News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Belarus to lift economic restrictions, Heineken, Fighting diabetes, Kyoto, World Bank,Greece, Opposition, Polish scandal, Coulture and Sport

  • From the Top...
  • #299

    Belarus to lift restrictions on circulation of shares of joint-stock companies

    From: BelTA
    President Alexander Lukashenko meetting this week with the doctors who performed the first in Belarus transplantation of liver
    Belarus will gradually lift restrictions on the circulation of shares of joint-stock companies, which were set up through denationalization and privatisation. The alienation of the shares has been forbidden up till now. On April 14 President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko issued relevant decree No 7 to amend decree No 3 “Denationalization and privatisation of state property in the Republic of Belarus,” the presidential press service told BelTA.

    The restrictions will be lifted in three phases depending on the size of the state share in the authorised fund of a joint-stock company.

    During the first phase, which starts on June 1, 2008, alienation restrictions will be lifted in joint-stock companies, where the state share is zero or makes 75% and more. The restrictions on the alienation of shares of joint-stock companies, which are involved in the processing of agricultural products, and baking companies will be totally lifted.

    During the second phase, which starts on January 1, 2009, alienation restrictions will be lifted in joint-stock companies, where the state share exceeds 50%.

    During the first and second phases restrictions will stay in place for joint-stock companies, which ensure the operation of strategic branches of the national economy.

    During the third phase, which starts on January 1, 2011, all the restrictions will be lifted.

    The state also renounces its right for privileged buyout of shares in joint-stock companies, which were set up through privatisation.

    In line with the document state-run entities will be privatised according to three-year plans to be adopted by the government and local councils of people‘s deputies.

    The decree comes into force three months after the official publication except for several clauses, is temporary and is provided for consideration of the National Assembly of Belarus.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus interested in Heineken's participation in domestic brewing

    From: BelTA
    Belarus is interested in the participation of brewing company Heineken N.V. in the production of all components of brewing products in the country, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said during a meeting with representatives of the company on April 15.

    “We are ready to extend comprehensive support to you as a Belarusian company. It is important for you to give us cutting-edge technological tasks,” said the head of state.

    “I am very glad we have a good practice of the President’s cooperation with representatives of large foreign business. I am satisfied very large companies come onto the market of Belarus,” said Alexander Lukashenko. “You are most of all interested in producing the best beer sorts in Belarus. Long ago we determined what we want the companies that come onto our beer market to do,” noted the President. “I am very interested how effectively you will work”.

    In 2007 the Belarusian government approved the deal to sell Syabar brewing enterprises to Heineken N.V. Syabar used to produce around 13 million decalitres of beer annually. Heineken N.V. plans to increase the figure up to 20 million decalitres within two years. Thus, the company will account for about one third of the country’s beer output.

    Heineken N.V. was founded in 1864. It has enterprises in 65 countries and 119 breweries. The company is the world’s third largest and Europe’s largest brewing company.

    “For more than 15 years the market of Central and Eastern European has been of colossal importance for our company; it accounts for a lion’s share of our investments,” he said.

    “We have been long eyeing the market opportunities in Belarus. We can see now that the Syabar Company is a good launching platform for us in Belarus. We hope we will have new platforms in the future,” Mr Jean-Francois van Boxmeer said.

    Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus should retire beer import

    Belarus should retire beer import, head of state Alexander Lukashenko said on April 15 as he met with representatives of brewing company Heineken N.V.

    “We would like the best companies to manufacture and sell beer in Belarus,” remarked the President. “We should agree that some of the make should be exported. I am sure such a large company as Heineken N.V. can afford it”.

    “I understand that such a powerful company as yours could occupy the entire Belarusian beer market, but I would not like to lose the domestic brands our people have grown used to,” remarked the head of state. “Which is why I will make decisions regarding Heineken N.V. only after consulting with our brewers. I would like you to reach an agreement with them”.

    Alexander Lukashenko stressed, any incoming business should have social responsibilities in Belarus. “We would like everything to be fair and beneficial to you. It is desirable that our people employed by your enterprises can do well. Though judging by the experience of the presence of western companies in Belarus everyone will benefit,” said the President.

    Trade Minister of Belarus Viacheslav Dragun told reporters on April 15 though that Belarus will not introduce beer import restrictions.

    “The Trade Ministry does not introduce direct restrictions on import of beer,” the official said. According to him, it will contradict the intergovernmental agreements Belarus has concluded with other countries including Russia. “The government or the ministry is not planning any restrictions,” he noted.

    “Our goal is to boost domestic sales,” Viacheslav Dragun said. “It is our prerogative to choose forms and methods. But we will not recede from the international agreements and rules”, the official added.

    Minsk to host exhibition “Bistro. Beer. Wines and Beverages”

    From: BelTA
    Up to 120 companies from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Latvia and Denmark will participate in the International Specialized Exhibitions “Bistro. Beer. Wines and Beverages” and “Store and Restaurant” which will be held in Minsk on April 15-18, BelTA learnt from the exhibition company Expoforum which is organizing the events.

    The forum will be held under the auspices of the Trade Ministry of Belarus, Belgospishcheprom Concern, and the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.

    The exposition will feature trade and refrigerating equipment for restaurants and stores, equipment for fast food places, dishwashers, packing materials, etc.

    The exhibition will present a wide range of Belarusian wines, vodkas, cognacs, herbal liquors, champagnes, aperitifs, beers, non-alcoholic beverages, mineral waters, juice, tea, coffee and raw materials for the production of alcoholic beverages.

    The programme of the exhibition includes tasting of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, “Best Restaurant, Caf?-2007” contest and a business forum Retail & HoReCa.

    Alexander Lukashenko speaks in favour of replacing cheap wines with beer

    The consumption of wines made of fruits and berries should be gradually replaced with beer, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said on April 15 as he met with representatives of brewing company Heineken N.V.

    According to the head of state, Belarusians consume much less beer than people in the West. “Your company has a lot to do on the Belarusian market,” said the President.

    “I am not a specialist, but I know that moderate amounts of beer are beneficial for one’s health, not harmful,” added Alexander Lukashenko.

    CIS to ink cooperation agreement in fighting diabetes in 2008-2009

    From: BelTA
    The CIS countries unite their efforts in fighting the spread of diabetes. The relevant agreement on cooperation will be signed in 2008-2009, Nauryz Aidarov, the Deputy Chairman of the Executive Committee – the CIS Executive Secretary, stated at a session of a group of experts on coordinating the draft agreement.

    The document has been worked out by the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly’s Permanent Commission on Social Policy and Human Rights and was approved in St. Petersburg on May 31, 2007. The new wording of the document was almost coordinated at the session of the group of experts in Minsk on November 1-2, 2007. The materials were sent to the governments of the CIS countries with a request to present all possible remarks, addenda and amendments. As of April 14, 2008, the information was received from Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Uzbekistan.

    After the final coordination, the draft agreement will be submitted for the consideration of the Council of the CIS Heads of State.

    According to the International Diabetes Federation, nearly 246 million people suffer from diabetes worldwide and their number can reach 380 million by 2025. Every year the amount of diabetics increase by almost seven million. About 3.8 million people die from diabetes-related diseases on a yearly basis.

    Fighting diabetes is key point in strengthening health of nation

    Every participating country of the Commonwealth of the Independent States needs to make its contribution to addressing the diabetes problem. This will become an important step in improving the nation’s health, Rauf Jabarov, the director of the national endocrinological center of Azerbaijan, said in an interview with BelTA before a session of a group of experts coordinating the draft agreement on cooperation of the CIS countries in combating diabetes. The meeting took place in the CIS Executive Committee in Minsk on April 15.

    “Diabetes is one of the worldwide problems. Fighting the disease is burdensome for a state. The problem is urgent in the CIS countries, therefore cooperation in preventing the spread of diabetes is very important,” the expert underlined.

