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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Special 6th Anniversary Edition of the Being Had Times...

  • From the Top...
  • #307

    President gives interview to Reuters news agency: Belarus cannot accept policy of force and sanctions

    From: Office of the president
    On 13 May the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, gave an interview to one of the biggest international news agencies, Reuters.

    The President already had an interview with Reuters slightly more than a year ago. Today’s meeting focused on the changes that had taken place in domestic and foreign life of Belarus over that period, on the reasons behind Belarus’ growing popularity among foreign investors and on the country’s development prospects for the upcoming years.

    The President shared with Reuters his vision for further integration with the Russian Federation, and Belarus-Russia relationship given recent changes in the Russian leadership.

    Discussed was also the subject of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Belarus, participation of policy-makers representing the opposition, and Alexander Lukashenko’s possible intention to run for presidency once more.

    Speaking of the ways to improve the relations between Belarus and the EU, Alexander Lukashenko said: “This question should be addressed to the European Union rather than to me. We are prepared to take any way with you in order to improve our relations. There is only one condition: you should treat us as partners, you should treat us as a sovereign and independent state. These are the positions on which we are ready to build up our relations with you in any area.”

    As for the relationship with the US, the President of Belarus said: “Belarus is speeding up absolutely no processes, including deterioration of relations with the Americans. If the Americans have in mind to proceed from the position of force and sanctions in our relations, than we do not need this kind of diplomats and this kind of relations. If the Americans are willing to treat us as an independent sovereign state and build up the relationship based on these principles, we are willing to open our hearts and our country for them. But the Americans should understand that we are an independent sovereign state. And we will not let the Americans act here as they please.”

    “ No need to intimidate us by sanctions , we will survive . We do not have such an amount of US capital in Belarus which outflow from this country could destroy our economy. On the whole our economy is not dependent on any particular state,” Alexander Lukashenko added.

    Alexander Lukashenko: agribusiness structure should be optimised

    The structure of agricultural companies should be optimised in the near future in Belarus, head of state Alexander Lukashenko issued the instruction as he visited the Nesvizh branch of a Minsk breeding company on May 12.

    “I have already given the instruction to order the structure of agriculture. There are as many complications here as in the education system. It is necessary to clear it up, to rule out intermediary links, to revise employee numbers,” stressed the head of state. He remarked, good specialists should work in provinces.

    The President also stressed, livestock breeding should be paid as much attention as the recovery of waste lands. “It should be taken into account that pedigree stock costs a lot on the international market. Developing livestock breeding has a great future. Which is why it is necessary to channel as much money as necessary into this area,” said Alexander Lukashenko. According to the President, Belarus-made quality genetic material can be exported.

    The President remarked, in Belarus rights of peasants and their interests should not be infringed in view of rising international prices for agricultural products. “Money earned by selling agricultural products should not sink in processing companies. First of all, peasants should get the money,” added the head of state. Alexander Lukashenko pointed out, as many bureaucratic hindrances as possible should be removed when agribusiness problems are dealt with.

    Touching upon the recovery of waste lands, the President said, intensive agricultural practices should be used. “With our manufacturing technologies we are supposed to get twice as much output as during the Soviet Union times thanks to intensive but not extensive business practices. In view of the rising world competition we have to start acting now. We have no other way out. We should be ahead,” underscored the head of state.

    The President also added, “Once there were many doubters when I decided to straighten out the agriculture, but today you can see the results”.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    President urges more efforts to develop Belovezhskaya Pushcha tourism infrastructure

    From: BelTA
    The National Park Belovezhskaya Pushcha should put more efforts in the development of its tourism infrastructure. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko set the relevant task during his visit to the State Nature Protection Institution "The National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha” on May 11, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service. The Belarusian head of state is currently on a working visit to the Belarusian regions.

    Belovezhskaya Pushcha is one of the biggest woodlands in Europe that has retained its primeval state. Its territory is divided by the Belarusian-Polish border. The Belarusian part of the National Park occupies over 150 thousand hectares. Now it is the symbol of Belarus and most visited park by foreign tourists.

    The average age of the plantation of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha is 83 years, while the plantation in Belarus in general is approximately 51 years old. You can find here 18 oldest trees in Europe.

    In 1992, it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site; in 1993 it was awarded the status of Biosphere Reserve.

    Due to the diversity of flora and fauna, Belovezhskaya Pushcha is a kind of laboratory, where Belarusian and foreign scientists have an opportunity to study natural processes, rare species of plants and animals and to conduct research.

    The Belarusian head of state was informed on the implementation of the previous commissions on the development of the National Park and ecotourism. The President learnt about the measures taken to preserve the fauna and surviving woods, the protection of the forests from insects. According to director general of the park Nikolai Bambiza, they managed to localize cambium beetles and to substantially decrease the area of the affected forests.

