that the UN`s technical assistance to Belarus had amounted to about $80 million between 1992 and 2007, with an additional $20 million coming from the Bretton-Woods institutions such as the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the International Monetary Fund.

    Of the $80 million of the assistance, she said, about a half was delivered in the last three years and more than half of that through the UNDP.

    When asked to single out UN projects of a particular importance, Ms. Sultanoglu said that everything what the UN does in the country has significance but still mentioned three areas where "the impact of our assistance is the biggest," including the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, climate change mitigation and the improvement of border management.

    "We have managed to achieve tangible results in curbing the HIV epidemic, and do hope to replicate this success in TB prevention," she said. "By then, the project will have expanded its scope – almost $17 million is allocated so far for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs."

    When speaking about climate change mitigation, Ms. Sultanoglu said that the UN efficiently combined pilot projects to promote renewable biomass energy and enhance energy efficiency and big loans to retrofit schools, hospitals and other public utilities, including those in Chernobyl-affected areas. "These are very timely interventions with both human development and environmental dimensions," she said.

    She also noted a success of a UN project aimed at combating trafficking in women. "Among the most significant results of the project, I can highlight a comprehensive review of national legislation and recommendations for its amendment in the field of combating trafficking in people, a unique electronic database of institutions providing assistance to women victimized by trafficking, a hotline offering free information to persons traveling abroad, and a rehabilitation shelter for victims of trafficking in Minsk," she said.

    National Bank chairman calls for urgent measures to create attractive conditions for foreign investors

    From: Naveny
    Pyotr Prakapovich, chairman of the National Bank of Belarus (NBB), on Tuesday called for “urgent measures” to improve the country’s investment environment.

    Speaking at a government conference, Mr. Prakapovich suggested reducing the period of registering a company in the country and shortening the list of documents needed for this.

    “We create new jobs, bring in new state-of-the-art technologies thanks to investments,” Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s press office quoted him as saying. “And as a rule investors know from the start where they will sell their products, this is an undoubted advantage. What do we need to secure a direct foreign investment rise? What matters most, we need to liquidate existing excessive red tape.”

    Mr. Prakapovich suggested introducing drastic changes to business regulations that would take Belarus into the top 25 business-friendly countries.

    “All outdated regulations that hinder our economy should be abolished urgently,” he stressed.

    The NBB chairman acknowledged that the Belarusian government had taken no steps to improve business conditions in the country’s six free economic zones. “And again these are matters of red tape and taxation. If we solve certain problems here and adopt a rule guarantying that their regulations will not change for the next 10 years, investments will start coming to our free economic zones very actively,” he was quoted as saying.

    He also emphasized the importance of creating attractive conditions for companies investing in villages and small towns.

    Mr. Lukashenka reportedly welcomed the NBB chairman’s proposals, suggesting that the latter and Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski should report to him on progress in the sphere every month.

    Government projects $1 billion budget deficit next year

    From: Naveny
    The government projects a budget deficit of 2.2 trillion rubels (roughly $1 billion at the current exchange rate), or two percent of GDP, in 2008, Finance Minister Mikalay Korbut said at a government conference in Minsk on November 13.

    Next year’s budget spending is expected to exceed revenues because the government plans to channel additional funds for the development of the economy’s real sector, according to the presidential press office.

    Mr. Korbut said that budget revenues are expected to total 50.6 trillion rubels and expenditures, 52.8 trillion. The 2008 draft budget provides for an increase in expenditures on education, healthcare and priority industrial programs.

    Expenditures on the maintenance of governmental and law-enforcement agencies are not expected to rise sharply, the minister said.

    The average monthly pay will amount to 700,000 rubels in 2008, the minister announced.

    The coming abolition of state benefits for many groups of people will help the government save an estimated 168 billion rubels, which will be spent on targeted aid to the needy, maternity benefits and Chernobyl-relief projects, Mr. Korbut noted.

    The government plans to provide 1.1 trillion rubels in subsidies for utilities to prevent a sharp rise in utility and electricity rates for customers. Households are expected to cover only 34 percent of utility costs next year.