    Diabetes can lead to heavy socio-economic and demographic consequences. According to the International Diabetes Federation, nearly 246 million people suffer from diabetes worldwide and their number can reach 380 million by 2025. Every year the amount of diabetics increase by almost seven million. About 3.8 million people die from diabetes-related diseases on a yearly basis.

    Budget expenditure on diabetes prevention is increasing. For example, it makes up nearly 4-5% of the budget of the leading countries. The European Union spends almost €30 billion a year.

    Attending the session of the group of experts were specialists from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

  • Political scene...

    International community not showing interest in Belarus’ amendment to Kyoto Protocol

    From: BelTA
    We are concerned and puzzled by the inactive position of the international community towards the ratification of the amendment to the Kyoto Protocol by Belarus, Andrei Dapkiunas, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Belarus in the UN, said at a special meeting of the ECOSOC attended by the representatives of the WTO and the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

    The head of the Belarusian diplomatic mission in the UN underlined that the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development mechanism is Belarus’ main mechanism of international technology financing which provides carbon dioxide low emission. However Belarus can use this mechanism only after the amendment to the Kyoto Protocol adopted by 132 countries a year and a half ago will come into force. However at present only Belarus, Uzbekistan and the Czech Republic have ratified this amendment.

    Andrei Dapkiunas addressed the ECOSOC members and “Friends of Climate Change” with an appeal to set an example and turn their intentions to save the planet from the climate change into practical action. According to the Belarusian diplomat, if the amendment to the Kyoto Protocol comes into force sooner, it will be a valuable input on the part of the international community.

    Belarus views parliamentary contacts as important element of international interaction

    A parliamentary delegation of Belarus headed by chairman of the House of Representatives Vadim Popov is taking part in the 118th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Cape Town (South Africa) on April 13-15.

    As BelTA was told in the press service of the lower house, Vadim Popov met with Speaker of the People’s Representative Council of the People’s Consultative Congress of Indonesia Agung Laksono.

    Vadim Popov informed his Indonesian counterpart about the socio-political development of Belarus, the structure and activity of the Belarusian parliament. As it was noted during the meeting, the Republic of Belarus considers parliamentary contacts as one of the most important elements of bilateral and international interaction.

    Vadim Popov spoke about Belarus’ interest to develop trade and economic cooperation with Indonesia.

    Vadim Popov delivered a report at a session of the First Standing Committee on Peace and International Security on the role of parliaments in ensuring a balance between national security, human security and individual freedoms. The Belarusian politician said that “the key to Belarus’ calm and safe development is the inter-confessional, inter-national and social peace.” According to him, in Belarus there are 25 confessions, more than 140 ethnicities, 15 political parties and more than 2,250 public associations.

  • Economics...

    World Bank to issue $100-150mn loan to Belarus for energy project

    From: BelTA
    The World Bank will extend a $100-150mn loan to Belarus for the energy project, Pekka Salminen, WB Senior Energy Specialist, told a news briefing in Minsk on April 15.

    According to him, a group of WB experts are in Belarus to discuss the new loan agreement. Another visit of the WB mission is scheduled for June 2008.

    The loan negotiations can take place in December 2008. The loan can be endorsed by the WB Board of Directors at the beginning of 2009. Approximately in a year this money will start working, Mr Pekka Salminen said. Time is also needed for ratification and other necessary procedures.

    The aim of project is to modernise boiler houses operated by Belenergo by means of installing energy-efficient cogeneration equipment, upgrade municipal boiler houses.

    Mr Pekka Salminen expressed satisfaction with the level of cooperation between the Bank and Belarus. Several projects have been implemented; positive results have been achieved. “Having obtained these positive results, it is easier to move forward,” he said.

    Mr Pekka Salminen believes that Belarus has reached recently significant successes in energy saving. “I think that many countries can learn your experience,” he added.

    The Belarusian side attaches big importance to the cooperation with the World Bank and is interested in expanding it, said Andrei Minenkov, the chief of the department of research policy and foreign economic links of the Energy Efficiency Department of the State Standardization Committee of Belarus.

    Speaking about the new project he said that the loan will be utilised to convert large heat-only-boilers (HOBs) operated by Belenergo to combined heat and power (CHP) plants in the towns of Borisov (around $70mn), Mogilev (around $20mn) and Lida ($10-15mn). Around $30mn to $20mn will be injected in modernisation of municipal boiler houses.

    The project is expected to result in saving more than 100,000 tonnes of fuel equipment every year, or $12 million a year. Andrei Minenkov said that the modernisation of energy generating facilities by means of installing cogeneration equipment is highly effective. The payback term ranges, as a rule, from three to four years.

    Belarus’ social infrastructure modernization saves over 11 thousand tonnes of fuel equivalent per year

    According to the preliminary estimates, the modernization of infrastructure objects in the social sphere of Belarus brings annual savings of more than 11 thousand tonnes of fuel equivalent, Andrei Minenkov, the head of the department for sci-tech policy and foreign economic relations of the Energy Efficiency Department of the State Standardization Committee, told at a briefing in Minsk on April 15.

    Andrei Minenkov noted that the project which received a $22.6-million loan from the World Bank completed in March 2008. The funds went to the reconstruction of nearly 700 objects of the social sphere in 116 settlements of Belarus, modernization of heat points, boilers, window changing in schools, hospitals, kindergartens, other objects. Over 130 thousand of lamps were substituted for energy efficient lighting.

    Andrei Minenkov noted that the World Bank granted extra $15 million to continue the project. In line with the WB decision approved at the end of 2007 and ratified by the Parliament last week, the funds will be allocated to the relevant events.

    For the time being, the World Bank has given Belarus six loans of the total amount of $258 million (these are the loans for 17 years with a 5 year payment delay) and 30 grants of the total $18 million. The bank’s specialists also provide analytical and consultative services in economy, healthcare, nature management and other areas.

    Belarus, Greece discuss cooperation in tourist sphere

    From: NLIPRB
    The cooperation of Belarus and Greece in the tourist sphere may become one of the priority trends of the cooperation of the two countries, First Deputy Head of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Nikolai Sakhar noted during his meeting with a group of Greek businessmen.

    In line with the Belarus National Programme for Tourism Development for 2006-2010, one of the main goals is to create favourable conditions for investing and other forms of financing and crediting the tourist branch facilities. “Greek travel companies may take part in implementation of the programme and this cooperation will be mutually beneficial,” he said.
    Moreover, the priority areas for attraction of foreign investments in the Belarusian economy including Greek ones are machine and tool construction, petrochemical complex, wood and processing industry, power engineering.

    According to Nikolai Sakhar, in 2007 the investments in Belarus’ capital assets upped by 15% as against 2006. “The share of foreign investments in the total investments in the national economy is not so big, it makes up around 5%,” he said. At present the biggest investments in the Belarusian economy come from Russia, Germany, the USA, Great Britain and Switzerland. “We hope that Belarus and Greece will establish the close cooperation in this area as well,” the First Deputy Head of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry noted.

    A group of the Greek businessmen led by President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Thessaloniki Dimitrios Bakatselos arrived in Belarus on April 14. The visit of the Greek delegation has been arranged under the auspices of the Greek Embassy in the Russian Federation, the Greek and Belarusian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

  • From the International Press...

    Uncovered bones in Belarus to be reburied

    From: JTA
    A plaque outside Grodno's sports stadium saying that there had been a Jewish cemetery on the site.
    Bones from an ancient Jewish cemetery found during the reconstruction of a stadium in Belarus will be reburied.

    The stadium in Gomel was built soon after World War II on the site of an ancient Jewish cemetery. Some of the bones were reinterred during the original construction, while others remained under the stadium.

    Workers building the new lighting mast recently found bones that had been buried in the ancient cemetery.

    "Builders gathered the bones and invited representatives of the office of the public prosecutor," Oleg Krasny, vice head of the Jewish Akhdut community, told JTA. "Experts of the office did research and proved that they are very old."

    Krasny said two possible places for reburial being discussed are an old Jewish cemetery and the Jewish section of a modern cemetery in Gomel.

