News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stability in Belarus, Opposition protest turns riot, US sanctions, Budget surplus, Spys, Culture, Venezuela, Russia, Polish scandal, Blogs and Sport

  • From the Top...
  • #293

    Stability in Belarus largely depends on effective system of justice, President says

    From: BelTA
    On 22 March, the ice hockey team of the President of the Republic of Belarus gained a 6-2 victory over the team of the Vitebsk region in an ice hockey match that took place as part of the first national amateur ice hockey tournament for the prizes of the Presidential Sports Club.
    Stability in Belarus and Belarusian society largely depends on the effectiveness and efficiency of justice, President Alexander Lukashenko said today’s meeting of judges of the Republic of Belarus.

    Without effective justice it’s impossible to ensure that human rights and interests of the state are duly protected, according to the Head of State.

    “The state is doing its utmost today to ensure the normal functioning of courts, and has a right to expect appropriate results,” said Alexander Lukashenko. Thousands of citizens apply to courts of justice every year, he said. Citizens’ attitude to the state policy and how much they trust the authorities on the whole depend on how promptly, qualitatively and fairly courts settle their problems.

    “Justice should be as accessible and open as possible. Judges should be addressing the needs of the people, deepening their understanding of the problems they are facing. It’s necessary to learn to work in an environment when the state is functioning for the people, when the requirements imposed on every one of us, from the President to an ordinary government employee, are very demanding,” said the President.

    Life today is such that judges should step up the level of their involvement with the process of development of the national legal system as a whole, said Alexander Lukashenko. The state cannot permit itself the luxury of not exploiting the huge professional and intellectual potential of the officers of the court, first of all, for building up modern legislation, Alexander Lukashenko said.
    The Head of State supports today’s routine applied in Belarus when judges hold on-site meetings with citizens. In his opinion, this is extremely important for raising public awareness in the legislative field, explaining people their rights and how they can protect their interests in case of infringement; it’s also crucial in enhancing crime prevention. Through these meetings judges get an opportunity to see people’s needs, to learn about their opinion about the system of justice in Belarus as a whole.

    The legal system of Belarus features the Constitutional Court, ordinary courts administrating justice by means of civil, criminal and administrative proceedings and economic courts. The Constitutional Court includes 12 judges and considers issues of the constitutionality of whole legal acts and their certain provisions. The system of ordinary courts comprises the Supreme Court, oblast courts, Belarus military court, regional courts and inter-garrison military courts.

    All legal procedures should be based on presumption of innocence

    The presumption of innocence should be secured in all legal procedures, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told the meeting of judges in Minsk on March 25.

    “If the guilt is not proved, a person should be acquitted”, the head of state underlined.

    The President stressed that if legal provisions are not specific enough, the court should proceed from the interests of litigants.

    Alexander Lukashenko particularly focused on the measures to raise the efficiency of the judicial system. “According to the reports of the heads of the courts, much has been done to achieve that goal. Reduced legal proceedings on criminal charges and other measures have been widely implemented. The new wording of the Code of Economic Procedures stipulates the reduction of period during which economic disputes and appeals of court adjudications should be considered. New institutions of appeal and mediation have been introduced”, he said.

    However, a lot has still to be done in this area as well. The President believes that comprehensive measures have to be taken in order to minimize the time that litigants have to spend in the courtroom, as well as the number of postponed and suspended cases.

    corruption cases should be dealt with more thoroughly

    Criminal cases involving corruption should be dealt with more thoroughly and with a greater caution, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at the meeting of judges of the Republic of Belarus.

    “Serious instances of negligence often occur during the investigation of corruption and other cases that gain publicity. I would like to underline that it is very dangerous to go too far in order to provide a nice statistics”, the Belarusian President stressed. In particular, when law enforcement agencies level charges against the heads of companies and concerns for the crimes that are not directly connected with embezzlement and bribery, they proceed from the fact that the decisions of the heads of companies are formally not in compliance with the existing legislation and various instructions, the President noted.

    However, according to Alexander Lukashenko, it is necessary to take into account the fact that hasty commencement of prosecution can damage the reputation of a company, and make its foreign trade activity more difficult. “In some cases the adjudication of the court affects not only one individual but all the employees of this company. In order to assess the actions of the company’s head in the right way, it is necessary to take into consideration the whole range of factors, including objective circumstances that lead to this decision,” the head of state noted.

    Alexander Lukashenko commissioned the Prosecutor General, the Interior Ministry, the State Security Committee and the State Control Committee to establish order in this area. “The system should be organized in such a way that a course of a criminal case can be monitored from the moment of its commencement to its consideration in the court”, the President added.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Non-Aligned Movement condemns sanctions against Belarus

    From: BelTA
    The Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) expresses serious concern regarding the decision of the USA to impose the economic sanctions against Belarus, which is a NAM member state, reads the statement of the NAM Coordinating Office, BelTA was told in the Foreign Ministry of Belarus.

    “The Non-Aligned Movement confirms the necessity to refuse from taking unilateral economic and trade measures by one state in respect to another state, which hamper free development of international trade”, says the statement.

    The Non-Aligned Movement strongly urges the states which have passed and continue using such laws and measures to refrain from spreading and applying them in accordance with their obligations under the UN Charter and international law, which in addition secure the regulations on free trade.

    The document emphasizes non-admission of the measures or legislative acts which are taken to put pressure upon one of the member-states of the Non-Aligned Movement and which contain threats to the sovereignty, free trade and investment activity of this state.

    USA reduces staffing of its embassy in Minsk

    On March 24, Charge d’Affaires a.i. of the United States of America in Minsk Jonathan Moore was invited to the Foreign Ministry of Belarus, BelTA was told in the foreign political department.

    In the course of the meeting the US representative informed that a relevant number of American diplomats are departing the Republic of Belarus in accordance with the request made by the Belarusian Foreign Ministry to reduce the number of personnel of the US embassy in Minsk to achieve parity in personnel of the diplomatic missions of Belarus and the USA on the territory of each other.

    Belarus to assist Venezuela in developing air defense system

    From: BelTA
    Belarusian military specialists will take part in the creation of Venezuela’s air defense system, Piotr Tikhonovsky, the deputy head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Belarus, said at a session of the House of Representatives’ permanent commission on the international affairs and relations with the CIS.

    Piotr Tikhonovsky noted that “at present Venezuela has no single system of anti-aircraft defense, there are only separate subdivisions”. The air-defense system will appear in Venezuela within the next six years, he added.

    The parliamentary commission has supported two Belarus-Venezuela agreements: on cooperation in creation of the single system of the anti-aircraft defense and the system of the electronic warfare of the National Armed Forces of Venezuela and on the presence of Belarusian military counselors and specialists on the territory of Venezuela. The House of Representatives plans to ratify the documents at the spring session. They were signed in Caracas on December 8, 2007, during the visit of the President of Belarus to the Republic of Venezuela.

    In line with the agreements, the Belarusian side will offer Venezuela support and assistance in creating the single system of the anti-aircraft defense and the national system of electronic warfare based on the scientific project worked out by the Belarusian-Venezuela commission. Venezuela will undertake obligations on the implementation of the project on its territory. Belarus will send counselors and specialists to help in the creation of the aforesaid defense systems.

    The deputy head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Belarus informed that the expenditure related to the sending of Belarusian military specialists will be covered by the Venezuelan side in line with the relevant contracts.

