Knowledge Day in Belarus, EU talks, Price Hi8kes, Gas and oil, Gays, Budget, Vietnam, Polish scandal and Sport Champions
Congratulations on Knowledge Day and the beginning of a new academic year
From: Office of the president
I would like to offer my heartiest congratulations to you on Knowledge Day and the beginning of a new academic year.
Our people have always been putting a high value on wisdom, education, science. Due to this fact, the Belarusians have created a great culture, have given birth to numerous outstanding enlighteners and researchers.
Today, the Republic of Belarus is moving confidently along its chosen course of development, which is based on creative labour, great intellectual and creative potential of the Belarusians and latest scientific achievements.
Education is a reliable foundation on which Belarus builds its prosperity. This is why we are doing everything necessary for every young citizen of our country to be able to get extensive knowledge, make the most of his talents, become physically developed through sport activities and grow into a true patriot of the dear Motherland.
On this solemn day I would like to wish all the pupils, cadets and post-graduate students work hard on learning the basics of sciences, feel the joy of knowledge and strive tirelessly towards new achievements. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the teachers and instructors for being dedicated professionals genuinely committed to their calling and their students.
I wish you strong health, achievements in your studies and work, inexhaustible energy, happiness and optimism.
President holds meeting on High Tech Park development
From: Office of the president
The Park of High Technologies (PHT) was established in pursuance of Presidential Decree No 12 of September 22, 2005. The PHT administration statute was approved by the Decree of the Head of State of January 31, 2006. The Park’s areas of activities include elaboration, practical application of information and communication technologies and software in the republic and their exports. This important project is being launched under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Belarus.
Opening the meeting, Alexander Lukashenko drew attention to the slow pace at which the Belarusian analogue of the well-known Silicon Valley is moving forward.
In his words, the officials in charge of the project are reporting “fantastic success in establishing the Park of High Technologies.” However, the President believes that the current situation in this regard should be analysed in a more deliberate and unbiased way, by examining alternative solutions. “I warn you against an arbitrary interpretation of successes in the work of the High Tech Park. Everything must be clear and predictable,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
The President was proposed two architectural projects for the Park of High Technologies. The first project is estimated at ˆ500 million. Developed in collaboration with foreign experts, the project envisages building manufacturing facilities, office premises, residential houses and social infrastructure facilities on the territory of roughly 550,000 square meters.
The territory for construction under the second project, which is estimated at ˆ250 million, is 250,000 square meters.
Alexander Lukashenko highlighted the importance of having a wise business-plan. According to him, a tender must be held by the end of 2007 to pick a foreign private investor to build the Park of High Technologies. The relevant proposals should be propped up by accurate economic estimates.
All organisational activities should also be completed by the end of the year so that the construction could start in 2008.
The interests of the companies-residents of the Park, investors and the state should be met so as to make the co-operation beneficial for all sides.
Belarus to take part in Brussels conference on strengthening European neighbourhood policy
Top officials of the EU Foreign Ministries and countries which pursue the European neighbourhood policy have been invited to take part in the forum. Among such countries is Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Autonomy, Syria, Tunis and Ukraine.
The main goal of the conference is to study approaches of these countries to the further development of cooperation within the framework of the European neighbourhood policy. Scant attention to be paid by participants of the forum to the issues relating to strengthening of the policy including possible liberalization of trade, movement of citizens, problems of climate changes and energy security.
In a related story, Documents regulating cooperation in the security sphere between the CIS member states will be submitted for consideration of the CIS supreme bodies, BelTA learnt in the CIS Executive Committee in Minsk which hosted a session of the CIS experts on August 28-31.
The agenda of the session included a draft interstate programme on crime prevention, a draft programme on fight with illegal drug trafficking, psychotropic substances and precursors and a draft cooperation programme on fight with terrorism. All the programmes are set to be implemented in 2008-2010.
The development of the programmes stemmed from the necessity to develop comprehensive cooperation between the CIS countries in response to modern challenges and threats. The main goals of the programmes are to boost and strengthen the legal base of cooperation; to improve and harmonize national legislations; to conduct interdepartmental preventive events and special operations; to provide information and scientific support, training of personnel, etc.
Price Rises Hit Belarusian Economy
On average, the prices of foodstuffs have risen by around 4 percent. The prices of fares on public transport have also risen.
In January, Russia's state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom more than doubled the price it charges Belarus for natural-gas deliveries.
In the northwestern town of Hrodna, some people told RFE/RL's Belarus Service they were concerned.
"I am a pensioner, and for me, food [prices] are the main problem," one man said. "Also transport, of course. These days, I am walking."
"It's not particularly tangible, but prices are rising on products," another man said. "Vegetable-oil prices have increased by 1,000 rubles [$0.46]. Transport has also become more expensive."
Deputy Economy Minister Vladimir Adashkevich said on August 28 that the government expects the price of several products to rise within the range of 6-8 percent. This, according to Adashkevich, will happen regardless of whether Russian gas prices are raised again in the future.
Adashkevich also said that he did not know what price Russia will charge Belarus for gas in 2008, as the matter is still under discussion.
In a recent report on Belarus, the International Monetary Fund indicated that the energy price rise could result in the country's economic growth slowing by 10-15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) cumulatively, over the period until 2012.
Next year’s gas supplies to Belarus may slightly exceed this year’s
“We have already agreed Q4 2007 supplies. Gazprom has granted our request,” he said.
Vinery Volchuga said, Gazprom will confirm the next year’s amount of supplies specified by the contract, which runs up to 2011. The figure is enough to satisfy the entire demand of Belarus in view of the growing GDP and the expansion of centralised gas distribution onto new areas, he underlined. In particular, the balance sheet’s annual amount of gas to be supplied stands at 22 billion cubic metres till 2010 and around 25 billion cubic metres in 2020.
in a related story, this year Belarus has reduced the consumption of natural gas by 5%, Belarus’ Energy Minister Alexander Ozerets said during a session of the Council of Ministers of Belarus.
The Belarusian Prime Minister has tasked the Energy Minister to see to it that the work on increasing the share of local fuels in the Belarusian fuel consumption mix should be accelerated. As an example Sergei Sidorsky cited Germany which reduced the consumption of natural gas by 37% over the seven months this year.
