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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

EurAsEC development, Kazulin, Financial systems stable, Politics, The Great Patriotic War, Modernisation, Gasprom, Polish scandal, Blogs and Sport...

  • From the Top...
  • #285

    President urges stepping up EurAsEC development

    From:The office of the president
    It’s necessary to intensify the development of the Eurasian Economic
    Community (EurAsEC) as much as possible.

    “The current rate of the EurAsEC
    development does not correlate with the goals we have set forth before the
    organisation,” President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at today's
    meeting with Tair Mansurov, the EurAsEC Secretary General.

    “Our position on the Eurasian integration is well-known,” Alexander Lukashenko said. “The formation of the Customs Union as a free open zone is a great goal which is worth working for,” he said. The Head of State said the aggregate population of the EurAsEC member states was 206 million. This is a huge market of goods and services, he added.

    According to him, despite the fact that the economies of the EurAsEC member states will be rapidly advancing in the near future, even given the barriers currently in place, the EurAsEC is unlikely to be effective enough.

    “The Customs Union is intended to ensure a real freedom of movement of capital. We do have experience in it – this is the experience of the Soviet Union,” said the Head of State. “I assure you that you will always find a reliable support in Belarus,” Alexander Lukashenko added, addressing Tair Mansurov.

    Following the meeting with the President of Belarus, Tair Mansurov told reporters, when commenting on the process of Eurasian integration, that the EurAsEC member states should take a closer look at the Community’s auxiliary bodies.

    According to him, the EurAsEC summit in St. Petersburg, which was presided over by Alexander Lukashenko, highlighted the urgent problems facing EurAsEC and ways of addressing them. “Many ministries and agencies of the EurAsEC member states do not pay enough attention to the development of the Community,” he said.

    Alexander Lukashenko: no cardinal changes in Belarus’ foreign policy

    Belarus is not going to drastically change its foreign policy, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said as he made several personnel appointments on February 26.

    The press service of the head of state quoted him as saying, Belarus’ policy has had and will have multiple vectors. “There are no and cannot be any cardinal changes,” said the head of state. “More and more people have been claiming lately that Belarus is radically changing its foreign policy, doing someone’s bidding. We have been pursuing an accurate well-considered foreign policy. If we make compromises sometimes like we do with the European Union lately, I wouldn’t say we have changed the direction of our foreign policy and try to flirt with the West like some say”.

    Alexander Lukashenko remarked, located in the centre of Europe between Russia and the West, Belarus has to build normal relations with its neighbours. “No matter how hard we are pressured and stained, if something contradicts our laws, we will not be forced to abandon our principles,” underscored the President of Belarus.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarusian banking and financial systems stable

    From: BelTA
    The situation in the banking and financial systems of Belarus is stable. The national currency is getting stronger. All goals outlined by the 2008 Major Monetary Management Guidelines are being reached. The information was presented by Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich in his report to President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on February 25, the press service of the President of Belarus told BelTA.

    Alexander Lukashenko was informed, since early 2008 the official exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the US dollar has gained Br3. The positive tendency has been in place for the last three years. The achievement is fostered by good performance of the national economy: in January 2008 foreign currency proceeds of Belarusian companies increased by 60% up on January 2007 or by more than $900 million.

    The stability of the Belarusian ruble is ensured by corresponding gold and foreign exchange reserves. Before early 2008 the gold and foreign exchange reserves amounted to $4,993 million in national terms while now the figure is approaching $5,200 million.

    The demand of the national economy for loans is fully satisfied, the payment system works reliably, with bank resources on the rise. The National Bank is pursuing an interest rate policy in line with the Major Monetary Management Guidelines.

    The NBRB head said, this year several new foreign investors are expected to come into the Belarusian banking industry. Negotiations with banks of Germany, Poland, Italy, France and other countries are in progress.

    Alexander Lukashenko was informed about the fulfilment of his instructions regarding the operation of agricultural companies run by the National Bank. Last year earnings of these companies increased by 50% up on 2006 (over 140% up on 2005). Over the last two years their profits have jumped by over 350%. The President demanded that efforts aimed at land accomplishment and energy saving should be stepped up, with the performance of the abovementioned agricultural companies advanced up to standards of Belarus’ leading companies.

    The meeting also touched upon the development of rowing sports in Belarus and the fulfilment of other instructions of the head of state.

    Belarus to join Eurasian Bank of Development

    Belarus will join the Eurasian Bank of Development, EurAsEC Secretary General Tair Mansurov told reporters on February 26.

    “This bank is called Eurasian for a reason: the very name of it presupposes that it should work for the benefit of all the six EurAsEC member states”, he noted. According to Tair Mansurov, the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has already given the instructions on Belarus’ entry to the bank.

    “All the coordination procedures have been completed and Belarus will join the other founding states of this bank alongside with Russia and Kazakhstan and will make its valuable contribution”, the EurAsEC Secretary General said.

    Belarus launches preparations to celebrate 65th anniversary of Belarus’ liberation and Victory in Great Patriotic War

    From: BelTA
    President Alexander Lukashenko laying a wreath at the Victory Monument in Minsk
    The President of Belarus has approved the membership of the national organization committee for the preparation and celebration of the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Belarus from the Nazis and the Victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War, and the plan on the preparation and celebration of these historical dates. The Belarusian Head of State signed the relevant decree on February 25, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky has been appointed chairman of the organization committee.

    The plan includes military parades, solemn meetings, concerts, theatrical performances, events aimed to improve the socio-economic conditions of the veterans of the Great Patriotic War, overhaul and refurbishment of monuments and memorials, examination and promotion of the world-historical significance of Belarus’ liberation and Victory, patriotic education (scientific conferences, festivals, contests, exhibitions, military and sports competitions and others), international cooperation development.

    The plan also envisages mass media coverage of the preparation and celebration of Belarus’ liberation and the Victory.

    The Government, oblast executive committees and the Minsk City Council are set to monitor the allocation of budgetary funds for the preparation and celebration in 2009 and 2010.

    The national and local governmental bodies have been commissioned to support the organization committee in its work, in coordination of the activity of all interested governmental structures and public organizations and to take necessary measures to help the veterans of the Great Patriotic War in tackling social issues.

    The decree will bring the celebration of the two historical dates onto a higher level, promote greater unity of the Belarusian nation, the press service noted.

    Br3.8 trillion for modernisation of Belarusian power grid, energy saving in 2008

    From: BelTA
    In 2008 Br3.8 trillion will be channelled into modernisation of the energy industry and energy saving in Belarus. The money is envisaged for the implementation of the state programme for modernisation of basic production assets of the Belarusian power grid, energy saving and raising the share of locally available fuel and energy resources in the total utilisation till 2011. The measures to be taken this year in order to execute the programme have been adopted by Council of Ministers resolution No 261 of February 22.

    BelTA learnt from representatives of the Energy Ministry, in 2008 Br3.808 trillion will be allocated for executing the programme, with Br1.307 trillion apportioned for modernising the energy system. Br2.501 trillion will be channelled into energy saving, including Br565 billion to be spent on raising the share of local energy resources.

    In 2008 companies of the Energy Ministry will commission power-generating facilities with the total output of 299MW, while companies of Belneftekhim concern, the Industry Ministry, the Ministry of Housing and Communal Services and other industries will commission power-generating facilities with the total output of 98MW.

