Economics Special: Foreign trade, Budget, Credit, Gazprom woes; Vodka, Lost tourists, Rich Russians Violent Polaks, Blogs and Sport
In H1 Belarus attracts $1bn of foreign investments
|The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, taking part in the opening ceremony of the Ice Palace in Pruzhany. July 27, 2007|
In January-July the innovative development has gathered momentum. Over the period under review the breakthrough technologies were introduced; big manufactures were sent in service. Among them is a new pipe shop at Belarusian Steel Works. “Leading-edge technologies and modern manufactures are the basis for further development of the economy, the Prime Minister said. – Therefore this area should continue receiving attention in the work on meeting main forecast targets of socio-economic development.”
Sergei Sidorsky noted the high rate of housing construction and reminded the session of the target to built 4,7 million square meters of housing in 2007. It is important that the rate of housing construction should be high in small towns and rural areas in order to boost the agricultural production. According to him, “the agriculture industry gathers pace from month to month what gives hope that the industry will make up for the lagging and reach the targets.”
The Prime Minister noted the stable situation in the banking sphere. Inflation is under control. On the whole, in H1 social orientation in the economic development of the country remained in place despite the difficulties attributed to the energy price hike.
Energy efficiency and energy saving are becoming the priorities of the country’s economy, the Head of Government said. “When choosing the equipment we have started giving preference to quality of the equipment as cheap units are not always energy efficient,” Sergei Sidorsky said. According to him, this will give an opportunity to increase profitability and reduce energy intensity of the production.
Belarusian companies should intensify creation and development of commodity distribution networks
Belarusian companies should intensify creation and development of commodity distribution networks, First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko has declared during today’s session of the Council of Ministers focusing on the country’s economic performance in H1 2007.
In his words, the country has developed a composite plan of the development of commodity distribution networks for 2007-2008. In H1 2007 Belarus was set to start up 18 commodity distribution facilities abroad with Belarusian investments and 19 without. Vladimir Semashko noted that the country has been slowly advancing in this area with only 13 commodity distribution facilities created so far.
Companies operating in small and medium towns should look for investors on their own.
“They are waiting for somebody to bring them investors,” Vladimir Semashko noted. He stressed that directors of the companies in question should “search for successful fellow countrymen and offer them to be an example of economic revival in small and medium towns”. According to him, this practice is applied everywhere in the world.
Vladimir Semashko also reminded that this year Belarus adopted a development programme of small and medium towns for 2007-2010 which covers 187 towns. In four years about 1,000 investment projects are set to be implemented with over 100,000 new jobs created in the towns. The necessary legal base has been drafted. Entrepreneurs in small and medium towns are granted tax preferences.
Belarus scotches growth of trade deficit
In H1 2007 Belarus managed to restrain the growth of the trade deficit if the energy carriers are not taken into consideration, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky has declared at a session of the Council of Ministers today.
He noted that the government made everything possible to minimize the deficit. He also stressed that the country paid $2.2 billion for gas in H1 2007. Now the trade deficit stands at $800 million.
The Head of Government reminded that the target was to reach a $500 million trade surplus. “This is a key target not only in 2007 but in the long-term perspective,” Sergei Sidorsky stressed. Unfortunately, the increased prices for gas and oil added up to the trade deficit in Belarus. Yet, the government has been doing its utmost to minimize the deficit. The Prime Minister noted that investments in Belarus have been growing.
He also pointed to the important role of export of services. This year Belarusian export of services generated over $1 billion. The services are posting an upward trend and measures should be taken to grow the service export surplus. This will benefit the country’s economy and help reach this year’s targets, Sergei Sidorsky added.
Belarusian companies should learn how to work on new markets
The First Premier has cited a recent trip to Venezuela as an example: “The majority of heads of our companies do not take seriously this cooperation, although the offered conditions including setting up joint ventures are perfect ones.” According to Vladimir Semashko, Venezuela offered Belarus a $500 million loan for 10-15 years with the 3% interest rate p.a. Joint Belarusian-Venezuelan ventures can be financed by these funds. “So, all the projects planned to be implemented jointly with Venezuela, namely, exploration of oil deposits, oil extraction, commodity supplies and housing construction should be fulfilled,” he highlighted.
For another example he said that this year the Belarusian Potash Company can total $1.2 billion. The company has struck contracts to sell potash fertilizers at the price of $330 per tonne. This is a record high for Belarus and for the international market. Two years ago the price was $110-120 per tonne. These all “let us hope that the proceeds of the company will reach $1.2 billion in 2007,” Vladimir Semashko said.
According to him, the Belarusian Oil Company has been set up to intensify the work in the international oil market. “We need to help the company advance into international markets and make a statement,” he said.
According to Vladimir Semashko, to actively work on foreign markets “we have a strategic reserve”, i.e. stocks of readymade goods. In H1 this year, there were Br3.4 trillion worth of readymade goods in stock, or more than 8% of the total output. “You should work and sell your products,” the First Deputy Premier told directors of Belarusian manufactures.
Research centre “Cardiology” prepares for Belarus’ first heart transplantation
This year the centre has purchased an artificial heart apparatus and intends to buy an artificial left ventricle apparatus in 2008. According to Igor Adzerikho, this equipment helps sustain the life of the patients while they are waiting for suitable transplants. Some of them are on the waiting list for 1,5 years.
