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Belarusian-Venezuelan relations reach the level of strategic partnership, Alexander Lukashenko says
|Meeting with the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez|
The relations between the two states have been developing in a dynamic manner, Alexander Lukashenko said. “I consider your decision to pay a short-term visit to Belarus en route to Russia and Iran as deep interest in developing cooperation between our countries and as a demonstration of your friendly and kind feelings towards Belarus,” said Alexander Lukashenko.
An official ceremony of meeting President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Hugo Chavez was held in the Belarusian capital. Belarusian Head of State Alexander Lukashenko welcomed the Venezuelan President in his residence.
The sides intend to discuss the Belarusian-Venezuelan trade-economic cooperation including in the energy field. Both the leaders will also consider the results of implementing the agreements reached in the course of the visit of Hugo Chavez to Minsk in 2006.
Belarus and Venezuela are intent on active cooperation in scientific and military-technical fields, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said at today’s narrow-format meeting with President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez.
The Belarusian head of state stressed, the two presidents do have something to talk over. “The issues are very important and their discussion cannot be postponed,” he said.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, the sides have gone through the first stage of cooperation and did it very intensively and rapidly. “Belarusian and Venezuelan specialists have attentively studied both the countries. A large number of serious proposals for cooperation in trade and economic, scientific and technical, and military-technical fields have been worked out,” noted the President. “It is now important to approve or reject some proposals,” he added.
Addressing Hugo Chavez, Alexander Lukashenko said, “You’ve come at the very right time”. The President assured, Belarus will certainly fulfil all the existing Belarusian-Venezuelan agreements.
“I find your words that you’re happy to be here as the true love for our country and our nation. Therefore I’m grateful for your coming,” said Alexander Lukashenko. Hugo Chavez responded by saying, his love for Belarus grows stronger with every visit.
After the one-on-one meeting the negotiations of the two leaders will continue in an extended format.
In line with the agreements reached at the highest level Belarus and Venezuela have launched big projects in trade-economic, military-technical and sci-tech spheres, Belarusian Head of State Alexander Lukashenko.
According to the President, these projects “have gained in scale and we have made this big progress starting almost from scratch.”
President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez highly evaluated the effectiveness of Belarusian-Venezuelan joint oil extraction projects.
Speaking about the Belarusian-Venezuelan joint projects, Hugo Chavez said, “We should approve everything in order to reach a new level of relations”. In his words, the sides are already considering multiple projects in many fields, including oil, petrochemistry as well as seismology. “We were impressed a lot by the effectiveness of the Belarusian team,” said the President of Venezuela.
He noted the high productivity of the visit of Viktor Sheiman, Secretary of State of the Security Council of Belarus, to Venezuela in March 2007. “We worked very well and have advanced essentially thanks to this visit,” noted the Venezuelan leader.
Hugo Chavez “brought his entire team to Belarus” to discuss bilateral cooperation issues. “The support you’re giving us now is very important,” added the President of Venezuela addressing Alexander Lukashenko.
Hugo Chavez also stressed, the Belarusians had become a brotherly nation for Venezuela. “There is even no need to give notice of my coming in advance, it is sufficient to say I’m coming,” he said. Hugo Chavez emphasised, once Alexander Lukashenko is ready to visit Venezuela, he will meet a warm welcome there.
President of Belarus believes there is a need to intensify the Belarusian-Venezuelan cooperation.
The Belarusian leader has said there is a need to discuss the issues of bilateral cooperation as its potential is much higher than the level of current interaction.
Alexander Lukashenko stressed that it is only one year that the countries have been building up their relations and it is very important that an additional impetus be given to the relations every month, every quarter, every year and that organizations and companies be encouraged to promote cooperation. In this connection the President of Belarus called the visit of Hugo Chavez to Minsk as very important.
The Head of State drew attention to the fact that the positions of Belarus and Venezuela on the main international problems and world order issues are identical. In his words, “this is a reliable basis for close cooperation and mutual support in the international arena.”
Venezuela's Chavez, Belarus' Lukashenko declare solidarity
From: Raw Story, VHeadline and Navany
|Meeting with the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez|
"We have many obstacles and opponents, above all this empire that calls us dictators," Chavez said as he met Lukashenko in Minsk, referring to the United States.
"In the world there are few countries like Belarus on which they put so much pressure.... We bring with us our warmth and solidarity with Belarus," Chavez said.
"The empire that has called us dictators aims, itself, to establish a global dictatorship. There few nations that are experiencing such a strong pressure from the empire as Belarus. Because Belarus is being subjected to such strong threats on the part of the empire, therefore we are brothers in this struggle. It is necessary to overcome many obstacles, especially those posed by the forces that are against us. If we have done so much within a year, imagine how much we'll do over the 20 years that we are yet to spend in power!" Mr. Chavez said, suggesting that Belarusian-Venezuelan cooperation should be in the form of a "permanent alliance."
"Don't scare the Americans," Lukashenko responded, smiling.
"The enemy's forces are trying to turn the world into a unipolar world. We must overcome many obstacles from these forces. The Empire that has called us dictatorships itself wants to create a world dictatorship," he said.
Chavez, who has called US president George W. Bush a devil, a donkey and a drunkard, again lambasted the US and its "imperialist" policies. "For the Americas, Venezuela is like Russia for Europe and Asia ... a source of oil and natural gas. But US companies act like Count Dracula, like vampires bleeding our country dry." he said.
Lukashenko in turn said that relations had "reached the level of a strategic partnership" and said numerous projects were under way in the trade, economic, scientific, technical and military spheres.
Lukashenko has been declared persona non grata in the European Union and the United States in retaliation for what Western governments say are his repressive policies.
His meeting with Chavez came during a tour by the Venezuelan leader that began in Russia and is to take him on to Iran.
The main theme of the tour has been spreading Chavez's fiercely anti-Washington message and shopping for weapons.
The flamboyant Venezuelan leader was to return to Russia for a second meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Saturday.
Russian state weapons exporter Rosoboronexport, already a major supplier to Venezuela, said Friday that a deal was under negotiation for the sale of five submarines.
Chavez told Russian parliament deputies he was interested in submarines "since America is constantly threatening us (and) we must defend our revolution," RIA Novosti news agency quoted parliament deputy Yelena Drapeko as saying.
Russia was also discussing possible sales of army and air force materiel, an official with Rosoboronexport, Innokenty Nalyotov, was quoted by Interfax as saying.
Chavez, a fierce foe of US President George W. Bush, has made a priority of modernising and expanding his oil-rich country's armed forces and last year bought significant numbers of aircraft and small arms from Russia.
Washington, which brands Chavez an undemocratic nationalist, has criticised Russia's sales of weapons to Venezuela and was likely to be irked by Putin's meeting with Chavez on the eve of talks between the Kremlin leader and Bush this weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Chavez, an elected leftist with a populist style, says his arms buying spree is necessary to rebuild the country's outmoded armed forces and to protect against what he brands US imperialism.
In 2006 Venezuela signed more than three billion dollars in contracts with Russia to buy 53 Mi-24 armored helicopter gunships, 24 Sukhoi-30 fighter planes and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles.
The submarine reportedly under negotiation is known in Russia as the Project 636 and in NATO classification as a Kilo Class vessel.
According to Rosoboronexport, the 73.8-metre (242-foot) submarine can dive to 300 metres (984-feet) and carries six torpedo tubes, with 18 torpedoes, and an anti-ship cruise missile system.
Ahead of his trip, Chavez said it was not Washington's business whether he bought weapons.
"They're making all this noise because Venezuela is going to buy some submarines, and I told them, 'Why not?'" Chavez said.
Analysts also say Chavez wants the subs to protect shipping lanes for key oil exports.
A total of 24 agreements, contracts and memorandums were reportedly signed during the seven-day Venezuela trip of a Belarusian delegation led by Viktar Sheyman, state secretary of the Security Council, in March 2007. In particular, contracts were signed for the supply of Belarusian products, including tractors, trucks, road construction vehicles, televisions, refrigerators and foodstuffs.
In addition, a number of cooperation agreements were signed in the sphere of agriculture and machine-building, which envisaged the opening of plants in Venezuela for assembling Belarusian machinery.
The Venezuelan president then gave his consent to allotting to Belarus oil-rich areas with a developed infrastructure, which, according to Mr. Lukashenka's press office, would yield up to two million tons a year (40,000 barrels a day) starting 2008. A joint oil production enterprise was expected to be established in Venezuela by August 2007. Under Venezuela's regulations, the share of the Belarusian party should not exceed 40 percent.
A number of agreements were reached on the construction of housing in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas and in provinces with the participation of Belarusian builders.
An agreement was reached that Belarusian experts would build a reinforced concrete products plant and a brick works that would manufacture no less than 100 million bricks a year.
Chavez hints at nuclear future for Venezuela
Mr Chavez defended Iran's right to pursue a nuclear programme and said it might be a good idea if Venezuela eventually did the same thing. Speaking before an audience of communists and other elements hostile to America, Mr Chavez said: "Iran has a right to have a peaceful atomic energy industry, as it is a sovereign country.