    "We don't have any information that some bones were thrown away," he said. "I don't exclude that workers could have moved some of them away and didn't confess, but I have no evidence of it."

    In recent years, Jewish organizations have faced obstacles with the reburial of bones found during the reconstruction of several Belarusian stadiums built on the sites of ancient Jewish cemeteries.

    "Building stadiums on the ancient cemeteries indicates the wish of the Soviet authorities to annihilate the historical memory," Jakov Basin, the vice president of the Union of Belarusian Jewish Public

    In a former Soviet republic, Jewish cemeteries get little respect

    From: The Canadian Press
    Workers rebuilding a sports stadium on the site of an 18th century Jewish cemetery in Belarus say they have no choice but to consign the bones to city dumps.

    "It's impossible to pack an entire cemetery into sacks," said worker Mikhail Gubets, adding that he stopped counting the skulls when the number went over 100.

    Critics say it's part of a pattern of callous indifference toward Belarus' Jewish heritage that was prevalent when the country was a Soviet republic and hasn't changed.

    The stadium in Gomel, Belarus' second largest city and a centre of Jewish life until the Second World War, is one of four that were built on top of Jewish cemeteries around the country.

    The Gomel cemetery was destroyed when the stadium was built in 1961, but the remains lay largely undisturbed until this spring when reconstruction began and a bulldozer turned up the first bones.

    A Jewish leader in Gomel, Vladimir Gershanok, says he asked the builders to put the bones into sacks for reburial at a cemetery that has a monument to Holocaust victims.

    "We know we can't stop the construction but we're trying to minimize the destruction," Gershanok said.

    City authorities have ruled that the construction can go ahead because the bones are more than 50 years old.

    Igor Poluyan, the city official responsible for building sports facilities, says he doesn't understand the problem.

    "If something was scattered there, we'll collect it and take it away," he said.

    A history professor, Yevgeny Malikov, sees the cemetery as part of the city's heritage.

    He has filled three sacks with bones and pulled aside two of the unearthed marble gravestones. Other gravestones are piled near a trash bin or already carried away.

    Some of the bones have been carried off by stray dogs.

    "The history of the city is being thrown into the dump together with the human remains," Malikov said.

    Jews began settling in Gomel in the 16th century and, by the end of the 19th century, made up more than half of the population.

    In 1903, they made history by being the first to resist a pogrom, defending 26 synagogues and prayer houses.

    Most of Gomel's 40,000 Jews managed to flee before the Nazis arrived.

    The 4,000 who remained were shot in November 1941. Only a few thousand Jews now live in the city of 500,000.

    BELARUS: Baroque monastery to be luxury hotel - or returned to Catholics?

    From: Forum 18
    The Belarusian state appears to have scaled down plans to turn a baroque Catholic monastery into a luxury hotel and entertainment complex, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. Unofficial reports suggest that the cultural monument will now house a mini-hotel and/or museum. As Minsk Catholics marked a third year of daily prayer vigils outside the monastery's St Joseph Church, however, there is still no sign that the government intends to fulfil a 17-year-old promise to return the building to believers. Local Catholics have maintained to Forum 18 that a nationwide petition for the return of the monastery, which gained 50,000 signatures, led to a more modest development project. Protestants active in a separate petition to change the country's harsh Religion Law joined the Catholic campaign. No state officials were available to discuss the issue with Forum 18. Although some 95 per cent of historical Orthodox churches in Belarus have been returned, all but a handful of Jewish synagogues remain state property. Lutherans and Calvinists have also had little success in winning back their historical churches.

    Public outrage at government plans to turn a baroque Catholic monastery into a luxury hotel and entertainment complex appears to have significantly scaled down the development, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. But as Catholics in the capital Minsk marked a third year of daily prayer vigils outside the monastery church last month, there is still no sign that the state intends to fulfil a 17-year-old promise to return the building to believers.

    "God's house should belong to God," a prominent Catholic campaigner for the monastery's return remarked to Forum 18 from Minsk on 10 April. While local parishioners have heard unofficially that the monastery may now house a museum instead of a hotel, said Ganna Sivchik, "It still means the desecration of a holy place."

    Sivchik suggested to Forum 18 that a nationwide petition for the return of St Joseph's Church and adjoining Bernardine Cistercian monastery may have stymied the original hotel plans. Reconstruction work failed to begin as expected in June-July 2007, she pointed out. From March 2007, believers of various confessions collected some 50,000 signatures across Belarus demanding the monastery's return.

    The petition was only loosely co-ordinated, unlike a parallel campaign to change the restrictive 2002 Religion Law (see most recently F18News 2 April 2008 Active in both initiatives, Pavel Nozdrya of the charismatic Jesus Christ Church in Mozyr (Mazyr) in Gomel (Homyel) Region, in south-east Belarus, collected 1,000 signatures soon after it was announced that the monastery would be developed as a luxury hotel and entertainment complex, including bars and a bowling alley, he told Forum 18 on 10 April.

    Nozdrya and his Protestant church have been harassed by state officials for their involvement in the Religion Law petition. He himself has been fired from his job as an electrician, after the Education Ministry complained that his employer, Mozyr State Pedagogical University, was employing an "oppositionist" (see F18News 2 April 2008

    Obtained by a Minsk academic, the plans to include a swimming pool and tennis court within the monastery – bearing the seal of Minsk City Executive Committee – were made public in Nasha Niva newspaper on 8 March 2007. Chairman Mikhail Pavlov of the Committee allocated 1,400,000,000 Belarusian Roubles (approximately 3,279,000 Norwegian Kroner, 412,250 Euros or 648,000 US Dollars) of state funds for development of the site as a hotel and retail complex on 25 May 2006, according to the newspaper.

    Among the few Minsk buildings to have survived the Second World War, the seventeenth-century St Joseph's Church and Bernardine Cistercian monastery were confiscated by the Russian imperial authorities following a Belarusian nationalist uprising in 1864. Used as an archive from the late nineteenth century, art, literary and scientific archives continue to occupy the church. In early 2007 a military prosecutor and commandant's office vacated the now-empty monastery buildings. Footage of the complex may be viewed at

    In response to Pavel Nozdrya's first submission of signatures, Minsk Spadchyna (Minsk Heritage) – a state-owned firm overseeing development of the former monastery – maintained on 7 July 2007 that a government commission had assessed the suitability of its use as a hotel and commercial centre, he told Forum 18. Dissatisfied with this response, Nozdrya sent a further 1,500 signatures to the presidential administration on 1 August. A 14 August 2007 response from Minsk's Architecture Committee stated that a special commission subsequently set up to consider the issue had decided to preserve the historical profile of the monastery complex, said Nozdrya; it would now house a simple mini-hotel and museum.
  • Note: Aricle coninues...

    As other staples soar, potatoes break new ground

    From: Reuters
    As wheat and rice prices surge, the humble potato -- long derided as a boring tuber prone to making you fat -- is being rediscovered as a nutritious crop that could cheaply feed an increasingly hungry world.

    Potatoes, which are native to Peru, can be grown at almost any elevation or climate: from the barren, frigid slopes of the Andes Mountains to the tropical flatlands of Asia. They require very little water, mature in as little as 50 days, and can yield between two and four times more food per hectare than wheat or rice.

    "The shocks to the food supply are very real and that means we could potentially be moving into a reality where there is not enough food to feed the world," said Pamela Anderson, director of the International Potato Center in Lima (CIP), a non-profit scientific group researching the potato family to promote food security.

    Like others, she says the potato is part of the solution.

    The potato has potential as an antidote to hunger caused by higher food prices, a population that is growing by one billion people each decade, climbing costs for fertilizer and diesel, and more cropland being sown for biofuel production.

    To focus attention on this, the United Nations named 2008 the International Year of the Potato, calling the vegetable a "hidden treasure".

