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Sunday, February 10, 2008

President demands greater efforts against crime, Nordic Council considers Belarus European, Money, Hiuman rights, Polish scandal, Blogs and Sports...

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  • #280

    Belarus President demands greater efforts against economic, state administration crimes and tougher control over rational use of fuel and energy

    From: BelTA
    Alexander Lukashenko, pictured last week with Vladimir Putin, discussing issues pertaining to strategic cooperation between Belarus and Russia
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has given an instruction to step up the control over the rational use and preservation of fuel and energy resources. The head of state gave the instruction as he heard out a report by Prosecutor General Piotr Miklashevich on February 8.

    BelTA learnt from the press service of the head of state, Alexander Lukashenko gave an instruction to ensure unconditional fulfilment of requirements outlined by Directive No 3 and to take immediate measures to reinforce and improve the quality of prosecution control over the observance of laws regulating rational use and preservation of fuel and energy resources.

    Apart from that, the head of state demanded relentless prosecution control over the unconditional fulfilment of requirements outlined by Directive No 1 “Measures for building up public security and discipline” and Directive No 2 “Measures for further debureaucratization of the state apparatus”.

    Alexander Lukashenko remarked, crime and corruption still remain factors of social tension and damage the country’s economic development. The President demanded that exhaustive and timely measures should be taken to increase the coordinating role of the prosecution in the fight against crime and corruption and in the protection of constitutional rights of citizens and national interests.

    The Prosecutor General informed the President about results of efforts put by Belarusian prosecution bodies into reinforcing law and order in 2007.

    The prosecution reinforced coordination of all law enforcement bodies in the fight against corruption as well as in raising the effectiveness of prevention efforts, remarked Piotr Miklashevich.

    All in all, Belarus witnessed 180,400 crimes in 2007, 5.8% down on 2006. The number of crimes committed by the underage decreased by 19.4% (from 8,150 to 6,572). The number of premeditated murders and heavy bodily injuries shrank by 16.6% (from 948 to 791) and 5.4% (from 1,986 to 1,878) respectively. The number of registered robberies fell by 17% while the number of abbrochments went down by 8.9%. The total number of grave crimes was reduced by 18%.

    Nevertheless, the President demanded stepping up efforts of law enforcement agencies this year to disclose crimes.

    Vigorous efforts were exercised to carry out organisational and practical measures outlined by the 2007-2010 State Anti-Corruption Programme. The measures resulted in an 8.9% decrease in corruption crimes (from 3,387 to 3,084), with the number of embezzlements through abuse of office down from 887 to 675, abuse of office — down from 373 to 310. The number of briberies grew from 1,045 to 1,066.

    The head of state demanded a more targeted approach of the prosecution and other law enforcement agencies to fighting crimes in the economic and state administration spheres.

    In 2007 financial losses from corruption crimes reached Br82.2 billion (Br56.2 billion in 2006).

    Prosecution agencies put most efforts into removing red-tape barriers in the processing of applications of individuals. Healthcare establishments and institutions accountable to the Tax Ministry were examined for compliance with the laws that regulate the processing of requests of individuals.

    In 2007 efforts continued to control the observance of laws regulating land allocation and utilisation and the observance of decree No 18 of November 24, 2006, which outlines additional measures for the state support for children in troubled families.

    The control over the observance of Directive No 1 “Measures for building up public security and discipline” remained an extremely important area of efforts of the prosecution. Prosecution control over the observance of Directive No 3 “Saving and frugality as major factors of the national economic security” was reinforced.

    Exercising control over the observance of laws and legitimacy of legal acts, in 2007 the prosecution carried out almost 14,000 examinations of companies, establishments, local executive and administration bodies, national state administration bodies and controlling agencies. The efforts resulted in restoring violated rights of citizens and cancelling over 3,500 illegal regulations, with 388 criminal cases started. The prosecution made over 31,000 violators face the disciplinary, financial and administrative responsibility. Out of court natural and juridical persons reimbursed over Br105.5 billion of financial damage inflicted by their actions. Law courts and economic courts satisfied over 17,000 lawsuits filed by the prosecution and ordered to collect over Br205.5 billion of financial loses from the guilty.

    In 2007 prosecution bodies resolved over 44,000 applications from citizens. The applications mainly complained about violated labour, housing and other social rights, illegal administrative responsibility, and illegal actions made by inquiry and preliminary inquiry agencies. One in five of the applications was satisfied. Prosecutors received over 47,000 applicants personally. Following examinations by the prosecution 292 officials were warned against violating the law and over 1,000 people faced disciplinary and administrative punishments.

    Special attention was paid to investigation units of the prosecution and improvement of their performance. The investigation of over 4,000 criminal cases, including 826 premeditated murder cases, was completed.

    Grigory Vasilevich appointed prosecutor general of Belarus

    Grigory Vasilevich
    The President of Belarus has appointed Grigory Vasilevich prosecutor general of Belarus. His appointment will be coordinated with the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly.

    Alexander Lukashenko signed the relevant decree on February 8, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    180,400 crimes were registered in Belarus in 2007. This is 5.8% down over 2006, Prosecutor-General of Belarus Piotr Miklashevich reported to President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    Juvenile delinquency was down 19.4% (from 8,150 to 6,572). The number of premeditated murders and grave bodily injuries reduced by 16.6% (from 948 to 791) and by 5.4% (from 1,986 to 1,878) respectively. Hold-ups and robberies decreased by 17% and 8.9%. The total number of grave crimes went down by 18%.

    A special emphasis was placed on improving the work of the investigative branch of the procuracy bodies. The investigation of more than 4,000 cases, including 826 premeditated crimes, was completed.

    Nevertheless, the President put the task to intensify the efforts on crime detection this year.

    Belarus President demands more efforts against economic, state administration crimes

    The President of Belarus demanded a more targeted approach of the prosecution and other law enforcement agencies to fighting economic and state administration crimes. Alexander Lukashenko gave the instruction as he heard out a report by Prosecutor General Piotr Miklashevich on February 8, BelTA learnt from the press service of the head of state.

    According to Piotr Miklashevich, in 2007 vigorous efforts were exercised to carry out organisational and practical measures outlined by the 2007-2010 State Anti-Corruption Programme. The measures resulted in an 8.9% decrease in corruption crimes (from 3,387 to 3,084), with the number of embezzlements through abuse of office down from 887 to 675, abuse of office — down from 373 to 310. The number of briberies grew from 1,045 to 1,066.

    In 2007 financial losses from corruption crimes reached Br82.2 billion (Br56.2 billion in 2006).

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus amends university entrance rules

    From: BelTA
    The 17th World Festival of Youth and Students will be held in Belarus in summer 2009, BelTA was told in the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), which is headquartered in Budapest, Hungary. The decision to hold the festival in Belarus under the motto “We are for the World without Wars” was taken at a WFDY assembly in early February in Lisbon.
    Belarus has amended entrance rules for the establishments of higher and vocational education. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko signed relevant decree #70 on February 8, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    The decree determines similar conditions and reduces the period of submitting the documents to the educational establishments. The internal university examination on the subjects included into the centralized testing has been abolished.

    The new rules cut back the categories of entrants with the right to the out-of-competition enrollment. The right is valid for orphans and children left without parental custody, winners and prize-holders of the international and national subject Olympiads, creative contests and festivals, sports competitions.

    Disabled children have the right to partake in the contest for the fulltime and distant budget-funded courses.

    The higher education in specialties with special requirements to specialists is available for persons who undergo a professional psychological interview or testing in line with the procedure established by the Education Ministry.

    The new entrance rules define the competitive selection criteria for people seeking for the second higher education.

    Amendments and addenda also cover the enrollment of foreign people to the Belarusian universities.

    The press service noted that the decree is set to improve university entrance rules and make the university entrance examinations campaign more objective.

    Presidential programme 2006-2010 Belarus Children amended

    The presidential programme 2006-2010 Belarus Children has been amended. Head of state Alexander Lukashenko signed relevant decree No 69 on February 8, the presidential press service told BelTA.

    In particular, the decree specifies names, commissioning terms and financing for buildings of educational, medical, recreational and other establishments for children and the youth, which are currently under construction, reconstruction or repair.

    The decree redistributes financing per year for eight projects, specifies the estimated cost for 12 projects according to the developed design and budget documentation.

    The press service remarked, the amendments will contribute to the more complete and quality implementation of the presidential programme 2006-2010 Belarus Children.