"The Brazilian president has declared his atomic energy initiatives, and Brazil has a right to do that as well. Who knows, maybe Venezuela will ultimately follow suit." Mr Chavez said he wanted a "multi-polar world in which "real freedom" was possible as opposed to "American freedom", which he characterised as the right to "threaten other nations and destroy cities".
The Venezuelan leader is on a trip that also includes two other US antagonists, Belarus and Iran. His visit to Moscow comes hours before a meeting in the US between Vladimir Putin and George Bush. The two are holding informal talks on Sunday and Monday at the Bush family estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, with deep divisions over the US's proposed missile shield in central Europe, the future of Kosovo and US concerns over Russia's resurgent authoritarianism under Mr Putin.
Kremlin officials yesterday said it was a coincidence that Mr Putin was holding talks with Mr Chavez tomorrow and Mr Bush on Sunday.
But the newspaper Vedomosti suggested the visits were designed to demonstrate Russia's independence. Others suggested it was Mr Chavez who was making the running. "The timing wasn't initiated by Russia," said Viktor Semyonov, an economist at Moscow's Institute of Latin American Studies. "It all comes from Chavez.
"It's more about money than politics; Chavez is supporting Russia's rapidly increasing economic presence in Venezuela."
During his three-day visit to Russia, Mr Chavez is expected to buy more military hardware, including as many as five submarines. He will also tour a helicopter factory and hold talks with Mr Putin tomorrow in Rostov-on-Don.
Last year Mr Chavez spent $3bn (?1.5bn) on Russian arms. But yesterday he said: "We don't want war. We want peace. There were rumours we came here to buy weapons. This is not the priority of my visit ... The priority is cultural interaction and the exchange of ideas."
But he also boasted of Venezuela's Russian Sukhoi jets: "When they appeared in the sky over Caracas during a parade on independence day two years ago, then we broke the fetters of dependence on the US."
In Belarus, Mr Chavez may also discuss a new air defence system, after saying this week that Venezuela's current system was insufficient. He will then go to Tehran for talks aimed at further deepening ties with Iran.
Ex-scout leader jailed for filming Belarus children
From: The Independant
John Peppard, who runs a sweet shop from his home in Mount Melleray, Cappoquin, Co Waterford, was jailed for one year for the possession of 143 images and 10 videotapes containing child pornography.
Peppard, who became involved with the Chernobyl Children Appeal Ireland (CCAI) charity in 1995, pleaded guilty to the offence, described yesterday by Judge Alice Doyle as "a gross abuse of trust".
The charity said last night it was "sickened" by his behaviour and hoped that being associated "with a man like this" would not lead to its ruin.
Peppard had never been a member of the charity but had worked as a host volunteer and had been recommended as a "pillar of the community", it added.
He himself had "sourced" the children in the town of Khoiniki, and brought 30pc of them to Ireland on an airline used by the charity.
In Carlow Circuit Court, Judge Doyle described Peppard's behaviour as "very disturbing and very inappropriate".
Suspicions were raised after he left a roll of film with a chemist in Lismore, Co Waterford, in June 2003. Gardai were notified of the content of the film and a search of his house uncovered videotapes, photographs and 143 images, stored on a laptop computer, of naked boys aged between 10 and 14.
The court heard yesterday how Peppard had travelled between Ireland and Belarus for the charity as often as three times a year since 1995.
Sgt Pauline Sheehan of Dungarvan Garda Station said one of the photographs showed Peppard on the floor with his belt open while attempting to take off the children's trousers.
Other images and video footage showed the children naked while swimming or in a shower.
The images were made in Ireland and Belarus.
Judge Doyle said she did not accept the defence's argument that the images were on the low scale of child pornography.
She described Peppard's behaviour as "most abusive to these children", adding: "If this had happened to Irish children there would be a public outcry."
She accepted that the accused had apologised to the children and their families and that he had pleaded guilty. But she had difficulty with the fact that he had considered the material "harmless fun".
She sentenced Peppard, a single man and former insurance broker, to 18 months in prison, with the last six months suspended. He was ordered to keep the peace for five years.
He has also been placed on the sex offenders register for 10 years and ordered to undergo treatment with a named clinical psychologist.
He was further ordered not to have any children aged between eight and 10 in his house for 10 years. He was denied leave to appeal.
Chernobyl Children's Appeal said Peppard had been "accepted as a host because he was known to former members of the board, a scout leader, and had a strong standing in the community".
The charity had "vigorous vetting procedures in place since 2003", the statement added. "Mr Peppard has had no association with our charity since July 2003."
The Chernobyl Children‘s Project International (CCPI), headed by Adi Roche and Ali Hewson, issued a statement yesterday saying it had no association with Chernobyl Children's Appeal.
Breath of fresh air for Chernobyl children
From: Peterborough Today
|PARTY TIME: Children visiting the Peterborough area from Belarus are all smiles after each being presented with a new pair of shoes by Lady Isabella Naylor-Leyland.|
The accident, which happened on April 26, 1986, at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in northern Ukraine, saw 190 tonnes of highly radioactive uranium and graphite expelled into the atmosphere. It still has a major impact on people’s lives in the area, particularly children.
On Sunday sixteen seven to nine-year-olds and two interpreters from Mogilev, in eastern Belarus, arrived in Helpston, near Peterborough, and were met by members of the Friends of Chernobyl’s Children (FOCC) group, who arranged the trip.
The area in which the children live remains seriously contaminated as a result of the accident, and the children now have respiratory problems.
FOCC, a charity founded in 1994, raises funds to bring children who are at risk of radiation to the UK for a month every year.
The children will benefit from the stay in a number of ways – it will boost their immune systems, helping them to resist or recover from serious illnesses because they will be benefiting from fresh air and clean food.
During their visit the youngsters, who are from orphanages and disadvantaged homes, will receive optical, dental and health checks as well as a 12-month supply of vitamins.
Co-ordinator of Helpston and District FOCC Cecilia Hammond, said: “When the children arrived they only had small bags – some just had carrier bags, containing gifts for their host families and very little else. We greeted them with a teddy bear each, which were a great success, and a great comfort to the children who are so far away from home.
“This is a preventative programme to increase their immunity so they are less likely to succumb to radiation related illnesses.
“Many of the children suffer from low self-esteem so we also plan to tackle this through teaching them to swim and encouraging them to take part in English lessons.
“I’m excited about their stay and grateful to people for their support.”
During their four-week stay, the children will also benefit from a variety of social and educational visits.
On Monday the children took part in an art day at John Clare Primary School. On Thursday they visited Helpston Scout Hut and were each presented with a new pair of shoes.
It costs FOCC 450 Pounds to bring each child over from Belarus – money which the group raises through sponsorship.
Belarusian artist wins democratic caricature contest
From: Turkish Daily
|A cartoon by Belarus' Marina Markevitch|
The Aydan Dogan Foundation holds the Aydan Dogan International Caricature Competition every year in Turkey since 1983. The award for best caricature is a cash prize of $8,000, a statuette, and plaques by the Ministry of Culture and Hurriyet newspaper. The works of Cuban Angel Boligan Corbo and Brazilian Dalcio Machado ended up with the second place award, and Indian artist C.B. Shibu took third place. The caricaturists that finished second will get $5,000 dollars, a statuette and golden plaque from Milliyet newspaper, and the third runner-up gets $3,500, a statuette and a silver plaque from Radikal newspaper.
The jury committee led by Glen Baxter comprised many master caricaturists; Latif Demirci, Selcuk Demirel, Peter De Seve (U.S.), Aristides Esteban Hernandez Guerrero (Cuba), Husamettin Kocak, Julian Pena-Pai (Romania), Tan Oral and Norio Yamanoi (Japan)
The competition had 1,218 cartoonists from 91 countries with 3,326 works this year. The jury committee meeting in Antalya's IC Green Palace Hotel eliminated most of those, and analyzed 198 works by 156 caricaturists from 46 countries.
The jury and the Foundation authorities gathered at a dinner and had a nice time accompanied by Bosporus scenery after the results were announced on Thursday.
Markevitch born in 1968 attended many national and international competitions and her caricatures have been published in many newspapers. She got the Nasreddin Hodja 2002 special award, Ekateringburg 2002 Russia award for second place and Osnabruk 2005 Germany award for first place.
UN General Assembly unanimously passed resolution, which development was coordinated by Belarus
The meeting will be held on December 11-12, 2007 and will be dedicated to further measures aimed at implementing decisions of the special session of the General Assembly on children.
The chairman of the General Assembly authorized the Permanent Representative Office of the Republic of Belarus in the United Nations Organization to coordinate the work on the text of the resolution. The work took more time than it was planned – consultations between the UN member states lasted three months.
According to Permanent Representative of the Republic of Belarus in the UN Andrei Dapkiunas, measures taken by Belarus in the Year of Children to support family and childhood, to create favourable conditions for full development and social upbringing of children have enhanced the international image of Belarus as an active participant of the all-round activity aimed at protecting children’s interests.