    In 2008 the country’s energy saving is expected to make at least 1.4 million tonnes of oil equivalent. The utilisation of local fuels is supposed to go up to 4.26 million tonnes of oil equivalent.

    This year companies of the Energy Ministry will complete five investment projects for building power-generating facilities. By April Lukoml State District Power Station will complete modernising energy unit No 2. The project will result in saving 15,000 tonnes of oil equivalent annually or $1.8 million. In May Gomel cogeneration plant No 2 will commission a 4MW turbine expander. In August Lida cogeneration plant will commission a 25MW gas turbine plant. In October Minsk cogeneration plant No 3 will commission a 230MW steam gas power unit, which utilisation will allow saving up to 150,000 tonnes of oil equivalent annually or around $18 million. In late 2008 a 25MW gas piston power plant is supposed to be put into operation in a boiler house in Zhlobin.

    The complex of measures also envisages fulfilling the necessary work at energy installations, which are supposed to go online in accordance with the state complex programme in 2009-2010.

    In 2008 174.8 km of heating networks will be replaced in Belarus, with 2,200 km of power lines built and rebuilt. In 2008 three new power substations will be built and seven existing 100kV substations will be rebuilt in Minsk in order to provide power supply to new households.

    Belarus border guard cracks down on illegal migration

    From: BelTA
    The State Border Committee of Belarus believes it is necessary to amend the Criminal Code and the Administrative Violations Code of Belarus in order to step up criminal, administrative and financial responsibility for illegal actions relating to the organisation and aiding and abetting of illegal migration, Chairman of the State Border Committee of Belarus Igor Rachkovsky told BelTA.

    In his words, preventive legislation, which takes into account possible development of the migration situation, is necessary to effectively counteract these illegal activities. “Illegal migration is a most lucrative business for transboundary crime groups,” noted the source.

    Igor Rachkovsky also pointed out, out of all the neighbouring states Belarus’ border with the European Union is the longest one (around 1,250 km). In 2001 over 1,200 illegal migrants were seized while trying to cross the Belarusian-EU border, while in 2007 the figure shrank to around 250. According to international organisations the Belarusian section is one of the most reliable sections of the European Union border. Main illegal migration streams are channelled to bypass Belarus, stressed the official.

    The State Border Committee of Belarus vigorously cooperates with law enforcement bodies, border guard agencies of the neighbouring states and international law enforcement agencies in revealing illegal migration channels. In 2007 around 20 organisers and abetters of this illegal activity were seized, added Igor Rachkovsky.

    According to Article 371-1 of the Criminal Code of Belarus the organisation of illegal migration of foreign citizens and stateless persons is punishable by an arrest up to six months long or custodial restraint up to five years long or imprisonment up to five years long. A repeated same action or an action committed by a group of people or by an official through abuse of office is punishable by imprisonment of three to seven years with or without the forfeiture of property.

    More than 90% of border trespassers detained in Belarus are citizens of frontier regions

    “More than 90% of border trespassers, detained by the Belarusian border guards, are the citizens of the frontier regions”, BelTA learnt from Chairman of the State Border Troops Committee Igor Rachkovsky.

    “Most often perpetrators try to cross the border on foot. However some trespassers have been reported to cross the border with Ukraine by vehicles and boats”, he said.

    One of the most unusual ways to cross the border that Igor Rachkovsky could recall was when a Russian citizen tried to sap up on the Belarusian-Polish border to get to Poland and then to Germany where his girlfriend lived.

    In 2007, up to 800 trespassers were detained. About 140 of them tried to cross the border using stolen, forged or partially forged passports. The others were detained in the green border. In 2007, the Belarusian border guards prevented the illegal trafficking of Br7 billion material wealth. During the past few years about 60% of material wealth has been detained at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, Igor Rachkovsky said.

    In the majority of cases the perpetrators try to illegally bring to Belarus alcohol and tobacco products, knitted wear, food products (meat, pastry), perfumes, while agricultural machines, parts to them and cattle are attempted to be taken out of Belarus.

    According to Igor Rachkovsky this tendency is conditioned by such factors as difference in prices, unfinished development of the state border infrastructure, a great number of by pass roads, scarcely populated border areas and unemployment.

  • From the international press...

    Belarus: Kazulin Released To Attend Wife's Funeral

    From: RFE/RL
    In the early hours of February 26, Belarusian opposition leader Alyaksandr Kazulin was transported from the Vitsba-3 penal colony to his family home in the capital.

    Belarusian authorities granted Kazulin, who is serving a 5 1/2-year sentence on charges of staging antigovernment rallies, a three-day release to allow him to attend the funeral of his wife, who died over the weekend after a long battle with cancer. After a spate of recent releases, Kazulin is now Belarus's last political prisoner.

    Kazulin's departure from the prison was so discreet that not even a group of reporters gathered outside the facility were aware that he had left.

    Back home in the family's flat in Minsk, Kazulin put aside any need for private grieving with his two daughters, Volha and Yulia. Instead, he was almost immediately on the phone, giving interviews and speaking to supporters, pacing up and down a corridor. In the living room stood numerous pictures, draped in black, of Kazulin's wife, Iryna, who died on February 23 of breast cancer at the age of 48.

    "There were days when I received as many as 200 letters in jail," he told one caller as he paces back and forth. "The strange thing was that almost all of them were from foreign countries. Belarusians still need to wake up."

    'The Illegally Convicted A. Kazulin'

    Kazulin was driven surreptitiously from the Vitsebsk penal colony in an ordinary Zhiguli -- the car of the warden, Vital Ahnistsikau.

    Just a day earlier, Ahnistsikau had refused to grant Kazulin the temporary bereavement leave permitted under Belarusian law, telling journalists Kazulin was guilty of "disciplinary violations." "There were days when I received as many as 200 letters in jail. The strange thing was that almost all of them were from foreign countries. Belarusians still need to wake up."

    Late on February 25, however, he was apparently given a form authorizing Kazulin's release.

    "You can't imagine what it was like in the colony at that point. It was surrounded by riot police. Inside there were security guards everywhere. No one was allowed to move," Kazulin said, describing the preparations for his clandestine release.

    Earlier in the day, Volha and Yulia Kazulina had appealed to authorities in Minsk to secure their father's release, and organized a public gathering of remembrance for their mother.

    Nearly 1,000 people flowed onto Minsk's October Square, holding lit candles and appealing for Kazulin to be allowed to attend his wife's funeral.

    Kazulin recalled how he first heard his wife had died.

    On the morning of February 24, Ahnistsikau called him to his office and showed him a telegram bearing the news. A day earlier, Kazulin had asked for access to a telephone to call home and speak to his wife, whom he knew to be gravely ill. But a phone, he said, was "not found."

    The news of his wife's death was a terrible blow. He said he was devastated that he had not been able to support his wife in her final hours.

    "I said: 'That's it. Up until now, my wife's illness was holding me back. Now nothing is holding me back.' And I immediately went on a hunger strike. I ripped off all my prison tags and said I wasn't going to follow the colony rules anymore. Then I wrote a four-page letter declaring my hunger strike and explaining my illegal arrest, and the necessity of being at my wife's funeral."

    He signed his letter "the way I sign everything -- 'the illegally convicted A. Kazulin.'"

    "I said I was starting a dry hunger strike" -- refusing both food and water -- "and I said I was either going to bury my wife myself or be buried with her. I think [the authorities] already understood that I was resolute about my actions and of course I think the rally of solidarity that took place in Minsk and spread across the country also had a great impact on the regime."