In terms of professional skills the Belarusian surgeons are prepared for the operation, Igor Adzerikho said. “However, the thing is not about one surgery. What we need to do is to develop a donor-recipient system. Then we will be able to deal with purely technical issues,” he said. The issue concerning the after-surgery rehabilitation needs to be addressed as well.
Igor Adzerikho noted that there are about 1,000 people in Belarus who need heart transplantation. One surgery costs around EUR 200 thousand. About the same amount is needed to provide a patient with medicines during the next ten years. The international practice shows the ten-year survival rate is approximately 50%.
Gazprom to Reduce Belarus Gas Supplies
Gazprom tried to allay fears that the decision could reduce gas shipments to Europe through a key transit pipelines that handles about 20 percent of Russia's gas exports.
"Gazprom will take all possible measures for the transportation of Russian gas through the territory of Belarus in full accordance with current obligations before European customers," a statement said.
The announcement came after Russia's former Soviet neighbor missed a July 23 deadline for payment of part of an outstanding gas bill. Alexander Ananenkov, Gazprom's acting chief executive, was due to make an announcement about Belarus later Wednesday at Gazprom's Moscow headquarters.
Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kuprianov said that the transit pipeline supplies customers in Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine as well as the Russia's Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.
"We are acting in strict accordance with our contract," Kuprianov told The Associated Press.
Gas price talks between Russia and its neighbors have been closely watched in Western capitals after Gazprom's decision to raise gas prices in 2006 led to a brief cutoff of gas supplies to Ukraine.
Deliveries to Europe fell as Ukraine skimmed the gas it needed from a major export pipeline transiting its territory. Russia was widely perceived to have used the price increase to punish Ukraine's new Western-leaning leaders.
The incident also raised concerns in the European Union about its dependence on Gazprom, which meets a quarter of Europe's gas consumption.
A similar incident appeared to be shaping up with Belarus at the end of the year. Just minutes before the New Year, Minsk agreed to pay $100 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, compared to a previous price of $47.
To soften the blow for the Belarus economy, which is heavily reliant on cheap energy from Russia, it was agreed that Minsk would pay just $55 per 1,000 cubic meters for the first half of the year with the difference of nearly $500 million to be paid by July 23.
Belarus Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky was in Moscow on Monday to discuss the terms of a Russian loan to help Minsk pay its gas bill. No agreement on the loan was reached, however.
Belarus also agreed to sell half of its national pipeline company Beltransgaz to Gazprom for $2.5 billion. Gazprom has so far paid $625 million of that, but the money has been transferred to the Belarus finance ministry, rather than being used to cover the bill.
Companies and organizations paid 100.7 percent of gas bills in first half of 2007, economy ministry says
Organizations paid 100.9 percent of electricity and heating bills against 100.3 and 100.7 percent, respectively, in the same period of the previous year.
However, companies and organizations controlled by the agriculture ministry, the State Defense Industry Committee, the Belarusian State Light Industry Concern and the State Food Industry Concern failed to pay their electricity and heating bills in full.
Customers' cash payments for natural gas and electricity supplies accounted for 99.4 and 98.3 percent, respectively, of all settlements.
Although Belarusian companies and organizations paid their gas bills in full from January through June, Belarus ran into a debt of $450 million to Russia's Gazprom gas supplier in the period.
The government raised electricity rates for legal entities and sole entrepreneurs by 12.1 percent, for government-funded organizations by 42.7 percent and for agricultural producers by 20 percent on July 1.
Belarus's Credit History Continues
|Belarusian Prime Minister Sergey Sidorsky (left) did not hear the words that would guarantee him his job from Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov (right).|
No one in Moscow is against the granting of a credit to Belarus, which ran up a debt of $450 million to Gazprom. Russian Finance Minster Alexey Kudrin declared at the beginning of June that he had received “preliminary approval” from the government for such a credit. Then, on July 25, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko publicly disputed the agreement on natural gas prices reach3ed at the end of last year and criticized the Northern European Gas Pipeline, which bypasses Belarus.
Lukashenko expressed his irritation the week after negotiators were unable to reach an agreement with Gazprom on restructuring Belarus's debt at the corporate level. He had obviously rejected Gazprom's offer of a commercial credit through Gazprombank to finance the debt at 12-percent annual interest. A state credit from the Russian federal budget would be a cheaper alternative, but that too cost money. A Finance Ministry spokesman told Kommersant, “Russia does not grant subsidized loans and never has, not even to Belarus. We are only at the beginning of the road in developing so-called development aid credits.” The ministry acknowledged, however, that a credit to Belarus may cost considerably less than the interbank credit rate.
Rumors have been circulating that Lukashenko is getting ready to replace Sidorsky with a more pro-Russian candidate. Sidorsky has been approached in negotiations about lowering the starting price in the privatization of the country's petrochemical enterprises, but has not been authorized to discuss it. Fradkov's refusal to grant the credit to Sidorsky may be seen as an indication that Russia is ready to discuss the credit with someone else.
Nikolai Zaichenko: till end of 2007 Belarus’ trade deficit will edge up slightly
According to him, it is rather difficult to reach foreign trade surplus “as Belarus has to overcome $2bln barrier which appeared due to the gas price hike and new terms of oil supplies”. Despite complexity of the task the Government will make every effort to reach the goal. “We will do everything for the trade deficit to edge up slightly,” said the Economy Minister.