“It is attested by the recent active presidency of Belarus in the executive council of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and credence given to Belarus within the framework of preparation of such high-level meeting,” the Belarusian diplomat said.
The resolution of the General Assembly determines a format of the solemn high-level meeting as well as organizational and preparatory measures. A declaration confirming obligations of the UN member states arising from the action plan, which was signed by them at a special session of the UN General Assembly in 2002, is expected to be signed during the forum.
The special session of the UN General Assembly on children was held in New York on May 8-10, 2002 and became one of the most important international forums on children for the previous 15 years. Heads of state and government of about 70 countries took part in the session. The special session passed a resulting document “A World Fit for Children” including a declaration and an action plan. The action plan provides for achieving considerable improvements in the sphere of survival, health, education and protection of children in the world by 2015.
|Economy Minister of Belarus Nikolai Zaichenko|
According to the source, the Republic of Belarus was elected an ECOSOC member for 2007-2009. ECOSOC is the central body coordinating the UN socio-economic activity. One of its major tasks is to promote creation of favourable conditions for economic development and social progress and to raise enhance living standard and the employment level.
Attendees will discuss “All-level intensification of efforts to promote stable economic growth for the sake of the poor including by means of pursuing a fair macroeconomic policy”.
Economy Minister of Belarus Nikolai Zaichenko will take part in the session. He will deliver a speech within the framework of a roundtable meeting “Coordination of all-level macroeconomic strategies” and during the discussion of the abovementioned theme. In his speech Nikolai Zaichenko will inform participants of the meeting about measures taken by the Republic of Belarus aimed at ensuing stable economic growth. The head of the Belarusian delegation will voice proposals put forward by Belarus concerning enhancing efficiency of the efforts taken by the world community to reach development goals, in particular to recognize the variety of progressive development ways of countries and to take into account concrete needs and realities of each independent state.
The ECOSOC session will be held in the context of reforming the UN activities. That is why new approaches of the organization to international cooperation in the sphere of socio-economic development will be based on the results of the exchange of opinions during the session. By taking part in the session the Belarusian delegation will ensure adoption of decisions meeting the interests of economies in transition including Belarus, the press service informs.
Belarus adds its vote for Anti-Nuke Terrorism Treaty
From: Asian Tribune
But most of the major powers, including those with nuclear weapons, are giving it a miss -- at least so far.
"The convention will help prevent terrorist groups from gaining access to the most lethal weapons known to man," says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who describes nuclear terrorism "as one of the most serious threats of our time."
The new international treaty, which has 115 signatories, needed 22 ratifications before it became international law. The 22nd country to ratify it was Bangladesh. The treaty comes into force Jul. 7.
Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, a senior fellow with the Centre for Peace and Security Studies and an adjunct full professor in the Security Studies Programme at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, however, expresses doubts about the effective implementation of the convention.
To fully implement this convention, she pointed out, signatories must also carry out related measures through national legislation. "This will not be easy," Goldring told IPS.
As of mid-June, she said, the only permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to ratify the convention is Russia. And the only other nuclear state that has ratified the convention so far is India. The United States has signed the convention, but has not ratified it, she added.
Still, Goldring said, this convention is likely to contribute to efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism by bringing additional attention to this crucial issue.
"However, the world community has a great deal of work to do. We need to limit access to nuclear weapons and radioactive material much more effectively than is currently the case."
The 22 ratifying parties who have expressed their willingness to implement the treaty include: Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Comoros, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Hungary, India, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Mexico, Mongolia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The world's five declared nuclear powers are the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, while the three undeclared powers are India, Pakistan and Israel. North Korea has recently claimed it possesses nuclear weapons.
Officially titled "The International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism", the treaty outlaws specific, concrete acts of nuclear terrorism.
One of the objectives of the convention is protection against attacks involving a broad range of possible targets, including nuclear power plants and nuclear reactors.
Under the convention, all parties to the treaty will have to cooperate in preventing terrorist attacks by sharing information and assisting each other with criminal investigations and extradition proceedings.
"The entry into force of the Nuclear Terrorism Convention must of course be welcomed as a demonstration of the consensus within the international community that nuclear weapons must not be acquired by terrorist groups," a former U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Jayantha Dhanapala, told IPS
However, he pointed out, there is a rich irony in the fact that key members of that same international community have failed to ratify such important treaties as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty preventing the development of new nuclear weapons.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and at least three other countries outside the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, he said, have about 26,000 nuclear weapons among them, of which 12,000 are on alert status.
"These are weapons of terror and there can be no distinction between 'right' hands and 'wrong' hands for their possession in terms of the humanitarian principles of war and the International Court of Justice's Advisory Opinion of 1996," said Dhanapala, who is also a member of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission.
Cora Weiss, the U.N. Representative of the International Peace Bureau and president of the Hague Appeal for Peace, says the best thing about this convention is that it brings the nuclear issue back to the table, and hopefully, to the consciences of the world's governmental leaders.
"What would really prevent nuclear terrorism is the total abolition of nuclear weapons. And that is not a pipe dream," Weiss told IPS.
She said that a recent op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal calling for a nuclear-free future, and authored collectively by former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former U.S. Defence Secretary William Perry and former Senator Sam Nunn, has been in wide circulation among anti-nuclear activists and members of civil society.
She said there is also the World Court decision that generally nuclear weapons are illegal under international law; there is the Hans Blix Commission report on weapons of mass destruction; "and we have just celebrated the 25th anniversary of filling Central Park with one million people who gathered to say, 'Good bye nuclear weapons'."
Even the most recent foreign secretary of Britain, Margaret Beckett, endorsed the Wall Street Journal op-ed piece.
"And we will soon, once again, remember the Nagasaki and Hiroshima atomic bombings," Goldring said.
She said there has never been a better time to revive the campaign to free the world of the most deadly and lasting possibility: nuclear devastation.
Goldring described the convention as one of a constellation of measures to decrease the risks of nuclear terrorism.
If fully implemented, she said, it would increase the level of cooperation among states and the quantity and quality of information they share with respect to terrorist incidents.
"It also has an important focus on safeguarding any nuclear or radiological material that is captured by states," she said. "Unfortunately, while this step is laudable, no single measure is going to solve this problem, and the convention is relatively modest in comparison with the work that needs to be done."
Goldring also said that outlawing nuclear terrorism is not enough: "We urgently need to secure the surplus nuclear material in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere, and to protect nuclear facilities around the world."
Jewish tombstones knocked down in Belarus
Relatives of those buried in the graves appealed to the police, one of whom theorized that the heavy tombstones may have been knocked down by a wind storm, the AEN news agency reported Thursday.
Naum Ioffe, a local Jewish leader, told AEN that there have been no strong storms in Mogilyov in recent days, calling the policeman's theory "fantastic." In addition, the cemetery has been vandalized before.
Economy Minister Zaychanka says that projected 2008 GDP growth of eight or nine percent is still reachable
Guided by the fact that the present macroeconomic situation is rather stable, "we believe that the figures projected in the 2006-2010 development program still remain obtainable," he said, noting, however, serious differences with the Ministry of Finance, other ministries and the National Bank in work on the draft social and economic development prognosis for 2008, which the economy ministry plans to submit to the Council of Ministers in August.
This is a "rather complicated matter, as a new change in energy prices is expected in 2008 and how much we'll have to adjust the forecast will become clear later," the minister said. "Then we'll be able to talk about [forecast] indicators more specifically, but for the time being, the earlier projected figures are the guide," Mr. Zaychanka said.
In particular, according to him, the inflation rate in 2008 should be within six to eight percent. "We'll hardly be able to considerably lower inflation, as it will partially compensate for changes in external conditions," he noted, adding that inflation, as the rate of change in the level of consumer prices, could be boosted by the current higher rise in the prices of industrial products, which, according to Mr. Zaychanka, rose by eight percent in the first five months of 2007.
In a realted story, Interfax reports that the reduction in petroleum product exports from Russia to Belarus at the start of this year resulted in a Belarussian budget shortfall of approximately $200 million, Belarussian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky said at a meeting of the Union State's Council of Ministers in Moscow.
In addition, higher natural gas prices over a space of four months resulted in a $458-million increase in the cost of importing gas, Sidorsky said. pr
World’s leading software developers eager to partake in setting up Belarus’ IT academy
“I think in July the administration of the Hi-Tech Park, its residents in association with the Education Ministry and the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis will discuss organisational and other issues, will collect the necessary information. In August 2007 we will propose setting up the academy to the President of Belarus,” he said.
BelTA reported earlier, the Hi-Tech Park and major IT companies plan to start implementing the project this year. The IT academy will specialise in career enhancement of graduates of Belarusian technical universities. There are also plans to organise professional development courses and re-education of teachers. Apart from that, the world’s leading companies are expected partake in the project.
Computer skills of government officials have to be improved for the accomplishment of an e-government programme. The IT academy is expected to provide special training for government officials that will take part in the e-government programme.