    The plantations of trees that were damaged by the storm several years ago are being actively restored.

    Alexander Lukashenko commissioned Nikolai Domashkevich, the chief of the Property Management Directorate of the President of Belarus, and the heads of the park to continue the work on putting the park in order.

    The head of state was also interested in the state of the artificial aquatic systems on the territory of the park. The Belarusian President underlined that the rivers and lakes of the park should be taken an exceptionally good care of.

    Alexander Lukashenko also visited the residence of the Belarusian Father Frost. This residence is open all the year round and has already hosted tens of thousands of children and adults. Here the Belarusian President got familiar with the preparation to the celebration of the 600th anniversary of the status of Belovezhskaya Pushcha as a reserve which will be marked in 2009. The organization committee of the celebration of this event is headed by Nikolai Domashkevich.

    The preparation plan stipulates for infrastructure development, construction of new objects, including ecological-educational centre, reconstruction of open-air cages for animals, road construction and repair. The investment in the park reconstruction is to near Br 70 billion.

    Alexander Lukashenko took a brief stroll round the park and talked to the tourists from Belarus, Russia and Germany.

    The President was happy with what he saw. Unlike many other countries, Belarus managed to preserve this primeval woodland.

    Belovezhskaya Pushcha has been demonstrating a stable growth of the major financial and economic showings. In particular, the revenues and a range of services provided by the park have been growing as well as the number of tourists: in 2001, the park was visited by 55.3 thousand people, in 2007 – 190 thousand people from 76 countries.

    The head of state underlined that tourist objects should be built more actively on the territory of the park.

    The President also touched upon the topic of the final resolution of the problems related to the purchase of agricultural products from population and their processing. “We should already consider the purchase of mushrooms, apples from population and if necessary buy additional processing equipment to produce domestically as much juice as possible”, the Belarusian head of state noted.

    Alexander Lukashenko commissioned the Belarusian producers' co-operative union and the government with the task to supervise the solution of these issues.

  • Economics...

    Korean businessmen to visit Belarus in late May

    From: BelTA
    A visit of a delegation of Korean businessmen to Belarus is organized by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, second secretary of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea to Belarus Kim So-hee told BelTA.

    According her, businessmen intend to get familiar with investment opportunities of Belarus, to hold negotiations with promising partners. “Despite the distance between the countries, we seek to develop trade and economic cooperation,” the diplomat said.

    In 2007, the trade between Belarus and Korea made up $143,668 million, 66% up over 2006. Exports increased more than twofold to exceed $18 million, imports were up 61.4% to $125,634 million.

    For the past three or five years Belarus’ major exports to South Korea have been integrated circuits, semiconductors, potassium, polyamides, artificial fibres, fibreglass and glass fabrics, black fiber, optic and measuring devices, steel products, bearings, medical equipment.

    Major exporters are research and production association Integral, Belarusian Potash Company, Polotsk-steklovolokno, Belarusian Steel Works, Svetlogorsk Khimvolokno, Grodno Khimvolokno, Laser and Information Technology and Eton companies.

    Korea’s major imports to Belarus are high technology goods. These are cars which direct sales in Belarus were launched in 2006, component parts for the electronic and electromechanical industries, raw materials for the chemical and light industries, synthetic and artificial fibres, X-ray and medical equipment, household appliances, computer and telecommunication equipment and spare parts.

    There is one Belarusian-South Korean joint venture in Belarus manufacturing small ware and footwear and two companies with 100% Korean capital.

    Representative offices in Minsk have been opened by LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics (electronic and household appliances), TM-Korea (purchase of bimetal plates and related products) and Delta Medical (steam sterilizers and other medical equipment).

    Saint Petersburg eager to buy more Belarusian food

    From: BelTA
    The Saint Petersburg government is interested in signing a long-term agreement on mutually beneficial trade cooperation with Belarus to define specific amounts of Belarusian food supplies to the northern capital of Russia. The statement was made by Nikolai Arkhipov, Deputy Chairman of the Economic Development, Industrial Policy, and Trade Committee of the Saint Petersburg government, during talks in Minsk on May 12. A delegation of Saint Petersburg business circles had arrived in the Belarusian capital to partake in the second session of the working party of the Belarus-Saint Petersburg Business Cooperation Council.

    According to Nikolai Arkhipov, it is necessary to switch to new schemes for supplying Belarusian foods to Saint Petersburg. It can be done through preliminarily negotiated figures, kind of quotas. It is also necessary to develop the distribution network, ensure the stability of prices and insistency in mutual deals. Most of all it is important to accelerate the creation of wholesale trade and logistics centres that would regulate food supplies.

    Nikolai Arkhipov also pointed out, despite considerable distances differences between Russian and Belarusian laws disallow minimising costs of food supplies.