    Nordic Council considers Belarus as natural part of European family, Norwegian parliamentarian says

    From: BelTA
    The Nordic Council considers Belarus as a natural part of the European family, Dagfinn Hoybraten, the head of Nordic Council’s delegation, a Norwegian parliamentarian and a member of the Presidium of the Nordic Council, noted during a session held in the Council of the Republic of Belarus’ National Assembly on February 8.

    “Our dream is to see Belarus as a full-fledged member of the Council of Europe,” he highlighted. The politician also noted that the Council joins parliamentarians of five northern countries. The Council cooperates with Russia and the Baltic states and estimates Belarus as its neighboring state. During the current visit, the delegation would like to get familiar with the situation in Belarus.

    In turn, Nikolai Cherginets, the Chairman of the International Affairs and National Security Commission of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus, noted that “Belarus is interested in establishing the friendly relations as with the Nordic Council all-in-all so with each its country apart”. We have a lot of areas of common interest and they allow us to settle many problems in economic, social and ecological spheres, the Belarusian official added.

    The senator also noted that “we are always glad to see the people who would like to know Belarus according to their personal experience but not due to the stories of oppositional politicians”. “When some European officials try to build relations with Belarus putting forwarding demands and ultimatums we ask the question “Dear Sirs, maybe it is better to communicate directly?” We stand for the cooperation with PACE,” Nikolai Cherginets noted. According to him, such cooperation will allow the Belarusian and European parliamentarians to share experience of the key issues and to settle many problems together.

    MPs from Belarus, Scandinavia and Baltics plan to meet in Vilnius in March

    Parliamentarians from Belarus, Scandinavian and Baltic states are expected to meet in Vilnius in March 2008, Dagfinn Hoybraten, a member of the Presidium of the Nordic Council told reporters after a meeting with deputy chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus Sergei Zabolotets.

    Mr Dagfinn Hoybraten noted that the talks with the Belarusian Vice-Speaker focused on the issues of environmental protection and energy. “We hope to continue the cooperation,” Mr Dagfinn Hoybraten said.

    The Nordic Council is a parliamentary cooperation organization of Northern European countries. The organization unites five countries - Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden, and three autonomies – the Aland and Faroe Islands, Greenland. The Council prepares recommendations for the Council of Ministers of the Northern countries. The Nordic Council consists of 87 members elected by the national parliaments. The Presidium, the Plenary Session and committees are the main bodies of the Nordic Council.

    Belarus deems it appropriate to start visa talks with EU

    Belarus deems it appropriate to start talks on visa issues with the European Union. The statement was made during the Belarusian-Estonian consular consultations which were held in Tallinn at the level of the chiefs of the consular services. A Belarusian delegation was headed by the chief of the consular department of the Foreign Ministry. Andrei Giro, the Estonian one - by the general director of the consular department of the Foreign Ministry Lauri Bambus.

    As BelTA was told in the general consulate of Belarus in Tallinn, during the discussion of bilateral relations in visa issues the attention of the Estonian side was drawn to the fact that Belarus preserved more liberal visa procedures than those effective in most Schengen countries and did not increase visa fees.

    The Estonian side was informed about the agreements on mutual trips of citizens Belarus signed with the neighbouring countries. Estonia was proposed to consider singing similar agreement. The sides agreed to continue a dialogue on this issue.

    The sides noted high level of interaction between the consular services of the two countries in protection of the rights and interests of citizens of Belarus and Estonia. The sides also expressed readiness to continue developing bilateral cooperation in all areas of consular relations.

    In line with the final protocol, another round of the Belarusian-Estonian ministerial consultations on the level of the chiefs of the consular services will be held in Minsk in 2009.

    Belarusian oil refiners’ profitability triples in January

    From: BelTA
    In January 2008, the Belarusian oil refiners' profitability tripled over the same period last year, First Vice-Premier Vladimir Semashko told reporters on February 7.

    According to him, in 2007 the government devised a system of compensatory measures for the refiners. The problem was settled. The companies fulfilled the production programmes.

    Naftan refinery invested $216 million into modernisation of the key assets, Mozyr refinery - $125 million. These moves will help increase the output and the crude processing level – from 68-70% to 92-93%, Vladimir Semashko said.

    He also reminded of the task to supply the domestic petrochemical industry with chemical feedstock including with paraxylol – the product which has been included in the import-substituting programme.

    Vladimir Semashko said that this year the market trends for the sales of oil products have improved. Last year the oil price hike led to an increase in the prices for oil products. The prices for oil products grew slower then. “We can regularly see this time lag when the prices for oil and oil products grow inadequately creating a kind of delta,” Vladimir Semashko went on to say. Today the prices for oil product have increased in the world market. Therefore the profits from refining each tonne of oil are much higher than last year.

    Belarus government to raise economic growth targets for 2009-2010

    Belarus’ economic growth targets for 2009-2010 will not be lower than those for 2008. The targets may even be higher, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky told a session of the Industry Ministry board on February 7.

    He remarked, in February-March the government will start considering social and economic development targets and the budget for the next two years.

    Sergei Sidorsky asked heads of industrial companies to formulate their proposals concerning business prospects in 2009-2010. “We expect you to produce specific proposals,” said the Prime Minister.

    Import substitution programme secures 40% of Belarus’ economic growth in 2007

    The import substitution programme secured 40% of Belarus’ economic growth in 2007, First Vice-Premier of Belarus Vladimir Semashko told BelTA on February 7.

    According to him, the programme helped the national economy overcome the difficulties related to the energy price spike. Vladimir Semashko noted that in 2007 the additional load on the economy attributed to the increase in gas prices was $1.2 billion, the one attributed to oil price rise - $1.5 billion.

    The import substitution programme allowed the country to restrain the growth of a foreign trade deficit, the First Vice-Premier added.

    According to him, the Government set the task to reach zero balance of foreign trade or to secure a little surplus. To achieve the goal, the Government identified a number of import substitution projects. Among them is setting up of a cold-rolled sheet production at Belarusian Steel Works. “We have been working on other import substitution projects as well,” Vladimir Semashko noted.

  • From the international press...

    Amnesty International, Belarusian Helsinki Committee condemn executions of convicts in Belarus

    From: Naveny
    Amnesty International and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee have condemned the recent executions of convicts in Belarus.

    On February 5, the Supreme Court of Belarus announced that Syarhey Marozaw, the leader of a Homyel-based criminal gang, and his close associates, Valery Harbaty and Ihar Danchanka, had been executed by shooting. The three were sentenced to death by shooting in a months-long trial that came to an end on December 1, 2006. The so-called Marozaw Gang, which was said to have terrorized the Homyel region between 1990 and 2004, was accused of 16 murders.

    “Amnesty International and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee oppose the death penalty in all cases, without exception,” the human rights watchdogs say in their joint statement. “The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights – the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice.”

    Scientific studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments, the statement says.

    Amnesty International and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee have urged the Belarusian authorities to immediately inform the families of the convicts about the dates and places of execution and burial, and to allow them to collect the prisoners' remains and any personal effects.

    In October 2007, the Supreme Court of Belarus handed down sentences to five members of the Marozaw Gang, including Messrs. Marozaw and Danchanka, on new charges, again sentencing the two to death by shooting. The Court then sentenced to prison two other members who fled to Russia after the opening of the case and were arrested later.

    Five police officers, including the chief of the regional criminal investigation department, were convicted by the Supreme Court in the case earlier. A total of 46 people then stood trial.

    The police are currently searching for a former prosecutor of the Homyel region in connection with the gang’s crimes.

    Meanwhile, the Chyhunachny District Court in Homyel is to hear charges against six more alleged members of the Marozaw Gang. More than 130 people are witnesses in the case.

    Belarus is the only country in Europe and the post-Soviet region that still executes prisoners. The Belarusian authorities have preserved the death penalty for “premeditated, aggravated murder” and 12 other peacetime offenses.

    There are no data available about the number of executions in 2007. In November, the Supreme Court reported the execution of Alyaksandr Syarheychyk, a police officer convicted of six murders.

    Henadz Navitski, chairman of the upper parliamentary house, said in March 2007 that the number of death sentences passed in Belarus decreased from 47 in 1998 to 13 in 1999, four in 2003, two in 2005 and two in 2006.

    Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumaw said in late 2004 that five people had been sentenced to death and executed in Belarus that year. “In the last five years, no more than seven people have been sentenced to death annually, which is much less than one percent of all people convicted of grave crimes,” the minister said. “One-third of the 104 people currently serving life sentences say they would prefer the death penalty," he added.

    The death penalty was abolished thrice in the country since 1912 but was always been restored again. More than 80 percent of those who took part in a 1996 national referendum reportedly voted against abolishing the death penalty. In 2006, the government enacted an amendment to the Criminal Code, which indicated the temporary nature of the use of the death penalty in Belarus.

    Executions in Belarus are carried out by a gunshot to the back of the head. Neither the condemned nor relatives are told of the scheduled date of the execution, and the relatives are not informed of where the body is buried.

    Belarus to host 17th World Festival of Youth and Students

    From: People's Weekly World
    The General Council of the World Federation of Democratic Youth decided last weekend that Belarus would host the World Festival of Youth and Students in 2009. The goal of these festivals is to promote peace, international friendship and solidarity.

    After nearly a year of consultations with each organization that bid to host the Festival, the Coordinating Committee decided Belarus has the necessary infrastructure and political climate to host it in 2009.

    Belarus was a part of the former Soviet Union, bordering Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic States. It has a population of approximately 10 million, and considers itself a democratic social state.

    WFDY organizations expressed enthusiasm about the festival being held in Eastern Europe where the struggles for socialism continue despite the fall of the Soviet Union.

    President Bush has often demonized Belarus because the country has chosen to continue some of its socialist-oriented economy and not open itself up to unfettered corporate domination.

    WFDY president Miguel Madiera noted, “We are very enthusiastic about this festival occurring in Europe. I think it will display the opposition of youth to the imperialist policies of the European Union.”

    Now that the location is decided, WFDY officials will plan the first meeting of the International Preparatory Committee in the first half of this year in Venezuela. The first IPC is traditionally held in the country that hosted the previous festival. Preparations to host the first U.S. National Preparatory Committee meeting are also underway. The U.S. delegation to the 2005 festival in Venezuela consisted of over 700 youth.

    “It’s going to be a challenge to mobilize as many youth as we did in Venezuela,” said Erica Smiley who represented the Young Communist League USA at the WFDY meeting this weekend. “But it will be worth the effort to expose U.S. young people to current struggles of youth in Eastern Europe in addition to being a part of the historic festival movement.”

    The YCL hopes to mobilize a wide representation of youth and student organizations to join the U.S. NPC.

    This upcoming festival will be a continuation of a proud movement of world youth festivals that spans over 60 years.

    Charismatics facing pressure in Belarus

    From: Religious Intelligence Ltd,
    CHARISMATIC Protestant churches in Belarus are facing increased pressure, the Forum 18 News Service is reporting today.

    One example of the growing pressure is the case of the New Life Church in Minsk, the Belarus capital.

    Following the indefinite adjournment in a case to decide the fate of their church building, members of the congregation voted in favour of a civil disobedience plan. This has led to state inspectors being denied access to the property.

    Forum 18 reports that fire, electricity and other inspectors, who have the power to impose fines on the property, have not been allowed access. Now the pastor is being faced with a fine, although as assistant public prosecutor has warned that, if the obstruction continues, "we could be talking about another form of punishment."

    Forum 18 comments that the row is centred on a dispute over which state body should resolve the issue.

    A senior religious affairs official told Forum 18 that the Minsk city authorities are primarily responsible for New Life's situation, but Minsk's chief religious affairs official told Forum 18 that "I'm not responsible to them for anything!"

    A similar case appears to be developing in Baranovichi, where New Generation Church was recently fined for alleged incorrect land use.

    Belarus conference to feature Pope's video appearance

    In a related story, Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) will take part in a televised conference linking the Vatican to the Belarusian capital city of Minsk on March 1, the Interfax news agency reports.

    Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk is organizing the event, in which the Pope will preach and join the congregation from Belarus in prayer. The program will be a "first" in Belarus, a country with strong ties to Russia and the Orthodox Church, which imposes severe restrictions on minority religions.

    Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, a native of Belarus who previously served as Archbishop of Moscow, told Interfax that Catholicism has been "developing very rapidly over the past 16 years" in Belarus-- a reference to the fall of the Communist regime. He mentioned that during the televised conference, information about the Orthodox faith will also be available to the audience.

    Rezidor Announces 3 New Hotels in Belarus, Libya and Germany

    From: Business Wire
    The Rezidor Hotel Group (STO:REZT) announces three new hotels in EMEA – the Radisson Olympic Hotel, Minsk, Republic of Belarus (241 rooms), the Radisson Tripoli, Libya (333 rooms) and the Park Inn Weimar, Germany (194 rooms). All together, the properties add 768 rooms to the Rezidor system.

    The Radisson Olympic Hotel, Minsk is ideally located in the capital of the Republic of Belarus – 6,5 km from the railroad terminal and 40 km from the international airport. A park land around the property ensures a pleasant environment, and 500 meters west of the hotel the new Minsk-Arena will offer a universal sports arena, a skating stadium, an entertainment centre and training facilities. Besides 241 modern and stylish rooms the Radisson Olympic Hotel will feature 2 restaurants, conference & meeting areas and wellness & spa facilities. The opening is scheduled for Q2 2010.

    The Radisson Tripoli in Libya is an existing hotel which will be renovated and welcome its first guests in September 2008. Located in the city centre the hotel is overlooking Al Fatah street and close to a number of diplomatic residences and villas. Tripoli’s international airport is just a 30 minute drive away. The property will comprise 333 rooms, 3 restaurants including a rooftop restaurant, a 400 seat convention hall, 2 meeting rooms, a pool and a gym.

    The Park Inn Weimar in Germany, located in close proximity to the highway A4, is currently operating under the Quality Inn brand and will be converted into a Park Inn by the end of March 2008. The 194-room hotel is very comfortable – featuring 1 restaurant, 1 bar, 10 conference rooms and an indoor pool. The city of Weimar is blessed with numerous cultural attractions. It is one of the most famous cultural destinations in Europe as it is home to luminaries such as Goethe and Schiller.

  • Cultural scene...

    Brest, Mogilev, Minsk to host Ingmar Bergman’s film festival

    From: BelTA
    A film festival of Swedish producer Ingmar Bergman “Bergman’s Journey to the East” will take place in Brest, Mogilev and Minsk on February 11-29. The action has been organized by the Minsk office of the Swedish embassy to Moscow with the support of the Swedish institute.

    Belarusian film amateurs will see Autumn Sonata, Waiting Women, Summer with Monika, Cries and Whispers, Fanny and Alexander, Dreams, Brink of Life and others, BelTA learnt from the Swedish diplomatic representative office. The films will be screened in Swedish with the Belarusian dubbing.

    The festival will open in Brest on February 11 (Mir Cinema), then will go to Mogilev on February 12 (Rodina Cinema) and to Minsk on February 18 (Pobeda Cinema).

    Ingmar Bergman is an outstanding Swedish producer, one of the well-known figures in the history of the cinematography. Ingmar Bergman alongside Federico Fellini, Antoniani, Andrei Tarkovsky makes an exclusive group of producers whose names need no explanation. “Bergman” is a kind of brand, the Minsk office of the Swedish embassy noted.

    Translation of Vasiliy Bykov’s story into Hebrew presented at exhibition Books of Belarus 2008

    A presentation of the first translation of Vasiliy Bykov’s story “Poor People” from Belarusian into Hebrew was held at the 15th international book exhibition and fair Books of Belarus 2008. The author of the translation is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Israel to Belarus Mr. Zeev Ben-Arie.

    The exhibition is also featuring the only translation of Etgar Keret’s book “The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God” from Hebrew into Belarusian. Both the books were demonstrated at the exhibition owing to the Israeli Embassy.

    Israel which is the honorary guest of the 15th international book exhibition and fair Books of Belarus 2008, is showcasing more than 800 books of Israeli, Belarusian and Russian publishing houses.
    More than a half of the exposition - the books published by Israeli publishing houses. The books dedicated to historical, philosophic and religious issues and culinary are presented at the forum.
    The Embassy of Israel in Belarus jointly with the Israeli Culture and Information Centre, the Jewish organizations Sokhnut and Joint, the Belarusian publishing house MET are preparing various presentations, creative parties, reports of famous authors, publishers and journalists. Visitors of the Israeli national booth may get familiar with the national music and an exposition of illustrations for children’s books.