    In 2008, Belarus is going to send nearly 10 military specialists to Venezuela. The number will increase as the air defense system and the creation of the relevant infrastructure develops.

    In line with the agreement, staying on the territory of Venezuela, Belarusian counselors and their families have to follow the legislation of Venezuela and cannot take part in military operations.

    “Belarus’ participation in the creation of the air defense system and the national system of electronic warfare of Venezuela is advantageous for our country as it will give an opportunity to efficiently develop other areas of bilateral cooperation,” Piotr Tikhonovsky noted.

    Piotr Tikhonovsky said that today Venezuela mostly uses the French and American equipment. However, the Venezuelan authorities “have taken the decision to orientate the East, Russia, probably, China”. Belarus will also supply Venezuela with military equipment, the automatic control system in particular, he added.

    Belarus needs to readjust tariffs before it passes law on telecommunications

    From: BelTA
    Before passing the law on telecommunications Belarus needs to readjust the tariffs, Minister of Communication and Informatisation Nikolai Pantelei said at a session of the permanent commission for industry, fuel and energy complex, transport and entrepreneurship of the House of Representatives on March 25.

    According to him, for Belarus to join the WTO, it needs to abolish the exclusive right of the national telecommunication operator for international telephony traffic and access to the telecommunication network of general use and networks of other states. “Approximate financial losses of the national operator Beltelecom in this case are estimated at 20-30% of the current revenues,” the Minister said.

    Nikolai Pantelei noted that the bill provided for readjustment of the tariffs by bringing the tariffs on loss-making services first of all local communication to such level which would compensate for their costs. The Ministry of Communication and Informatisation prepared a plan of readjustment which provided for reducing the tariffs on international calls and increasing the tariffs on the calls inside the country. The plan was considered in the Economy Ministry, the Council of Ministers, but was not approved. Therefore the tariffs have not been readjusted so far. Beltelecom continues providing loss-making local services and compensating for them by means of cross subsidizing. “We drew the attention of the main law department of the Presidential Administration to this discrepancy. The department concluded the tariffs were to have been readjustment before adopting the law,” the Minister said.

    The draft law has been coordinated with all interested parties. It can be approved, though its adoption needs stipulations on the terms as the readjustment of tariffs have not been determined yet. “We have prepared the relevant letter to the Council of Ministers and assume that it will take address the House of Representatives with a request to return the bill to the Ministry for finalization and taking final decision on the term of readjustment,” Nikolai Pantelei added.

    Nikolai Pantelei noted that the issue of the indeterminate situation with the liberalization of the telecommunications market is not the single impediment for Belarus’ accession to the WTO.

    According to Nikolai Pantelei, Belarus’ telecommunications tariffs are considerably lower than in Russia and other CIS countries. The tariffs will be lower than in other countries even if Belarus raises landline subscription fee 1.5 times and brings it up to $2-3. “I believe telecommunications services including mobile communication services are easily accessibly in our country. They are much cheaper as to compare with the neighboring countries, let alone the European Union,” Nikolai Pantelei said.

    Today the landline subscription fee makes up 41% of its cost for individuals and 64% for corporate clients, time-based payment for local calls – 60% and 91% respectively, subscription fee for the use of wired-radio outlet – 38% and 51%.

    Belarus announces budget surplus of Br1.64 trillion in January-February 2008

    From: BelTA
    In January-February 2008 the surplus of the republican budget of Belarus came to around Br1.64 trillion, BelTA learnt in the Belarusian Finance Ministry.

    In January-February 2008 the revenues of the republican budget of Belarus amounted to Br6.88 trillion, or 18% of the annual plan. Over the two months this year the republican budget received VAT at the amount of Br1.2 trillion, or 16.9% of the annual plan. The revenues from foreign economic activity made up Br1.5 trillion, or 21.1% of the annual plan.

    As of March 1 2008, the budget arrears to the budgets of all levels totaled Br153.7 billion.

    In January-February 2008, the expenditures of the republican budget were Br5.24 trillion, or 13% of the annual plan.

    As of March 1 2008, the credit indebtedness of the republican budget made up Br54.2 billion.

    Government to consider results of socio-economic development of Belarus in January-February 2008

    On March 26, a session of the Council of Ministers of Belarus will consider the results of the socio-economic development of the country in January-February 2008, BelTA learnt in the Council of Ministers’ Office.

    In January-February this year, Belarus met 13 out of 19 most important targets of the socio-economic development forecast. Over the two months the GDP raised 9.9% over the same period last year. The country increased the production of industrial products – by 12.9%, consumer goods – by 14% including foodstuffs – by 15%, nonfood goods – by 12.5%, services (in January) – by 11.8%.

    In January 2008, Belarus increased the export of goods and services by 71.8%. So, this country posted a surplus in foreign trade to the tune of $33.4 million.

    In January-February the labour productivity increased by 7.7% on the same period last year. The profitability of sold products in industry made up 16.1%. In January the real incomes for the population increased by 12.3% on the same period last year.

    In January-February 2008 the Consumer Price Index made up 103.2%.

    At the same time, in January the country failed to meet the targets in terms of restriction of import of goods and services (48.7% up while the target is 12.5-13.5% in 2008), the GDP energy intensity (the growth of 3.9% while the target is 7-8% down), the number of employees. Moreover, in January-February 2008 Belarus failed to meet the targets in terms of agricultural production (the growth of 6.4% while the target is 7-8%), investments in fixed capital (12.1% up while the target is 15-17%). In January-February 2008 Belarus commissioned housing 8.3% less as against the same period last year.

  • From the international press...

    Belarus says US spy ring discovered in Minsk

    From: Times of India
    The Belarus state security agency confirmed on Tuesday a television report that a US spy ring had been discovered in Minsk amid a diplomatic stand-off between the countries.

    According to the report, broadcast on Sunday, 10 Belarussian nationals were discovered giving information to a staff member of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

    "I confirm the veracity of the story on spying that was shown on the First National Channel," Valery Nadtochayev, spokesman for the Belarussian KGB agency, said.

    The US acting head of mission in Minsk told a news agency that the 10 were security staff protecting the embassy building and that the local police were fully aware of their activities.

    "There is no secret and no mystery," Jonathan Moore was quoted as saying. "We do not have any spies working in Belarus."

    Media quoted the head of the Belarussian KGB, Yury Zhadobin, saying that no one had been detained in connection with the case.

    U.S. trims embassy staff in Belarus

    From: CNN
    Karen Stewart
    The United States is cutting the size of its embassy staff in Belarus amid a diplomatic dispute with that country's government, the U.S. State Department said Monday.

    "The United States will, with great regret, reduce the number of American staff at our embassy in Minsk by almost half, at the insistence of the Government of Belarus," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.

    The State Department did not announce the number of cuts, but Andrei Popov, press secretary of the Belarussian Foreign Ministry, said staffing at the U.S. Embassy would be equal with the Belarussian embassy in Washington, which has 18 diplomats, Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

    "Visa processing in Belarus is temporarily suspended," McCormack said.

    Relations between the United States and Belarus have been tempestuous for the last decade, but they deteriorated quickly over the last month.

    On March 7, Belarus recalled its ambassador to the United States and suggested the U.S. ambassador to Belarus leave that country. Belarus acted to protest U.S. sanctions against Belarussian oil monopoly Belneftekhim.