“Now we have to work in the absolutely different environment with respect to oil and gas prices. This is $2 billion more that we have to take out from our economy,” Sergei Sidorsky noted. In this conjunction the Prime Minister said it was important that the measures stipulated in Directive No3 be strictly implemented.
Belarus’ MAZ truck maker to expand exports to Latin America
From: Itar Tass
MAZ plans to export 100 trucks to Cuba and 250 dump trucks and tow trucks and one bus to Venezuela.
He pointed out that Russia, a traditional importer of the MAZ produce, has already bought 1,500 trucks and 700 buses.
Every year “our production is steadily growing to meet consumer’s demand,” Kushnersky said.
Under the Russian effective legislation, as of September MAZ will begin to manufacture trucks equipped with Euro-3 standard engines built in Yaroslavl, western Russia.
The contracts for trucks with such engines are being signed, although their price will go up by 5-7 percent, he said.
Aside from Russia MAZ exports trucks to other member-states of the CIS – Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
International Gay, Lesbian Youth Group Report on Belarus Visit: “Our fears were needless”
From: UK Gay News
Information is extremely controlled in Belarus; each publication has to be vetted by the Ministry of Information. And custom officers do not hesitate to take away your Lonely Planet if they want so.
This weekend IGLYO board met in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, for its quarterly board meeting. Our mission was to touch base with the live of young LGBT activists in Belarus, the last dictatorship in Europe, one of the very few countries in the region which is not a member of the Council of Europe as it still practices death punishment.
Not many organisations choose to gather in this country, but choose to support civil society in Belarus in another way. Understandable, since several youth workers and political representatives have been rejected entrance to the country in the past years.
Our fears were needless. All of us were granted visas without any problems. Passing the borders happened probably smoother than in any other country I have visited. Suddenly we found ourselves in Minsk. As agreed there was Svyatoslav Sementsov, from our member organisation TEMA in Gomel, waiting for us. Slava proved to be the perfect host throughout the rest of the weekend, sharing with us the invisible aspects of the country.
We were prepared for grey streets, gloomy post-Soviet squares, cheerless people, little welfare and a regime being somehow visible at every corner of every street. But the Minsk we saw had nothing of that at all.
The contrast seemed big. Prosperity, welfare, happy looking people walking on wide avenues surrounded by stylish classical buildings, the ruling suppression not being visible at all. Solely stories of people would tell you the truth behind the big mask covering this country.
We did not expect to see any public LGBT life. But again it wasn’t what we expected. Whereas Lonely Planet writes about a public governmental repression of LGBT people, Belarusian activists talk about their country as being one of the most tolerant in post-Soviet space and a slow but nevertheless sensible change in regards to LGBT acceptance and visibility. There is no active repression of LGBT groups, the government even has opened dialogue with community representatives in the framework of an HIV/Aids project.
At the same time: gay prides were organized in Minsk in 2000 and 2001, without any significant problems. And indeed, Minsk knows a gay-club and some LGBT meeting spaces.
Well, LGBT is not the accurate expression, since the LGBT community consists mostly of G and less L.
In regards to women issues, one can exemplify the conjuncture of homophobia, particularly in the fact that there is no lesbian bar at all in this country and women have to pay a higher entrance fee if they want to enter the gay club.
This leads to the representation of all in all three women at the Friday night’s gay party in Minsk. But we have to admit that there were quite some ‘butchies’ to see, for instance, at a local internet cafe.
The transgender community has been fairly invisible during our stay.
Activists described their lives as rather positive compared to other Asian countries. Most of the people we talked to were out in their friends’ circles. Some of them even were out at work.
Generally they managed to live their lives in the way that they wanted. Sexuality isn’t the main topic, but if discussed it’s not seen as a main issue due to younger generations getting increasingly tolerant.
The intolerance is experienced in particular coming from older generations. Activists identify themselves as ‘out the closet,’ but when asked whether their families know about their sexual orientation, a fast “No, of course not!” is the reply.
Aleksey, a representative of the Young Social Democrats party informed us how his party wants to work on LGBT issues and other equality issues. Their work is difficult: the one-party government does not accept Political Youth groups to work with minor-aged youngsters. As Aleksey’s party is still doing this, the government has threatened to withdraw the organization’s registration.
Sasha works voluntarily on the website www.gay.by, a website where mostly gay men issues are discussed. The site doesn’t have a dating function, as online dating sites are forbidden by law. But it offers information for community members and has been functioning without problems for years.
Accommodated in a hotel opposite of one of the president’s palaces we had the experience of catching three glimpses of Lukashenko. Likewise in other post-Soviet countries entire boulevards are blocked for the countries highest representative to pass by, don’t even think of taking a photo of the president in his car.
The third time Lukashenko frightened us. Whilst meeting in a hotel room, a soldier suddenly bounced on our door and ordered us to close the window overlooking the big boulevard where the president was going to pass.
Not understanding the reason, we did not know what this man came to do in our hotel room … soon we learned that no windows can be open if the President is crossing the street with his convoy.
On the question how activists can be supported mostly the answer was that this mostly is by knowledge from abroad. Cooperation with organisations and initiatives located in the post-Soviet space seems very relevant.
The region shares the same social and cultural history. Also knowledge from ‘the West’ is relevant. Under the strict governing regime no money can be transferred to NGO’s, hence a large part of the current activities is supported by activists themselves.
Somehow it is still difficult to understand the contrast between the prosperity at first sight and the actual repression. So we do what we can do… and share our experiences with you.
Belarus’ state budget deficit as large as Br2.2 trillion in 2008
In his opinion, the figure corresponds to international requirements and is much lower than that in other countries.
In 2008 revenues of Belarus’ consolidated budget taking into account funds are estimated to total Br50.5 trillion, 13.9% up on 2007. Without the funds the figure is supposed to total Br38.5 trillion. Expenses of the consolidated budget without the funds are supposed to make Br40.8 trillion, 15.3% up on 2007.
According to the official, the consolidated budget will allocate Br12.2 trillion for financing the real economy. There are plans to spend Br29.9 trillion (59.3% up on 2007) on salaries of state budget companies, pensions, benefits, scholarships, the development of healthcare, education, culture, housing construction and other socially important goals.