    Belarusian foods enjoy demand not only in Saint Petersburg but the entire North Western District of Russia. So far Belarusian food supplies are timed to weekend fairs, exhibitions, small amounts are sold in the retail network. However, the supplies should be stable and independent of mediators if they are supposed to conquer a certain market niche. For example, the north-western Belarusian-Russian trading house sold $416,000 worth of products within a year, joint venture RossBelPolotskAro (founded by Polotsk bakery) sold $992,000 worth of products. All in all, in Q1 2008 companies accountable to the Agriculture and Food Ministry shipped $50.2 million worth of products to Saint Petersburg, 90% up on the same period of 2007.

    Saint Petersburg accounts for 13.2% of Belarus’ trade with the Russian Federation, including 14.8% of the export. In natural terms the export of dry skimmed milk increased by 160% up on January-March 2007, rye flour — 110%, butter — 90%, vegetables — 70%, pork — 50%, beef — 20%.

    Meanwhile, Deputy Agriculture and Food Minister of Belarus Mikhail Savelyev noted, Saint Petersburg companies reluctantly buy ready meat products and prefer buying raw meat. In Q1 2008 companies accountable to the Agriculture and Food Ministry exported only 21 tonnes of sausages and 58,000 conventional jars of tinned meat to Saint Petersburg. According to Mikhail Savelyev, Belarusian companies can supply Saint Petersburg trading companies with semi-finished products and pre-packaged meat products. Apart from that, companies of the Agriculture and Food Ministry are ready to ensure stable supplies of potatoes and vegetables to Saint Petersburg.

    Olivaria’s beer production to jump 30% in June

    From: BelTA
    In June 2008, Belarusian brewery Olivaria will increase beer production by almost 30% by means of introducing two new cylinder-conic tanks and a set of other events on production modernization, BelTA learnt from the company.

    Two new cylinder-conic tanks of the Danish company HOLVRIEKA have already been delivered to the plant. The major reconstruction works are held in April-May 2008. They will cover cooking and filter sections and beer cooling capacities. The modernization is funded by Baltic Beverages Holding (BBH) that is to put in Olivaria $6 million this year.

    The company will also extend the production line-up. The company has developed a new sort of beer Alivaria on-ICE. This year the company hopes for a considerable upturn in sales. In January-April 2008, Olivaria sold 1,728 million decalitres of beer, 67% up on the same period of last year. According to the specialists, the sales almost meet the production volume.

    The company has launched a prudent export policy. If earlier the deliveries to the foreign markets had been irregular and in small assignments, then in January-April 2008 the company has already exported nearly 8,000 decalitres of beer to Russia. The geography of deliveries to the Russian Federation consistently extends its format. All in all, in 2008 Olivaria plans to export about 30,000 decalitres of beer to the Russian Federation. The company is set to establish deliveries to other CIS countries as well.

    Founded in 1864, Olivaria Brewery is the oldest brewery in Belarus. In 2007, Olivaria produced 4.509 million decalitres, 12.3% up on 2006. Last year’s market share of 12.7% secured the company’s third position in Belarus after the companies Krinitsa (40.9%) and Syabar (15.7%). At present Olivaria Brewery’s product choice includes such beer brands as Extra, Zolotoye, Desyatka, Krepkoye, Troitskoye, Bezalkoholnoye, premium beer Data 1864, and others. Olivaria beer has won over 20 gold, silver and bronze medals at prestigious international exhibitions and tasting.
  • Note: For more about Alivaria Beer, click "HERE"

  • From the International Press...

    INTERVIEW-Belarus president wants opposition in parliament

    From: Reuters
    President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday he hoped a parliamentary election in September would deliver some seats to the opposition to disarm Western criticism of human rights in former Soviet Belarus.

    In an interview with Reuters, Lukashenko warned the European Union against joining the United States in imposing economic sanctions and reminded the bloc that Belarus was a transit country for Russian oil and gas exports to Europe.

    The United States and European Union accuse Lukashenko of rigging the presidential election in 2006 and have imposed a travel ban on him and other top officials. The jailing of opposition politician Alexander Kozulin has further strained relations with Washington and triggered U.S. economic sanctions. "I would like for at least a few opposition figures to win support so that you cannot accuse us of not having an opposition in parliament. But that will depend on the people. People who deserve it will get into parliament," Lukashenko said.

    The opposition currently has no seats in parliament.

    Lukashenko said his opponents had minimal support in the country and were more interested in winning friends and funding in the West than in putting their case to voters.

    Washington and the European Union say Lukashenko denies basic freedoms by preventing opposition rallies, rounding up his opponents on minor charges and muzzling independent media.

    The president in recent months ordered the release of five detainees seen in the West as political prisoners but two activists were jailed last month. Kozulin remains the most prominent prisoner, serving a 5-1/2 year sentence for helping stage demonstrations after Lukashenko was reelected. Pressing for Kozulin's release, the United States last year put sanctions on oil firm Beleneftekhim which accounts for one fifth of Belarus' foreign currency earnings.

