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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lukashenko may run again, US relations, More sanctions, Russia, Economy, Gas, Opposition, Ukraine, Polish scandal, Culture and Sport...

  • From the Top...
  • #308

    Alexander Lukashenko may run for next presidency

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko meets with Prosecutor General of Russia Yuri Chaika
    Alexander Lukashenko does not rule out the possibility of his running for the next presidency.

    In his interview with Reuters the President of Belarus underscored, “If the situation stays the same as well as my personal situation, because it is I who will have to run for presidency, then certainly I will run for the next presidency. If my personal situation as well as, God forbid, the situation in the country change, then things will be different and the decision will be different. So far I am a healthy man, it looks like the nation does not criticise me that much and the West begins to understand why it is quite probable. But it is still a long way to go, I tell you honestly and sincerely”.

    Belarus President considers pressure on Belarus counterproductive

    It is counterproductive to exert pressure on Belarus, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told the Reuters news agency.

    The Belarusian President underlined that “at present we do not have any political prisoners in the country”. “As for those who are talking about the allegedly existing problem of political prisoners here, they should mind their own business. They should clear up the problem with their own Guantanamo detainees. So many people are dying in Iraq, Afghanistan. They should deal with the problems in their own countries first” he said.

    “If Belarus had huge oil reserves, you would be just as nice to us as to other oil producing countries some of which also possess nuclear weapons. We would have the same kind of friendship as the US and Saudi Arabia. That is what your democracy and values can be boiled down to. It is not even double standards, because those are already triple standards. We see and understand it, and you should admit it if you claim to be honest and fair. You are fencing off from us using visa refusals and blocking our integration with Europe. But we are going to act quite opposite: we invite you to Belarus; we are interested in you coming here. You used to criticize the Soviet Union that built the iron curtain around itself. But are you not doing the same thing? Is Belarus so scary that you deny us entry to the United Kingdom and other countries of the European Union? We are doing our best not to create problems for you or not to make them worse. But the policy you are pursuing towards our country makes no sense. And you are telling us what to do to normalize the relations with you? The question should be formulated in a different way: what you, Europeans, are doing to normalize the relations with Belarus?”, the President stressed.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted that Belarus is developing mutually beneficial economic relations with many countries of the world, and is diversifying its export. And such policy has already brought some practical results.

    USA’s restrictive measures aimed against common Belarusians

    The USA has demonstrated that its measures are aimed against common Belarusian citizens and affect interests of people employed by the companies on the restrictions list. The statement was made by Press Secretary of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry Andrei Popov when he was asked to comment on the enforcement of restrictions against several Belarusian companies by the US Department of the Treasury.

    The Foreign Ministry’s spokesman said, essentially these actions of the US administration represent nothing new. The individualizing of those the measures are aimed against is the point.

    According to Andrei Popov, another thing is remarkable, “This time without a shadow of a doubt the USA has demonstrated that the measures are aimed against common Belarusian citizens and affect interests of workers of the companies on the restrictions list. Now everyone, not even a specialist, understands what the USA statements truly mean. It especially strikes the eye that the USA took the step right after the open and honest position explicitly voiced by the President of the Republic of Belarus for the sake of an equivocal and mutually respecting dialogue with a view to normalising Belarus-US relations. The situation demonstrates who wants to achieve positive things and who wants to achieve negative things”.

    Belarus cooperates with Venezuela and Iran, not allies with them against somebody

    With Venezuela and Iran Belarus develops mutually beneficial cooperation rather than allies with them against somebody, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with Reuters.

    Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus lives in a real world when diversification of foreign trade and development of ties with other states start bringing benefits, first of all, economic benefits. “In Venezuela, Iran and especially Vietnam I have seen companies from Great Britain and other countries, although you do not have the best diplomatic relations with them. Our contacts with these states are better so why should not we use them? It brings benefits. These are rich countries which extract a great volume of hydrocarbon resources. We offer them our projects, our products, they accept them and we go there. We do not rush into Great Britain as we, probably, are not needed that much there. Why should we try to force the closed door open? At the same time Great Britain is ranked first in terms of investments in Belarus, which means it is beneficial and interesting for it, we open the door to you, you are a profitable partner for us,” said the President of Belarus.

    The head of state said that “We go to places where we can gain benefits where our interests are observed.”

    Belarus wants its relations with Europe be based on modern realities

    Belarus suggests that the Belarusian-European relations should be based on modern realities rather than double standards, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told the Reuters news agency.

    The Belarusian head of state underlined: “It is not possible to drive our country to the corner today”. He noted that at present Belarus is developing mutually beneficial relations with many countries of the world.

    “The investors from the Asian-Pacific region, from China first of all, show an enormous interest in Belarus. We open our doors for them. If not you, somebody else will come if we ask them to. The competition on the international arena is extremely intense, so there should not be any “blank spots” on the economic map of the world. So let’s establish normal relations”, Alexander Lukashenko said.

    “However we should not be guided by double standards, but we should rather have an objective view of the world and act appropriately, we are ready for that”, the President noted. “Do you really need an escalation of conflict right in the centre of Europe, our common home? I am sure you do not, even Great Britain does not. And Europe will never agree to do anything to destabilize our country. We appreciate it, and are ready to take appropriate measures in this direction. If you are also ready, let’s start it now.

    Belarus, Russia presidents have friendly relations, Alexander Lukashenko says

    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko noted the establishment of good relations with Russian president-elect Dmitry Medvedev.

    The President of Belarus told the Reuters news agency: “At present, and I hope in the future as well, we will have friendly and cordial relations with incumbent president of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev. We have never had any issues with each other. We are friends, and I have nothing else to add. As for the relations between Putin and Medvedev, it is their own business. I am convinced that they will always find the common ground and will always act in coordination”.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    President meets with Prime Minister to receive his report

    From: The office of the president and BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko with Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky at the opening ceremony of the construction of new mill in Shklov
    On 15 May President Alexander Lukashenko met with Premier Sergei Sidorsky to receive his report on the progress in implementing the national innovative development programme.

    In particular, the meeting focused on construction of new production facilities in Belarus and on revamping active facilities.

    The Premier informed the President on the completion of the construction of a newsprint mill in the town of Shklov. The technological process of paper manufacturing has been adjusted. The newsprint mill is expected to manufacture around 40,000 tonnes of paper of improved quality. A waste-free production cycle will enable the company to manufacture, in addition to paper, boards, laminated veneer lumber and wooden frame houses (up to 250 units per year). The newsprint mill has its own cogeneration plant running on waste – wood chips.