  • Cultural News...

    Belarusian mass media to take part in Press-2008 Exhibition in Moscow

    The fashion centre in Minsk plays host to the Fashion Week “Spring-summer 2008”
    The 15th jubilee international exhibition Press-2008 will be held on November 21-24 in Moscow. Leading media outlets will take part in the exhibition, advisor of foreign relations department of the Information Ministry of Belarus Larisa Telitsa told BelTA.

    Among the exponents from Belarus are Belarusian News Agency BelTA and Belarus-TV. The national stand of Belarus will also showcase newspapers Sovetskaya Belorussya, Narodnaya Gazeta, Respublika, Literatura i Mastatstva, Znamya Yunosti.

    Over 3,000 national and local media outlets of Russia will take part in the exhibition, including TV and radio companies, producers of newsprint and polygraphic equipment, IT companies, news agencies, distributors of printed matter, consulting and research companies, education establishments, recruiting agencies, etc. Simultaneously with the exhibition the 10th Eurasian TV Forum will be held in the All-Russia Exhibition Center.

    Photo-collection of Mogilev studio Three Plus becomes best one at international exhibition in Ukraine

    A photo-collection of the Mogilev studio Three Plus was recognized as the best one in the CIS at the international exhibition World of Photo in Artsyz (Ukraine) which was held within the framework of the traditional seminar Budzhak 2007 for photographers, photo-studios, news photographers and amateur photographers. Taking part in the exposition were the works of 150 photographers from Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova and Estonia.

    As BelTA learnt in the photo-studio, the works of Mogilev photographers Miron Schudlo and Sergei Kravtsov “in Memory of Dali” and “Evening” took the first place in the photo contest which was held within the framework of the forum. Mogilev photographers Sergei Shuntikov, Alexandra Litina, Irina Savosina and others were among prizewinners as well.

    The studio Three Plus was founded in Mogilev 15 years ago. Its members picked up more than 20 international gold, silver and bronze medals.

    Minsk to host German exhibition “City and House. New Architecture of Berlin in the 21st century”

    German exhibition “City and House. New Architecture of Berlin in the 21st century” will take place in Minsk on November 16 – December 1. It will be arranged by Berlin architect and reporter Phillip Meuser and the architecture publishing house and exhibition agency POM publishers.

    As BelTA learnt from the FRG embassy to Belarus, the exhibition will familiarize visitors with the architecture of the German capital. It will feature photos of modern city facilities built after the Berlin Wall fall and Germany reunification. These are houses, villas, hotels as well as offices and living areas. A special catalogue of all photos of the exhibition has been published.

    According to the source, the organisers of the exhibition want to make their own contribution to the discussion of the future of the European city and to promote exchange between the two countries in the planning and construction spheres. The exhibition will take place in the cinema hall Pobeda.

  • Around the region...

    Storm smashes ships, causes oil spill in Black Sea

    From: xinhuanet
    A vicious winter storm that whipped up six-meter waves in the Black Sea this weekend smashed a Russian oil tanker, three cargo ships and sank two barges, killing at least five sailors, according to media reports Tuesday.

    The Russian oil tanker split in half in the Kerch Strait leading to the Black Sea on Sunday, spilling at least 2,000 tons of fuel oil.

    Three cargo ships, each carrying more than 2,000 tons of sulphur, also sank in the Kerch Strait. About 6,800 tons of sulphur in total sank within the cargo ships.

    Thick fuel oil deposits clogged beaches around Port Kavkaz, a commercial hub some 1,200 kilometers south of Moscow.

    The Russian and Ukrainian authorities launched a rescue and cleanup operation in the Black Sea on Monday.

    Clean-up crews placed floating spill control fences around the slick by mid-afternoon, and an oil spill clean up vessel based in the Russian port of Rostov-na-Donu was reportedly en route to the scene.

    The scale of the environmental disaster became apparent Monday when hundreds of dying birds, covered in oil, were washed up close to where the Russian tanker broke up.