    In March, Washington made clear the sanctions also applied to majority-owned subsidiaries. In retaliation, Belarus urged the U.S. ambassador to leave and ejected most embassy staff.

    "Why do we need diplomatic relations if it means putting pressure on us? We don't. If the Americans think they can build relations from a position of strength, then we don't need such diplomats or relations," Lukashenko said.

    He warned the European Union against taking the same route.

    "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 and we have always been an effective partner. In such an acute situation when energy supplies determine everything today, you are trying to destroy the bridge through which oil and gas flow. Do you really need that?"


    He accused the United States of operating double standards. If Belarus had vast oil reserves, the United States would seek it out as a friend on an equal footing with Saudi Arabia.

    "I don't think there is any more democracy there than in Belarus. But Saudi Arabia is the Americans' best friend."

    Lukashenko, in power since 1994, remains broadly popular in Belarus, a country of almost 10 million in the centre of Europe.

    Unlike its neighbours Ukraine to the south and Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to the west, many in Belarus approve his notion of strong government. Its economy retains characteristics of the Soviet system of stte control and is slow to open to foreign investors.

    The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other analysts have said Belarus's economy is at risk from Russia's plan to hike the price of oil and gas supplies to its neighbours in order to bring them into line with world markets.

    For years heavily subsidised Russian energy has powered Belarussian industry and been a major foreign currency earner. Belarussian refineries turned cheap Russian oil into gasoline, diesel and heating oil for export to Europe.

    In terms of economic growth, Belarus has outstripped other former Soviet states. This year Belarus is projecting growth of 10-11 percent versus 6.8 percent in Ukraine.

    Lukashenko expressed confidence the economy would continue to expand and inflation would remain in check.

    "The increase in the cost of energy imports is important, but not as important as in Britain. This year inflation will be a little higher but it is not damaging or critical for our economy. It is lower than in neighbouring countries. Instead of three percent we are seeing five percent."

    He relished the prospect of running for another term as president. A referendum in 2004 changed the constitution to remove any limit on the number of terms a president can serve.

    "If the situation remains as it is today in the country and for me personally then, of course, I will run again," he said.

    "For the moment, I am healthy. The people are not especially critical of me and the West is beginning to understand... So you can expect the worst."

    U.S. sanctions could hit Belarus investment-C.Bank

    U.S. sanctions against Belarus's oil-producing company are having little direct effect, but may frighten away investors considering business opportunities, the head of the ex-Soviet state's central bank said on Wednesday.

    Sanctions imposed last year on Belneftekhim over Belarus's human rights record have plunged relations with Washington into crisis. Ten U.S. diplomats were expelled last month after the ambassador left Minsk at the urging of authorities.

    Belarus accused U.S. authorities in March of expanding a ban on dealings with Belneftekhim when Washington made clear the measures also applied to majority-owned subsidiaries.

    "Today, the main issue for us is our country's image," central bank chairman Pyotr Prokopovich said in an interview.

    "Imposing sanctions on Belneftekhim is not a significant matter in itself. But investors hearing of this may, of course, think again. Everyone is waiting to see how this will turn out.

    "These are artificially generated risks ... Political issues must be resolved by political and not economic means."

    Belarus has announced plans to undertake the sales of stakes in its banking sector and Prokopovich said it could cede a controlling stake in two big state banks -- Belinvestbank and Belpromstroibank -- in the next few months.

    Plans call for the entry of at least six foreign banks into the market.

    "We are creating all the conditions to bring in investment, but as a result of these issues, investors could delay decisions to come and could reconsider," he said.

    "This is in the end negative for both us and the investors themselves. But the gap would soon be filled. If Western investors don't come, investors from the east will."

    President Alexander Lukashenko has been barred from the United States and European Union over allegations of rights abuses, particularly charges he rigged his 2006 re-election.

    He has been particularly aggrieved over the measures taken against Belneftekhim.

    The United States and EU have set as a condition for resumed dialogue the release of Belarus's most prominent detainee - academic Alexander Kozulin, jailed for 5 1/2 years for helping stage protests against the president's re-election. Lukashenka however reiterated that he regards the theme of political prisoners in Belarus as closed.

    "We don`t have political prisoners today," the Belarusian leader said in an interview given to Reuters on Tuesday.

    Lukashenko told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that he had personally ordered the release of five detainees deemed "political prisoners" in the West and that Kozulin had refused an offer to go free.

    "Firstly, I think that it is really none of their (Europe's) business," Mr. Lukashenka told Reuters. "Let them address their prisoners at first. But on the other side, I did not want the entire country to suffer because of those six people. I personally made the decision about the release. Five agreed, but the sixth refused. He announced that the longer he was imprisoned the better ratings he got.

    It is his choice. I would not pull him out by the ears."