    The Premier reported on renovation of the Shklov-based factory Spartak which is expected to manufacture corrugated packaging and paper for sanitary and hygienic purposes. The reconstruction is due to complete in 2009.

    The President was informed on the beginning of construction of a new factory in Gomel to manufacture polished glass. The investment in this project is estimated at $ 200 million. The inauguration of the new factory is slated for 2009. As a result of this project, the production of this type of glass in Belarus will be increased considerably.

    The Prime Minister also reported to the President on the country’s progress in meeting its social and economic targets. In January-April 2008, GDP upped 10.4 per cent from the same period last year. Capital investment went up 24 per cent, with the total of foreign investment over this period approaching $ 600 million, or nearly 2.5 times over the same period last year.

    An average salary had reached by the beginning of May the equivalent of $ 435. 1.7 million square meters of housing were built.

    The Premier said that, because of the negative influence of external factors, the republic would miss this year its inflation target (6-8 per cent). Over the past four months consumer prices for goods and service went up by 5.3 per cent, including prices for food by 5.1 per cent; but this figure is still smaller than in Russia and Ukraine.

    The meeting also discussed a draft national budget 2009-2010. The preparation of this document is based on the President’s instruction to bring an average salary in Belarus to the equivalent of $ 700 by 2010. For this, in 2009 an average salary should be $ 600.

    Belarus President names civil engineering a priority

    Alexander Lukashenko believes it is necessary to pay priority attention to the development of the Belarusian civil engineering industry. While visiting Shklov’s industrial companies on May 16, the President stressed, a construction spree is observed in the world at present and Belarus should use it.

    Investments should be channelled into civil engineering on a priority basis, said the head of state.

    Alexander Lukashenko underscored, all projects should be finished according to the plans within the present five-year term.

    While in Shklov the head of state visited the new timber processing enterprise, which is part of the newsprint mill company, where wooden houses and laminated forest products are made using modern technologies. Its production capacity makes 250 wooden houses, 15,000 cubic metres of multilayer laminated veneer lumber and beams, 23,650 cubic metres of planed timber annually. The facility uses the latest European equipment bought in France, Austria, and Lithuania.

    The President was informed, the production of wooden homes using laminated veneer lumber is a quite promising project. Wooden homes are most ecologically friendly dwellings, as wood regulates the indoors humidity and has antitoxic qualities.

    According to specialists, the available software allows making individual homes.

    Belarus suggests holding energy effectiveness debates at UN General Assembly

    From: BelTA
    Belarus suggests holding topical debates on energy effectiveness, technologies of alternative and renewable energy sources within the framework of the UN General Assembly. The statement was made by Alexander Sychev, Belarus’ permanent representative to international organisations in Vienna at the 34th session of the UNIDO Industrial Development Council. BelTA learnt from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, the Belarusian delegation is taking part in the Vienna session as an observer.

    Alexander Sychev remarked, the problems are of global importance, as energy issues are vigorously discussed within the framework of other international organisations and at various forums. The Belarusian diplomat called upon UNIDO and member-states to take an active part in the debates.

    The Republic of Belarus is satisfied with actions taken by the UNIDO administration to establish and reinforce partnership with organisations and institutions involved in supporting development processes such as the UN Development Organisation, the World Trade Organisation, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Environmental Programme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the International Atomic Energy Agency. UNIDO is an important member of the UN family and only joint efforts can secure the accomplishment of the global agenda in the field of development, stressed Alexander Sychev.

    The Belarusian delegation spoke in positive terms about UNIDO’s efforts in 2007 in three major avenues, namely fight against poverty, assistance with creating trade potentials, environment and power engineering. “We are satisfied with the improvement of the Organisation’s financial status and UNIDO’s record high resources — $117 million provided as part of technical aid in 2007. We hope if the tendency continues, the goal set by the Director General at $150 million in technical aid per annum will be achieved by 2010,” said the Belarusian diplomat.

    As far as energy issues are concerned, Belarus welcomed efforts of the Organisation’s leadership meant to extend access to resources of the Global Environment Facility. Though some positive results have been achieved, Belarus urges to continue the dialogue with a view to informing the Facility about UNIDO’s comparative advantages in such fields as climate change and power engineering.

    Alexander Sychev underscored, Belarus is pleased with efforts exercised by the UNIDO leadership to enact administrative changes in the Organisation’s Secretariat, in particular, re-organisation of units, rotation of executives, better planning, introduction of international standards in the state sector. The Belarusian side praised awareness and propaganda efforts of UNIDO.

    The session will consider a set of issues UNIDO deals with: assistance with creating and reinforcing the industrial potential of member-states, fight against poverty, environment improvement, improvement of energy effectiveness, contribution to the resolution of the global food crisis.

    Apart from that, the Belarusian delegation is expected to meet with UNIDO Director General Kandeh Yumkella to discuss Belarus’ initiative to hold topical debates during the UN General Assembly as well as issues regarding programme activities of the Organisation in the Republic of Belarus.

    Russia’s Duma committee recommends speeding up ratification of Belarus-Russia agreements

    From: BelTA
    The committee for the CIS affairs and ties with compatriots of the State Duma of Russia has recommended speeding up the ratification of several Belarus-Russia agreements. The decision was taken during an on-site session of the committee in Smolensk on May 16, BelTA was told in the press service of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament.

    For example, the committee has recommended speeding up the ratification of the agreement on ensuring equal rights of citizens of Belarus and Russia for the freedom of movement, the choice of the place of stay and residence on the territory of the states-members of the Union State and also an intergovernmental protocol on the principles of levying indirect taxes in export of goods and services.

    The committee also intends to suggest that the State Duma should consider the issue related to the ratification of the Belarusian-Russian agreement on cooperation in energy field at a plenary session on May 23.

    Russian State Duma urges to increase Belarus-Russia Union State’s budget for 2009

    Russian State Duma’s Committee for CIS Affairs and Ties with Compatriots will urge to increase Belarus-Russia Union State’s budget for 2009, head of the committee Alexei Ostrovsky told a session in Smolensk on May 16, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Lower House of the Russian Parliament.

    According to the parliamentarian, there is a need to increase the budget because of an increase in number of requests for new Belarus-Russia Union State’s programmes and successful implementation of the existing ones.

    The head of Duma’s committee also noted that at present practically all the Russian regions successfully cooperate with Belarus. “We consider the cooperation between the Russian regions and Belarus as an integral part of the economic life of Russia and we are convinced that the strengthening of the integration processes within the framework of the CIS is connected with the development of this cooperation,” Alexei Ostrovsky highlighted.