    Governments are also turning to the tuber. Peru's leaders, frustrated by a doubling of wheat prices in the past year, have started a program encouraging bakers to use potato flour to make bread. Potato bread is being given to school children, prisoners and the military, in the hope the trend will catch on.

    Supporters say it tastes just as good as wheat bread, but not enough mills are set up to make potato flour.

    "We have to change people's eating habits," said Ismael Benavides, Peru's agriculture minister. "People got addicted to wheat when it was cheap."

    Even though the potato emerged in Peru 8,000 years ago near Lake Titicaca, Peruvians eat fewer potatoes than people in Europe: Belarus leads the world in potato consumption, with each inhabitant of the eastern European state devouring an average of 376 pounds (171 kg) a year.

    India has told food experts it wants to double potato production in the next five to 10 years. China, a huge rice consumer that historically has suffered devastating famines, has become the world's top potato grower. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the potato is expanding more than any other crop right now.

    Some consumers are switching to potatoes. In the Baltic country of Latvia, sharp price rises caused bread sales to drop by 10-15 percent in January and February, as consumers bought 20 percent more potatoes, food producers have said.

    The developing world is where most new potato crops are being planted, and as consumption rises poor farmers have a chance to earn more money.

    "The countries themselves are looking at the potato as a good option for both food security and also income generation," Anderson said.

  • From the Opposition...

    UCPB Hrodna office closed down

    From: Viasna
    Hrodna fire inspection officials say UCPB’s office cannot seat more than 15 persons due to fire safety reasons. UCPB Hrodna office will only be able to hold mass meetings after ‘all recommendations by the fire inspection are implemented’.

    At the same time, Yury Istomin, head of the office, says city authorities do not want large amounts of people, especially teenagers, to gather for political and cultural events.

    PACE to hear Belarus case

    The spring session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is due to start in Strasbourg today. Among other issues, it will consider a report on the system of criminal justice in Belarus.

    It was drawn up by Christos Pourgourides, PACE's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights Rapporteur. Based on the results of the consideration, PACE will issue a resolution and a number of recommendations.

    The draft resolution expresses ‘deep concern in connection with politically motivated abuses in the justice system, which still occur in Belarus’, and calls upon Belarusian authorities to stop criminal persecution for social activity in Belarus.

    Pavel Levinau stops hunger strike

    A famous Vitsebsk human rights activist Pavel Levinau decided to start eating after 14 days of being on hunger strike.

    Pavel Levinau, member of Belarusian Helsinki Committee, says that he had to do so due to medical reasons. He was warned of possible aftermath of the strike.

    Pavel Levinau was detained on March 27 during a search in the private apartment of Vitsebsk journalist Vadzim Barshcheuski. He was charged with resisting arrest and using foul language.

    Anatol Lyabedzka: “Belarus’ status in PACE can be changed only after election”

    Head of the Russian delegation to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) said PACE could consider the question on returning a special guest status to Belarus. But Anatol Lyabedzka, head of the United Civil Party, thinks one can say about status restoration only after the election campaign in Belarus.”

    Belarus lost this status after the referendum 1996, when the Supreme Council was dismissed and the “house of representatives” was created. Are there political grounds of returning the official Minsk to the Parliamentary Assembly? Can this step help, as Kosachev thinks, the democratisation of Belarus? Anatol Lyabedzka, head of the United Civil Party, answers these questions of Radio Svaboda.

    – Head of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly, Konstantin Kosachev, said “more and more MPs begin to incline to a position, supported by Russia, who always stood against isolation of Belarus.” In this connection Kosachev said the PACE can raise a question on returning a special guest status to Belarus. In your view, how many members of the parliament can support this idea?

    – Sentiments may change, but there are resolutions, adopted by Political Affairs Committee, Legal Affairs Committee, and the whole Parliamentary Assembly. All of them stated the same: a time to return a special guest status hasn’t come yet. It is put in the resolutions, which were adopted at least once a year. They express the position of MPs. The rest is temporal sentiments and emotions. I think everyone will look at these documents, the real situation before the voting, and make a categorical conclusion – “time hasn’t come yet.”

    – What is your attitude towards the arguments, proposed by Mr Kosachev? He said isolation of the official Minsk leads to freezing of the problems with democracy in Belarus. But if invite them to the PACE, they would become democratic ...

    – The facts prove the contrary. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has such an experience. In 2000 Seleznyov from Russia said that Belarusian deputies should learn democracy, they would become more democratic with ours. What is the result? What has changed in the Belarusian deputies, who attend OSCE sessions annually? Did they raise a question on amendments to the electoral code? Did they defend media, which had to print outside Belarus?

    So the experience proves the contrary. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly gives a brilliant example, that there is no democratization, and deputies, who attend these sessions annually, remain the same as those, who stay in Belarus, for instance, as Sayrhei Kastsyan.

    We can say about a special guest status restoration only after the election campaign in Belarus. Let Mr Kasachev come here and see how the election campaign will be held, how candidates will be registered, how many opposition representatives will be included into electoral commissions – then it will be possible to discuss this issue.

    Skrabets brothers resume hunger strike

    From: Naveny
    Prominent opposition politician Syarhey Skrabets and his brother, Alyaksandr, have resumed their hunger strike to display solidarity with political prisoners.

    “We have decided to continue the hunger strike of solidarity with political prisoners in Belarus,” Syarhey Skrabets told BelaPAN. “We will not go on with it until we die, we will suspend it when we feel bad. But we will resume the fast after a while again. And we will continue doing this until the Belarusian authorities release all political prisoners.”

    The Skrabets brothers began their hunger strike on March 1, demanding the release of former presidential candidate Alyaksandr Kazulin, opposition youth Andrey Kim and small business activist Syarhey Parsyukevich.

    They suspended the fast on April 1 because of their deteriorating health condition, which they feared might prevent them from participating in a rally in Minsk the following day on the occasion of the Belarusian-Russian Unity Day.

    Mr. Skrabets acknowledged that the hunger strike, which was joined by scores more people in March and April, had failed to influence the government so far. “They have not stopped persecuting opposition activists. The trial of opposition youth Andrey Kim will continue on April 16 and small business activist Syarhey Parsyukevich will stand trial on April 22. The authorities continue their crackdown even under a threat of Belarus’ economic blockade on the part of European countries,” he said.

  • Around the region...

    Analysis: Russia Prepares For Lengthy Battle Over Ukraine

    From: Truth News
    Russia's pro-Kremlin mass media lauded the recent NATO decision in Bucharest to delay issuing Membership Action Plans (MAPs) to Ukraine and Georgia, hailing it as a victory for departing President Vladimir Putin.

    However, many serious pundits in Russia have been less smug. They appear to regard the objections formulated by Germany and France as temporary obstacles and think that NATO remains bent on including Kyiv and Tbilisi around its table. Ukraine is of particular concern, because, as the emerging neo-nationalist ideology in Russia argues, without that country, Moscow cannot restore its status as "the center of power in Eurasia."

    "NATO membership for Ukraine means death for Russia," nationalist publisher Aleksandr Prokhanov has said.

    At the same time, Russia's ruling elite is acutely aware of its significant geoeconomic interests in Ukraine, particularly since Ukraine and Belarus are the main conduits for Russian hydrocarbon exports to Western Europe.

    Finally, Putin has a personal stake in the outcome. During Ukraine's 2004-05 Orange Revolution, Putin personally intervened on the side of then-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who led the "anti-Orange" camp. The failure of that heavy-handed intervention was presented around the world, including in Russia and Ukraine, as a major foreign-policy fiasco for Moscow. Media reports at the time indicated that the failed effort in Ukraine was coordinated by Putin's then chief of staff, Dmitry Medvedev.

    Russian analysts realize that support in the United States for Ukraine's eventual NATO membership is not limited to the George W. Bush administration. It has bipartisan backing in both houses of the U.S. Congress, both of which this year passed resolutions of support. Russian media have noted that all the remaining U.S. presidential candidates -- Senators John McCain (Republican, Arizona), Hillary Clinton (Democrat, New York), and Barak Obama (Democrat, Illinois) -- support NATO membership for both Ukraine and Georgia. Obama was an initiator of the corresponding resolution in the Senate.

