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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

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  • #230

    President urges to introduce proper order in publishing and printing industry in Belarus

    From: Offic of the president
    On August 14, the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, held a meeting focused on the production and sale of excise-duty stamps.

    Opening the meeting, the Head of State said that he would like to introduce the practice of holding small-scale meetings that would feature supporters of different points of view on disputable issues.

    In principle, the issue of excise-duty stamps should be addressed at the level of the Government, Alexander Lukashenko said. However, he went on, this issue had to do with big money: billions and billions of roubles that streamed directly into the national budget.

    Referring to the production and sale of excise-duty stamps for tobacco goods, the Head of State said that “clarity is needed in this issue”. The prices for these excise-duty stamps surged tenfold over a short period of time (from Br 4 to Br 40 per stamp) and caused a slight increase in the prices for tobacco goods. In this respect Alexander Lukashenko was interested to know whether the tenfold increase in the cost of an excise-duty stamp had been well-grounded and appropriate, since that could affect both domestic tobacco producers and budget revenues.

    Alexander Lukashenko articulated the necessity for a detailed discussion of the activity of publishing and printing companies, especially in the field of state orders. “I mean textbooks, departmental journals, regulatory acts. We have agreed to produce these goods in state-run printing houses,” the President said. But, some of the major state institutions still publish their regulatory acts in privately-owned printing houses.

    After completing the discussion of the main points of the meeting, the Head of State turned his attention to the progress in the ongoing harvesting campaign. As it was noted at the meeting, Belarus is expected to harvest at least 7 million metric tons of grain (this is without accounting for the harvest gathered at personal subsidiary plots).

    The Head of State drew the attention of the officials present at the meeting to the need for exercising a rational approach in developing the social sphere in rural areas while implementing the state rural revival programme. According to the President, modern-day technologies, which are now being actively introduced, replace much man-power. In this respect, Alexander Lukashenko gave instructions to consider introducing various kinds of accessory work or setting up accessory manufactures in agro-towns so as to create new jobs

    Belresursy have good chances to boost foreign trade surplus, Sergei Sidorsky

    From: BelTA
    Belresursy have a real possibility to increase exports over imports, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky said at a session of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers which focused on the 2007-2010 Belresursy development programme.

    According to Trade Minister Alexander Ivankov, in 6 months of the year Belresursy’s trade turnover reached $81.6 million which is 41.8% more as compared to the time last year. Exports accounted for $15.1 million (an increase of 16.5%), imports soared to $66.5 million (an increase of 49.2%). Belresursy is Belarus’ main supplier of metal products, chemical materials and bearings. According to the Minister, it is possible to slow down the increase in imports as compared to exports, although it cannot be done by reducing the imports.

    According to the Prime Minister, Belresursy should make its utmost to boost exports. “We have to use local resources and develop import-substituting and export-oriented manufactures. The company has to learn how to earn hard currency even though it works with imports mostly”.

    The participants of the meeting also stressed the importance of processing secondary materials. According to Sergei Sidorsky “it would be wrong not to widen the experience of secondary materials processing”. This area should also be export-oriented, he stressed. Such technologies and plants are in demand everywhere in the world. Belarus can also build sorting plants and sell them. The Prime Minister suggested that the Ministry of Trade and Belresursy should set up about a hundred recycling plants within three years.

    He also noted that Belresursy could become a sales operator of Belarus-made goods abroad. The company can make agreements with the Belarusian manufacturers, including those subordinate to the Industry Ministry and Bellesbumprom concern and sell their goods abroad. Thus, Belresursy will represent Belarusian brands in the global market. According to the Prime Minister, “today this will benefit the Belarusian economy and domestic producers which have problem with marketing their goods”.

    Sergei Sidorsky believes that Belresursy could generate profits by producing foamed concrete from secondary materials. The company can also boost production of shearing presses for metal cutting. Now one shearing press costs more than $800,000. Belresursy plan to sell three presses a year.

    The 2007-2010 Belresursy development programme sets a task to grow foreign trade up to $266.3 million by 2010, twice as much as now. Exports should be 20% up, imports – 15% up.


    From: Euraisa monitor
    In the aftermath of the latest round of the ongoing gas dispute with Russia, the Belarusian Ministries of Labor and Social Protection and Statistics have provided figures on the economic and demographic situation in the country that shed a favorable light on living standards and economic progress in the country. Added to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's comment that the payment of debt to Gazprom has not had any impact on internal stability (Belorusskie novosti, August 11;, August 10), the authorities are assuring citizens that the government has overcome this "minor crisis."

    The figures are reminiscent of Soviet-era accounts in painting a uniformly rosy picture. Over seven months of 2007, GDP rose by 8.8% compared to the same period last year, keeping pace with the official prognosis of 8-9%. In this same period, industrial output increased by 7-8% and consumer goods output by 6.2%. Production of food goods fell slightly to 99% of the 2006 level, but labor productivity increased by 8%, within the range of the official target of 7-8.6% (Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta, August 11).

    To these figures can be added the surprising revelation that the demographic problems the country has faced for the past 12 years appear to be abating. According to the authorities, over the first six months of 2007, the national birth rate has risen by 108.8% compared to the same period in 2006. The biggest rise is in towns (109.8%), but is still notable in rural regions also (106.2%). The most significant improvements are to be found in Homel and Brest oblasts, whereas Vitsebsk region experienced a net loss once again. In turn the mortality rate has dropped to 95.8% of last year's level with the only significant rise to be found in Minsk. According to the Ministry of Health, the average lifespan for Belarusian men is 63.3 and for women, 75.5 (Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta, August 11; Belorusskie novosti, August 10).

    Reportedly, the reason for such a dramatic turnaround is to be found in the National Program for Demographic Security, 2007-2010, in connection with which the Health Ministry has allotted payments equal to five minimum salaries ($432) to families for the birth of a first child and seven ($605) for the second. A program is being elaborated to provide free food for children during the first year of life. Still the figures cited above do not denote a positive population growth and the assessment of the effectiveness of the program seems premature.

    The number of people working in the Belarusian economy has risen from 4,362,000 (2006) to 4,409,200, and it is anticipated to increase to up to 4,448,000 in the future with trade, construction, and industry taking up the lion's share of employees (BELTA, August 11). However, such figures are not an indicator of economic efficiency and only about one-third of Belarusian industries are operating at a profit, and evidently even those are not always taking advantage of government support. Deputy Minister of Economy, Tatsyana Starchenka commented that in the current period, 93 important investment projects are under way, which include the modernization of several large enterprises, including "Belarus Potassium," "Belarus Tires," the Minsk thermal electric station, Minsk Automobile Factory (MAZ), and a newsprint factory in Shklou (Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta, August 11).

    The rise in energy prices has not yet had a serious impact on the Belarusian economy. However, the current emphasis on government achievements hardly masks the obvious problem: the failure to modernize and privatize companies. Foreign investment has led to some joint ventures, including a Chinese-Belarusian enterprise to produce home appliances, which is to be formed on the basis of the Horizont factory. Venezuela is also prepared to extend credit of $500,000 at an interest rate of 3.5% over 15 years, which is partly directed toward the establishment of joint enterprises in the South American country (Belorusy i rynok, August 6-13).

