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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Meeting on internal and foreign policy, GDP, Inflation, New investment, Real estate, Small business protest, Nukes, Russia, Ukraine, Blogs and Sports

  • From the Top...
  • #273

    Alexander Lukashenko holds working meeting on internal and foreign policy

    From: The office of the president
    The president at the ceremony of presentation of awards 'For Spiritual Revival' for 2007
    On 11 January, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko held a working meeting focusing on internal and foreign policy issues.

    Opening the meeting, the Head of State formulated its aim: “A new year has begun; therefore, it is very important for us to consider the issues pertaining to the state of our economy and its development prospects”. He said he expected the meeting participants to present concrete proposals relating to the matters discussed.

    The meeting considered the priority areas of development of Belarusian economy and its further integration into the system of international economic relations, ways of exports boosting, and ways to penetrate into new markets.

    The meeting also analysed the fulfilment of import-substitution tasks and tasks relating to development of the Belarusian financial system.

    Alexander Lukashenko reaffirmed Belarus' committment as an independent state to pursuing a multi-directional foreign policy in 2008.

    The meeting also paid attention to such problems as ways to boost relationships with the major trading partners of Belarus, attract direct foreign investments, make the working environment for large foreign investors as favourable as possible, building it on the principle of mutually beneficial cooperation.

    At the end of the meeting the President gave its participants specific tasks aimed at intensifying foreign economic activities and boosting the welfare of Belarusian citizens.

    Cabinet, NBRB work out plan of actions to secure Belarus’ social and economic development goals for 2008

    The government of Belarus and the National Bank have developed a joint plan of actions in order to secure targets of this year’s social and economic development forecast, the state budget and major monetary management guidelines, Economy Minister of Belarus Nikolai Zaichenko told a session of the Council of Ministers on January 11.

    He remarked, the joint plan of actions is a list of measures aimed at creating conditions essential for securing the higher performance goals.

    The main basic conditions determining the functioning of the national economy in 2008 were developed and laid down in 2007 by the 2008 Budget Law. In line with the law the tax burden on the real economy will shrink by 0.9% of the GDP. The move will free Br1 trillion, which will be spent on development.

    Nikolai Zaichenko also mentioned several other factors, which can and should be used to handle the determined social and economic tasks. He reminded about decree No 108 “Certain measures for engaging unused state property into the economy”. Decree No 9, which regulates entrepreneurship in rural areas, namely by providing preferences in major parts of the business organisation and management in rural areas, contains big potential for attracting investments into rural areas. The implementation of the decree will boost agribusiness and other industries as well as services in rural areas, stressed the Minister.

    Apart from that, conditions have been created to encourage entrepreneurship and attract investments, primarily to small and medium towns, through simplified land allocation procedures. The measures are laid down by decree No 667 of December 27, 2007. The document introduces simple, affordable and rapid procedures for allocating land plots to individuals. Red-tape practices are cut down, the hiding of information about available land plots and other violations are eradicated.

    The Economy Minister also named several other legal acts designed to address the social and economic tasks, in particular, decrees No 7 and 8. The decrees are designed to reduce the number of documents necessary for licensing, to simplify other licensing procedures, to ensure a quality reform of state registration and liquidation of juridical persons and individual entrepreneurs.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus’ GDP to grow by 11% in 2008

    From: BelTA
    This year’s growth rate of the gross domestic product of Belarus should make 111% as against 2007. This main social and economic development target has been set by the government of the republic, BelTA learnt from representatives of the Economy Ministry.

    Main targets of the social and economic development forecast are determined by resolution No 8 of the Council of Ministers. In line with the document the industrial output is supposed to go up by 11%, production of consumer goods — 11%, with foods output up by 10.5%, non-foods’ — 12%. The agricultural output is supposed to increase by 8.5%, fixed-capital investments — 25%.

    Merchandise export is supposed to expand by 16.5%, import — 13.5%, with the deficit of the merchandise trade as large as $3,380. The export of services is supposed to soar by 50%, import — 40%, with the surplus of foreign trade in services as large as $2,315 million.

    In 2008 real cash incomes of individuals are supposed to go up by 11%, retail trade turnover — 13%, chargeable services rendered to individuals — 12%, labour productivity — 8.8%.

    The profitability of sold products, works and services in the Belarusian industry is expected to hit 13%. In 2008 there are plans to commission 5.2 million square metres of housing. The number of people involved in the economy is supposed to total 4.46 million. The energy consumption of the gross domestic product is supposed to shrink by 8%.

    The Economy Ministry remarked, with a view to securing main goals set by this year’s national social and economic development forecast, a draft plan of joint actions of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus and the National Bank had been put together in order to hit targets of the draft social and economic development forecast, the state budget and the Major Monetary Management Guidelines of the Republic of Belarus for 2008. The plan lists measures aimed at creating macroeconomic conditions for boosting the production and increasing its effectiveness, increasing the export of goods and services, invigorating investment and innovation activities. Measures have been outlined to increase real cash incomes of individuals, improve the management of state property, and promote the development of small and medium businesses.

    Belarus implements 166 objects in line with state innovation development programme in 2007

    In 2007 Belarus implemented 166 projects in line with the state innovation development programme of the Republic of Belarus for 2007-2010, BelTA learnt from the Council of Minister’s Office.

    The Government noted that in 2006 the country constructed 24 objects of the first level, 57 objects of the second level and 91 objects of the third level.

    According to the plans in 2007 Belarus was going to construct 178 objects including 24 objects of the first level, 57 objects of the second level and 97 objects of the third level.

    On the whole the programme for 2007-2010 aims to implement 1302 projects in compliance with the three levels. The first level includes 173 projects on new manufactures. The second level embraces 274 projects on the organization of new manufactures in the functioning companies. The third level envisages modernization of the active manufacturers by introducing advance technologies (855 projects). Among them 397 projects on modernization of the functioning manufactures by introducing advance (new and high) technologies and development of 458 new technologies in line with state sci-tech programmes.

    Some 551 projects are set introduce domestic technologies and 293 –foreign technologies. The total financing of the projects will take Br15.8 trillion.

    Among the largest projects fulfilled in 2006 are the production of automatic washing machines at the Atlant company, seamless hot-rolled pipes at BMZ, tractors Belarus-921 at the Smorgon Aggregate Plant, tin-plate glazing and lithography at the Berezatara company, the construction of a hydroelectric power station at the river Schara, the construction of the hog-breeding farm for 250 sows at the Zadneprovsky company of the Orsha region.

    Belarus’ service industry is expected to generate extra $1bn of revenues in 2008, Sergei Sidorsky says

    Belarus’ service industry is expected to generate extra $1bn of revenues in 2008, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky stated at a session of the Council of Ministers on January 11.

    Sergei Sidorsky underlined that this sector of the economy is not efficient yet. The service industries generate over 70% of GDP in the neighbouring countries. This index in Belarus stands at 42-43%, the Head of Government stated.

    “We have got enough reserves. We need to change our attitude to this economic sector,” Sergei Sidorsky underlined. Over the past years the government has created favourable legal and economic conditions for the service industry development. In 2008 the country will continue working in this direction.

    In 2007 inflation stands at 12.1% in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    In 2007 inflation stood at 12.1% in Belarus, BelTA learnt from the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis of Belarus. In December it was at 2.4%.

    In line with the guidelines of Belarus’ monetary policy for 2007, annual inflation was projected to run at 6-8% (the same targets for 2008).

    Last year prices for industrial products went up by 18.9% and by 1.8% as against November 2007.

    According to the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis of Belarus, in December 2006 the index of prices for installation and construction works made up 113% as against December 2006 and 108% as against November 2007.