The Government will use administrative instruments and will change the structure of the economic sector for this purpose, Nikolai Zaichenko underlined. The current structure is that $0,64 of imports accounts for GDP $1. That is why it is impossible to change the structure in a moment. Nevertheless, Belarus will use those positions where it can boost exports to the maximum, Nikolai Zaichenko stressed.
The Government also failed to meet another socio-economic development target – consumer goods production. However, the situation can be changed for the better in this field, the Minister believes. The output of foodstuffs fell first of all due to the cut in sugar production. Till the end of the current year Belarus will try to compensate for these losses using other goods. Belarus has good prospects for expanding its export of meat and milk products. “We believe we will be able to meet the consumer goods production target by the end of the year,” the Economy Minister underlined.
Belarus First Vice Premier Vladimir Semashko said that the government had prepared a corresponding decree. It is being adjusted by the Belarus President Administration. “It is necessary to carry forward the document. We will obviously benefit from its realisation,” the First Vice Premier was convinced. “Within three years we will reach the output levels registered during the Soviet times,” he added.
As an example Vladimir Semashko mentioned footwear production. Belarus used to produce over 40 million pairs of footwear, now the figure stands at 6 million, with producers decreasing the output every year. Radical measures have to be taken, believes Vladimir Semashko.
The First Deputy Prime Minister also pointed out the need to decrease the import of consumer goods, which is still on the rise, though such commodities are not of critical importance to the country. He believes, it is a failure of oblast administrations and Minsk City Hall. At present companies without departmental affiliation and natural persons account for 90.6% of consumer goods import.
Vladimir Semashko reminded, a programme for substituting imported consumer goods is in progress in Belarus. Every ministry has a corresponding branch programme. The government has adopted a list of import-substituting consumer goods, with over 130 commodities inscribed. Over the first five months of the year the production of most of the commodities was started, with another two commodities getting prepared for production. The Economy Competitiveness Commission under the Council of Ministers has recently considered issues related to the production of other commodities. Specific instructions have been given. Vladimir Semashko said, efforts are made, however, in view of the foreign trade deficit more efforts are required. The efforts will be facilitated by the adoption of the prepared decree meant to stimulate the production of consumer goods.
According to the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis of Belarus, in January-May this year Belarus’ deficit of foreign trade in goods and services totaled $881.6 million; in goods - $1.45 billion.
In H1 2007 consumer goods production grew by 5.8% as against the same period of 2006. This year the index should reach 8.5-9.5%.
Belarus limits alcohol sales in second region
From: Ria Novosti
"The measure is designed to prevent alcohol abuse and alcohol-related crime," a regional police official said.
The Vitebsk region has recorded the highest number of alcohol poisoning deaths in Belarus, with 226 fatalities reported in the first six months of this year and over 80% of all crimes in the region attributed to alcohol abuse.
As of August 1, the sale of alcoholic beverages, except for low-alcoholic drinks, will only be permitted until 11 p.m., while outlets with a trading floor space of less than 25 square meters will not even be permitted to sell low-alcohol beverages, including beer.
Restrictions have been in force in the Belarusian capital Minsk for the past year and a half.
Finance ministry says that it is satisfied with sovereign credit ratings awarded to Belarus by international agencies
|Experts say that a sovereign credit rating would make it easier for Belarus to deal in securities in international markets and attract foreign loans|
Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch Ratings presented their assessments of the country's creditworthiness to the Belarusian government in June and July, and the finance and economy ministries and the National Bank of Belarus said that the ratings met their expectations, a source with the finance ministry told BelaPAN.
The finance ministry is currently comparing Belarus' sovereign credit ratings with other countries' ratings.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka will have the final say on whether or not the ratings should be made public, the finance ministry announced.
A country's sovereign credit rating is a reflection of confidence in its ability to honor its hard currency borrowing commitments. Being one of the indexes of the state's creditworthiness, the rating is determined through analyzing the political and economic situation in the country. The sovereign credit rating indicates the risk level of the investment environment of the country.
Experts say that a sovereign credit rating would make it easier for Belarus to deal in securities in international markets and attract foreign loans, and would enable banks and companies to improve their corporate ratings.
At present more than 120 countries have sovereign credit ratings, including such CIS member states as Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Turkmenistan.
Rescuers lose track of Belarusian tourists lost in Karelia’s forests
“There are no new tracks. Those found earlier have been lost. On July 31 the team of rescuers took a helicopter to search the area but everything was in vain. According to the rescuers, using a helicopter is useless as the trees in taiga are very high,” the diplomat said. There are also problems with radio communications: only one group out of the three involved in the search operation got on for a radio contact.
Valery Novak said that the search continues.
According to the available information, three female citizens of Belarus got lost in the forests of Karelia while gathering berries. They are known to have arrived in Karelia as part of a group of tourists, who went down the river Nyukhcha. The three women went to the forest to gather berries 30-35km away from the town of Nyukhcha, Belomorsk region, and did not come back. The Russian rescuers started a rescue operation on July 27.
The Murmansk office of the Embassy of Belarus in Russia is monitoring the search.
Head of the Murmansk office Valery Novak told BelTA, there are chances of finding the missing Belarusians alive. “As far as we know, the women took mosquito nets with them. Fortunately, it’s not so cold in the forest now, however, there are many other dangers,” said the diplomat.
According to the press service of the Northeast Regional Centre of the Russian Emergencies Ministry, they were reported missing on the night of July 27. The lost ones are known to have arrived in Karelia as part of a group of eleven tourists, who travelled down the river Nyukhcha. Independently of the group, the three women went to the forest to gather berries 30-35 km far from the town of Nyukhcha, Belomorsk region, and failed to come back.