    'My Heart Is Breaking'

    Kazulin believes his wife, who went public with her illness in an attempt to raise awareness about the disease, was "pushed to the final stage" of her cancer by the government -- starting with his arrest, shortly after the March 2006 presidential election, in which Kazulin was a candidate and an outspoken critic of the ruling regime.

    “Alyaksandr Lukashenka knew well that she was already sick at that time," Kazulin said. Once he was sent to jail on charges related to the antigovernment rallies that followed the vote, Iryna "lost the strength she needed to fight her illness."

    The last straw, Kazulin added, was an apparent deal offered last week by Lukashenka: Kazulin could receive an early release and help his wife seek treatment abroad -- but only, it was strongly implied, if the couple agreed to never come back to Belarus.

    Press Statement
    Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
    Washington, DC
    February 26, 2008

    Belarus: Release of Aleksandr Kozulin

    We welcome the release of political prisoner and former presidential candidate Aleksandr Kozulin by the Belarus authorities. It is important that his release be made permanent and unconditional. In recent weeks, political prisoners Andrey Klimov, Aleksandr Sdvizhkov, Dmitry Dashkevich, Artur Finkevich, Nikolay Avtukhovich, and Yuriy Leonov have also been released. This represents a positive step on the part of the Belarus authorities. Should Mr. Kozulin's release be made permanent, all internationally recognized political prisoners would have been released, and we would be prepared to begin a dialogue with Belarus on further steps to improve bilateral relations.

    We regret that Mr. Kozulin was not released earlier, prior to the passing of his wife, Irina Kozulina. We offer our condolences to the Kozulin family. In addition to carrying on the battle to free her husband and bring democracy to Belarus, Mrs. Kozulina used her fight against breast cancer to increase awareness of this disease in Belarusian society.


    From: Eurasian Monotor
    Over the past two weeks Belarus has released a large group of “political prisoners” from jails and camps across the country. They include activists, politicians, and some of the entrepreneurs who were arrested when protesting the restriction of their activities through new state laws. Significantly, former presidential candidate Alyaksandr Kazulin remains in captivity, but the apparent moderation of the regime’s stance has fueled hopes that there could now develop a dialogue between the Lukashenka regime and Belarus. Thus in a late January interview with Belapan, Christiane Hohmann, spokesperson for European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner, commented that progress in democratization would be the key determinant of better relations between Belarus and the European Union.

    The most recent high-profile release is that of Andrei Klimau, who was released from Mazyr penal colony #20 on February 15. A former parliamentary deputy, he was arrested last April for violating Article 361, Part 3 of the Criminal Code, which concerns public appeals to remove the existing government. While in Minsk remand prison, Klimau suffered a heart attack and the sentence handed down to him – two years in a strict-regime camp – was concealed from the public for several weeks. He has also spent time in prison on prior occasions and has been one of the most active opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

    Interviewed about the conditions of his release, Klimau rejected any ideas that the regime had responded to any mercy plea. He noted that the relaxing of tension between the authorities and the opposition was a positive step that will “bring us closer to the European Union and offer open opportunities for dialogue.” Other figures recently released include activist Andrei Kim, who was detained at the rally on behalf of the entrepreneurs, and Zmitser Dashkevich and Artur Finkevich, both high-profile Young Front leaders. One of their colleagues, Paval Sevyarinets, commented that Finkevich’s release was geared toward appeasing the EU while arrests of lesser-known figures continued apace.

    The releases have led to a new focus on Kazulin, who was sentenced to five and a half years of imprisonment in July 2006 after a protest rally to release prisoners detained after a large protest against the undemocratic nature of the presidential elections held the previous March. Kazulin subsequently went on hunger strike, which has reportedly resulted in irreversible damage to his health. A former rector of the Belarusian State University, Kazulin was the candidate most feared by Lukashenka, and he ridiculed the president during his two allocated 30-minute segments on national television during the electoral campaign. Amnesty International subsequently designated him as a political prisoner.

    According to Kazulin’s wife, Irina, the terms offered by the government for her husband’s release are a “shameful escape from the country.” His daughter Yulia noted that he has not been offered an amnesty. A recent analysis in the newspaper Belorusy i Rynok was skeptical of what is an apparent policy of releasing of political prisoners as bargaining chips in negotiations with Europe. Thus although the Belarusian side does not recognize the existence of political prisoners in the country, the president was able to take “an unprecedented step of goodwill.” On February 12, speaking to students at the Belarusian State University, Lukashenka maintained that his government had fulfilled the first requirement, to improve relations with the EU. However, Kazulin remains in prison because, in the words of one critic, “freedom must be sold at the most expensive price.” A major figure has to remain incarcerated for future gains.

    A similar position was taken by one of the leaders of the European Belarus movement, Mikola Statkevich, during a visit to Sweden on February 11-14. Statkevich pointed out that the essence of the Lukashenka regime has not changed, no new laws have been issued, the parliament is still not elected on a democratic basis, the press is not free, and the courts are not independent. Others have commented also that despite the release of prominent prisoners, the Belarusian authorities have taken no steps to meet the EU’s demands in other areas – specifically the so-called 12 requirements for democratization.

    So how does one explain the latest moves by the artful president? And when will Kazulin be released? Should the EU respond positively to these maneuvers? For Lukashenka, the past two years have seen significant moves away from the Russian orbit. Though he may have hopes for better relations with the new Russian president after March 2, there are no indications thus far that the predicted victory for Dmitry Medvedev will bring significant changes to the cold relationship. Therefore the president hopes to gain concessions from the EU.

    Realistically, dialogue may be as appropriate a way to deal with Lukashenka as isolation, but the regime is unlikely to evolve in any significant way. In fact, the manipulation of incarcerated prisoners for political gains seems as cynical as any of the president’s earlier policies. Lukashenka has not conceded very much, and little can be expected in the way of real democratization, which is fundamentally alien to his regime. As for Kazulin, there are various pros and cons of authorizing his early release, but he is now the chief pawn in the president’s chess match with Brussels and is part of the endgame rather than the initial negotiations.

    Lukashenka notes “unprecedented pressure” on Belarus in his speech on Fatherland Defenders’ Day

    From: Naveny
    Belarus, which implements an independent policy, has been under unprecedented pressure, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said at a reception that he gave on February 23 on the occasion of the Fatherland Defenders’ Day and the 90th anniversary of the Belarusian Armed Forces, BelaPAN reports.

    “Belarus will never cede its right to decide its fate by itself,” he said. “That’s why ensuring a high level of the state’s defense capability acquires particular importance in building the system of national security.”

    According to the Belarusian leader, the development of military-technical cooperation with Russia, which he described as the main strategic partner, serves this purpose.

    The Belarusian army forms the basis of the Belarusian-Russian Regional Group of Forces, he said. “We ensure the protection from military threats of not only ourselves but also our allies within the Collective Security Treaty Organization,” he added.

    Mr. Lukashenka expressed certainty that Belarus has a strong and efficient army, which he said have entered a qualitatively new stage of development.

    “On the plausible pretext of globalization, the struggle against terrorism, human rights protection and democratization, one power imposes dictation on the world community,” he said. According to him, this dictation is being implemented through “massive information expansion for the purpose of destroying the moral foundations of society, the discrediting and even physical elimination of unwanted country leaders, the defamation of governmental agencies, the army and other guarantors of military and political security, economic sanctions, and the use of military force.”