    Kozulin earlier this year said he had rejected a proposal to go to Germany to treat his ailing wife on grounds that it amounted to exile. His wife has since died.

    Belarus to cede control of two state banks

    Belarus may cede a controlling share in state bank Belinvestbank to Germany's Commerzbank (CBKG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) within four months and give up control of a second bank, Belpromstroibank.

    "A fundamental decision has been taken that control may be ceded of two of the top four state banks, Belinvestbank and Belpromstroibank," Pyotr Prokopovich said in an interview.

    "We are in the final stages of talks with Commerzbank and an agreement in principle has been clinched. We are talking about a controlling share in Belinvestbank. If nothing changes, within three to four months this issue will be resolved."

    Belarus proposes gas price review with Russia-PM

    From: Guardien
    Belarus expects no new price rises in imported gas from Russia this year and has asked Moscow to soften a proposed scale to bring them towards European levels by 2011, the ex-Soviet state's prime minister said on Wednesday.

    Under a deal struck with Russia two years ago, Belarus pays $128 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas this year -- a level intended to represent 67 percent of average European prices. This figure is to rise to 80 percent next year and 100 percent in 2011.

    "We are to return very soon to an examination of how prices are determined for Belarus," Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky said in an interview.

    "The price has been set for this year...Price rises set down in the scale up until 2011 must correspond to the ideas contained within the Russian government."
    Government officials on both sides, he said, would discuss the issue in the near future and he said Belarus would call for identical conditions of supply for industrial customers in both countries.

    Russia's government has promised to fully liberalise domestic prices and bring them in line with export prices minus transportation costs and export duties, but a spike in global energy prices has made those plans less firm.
    Some officials say Russia may fail to bring domestic and export prices to parity in 2011 as it may hit the economy.

    A dispute over gas prices and conditions of shipment for oil prompted Russia to threaten to cut gas supplies to Belarus in 2007, as it did a year earlier to Ukraine.

    The issue was subsequently settled through talks, though the quarrel with Moscow prompted President Alexander Lukashenko, accused in the West of human rights violations, to call for better ties with the European Union.

    Bank of Georgia buys Belarus bank

    Bank of Georgia announced yesterday it bought a controlling stake in a Belarusian bank.

    The bank said it paid USD 34.2 million for a 70 percent share of Belarusky Narodny Bank, with an option to buy the remaining shares in the next three years.

    “This acquisition marks our entry into the Belarusian market and represents another step towards the implementation of our international expansion strategy,” said Bank of Georgia’s board chairman, Nikoloz Enukidze.

    BNB had total assets of nearly USD 50 million at the end of last year, with its equity valued at roughly half that. The Minsk-based bank has four branches and is planning to expand this year.

    Enukidze said the acquisition will make the Georgian bank one of the early international players in the “promising” Belarusian banking sector.

    The Belarusian banking sector’s total assets grew almost 44 percent to USD 19.4 billion in 2007, according to the country’s central bank.

    “The dynamic Belarusian economy, which in 2007 displayed real GDP growth of 7.8 percent and nominal GDP per capita of over USD 4 000, presents exciting opportunities in both corporate and retail banking sectors,” Enukidze said.

    Bank of Georgia plans to develop BNB’s retail banking, as well as giving out loans to small- and medium-sized businesses.

    Enukidze said Bank of Georgia is done snatching up foreign banks for the year, and will now focus on its recent Belarus and Ukrainian purchases.

    Last October, Bank of Georgia bought Ukraine’s Universal Bank of Development and Partnership for close to USD 82 million.

    Georgia’s central bank reports that as of April 1, net total assets of Georgian commercial banks grew 12.2 percent over the beginning of the year, an increase of GEL 877 million to a total of GEL 8 billion.

    From January–March, commercial banks’ net profit was GEL 42.3 million, two-thirds higher than the same period of last year.

    New Belarus democracy reauthorization act submitted to US House of Representatives

    From: Naveny
    A bill extending the Belarus Democracy Act for 2009 and 2010 has been submitted to the US House of Representatives for debate.

    The draft, named the Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act of 2008, was introduced by a group of US lawmakers, led by Christopher Smith.

    It would continue and extend the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004, which calls for assistance to Belarusian political parties, NGOs and independent media while prohibiting US government agencies from providing loans and investment to the Belarus government, except for humanitarian purposes.

    The draft features updated data on the country.

    It says that the Belarusian government released in 2008 some political prisoners, but former presidential candidate Alyaksandr Kazulin still remains imprisoned.

    It notes that the Department of State, the Department of the Treasury and other executive branch agencies have made "effective use" of the Act to promote its purposes.

    The draft also notes that the United States` policy toward Belarus may be revaluated as soon as the Belarusian authorities demonstrate progress consistent with the aims of the Act.