The Hi-Tech Park was set up to create favourable conditions for raising the competitive ability of the national economy branches, which are based on advanced and cutting-edge technologies.
Capitalism is bad for men's health
The life expectancy for men freed from the Iron Curtain dropped by six years between 1991 and 1994 amid social disruption, physical hardships and economic instability.
The degree to which men were affected depended upon how rough the transition to capitalism was and how much income inequality increased, the new study from the University of Michigan found.
And they were significantly more likely to be impacted by the transition than women, the study found.
"The inequalities in status and resources that can come with capitalism does lead males to behave in ways that are detrimental to men's health," lead author Daniel Kruger said in a telephone interview.
Increased competition can create an environment that encourages risk-taking behaviour that results in fatal accidents, he said.
An increase in social and economic stress can manifest itself in suicide or homicide and can also cause physical strains which can lead to heart attacks.
"It seems as though there is a physiological embodiment of stress from being in a competitive environment," Kruger told AFP.
Kruger compared the mortality rates of men and women in 14 post Soviet countries.
Male mortality from intentional causes - homicides and suicides - doubled in the region, although it varied significantly by country.
Poland, which had a relatively smooth transition, saw the rate increase just 15 percent while Estonia, which was much more unstable, saw violent deaths increase 238 percent.
More significantly, Kruger said, was that the gap between the male and female mortality rates grew an average of 9,3 percent which showed that "this economic changed was more damaging to men than to women."
"The impact was really for men who are in their economically prime years," Kruger said.
"If you were an adolescent or young adult they may have seen this as an opportunity but those who are say 45 and settled into a routine they might see this as a threat."
The countries most affected were Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Albania, which saw the gap widen by 14 to 30 percent in the first five years after the fall of communism.
The gap grew by eight to 12 percent in Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and East Germany. It grew a modest one to six percent in Slovenia, Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, and Hungary.
The study was published in the current issue of Evolutionary Psychology.
East: Region Eyes U.S.-Russian Relationship As Bush-Putin Summit Looms
When the presidents of the United States and Russia meet, the whole world tends to watch. Nowhere is this more true than in the former Soviet Union, where the relations between Washington and Moscow have an enormous impact. How are the countries of the ex-USSR looking at the upcoming summit between George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin?
U.S. President George W. Bush is due to host his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Kennebunkport, Maine, on July 1 and 2.
The informal summit -- which is being held at the prestigious albeit casual venue of the Bush family's summer home -- is widely viewed as an effort to mend fences at a time when relations between Moscow and Washington have sunk to a post-Cold War low.
The two presidents are slated to discuss issues ranging from Kosovo's final status, to a proposed missile-defense system in Europe, to Iran's nuclear program.
But regardless of what is on the agenda, the countries of the former Soviet Union -- from authoritarian Belarus, to oil-rich Azerbaijan, to Western-leaning Georgia -- will be paying close attention.
Washington and Moscow exert so much influence on the region, and the state of their relations have such an impact, that any U.S.-Russian presidential summit is impossible to ignore.
Georgia, for example, which is seeking to join the West and escape from Moscow's sphere of influence, tends to view any significant warming trend in U.S.-Russian relations with extreme trepidation.
Some call it the Yalta Syndrome -- a fear on the part of small countries that their interests will be sacrificed on the altar of great power politics, as many believe those of Eastern Europe were after World War II.
Alexander Rondeli, president of the Tbilisi-based Georgian Foundation For International Studies, told RFE/RL's Georgian Service that if there are tensions in U.S.-Russian relations it is not very good for Georgia.
Some call it the Yalta Syndrome -- a fear on the part of small countries that their interests will be sacrificed on the altar of great power politics"For a small country it is not good to be on the front lines of a war. We don't have the military or political resources to resist. But it is also bad for us when they have good relations. We know from our own experience that when the United States and Russia have warm relations, our interests get neglected or ignored. The best thing for us is when their relations are neither too good nor too bad. This gives a small country like us the space to maneuver," Rondeli said.
Georgia's pro-Western leaders are trying to steer the country into NATO and are counting on the United States to help get them into the Western alliance. Georgia also wants Washington to put its diplomatic muscle behind its efforts to bring the pro-Moscow separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia under Tbilisi's control.
And analysts like Rondeli say Georgia's leaders worry that Tbilisi's interests are always in danger of becoming bargaining chips between Moscow and Washington.
Other former Soviet countries, however, particularly those trying to steer a middle course between Russia and the West, hope U.S.-Russian relations are as close as possible.
Georgia's neighbors in the South Caucasus, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, for example, do not share Tbilisi's apprehension about close U.S.-Russian ties.
Armenia, which prides itself on maintaining good relations with both Washington and Moscow -- and getting as much as possible from both parties -- sees its interests best served by a close and warm U.S.-Russian relationship.
Aram Abramian, a political commentator and editor in chief of the Yerevan-based daily newspaper "Aravot," said Armenia's leadership is governed by the principle of "complementary-ism."
Kennebunkport gets ready (AFP) "A crude way to put this is that we take money from the West and take weapons from Russia and have good relations with both Russia and the West. Its a bit cynical but in my opinion this is how it is," Abramian said.
Azerbaijan likewise favors good relations between Washington and Moscow -- as long as the United States is the dominant partner.
Vafa Guluzade, a Baku-based political analyst who was an adviser to former Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev, said it is in the interests of Azerbaijan to have a close Russian-American relationship.
"In these relations, the leading role belongs to the United States, not to Russia. But if there will be difficulties in Russian-American relations it means that Russia is stronger and Russia wants to be more independent. And this independence of Russia will be very bad for former Soviet republics and newly independent states," Guluzade said.
Azerbaijan would like to see the United States and Russia more intensely engaged on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The countries of Central Asia, likewise, are trying to gain as much as possible from both Moscow and Washington.
Mathew Clements, the Eurasia editor in the Country Risk Department for Jane's Information Group, says the region would suffer if U.S.-Russian relations deteriorated further.
"Russia is likely to use this to put more pressure on the United States to withdraw its base from Kyrgyzstan and to reduce American influence in the region. And this is going to reduce the amount of aid, obviously, in security and also various other development projects that America can give to these countries," Clements said.
"Now a lot of Central Asian states have followed a multi-vectoral policy to try to bring in as much support from as many countries as possible, and this is going to be reduced."
In authoritarian Belarus, analysts say the country's leaders have a more nuanced view.
Officially, the regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka supports whatever line the Kremlin takes toward the West and the United States.
But analysts say the Belarusian president and his inner circle believe their interests are best served when U.S.-Russian relations are hostile. This is because Lukashenka's once cozy ties with Russia are rapidly deteriorating and the Belarusian leader understands that he would be a more valuable ally for Moscow in an atmosphere of bad East-West relations.
What isn't discussed at meetings of U.S. and Russian presidents is often as important as what is discussed. Opposition figures in Russia, Belarus, and elsewhere often lament that issues like human rights and democracy take a back seat to larger geopolitical considerations.
Russia's opposition leaders say that by treating Putin as an equal partner despite his backsliding on democracy at home, Bush is giving Putin international democratic legitimacy he does not deserve.
Garry Kasparov, leader of the opposition group Other Russia, told RFE/RL that Bush needs to speak the truth.
"Democrats don't recognize double standards. If he speaks truthfully about the situation in Russia, Bush will not damage the situation. We are not asking for any help for ourselves. We are asking for an end to this de facto unspoken, informal support for Putin," Kasparov said.
"It is clear that receiving him at his personal ranch -- that is support. In one way or another, these are the contacts that allow Putin to strengthen his domestic position in Russia and demonstrate that he is a full-fledged partner of the president of the United States of America."
Escaping Putin's Energy Squeeze
From: Washington popst
On June 23 Russia further eroded European energy unity when its state company Gazprom reached agreement with Italy's ENI energy conglomerate to build a gas pipeline connecting Russia to Southern Europe via the Black Sea. This could displace a similar, U.S.-backed project called Nabucco, which is important to achieving diversity in energy sources.
In May Russia reached an agreement (though not yet a binding treaty) with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to expand Russian control over the flow of vital Central Asian gas and oil to Europe. This followed on Russia's success of two years ago in getting Germany's chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schroeder, to support a Russian-German pipeline bypassing Poland and Ukraine. Putin later rewarded the former German leader with the lucrative chairmanship of the project.
Increased dependence on Russian-dominated energy routes and supplies poses the risk that Russia will be able to exert significant political pressure on Europe. Indeed, it has already demonstrated its capacity to do so. In the past 18 months Russia has twice shut off gas to Europe, first during a politically driven dispute with Ukraine and then in an energy dispute with Belarus early this year.
The European Union's response has been to commit itself to broad-based energy diversification, a policy championed by Vice President Cheney, who told a NATO summit last year: "No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation."
Yet, while European and U.S. rhetoric has been strong, action has been weak and unfocused.