    But Belarus needs cash and credits badly. According to one report, the country has gold reserves amounting to $3 billion, and thus the recent crisis with payments to Gazprom may have been exaggerated. On the other hand, these reserves could become depleted rapidly. The foreign trade and goods deficit in the first five months of 2007 was $881.6 million and is expected to rise further by the end of the year (BELTA, July 31). In addition, economic relations with Russia are clouded by fears of the larger country's political goals. As one writer noted, the two presidents do not seem to be on the same wave length (Belorusy i rynok, August 6-13) and the state enterprises of Belarus could easily fall prey to Russian businesses, enhancing the political leverage of Russia if the government is forced to de-nationalize key enterprises.

    Lastly, the Lukashenka regime's political power rests largely on its image of fostering prosperity and stability. Reports of glowing successes are obligatory in order to shore up confidence in the government. However, they belie very serious problems, particularly outdated factories and a shortage of ready cash. Venezuelan friendship is beneficial but small-scale, and the Chinese are not yet ready to make major investments in Belarus. The Lukashenka regime cannot continue to report such "successes" indefinitely, especially once it starts to pay world prices for gas supplies. To date there is little sign of any solution to these underlying problems.

    MFA: Belarus ready to negotiate simplified visa procedures with EU

    From: BelTA
    The Belarusian side has created the basis for negotiations with the European Union concerning the simplification of visa procedures, including negotiations concerning the forthcoming accession of several EU states, including Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia and Hungary, to the Schengen Agreement as from January 1, 2008, Head of the Consular Affairs Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Andrei Giro told BelTA.

    In his words, Belarus’ proposals to initiate the negotiations have been submitted to European institutions, however, the EU’s reply does not suit Belarus. “The European Union believes such negotiations are premature. However, we believe we are late to start the negotiations, as they should have been started before the increase in costs of Schengen zone visas for Belarus,” stressed Andrei Giro.

    The source underscored, political will is essential for resolving this important issue. “We have the will and we hope Europeans do as well,” he said.

    Speaking about the steps Belarus has made to facilitate visa procedures for the European Union states, Andrei Giro underscored, Belarus had unilaterally cancelled the requirement to produce invitations for foreigners, who apply for Belarusian visas in order to stay in the country for a period of up to 30 days for guest or business purposes.

    In an overwhelming number of cases Belarusian visas are issued without hindrances. Rejected applications account for less than 1% of the total. The Belarusian side has opened consular affairs offices in Minsk airports to allow foreigners to apply for Belarusian visas upon arrival. Belarusian citizens have no such opportunity in any EU state, noted Andrei Giro.

    According to the source, paradoxical situations happen sometimes when, for example, a Belarusian kid, who falls ill while in the European Union and is rejected visa extension necessary for finishing his rehabilitation. Ill children are suggested to travel to Poland or Slovakia to get visas at an embassy and then to return to a European Union State to complete the treatment.

    Laws of the European Union are objectively imperfect in many cases. They fail to provide for all situations people may face in their lives. Belarusian procedures are a way simpler: a visa extension can be obtained from citizenship and migration offices of the Belarusian Interior Ministry, explained Andrei Giro.

    In his words, Belarus has started issuing double-entry visas in order to increase the country’s attractiveness as a tourist resort.

    The time of the issuance of Belarusian tourism visas has been decreased from five to three days. There are very few European Union states one can get visas from so fast. Belarus has also simplified visa applications for groups. Now a group of at least five tourists can get Belarusian visas for the minimal price of ˆ10 per person. Meanwhile, a Schengen zone visa costs ˆ60 for a Belarusian, noted Andrei Giro.

    Proposals of the Belarusian side concerning the simplification of visa procedures for entry to Schengen zone countries are also aimed at decreasing the number of documents a Belarusian needs to get a EU visa.

    At present European Union states can require up to 15 various documents listed by the Schengen Agreement as well as any other document the consular service deems appropriate. That is, they can ask for any kind of reference a Belarusian has to provide if he wants a visa, explained Andrei Giro.

    At the same time Belarus has unilaterally reduced visa formalities to the minimum. “We encourage our partners to make similar steps for us. Apart from that, it is important for us that Belarusians would no longer queue for days or even weeks waiting to simply hand in visa applications. No Belarusian diplomatic mission abroad practises queues or appointment for future. Every foreign citizen can submit his application the day he comes to the embassy,” said Andrei Giro.

    After Poland’s and Lithuania’s accession to the Schengen Agreement Belarus would like to preserve simplified visa application regulations for kids under 16 and elderly people over 65 as well as people living in the areas that border with Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

    “There are problems with truckers, who so far can get a year-effective visa allowing staying in the Schengen zone for at most 90 days, with truckers often getting six-month-long visas allowing staying in the Schengen zone for 45 days. That is allowing only several trips. We have to ensure their length of stay in the European Union is extended up to 180 days a year,” said Andrei Giro.

    “We hope that EU member-states and the European Commission will revise their views and will agree to start negotiations with Belarus to simplify visa regulations. We are ready to meet European partners halfway. We would like to make it reciprocal, but the issue is so far left to debate,” said the source.

    In related stories, Belarus hopes for a positive decision of the German Bundestag concerning the decrease in visa costs for Belarusians, Head of the Consular Affairs Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Andrei Giro told BelTA.

    Belarus has addressed Germany and all other European Union member-states with a proposal to negotiate simplifying visa procedures between Belarus and the European Union. According to the Schengen Agreement, Germany cannot start bilateral negotiations with Belarus, however, several factions at once, including the two largest factions in the German Bundestag, which now compose the ruling coalition, initiated the consideration of the possibility of decreasing visa costs for Belarusians, explained Andrei Giro.

    The issue will be considered by profile committees, then by a plenary session, and then the German government will be given recommendations concerning the reduction of Schengen visa costs for Belarus’ citizens.

    The official noted, if Germany lobbies lower visa costs for Belarusians, with support of Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Hungary and other countries, which intend to accede to the Schengen Agreement soon, European institutions will be more flexible about visa costs for Belarusians in the future. A positive decision may be taken at a certain stage, which will not disadvantage Belarusians in comparison with citizens of other CIS states — Russia, Ukraine, or Moldova, said Andrei Giro.

    According to Head of the All-European Cooperation Office of the Central European Department of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry Vladimir Serpikov, Belarus concentrated on working with Germany in view of the latter’s presidency in the European Union in H1 2007. It is important to remember that all internal procedures of the European Union are based on multilateral diplomacy. Every country has a voice, allowing the European Union member-states to find a balance of interests. Which is why it is important to work directly with the European Union states in order to shape their opinions, stressed Vladimir Serpikov. “We hope sooner or later a decision to suit Belarus will be found to decrease visa costs for Belarusians,” he said.

    Belarus Wants Visa-Free Procedures with Venezuela

    From: Kommersant
    Belarus intends to introduce visa-free procedures for visitors from Venezuela, Argentina and Malaysia, reported with reference to Andrey Giro, chief of Consular Department at Belarus’ Foreign Ministry.
    The respective work is underway, the diplomat said, forecasting that elaboration of visa-canceling agreements will take from six to 12 months. “We have exchanged the drafts with these three states... We count on reaching the signing [stage] during half a year or a year,” Giro said.

    In general, Belarus advocates visa facilitation procedures for as many countries as possible. “The agreements on visa-free trips of residents are particularly vital for active development of trade and economic, investment, humanitarian, research, engineering and cultural ties,” Giro explained.

    Before this year-end, the diplomat went on, Belarus is willing to ink bilateral documents with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to amend and supplement the agreements on residents’ trips. The target to attain is to make it easier for certain categories of Belarus’ residents to get Schengen visas, Giro pointed out.