    Government of Belarus notes low performance of state-run companies

    The Government of Belarus has criticized the low performance of the state-run companies in terms of business planning, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky reported at the session of the Council of Ministers on January 11.

    “Unfortunately, the results of business-planning in 2005, 2006, 2007 are unsatisfactory: only 55% of business plans drawn up for these years were executed,” Sergei Sidorsky said. He reminded that within the last three years necessary work had been conducted to intensify business planning at all ministries and state agencies.

    The Prime Minister also noted that those who fail to deliver have to be held responsible.

    Belarus needs to find balance between wages growth and labour productivity, Nikolai Zaichenko says

    The Government of Belarus sets a goal for 2008 to balance the growth in wages and labour productivity, Economy Minister Nikolai Zaichenko stated at a session of the Council of Ministers on January 11.

    Nikolai Zaichenko noted that in January the Government will set the targets on wages growth and labour productivity for the national governmental bodies, oblast executive committees and the Minsk City Council. The Government will monitor the implementation on the quarterly basis.

    Maintaining the inflation within 6-8% is an important condition to preserve social stability, Nikolai Zaichenko underlined. In this respect the Government is going to adopt two resolutions: to secure the 2008 inflation projections and to control changes in the minimum consumer budget.

    The Economy Minister considers that today financial resources alone are not enough to ensure the socio-economic growth. “The most important thing is the initiative at all levels of the Government and implementation of new competitive innovation projects,” Nikolai Zaichenko said.

    Belarus to take measures to forestall inflation processes in 2008

    A set of measures will be taken in Belarus in 2008 to forestall inflation processes, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky told a session of the Council of Ministers on January 11.

    He reminded, in 2008 inflation is expected to stand at 6-8% in Belarus.

    According to Sergei Sidorsky, the Economy Ministry should put together a corresponding plan of actions to regulate inflation processes.

    “The inflation has exceeded 10%. The inflation exceeded 2% in December 2007,” said Sergei Sidorsky and remarked upon the irresponsible attitude of oblast authorities and certain ministers towards the issue. “Unfortunately, government resolutions taken three times in 2007 in order to punish executives for failing to fulfil certain instructions concerning inflation at the local level have not been productive,” said the Belarusian head of government.

    New draft documents aim to boost foreign investments

    From: BelTA
    Belarus has drafted the documents aimed at boosting foreign investments to the country, Economy Minister of Belarus Nikolai Zaichenko told a session of the Council of Ministers.

    According to him, most important conditions of ensuring high economic growth is robust modernisation and expansion of production capacities of export-oriented facilities, creating new competitive manufactures. In his words, for that Belarus needs to create the conditions to attract investments, including private and foreign ones.

    Nikolai Zaichenko informed, a decree “On intensifying the work on attracting direct foreign investments” provides for a set of stimulating measures in regard to profit-making companies with foreign investments which are located in the towns with a population of under 50 thousand.

    A decree “On introducing amendments and addenda into several decrees of the President of the Republic of Belarus on the activity of the free economic zones” is aimed at increasing an inflow of investments in the foreign economic zones (FEZ). The document gives guarantees for the FEZ residents, improves the registration rules, extends the terms of reference of the FEZ administrations, and establishes more privileged terms in respect of rent and taxation.

    A decree “On approving the list of the sites for to be given into concession” seeks to put into practice the institute of concessions.

    A decree “On several measures to implement investment projects financed with the help of foreign state loans” is aimed at increasing the efficiency of the work on attracting foreign loans into real production sector.

    A decree has been drafted to boost the financial market. It intends to reduce the tax on bond profits from 40% to 24%, simplify the produce of issue and circulation of bonds, placement of corporate bonds on foreign markets.

    Government of Belarus seeks to increase investments by 25% in 2008

    The Government of Belarus has set an ambitious goal for 2008 of achieving a 25% investment growth, Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky said during a session of the Council of Ministers.

    According to him, in 2007 capital investments totaled Br20 trillion. Of them $1 billion were direct investments. The Prime Minister also noted that the Government will develop a set of system-based measures to increase the efficiency of the economy, to create the macro-economic conditions for attracting investment to Belarus. Proceeding from this, the industrial output is projected to increase by 11% in 2008 over 2007, agricultural production by 8.5% and manufacture of consumer goods by 11%. Retail trade is prognosticated to rise by 13%, paid services to the population – by 12%.

    “We set these tasks to meet the ambitious parameters set out in the socio-economic development forecast of Belarus for 2008,” Sergei Sidorsky said.

    Sergei Sidorsky wants central government, local authorities to take concrete actions to boost overseas trade

    Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky has demanded that the central government and local authorities should put together a concrete plan of actions to reach this year’s targeted foreign trade deficit of $1.4 billion.

    During a session of the Council of Ministers on January 11 Sergei Sidorsky remarked, the foreign trade deficit of $1.4 billion is an estimated target. “Last year we failed it,” he stated.

    In order to hit the target in 2008, in November 2007 the Prime Minister tasked a commission with working out a specific plan of actions aimed at increasing export and decreasing import. “As a result, the commission produced 48 pages of general explanations, which are a scientific work with no hints what should be done to reach the goal,” said the Premier. “It won’t do”.

    This year specific officials will be made responsible for hitting the target. To make it possible, a specific plan of actions the central government and local authorities need to take to reach the targeted foreign trade deficit should be worked out, underscored Sergei Sidorsky.

    Belarusian border guards detain 30 citizens, whose right to leave country was temporarily restricted

    From: BelTA
    The united automated border control system /UABCS/, which was launched at the border checkpoints of Belarus not long ago, proves its efficiency, BelTA learnt from Chairman of the State Border Troops Committee of Belarus Major-General Igor Rachkovsky.

    On January 12, Igor Rachkovsky took part in a joint Gomel session of the State Border Troops Committee of Belarus and the Gomel oblast executive committee.

    According to Igor Rachkovsky, the system does not present any difficulties when people and vehicles cross the border and helps reduce the time of all procedures several times. Besides, the UABCS introduction let cancel entry-exit stamps in the passports of the Belarusian citizens, Igor Rachkovsky noted.

    This year thanks to the system the Belarusian guards have detained 30 citizens, whose right to leave the country was temporarily restricted. Among them – those who do not pay alimony and other groups of citizens, who are not allowed to leave the country, Igor Rachkovsky said.

    Nikolai Bordiuzha offers to remove internal border controls within EurAsEC and CSTO

    The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) offers to set up a Eurasian travel zone without border controls within the CSTO and Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordiuzha told a press conference in Moscow.

    “We have an idea that we have to set up such a regime within the CSTO and EurAsEC to make it possible for people, goods and services to move without any problems. If we are serious about the CSTO and EurAsEC we will end up creating something similar to the Schengen zone. But for that a political will is needed,” Nikolai Bordiuzha said.

    In his words, last year the CSTO submitted this proposal to the heads of member states. “They were all were in favour however many expressed concern over the problems which might arise. Therefore we want to hold consultations to discuss these issues,” the CSTO Secretary General stated.

  • From the international press...

    Taking a chance in Belarus's real estate market

    From: IHT
    Belarus is the last Stalinist-era, centrally planned economy in Europe but a small and hearty group of Western investors are starting to probe the former Soviet Republic, seeing it as the last all-but-untouched real estate market in Europe.

    Yet, even as outside investor interest is swelling, there continue to be solid obstacles to buying properties in the 207,600-square-kilometer, or 80,155-square-mile, country.