    On March 12, U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Karen Stewart returned to Washington.

    Then, on March 17, the Belorussian Foreign Ministry gave an "urgent recommendation" to Jonathan Moore, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk, that the United States reduce the size of its embassy staff.

    "The unfortunate actions by the Belarus authorities demonstrate that Belarus has taken a path of confrontation and isolation rather than a path of engagement and democratic reform," McCormack said.

    "We would like a different relationship with Belarus, but that can only happen when the government of Belarus shows commitment to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms."

    Washington has been pushing for the release of Alexander Kozulin, the runner-up in the 2006 presidential election in Belarus. He received a five-year prison term for leading demonstrations against election results that international observers said were flawed.

    The sanctions against Belneftekhim were meant to pressure Minsk to release Kozulin, as well as several other political prisoners.

    The United States has long been critical of the iron-fisted rule of President Alexander Lukashenko, lending its support to the opposition and barring entry into the United States to members of the Belarussian government. He took office in 1995 and quickly consolidated power.

    In 2005, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Belarus the last "outpost of tyranny" in Europe. A year earlier, the U.S. Congress approved American assistance for democratic political parties, non-governmental organizations and media and barred all non-humanitarian aid to the government.

    Growth of e-shopping in Belarus

    From: The Telecom
    According to a report by, the Belarusian Ministry of Trade is recording a growth in e-commerce in Belarus. The number of Belarusian businesses using the internet as a means of trading is increasing by approximately 100 shops per year.

    Belarusian e-shops, which now total 740, are defined as those businesses that are registered in the '.by' domain and that observe Belarusian legislative regulations.

    The Ministry of Trade in Belarus estimates that e-commerce in Belarus commands a monthly turnover in the region of $5000 to $7000.

    The report shows that Belarusian internet shoppers are most interested in buying computers and computing equipment, phones, construction materials, children's toys, car parts and cosmetics.

    Lawyer: US anti-mob activist in Belarus to face fraud charges

    From: Earth Times and Kommersant
    A US anti-organized crime activist held in a Belarusian jail for close to two weeks will face charges of attempting to defraud one of the region's most notorious businessmen, security officials said on Monday. Emanuel Zeltser, director of the American-Russian Law Institute (ARLI), has been held in a jail run by the KGB secret service in the former Soviet republic since March 12 on unspecified charges.

    Zeltser will be charged with attempting to defraud Georgian businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili of unspecified property, a court official requesting anonymity told dpa.

    Zeltser's lawyer confirmed the report by telephone, saying the charges would allege his client "attempted to obtain (Patarkatsishvili's) property using faked documents."

    There was no official confirmation of the possible charge, or where Zeltser would ultimately stand trial.

    Famed as Georgia's richest man, Patarkatsishvili made his fortune in Russia during the privatization of state industries in the 1990s in partnership with fellow London-based billionaires Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich.

    Patarkatsishvili and his holdings had been described by Zeltser's ARLI as potentially linked to Russian organized crime. Patarkatsishvili died on February 12 in London, apparently of natural causes.

    Zeltser had tried to hold negotiations with the Salford fund in London, which manages Patarkatsishvili's assets, and with Berezovsky, but those negotiations were without result. Zeltser then flew to Belarus, initially ordering a charter flight, but transferred to Berezovsky's plane after the charter crew refused to fly due to weather conditions.

    “I spoke with Mr. Zeltser the day before about the trip and told him openly that I consider him a fraud. I told him, if you consider the documents in order, go to Belarus and prove it,” Berezovsky told Kommersant. “At the request of Inna Gudavadze [Patarkatsishvili's widow], Anatoly Motkin, one of Badri Patarkatsishvili's closest friends accompanied him.

    Zeltser was arrested by the Belarusian KGB when the plane landed. Motkin was arrested and quickly released. When Kay stated his claim to Patarkatsishvili's estate in February, Gudavadze's lawyer Michelle Duncan, who also represents Berezovsky, sent a letter of warning to a number of countries, including Belarus. A similar letter, warning of an attempt at fraud, was sent by the widow's subsequent lawyer, Lord Goldsmith. Emmanuil Zeltser' brother Mark stated that they charges against him in Belarus are copied word for word from the warning letters. He also stated that Emmanuil Zeltser had no documents with him. “He is being held hostage,” Mark Zeltser averred. Kay declined to comment on the events.

    Zeltser's relatives and lawyer last week claimed Zeltser was suffering from harsh Belarusian prison conditions, and not being provided medicine to treat diabetes and arthritis.

    Belarus police spokesman in response said Zeltser was receiving "sufficient medicines," without giving details.

    Belarus' KGB waited more than a week even to confirm it had arrested Zeltser in the first place. The arrest took place shortly after he arrived in the Belarusian capital Minsk on a flight from London.

    Zeltser's secretary, a Russian national, was also arrested and is being held in a Minsk prison on as-yet undisclosed charges.

    Zeltser's detention could be linked to Lukashenko's campaign, although the Belarusian ruler has made no public remarks on the arrest, observers said.

    Belarusians celebrating 90th anniversary of Belarusian National Republic

    From: Naveny
    Belarusians around the world on March 25 celebrate the 90th founding anniversary of the short-lived Belarusian National Republic (BNR), BelaPAN reports.

    The Belarusian National Republic came into existence shortly before the end of the First World War, when the Bolshevik forces left Minsk and the city was occupied by German troops. Although the German authorities remained reticent, if not actually hostile toward the BNR provisional government, they did not interfere much with its political functioning.

    On March 25, 1918, the provisional government (Rada) together with representatives of the Vilna (Vilnius) Council proclaimed the independence of the Belarusian National Republic (BNR). A national flag with white, red and white horizontal stripes was adopted, together with a state seal depicting «Pahonya» (Pursuit), the old emblem of the Grand Duchy of Litva.

    Armenia, Czechoslovakia, Georgia, Germany, Austria, Poland, Ukraine, Turkey, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland recognized the BNR de jure.

    To counteract the effect of the proclamation of the BNR, the Russian Bolsheviks set up a Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic in Smolensk on January 1, 1919. After the Red Army re-entered Minsk, a Communist government replaced the Rada there on January 5. The Rada was forced to go into emigration.

    Opposition supporters are planning to stage a demonstration in downtown Minsk on Tuesday evening to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the BNR. Demonstrations are being held also outside Belarus on occasion of the anniversary.

    Andrea Rigoni, the special rapporteur on Belarus in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, has sent a message of greetings to former presidential candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich.

    He expressed regret that he would not be able to attend the demonstration in Minsk, saying that he had a tight schedule because of preparations for Italy's parliamentary elections scheduled for April 13, according to Mr. Milinkevich's press office.

    Mr. Rigoni noted positive developments in Belarus but said that the general situation regarding human rights and democracy in the country still caused concern.

    He promised that he would continue using every available opportunity to bring the country closer to standards of the Council of Europe.

    Opposition demonstration in Minsk; Some 100 people reported arrested during crackdown

    From: Naveny
    Police cracked down on a demonstration that opposition activists attempted to stage in Minsk on March 25 to mark 90 years since the establishment of the Belarusian National Republic, beating up and arresting dozens activists
    Some 100 people were said to have been grabbed by police during a brutal crackdown on an opposition demonstration in Minsk on Tuesday.