    Regional governor Alexander Tkachyov declared the oil spill "an environmental catastrophe" after holding a crisis meeting in the regional capital of Krasnodar on Monday.

    "This is the largest oil spill accident in Russia in the 21st century," Vladimir Sliviak, co-chairman of the environmental group Ecodefence, said. "The storm is likely to last two days. Until it finishes we can't really calculate the consequences."

    Ukraine, Russia set up joint group to deal with oil spill

    In a related story, Ukraine and Russia set up a joint working group Tuesday to deal with the environmental disaster in the Black and Azov Seas.

    According to reports of the Intefax-Ukraine news agency, the working group will be headquartered in the ports of Kerch, Ukraine, and Kavkaz, Russia.

    The first meeting of working group will be held no later than Nov. 15, said a joint communique released after Ukrainian and Russian prime ministers Viktor Yanu kovich and Viktor Zubkov met in Anapa.

    The working group would be responsible for cleaning up the oil spill after a tanker broke up in a heavy storm in the Kerch Strait.

    It was reported that the Volgoneft-139 tanker released about 2,000 tons of oil into the waters. Local officials described it as an ecological catastrophe.

    President Criticizes United Russia

    From: Moscow Times
    President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that an overwhelming victory for United Russia in Dec. 2 elections would give him the "moral right" to maintain a strong influence in the country.

    But the president also rebuked United Russia for lacking any clear political ideology and attracting "all kinds of crooks," saying he only chose it because there were no other realistic options.

    Putin announced last month that he would appear on the pro-Kremlin party's national list for the State Duma elections, a decision that appeared to be aimed at boosting the party's chances and guaranteeing the popular president a power base when his second term ends in May.

    The Constitution limits presidents to two consecutive terms.

    "If the people vote for United Russia, whose list I lead, it means that they trust me and, in turn, means that I will have the moral right to hold those in the Duma and the Cabinet responsible for the implementation of the objectives that have been identified so far," Putin said in televised remarks from Krasnoyarsk.

    Putin was answering questions from workers during a visit to a road construction site after chairing a meeting with governors in Krasnoyarsk focusing on the transport sector nationwide.

    Although he didn't provide a direct answer to questions about his plans upon leaving office, Putin's comments were the clearest indication yet that he intends to maintain a hold on power.

    "In what form will I do this? I will refrain for now from providing a direct answer," Putin said. "But various possibilities exist."

    National television showed Putin sitting next to workers as he delivered a stern reprimand to United Russia.

    "What is United Russia ,then? Is it an ideal political organization?" he asked rhetorically. "Of course it isn't."

    "The party has no stable political ideology or principles for which the overwhelming majority of members are ready to fight. ... And, as a rule, being close to those in power, as United Russia is, all kind of crooks try to latch on to it, often with success," Putin said.

    The explanation he offered for his choice was simple: "Because we don't have anything better," Putin said with a laugh.

    United Russia officials offered no defense Tuesday, saying the president's criticism was well deserved.

    "As usual, the president said the right thing," said Oleg Kovalyov, a senior party leader and the chairman of the Duma Rules Committee. "I'm one of the founders of United Russia and I know that the party is not perfect, but this is not a disaster. We are developing together with Russian society."

    Andrei Vorobyov, chairman of United Russia's central executive committee, said Putin's remarks highlighted how important this Duma vote would be.

    "We are calling them a referendum on the course laid out by the national leader. The party will be a guarantee of continuity," Vorobyov said in answers sent by e-mail. "For the president, it will be the only way the law will allow him to stay in politics -- through a political party."

    "The third term will involve us leading the country to victory together and implementing the strategic directions given in Putin's Plan," he said.

    United Russia has labeled its party platform "Putin's Plan," which is essentially a digest of the major speeches by the president.

    Political analysts said Tuesday that Putin's comments suggested that he had yet to decide how he would retain power.