The budget bill provides for about Br570 billion in direct state support to companies. Apart from that, a similar sum will be appropriated to grant preferential taxes to a large number of companies.
Preferential housing construction loans in the state budget are supposed to amount to Br346 billion in 2008.
In addition, according to BelTA, on August 31 President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko signed decree #397 “On enhancing financial welfare of pensioners”.
In accordance with the decree, on September 1, 2007 labour pensions will be indexed on the basis of the Br 663,600 average wage.
As a result the average retirement pension will go up by 7.5% to Br 315,300.
Social policy expenses of the consolidated budget stand at Br14.9 trillion.
In a related story, Belarus Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky recommends approving the next year’s major social and economic development targets of Belarus. The document was approved at today’s session of the Council of Ministers and the head of government recommended forwarding the document to the President for signing.
In 2008 Belarus’ GDP may grow by 7.5-8.5% in comparison with 2007.
The industrial output is expected to grow by 7-8% next year, agricultural production — 6.5-8%, fixed-capital investments — 15-17%. The return on sales is supposed to make 12% while the GDP energy consumption may go down by 6-7%.
Real population income is expected to swell by 8-9%.
Next year’s state budget deficit is expected to total Br2.3 trillion, 2% of the GDP. In 2008 revenues of the national budget are estimated at Br38.7 trillion, expenses — around Br41 trillion.
In 2008 inflation is supposed to total 6-8%. In late 2008 the refinancing rate will make 7-9%.
Slavonic writers urged to unite efforts to make Slavonic literature unity stronger
|There are 14 Slavonic countries populated by more than 300 million people.|
According to Nikolai Cherginets, a global strategy aimed at destroying Slavdom is pursued in the world. Slavonic writers have been pushed to the background, with their works unable to receive proper international recognition.
The roundtable session gathered men of letters, publishers, diplomats, reporters and representatives of scientific circles of Belarus, Russia, Serbia and Bulgaria, including Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Serbia to Belarus Srecko Djukic, Counselor of the Embassy of Bulgaria in Belarus Georgy Karastamatov, Belarusian Slavicist writer Ivan Charota, Russian writer and editor of Rossiyskiy Kolokol magazine and Moskovskiy Literator newspaper Ivan Golubnichiy.
Participants of the session agreed that the growing globalisation destroys not only individual cultures of nations but culture as a whole. Serbian Ambassador Srecko Djukic pointed out the lack of books by foreign Slavonic writers in bookstores in Belgrade and Minsk. In his words, during the USSR times Slavonic nations knew each other’s culture better and had better access to Slavonic literature.
The opinion was upheld by Georgy Karastamatov, who stressed “it was Slavonic written language and Christian religion that allowed Bulgaria to preserve the national unity through the many centuries of Ottoman occupation.” He said, the Embassy of Bulgaria in Belarus had taken an active part in arranging an agreement with scientific circles of several Slavonic states to create a Slavonic encyclopaedia. The book will gather information about famous Slavonic cultural and political figures.
In turn, Ivan Charota remarked, for centuries in the most complicated circumstances the idea of Slavonic commonness and unity lived. With this fact the Belarusian Slavicist scientist connected hopes for revival and development of Slavonic culture.
There are 14 Slavonic countries populated by more than 300 million people.
In a related story, a scientific-educational expedition “Road to Sacred Places” has started from St. Spirit Cathedral in Minsk today.
The annual action is a part of the Day of the Belarusian Written Language. This year the participants of the event will visit ten sacred places of Belarus and bring the Gracious Fire from Jerusalem to consecrate local churches and chapels.
As BelTA has learnt, the participants of the expedition have already been to the Saint Field near the village of Zagorye /the Brest region/. On this occasion Archbishop of Pinsk and Luninets Stephan held a service in the local chapel and the local believers could lit their candles from the Gracious Fire
The Saint Field was the place where the icon of the Patronage of the Mother of God, a patroness of the scientific expedition, was found.
This year the expedition will span across the Minsk, Brest and Mogilev oblasts and will finish in Shklov on September 2. The church of Shklov will receive Ever-Burning Lampion with the Gracious Fire from Jerusalem.
Days of Vietnam open in Belarus
According to the head of the Vietnamese diplomatic mission in Belarus, Belarus and Vietnam have been promoting the friendly relations. At present Vietnam is getting ready for the forthcoming visit of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who is expected to pay the visit in 2008. The successful visit will promote mutually beneficial Belarusian-Vietnamese relations, the ambassador is confident.
Belarus and Vietnam have been fruitfully cooperating for a long time, Vu Xuan Ninh underlined. The two countries support each other in the international arena. “We will never forget the support the Soviet Union, in particular the Belarusian people provided Vietnam in the fight for independence,” said the ambassador. “The Belarusians always supported the Vietnamese during a period hard for them. The Vietnamese had to fight against the aggressors and suffered tremendous losses. For the last 62 years Vietnam has been actively developing and promoting its all industries,” the ambassador underlined.
Due to the policy pursued by the Vietnamese leadership Vietnam has achieved considerable results in its political and economic development, said the ambassador.
Vietnam is a reliable and tried friend of Belarus, Acting Head of the Asia and Africa Department of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry Viktor Rybak said during the opening of the Vietnam Days in Belarus on August 30.
The event was dedicated to the Vietnam Independence Day. Viktor Rybak drew emphasis to the vigorous development of the Belarusian-Vietnamese relations. In his words, the bilateral political dialogue at the high and summit levels progresses. “We have reached the level of mutual contacts, when the progressive development of such contacts will yield concrete results,” noted the official representative of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Belarus and Vietnam are intent on reinforcing the traditional friendship.
A presentation of a photo exhibition covering the present-day life of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was held as part of the opening of the Vietnam Days in Belarus. The evening ended with a concert prepared by Vietnamese students, who study in Minsk.
Belarus and Vietnam are preparing an intergovernmental agreement on promoting tourism relations for signing, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to Belarus Vu Xuan Ninh told a press conference in Minsk today. The press conference was dedicated to the national holiday of Vietnam.