    A list of so-called undemocratic regimes has been drawn up and these states have been included in an “axis of evil,” he noted. “The examples of Iraq, Yugoslavia, and several countries in Africa show what this leads to,” he said.

    He insisted that the collapse of the USSR and its “virtual defeat” in the Cold War were caused by “failure to take into consideration the new conditions of people’s life, methods of influencing their consciousness, and the nature of relations between states and nations.”

    “As experts say, the army was prepared after the old fashion for a past war, not a future one,” he said. “The immunity of the state and society was lost because of the self-complacence of the then leadership of the USSR, and its huge military potential turned out useless. The great power was put decades back, as was the case at the beginning of the 20th century.”

  • Around the region...

    Gazprom says may cut gas deliveries to Ukraine by 25% on March 3

    From: Ria Novosti
    Gazprom will reduce natural gas supplies to Ukraine by 25% on March 3 at 7:00 a.m. GMT, if problems, primarily debts, are not settled, a spokesman for Russia's energy giant said on Tuesday.

    "This cannot go on. Unless outstanding problems are resolved, by way of ensuring its economic interests, Gazprom will, due to the nonpayment of gas arrears, reduce natural gas deliveries to Ukrainian consumers on March 3 at 10 a.m. [7:00 a.m. GMT]," Sergei Kupriyanov said.

    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has urged Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to pay off the country's gas debt to Russia as soon as possible, the presidential press service said on Tuesday.

    He reportedly ordered her to repay the debt and report to him personally before 7:00 a.m. GMT on February 27.

    The presidents of Russia and Ukraine agreed on a plan two weeks ago to settle Kiev's $1.5 billion debt for Russian gas supplies, with Yushchenko promising that his country would pay off the debt.

    Gazprom has threatened to halt supplies if Ukraine fails to pay back $1 billion before March 14. An agreement was also reached to establish direct fuel supplies between Russian energy giant Gazprom and Ukraine's national oil and gas company Naftogaz.

    Russia also proposed that Gazprom and Naftogaz set up two joint ventures on a parity basis. The two new companies would replace RosUkrEnergo, which holds a monopoly on gas exports, and gas import monopoly UkrGazEnergo. The Ukrainian government has already ruled to liquidate the latter.

    Texas oilman takes on Gazprom over contract claim

    From: IHT
    In a court case closely watched by investors, a Texas company is accusing Gazprom of refusing to honor an investment and property agreement in one of the biggest natural gas fields in Russia.

    Richard Moncrief, chairman of Moncrief Oil International, said he had decided to use the German courts to establish what he said was a 40 percent stake worth $12 billion, in the vast Yuzhno-Russkoye field in western Siberia. The field is intended to supply the underwater Nord Stream pipeline, through which Russia will be able to supply natural gas directly to Germany and Western Europe, bypassing Ukraine, Belarus and Poland.

    Gazprom, owned by the Russian state, is the world's largest natural gas company, with a vast network of fields in the Arctic and Siberia.

    Moncrief obtained the stake in the Yuzhno-Russkoye field a decade ago, with a Gazprom subsidiary holding the remainder, according to documents filed in court in connection with the lawsuit and reviewed by the International Herald Tribune. Moncrief insists that his claim is still valid, while Gazprom has neither rejected nor accepted it.

    His hopes, he said, were now pinned on the Landgericht Berlin, a regional court that will decide within a few weeks whether Moncrief can begin proceedings against Gazprom in the German capital.

    If so, it could cause Gazprom "just a little embarrassment," according to Anders Aslund, a Russia specialist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

    "Taking over gas fields one by one has been a standard way of doing business by Gazprom," he said. "Few companies which have dared challenge Russia in the courts have won."

    Klaus Nieding, the lawyer representing Moncrief in Germany, said he was "cautiously optimistic that the German courts will say 'yes' to German jurisdiction."

    Under German law, if a foreign company has a subsidiary in the country, which in this case Gazprom has through its subsidiary Gazprom Germania, the courts may choose to exercise jurisdiction.

    "If the court says yes, we will have an interesting situation, insofar as a Russian party is being sued in a German court," added Nieding. "Justice is not being sought in Russia. We do not have any illusions concerning Russian justice."

    The case also raises important questions about the validity of contracts, property rights and the treatment of investors in Russia, issues that have been vexing ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, legal experts said.

    Big multinational companies have been venturing into Russia, with varying degrees of success, since the early 1990s. Royal Dutch Shell and BP recently ran into problems with the Russian authorities over the terms of investments and property rights. Those disputes were settled outside court, as the Russians tend to prefer.

    However, the Kremlin has used the courts when doing so suited its purpose. It took Yukos, the Russian energy company owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, to court on charges of corruption and tax fraud. Khodorkovsky, once considered a potential presidential candidate, was sentenced in May 2005 to nine years in a Siberian prison. Yukos was broken up and most of its assets were taken over by Gazprom.

    Moncrief, 65, a Texan whose private oil and natural gas business was established by his grandfather in 1935, said he did not intend to give up attempts to enforce his company's right to the field.

    "This is about bringing out the facts about our claim," Moncrief said during an interview. "We do not view our agreement with Gazprom as a memorandum of understanding. We view it as a binding contract."

    Moncrief was referring to the original contracts signed for a stake in the Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field in 1997 and 1998. He claims his counterpart was Vladimir Nikiforov, then the general director of a Gazprom subsidiary, Zapsibgazprom. Moncrief, however, has been unable to contact Nikiforov, who could be a crucial witness in court.

    Gazprom declined to answer any questions related to the contracts.

    "We prefer not to comment on the Moncrief situation," Dennis Ignatiev, a Gazprom spokesman, said in an e-mail.

    The fate of the Yuzhno-Russkoye field is linked with the Nord Stream pipeline, which was supposed to begin operations in 2010, but which is facing delays in obtaining construction permits. The German-Russian joint venture includes a subsidiary of the German chemical group BASF called Wintershall, and E.ON Ruhrgas, another German company.

    The deal for the pipeline was signed Sept. 9, 2005, by President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Gerhard Schröder, then the chancellor of Germany. Soon after losing his bid for re-election that same month, Schröder, a friend of Putin, was appointed chairman of Nord Stream, the company overseeing the construction of the pipeline.
  • Note: More HERE

    Russia supports Serbia over Kosovo through South Stream project

    From: Ria Novosti
    Russian presidential front-runner Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday that Serbia had been engaged in the South Stream gas pipeline project to show support for Belgrade in the ongoing Kosovo dispute.

    Kosovo declared unilateral independence on February 17. It was later recognized by the U.S. and other, mainly Western, countries. Russia staunchly opposes independence for Kosovo, saying it "undermines international law." Both Moscow and Belgrade have refused to recognize Kosovo's sovereignty.

    Russia and Serbia signed a draft agreement on Monday to build a gas pipeline for the transit of Russian natural gas through the Balkan country.

    Dmitry Medvedev, a current first deputy premier and the man widely expected to win Russia's presidential elections on March 2, is also board chairman at Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, which proposed and leads the project. Medvedev said on Tuesday that taking Serbia on board was an important issue "making the project feasible, complete, fruitful and mutually beneficial."

    He went on to say the issue was "particularly important as regards the situation in Serbia today" and was "essentially an element of our moral, material, and economic aid to the state."