    Those arrested, who included prominent opposition activists Zmitser Dashkevich, Artur Finkevich, Ivan Shyla, Krystsina Shatsikava and Katsyaryna Salawyova, as well as Nasha Niva staff writer Syamyon Pyachenka and photographer Andrey Lyankevich, were taken to district police departments across the Belarusian capital.

    Eyewitnesses said that riot police had beaten demonstrators with truncheons and kicked them during the crackdown on the unauthorized event.

    Much more people would have been grabbed by police, but the four prison vans and two buses driven to the scene were said to be crammed with arrested demonstrators and there was no room for more.

    A total of 3,000 people were said to have taken part in the demonstration

    The city authorities had permitted demonstrators to march from the square in front of the National Academy of Sciences to a secluded park near Bangalore Square, but the organizers rejected the route, calling on the public to gather at Yakub Kolas Square.

    People holding white-red-white umbrellas and flags started converging on the square at 6 p.m., but the venue had already been sealed off by policemen. The demonstrators were told by police to walk to the square in front of the National Academy of Sciences some 500 meters away.

    A few hundred people attempted to march in the opposite direction, along Independence Avenue to the monument to Yanka Kupala not far away from Victory Square, but riot police blocked the street and forced most of them away from the square.

    Those few hundred that managed to push their way through the police cordons and continued their march toward Victory Square were forced out of the major avenue to quieter streets, where some were beaten up and bundled into police vehicles.

    Four prison vans and two buses were said to be crammed with arrested demonstrators. At least 30 of them were brought to the Savetski district police department, including Zmitser Dashkevich, Artur Finkevich, Ivan Shyla, Zmitser Yasevich and Katsyaryna Salawyova, all members of the Malady Front opposition youth group.

    A crowd of some 3,000 assembled at the square in front of the National Academy of Sciences, where a short rally took place.

    The gathering heard speeches by Lyavon Barshchewski, chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF), and BPF Deputy Chairman Vintsuk Vyachorka. In his address, the latter accused the Russian government of using its energy resources as a tool to incorporate Belarus.

    As the crowd waved white-red-white flags and chanted “Freedom to political prisoners!,” police officers warned through loudspeakers that the venue was the demonstration's assembly place and no speeches were allowed there. They ordered the crowd to start moving toward Bangalore Square.

    However, the demonstrators opted to disperse rather than walk to Bangalore Square. Some 300 people, mostly members of Malady Front, attempted to march toward the National Library but were confronted by a heavy police presence at the intersection between Independence Avenue and Surhanava Street and scattered.

  • Cultural scene...

    Фотовыставка «Кошки в городе Гродно»

    From: Minsk Blog
    Приглашаем Вас на открытие фотовыставки «Кошки в городе Гродно»
    Сергея Пушкина (Москва), Натальи Богданович (Гродно).

    Выставка работает c 18 марта по 8 апреля 2008 г.

    Фотографическую серию Сергея Пушкина и Натальи Богданович можно было бы легко вписать в тему «Кошки в изобразительном искусстве»: расположить ее рядом с охотящейся в зарослях папируса кошкой придворного Аменемхеба со стены древнеегипетской гробницы или кошками юного дона Суньиги, изображенными Франсиско Гойей на парадном портрете хозяина.

    Можно также вспомнить о кошках на гравюрах Хиросиге или на полотне «Олимпия» Эдуарда Мане. И черно-белые фотографии, на которых запечатлены кошки белорусского города Гродно, сразу приобрели бы академическую серьезность.
    Но эти работы совсем не нуждаются в обращении к истории искусства для подтверждения их значимости. Авторы взглянули на этого маленького зверька — кошку — с принципиально иной точки зрения, чем большинство их предшественников. Новаторство Пушкина и Богданович заключается в особом взгляде на предмет — или все же существо — изображения. Кошка из дополнения к главному герою произведения — человеку — превращается в смысловой центр работы. Люди если и появляются на отдельных фотографиях, то остаются на периферии взгляда зрителя, будучи всего лишь элементом фона. Немногие примеры противоположного подхода в этой фотосерии лишь подчеркивают общую тенденцию.

    Кошки, попавшие в объектив фотокамеры авторов — вполне самодостаточные создания, уверенно чувствующие себя в городской среде. Хочется отметить такую особенность: многие фотографии этого проекта можно было отнести к теме «одиночество в городе», если бы их главным действующим лицом был человек. Но кошка в безлюдных подворотнях и на пустынных площадях, на обочинах оживленных трасс и у дверей ветхих домиков совсем не кажется потерянной и несчастной. Она — неотъемлемая часть города, его уникального облика, такая же, как фонари, заборы и переулки. Поэтому на некоторых работах она кажется почти враждебным человеку, абсолютно чужим ему существом, а вовсе не домашним животным.
    Но те фотографии, где изображено несколько кошек во взаимодействии друг с другом, еще более необычны. Там эти зверьки выглядят настоящими хозяевами города Гродно. Возможно, так оно и есть на самом деле.

    50-volume collected book of Belarusian and Russian writers’ works to become one of Union’s projects

    A 50-volume collected book of Belarusian and Russian writers’ works will become one of Union’s projects, the chairman of the CIS Interstate Council for Cooperation in Periodicals, Book Publishing and Distribution, the Information Minister of Belarus Vladimir Rusakevich told reporters in Minsk on March 25.

    According to him, translations of Russian writers into Belarusian and vice versa are carried out constantly. For instance, Belarus publishes the Neman Journal in Russian, the journals Maladosts and Polymya publish works by Russian authors as well. However, the quantity of these translations is insufficient, Vladimir Rusakevich noted.

    There are a lot of problems connected with the translations of other authors from the CIS countries. So, the main goal of the 10th session of the CIS Interstate Council for Cooperation in Periodicals, Book Publishing and Distribution which is being held in Minsk on March 25-26 is to intensify the contacts between creative people of the Commonwealth countries. According to Vladimir Rusakevich, sessions of heads of departments only are not enough, we need contacts between writers from our states.

    The session is expected to consider the draft of the book rights’ declaration. Having announced the declaration the CIS member states will confirm their intentions to promote principle “Book without borders”. The declaration establishes the fundamental rights of the book as a foundation of culture and education, scientific research and all-round development of a personality.

    Moreover, participants of the session will discuss the preparation and holding the 5th international contest Book Art of the CIS member countries, the implementation of the agreement on cooperation in book publishing and book distribution of April 16 2004, the creation of a CIS periodical. The participants of the session will also discuss the final resolutions of the 2nd forum of creative and scientific intellectuals held in Astana on November 12-13, 2007 and recommendations of chamber “Literature and Book Publishing” of the 2nd forum

  • Around the region...

    BP recalls staff from Russia

    From: Financial Times
    BP has recalled 148 foreign employees on secondment to the oil group's Russian joint venture TNK-BP because of visa problems as pressure on the UK's biggest investment in Russia intensifies.

    The technical staff, mostly British and Americans, have been told to stay away from work until confusion about Russia's new visa arrangements for foreign workers has been resolved. Most are still in the country.

    TNK-BP said they were being recalled as a precaution: "There is some cloudiness and greyness about the status of their visas" after changes to migration laws late last year, it said.

    The news came as the Russian interior ministry told Reuters it had opened a criminal case into large-scale tax evasion by Sidanco, an oil unit that once formed the company but was dissolved for about $42m. The interior ministry spokesperson could not be reached.

