Belarus denied UN seat, Kidnap victim freed, Economics, Opposition, Russki cyber attacks, Poland, Ukraine, Football and Viasna human rights watch
Head of State Decides on Some Personnel Issues
From: The office of the president
|Alexander Lukashenko makes an address|
SAVELYEV Mikhail Gennadyevich
- Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food
PIRSHTUK Boleslav Kazimirovich
- Deputy Chairman of the Gomel regional executive committee
NIKOLAYKIN Viktor Pavlovich
- Head of the administration of Oktyabrsky district in Vitebsk
PINCHUK Oleg Leonidovich
- Chairman of the Dokshitsy district executive committee
KOVALYONOK Oleg Anatolyevich
- Chairman of the Ushachi district executive committee
BICHAN Alexander Vasilyevich
- Chairman of the Khoiniki district executive committee
SHOSTAK Pyotr Nikolayevich
- Chairman of the Svetlogorsk district executive committee
BORISENKO Alexander Mikhailovich
- Head of the administration of Leninsky district in Minsk
BABICHEV Alexander Mikhailovich
- General Director of the Republican Unitary Enterpise “Klimovichi Alcoholic Beverage Plant”
GAVRILENKO Viktor Vasilyevich
- General Director of the Republican Unitary Production and Commercial Enterprise “Orsha Flax Processing Factory”
LYZIKOV Anatoly Nikolayevich
- Rector of the educational establishment “Gomel State Medical University.
STEPUK Anatoly Yakovlevich
- Chairman of the central council of the republican state-public association “Volunteer Society for Assistance to the Army, Air Force, and Navy of the Republic of Belarus (DOSAAF)”
ALEXEYCHIK Mikhail Vasilyevich
- Consul General of the Republic of Belarus in Bialystok (Republic of Poland)
PROKOPENKO Igor Nikolayevich
- Member of the Vitebsk regional executive committee
A. Lukashenko: in one or two years Belarus will stop subsidizing its agriculture industry
“Apply latest technologies, save every penny and rely on your own forces only. In one or two years we will stop subsidizing the agricultural sector. The funds will be allocated exclusively for specific projects and plans, rather than for some abstract indicators like 'a kilogram of meat' or 'a litre of milk'," Alexander Lukashenko said.
The President required every effort should be taken to meet the targets of the Belarusian village revival program.
In other economic news, Belarusian cement mills are introducing a technology, which suggests burning old automobile tyres to produce energy needed for cement production. Simultaneously the technology will allow dealing with the problem of waste utilisation, representatives of the Belarusian Architecture and Construction Ministry said at a seminar Energy Saving in Civil Engineering today. The seminar was held as part of the Belarusian Industrial Forum.
The project is supposed to be implemented by 2010 in line with the Ministry’s energy saving programme.
Besides, the cement mills are expected to substitute natural gas with coal to the amount of 1 million tonnes.
The production of construction materials such as cement, lime, glass and ceramics is still a power-hungry process. In view of the fact reducing fuel costs of the production of construction materials remains the primary task for scientists, who work for the civil engineering industry. All in all, the Architecture and Construction Ministry plans to save 375,000 tonnes of oil equivalent of energy resources in 2006-2010.
In Q1 2007 the industry’s companies saved 23,600 tonnes of oil equivalent thanks to energy-saving measures, securing the energy-saving indicator at minus 12.3% while the goal was set at minus 6%.
Belarus’ civil engineering is the most power-consuming industry. Natural gas accounts for around 80% of the energy resources the industry uses. In 2006 enterprises run by the Architecture and Construction Ministry consumed 6.2% of the total fuel the country used.
Belarus denied seat on UN Human Rights Council
From: RIA Novosti
At a General Assembly session in New York City, only 78 UN nations - 19 short of a simple majority - supported Belarus' bid to join the 47-seat council, whose rotating membership is granted to countries upholding the "highest standards" of human rights.
Belarus applied for one of two seats available for Eastern Europe, along with Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. But only Slovenia qualified, with as many as 168 ballots cast in its favor.
In the run-up to the May 17 vote, several international rights organizations as well as opposition leaders in Belarus itself called on the UN General Assembly to vote the country's candidacy down.
In December 2006, the General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution sharply criticizing the Belarusian government for its human rights record, specifically for its failure to hold free and fair elections last March and for the routine harassment and detention of political opponents, civil society activists, and journalists.
The country's leader, Alexander Lukashenko, was once famously dubbed by Washington as "Europe's last dictator."
Belarussian hostage freed in Nigeria
From: Times South Africa and Pravda.Ru
The woman was being treated for injuries, including bullet wounds and a fracture, and may require surgery, one of the contractors said, requesting anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
It was not immediately clear how or when the woman sustained the injuries.
"We can confirm that she has been freed," one of the sources said.
Irina Ekpo-Umo, who works for a catering company in Nigeria’s oil capital Port Harcourt and who is married to a Nigerian, was seized by gunmen on May 5 as she was driving home from work.
A senior military officer in the Port Harcourt region confirmed the woman had been freed but said he had no details on whether any ransom had been paid.
Ekpo-Umo’s kidnappers were never identified but Viktor Goncharov, an official at the Russian embassy, which was acting on Belarus’ behalf in the matter, had earlier described them as "a criminal gang with no political agenda whatsoever".
Diplomats had been worried about Ekpo-Umo’s health, saying she suffered from asthma and high blood sugar.
Militant groups have kidnapped around 100 foreigners since the beginning of the year in the southern Niger Delta region, the heart of production in Africa's largest oil exporter. Some groups demand political reforms, such as a greater share of oil revenues, while others seek cash ransoms.