  • Economics...

    National Bank: refinancing rate will be reduced if monthly inflation is under 1%

    From: BelTA
    The National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) is ready to reduce the refinancing rate in case the inflation does not exceed 1% per month, Chairman of the Board of the National Bank Piotr Prokopovich told reporters on May 15.

    According to him, the refinancing rate will remain the same in May. “We will revisit this issue later,” Piotr Prokopovich said. He did not rule out the refinancing rate could be increased in case the inflation exceeds 1% a month.

    At the same time Piotr Prokopovich expressed hope that by the end of the year the Bank would be able to reach pre-set refinancing rate of 9% p.a.

    NBRB: inflation in Belarus at 6.5-7.5% in H1 2008

    In H1 2008 inflation in Belarus may total 6.5-7.5%, Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich told media in Minsk on May 15.

    In January-April 2008 the inflation stood at 5.3% as against 2.8% in the same period of last year. In line with the Major Monetary Management Guidelines for 2008 inflation is supposed to make 6-8%.

    According to Piotr Prokopovich, the rapid inflation growth tendency is registered in many countries. In Belarus it is attributed mainly to external factors. “There are no monetary factors here,” underscored the official.

    Belarusian rouble expected to grow stronger

    In late 2008 the exchange rate of the Belarusian rouble against the US dollar may total Br2,100 per $1, Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich told media in Minsk on May 15.

    “There are reasons to believe that the Belarusian rouble exchange rate will stay stable till the end of the year. We expect it to gain 2.5% and total Br2,100 per one dollar at the end of the current year,” said Piotr Prokopovich.

    As of May 15 the exchange rate of the Belarusian rouble against the US dollar stood at Br2,137, 0.6% up since early this year.

    Belarus’ GDP 10.4% up in January-April

    In January-April 2008, Belarus’ GDP amounted to Br34.4 billion or up 10.4% from the same period 2007. In 2008, GDP is expected to increase by 8-9%, BelTA learned in the Ministry for Statistics and Analyze.

    The industry accounted for 31.4% of GDP, transport and communications 8%, trade and public catering 10.6%, construction sector 7.8%, agriculture 2.1%.

    Foreign capital share in Belarus’ banks stands at 14.65% in May

    As of May 1, foreign capital in the charter funds of the Belarusian banks increased from 9.8% to 14.65%, Chairman of the Board of the National Bank Piotr Prokopovich told reporters on May 15.

    Piotr Prokopovich informed that capital expansion of the Belarusian banks sees a high growth including by means of non-state resources.

    Besides, a set of large transactions on stock trading to foreign investors will be implemented in the near future. In this respect, the National Bank offers further increase of the foreign capital share in the charter funds of the Belarusian banks.

    Piotr Prokopovich considers appropriate cancellation of restrictions on the foreign capital presence in the aggregate charter fund of the Belarusian banks.

    According to the National Bank, as of May 1, 2008, the Belarusian banking system regulatory capital totaled Br6.9 trillion. This index is expected to reach r7.9 trillion by the end of the year.

    National Bank gold and forex reserves to reach $5.5 billion in July

    The National Bank of the Republic of Belarus plans to reach annual forecast parameters ($5.5 billion) in the volume of gold and forex reserves in July, Chairman of the Board of the National Bank Piotr Prokopovich told reporters on May 15.

    In January-April 2008, international reserve assets of Belarus in the national currency soared by $314 million, or 6.3%, up to $5306.7 million.

    By 2010, Belarus intends to increase international reserve assets up to $10 billion.

    Last year, gold and forex reserves jumped almost three times to reach $4992.7 million.

  • From the International Press...

    US tightens sanctions on Belarus petrochemical group

    From: AFP
    The United States imposed sanctions Thursday on three units of a Belarus petrochemical firm in the latest move to step up pressure on the country Washington calls the "last dictatorship in Europe."

    The US Treasury designated three companies linked to Belneftekhim Concern, the country's largest petrochemical firm, which Washington says is controlled by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.

    The new sanctions cover Lakokraska OAO, Polotsk Steklovolokno OAO, and the Belarusian Oil Trade House.

    Lakokraska is a subsidiary of Belneftekhim Concern and manufactures varnishes and paints, according to Treasury. Polotsk Steklovolokno OAO, also a subsidiary of Belneftekhim Concern, manufactures glass, silica fibers, and other related products.

    The Belarusian Oil Trade House is "an enterprise of Belneftekhim Concern and acts as a clearinghouse for financial, contractual, and web-based transactions on behalf of Belneftekhim Concern and its subsidiaries," a Treasury statement said.

    The actions are based on an executive order that authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury "to designate individuals or entities that are responsible for undermining, or have participated in actions that undermine, democratic processes or institutions in Belarus," according to the statement.

    The actions also may apply to firms or people linked to human rights abuses in Belarus or to senior officials or family members linked to corruption.

    The move freezes any assets of these entities that are within US jurisdiction and bans transactions by Americans with the entities.

    Belarus last month expelled 10 US diplomats amid an escalating diplomatic row over alleged human rights abuses.

    Washington imposed sanctions to put pressure on the country's authoritarian leadership to allow democratic freedoms and release political prisoners.

    Belarus says U.S. sanctions further damage ties and harm interests of ordinary citizens

    From: Reuters
    Belarus accused the United States on Friday of harming the interests of ordinary citizens by imposing new sanctions on the ex-Soviet state's industry in a row over human rights.

    The U.S. Treasury Department imposed punitive measures on Thursday on three Belarussian companies linked to state-run oil refiner Belneftekhim as part of efforts to intensify pressure on President Alexander Lukashenko over alleged rights abuses.

    Belarus has been subject to various sanctions for several years but is especially aggrieved at moves against Belneftekhim. The U.S. ambassador left Minsk last month at the urging of officials and 10 diplomats were expelled.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Popov, in a statement on the ministry's Web site, said: "Through its actions, the United States has shown beyond all doubt that its measures are aimed at ordinary Belarussian citizens and hit the interests of plants included on the list."

    Popov said the step was all the more striking after Lukashenko's "unambiguous" call this week for "a dialogue of equals and of mutual respect" with Washington.

    "The situation clearly shows just who is working in positive terms and who in negative terms," the statement said.

    The U.S. Treasury banned Americans from doing business with the companies identified as enterprises of Belneftekhim.

    It also sought to freeze any assets under U.S. jurisdiction held by the firms -- Lidskaya Lakokraska, a paint and varnish producer, Polotsk Steklovolokno, a glass and fiber plant, and Belarussian Oil Trade House, a clearing house for transactions.