Two major projects could help diversify European energy sources. The first is a proposed Caspian-Black Sea-Ukraine-Poland route, which would transport Kazakhstan's oil by tanker across the Caspian Sea, then through an existing pipeline across Azerbaijan to the Georgian port of Supsa. From there it would be shipped by tanker to Odessa and then through a Ukrainian pipeline (yet to be completed) ending in Gdansk, Poland.
The second major diversification initiative is Nabucco, a prospective pipeline that would ship Azerbaijani -- and eventually Central Asian -- gas via Turkey into Central and Western Europe. The European Union declared Nabucco a top priority at its March summit, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is ready to finance 70 percent of the costs of a pipeline from eastern Turkey to Austria.
Unfortunately, little progress has been made on either project (despite determined efforts by E.U. Energy Commissioner Andris Pielbags). In the meantime, Russia, awash in gas and oil revenue, is busy enticing countries essential to both projects into separate deals that would undermine European diversification efforts.
But the coming months could bring a turnaround. Concerned by Western passivity, the presidents of Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania have taken the lead in two recent energy-focused summits that brought together leaders of the Caspian and Central European regions.
Their aim is to give new impetus to a route that would link Caspian and Central Asian oil to the Odessa-Gdansk pipeline. This regional initiative deserves more than rhetorical encouragement from Europe and far greater attention at the upper reaches of the Bush administration.
While capable U.S diplomats are trying to advance European energy diversification projects, these vital initiatives are being addressed primarily by deputy assistant secretaries of state and mid-level National Security Council staff. By contrast, when the Clinton administration sought to promote energy diversification through the now-completed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, that key initiative was spearheaded at the highest levels, by Stuart Eizenstat, then undersecretary of state and later deputy Treasury secretary.
There are two reasons for optimism on this matter. One is the diplomacy of the presidents of Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania and the increased interest of energy-rich Azerbaijan in reducing Europe's dependence on Russia. The second is the U.S. presidential campaign. With the next election likely to be decided in states such as Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where millions of Polish, Ukrainian and Baltic Americans reside, the issue of a focused energy security policy for "Old" and "New" Europe is likely to get some attention.
It's not likely to be a major factor in the campaign, but as with NATO expansion into Central Europe in the 1992 election, it's a potential "side" issue that could resonate among tens of thousands of voters in states where such numbers might represent the margin of victory.
Perhaps the Bush administration will yet rise to the emerging opportunity. Perhaps the give-and-take of a presidential campaign will prod the United States to act. In either case, Vladimir Putin's recent run of energy triumphs is likely to come to an end.
Gay Poles head for UK to escape state crackdown
Robert Biedron, 27, the head of the Polish Foundation Against Homophobia, said that 'huge numbers' of Polish gays had left the country following the rise to power of the right-wing government. He said: 'It is incredible. The Polish gay community has just left because of the climate of fear and persecution.
'Most of the people I know are now in England because of the current political situation. Not for economic reasons, but because of the persecution of homosexuals going on here. It's impossible for gays to be themselves in Poland.'
He added: 'Around two million Poles have left the country seeking work and thousands of gays are among them. Many gays are approaching our foundation for help in emigrating to the UK.'
Kamil Zapasnik, 22, a gay student who moved to London because he wanted to marry, said: 'It's very important to me that I am able to have a civil partnership and adopt children. In the UK I have that freedom.'
Poland's Roman Catholic right-wing government has openly homophobic members and Polish media recently announced that the Health Ministry had created a special committee responsible for 'curing' gays.
The Deputy Health Minister, Marek Grafowski, said that the ministry was also planning to identify how many people in Poland were gay and work out a set of behavioural guides to assist parents and teachers so that they can recognise any warning signs of potential 'gay behaviour'.
Polish police have also been compiling a database on gays and the gay community in Poland which, although illegal under EU law, is apparently being done as part of a police investigation into a bomb threat two years ago by a gay man. He had reportedly identified himself as a member of the gay community who was angry when a gay rights march was banned in Warsaw.
'The police are not allowed to catalogue "homosexual data", but it's enough to look into the police investigation associated with the bomb in order to establish a list of names and addresses,' said Ewa Kulesza, a former personal data protection general inspector.
It is not just the police who are openly homophobic. Lech Wojtewski, 23, from Warsaw, said his doctor had referred him to a vet when he went to for a check-up. 'He told me there was a specialist for people like me and gave me an address. When I got there it was a vet.
'I called him and he said, "What did you expect? You are an animal".'
When Krystian Legierski, 29, opened a gay club, Le Madame, it was shut down by Warsaw local authorities who hired private security guards to break down the doors, despite an appearance there by John Malkovich a day earlier.
'I understand why people emigrate, but injustice can only be rectified by resistance, not emigration,' Legierski said.
Ukraine PM Seeks Pre-Election Deal To Avoid Rows
Pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko dissolved parliament in April and called a snap parliamentary election after months of sniping with the prime minister.
Yanukovich, who gets much of his support in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, resisted the dissolution order in weeks of battles over legal procedures. He agreed to take part in the poll, while insisting it be conducted in strictly legal fashion.
Writing in the weekly Zerkalo Nedeli, he said an agreement with the president and all political parties was vital to avoid plunging Ukraine into new disputes.
"If we fail to do this, we will head straight into crisis right after the election. To ensure that the electoral proces take place without turbulence, we need new political agreements, new guarantees of mutual trust," Yanukovich wrote.
"I propose concluding a political agreement guaranteeing the staging of a democratic parliamentary election."
He said the accord would oblige all sides to stay out of the work of election officials and respect the results.
Yushchenko defeated Yanukovich in the re-run of a rigged 2004 presidential election ordered by the Supreme Court after weeks of "Orange Revolution" protests.
But Yanukovich's Regions Party came first in a parliamentary election last year and he was named prime minister after four months of attempts to put together a coalition during which Ukraine had no full-fledged government.
Back in power, Yanukovich sniped for months with Yushchenko over powers until the president, accusing his rival of trying to encourage his supporters to defect, dissolved the chamber.
Both the president and prime minister propose constitutional change to follow through on amendments adopted during the "Orange Revolution" which curbed the powers of the president.
But Yushchenko proposes changes to boost presidential authority, including a new upper house, while Yanukovich wants more powers delegated to parliament and the regions.
"There is no point devising some new sort of constitutional vehicle or returning to the old model of power which a majority rejected in 2004," Yanukovich wrote. "That is unrealistic."
Polls put Yanukovich's party in the lead, followed by the opposition bloc of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, now aligned with the president after a period of estrangement.
With allied parties considered, groups backing the prime minister hold a slight lead over those behind the president.
Cost of Victory
|Click photo for bigger map|
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in May 2007 was very successful. The agreements signed during the visit frustrated the plans of presidents of Azerbaijan, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Georgia, whose summit was going on at that time. The summit’s main purpose was to obtain guarantees from Central Asian leaders that they would supply oil and natural gas bypassing Russia. Yet, Moscow managed to sign the agreements which actually put the kibosh on building the pipelines that detour Russia in the next 5-10 years.
Presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan signed on May 12, 2007, a declaration on building the Caspian shore gas pipeline. This document commissions the governments of the three states to prepare and sign a corresponding agreement before September 1. It will stipulate “the feasibility study, main characteristics and terms of implementing the project, joint obligations for creating favorable conditions for making the implementation cost-effective” and will determine the organizations in charge. The governments will also have to “secure the implementation of the pipeline project with the organizations in charge beginning from the second semester of 2008, in accordance with the agreement.”
Besides, the parties have agreed to begin the modernization of the Central Asia-Center (CAC) pipeline network, so as to increase its carrying capacity (from the current 50 billion to about 60 billion cubic meters annually). The CAC has needed reconstruction since long ago: the network’s construction began back in 1967.
Moreover, Russia’s Gazprom and Kazakhstan’s Kazmunaigaz are creating a joint venture for annually buying 16 billion cubic meters of natural gas of Karachaganak deposit in Kazakhstan for reprocessing it at the Orenburg Gas Refinery. The presently functioning JV Kazrosgaz buys around 7.5 billion cubic meters per year. So, the amount of Kazakh gas purchases is to double.
Gazprom head Alexei Miller said the Caspian shore gas pipeline will be laid in the corridor of the existing Central Asia-Center-3 pipeline. According to preliminary information, 360 kilometers of the pipe will go thru Turkmenistan’s territory, and 150 kilometers – thru Kazakhstan. In Alexandrov-Gai town, the pipeline will become part of the unified gas-supply system of Russia. The new pipeline’s capacity might reach 30 billion cubic meters annually.
The Caspian shore gas pipeline is Russia’s response to the attempts of the United States, the European Union, and Turkey to supply Central Asian gas to Europe bypassing Russia’s territory. They discuss building the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which will go along the Caspian seabed, and which will later be connected to the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline (Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey) and/or to the planned Nabucco gas pipeline (Turkey-Austria).