    When the Minsk book fair finishes, the Israeli Embassy will organize mini-exhibitions of the Israeli book in Mogilev, Grodno and Brest.

    The Minsk international book fair Books of Belarus 2008 is being held in the exhibition centre Belexpo. It will be running through February 10. Taking part in the forum are more than 600 exhibitors from 20 countries worldwide.

  • Around the region...

    Putin visions new development plans for Russia

    Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks to the State Council in Moscow's Kremlin Feb 8, 2008. Putin outlined a series of new development strategies for the country at a State Council session.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin outlined a series of new development strategies for the country at a State Council session here on Friday.

    The president, who will step down after eight years in office following the March 2 presidential elections, said that Russia has so far failed to get rid of an 'inert' dependence on natural resources, the RIA news agency reported.

    Innovative development is the only alternative to dependence on natural resources, said Putin, who chaired a meeting of the consultative State Council in the Kremlin to outline the concept of strategic long-term development of the country up to the year 2020.

    "The strategy of innovative development relies on human potential and the effective use of knowledge and individual skills," Putin said.

    "The paces of innovational development must be cardinally higher than those we have today," Putin added.

    He urged the use of the experience and resources accumulated over the past eight years to launch Russia into a brand new stage of development and set the goal of forming a society of equal opportunities free of poverty and providing security guarantees to every citizen in Russia.

    "We should strive to form such a society, and I am certain that we will succeed," Putin said.

    Authorities should bear in mind the personal security of citizens, he said, explaining that security, in its broadest sense, means that it could provide protection for life and property, favorable environment, good transport and public utility infrastructures and efficient prevention of man-made disasters.

    "Russia should become the best country for career opportunities and the for encouraging talented and successful people," the president said.

    Meanwhile, the president also called for the decentralization of power in Russia.

    Excessive centralization has remained one of the main problems of the modern public administration, he said, adding that the governmental system in Russia is too bureaucratic and is not motivated for dynamic development.

    "Today's governmental bodies are a very bureaucratic, corrupt system which is not motivated for positive changes, let alone dynamic development," he said.

    "The government makes any decision, even the simplest one, for months and sometimes years."

    Putin stressed that the government should be a center, which develops strategic plans, approves federal programs, with clearly set tasks and assessment criteria, rather than to get bogged down in redundant trivialities.

    With regard to economic development, Putin said that Russia could double its gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of 2009 if the current economic growth rate could be maintained.

    "The country's GDP has grown 72 percent since 2000. If current GDP growth of 7.2 percent is sustained, then GDP could be doubled as early as the end of next year, 2009," Putin said.

    While talking about the existing problems in Russia's economic development, Putin called for a reduction in the state-controlled sector of the economy and for more private investment incentives.

    He said that Russia can no longer afford maintaining the massive state-owned sector it has today. "It is apparent that the state is unable to and does not need to run such a large state-owned sector."

    According to Russia's Statistics Service, Russia's GDP growth reached 8.1 percent last year.

    Russia's Gazprom could halt gas shipments to Ukraine over debt dispute

    From: International Herald Tribune
    State-controlled natural gas giant OAO Gazprom said it could cut off Russian gas to Ukraine as early as Tuesday morning if the neighboring countries fail to settle a debt dispute, Russian news agencies quoted a Gazprom spokesman as saying.

    Sergei Kupriyanov's statement that Russian gas shipments could be halted at 10 a.m. (0700 GMT) came a day after Gazprom demanded Ukraine work out settlement of $1.5 billion in debt by Monday.

    Western Europe is watching the disagreement anxiously because it receives much of its natural gas through pipelines crossing Ukraine.

    Earlier Friday, Ukraine's natural gas company Naftogaz conceded it owes money for gas, but says it does not owe the money directly to Gazprom.

    Naftogaz spokesman Dmitry Marunich said it has not settled payments with one of the intermediate companies involved. He did not say how much was owed.

    Ukraine's Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has vowed to eliminate the intermediary companies, which critics see as mechanisms for diverting money into private pockets.

    Naftogaz deputy chairman Igor Didenko came to Moscow for talks with Gazprom on Friday, but they ended with no sign of progress.

    "The meeting showed the complete unpreparedness of the Ukrainian side to discuss the essence of the matter," Kupriyanov was quoted as saying by the RIA-Novosti news agency.

    The unexpected cutoff threat and deadline raised tensions between Russia and Ukraine, already high because of Ukraine's drive to join NATO and the European Union. The threatened cutoff would come on the eve of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's planned visit to Moscow.

    The situation echoed the January 2006 gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, when Gazprom halted shipments to Ukraine for several days as the countries argued over price. That dispute disrupted supplies to Western European countries.

    About one-quarter of the gas currently imported by Ukraine is Russian and the rest comes from Central Asian countries, according to Gazprom officials. But all of it crosses Russian through pipelines.

    If the debt isn't resolved, Gazprom said, it would cut only Russian-origin gas and promised that the move would not affect deliveries to countries beyond Ukraine.

    The European Commission on Friday said it was closely monitoring the dispute and called on both sides to ensure Russian gas deliveries to Western Europe are not halted.

    Russia's man says it all

    From: Guardian Unlimited
    Yuri Fedotov
    I always enjoy the Whitehall mandarins who speak "British", a dialect of English which is almost comprehensible but manages to obscure nearly every topic it touches. Deliberately. But our lot are amateurs compared with Yuri Fedotov, the Russian ambassador to London. Yesterday he gave a sustained and bravura display of how to skate around a subject, appearing to be candid, while saying virtually nothing. It was sheer genius.

    His Excellency was appearing at the House of Lords committee on the European Union. The subject was relations between Russia and the EU, which provided the perfect escape hatch when the topic of the Litvinenko assassination came up. "Once again, I can say what I repeatedly say to my British colleagues, that is a bilateral issue which needs to be discussed between the UK and the Russian government, and we don't think that is a matter for the European Union. Certainly there will be further questions and we will be answering those questions. I will continue to do this."

    Magnificent! Mr Fedotov is a very big man. No doubt the tundra shakes as he walks. He has also survived a long time in the Russian foreign service, gliding smoothly from the Communist regime to Vladimir Putin.

    Their lordships moved on to the harassment of British Council employees last month. Mr Fedotov speaks good English, though his voice tends to drop as his answers proceed. An ambassador is an honest man who is sent abroad to mumble for his country.

    I quote a longish chunk of his reply as it's the only way I can communicate its full coiling, sinuous skill. "Russia does not have any concerns about what the British Council is doing in Russia. It is doing well in terms of cultural exchange, but unfortunately actions of the British Council in Russia were lacking legal grounds, and as a matter of fact the 1974 agreement only mentioned the possibility of opening cultural centres, and indicated a need to have a special agreement which unfortunately is not signed, but we were close to having an agreement last year, but because of political acts by the British government all was suspended, including discussions of the culture agreement, and the British Council does not have legal grounds for its actions, but as a gesture of goodwill, the Russian government has not insisted on the suspension of the British Council office in Moscow, and I hope we will resume discussions of cultural agreements and the British Council will have legal grounds for the continuation of its work in Russia," he ended, on what would have been a note of triumph if it had not been delivered in a low growl.

    Either way it was a superb display - you will have spotted how he slipped in the line about it all being the fault of the British government, but so subtly that you had to be listening hard to notice.

    Lost in admiration, I looked up Mr Fedotov's entry in Who's Who. He is a member of the Athenaeum Club, the British Establishment's establishment, which may explain everything.

    Most Ukrainians expect corruption at Euro 2012

    From: Earth Times
    Three out of four Ukrainians expect their country's management of the Euro 2012 football championships,which it is co- hosting with Poland, to be at least partially corrupt, according to poll data made public Friday. A whopping 76 per cent of Ukrainians said they "were sure or almost sure" their country's preparations for the tournament would see graft, kick backs or other forms of corruption, according to the Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), a survey company.

    More than half of Ukrainians (56 per cent) predicted the corruption "would be substantial." Only a tiny minority (4 per cent) expected Ukraine's preparations for Euro 2012 would not be corrupt in any way, the survey found.

    Less than one-third of those surveyed (29 per cent) said they were confident Ukraine would manage to do a good job hosting the event.

    The poll conducted in late January surveyed 2,036 persons, and has a maximum 3.5 per cent margin of error, according to the KIIS report.

    Ukraine and Poland won their bid to host the event in April 2007.