    Minsk hopes that EU will enter talks on eased two-way travel in near future, official says

    From: Naviny
    Minsk hopes that the European Union will enter talks with Belarus on eased two-way travel in the near future, Andrey Hiro, head of the Belarusian foreign ministry's consular department, told reporters in Minsk on Monday, BelaPAN reported.

    He said that Minsk had unilaterally simplified "as much as possible" visa rules for EU nationals three years ago. He said that the EU's response to the move did not "satisfy the Belarusian side."

    Mr. Hiro expressed hope that "common sense will prevail" and the EU will agree to the talks, noting that the European Commission currently considered such negotiations "for some reason" premature.

    He said that the matter was particularly topical now that neighboring countries were preparing to join the Schengen treaty on January 1 and significantly raise fees for their visas.

    He said that Minsk was engaged in a "constant" bilateral dialogue on the coming increase and considered its response. He warned that it might respond to the higher Schengen visa fees reciprocally but noted that other solutions also were possible and they were "actively" discussed at various levels in Belarus. "We hope that we will find a decision that will be in the interests of nationals of both Belarus and countries neighboring us," he said.

    According to Mr. Hiro, a EU citizen can obtain a Belarusian entry visa, including an express visa, right upon arrival at a Minsk airport, whereas Belarusian nationals can get a visa to a Schengen country only by applying to the country's embassy.

    Mr. Hiro revealed that Belarus was currently in talks with Argentina, Malaysia and Venezuela about scrapping bilaterally visas for citizens of the other country. "We are ready for talks with any country for the purpose of simplifying the visa regime," he said.

    Eighth Iran-Belarus Economic Commission convenes

    From: irna
    Masoud Mir-Kazemi
    Iranian Minister of Commerce Masoud Mir-Kazemi and Belarus Minister of Industry Anatoly Rusetsky in Tehran on Tuesday attended the eighth meeting of joint economic commission.

    IRNA Economic correspondent said that the commission studied ways to develop trade, boost joint investment in machinery industry, food industry, medical instruments production and pharmaceutical industry, oil and gas and setting up branch of an Iranian bank in Minsk and an accord on customs tariffs.

    The two ministers who co-chaired the eighth joint economic commission also reviewed a draft agreement between the Iranian and Belarus Standards Organizations worth dlrs 1.5 billion, accords on preferential tariffs, transport cooperation and establishment of assembly line for electronic appliances in Belarus.

    The head of the Trade Development Organization, managing director of the Export Guarantee Fund (EGF), Iranian ambassador in Minsk and officials from the Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Industries and Mines attended the meeting.

    Mir-Kazemi pointed to the common views shared by Iran and Belarus on political and international issues and said that the two countries are willing to develop economic cooperation.

    He said that officials from both sides have planned to enhance level of trade to one billion dollars every year.

    Mir-Kazemi said that the commission would help in opening a branch of the Iranian bank in Minsk.

    He called for putting into practice the accords already signed on customs tariffs adding that Iranian parliament has ratified the accords and it has been forwarded to the Guardian Council for confirmation.

    Mir-Kazemi said that executive procedure would be drawn up for the customs accord after being ratified in the Belarus parliament.

    He put forward new proposals for setting up preferential tariffs in bilateral trade.

    Rusetsky said, for his part, Belarus is keen on boosting trade with Iran to dlrs one billion a year.

    He said that the accords already signed between the two countries would help enhance economic cooperation.

    Rusetsky said he believes that the outcome of commission would be effective in removing the obstacles to expansion of bilateral ties.

    He said that establishment of branch of the Iranian bank would be helpful for launching assembly line of Iran Khodro car manufacturing company in Belarus.

    Mir-Kazemi and Rusetsky are expected to sign an agreement at the end of the eighth joint economic commission session later on Wednesday.

    South Africa: Lyons to Build Hi-Tech Office Park in Belarus

    From: all africa
    LYONS Financial Solutions, a South African property investor, and other companies have won a R4bn contract to build an office park for software and scientific businesses in Belarus.

    The High Tech Park in Minsk would include retail and residential buildings and a hotel, the Johannesburg-based company said yesterday.

    Lyons and the other companies in the group would provide infrastructure such as the latest telecommunications equipment, fibreoptic networks and satellite connections.

    Lyons said the European Union and SA's Trade Development and Co-operation Agreement on such matters as infrastructural development for European countries and SA, had afforded new opportunities for South African development companies.

    Lyons said it was considered the main investor and developer with other bids from companies in Turkey, U.S. and Japan.

    "This is after two years of negotiation including a presentation in June 2007 that was attended by representatives of state agencies and ministries of Belarus, the head of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Mikhali Myasnikovich, and the South African delegation headed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma," said Lyons.

    The company said the High Tech Park would provide a platform for numerous local and international software and scientific companies to invest in a hi-tech cluster with beneficial tax incentives.

    Lyons said this would help ensure Belarus met its goals of becoming a substantial technology powerhouse in eastern Europe.

    The site is 50ha with additional land available for expansion.

    "The land will be contributed by the Belarus government, which will participate in the ownership of the assets and participate in a profit sharing agreement in terms of a private-public partnership agreement," said the company.

    Lyons said the overall design concept was in keeping with the IT industry using modern clean lines and providing flexibility, pedestrian comfort and eco-friendly buildings.

    The project, which includes a residential component, retail centres, a hotel and a conference centre, would take seven years to complete.

    Belarus' Opposition Agrees to Unite

    From: Moscow times
    Anatoly Lebedko
    Leaders of Belarus' disparate opposition vowed Tuesday to cast aside their differences and work together to stage a major rally in the fall against Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.

    The opposition, a mix of liberals and nationalists, achieved rare unity for last year's poll by backing liberal academic Alexander Milinkevich only to split afterward.

    But leaders Tuesday vowed to bring together 10,000 supporters in an Oct. 14 "European march" before next year's parliamentary election.

    "Talk of a split in our ranks is greatly exaggerated," Milinkevich said after opposition parties agreed to the march. "We will find common ground. There is much we can do together. Our joint aim is to live in a democracy."

    Anatoly Lebedko, another opposition leader, said there could be no token gestures. "There is no point in joining hands for a photograph. We have to focus on people working together."

    Alexander Lukashenko congratulates Fidel Castro on his birthday

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has congratulated Chairman of the State Council and Council of Ministers of Cuba Fidel Castro on his birthday, BelTA learnt from the Belarusian leader’s press service.

    Due to the farsighted policy pursued by Fidel Castro the Belarusian-Cuban interstate dialogue and the friendship between the two nations continue developing, the Belarusian Head of State underlined.

    Alexander Lukashenko expressed confidence that Cuba would continue making a considerable contribution to the settlement of urgent issues on the international agenda within the framework of the Non-Aligned Movement.

  • Around the region...

    Online video by Russian nationalists shows apparent execution of 2 nonwhite men

    From: IHT
    Russian prosecutors said Monday they were investigating a video posted on several ultranationalist Web sites that appears to show the brutal execution of two men from Central Asia and the Caucasus — and the beheading of one of them.

    The video, which was posted on the Web site of a Russian organization calling itself National Socialism/White Power along with other more common Web sites, shows two men kneeling on the ground with their arms and legs tied up.

    "We were arrested by Russian national socialists," they say in barely audible voices.

    A subtitle on the video identifies the two as "colonists from Tajikistan and Dagestan." A Nazi flag stands in the background while two men in masks and camouflaged clothing give Nazi salutes.