    The agreement signed in Belgrade in the presence of Medvedev and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is scheduled to result in a contract on February 28. On the same day another contact on the South Stream project will be signed with Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsan following talks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

    The South Stream project is planned to transport 10 billion cubic meters of Russian gas annually across the Black Sea, with the first deliveries scheduled for 2013.

    South Stream was proposed by Gazprom and Italy's Eni and is a rival project to the Nabucco pipeline backed by the EU and U.S., which will pump Central Asian gas to Europe via Turkey bypassing Russia. Nabucco, which is due to go on line by 2011, will involve Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria.

    Addressing Kostunica on Monday, Medvedev reaffirmed that Moscow would maintain its firm stand on the territorial integrity of Serbia.

    "We believe that Serbia is a unified state, whose jurisdiction extends over its entire territory, and we will maintain this position in the future," Medvedev said.

    "It is unacceptable that for the first time in the post-war history, a country [Serbia], which is a member of the United Nations, has been divided in violation of all the principles used in resolving territorial conflicts," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Russia's Vesti 24 television channel on Monday.

    Protests against Kosovo's independence turned into street riots in Belgrade last week, leaving at least 130 people injured. Riots continued on Monday and Tuesday.

    Protesters have so far attacked the embassies of the United States, Croatia, Belgium and Turkey, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.

    Russian warplane flies over airspace in Lithuania

    From: xinhua
    A Russian warplane with Russian and Belarussian pilots flew in Lithuanian airspace Thursday, according to reports from Vilnius.

    The plane flew a two-hour surveillance mission over Lithuania, a NATO member. The move was approved by the Lithuanian authorities in accordance with an open skies treaty.

    Under the same treaty, Lithuanian and U.S. pilots flew a surveillance mission over Russia and Belarus last May.

    The treaty is aimed at observing the implementation of an international arms control treaty and promoting mutual trust and transparency in the military arena among the 30 signatory members.


    From: Eurasian Monotor
    President Viktor Yushchenko has begun his drive to reverse the 2004 constitutional reform. His goals include boosting presidential powers and weakening the legislature. On February 20 Yushchenko convened the first meeting of the National Constitution Council (NKS), consisting of 97 experts and politicians, to share with them his outline for a new constitution. The Council should start to work on February 26. Yushchenko expects a new draft constitution to be ready within six months, in time for the 2010 presidential election in which he will probably run.

    The current Ukrainian constitution was adopted in 1996. Initially, it created a very strong president who could fire the prime minister and government any time and who formed governments single-handedly. The reform of 2004, which was enacted in 2006, weakened the president vis-à-vis the Cabinet of Ministers and parliament, so the prime minister and government are now picked by a majority in parliament, rather than the president, and the government subsequently works more or less independently of the president.

    Yushchenko’s supporters argued that the 2004 reform was devised to weaken him, making it difficult for Yushchenko to replace the corrupt post-Soviet elite. Yushchenko has never concealed his dislike of the reform. In August 2007, he made public the idea of forming the NKS in order to reverse it. Yushchenko maintains that the current constitution is too imperfect to be amended, so an entirely new constitution should be drafted. On December 27 he signed a decree authorizing the NKS to draft a new constitution.

    Addressing the NKS on February 20, Yushchenko made it clear that he would bypass parliament if MPs fail to cooperate in drafting a new constitution. He said that the constitution will not necessarily be passed by parliament, but it can be adopted by a national referendum “at the initiative of the people.”

    Yushchenko’s skepticism about assistance from parliament for working on a new constitution is justified, as people’s deputies are unlikely to gladly accept cuts to their authority. He said that the constitution should provide for a “comprehensive status” for the president as the guarantor of national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the constitution, and that the president should play a key role in shaping foreign policy, and national security and defense. Yushchenko said that the remits of the president and the government in this field currently overlap. The Ukrainian edition of the Russian business daily Kommersant summed it up by saying that Yushchenko wants to make the presidency a separate branch of power.

    Simultaneously, Yushchenko wants the constitution to cancel MP immunity from prosecution and to increase the role of regional governments, thereby weakening the parliament-backed central government. In order to ensure support for a new constitution in a popular referendum, Yushchenko proposed giving citizens the right to appeal directly to the Constitutional Court, the right to draft laws and submit them directly to parliament, and the right to cancel laws by referenda.

    The pro-opposition commentator Mykhaylo Pohrebynsky told Glavred that Yushchenko would violate the law by offering a new draft constitution for a referendum, because the current constitution allows only amendment; it does not say anything about invalidating the constitution. However, Ivan Tymchenko a former chairman of the Constitutional Court (CC), said that the current constitution does not forbid the president from calling a popular referendum to approve a new constitution. He added, however, that Yushchenko should secure approval of his draft constitution by the CC before calling a referendum.

    Commentator Oleksy Taran expressed reservations about the composition of the NKS. He noted that the Council includes very few representatives of non-governmental organizations and that several prominent constitutional experts, such as a former deputy parliament speaker Viktor Musiaka, were not invited to participate. Among the top politicians sitting on the commission are Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko; her predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych; presidential chief of staff Viktor Baloha and several of his deputies; National Security and Defense Council Secretary Raisa Bohatyryova; parliament speaker Arseny Yatsenyuk; his predecessors Volodymyr Lytvyn and Ivan Plyushch; and Communist leader Petro Symonenko. The NKS also includes scientists and people’s deputies representing both the coalition and the opposition.

    People’s deputy Dmytro Tabachnyk, who is one of the representatives of the opposition Party of Regions (PRU) on the NKS, said that his party and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) are against rewriting the constitution altogether. He said that the PRU and BYuT can only back new constitutional amendments. Another PRU deputy, Inna Bohoslovska, was more outspoken. She warned that Yushchenko wants to strengthen the presidency “in accordance with the all-power-no-responsibility model like it was under [Yushchenko’s predecessor] Kuchma.” Symonenko also strongly disagreed with Yushchenko’s plan.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Lobbyist Dochnal accuses Krakow TV chief of political favouritism

    From: The News
    Director of the Krakow Branch of Polish Television Witold Gadowski denies accusations that he was former Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro’s secret emissary.

    On Monday, lobbyist and businessman Marek Dochnal, who was arrested in 2004 on charges of bribing a former MP Andrzej Peczak (Democratic Left Alliance - SLD) and money-laundering, said on the TVN channel that Witold Gadowski had asked him to become a state witness and to co-operate with prosecution.

    Witold Gadowski admitted in an interview with Radio Krakow that when he was a TVN reporter, he used to meet Dochnal’s wife. Director of Krakow TV said he was then investigating Marek Dochnal’s links with a Swiss banker Peter Vogel who had allegedly managed proceeds from illegal activities of prominent Polish left-wing politicians, mainly from SLD.

    Gadowski did not deny Dochnal’s accusation that he had maintained close relations with former Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, but explained that he had always drawn a line between his journalistic profession and private life and that his contacts with Dochnal’s wife were strictly professional.

    Marek Dochnal also said on TVN that a journalist from the ‘Wprost” weekly magazine, Dorota Kania had borrowed a few hundred thousand zlotys from his family and in return, she offered assistance in obtaining the favours of leading Law and Justice politicians. Dochnal added that when PiS lost the parliamentary election in 2007, the journalist repaid the loan.