Hostages are usually released unharmed, but there have been a handful killed in crossfire between the Nigerian military forces and their captors. Women have not usually been targets, but two foreign women as well as three Nigerian women have apparently been seized so far this year, and gunmen snatched a Nigerian toddler from an affluent suburb of Port Harcourt on Wednesday.
Most oil corporations and their service companies have required their foreign employees to evacuate their families. But some, like the Belarusian woman, are married to Nigerians.
Analysts say instability has grown in the last month, after Nigeria's ruling party announced a landslide win in elections that international and domestic observers said were severely flawed by rigging and violence.
Militant groups have said the government's announced victory undermines its promise to improve the lives of the region's inhabitants, most of whom have no access to clean water or electricity, despite living on top of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of crude.
A string of protests and militant attacks have cut the 3-million-barrels-per-day production capacity in the country by about a third.
Nigeria is rated as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International.
Belarus and EBRD to consider cooperation prospects in Kazan May 20-21
The Belarusian delegation, which business group will be composed of top managers of the leading banks, is planned to be headed by Minister of Economy Nikolai Zaichenko.
The head of the Belarusian delegation will give a report at the meeting of the EBRD Board of Governors to inform the participants about Belarus’ position on promising cooperation avenues between the Republic of Belarus and the EBRD, about development of the economic situation in Belarus, the investment policy and new measures taken by Belarus’ government to improve the investment climate.
A presentation of Belarus “Belarus: new boundaries of sustainable development” will be made within the framework of the business forum as well.
The Belarusian delegation will also meet with the EBRD top managers to consider issues relating to the implementation of the EBRD strategy for Belarus for 2006-2008.
Milinkevich to take floor at the Congress of Democratic Forces
From: Charter '97
A. Milinkevich was glad to know that the Minsk authorities allowed the Congress to be held at the Palace of Culture of the Minsk Automobile Works.
“I shall participate in the Congress. I will certainly express my viewpoint on the situation. But I consider it to be a great step back if the Congress is not going to elect Chairman of the Political Council. I have always been insisting that this fact is very important for demonstration of our unity and for influencing the public. If we are going to fight the dictatorship with the round table that it is not clear to the public”. I will not apply for co-chairmanship but I will participate in the Congress”, Milinkevich reported to the Radio Svaboda.
Discharge of the political prisoners, support of the politically repressed youth, employment of the fired for political reasons, the situation in Belarus were among the major subjects of the meetings in London. A. Milinkevich met with the representatives of two British political parties-the Conservative and Liberal Democrats.
A. Milinkevich considered the meeting at the Institute of Oriental Research and Slavistics as “extremely interesting”.
“Many students and lecturers who are engaged in researching Central and Eastern Europe issues gathered there. There were people of the Belarusian origin. It was a lengthy talk, a sort of a round-table on the situation in our country”, the policymaker told.
Gazprom CEO to ink Beltransgaz buyout deal in Minsk May 18
BelTA learnt from representatives of the Council of Ministers Office, the contract to sell shares of Belarusian gas piping company Beltransgaz to Russian Gazprom will be signed. In line with the contract within four years Gazprom will pay $2.5 billion in equal instalments for Beltransgaz shares.
Apart from that, the sides are expected to ink annexes to the protocol the Belarusian government and Gazprom signed on December 31, 2006 to regulate the founding of the Belarusian-Russian gas transportation company, gas supplies to Belarus and gas transit via the country.
BelTA reported earlier, the Belarus President’s decree No. 124 of March 9, 2007 commissioned the government with having the State Property Committee of Belarus and OAO Gazprom sign the contract to sell OAO Beltransgaz shares by June 1, 2007.
A working party chaired by Belarus Energy Minister Alexander Ozerets was set up in March for creating the Belarusian-Russian gas transportation venture. Negotiations of the working party with Gazprom allowed the sides to amend the Beltransgaz charter in view of the company shares’ sale to Gazprom. The new charter was approved by a general meeting of Beltransgaz stockholders on May 4 and was filed for registration with the Minsk City Hall. Thus, Belarus discharged its obligation to amend the OAO Beltransgaz charter to specify acceptable conditions for the sides to take part in the joint venture.
Belarus’ Interior Ministry and IOM present film about labor exploitation “Life in a Trap”
As Deyan Keserovich, the head of the IOM Representative Office in Belarus, said during the presentation ceremony, it is not by accident that the film is devoted to labor exploitation. Last year 20 such cases were registered in Belarus. The IOM representative praised the cooperation and assistance the Interior Ministry of Belarus renders to his organization in the fight against these crimes. He also thanked the film director and the crew.
In turn, director of the film and TV reporter Ksenia Bakhareva said it was the first Belarusian film dedicated to this topic. It took the crew several months to shoot it. The Belarusian and Russian law enforcement bodies helped to make the film.
“Life in a Trap” will be interesting first of all for specialists working in this field. It will be also sent to IOM Representative Offices in different countries including Ukraine and Moldova.
Within five years the Belarusian Interior Ministry together with foreign colleagues has stopped ten international criminal groups, who were involved in forced labour. The information was released by Sergei Koltun, deputy head of the drugs and human trafficking department of the Belarusian Interior Ministry, at a press conference dedicated to the presentation of a documentary “Life in a Trap”.
He noted, this kind of crime is transnational and recognises no borders, therefore the Interior Ministry has established effective cooperation with many countries to combat the crime.
Last year in Belarus 18 forced labour criminal cases were filed and two cases since early this year. Legal proceedings involving 27 victims are in progress investigating old cases. Most of the victims are residents of Gomel and Minsk oblasts, who were taken for forced labour to Russia. Documents are being collected to forward the cases to the court.
The official pointed out the great importance of the documentary “Life in a Trap” for preventing slave trade. “The movie is a vivid example and a textbook, a warning to those, who are going to work abroad”, said Sergei Koltun. He thanked the author and the International Organisation for Migration for creating the movie.