    Then, a man with a knife or saw beheads one of the abducted men as heavy metal music plays in the background.

    The video then cuts to the other man on his knees with his hands taped behind his back and his mouth taped shut. A hand can be seen firing a gun into the man's head and the body falls forward into what appears to be a freshly dug grave. Heavy metal music continues to play.

    There was no way to independently confirm the content of the video, but Russian prosecutors told news agencies that they had opened a criminal investigation into its content.

    Later Monday, the video appeared to have been taken down from several of the sites, including the popular blogging Web site LiveJournal and a message on the National Socialism/White Power Web site indicated the site had been overwhelmed with views.

    Alexander Verkhovsky, an activist with the SOVA center, which monitors hate crimes in Russia, said after watching the video that he had never heard of the organization.

    He also said he had seen many hate-crime videos in his work, but most of those that purported to depict murders appeared to have been staged or fake. This one, he said, appeared very genuine.

    "I've never seen anything that blatant," he told The Associated Press.

    Russia has seen a marked rise in xenophobia and racism in recent years, with numerous attacks on foreigners — many of them from the former Soviet republics in Central Asia and the Caucasus — as well as members of ethnic minorities within Russia and Jews.

    Bomb Derailed Passenger Train in Russia, Officials Say

    From: ny times
    At least 60 people were injured when a bomb derailed a Russian passenger train Monday night, but no one was killed in the incident.
    A bomb set along railroad tracks exploded and derailed a passenger train Monday night between Moscow and St. Petersburg, wounding scores of passengers and shutting down service on one of Russia’s busiest rail lines.

    No one was killed, but at least six people were seriously wounded, and the authorities suggested that passengers had been spared in part by luck.

    The bomb exploded as the train was traveling near a section of track that crosses a bridge 60 feet above a road, but the train cleared the bridge before it derailed, and the cars slid onto their sides without falling down the slope or onto the road below.

    At least 60 of the more than 230 people on board the train were wounded, the authorities said. One railway official said on national television that 90 people had been treated.

    No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but the authorities were treating it as a probable act of terrorism. By nightfall on Tuesday, investigators had made composite sketches of two men seen near the tracks before the blast.

    The authorities described the bomb as a homemade device that weighed nearly five pounds, but released few other details because of their investigation.

    There were conflicting reports about how the bomb was detonated. One Russian official said it was detonated by a spotter using a wire; another said the bomb exploded when the train made contact with it.

    Russia has suffered many terrorist attacks since the mid-1990s, often by Chechen separatists and Islamic militants from other regions in the Caucasus who have links to them.

    The acts have included train and airplane bombings, suicide bombings and mass hostage-taking, including in a hospital, a theater and a school. But the attacks have declined in frequency and scale since late 2004, mirroring a general reduction in the pace and intensity of guerrilla fighting in Russia’s southwest.

    Fighting has simmered again in recent weeks, however, as it often does in the summer. Russia has been conducting military sweep operations in Ingushetia, adjacent to Chechnya, and taking casualties almost every day.

    Web sites with connections to the separatists posted news accounts of the bombing, but did not issue statements from the separatists.

    The authorities said counterterrorist measures would be strengthened before parliamentary elections scheduled for late this year and the presidential election next spring.

    “The threat of extremism and terrorism has not been completely eliminated,” Nikolai P. Patrushev, the director of the domestic intelligence agency, said Tuesday at a meeting of the National Antiterrorist Committee, according to the Interfax news agency.

    The derailment occurred near Malaya Vishera in the Novgorod region, about 100 miles southeast of St. Petersburg. Roughly half a mile of track was damaged, and service was stopped in both directions.

    Passengers and relatives crowded the Leningradsky Station in Moscow on Tuesday, waiting for service to resume.

    One woman at the station, who declined to give her name, said she had no doubt that the bombing was a terrorist attack. “It doesn’t matter,” she said, “plane or train, they are all dangerous these days.”

    Poland's ruling coalition crumbles

    From: msnbc
    Andrzej Lepper
    Poland's ruling coalition collapsed on Monday, with President Lech Kaczynski firing ministers from two small populist parties, leaving the country with a minority government and early elections all but inevitable.

    The coalition between Mr Kaczynski's Law and Justice party, the left-wing agrarians of the Self-Defence party and the rightwing nationalists of the League of Polish Families had become too difficult to sustain, said Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the prime minister and the president's twin brother. "That is why it had to be ended, notwithstanding the far-reaching consequences of this fact, the most serious of which will be elections."

    Parliament is expected to vote on early elections within a month, with the poll itself expected in October or November – two years earlier than expected.

    Elections are a risk for Law and Justice because the conservative party is lagging behind the opposition pro-business Civic Platform. Both the League of Polish Families and Self-Defence face electoral extinction, having lost many of their supporters to the more aggressive Law and Justice, and have united in the hope of scrambling past the 5 per cent barrier needed to secure seats in the next parliament.

    The Kaczynskis' party narrowly won the last elections vowing to cleanse public life of the corruption and ineffectiveness that had been a hallmark of the previous ex-communist government.

    Its early promises included pledges to lower taxes, improve Poland's dilapidated infrastructure and overhaul public institutions and the legal system.

    But Law and Justice's conspiratorial worldview and its reliance on populist coalition partners undermined the Kaczynski twins' ambitions to reform the country and establish a western European-style Christian democratic party that would dominate the centre-right.

    Tax pledges were dropped, public spending rose and candidates for senior public posts were chosen more on grounds of loyalty than of competence. Relations with the rest of Europe soured over economic protectionism and the Kaczynskis' view of Poland as a historical victim that was owed compensation. Ever tricky relations with Germany worsened.

    The marriage of Law and Justice and its two coalition partners was always controversial and proved to be rocky from the start. The League and Self-Defence, had been considered too radical for inclusion in government and widely criticised in the past – often by the Kaczynskis themselves, until they needed their votes.

    The final disintegration came last month, after the prime minister fired Andrzej Lepper, Self-Defence's colourful and oft-convicted leader, as agriculture minister, accusing him of involvement in a corrupt scheme.

    The former coalition parties are now accusing one another of criminal misdeeds, and the election campaign is likely to be bitter.

    So far the economy, which is growing strongly, has been unaffected by the political turmoil, but the hopes that accompanied Law and Justice's election two years ago have largely evaporated.

    Analysts blame the prime minister's suspicious nature for his government's failure. He often accuses hidden forces of controlling events from behind the scenes.

    "His big mistake was treating politics like a permanent civil war," said Aleksander Smolar, a political scientist. "This is a politician whose governing conception was of a country ruled by the secret services."

    The government saw its greatest successes in the murky worlds of spies and secret agents, trumpeting the dissolution of the military intelligence agency and the creation of an elite anti-corruption police force.

    Democracy is once again under threat in Ukraine

    From: daily star
    The campaign for Ukraine's parliamentary election of September 30th is scarcely under way and yet Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich is already trying to steal it. Yanukovich was the man who sought to falsify the result of the presidential election of 2004, inciting the Orange Revolution. Back then, a peaceful and honest result was reached in the end because Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma refused to heed Yanukovich's call to use violence to defend his rigged election. This time it appears that Yanukovich is prepared to do anything to remain in power.

