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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

President gives interview, New court chairman, Energy saving, Moody's rates bank, Beltransgaz, Kosovo, Russia, Ukraine, Polish scandal Blogs and Sport

  • From the Top...
  • #283

    President gives interview to Russia Today TV channel and the RIA Novosti news agency

    From: Office of the President
    The president during an interview with the Russia Today TV channel and the Russian news and information agency Novosti
    On 18 February, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko gave an interview to the Russia Today TV channel and the RIA Novosti news agency.

    Russia Today is the first 24/7 English-language news channel which provides viewers with breaking news, coverage of political, business, and public affairs in Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The channel was established in April 2005 by the Autonomous Nonprofit Organization TV-Novosti. Its founder is Russia’s biggest news agency RIA-Novosti.

    RIA Novosti news agency is one of the most prestigious and professional sources of information in Russia and abroad. The agency has a big network of correspondent offices in the Russian Federation, CIS and more than 40 countries worldwide.

    The questions addressed to the head of state were related to the forthcoming CIS summit in Moscow, development of relations between Belarus and the European Union, Belarus’ interests in Venezuela, interaction of Belarus and Russia, personal relations of Alexander Lukashenko with Vladimir Putin and other political leaders, possible model of the Union State.

    The reporters were interested Alexander Lukashenko’s view of the recent developments in Kosovo, consequences of the energy price hike for the Belarusian economy, his vision of Belarus’ near-term future.

    Commenting, on the request of the reporters, upon Kosovo’s self-declaration of independence, the President said that Belarus supports the viewpoint of Russian diplomats.

    “I can say today to those who were sorry and who were against the bombing of Yugoslavia: isn’t it too late that we have started to attend to this problem? It was then when we should not have allowed the carve-up of the Balkans and it was then when we needed to defend Yugoslavia. We and Russia had everything for that. Today it is late “to sing the songs”. The process started long ago; it is in progress. Montenegro broke away, other republics broke away. It was only Kosovo that remained. This is the continuation of that split. We lost our influence there long ago. We should not have allowed this then – today we would not have the independence issue. Can we influence this process? No, we can’t and let’s be frank about this,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    “Yet, problems should not be settled like this. In this issue Europe (I am not talking about the Americans), even in our European home, behaves inappropriately. Double standards are everywhere. They reproach us, mainly Russia, for the wrong position on Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria.

    And is it right what they are doing? This is why all these arguments we and Russia have put forward are absolutely fair,” he said.
    “But I’m stressing this once again: it is too late; the process started long ago; it is nearing the end. It was then when we needed to defend Yugoslavia. I knew that situation very well – it would not have taken Russia great effort to resist that aggression against the brotherly nation,” the President said.

    “I see my country as a stable state where 13 million people not 10 million will be living in ten years. But we need the population of 25-30 million on this land, and it will be then that we will be fully independent and sovereign. I would like to see more people live here. I would like Belarus to become a rich country, be a country with a young face, with more young people,” Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview to Russia Today TV channel and RIA Novosti news agency, BelTA was told in the presidential press service.

    “What future does the president-patriot loving his country want for his country? The same as you want for your family. This is my family and I want that everything be well in our country. I want us to create no problems for our neighbours – neither for Russia, Poland Baltics or Ukraine. I want the country to remain as it is; that it is proud, self-sufficient and independent,” the head of state said.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    President installes new Chairman of the Constitutional Court

    From: Office of the President
    Alexander Lukashenko hands a service certificate over to Pyotr Miklashevich
    On 19 February, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko installed the new Chairman of the Constitutional Court, Pyotr Miklashevich, and new Prosecutor General, Grigory Vasilevich.

    These personnel decisions have not been caused by any emergency circumstances or dissatisfaction with anyone of the officials. They have been caused by the practice of rotation of top executives, which has been formed in Belarus and has proved effective. The new appointments have not been made at random: both constitutional control and prosecutor general’s surveillance have quite similar missions and a common goal, which is to ensure the supremacy of law, protection of legitimate interests of man, society, State, said Alexander Lukashenko.

    The Head of State said both Pyotr Miklashevich and Grigory Vasilevich are highly qualified executives, persons of integrity, enjoying well-deserved authority in Belarus. “These people were among the founders of the legal system of Belarus,” he said.

    Grigory Vasilevich, who has been appointed new Prosecutor General, has demonstrated initiative, constructive approach to his work and responsible attitude to his duties as citizen of Belarus while heading the Constitutional Court in the time when the country was running through difficulties. “The resolutions taken by the Constitutional Court over the past 11 years have proved effective over a long term,” said the President. Alexander Lukashenko said that while appointing Grigory Vasilevich to his new post, he hoped Grigory Vasilevich would ensure the continuity and consistency of the policy pursued by the Constitutional Court, and hoped to see further improvements in the performance of the Procuracy bodies.

    President of Belarus wants measures to stop arbitrariness of bureaucrats

    The Prosecutor’s Office should take most decisive measures to stop the arbitrariness of bureaucrats, lawlessness, negligent attitude to citizens, formalism in processing appeals and petitions of citizens and legal entities, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at today’s ceremony of installing the new Chairman of the Constitutional Court, Piotr Miklashevich, and Prosecutor General Grigory Vasilevich.
    “I am very much concerned by the fact that the effectiveness of Procuracy supervision has decreased over the last several years aimed at ensuring that law violations are eliminated timely and in full, that violated rights of citizens and organisations are reinstated, that the guilty are brought to responsibility,” the head of state said.

    The President tasked the Prosecutor General to improve the situation immediately: several law-enforcement agencies are involved in preliminary investigations while supervision is the exclusive constitutional right of Procuracy bodies. “Today Procuracy bodies are the core of the system of criminal prosecution agencies and must make sure the system functions effectively. The responsibilities of the Prosecutor’s Office are to ensure that crimes are investigated qualitatively and quickly, that a criminal is put to trial and is brought to justice for what he has committed,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    Alexander Lukashenko said he wanted the Procuracy to take the necessary measures to step up its role as a coordinating agency in fighting crime and corruption.

    “Today the society raises well-grounded issues about the necessity of more effective counteraction against crime and other violations of law, ensuring of reliable protection of personal and property rights of citizens,” said Alexander Lukashenko. Here, efforts should be mainly focused on improving crime-solving. There are serious mistakes made in the surveillance of the work aimed at revealing and stopping criminal infringements of state property, he said. The Procuracy should respond timely to cases when adequate measures are not taken to pay damages to the crime victims. The prevention of law violations has been on a rather low level, too, he added.

    “The state expects the Procuracy to play a more active role in organising the execution of the provisions laid down in three presidential directives,” said Alexander Lukashenko. He stressed that no body of state administration should be out of control.