    In addition, the concluding document of the NATO summit in Bucharest, which was endorsed by all NATO members of both "old" and "new" Europe, clearly states that Ukraine and Georgia should become members of the alliance.

    Russian pundits have also noted with concern that, although a majority of Ukrainians still opposes NATO membership, that majority is slipping. The pro-Kremlin news agency RosBalt earlier this month published research that indicates the percentage of Ukrainians actively opposing membership has fallen from 70 percent to 35 percent in the last two years. Other research indicates that 60 percent of Ukrainians oppose joining NATO while 40 percent favor membership.

    Moreover, the Ukrainian government is working to continue turning this tide. President Viktor Yushchenko told Germany's ZDF television recently that he thinks the percentages can be reversed within two years. Yushchenko's belief is well-founded, as the country's political elite -- with the exception of left-leaning parties -- is solidly pro-NATO and Ukrainian media -- which, unlike Russia's, are genuinely independent -- broadly support membership.

    Observers in Moscow have also expressed concern that the traditionally pro-Russian elements in Ukraine have been antagonized by the recent gas wars and various other clumsy efforts initiated by Moscow. In October, for instance, the pro-Kremlin Eurasian Youth Movement (ESM) entered Ukraine and vandalized some state symbols at the summit of the country's highest peak.

    The protest outraged the Ukrainian authorities and public opinion, especially after press reports suggested that the instigator of the action was International Eurasian Movement leader Aleksandr Dugin. The ESM is part of Dugin's umbrella organization. In the wake of the scandal, Putin fired Modest Kolerov, the head of the presidential-administration department in charge of ties with CIS countries who had enlisted Dugin as an adviser.

    Pro-Kremlin propagandists also emphasize the idea of a "military threat" from the alliance, even though some of Russia's top defense officials are skeptical of such a threat. First Deputy Prime Minister and former Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, for instance, said in April 2007 that Russia faces no military danger on its Western borders, saying that the real potential danger lies in the Far East and the Pacific region.

    "It is true," Ivanov said, "that we have NATO [in the west], but we have acceptable relations with it and a system of treaties and mechanisms has been established." This assessment, made during a speech in Vladivostok, went little noticed by the central mass media. As a result, a significant segment of Russian public opinion is convinced the Western alliance presents a military threat to Russia.

    Meanwhile, the war of words is continuing. CIS Institute Director Konstantin Zatulin debated Anatoliy Hrytsenko, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada National Security and Defense Committee, recently on NTV. Hrytsenko laid out a passionate defense of the pro-NATO position.

    "The richest people in both Russia and Ukraine long ago made the decision in favor of NATO," Hrytsenko said. "Their children study in universities in NATO [countries]. They buy property and yachts in NATO. They send their wives to give birth in NATO countries. They buy soccer clubs in NATO countries. Do you think the citizens of Russia are stupid? If not, then you are. How long will you continue to inflict Soviet-propaganda stereotypes on them?"

    Unable to respond logically, Zatulin simply accused Hrytsenko and Ukraine of "treason." In general, Russian media hit the theme of Ukraine's "treason" heavily in the days surrounding the Bucharest summit.

    In refusing MAPs for Ukraine and Georgia, NATO explained that the step is unwarranted because of "unfavorable public opinion [in the two countries] and unresolved ethnic conflicts." Since Moscow feels it can do little to turn the current tide of public opinion in Ukraine, policy analysts are looking at the second issue. The Kremlin has successfully manipulated "unresolved ethnic conflicts" in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Kosovo to advance its geopolitical interests.

    In a March 31 article in "Izvestia," Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who is a leader of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, urged Moscow not to extend its treaty of friendship, cooperation, and partnership with Ukraine. That document expires on April 1, 2009. The 1999 treaty establishes the border status of the Crimean Peninsula and the right of Russian Black Sea Fleet to use its base at Sevastopol. Luzhkov argued that withdrawing from the treaty would allow Russia to reopen its territorial claims on Crimea, which has an ethnic-Russian majority and was part of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic (RSFSR) during the Soviet period.

    The day after Luzhkov's article appeared, some Duma deputies made similar arguments in hearings on the question of Ukraine's possible NATO membership.

    On April 7, "Kommersant" reported that Putin had questioned Ukraine's right to exist during a closed-door Russia-NATO Council meeting in Bucharest. Citing an unidentified NATO source, the daily said Putin told his counterparts that in order to prevent Ukraine from joining the alliance, Russia was prepared to claim the eastern and southern parts of the country. "Ukraine will cease its existence as a state," Putin purportedly said.

    Ukraine's reaction to the report was surprisingly muted. Verkhovna Rada speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk told journalists in Moscow that he does not consider such threats "realistic," adding that the idea of splitting Ukraine is "illusory." In fact, Yatsenyuk has good reason to be sanguine. The Ukrainian public and the political elites are united in opposing any division. Even the pro-Moscow Party of Regions and the pro-Russia oligarchs of eastern Ukraine have little taste for division. Perhaps more importantly, a split Ukraine would not satisfy Russia's economic interests, since even the rump western portion would be able to disrupt flows of Russian energy exports to Western Europe.

    This does not mean that Russia will stop playing this card. Vladimir Batyuk, an expert with the Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada, has said the Kremlin's goal is to split the alliance as deeply as possible on the issue of further eastward expansion, not the absorption of Ukrainian territory. In fact, he added, the Kremlin does not want to see too great a weakening of the alliance, to say nothing of its disintegration: "If NATO disintegrates or is defeated in Afghanistan, then Russia will face a Taliban threat again, just as it did eight years ago."


    From: Eurasian Monitor
    NATO's 26 member states held their 59th annual gathering from April 2 to 4 in Bucharest. Its ambitious agenda was headed by proposals to expand the alliance. NATO eventually decided to extend membership offers to Albania and Croatia, while Macedonia, Georgia and Ukraine saw their hopes for a Membership Action Plan (MAP) sidelined for at least a year, despite enthusiastic American support.

    NATO's agenda dominated Western media coverage, but many of the summit's discussions revolved around the issue of Central Asia, particularly NATO's continuing efforts in Afghanistan, where it leads the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). President George W. Bush and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates lobbied hard but with mixed results for NATO members to increase their troop commitments to the ISAF. Significantly, the two most interesting proposals about Afghanistan in Bucharest came from non-NATO members Russia and Uzbekistan, both NATO Partnership for Peace (PFP) affiliates since 1994. While Russia had earlier floated the idea of making a land corridor available to reinforce ISAF troops in Afghanistan, the Bucharest meeting was notable for the fact that Uzbek President Islam Karimov offered a transit route through Uzbekistan for non-lethal military supplies to support the ISAF efforts.

    It is now becoming increasingly clear that European NATO members had a secondary agenda as well, involving increased access to the hydrocarbon riches of Central Asia. This interest has apparently crystallized around Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, which, like Russia and Uzbekistan, have been PFP affiliates since 1994, along with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Ukraine. While little of substance was accomplished in NATO's discussions with Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, such was not the case with Kazakhstan.

    Following the summit, NATO's special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia Robert Simmons visited Tashkent, where he discussed President Karimov's proposals for an overland logistical support corridor for the ISAF traversing Uzbekistan.

    In comments so far reported only by the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Simmons reportedly told journalists that the alliance intended to include the joint protection of Kazakhstan's energy infrastructure in its program of collaboration with Kazakhstan (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 11). According to Nezavisimaya, Simmons reportedly said that Kazakhstan had agreed to participate in developing the ISAFs logistical transport corrdor (, April 11). The Russian paper claimed that Simmons also alluded to Kazakhstan's successful military interaction with Western nations, citing as an example of "successful military cooperation" the creation of KazBrig ("Kazakh Brigade" peacekeeping unit), a unit compatible with NATO standards that has been involved in removing land mines in Iraq since 2003.