A headquarters has been set up to find the missing Belarusians. Four search teams, 20 Emergencies Ministry workers, local hunters are searching for the tourists. A Mi-8 helicopter and a canine team are also employed.
Belarus crops almost 4 million tonnes of grain
The Minsk oblast is a leader. The agricultural organizations of the oblast were first to reach 1 million tonnene of grain and by August 1 they harvested 1 million 63,6 thousand tonnenes of grain. the Grodno oblast threshed 765,3 thousand tonnes, Brest – 652,8 thousand tonnes, Gomel – 535,8 thousand tonnes, Mogilev – over 500 thousand tonnes and Vitebsk – 377 thousand tonnes of grain.
The Grodno oblast reports a record high crop capacity, over 36 centners per hectare. the Mogilev oblast exceeded last year’s figures, 32 centners per hectare. Agricultural organizations of the Minsk oblast harvest 31 centners per hectare.
The harvesting campaign has lately gathered pace due to good weather. Some 1.3 million hectares has been harvested, or 57% of the total sown areas. Yesterday 67 thousand hectares were harvested, or about 3%, which is much more comparing with 1.5%.
The Gomel oblast has already harvested nearly 68% of the sown areas, Brest – 67%, Grodno – 64%, Minsk – 57%, Mogilev and Vitebsk oblasts 49.4% and 37% respectively.
“It is necessary to speed up the harvesting up to 5-7% a day to complete it by August 15. For this purpose we should use the whole fleet of highly effective combine harvesters and work in two or three shifts,” Vasily Pavlovsky said.
According to him, at present it is urgent to accelerate the straw harvesting and fertilize the fields with glyphosate-intensive compounds that bring long-lived weeds under control and prepare the soil for the winter sowing.
At present some 147,9 thousand hectares /58% of the plan/ have been prepared for the winter rape sowing.
Russia claims North Pole with Arctic flag stunt
From: The Telegraph
|The two Russian submarines are lowered into the Arctic Ocean|
Two Russian vessels - including an atomic icebreaker - are expected to reach the Pole this afternoon.
There they will release two mini-submarines which will drop a metal tube containing a Russian flag onto the seabed.
The gesture, while symbolic, marks an escalation of the growing international dispute over who owns the Lomonosov Ridge, a 1,240 mile underwater mountain range that crosses the polar region. It is thought to contain rich oil and gas deposits.
Moscow believes the research mission will prove that the ridge is a geological extension of Russia, and can therefore can be claimed by Russia under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Denmark believes that the ridge is in fact an extension of the Danish territory of Greenland.
The US and Canada are also anxious to defend their Arctic territory, with both planning billion-pound investments in new patrol ships.
More than 100 Russian scientists are on the Akademik Federov, the expedition's research vessel.
While on their dive the mini-submarines are due to collect specimens of Arctic flora and fauna, as well as researching the geography of the Lomonosov Ridge.
They will reach a depth of 14,000 feet before dropping the flag cannister.
The most difficult part of the mission, scientists say, will be getting them back to their point of departure to avoid them being trapped under the ice.
The expedition comes amid an outpouring of nationalist fervour after Russian scientists claimed in May that they had evidence to back up a long-held claim to nearly one million miles of the Arctic.
If upheld, Russia could have access to oil and gas deposits potentially worth more than ?1 trillion.
In a speech on a nuclear ice-breaker earlier this year, President Vladimir Putin urged greater efforts to secure Russia's "strategic, economic, scientific and defence interests" in the Arctic.
Video stirs debate over deaths from Beslan school seizure in Russia
From: Edmonton Sun
|One of the unexploded homemade explosive devices, plastic bottles filled with shrapnel and ball-bearings, which were allegedly used by armed militants in the gymnasium during the Sept. 1-3, 2004, Beslan hostage crisis, is seen on a table in this image from video time-stamped September 3, 2004, parts of which were obtained by The Associated Press. A video that remained secret for nearly three years after the horrific Beslan hostage crisis has cast new doubt on official conclusions about what led to the deaths of more than 330 people _ more than half of them children _ during one of Russia's worst terrorist attacks.|
The video obtained Monday by The Associated Press is far from definitive, but appears to lend credence to the theory that security forces bear at least some of the blame for the high death toll of the attack on Sept. 1-3, 2004.
A total of 334 people died either during or as a result of the attack. A central question about the carnage is what caused the initial explosions that were followed by a chaotic gunbattle and the collapse of the roof of School No. 1’s gymnasium, where the more than 1,100 hostages had been held by anti-government militants.
A final official report has not been released.
The lead parliamentary investigator has suggested that the homemade bombs placed in the gymnasium by 32 heavily armed militants were detonated by the militants, and that was the primary reason for the large death toll.
However, victims and relatives of the dead, and at least one member of the parliamentary commission, maintain that law-enforcement agencies botched the rescue. Dozens of survivors insist the explosions that sparked the maelstrom came from outside the building.
Susanna Dudiyeva, who heads the Beslan Mothers’ Committee and whose 13-year-old son died, accused the Federal Security Service, Russia’s primary security agency, of withholding crucial evidence.
The service “is giving up none of its own secret video material, which should have been turned over to investigators as evidence,” she said.
It was not clear who made the video obtained by the AP or why, but it appeared to have been made by prosecutors or government investigators. The fact that it reflects badly on security agencies may explain why it was kept secret for so long.