    All land in Belarus is publicly owned - even Belarusians who buy homes or commercial buildings usually receive only a 50-year lease on the land. And all transactions involving state property valued at more than the equivalent of $150,000 must be approved personally by President Alexander Lukashenko.

    (Sale prices are expressed in U.S. dollars but paid in Belarusian rubles; rents usually are expressed in euros.)

    Neither foreigners nor foreign legal entities are allowed to buy properties, although it can be done indirectly through Belarusian companies. "Everyone has their own strategic plan to participate in projects in different sectors here," says Mikhail Gradovich, managing director of Colliers International Belarus.

    In May Colliers opened an office in the capital of Minsk, the first international real estate consultancy in the country. It focuses on commercial property sectors: retail, office, industrial and hotels.

    Gradovich says customers generally can be divided into two groups: locals with access to land who are seeking investment to help fund development, and outsiders who are eager to buy properties but generally cannot. Last year, he says, private investment funds, mostly from Europe, started to show interest in Belarus for the first time.

    Despite the strong demand for new properties, Gradovich says investment in construction projects are almost unheard of because Westerners are still very cautious about placing money in a country that will not grant them rights to land. Also, new commercial construction is generally of low quality. Only a small number of buildings would be considered "A" class by international standards.

    Russians, who are used to operating in a similar environment, comprise most of the foreign investors in new construction. There is no official border between the two countries, so capital can be transferred from Russia into Belarus more easily than from anywhere else.

    The economy is still very Soviet-like, putting Western buyers at a disadvantage. Gradovich says the government still employs five-year plans and strong central control. During the Soviet era, control was exercised by the central committee of the Communist Party, Gradovich said, while "today it is exercised by just one person," referring indirectly to Lukashenko.

    When Western buyers negotiate with potential local partners, Gradovich says they are discouraged by the "sometimes strange" steps they need to take and often "quietly withdraw." The process of building is frustrating and extremely bureaucratic, he says, with high fees and lengthy permit processes required during every step of the construction process.

    Although foreign direct investment made up only 1 percent of Belarus's GDP last year, the economy grew by 9.9 percent and real incomes increased by 27 percent, according to official statistics cited by Colliers. In 2006 the private sector generated 25 percent of the Belarusian GDP, which totaled $77.4 billion at 2006 exchange rates - or $7,903 per capita.

    Residential properties in Minsk average about $2,000 per square meter, up from $1,000 two years ago, according to, a Belarusian real estate Internet site. The prices vary slightly according to the number of rooms, with units with more rooms being slightly more expensive. Gradovich attributes the jump to fierce competition for insufficient housing supplies due to increasing incomes and buyers seeking an investment or better housing.

    Most of Belarus was flattened during World War II so residences today are tall apartment blocks built during the Stalin era; a similar style is used for about 80 percent of all new residential construction. Outside the cities, most people live in houses.

    Kevin Smith, a part-owner of Belarus Trade House, says the company is planning on entering the properties market for a very simple reason: "Price."

    "Prices have been going up rapidly," says Smith, who also imports sparkling wine and crystal from Belarus to Britain. "Minsk is still fairly cheap compared to many other cities in the region."

    By comparison, residential prices in Moscow average more than $6,000 per square meter, according to Evans Property Services, a real estate agency with offices in Moscow and New York. And in Riga, Latvia, they average $3,234 a square meter, according to a rough estimate by Colliers.

    "The country seems to be opening up much more to the U.S. and Europe over the last year than they have done previously," Smith said, attributing the change to Belarus seeking new partners following a dispute with Russia over oil deliveries in January 2007.

    Smith says he is looking at several different approaches, including bringing in big investors on big property development projects on one end, and smaller deals in residential properties.

    Even with supplies short and prices growing in all property sectors, Gradovich says the office market is the most promising due to the high and growing demand. As an illustration, he says his office rent was в'¬18 per square meter last January and it now is в'¬24 per square meter.

    Retail real estate prices are increasing by an average of 25 to 30 percent per year, according to Colliers. The average cost of retail space in Minsk is в'¬1,400 to в'¬2,100 per square meter, excluding the value-added tax, while small areas of less than 20 square meters in shopping centers are в'¬3,500 to в'¬4,000 per square meter, also excluding VAT.

    For warehouse and industrial space, the demand has doubled while supply remained low according to Colliers. For example, the prices of unheated warehouses in Minsk rose by 60 to 80 percent over the last year.

    There are no international hotel operators in Belarus and the majority of all hotels are state-owned.

    Smith says prosperity is growing in Belarus and the market could eventually become as hot as the Baltics next door. After mortgage lending increased in Latvia, Smith points out, property prices took off.

    "In Belarus, it's not possible for Belarusians to borrow, but for foreigners to buy, that's starting to move," Smith said.

    "Working in this region, there are always hoops there that you weren't quite aware of," said Smith, who says he is in the early stages of transactions. "It's easy to fall down holes, but if you know they are there, it's easy to avoid them."

    Economy ministry denies reports about market vendors' strike

    From: Naveny
    The banner reads: "Stop robbing our people. Don't restrict our rights"
    The Belarusian Ministry of Economy on Thursday issued a statement denying that market vendors in the country are on a strike.

    The ministry said that as many as 17,395 business owners holding the status of sole entrepreneur, or 30 percent of all the 59,150 sole entrepreneurs with valid trading place rent contracts, did not operate at retail markets and shopping centers as of January 8.

    It said that they all had a good reason for this.

    The ministry issued the statement to give an "unbiased account of the state of things," noting that "starting January 1, 2008, certain media outlets have been distributing reports in the Internet that violations by sole entrepreneurs of working time regulations are taking place."

    According to the ministry, as many as 9,521 entrepreneurs, or 55 percent of those absent from work, did not work either because they were on leave or for reasons of illness or family problems. A total of 4,684, or 27 percent, were busy preparing documents for re-registration as a legal entity, while 3,190, or 18 percent, were away in Russia to buy goods, the ministry said.

    According to unofficial reports, some 80 percent of sole entrepreneurs went on a two-week strike on January 1 in protest against Alyaksandr Lukashenka's edict that banned them from hiring people other than three family members.

    Some 20 opposition youths sentenced to 15 days in jail for participation in demonstration in Minsk

    In a related story, Some 20 young opposition activists were sentenced to 15 days in jail on Friday for participation in a protest staged by small business owners in Minsk the previous day.

    The youths were grabbed by riot police troops when a group of some 70 demonstrators attempted to march along Minsk’s main avenue after the main body of protesters had been split and dispersed. Some of them were reportedly beaten up.

    Tatsyana Tsishkevich, a student of Physical Education University, was reportedly given a 20-day jail sentence in the Tsentralny District Court. At her trial, the girl said that she had been severely beaten by riot police and showed her jacket covered with blood.

    Six more demonstrators stood trial in that court. Mikhail Pashkevich, a member of the United Civic Party who had his face and knees injured, was sentenced to 15 days in jail. Andrey Radzivonaw reportedly received 10 days in jail for “participation in an unsanctioned demonstration,” and five days for the alleged use of obscene language. According to observers, Artsyom Dubski, a young opposition activist resident in Asipovichy, Mahilyow region, was also sentenced to 15 days in jail, and so were Mikhail Kryvaw, Arsen Pakhomaw, whose face was badly bruised, and Yury Kaksyuk, who reportedly had a rib fracture.

    Associates called an ambulance for the accused. The arriving doctor examined them but did not object to putting them in jail.