    The ostensible aim of the NATO representative's visit to Almaty was to discuss Kazakhstan's successful implementation of the initial parameters of the NATO-Kazakhstan Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) (Itar-Tass, April 9). Simmons' visit built upon groundwork he had earlier laid during a November 2007 trip to Kazakhstan (AKI Press, November 1, 2007).

    For the past few years Kazakhstan has continued to deepen its ties with NATO. Kazakhstan signed its IPAP with NATO in January 2006, becoming the first country in Central Asia to do so (Agentstvo Voennykh Novostei, April 10). During his December 2006 visit to NATO headquarters in Belgium Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev met with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who called Kazakhstan "NATO's most active partner working under an individual cooperation plan," while Nazarbayev observed, "The dialogue between our country and the North Atlantic alliance has already been developing for over 10 years" (Kazakhstan News Bulletin, December 8, 2006).

    While providing no troops for Afghanistan's Operation Enduring Freedom, Kazakhstan provided over-flight rights and allowed transshipment of supplies to U.S. forces in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan beginning in 2002 ("International Contributions to the War Against Terrorism," Department of Defense, June 14, 2002).

    While participating in Washington’s "global war on terror," Kazakhstan also discreetly broadened relations with the United States. In an interview in December 2003 Kazakhstan Minister of Energy Vladimir Sergeevich Shkol'nik said that American forces were already providing security for Kazakhstan's Tengiz oilfield, but he did not elaborate (UPI, December 17, 2003).

    Kazakhstan's changing relationship with NATO is but one element in Kazakhstan's evolving foreign policy. In his February 6 annual address to the nation, President Nazarbayev emphasizing the need for stronger cooperation with Russia, China and the Central Asian states but reminded his audience that to strengthen regional security, Kazakhstan would have to expand its cooperation with the United States, the EU, and NATO under a program he called "The Path to Europe" (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 8).

    Kazakhstan's interest in deepening its relationship with NATO is unlikely to please its partner in the Shanghai Cooperation and Collective Security Treaty Organizations, Russia, which used the recent Bucharest summit to state clearly its opposition to further NATO expansion. Kazakhstan's oil exports currently move almost exclusively through Russian-dominated pipelines. Given its history, Moscow is likely to express its displeasure with the growing Kazakh-NATO rapprochement by indulging in a bit of hardball pipeline politics, a pressure tactic that Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia have already experienced.

    Accordingly, it would seem that for the present Kazakhstan will limit its further IPAP participation to training exercises and developing NATO's overland logistical corridor to Afghanistan rather than more substantial gestures such as allowing NATO bases on its territory, which would undoubtedly irritate the Kremlin.

    Ukrainian mushroom production continues to intensively develop

    From: Agro Market
    The specialists of "Fruit-Inform" weekly inform, the interest of Ukrainian mushroom growers to the business improvement is sharply increasing. This fact has been confirmed by VI international seminar for oyster mushroom producers, organized and conducted by LLC "Biotechnology" on April 7th-10th in Svyatogorsk, Donetskaya region.

    Around 120 persons participated in the event: most of them were oyster mushroom producers from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and Poland. The leading specialists of the mushroom industry in Ukraine and Russia spoke at the seminar. The experts mostly focused on the most advanced technologies of mushroom production and storage. Also, the detailed overview of the global market of oyster mushroom was presented.

    We'd like to remind that the next meeting of the mushroom business specialists will take place on the 10th-12th of June during the III international conference-exhibition "Mushroom Industry 2008", organized by "Fruit-Inform" project in the National Complex "Expocenter of Ukraine" in Kyiv. The newest technologies of the production, storage and processing of all types of the cultivated mushrooms will be presented in the framework of this event. Also, the forecast of the mushroom market development in Ukraine after the country's entrance to WTO will be released. The experts of the national mushroom industry, and also the leading specialists from CIS and foreign countries will share the valuable experience with everyone interested.

    In last Soviet outpost, space pioneers cling on

    From: AFP
    A Russian policeman escorts a Soyuz TMA-12 space craft in Baikonur
    Visiting the Baikonur space cosmodrome deep in the steppes of Kazakhstan is like taking a trip back into Soviet times -- and that's just the way many here want it to stay.

    There are no Internet cafes, no advertising billboards and -- to hear it from proud residents -- none of the social problems that afflict large Russian cities like hooliganism and xenophobic violence.

    A statue of Lenin towers over the main square, large signs hail Soviet glories, such as Yury Gagarin's first flight into space, and the authorities strive to keep the city as litter-free as in Soviet times.

    "I feel more at home here than in Russia," said Vyacheslav Kononenko, head of a rocket assembly workshop. At 59, Kononenko is nearing retirement age but is reluctant to move back from this remote region to his native western Russia.

    "People know you here. They greet you in the street. It's not like that in Russia any more," said Kononenko, who has lived in Baikonur for 40 years and likes to go hunting for pheasant in the steppes in his spare time.

    Kononenko is used to the harsh temperatures, which can reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer and plunge to minus 40 in winter -- but complains there are few young people willing to move here from Russia.

    Baikonur, previously named Leninsk, was built as a rocket and missile installation from the 1950s in one of the most remote parts of the Soviet Union and was shrouded in secrecy for decades.

    The nearest major city, Kazakhstan's Almaty, is 18 hours' drive to the east.

    In its heyday, the city had a population of 110,000 people. But during the economic upheaval of the 1990s and Kazakhstan's independence from Moscow, many Russians left in a hurry and there are now around 69,000 inhabitants.

    "The quality of life in Russia has changed. Salaries have gone up.... As the youngsters say, Baikonur is a bit 'backward' compared to the rest of Russia" said Vyacheslav Yegorov, a reporter at the city's weekly, Baikonur.

    When older people try to move back to Russia, however, they feel alienated. "They don't have any friends, their children are gone. They're in a different world.... Some of them come back to Baikonur," Yegorov said.

    But even in Baikonur -- one of the last remnants of the Soviet empire stranded in the middle of Kazakhstan after the Soviet collapse of 1991 -- times are changing.

    Alongside city monuments to the RS-20 intercontinental ballistic missile, the Soyuz rocket and Sputnik, the Earth's first artificial satellite, there are now clubs, shopping centres and even a luxury hotel.

    In this former Soviet holy of holies, an Orthodox church opened its doors in 2006 on the edge of town. Father Sergei now blesses all cosmonauts before they launch into space and douses the rockets with holy water.

    There are also even more fundamental changes afoot. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia had to start leasing the cosmodrome from Kazakhstan. The lease only runs out in 2050 but already the balance is shifting.

    The early settlers in Baikonur were once almost exclusively from mainly Slavic parts of the Soviet Union such as Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Now officials say 55 percent of the population are Kazakhs.

    The Soviet Officer's Hall by the Lenin statue in the city centre has been bought by a Kazakh investor who wants to turn it into an entertainment centre. Another Kazakh company is planning to build a large hotel complex.

    Russian language schools are being turned into Kazakh schools.

    Still, for people like Lyubov Bryantseva, a Russian official at Baikonur city hall, this is home. "We decided to keep things as they were" after the Soviet collapse and the "chaos" of the early 1990s, she said.

    Bryantseva has lived in Baikonur for 22 years and owns a flat in the northern Russian city of Saint Petersburg. Her space engineer husband has died and her children are all grown up, but she is hesitating about moving back.

    "It's a psychological barrier. It's not about salaries, it's about psychology. We're like a small family and we hold that very dear. Russia now lives by different rules."

  • From the Polish Scandal Files: Local

    Polish soccer board to resign in September in face of corruption scandal

    From: IHT
    The Polish soccer federation's governing board will resign in September because of a game-fixing scandal that has caused a public outcry.

    Prosecutors in Wroclaw began investigating in 2005. Authorities have charged 117 people — including federation members, coaches, referees, players and club officials — with rigging matches in the top domestic leagues. Twenty-nine clubs have been implicated.