    The dirty tricks began in the midnight hours of August 11th, when Ukraine's Central Election Commission (which is packed with Yanukovich placemen) refused to certify the largest opposition party, the bloc of former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, to participate in the election. The technicality the commission cited would be absurdly funny if its potential results were not so incendiary: the CEC objected to the fact that the Tymoshenko bloc candidates listed only their home towns on the party list, not their precise street address. But Tymoshenko's party successfully submitted its list in the very same format at the March 2006 election, which demonstrates the glaringly partisan nature of the election commission's ruling.

    By seeking to cling to power by hook or by crook, Yanukovich is likely to bring on the deluge. In Ukraine that means not only violent unrest, but economic decline and renewed repression. At the end of the day it could lead to the sort of huge street protests that marked the Orange Revolution, and their attempted violent suppression.

    Recent history is replete with alarming examples of dictators and would-be dictators who refuse to recognize when their time has run out. But for the past 20 years their blatant political chicanery has been met with a potent new force: the massed voices of ordinary people who refuse to be cowed. From the "People Power" revolution that toppled Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines in 1986 to Boris Yeltsin's defiance of the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991, to the Rose, Orange, and Cedar Revolutions of recent years, dictators have been forced to admit defeat when enough people stand up to them.

    Will it really be necessary for Ukrainians to repeat the Orange Revolution by again gathering in their millions to shame Yanukovich (a twice convicted violent felon before he entered politics) to change course? There is a person who might compel Yanukovich to retreat to democratic norms and thus hold off such protests: Russia's President Vladimir Putin. It is certainly in Russia's national interest to prevent chaos in the country's big next door neighbor. But Putin's idea of what constitutes Russia's national interest makes that type of intervention unlikely. Weak neighbors are states that the Kremlin can control, so why not expand Russian power by letting Ukraine slide into protest and anarchy if by doing so it brings that country back under Putin's thumb? Moreover, Putin himself is in the business of sterilizing Russia's democratic processes by handpicking his successor and having his courts and electoral commissions block his opponents from political participation, often tarring them as traitors. Someone with such contempt for the democratic rights of his own people is unlikely to champion them abroad.

    As is usual with this ex-KGB man, Putin is being cunning about Ukraine, but he is deluding himself if he thinks that siding with Yanukovich will bring back effective Russian overlordship of Ukraine. The days of empire are over, no matter how much wealth oil and gas is bringing to Russia. Only if Ukraine maintains its independence will the imperial nostalgia of Russia's elites be shattered.

    So other pressure will need to be applied, primarily by the European Union and the United States. In 2004, both the EU and the US were tardy in speaking in defense of Ukraine's democrats. Only when the courage of millions of ordinary Ukrainians gathered in central Kiev galvanized world opinion did the US and EU marshal the courage to stand up for an honest election result.

    And the one state that did stand with Ukraine from the start back then, Poland, has now antagonized much of EU opinion, particularly in Germany, because of the paranoid behavior of its current leaders. So Polish influence in EU councils is at rock bottom. Luckily, the leaders of Europe's three biggest states are different people than in 2004. Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Gordon Brown appear to have a clearer appreciation of the union's security problems to its east, and so may find the will to act decisively now, rather than dither as their predecessors did when Ukraine moved into crisis in 2004.

    Unless Ukraine's democratic opposition is allowed to take part in the election, a new crisis is certain. Tymoshenko, who has survived three assassination attempts, is not the type of woman to surrender her campaign on a technicality.

    While the Orange Revolution made ordinary Ukrainians more conscious of their rights than ever before, this alone cannot guarantee that they are certain to see those rights vindicated in the coming weeks. However, it will make the job of repressing them much harder. And isn't that what the battle for democracy is all about?

    Kids build Jewish identity at Ukraine camp

    From: cj news
    Teens from Kharkov, Ukraine, face off during a “Fear Factor” evening program at the Jewish Agency for Israel’s summer camp.
    Summer camp is the same worldwide: children can learn about themselves in fun and challenging ways, while making new friends and participating in various activities.
    But 10,000 children and 2,000 college students who live in the former Soviet Union (FSU) are also building Jewish identity at camp.

    The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) has been operating summer camps in the FSU for the past 16 years. The 70 camps that JAFI runs focus not only on building identity but also on serving as a base for Jewish involvement during the rest of the year.

    On a recent JAFI-led press tour in Ukraine, a small group of journalists visited two of the four summer camps there.

    The first camp was in Odessa, a city of one million with a rich Jewish heritage and history. The camp is dubbed “Artist’s City,” and is an eight-day overnight program for children aged six to nine. Over the summer, the camp runs three sessions and serves about 300 campers.

    “The camp is a very big contribution to building identity,” said Natasha Voskovoinik, who has been the camp’s director for three summers.

    “Not only because we are letting these kids know that because they have Jewish roots, they are part of a global identity, but we are also building their identity for something in themselves here and now.”

    (Voskovoinik spoke in Russian through a translator, like most of the people interviewed for this article.)

    This camp operates out of a run-down college-dorm-style building, in which campers in groups of 15, with three counsellors, shared their artistic creations and experiences with other groups.

    Odessa campers enjoy lunch at the Jewish Agency for Israel’s summer camp. [Abigail Bimman photo]

    Every drab common area and the children’s dorms were filled with bright, creative artwork, from sailboats with painted silk sails that represent the children’s dreams to decorated Hebrew letters.

    “We will come back home very joyful, and have new games and be healthy. They have a doctor here,” said Sasha, 8, from Odessa.

    Vova, also 8 and from Odessa, thought for a moment before he answered what he likes about camp.

    “If we just hang around on the street, we will hang around and do nothing – here we learn,” he said. “We learn about Shabbat, and I love Shabbat.”

    Both boys said that after this summer experience, they would call themselves Jewish before identifying as Ukrainian.

    Of the 300 campers, Voskovoinik said that 40 per cent of them have never been to a JAFI camp and half of those have not had other Jewish exposure.

    The Chabad movement also runs FSU summer camps, but Voskovoinik says that the two organizations are not in competition with each other. Many children go to both camps, and the groups try not to schedule them at the same time. There are also Hebrew day schools across Ukraine where children can get a Jewish education.

    Maxim Peliansky, 19, is a counsellor at the Odessa camp. The local teen has worked in as many Jewish organizations and groups as he could find, but he said JAFI changed his thinking about how he can relate to children.

    “Here I can be myself as a madrich,” he said, using the Hebrew word for counsellor. “At other organizations, I was strictly instructed as to content. Here I can express myself.”

    All JAFI summer camps accept children who qualify under Israel’s Right of Return law, meaning that they must have at least one Jewish grandparent. There is an interview process before registration, so that children and parents understand the educational component of the camps.

    JAFI camps serves both the secular and Orthodox communities, and camp food is kosher.

    The camps are free for families. In co-operation with a number of sponsors, JAFI spends about $10 million a year on the camps, which works out to about $500 per child for a weeklong session.

    The high rate of intermarriage in FSU can make growing up Jewish confusing. Some campers only recently learned about their Jewish heritage, and many Jews in FSU are unaware of their heritage.

    An anecdote journalists heard on our visit involved a man who, when asked by a JAFI emissary if he was Jewish, flippantly replied, “No. My mother is Jewish, that’s all.”

    On the subject of intermarriage, Vosovoinik said, “We have to not cancel their world because we can’t cancel a parent, but the world they get here can be part of it. We have to be very sensitive. It’s very complex.”

    The second camp the journalists visited was an hour outside of Kharkov, a city with a population of almost two million people. This weeklong camp, for teens aged 13 to 17, revolved around the theme “Israel is Real.”