    In 2008, Belarus to put $1,56bn into energy saving

    From: BelTA
    In 2008, Belarus is set to funnel $1,56 billion into modernisation of the energy system and energy saving, Energy Minister Alexander Ozerets said at a session of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers. The session focused on the measures to be taken in 2008 to implement the national comprehensive programme aimed at upgrading key assets of the Belarusian grid, energy saving and increasing the use of local fuels until 2011. The session was chaired by Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky.

    According to Alexander Oserets, the total financing of the programme will amount to $1,561-1,751 billion in 2008. $601 million will be put into modernisation of the energy system. Some $960 million-$1150 million will be funneled into energy-saving measures, including $260 million – into increasing the use of local fuels.

    The Energy Minister said that in 2008 the 299WHt capacities will be sent in service at the Energy Ministry companies. The 98Mwt capacities will be put in operation at the companies of the Belneftekhim concern, Industry Ministry and other sectors

    The country’s energy saving is expected to make up at least 1.4 million tonnes of fuel equipment in 2008. The use of local fuels will go up to reach 4.259 million tonnes of fuel equivalent.

    Alexander Ozerets noted that in 2008 the companies of the Energy Ministry would complete five investment projects on construction of new generating capacities. Thus, by April the Lukoml state district power plant will finish the modernization of energy unit #2. The project will help save up to 15 thousand tonnes of fuel equivalent per year, or $1.8 million. In May Gomel CHP plant #2 will install a 4MW turbine expander. In August the Lida CHP plant will be fitted with a 25MW gas turbine. In October Minsk CHP plant #3 will complete the construction of a 230MW steam and gas power generating unit to save up to 150 thousand tonnes of fuel equivalent, or nearly $18 million. At the end of 2008 the boiler-house “Zhlobin” will be fitted with a 25MW gas piston equipment.

    In 2008 the country will replace 174.8 kilometers of the heating network, construct and reconstruct 2.2 thousand kilometers of the transmission network. In 2008 the country will construct three new and reconstruct seven substations to provide new houses in Minsk with electricity.

    PM wishes to see domestic companies to apply energy-saving practices in 2-3 years

    In the next two or three years the companies of Belarus should be encouraged to shift to energy-saving practices, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky said at a session of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers. The session focused on the measures to be taken in 2008 to implement the national comprehensive programme aimed at upgrading key assets of the Belarusian grid, energy saving and increasing the use of local fuels until 2011.

    “We have a unique opportunity to develop a new energy system of our companies. In the future the price for gas will increase up to $300. Energy resources will be getting more expensive – everybody understands it,” the Prime Minister said. Today Belarus buys gas at lower prices than other neighboring countries. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to encourage domestic companies to use energy-saving practices. The task is to reduce energy inputs into production as much as possible, Sergei Sidorsky said.

    Belarus to reduce GDP energy intensity by 8% in 2008

    Belarus plans to reduce GDP energy intensity by 8% in 2008, Valery Koreshkov, the Chairman of the State Standard Committee of Belarus stated at a session of the Council of Ministers’ Presidium on February 19.

    Valery Koreshkov noted that the 2008 energy-saving and utilization of local fuels will help cut the GDP energy intensity by 8%. By 2010 the index is expected to be down by 31%. Branch-wise and regional programmes will help save 1 million 628 thousand tonnes of fuel equivalent countrywide.

    At the same time, in January the projection on fuel usage was exceeded by 250 tonnes of fuel equivalent due to the weather conditions and lower import of electric energy, the country’s fuel excess consumption made up 250 tonnes of fuel equivalent in January 2008, Valery Koreshkov noted. According to him, the country will do its utmost to reach the planned indices.

    Sergei Sidorsky criticized the work of the State Standard Committee for not reaching the energy-saving targets. He underlined that within the next two or three years Belarus needs to encourage the companies to apply energy-saving practices and the State Standard Committee is expected to play an important role in that. The companies need to reduce energy inputs into production of one unit of product. The companies will pay market prices for the excessive energy consumption, the Prime Minister underlined.

    Moody's Investors Service rates Belagroprombank

    From: BelTA
    The international rating agency Moody's Investors Service assigned ratings to Belagroprombank in February this year.

    The agency assigned a long-term foreign currency deposit ratings B2; a short-term foreign currency deposit rating Not Prime; a long-term local currency deposit ratings Ba1; a short-term local currency deposit rating Not Prime and an 'E+' bank financial strength rating. The outlook is stable, BelTA was told in the bank.

    BFSR E+, which translates into a Baseline Credit Assessment of B2, is underpinned by the Bank’s leading market position. Today, it is the country's second-largest bank by assets, capital and retail deposits, as well as good capital adequacy, a low level of delinquent loans and acceptable profitability.

    The Bank's long-term local currency deposit ratings factor in systemic support probability in the event of a stress situation due to 90.8% state-owned shares and the Bank’s leading position in the country's banking system, Moody’s said. Belagroprombank accounted for 19% of the total assets and 11% of household deposits in Q3 2007.

    The 'B2' long-term foreign currency deposit rating corresponds to the scale of the sovereign rating of the Republic of Belarus in terms of foreign currency deposits.

    The assigned ratings are maximum possible for the country at the present time.

    The first international rating was assigned to Belagroprombank by Fitch Ratings in 2004.

    Belarusian investigators may be sent to Yerevan

    From: BelTA
    The Belarusian Transport Prosecution admitted Belarusian investigators may soon be sent to Yerevan to investigate the crash of the CRJ-100LR aircraft of Belavia airlines. The statement was made by Vladimir Reutsky, Deputy Transport Prosecutor of Belarus.

    “Everything will depend on conclusions of the investigation commission. We are constantly in touch with Armenian law enforcement bodies in order to get the latest information concerning the case. If our representative is sent to Yerevan, his corresponding legal status has to be decided upon,” said the official.

    In his words, at present the prosecution has no specific versions to consider. “An investigation is underway, the technical status of the aircraft is being examined as well as the persons, who carried out the final checkup,” remarked Vladimir Reutsky.

    BelTA reported earlier, criminal proceedings specified by Part 1, Article 314 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (violations of traffic safety or aircraft exploitation rules) have been launched by the Belarusian Transport Prosecution.

    While taking off from the international airport Zvartnots in Yerevan, a CRJ-100LR owned by Belavia airlines taxied off the runway, a wing of the plane hit the ground. An explosion after that broke the aircraft in two pieces. Eighteen passengers and three crew members were promptly evacuated. The passengers are citizens of Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine. After the first medical treatment seven people were taken to hospital. At present the passengers live in hotels and at relatives’. Delivering them to Minsk and other organisational issues are being discussed.