    The sanctions seek to prevent Belneftekhim from using other corporate entities to skirt the sanctions.

    Lukashenko this week accused U.S. diplomats of applying pressure on Belarus and working to worsen relations.

    "If the Americans think they can build relations from a position of strength, then we don't need such diplomats or relations," he told Reuters in an interview.

    "If the United States wants to see us as an independent state and build relations on that basis ... the country is open to them."

    The head of Belarus's central bank, Pyotr Prokopovich, told Reuters the sanctions could persuade potential investors to reconsider their plans.

    The United States and European Union accuse Lukashenko of crushing fundamental rights by shutting down media outlets, holding political prisoners and rigging elections.

    Since 2006, Washington has barred entry to Lukashenko and other senior officials and blocked their personal assets. It added Belneftekhim, which has more than 50 separate petroleum and petrochemical businesses, to the blacklist in November.

    Russia: Moscow Pushes Ahead With Pipeline Bypassing Belarus

    From: RadioFreeEurope
    Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits the Baltic Sea port of Ust-Luga, which will serve as the terminal of the BPS-2 pipeline
    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says Russia is building a new oil pipeline that will bypass Belarus en route to Europe.

    Russian media quote Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as announcing on May 14 that the state pipeline monopoly Transneft has chosen the port of Ust-Luga, in Russia's northern Leningrad Oblast, as the terminal for the new pipeline.

    The idea for the Baltic Pipeline System-2 (BPS-2) was first floated in January 2007 following a bitter dispute with Belarus over oil-transit fees that briefly disrupted supplies to Europe.

    Once the pipeline is completed, Russia is unlikely to fully suspend oil transit through Belarus. But Yury Drakakhrust, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Belarus Service, says the new pipeline will severely dent Belarus's economy and bargaining power:

    "Russia will be able to maneuver transit, send some of its oil here, some of its oil there," Drakakhrust says. "So this undoubtedly undermines Belarus's economy. Many steps that Minsk has taken over the past year -- the feverish search for oil delivery partners in Venezuela, in Iraq, in Azerbaijan -- are attempts to compensate for this Russian blow, for this loss of monopoly status as a transit country."

    The pipeline certainly threatens to deprive Belarus of its current leverage vis-a-vis both Russia and Europe.

    Speaking in an interview with Reuters news agency earlier this week, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka used the energy card to press Europe to oppose a U.S.-led campaign to impose sanctions on the authoritarian regime in Minsk.

    "The United States wants the European Union to impose sanctions against Belarus," he said. "And now they want the Europeans to join in. ... You can if you wish. But don't forget that 50 percent of your oil and oil products and 30 percent of your gas passes through Belarus."

    Freeing Russia From Transit Fees

    The BPS-2 would be part of the Baltic Pipeline System, an existing pipeline that pumps oil from western Siberia to the Primorsk port on the Gulf of Finland. It would branch off the Druzhba pipeline near the Belarusian border and travel through the Russian regions of Bryansk, Pskov, and Leningrad before reaching Ust-Luga on the Gulf of Finland.

    Yevgeny Volk, who heads the Moscow branch of the U.S. Heritage Foundation, says the BPS-2 route also aims at freeing Russia from transit fees to Baltic countries:

    "The idea is to get rid of the independence on terminals located in the Baltic States," Volk says. "This is part of [Russia's] drive to ensure that the profits from the transportation and processing of Russian energy resources go to Russia and not to the Baltic States, which objectively received handsome profits from the transit of Russian deliveries through their territories."

    Putin said Transneft had examined six routes before opting for Ust-Luga, which it claims is the most environmentally friendly.

    Transneft reportedly estimates the cost of BPS-2's construction at around $3 billion.

    Belarus Authorities Order Satellite TV Provider to Drop Three Channels

    From: RedOrbit
    The Kosmos TV company stopped rebroadcasting three TV channels, 24DOK, Feniks-Art and NST, on 15 May. The official website of Kosmos TV reports that the broadcasts were stopped "for reasons not related to the company". "The marketing broadcasting of other TV channels will be carried out" instead of the aforementioned channels. The website features an official letter signed by the deputy head of the Minsk city executive committee, Mikhail Tsitsyankow. The letter says that the Minsk city executive committee revokes its broadcast permissions for the three channels. The letter contains a demand to inform the directorate for ideological work of the Minsk city executive committee on the implementation of the instruction.

    The ideology directorate of the Minsk city executive committee and the Kosmos TV company are declining to comment. According to unofficial reports, the reason for the ban was the broadcasting of "The Ordinary President" documentary by Belarusian director Yuryy Khashchavatski [scathingly critical of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka]. Apart from the 24DOK channel, this film, which is banned by the Belarusian authorities, was aired accidentally, due to a technical mistake, by the humour TV channel NST, which has a large viewership in Belarus.

    Commenting for the Belapan news agency, Khashchavatski described this situation as standard. "The 24DOK TV channel aired many of my films, not just 'The Ordinary President', but also 'Gods of the Hammer and Sickle' and 'Caucasus Prisoners'. I know that a similar situation occurred in Babruysk - they pulled the plug on 24DOK there because the channel broadcast my films," the director said.

  • From the Opposition...

    Milinkevich fined in Salihorsk

    From: Viasna
    On May 15th leader of the Movement for Freedom Aliaksandar Milinkevich was tried.

    Representatives of mass media were not allowed in the courtroom.

    Liudmila Hraznova reports, many people, including journalists, gathered near the court building in Salihorsk. However, no one was allowed in the courtroom. The police failed to explain the reasons for such a measure

    About 7 p.m. the judge announced the verdict: Aliaksandar Milinkevich, who was detained after the meeting with Salihorsk residents at a local market, was found guilty of violation of Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code and fined 20 basic units.

    Prohibited to drink water near Orthodox chapel

    14 May the leader of the For Freedom movement Alexander Milinkevich visited Smaliavichy and Lahoisk and met with the local citizens. During his visit to Lahoisk the politician got a notice for an attempt to drink water from a well near an orthodox chapel.

    Militia warned Alexander Milinkevich his actions were unauthorized event.

    Milinkevich’s driver was suspended his driving license for wrong parking, the press service of the politician informs. The leader of the movement had to get to the place of meeting with Lahoisk dwellers hitchhiking. ‘I think such actions of militia were connected with the fact that a large number of recreation center for high-ranked officials are situated here, so the police are afraid of such meetings,’ Aliaksei Kavalets, member of the For Freedom movement, explained the incidents in Lahoisk.