    "He is not sure yet about what to do to keep power. He prefers to take his time, which is why he says his decision will depend on the results of the elections," said Andrei Ryabov, a political analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center. "He is leaving himself space for further maneuver."

    Putin's comments, which filled the first eight minutes of national evening news reports, came on his first trip inside the country since the election campaign began. He chose for his first stop a region in which he garnered below-average support in the 2004 presidential election.

    Although election laws prohibit government officials from using the status of their office to campaign for their parties, the trip was more reminiscent of a campaign tour than an official visit.

    Vladimir Pribylovsky, the director of the Panorama think tank, said that rule was never applied to high officials.

    "The law can be interpreted in such a way that when it is broken by high officials, it is still not a violation of the law," Pribylovsky said. "When Putin breaks the law on elections, Central Elections Commission officials always say he has the right as a citizen to express his point of view."

    7 Polish soldiers detained on suspicion of violating international law in Afghanistan

    From: IHT and VOA
    Polish military police detained seven soldiers who served in the country's military mission in Afghanistan on suspicion of violating international law, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

    In a statement released Tuesday, Polish military prosecutors said the seven soldiers were detained on suspicion of "violating international law and norms, especially the Hague and Geneva Conventions" while serving as part of the 1,200-strong Polish division of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

    No further details were immediately available, but prosecutors said they intended to press charges, and would release more information Wednesday.

    The Geneva Convention regulates the protection of civilians during wartime.

    Polish Defense Ministry spokesman Jaroslaw Rybak said the soldiers were detained in connection with an Aug. 16 incident in eastern Afghanistan.

    Poland's Defense Ministry reported at that time that Afghan civilians were killed and injured when Polish troops engaged in a firefight with militants after a Polish armored vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. The ministry has declined to release the number of civilians killed.

    The Polish Defense Ministry says seven soldiers serving with the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan have been detained for the killing of civilians in the eastern part of the country.

    Polish police target 'topsite'

    From: Afterdawn
    Polish police have taken a so called "topsite" server offline, which allegedly was used to distributed music illegally before its street release date. An album typically achieves the bulk of its sales in the first few weeks of its release and the record industry claims that the widespread availability of its tracks on the internet beforehand can dramatically undermine those sales.

    Police shut down the HPN server during a raid at Wroclaw Technical University. The police also visited the HPN administrator’s home and have, in total, confiscated six servers with 37 hard drives containing 12 terabytes of disk space. Two people have been arrested and they are helping the police with their inquiries.

    The hosted more than 11,000 complete MP3 albums and promotional CDs on its server for users to download. Investigators at IFPI, the body that represents the recording industry worldwide, ZPAV, which represents the recording industry in Poland, and anti-piracy group FOTA gathered evidence and drew the secretive HPN server to the attention of the Economic Crime Division of the Wroclaw Police who have subsequently conducted the raids and begun to question suspects.

    "People that post pre-release material onto the internet are without doubt harming the music industry; one posting on a topsite can see an album appear in thousands of different locations across the internet in a matter of hours. The industry is highly focused on the problem of pre-release piracy and these actions in Poland will not be the last of their kind," Jeremy Banks, Head of the Internet Anti-Piracy Unit at IFPI, said.

    EU investigator targets Ukraine in fresh CIA allegations

    From: Unian
    The European Parliament`s appointee to investigate the alleged cases of illegal CIA prisons in Europe and extraordinary rendition flights over EU territory has called for a follow-up inquiry, suggesting he has fresh evidence that Ukraine was linked to the operations, according to EU Politix.

    There is "strong and very specific evidence that a military base in Ukraine was made available for the CIA," Italian socialist MEP Claudio Fava told journalists on Wednesday (14 November).

    Along with his fellow Italian deputy Giulietto Chiesa, he made reference to a secret Ukrainian government document they had both seen and which was also presented in a Russian TV documentary that the two lawmakers arranged for journalists and MEPs to watch in one of the parliament`s buildings in Strasbourg.

    The secret document appeared to show Kiev`s authorization of the landing on the country`s territory of a CIA-operated Gulfstream jet plane five times in August 2005.