    In line with international rules Armenian aviation authorities will investigate the accident. Specialists of the Interstate Aviation Committee, the Aviation Department of the Belarusian Transport and Communication Ministry, the national airlines Belavia, producers of the aircraft and the engines will take part in the investigation.

    The aircraft was manufactured by Canadian company Bombardier in 1999, while the engines were made in the USA. The aircraft was last serviced in Denmark.

    Beltransgaz, Gazprom negotiate increase in gas transit in 2008

    From: BelTA
    Beltransgaz and Gazprom are negotiating an increase in natural gas transit in the directions of Kaliningrad and Ukraine, Vladimir Mayorov, Beltransgaz general director, said at a meeting of the Energy Ministry, February, 15.

    According to the contract signed between Gazprom and Beltransgaz, in 2008 the transportation volume is planned at 70,5 billion cubic meters as against 70,1 billion cubic meters in 2007.

    A total of 21, 6 billion cubic meters will be supplied this year for consumer needs of the country, up 7.4% over 2007.The volume of transit across Belarus to third countries is estimated at 48,6 billion cubic meters, which is approximately equal to the level of 2007. Thus, in 2008 Beltransgaz will provide export services to the amount of $438 billion, up 7.9% from 2007 which is less than the planned 10% increase.

    According to Vladimir Mayorov, the amount of gas transit through Belarus in 2007 was 5 billion cubic meters more than was stipulated in the contract. Vladimir Mayorov noted that in order to increase export services, the company needs to increase the amount of gas transit which is now being discussed with Gazprom. Belarus possesses all the technical opportunities to accomplish this plan.

    In January 2008, Beltransgaz rendered export services to the amount of $34 million, up 47% as against January 2007. Gas transit increased by 22% during the period under review.

    According to Vladimir Mayorov, the preliminary investment plan of Beltransgaz for 2008 amounts to Br223 billion.

  • From the international press...

    Belarus' Lukashenko says 'no chance' for Kosovo opponents

    From: Ria Novosti
    Opponents to Kosovo's unilateral independence stand no chance of influencing local developments, after failing to protect Serbia's integrity in 1999, the Belarusian leader said on Tuesday.

    The United States and a number of European countries have already recognized Kosovo's self-proclaimed independence last Sunday. Russia has protested most fiercely calling for an emergency session of the UN Security Council.

    Alexander Lukashenko, shared Russia's position and said he was well aware of all the issues in the Kosovo problem, including the military factors, adding that the battle was already lost.

    "We lost our influence there long ago. We... betrayed our fraternal Slavic nation, we should have prevented it back then, there would not have been any questions of independence today," Lukashenko said in an interview with RIA Novosti and the Russia Today TV channel.

    He urged sides to recognize that is was no longer possible to influence the situation surrounding Kosovo and Serbia.

    "The process is coming to an end... We should have protected Yugoslavia back then," the Belarusian leader said.

    UN resolution 1244 gave the organization the authority to administer Kosovo, which has been a UN protectorate since the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia ended a conflict between Albanian and Serb forces in 1999.

    Lukashenko will come to Moscow on Thursday for a two-day informal CIS summit, the last for outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia will hold presidential elections on March 2.

    Belarus police detain opposition

    From: TVNZ
    Police briefly detained Belarus's most prominent opposition leader at a rally yesterday, a move he said showed authorities wanted to prove they were "as tough as ever" despite freeing political prisoners to impress the West.

    Alexander Milinkevich, an academic who challenged President Alexander Lukashenko's re-election in 2006, was detained as police broke up a rally by a few dozen businessmen in Minsk's central square. He was released several hours later.

    His press service said two colleagues had also been detained, as was the daughter of Belarus's best known detainee, Alexander Kozulin. All were released after questioning.

    Milinkevich said police had questioned him about protests last month by small entrepreneurs. But he said their real purpose had been to intimidate Lukashenko's opponents.

    "The first reason was to keep our leaders away from the protest. But I believe there was another reason - to show everyone that nothing has changed and everyone should still be afraid," Milinkevich told Reuters after his release.

    "The authorities may be releasing political prisoners, but they also want to show that they are as tough as ever."

    Police made no comment.

    Milinkevich, a winner of the European Union's top human rights prize, was one of two opposition figures to run against Lukashenko for the presidency in 2006. He still plays a major role despite periodic splits among liberals and nationalists.

    "Political" detainees

    Authorities in Belarus, a country of 10 million that borders Russia and three European Union states, have been trying to improve ties with the West after quarrelling last year with traditional ally Russia over energy prices.

    The opposition says only three "political" detainees remain, including Kozulin - jailed for 5-and-a-half years for his part in organising mass post-election protests in 2006.

    Lukashenko last week that the issue of political prisoners was "closed" as Kozulin had been offered the chance to go to Germany to seek medical treatment for his wife. He said it was up to the EU to make the next move on improving ties.

    The president, accused of crushing freedom of speech and assembly, has been barred from entering the EU and United States on the grounds that the 2006 vote was rigged.

    Entrepreneurs held two rallies in January, each attended by about 2,000 people, to denounce new rules barring them from hiring workers outside their immediate families or obliging them to re-register and pay higher tax rates.

    Police broke up the second rally. Dozens of protesters were jailed for up to 15 days for public order offences. Lukashenko said the protesters had been manipulated by the opposition.

    The entrepreneurs, many of whom run market stalls, had attracted larger crowds than recent opposition rallies but called off a planned strike and protest earlier this month.

    Official acknowledges existence of neo-Nazi groups in Belarus

    From: Naveny
    There are neo-Nazi groups in Belarus, but they are inconsiderable in number, Andrey Saladownikaw, deputy chief of the interior ministry's juvenile delinquency prevention department, said at a news conference in Minsk on Tuesday.

    When asked about such groups, Mr. Saladownikaw said that "fortunately, the situation is under control." "There are such groups, but they are inconsiderable in number, poorly-organized and are not popular among the young generation," the official said.

    He recalled an incident when Chinese students were beaten a year ago and the prosecution failed to prove that the attackers were "skinheads" despite their clothes and slogans, which he noted suggested that the youths were members of a neo-Nazi group.

    Mr. Saladownikaw said that people suspected of being part of far-right groups are under "control" of the police and the Committee for State Security (KGB).

    He said that soccer fans also cause concern. He said that "they are quite a destructive force as well" and "the experience of other countries shows that it is largely soccer fans who turn skinheads."

    Moody's assigns first time ratings to Belagroprombank, Belarus

    From: Fin Channel
    The FINANCIAL -- Moody's Investors Service has on February 18 assigned the following global scale ratings to Belagroprombank: an E+ Bank Financial Strength Rating ("BFSR"), Ba1 long-term and Not-Prime short-term local currency deposit ratings, and B2 long-term and Not Prime short-term foreign currency deposit ratings.