    Apart from support for human rights defenders, independent media, trade unions, youth groups, pro-democratic political parties, the draft also specifically calls for support for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Voice of America, and Polish-based Belsat channel and European Radio for Belarus.

    The Act, authored by Mr. Smith and extended for two years in 2006, requires reports concerning the sale or delivery of weapons or related technologies from Belarus to rogue states and reports on the Belarusian leader`s personal assets as well as those of other top officials.

    It bans the US government from providing financial assistance to Belarus except for humanitarian aid until Minsk conducts a thorough inquiry into the 1999-2000 disappearances of Alyaksandr Lukashenka`s opponents, releases political prisoners, drops charges against opposition figures and ends the politically-motivated prosecution of civil society.

    The Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act of 2006 authorized $40 million for democracy-building activities in Belarus, such as support for non-governmental organizations and international exchanges, and $15 million for radio and television broadcasting to the country.

  • From the Opposition...

    Miron hangs out another flag

    From: Viasna
    The legendary Miron has carried out another action in Vitsebsk. He hanged out a white-red-white flag on the roof of a 16-storeyed house, one of the highest buildings in the city.

    According to the information of the public activist Barys Khamaida, a note was attached to the flag, as usual. There Miron wrote that this action was dated to an anniversary of the referendum 1995, when the national state symbols were replaced by variants of the Soviet ones. He is sure that ‘the Belarusian language has lived, lives and will live forever’, as well as the national symbols, white-red-white flag and the Pahonia coat-of-arms.

    Mahiliou: court mocks at democratic activists

    Leninski district court of Mahiliou has turned down a complaint that had been filed by Alexander Irkho and Alexander Silkou, activists of the unregistered Freedom and Progress Party (FPP).

    The activists accuse the chairman of Mahiliou city executive committee Viktar Shorykau of excess of the duty powers and violation of the law On mass actions in the Republic of Belarus. In her ruling the judge Halina Kuzhaleva called the arguments of the complaint’s authors ‘wire-drawn’.

    Everything started on 7 March, when the activist filed to Shorykau an official petition for authorization of a meeting and procession dated to the 90th anniversary of the proclamation of the Belarusian People’s Republic. They still have received no answer, though all legal terms for answering expired long ago. Then they decided to sue the official.

    The representative of the executive committee Ala Halushka stated that the plaintiffs’ pretentions were groundless and that the answers had been sent by mail and she did not know why they had not been received. Being asked why the executive committee had not sent the answers by registered may to ensure that the addresses would receive them, she answered that the state organ had no means for it. Besides, she referred to the law On mass actions in the Republic of Belarus, which does not describe the procedure of sending answers to applicants. Judge Halina Kuzhaleva supported her in the verdict and turned down the suit.

    In the suit the plaintiffs asked the court to oblige the state organ to consider their address in conformity with the legal norms and answer to them according to the existing legal standards.

    12 May the same judge turned down the suit of the activist of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party Mikalai Rasiuk against the executive officer of the executive committee Ihar Auseyenka. Rasiuk believes that Auseyenka had exceeded their powers by prohibiting the meeting and procession dedicated to the anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic.

    Anniversary of unlawful referendum: national flags all over Belarus

    From: Charter '97
    White-red-white national flags appeared in Minsk and other Belarusians towns on the 13th anniversary of referendum 1995, when national symbol were forbidden.

    National white-red-white Belarusian flags appeared today’s morning on Victory Square in Minsk, in front of Freedom Square and Europe Hotel.

    The places, where national flags were hung out, had been specially chosen by the Young Front activists. Firstly, these city cites have special meaning for any Minsk dweller – Victory Square reminds of heroic fighting of millions of Belarusians against fascist occupants, and Freedom Square is one of the symbols of independence of the Belarusian state, a reminder of national liberation movement of Belarus and anti-communist resistance. Secondly, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, initiator of the anti-Belarusian referendum 1995, every day goes to work on the road, where a national flag appeared.

    13 years ago, on 14 May 1995, a referendum was held on cancelling of white-red-white flag and Pahonya court-of-arms as state symbols, cancelling the status of Belarusian language as a single state language, economic integration with Russia and president’s right to dismiss parliament.

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka said he didn’t recognise national symbols yet in 1993, one year before the presidential elections. He defiantly wore a BSSR red-green MP badge. An idea of a referendum was firstly introduced by Lukashenka at a session of the Supreme Council in March 1995.

    As it was found out later, sketch of the “new” court-of-arms was worked out in the cabinet of Leanid Sinitsyn, head of the Presidential Administration.

    19 BPF (Belarusian Popular Front) M, headed by Zyanon Paznyak, embarked on hunger strike, but were beaten up in the parliamentary hall and forced out of the House of Government building. Many prominent intellectuals, including Vasil Bykau, stood against the referendum.

    The referendum 1995 was set with violation of the Constitution, laws and rules of the Supreme Council.