    The week was loosely based around life in Israel, with programs such as an end-of-high-school exam about Israel, university day, army training and a “Yad Vashem” tour.

    The reporters joined the campers for several sessions, including a “Fear Factor” evening program (based on the television show) and a tour of a fabricated but realistic-looking Yad Vashem. At a dance party/evening program, the children divided into groups and gave presentations on what Israel meant to them.

    The intensity of these young people’s love for Israel came through in their presentations. They included song, dance, art, humour and speech to convey the message that Israel is, in fact, real.

    “One goal of the camp is to create a Jewish identity with a multi-dimensional understanding of Israel as a crucial part of that identity for the next generation,” said Jan Friedman, JAFI’s education emissary for Kharkov and Donetsk, who runs the camp with her husband, Guy.

    “The position of the camp is a very strong starting point – [campers] know it’s the beginning of a process, they really get the idea of continuation,” she said, adding that JAFI holds events for campers all year long at their Kharkov office.

    Sasha Blitshtein, a madrich from Kharkov, understands the importance of recognizing and building Jewish identity among teens.

    “Those who are here for the first time, they can be surprised at what they find, for good or for bad. Being Jewish can be something they don’t understand or accept, or, something that makes them different. And being different at this age is an important thing,” Blitshtein said.

    The campers and madrichim agreed that being Jewish is a positive way to be different.

    “I don’t show my Jewishness publicly, but if someone asks me to fill out a form, I’m proud to do it,” said Ella Karnitskaya, a 17-year-old Kharkov teen who recites the Shema every day and lights Shabbat candles with her mother.

    “Other kids get piercings. This is my way of being different.”

    Katya Varkova, 24, is an Israeli madrich who made aliyah from Kharkov in 2000 and is back for camp. She said it’s important to focus on Jewish identity, not only in the camp but also at home during the year.

    “In the small cities with no Jewish community, how free do they feel to express their identities?” she asked.

    Many Ukrainian villages and towns have tiny Jewish communities, and many cities also have relatively small Jewish populations, which might naturally lead some Jews to think about aliyah.

    JAFI’s goals focus on nation-building and identity-building, with Israel as a central goal to that identity. But they don’t push aliyah on anyone.

    “I personally made aliyah and believe Jews can and should – but I don’t put it into the program as a message,” said Voskovoinik, who left Riga in 1993 as a teen to study in Israel.

    “I don’t think there is a division – being Jewish means Israel. I believe that, but I don’t tell children and their parents,” she said.

    Friedman said that “the goal is to make Israel a significant part of identity.

    “This can be through aliyah, but within the overall goal of building community. Israel will be part of the community here. We really want them to make a rational choice from thinking from inside their identity.”

    Friedman made aliyah from Belarus in 1990.

    Several of the counsellors and campers were considering or definitely planning to make aliyah, and most want to visit Israel.

    The idea of aliyah can create a confusing tension with the goal of building a Jewish community in Ukraine for young Jews.

    “That is the million-dollar question,” said Rabbi Moshe Moscovitz in his Kharkov synagogue office. He came to Ukraine from Venezuela 17 years ago to head the Chabad synagogue, the only shul in the city. He arrived with one child and now has nine.

    “The community is much more stable than it used to be, but everyone has at the back of their minds about going to Israel,” he said.

    “I don’t tell them to go – I’m much more passive. I believe they should go, but they should come to the decision in a conscious way.”

    The message can be a confusing one for the younger generation.

    “Community building is postponed because community leaders keep making aliyah,” 19-year-old Edward Dolgin at the Kharkov camp summarized.

    “I plan on making aliyah in two years, so it’s not so important,” he said.

    “Definitely, there is a Jewish future here,” said Voskovoinik, who is clearly passionate about the work she does to further that aim.

  • From the blogs...

    Poland's Political Purgatory

    From: vilhelm konnander
    This week, Polish president Lech Kaczynski called for early parliamentary polls this autumn. However, it is unlikely that elections will put a stop to Poland's political crisis. Instead, early polls may propel Poland into a prolonged political purgatory - further polarising positions between parties and political generations.

    For long, there was unity to avoid early elections within the ruling coalition government. The dominant party in cabinet, the Law and Justice Party (PiS), led by the Kaczynski twins, has shunned the option of early elections, while going to the polls this autumn, would cause the next elections to coincide with Poland's 2011 EU presidency. For remaining coalition partners, the Self-Defence Party and the League of Polish Families, early elections hold the prospects of potential political annihilation.

    Therefore, it is only after months of cabinet turmoil that the Polish president has finally concluded that there was no other way out than to take the drastic step in calling for early elections. Still, having sacked Self-Defence Party leader, Andrzej Lepper, from government earlier this summer, the for long put off outcome seems unavoidable. What long-term consequences early elections will bring is still unclear, but one might suppose Polish politics will see further crisis and upheaval in coming years. What is at stake is how the generation shift in Polish society will be managed - either purging the communist legacy or leaving history behind.

    Poland's transition from communist rule was established by the 1989 Round Table Agreement between the outgoing communist regime and the ascending Solidarnosc movement. The Round Table resulted in a "contract" for social unity in the face of Poland's democratisation and economic liberalisation. In essence, the communists traded immunity in exchange for ceding power to Solidarnosc. The Round Table agreement has, over the years, been heavily criticised, but must still be regarded an instrument for the peaceful transition of power in Poland, which in effect meant the end of a divided Europe by the 1945 Yalta agreement.

    How to deal with the past, has become the central issue in Polish politics with the rise to power of the Kaczynski twins. Their policy of lustracja represents the wrath of the malcontents - a revanchist policy for all those former dissidents, members of Solidarity, or ordinary people, who never got a slice of the pie during the 1990s' privatisation. Their populist target is the "Salon" - communists, apparatchiks, bureaucrats, and collaborateurs, who were able to benefit from the privatisation schemes as only the very top echelons of the communist system were removed from power. However, having not previously dealt with history, has made most politicans potential victims of persecution, as more or less fabricated scandals about a communist past have often come in handy when populists or others have wanted to permanently discredit next to any public figure. Being able to taint leading personalities of the Solidarity generation, has become a method for young and aspiring politicians to make careers and gain power by removing their seniors by rumours and allegations.

    Lustracja also illustrates the generation gap in Polish politics. Today, the Kaczynskis' PiS is probably the party in Poland with the largest proportion of young people among its ranks. Most other parties represent "have-beens" like former president Aleksander Kwasniewski's Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (SLD), the intellectual Unia Wolnosci (UW), or Platforma Obywatelska (PO). It is true, opinion polls often give PO high figures as the main opposition party, but come election day, voters may well turn their backs to this market-oriented liberal party.

    The simple truth is most likely that few of the opposition's potential activists or voters among the young generation either do not care or have found a future abroad instead. If you want to do a fast political career in Poland today, PiS' populist policies - and not the opposition parties - offer the best chances for advancement. Ignoring politics seems to be the mindset of many Poles. In the 2005 parliamentary polls, PiS gained 28% of the merely 40% of the electorate participating in the elections, and has in effect been running Poland on this weak basis ever since.