    "We want to save this federation and we want to save Polish soccer," said Michal Listkiewicz, president of the soccer federation.

    The scandal has cast a shadow over the country's upcoming debut at the European Championship in Austria and Switzerland, as well as its preparations to co-host the 2012 tournament with Ukraine.

    Listkiewicz promised that current board members will "do everything" to ensure the scandal doesn't harm the tournaments.

    Listkiewicz said Sunday the board will step down Sept. 14, three months before the end of its term. Listkiewicz has headed the body since 1999 and says he will not run again for president. He said the federation decided to appoint a "completely independent" sports prosecutor to fight soccer corruption.

  • ...and international

    Polish man arrested in connection with Paphos

    From: Famagusta Gazette
    A Cyprus pub and internet cafe owner has been murdered in Kato Paphos.

    Michalis Kaiser, 43, was stabbed to death on Monday night.

    A 22-year-old Polish man has been arrested in connection with the murder. He has been remanded in custody for eight days after being found at the scene of the crime in bloodied clothes.

    Following questioning, the Polish man admitted killing Kaiser.

    It's believed police took additional security measures during the man's transfer to court, as angry relatives and friends of the victim had flooded the court area.

    According to reports, at one point there was threat of violence but police intervened in time to prevent it.

    The Polish man said it was a "crime of passion" and claimed his wife, who was living with him in Cyprus, had returned to Poland a few days ago, taking their two-year-old child with her.

    Polish Murder Suspect Arrested in Iceland

    From: Iceland Review
    The international division of the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police received an arrest warrant from Interpol in Warsaw yesterday in regards to an Icelandic resident of Polish origin who is wanted for murder in his home country. The suspect later turned himself in.

    Iceland’s Ministry of Justice received a request for extradition from Polish authorities immediately after the man was arrested. He was asked to give a report and then taken to a prison cell. He is expected to be remanded in custody today, Morgunbladid reports.

    The man’s criminal history was brought to the attention of the Icelandic police by members of the Polish community in Iceland. The man is also suspected of belonging to a gang that attacked other Polish residents in their home in March.

    Poles in Iceland are now requesting that Icelandic authorities do not issue residence and work permits for wanted criminals.

    Minister of Justice Bjorn Bjarnason told Morgunbladid that Iceland has applied for admission to the European Arrest Warrant Project so that a special arrest warrant from Interpol does not have to be received before the Icelandic police can arrest an individual in Iceland who is wanted for a crime in a different European country. A law amendment will follow.

    Bjarnason denied claims that the current Icelandic regulations have made it easy for criminals from the EEA countries to hide in Iceland. “It is not correct considering how quickly we react after receiving a request [from abroad].”

    “It may be true that someone convinced these men that they could find shelter here, but I don’t want Icelandic legislation to be interpreted in such a way at all,” Bjarnason concluded.

    Polish woman held ex hostage, court told

    From: The Argus
    A woman lured her ex-boyfriend to a flat so a gang could tie him up and torture him for revenge.

    Karoline Fedyna tricked former lover Lukasz Matysek into meeting her so her new boyfriend and his pals could ambush the 20-year-old.

    The gang held him captive for 24 hours in a flat in Hove - and even held a party while he was their prisoner - enjoying slices of cake between sessions beating him with baseball bats.

    Hove Crown Court was yesterday told how migrant worker Mr Matysek, then 20, was finally rescued as the thugs tried to sneak him out of the building the following day.

    Five men and one woman, all Polish, have admitted charges including false imprisonment and blackmail.

    They are accused of cutting him with knives and stubbing cigarettes on his body as they used his personal identification number to empty his bank account.

    However, they dispute the prosecution's version of events.

    Mr Matysek yesterday told the court how his ex-girlfriend invited him to her flat in Brunswick Place, Hove, last year, leading him to believe they could rekindle their romance.

    She greeted him with a kiss and welcomed him into the flat on the morning of June 2.

    But instead of romance, the prosecution claim she wanted retribution and repayment of rent she said he owed her.

    Inside the flat, he was confronted by her new boyfriend, Konrad Kornatowski, and another man, Bartolniez Ziaja, who were both armed with baseball bats.

    Mr Matysek said: "I went to the bathroom. They were waiting outside the door. They pulled me from the bathroom and threw me into the lounge.

    They started beating me and they tied me up."

    After attacking him with the bats, the men covered his eyes and mouth with duct tape and bound his wrists and legs together.

    Mr Matysek told the court he was at first beaten every ten minutes and then every hour until early the following morning.

    The men demanded his bank PIN and withdrew money from a cash machine on Western Road. While Mr Matysek was still bound and stuffed beneath a table in the flat, his captors then threw a party.

    Ziaja is accused of cajoling the guests to join in torturing Mr Matysek as the festivities got under way.

    The group were caught after forcing Mr Matysek to call a friend to ask him to put more money in his account.

    The friend became suspicious and contacted the police.

    Ziaja was arrested after leaving the flat the following morning. Fedyna was arrested inside the flat, where officers found Mr Matysek being led down the stairs. Kornatowski escaped, but was eventually arrested four months later in Warrington.

    Fedyna told detectives she was owed 1,250 Pounds by Mr Matysek.

    She claimed he had tried to sexually assault her after arriving at the flat.

    She said Kornatowsi and Ziaja arrived, punched Mr Matysek and demanded he pay her back the rent he owed.

    Fedyna, Ziaja and Kornatowski dispute the prosecution's claims about the way the incident happened including suggestions they used a knife and lit cigarettes on him.

    A hearing is under way before Judge Anthony Niblett to decide on those facts before the three are sentenced.

    Fedyna, 24, Ziaja, 31 and Kornatowski, 30, have admitted false imprisonment and blackmail.

    Lukasz Mokrzynski, 20, pleaded guilty to one charge of assault causing actual bodily harm and one charge of attempting to obtain property by deception.

    Michal Maszak, 25, and Patrick Wolski, 21, have both pleaded guilty to one charge of assault causing actual bodily harm.

    The case continues.

  • Sport...

    U.S. National Under-18 Team Tops Belarus, 5-2

    From: OurSports Central
    The U.S. National Under-18 Team scored two goals in each of the first two periods, and tallied an empty-net goal late in the third stanza to secure a 5-2 victory over Belarus here today in both team's second game of the 2008 International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-18 Hockey Championship.
    "It was good to keep improving our record in the tournament," said John Hynes, head coach of the U.S. National Under-18 Team. "Our players had great focus in the past 48 hours and they are looking forward to a well-deserved day off to rest, recuperate and prepare for our next match against Sweden."

    Belarus notched the first goal of the afternoon at the 3:31 mark of the opening period when Alexander Fomin banged in a shot from right in front of the Team USA net.

    The United States knotted the score at 1-1 at 14:47 of the first frame as David Wohlberg (South Lyon, Mich.) netted his first goal of the tournament, thanks to assists from Aaron Ness (Roseau, Minn.) and Vinny Saponari (Powder Springs, Ga.). Ness wristed a pass towards the low slot from the right point, which Saponari corralled and sent on net. Wohlberg was then able slip the rebound through the legs of Belarus goaltender Alexander Borodulia.

    Philip McRae (Chesterfield, Mo.) contributed his third marker of the tournament less than four minutes later, on the power play, to give Team USA its first lead of the game. Saponari gained the lone assist on the goal after he directed a pass through the low slot that McRae received from the bottom of the right circle. McRae beat Borodulia up high on the glove with a shot that ended up inside the right post.

    Team USA built a two-goal cushion at the 13:17 mark of the middle stanza, as a result of Jordan Schroeder's (Prior Lake, Minn.) even-strength tally. Ryan Grimshaw (Rochester, N.Y.) picked up a helper after his initial shot bounced off Borodulia back onto the stick of Schroeder, who wristed a shot from the slot into the net. Jeremy Morin (Auburn, N.Y.) extended the Americans' advantage to three goals when he recorded a power-play marker off assists from David Warsofsky (Marshfield, Mass.) and Schroeder. While positioned near the faceoff dot in the left circle, Morin took Warsofsky's one-timer feed from the point and whistled it by Borodulia on the glove side.