    All of the bank's ratings carry a stable outlook.

    Belagroprombank's E+ BFSR, which translates into a Baseline Credit Assessment of B2, is underpinned by the bank's strong market position as the country's second-largest bank by assets, capital and retail deposits, as well as good capital adequacy, a low level of delinquent loans and
    acceptable profitability. The rating is constrained by the bank's fairly weak corporate governance due to the high level of government interference in the bank's business, as well as a very large exposure to the agricultural sector.

    The bank's Ba1/Not-Prime long-term/short-term local currency deposit ratings factor in a very high probability of systemic support in the event of a stress situation given (a) the bank's 90.8% direct ownership by the Belarus government, (b) its important role in realizing the
    government programs for financing agricultural sector, which is a priority industry for Belarus, as well as (c) the bank's strong position in the country's banking system, represented by its 19% share of total assets and 11% share of retail deposits at the end of Q3 2007. As a
    result, this rating receives a four-notch uplift from the bank's B2 Baseline Credit Assessment.

    Belagroprombank's B2 long-term foreign currency deposit rating is constrained by the foreign currency country ceiling for Belarus.About 55% of Belagroprombank's loan portfolio is attributable to Belarus' agricultural sector, which is a priority industry for the country. Most
    of the loans to this sector are provided as part of government programmes and are partly funded by the government via general capital contributions and deposits. Although the performance of agricultural loans has been quite strong over the past several years, the underwriting standards for such loans might not fully capture all key risks inherent in the relevant
    borrowers' (collective farms) business model.According to Moody's, Belagroprombank's BFSR could be upgraded if the bank significantly diversifies its loan book outside the agricultural
    sector and demonstrates good asset quality and profitability. Conversely, downward rating pressure on the bank's BFSR could arise from a significant weakening in asset quality and/or increasing borrower concentration.

    Belagroprombank's local currency deposit rating is expected to change in tandem with the bank's BFSR. The bank's foreign currency deposit rating could be upgraded in the event of an upgrade of Belarus' foreign currency deposit ceiling. However, a downgrade is unlikely over the medium term as it is already constrained by that ceiling.

    Based in Minsk, Belarus, Belagroprombank reported total IFRS consolidated assets, shareholders' equity and net income of US$2.89 billion, US$514 million and US$53.8 million, respectively, at the end of Q3 2007 (US$2.17 billion, US$408 million and US$43.5 million, respectively, at year-end 2006).

    Russia bans grain exports to Belarus, Kazakhstan until Apr. 30

    From: Ria Novosti
    Russia banned on Monday grain exports to Belarus and Kazakhstan until April 30 in an apparent effort to stabilize domestic bread and flour prices.

    A resolution on banning wheat exports to Belarus and Kazakhstan, part of a Customs Union with Russia, was signed on February 18 by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, the government's press office said.

    In late January, the Russian government imposed a 40% export duty on grain exports to stabilize retail bread and flour prices. However, the duty, which will also remain in place until April 30, did not apply to the member states of the Customs Union, prompting the Russian government to impose a direct ban on exports to the two ex-Soviet republics.

    The need for grain intervention arose when grain prices reached a record level of 6,300 rubles ($250) per metric ton of class 4 wheat and 5,700 rubles ($226) per metric ton of forage fodder in July 2007. Prices of bread, flour and other wheat-based food products also grew as a result.

    According to Russia's Federal Customs Service, Russia exported in 2007 about 1.4 million metric tons of wheat to the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose association of former Soviet republics.

  • Cultural scene...

    Swiss theater instructors to give master class on improvisation to Belarusian students

    From: BelTA
    A winter and recreation festival was held in Grodno
    Master class on improvisation will be given to Belarusian student theatrical groups by the guests from Switzerland on February 18-23, BelTA was told in the Belarusian State University (BSU). Regula Eichenberger, a theatrical instructor and the head of her own improvisational theater, together with her assistants Simon Gauchi and Marco Zumsteg will come to Minsk.

    They will introduce the students to the main principles of improvisation. The classes will include different exercises on body and voice relaxation, the study on the non-typical positioning and creation of complicated etudes on the basis the world famous techniques of the improvisational system "Theatresports” developed by Keith Johnstone, an internationally recognized improvisational authority. The master class will result in a performance-competition, in which the participants of the project will demonstrate what they have learnt during their master classes.

    The classes will take place in the assembly hall of the Philological Department of the Belarusian State University. According to the representatives of the university the master classes are part of the project of the international festival “Teatralny Kufar (Theatrical Chest), that is annually held by the BSU. By the way, the Regula Eichenberger’s “Shining Hearts” theater took part in the very first such festival.

    Construction-assembly works in Belarus’ Theater of Opera and Ballet to be completed by September

    The construction-assembly works in the Belarusian National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet will be completed by September, Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Alexander Kosinets told reporters on February 15.

    The reconstruction of the theater of opera and ballet was launched in 2006. In 2006, construction organizations invested Br34 billion 500 million in the construction-assembly works, in 2007 – Br69 billion. This year around Br70 billion is expected to be assigned for the construction-assembly works.

    Some Br49 billion of extra-funds will be allocated for purchasing the special equipment. The renovation works should by completed in 2009.

    In March this year, the construction companies will start to improve the area by the theater. A space near the theater is going to become a beautiful place for the rest of Minsk residents and guests of the city.

  • Around the region...

    'Kosovo's freedom is worth clash with Russia'

    From: Telegraph
    Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence on Sunday has sparked major diplomatic divisions around the world, and sporadic violence in the Balkans.

    Serb nationalists destroyed two checkpoints on Kosovo's new border with Serbia yesterday, causing Nato troops to intervene for the first time since the split from Belgrade.

    But a senior diplomatic source in Pristina said that "Europe has stood up and been counted" by backing Kosovo's independence.

    It had done so despite "Russian muscle flexing" as Moscow sought to maintain influence in the Balkans and support its key ally in the region, Serbia. The Western official said: "We wanted to do it [work towards Kosovo's independence] with Russian co-operation. But the Russians chose not to. But it is worth sorting out Kosovo even so."

    He said the risk of renewed, widespread violence in the Balkans would "indisputably" have been higher had Kosovo's status remained in limbo.

    While Serbia and Kosovo could both join the European Union, he said Serbia was "adopting positions that make it difficult for them to head down that road".

    He said they were "digging a hole", referring to punitive measures Serbia was taking against its former province, including charging Kosovo's leaders with treason.

    Those indicted include Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, who yesterday welcomed the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, on an impromptu visit to Kosovo.

    Mr Solana said Kosovo and the EU were "good friends" despite five EU states, including Spain, opposing Kosovo's independence.

    He encouraged the nation to work to improve its feeble economy and battered infrastructure.