The footage was shot with a hand-held camera and has a time stamp from the moment on the afternoon of Sept. 3 when the first of two large explosions erupted. A cloud of smoke billows from near the building and gunfire can be heard.
Footage time-stamped several hours later shows several of the militants’ homemade explosives on a table, including plastic bottles filled with shrapnel and ball-bearings. Men who are not shown are heard talking. They appear to be bomb experts, and the Kommersant newspaper said they were army engineers being questioned by prosecutors.
“The holes inside (on the walls) could not have been caused by these explosives,” one of the men says.
Ball bearings crucial
“If the explosions had been caused by these devices from inside the building ....” he continues. “Look at the ball bearings,” a second man interrupts.
“As they keep saying, all of these (ball bearings) would have been scattered around but on the children we brought out (of the school) there was no evidence of these sorts of injuries. And all around too,” the first man says.
“So there was no explosion inside the building?” a third man asks.
“Inside the building, there was no explosion,” the first man answers.
The video was shown to some survivors and relatives of victims in Beslan last week by activists who have criticized the official investigations. Activists said the video was sent to them anonymously by mail, and that law-enforcement agencies confiscated many copies from them in North Ossetia, the region where Beslan is located.
Some fragments have been posted on Russian newspaper websites.
One fragment posted by the liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta is from Sept. 4 — the day after the siege ended — and shows an investigator surveying the school’s courtyard. Bodies can be seen being put into black morgue bags. Another scene shows used grenade launchers lined up on the ground, though it was unclear to whom the weapons may have belonged.
Regional prosecutors did not answer phones Tuesday and federal prosecutors refused comment. A spokesman for the Federal Security Service refused comment, saying all requests for comment should be submitted in writing.
Last December, Alexander Torshin, the chairman of the parliamentary commission set up to investigate the attack, summarized what he said was a final version of his commission’ report before the lower house of parliament.
Torshin laid blame for the seizure on local law enforcement, who he said did not follow orders from Moscow to increase school security ahead of the start of the new school year. He said the explosion precipitating the bloodshed was a bomb set off by the terrorists.
He also said there was no firm evidence that tanks had opened fire on the building while hostages were inside — contradicting accounts by witnesses, including by Associated Press reporters. Torshin was on vacation and unreachable on Tuesday, his spokeswoman said.
Yuri Savelyev, a legislator who was part of the Torshin commission, said he had not seen the video, but people had described it to him.
He said it appeared to confirm his own conclusions, which dissented from the Torshin report and found that grenade-launchers and gunfire from outside the school had sparked the explosions and the fire that brought down the gymnasium roof.
“There’s nothing new in any of this,” he said. “The fighters did not blow up the hall.” He speculated that the video had perhaps been leaked to force personnel changes in federal security or prosecuting agencies.
Independent military analyst Alexander Golts said the video highlighted anew the “total and absolute failure of the security services” during the seizure.
Authorities said that in addition to Chechen rebels some of the attackers were Ingush. Only one of the militants who seized the school survived. Nur-Pashi Kulayev was convicted last year and sentenced to life in prison.
Orthodox Jews break into Nazi death camp
From: ABC News and M&C
|Liberation of Majdanek: the Red Army found ample evidence of the mass murder that had occurred there.|
Security guards at the camp, now a museum, called the management and the police when the 33 Orthodox Jews penetrated the camp after the end of visiting hours.
"They forced open two gates that lead to the army barracks of the former Nazi camp," Lublin police spokeswoman Anna Smazak said.
She says that the matter had been sorted out amicably after contact was established with the Israeli embassy in Warsaw.
"The head of the group, a man of 28, said that all the damage would be reimbursed," the police spokeswoman said.
The group's motive for trying to gain access to Majdanek was not immediately clear.
At the Majdanek death camp, set up by the Nazis near the eastern Polish city of Lublin, 360,000 people died between 1941 and 1944, either in the gas chamber or at the hands of firing squads.
Second only to the notorious camp at Auschwitz, Majdanek was one of the largest death camps in Nazi-occupied Europe, designed to fulfil Adolf Hitler's planned genocide against European Jews.
The camp was opened by the Nazis on the outskirts of the eastern Polish city of Lublin in October 1941 and evacuated in July 1944 ahead of advancing troops of the Soviet Red Army.
Among the camp's victims were 200,000 Jews, 120,000 non-Jewish Poles and Soviet prisoners of war.
Polish worker jailed after attacking his boss
From: richmond and twickenhamtimes
The victim, 30-year-old Olalekan Animashaun, was left with a dislocated shoulder, a fractured cheek-bone, a damaged eye and minus two teeth after being beaten with a fire extinguisher and a trolley.
During the beating he had his mouth, ankles and wrists taped and was secured to a door-handle by his ankles.
Mr Animashaun crawled out of the arcade - Agora - on Hounslow High Street at 6.30 on Sunday morning, April 22, after struggling out of his bindings, and was taken to West Middlesex Hospital and later transferred to Charing Cross for facial surgery.
The main assailant from a trio of men who barged into the arcade at about 4am was Maciej Oledski, 29, of Alliance Close, Wembley. He admitted charges of robbery and causing Mr Animashaun grievous bodily harm with intent. He was jailed for a total of five-and-a-half years.
He gave police only the first names of the other two men and they are yet to be apprehended, prosecutor William Eaglestone told Isleworth Crown Court last Friday.