Estonia cyberspace said attacked by Russia
From: PC World and and UPI
The attacks, which started around April 27, have crippled Web sites for Estonia's prime minister, banks, and less-trafficked sites run by small schools, said Hillar Aarelaid, chief security officer for Estonia's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), on Thursday. But most of the affected Web sites have been able to restore service.
"Yes, it's serious problem, but we are up and running," Aarelaid said.
Aarelaid said analysts have found postings on Web sites indicating Russian hackers may be involved in the attacks. However, analysis of the malicious traffic shows that computers from the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Vietnam and others have been used in the attacks, he said.
Experts from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are helping Estonia investigate the attacks, Aarelaid said.
Press reports also speculated that tension between the two countries may have resulted in a coordinated campaign by Russia against Estonia. Last month, Estonia irked Russia by moving a Soviet-era World War II memorial of a bronze soldier, sparking protests. Aarelaid dismissed the theory, saying Estonians were also divided on the issue.
A DOS attack involves commanding other computers to bombard a Web site with requests for data, causing the site to stop working. Hackers use botnets -- or groups of computers they've infected with malicious software -- to launch an attack.
It's difficult to trace who controls botnets, as the networks involve compromised computers located around the world.
"If you have an unknown number of attackers with different skills and capabilities, it's quite painful," Aarelaid said.
In Brussels on Monday, Estonia's defense minister, Jaak Aaviksoo, called for the development of a stronger capability to respond to cyber attacks within the European Union.
"Extensive cyber attacks against Estonia show clearly that this matter should be seriously dealt with and relevant information exchange with one another," Aaviksoo said.
London daily The Times reported Thursday that the Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Paet, in an interview accused Russia of trying to take down Estonia by attacking government Web sites and telecommunications networks.
Some of Estonia's political sites have been so heavily used in recent days that servers have broken down and computer systems have crashed, and attacks have affected businesses too. Estonian information technology experts have concluded that the Internet addresses of the attacks can be traced back to systems used by the Russian authorities, including some in the administration of President Vladimir Putin.
"When there are attacks coming from official (Internet protocol) addresses of Russian authorities and they are attacking not only our Web sites but our mobile phone network and our rescue service network, then it is already very dangerous," Paet told the Times. "The largest part of these attacks is coming from Russia and from official servers of the authorities of Russia," he added.
Poland wants its workers back from Western Europe
"Come back to what?" Gruzla, 25, asked as he waited for a flight to London after visiting his family in Poland. "The work I have there allows me to live. I can buy a car, pay my bills."
But Gruzla, one of at least 400,000 Poles who have emigrated to Britain since 2004, is just the type of worker that Wroclaw is trying to lure back. While Poland has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union, this statistic masks a growing shortage of skilled workers.
Higher pay and the availability of low-cost airline flights are siphoning off the country's best-educated young people to Western Europe.
Wroclaw, in Lower Silesia, is the fourth-largest city in Poland. It is a hub for technology research that has attracted companies like Hewlett-Packard and Google, and it benefits from road and rail links built when the area was ruled by Germany and Austria. The city, which nearly as close to Berlin as it is to Warsaw, is nonetheless struggling to fill 125,000 jobs created over the past two years.
Poland's booming cities may push the country's economic growth to 6 percent this year, the fastest in a decade, according to the Finance Ministry.
The government sponsored 43 investments by international companies last year. A dozen were in Wroclaw's province, more than in any of the 15 other regions in Poland. Wroclaw has attracted more than ˆ5 billion, or $6.7 billion, of foreign money in the past decade.
Last month, Google that said it would join Siemens of Germany and Credit Suisse in the city. Google plans to create 200 jobs and Credit Suisse expects to hire 400 people in Wroclaw, a city on the Oder River that features a baroque city hall and a 6,000-seat auditorium that is on the United Nation's list of World Heritage sites.
To avoid becoming a victim of its own success, Wroclaw put up billboards in Britain that beseech Polish workers to "Come back! Wroclaw loves you."
"If we manage to maintain bridges with people who have emigrated and they start coming back, then the emigration will be only a good thing," said Tomasz Gondek, who heads the investment support unit at Wroclaw's development agency.
In November, President Lech Kaczynski of Poland acknowledged that his country was having a hard time finding qualified workers to participate in the country's rapid economic development.
"I can only hope that they will eventually return to Poland," he said during a visit to Edinburgh. "If Poland continues to develop at the present pace, then the process of Poles going abroad will phase out."
Of the people who have left for Britain since Poland joined the EU in 2004, about 80 percent are under 35 and a third are college graduates, according to the Labor Ministry.
The exodus helped cut Poland's jobless rate to 14.4 percent in March from almost 20 percent three years ago. In Wroclaw the rate is 8.7 percent, lower than that of Germany.
Ewelina Kazubska, 22, who manages a nightclub in London, says Polish companies cannot match the cash offered by British employers. Salaries in Poland average about 2,780 zloty a month, the equivalent of ?504 or close to $1,000, and a little more than the weekly average in Britain.
"My salary is the same number as it was in Wroclaw, except it's in pounds, not zloty," she said at Wroclaw airport, before boarding one of the 54 weekly flights to Britain and Ireland. "In fact, I'm thinking of emigrating further - to the U.S."
Wroclaw created 125,000 new jobs in 2005 and 2006, and the number of new positions is set to increase this year and next, Gondek of the development agency said. The city of 635,000 is the capital of a province with a population of 2.9 million.
Emigration has not stopped Hewlett-Packard from planning to double the size of its Wroclaw operation to 2,000 employees. The center provides administrative services like tax reporting for the company's other offices.