    Drunken Polish man went on rampage with golf club

    From: The Star
    PENSIONERS had to run for cover in a Doncaster social club as a drunken man went on the rampage with a golf club after he was refused more booze.
    Women hid in the toilets as 22-year-old Mateusz Rowinski went round smashing glasses, tables and chairs in the bar of the Balby Bridge WMC during a quiet Sunday lunchtime session, a court heard.

    The incident was so frightening that one elderly member, in his 80s, feared he was going to have another heart attack.

    Robert Rimmer, a member of the club for more than 60 years, said afterwards: "I had never seen anything like that in the club. I was having a quiet rum and peppermint when he started bringing the club down over the tables and smashing glasses. Everyone got out of his way and all the girls ran to the toilet to get away.

    "I have had several heart attacks and I was scared that this might have caused another one."

    The judge at Doncaster Crown Court, Recorder Peter Kelson, QC, said Rowinski had gone on the rampage.

    "The good people of that area are entitled to a quiet drink without people like you, not able to hold your drink, doing something like this."

    Rowinski, a warehouseman, who lived only a few doors from the club in Roberts Road, Balby, admitted affray and was jailed for nine months.

    Prosecutor Carl Fitch said about 20 people, mainly elderly, were in the Balby Bridge one Sunday afternoon last August when Rowinski entered but was refused a drink because he was not a member and appeared drunk.

    As he walked out he prodded one of the pensioners with his golf club, which shocked him, but Rowinski returned a few minutes later and "brought the golf club crashing down" on an empty chair at the same table.

    Mr Fitch said: "Customers retired to the snooker room and the defendant went on to use the club to smash glasses on tables. All the witnesses were terrified and scared of what was happening."

    Police were called and they arrested Rowinski and when he sobered up he said he couldn't remember anything because of the amount he had drunk that day.

    Kevin Jones, defending, said his behaviour was inexcusable and it was uncharacteristic because he was not used to drinking to that level.

    Mr Jones said Rowinski came to Doncaster looking for work and sent some of his wages back to his family in Poland and was willing to pay compensation to the club if he was given a suspended prison sentence.

    Poles tries to burn himself to death

    From: The News
    A man who set himself on fire outside the district court in Slupsk, northwestern Poland on Monday is fighting for his life.

    After a long and strenuous fight for the man's life, the doctors say his condition is serious, but stable. Due to extensive burns, Jaroslaw M. is currently in a drug-induced coma.

    A decision is to be taken later today whether should be transported to a medical facility specializing in treating burns in Gryfice, north-western Poland.

    The event occurred yesterday around 2 PM outside the building of the district court in Slupsk. The man doused his body with a highly inflammable liquid, and then set himself on fire.

    His reasons for doing so remain unknown.

    He was not involved in any legal proceedings in the court that day. Krzysztof Ciemnoczolowski, head of the district court in Slupsk, confirmed that the man was involved in a child support case three years ago. Police are investigating the matter.

    Poles in Britain are bringing over their own private detectives - because police in UK are 'not up to the job'

    From: Daily Mail
    Polish workers: Thousands have flooded into Britain but apparently have so little faith in the police that they are bringing over their own private detectives
    They like the money and love the lifestyle. But Poles in the UK are turning to private detectives from their homeland when they are victims of crime because they do not believe British police are up to the job.

    Detective agencies in Poland have reported a big increase in requests for help from their countrymen in Britain who have complained of poor or apathetic responses from UK police.

    They say they have been “left to their own devices” or received "zero support" when they become victims of burglars, muggers and other criminals - complaints which are regularly made by British crime victims too.

    The Polish private eyes also claim that the British police are helpless in the face of Polish organized crime now taking root in Britain on the coat-tails of the estimated one million Poles who have moved to Britain in recent years.

    “The problem is British police can't get to grips with the workings and culture of Polish emigration or Polish criminal groups,” said one detective.

    Several employees at one Polish detective firm, Polizer, have already left to set up business in Britain working specifically for the Polish community. As well as street crime, these detectives are flying over to help Poles who claim they have been cheated by dishonest estate and job agents, business partners or mafia groups, from both the Polish and non-Polish communities.

    "All of them agree that Poles in Britain are left to their own devices. They say there is zero support from the British police, which is why they turn to us," said Polizer detective, Zbigniew Podyma, whose website features himself next to an image of James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan.

    He said the detectives could gather evidence which would then be handed to British police so that justice could be done.

    Krzysztof Rutkowski, one of Poland's best known detectives, says there is a never a day that passes without some call for help from emigrant Poles

    "I have so many cases ongoing in Britain that I'm seriously thinking about opening a branch there," he said.

    Mr Rutkowski said many of his clients had tried and failed to get help from the British police.

    "They were just told that if they don't feel safe they can always go back home," he said

    He claimed that the British Police couldn't cope with the wave of Polish organized crime villains who have emigrated to Britain along with law-abiding plumbers, nannies and waiters, since Poland joined the EU in May 2004.

    He said he had already helped British police by providing evidence in an investigation against a paedophile involved in the Polish immigrant community.

    "If someone in Poland someone gets mugged the Police usually know the criminal world and know where to look for the perpetrator. The British are unfamiliar with the Polish community," he said, adding: "No-one knows how to target Poles abroad better than Poles themselves."

    One Polish newspaper cited the case of a Warsaw woman living in London who claimed she was conned out of 3,000 pounds by an unscrupulous landlord.

    Unfamiliar with British law and not too-fluent in English, she turned to a British detective agency who charged her £500 to get a court order forcing the landlord to give her the money back plush her expenses.

  • From the blogs...

    UK and Polish football fans most anti-Semitic in Europe?

    From: The Beatroot
    Or so says a report by British MP John Mann alongside English activist Jonny Cohen (who I think is from the 'Socialist Zionist Culturally Jewish youth movement' Habonim Dror UK) presented at the Global Forum against Anti-Semitism, in Jerusalem.

    In the report - entitled Anti-Semitism in football - a scar on the beautiful game - Man has counted over 30 incidents of anti-Semitic abuse at football matches across Europe. The Jerusalem Post reports:

    The UK and Poland are the worst offenders, according to the 16-page document, which describes anti-Semitic incidents in 18 countries across Europe. The report notes that "in Polish matches fans routinely call each other 'Jews' as a term of abuse.

    One example detailed occurred in May 2006 during a Polish cup tie between Stal and Resovia Rzeszow, where "fans of Stal exhibited a huge flag with the motto: "H5N1 - not only one Jew will die" and a banner with a Celtic cross - a racist symbol of white power."

    Another occurred in Krakow in March 2007, when fans of Legia Warsaw chanted "Jews, Jews, Jews, [the] whole of Poland is ashamed of you."
    There is no doubt that there a quite a few right wing thugs in Polish football. And they can be very unpleasant. One of the worst clubs with a history of this is Lodz LKS, which is, or was, according to a report by the AJC Berlin Office/Ramer Centre for German-Jewish Relations ‘heavily infiltrated’ by the fascist nut job National Revival party (NOP).

    And it’s not just the fans painting their dumb swastikas on walls and chanting anti-Semitic chants on the terraces. It’s actually in the dressing rooms of the clubs themselves, alleges Frankline Mudoh, who claims that coaches from many teams in Poland are ‘put under pressure from players not to include blacks in their team’!

    The Jerusalem Post goes on:

    In the UK, the report says, fans of Arsenal chanted "Send the Jews to Auschwitz."