Oledski, a 6ft 3ins former rugby professional, had been working at the arcade for four weeks when he considered he was not being paid enough, or quickly enough. He walked out with ?360 from the till "After spending a day drinking with his two friends, he decided to go back to the arcade and take money from the premises," said Mr Eaglestone. "The three went in and he led the attack using first a trolley and then a fire extinguisher to bring Mr Animashaun to the ground where he was kicked and beaten."
The men left the shop taking the victims mobile phone and ?2,300 of takings from a cupboard, said counsel. Police went to Oledski's home the next day and his wife said he had not been home. He eventually gave himself up to police and admitted his part in the attack.
His counsel, Matthew Orr, said he had never been in trouble before but he was an alcoholic who was undergoing treatment.
Jailing him, Judge Jonathan Lowen said it was a "most shocking attack." However, the judge decided Oledski not necessarily a danger to the public and should not be given an indeterminate sentence.
Ukraine: At The Center Of The East-West Drug Trade
|Bags of poppy straw, used to make heroin, confiscated along the Ukraine-Russia border|
The haul was the latest sign that Ukraine is increasingly being used as a transit country for illegal drugs -- both for synthetic drugs making their way from Europe, and for Afghan heroin heading west.
The problem recently led the SBU to issue a statement in which it expressed its concern about Ukraine's rising role in the world of drug trafficking, including the production of drugs and "the more intensive involvement of Ukrainian nationals."
The 174-kilo stash was seized on July 23 in Illichevsk, where it was discovered in the false bottom of a truck that had arrived at a southwestern Ukrainian port by ferry from Georgia. Investigators believe the heroin was being smuggled from Iran to Western Europe via Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, and Poland.
A Turkish national who was driving the truck was arrested following the seizure, which was described by a spokesman for the SBU as "one of the largest hauls this year," according to RIA Novosti.
That catch came just two months another major heroin shipment was appropriated -- this time 114 kilograms netted in central Kyiv as a Turkish national was loading the drugs into an automobile. An SBU official said in announcing the action on May 23 that it was the third and final phase of an international operation to destroy a criminal group that was transporting heroin to Europe.
That raid followed the announcement in April by the SBU that an international ring trafficking drugs from Western Europe to Ukraine had been broken up. Four people from different parts of Ukraine were detained in that operation, which yielded $200,000 worth of ecstasy, cocaine, and amphetamines and led to the interception of a larger haul of 4,000 ecstasy tabs and 1 kilogram of amphetamines in Western Europe, according to Unian.
And in February, SBU, DEA, and Turkish police officials raided a house in a small village in southern Ukraine's Kherson region, where they discovered a laboratory for refining opium into heroin, along with precursor chemicals used in the process.
At the scene they arrested the driver of a minibus carrying 124 kilos of heroin destined for markets in the European Union, as well as a Turkish citizen who was charged with drug smuggling.
All in all, Ukraine's Security Service this year has confiscated more than 460 kilograms of heroin worth $32 million -- more than the total amount of heroin seized in Ukraine in the past 15 years.
By comparison, according to statistics released by the Ukrainian government just 3.7 kilograms of heroin were confiscated by Ukrainian law-enforcement agencies in 1997; in 1999, 6 kilograms were seized; and in 2001, 12 kilograms.
And while the SBU boasts of having closed nine channels for drug smuggling via Ukraine already in 2007, it is widely believed that the amount of heroin captured represents only a fraction of the amount that reaches its final destination.
According to a report prepared for the U.S. Justice Department, for instance, the estimated amount of heroin trafficked via Ukraine in 2001 was 9 to 20 metric tons.
A number of factors appear to dictate why drug smugglers have chosen Ukraine as a popular trafficking route.
One can be found in the vast stretches of unguarded borders between Ukraine and Russia, from which illegal drugs deriving from Central and South Asia and trafficked via the Caucasus can enter the country.
Another is the largely unprotected Black Sea coastline, which provides a safe haven for boats laden with illegal drugs to dock undetected.
And the high level of corruption among Ukraine's Customs Service also plays a vital role in Ukraine's east-west drug-trafficking trade.
Smugglers, taking advantage of border crossings known to be "safe" as a result of lax security, or arrangements with corrupt inspectors, focus on those entry and exit points.
Lastly, increased vigilance by law-enforcement along the traditional "Balkan route" has led traffickers to find new routes -- making Ukraine a natural choice owing to its borders with Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Moldova to the West, and Russia on the east.
More on Neo-Soviet Russia Weaponizing Psychiatry
From: La Russophobe
Arap has been forcibly medicated and the facility has refused to reveal details about her treatment. United Civil Front has lodged a formal protest with Russia's human rights czar, Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, and his spokeswoman has stated: "We have decided to investigate this situation." She added an independent psychiatric commission would be set up and sent to Arap's hospital to examine her. "Only after this will we be able to draw some conclusions and, if needed, take action," the spokeswoman said. Reporters Without Borders has condemned this latest neo-Soviet attack on Russia's journalistic community. Publius Pundit has reported previously on Russia's reinvigoration of the Soviet tactic of using mental hospitals as a tool for suppressing dissent.
The use of psychiatric detention as a weapon was quite popular in the days of the USSR. Dissidents regularly disappeared into prisons and hospitals under charges of mental instability. This time the interests are likely of a baser nature, as Kasparov puts it: “It could happen if you attack the interests of the local Gazprom, the local military base, the local medical mafia. Attacking the interests of local bureaucrats is a terrible risk, because they don’t stop at anything to get their own back.” This is not the first such incident of the Putin era and it is no surprise to see the revival of the old Soviet methods.