Joanna Kotyrba, in charge of recruitment for the facility, is focusing on finding workers in other parts of Poland.
"There's a lower number of applications now, so the company has to be more engaged," she said.
President Kaczynski said that he wanted workers to come home after they gained experience abroad.
"They'll bring the Anglo-Saxon business culture, money, and contacts in the West," said Gondek, who spent two years in Australia before returning to Poland. "We didn't run the campaign because we wanted 300,000 people to come back the day after we launched it."
In addition to the campaign in London, Wroclaw is renting billboards in Ukraine, and developing versions of its Web site in Ukrainian and Russian, targeted at students.
Gruzla, for his part, is sticking with his decision to leave. He says life in Britain is just easier than in Poland.
"Recently I had to change my Polish national ID card, and there was so much running around just for one piece of paper," he said. "Over there they don't have those kinds of problems."
Ukraine's Const. Court chairman resigns amid crisis
From: RIA Novosti
"How can we talk about any decisions [of the Constitutional Court] if there is no quorum?" said Ihor Pukshin, deputy head of the presidential secretariat, citing three of court's 18 judges dismissed and four officially on the sick list. "The situation in which a Constitutional Court chairman resigns demonstrates that we do not have such an institution at all."
A pro-presidential judge in the 18-member Constitutional Court, which is looking into President Viktor Yushchenko's decree to dissolve parliament and call early elections, Dombrovskiy was reported to have already tendered his resignation April 4, to no avail.
Valery Pshenychniy, reinstated as a Constitutional Court judge by a court decision May 16 after Yushchenko dismissed him in late April, was appointed acting chairman.
Yushchenko disbanded parliament, dominated by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's supporters, in late April and called snap polls, accusing the premier of "usurping power." Yanukovych earlier opposed polls, but eventually agreed.
But the factions have not yet coordinated laws to allow the vote, or its date. They had earlier planned to announce the date on May 16.
Not so quiet on the eastern front
From: Roger Boyes is Berlin correspondent of the Times
It was a long, dusty summer. Three years ago, I embarked on a car journey down the eastern border of the European Union, the Wild East. I was travelling with Piotr, a garrulous Polish reporter, and our mission was to understand how EU enlargement was transforming the relationship with Russia. Frontier lands have always been a neuralgic zone; right on the border is where you have to fight for and define your national identity.
We rattled our way from Estonia and Lithuania - from where we crossed illegally into Russia to relieve ourselves in an under-patrolled forest - through the toytown dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, through Ukraine, Romania and Moldova, into the straggling Balkans. At each pit stop the locals had a view - usually sombre - of Russia. True, the Bulgarians and Serbians remained sentimentally attached to the Russians. And for one Latvian intellectual, pouring out tea from a Thermos in the scruffy garden of his dacha, serving as an interpreter in the Red Army had been the most exciting time of his life. For most, however, the Russians meant nothing but trouble.
Each time we picked up a hitch-hiker, Piotr would hammer on about Poland's holy mis- sion to the borderlands, the so-called Kresy Wschodnie. We lost a lot of hitch-hikers that way. When we came to write the inevitable book, we were tugged between Piotr's Polono-centric understanding of the EU - that it should project western values eastwards and roll back Russian influence - and my pigeon-chested liberalism - feebly arguing that all would be well if it opened up, let trade flourish and handed out visas like bus tickets; the borderlanders would prosper and decide they, too, were westerners. Russia would eventually accept the inevitable: that it cannot hope to keep its influence in societies such as Belarus, Ukraine and Serbia.
Now I am not so sure. A great belt of insecurity sweeps from the north-eastern EU frontier to the south. Russia is at the gates, grimacing and up to no good. The Russian minority in the Baltic republics is a serious problem that could become even more volatile if there is a cack-handed transfer of power in the Kremlin when Vladimir Putin steps down next year. A recent row between Estonia and Russia focused on a bronze monument to the Soviet army, nicknamed "the Unknown Rapist" by Estonians. Only days before a Second World War anniversary, Estonia's government decided to move the statue in Tallinn to the outskirts of the capital - a way of signalling its hurt at the decades of Soviet occupation. The effect was to anger the Kremlin, stir some nasty Russian-inspired rioting and raise a threat of a fuel blockade. Whatever one thinks of Estonia's political judgement, Moscow's hostile response against a sovereign EU state should have drawn a tougher response from fellow members.
To the south, both Ukraine and Romania have been waging a battle for power at the top, with two popular presidents - Viktor Yushchenko and Traian Basescu - growing frustrated with scheming prime ministers and foot-dragging parliaments. Ukraine seems to have reached a compromise in the past few days that allows for early elections, but the mood is still tense. Romania may not be able to end its stalemate until October at the earliest. Both presidents believe that lax rules on party financing are creating a mediocre political class, easily manipulated by oligarchs with strong business links to Russia.
Neither society can modernise successfully without a concentration of authority, democratically legitimised. This follows a pattern across the region of Moscow involving itself, discreetly or otherwise, in domestic politics. Will Russia - as some intelligence analysts believe - create and sponsor a pro-Moscow opposition candidate to topple Lukashenko in Belarus when he becomes simply too absurd? Will Russia permit an independent Kosovo and a humiliated Serbia?
Russia is a bigger challenge than the EU cares to recognise. And so I have come around to accepting Piotr's line: the EU should intervene more directly in the affairs of its border states, because, when pitted against Moscow, it is better to have even a half-baked policy than none at all. If you have no programme, no EU-defined goal for the neighbourhood, you lose any interest in what is happening; Moldovans and Ukrainians become little more than immigration statistics and whole societies are allowed to drift.
We cannot afford to be mere spectators: two of the countries in trouble, Estonia and Romania, are EU members. Oil and gas from Russia to the EU cross the borderland states, most of which are heavily indebted to Moscow. It is not good enough to lie supine whenever Putin threatens a new cold war. We are allowing Russia to dictate the EU agenda on too many issues.