    According to the interior ministry, a total of 27 demonstrators had been arrested. Sixteen of them stood trial in the Maskowski District Court. Uladzimir Shyla was sentenced to 15 days in jail and a fine of 1,750,000 rubels ($820). A 15-day jail sentence was imposed on Anatol Shumchanka, leader of Perspektyva (association of small business owners); Anatol Lyabedzka, chairman of the opposition United Civic Party; and, according to unverified reports, all the others. Six of them – Alyaksandra Lyndova, Ivan Zhabarowski, Ivan Mikhaylaw, Alyaksandr Barazenka, Raman Bahdanovich and Pavel Vinahradaw – announced in the courtroom that they were going on a hunger strike in protest against the injustices of their detention and trial, human rights defender Iryna Towstsik told BelaPAN.

    Police in Belarus Break Up Protest

    From: AP
    Belarusian police officers surround protestors at a rally in Minsk, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008. Belarusian police on Thursday broke up a rally of 2,000 entrepreneurs protesting the authoritarian government's moves to increase the burden on private business in the ex-Soviet nation.
    Police on Thursday broke up a rally of 2,000 entrepreneurs protesting moves by the authoritarian government of Belarus to increase the burden on private business in the former Soviet republic.

    The demonstrators opposed new legislation that would force them to reregister their ventures and double the amount of taxes they have to pay. Businessmen who want to avoid the new terms will be restricted to hiring their relatives to keep their ventures within the family.

    Police pushed protesters out of the capital's main avenue and detained about a dozen.

    President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994, quashing dissent and opposition groups and resisting free-market reforms. He has maintained a Soviet-style, centrally controlled economy that has relied heavily on cheap Russian energy supplies.

    "Lukashenko is trying to stifle the emerging class of entrepreneurs because he is afraid of people capable of defending themselves and their freedom," opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich said in a speech at the rally.

    Protesters, who gathered at the capital's central square, demanded a meeting with top officials to convey their demands. Officials ignored the request.

    "I was forced to lay off four sales clerks simply because they aren't my relatives," said Anatoly Tikotsky, who participated in the protest. "We won't allow Lukashenko to treat us like dogs."

    Belarus intends to facilitate relationships with Azerbaijan in agriculture sector

    From: ABC. AZ and Trends and
    Azerbaijan-Belarus Business Forum has been held today with support of the Ministry of Economic Development of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijan Foundation of Export & Investment Promotion (Azpromo).

    At the event deputy minister of economic development Niazi Safarov of Azerbaijan said that the meeting is conducted within bilateral economic and political relationships between the two countries.

    “Azerbaijani economy is ongoing its rapid development that promotes to increase of confidence of international financial institutions to Azerbaijan. From 1995 to 2007 country’s economy was invested $42 billion and 70% of this amount fell on the share of foreign investments. In the 1st half of 2007 alone investments in Azerbaijani economy reached $4 billion,” Safarov said.

    The Forum theme was agriculture and farm products.

    “Despite precisely oil sector make main contribution to country’s economy, at present Azerbaijan has great potential to develop its agriculture sector,” Safarov said.

    Nadezhda Kotkovets, first deputy minister of agriculture and food of Belarus, said that her country’s delegation visiting Baku now is targeting to sign direct agriculture agreements.

    “Currently our bipartite trade and economic links with Azerbaijan are at primary stage. Belarus great attention to agriculture development, whose share makes 17.2% of country’s GDP and we are going to expand to the large extent ties with Azerbaijan in this sector,” Kotkovets said.

    The Forum involved 15 and 35 employers on behalf of Belarus and Azerbaijan respectively.

    Azerbaijan Intends to Import Meat Products from Belarus

    There is potential for Azerbaijan and Belarus to increase their goods turnover, Niyazi Safarov, the Azerbaijani Deputy Minister for Economic Development, said to an Azerbaijani-Belarus business forum in Baku on 11 January.

    “It is impossible to state that the goods turnover between the two countries is on a high level. However, the development and structure of relations testifies its potential for goods turnover between the countries,” Safarov said.

    According to Safarov, in 2006 the goods turnover between Azerbaijan and Belarus exceeded $20mln. However, the volume of export was inconsiderable comprising over $1mln.

    Safarov said that in the past cooperation between Azerbaijan and Belarus has developed more rapidly. Azerbaijan intends to import dairy products, meat, butter, etc. from Belarus


    From: Eurasia Monitor
    The Belarusian government has now selected the official site for a new nuclear power station in Belarus. It has also designated a general planning operation for the plant and may be close to a decision on which company will design the reactor. The information gleaned suggests that the year 2008 may see the first steps toward constructing the new station, which is to be based on two water-pressurized reactors. Yet many questions and contradictions abound.

    In early January, Kseniya Avimova, a journalist for the newspaper Belorusy i rynok, noted that two potential sites had been investigated: one near the village of Krasnaya Palyana and the other close to the village of Kukshynava; both are located in Mahileu region not far from the Russian border. Preparatory work on assessing the latter site was scheduled to start in the spring of 2007, but began only in September. Subsequently, Promatomnadzor (Industrial Atomic Inspection) of Belarus reported that there were problems with the quality of the ground conditions at Krasnaya Palyana. RIA-Novosti subsequently reported that the station would be built at Kukshynava.

    These somewhat nebulous statements received some clarification through a report issued by Naviny, which noted that research conducted on the sites revealed that the land at the Krasnaya Palyana site had been contaminated by radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The implication was that the level of contamination precluded building a nuclear plant in this location, and the site appears to have been abandoned.

    Kukshynava is a small village consisting of 28 houses, half of which are uninhabited. Of the 28 residents, 26 are reportedly elderly. The nearest population centers are Orsha (20 miles), Mahileu (30 miles), and Shklou, the native village of President Alexander Lukashenka (21 miles). Few villagers wish to move, but they may have no choice. Excavation work is continuing at a rapid pace and is anticipated to be completed by March 2008.

    The next key question is who will build the projected two 1,000-megawatt reactors, since Belarus has little native expertise. Unlike Russia, the country does not even have an independent ministry dealing with nuclear energy. A Department of Nuclear and Radiation Security has belatedly been created within the Ministry of Extraordinary Situations. It has been evident from the outset that the construction tender for the new plant will be offered to companies from different countries, and the three competitors cited are Russia, France, and the United States. More specifically, the potential bidders from the latter two countries are said to be multinational corporations: the Franco-German consortium Areva/Siemens and the U.S.-Japanese Toshiba/Westinghouse Electric group.

    However, neither the Franco-German nor the U.S.-Japanese consortia have actually offered to construct the reactors. Given the current hostile relations between the United States and Belarus (on December 30 Lukashenka threatened to expel the U.S. ambassador if further sanctions were applied on his country), it seems unlikely that U.S.-constructed reactors would even be feasible. As for Areva/Siemens as a prospective partner, the costs of the project likely would be prohibitive. The Belarusian authorities have acknowledged that they will have to borrow money to build the station. Under such circumstances a partnership with the Russians – who build “less expensive but equally reliable reactors” compared with the French, according to one government source – would more logical.

    As for Moscow, a government source informed journalists last December, prior to the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State in Moscow, that Russia would accept any request to build the new reactors for Belarus if one were to be offered. Such construction, it was projected, would greatly improve trading relations between the two states, which currently is operating somewhat “inefficiently.”

    However, soliciting Russian assistance seems to contradict the very reasons for building the new plant at Kukshynava. President Lukashenka commented last October that “Energy has been turned from a purely economic issue into a political one,” and therefore it was necessary to construct the nuclear plant at a cost of $2.8 billion, with a completion date somewhere between 2012 and 2016. Belarus, in other words, has been too reliant on Russian gas supplies from the monopolist company Gazprom. But would dependence on Russia for building and providing fuel for new reactors and offering further loans or credits on top of the recently granted $1.5 billion loan (December 2007) resolve that problem?