    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko at a Friday meeting of the government council coordinating preparations for Euro 2012 conceded the greed of Ukrainian public officials already has turned planning into a shambles.

    "Right now we still have three different (government) agencies working on preparations," Yushchenko said. "Not to help us get ready, but to divert the maximum amount of money possible into the black economy."

    Ukraine's Euro 2012 planning council has repeatedly missed planning deadlines, most recently failing to complete a schedule of tasks needing completion to host the event.

    Ukraine needs by some estimates as much as 5 billion dollars' investment in roads, hotels, stadiums, and service industries to develop infrastructure up to standards needed to host a a European football championship.

    Speaking in Kiev, Yushchenko pointed out the equally daunting administrative challenges facing the country, including the fact that fewer than half of the responsible government agencies even possess a plan for Euro 2012 preparations.

    There is also an absence of a consolidated national list of football infrastructure and no laws at all mandating how the government will carry out its preparations to host the championship.

    Yushchenko and other Ukrainian officials have repeatedly promised they will meet UEFA deadlines set for tournament preparations, but actual work in the country has been slow.

    A milestone has been the country's largest footballing site, Kiev's Olympic Stadium, which is unusable for a major game because of a shopping centre under construction right next door, making the stadium unsafe to evacuate by UEFA standards.

    Two Ukrainian commercial clans are locked in a legal battle already more than three years old over whether or not the shopping centre's construction permits are in fact legal.

    Yushchenko issued a executive order in March to have the shopping centre torn down, with little effect.

    Ukrainian officials on Thursday declared an alleged breakthrough compromise in the Olympic stadium wrangle, with the above-ground portion to be torn down, and the underground to be built with football-specific shops and restaurants.

    "It would be good if we could get this (the tear-down) going, so that we can show UEFA that we can get things done," Yuschenko said. "Every one is looking at that shopping centre."

    The UEFA last week criticised Poland and Ukraine on their preparations for Euro 2012, and hinted at taking the competition away from them if work fails to speed up in the next six months.

    Franz Beckenbauer, top organizer of Germany's highly successful 2006 World Cup, openly criticised the Polish-Ukrainian ramp-up to Euro 2012 saying "They (Ukraine and Poland) have to do something soon...Germany is of course prepared to step in if they can't handle it."

  • From the Polish Scandal Sheets...

    Last Polish Govґt Accused of Security Breaches

    Ziobro has since admitted to having damaged the laptop in question, along with several cellphone cards.

    From: Javno
    Poland's last government was accused on Thursday of widespread illegal wire tapping, and of endangering NATO security by mishandling secret intelligence.

    Janusz Ziemke, head of parliament's special services committee, told media that an internal audit by the National Security Agency showed that it had carried out at least 94 illegal wire taps during Jaroslaw Kaczynski's tenure as prime minister.

    "Just one incident of illegal wire tapping in a democratic country should sound a warning bell," Parliamentary Speaker Bronislaw Komorowski said in a radio interview.

    "If even one of these is proven, that people were listened to illegally, it would underline the belief that that government cared little about democratic mechanisms and the rule of law."

    Allegations of abuse of state power are sensitive in Poland, which was run as a police state for five decades by communists.

    Since losing power in October, officials in the Kaczynski government have faced numerous allegations that have supported the view that they sacrificed civil liberties in their zeal to stamp out graft and unmask communist-era agents.

    Kaczynski and his former ministers have rejected the accusations, accusing the centre-right government of Donald Tusk of trying to derail the anti-corruption campaign they began.

    The Gazeta Wyborcza daily reported on Thursday that Polish military intelligence was investigating whether three former officials illegally copied and walked out with secret documents that contained operational details and names of agents.

    The newspaper said Poland, the biggest former communist member of NATO, might need to inform the military alliance that security had been were compromised.

    "The situation in military counter-intelligence is very serious," said Ziemke. "Control was lost over several very important documents."

    Antoni Macierewicz, the far-right former head of military counter-intelligence under whose watch the alleged breach took place, disputed the allegations.

    "During the time I was in charge there were no illegal actions related to the documents," he said.

    Former justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro also faces allegations that he mishandled secret investigation documents by transferring them to his unsecured laptop.

    Ziobro has since admitted to having damaged the laptop in question, along with several cellphone cards.

    Media have reported that two of his former deputies also destroyed their laptops, with one saying that he had accidentally dropped it into a bath full of water.

    Polish Couple accept plea deal for taking $260,000 from woman, 93, the left in Poland

    From: WPBF
    A Palm Beach couple accused of defrauding their 94-year-old neighbor and abandoning her in a nursing home in Poland will pay her $260,000 in restitution, WPBF News 25 reported.

    In return, three felony charges against Aron Bell, 80, and Henryka Bell, 59, will be dropped. That is if they violate no laws within the next 18 months and have no contact with their neighbor, Janina "Nina" Zaniewska. The felony charges included grand theft from a person age 65 older.

    Authorities said the Bells befriended 94-year-old Zaniewska and "systematically took over every aspect of her life," including redirecting phone calls and mail meant for her to themselves, according to a police report.

    Police said the three lived in a condominium at 44 Coconut Row in Palm Beach, where they originally met and where the Bells began taking control of Zaniewska's finances.

    According to the report, a bank manager told police that Henryka Bell brought Zaniewska to her office in April 2007 in order to open up an account in which the Bells would have access to. The bank manager told police that Zaniewska had been in her office two weeks before to open an account and had seemed fine, but when the 94-year-old came with Bell, she was confined to a wheelchair and seemed confused.

    Investigators told WPBF that Henryka Bell demanded to have Zaniewska's Social Security payments redirected into the shared account. The bank manager said that she had refused to make the change, but that she later discovered that the couple had somehow been able to make the transaction anyway, according to the report.

    Authorities said that Zaniewska had previously approached bank tellers in the bank and asked them not to give her money to the Bells, but while the couple was with the 94-year-old, they would not let her speak and kept her in a wheelchair.

    According to the report, the Bells took Zaniewska to Poland on May 17, 2007, and returned without the 94-year-old on June 2. Police said that, with the help of the Polish-American Society Club in Lake Worth, officials located Zaniewska at a nursing home in a remote town in Poland. According to police, a detective called the nursing home and talked to Zaniewska, who told the officer, "Thank God, you found me."

    Police said Zaniewska told the investigator that she had been tricked by the Bells and was placed in an "old lady home" against her will. Zaniewska told police that she believed the Bells were stealing her money and that she had thought that she was going on vacation to Poland and did not know she was going to be placed in a nursing home, Captain Elmer Gudger with the Palm Beach Police said.

    "In the phone call that we made to her, when she realized it was the police department, she thanked us very much for finding her and made a comment that she thought she was going to die over there in the nursing home," Gudger told WPBF.

    Gudger said that the Bells had withdrawn about $260,000 out of Zaniewska's bank accounts and were using the money to pay their own bills.

    Authorities said they were able to bring Zaniewska back to Palm Beach after she had been in Poland for about four months.

    The Bells' defense attorney said his clients are innocent and that they were holding Zaniewska's money while acting as her caretakers.

    Aron Bell grew up in Poland during World War II and survived the Holocaust by living in the woods after his parents were taken by the Nazis at the age of 11. The story of how Bell and his brothers helped save thousands of fellow Jews is the subject of the 1994 book, "Defiance: The Bielski Partisans," by Nechama Tec. A movie based on the book is currently in production, slated to star current James Bond actor Daniel Craig, WPBF reported.

    Polish mafia gas supply scandal

    From: Polskie Radio
    Pawel Poncyljusz
    A contract for gas supply signed by Poland in 2003 has become a new pretext for further arguments between the Civic Platform (PO) and Law and Justice (PiS), Polish Radio reports.

    The latest disagreement between the largest opposition party and government stems from a TV programme broadcast by the private TVN channel on Tuesday night, revealing that in 2003, when the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) government was in power, Poland signed a contract for gas supply with a Hungarian company Eural-Trans-Gaz.

    The company was managed by a henchmen of a Russian mafioso Semion Mogilevich who is believed to have controlled the largest Russian mafia syndicate in the world and who was arrested end of January.

    As a result, PiS has requested PM Donald Tusk to provide information on the status of Poland’s energy security.

    Former deputy minister of economy Pawel Poncyljusz (PiS) reminded that the contract with Eural-Trans-Gazem has been previously mentioned in the press in the context of the company’s alleged links with the Russian mafia.