    The report also details anti-Semitic verbal abuse directed towards Israelis, including chants shouted at national team goalkeeper Dudu Awat of Spanish club Deportivo La Caruna during games against Osasuna, and the assault on Hapoel Tel Aviv fans after the team's win over Ukrainian team Chernomorets.
    The Arsenal obsession comes from the hatred of their north London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, with its home ground in an area which once had a relative concentration of Jews living there. One of the chants you can still hear at Arsenal – whether Spurs are playing or not – is I've got a foreskin, how 'bout you?'

    How quaint!

    Arsenal fans have always protested that when calling fans and players of Spurs ‘yids’, they were not being derogatory to those players and fans – the vast majority of which are obviously not Jewish. And some of the supporters of Spurs call themselves the ‘Yid Army’...strange but true.

    So, how large is this problem and is it on the rise? Mann, the MP who wrote the report, certainly thinks so: “The oldest hatred - anti-Semitism - continues to rear its ugly head in football," he writes in his report.

    The football authorities in Poland were slow to get going on anti-racism measures, after black players began to come and play here. Michal Listkiewicz, chairman of the Polish Football Authority ignored the problem, and was slow to act, as he was against fighting endemic corruption in the game. But anti-Semitism on the terraces (and in the dressing room) is not dependant on what happens at football clubs. Anti-Semitism is used by fringe and populist political groups, which had a field day in the two years of the Kaczynski government – so encouraged they were by the weird administration in power.

    But maybe the populist moment – which peaked in the wake of EU accession – has waned here. There are still the meat-heads of course, and they won’t be going way anytime soon. But as a political force these groups are spent. For now.

    Is Poland a quivering pogrom time bomb waiting to go off? Is anti-Semitic Polish or English football culture getting worse? Not really.

    And the admittedly offensive chanting of Arsenal fans in London? I honestly don’t think that has much to do with anti-Semitism at all. Not much.

    Aliaksandr Kazulin: I do not have hate for Lukashenka

    From: Viasna
    Aliaksandr Kazulin is not doing to apply for early release, but he is ready to sit down to the round table of negotiations with the regime.

    “There won’t be an application for early release from me ever. I am an innocent man,” the political prisoner, leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic party (Hramada), a former presidential candidate Aliaksandr Kazulin said in an interview to BelaPAN.

    “I haven’t signed any document as a “convicted offender”. I always sign my name as an “illegally convicted” or “subject to political repressions and persecution”, told A. Kazulin underlining that he is set to demand “full and unconditional” absolution.

    “It is obvious that Lukashenka could save is face by amnestying me,” the politician believes. “Lukashenka knows perfectly well that the case against me had been framed-up. They have been cynically and with exceptional cruelty jeering at my family and me”.

    But Kazulin underlined that: “there is a personal good and public good”. “I am ready to rise above my personal things. I do not have hatred, animosity, resentment against Lukashenka. I have deep grief and deep regret that he acts is such a way,” the leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic party (Hramada).

    As said by A. Kazulin, he is ready to “sit down to the round table of negotiations” with the regime, if they, in their turn, “are ready to do with a good grace”. “The subject of these negotiations could be a considerable changing of the situation in the country, improvement of relations with the EU and the US. I am ready to use best endeavors for our country to have prosperity, welfare, light, compassion and benevolence,” A. Kazulin stated.

    The politician has underlined that he doesn’t want to turn the upcoming funeral of his wife, who died on February 23, into some kind of political action. “We can solve all problems in humanly, in a civilized manner. The issue doesn’t depend on me, but on Lukashenka. If emotional abuse continues, I am ready for most resolute actions,” Aliaksandr Kazulin said.

    A. Kazulin has also said in an interview to BelaPAN that he is ready to announce a hunger strike again, if he won’t be finally released.

    “When I’ll return to the colony, I want to look at the further actions of the regime. If I won’t be released, I will continue hunger strike,” he said. “If I would be released, if we embark on a normal civilized dialogue, we shall move in the direction of improving the situation both inside the country, and in relations with the EU and the US, what’s the use of announcing a hunger strike then? I shall be simply taking part in this process helping our country, normally, actively, without ruffle or excitement”.

    However, A. Kazulin noted that “he doesn’t have any illusions” as for a possibility of his release in the near future. “I am always expecting for the worst. I’m used to that. The question is, is Lukashenka able to rise above himself“.

    Annals of Russian Barbarism

    From: Publius Pundit
    In his final news conference of his "presidency" on Valentine's Day, Vladimir Putin was asked about persistent rumors that he has stolen billions from Russia's national treasury. He refused to answer the question, saying it was "blather not worth discussing." But he did comment on how this information came to circulate in the press: "They just picked it out of their nose and smeared it on their little sheets," he said. When the Kremlin's translators published the official English version of the answer, they ignored the nose smear comment and claimed Putin had merely stated: "They just made it up and included it in their papers."

    A few days later Konstantin Syomin, anchorman for state-owned RTR television declared during his evening news broadcast that "slain former Yugoslavian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic 'got a well-deserved bullet' for his pro-Western policies."

    Then most recently we had Putin's foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko, who told the BBC: "Georgia can't always be like a little boy that takes a fork or a hammer and tries to whack its neighbour. Even a small child knows that if you spill tea or mess up your bed, you might be punished." Do you dare to imagine how Russians would react if a high-ranking official in the Bush White House uttered this statement, replacing "Georgia" with "Russia"? It defies human intelligence for Russia to wail and moan about such treatment from the United States and then to turn around and deliver it by the truckload to its own smaller neighbors. This is the horror of the neo-Soviet state revealed.

    You might think, though, that perhaps Russia is a freewheeling type of society where such remarks as these are generally accepted -- but you'd be wrong. Because when human rights activist Lev Ponomarev said the country's prison chief was "the author of a sadistic system of torture" he immediately found himself "charged with falsely accusing a civil servant of committing a serious crime, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison."

    All of this, perhaps, is what led Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves to observe yesterday that in today's Russia "there is a mentality of being stabbed in the back that reminds me of the Weimar republic. The Weimar mentality is so similar that I really hope that we do not go off in the wrong direction."

    Are Marxists Mental? Are Lefties Loony? Are Anarchists Addled? Are Socialists Psychotic? Are Pinkos Peculiar?

    From: New Zeal
    In December 2006 I posed the question-are socialists psychos?

    My arguement was that socialists are not simply wrong-headed, they are soft-headed as well.

    Now a US psychiatrist has given a scientific underpinning to my ground-breaking thesis.

    Dr Lyle Rossiter has written a book confirming what many of us have long suspected.

    Socialists, Dr Rossiter confirms, are sick.

    Using the US term "Liberal" (not to be confused with the ACT Party small l "liberal" which is a synonym for political sanity), Dr Rossiter explains that socialists do not simply profess foolish political opinions, but actually suffer from psychological illness.

    "A social scientist who understands human nature will not dismiss the vital roles of free choice, voluntary cooperation and moral integrity – as liberals do," he says. "A political leader who understands human nature will not ignore individual differences in talent, drive, personal appeal and work ethic, and then try to impose economic and social equality on the population – as liberals do. And a legislator who understands human nature will not create an environment of rules which over-regulates and over-taxes the nation's citizens, corrupts their character and reduces them to wards of the state – as liberals do."