Once the document is signed, Belarusian-Vietnamese tourism relations will skyrocket, the diplomat believes. He underscored, the number of Belarusian tourists travelling to Vietnam is on the rise. Judging by the number of issued visas it is seen that Belarusians are getting more and more interested in Vietnam. If tourists plan to stay in Vietnam for up to 15 days, they get visas right away, noted the Ambassador. Vu Xuan Ninh is convinced, direct flights between the capital cities of Belarus and Vietnam would contribute to raising the number of mutual travels.
Vietnam is a very safe place for tourists, stressed the Ambassador. The country offers good conditions to foreign guests, who feel comfortable taking a rest on the sea shore and travelling around the country. In H1 2007 alone around 2.4 million tourists visited Vietnam. Vu Xuan Ninh believes, the country’s policy of openness attracts foreign tourists. On September 2 Vietnam will celebrate its national holiday — the Independence Day — for the 62nd time. Over the time the Vietnamese nation has made major economic and cultural achievements foreign guests can see while travelling around the country.
The Ambassador also emphasised, the Vietnamese people have a friendly attitude towards Belarusians and are glad to have more Belarusians visiting Vietnam. “We are connected to Belarus by a long tradition of friendship. The development of mutually beneficial relations in all fields, including tourism, meets interests of the two nations,” said Vu Xuan Ninh.
The Vietnamese side is thankful to the leadership of Belarus for understanding and taking care of Vietnamese citizens, who live in the Belarusian land, the diplomat added. “Vietnamese citizens live a calm and safe life in your country. We don’t have problems here. Vietnamese people get residence permits and can settle all the issues vital for their living in Belarus. We are touched by the care of the Belarusian leadership for our citizens,” noted the head of the Vietnamese diplomatic mission.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is expected to visit Vietnam in 2008, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to Belarus Vu Xuan Ninh told a press conference in Minsk today. The press conference was dedicated to the national holiday of Vietnam.
According to the head of the Vietnamese diplomatic mission, the top-level visit will create an additional legal foundation for promoting the bilateral relations in many areas of interest. Vu Xuan Ninh underscored, a major package of documents that the sides are expected to sign during the visit had been developed. The interstate, intergovernmental and interagency agreements regulate economic, trade, educational and cultural issues.
As an example the Ambassador mentioned education. So far Belarus and Vietnam have no agreement on the mutual recognition of educational certificates. A draft agreement has been developed to legislate education relations of the two sides. The document is of special importance in view of the growing number of Vietnamese students, who study in Belarus.
Vu Xuan Ninh emphasised, issues concerning the mutual recognition of standards are important. In his opinion, a corresponding agreement in this area will favour the development of Belarusian-Vietnamese cooperation in economy.
Gazprom to start talks on hiking 2008 gas prices in Baltics, CIS - report
|Potential headquarters of OAO Gazprom|
The source did not state how much more Gazprom wants to charge next year, saying only that 'in the Baltics, Belarus and Ukraine prices will certainly go up.'
The newspaper added that Gazprom has yet to make an official announcement on its 2008 pricing structure.
Kommersant also wrote that if Gazprom succeeds in pushing through significant price increases, revenues in those markets could climb by 15-40 pct next year.
The newspaper also cited a report in the Lithuanian press stating that Gazprom wants to raise prices there by 40 pct next year.
At present, the Baltic States, Ukraine and Belarus pay significantly less for natural gas than Gazprom's clients in western Europe.
However, the prices these countries pay vary wildly, it added.
For example, Lithuania currently pays about 190-200 usd per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, while neighbouring Belarus pays 100 usd for the same quantity.
Gazprom's pricing disputes with clients in the former Soviet Union have also affected western European supplies recently.
For example, Gazprom stopped shipping gas to Ukraine in January, 2006, in a payment dispute, but since the pipelines that supply Ukraine are also part of the transit network that reaches central and western Europe, Germany, Italy, Poland and several other countries experienced supply disruptions.
Former Polish interior minister, out on bail, suggests his arrest politically motivated
|Janusz Kaczmarek, former Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration.|
The former minister, Janusz Kaczmarek, was arrested on Thursday on charges that he submitted false testimony and hampered an investigation into a leak in an anti-corruption operation.
Former national police chief Konrad Kornatowski and Jaromir Netzel, the head of the state-controlled PZU insurance company, were also taken into custody and charged with similar offenses. All three were released on bail Friday night.
Speaking to reporters Saturday, Kaczmarek denied any connection to the leak of classified information and suggested Thursday's arrests were aimed at silencing the government's critics.
He noted that the arrests prevented Kornatowski from testifying before the parliamentary secret services commission on Friday about alleged abuses of power by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's government.
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"He was to speak about things that show how the normal workings of the law are warped, the distortion of how the secret services today are used to spy on journalists," Kaczmarek said.
Kaczmarek was dismissed last month, accused of leaking classified information and obstructing an investigation into bribery at the Agriculture Ministry.
He has denied the allegations, and has since accused Kaczynski's government of spying on journalists and digging for dirt on opposition politicians. The government has denied that.
On Saturday, the former minister reiterated calls for parliament to set up a special commission of inquiry to look into the government's alleged abuses of power.
"The commission would expose the dark backstage acts of this government," Kaczmarek said. He did not elaborate.
On the Verge of a New Crisis
From: Moscow Times
A curious pattern emerges when examining Russia's politics over the last quarter century. Fundamental changes come in eight-year cycles, and the transitions from the end of one cycle to the start of the next are accompanied by flare-ups in foreign relations.
An intense struggle for power took place from 1999 to 2000 at the end of President Boris Yeltsin's term. Those years saw the start of a second war in Chechnya, the rise of former KGB officer Putin, a corruption scandal involving members of Yeltsin's family and the Bank of New York affair -- all of which brought relations with the West to a critically low level. The situation began to stabilize only in the spring of 2000, when Putin took office and Western leaders started building bridges with the Kremlin.
The previous crisis began with the putsch of August 1991 and continued through the spring and summer of 1992. This was a period of sheer chaos, when nobody knew what was happening or how it was all going to end.