However, even after the three-sided declaration had been signed, the issue of the Trans-Caspian pipeline is still on the agenda. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymuhammed assures there is enough gas for implementing both pipeline projects. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev also said that diversifying the oil and gas supplies is a condition favorable for his country. “There is no politics in it. The growing amounts of oil and gas extraction by Kazakhstan require such diversification,” Nazarbaev said.
Experts believe that Russia is so far ahead of its Western competitors in the struggle for Central Asian resources because the U.S.-European negotiators have been making uncertain offers. MiK information agency quotes Ilham Shaban, director of the Oil Studies Center in Azerbaijan, as saying: “The question is, who will pay for creating the entire necessary infrastructure. Analysts resistant to political influences state: if conditions are favorable for investors, then creating the Trans-Caspian pipeline is possible. If there is someone ready to invest $5 billion into laying a seabed pipeline, and ready to buy Turkmen gas at a price $10 more than the price for Russia, then I believe Ashkhabad will approve this project, and will even find enough gas for it, because there are more undeveloped gas deposits in Turkmenistan than developed ones. It’s just that the West has not really tried so far to boost the implementation of the Trans-Caspian pipeline project. Meanwhile, Moscow seized the initiative. Yet, it does not mean the West will not try to compete with Russia.”
However, the West has small chances to outdo Russia in the short-term perspective. Otherwise, Central Asian states need to quickly find extra amounts of natural gas, which is hardly possible. Whatever will be extracted in the upcoming years, will go into Russia’s gas-transporting network thru the Caspian shore pipeline.
“The possibility that Turkmen and Kazakh gas might be supplied to Europe by detouring Russia’s territory is a problem for Russia. Certainly, Turkmenistan can supply up to 50 billion extra cubic meters of gas annually to European markets. Yet, if the gas goes there past Russia, and competes with Russian gas, both we and Turkmenistan will suffer losses. Therefore, we found a solution for expanding and reconstructing the CAC pipeline network and for building the Caspian shore pipeline,” said Valery Yazev, chairman of the Energy, Transport, and Communications Committee at the State Duma of Russia, and head of the Russian Natural Gas Association. “The total capacity of our pipelines is to grow by nearly 30 billion cubic meters of gas, reaching 90 billion. That gas will come to Russia, and we will re-export it thru Russian pipelines together with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The gas sales issues are just being discussed now. Yet, the main thing is that we do not create alternative transporting corridors, unlike the U.S. and Europe, who support all projects of pipelines bypassing Russia,” said Yazev.
Gazprom Doubled Profits in 2006
From: Russia Blog
|Gazprom, the Russian gas giant has appointed a UK architect, RJMJ, to design its new headquarters in St Petersburg.|
"Russian gas giant OAO Gazprom reported a doubling of full year net profit as sales surged on higher oil and gas prices and the impact of its acquisition of Sibneft in 2005."
Gazprom acquired Sibneft, one of the leading private oil companies in Russia, for $13.1 billion in late 2005. The deal made Sibneft's then-CEO Roman Abramovich the richest man in Russia.
According to Forbes, "The company said full year net profit jumped to 636 bln rubles [$24.7 billion] from 316 bln rubles [$12.7 billion] last time, on sales of 2,152 bln [$83.6 billion], from 1,384 bln [$53.7 billion] last time."
This achievement is all the more impressive considering that Russian oil exports are heavily taxed by the government. Furthermore, the populist-minded Duma has only permitted gradual increases in the rate Gazprom is allowed to charge Russian industries and consumers for natural gas, which remains a fraction of the export price.
According to Bloomberg financial news service: "Domestic gas sales increased by 15 percent to 356 billion rubles in 2006 after an increase in the average price, which is set by the Federal Tariff Service, Gazprom said. Russian officials have said domestic prices will rise until sales in Russia are as profitable as sales to Europe once transport costs are factored in."
Gazprom's profits also reveal how little the so-called "gas wars" with Ukraine and Belarus actually affected deliveries of Russian energy to Europe. Yet in spite of these facts, the message we continue to hear in the European and American media about Russia is that it cannot be trusted to reliably supply energy to the rest of the world. We are even told by some commentators that Europe would be more secure if it substituted liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from the Persian Gulf or unstable parts of Africa for Russian gas.
One thing is clear: when it comes to Western media reporting about Russia, the "front page" and the "business page" continue to present two competing versions of reality.
Click here to read the full article at Forbes magazine, or click here to read the story from Bloomberg.
Notes from Polessy State University…
From: The Story
|The president during a visit to Pinsk's Polessy State University in early September of last year. Our contributing author stands just to the president's left.|
Olya S is a friend whom I met a couple of years while giving occasional speeches at the banking college here in Pinsk. I had been invited originally because I was a friend of one of the teachers, because I was a native speaker and because I was so very interesting, being at the time basically the only American resident in town. I was asked to speak mostly about doing business in America and about my personal experiences but speaking on political subjects was not frowned upon because they were of interest to the students.
Earlier this spring I ran into Olya near the market and during our conversation she expressed an interest in what I was doing on the internet. I explained about how the BEING HAD Times worked and how I try to allow for stories both for and against- the idea being that there was a huge gap between in country and out of country opinion and that a real answer could probably be found somewhere in the middle. When she said she was interested in helping, we came up with a several ideas for essays, written from her perspective as an aspiring economist/student in the Belarusian system.
The following was from a series of short interviews made with her fellow students. The students were asked how they felt in general about their position in life in regards to the university, their future and about dealing with the obligatory distribution system.
The state distribution system spoken of here refers to a two year work obligation for students who receive free education. The program requires that the students apply for (accept) jobs from a list of opportunities around Belarus. These jobs would not necessarily end after the two year period, but that is the length of the initial obligation. Amongst the complaints of this system were from students asked to work in places such as near the Chernobyl region where there is fear of radiation. This obligation does not apply to certain "elite" qualifiers such as those who had achieved high rankings in specialties or academics before coming to the university, or to those who pay tuitions.
Olga said that the students differed in their attitudes towards their futures. Some had given much thought as to what they would need to do to find either individual success or to participate successfully in the betterment of their country. Others, she said, did not seem to think of the future at all. Some, as you will see believe very highly in the Belarusian state and in their responsibility to their motherland. Others tended to gripe about their two year obligation, saying that it took too much time away from their attaining individual goals. Still others were against the state programs and interventions into the educational system in general. All however had a genuine love for their country and took great pride in being Belarusian. She also said that none of the students felt any particular fear about answering the question posed or having their opinions posted on the internet.
I am presenting Olga's notes basically as I have received them. For herself, Olga says that her dreams are very much like Vera's, she dreams of being entrepreneurial and would like to open a cafe. This survey was taken about a month ago. The students as of this moment are involved in their final exams. I have only edited mildly for grammar as the original notes were written, quite well actually, in English.
Vova: After graduation from the university, first of all I see myself in the army. In my opinion, I see this as a very important and necessary thing. I am proud of my country and love my native land. After, I will go to work in the banking sphere according to the distribution plan and will do my best for the development and growth of our economy.
Dima: Frankly speaking, I have a hard time imagining my future exactly. Our country is in crisis because the government intervenes in its development in many aspects. For this reason, I am not satisfied with the powers of the Belarusian state. I do have a sweet dream though. I would like to open my own, private business in the nation's capital and to work for myself.
Olga: We usually say that all roads are open before our graduates. And to my happiness, in my opinion young people in Belarus do have a lot of opportunities for work. But then again, it is always nice to be well paid and to have a chance to do what you enjoy doing. And this is a problem because as a rule, young specialists do not make a lot of money, even though they may need more than some others.
Katye: I believe in a not too distant bright future for my country and I am going to do as much as possible for it. I am satisfied with the state program an I am ready to work according to this plan after graduating from the university.
Rita: I want to be useful for our society and to make a career in the banking sphere. Unfortunately, there is now state distribution among paying students.
Vera: I would like to open my own cafe because I don't believe in the state program of our government. To my mind it prevents our economy from normal growth and development. I believe we should widen our trade relations with highly developed countries and to try and take experience from them in many respects. Our country should also try and become more attractive with foreign investors.
Zahar: Many jobs not only require higher education but also practical skills and this is something I worry about. Where can any young specialist gain job experience? For this reason we should pay more attention to allowing for independent work of our students and invest more in practical studies rather than just theory.
Slava: In my opinion the government pays much attention to our education and work. Because of this, we should only make the right choice and choose one of the hundreds of jobs available within the system. And then, once we are employed, we should do as much as possible for the development and growth of Belarus.
Denis: After graduation from my university, I would like to take a job only in the banking sphere. Owing to our state program, every year the business of banking becomes more and more profitable. And as for my personal involvement, I would like to help with the realization of a financial supermarket in Belarus.
Tanya: To my mind economics is the science of making choices which are based upon the facts of our everyday lives. I am very interested in this science and want to be successful in this sphere. In my opinion, the state program gives many possibilities for an individual's success. Our government assists for the potential growth of the Belarusian economy in many respects. I am a young specialist, ready to be a part of the state program because its main aim is the growth of national wealth and the raising of the quality of life for the people of Belarus.