    Tension over TNK-BP, 50 per cent owned by BP and 50 per cent by three Russian tycoons, has escalated in recent days.

    Police last week raided the Moscow offices of BP and TNK-BP, and the Russian security services said they had charged an employee of TNK-BP and his brother with industrial espionage.

    Russia's environmental watchdog, led by Oleg Mitvol, its aggressive deputy chief, also intends this week to begin a "routine probe" into TNK-BP's biggest oil field, along with other companies' fields.

    TNK-BP had been investigated by the security services, suffered visa problems and faced an environmental agency probe, according to one industry executive. "Chaos or conspiracy: you decide," he said.

    Some analysts say TNK-BP is identified for takeover by Gazprom, the state-controlled gas company. Gazprom has said it hoped to complete a deal to take over TNK-BP's biggest gas project, the Kovytka gas field in east Siberia, by the end of April. TNK-BP was forced to sell its 62.9 per cent stake in the field to Gazprom last year but the deal has been repeatedly delayed.

    There is speculation that Gazprom seeks to buy out the Russian half of TNK-BP, too. TNK-BP's Russian shareholders have denied they want to sell.

    BP's stake in TNK-BP is important, at 22 per cent of last year's production and 19 per cent of its oil and gas reserves.

    Russia's president-elect, Dmitry Medvedev, in an interview with the Financial Times, denied the espionage case was tied to politics.

    BP's decision to recall technical staff does not affect the more than 40 senior managers employed full-time by TNK-BP.

    Russia-Egypt nuclear deal signed

    From: BBC
    Egypt and Russia have signed a deal clearing the way for Russian involvement in building up Egypt's nuclear power industry.

    Agreement was reached during talks in Moscow between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and President Vladimir Putin.

    Russia will now be able to bid to build the first of four atomic power stations Egypt plans.

    The first reactor, on the Mediterranean coast, will be constructed at a cost of more than $1.5bn (?750m).

    President Mubarak told reporters: "Egypt, in co-operation with its international partners and the International Atomic Energy Agency, is going to develop this sector, including through the agreement we have just signed."

    Mr Mubarak was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying the agreement had come after "difficult" negotiations.

    Russian President-elect Dmitry Medvedev said he was looking forward to a "productive partnership" in nuclear energy co-operation.

    Russia is already building nuclear reactors in China, India and Iran. An Iranian plant at Bushehr is reported to be close to completion.

    The deal was signed at Mr Putin's Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow by the head of Russia's Rosatom nuclear energy agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, and Egyptian Energy Minister Hassan Younis.

    Peace conference

    Correspondents say Russian leaders have been pressing hard for nuclear power plant contracts as the Kremlin seeks to retain high-technology expertise.

    President Putin
    The talks between Mr Putin and Mr Mubarak also covered the possibility of Moscow hosting a Middle East peace conference.

    "Taking into account growing Israeli-Palestinian tensions, we believe there is a need for a mediatory role from Egypt and Russia", Mr Putin said.

    But he stressed that any Moscow meeting should be a conference in its own right rather than simply a follow-on from the Middle East talks which began in Annapolis in the US last year.

    Russia is a member of what is known as the "quartet" of Middle East negotiators alongside the US, the United Nations and the European Union.

    Correspondents say the Kremlin is anxious to play more of a mediation role in the Middle East and regain some of the influence lost since the end of the Cold War.

    Medvedev warns against NATO membership for Ukraine, Georgia

    From: Xinhua net
    Russian President-elect Dmitry Medvedev has warned that granting NATO membership to the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia could threaten European security, the Financial Times reported Tuesday.

    Medvedev's comments will step up pressure on the alliance not to allow the two states to join NATO's "membership action plan" at a summit in Bucharest next week, the newspaper said.

    Vladimir Putin, the outgoing Russian president, is expected to attend the summit.

    In a two-hour interview with the newspaper, Medvedev said, "We are not happy about the situation around Georgia and Ukraine. We consider that it is extremely troublesome for the existing structure of European security."

    "No state can be pleased about having representatives of a military bloc to which it does not belong coming close to its borders," said Medvedev, in his first interview since winning the presidential elections on March 2.

    He also suggested that most Ukrainians are opposed to joining the military alliance, as shown by opinion polls.

    This is even more difficult to explain when the vast majority of citizens of Ukraine are categorically against joining NATO, while the government follows a different policy, he said.

    Medvedev also conceded that it was in Russia's interests to rebuild relations with Britain, which have been at a post-cold war low since the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, the London-based Kremlin critic, the newspaper said.

    "We are open to the re-establishment of cooperation to the full extent," he said, adding that "time would show" whether progress could be made when he first meets British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, probably at the G8 summit in Japan in July.

    World's tallest man still growing

    From: News.AU
    Ukrainian veterinarian Leonid Stadnik, the world's tallest living man, tries to dial on a mobile phone in the village of Podoliantsy.
    LEONID Stadnik's phenomenal height has forced him to quit a job he loved and spend most of his time at home because he can't fit in a normal car or bus.

    But Stadnik, who Guinness World Records says is the world's tallest human, says his condition has also taught him that the world is filled with kind-hearted strangers.

    He's got a new car now, courtesy of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. He went to Kiev this week to take charge of the super-size van.

    Stadnik at first struggled to squeeze into the passenger's seat, his knees nearly reaching his face. Once in, Mr Yushchenko briefly drove the beaming Stadnik around.

    Local authorities have promised to supply fuel.

    Since he became famous, people from all over Ukraine and the world have shipped him out-sized clothing, provided his home with running water and recently presented him with a giant bicycle.

    "Thanks to good people I have shoes and clothes," said the former vet, 37, who still lives with his mother, 66.

    In 2006, Stadnik was officially measured at 2.57m tall, surpassing a Chinese man as the world's tallest person.

    His growth spurt began at age 14 after a brain operation apparently stimulated overproduction of growth hormone. Doctors say he has been growing ever since.

    His recent fame has brought him friends worldwide and taught him not to despair.

    A German who said he was a distant relative invited Stadnik for a visit several years ago.

    Shortly after that, Stadnik came home one day and saw a brand-new computer sitting on his desk - a gift from a local internet provider. Company workers "sneaked into the house like little spies" to install it, Stadnik joked.

    He's since made many online friends, including in the US, Australia and Russia.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Polish Group Attacks Inhabitants in Reykjavyk

    From: Iceland Review
    A group of ten or 12 men armed with iron bars, sledgehammers, bats and an ax attacked the inhabitants of an apartment in the Reykjavyk district of Breidholt on Saturday. Seven were injured, one seriously with severe head trauma and a collapsed lung.

    Police have arrested four individuals suspected of having participated in the attack and are searching for the remaining members of the gang, Morgunbladid reports.

    The neighbors of the victims notified police but when the officers arrived the attackers had disappeared. The neighbors had written down the license plates of one of their cars, though, and thus police were able to locate part of the gang.

    Police have confirmed that the attack was premeditated and it appears as if the gang was collecting a protective tariff. Both the attackers and the victims were of Polish origin.

    Einar Sk?lason, director of Ah?s, the Intercultural Center in Reykjavyk, said exploitative relations based on interests are sometimes created within groups of immigrants.