There was another turning point eight years before that. On Sept. 1, 1983, a Soviet Air Force jet shot down a South Korean jumbo jet, killing all 269 people on board. This was the beginning of the final stage in Cold War tensions. U.S. President Ronald Reagan led the campaign against the "Evil Empire" and deployed U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. Soviet leader Yury Andropov died in February 1984, and the appointment of Konstantin Chernenko to replace him was nothing more than an effort to delay the inevitable.
The end of Putin's era will be no exception to this rule. Tensions between Moscow and Western capitals have been increasing for almost a year and may hit their peak during the coming months.
The current crisis in foreign relations was inevitable, however, because it was impossible to remain in a schizophrenic state forever. Out of pure inertia, officials on both sides continued to repeat the standard, trite phrases of strategic partnership, shared global threats and the rejection of a zero-sum game.
It turned out that the West was not prepared for Moscow to assume a new, stronger position in international affairs. Up until recently, the Kremlin had been willing to compromise on most disputes with the West. But now Russia feels its own strength and is less inclined to give in to its partners' wishes.
A good example of this is the situation concerning Kosovo. Moscow has opposed the Ahtisaari plan, named after Martti Ahtisaari, the United Nations special envoy to the Kosovo negotiations. Europe and the United States interpreted Moscow's opposition as a typical Kremlin strategy to use an international dispute as a bargaining chip. This is also the case with Moscow's opposition to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and U.S. plans to install elements of an anti-ballistic missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.
In each case, Moscow has been determined to change the rules or cease observing them altogether. The Kremlin is playing a high-stakes game, betting everything on the jackpot. It is trying to change everything at once, and it has managed to spoil its relations with everyone.
The West has focused on cementing its triumph over communism. It viewed the Soviet collapse as an epochal moment -- one that granted the free world the role of transforming other nations because it represents the only true model. Although Western powers have not always been united on all issues, they are in full agreement that the West must defend and assert its historical mission.
Now, Russia and the West have essentially switched places. When the ideological standoff with the Soviet Union ended, the West stepped forward as the leading global source of political innovation and progressive change. The West helped countries that were liberated from the Soviet bloc, offering ways to bring them into the Western orbit. This was a way for the West to expand its sphere of influence into areas once considered Moscow's exclusive domain.
After riding out the turbulent years of the early 1990s, Russia concentrated on maintaining the status quo. Moscow tried to keep as much as it possibly could in its former spheres of influence. For example, it was interested in preserving the regimes of the former Soviet republics, in freezing regional conflicts and in containing NATO's expansion.
Now it is the West that has unexpectedly become interested in preserving the status quo. It is trying to strengthen those institutions and mechanisms that are either left over from the Cold War or that have emerged as a result of its victory.
Meanwhile, Russia has gone from being a conservative to a rebel of sorts. It is striving to change the rules of the geopolitical game. For example, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June, Putin criticized existing international financial and economic models and called for their democratization.
Moreover, the Kremlin's argument is often convincing. For example, is it not somewhat absurd to promote the CFE Treaty as the cornerstone of European stability when it is based on the logic of a military confrontation that ended almost 20 years ago? And is it right to insist upon maintaining the procedure for appointing the head of the International Monetary Fund that was approved by leaders of the United States and Western Europe back in 1944?
Even while the Kremlin is working toward revising the rules it finds unfavorable, it still lacks a comprehensive vision of how the world should be structured. Moscow has largely focused it attention on resisting the ideological and political domination of the West, although the most important events of the 21st century will obviously be happening elsewhere.
Russia's ambitions and self-confidence, fed by its oil and gas euphoria, have become greater than its realistic abilities, given the global changes taking place in the modern world. Moscow's eagerness to make up for what it lost after the Soviet collapse as quickly as possible has proven stronger than a calmer, more rational calculation of what it can realistically achieve.
The West is quite disappointed after discovering a distressing fact: It really is difficult to resolve many important issues without Moscow's participation. But Russia is not interested in cooperating on someone else's terms. This stems not only from obstinacy, but also from a growing sense that Western formulas for managing global affairs are simply ineffective. From Moscow's point of view, the situation in Iraq and the turmoil in the Balkans are convincing evidence of this.
The Kremlin gets furious whenever it hears of an attempt to "reconsider the results of World War II." But what is happening now on the international stage -- the increase in Russia's power and ambitions, the rise of China, the shifting of the global political and economic center of gravity toward Eastern Asia and the political awakening of developing nations -- is nothing more or less than a "reconsideration" of the results of the Cold War. And it was victory in that war that appeared to have established the West's leadership once and for all.
But then, suddenly, everything started to change and the West finds this irritating. And Russia's new desire to assert itself is prompting unjustifiably strong responses. Take, for example, the inexplicable uproar heard from Copenhagen to Ottawa when two State Duma deputies planted a flag on the Arctic seabed. After all, it was really only a harmless public relations stunt with no legal implications.
A crisis can be beneficial. It destroys models governing international relations that no longer work and forces us to search for new ones. There is no choice but to work hard at refining our interests on the basis of the new global centers of power. That will require concessions from both sides: From the West, this means an acknowledgement that there is no monopoly on the truth and a willingness to take Russia's resurgence seriously, and from Russia, this means an awareness of the need to take responsibility for its actions and coming to terms with the fact that it is dependent on others. If that happens, then this new political cycle will -- like the preceding ones -- bring new hope.
Polish Lawmaker Arrested on Rape Charges
A court ordered the arrest of Stanislaw Lyzwinski, a lawmaker from the Self-Defense Party, after prosecutors linked him to a sex-for-work scandal, his lawyer Wieslaw Zurawski said on TVN24 television. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors have brought seven charges against Lyzwinski including rape. He is also accused of taking sexual advantage of a party employee and three other women and pushing the party employee to have an abortion, which is illegal in heavily Roman Catholic Poland.
The allegations against Lyzwinski and other top politicians from his party surfaced in December 2006, when the party employee claimed in a newspaper interview that she had sex in 2001 with party leader Andrzej Lepper in exchange for a political job.
The woman has said that to keep her post, she was required to sleep with Lyzwinski. She also claimed he fathered her youngest daughter.