    For many young Poles, they see their future in the European Union. Still, that does not mean that they equal Poland's future with that of the EU. Instead, many educated Poles in this generation seek a future abroad, in Ireland or Great Britain, producing at least a temporary brain-drain, as in the case of the Baltic States. Domestic opinion about the Union has, to the contrary, for long been skeptic, and the Kaczynski twins are no exception to this rule. In the EU, Poland has thus come to be associated with extreme partisanship, to the point that the country has even been willing to jeopardise the future of the Union. Until recently, playing the nationalist card towards the EU has been both popular and accepted by the Polish people, which has seen little in return for its membership. However, recent EU support to Poland in the meat-war with Russia may be a first sign for swaying opinion more in favour of the Union. Still, with parliamentary elections coinciding with the Polish EU presidency, many European politicians may have reason to fear what Poland might come up with in 2011.

    To conclude, with populists in power, an opposition representing the past, and an increasing institutionalisation of political purges, Poland seems set for a prolonged political purgatory in the coming four years. The only remedy would be if the country's voters would use the ballot box to oust the Kaczynski twins from power in the upcoming autumn elections, but then the question is if the opposition might have a viable future to offer the Poles, nationally and as a truly integrated part of the European Union. Regrettably, the odds seem to be on the side of continued political turmoil.

    Camp Raduga: People with Limits Push the Boundaries

    From: Babushka
    To the average Minsk resident, traveling a mere one kilometer outside the city is no major escapade. But to participants and organizers of the Raduga camp, that kilometer is for some, an achievement of a lifetime. Raduga, Russian for rainbow, is a club for young Jewish adults living with psychological and physical disabilities. The club is organized by Hesed Rachamim, Minsk’s main Jewish welfare organization, and meets at the Minsk Jewish campus twice a week.

    The main activities of Raduga aim toward the integration and social adaptation of its members, especially working on building confidence, independence, and Jewish identity through cooking, arts and crafts, theater, and physical fitness.

    “For urban Belarusians, the summer is a time to escape from work and the stresses of city life. However, for individuals suffering from severe disabilities, it can be virtually impossible to leave the apartment, let alone the city,” explained Lena Efremenko, year-round Raduga social worker. For this reason, the Raduga camp, which provided transportation accessible to individuals with special needs, is liberation from the monotony of the rest of the year. “Especially for young people trapped at home all summer, this gives them a release,” Efremenko added.

    The camp is located in Terassova, a small village dominated by a large church. The house in which the campers are living is specifically designed for retreats for disabled individuals, and the house itself is in fact owned by the church. “Icons are apparent throughout the rooms, but the staff here is understanding and lets us put up our own Jewish symbols around the house,” Lena illustrated, pointing to the large “Grace After Meals” poster. “We face no trouble here with displaying our Jewishness.”

    The camp is run in two 10-day shifts, with about 20 people per shift, including some mothers who accompany their acutely dependent children.

    An important part of camp is of course, the physical element. For that, Raduga staff brought in Boris Bachkovsky, who has made a career of competing himself and training others in competitions for the disabled. He holds the title for world champion of wheelchair dancing, and his is currently preparing a Raduga delegation to compete in this year’s Special Olympics games in Shanghai. Boris designed games that encompassed the both the fitness and emotional aspects of sports, giving campers an opportunity to test their limits, and feel proud of their success.

    The camp also offers cooking, painting, and of course singalongs around the bonfire.

    To an outside observer of the camp, what is immediately visible might be the tragic stories of helpless individuals facing a dead end on the road of life. But to Lena, these youngsters represent improvement and potential. “I have been working with these young people for years now, and it is amazing to see how much progress some have made since they joined the group.” Pointing to a conspicuously cheerful brunette playing horseshoes with another camper, she expanded, “Natasha over there was in a wheel chair at last year’s camp. She and her family had despaired of any possible improvement in her condition, and Natasha always had a dejected look on her face. Now look at her. She is literally standing on her own two feet and is so happy about it.”

    The first shift of Raduga camp ended with a song session around the bonfire. They sang Soviet marches, children’s songs, and pop. The song before bedtime was “Shalom al Yisrael,” and although not everyone could pronounce the words, everyone was singing, rejoicing in their emerging personalities, abilities, and challenges they face ahead.

    Annals of the Blog Crackdown

    From: russophobe reports that the Kremlin's malignant forces have descended once again upon the blogosphere:

      A Russian blogger could face two years in prison for insulting police in his online diary on the popular website, local prosecutors said Monday. Prosecutors in the northern Russian city of Syktyvkar have charged blogger Savva Terentyev [LR: pictured, he's just 21 years old] with hate speech crimes carrying penalties ranging from a 100,000-ruble ($4,000) [LR: That's more than half a year's pay at the average wage] fine to two years in prison, the Komi regional prosecutor's office said in a statement. A February 2007 post by Terentyev included "a direct call aimed at inciting hatred or hostility, as well as harming the dignity of... a particular social group: policemen," the prosecutor said. The offending message has been deleted from the site, though local news agency BNKomi quoted the original entry as likening police officers to thugs and suggesting that they should be burnt. Terentyev's blog, which focuses mostly on his music listening habits, contained hundreds of messages of support and outrage over the case from other users. Anton Nosik, director of's chief administrator in Russia, told daily Kommersant the case was "absurd." "The ignorance of local judges often plays a role in the outcome of cases connected to the internet," Nosik said. "I hope that with many journalists present, the judge will look at the essence of the case and not simply hand down a guilty verdict."
    Kudos to Nosik for speaking out, but we would have hoped for better. Some people thought Stalin and Hitler were "absurd" when they first got going, too. Maybe Nosik could have chosen a better word? What's more, his blog is noticeably quiet on this topic. All bloggers in the world, regardless of their subject matter, should rise in showing solidarity with Terentyev. Because any one of us could be next.

    By the way, it appears that the above report isn't actually the totally correct story. Terentyev's statement did not even appear as a post on his own blog, which is non-political and artistic, but rather as a mere comment on the blog of another person, a local journalist named Boris Suranov, who wrote about a police raid on a local opposition newspaper in Syktyvkar, Komi Republic, where both reside (about 100 miles north of Nizhny Novogorod). The Russian original of Terentyev's comment is shown in full below and can be seen here (and has been re-posted by various Russian bloggers, for instance here) having been stripped from the blog where it appeared by government order (in fact, apparently the entire post itself has been removed).

    Russian Blogger Faces Jail - Kommersant Translation

    From: robert amsterdam
    [Note - yesterday we did a blog post about the case of a Russian blogger who is being criminally charged for something he wrote on LiveJournal - now we are pleased to bring you an exclusive (for now) translation of the original Kommersant article.]

    Filter the Magazine - Procuracy Threatens Blogger with Two Years of Jail
    NEWSPAPER "KOMMERSANT" ¹ 143(3719) OF 13.08.2007

    By Alexey Lazarev, Syktyvkar; Alexander Voronov

    The procuracy of Syktyvkar (Republic of Komi) has filed charges under the article “Arousing hatred or enmity” against Savva Terentyev because he had commented unflatteringly about the local police on one of the internet blogs. This is the first criminal case in Russia opened for a commentary in a web journal, for which mister Terentiev may get two years of deprivation of liberty.