    Skulason explained that those who have better knowledge of the Icelandic language and system may sometimes take advantage of those who have recently arrived to the country and require assistance to adjust.

    Skulason emphasized that it is important that the public does not judge all immigrants because of negative news stories like this.

    50 die on Polish roads over Easter

    From: The News
    Fifty people died and 472 were injured in road accidents in Poland during Easter holiday period..

    The police recorded 345 accidents and detained 1332 drunk drivers. Driving conditions this year were difficult due to snow and sleet, which fell in many parts of Poland, though the police say that the figures for this year, though bad, are not an increase on 2007.

    33 road accident casualties in Poland

    From Good Friday to Easter Sunday, 33 people died in 200 road collisions around Poland; 370 were injured.

    Around a thousand were detained for drink driving.

    According to the data of the Police headquarters, during this year's Easter there were slightly more collisions than a year ago.

    Bad weather conditions, in many regions snow is still falling, might make these predictably grim statistics even higher.

    Ten thousand police officers are patrolling Polish roads, checking whether the drivers are not under the influence of alcohol, but also the technical state of the vehicles.

    Doctors should come to their senses, says minister

    From: Polish Radio
    The Polish Ministry of Health has criticized doctors from the hospital in Radom, central Poland, who refuse to exceed their new working hours limit agreement, resulting in closed down wards.

    Deputy health minister, Krzysztof Grzegorek, said that they will be to blame for losing their jobs.

    Grzegorek appealed to doctors to 'come to their senses'. He said that this is the first time in the history of the Polish medical service that doctors left their patients' bedsides.

    The head of the National Health Fund said that this year, wards of the hospital in Radom, central Poland, where the doctors did not show up to work today will remain closed. This is the first time that the government has reacted so harshly to protesting doctors.

    On Thursday, two wards of the hospital were closed by the government of the province, because the doctors refused to sign the opt-out clauses, which would allow them to do overtime and did not show up at work.

    The doctors from the hospital say that they have a right not to sign the clauses and stressed that doctors are often being forced to sign up to working long hours.

    The law, they argue, states that doctors can work overtime only of their own free will.

    The Radom doctors stress that working 300 or 400 hours a month is a potential threat to patients.

    According to the deputy minister, however, doctors should not protest, because they recently received huge pay rises and are earning over 10,000 zloty a month. He also said that although at the moment the government has no funds for more pay increases, the doctors can count on higher pay in future

  • From the blogs...

    Belarus: Gays on the Freedom Days in Gomel and Minsk

    From: gays without borders
    Representatives of LGBT organizations “TEMA information center” and “Volunteers Without Borders” took part in number of events dedicated to 90th anniversary of the Belarusian National Republic (BNR) in Gomel and Minsk.

    23 March, Gomel. LGBT activists, with rainbow flags, joined to representatives of the United Opposition for Freedom Day anniversary celebration events. United Opposition organizes an excursion by historical places of Belarusian democracy.

    1.00p.m. Around 30 people took part in this excursion. Faces of all people were recorded by KGB cameraman. This excursion of 30 people was controlled and followed by 10 KGB officers in plain clothes.

    During the excursion, activists attracted the attention of passers-by and present balloons to children. “Officers in plain clothes” follow us, not forgetting to record participants from all sides.

    1.40p.m. Participants of festive excursion not yielded for numerous of provocations by the KGB officers in plain clothes and left the park by Proletarskaya Street for Novobelitsa. There we visit house of first female minister of Belarusian National Republic (BNR) Paluta Bodunova subsequently killed by KGB in 1938.

    25 March, Minsk. LGBT activists of “TEMA information center” and “Volunteers Without Borders” with flowers and flags took part in peaceful demonstration in honor of Freedom Day in Minsk.

    5.35p.m. Metro trains don’t stop at Yakub Kolas station, where a protest action is to begin at 18.00. city buses don’t stop on Yakub Kolas Square, too. The public transport goes to Victory Square or Academy of Sciences, and drivers announce: “the bus won’t stop at the square due to the demonstration.” We go out on Victory Square and go by foot to Yakub Kolas Square.

    5.50p.m. Participants of the action on Freedom Day are gathering on Independence Avenue opposite the Minsk Gymnasium No23. About 1000 people, shouting “Long live Belarus!”, have already gathered. We join to them with our flags.

    6.05p.m. The number of action participants is growing. About 2-3 thousands of people are on Independence Avenue now, white-red-white and EU flags are waving. Demonstrants are carrying a big banner “European Belarus”, shouting “Long Live Belarus,” and moving to Victory Square. Militia and riot militiamen are following us.

    6.15p.m. Militia and riot militiamen began to beat people. They caught even journalists, broke their equipment. They snatched away flags and broke flagpoles. But the protestors managed to defend the people, militia was trying to detain, and the column under whit-red-white and European flags is moving along the avenue.

    6.30p.m. People are beaten brutally in the backyards near Independence Avenue, and taken away in unknown direction. We are in the center of mass of people, so we are in safe now.

    6.35p.m. At the moment about 3,000 people have gathered near the Academy of Science. They are people who hadn’t managed to Yakub Kolas Square. On Victory Square the confrontation of demonstrators with riot policemen continues. Riot policemen went onto the offensive. Clasping hands, they moved as one chain, pushing protesters off the avenue. But participants of the rally nevertheless are trying to break through riot policemen’s cordons. Militia began to detain people near Victory Square. Ten and probably hundreds of people are arrested. People are beaten brutally. Militia detain even journalists.

    7.00p.m. Demonstration near the Academy of Sciences goes on. About four thousands of people stay here. A large amount of European and national white-red-white flags are waving. People carry a huge banner “Freedom for Kazulin!” Opposition leaders are holding a meeting there. The authorities permitted the demonstrants to meet near the Academy of Sciences. Demonstrants had to go there after cordons of militia and riot militia didn’t allow them to meet on Yakub Kolas Square. People, who managed to avoid arrest near Victory Square, came here, too.

    7.15p.m. About 300 people moved from Victory Square to October Square and were detained on the bridge above the Svislach. Tens of people were packed into buses and taken away. Most of the detained are members of the United Civil Party.

    7.45p.m. A column of demonstrators is trying to march from the Academy of Science along Independence Avenue towards Yakub Kolas Square. The road was cordoned off by riot policemen in helmets, two armoured MAZ trucks and a bus. We are really effraid to be arrested or detained, so we try leave this demonstration to safe our health. One of our activist got some beats by policemen.

    8.15p.m. Peaceful and legal demonstration was broken up by police. Near Yakub Kolas Square and Victory Square riot policemen divided people into small groups, and brutally beating up, packed them into buses. Near the place where buses were standing, jackets, scarves, gloves and broken flag poles were left. When people were shoved into paddy wagons, they were beaten up, no matter what their gender or age was. Elderly women and girls were beaten up as well. They were crying for help and weeping. Young people were those who had been battered most, especially those who had white-red-white flags and flags of the European Union. Riot policemen with extraordinary fury were breaking flags poles and trampling national and European flags. We went to railroad station and now waiting for train to go home to Gomel.

    As we know, no one LGBT activist (of our members) was arrested or detained, some were beaten. But ofcourse, some of hundreds arrested people are homosexuals.

    Will central banks buy real estate? Adopting Belarus standard.