    Such reasoning makes little sense. Presumably once on line and operational, the station might ease reliance on Russian energy, but all critical aspects concerned with completing the work as well as the supply of fuel, and perhaps even safety maintenance, would be in Russian hands. In addition, the question of whether Belarus should lift the moratorium on building a domestic nuclear station, which expired in 2008, has never been subjected to public discussion. At the least, the issue merits a national referendum, especially given the tragic health consequences engendered by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the country.

    Nuclear power appears a viable option today in many post-Soviet states, but in few of them is the tempo for construction likely to be so hasty. The Belarusian government has ignored popular concerns in the interests of what it considers a national priority.

  • Cultural scene...

    January Music Nights Festival opens in Brest

    From: BelTA
    The international festival January Music Nights opens in Brest
    The 20th International Festival of Classical Music January Music Nightsstarted at the Brest Drama and Music Theatre with the performance of the State Academic People’s Chorus of the Republic of Belarus named after G.Tsitovich on January 9, 2008. The event has gathered over 400 musicians and vocalists from 14 countries.

    Culture Minister Vladimir Matveichuk read a welcome address of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko at the solemn opening ceremony.

    This wonderful cultural project, which was born on the Brest land, has an important mission to bring people up on the best examples of world art, it helps consolidate friendship between peoples. Over the past years Brest has seen a lot of distinguished artists and young talents. The jubilee festival has gathered musicians from different countries to make happy the classical music lovers. This wonderful holiday will continue good festival traditions, become a powerful impetus towards consolidation of the spiritual and intellectual foundations of our society and development of international cooperation, the welcome address runs.

    Vladimir Matveichuk also took note of high professionalism of the Brest festival. “There are no analogues to such festivals in Belarus. The Brest forum of classical music is in great demand and of high prestige in Belarus as well as abroad,” the minister underlined.

    The 20th International Festival of Classical Music January Music Nights will last till January 12.

    Museum housing works of contemporary artists to open in Gomel

    A museum housing works of contemporary artists will open in Gomel. As BelTA was told in the Gavriil Vashchenko Picture Gallery, the museum will mainly contain the displays from the gallery stocks – about 300 pictures painted in various fine art genres. Pictures by Gomel artists will account for almost 70% of the museum stocks.

    Apart from the exhibition activities the museum is expected to study creative works of the Belarusian artists, who were born in the Gomel region.

    Gomel artists are famous both in Belarus and abroad. Among them – Zoya Litvinova, Honoured Art Worker of the Republic of Belarus, Vladimir Prokoptsov, the director of the National Art Museum of Belarus, Alexander Isachev, the world famous artist and others.

    Grodno to host exhibition of Swedish graphic arts “Through Tradition to the Future”

    On January 18 – March 2 the Grodno-based state historical-archeological museum will host an exhibition of the Swedish graphic arts “Through Tradition to the Future”. The exposition will feature works of 16 Swedish graphic artists. The action will be held by the Swedish Embassy’s Office in Minsk jointly with the Swedish Institute.

    As BelTA learnt from Yelena Kasko, the coordinator of culture and information programmes of the Swedish Embassy’s Office in Minsk, the exhibition was arranged by the Swedish Institute in summer 2004 in connection with the official visit of the King and Queen of Sweden to Slovenia. Later it was successfully displayed in Slovenia, Russia and Moldova. In 2007 the exhibition was staged in Minsk, Vitebsk and Polotsk.

    Swedish graphic artists will host master classes for the Belarusian students and artists within the framework of the exhibition.

  • Around the region...

    All eyes on Putin’s new Nato man

    From: sunday herald
    Dmitry Rogozin
    IMAGINE WHAT would be said if President George Bush nominated John Bolton to be his ambassador at Nato. Not that there is anything wrong with Bolton from a professional or intellectual point of view. You may disagree with his hardline neocon views, which come across as scary and warmongering, but at least he is not afraid of speaking his mind and is not for turning. With Bolton what you see is what you get and there are no surprises.

    A similar scenario saw eyebrows being raised in the diplomatic community last week, when President Vladimir Putin appointed his old chum Dmitry Rogozin to be Russia's permanent representative to Nato. Described as a firebrand nationalist by those who know him in Moscow, Rogozin is in fact a seasoned campaigner with a solid pedigree, having studied journalism at Moscow State University before entering politics to head up the Kremlin-backed Motherland Party.

    But just as Bolton brought unwanted baggage with him when Bush appointed him US ambassador to the UN, so too does Rogozin go to Nato with a preconceived agenda. He's no friend of the north Atlantic alliance and like Putin he views with deep suspicion its expansion eastwards into the countries of the former Warsaw Pact. Where Western leaders see an opportunity to end centuries of European wars by bringing stability from the Atlantic to the Urals, many Russians only see an unwarranted imposition on their own doorstep. "Colonial" was the word that Rogozin used.

    Already we have a pretty clear idea of what kind of stance he will take when he takes up his post in the spring. Moscow's new permanent representative is not going to be a mere watchdog that gives the occasional warning bark. He will not be slow to bare his teeth and that could signal trouble ahead for the rest of the pack. On the question of the future status of Kosovo, which is still waiting resolution, he has said he will fight to protect the interests of the Serbs - as ever (shades of 1914), Russia regards herself as protector of the Slavs - and he will not sit and twiddle his thumbs if he thinks Belgrade's best interests are being damaged.

    As the province intends declaring independence next month and will be supported by the US, Britain, France and Italy, there could be an immediate flashpoint as Western diplomats have made it clear they will counter Slavonic opposition by attempting to draw Serbia into the European Union and later into Nato. Incendiary ideas of that kind will only reinforce Rogozin's belief that the Western alliance is becoming over-mighty in its approach and that his own country is being challenged by what he describes as unnecessary "muscle-flexing".

    It's not difficult to see why he feels that way. Nato is now the dominant European alliance and it will add to its military strength when it adds Bush's missile defence shield to its arsenal. This is another sore point. The US regards the system as a necessary means of protecting itself and its allies against any nuclear threat, especially one posed by rogue states. The Russians, meanwhile, have attacked it as an uncalled-for provocation that will upset the balance of power and threaten Russia's own hopes of becoming a world super power.

    And more than anything else that's Russia's biggest beef. Since the end of the cold war it has seen its authority belittled by the dismantling of its empire as one after another former colony in the Warsaw Pact - notably Hungary and Poland - has embraced the West, leaving the Russians angry and resentful.

    For a while, the new settlement didn't really threaten the world order, as Russia remained a ramshackle edifice with a chaotic economy that was more Wild West than Wall Street. Then came Putin and the new oil wealth and now Russia is not just on the road to recovery, it has almost reached its long-anticipated destination as a country that can once again rival the United States.

    Things came to a head last summer when Putin placed a moratorium on the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, a bellicose move that raised the spectre of a return to cold war confrontation. His allies in the military want to take several steps further forward and use the revived economy to rebuild Russia's largely obsolescent arsenal. In real terms, that means more expenditure on the military, greater investment in technology and the purchase of shiny new weapons systems.

    And guess what? That's just what Rogozin wants too. When he pitches up in Brussels, Nato will have a pretty good idea of what kind of guy is coming their way: an old-fashioned bear who told his supporters last week that "at this crucial moment for our fatherland patriots cannot stand aside".

    Free press under siege in Russia

    From: The Star
    The caption reads: The due rewards for all who report the virtues of our glorious leader
    It was the same question at the end of every class.

    "Yes, but is there really a free press in Canada?" asked a young Russian student slouched in the front row of my journalism and public policy course at St. Petersburg State University.