Свободные мысли... Резюме
Марка – Татьяна, класс – представительский, год выпуска – август 1976.Пробег – 30, цвет – бордо. Высота – 164,5 см, фары – голубые с серым отливом.
Привод – классический, задний, мускульный с блокировкой дифференциала.
Эксплуатация бережная, летняя. Гаражного хранения в теплом гараже. Кузов – не битый, не ржавый, не гнилой, антикор.
Полировка, обработан необходимой косметикой.
Тип топлива – высокооктановое: Бэйлиз, Мартини-Бьянко, Миллер, апельсиновый сок. Расход топлива минимальный, моноточечная система впрыска. Масло – Oleina. Фильтры – Always, Cotex, Tampax. Трансмиссия – автоматическая. Резина – шипованная. На крутых поворотах иногда заносит. Крыша на месте, без присмотра подвержена деформации. Тормоза с ABS, ручник отсутствует. Супер современная титановая защита картера от "Tom Tailor"(с технологическим отверстием для слива масла).
Идеальное состояние. Все новое. Все опции. Педали мягкие. Руль легкий, но при неаккуратном обращении может клинить и отказывать в управлении вовсе.
Подогрев мужчины-водителя. Салон – белая кожа. Музыка(стерео) с двумя динамиками по центру вверху( включается самопроизвольно и без предупреждения).
Заводится с пол-оборота. Без проблем даже утром и в мороз. Готова к зимней эксплуатации и долгому пробегу в зимнее время. Эффективная система контроля за выхлопными газами.
Предпродажная подготовка. Требует установки противоугонной системы. Количество предыдущих владельцев не установлено. Документы – на руках.
Тест-драйв – обычно по выходным в центре города.
Отдается по доверенности или с полным переоформлением. Или меняется на вашу старую модель, с доплатой. Посредников просьба не беспокоить.
Evil Leaders League, Week 5
From: The HarazQuack Times
|Lukashenko vs Sarkozy: Both are winless this season. Both are European dictators. But only one is French|
I don't envy your Lexus sir, I envy your humility and secure sense of self-worth. I know eight evil leaders who might envy you too. Here are the results from Week 5 of the ELL:
al-Bashir vs Ahmadinejad
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarimbo Hari Kari Bushkie Perry Pem Do Hai Kai Pom Pom Nikki No Meeno Dom Barako seems to agree in principle with UN resolutions and then not follow through with them. It's called diplomacy. It's somehow gotten the proposed sanctions on Sudan softened in an upcoming UN resolution. Good for him, but not entirely evil. Although getting sanction softened while a genocide persists is pretty evil. Kudos. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't even bother with agreeing to UN resolutions. He's been called a wackjob, wacko, madman, loony tunes, and a Holocaust denier, but he had the good sense to send his condolences to Bill Walsh's family upon hearing of his passing.
winner: al-Bashir (for the 2nd time against Ahmadinejad in as many contests)
Chavez vs Kim
Hugo Chavez, the man in the middle of Venezuelan politics has criticized his former oil ministers for favoring foreign oil companies and running away with the country's wealth. That's only kinda evil, but we've come to expect a lot out of Chavez, who certainly talks the evil talk. North Korea's leader is a rabid anti-smoker who has been quite nervous due to recent elections in his country. In the end Kim Jong-Il won with 117% of the vote (margin of error +/- 17%). All of his preferred candidates won by a convincing margin (all of it). Even the dogs he bet on won their fights. For all we criticize North Korean society, at least they got one thing right- dog fighting's not illegal over there.
winner: Kim (that makes 2 out of 2 against Chavez)
Putin vs Karimov
Vladimir Putin of Russia won't run for a third election in a row. That's not evil. He very well may come back in 2012. That's not really evil either, but it is arrogant and power-hungry, qualities that one needs to be evil. He's also had school textbooks rewrite history to fit Putin's vision. That's more like it. Uzbekistan, currently rated the 3rd best "stan" country in the world, is run by Islam Karimov. Islam Karimov has shut down an independent Islamic newspaper and yes, he gets the irony. Karimov has boiled people and made an upcoming election disappear, but this is a what-have-you-done-lately league. Lately, Karimov has jailed his political opponents while Putin has more subtly poisoned them.
Lukashenko vs Sarkozy
Both are winless this season. Both are European dictators. But only one is French. Alexander Lukashenko is not that man, he's the president of Belarus, which is like a cross between Russia and Bella Abzug's house, I think. Lukashenko is about to dismiss Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky, because he doesn't like the shape of Sergei's neck, specifically saying, "I don't like the shape of Sergei's neck." Lukashenko generally sacks his prime minister every two to three years and after they're done playing football, Lukashenko fires them to prevent powerful political rivals. Nicolas Sarkozy is the president of the evil French Empire, hell-bent on destroying America. Sarkozy went so far as to cut taxes for the rich. He's included minority women in his cabinet including the extremely conservative Condoleezza Riz. Really, I'm gonna end this week on that inordinately awful joke?
Kim J-I 4-1
The Nashi's Letters to America
From: Robert Amsterdam
The arduously handwritten letters on school notebook papers make mention of war casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan, and implore the American people to “Take to the streets! Cry for the resignation of the President and dismissal of the State Secretary! Stop fanatics at the State Department!” Most interestingly, the letters contain an ominous threat referring to the U.S. support of civil society initiatives and non-governmental organizations in Russia as leading toward a Cold War-type confrontation.