    Alexander Milinkevich went to Smaliavichy the same day, where he visited a new policlinic and met with a couch of the local grass hockey club Victoria. In Smalyavichy the police didn’t hinder the oppositional politician to have meetings.

    Jonathan Moore: “Situation we observe in Belarus recently is unprecedented”

    From: Charter '97
    Charge d'Affaires of the United States of America in Belarus Jonathan Moore has taken part in an on-line press-conference at the website of “Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus” newspaper. He has commented sanctions imposed by the US against the Belarusian regime. We offer extracts from the conference:

    - Please tell us are new enterprises linked to Belneftekhim on the list of sanctions mean expanding of sanctions or just clarification?

    - In March 2008 the US Treasury published clarification of sanctions against Belneftekhim imposed in November last year. This specification said that affiliated companies mostly controlled by Belneftekhim are falling under the sanctions as well. As far as I understand the companies named yesterday fall within the clarification published in March.

    - Do companied in Belarus work with American capital? How many of them do? How would they be affected by the conflict?

    - There are a number of companies in Belarus that work with the US capital. They are certainly purely private and are not connected to the US government in any way. We do not have statistics about their exact number. As far as I know, these companies continue to work in Belarus, and recent events haven’t affected their business in any way.

    - Do you feel negative attitude towards the US citizens while working in Belarus? How it could be noticed?

    - I and my family have noticed a great hospitality of Belarusians. Certainly, sometimes attitude of some representatives of the establishment, and in particular, of the state TV, who can make negative comments about us, is disappointing. But as a representative of my country, we know that we are doing our duty.

    - Have there been occurrences in the US history when a US Embassy was closed in any country?

    - Yes, there have been a few occasions over the history. Embassies are surely closed during military activities. Embassies are closed for political reasons not often. One of such examples is Cuba, where the US Embassy was closed in 1960, and the US diplomats hadn’t returned there for 17 years. The situation we are observing in Belarus recently is unprecedented.

    - Why the US and the EU shut their eyes to the totalitarian regime in the centre of Europe? Are you waiting for the moment when Lukashenka will get nuclear weapons?

    The US pays great attention to the events in Belarus. Some people believe that we pay too much attention to Belarus. However I would like to say that Belarus is a very important country and we would like to see Belarus a sovereign and independent state. Being a free democratic country with market economy, Belarus could play a significant role in Europe.

    Russia's policy regarding Belarus will not change, ambassador says

    From: Naveny
    Russia's policy regarding Belarus will not change under Dmitry Medvedev's rule, Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Surikov told reporters while on a visit to the Homyel region on Friday.

    "Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in his address to the nation that an objective process of the Union State formation was taking place. We hope that the objectivity will bring us to the final result," Mr. Surikov said.

    When asked about Belarus' chance of exploring oil fields in Russia, the ambassador said that the only problem was money. He said that exploration rights were "extremely expensive" and it was hard for companies under Belarusian petrochemical conglomerate Belnaftakhim to pay "such sums."

    While in Homyel, Mr. Surikov met with top officials of the Homyel Regional Executive Committee to discuss the development of economic, cultural and social ties between the two countries.

    He visited the Slavic Library, the War Glory Museum and met with students and professors of Francisak Skaryna Homyel State University.

  • Around the region...

    A Voice of Mother Russia, in English

    From: New York Times
    JUDGING from the news lately, Russia is well on its way to restoring that old Evil Empire image. Military parades have returned to Red Square. Key businesses are choked by corruption or are under state control. Journalists who probe too deeply turn up dead. And critics of the Kremlin are jailed, pushed out of elections or, in one instance, mysteriously poisoned.

    But on Russia Today, an English-language news channel begun in 2005 and financed by the Russian government, a more generous picture emerges. In this Russia, corruption is not quite a scourge but a symptom of a developing economy. And concerns about street thugs, poverty and Ukraine’s aspirations for European Union membership trump fears over Vladimir V. Putin’s grip on power.

    This Moscow-based channel’s view of Russia is available to 120 million television viewers worldwide. That includes 20 million in the United States since last summer, when Russia Today was added to Time Warner Cable’s digital package in the New York City region.

    The Russian government has already poured more than $100 million into Russia Today, prompting charges that Kremlin sponsorship affects its coverage. Andrei N. Illarionov, a former adviser to Mr. Putin and now one of his critics, last year called the channel Russia’s “best propaganda machine for the outside world.” The station is part of the state-owned news conglomerate RIA Novosti, and news organizations routinely refer to it as “state-run,” including The New York Times, which has said it was created to promote “pro-Kremlin views.”

    Although it was conceived to counter what it sees as a Western news bias against Russia, the channel bills itself as “an autonomous nonprofit organization,” and its executives say they do not take orders from the Kremlin.

    “I’m a bit tired to try to explain that we are independent, that I don’t get calls from the government — I do not,” said Margarita Simonyan, Russia Today’s editor in chief. “We want to develop into a really trusted name that people turn to because they want to know what’s going on in the country.”

    Ms. Simonyan herself has been a focus of the channel’s critics. Andrei Richter, the director of the Moscow Media Law and Policy Institute and a journalism professor at Moscow State University, said the editor, a 28-year-old former pool reporter for the Kremlin, was appointed because she is well-connected.

    Ms. Simonyan acknowledged she once received flowers on her birthday from Mr. Putin, who stepped down this month but will retain power as the country’s prime minister. Still, she said, her age often leads people to make assumptions about how she got her job.

    “I realize that it’s quite remarkable for someone who doesn’t live in Russia,” Ms. Simonyan said, adding that after the fall of the Soviet Union a new crop of young journalists was hired. “I started my career when I was 18.”

    With a slick studio and polished graphics, Russia Today looks like most cable news channels. But there are a few differences. Technical problems plague live telecasts. While all the Russian reporters speak English, some have thick accents. And many staff members are as young as their editor. That youthfulness is reflected in many of the segments, like the campy “Technology Update”; in one episode a reporter rolled around in a simulated skirmish with Russian special forces, testing out anti-sniper gadgetry to the tune of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”

    The channel has also reported on serious news events. In November, as water cannons struck anti-government demonstrators in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, the Russia Today correspondent Katerina Azarova was reporting so close to the protests that she was poisoned by tear gas. Watching the channel’s round-the-clock coverage of the unrest in Tbilisi felt like peeking into a foreign newscast — without needing to know a foreign language.

    Despite such ambitions, several former Russia Today journalists said that working for a channel financed by the Kremlin made it difficult to cover news about Russia impartially. “You are understandably walking a very fine line of being full and frank and biting the hand that feeds,” said Carson Scott, a former business news presenter who is now with Sky News Business Channel in Australia. “I had countless heated editorial debates with my editor, frankly speaking. I was very vocal. ‘We have to give the other side of the argument. We have to be balanced.’ And oftentimes eyes just glazed over.”