Masha: I don't agree with the state program of compulsory job distribution for students whose education was free of charge. Every student must have an opportunity to choose their work according to their wishes and skills. Only in this case with they genuinely make a real effort, work efficiently and show real results.
Igor: I don't imagine my future at all because in my opinion, we are in crisis. This crisis is not only economical but also moral. Our government does not support the poor part of the Belarusian population. In addition, it is difficult for young people to begin their adult lives because of the problems of finding a job and how little money we receive.
Help Free Dashkevich, prisoner of Conscience in Belarus
From: Liberal Legend II
"Amnesty International considers Zmitser Dashkevich to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression, and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release".
There is further information and how you can help here .
Amnesty is asking that messages of support and cards be sent for Zmitser's 26th Birthday which will take place on the 20th July.
As has been highlighted by Jonathan Fryer, human rights abuses continue in Belarus and opposition politicians are frequently denied the right to dissent.
Jerk and the Fat Man
From: Bloodthirsty Liberal
- Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez arrived in Tehran late Saturday for the third time during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a fellow fiery critic of the US, Iranian television reported.
During the two-day visit, the last leg of a tour that has taken Chavez to Russia and Belarus — both recently at loggerheads with the US — he will hold talks with top Iranian officials and discuss bilateral, international and regional issues, Iranian media said.
Ahmadinejad toured Latin America in January in a bid to seek support from the region’s leftist leaders who share his scornful defiance of the United States.
During his latest visit, which kicked off on Wednesday, Chavez met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarus counterpart Alexander Lukashenko and urged a global revolution against Washington.
He has also discussed possible purchases of submarines and other defence equipment from Russia, arguing that these are needed to defend his oil-rich country against the United States.
Earlier this month Iran welcomed Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a Cold War foe of the United States.
I’ll just wait patiently for the day when this latter day Hitler and Mussolini are strung up like their fascist forebears—and for the haters on the Left to deny they ever had sympathy for their anti-American views.
What to do with 5 submarines? Attack Mercosur
From: Venezuela News And Views
What in hell is Venezuela going to do with 5 Russian submarines? Does any one seriously imagine that 5 Russian submarines, with 4 missiles each that can reach 250 miles target (if well managed, something that I truly think the Venezuelan Navy is unable to do) can stop a US invasion to Venezuela?
Give me a f*****g break!
But ever helpful I can suggest some usages for the submarines.
One could be sent to the Valencia lake where it could be used to rescue the bodies of the Venezuelan Air force pilots who crash there on occasion. I suppose that Russian submarines will be particularly well suited to rescue Russian Sukhoi planes.
One could be kept in Vargas where it could be used to rescue stranded tourists whenever a rain stronger than usual closes down all the roads.
And of course the other 3, if they indeed work, could be used for drug smuggling, say, to Cuba. Heck, they could even get close to the Colombian coast to save on shipping costs by avoiding the Venezuelan detour. They are super silent, you know....
Or there is yet another use: sink all those capitalist ships carrying trade between Mercosur and the evil Empire (the one in DC, not the other one dead long ago...). Chavez announced today that he was not above withdrawing his petition to join the Mercosur. Apparently he just found out that it was a capitalist nest, full of greed and unfair competition. It seems that he will not apologize for having insulted the Brazilian Senate, where many a senator got more votes than Chavez gets in Venezuela, even with fraudulent elections.
But who cares really? It was Chavez decision, and his alone, to go to the Mercosur. Why should it not be his decision, and his alone to withdraw his request? For those new to the game, it has been years that there is no more Venezuelan foreign policy, just a Chavez foreign policy. I am sure that Belarus, Cuba and Russia will be much better trading partners to Venezuela than the Mercosur. It is very logic, look at any map of the world. And for good measure you can add North Korea and Zimbabwe and set a new trading model. Trading in repressive measures and weapons, that is.
From: Peter Steyn's Travel Escapades
|Peter Steyn: Not yet arrested|
"Few people consider venturing into this hermetically sealed Soviet time capsule, notoriously ruled with an iron fist by its moustachioed megalomaniac, Alexander Lukashenko. ...here the KGB still listens in to phone calls and people keep their politics to a low whisper - you will feel as if the Cold War never ended. Westerners cool enough to come here...(blah blah)".
Well I am here and still not in jail. I'm supposed to register with the police within 3 days of arrival, but honestly I don't have time for that and hope I can eventually leave - a free "unregistered" man. No kidding, the city of Minsk is one beautiful stunning city with the most amazing Stalinist Soviet buildings I have even seen. Food is good, beer is "rough", and the people are - very Russian to me.
Over the next 8 days my local host, Vad, and I, will criss-cross Belarus - from the west, south, and up to the far north to spend some time with his family. I'm sure I'm in for an unforgettable treat. And, if I get caught by the KGB for not registering....I'm minced meat.
Will update when and where possible.
I think I already love Belarus! Few Western tourists here!
100,000 Kalashnikov rifles for Whom Exactly?
From: Gabriel's Trumpet
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez travels this week to Iran, Russia andBelarus, then China -- all countries which have found themselves at loggerheads recently with the United States. Chavez departs Tuesday for his week-long tour, from June 26 to July3, defiantly insisting that he will purchase Russian submarines and possibly an air defense system from Belarus, despite vocal objections from Washington. Chavez, who views himself as Bush's arch-enemy, will be cultivating relations with each of the regimes, in an apparent bid to drive aneven deeper wedge with between the United States and its adversaries.
"The war of resistance is the weapon with which we are defeating andwill defeat the threat of US imperial war," Chavez said Sunday presiding over a military parade, dressed in full military uniform. "We've launched into a new type of global war with the US on one side and the rest of the world on the other side. “Each of the countries on Chavez's itinerary has locked horns withWashington in recent weeks over conflicts that have yet to beresolved. Chavez has said he hopes to put the "finishing touches" on an agreement to purchase from Belarus an integrated air defense systemwith a 200-300-kilometer range (125-200 miles).
Earlier this month, US President George W. Bush renewed sanctions against hard-line Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and nine others deemed obstacles to democracy in Belarus. Bush accused the regime of human rights abuses, undermining democracy, illegally detaining and secretly holding dissidents andengaging in public corruption. Relations between Russia, China, and the United States, meanwhile,are at a dangerous post-Cold War low due to political, energy, andsecurity differences. Flush with petrodollars, Chavez said last week he might purchase someRussian submarines when he meets with Putin -- a deal observers saidcould chill the planned Putin-Bush summit.
Media reports in Moscow this month said Chavez wanted to buy as manyas nine submarines to protect shipping lanes for key oil exports. In 2006 Venezuela signed more than three billion dollars in contractswith Russia to buy 53 Mi-24 armored helicopter gunships, Sukhoi 30fighter planes and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles. Meanwhile Washington's already frosty relations with Tehran also hita new low, as the international community campaigned to pressure Iran to dismantle its controversial nuclear program. The United States, which broke diplomatic ties with Iran in 1979,also is demanding the safe return of four Iranian-American citizens whom Tehran has charged with spying.
It is not yet known what Chavez plans to do in Iran, which is acharter member of Bush's "axis of evil" troika of alleged globaltrouble-makers that included North Korea and Iraq under the late Saddam Hussein. Tehran in recent weeks has implemented a crackdown on its nationals deemed too close to the West. In an address to some 15,000 young members of his new party now beingset up, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Chavez last weeksaid some had the idea his trip to Russia and then China wouldcomplicate US-Russian Chinese relations.
"In the United States, they say my trip to Moscow and Beijing is a concern," Chavez said Saturday, accusing Washington of meddling where it doesn't belong. "These relations are highly strategic, and are tied up with our security, defense, and overall development," he said.
During Sunday's military parade, Chavez brandished a Russian-designedAK-47 assault rifle proclaiming: "If it weren't for Russia and China we'd be almost weaponless today. "We must recognize the Russian and Chinese governments bravery for not caving in to the pressures of the dying US empire that intended to disarm us all."
Serving Lobster 'Polonium' to Putin at Kennebunkport? How to Handle Severely Criminal Heads of State
From: Koos Nolst Trenite
working for good or for evil - of working to eradicate evil, or of
working to enforce evil.
We could of course serve lobster with Polonium to Putin at the
"family meeting" in the home of the Bush-family in the town of
not that Bush would like that you do that, but he
can not face Putin's intense evil and treachery at
all, even when I tell him about a hundred times,
so others might act, there,
where they have invited this very severe criminal, Putin,
to be "entertained as if he is 'a friend of the family',"
(which already is a disgustingly evil thing to do
to all people of Earth, and in particular it is
a grand betrayal of the people of Russia
- but "they are used to it," which is how some would
like to justify their evil to not stop Putin)
and while he is enjoying that dinner there, we could of course,
in Russia blow up his apartment with his wife and family in it,
as Putin did it to innocent Russians too,
and so we would have eliminated the evil called Putin by
the same method by which he, Putin, eliminated and
destroyed good and loving, decent Russians.