    "Can Canadian reporters really write what they see?" a young woman asked at the end of a lecture about political reporting.

    Each time I said yes, there was a tiny groan and students rolled their eyes. Some things don't need translation. The concept of a free press seemed as far-fetched to these Russian journalism students as the tooth fairy, or Santa Claus.

    When I was invited to teach at the journalism school of St. Petersburg State University as part of a program run by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, I knew that things were bad for journalists in Russia, but I did not appreciate quite how bad.

    Diana Kachalova, editor-in-chief of a chain of community weeklies in St. Petersburg, helped me understand.

    "United Russia is like a tank coming down on the people," she said, referring to the ruling party.

    "I feel like I'm returning to when I was young, in the 1970s."

    In the Soviet era, censorship was simple and complete. An official censor vetted every word and image that appeared in the media. The current system of censorship is more complex, more dangerous and harder to expose.

    There was an international outcry when Russian President Vladimir Putin indirectly took control of major television networks several years ago.

    There was also an international outcry when a prominent investigative journalist was killed in 2006 and the editor of Forbes (Russia) was killed in 2004.

    But many of the constraints on reporters and editors here are not the stuff of dramatic public headlines, they are daily difficulties that make it harder and harder to find and print the truth.

    Kachalova said one magazine that ran irreverent photos of officials mysteriously disappeared from every newsstand in the city before it went on sale.

    A newspaper that distributes in the subway was warned it would lose its distribution agreement if it is critical of the government.

    The biggest day-to-day problem is getting information, she said, even simple information. When a reader asked her paper to find out where and when adults can play basketball in St. Petersburg, city officials told her to submit the question in writing and expect an answer in 30 days. Police now funnel all information through a press office that doesn't have the facts, and takes two weeks to respond.

    "Every day and every moment it is more and more difficult to get the information," she said.

    And then there is the killing and intimidation of journalists. Twenty-one journalists have been killed in Russia since 2000, according to the World Association of Newspapers.

    Last month a television crew that planned to cover a political demonstration was kidnapped from its hotel room, stripped naked and beaten. A journalist who was critical of Putin was turned away at the border when she tried to return home to Russia from a visit to Israel in December.

    Moskovskiye Novosti (Moscow News) shut down this week. Novosti was the most influential newspaper in Russia as the Soviet Union was falling apart. People stood in line for hours to get a copy, amazed to see the truth on paper for the very first time. Its demise seems symbolic.

    A few of my students in Russia did believe in the possibility of a free press, though not all who did were sure that a free press is a good thing. When one student asked if I thought Russia should have a free press, I turned the question back on her.

    "Do you want a free press?" I asked her.

    She was quiet for several moments.

    "It is dangerous to want a free press in Russia," she said.

    "Just to want it?" I asked, "Or to actually do it?"

    "It is dangerous just to want it."

    New Ukraine anti-corruption Premier targets Euro 2012 preparations

    From: Earth Times
    Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's new anti-corruption Prime Minister, on Friday ordered her government to overhaul its preparation plan as co-host for the Euro 2012 football tournament. Ukraine and Poland won joint rights to hold the event in March, but since then the Ukrainian government has struggled even to begin an estimated 42 billion dollars in preparations needed if the former Soviet republic is to manage its side of the event.

    A Tymoshenko-led coalition took over Ukraine's government in December on promises to reduce graft and inefficiency in state institutions.

    The new pro-democracy government will complete a review of steps taken so far to ready the country for Euro 2012, and the parliamentary majority she leads will make a new plan national law, Tymoshenko promised.

    "We already running a year and a half in our preparation efforts," she Tymoshenko. "We will reverse these trends."

    A football-mad country whose national team made the final eight in the 2006 World Cup, Ukraine lacks substantial infrastructure needed to host any major international sporting event.

    Ukrainian roads and service quality are far below international standards. Stadiums - all but one dating back to the Soviet era - are dilapidated, and the country needs to build dozens of hotels to handle an expected one million visitors.

    Overhaul of the country's largest stadium - Olympeysky Stadium in the capital Kiev - has been stalled for months because of a shopping centre under construction next door which, if completed, would make the stadium impossible to evacuate safely.

    Tymoshenko at a cabinet meeting instructed Ukraine's top law enforcer Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko to intervene in the legal wrangle, pitting two Kiev business clans in a dispute over land ownership around the stadium.

    Kiev developers alone will build 33 hotels to prepare for the tournmanent, with the first coming on line in 2008, and the last in 2011, Tymoshenko told reporters.

    It is a construction challenge of the first order in Kiev's overheated real estate market where some half-dozen firms monopolize major construction, and the few hotels lucky enough to operate charge as much as 200 dollars a night for an unpretentious single room.

    The new hotels will cost some 500 million dollars, to be raised among private and international investors, Tymoshenko said.

    Poland to investigate allegations former government used secret services against opponents

    From: PR Inside
    Poland's parliament on Friday set up a commission to investigate allegations that high-ranking officials in the previous government pressured the country's secret services to dig up dirt on political opponents.

    Lawmakers voted 265-157, with 10 abstentions, to establish a special parliamentary commission charged with investigating whether senior officials in former
    Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's government and top law enforcement agents abused their powers by using the secret services, police and prosecutors to achieve political goals.

    Kaczynski's Law and Justice party has rejected the allegations and says it intends to submit a challenge to Poland's Constitutional Tribunal, arguing that the new panel may not be in line with the constitution.
    Kaczynski's party was ousted from power by Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Civic Platform in October elections.
    While in opposition, Civic Platform and left-wing politicians accused the former justice minister, the secret services and prosecutors of abusing their powers to silence government critics and political opponents.

    The opposition pointed to a sting operation run by the Anti-Corruption Office that implicated former Agriculture Minister Andrzej Lepper in a corruption scandal.
    Lepper _ the leader of the small Self-Defense party, which for a time shared power in a coalition with Law and Justice _ denied the allegations against him, but was promptly fired. Prosecutors have not brought charges against him.

    Last month, lawmakers also set up a commission to look into the death of former left-wing minister Barbara Blida, who committed suicide in her bathroom while special agents searched her house.

    Blida was under investigation for allegedly taking bribes tied to the coal trade in southern Poland. Left-wing politicians say the investigation against Blida was politically inspired.

    Schoolboy hacker derails Poland's tram network

    From: Telegraph
    The boy, described as a 'genius'and some of the equipment he used
    A teenage boy who hacked into a Polish tram system used it like "a giant train set", causing chaos and derailing four vehicles.

    The 14-year-old, described by his teachers as a model pupil and an electronics "genius", adapted a television remote control so it could change track points in the city of Lodz.

    Twelve people were injured in one derailment, and the boy is suspected of having been involved in several similar incidents.

    The teenager, who was not named by police, told them he had changed the points for a prank.

    A police statement said he had trespassed at tram depots in the city to gather information and the equipment needed to build the infra-red device.

    "Questioned by police in the presence of a psychologist, the teenager testified he switched tram tracks three times, once causing a tram to jump the tracks," said the statement. A search at the boy's home turned up the device he had used to switch tram tracks.

    Miroslaw Micor, a spokesman for Lodz police, said: "He studied the trams and the tracks for a long time and then built a device that looked like a TV remote control and used it to manoeuvre the trams and the tracks.

    "He had converted the television control into a device capable of controlling all the junctions on the line and wrote in the pages of a school exercise book where the best junctions were to move trams around and what signals to change.

    "He treated it like any other schoolboy might a giant train set, but it was lucky nobody was killed. Four trams were derailed, and others had to make emergency stops that left passengers hurt. He clearly did not think about the consequences of his actions."