    Few years ago I had dinner with deputy governor of the central bank of Belarus (for those who do not now where it is, it is an Eastern neighbor of Poland, and it belongs to a club of communist countries with North Korea and Cuba). He had a permission to leave Belarus for three days and delayed return could put him to jail or at least cost him a job. Anyway, he told me the the central bank operated several sovhozes (collective farms) as the Belarus lunatic leader Lukaszenka wanted state owned enterprises to take care of those farms, so central bank has several of those.

    I am reading in today’s Financial Times that Western world biggest central banks are contemplating adopting Belarus standard. They want to move into real estate. To be precise they may start mass purchases of mortgage-backed securities. Hey, this is different than owning a sovhoz, you may say. In the collateralized world there is hardly any difference, you simply hold a more diversified portfolio and you care less abut risk, sometimes you are even risk careless. So in practice buying MBS paper is no different that owning few collective farms by the central bank of Belarus.

    I stick to my view presented in the previous post. Central banks should focus on safeguarding stable prices, which is at risk now, globally, and governments should manage the crisis. What we need is not increasing global money supply by half a trillion dollars, we need a well-targeted action to address the problem of confidence crisis. If bank A starts lending money to bank B only if bank A has enough liquid assets (read my lips - government paper) then swap MBS for govies. Becasue - as FT argues - prices of some MBS imply unrealistic default rates (way too high) , then governments could make a lot of money. This would be relative change (asset swap), while purchases by central bank could lead to further increase of global money supply. Central banks should be reminded about existing research which shows that on the global level acceleration of money supply will lead to higher inflation, from already elevated levels.

    My advice, governments should do massive assets swaps with troubled investment banks, insurance companies and mortgage houses. Central banks should manage inflation risks.

    J-MORS: A Road Trip Of Belarus

    From: wrongways
    In the previuos post I wrote about “Chyrvonym pa Belamu” music group. Now I also would like to mention another of my favorites: J-Mors. I was introduced to J-Mors couple years ago and since that time I became a huge fan of this rock band from Belarus. There is something different about these guys: lirics, vocal, music…While there are many Belarusian groups playing excellent music, J-Mors well positioned itself in a soft-rock nische where it seems to thrive and grow its fan base.

    At the time, my only complain was about the language: they seemed to lean towards songs in Russian language. And while there is nothing terribly wrong with it, their songs in Belarussian sounded as good if not better.

    So in November 2007 the band released “Adlehlasc” (”Distance”), their first album to feature only Belarusian-language songs! Apart from 11 tracks it includes the 15 minute concept video “Adlehlasc” documenting a road trip of Belarus, taken by the band in autumn 2007. Have a good road trip!

    You can check J-mors web site for updates, info on albums, free downloads and other freebies.

    Detained during Freedom Day action

    From: Viasna
    Zmister Dashkevich
    Zmister Dashkevich (Partyzanski police department)
    Artur Finkevich (Partyzanski police department)
    Uladzimir Siarheyeu (Partyzanski police department)
    Kasia Halitskaya (Partyzanski police department)
    Palina Kuryanovich
    Alena Makarevich
    Ivan Shyla (Partyzanski police department)
    Ryhor Astapenia (Partyzanski police department)
    Kasia Salauyova (Partyzanski police department)
    Krystsina Shatsikava (Partyzanski police department)
    Yauhen Sableu (under age, Smaliavichy)
    Illya Bohdan
    Yauhen Afnahel
    Tatsiana Liubimava
    Liudmila Pestun
    Iryna Yankilevich
    Ales Lapitski
    Uladzislau Ivanou
    Andrei Liankevich
    Siamion Pechanko
    Liuba Dziadzinkina (from Vitebsk), (Maskouski police department)
    N. Petrusheuskaya (from Hrodna), (Maskouski police department)
    Vadzim Haidalionak (Maskouski police department)

  • Sport...

    Friendly Preview: Belarus-Turkey
    What: International Friendly
    Who: Belarus vs Turkey
    When: 17:00 CET (18:00 local), Wednesday 25 March 2008
    Where: Dinamo Stadium, Minsk

    Fatih Terim told his Turkey side in no uncertain terms this week that anything less than a professional showing against Belarus could see replacements drafted in in time for Euro 2008. As such, his men are playing for their futures, while the Belarussians themselves have no small measure of motivation...

    Minsk Progress

    The hosts have yet to qualify for a major tournament since their independence, but they did manage to take home the gold from the obscure Malta International Tournament last month.

    Coach Bernd Stange noted with some joy that the red-and-greens have now won four of their five games: an enviable run of form to be sure, but one that requires a bit of closer inspection.

    Two of the matches came in the Euro 2008 qualifiers, the first against an Albania side hellbent on self-destruction, albeit one that still took a second-half rally to defeat. The other, against the Netherlands, came as the Oranje sent out a weakened side, and one that could apparently benefit from defeat due to the arcane nature of host seedings at Euro 2008, where unfancied Austria and Switzerland take the top two spots.

    But even beyond that, football seems to be on the rise in the former Soviet nation, with victories over Iceland and Malta - the latter of whom tested Turkey severely during Euro 2008 qualifying - lifting spirits significantly.

    Nonetheless, it'll be a new-look squad that takes to the pitch in Minsk, and the home fans may wonder exactly what the visitors have in store for a side not quite at full strength.


    Coach Bernd Stange has more than a few squad concerns ahead of this encounter. FC Rostov pair Sergei Omelyanchuk and Aliaksandr Kulchiy are perhaps the main absentees, the two being kept back by their club coach as the Russian league season kicks off.

    Elsewhere, Sergei Kornilenko misses out, while the boss will make a late decision as to how much of a role Arsenal star Alex Hleb and Bursaspor's Maksim Romaschenko play in proceedings.

    Despite a host of other minor injury worries, Stange is confident that his side will do well, and he has stated that the make-up of the squad is likely to see a return to the 4-4-2 employed against Israel last year.


    Belarus: FC Moscow's Yuri Zhevnov has been assured of the goalkeeping position despite his difficulties against Zenit in the recent city derby. The 26-year-old currently keeps Vasily Khomutovsky out of the line-up, but any shakiness here could see that state of affairs reversed. On the other hand, with the likes of Nihat up against him he's likely to have ample opportunity to impress, and thus regain his confidence.

    The manager, meanwhile, pinpointed young Andrey Chukhley as a possible threat. Just 20, the Dinamo Minsk midfielder could make his senior team debut after excelling for both his club and the national U-21s. Bernd describes him as "young, modest, quick and aggressive" - and one destined for the top.

  • Endnote...

    A Nuclear Dictatorship: Alexander Lukashenko Might Need Help From the Very People He Is Trying to Avoid

    From: Russia Profile
    The biggest victim of the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl disaster would seem like the least likely home for a nuclear power plant. Characteristically undeterred by such reasoning, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko pledged to construct Belarus’ first-ever nuclear power station by 2016 – the year that incidentally coincides with the thirtieth anniversary of the Chernobyl accident.

    Most experts readily point out that Belarus is capable of neither building nor maintaining a nuclear power plant. And thus the ironic twist is that the most likely source of funding and nuclear fuel for the plant is the very country from which Belarus is trying to obtain energy independence. Another one of the very few, and pricier, options would be the United States, which temporarily stopped issuing visas to Belarusian citizens as part of the latest round of its diplomatic spat with “Europe’s last dictator.”