    The procuracy of Komi has filed charges against blogger Savva Terentyev under Art. 282.1 of the CC RF (“Arousing hatred or enmity, and equally denigration of human dignity”). This article envisions punishment in the form of a fine of up to 300 thsd. rubles or deprivation of liberty for a term of up to two years. The case in relation to Savva Terentyev was initiated by the procuracy of Syktyvkar in the spring of this year (Kommersant reported about this on 13 April). As is said in the decree of the procuracy on the initiation of the case, serving as the basis was “browsing of freely circulating information in the internet network”. In the decree it is reported that on 15 February on the blog under the name suranov of the site (“LiveJournal”), policemen uncovered “news under the heading ‘Cyberpolice being used at elections’”, in which “a user using the pseudonym terentyev left a commentary containing a call directly aimed at arousing hatred or enmity”. What specifically terentyev had written and who he is exactly is not indicated in the decree.

    During the course of a discussion of the role of the police in the activity of local opposition newspapers, terentyev left an extremely unflattering comment about the law-enforcement organs, in part calling for “a purging of society from cop-and-gopot [unknown slang term—Trans.] filth”. Soon after the initiation of the case, policemen paid a visit to the apartment of Savva Terentyev and confiscated a computer from him. The blogger was interrogated by an investigator for particularly important cases of the procuracy of Syktyvkar, who took from him a signed pledge not to leave town. At the present time, the case is already being conducted by a third investigator, who is the one who filed the official charges against mister Terentyev.

    Senior assistant of the procurator of Komi for relations with the mass media Yuri Knyazev elucidated the necessity for punishing the blogger to Kommersant thus: “In the internet they have shut off all the brakes, anything you want they can write. And this is a crime.” By the way, mister Knyazev declared then that his agency still had to clarify whether it was Savva Terentyev specifically who had left the criminally punishable message on the blog. As was clarified subsequently, the Syktyvkaran procurators did not really have a clear picture of how this is done. At any rate, in the capacity of experts they brought in not internet providers (capable of determining from what specific computer the message on the blog had been left), but philologists of Syktyvkar state university, who never were able to figure out who specifically had left the message the procuracy did not like on the blog.

    We will note that this is the first criminal case in Russia opened for commentaries in a web journal. Anton Nosik, head of the blogs service of the company SUP Fabrik, which manages the Russian segment of LiveJournal, considers the charges against the blogger “absurd”. “The ignorance of district judges often plays a role in the outcome of cases associated with the internet, so this will be a test of the internet literacy of the courts of the Republic of Komi. This trial will become the most reverberatory in Komi in the past thousand years, and I hope that in the presence of a multitude of journalists, the judge will examine the case on the merits, and will not simply rubber-stamp a guilty verdict”.

    Mister Terentyev himself has declared that he “hadn’t planned to foment anything at all even in my wildest dreams”, and has reported that as of Monday he is embarking upon familiarization with the case materials.

    So Much for Chechnya being "Under Control"

    From: publius pundit
    Reuters reports that, in an apparent terror attack, a Russian train has been blown off its rails while en route between St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russia's two major cities:

      Russian Railways said in a statement it was the result of "unauthorized interference in the functioning of the train." One eyewitness said the derailment was preceded by two explosions. "There was a bang under the train. Unfortunately that is the only way we can describe it until investigators and the FSB (state security service) . . . reach their own conclusions," Sergei Mikhailov, an aide to Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin, told Vesti-24 television station. The train derailed just after crossing a bridge over a road, said a Reuters photographer at the scene. A conductor on the train showed Reuters a video he recorded on his mobile telephone of a crater about 2 meters (6 ft) across that could be seen on the bridge, where the rails should have been. "We heard two explosions, then the train put on the brakes suddenly," one conductor, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters. "The train shook. A panic started," he said. "We smashed out the glass and helped the passengers out . . . The worst damage was in the restaurant car. That is where most of the casualties were." The derailed train was blocking two sets of tracks, causing delays to other rail traffic.

    This is Moscow, far in the north. The IOC has placed the 2014 Olympics in Russia's most unstable region, the far southern area. Lunacy, pure and simple.

  • Sport...

    Tikhon and Ostapchuk selected to defend titles, as Belarus sends 28 to Osaka

    From: iaaf
    Ivan Tikhon
    Belarussia will send 18 women and 10 men to compete in the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Osaka, Japan (25 Aug to 2 Sep), the federation having decided to only send those athletes with realistic chances of making the finals of their events.

    Reigning champions Ivan Tikhon (Tsikhan) in Hammer Throw and Nadzeya Ostapchuk in the women’s Shot Put will attempt to defend their World titles in Japan.

    Vadim Devyatovskiy, the world season leader in the men’s Hammer Throw, and Yanina Provalinskaya-Karolchik, the 2000 Sydney Olympic and 2001 Edmonton World champion in the women’s Shot Put are ready to compete too.

    The fastest female walker of the season Rita Turova, and the women’s 4o400m squad, also the quickest in the world this year all have high medal aspirations.

    Dubitski Mikhail for the IAAF


    Shot Put
    Yury Bialou 21.14 PB / 20.47 SB
    Pavel Lyzhyn 20.92 PB / 20.02 SB
    Andrei Mikhnevich 21.69 PB / 20.65 SB

    Hammer Throw
    Vadim Devyatovskiy 84.90 PB /82.94 SB
    Ivan Tsikhan 86.73 PB / 82.58 SB

    Andrei Krauchanka 8617 PB / 8617 SB
    Aliaksandr Parkhomenka 8136 PB / 8101 SB

    20km Race Walk
    Ivan Trotskiy 1:19:40 PB / 1:20:13 SB

    50km Race Walk
    Andrei Stepanchuk 3:51:40 PB / 4:08:30 SB
    Vitaliy Talankou 3:51:59 PB / 3:51:59 SB


    Ilona Usovich 50.69 PB / 51.58 SB

    Sviatlana Usovich 1:58.17 PB / 2:00.71 SB

    Volha Krautsova 14:47.75 PB / 15:20.35 SB

    Volha Krautsova 31:58.52 PB / 31:58.52 SB

    3000m Steeplechase
    Alesia Turava 9:16.51 PB / - SB

    Shot Put
    Nadzeya Ostapchuk 21.09 PB / 20.34 SB
    Yanina Provalinskaya-Karolchyk 20.61 PB / 19.24 SB

    Discus Throw
    Iryna Yatchenko 69.14 PB / 64.87 SB

    Hammer Throw
    Aksana Miankova 76.86 PB / 73.94 SB

    20km RaceWalk
    Elena Ginko 1:28:11 PB / 1:28:29 SB
    Ryta Turava 1:26:11 PB / 1:27:10 SB

    4x100m Relay
    Volha Astashka
    Aksana Drahun
    Alena Neumiarzhitskaya
    Natallia Safronnikava
    Nastassia Shuliak

    4x400m Relay
    Iryna Khliustava
    Anna Kozak
    Ilona Usovich
    Sviatlana Usovich
    Yulyana Yushchanka

  • Endnote...

    Pet hotel to be built in Belarus

    From: Naveny
    The hotel will be located near the animal shelter on Hurskaha Street, Aleh Kharkevich, head of the City Fauna animal welfare charity, told BelaPAN.

    The city executive committee's architecture department, as well as the local sanitary and environmental authorities, gave their OK to the construction project expected to start by the end of this year, but approvals from more governmental agencies are yet needed.

    The city executive committee will reportedly fund the construction.

    The hotel will provide for cats and dogs. Apart from accommodation, it also will offer grooming treatments and pet clothing sewing services. A store selling pet food and accessories will operate there.

    Mr. Kharkevich however noted that the need in animal shelters was more acute than in pet hotels.

    Currently, there are only two animal shelters in Minsk. Their telephone numbers are (8 029) 630 79 33 and (8 026) 878 79 33.