    The referendum 1995 disagreed with the Constitution, which was announced at the discussion in the Supreme Council.

  • Around the region...

    German Foreign Minister Meets Russia's Medvedev

    From: Deutsche Welle
    Less than a week after taking office, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday welcomed German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the two called for closer Russian-German ties.

    "I wish you energy, productivity and good fortune – everything that a man in your position needs," Steinmeier told Medvedev on the first of a four-day trip through Russia.

    In a speech at the Urals State University in the industrial city of Yekaterinburg, the foreign minister outlined the possibilities for a partnership in which the two could work together to modernize Russia.

    An indispensable partner

    Bildunterschrift: Gro?ansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Steinmeier gave a speech at the Urals State University.
    Russia is and will remain an indispensable partner for Germany and the EU, including in the political shaping of the world of tomorrow, Steinmeier emphasized, hinting at possible subjects to be discussed in the coming days.

    The foreign minister heads to Moscow Thursday, where the focus of a two-day meeting with President Medvedev will focus on the relationship of Russia to both Germany and the EU. Also on the docket are the escalating conflict between Russia and Georgia and the anticipated further course of action in regards to the conflict over Iran's nuclear program.

    And in a signal of continuing cooperation, Medvedev on Wednesday announced a visit to Germany in June, his first trip as president to a European country.

    Russia awards Gazprom bid-free access to 9 gas fields

    From: Reuters
    The Russian government has decided to award gas export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) the rights to develop nine northern gas deposits without a tender, the government said on Wednesday.

    The fields, which have total gas reserves estimated at over 2 trillion billion cubic metres (bcm), include 7 onshore deposits in the Yamalo-Nenets region as well as two deposits on the shelf of both the Karskoye and Okhotskoye Seas, said a spokesman at the ministry of natural resources.

    The offshore deposits include the Kirinsky field, a part of the Sakhalin-3 offshore project on Russia's Pacific island by the same name, which Russian oil major Rosneft (ROSN.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) and China's Sinopec (0386.HK: Quote, Profile, Research) are partially developing.

    The government said it had made the decision on May 6 to hand over the fields to Gazprom, which are on the list of deposits of federal importance, in order to guarantee reliable gas supplies in the country as the gas behemoth owns all gas pipelines in Russia.

    Last month, the government awarded Gazprom the rights to develop the large Siberian Chayanda gas field, which has estimated gas reserves of 1.2 trillion cubic metres, in the country's first tender-free transfer.

    Gazprom, the world's largest gas producer and supplier of a quarter of Europe's gas, had asked the government to give it out-of-competition rights to develop a number of gas fields, which will serve as its main production base after 2020, when its current fields will mature.

    Gazprom has said half of its production will come from new fields after 2020, when the firm plans to produce 650-670 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas per year, up from the 570 bcm it aims to produce by 2010.

    Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev has previously said any field containing 70 million tonnes of oil, 50 billion cubic metres of gas, 50 tonnes of gold or 500,000 tonnes of copper should qualify as strategic.

    Strategic assets are deemed necessary for Russia to survive independently and are off-limits for development by foreign firms.

    Fitch cuts Ukraine outlook, slams inflation strategy

    From: guardian.
    Ratings agency Fitch cut Ukraine's sovereign outlook to stable from positive on Wednesday, citing growing inflation and a rising current account deficit.
    The ratings agency reaffirmed Ukraine's long-term foreign and local issuer rating at BB-, but said the country's fiscal and monetary policy response to 30 percent annual inflation was "half-hearted".

    "While improving fundamentals continue to support Ukraine's ratings, an uncertain policy response is not convincingly mitigating the near-term risks facing the economy, justifying a reversion to a stable outlook," said Andrew Colquhoun, director in Fitch's sovereign group.

    It said Ukraine had so far rejected advice from the International Monetary Fund for a near-balanced-budget. It said Ukraine was allowing its currency to appreciate 3 percent above its official band but without a firm statement from the authorities revising the band or moving to a free float.

    It said the central bank seemed to be scaling back from initial tightening of money-market liquidity despite still-high inflation.

    "In effect, Ukraine's monetary policy has no nominal objective to anchor private-sector inflation expectations, increasing the risk that high inflation will get locked in," the Fitch report said.

    It said a clearer anti-inflationary strategy would be positive for the rating, but sustained high inflation would harm economic efficiency, erode credit fundamentals, risk higher macroeconomic volatility and further threaten the rating.

    Ukraine's 5-year credit default swaps, used to insure against restructuring or default of debt, widened by 3-4 basis points after the ratings news to a mid-point of 289 bps.

    Analysts said Ukrainian authorities had been slow to strengthen the hryvnia, although the currency has moved outside the upper range of its 4.95-5.25 corridor against the dollar in recent weeks.