    "The joy that has been shown on the streets of Pristina and all over Kosovo has now to be converted into constructive and positive energy, to move towards the development of society," he said.

    However, Nato troops yesterday had to rush to the United Nations-controlled border posts at Banja and Jarinje on Kosovo's northern border with Serbia after Serb mobs set fire to offices and vehicles.

    UN police at the posts - all ethnic Serbs themselves - were moved to safety by a police unit as the crowds moved in. "About 1,000 Serbs arrived from Kosovo and another 150 from Serbia greeted each other and broke out into huge violence," said one police officer.

    Nato troops restored order after 45 minutes and there were no injuries.

    For a second day, thousands of Serbs marched to a bridge that separates them from Albanian communities in Kosovo's divided town of Mitrovica, chanting slogans against the new state.

    Mr Thaci described the violence as "isolated incidents".

    "They will not undermine the dignified celebrations of independence," he said.

    Ex-Official In Russia Is Convicted Of Aid Theft

    From: NY Times
    Russia’s former nuclear energy minister, who has been charged in the United States with stealing $9 million in American aid intended to improve Russia’s nuclear security, was found guilty in a Moscow court on Tuesday of embezzlement and abuse of office.

    The former minister, Yevgeny O. Adamov, was convicted with two other former Russian nuclear energy officials. They were accused of running an organized crime ring that stole from an American and Russian venture.

    The Russian case against Mr. Adamov began after a tug of war over whether he should be extradited to the United States, where he was indicted in 2005 on separate charges by a federal grand jury in Pennsylvania.

    The indictment accused him of using shell companies to divert for personal use millions of dollars of aid provided by the United States to upgrade security at Russian nuclear energy sites.

    He has maintained his innocence. His lawyers have said that while he may have mixed private and government money, he did so because the Russian banking system was primitive then.

    Mr. Adamov was appointed nuclear energy minister by President Boris N. Yeltsin in 1998, and fired by President Vladimir V. Putin in 2001, amid corruption allegations.

    He was detained in 2005 at the request of the United States by the Swiss authorities while in Switzerland, but was returned to Russia after Moscow protested.

    The Kremlin had said that because Mr. Adamov was a Russian citizen and a former senior Russian official, Russia’s case against him took precedence over the American charges. Russia also accused the United States of trying to use its case to press Mr. Adamov into revealing nuclear secrets. The United States has denied that allegation.

    He has not faced the American charges, and the United States attorney’s office that secured his indictment has said that he probably never will.

    The United States has followed the Russian case, and an American diplomat observed the hearing on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the American Embassy in Moscow welcomed the conviction, but said the American charges remained unresolved.

    Mr. Adamov’s verdict was read Tuesday at a long hearing that was continued until Wednesday, when sentencing is expected. Prosecutors said he could be sentenced to as long as nine years.

    Mr. Adamov, who spoke briefly at the hearing, said he would appeal, Russian news media reported. His lawyer, reached by telephone, declined to comment.

    US warns Russia not to encourage Georgian separatists

    From: IHT
    The United States warned Russia on Tuesday not to encourage separatists in the Republic of Georgia by comparing their cause to Kosovo's.

    On Monday, the United States, Australia and the European Union's biggest powers backed Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia.

    Russia strongly opposes recognition of the breakaway Serbian province's claimed status. Russian officials hinted last week that if Kosovo should declare independence, Russia might retaliate by recognizing the independence claims of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Those two Russian-supported regions are provinces of Georgia.

    The United States has said that Kosovo's situation is unique and should set no precedent.

    On Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack repeated U.S. support for Georgia's territorial integrity.

    "The Russians will say what they believe is in their interest," he said. "We think it is in the interest not only of the region of the South Caucasus, but in the Balkans, to encourage dialogue, to encourage greater stability, to encourage a dialogue among parties that helps parties work through differences in a peaceful way."

    Ukraine, EU launch free trade talks

    From: Daily Times
    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson launched talks on Monday on creating a free trade area, after Kiev successfully sealed a bid for WTO membership.

    As they met in Kiev the two men described the talks ahead as “challenging.”

    “We are embarking on a very challenging journey.... It will be long and complex work but it will not take a day longer than necessary,” Mandelson told Yushchenko during their meeting.

    Yushchenko said: “We have started the official process on the creation of a free trade area between Ukraine and the European Union.... We are at the beginning of a long, challenging and ambitious path in our history.”

    The Ukrainian president said that liberalisation of trade relations between Ukraine and the EU would help modernise Ukraine’s economy. He pointed out that the EU, not Russia, was now Ukraine’s main trading partner.

    Yushchenko came to power in 2005 after the pro-Western Orange Revolution, promising to wrest Ukraine from Moscow’s orbit and bring the country into the European Union, NATO and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

    Ukraine’s WTO bid was approved on February 5.

    Timoshenko Seeks Review of Gas Agreement With Russia

    From: Bloomburg
    Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko is seeking to review an accord reached last week with Russia on natural-gas deliveries, raising concern that a dispute over shipments of the fuel could be reignited.

    Timoshenko and her cabinet rejected an agreement signed by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that averted a halt in gas supply on Feb. 12, Oleksandr Turchynov, first deputy prime minister, said at a press conference in Kiev.

    OAO Gazprom, which supplies Ukraine with 71 percent of its gas, said Feb. 7 that NAK Naftogaz Ukrainy, Ukraine's state-owned gas and oil company, owed it $1.5 billion for gas deliveries since November. Yushchenko and Putin agreed that Ukraine will repay its debt and set up two joint ventures with Gazprom and Naftogaz to import fuel to Ukraine and distribute it across the country.

    ``The agreement we have now doesn't benefit us and is dangerous,'' Turchynov said. ``Timoshenko will start talks again.''

    Timoshenko, who leaves for Moscow tomorrow for a two-day visit, will seek direct contracts with Russian gas exporter Gazprom, eliminating all traders, Turchynov said.

    ``If we set up joint ventures with Gazprom, Naftogaz will be a bankrupt in several months,'' Turchynov said. ``It will not be able to manage the ventures.''


    Ukraine repaid its first $100 million to clear the debt on Feb. 14. The country has since halted payments as ``nobody provided us documents where we can see for what we are paying,'' Turchynov said today.

    ``The government must speed up the debt repayment,'' Viktor Baloha, Yushchenko's chief of staff said in an e-mail today. The payment of ``$100 million is too small. We must fulfill the agreement reached by two presidents.''

    The Feb. 7 threatened cutoff was reminiscent of a price dispute in January 2006, when Gazprom turned off all Ukrainian deliveries for three days, causing gas volumes to fall in the European Union. About a fifth of Europe's gas comes from Gazprom via Ukrainian pipelines.