    The first sign of the chaos came on Tuesday afternoon, when a city tram driver tried to steer his vehicle to the right, but found himself helpless to stop it swerving to the left instead.

    The rear wagon then swung off the rails and crashed into another passing tram, hurling screaming passengers to the floor.

    Transport employees were reported as saying that they knew immediately that someone outside their staff had caused the accident.

    The boy will face a special juvenile court on charges of endangering public safety, police said.

    The incident is the latest in which "hackers" - many of them young computer experts - have broken into computer systems.

    A 20-year-old was questioned in New Zealand last year suspected of writing programs for an internet "spyware" scam targeting several hundred thousand bank accounts.

    In 1999, a group of hackers used home computers to break into the systems controlling Skynet, a British military satellite, and changed secure settings.

    A report by the US Federal Aviation Administration this week raised concerns that a passenger aboard the new Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" aircraft might be able to hack into the aircraft's systems via its internet connection.

  • From the blogs...

    List of Persons Detained at Meeting of Entrepreneurs in Minsk

    From: Viasna
    1. Raman Bahdanovich, Maskouski district police department (DPD) of Minsk, sentenced to 15 days of jail and fined 1 750 000 rubles (about 814 US dollars) by judge Volha Husakova;

    2. Yu.Barkun, Maskouski DPD, sentenced to 15 days of jail by judge A.Fralova;

    3. Aliaksandr Barazenka, Maskouski DPD, sentenced to 15 days of jail by judge Yu. Shastakou;

    4. Ales Charnyshou, sentenced to 15 days of jail by judge V.Audzeyenka;

    5. Maksim Dashuk, Maskouski DPD. Under age, his case was passed to the administrative commission;

    6. Artsiom Dubski, Tsentralny DPD, sentenced to 15 days of jail. The policemen Bakhan and Kozhuk participated in the trial as witnesses;

    7. Artur Katsukha, Tsentralny DPD;

    8. Siarhei Kliuyeu, Maskouski DPD, sentenced to 15 days of arrest by judge A.Shylko;

    9. Anatol Kryvau, Tsentralny DPD, violation report composed under article 17.1, sentenced to 15 days of arrest by judge M.Samaseika;

    10. Yury Kuksiuk, Tsentralny DPD, sentenced to 15 days by judge T.Pauliuchyk, the policemen Andrei Harelik and Charviakouski (name unknown) were witnesses at the trial;

    11. P.Kuryianovich, Maskouski DPD, sentenced to 15 days of jail by judge A.Shylko;

    12. Anatol Liabedzka, Maskouski district police department. Sentenced to 15 days of arrest by judge Volha Husakova;

    13. Aliaksandra Lyndova, Maskouski DPD, sentenced to 15 days of jail by judge V.Audzeyenka;

    14. Ivan Mikhaylaw, sentenced to 15 days of jail by judge Rudnitskaya;

    15. Arsen Parkhomau, Tsentralny DPD, sentenced to 15 days of jail by judge M.Samaseika;

    16. Mikhail Pashkevich, Tsentralny DPD, violation report composed under article 17.1 of the Administrative Code (petty hooliganism). Judge M.Samaseika;

    17. Ales Radzivonau, Tsentralny DPD, sentenced to 15 days of jail;

    18. Anatol Shumchanka, sentenced to 15 days of jail by judge V.Kazak;

    19. Uladzimir Shyla, Maskouski DPD, sentenced to 15 days of jail and fined 1 750 000 rubles (about 814 US dollars) by judge Volha Husakova;

    20. Aliaksandr Stsepanenka, Maskouski DPD, violation report composed under article 17.1, sentenced to 15 days of arrest by judge A.Rudnitsaia;

    21. Tatsiana Tsishkevich, Maskouski DPD, sentenced to 20 days of jail by judge M.Samaseika;

    22. A.Vazhakou, Maskouski DPD, sentenced to 15 days of jail by judge V.Kazak;

    23. Pavel Vinahradau, Maskouski DPD, sentenced to 15 days of jail by judge Yu.Shastakou;

    24. I.Zhabarouski, Maskouski DPD, sentenced to 15 days of jail by judge N.Kuzniatsova;

    25. A.Zorka, Maskouski DPD, sentenced to 15 days of jail by judge M.Samaseyka;

    Systematic Vote Fraud Documented in Russia

    From: Publius
    Scholar and blogger Paul Goble reports that massive, systematic vote fraud has now been conclusively documented to have occurred during Russia's recent parliamentary elections, and the Internet has been key to uncovering it. The nature of this fraud is truly ghastly given the fact that Vladimir Putin's party, its beneficiary, was already guaranteed to dominate the vote -- a clear indication of the Kremlin's classic neo-Soviet paranoia and a dark sign of woe for Russia.

    Goble writes:

      More than half of the registered voters in Ingushetia have signed declarations that they did not take part in the December 2 elections, despite claims by the pro-Kremlin leadership there that 98 percent of the electorate voted and almost as high a percentage cast their ballots for President Putin's United Russia Party. This is thus the clearest and most definitive evidence yet of electoral fraud during that tally that most independent observers were confident had taken place, although this new information does not indicate whether the fraud was perpetrated on the Kremlin's order or by regional subordinates keen to demonstrate their enthusiastic support for Putin. On Wednesday night, reported that organizers of the "I Didn't Vote!" campaign in that republic had collected 87,340 declarations from Ingushetia residents over the age of 18 asserting that they did not take part in the December elections for the Russian Federation State Duma.
    98%? Just as in Soviet times, Russia is producing the most ridiculous sort of Emperor's-New-Clothes statements, unable to recognize their ludicrous transparency.

    It's not surprising, then, that the neo-Soviet Kremlin is now actively seeking to seize control over the Russian Internet, the last bastion of public protest against turning the clock back in Russia. Will this be allowed to succeed?

    11 Январь 2008

    From: cat`s crew from Belarus -
    На днях заходил Саня. Пытались оттереть от пива ТВ-тюнер с модемом и слоты на материнке. После получаса усилий и нафакавшись нашатыря заработал один слот и ТВ-тюнер в нем. Пока посидели, попили пива - тюнер два раза вырубало, после вторго окончательно. Оказалось все старания потрачены напрасно.

    На ближайшие пол года я стал счастливым обладателем подписки на газету Советская Белоруссия. Которую добровольно-принудительно оформили мне на работе и сняли с зарплаты 25$. Зато нехватки бумаги теперь не будет. Уже получил один номер(штуки две уже выняли соседи-булдосы). На первой странице статья про то как Батька взьебал всех в хоккей!
    Сейчас знакомые хотят сделать по концерту. С одним пока ничего определенного - так что писать не буду.

    А второй вроде как 1 февраля в Могилеве - Газон и СкаРБ!. Газон уже на сайте своем выложили дату концерта.


    From: Sammy
    Дождалась своей очереди в сообществе критики.

    Спасибо nemo_bonus.

    После этого появились новые друзья, что очень приятно.

    А я бы раскритиковала посерьезнее ). Темы ведения ЖЖ у меня нет, хотя ссылка на мой блог есть в списке радиоблогов на тутбае. Обычный дневник или "лытдыбр", что и помечаю тэгами. Да, пишу о радио, потому что это часть моей жизни. Но это интересно не всем. О политике - ни слова. Не люблю встревать в политику.

    Хандру и проблемы, а также рабочие моменты стараюсь прятать под замок, или пишу для ограниченного круга - т.е. только тем, кому доверяю, или вообще делаю посты только для себя - когда боль невыносимо носить в себе, а поделиться официально не хочется...

    Еще у меня много пиара, но пиар связан с радио.