A paternity test in December showed Lyzwinski was not child's father. But prosecutors pushed ahead with their sex-for-work investigation and asked parliament earlier this year to lift Lyzwinski's immunity — which it did on Thursday. No charges have been brought against Lepper.
Both Lyzwinski and Lepper have denied the allegations and suggested the woman was pushed into making the claims by others, whom they have not identified.
Lepper was a deputy prime minister and the agriculture minister in Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's conservative government until he was fired last month on unrelated corruption allegations — a move that led to the collapse of Kaczynski's three-party coalition.
Russia to set up manned lunar base
From: Times of India
The head of Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos), Anatoly Perminov, said that in accordance with Russia's space programme through 2040, a manned flight to Mars will be carried out after 2035. He said that toward the end of this year, Russia will have 103 satellites in orbit, up from the current 95.
There are plans for a new space centre in the country, but a site has not yet been selected, he said. Russia currently launches all manned flights from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. Perminov said previously that construction of a new launch facility would only begin after a new type of spacecraft was built.
A major source of revenue for the agency in recent years has been space tourist flights from Baikonur to the International Space Station (ISS), with tickets currently priced at around $30 million. Russia has put five wealthy foreign tourists into space since 2001.
Perminov said the first Russian space tourist, who will fly to the ISS in 2009, is a businessman and politician. "He asked me not to disclose his name yet. I can only say that he is a serious young Russian businessman and politician. He is currently undergoing medical tests."
The agency chief said that in 2016-25, after the ISS is put out of operation, Russia plans to deploy a platform in a low-earth orbit to assemble spacecraft.
The US has said the station should be scrapped in 2015, while Russia has proposed using the Russian segment until 2020. Perminov said: "The ISS will be transformed into a laboratory complex where research will be conducted."
Putin’s fanatical youth brigade targets Britain
From: Times online
Nikita Borovikov, 26, who is being groomed to take over Nashi, a 100,000-strong youth movement, later this year, gave a vigorous defence of a previous campaign against Anthony Brenton. The envoy was stalked for several months, an experience he called “psychological harassment bordering on violence”.
“I don’t see anything wrong in the way Nashi expressed its displeasure at the fact that Brenton attended an opposition conference,” said Borovikov. “If he thinks we broke any laws he is welcome to sue.
“Should he again express support for people we think are traitors and fascists, we will do exactly the same. We see it as our duty as patriotic citizens to make sure he hears our protests.”
Shortly after Brenton spoke at a conference last year organised by Other Russia, a coalition of opposition groups headed by Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion, militants from Nashi, which means “our own”, followed the ambassador for six months with a banner demanding he apologise.
They shouted abuse as he shopped for cat food, obstructed his car, advertised his movements on the internet and disrupted him when he spoke publicly. The campaign stopped some weeks after the Foreign Office lodged a complaint with the Russian foreign ministry.
“What’s the problem?” asked Borovikov. “Why can’t Britain, which is always preaching about democracy, stand someone staging a peaceful protest?”
Renewed intimidation of the ambassador would anger the Foreign Office and further damage Anglo-Russian relations at a time when they are at their most strained since the end of the cold war following Moscow’s refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the prime suspect in the murder of the former KGB officer Alexander Litvin-enko in London.
Polite, clean-cut and articulate, the young commissar – as the movement’s deputy leaders are known in honour of Bolshe-vik officials – said he was against extremism but at times his views seemed to differ little from those of generations of KGB cold warriors.
Borovikov, who declined to be photographed, said Nashi believed the West was seeking a revolution in Russia similar to popular revolts in the former Soviet states of Georgia and Ukraine. In tune with thinking in the Kremlin, which argues that the uprisings were the work of western intelligence, Nashi says it is determined to prevent a west-ern-backed coup when Russia votes for a parliament in December and a president in March.
“The US, Britain and the rest of Europe don’t like the fact that Russia is becoming strong again,” said Borovikov. “They want to get their hands on our oil and gas and are plotting to try to bring in a government which is open to influence. We will do all we can to safeguard our interests and independence.”
Some liberals call them “Nash-ists”, a play on “fascists”, but the group was modelled on the Komsomol, the Communist party youth organisation. It was inspired by Vladislav Surkov, a close aide to President Vladimir Putin who wanted to protect the Kremlin from any uprising such as the one that toppled the government of Ukraine.
Most independent experts believe Ukraine’s “orange revolution” was a genuine popular protest movement but the Kremlin’s mistrust of the West was fuelled by evidence that the US State Department helped fund it.
With Kremlin funding and members from 50 Russian cities, Nashi has become a powerful tool in the drive to boost patriotism among the country’s youth. Its activists march in T-shirts emblazoned with Putin’s portrait. The group’s flag, a diagonal white cross on a red background, mixes Soviet and Russian imperial imagery.
Besides harassing the British ambassador, the group has also campaigned to mobilise blood donors and crack down on alcohol sales to children. Other activities are more disquieting.
Each year the group holds a “summer camp” – Putin and several other Kremlin figures have attended – and this year activists put up large posters of Kasparov and Mikhail Kasy-anov, the former prime minister turned opposition figure, that had been altered to make them look like prostitutes.
When Estonia, the tiny Baltic state, angered the Kremlin in May by moving a Soviet-era military monument, Nashi activists stormed a press conference by Estonia’s ambassador, retreating only when the diplomat’s bodyguards sprayed them with mace.
Moving Together, the youth movement from which Nashi evolved, staged public book burnings of works it regarded as unpatriotic.
“Nashi will do all it can to help pro-Kremlin parties in the December parliamentary elections,” Borovikov said. “We’ll be picketing the opposition to make sure young people understand that these are puppets of the West who only want to sell out our country.”
While Nashi has condemned nationalism, critics say the Kremlin’s endorsement of the youth group’s fervent brand of patriotism has encouraged antiwestern sentiment and intolerance. Last week a member of Kasparov’s party was taken to hospital after being badly beaten by unidentified assailants.
Since coming to power nearly eight years ago, Putin, most recently seen parading a bare chest during a fishing holiday designed to underscore his “strong-man” credentials, has been at the forefront of efforts to make his country more patriotic.
The West was alarmed by the resumption last month of reconnaissance flights by Russian bombers along western Europe’s borders, and the aggressiveness is expected to intensify: Russia is set to bolster its military and boost its overseas espionage.