    But several of Russia Today’s journalists said they were earnestly trying to tell Russia’s story. “No one is telling me what to say,” said Peter Lavelle, the effusive host of “In Context.” Nevertheless, he said, the channel does take certain views. “Part of our mission is public relations,” he added.

    Some of the channel’s specials seek to expose and correct Western biases about Russia. An episode of “Cracking the Myths” about Russia’s economy opens with Jay Leno-style street interviews with Americans, who guess that most Russians subsist on penny-a-day incomes or wait in line for hours to get bread. The show then offers scenes of Russian prosperity, like a shopping mall brimming with members of the expanding middle class.

    Mr. Richter said that this tendency to shape opinions reveals one of the channel’s flaws. “The idea of Russia Today is that our country is in a very hostile media environment,” he said. “The idea is very rotten because if you believe you’re in a hostile environment, you want to persuade others that what they think is not true.”

    The concept of state-sponsored news aimed to viewers abroad is not new. During the cold war Western-financed radio stations like Voice of America, which began broadcasting in Russian in 1947, existed in part to counter Soviet spin. Russia Today has inverted the recipe, broadcasting in English from Russia in the hopes of improving Russia’s increasingly ominous image in the West. And it is but the first in what has become a veritable parade of state-financed anglophone news channels.

    Since Russia Today’s debut Iran (Press TV), China (CCTV-9), France (France 24) and Qatar (Al Jazeera English) have created their own English news networks. Al Jazeera’s English spinoff is clearly the leader of this pack, drawing on the credibility of its Arabic-language counterpart and the deep pockets of the emir of Qatar.

    Ben O’Loughlin, an international relations professor at the University of London’s Royal Holloway campus, studies the emergence of state-financed news channels jockeying to have a voice in what he calls “the anglosphere.”

    “The journalists at Russia Today probably don’t see themselves as political pawns,” Mr. O’Loughlin said. “They might say their goal isn’t objectivity, it’s balance — having both sides. If we’re interested in a pluralistic global media, then in many respects this could be a good thing, but that’s very provisional.”

    For at least one viewer the question of the channel’s independence is irrelevant. Alexandr Polin, a Manhattan event planner who left St. Petersburg in 1991, said he considered it propaganda, but not in the Soviet style. “I watched a documentary yesterday about AIDS,” he said. “In Soviet times they would never say that people were sick somewhere.”

    Mr. Polin said that Western news coverage often eclipsed the good things happening back home: “It’s not only Mafia, Red Square, vodka and prostitutes.”

    Ukraine leader bars chemical selloff for third time

    From: Guardian
    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, at odds for months with his prime minister, has barred for a third time the government's bid to privatise a leading chemical plant, the Odessa Port plant.

    A presidential decree issued late on Friday, after a meeting of Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council, ordered a stop to the government's scheduled May 20 selloff of the plant.

    But Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko ignored Yushchenko and said the privatisation would go ahead.

    The plant near the Black Sea port of Odessa has been one of the flashpoints of confrontations pitting Yushchenko against Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko -- his on again-off again ally from the 2004 "Orange Revolution" that swept him to power.

    The president had twice before halted the sale on grounds that the plant is of strategic importance.

    He also said the sale must not include an adjoining pipeline and export terminal, saying any buyer would secure control over it and could exclude other producers.
    Tymoshenko told an investment conference held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development: "We will conduct the fairest privatisation in 17 years on Tuesday."

    Ukraine's privatisation agency, the State Property Fund, this week said three companies - Yevrokhim from Russia, Nortima from Ukraine and Nitrofert from Estonia had completed applications to take part in the auction.
    The government has set a starting price of almost $600 million for the fertiliser producer.

    The State Property Fund has been another focal point of rows between the president and his premier. The government dismissed the Fund's head, who opposed the Odessa sale, and installed its own chairman, but the president over-ruled the move.

    Under a new law on the cabinet passed by parliament on Friday -- restoring some of the president's powers lost since he took office -- decisions adopted by the National Security and Defence Council are binding on the government.

    Canada-Russia final a hockey lover's dream

    We may not ever see a better battle than tough Canadians vs. speedy Russians

    "It goes down to trusting everybody," said 11-goal man Dany Heatley, who scored again Friday. "Whatever situation in the game, we feel whatever line is on the ice is going to get it done. Score a goal, kill a penalty, make a save. We trust each other."

    Canadians shouldn't feel reluctant to put their trust in this group. They are an impressive offensive lot with a keen sense of timing. This is their moment. This is their building. And Russia will try to take it away from them, just as Sweden tried on Friday.

    "When you're playing country versus country, nobody gives up," said head coach Ken Hitchcock. "They didn't give up. For whatever reason, we really respond. When we get pushed we really respond. We've been able to find another gear."

    A lot of credit for that has gone to the Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, Heatley trio, and rightfully so. They scored three times Friday, securing their legacy in this tournament's lore. Shane Doan has watched them from the bench with glee.

    "Just purely as a hockey fan, you've got to love watching them. They score highlight-reel goals every game. Getzlaf's goal was phenomenal. Nash, the way he gets to the net is impressive. It's been a lot of fun, purely as a fan, watching the goals those guys scored."

    There will be 13,000 fans watching at Le Colisee Sunday and hundreds of thousands more across the country, compelled by the lure of Canada versus Russia for hockey supremacy.

    "There's a lot of history behind it," said Nash.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Polish companies two times more corrupt

    From: The News
    According to Ernst&Young, the level of corruption in Polish companies is twice as high as in Western European countries.

    A report by the consulting company stresses that Polish companies see corruption as a less important problem than companies from fully developed countries.

    One in five companies in Poland came in contact with corruption, but only 16 percent of companies sees it as a serious threat for business.

    In Western Europe, 25 percent of companies think corruption it as a serious problem.

    As many as 12 percent of Polish companies claim that they lost contractors because the competition bribed them; 8 percent of companies in Western Europe expressed the same opinion and 17 percent of companies from developing countries (such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Russia).

    One in four companies said that the level of detecting bribery in Poland has not changed during the last five years, but 54 percent of are convinced of the effectiveness of the police.

    The research was conducted from 28 November 2007 to 15 February 2008; 1,186 representatives of management of the biggest corporations in 33 countries took part.