    Under the 2006 agreement Swiss-registered RosUkrEnergo AG, half-owned by Gazprom, is the sole gas importer to Ukraine. ZAT UkrGaz-Energo, a joint venture between Naftogaz and RosUkrEnergo, distributes gas.

  • From the Polish Corruption Files...

    In the spotlight: Czeslaw Jerzy Malkowski

    From: Warsaw Business Journal
    The Mayor of Olsztyn has caught national attention amid media accusations of his involvement in a sex scandal in Olsztyn's City Hall.

    According to daily Rzeczpospolita, Malkowski may have been sexually harrassing female members of staff for years and there is a claim that he sexually assaulted a pregnant woman. The mayor denied all allegations and threatened to sue the journalist who broke the story.

    Media reports have suggested that local politicians knew about the alleged offenses for some time, but an investigation into the accusations only began after the recent media attention. The case was looked at first by the Prosecutor's Office in Olsztyn and then tranferred to Bialystok for the sake of greater objectivity. The prosecutors possess circumstantial evidence, including pictures and recorded phone calls, but it's not certain whether this evidence is admissible in court. The media has suggested that this evidence points to Malkowski's guilt. The mayor, for his part, has responded by casting doubt on the Prosecutor's evidence, saying it's simply not his voice in the recordings, for example.

    The scandal has been aggravated by the fact that the Prosecutor's Office in Bialystok sent a list featuring the names of the mayor's accusers to Olsztyn's City Hall in a request for the women's files. Addressed to the office rather than a particular person, the list found its way onto Malkowski's desk. Although legally justifiable, the prosecutor's handling of the delicate matter has been described by many as inept.

    In the meantime, Civil Platform (PO) MPs from the Warmia and Mazury regions have revealed they are considering staging a referendum in Olsztyn that would result in the Mayor's removal from office. The referendum would be valid if at least 30 percent of those eligible to vote were to participate.

    Born in 1950, Malkowski belonged to the Polish Unified Workers' Party (PZPR) and headed a censorship office in Olsztyn during Poland's communist times. He became mayor of the city in 2001 and was reelected in 2006.

    Polish Killers of 94-year-old 'took body on Tube'

    From: Telegraph
    A 94-year-old widow who survived the Holocaust after fleeing Nazi Germany was battered to death by her "greedy" Polish cleaner, a court has heard.

    Thea Zaudy was "brutally" beaten and strangled in her home
    Widow Thea Zaudy was "brutally" beaten and strangled by Jolanta Kalinowska in her own home, Oxford Crown Court was told.

    The cleaner, her son Adrian Ryszard Lis and his girlfriend Monilca Sienkiewicz then stuffed the old woman's body into a suitcase, it was alleged.

    They took it from the woman's Notting Hill home on to a tube train, before being met by a friend who drove them out to a field in Oxfordshire. There, they burnt it in a bid to conceal the evidence, it was alleged.

    The trio then went on to empty the elderly woman's bank account of Ј10,000 in a week-long shopping spree last July, the court heard.

    Mrs Zaudy, who came to Britain as a German refugee in 1939, ran a carpet shop for many years before her husband's death and then worked in a department store.

    At the time of her death she was living in Notting Hill Gate, west London, and was "comfortably well-off".

    But prosecutor Nicholas Dean said she suffered a "brutal death ... at the hands of someone she trusted."

    He said: "It involved brazenly going to her home and inflicting horrible injuries and concealing what happened.

    "The defendant took advantage of the situation in effect to steal from a dead woman."

    Kalinowska, from Ealing, west London, had worked as a cleaner and home help for some months and had keys to her flat.

    Mr Dean went on: "The prosecution says she is a greedy and dishonest individual. Her greed and dishonesty is to blame for the killing of Thea Zaudy."

    A post mortem examination found Mrs Zaudy died of asphyxia. She also suffered injuries to her face, scalp and thigh and fractured ribs. Mr Dean said the 4ft 11in "little old woman" would have put up a fight.

    CCTV cameras captured Kalinowska at Notting Hill tube station on July 11 last year, the day Mrs Zaudy disappeared, the court heard.

    The next day Kalinowska and Sienkiewicz, 19, also from Ealing, then bought cleaning products to clean up the body and the mess in her flat.

    Sienkiewicz also sent her boyfriend Lis, 23, a text saying: "Now Zaudy God, yuck yuck then shopping."

    The charred remains of Mrs Zaudy's body were later found by a farm worker. Police had no idea about its identity until Mrs Zaudy's friends in her bridge-playing circle reported her missing.

    Kalinowska has denied killing Mrs Zaudy. The cleaner claimed the woman had built up Ј10,000 in gambling debts playing bridge and had demanded to borrow money off her. She claimed she lent Mrs Zaudy Ј10,000, who then allowed her to use her account as a way of paying her back.

    Lis, 23, and Sienkiewicz, 19, and Lukasz Gajda, 25, from Ealing, - who is said to have met them at Ealing Broadway and driven them and the body to Oxfordshire in his BMW - all deny assisting an offender by knowingly removing evidence. They claimed they thought the suitcase contained wet blankets.

    The trial continues.

    Verdict in Kulczykpark trial today

    From: The News
    Five defendants in the so-called “Kulczykpark” scandal may hear the final court verdict in Poznan on Monday.

    The mayor of Poznan Ryszard Grobelny is among the five accused. According to the prosecution, they overstepped their competences causing millions of zlotys’ loss to the city budget.

    The five are accused of selling an attractive plot of land located in the centre of Poznan well under the market price to Ms. Grazyna Kulczyk, the wife of one of the richest Poles, businessman Jan Kulczyk.

    Radio Merkury has reported that the final speeches by the prosecution, defence and the accused will be heard before the court before the final verdict is read out. The defendants, who have pleaded guilty so far, including the mayor of Poznan, may be sentenced for up to ten years in prison.

    In 2002, Ms. Kulczyk bought the said plot in central Poznan with a surface area of 1.5 hectares for 9.7 million zlotys, i.e. 671 zlotys per square metre.

  • From the blogs...

    NATO 1, Russia 0

    From: Publius Pundit
    The first serious battle of the new Cold War has been fought, and Russia has lost it badly. The Kosovo region of the former Yugoslavia has boldly declared its independence from Serbian enslavement, thumbing its nose at Russian power in the region, and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Turkey have recognized the new country immediately. More than half of the European Union member states support independence, and concerted Russian efforts to block the move proved futile. The EU "is sending a justice and law mission of 2,000 police, judges and administrators to Pristina." The U.S. announced that it "had given $77 million in assistance to Kosovo in 2007 and would raise that amount to roughly $335 million in 2008."

    Europe got a valuable insight as to the loyalties of its member states as the new Cold War takes shape, with Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus openly refusing immediate recognition. It's clear that Europe needs to shore up its flanks for the inevitable Russian counterattack, likely in the form of energy warfare.