    In the opinion of PiS MPs, public opinion should be informed if the Internal Security Agency (ABW) informed the government about the press allegations.

    Pawel Poncyljusz has also reminded that the US ambassador to Kiev, Ukraine sent an official letter on the subject of Mogilevich and Eural-Trans-Gaz to Warsaw in the past.

  • From the blogs...

    Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in January 2008

    From: Viasna
    This time the beginning of the year was hotter than usual. The total offence of the Belarusian authorities on the social and economical sphere of social life increased the protest moods, which resulted in the use of harder repressions against the most active protesters. Despite the fact that January events were a planned continuation of the December meeting of entrepreneurs, the authorities were not ready to such decisive protection of the working rights demonstrated by this category of citizens. Presidential decree #760 of 29 December 2006, by which the entrepreneurs were deprived of the right to employ any workers except for three close relatives since January 2008, made many workers of small business redundant. Besides, it affected ordinary citizens – the markets became empty, many stalls were closed, route taxis to markets started driving more rarely, etc. All efforts of the leaders of the entrepreneurs’ movement to establish a dialogue with the authorities gave no result – which witnesses that the high-rank officials decided to liquidate individual entrepreneurs as an unnecessary social class. Desperate entrepreneurs had nothing to do but go out to the streets.

    The unauthorized action of entrepreneurs began in the afternoon on 10 January with a meeting in Kastrychnitskaya Square in Minsk. The meeting gathered several thousand people who voiced their demands to the authorities, the main being the abolishment of decree #760. Then the procession of protesters moved to the House of the Parliament, demanding a meeting with the prime-minister Siarhei Sidorski. The demonstrators stopped the traffic along Nezalezhnastsi Avenue and continued procession by the carriage way. At first the action continued without detentions and forced dispersal. It seemed that the authorities did not dare to use violence against the indignant entrepreneurs. On the other hand, on the eve the action the regional leaders of the entrepreneurs’ movement Viktar Kryval and Aliaksandr Tsatsura were detained, and the leader of the campaign For Free Development of Business Viktar Harbachou was blocked in his house in Barysau. In Rechytsa the entrepreneurs’ leader Aleh Shabetnik was arrested for five days and fined, in Minsk the political activist Viachaslau Siuchyk was arrested for 10 days. After the end of the action 27 of its most active participants were arrested, including Anatol Liabedzka and Anatol Shumchanka. Many of them were brutally beaten. The following day Maskouski and Tsentralny district courts of Minsk tried the detainees. 22 persons were sentenced to 15 days of arrest and the 19-year-old student Tatsiana Tsishkevich, who needed medical service and showed to the judge her bloodstained coat, got even more – 20 days of jail.

    Later Aliaksandr Naidenka, the vice-chair of the main police department of Minsk, stated that a criminal case had been brought on the fact of mass riot in the capital. The Ministry of Justice sued to the Supreme Court for liquidation of the entrepreneurs’ association Perspective.

    On 21 January the entrepreneurs held the second unauthorized action of protest. Before its beginning considerable police forces were brought to the center of the city, busses with riot police were parked in the yards, and policemen in civvies were standing in Kastrychnitskaya Square since 10.30 a.m. The action participants gathered in Kastrychnitskaya Square at 12 o’clock and again moved to the House of the Parliament. However, when the number of demonstrators considerably increased, the police started dispersing them. Riot policemen with baffles and truncheons lined up near the Pedagogical University in Nezalezhnastsi Square. The minister of interior Uladzimir Navumau addressed the meeting participants. He warned them about criminal punishment and gave them 10 minutes to go away before the police would use force. Later a complete clear-up of the square started. A part of the people were pushed away to the pedestrian underground crossing, the others were driven out in the direction of the town hall. By 3.30 p.m. the action was over and information about detentions started coming. On 22 January Tsentralny and Maskouski district courts of Minsk tried the detainees. The main difference was that this time people were fined instead of arrests. 15 persons were fined from 525 000 to 1 750 000 rubles (244 – 488 US dollars), 6 – arrested for 5-15 days. One person was fined 1 225 000 rubles and arrested for 10 days. All of them were judged for ‘violation of the order of holding mass action or picketing (article 23.34 of the Administrative Code).

    The international community condemned the repressions and called the Belarusian authorities to take serious measures for democratization and respect to human rights. All European institutions touch the topic of political prisoners in their reports. Again trying to play liberalization before the West, the authorities started releasing political prisoners. Since 18 January parole was granted to Mikalai Autukhovich, Yury Liavonau and a youth leader Zmitser Dashkevich. Even this step was treated with restrained optimism, because the situation stays pretty much the same: some people are released why others take their place. Since November 2007 the vice-editor of the Zgoda newspaper Aliaksandr Zdvizhkou has been kept in the KGB isolator, where usually especially dangerous criminals are kept. He was sentenced to three years of jail for reprinting Prophet Mohammad’s cartoons from a Danish newspaper, which caused a wave of indignation in among different international organizations and diplomatic missions that called the Belarusian authorities to review the verdict and release the journalist.

    Super Tuesday Surprise: Leading Minsk Newspaper Endorses Candidates in US Presidential Race

    From: Justin E. H. Smith for 3 Quarks Daily
    In what spokespeople for both parties are calling an act of "unprecedented interference," a strongly pro-government newspaper in the authoritarian republic of Belarus has offered its own endorsements in the US presidential primaries. Analysts contend that this operation was likely directed by president Aleksandr Lukashenko himself, and was meant to serve as a critical response to the international community's past efforts to monitor elections in Belarus. The US government and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe strongly denounced as illegitimate the 2006 Belarus elections, in which Lukashenko received more than 80% of the vote and opposition parties were not permitted to campaign. As of press time, the Belarus embassy in Washington has refused to offer any comment on the endorsements.

    From Belaruskija Naviny (translated by the Belarus Information Agency):

    Minsk (BIA) 1 February, 2008-- In America, there are not strong leaders like Aleksandr Grigorevich Lukashenko, who come into power, and stay in the power. The only president in American history to have held on his power more than two terms was Franklin Roosevelt. And he was cripple! He stayed long because of war-time situation, not strength.

    But every four years, the parties make their best effort. This year, because of failed war in Iraq and weak leadership of George W. Bush, the American people are going in for politics like never before in their history. Participation in the political life of the country is up 32% from its historic low in 2004. This upswing is most notable among the young-people of America, many of whom have at long last removed their walkman headphones to "tune in" to their nation's future.

    What choices are the Republican and Democratic parties offering them?

    At this present, the Republican ("Grand Old") Party has three candidates in competition: the Christian retail-store magnate and "healthy life-style" advocate Mike Huckabee, whose business practices were subjected to critique already in American independent cinema production "I Heart Huckabee" (2005); Mitt Romney, governor of State Utah and elder of Mormon church, which until Lukashenko's bold measure against foreign missionary-activity was responsible for the common sight on the streets of Grodno and Brest and Vitebsk of clean and polite young Americans, speaking Belarusian like mother tongue, and promoting their heretical sect to our villagers like we were pagan Indians; and finally, John McCain, senator of City Phoenix and number-one opponent of current president George W. Bush within Republican party.

    The Democrats have now only two candidates who stand to chance against this powerful phalanx: Barack Obama, senator of City Chicago and nephew of Saddam Hussein; and Hillary Rodham Clinton, organizer of popular solidarity-building women's breakfasts for discussion of hair-hygiene and of place of woman in American politics, and only official wife of number-one enemy of Serbs and all Slavic peoples, Bill Clinton.

    Let us have a look at the Democratic candidates first.

    Even in Soviet times we had saying: "The Woman: it is also Person!" In Belarus, we have many women in political offices. For example, Nadezhda Kholstyak is undersecretary of Dairy and Eggs, and Academician Elena Ostrovskaya is ad hoc advisor for the problems relating to Chernobyl Incident. In Belarus, we are not afraid of a woman in place of power. Now Hillary Clinton had eight years already in White House. During that time, she set herself one goal: the creation of new polyclinics throughout America, for the promotion of health and hygiene, from Poultry Processing Plant "John Tyson" in State Missouri to High Technology Cybernetics Park "Bill Gates" in State Washington, to public high school "Martin Luther King" in City Oakland. But how many polyclinics emerged from her time in the White House? There are no more polyclinics in America now than during Great Depression. Instead Clinton left America with the "health's management organizations," with queues of length we have not seen in Belarus since Great War for Fatherland, and costs that are sure to make any patient "sick." Americans should be asking to Candidate Clinton: where are the polyclinics? Where can I go for antibiotics or a mustard plaster when I fall ill? Where can I go to pasteurize my children?