    Polish Justice Minister Defends Search of Homes of Vetting Commission Members

    From: Red Orbit
    Justice Minister Zbigniew Cwiakalski said here Wednesday that the Tuesday [13 May] search of homes belonging to two members of the WSI (Military Information Services) vetting commission was part of an investigation against four people. The investigation had been commissioned by the prosecutor's office. ABW [Internal Security Agency] officers followed orders, Cwiakalski added.

    Piotr Baczek and another one of the four people whose homes were searched Tuesday by ABW internal security agency were members of the WSI vetting commission, set up at the initiative of former deputy defence minister Antoni Macierewicz.

    PiS [opposition Law and Justice] MPs aboard the Sejm special commission for political pressure, Jacek Kurski and Arkadiusz Mularczyk, said they feared their homes may also be searched as Baczek was Kurski's aide.

    According to [ruling] Civic Platform PO such allegations are groundless.

    The head of the Sejm committee for special services, Janusz Zemke (Left), said there were no irregularities in ABW Tuesday's search.

    Prosecutor Robert Majewski of the Warsaw bureau for organized crime said Wednesday his office motioned for arresting Wojciech S. and Aleksander L. suspected of taking bribes while screening WSI officers.

    Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said the treatment of journalists during the search of Baczek's home was an "utter scandal".

    The Polish Journalists' Association appealed to the Ombudsman for demanding explanation to "scandalous" behaviour of ABW officers vis- a-vis journalists. Polish TV reporters filming the search of Baczek's home were deprived of their cameras on grounds of shooting illegal footage.

    No important achievements by government, says poll

    From: The News
    The vast majority of Poles cannot name a single important achievement accomplished by Tusk’s government, a poll reveals.

    As many as 79 pr cent of respondents of an opinion poll by pollster TNS OBOP believe the current government has not done anything significant since the election last autumn.

    Four per cent said the image of Poland has improved recently, three per cent pointed to some improvement in the relations between Warsaw and Moscow, and the same percentage thought that the abolition of the radio and TV licence fees would be a major achievement. Two per cent are impressed at the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, writes Puls Biznesu.

    Respondents were also asked to compare the current and former cabinets in respect of their effectiveness.

    According to 30 per cent, the current government is doing well combating corruption, while 25 per cent say the opposite. In the opinion of 28 per cent of Poles, the construction of new roads in Poland has accelerated and 21 per cent are of a contrary opinion.

    Forty three per cent could not see any difference between the current Civic Platform and the former Law and Justice governments in terms of their effectiveness.

    Twenty four per cent responded that the current cabinet was less efficient in terms of the preparations for Euro 2008, while 21 per cent thought the same about the former government.

    The opinion poll was conducted for TVP SA on a group of 1000 people over 15 years of age, on May 8-12.

    Potty Polish PM admits he ‘did inhale’

    From: The Beatroot
    In an interview with the Polish version of Newsweek, Prime Minister Donald Tusk admits that in the 1980s he toked on a few spliffs. Cue predictable outrage from some opposition MPs.

    In a long interview that delves into the past of Donald Tusk - which will be soon released as a small book - the prime minister talks about his time as a Solidarity activist and some of his experiences when he was banned by the communists from getting normal work.

    Forced to take casual jobs as a painter and decorator and other manual work, he admits that he spent much of the time drinking cheap wine and on occasion smoking marijuana.

    But the similarities with tales from that old perve Willy Clinton end when Tusk admits that he did inhale.

    MPs from his own Civic Platform, like Julia Pitera, have praised Tusk for his honesty, for ‘breaking the conspiracy of silence’ about the issue of drug taking by politicians in their youth and that the statement ‘inspires trust’ among the electorate.

    Predictably, however, members of the conservative Law and Justice party have jumped on the revelation in an attempt to gain a few points.

    The outraged MP Beata Kempa said she wants a ‘sober and drug-free PM’ because senior politicians must have a spotless reputation. Kempa said that smoking wacky backy leads to ‘pathologies’ and causes ‘changes to the brain’ with symptoms such as failing memory things this’t quite remember.

    But looking closer at Tusk, with his red tinged hair - and if you had smoked enough - then he could have a passing resemblance to a Camberwell Carrot.

  • Sport...

    Belarus places 9th at IIHF World Championships

    From: BelTA
    The national ice hockey team of Belarus placed 9th at the IIHF World Championship in Canada and hopes to qualify for the Olympic Games 2010 in Vancouver. Belarus’ Olympic chances now depend on Norway’s performance in Canada.

    Having lost to Germany 5:3 Latvia placed 11th at the World Championship. With 2,845 points Germany and Latvia now share 10-11 positions in the IIHF rating. Belarus has scored 2,845 points and is in 9th position which allows it to get into the 2010 Olympics without qualifying. In theory Belarus’ Olympic chances can be erased by Norway which is now at in 14th position with 1,735 points.

    Unfortunately, Belarus could not win the last game in Canada against Denmark having spoilt the good impression it made in the previous two matches against Russia and the Czech Republic losing to the hockey elite nations in shootouts.

    Belarus lost to Denmark 2:3 in the overtime. The goals were scored by Aleksei Ugarov (56th minute) and Dmitry Meleshko (58th) and Kim Staal (24th) and Peter Regin (60th). As a result the game went into sudden death. In contrast to the shootouts in the previous two matches, this time the game for Belarus was over after 2:11 of the overtime when Peter Regin slipped his wraparound past Vitali Koval to win the game 3-2.

    For the defeat in the overtime Belarus scored just one point. Though it was enough to stay ahead of Denmark in the Group E ranking. Russia defeated Switzerland 5:3 to lead the Group ranking with 13 points. Then goes the Czech Republic, Sweden and Switzerland with 9 points; Belarus has 3 points, Denmark 2. The quarterfinal matches will feature Russia vs Switzerland, the Czech Republic vs Sweden. The Group F quarterfinals will feature Canada vs Norway and Finland vs USA.

    BelTA launches new sports website

    BelTA’s new website will cover Belarusian and international sports news, the activity of the sports agencies and organisations and National Olympic Committee of Belarus and the history about the national sports movement.

    BelTA plans to cover the June European Football Championship 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, summer Olympic Games in Beijing, performances of the national football team of Belarus in the qualifying of the world championship 2010 and Minsk Dynamo club in the continental ice hockey league.

    BelTA sports website will follow all major international events in which Belarusian athletes will take part. The website will also publish the information about healthy lifestyle, holiday spots in Belarus and also interesting titbits about the life of sports celebrities.

    Minsk international marathon to reappear on IAAF calendar

    This year the Minsk international marathon will be re-included in the calendar of the International Association of Athletics Federations, the chief of the department for physical culture of the Ministry of Sport and Tourism, Pavel Nepriakhin, told a press conference in Minsk.