    Turning to Teheran

    Shunned by the West, Lukashenko is actively engaged in cultivating a “strategic partnership” with Iran. Even before the ascent to power of his fellow U.S. antagonist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Belarusian president hosted the relatively moderate Iranian President Mohammed Khatami in Minsk on the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Ahmadinejad himself visited Lukashenko in May 2007, offering Belarus access to the Jofeir oil field, which borders with Iraq and has the potential of producing up to 30,000 barrels per day, as part of giving the East European rogue ally greater access to Iranian oil reserves.

    Iranian Ambassador to Belarus Abdolhamid Fekri announced at a Feb. 27 press-conference in Minsk that Iran is ready to aid Belarus in the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant. “Despite the hardships that have developed, Iran has opened a new way for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and is ready to share its achievements with all who have peaceful goals,” Fekri said.

    Rajab Safarov, director of the Moscow-based Center for Contemporary Iranian Research, believes that Teheran is ready to assist Minsk in two ways. Firstly, it can offer financial help in getting the project off the ground. Secondly, Belarusian and Iranian specialists could work together to begin the construction process. Safarov said that Iranians gained valuable experience from working with Russians for over 10 years on the Bushehr reactor, and from having started building their own 360-megawatt light water reactor to produce electricity.

    In return, Belarus could provide Iran with some of its military-industrial complex leftovers from the Soviet period, Safarov underscored.

    Considering other options

    While the prospect of Belarusian-Iranian nuclear cooperation is headline-grabbing, most experts believe that only Russia can realize Lukashenko’s nuclear dream.

    David Marples, a Belarus expert at the University of Alberta, doubts that Iran could afford to finance a project that is likely to run much higher than, perhaps even double the amount of, the officially projected $4-5 billion. “It would be an enormous commitment from Iran,” he said and pointed to Russia as the more likely nuclear partner.

    At the same time, Marples argues that the Belarusian-Iranian partnership is not as threatening as it appears at first glance. “In my view, the danger from Iran is considerably exaggerated,” he said. “The Belarusian-Iranian relationship is at best an irritant to the United States, but hardly the main concern for the State Department.”

    A roundtable dedicated to Belarus’ “nuclear revival” was held at the office of the Minsk-based Nasha Niva weekly, with experts of the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Studies (BISS) participating. The participants pointed to the fact that a nuclear power plant in Belarus was justified by Lukashenko as a means to guarantee Belarus’ “national security” by reducing the country’s dependency on gas imports from Russia. But, instead of reducing, the project may considerably increase Belarus’ political, energy and financial dependence on Russia, they agreed.

    “If Russian companies begin the construction, it will be a political catastrophe [for Belarus],” said Vitaly Silitski, BISS director. He made the argument that this sort of cooperation with Russia will act to undermine the anti-Russian opposition in Belarus.

    According to the directorate for the construction of the nuclear power plant, which was set up in November 2007 under the Belarusian Ministry of Energy by a presidential decree, the 2,000 megawatt plant will make it possible to save about five billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. It is supposed to supply some 15 percent of the country’s electricity needs.

    “Surely it would be more rational to see how the existing energy infrastructure can be optimized instead of wildly deciding to build a nuclear power plant,” said Jeroen Ketting, managing director and founder of The Lighthouse Group, a Moscow-based Dutch consulting company that recently kicked off an energy efficiency project in Russia.

    Ketting estimated that at least 20 to 30 percent of energy consumption could be saved in Belarus “by introducing rational policy,” which would incorporate technical, policy, legislative and financial measures. He cited the introduction of public awareness campaigns, tax incentives for energy efficiency initiatives and green energy, subsidies for alternative energy solutions and the establishment of commercially viable tariff infrastructure as some of the non-technical measures the Belarusian government could adopt. On the technical side, thermostat valves for radiators, energy efficient lighting, housing insulation, reduction of leakage in heat distribution, combined heat and power installations, and gas leakage reduction in distribution are among the multitude of measures Ketting recommended over the nuclear option.

    A step back for democracy

    In addition to failing to take into account the viable alternatives to nuclear energy, the Belarusian government’s decision to build the nuclear power station has completely bypassed the Belarusian public.

    “Belarus has never entered into any dialogue with the public about the need or desire for such a station,” Marples described.

    Valery Dranchuk, head of the environmental civil initiative “TERRA-Convention,” said that the building of a nuclear power plant in Belarus would constitute another blow to democracy, and criticized the Belarusian government for making “a typical authoritarian decision.” He also pointed out that, in 1999, Belarus joined the Aarhus Convention, an environmental agreement linking environmental rights and human rights that requires member states to “guarantee rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.”

    “We need to ask the public [for its opinion] and to expose the people to a knowledgeable and diverse group of experts on the issue,” Dranchuk said.

    Silitski also raised the question of the right of the Belarusian public to have its say in the project. “Such political decisions are not widely discussed here [in Belarus].” At the same time, he pointed out that Belarus has neither the proper institutions for democratic representation nor the independent media necessary for sparking free debate.

    Some members of the Belarusian public have already voiced their disapproval of the project, however. More than 1,000 local inhabitants of one site that was considered for the construction of the plant signed a petition to stop the project. Other locations in the Mahileu region, which is not far from the Russian border, have also been reported as potential sites for the nuclear power plant. According to RIA Novosti, the station would be built in the small village of Kukshynava, which is 30 miles from the city of Mahileu and, as Marples pointed out, only 21 miles from the native village of the Belarusian president.

    Calling a bluff

    One question that naturally arises is whether Lukashenko expects so stay in power long enough to see the project through. Given the Belarusian president’s grip on power, it is entirely possible that he will remain the head of state for at least eight more years.

    However, according to Marples, Lukashenko is concerned more with “instant solutions” to Belarus’ energy dependency problem than using this project to stretch his political career. “I never thought that Lukashenko looks very far ahead,” Marples said. “On paper, a nuclear power station seems like a plausible way out of reliance on Russia for oil and gas. But the program has not been thought through.”

    Given its impracticality and costliness, Lukashenko’s nuclear mega-project may never be brought to completion.

    According to Alexander Voitovich, former President of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences and speaker of the Council of the Republic, Belarus does not have the human capital necessary for the building and managing of a nuclear power plant. He supports the idea of nuclear energy, but believes that Belarus is not politically ready to carry out the project. “Our country is not stable…We have not yet gone through the development stage that Russia, Ukraine and even Moldova have gone through,” he said, adding that “It would be better for our country if we achieved change by evolutionary rather than revolutionary means.”

    Marples pointed out that the station’s location is adjacent to, if not directly within, the radiation fallout zone from Chernobyl. “This is going to be a significant factor not only because of the construction of the station, but also because of the need to build a new town for reactor workers, with some 10-15,000 population, taking into account the workers and their families,” he explained.

    Egor Fedyushin, Belarusian environmentalist who, after working for many years in the field of nuclear energy, changed his career focus to alternative energy sources, said that the Chernobyl disaster altered the “ideology and psychology” of nuclear initiatives. “No one will work on a nuclear power plant with the same enthusiasm as during the Soviet period. Then, it was a matter of defending the Motherland. That was a holy task. Now, the goals and reasons behind building a nuclear power station are not clear,” he explained.

    Fedyushin also admitted that over the past ten years it never crossed his mind that the Belarusian government might consider building a nuclear power plant. He is certain that it will eventually have no choice but to close the project.