There are two clusters of problems with the potential to turn into crises. The first is this: the EU, following its enlargement in 2004, has a large and unhappy Russian minority of more than 1.2 million people, most of them wedged into Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Despite concessions made to speed accession, the Baltic states are treating their indigent Russians as second-class citizens. Most find it difficult to get a job; all have to take language exams to qualify as citizens. Those who fail are classified as "resident aliens".
Soon Russia will face parliamentary and presidential elections and the question of protecting minorities abroad is certain to become an issue. It was naive of the west to believe that the era of disgruntled, politically explosive minorities had somehow passed, a relic of decaying empires such as the Habsburg, or the dark central European manoeuvring of the 1930s. The Russian minority in the EU is descended from the army and security service presence there; it has powerful allies in Moscow. The Russian army, humiliated by its withdrawal from empire and by underfunding - but bolstered by the political re-emergence of the old KGB apparatus - is beginning to make its presence felt again.
All of Putin's recent cold war rhetoric, his simulated anger at the US anti-missile defence systems planned for eastern Europe and his threat to withdraw from conventional force agreements with the west suggest that the army is being offered Valium. Any pressure on former Russian service families living in the Baltic republics (famously "liberated" by the Red Army) is destined to stir anger in the officers' mess. That makes the northern EU borderlands vulnerable terrain. There is only one possible response: to make sure that the Balts are indeed respecting EU standards of tolerance for minorities, and to defend the Balts loudly and credibly if Moscow tries to meddle with their politics.
The second potential flashpoint must be ob vious to even the most provincial of western politicians: that dependency on Russian energy is extremely high in the EU borderlands. These economies are growing fast - overheating, even - and guzzling up oil and gas from the east. Popular expectations are also rising; there is a surge of impatience across the region and acute frustration with the political class. That is a heady mix: galloping growth that is creating a potentially dangerous gulf between the urban rich and the rural poor, disconnected from the world in a way unknown since the end of the 19th century. Add to that the swagger of Gazprom, an increasingly corrupt political elite, and a professional middle class forced to migrate to realise its dreams, and you have all the makings of a con stitutional meltdown.
Some of the EU's new neighbours are truly failed states. Piotr and I visited a Moldovan village where every third male had sold a kidney to an unscrupulous woman working for a Turkish clinic; the girls, meanwhile, had been peddled to northern Italian brothels. Others, such as Belarus, are sad outposts run in the interests of crazed tinpot despots and their clans. And there are large, historically proud societies - Romania within the EU, Ukraine outside - that are sen sibly modernising but which find themselves politically paralysed.
We cannot, of course, develop a one-size-fits-all policy for such a motley assortment of neighbours. But if we ignore these countries, their problems will become ours, making a nonsense of our most cherished projects. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, really believes that the answer is a strategic partnership with Russia, a contract that commits Moscow to uninterrupted energy supplies and decent behaviour long after Putin has exchanged his gumshoes for slippers. But she should know better - after all, she grew up in the German Democratic Republic - than to believe in the inhibiting value of a treaty. The Kremlin sees the borderlands as its natural sphere of influence, its security cushion. If it has to turn off the gas tap to enforce discipline, it surely will.
I am writing the last part of this article at the campaign headquarters of Traian Basescu, the suspended Romanian president. In a few days he faces a referendum that will decide whether his countrymen impeach him. Apart from Spain, which has a large Romanian minority, no one in the EU has taken a blind bit of notice. The borderlands, we seem to think, are historically programmed for turbulence. Why should we bother? What has it got to do with us? Such dismissiveness is not being shown in Moscow. The only television crews I have seen in Bucharest on this trip are from Russia. The Kremlin sniffs chaos and weakness in its neighbours as surely as a truffling pig; as usual, it is profiting from our lack of concentration, our sheer indifference to foreign cultures. Aides never seen before greet me like a long-lost friend, apparently mistaking me for an emissary from Tony Blair - the last of the messenger boys.
"We don't see many English faces round here nowadays," said one official, adding: "Perhaps that will change soon?"
"Perhaps," I muttered. Outside, although we were on Vasile Lascar Street in the middle of the city, I was sure that I heard a cock crow.
False lustre; The Polish government is all tangled up in the past
From: From The Economist print edition
Its aim was to screen 700,000 people for past collaboration with the communist-era secret police, including not only journalists and academics but also some (previously vetted) anti-communist politicians, such as Bronislaw Geremek, a former foreign minister. Mr Geremek refused to complete another vetting declaration, thereby risking his seat in the European Parliament. This prompted huge criticism: Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Green colleague, said it was like “ordering a Jew in a concentration camp to submit a statement that he hasn't collaborated with the Nazis.”
The Kaczynskis' initial reaction was to counter-attack. At one point they and their allies even seemed to challenge the constitutional court's legitimacy. In a bizarre intervention on the day of its ruling, a deputy from the ruling Law and Justice party, Arkadiusz Mularczyk, demanded a delay, producing hurriedly obtained secret-police files on some of the judges. Now the government has accepted the court's ruling, which guts the central provisions of the law. Journalists and academics are excluded, and the penalty for non-compliance—a ten-year ban from a person's profession—was also struck down.
This has avoided a constitutional crisis, but left the question of what to do with Poland's millions of locked-up secret-police files, which occupy 80km (50 miles) of shelf-space. Secrecy allows the wicked to pose as blameless, and offers much scope for blackmail. The emerging consensus is to replace the vetting law with an open-archive policy. One idea is to allow access by everyone to everything. Yet the files contain much private information, accurate or not, on things like medical conditions or sexual indiscretions.