“The worrying thing is that whereas 15 years ago young Russians embraced the West with great enthusiasm, now more and more look to us with deep-seated mistrust,” said a former senior British diplomat. “It would not matter, were it not for the fact that they are Russia’s next generation of political leaders.”
Who are they?
How did Nashi start? It was conceived three years ago by an aide to Vladimir Putin who believed a youth movement could be mobilised to fight any attempt to replicate Ukraine’s “orange” revolution in Russia.
What are its aims? To promote patriotism and politicise younger people.
Who backs Nashi? It is said to have grown to a force of 100,000, funded by the Kremlin.
What do Chrysler C300 hatchbacks and Russian S300 air defence systems have in common?
|Russian S300 air defense systems|
Itera, the privately-owned Russian gas extractor and reseller, will start another construction project in the Belarusian capital. Their massive $30bn Minsk-city project, scheduled for 2009, which we’ve mentioned recently, will be complemented by other projects. One of them is due to commence in the coming months — with Lukashenka’s blessing, of course. This new project, which will include two office towers development in downtown Minsk (M. Tanka street) with a budget of just $500 000 000 will present the largest single foreign investment project in Belarusian economy — ever. One of the towers will house the first 5-star hotel in Belarus, although I can’t quite see where the demand for all this upscale space would come from in a country with average monthly wage of about 200 euro.
And — in a rare piece of news from Belarus which doesn’t mention gas or Gazprom — englishrussia.com discusses whether Belarusian police predominantly use tractors or Chryslers. The comments are pretty funny too. I wonder whether the money for the Chrysler C300s came from reselling Russian S300 air defense systems to Syria, by the way.
Why Belarusians will not go to the European March
|National Library of Belarus|
Let`s see the 12 requirements of the EU and the importance of them for Belarusians.
1. To free all the political prisoners.
Yeah, every Belarusian is against the political prisoners. And there are people who don`t care. But there are few of them. And now you can ask yourself – do you agree to risk for the liberation of these prisoners, for example Kazulin? It is obvious that every Belarusian know the way our special forces (AMAP) operate. The chance for our prisoners being liberated is so small, but a great chance to put yourself in prison. And what will be the choice?
2. To investigate the deals of disappeared politicians and journalists.
A small flashmob. You can ask the people on the street if they know anything about Hanchiar? It`s good if they remember Hanchiaryk – candidate on the presidential elections of 2001.Who is Hanchar do not know almost all the people of the country. You can ask and another surname, but the result will be the same. And when you`ll try to explain the people who are these disappeared people, they can ask you to prove it. Really, what are the evidences? There were no investigations in these matters… May be they went away from the Belarus as Pazniak did. Is it important for simple Belarusian citizen? I think not.
3. To organize free elections without falsifications.
It is very old-fashioned slogan. Previous year it was actual, but now everybody forgot about the falsifications. If someone remember, he`s indifferent. This matter isn`t actual now.
4. To stop interfere in the trials businesses.
“As it doesn`t concerns to me, I don`t care”. It is the most common answer of Belarusians. Are the trials interfering in the deals of killers? Not, they are interested only in political deals. We remember the court on the business of Dashkevich. Is the half of Belarusians know about it? And again, who will risk for unknown man? The answer is simple…
5. To give the Belarusians the opportunity to receive the independent information, to give the freedom of speech.
The independent information is in the Internet and some newspapers. And the freedom of speech also there. Who wants to obtain it – he does. And who not – he don`t know about the European march.
6. To stop interfering in private business.
After the conversation with one man, who works with businessmen, I had an impression, that almost all the Belarusians think, that businessmen are capitalists, bourgeois, who needs to be controlled by the state. The country doesn`t need the oligarchs. So the rights of businessmen will not be asserted on the March by the people.
7. To respect the rights of social organizations and independent labor unions.
Belarusians are watching the government TV. Every day it is talking about the social organizations. “Malady Front” is going to overthrow the government. “BUNT” is something like… terrorist. And also young people of “Kalinovsky program”, who bring from Poland money for supporting these organizations and antistate literature. Do these organizations have rights? And what rights we have to respect?
8. To respect the rights of national minorities.
Our country isn`t Moscow. And national minorities are really minorities. And it seems no one who oppresses them. And only few people know about these minorities. And at all – is it interesting for single Belarusian to fight for the rights of minorities?
9. To stop the destruction of Belarusian language and culture.
I`m writing Belarusian. Writing… Are you speaking Belarusian? Speaking… Generally speaking the destruction of culture is so wide problem, which needs the separate article. Of course the demolition of culture takes place. But how this problem can be linked to the European march? It is more national problem than the European one.
10. To reject the contract system, which makes slaves from the working people.
It seems the Social march will be devoted to this problem. And again – where is the connection between the EU and our problem? Young people will use more actual slogans – “Free the political prisoners” and “Belarus to EU”. And most likely they will not mention the contract system.
The other requirements will not be considered here, cause results will be the same as in previous.
Daily Life for Mikhail Khodorkovsky
From: Robert Amsterdam
High walls, barbed wire and a watch tower separate from the outside world the man whose dramatic 2003 arrest on a Siberian runway and subsequent fraud conviction cast a shadow over President Vladimir Putin's reign.
The conviction in 2005 of the one-time oil magnate and richest man in Russia on charges relating to his Yukos oil company was considered by the West a politically motivated bid to silence a Kremlin critic — an accusation the Kremlin denied.
After the Moscow trial and appeals process, the 44-year-old was shipped off to this province far from the public eye in the east of the Russian landmass by the Chinese border.
Now, as he and former business partner Platon Lebedev approach the half-way point in their eight-year terms, new charges have been prepared against them that could keep them behind bars for much longer.
Lawyers for the two are tussling with prosecutors — who have listed the new charges as money laundering and embezzling at least $20-billion (ˆ15.4-billion) through Yukos trading companies — over where the hearings should be held: in Chita, or back in their home town of Moscow.
"According to the law the judicial process cannot take place anywhere but where the alleged offences were committed," said a lawyer for Lebedev, Yelena Liptser.