    The Italian deputies suggested that the same plane was used by the CIA in several previously highlighted cases, including the kidnapping of Egyptian cleric Abu Omar in Milan and his transfer to US bases in Italy and Germany for interrogations.

    Moreover, the Russian documentary quoted several sources claiming that they had seen or participated in building the prison within a military base in Ukraine, close to Poland, which was used for ten prisoners and ten guards.

    In reaction, Ukraine`s defense minister Anatoly Gritsenko told the AP agency that the Italian MEPs` statements were "nonsense," and did not comment further.

    But the parliamentarians are ready to ask the Council of Europe, the human rights watchdog of 47 member countries including Ukraine, to further investigate the issue. They also called for a special report by the European Parliament`s committee of civil liberties.

    Earlier this year, the EU legislature adopted Mr Fava`s report which stated that there had been over 1,000 secret CIA flights with stopovers on EU territory since 2001, with several of them used to transfer terror suspects.

    The Council of Europe report published in June concluded that there was "enough evidence to state that secret detention facilities run by the CIA [existed] in Europe from 2003 to 2005, in particular in Poland and Romania

  • From the blogs...

    Some new part f intereting links

    From: Sidorov Ivan mind
    watch this, read messages, and don't forget about chat &)
    fuck emo one :)

    well some one can say that russian community is included in common world communities.
    i can say that russian blog community is far from american one...
    this is like reflection of life details
    what can yu see on russian blogs? look even this one: wow look to my friendss blogs, wow looks here, wow i see this a pay 15 $ for this and i need to get money...
    but i never see homepage, or blog, or live journal : like this one. This blog is true agent of normal life.
    it's normal to celebrate halloween like russian speak people can see only in movies
    oh yu can see this one

    well and one interesting thought is lied here:
    i mislike to say that you can see yourself

    Modern proverbs and sayings

    From: house
    - Most real hunters choose sex after fishing
    -If you look in the mirror and no one is there, you are irresistible
    -If a man turns to the left four times, according to the laws of geometry, he will return home
    -Healthy sleep not only improves health, it also shortens the workday
    -A woman is almost helpless until the paint on her nails dry
    -Doing your job helps peripheral vision; rumor and vigilance to one side and bullshit to the other.
    -There are two proven methods about how to govern women but nobody knows either of them.
    -Running from the sniper does not help; you just get tired.
    -If they spit on your back it means you are ahead of them.
    -Two heads may be better than one but it is an ugly picture.
    -If an apple falls on you run, the tree might be falling as well.
    -Where the road of failures end is right at the gates of the cemetery.
    -If hands were made of gold, it is not important where they grow.
    -You know you have succeeded in life if the cognac you drink is older than the women you sleep with.
    -It is very clever of women to be able to behave so foolishly in the world
    -You know you have perfect solitude when you know where all of your tings are.
    -The second marriage: This is the victory of hope of common sense
    -Nothing is terrible if the people above you are laughing; it is much worse when they cry
    --mornings; this is when we most envy the unemployed
    -Children's wisdom: When mother laughs even when father is angry, this means we have house guests
    -If a woman deceives you, this means you are significant to her

    Again and again people suffer from the regime

    From: News... from Tatsi ;)
    I ask myself how is it possible and I have no answer. When you are young freedom is one of the essential things you value. And then, when you foced to live within the limits set up by some (really looking for a nice word, but only bad ones come to my mind) officials, you feel like in prison. I really want young Belarusians and Belarusians in general to be able to go anywhere in the world, therefore I do hope that my state will abolish all stupid laws and rules which limit this freedom and will concentrate on the improvement of the Belarusian economy and start negociation to abolish visum in Europe for Belarusians. Uff, it sounds like a plan of action! I would be happy if they would listen to the citizens.

    Good News as well

    There are some good news also! Finally, from the 1st of Jan the stamp in the Belarusian passport to allow you to travel will be abolished. Well, one can think that now Belarusians can not travel at all:) No, it's not quite true. It basically means that the list of people who are not allowed to leave the country is ready and the border police will have and consult during the border control. So, now the passports might be checked even more carefully.