    But Europe also saw that, even in some disarray, it can face down Russian aggression and win notwithstanding Russian bluster and macabre threats, an equally valuable lesson to take into future conflicts.

    Russian hypocrisy was on full and nauseating display. While Russians bristle at American influence in the former USSR, arguing that America should remain within its own orbit, Russia has no problem welcoming the support of China into the rogue's gallery of nations that want Serbia to be able to continue to oppress the people of Kosovo, whom it once tried to wipe off the face of the earth. It was most remarkable to hear Boris Tadic, President of Serbia, screeching about "illegal acts" so soon after Serbia visited a horrific litany of outrageous crimes upon Europe, resulting in a forceful military response by NATO.

    If Russia is unable to turn back the clock on Kosovo's independence, which seems certain, it's foreseeable that its next move will be to try to use the event as a precedent to try to wedge Abkhazia and South Ossetia, separatist regions in Georgia, into the Russian fold. But Russia will have great difficulty justifying such a move, not only because of the nearly pathological vehemence of the rhetoric Putin has used opposing the Kosovo separation, but also because Russia itself is vulnerable to a massive separatist movement in Chechnya. It will have even more difficulty if NATO, as it must, immediately reaches out to bring Georgia within the welcoming arms of its protection.

    What we see in Kosovo is the utter failure of Vladimir Putin's foreign policy. Fueled by a latent frenzy of KGB-indoctrinated hatred of the West and its values, Putin has indulged in an orgy of attacks on the Western powers, alienating and provoking them to an extent that would have been difficult to imagine just a few years ago. Seemingly oblivious of Russia's relative impotence both militarily and economically, seemingly consumed with shame and rage over Russia's defeat in the first Cold War, Putin has lost not a second in rabidly charging towards a second. Had he been more restrained, he might have had a much stronger bargaining position regarding the Kosovo issue.

    Now, the neo-Soviet chickens have come home to roost.

    A Slave to Power?

    From: vilhelm konnander
    At his annual news conference, Russian president Vladimir Putin revealed that he had never been tempted to run for a third term. From the very outset, he decided never to violate the Russian constitution. The constitution stipulates a maximum of two consecutive presidential terms.

    As usual this pseudo-news ran as the top story in international media's comments on the news conference. As previously reported, the Kremlin has succeeded to keep speculations on a potential third Putin presidential term alive for years, and media have only been to keen to swallow the bait. That journalists simply have not been able to take Putin's word for it, only testifies to the politechnologists' successful media coup in manipulating western and Russian news coverage alike. It should also send a warning to news audiences worldwide that they run the risk of deception due to international media's one-eyedness in Russia reporting.

    At the news conference Putin said: "Throughout all these eight years I have toiled like a slave in the galleys, from morning till evening and, have done so with the full devotion of my strength." This is most probably a very sincere statement, and is also in line with what Putin has previously said repeatedly. Also, people working in the Kremlin has let it be no secret that the Russian president has been quite tired and weary of his duties in recent years. So, being a slave to power does not in Putin's case have to be a fixation to power, but an actual slavery of duties. Still, media have failed to see this.

    At times, it is simply appauling to see how bad the knowledge is among western journalists covering Russia, when they repeatedly fail even to get the basic facts right. For instance, only this Tuesday the BBC covered Ukrainian president's Yushchenko meeeting with Putin in Moscow. With badly covered indignation, the reporter comments on Putin's upcoming attendance to the April NATO-conference in Bucharest: "Mr Putin will no longer be Russian president in April. Elections for his successor will be held next month." It is thus suggested that Putin and his croonies do not know when his presidential term ends or that they do not care, as things will anyway remain the same. Well, I have news for the BBC: Putin was inaugurated for his second term in May 2004, which means that he has the constitutional right to remain in office for the full four years of his term, viz. until May this year. That he has every intention to exercise his presidential powers to the maximum until the last minute is also clear from Putin's own statements. Still, one cannot but sigh when even the BBC cannot get such basics right.

    What is at risk is good and objective reporting about developments in Russia. As the situation is becoming increasingly severe in many fields of politics and society, news coverage is increasingly tendentious and predisposed to prejudial perceptions. The worse the situation becomes, the greater is the need for journalistic integrity and professionalism. Or else, not only the general news audience will be misled but even world leaders might base their decisions on policies towards Russia on bad information and faulty images. Getting the basic facts right might actually change assessments of developments to better cope with challenges ahead. Those challenges are great, and the greatest is perhaps coping with the myth of Russia as a reemerging great power in the world. Still, we fail to see realities as they are, and as long as we do not challenge our own prejudice, we will go on living in a world of illusions about Russia.

    State Organs Decrease the Secured Zones of Kurapaty Mass Grave

    From: Viasna
    Anton Astapovich, chairman of the council of the Belarusian voluntary society for protection of the monuments of history and culture, said to BelaPAN: ‘At the end of November 2007 I applied to the Ministry of Culture for permission to familiarize with the scheme of the secured zones of the Kurapaty forest and receiving a copy of this document, because on 20 May 2003 the Belarusian republican scientific center on the issues of historical and cultural heritage had adopted a scheme of the secured zones of the mass grave, which has not been presented to public.
    This scheme was elaborated by the Prayektrestauratsyja (Restoration project) state enterprise on the order of the Belarusian association of victims of political repressions. This scheme determines the borders of the historical and cultural value where the construction of any architectural objects is prohibited till the project of Kurapaty memorializing is adopted by the authorities. On 13 December 2007 I received from the officials a copy of the scheme of the secured zones of Kurapaty and the rulings of the Ministry of Culture, Minsk city executive committee and Minsk oblast executive committee on determining these zones.’

    When Astapovich familiarized Maya Kliashtornaya with these documents, it was found that after the sitting of 20 May 2003 the borders of the secured zones were considerably changed. ‘Now we need to know whether these changes are legal’, A.Astapovich pointed.

    According to of the council of the Belarusian voluntary society for protection of the monuments of history and culture, in the case the illegality of correction of the borders is confirmed, he will have to apply to the State Control Committee and to the president’s administration.

    Kurapaty near Mensk (Minsk) is one of the many places where mass executions of Belarusian civilians were carried out during the Stalin regime (1937 - 1941) by the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs - at the time this was the name of what is today the KGB). Until the late 80s the Soviet government carefully concealed this information from the people.

    Belarus raised visa fees for EU and US citizens

    From: Charter '97
    Belarusian visa fees have in creased for US citizens and those of the countries joined the Schengen zone in 2007: Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Czech Republic.

    As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus informs, in relation to the countries, new members of the Schengen zone, these measures were taken in view of increase of their visa fees for Belarusian citizens by EUR 60. Belarus uses graduated rates in regard to Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Estonia.