This is all in the realm of Secret Services, both of the Russian
Secret Service - if some of them had any intention to eradicate
evil and return love and decency to the Russian people, if there
were any Stauffenbergs amongst them and still alive
- and it could be in the realm of the American Secret
Service, which is less likely though, for various
reasons of not facing evil sufficiently, and of not
understanding and not recognizing it sufficiently,
and not being supposed to assassinate John F. Kennedy,
or any actively evil person, on American soil...
And the world would say - 'finally Putin gets what he deserves,' or
'glad someone got rid of him!'
And: 'That is OK, because there is no Global Security Council
that would, according to the First International Law, simply
decide by global discussion by DECENT PEOPLE,'
NOT BY "discussion" by Criminals, and NOT by "voting
democratically" by Criminals,
but according to the First International Law: DECENT, CARING
PEOPLE would discuss and then decide the removal of Putin (and
of Hu Jintao, and of Chavez, of Lukaschenko, and so on), and
that would have been that:
No war, no assassination, nothing - simply a global, just
and caring and decent order, which will thus automatically
be followed by non-Criminals, by ninety percent or more
of Earth's population,
who even will fight for it, if they would have to,
to open some fortifications or hiding places of the
Criminals that have been ordered deposed.
In my opinion, Secret Service men - which is also the opinion of
various novelists - should be of the highest ethics and morality in
their character and motivations:
To protect DECENT people GLOBALLY, and populations in general,
GLOBALLY, and to have NO OTHER PURPOSE:
People are people the world all over, and they everywhere
deserve equal protection against evil.
Further - I have to point out again, that - there is no properly
functioning United Nations Organization,
and on top of that, two major countries (Russia and China) are
currently run ACTIVELY by most severe criminals, Putin and Hu Jintao,
and several countries of lesser size are also run ACTIVELY by most
severe criminals, such as Cuba, Venezuela, Libya, Sudan, Zimbabwe,
Myanmar, North Korea, Belarus, Chechnia, Iran of course,
and a few other countries with repressive dictatorships
or "democracies" as they like to call their criminality,
not wanting to define democracy, of course, and
all having in common that they promote and support severe
criminals, and that criminals "make the law" there.
Bush and Blair and Sarkozy and Merkel are and were not handling those
criminal heads of state, not at all, and so are - the free world is -
keeping the evil in place
as much as, on a small scale, South Korean heads of state
have kept the evil called North Korea in place.
Even the Swedish government has just now helped keep the Chinese
population oppressed by Hu Jintao for at least another five
years. Or do you really think they show the human rights
protests on Chinese television? No, that was for the Swedes.
Same with the head of state of Luxembourg, who is "big friends
and for a few hundred billion dollars in his bank,
he is willing to tell the whole world, that "Putin
is the greatest friend of anybody and certainly of
- those Criminal Minds think of themselves
even as "being Mankind:" "when they are
well-off THEMSELVES, then 'it follows and
they feel, that Mankind is well-off'" -
they do not look at people, but only at possessions.
But the only reason for possessions at all, IS PEOPLE!
Criminal Minds have everything in reverse, though,
so they have tricks to make you think and do and
learn and follow and teach and enforce THE OPPOSITE,
like: "Creating possessions IS important and people
are NOT important,"
which is how a Criminal Mind feels about people, and
they try to "teach you that," in all kind of ways,
with "justifications" and "explanations" that you
may be familiar with.
So where does that leave the Secret Services? I am talking about the
current conditions on Earth of course, not about some fictitious
"existence" of a Global Security Council.
You have to understand, that it is - that the fight that is taking
place, is VERY SIMPLE:
Will Criminal Minds - like Putin and Chavez and Hu Jintao and
Ahmadinejad and so on, as a political example - be in charge
of life on Earth
- severe Criminal Minds make up some one percent of
Earth's living population -
- a main objective they have, as I described in great
detail other Human Rights Issues (HRI's), is to
REPRESENT THEMSELVES AND EACH OTHER AS "NORMAL," or
as "VERY GOOD PERSONS,"
"fighting for justice and for human rights and
for national integrity and for the well-being
and prosperity of all people,"
and to represent very good and caring people as
"evil," as "enemies," as "thieves," as "devils,"
and so on, and to get people to fight decent
people and to worship and to promote criminals -
OR will DECENT AND CARING leaders be in charge of people on
Some ninety percent of people on Earth are basically
decent, if allowed to and educated to be themselves.
That is the fight that IS going on,
mainly on a spiritual level of course, *(a)
because LIFE IS ENTIRELY SPIRITUAL - which is why Criminal
Minds are preventing you from looking at that, or they
destroy spiritual life BY teaching (New Age, Buddhism,
Hinduism) intentionally FALSE viewpoints on it, *(a)
which is why I am teaching you the opposite and
for the first time the understanding by which you can actually win
and the only reason I am doing this, is my love for you,
SO THAT not severe Criminals are heads of state, or dominating
"science," but so
that DECENT, CARING and RESPONSIBLE PEOPLE ARE IN CHARGE and remain
in charge OF LIFE, ON EARTH.
Russian Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds
From: Kim Zigfeld for Publius Pundit
How is it possible that Russians can wail to high heaven about America getting involved in Russia's "sphere of influence" in Eastern Europe (installing missile defense systems and inviting Ukraine and Georgia into NATO) and yet have no problem whatsoever providing massive quantities of AK-47s and attack aircraft to Hugo's dicatorship in South America? Hasn't Russia ever heard of the Monroe Doctrine? Does Russia really think it can have its cake and eat it too, even though it's economy is 1/12th the size of America's and it lacks any allies remotely comparable to the NATO group?
To put it simply, this is exactly the same "have your cake and eat it too" behavior we saw from the USSR, the same behavior that brought the USSR to ultimate destruction. And despite that lesson, the victims of the the USSR's brainwashing, like "president" Vladimir Putin, are so filled with anti-American venom that they are prepared to do the whole thing over again, and to have Russia go the same way the USSR went.
Samoilau and Kunitski celebrate in Belarus
From: Cycling Post
In his home country, Samoilou crossed the finish line first, ahead of Aliksandr Kuschynski of Liquigas, who finished second last year as well, and Yauheni Hutarovich.
Earlier this week, Samoilau's teammate Andrei Kunitski won the Time Trial Championship, being faster than Samoilau and Vasil Kiryienka of Tinkoff Credit Systems.
1. Branislau Samoilau (Blr-ASA)
2. Aliksandr Kuchinskiy (Blr-LIQ)
3. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr-RLM)
Time Trial results:
1. Andrei Kunitski (Blr-ASA)
2. Branislau Samoilau (Blr-ASA)
3. Vasil Kiryenka (Blr-TCS)
President of Belarus takes part in Republican Ball of Graduates from Higher Education Establishments
|Alexander Lukashenko handing the diploma to the graduate of the Belarusian State Agrarian Technical University, Alena Marshina|
The number of state-run establishments of higher learning grew from 33 to 43 in the last 15 years. Among them are 31 universities, seven academies, three higher colleges, two institutes. There are also ten private universities in Belarus.
Every year over 50,000 university diploma holders graduate from them. University training is provided in the fields demanded by the economy. Every year new courses on professions demanded in the modern labour market are opened.
Belarus has a two-stage system of higher learning: the first envisages training of highly-qualified personnel; the second presupposes conduction of research projects to receive a Master Degree. Now 32 universities provide master courses to about 1,300 postgraduates.
Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics is being reformed now. The reform will bring the training of specialists in microelectronics and nanotechnologies to a new level.
Belarus has rightfully given preference to its main resource – intellectual potential of the nation, diligence and energy of people, high-tech production and science.
|Alexander Lukashenko with University graduates|
Belarus completely provides itself with the highly qualified personnel, Alexander Lukashenko underlined. Belarusian establishments of higher education train specialists with more than three hundred majors.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian higher education has gained prestige and authority worldwide. And the fact that almost five thousand foreign students study in Belarus proves it.
Alexander Lukashenko is confident that today’s graduates will promote Belarus to the leading economic positions.
Having underlined that the country needs responsible, purposeful and creative people, able to apply innovation technologies and to rationally use resources, the President noted that Belarus pins great hopes on the graduates.
“You personify young Belarus – a free, strong and beautiful country looking into the future with confidence. People want to live on the Belarusian land, as they can find peace and rest here,” the Belarusian Head of State said. “You will live and work on this land improving young well-being,” the President said and added that Belarus creates the first job for a graduate, gives him an opportunity to show himself in production or business, science, education, culture or sport.
Graduates have everything to achieve success and to build their careers – deep knowledge, a profession, creative energy and an initiative, said Alexander Lukashenko. “Our country helped make your dream about getting higher education come true, as Belarus needs you,” the President underlined.
|Alexander Lukashenko at the republican ball for graduates|
The Belarusian Head of State also thanked professors and rectors of the establishments of higher education for their conscientious work on educating and training young people.