So a more likely answer will be to open the files to public scrutiny with non-political material expunged. But by whom? Some suspect that the whole subject will now get bogged down in the question of reforming the management of the archives, delaying embarrassing revelations for many years.
Behind the row lie some sharply different views of history. The Kaczynskis believe that, after communism collapsed in 1989, the transition to democracy was botched—maybe even sabotaged—by elements from the old regime. They yearn to bust the crony-capitalist arrangements that have grown up between business, officialdom, the media and leftist politicians. Mr Geremek's 20-year stint in the opposition counts for little: how, critics ask, did he get the juicy job of running the Polish Cultural Centre in Paris in 1960, at the height of the cold war, without having ties to Polish (or Soviet) intelligence?
Others say that the Kaczynskis themselves are prisoners of the suspicious, confrontational mindset engendered by totalitarianism. Justice is one thing; revenge another. Since 1989 Poland has tamed inflation and built a thriving market economy. Now it needs to modernise its public services and play a constructive role in Europe. Ending the heated controversy over the vetting law offers the best chance of concentrating on that.
Belarus wait on Kutuzov and Hleb
Parma FC striker Kutuzov has been restricted to gym training as a result of an inflamed achilles tendon while Hleb may require further surgery on a knee injury. "I still feel discomfort so I went to hospital," said the Arsenal FC midfielder. "The scan revealed an injury but its extent is hard to predict. We sent the pictures to the doctor who did the original operation and he will give us his verdict in a few days." Coach Yuri Puntus will also be without the injured Artyom Kontsevoi, while Aleksei Skverniuk, Dmitri Lentsevich, Sergei Gurenko and Maksim Romashchenko are all omitted. Striker Vitali Bulyga returns after an eight-month absence.
Goalkeepers: Yuri Zhevnov (FC Moskva), Vasili Khomutovski (FC Tom Tomsk), Vladimir Gaev (FC Chornomorets Odesa), Anton Amelchenko (FC Moskva).
Defenders: Sergei Omelyanchuk (FC Rostov), Sergei Shtaniuk (FC Luch-Energia Vladivostok), Aleksandr Yurevich (FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk), Artyom Chelyadinski (FC Metalurh Zaporizhya), Artyom Radkov (FC BATE Borisov), Yan Tigorev (FC Metalurh Zaporizhya), Pavel Plaskonny (FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk), Aleksei Pankovets (FC Kharkiv).
Midfielders: Timofei Kalachev (FC Rostov), Vladimir Korythko (FC Chornomorets Odesa), Aleksandr Kulchiy (FC Tom Tomsk), Denis Kovba (FC Krylya Sovetov Samara), Aleksandr Hleb (Arsenal FC), Oleg Strakhanovich (FBK Kaunas).
Forwards: Vitali Kutuzov (Parma FC), Sergei Kornilenko (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Vyacheslav Hleb (FC MTZ-RIPO Minsk), Gennadi Bliznyuk (FC BATE Borisov), Roman Vasilyuk (FC Gomel), Vitali Bulyga (FC Tom Tomsk).
Militancy in the Niger Delta (The kidnapping of a Belarusian expatriate)
From: Fred Aninta: Nigerian poet/script writer
oh my country men...
what have you done today
in helping to build the nation.
I had my share of the task
so i made a clarion call...
no pipeline vandals anymore
no kidnapping of expatriate
no looting of the treasury box.
oh my country men...
see your beautiful country on the map
with fine resources and golden talents.
you made an oath to make it last
your beautiful pledge was the price
stop concentrating on the lies
cutting corners do not last
militancy is vice.
oh my country men...
crops are natured to grow
gold are heated to shine
development has it sides
Rome and London were dreams
one good night gave birth to both
it was the clarion call in helping
to build the nation
lets start right now for a change.
Chronicle-Review of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in April 2007
On 25 April, the hour before the beginning of the action the police overlapped all ways to Yakub Kolas Square, Belarusian State Philharmonic and tube exists. Trains didn’t stop at Yakub Kolas Square station. About 10 000 people came to the action. They adopted a resolution with the demand to abolish all decrees contradicting to the law On social protection of the citizens who suffered from the catastrophe at Chernobyl nuclear power station and restore all monetary compensations to Chernobyl victims in dollar equivalent of the Soviet ruble of 1990. Besides, the action participants expressed their categorical protest against construction of a nuclear power station in Belarus.
After the end of the meeting the police attacked the dispersing people. Near McDonalds situated opposite Banhalor Square they forcibly seized several activists who held national symbols in their hands, took them to the police station, shot video, took fingerprints and let go without composing any reports. Some of the beaten applied for medical service to the 24-hour traumatologic station of polyclinic #19. The organizers of Chernobyl was stated it was necessary to get a criminal case brought against the authorities of Minsk city executive committee and the police who consciously put the lives and health of people to serious risk. During the procession traffic police made people go along the pavements that were being repaired and were covered with debris and sand.
In the middle of April the courts of Belarus continued trials of the activists who had been detained at Freedom Day action, 25 March. On 4 April Savetski court of Minsk considered the administrative cases against the well-known Belarusian politician Viachaslau Siuchyk and the leader of the BPF Party Vintsuk Viachorka. The trial was attended by Aliaksandr Milinkevich and Anatol Liabedzka, human rights activists, public and political activists, representatives of OSCE, diplomatic missions of the US, Germany, Sweden, Latvia, Romania, France and other countries. The politicians were charged with petty hooliganism (Vintsuk Viachorka allegedly swore and Viachaslau Siuchyk – urinated in a public place) and were found guilty, but were released because of ‘insignificance of the crime’.