    For Lithuanian, Latvian, Polish and Estonian citizens a single entry and tourist visa costs EUR 25, a double entry (entry/exit) visa costs EUR 35, multiple on for three months – EUR 60, multiple visa for 6 months or a year – EUR 150.

    A double entry guest visa for visiting graves of close relatives is free for Lithuanian citizens.

    Consular fee for citizens of Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Malta and Czech Republic is higher in comparison with visa costs for citizens of the neighbouring states. In particular, Hungarian citizens must pay EUR 60 for a single, double and multiple entry visa for a term of 90 days, and for a term of more than 90 days – EUR 150. Increase in visa costs for the US citizens is a response for visa fees increase for Belarusian citizens by the USA from USD 100 to 131.

    At present a single entry visa (for a term by 90 days) for US citizens is USD 131, a double entry visa costs USD 232, and a multiple entry visa costs USD 333. A long-term multiple visa for a term of 1 year costs USD 350.

    Consular fees for visa for other European countries haven’t been changed and are equal for citizens of France, Italy, Germany, etc. A single entry visa (cost of business and guest visas is the same) costs EUR 65, a double entry one – EUR 115, a three entry visa – EUR 165, a multiple entry visa – EUR 300; single, double and three entry tourist visas cost EUR 50, 90 and 130 respectively. When receiving visas urgently (within 48 hours) consular fee is increased two times.

    Belarusian entry visa is issued on arrival by the Consulate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the airport. Rate of consular fee for the citizens of the countries where consular offices of the Republic of Belarus are situated is EUR 100 for business and guest visas, EUR 45 for a tourist visa, and EUR 265 for a multiple guest visa.

    Citizens of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as well as of the countries where there are no consular posts of the Republic of Belarus, must pay EUR 70 for a business and guest visa, EUR 35 for a tourist one. Obtaining a multiple guest visa in the national airport costs EUR 155 for Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian citizens, and citizens of the countries with no consular posts of Belarus pay EUR 220. The highest rates in the Consular office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are for US citizens: business, guest, tourist, transit, and group visa (for 1 person) costs USD 180, or EUR 125, a multiple guest short-term one – USD 350, or EUR 250, a multiple visa for a year with right of residence of 90 days – USD 500, or EUR 345. When obtaining guest, tourist and transit visas for US citizens under 16 years old, on the basis of reciprocity sum of USD 100, or EUR 70 is collected.

    As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explain, higher rates are connected with the time of visa issuing. Visa can be received during 5-10 minutes (if all documents are correct, and additional checking is not necessary), and it demands additional costs.

    Belarus has remained beyond the Schengen zone, though it had all chances to become a full member of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The country needed have accepted 12 offers of the EU, the main of them are: release of political prisoners, freedom of speech, and holding of free election. Visa for Belarusian citizens cost EUR 60.

    Выставка памяти Владимира Нехайчика

    From: Минский блог
    Приглашаем Вас на открытие выставки «Память друзей» Владимир Андреевич Нехайчик - фотографии разных лет.

    Посвящается памяти известного белорусского фотографа, члена Народного фотоклуба «Мiнск», члена творческого союза «Фотоискусство» Владимира Нехайчика.

    На выставке представлены работы из нескольких фотографических проектов, осуществленных автором в течение 1960-2007 г.г.

    Открытие выставки, состоится 20-го февраля в 18.00.
    Выставка работает c 20 февраля по 16 марта 2008 г.

    Адрес музея-галереи «Мир Фото»,
    г. Минск, ул. Притыцкого, 10.
    Время работы: 11.00-19.00
    Выходной: суббота, воскресенье.

    За справками обращайтесь:
    Музей-галерея «Мир Фото»,
    тел. (017) 210 21 37, Васильев Ю.С.

  • Sport...

    Andrei Kravchenko of Belarus wins gold at international Reval Hotels Cup-2008 in Tallinn

    From: BelTA
    Junior world champion 2007 Andrei Kravchenko and the leader of the world junior season Eduard Mikhal from belaurs took part in Reval Hotels Cup-2008 in Tallinn, General Consul of Belarus to Tallinn Alexander Ostrovsky told BelTA.

    Andrei Kravchenko won long and high jumps (7 m 62 cm) and (2 m 16 cm), 1000m (2.41,85) and set his personal best in the 60m (7.03 seconds). In this event he was third leaving behind the Olympic champion Roman ?ebrle from the Czech Republic, bronze medal winner of the last world championships in Osaka Dmitry Karpov from Kazakhstan and many other distinguished athletes.

    Andrei Kravchenko scored 6,229 points what is his personal best. The gold medal to the Belarusian athlete was presented by the Consul General of Belarus in Tallinn.

    Belarus’ Eduard Mikhal debuted in seniour event in Tallinn. He finished in first in the 60 m (6.45seconds). His scored a total of 5,829, what is his personal best, and took 6th position in the overall scoreboard.

    Belarusians pick up three bronze medals at Judo World Cups

    In Vienna, Belarusians Andrei Kazusionok (90kg weight category) and Igor Makarov (100kg + category) picked up bronze medals at the world judo cup in Vienna. Konstantin Semenov (73kg) and Yuri Rybak (100kg +) took the seventh places. Sergei Novikov (60kg) and Sergei Kukharenko (100kg) bowed out in the first rounds of the tournament.

    Competing in the women’s circuit were 228 participants from 43 countries. The top Belarusian was Svetlana Timoshenko (78kg) with the bronze medal. Tatiana Moskvina, Yekaterina Razumova (both -48kg) Julia Borisik and Irina Iodkovskaya (both 78kg +) bowed out in the first rounds of the tournament.

  • Endnote...

    Lenin's embalmed corpse good for another century

    From: Ria Novosti
    The embalmed corpse of ex-Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin could remain on view in his tomb on Red Square for another 100 years, if no decision to remove it is taken, one of its curators said on Friday.

    One of the experts who cares for the corpse, Yuri Denisov-Nikolsky, said that if the body "receives proper care it could remain in the mausoleum for another 100 years."

    The mausoleum's continuing presence in the heart of Moscow has been a source of considerable controversy since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

    Demands to transfer the body of the architect of the 1917 Russian Revolution to a regular cemetery have been countered by Russian Communists, who insist that the tomb in Red Square remain the Soviet leader's final resting place.

    Lenin's mausoleum, a major tourist attraction in Moscow, closes every year and a half for restoration work, which usually last for some six weeks. This year the work will be carried out from February 18 until April 15.

    Lenin's body, with its face uncovered, has been on public display in a glass sarcophagus since his death in 1924.

    Another expert, Professor Valery Bykov, said modern technology would allow the body to be kept in good condition for many years to come. "We believe the body can be maintained for an extremely long period," he said.