    Sergei Sheleg gave Belarus its second goal of the day at the six-minute mark of the third period, during a 5-on-3 power play.

    With 2:35 remaining in regulation, Belarus pulled Borodulia from his net to gain the extra attacker. The move proved fatal, however, as Justin Florek (Marquette, Mich.) added an empty-net goal at 18:09 of the session, courtesy of an assist from McRae.

    Team USA netminder Brandon Maxwell (Winter Park, Fla.) finished with 19 saves in the win, while Borodulia stopped 40 shots for Belarus.

    The U.S. National Under-18 Team is off tomorrow and resumes preliminary round competition Wednesday (April 16) with a game vs. Sweden at Kazan Arena. Opening faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. local time (11 a.m. EDT.

    Notes: Philip McRae leads all players at the 2008 IIHF World Under-18 Championship with five points (3-2) ... Jeremy Morin is tied for second with four points (3-1) in the tournament ... All U.S. games in the 2008 IIHF World Under-18 Championship will be audiocast live at ... The 2008 IIHF World Under-18 Championship features the best athletes under the age of 18 with participating teams including the United States, Belarus, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland ... Team USA won the silver medal at the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship and won the gold medal at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship in both 2005 and 2006 to mark the first time in U.S. hockey history that a team has earned back-to-back gold medals at an IIHF event.


    Scoring By Period

    BLR 1 0 1 2 USA 2 2 1 5

    First Period - Scoring: 1, BLR, Roman (Revenko, Drozd), 3:31; 1, USA, Wohlberg (Ness, Saponari), 14:47; 2, USA, McRae (Saponari), 18:15 (pp). Penalties: USA, Morin (interference), 1:25; BLR, Revenko (hooking), 8:27; USA, Wohlberg (holding the stick), 11:07; BLR, Graborenko (tripping), 18:07; BLR, Gribko (hooking), 18:30.

    Second Period - Scoring: 3, USA, Schroeder (Grimshaw), 13:17; 4, USA, Morin (Warsofsky, Schroeder), 18:03 (pp). Penalties: USA, Czarnik (slashing), 2:20; BLR, Bogoleisha (holding), 4:44; USA, Bourque (kneeing), 9:03; BLR, Sheleg (interfering with the net), 17:21; BLR, Gotovets (interference), 19:30.

    Third Period - Scoring: 2, BLR, Sheleg (Gotovets, Fomin), 6:00; 5, USA, Florek (McRae), 18:09 (en). Penalties: BLR, Gotovets (high sticking), 1:55; USA, Grimshaw (tripping), 4:59; USA, Czarnik (delaying the game), 5:25; USA, Grimshaw (interference), 5:36.

    Euro giants lining up for Hleb

    From: ITV Football
    Alexander Hleb's agent has revealed that the Arsenal midfielder is attracting interest from European giants Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.

    The Belarus international has been a consistent performer for the Gunners this season after establishing himself as a key member of Arsene Wenger's first team.

    Hleb, who joined the north Londoners in a ?11.2million deal from Stuttgart in the summer of 2005, has caught the eye of Europe's leading clubs after a number of impressive performances in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League.

    The 26-year-old is said to have met Internazionale officials before Arsenal's Champions league last-16 clash with AC Milan in Italy last month although the Nerazzurri have since denied making any contact with the player.

    And his representative Nikolai Shpilevski claims to have been approached by Real, Barca and Juve but stressed that no official offers had been made for the silky playmaker.

    "I'm often approached about Hleb," Shpilevski is quoted in the Daily Express.

    "I have nothing to hide; Alexander is a world-class player. Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona are interested in him. But there are no official offers."

  • Cultural scene...

    Belarus Free Theatre will not be silenced; This celebrated company's devastating new work presents the reality of life in Europe's last dictatorship

    From: Guardian
    I have just returned from the European Theatre Prize in Thessaloniki. Last year the closing ceremony was marred by protests, partly triggered by the withholding of the main prize from joint-winner, Peter Zadek, because of his inability to attend. This year all went smoothly and there was universal acclaim for the chief prize-winner, Patrice Chereau, who is a formidable director of plays, films and opera. In Thessaloniki we discovered, from dramatised readings of works by Marguerite Duras and Pierre Guyotat, that Chereau is also a powerful performer. The good news is that the much sought-after Chereau hopes to come and work at the Young Vic in 2010.

    But what most excited me in Thessaloniki was seeing a brand-new three-part project by the Belarus Free Theatre. Their productions of Being Harold Pinter and Generation Jeans have been acclaimed in Leeds and London; and the company's long history of harassment and persecution in their native land is well-known. It was because of that they were awarded, at the instigation of Vaclav Havel and Harold Pinter, a special prize in Thessaloniki. It was deeply moving to see the entire company, complete with their children, on stage to receive their award. And at the end they raised their hands in a victory sign as a gesture of solidarity with people imprisoned in Belarus.

    "We come from a zone of silence," said their dynamic co-founder, Natalia Koliada. And that was the title of the three-part work they premiered in Greece. The first section, Childhood Legends, was movingly based on the actors' own formative experiences. The second part, Diverse, was an enactment of testimony from marginalised figures in Belarus: a black homosexual, a homeless street-dancer, an abused alcoholic. But it was the third part, Numbers, that struck me as a masterpiece of theatrical irony. On a screen above the stage we saw surtitled statistics about the reality of life in Europe's last dictatorship: below that the actors displayed their own habitual inventiveness, providing a physical counterpoint to the bleak facts.

    It was a technique Joan Littlewood pioneered in Oh! What a Lovely War. But here it was put to devastating new use. The flow of information was ceaseless: 1200 people "disappear" annually in Belarus; only 2% of babies are born totally healthy; every fourth Belarusian suffers a mental disorder. But the actors, even when illustrating the facts, displayed a contradictory resilience: gender inequality, for instance, was wittily demonstrated through a transvestite mating-dance. And the show ended with a long litany of famous Belarusians ranging from artists like Chagall and Soutine to politicians like Peres and Begin to entertainers like Kirk Douglas and Irving Berlin.

    The paradox is that one emerged from the show with a strange hope for Belarus driven by the ability of its artists to confront the truths about an oppressive society. And, from a forum I chaired the next day, two particular remarks stuck with me. "It is the dictators who are the sick people," said the company's director, Vladimir Scherban. And, when asked if they were not running a great risk by presenting Zones of Silence, Natalia Koliada quoted a remark made to her by Vaclav Havel: "You need to talk loudly and openly if you are to keep safe." I just pray that Havel is right and that the company does not suffer further for so brilliantly spreading information and light.

  • Endnote...

    Polish business angry at Kiev police bank raid

    From: The News
    Polish business people are to send a letter of protest to the Ukrainian PM after last Friday’s police raid on a bank in Kiev with Polish interests.

    Polish businesspeople are to send a letter to Ukraine's PM Yulia Tymoshenko asking for an explanation of what happened during last Friday's tax inspection in Kiev's Kredobank.

    Kredobank's majority shareholder is Poland largest bank, PKO BP.

    The head of the International Union of Polish Businessmen in Ukraine, Stefan Perkowski, said that reports of the inspection are ‘terrifying’. Masked and armed officers of the tax police burst into one of the branches of the bank in Kiev and detained clients and staff for a couple of hours.

    "The conduct of the tax police was inadequate for the status of the company that was being inspected," stressed Perkowski.
    Perkowski also told the Polish Radio that since this morning he has been receiving calls from Polish businesspeople alarmed by Friday's events.

    According to unofficial information obtained by the Polish Radio, the matter will be looked into by the Polish embassy in Kiev. There has been no comment so far from the Ukrainian tax police.
  • Note: Yea, like there would be a problem with showing just cause...