In April KGB and prosecutor’s offices continued interrogating youth activists within the frame of a criminal case on the activity of the unregistered youth organization Young Front. The case was passed to Savetski court of Minsk. ‘The prosecutor’s office worked over the case for about half a year’, commented one of the accused, Aleh Korban, ‘which means it started much earlier than we were informed about it. About 7 volumes were collected. We familiarized with them during 4 days, about 2 hours a day. The investigation also demonstrated to us the video tapes of the St. Valentine’s Day action when we passed notes to the European Embassies.’ The case also contains print-outs of web-sites and Xerox copies of newspaper materials. Much space is occupied by the print-outs of bugging of the apartments we rented for 2-3 months to gather there). The judge who was first appointed to the case, Aliaksei Tamanau, refused to lead the trial. The official reason is a bad state of health. The new judge is Ruslan Aniskevich.
We should remind that article 193-1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, on which the leader of Young Front Zmitser Dashkevich was sentenced to 1,5 years of jail, provides different kinds of punishment – from fines to 2 years of jail. At the same time, Young Front again and again tries to obtain state registration.
On 20 April Human Rights Center Viasna adopted an appeal to the international community, asking it to abstain from inclusion of representatives of Belarush in the UN Human Rights Council till the Belarusian government demonstrated real abidance by the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Similar statements were made by relatives of the political prisoners of Belarus, relatives of the missing politicians, representatives of the liquidated organization Legal assistance to population and the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
On 24 April the Belarusian the human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, chair of Human Rights Center Viasna which has been liquidated by the authorities was elected deputy chairman of the International Federation for Human Rights, FIDH.
Right to freedom of conscience
On 18 April Christian Human Rights House held presentation of the book Monitoring of violations of Christians’ rights in Belarus in 2006. Speeches were delivered by the lawyer of New Life church Siarhei Lukanin, the coordinator of Solidarity initiative Inna Kulei, the lawyer Siarhei Shautsou, etc. All of them emphasized the unprecedented growth of pressurization of Belarus’ Christians by the authorities.
On 22 April in Belarus the campaign on defense of the right to freedom conscience started. It aim is to collect signatures under the petition for amendment of the acting law On freedom of conscience and religious organizations which groundlessly restricts the rights of Christian confessions and certain denominations (especially those which have been recently established and have small number of believers).
Administrative punishment of participants of peaceful actions
On 2 April the court of Mahiliou sentenced the youth activists Iauhen Suvorau and Anton Ustsimchuk for alleged petty hooliganism (swearing). On 24 March the police preventively detained them on the eve of Freedom Day action (which took place on 25 March) and composed violation reports. Till 26 March (the day when the trial was to have taken place) the activist were kept in an isolator. On 2 April, despite the court verdict, Suvorau and Ustsimchuk weren’t sent back to jail, but were given 5 days to appeal the court verdict instead. On 19 April Mahiliou regional court left the verdict in force. Despite this, the activists didn’t come to jail.
On 5 April Maskouski court of Brest fined the human rights activist and journalist Uladzimir Vialichkin 310 000 rubles (about 145 US dollars). He was preventively detained on the eve of Freedom Day and charged with petty hooliganism. He was also kept in isolator till 26 March. The trial was several times postponed.
On 26 April the judge of Chyhunachny court of Vitsebsk Sviatlana Varatynskaia sentenced the oppositional activist and distributor of independent press Barys Khamaida to two days of arrest for standing with a poster Chime in the memory of Chernobyl’s victims and ringing a bell. The action lasted five minutes and then Khamaida was taken to Chyhunachny police department. The police composed a report under part 3 of article 23.34 of the new Administrative Code, ‘violation of the order of organization or holding a mass action or picketing’. Then the activist was taken to court.
Politically motivated criminal cases
On 3 April in the prosecutor’s office of Minsk the former businessman and deputy of the Supreme Soviet of 13th Convocation Andrei Klimau was arrested. The reason was than in January 2007 the website of the United Civil Party published the article Revolution Forever, or How to Correctly Flay Gypsy Hog in the Year of the Pig, where Klimau expressed his views on the ways for system transformation of the political system of the country. Later it was found that the criminal case under part 3 of article 361 of the Criminal Code had been brought against Klimau on 28 February for alleged public calls to coup d’etat. Andrei Klimau faces 1 to 5 years of jail. The investigation chose detention as a restraint. Human rights activists consider these charges politically motivated and insist the case be stopped because of absence of corpus delicti in the politician’s actions.
We should remind that after his second politically motivated imprisonment Andrei Klimau spent outside jail only several months. Till December 2006 he was doing corrective labor for organization of a peaceful protest action of 25 March 2005. During Lukashenka’s rule this active opponent of Lukashenka spent in jail 5,5 years. During the first imprisonment he spent 4 years in jail for alleged ‘economic crimes’, thought the international community confessed him a prisoner of conscience.
On 3 April the college board of Minsk city court abolished the verdict of Leninski court of Minsk on the criminal case against the research worker of the Academy of Sciences Kanstantsin Lukashou, brother to the well-known politician Viachaslau Siuchyk, and returned it for re-consideration. On 20 February Leninski court found Lukashou guilty of violence towards a policeman on duty (article 364 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to 2 years of conditional imprisonment with 1-year probation term. The court also obliged Mr. Lukashou to pay one million rubles (about 500 US dollars) as compensation to the ‘injured’ policeman Anatol Sushchenia for moral and physical harm.
On 11 April the youth activist Dzianis Dzianisau was released from investigative isolator #2 on seven thousand dollars bail. On 16 February Dzianisau was detained on accusation of ‘organization and preparation of or active participation in the actions that grossly violate the public order’, part 1 of article 342 of the Criminal Code. The investigation considers the activist an organizer on the so called ‘Bunt case’ (on 19 June 2006 a national white-red-white flag a Bunt transparent were hanged out on the lightning tower of Vitsebsk amphitheater). The sum of the bail was collected by his relatives, friends and other concerned people.