    Check out this review

    Are Liberals Out of Their Minds? Why do modern liberals think and act as they do? The radical left's politics and its destructive effects on our basic freedoms have provoked many to speculate on what makes these people tick. "The Liberal Mind" answers these questions. This book is the first systematic analysis of the political madness that now threatens to destroy the West's greatest achievement: the American dream of civilized liberty.

    In his penetrating analysis, Dr. Rossiter reveals modern liberalism's assaults on:

    The freedom of adults to make good lives for themselves by cooperating with others
    The ability of families to raise children to be self-reliant and mutual
    The morals, rights and laws that protect our freedoms

    "Modern liberalism's irrationality can only be understood as the product of psychopathology. So extravagant are the patterns of thinking, emoting, behaving and relating that characterize the liberal mind that its relentless protests and demands become understandable only as disorders of the psyche." "The Liberal Mind" reveals the madness of the modern liberal for what it is: a massive transference neurosis acted out in the world's political arenas, with devastating effects on the institutions of liberty.

    The author is an MD who received his medical and psychiatric training at the UNiversity of Chicago and served for two years as a psychiatrist in the U.S. Army. He is currently in private practice in Chicago.

    Dr. Rossiter is board certified in both general and forensic psychiatry and has diagnosed and treated mental disorders for more than 40 years. He has been retained by numerous public offices, courts and private attorneys as a forensic psychiatrist and has consultted in more than 2,700 civil and criminal cases in both state and federal jurisdictions.

    High Nights

    From: Minsk Blog

    Once every four years comes the time to look back and recall the previous 1460 since the last February 29th. This is a time to think back on pleasant memories, review positive deals and successes and let go of unattained dreams. Specifically we look back only on the good and here at KNKH, we will add in our own mix of House, R&B, Big Beat and Drum and Bass into the cocktail of remakes and remixes. Selected by "storerooms tantspola" hot mixes of the past, present and future arev poured into one musical to glass for a mad dancing cocktail from the characters of three capitals - Minsk, Petersburg and Moscow. Let's greet the new spring together! Let us leave the winter of missed chances behind...

    Club KHKH. Minsk, October 5
    29 February, 23.00 Contacts: [ +375 29 ] 853 04 68
    638 74 53
    567 58 41

  • Sport...

    Ostapchuk puts 20.35m – Belarus Indoor Champs

    From: IAAF
    Mogilev, Belarus - At the Belarussian Indoor championships (22-23 Feb) sponsored by the newspaper «Sportivnaya Panorama» which took place in the "Olympian" sport centre in Mogilev, was marked by two national records and the best result of the world indoor season in the women's Shot Put.

    National records were established by Elena Ginko in Race Walking, where she did 43:54.63 for 10,000m, and by Iryna Bakhanouskaya who ran the 2000m Steeplechase in 6:28.22. The leader of the world indoor season Nadzeya Ostaphuk in the fourth round pushed the Shot out to 20.35m, so improving a half a metre on her current season best.

    Ginko’s record in the Race Walk which took place on the first day of the champs beat her previous best set in 2006 (44:07.43). The 31-year-old walker is trained by Boris Drozdov.

    Irina Bahanovskaya, 23, followed Ginko’s example, and with young Sviatlana Kudzelich providing a good pace she was able to sprint off that foundation to the new national record. Her instructor is Vasily Dubojsky from Brest who is full of optimism for her regarding this summer and the Olympic Games in Beijing. One more of Dubojsky’s pupils Siarhei Berdnik, established a new personal best for the men's indoor 3000m Steeplechase, leading from the beginning and to the end to clock 8:45.39. His previous best was the 8:48.27 he ran at these champs in 2007.

    In the Shot Put, Ostapchuk’s implement flew twice over 20m, in the second round (20.23m) and the winning fourth (20.35m).

    “I haven’t put big aims before myself,” confirmed Ostapchuk, “it was necessary to get tournament practice. I’ve only just reduced my impressive training volumes, therefore I felt some weariness. I’m not satisfied very much with push technique: not enough speed, there was no ease, that’s why my puts basically relied on strength. I’m not going to take part in any more competitions I will have a rest and prepare for the World Indoor championships.”

    Andrei Mikhnevich did not take part in the men’s competition, which left Osaka finalist Yury Bialou and the winner of the 7th European Cup Winter Throwing Dzmitry Hancharuk to fight it out. Coming into the last round Bialou led with 19.53m (second round) to Hancharuk’s 19.22m (fifth round). The leader’s last put went out to 19.72m, while his rival's better his best to 19.45m.

    Olympic 100m champion Yuliya Nesterenko and her trainer and husband Dmitry looked extraordinary happy with themselves. In the semi-final of the women's 60m she came second to Aksana Drahun, 7.18 to 7.20 but in the final the two women both ran 7.20 with the Olympic champion being given the win on the photo-finish.

    “I am very happy, that after the treatment I could rise again a competitive tone,” said Nesterenko. “Unlike former years nowadays I have a better start now…I will continue my preparation for the summer season.”

    A runner from Brest, Maksim Lynsha took the men’s 60m Hurdles beating Andrei Shalonka… 7.64 secs to Shalonka’s silver – 8.01. In the women’s race Yauhenia Valadzko from Minsk, won in 8.11 sec.

    Ilona Usovich won the 400m in 51.80 secs. Her sister Sviatlana Usovich got silver – 52.52, Anna Kozak was third, 5317. All three plus Iryna Khliustava will compete in the Relay in Valencia. Hanna Tashpulatava from Brest (54.26) is the reserve.

    Winter Throws

    The Winter Throwing Championship of Belarus was held in Brest, 14 – 16 February, and was marked by high results. Dzmitry Shako from Novopolotsk threw the Hammer to on 78.12m, second place was Andrei Varantsou from Mogilev (76.49m), while 20-year-old Yury Shayunou was third (74.78). Valeriy Sviatokha from Grodno, was fourth (74.24).

    The winter women’s champion was Darya Pchelnik from Grodno, she threw 70.33m. Volha Tsander was second (68.91).

  • Endnote...

    President of Belarus attends Defender of the Fatherland Day celebrations

    From: BelTA
    President Alexander Lukashenko laying a wreath at the Victory Monument in Minsk
    On February 23, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko attended the celebrations to mark the Defender of the Fatherland Day, BelTA was told in the press service of the Belarusian leader. Following the tradition, the Head of State laid a wreath at the Victory Monument.

    Then, the President hosted a reception to celebrate the holiday. In his speech before officers and generals, Alexander Lukashenko highlighted the significance of this historic date, the 90th anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus: “This is a great celebration of valour and heroism, a sign of deep respect for the defenders of the Fatherland, a symbol of an unbreakable link between various generations and continuity of the best military traditions.”

    Speaking about the heroism displayed by members of the Armed Forces, Alexander Lukashenko stressed that nobody was allowed to forget who played the main role in defeating the Nazis, liberating Europe and saving the world from slavery, who, at the cost of their own lives, was forging the Great Victory.

    “Many ordeals befell Belarus in the 20th century. But, notwithstanding the terrible losses and tribulations, the country showed honour and dignity while coping with difficult situations, and achieved successes in labour and battles due to a strong cohesion between its people and its army who were together defending their land, displaying outstanding valour,” the President said.

    The Head of State said: “It is through trials and tribulations that we have realised the undeniable truth that the defence of the Fatherland is the common cause of the nation, an obligation and sacred duty of every citizen of the Republic of Belarus. Therefore, today it is natural that our people have a strong feeling of responsibility for preserving peace and stability on their native land.”