    Despite this brilliant news, there was another even today to which I wanna react. Natalia Alekseeva, Russian ans Swedish citizen, was not allowed to enter Belarus in the Minsk airport. She was forced to leave the country with the canceled enstrance stamp which she got in the beginning and with another stamp - entrance forbidden. She represents a Swedish NGO. The reason of this action my be in her participation in the spring this year in the Democratic Congress in Belarus.

    The Polish police force needs you!
    ...As long as you are not too bright, that is.

    From: The Beatroot
    Gazeta Wyborcza today reports that applicants who want to be a Polish cop are screened (by computer programs) for their intellectual capacities.

    So far, so normal.

    What’s different about the Polish police force is that what the devious psychologists at the Polish police force human resources department are on the look out for are not the dim, the half wit, the retarded; no, the psychologists are keeping an eye out for people thought to be too intelligent to be in the police force!

    Yes, all those jokes Poles used to tell about how dim Polish cops are, were true!

    (Polish cop joke from the 1980s: Old lady goes up to Polish cop. “Excuse me, officer, but have you got the time?

    Cop looks at his new 1980s digital Casio watch. And stares, and stares..

    Old Lady “So have you got the time?

    Cop: “Give us a moment. It’s not so easy to divide 17:43, you know? “

    A spokesperson for the police service said that the computer programmed aptitude and attitude tests are designed for the average person to pass. The personality profile must suit the average Kowalski. And anyway, intelligent people are ‘intellectuals’ and so would ‘not do their job properly.’

    Um. So what are these people saying? That instead of patrolling the streets in search of criminals, and telling old ladies what the time is, the ‘intellectual’ copper would be sneaking down behind a hedge, or in the doorway of a disused shop, whipping out his copy of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations ?

    Or, instead of asking for bribes – like those good old coppers used to/still do – our brainy cop would be asking the punters their opinions on the Neo-Kantian dualistic dimension of Kelsen's Pure Theory of Law?


    A tourist in Warsaw asks a man in uniform, "Are you a policeman?"

    "No, I am an undercover detective."

    "So why are you in uniform?"

    "Today is my day off."

    Human Rights Activists Demand to Abolish Forced State Assignment of Graduates

    From: Viasna
    This year 65 criminal cases have been brought against the high school graduates who failed to get to the places of work assignment. The present legislation treats such behavior as evasion from duties and demands from the people to pay off the costs that had been already spent by the state for their education. The numbers differ, but in general it is about 3-5 thousand US dollars, the average wage being about 200 dollars.

    This situation made the members of the republican human rights organization Belarusian Helsinki Committee apply to the Constitutional Court.

    ‘We need to know whether the obligatory state assignment of the graduates who receive free education at the state high schools corresponds to the Belarusian Constitution’, stated the human rights activists.

    Their arguments are quite logical: ‘The Constitution guarantees to citizens the right to receive higher education free of charge. However, if you must either pay money to the state or work for two or three years at a place to which you have been directed, it is no free education! Then it is necessary to either amend the Constitution to abolish this right, or liquidate the obligatory assignment,’ comment the BHC lawyers.

    Besides, according to them, the forced assignment to the place of work can be considered as a kind of forced labor. Belarus is one of the signers of the ILO Convention #105 Concerning the Abolition of Forced Labor. In this case Belarus violates the convention.

    Do Belarus’ neighbors have forced assignment?

    No, there is no such practice in Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. In Russia and Ukraine forced assignment exists only for graduates of special high schools of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Federal Security Bureau and Ministry of Emergency Situations. But, those who enter these universities are well aware where they will have to work and what kind of specialists they will become.

  • Sports briefs...