"By bringing the whole process to Chita they want to demoralise the accused. Their families are far away so it's harder for them. And there are fewer journalists than in Moscow," she said.
Khodorkovsky himself has blasted the upcoming procedure.
"What will follow is clear," the jailed former tycoon said in a statement on his website in February. "Falsified evidence, testimony by perjurers who have been frightened or tricked, and a quick guilty verdict — a shameful farce that has nothing in common with justice."
Small groups of anti-Kremlin activists have held demonstrations of support in this city that once hosted exiled opponents of the Russian Tsars, known as the Decembrists.
A few even held a fireworks display near the prison walls on Khodorkovsky's 44th birthday on 26 June.
"Physically he seems okay considering the circumstances," said his mother, Marina (72), after she made the six-hour plane journey from Moscow to visit her son earlier this month.
Khodorkovsky was first sent to serve his sentence at an even more remote jail in Chita province, while Lebedev was consigned to the far north of Russia.
The reason was a lack of vacant cells of the appropriate type in western Russia, a spokesperson for the penal system, Alexander Sidorov, told AFP this week.
Today, however, they are both housed in investigative cells in Chita city, studying the cases against them and consulting with their lawyers.
Supporters say that while Yukos was assembled in shady circumstances after the Soviet Union's collapse, Khodorkovsky had tried to turn it into a transparent business that applied Western standards of governance, while challenging the Kremlin's growing grip on the economy.
Critics maintain that Khodorkovsky and other "oligarchs" were depriving ordinary citizens of wealth from natural resources due to them.
Marina Khodorkovsky is more worried about her son's immediate needs, such as how he will cope with the stifling summer temperatures, which can reach 40?C in his dilapidated cell.
He is allowed out of his cell to exercise for just one hour a day.
At other times he reads books and newspapers — he subscribes to more than 10 journals, according to the prison's deputy director, Vitaly Bushmakin.
His mother says that the once fiercely ambitious businessman has developed a more philosophical outlook, accepting the dismembering of his former empire, much of which has been incorporated into state company Rosneft.
"He has become more gentle. He isn't bitter. On the contrary," she told AFP after her visit.
"He told me today 'All that I did remains. The pipelines are working, the refineries are working, the technology I had installed to international standards is still working.
"'Rosneft has taken on our employees. Once it was a backward company and now our employees have put in there the things I invented, so my ideas are prospering'," she said, quoting her son.
Despite the uncertainty ahead, the former star of Russia's business world can now "live with anything", his mother quoted him as saying.
"He has books, which are very important to him. No one can ban him from thinking, reflecting," she said.
Arrests in the Politkovskaya Case
From: Publius Pundit
Read a full briefing on the details at La Russophobe (including an outing of several treacherous bloggers who are making common cause with the Kremlin by spewing outrageous propaganda). Click here to read our extended coverage of Vladimir Putin's long history of political murder since he arrived in Moscow (we discuss Politkovskaya, Kozlov, Klebnikov, Litvinenko and many others).
One bit of good news is that Anna's newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, is now available online in English (the photo above is from their site). The quality of their translations is still a bit clunky (those with an interest in Russia and good English skills are encouraged to contact the paper and volunteer their editing services), but their coverage of Russia is required reading.
Belarus veteran win W1X at rowing worlds
From: People's daily
The two-time world champion clocked seven minutes 26.52 seconds to clinch the gold, beating off challenges from Bulgarian veteran Rumyana Neykova and Mchelle Guerette of the United States in the final 500 meters.
Neykova, returning from a year off to have her second child, proved she could did better than just qualify for the Beijing Olympics by finishing second in 7:27.91. The bronze medal went to Guerette in 7:28.48.
World silver medalist Mirka Knapkova of Czech, who led the first 1,500 meters, was held out of the podium in the final dash.
Chinese most accomplished rower Zhang Xiuyun was left in a shock far fifth in 7:33.37. Medical problems kept her out of the game in recent years but her comeback this year has so far been successful.
Track and field world championships results for Belarus:
From: Various sources
|Vadim Devyatovskiy and Ivan Tsikhan|
3 time World Champion Ivan TSIKHAN won the mens Hammer Throw with a distance of 83.63
2 time World champion Nadzeya OSTAPCHUK placed second in the woman's shot put with a throw of 20.48 meters.
2006 Belarus National champion Andrei MIKHNEVICH took the bronze in the mens shot put with a throw of 21.27 meters.
There were several problems with the starting gun in the first of the competition's 10 events and Krauchanka twice left his blocks too soon, bringing about automatic disqualification.
For the women:
Gas price-hike to”finish off” Belarusian economy
From: Charter '97
Press-release authors admit that Belarus has succeeded considerably in its socio-economic development and gained remarkable macroeconomic indicators. Usually in such cases the IMF experts pay compliments to the state authorities’ policy.
As far as Minsk is concerned the praises sound more like reprimands, it is reported, for instance, that until recently “the state has been redistributing over the economy in general” the retained profit accumulated at the expense of “beneficial prices for Russian power resources”, thus, “giving impetus to development of the internal demand”. Or that the country’s” economic development was stimulated by “specially designated beneficial loans of the sate-owned banks” and” wage rise to the authorities order exceeded the labor efficiency at the state-owned enterprises “.
Summing up the above –mentioned we may understand that high social indicators of Belarus, i.e. equal distribution of income , high index of human development assigned by the UNO, betterment of living conditions” of the population have been gained by supposedly ” wrong” means.
The difference in accentuating the estimates by the experts of the IMF, on the one hand, and the members of the IMF board of directors, i.e. representatives of the governments of its member-states on the other hand, seems strange and outstanding for the IMF document of this kind. In the general appraisal the latter also underlined the gains of Belarus revealed through “rapid economic growth and inflation decline”. In their comments they remarked that those gains resulted from generally cautious financial and budget and monetary and credit policy as well as the powerful economic growth of the partner countries” of Belarus. Only after that they stated that “until 2006 the growth generally accounted for favorable conditions of the energy import”.
The IMF experts expressed their opinion in the press-release that in Belarus there exists” actual dependence of the national currency rate on the US dollar” and that, to their mind, “the real exchange rate is overstated by around 10%”.