    According to him, the traditional Minsk marathon will become an important part of the plan of action to celebrate the Year of Health declared in Belarus. The steps have been taken to enhance the status of the Minsk marathon and bring it back on the international calendar. The event will take place on the Day of the City in September, BelTA was told in the Belarusian athletics federation.

    The list of large-scale events of the Year of Health includes national races and a cycling race. Participants will start the race from almost all regional centres of Belarus to meet in Oktyabrskaya Square in Minsk.

    The plan of action also features traditional annual tournaments for children and teenagers of the Union State. The football festival “Leather Ball” will be held in Minsk while sports festival of school students will take place in Kazan.

  • Cultural scene...

    Drumandbass Obsession

    From: Minsk Blog
    17 мая (суббота), 23:00 — 06:00
    Клуб Step (Притыцкого 62, ст. м. Кунцевщина)

    DJ Butterfly
    (Воронеж, Россия)

    T-Trider & Max Faustus
    (drumandbass + скрипка)

    Sidewalk b2b iO

    23000 (в день мероприятия)

    Инфолиния и билеты:
    +375 29 6385796 (Velcom),
    +375 33 6343740 (МТС)

    Организатор: electrokids

    Внимание! На мероприятие допускаются лица, достигшие 18 лет.
    При себе необходимо иметь документ, подтверждающий возраст.

    DJ Butterfly
    (Воронеж, Россия)

    Мария увлеклась ди-джеингом в 2003 году, начав свою карьеру как psytrance ди-джей. Спустя некоторое время она начала разбавлять свои сеты breakbeat-ом и участвовать в breaks и drumandbass вечеринках, на одной из которых 12 марта 2004 года отыграла свой первый drumandbass-сет. После этого Мария поняла, что нашла себя в этой музыке и полностью погрузилась в ломаный ритм dnb. На этом этапе большое влияние на нее оказало творчество Noisia, Phace, Black Sun Empire, Corrupt Souls, Kemal, Konflict, Stakka & Skynet и TeeBee. Долгое время ее сеты полностью состояли из neurofunk-а, но позже стали все чаще проскакивать техноидные треки, а к 2007 году technoid стал преобладать.

    За время жизни с drum’n’bass музыкой Мария успела отыграть почти на всех вечеринках Mechanoid promo в Воронеже, а также на мероприятиях других организаторов в Москве, Орле, Белгороде, Пензе, Тамбове, Днепропетровске и Запорожье. На данный момент любимыми продюсерами являются Prode, Masheen, Sunchase, Illuminati, Desimal и The Sect. Выступала на одной сцене с Prode, Sunchase, Illuminati, Paul B, Implex, Dissident, Subwave, Nphonix, Flame, Walder, Mindscape, Identity, Noisia, Raiden, Vengeanze.

  • Endnote...

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

    From: Viasna
    In April the trials on several politically motivated cases were conducted in Belarus. As a result the country has 12 new political convicts, two of whom have been sentenced to imprisonment. Despite the addresses of the international structures, the European countries and the US to the Belarusian authorities, politically motivated criminal persecution in Belarus is still going on. The repressions continue and acquire new forms. Now all mass actions are shot on video by police and KGB officers. Then these video recordings are used as evidence in criminal and administrative cases against activists.
    29 April in Minsk the press conference Evaluation of the contemporary situation of human rights in Belarus and the presentation of the yearly Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus took place. The press conference was attended by well-known Belarusian human rights activists, representatives of the Czech Embassy and the OSCE mission and victims of political repressions. Summing up the results of year 2007, the deputy president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) Ales Bialiatski pointed that the restriction of public and political rights in our country is a logical result of the development of totalitarian regime, for which human rights are a hostile thing, incompatible with its existence. The situation continues deteriorating – more and more people become political prisoners and victims of different kinds of repressions. Despite the recent refusal in state registration, human rights activists are not going to stop their activities even under the threat of criminal persecution and will try to legalize their work.

    26 April a traditional Chernobyl Way action dedicated to an anniversary of Chernobyl accident was held. This year one of the aims of the action was also to protest against the liquidation of social guarantees to victims and liquidators of Chernobyl accident, and the state plans to construct a new nuclear power station. Minsk city executive committee satisfied the application for the rally, but changed the route. Besides, on 24 April four organizers of the action were summonsed to Minsk city prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor Mikalai Kulik held a prophylactic talk with them and warned that he was ready to bring criminal cases in the case of law violations during the action. On the eve of the action KGB confiscated all leaflets and stickers with invitations to the action, which were produced by the BPF, the United Democratic Forces and the For Freedom movement. Everything was confiscated during transportation to the offices. All ‘suspicious’ offices were searched and several printing houses which were suspected in printing of leaflets were sealed on the eve of the rally. As usual, some of the regional activists were warned by the police about the inadmissibility of participation in unauthorized mass actions. Those who dared to go to Minsk were detained or put off the vehicles. Nevertheless, Chernobyl Way ended without any incidents and provocation, but the number of participants was much less than the previous year.

    In April the escalation of the Belarusian-American relations led to a diplomatic scandal. The crisis started yet in March, after the Ministry of Finances of the US published at its web-site the official explanations of the reasons for sanctions against the Belarusian concern Naftakhim. 7 March the Ambassador of Belarus in the US was recalled for consultations and 12 March the US Ambassador Karen Stuart had to leave Belarus on the demand of the Belarusian side. Then the US Embassy in Minsk was advised to decrease the number of its staff to 15 officers. As a result on 27 March 17 American diplomats left the Belarusian capital, which caused a temporary irregularity in the issue of visas. 30 March the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus presented to Jonathan Moore, temporary charg? d'affaires of the US in Belarus, a document by which ten of the remaining American diplomats were declared personae non-grata and had 72 hours to leave the country in conformity with the Vienna convention. Mr. Moore officially stated that he considered such actions of the official Minsk unjustified, groundless and illegitimate. He said that the economical sanctions against Belarus will be extended and the US will continue demanding the release of all political prisoners in Belarus.

    7 April the EU Council on transport, telecommunications and energy extended for another year the sanctions towards a number of high-rank Belarusian officials. According to the press service of the EU Council, the sanctions can be reviewed any moment and the list of concerned persons can be either extended or shortened. At present the list includes 41 officials. All of them are banned entrance to the EU and their European financial accounts are frozen. The only reason for review of the sanctions can be complete and unconditional release of all political prisoners and holding of free, fair and democratic election in autumn 2008.