A scan of the letter can be downloaded here, above is a partial image.
The article on American.com draws a fascinating parallel between a 1920 address by Vladimir Lenin to the Komsomol and the more contemporary Nashi Manifesto - the only thing that seems to change is that references to communism are replaced by references to "sovereign democracy."
It is arguably a matter of grave concern to the United States and Western Europe that the Russian government itself sponsors and officially endorses such propaganda of fear and hate aimed at inciting anti-Western sentiment.
Russia and China's Not Military Alliance
From: New Zeal
The exercise will take place in the first half of August in the Chelyabinsk region, the Urals, with about 5,000 servicemen from Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Uzbekistan under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Established in 2001 as a non-military alliance, the SCO initially set dealing with Islamic extremism and other security threats in Central Asia as its goal, but has since expanded its scope to include cooperation in disaster relief and trade.
The SCO never held a full-scale military exercise involving all its member states, but Russia and China have already held several military joint exercises within the framework of the organization, including the Peace Mission 2005 exercise.
During the August exercise, Russia and China will deploy 36 and 46 aircraft, respectively. Both countries will contribute six Il-76 military transports each to perform simulated airborne assaults.
The group, which comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, is largely viewed as a counterweight to NATO in the region. The organization also lists Iran, Pakistan, India and Mongolia, which have observer status.
Russia's Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov said in May that the organization, which is often referred to as the Shanghai-Six, focuses on fighting drug and arms trafficking, terrorism and separatism, and has never intended to become a military bloc.
Former GDR Soccer Coach Clinches Belarus Slot
|From Thuringen to Belarus, Bernd Stange has had a long, varied career|
The 59-year-old German has also coached Oman, Iraq and a set of Ukrainian, Cyprian and Australian sides.
The Belarus soccer federation announced he would succeed Yuri Puntus, who resigned after Belarus mustered only seven points from their first seven qualifiers for Euro 2008, leaving them all but out of the finals in Switzerland and Austria.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Stange made it clear that he was not interested in looking at the politics of his new home team's country.
"Politics don't interest me"
"If someone has political questions, they should take it to UEFA or FIFA, which recently founded a fantastic soccer federation here,“ he said. Belarus is a "fully-fledged member of FIFA and UEFA, and all relevant commissions," he noted, adding that political questions "don't interest me."
While he clearly intends to stay out of eastern European politics, Stange does hope to prepare a powerful team to take part in the qualification round for the World Cup in 2010 in South Africa.
"There are excellent players in this league," he said. "Many of them play abroad -- Moscow, Kiev, Dnipropetrovsk, Tomsk, Italy. They're everywhere. With those players, and with those who play in our highest league, we can certainly pull something good together."
A long, slow road ahead
But fans shouldn't expect immediate results, Stange warned.
"Anyone who think this will happen in a week doesn't know anything about soccer," he said.
Speaking to the SID news service, Stange said that it was a "great honor and a difficult job" to be given at the end of his career. He looked at the example of Ukraine, noting that that team had managed to qualify.
The contract for the ex-GDR trainer runs through December, 2009, with an option to extend for the World Cup.
Unusual job application
"If I don’t make the qualification, then it's over anyway," he told reporters after signing his contract. For Belarus, qualifying for the World Cup would be the greatest success ever reached.
The application for the trainer job was unusual even for the very experienced Stange. He had to present his concept for the team before media hordes in a hotel in the Belarus capital of Minsk. Functionaries then disappeared into a back room where a vote was taken, then emerged to offer him the job while the reporters continued to look on.
Belarus fixes new subsistence wage on August 1
In August the subsistence wage will average Br185,360 per capita (to compare: Br179,100 during the period from May 1 till July 31; Br170,500 within the period from February 1 till April 30), BelTA learnt in the Council of Ministers’ Office.
A subsistence wage for the people in prime working years stands at Br203,770, for pensioners - Br162,110, for students - Br195,020, for children aged between 3 to 16 - Br220,420, for children under 3 - Br158,070.
The new subsistence wage is 3.5% up comparing the one valid from May 1 till July 31. Family benefits will increase by 3.5% as well. Social pensions and bonuses to the pensions to some groups of pensioners will rise by 3.5% too. Monthly benefits for children under 3 will be Br120,480, those for children over 3 – Br55,610. One-time birth benefits will go up to Br926,800. When second and succeeding babies are born, the one-time benefits will be Br1,297,520. One-time benefits for women who register in a state healthcare establishment in their three months of pregnancy will be Br185,360.
The minimum and social pensions will be indexed as well. The monthly expenses to pay indexed pensions will approximate Br1 billion.
The subsistence wage for different socio-demographic groups features the following benefits and services: foodstuffs, clothes, underwear, footwear, medicines, sanitary and hygienic products and also utilities, transport and consumer services, services of children’s preschool institutions.
In accordance with the Law “On Subsistence Wage in the Republic of Belarus”, the social standard is approved on a quarterly basis in the prices of the last month of a quarter. The standard is used to analyze and prognosticate the living standards, to provide state social assistance to low-income families, to estimate the minimum state social and labour guarantees. The subsistence wage is also used to assess the level of incomes of people, the amount of remuneration of labour, pensions, benefits and other social payments, to determine the scale of poverty.