In April the imprisoned youth activist Zmitser Dashkevich underwent a medical examination at the prison hospital of Minsk. Despite the fact that yet before the imprisonment the doctors prohibited hard physical labor to Dashkevich because of problems with spine, the prison administration transferred him to a sawmill, as a result of which the pains in the spine increased. At the hospital osteochondrosis was diagnosed. On 1 November the leader of Young Front Zmitser Dashkevich was sentenced to 1,5 years of jail under article 193-1 of the Criminal Code (activity on behalf of unregistered organization). Amnesty International declared Dashkevich a prisoner of conscience.
Tortures and other kinds of inhuman treatment
The well-known Belarusian literary scientist Uladzimir Sodal (who turns 70 this year) is indignant at beating of participants of Chernobyl Way rally by riot police near Banhalor Square. He and his wife were also beaten there, when going home after the end of the action. According to Sodal, the policemen acted suddenly and boldly. ‘I could run away, but my dignity didn’t let me. Why should I, having survived the terrible years of Nazi occupation, run from my younger compatriots in a peaceful time?’ Sodal wonders.
Persecution of public and political leaders
In the evening of 1 April Homeal activist and human rights activist Anatol Paplauny noticed that somebody had paid a ‘visit’ to his private house. A ventlight was torn out from a window and a flowerpot was smashed. Nothing was stolen. Anatol Paplauny called the police, who took explanations from him and composed an appropriate report. ‘I think somebody wanted to intimidate me because of my public activity. Such things happened before 25 March and continue now,’ commented Paplauny.
On 18 April the presidium of Minsk regional Bar fired Ihar Rynkevich, lawyer of the political prisoner Aliaksandr Kazulin, ‘on his own free will’. According to the lawyer, the decision to resign was an anticipatory step, as he was twice disciplinary punished, once threatened, and also beaten near the entrance of the police station where his client was kept. Besides, the authorities started to pressurize his colleagues and the Ministry of Justice has started a check-up. Now Ihar Rynkevich will defend Aliaksandr Kazulin not as a lawyer, but as an ordinary citizen. Mr. Rynkevich is sure that he will have the possibility to become a lawyer when the power changes.
Right to association
The Ministry of Justice demands from NGOs explanations concerning their participation in the unregistered assembly of NGOs. Warnings were presented to Leu Sapeha Foundation, BPF Adradzhenne and Belarusian Helsinki Committee. ‘It is a usual case for Belarus, when the right to association is violated. This association of NGOs attempted to get registered several times, but each time the Ministry of Justice refused to register it. Now the ministry has sent to about 20 organizations the order to give explanations why they violate the law On public associations by participation in an unregistered association. Even criminal punishment is provided for it. It is simply a continuation of the general campaign for destruction of the civil society which was started by the authorities in 1999,’ commented the Belarusian human rights activist Uladzimir Labkovich.
Right to peaceful assembly
On 5 April the co-chairman of the organizational committee on establishment of the party Belarusian Christian Democracy Aliaksei Shein applied to Minsk city executive committee for holding on 20 April a picket wit the aim to turn public attention to the problems of realization of the people’s right to freedom of conscience. It was intended to hold the picket at 5.00-7.30 p.m. in Svabody Square. Minsk authorities didn’t authorize the picket, as it would allegedly interfere with the movement of pedestrians along the sidewalks.
On 10 April Leninski court of Mahiliou considered as legal and grounded the actions of the police towards a group of democratic activists who in December 2006 went to Chernihiv for participation in the constituent assembly of the Union of Left Forces. Yury Darashenka, Aliaksandr Karaliou, Iryna Kacharava and Aliaksei Paulouski accused the police in attempting to disrupt their journey and violation of their right to free movement. The court depleted the petition of the activists for listening of a Dictaphone tape and, despite all evidence, took the police side.
Minsk authorities for formal reasons didn’t let to the Belarusian trade union of radio electronic industry to hold on 15 April in Banhalor square the organizational sitting of the initiative group on collecting of signatures for abolishment of the contract system of employment. The trade union of radio electronic industry is one of the initiators of the campaign for amendment of the labor legislation with the aim to abolish the contract employment. In the majority of cases contracts are conducted for a short period of time, as a result of which workers are under constant threat of dismissal and become completely dependent on employers.
Politically motivated dismissals from office
Tatsiana Seviarynets, teacher of Russian language and literature of secondary school #40 and mother of the political prisoner Pavel Seviarynets, was fired. In the end of March she participated in the seminar ‘Children in the system of education’ held by the Warsaw center of school work. Before this she asked the schoolmasters for one-week absence leave for family reasons and received it. When she returned, she found that all her classes were removed from the schedule and she was summonsed to Pershamaiski education department of Vitsebsk together with the schoolmaster. There the chair of the education department Uladzimir Shloma stated that ‘KGB phoned and said that Tatsiana Seviarynets was in Warsaw and had no family reasons for her absence’. By the way, Tatsiana Seviarynets not only participated in the pedagogical seminar, but also visited in Warsaw her grandfather’s grave. The pupils’ parents collected 31 signatures with the request to leave the teacher in the school, but their petition was simply ignored.
On 25 April in Brest the leaders of the regional organizations of the BPF Party, Belarusian Social Democratic Party Hramada and the Party of Communists applied to Brest regional executive committee with the proposal to discuss the facts of politically motivated office dismissals of people. In their letter they pointed out that during the last few years a number of activists of political parties and opposition-minded people were fired or had to resign. According to officials of the parties, these dismissals were dictated rather by political than professional reasons and are a manifestation of labor prohibition to activists of democratic forces. A list of the fired has been attached to the letter