    It is known that Barack Obama hoped to "jump-start" his campaign through "community services" in Chicago. But what sort of services did he provide? Did he promote physical culture to Chicagoans? Did sport, leisure, and tourism receive a boost from his bold efforts? Do more Chicagoans go in for patriotic games now than before? The answer is a three-times "no." Yet it cannot be denied that Americans have enthusiastically embraced Barack Obama's color. As a result of Candidate Obama's bold hue, white Americans are now going in for black Americans at unprecedented levels. Racial good-will is up 56% since its historic low in 1813, and if Obama is elected president we can count on seeing many Centres for the Friendship of the Peoples "Barack Obama" in future. These are something we would surely like to see, and for this reason we endorse Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination.

    What about the Republican candidates? What bold initiatives do they go in for?

    As business tycoon, Mike Huckabee has actively promoted physical culture in State Arkansas. He has personally created 17 Centres of Physical Culture "Mike Huckabee", and has motivated the youth of State Arkansas to go in for sport with unprecedented vigor. It is now estimated that as a result of his effort, 68% of Arkansans are engaged in physical culture in some way. He is also author of dietetic book with title, Stop to Dig Your Grave with the Knife and the Fork!. (By the by, Huckabee himself is said to have lost over 50 kilos on his own diet plan.) Now we Belarusians go in for physical culture with great vigor, as our world-class performance in Olympic Games and in European football competition shows. The members of the national sport teams are the pride of the country. But we have saying: "Who makes sport, he has 'Olympic-sized' appetite." What about Huckabee? Would he not eat a pig's foot in aspic after making daily sport routine? Would he not spread goose fat on his craquelins, not even "on a lark"? How would his healthy regime go over, we wonder, at a state dinner with President Lukashenko?

    In the spite of the fact that he is Mormon, Mitt Romney has taken firm stance against polygamy and dianetical therapy. To Romney's credits, he is Mormon of the future: in his State, teaching of Belarusian tongue is up 34% since its historic low in 1960, and monogamy has also risen to historic levels. Under Mitt Romney's presidency, America would witness bold initiative for creation of Palaces of Marriage Between One Man and One Woman "Mitt Romney". Now in Belarus, we are in vanguard of religious pluralism, with many Christian sects, some Muslim descendants of the Lipka Tatars, and even some Jews! But we would not elect president who believes preposterous things, like that angels dictated book of Mormon to Joseph Smith in motel in State New York and that God has personally blessed University "Brigham Young" with top-ranking scientists and academicians.

    John McCain is gray eminence of this campaign and is also highly decorative war hero. As POW he was kept in box by cruel torturers for five years. Some say he is "Manchurian Candidate," but little do they know he was soldier in Viet-Nam. We are sure that he learned important lessons while prisoner of Viet Cong, and that he is now ready to boldly take the initiatives required to be great president of America. We thus strongly endorse John McCain for the Republican nomination.

    Forward Socialist Youth -to Belarus 2009!

    From: New Zeal
    The old Soviet front, the World Federation of Democratic Youth is alive and well.

    Since the late '40s WFDY has organised triennial or quadrennial festivals for socialist youth.

    From the CPUSA's Peoples Weekly World:

    The General Council of the World Federation of Democratic Youth decided last weekend that Belarus would host the World Festival of Youth and Students in 2009. The goal of these festivals is to promote peace, international friendship and solidarity.

    After nearly a year of consultations with each organization that bid to host the Festival, the Coordinating Committee decided Belarus has the necessary infrastructure and political climate to host it in 2009.

    Belarus was a part of the former Soviet Union, bordering Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic States. It has a population of approximately 10 million, and considers itself a democratic social state.

    WFDY organizations expressed enthusiasm about the festival being held in Eastern Europe where the struggles for socialism continue despite the fall of the Soviet Union.

    President Bush has often demonized Belarus because the country has chosen to continue some of its socialist-oriented economy and not open itself up to unfettered corporate domination.

    WFDY president Miguel Madiera noted, “We are very enthusiastic about this festival occurring in Europe. I think it will display the opposition of youth to the imperialist policies of the European Union.”

    Now that the location is decided, WFDY officials will plan the first meeting of the International Preparatory Committee in the first half of this year in Venezuela. The first IPC is traditionally held in the country that hosted the previous festival. Preparations to host the first U.S. National Preparatory Committee meeting are also underway. The U.S. delegation to the 2005 festival in Venezuela consisted of over 700youth.

    “It’s going to be a challenge to mobilize as many youth as we did in Venezuela,” said Erica Smiley who represented the Young Communist League USA at the WFDY meeting this weekend. “But it will be worth the effort to expose U.S. young people to current struggles of youth in Eastern Europe in addition to being a part of the historic festival movement.”

    The YCL hopes to mobilize a wide representation of youth and student organizations to join the U.S. NPC.

    This upcoming festival will be a continuation of a proud movement of world youth festivals that spans over 60 years.

    From Russia with love?

    From: Beatroot
    Prime Minister Donald Tusk makes his first visit to Russia, Friday. Whatever happens when he gets to Moscow, he is going to take some flak at home, and maybe abroad.

    Ex-Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski always said that he would go to Moscow after, ‘Putin comes to Warsaw.’

    It didn’t happen.

    Since the October election, Tusk has been to see Chancellor Merkel, he has been at the Lisbon summit to discuss the EU Constitution (oops, sorry, I meant ‘Reform’) Treaty. In March he is going to see George W. Bush. But a little chat with Putin comes first.

    The decision to prioritize warming up the, up until now, Siberian temperatures that characterized the Kaczynski government’s relations with Russia has prompted a snow storm of criticism from the... Kaczynski brothers.

    “Sell out!” They shout. President Kaczinski is particularly incensed that Tusk is taking unilateral decisions about foreign policy. “Isn’t the government constitutionally obliged to consult the president?”

    “If you appear weak before the bear, then the bear will eat you alive...agggghhhhgurgle...burp,” etc.

    What’s worse, Tusk decided to go and see Putin in Moscow before he sees Yushchenko and Tymoshenko in Kiev. “But Ukrainians are our friends..,” the Kaczynskis skweem.

    But Tusk has never hid his desire to calm down diplomatic relations between Warsaw and Moscow. The row over the gas pipeline between Russia and western Europe, by-passing Poland; the row over Moscow’s ban on Polish meat imports; the row over the anti-missile shield being placed in Poland; the row over allowing a NATO base in Poland. There have been more rows between Warsaw and Moscow in the last two years than there have been between Tom and Jerry. And some of those rows had the same cartoon quality about them.

    Tusk has not helped himself with his desire to want to please everyone, all the time. To say the Polish government has been sending mixed signals of late would be to understate an understatement.

    Take NATO: when foreign minister, the Atlanticist Radek Sikorski, was in Washington last week he signaled Poland’s willingness to have a NATO base in Poland. Or did he?

    Putin is outraged by this, as the Russian government think that Poland should be sensitive to having too many of the US’s power vehicles parked right outside their front door. Maybe they still see Poland as a ‘buffer’ against the West, just as they used to during Soviet times.

    And then PM Tusk goes and confuses matters this week by saying that Poland never had any plans to have the NATO base on its soil, in the first place. Er...? Um...

    This followed a December meeting between the Polish government and NATO which indicated that having a radar base in Powidz, western Poland, was very much on the cards. Since then the two sides failed to agree on the sharing of costs – meaning, how much Warsaw will have to cough up.

    All very confusing. Tusk is trying to look (at two different directions at once) more independant from both Moscow and Washington than he really is, or ever can be.

    And then there is that anti-missile shield unpleasantness. During the election Tusk was keen to show that, like the electorate, he was for getting troops out of Iraq, but against a blank check for the US to place ten interceptor rockets in northern Poland.

    In Washington, Radek Sikorski was clear that ‘in principle’ they are for having the missile shield in Poland. On condition. The negotiations will continue to be of a ‘marathon’ length.

    But is Tusk tough enough to get enough from Bush in return?

    Bush versus Tusk? No contest.

    In this context, Donald goes to Moscow to see the Man himself. What can Tusk get from this that will make him look good? It’s a tricky one.