    Я - "туркментский акын": что вижу - то пою пишу. Поверхностно.. ну глубина раскрывается в комментариях (ИМХО), да и не всем же быть профи ))

    Люблю читать - ЧТО пишут мои друзья. А еще хочу устроить встречу ЖЖ-стов )). Хоть это итак часто бывает, с каждым по-немногу... да и в жизни дружу со многими...

    Иногда думаю, что буду писать только о радио, или только о философии, была мысль писать о кулинарии (но все не получается), или о маркетинге... Не знаю, стоит ли зацикливаться на чем-то определенном. Я такая, какая есть, может кому-то и нравлюсь именно такой....

    «Свободный театр» вышел в высшую лигу европейских театров

    From: MINSK BLOG
    В течение 2007 года «Свободный театр» прошел целый ряд ведущих европейских театральных фестивалей и получил на них «совершенно блестящую критику». Об этом, подводя итоги года, сообщил художественный руководитель театра Николай Халезин. По его словам, «это, по сути, вывело «Свободный театр» в высшую лигу европейских театров». «Свободный театр подошел к формированию своего театрального языка, именно за счет которого коллектив имеет такое пристальное внимание европейской критики, — отметил Н.Халезин. — Этот язык оказался очень новаторским и нестандартным для Европы». «Театр практически сформировал своего зрителя в Беларуси: на сегодняшний день на спектакли собрать зрителей в Минске — это не проблема. Более того, это зритель, который лучше всех понимает то, о чем мы говорим», — добавил Н.Халезин.

    Кроме этого, «Свободный театр» продолжил совместную работу со своими друзьями и попечителями: драматургами Томом Стоппардом, Гарольдом Пинтером, в этом году к ним присоединился музыкант Мик Джаггер. По словам Н.Халезина, в течение года театром было сыграно большое количество спектаклей как в Минске, так и за рубежом. В репертуаре коллектива 10 постановок. Этот год завершился приятным событием: «Свободный театр» получил премию Французской Республики в области защиты прав человека. Она была вручена в Париже 10 декабря. В апреле 2008 года в Салониках (Греция) «Свободному театру» будет вручена театральная премия Европы — «европейский театральный «Оскар».

    Напомним, «Свободный театр» был создан около двух с половиной лет назад. Труппа не имеет ни собственной сцены, ни помещения для репетиций, ни финансирования, поэтому спектакли театра» в Беларуси проходят на различных площадках. В августе этого года во время премьеры «Свободного театра» были задержаны все зрители и актеры, включая граждан Франции и Голландии. Позже представители милиции объяснили свои действия звонком неизвестного по поводу шума, доносящегося из здания, где проходил показ.

  • Sport...

    International football tournament in Minsk proceeds with Azerbaijan vs Lithuania match on Jan. 10

    From: bELta
    Only one match Lithuania vs Azerbaijan is scheduled today, January 10, at the fourth U17 international football tournament in Minsk, spokesman for the Belarusian football federation Sergei Novysh told BelTA. The match was to have taken place on January 8 but was postponed due to the late arrival of the team of Azerbaijan. Lithuania and Belgium will play a match on January 12 instead of January 11.

    After two days the leader in Group A is the U17 team of Belarus who defeated Belgium and Lithuania with the same score 1:0. The group B leader is Russia (two wins over the U16 team of Belarus and Moldova).

    Meanwhile, the U19 national team of Belarus is taking part in the 20th tournament in memory of FIFA first vice-president Valentin Granatkin in St. Petersburg. In the final match of the qualifying round in Group A Belarus beat Slovakia 2:0 and placed second after Russia. In the semifinals on January 11 Belarus will play Belgium, the group B leader. The other semifinal match will feature Russia and Ukraine.

    Belarusian Tatyana Poutchek loses doubles finals at Medibank International in Sydney

    Tatyana Poutchek from Belarus and Tatyana Perebiynis of Ukraine lost 6:4, 7:6 to Yan Zi and Zheng Jie, China, in the doubles finals of the ATP-WTA Tour Medibank International in Sydney.
    According to the Australian Open draw announced on January 11 Tatyana Poutchek will play Amelie Mauresmo, Victoria Azarenka – Akgul Amanmuradova from Uzbekistan. Another Belarusian Olga Govortsova is pitted against Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova.

    Belarusian Anastasia Yakimova defeated Ye-Ra Lee from South Korea 6-1 7-6(6) in an Australian Open qualifying second round. The other two Belarusian ladies Ekaterina Degolevich and Daria Kustova were out of the qualifying in the first round.

    Belarus’ Olga Govortsova, Tatiana Poutchek and Victoria Azarenka are in the main draw. Max Mirnyi will team up with Jamie Murray from Great Britain for the doubles.

  • Endnote...

    Will Yulia Tymoshenko succeed to do what Alyaksandr Lukashenka failed to do?

    From: Charter '97
    On January 11 Ukrainians started to get compensation of depreciated deposits placed before January 2, 1992 at the former Soviet savings bank. Compensation for Soviet-time savings was one of pre-election promises of Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

    Ukrainians are to be given 105 hryvnias, or more than $20, for 100 Soviet rubles. Alyaksandr Lukashenka by his decree offered an exchange rate of 199 Belarusian rubles (or 9.3 cents) for 100 Soviet rubles. It’s 215 times less!

    On January 10 Oschadbank (the State Savings Bank of Ukraine) has got the first tranche of budget funds for payment of the compensation in 2008, about $200 millions.

    A resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers envisages to pay compensations for a total sum of 6 billion hryvnas in 2008, while 5.76 million hryvnas will be paid to depositors, and 0.24 billion to inheritors of late clients.

    The payments will be made in keeping with the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of January 9, 2008 on payment to Ukrainian citizens in 2008 of compensation of their losses from depreciation of money deposits made before January 2, 1992 at the offices of the former Soviet savings bank and state insurance agency in the territory of Ukraine, as well as the bonds of the 1990 state interest-free loan, the state treasury bills of the USSR, and the certificates of the Soviet savings bank purchased in the territory of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

    Ukrainians will get up to 1,000 hryvnias ($200) in cash for their Soviet-time savings. One Soviet ruble will be equivalent to 1.05 hryvnias. Those who held over 1,000 hryvnias in their accounts will be able to receive the rest of their money later in non-cash payments, such as vouchers that would offset utility bills, the government says.

    Meanwhile, the Cabinet of Ministers is drafting one more resolution, in accordance with which the citizens can use savings for offset of debts and current payment of housing and communal services, pay for children’s study and buy durable goods. That is the way the Government has chosen for return of remaining savings in order to withhold inflation and prevent devaluation of money returned to the people.

    Tymoshenko stated she would vacate the position of the head of the cabinet if she won’t return savings to citizens at Soviet bank in two years.

    Meanwhile, as we have informed, in Belarus depositors of the former Soviet savings bank are treated in Soviet style. Or it’s better to say in Lukashenka’s style. Less than $10 is offered for 10,000 soviet rubles, while in 1980 a two-room cooperative apartment could have been bought for this sum. People were saving money to buy an apartment for many years, and now they are offered to buy half a kilo of sausage.

    In 1994 one of the main issues in Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s election agenda was “compensation of the population’s lost deposits according to the currency exchange rate of ruble to dollar in 1985” (that is, one US dollar for one Soviet ruble). And notably, Lukashenka promised to give back money partially in TV sets and refrigerators. By the way, there are so many TV sets and refrigerators in Belarusian warehouses now.

    The time will show whether Ukrainian prime minister will manage to keep the promise. “People’s president” has deceived Belarusian citizens shamelessly.