    Vladimir Voltchkov of Belarus wins Great Britain F21

    From: BelTA
    On the way to the finals of the Great Britain F21 in Redbridge, Scotland on November 5-11, 2007, Belarusian Vladimir Voltchkov defeated Ruben Bemelemans (BEL) 6-3, 1-6, 6-3; Adriano Biasella (ITA) 6-2, 6-4; Marco Crugnola (ITA) 6-2, 6-0; and Jeroen Masson (BEL) 6-0, 6-1. In the final Vladimir Voltchkov beat Frederik Nielsen (DEN) 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

    Defending champions Belarus’ Max and Mirnyi Jonas Bjorkman lost 4-6, 1-6 to Martin Damm from the Czech Republic and Leander Paes of India on Day 1 at Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai on Sunday.

    Belarus finishes fifth at World Junior A Challenge in Canada

    The U20 team of Belarus finished the World Junior A Challenge on a winning note, with a 5:3 victory (0:0, 1:2, 4:1) over Germany. The scorers in the team of Belarus were Artem Demkov, Andrei Stas (2 goals), Yuri Eliseenko and Igor Voroshilov. The goaltender was Vitaly Trus. Artem Demkov was recognized player of the game.

    A reminder, Belarus lost two matches of the World Juniour A Challenge: to Canada East 1:4 and the USA 6:7 (overtime) and lost the quarterfinals to Canada West 3:7.

    Canada West captured 2007 World Juniour A Challenge Final with a win over Canada East. The USA team defeated Russia 9:6 to the win the bronze medal.

    Belarus wins EIHC tournament in Norway

    The national team of Belarus won a tournament called LG Hockey Games in Hamar, Norway this weekend. The tournament is a part of the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge (EIHC) which is a series of national team tournaments between many of the European countries.

    Belarus defeated Poland 1:0, Norway 3:2 and Lithuania 6:0 to win the event.

  • Endnote...

    U.S. slaps sanctions on Belarus oil refining firm

    From: Charter '97
    The Bush administration on Tuesday slapped U.S. financial sanctions on Belarussian oil processor Belneftekhim in a bid to put more pressure on the country's president, Aliaxandr Lukashenka.

    New U.S. Treasury sanctions against Belneftekhim prohibit Americans from doing business with the refining and petrochemical firm and freeze any assets it has under U.S. jurisdiction. International banks often follow U.S. banks in adhering to such bans.

    Belneftekhim, the Belarusian State Concern for Oil and Chemistry, has a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary, Belneftekhim USA Inc., and is made up of more than 50 petroleum and petrochemical businesses. Belarus depends almost solely on Russia for the crude oil it refines.

    The United States and European Union are harsh critics of Lukashenka for ruling the ex-Soviet state with an iron grip and accuse him of shutting down media outlets, holding political prisoners and rigging elections.

    Since 2006, the Treasury has blocked personal assets of Lukashenka and other high-ranking officials in the Belarusian government.

    "Today's action tightens our sanctions against Lukashenka and his cronies by imposing financial sanctions against a massive conglomerate under the regime's control," said Adam Szubin, director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

    The blacklisting of Belneftekhim was under an executive order issued by President George W. Bush in 2006 that allows the Treasury, after consultation with the State Department, to block assets of those responsible for or contributing to the undermining of democratic processes and human rights abuses related to political oppression in Belarus.

    The Bush administration has imposed similar financial sanctions issued under other executive orders against Iranian individuals and state firms aimed at pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear enrichment program and to halt state support of terrorist groups.

    As Charter’97 press center reported last week, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer said Washington would impose new sanctions against the Belarusian authorities. The US spokesman noted that new sanctions are connected with the fact that the Belarusian authorities have refused to release the people regarded as political prisoners in Washington.

    “I’m disappointed to see that no political prisoners have been released. Moreover, we have seen the regime enforcing the pressure on the opposition and activists of non-governmental organizations”, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State said. He also added that the new sanctions against Belarus would be imposed within next week.

    David Kramer said Washington would go on carrying the policy of pressure of the regime and support for the democratic forces. “We have exercised this policy before and will keep to it in future. I hope it will bring positive results”, the US politician said.