    It would be very easy for Putin, playing to his adoring gallery at home, to make Tusk look like the weed he gives the appearance of being. Putin is practiced in looking tough, but also making alternative suggestions, in very reasonable language, of how Russia should be consulted on absolutely everything Poland, and everyone else, does. Always. Tusk says he wants ‘open discussions,’ but how open will he leave himself?

    So what can Tusk do? Act tough, and get nowhere – or act weak and look like...well, Donald Tusk?

    “Ляпіс Трубяцкі” прадставіць свой першы DVD (видео)

    From: Minsk Blog
    15 лютага ў маскоўскім клубе “Цень” адбудзецца прэзентацыя першага канцэртнага DVD гурта “Ляпіс Трубяцкі”. На плытцы, якая выйдзе і ў Беларусі, будуць прадстаўленыя здымкі сольнага выступу калектыву ў маскоўскім клубе “Кропка”, зробленыя ў верасні 2007.

    Аснова праграмы - песні з альбома “Капітал”. За экранізацыю адказвала рэжысёрская група Videohead на чале з беларусам Віталём Чыжовым, пераехаўшымі некалькі гадоў таму ў Маскву (”НТВ”, “3 канал”, “Рен-ТВ”) - чалавекам, асаблівым хоць бы таму, што ён ходзіць на канцэрты “Ляпісаў” з моманту заснавання калектыву. Гэта значыць, ужо 18 гадоў.

    “На мой вельмі суб’ектыўны погляд, галоўная фішка “Ляпісаў” нават не ў тым, што гэта адзін з найлепшых канцэртных гуртоў постсавецкай прасторы, - лічыць Чыжоў. - Важней, што яны захавалі ў сабе хвалюючую атмасферу рок-музыкі пачатку 90-х. Яе мы і жадалі перадаць”.

    Цікава, што гэта толькі другія афіцыйныя канцэртныя здымкі ў гісторыі калектыву, прызначаныя для выпуску. У 1996 годзе, калі гурт праславіўся ў роднай Беларусі, на відэа была запісаная праграма “Смяротнае вяселле”. Яна была выдадзеная на відэакасетах, але досыць хутка яе перасталі тыражаваць, і зараз гэты рэліз стаў ледзь не галоўным рарытэтам у гісторыі гурта.

    “Запіс таго канцэрту не атрымаўся. Думаю, што гэта стала адной з прычынаў, з якой мы так доўга не адважваліся на падобны рэліз, - лічыць прадзюсар гурта Яўген Калмыкоў. - На гэты раз, на мой погляд, усё атрымалася як мае быць”.

  • Sort of on the subject...

    Green Totalitarianism

    From: Sonia
    Daryl Hannah
    Try to guess who wrote the following:

    Liberal democracy is sweet and addictive and indeed in the most extreme case, the USA, unbridled individual liberty overwhelms many of the collective needs of the citizens. The subject is almost sacrosanct and those who indulge in criticism are labeled as Marxists, socialists, fundamentalists and worse. These labels are used because alternatives to democracy cannot be perceived! Support for Western democracy is messianic as proselytised by a President leading a flawed democracy

    There must be open minds to look critically at liberal democracy. Reform must involve the adoption of structures to act quickly regardless of some perceived liberties.

    I will give you four guesses:

    a) Adolf Hitler
    b) Joseph Stalin
    c) Pol Pot
    d) a certain David Shearman, a mainstream environmentalist

    The answer is d). David Shearman is an environmental activist, co-author of The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy, and an admirer of Al Gore. He wants to use the environment as an excuse to impose a totalitarian dictatorship, and he is quite honest about:

    Savvy Chinese rulers may be first out of the blocks to assuage greenhouse emissions and they will succeed by delivering orders. The Chinese decision (...) is authoritarian and contrasts with the voluntary non-effective solutions put forward in most Western democracies. (...) We are going to have to look how authoritarian decisions based on consensus science can be implemented to contain greenhouse emissions.
    Read the whole thing here.

    David Shearman isn't the first idiot to believe that totalitarian countries have a better record of environmental protection than democratic countries. He should visit Chernobyl before writing such insanities. But his thought process reveals how the totalitarian disease can infect idealistic people and turn them into supporters of tyranny. After the Red Totalitarianism (Communism), Brown Totalitarianism (Nazism), we might now be facing Green Totalitarianism. First class purity, then racial purity, and now air purity. Just another excuse to oppress.

  • Sport...

    Belarus Win Malta International Tournament

    Belarus triumphed in the small tournament organized by the Mediterranean island thanks to a late goal which helped them beat the hosts.

    Follwoing Armenia's 2-0 defeat against Iceland, Belarus and Malta were back in contention to win the Malta International Tournament. In fact, both teams could win this competition with the three points and in fact Belarus claimed this trophy thanks to a 1-0 win over the knight of St. John.

    For the first time in this tournament, Malta coach Dusan Fitzel was able to play his best formation thanks to the arrivals of goalkeeper Haber, midfielder Nwoku and striker Mifsud.

    Belarus were the better side in the first half, but Malta created the best chances of the period especially thanks to quick forward Mifsud.

    Same story in the second period, with Belarus dominating but Malta having the better chances, especially in the 84th minute, when the hosts hit the crossbar with Mifusd.

    Just when everything was pointing towards a goalless draw, Romashchenko scored from a direct freekick to award Belarus with the three points and the win in this tournament.

    Amkar land Belarus starl Afanasiev

    From: UEFA
    Russian Premier-Liga side FC Amkar Perm have signed Belarus Under-21 captain Mikhail Afanasiev on a four-year contract from FC MTZ-RIPO Minsk.

    Impressive record
    The 21-year-old midfielder scored five goals in 25 games in Belarus's top flight last term and will be expected to make his mark with Amkar. His new side kick off the Russian season at FC Khimki on 15 March. Afanasiev has also caught the eye with the Belarus U21s, whom he leads in both appearances, 31, and goals, ten. Belarus are first in qualifying Group 8 for the 2009 UEFA European U21 Championship. They will confirm their place in the play-offs should they win their final match, in Latvia on 10 September.

    Ongoing preparations
    Afanasiev and company drew 1-1 with Russia in a friendly on Wednesday, leaving coach Yuri Kurnenin satisfied. "I was happy with the game and with our training camp in Turkey," he said. "We did the necessary technical and tactical work, trying out defending and attacking systems. We will continue to prepare for the Latvia game in our next match, a friendly against Lithuania on 25 March."

  • Endnote...

    What awaits Belarusian Internet?

    From: Charter '97
    Recently Information Minister Uladzimir Rusakevich stated that the Law on Internet is to be adopted in Belarus definitely.

    As said by him, a special inter-agency group started to study experience of other countries on this subject. Meanwhile “deputies” of the so-called “chamber of representatives” do not know anything about the draft law.

    Statements that control is needed for the Belarusian segment of the Internet are heard regularly. Why Internet is haunting the state officials? Radio Svaboda has decided to explore the issue.

    Some experts say that the number of people using Internet in Belarus is growing rapidly. According to the latest report of the UN, more than 50% of Belarusians use Internet. As the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Salidarnasts Alyaksandr Starykevich believes, “Internet is the only branch where independent media have a discernible advantage over the state propaganda. That is why this issue really worries the regime”.

    Information Ministry does not comment the statement of Uladzimir Starikevich. This statement of the official was a novelty fro the chairman of the human rights and mass media commission of the “chamber of representatives” Yury Kulakouski. To the request to comment the initiative of Rusakevich he answered that there is no such draft law offered for consideration of the “parliament”.

    Commenting on the statement of information minister on necessity of the law on Internet, a deputy chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Andrei Bastunets expressed an idea that after adoption of this draft law there would be an opportunity to use sanctions against editorial offices, for instance, to stop activities of Internet publications.

    Mr. Bastunets does not exclude even “pinpoint persecution” of journalists who are to work in other domain zones. The formal cause for that could be “Regulation on accrediting foreign correspondents”.

    Some observers say that Belarus is getting more and more similar to China which is considered one of the harshest censors of the web.

    By the way, our neighbour Russia discusses the idea to amend use of legal norms which could regulate use of common legal norms which already exist, to Internet surroundings.

    As an Internet publication was told by head of the blog service of the Sup Fabrik company, which runs the Russian segment of LiveJournal: “Special laws on Internet exist only in authoritarian countries, for instance in China”.