    "They have allowed the currency to strengthen a little bit, but it is nowhere near where it should be," said Carlin Doyle, emerging markets strategist at State Street.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Judge says Polish prosecutors must revise indictment against last communist leader

    From: International Herald Tribune
    Prosecutors must revise their indictment against Poland's last communist leader and other former officials for imposing martial law in 1981, a court ruled Wednesday in a decision that could delay indefinitely a trial of the elderly defendants.

    It remains unclear whether the men, some of whom are in poor health, will ever face trial for the crackdown, which put tanks on Polish streets and thousands of pro-democracy activists in internment camps.

    The Warsaw regional court granted a defense motion that requires prosecutors to fill in gaps in the current indictment or prepare a new one against 84-year-old Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and eight other former communist officials, court spokesman Wojciech Malek said.

    "In the court's opinion the evidence presented by prosecutors is only a fragment of the possible evidence that should be presented, and more evidence should be sought that will have an essential role in deciding the case," Malek said.

    Prosecutors from the Institute of National Remembrance, a state body that investigates communist-era crimes, will appeal the ruling, institute spokesman Andrzej Arseniuk said.

    The court recommended that prosecutors interview leading foreign politicians of the period — the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig — to determine the international context of the communist leadership's decision to impose the crackdown, Malek said.

    The court should also include the opinion of a team of historians on the historical context of the crackdown, he said.

    Jaruzelski, who appeared in court Wednesday wearing a gray suit and his signature dark glasses, has long defended his decision to impose martial law. He has said it was the only way to forestall the Soviet Union from invading to crack down on the pro-democracy Solidarity labor union movement itself.

    Early on Dec. 13, 1981, secret police and militia rounded up and jailed democratic activists. Tanks and armored transports rumbled through Polish cities, armed soldiers patrolled the streets and authorities cut phone lines.

    Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, who was jailed during the clampdown, told TVN24 television that putting the former communist leaders on trial "is not about inflicting punishment. It's about clarifying and cleansing for future generations."

    "We have to do this so that nobody comes up with the same idea in the future," he said.

    Prosecutors charged Jaruzelski and the other ex-officials in March 2006 with violating the constitution and with leading an "organized criminal group of a military nature having as its goal the carrying out of crimes that consisted of the deprivation of freedom through internment."

    Jaruzelski spent a few weeks in a hospital in February with heart problems and pneumonia before undergoing a minor procedure to stabilize his heart in March, and looked frail in the courtroom Wednesday.

    Polish Secret service files found in private homes

    From: The News
    The Internal Security Agency has searched 11 homes looking for top-secret files regarding the liquidation in 2006 of the Polish military counterintelligence agency, the WSI.

    Secret documents were found in three of the homes searched yesterday', the spokesperson of the General Prosecutor's Office said on Wednesday.

    Later, Prosecutor Robert Majewski revealed to the press that as many as 11 homes had been combed in the search for the top-secret files in question, the Dziennik daily reports.

    Investigators are demanding that at least two out of the four homeowners in question be arrested.

    Piotr Baczek, press officer to the former WSI liquidator, Antoni Macierewicz, was one of the persons on the Security Agency's list.

    'They were looking for some secret files but I did not have any', Baczek told RMF FM radio Wednesday morning.

    Baczek also said that internal security agents had informed him that the search was connected to allegations of attempts to sell the annex of the top secret report on WSI's liquidation, written by Macierewicz, to the publisher of Gazeta Wyborcza daily, Agora.

    Baczek admitted that several documents were found in his flat regarding the operations of the former military services, but the top-secret annex was not among them.

    When asked if it was true that some journalists had been shown the annex and offered to buy it for 250,000 zlotys, Baczek suggested that the action could be part of a deliberate stung operation in order to frame members of the WSI Liquidation Committee, headed by Macierewicz.

    The prosecution summoned Piotr Baczek for questioning Wednesday afternoon but no charges were made and he was released after the interrogation, writes the Dziennik web site.

    The daily speculates whether the secret files may have been found in the homes of another WSI liquidator, Leszek Pietrzak, former officer in the Communist intelligence services Aleksander Lichocki (who allegedly offered the report to the daily for money) and Polish TV journalist Wojciech Sumlinski.

    Lichocki and Sumlinski were arrested yesterday on corruption charges. Both are pleading not guilty.

    The WSI was dissolved by the previous government in October 2006 due to, what they alleged, were illegal activities by many of the agents. The 400 page report alleges that agents were involved in a cabal including organized crime members, journalists and politicians sympathetic with post-communist forces in Poland.

    Polish youngsters use cough syrup as learning aid

    Cough syrup, asthma medicines and large amounts of energy drinks are being used by Polish exam taking students to boost their intellectual powers, writes Dziennik.

    Medical experts warn that taking such substances can be highly addictive, lead to anxiety states, withdrawal symptoms, depression and suicide attempts.

    According to the daily, the problem is starting to concern younger and younger kids.

    Polish government’s plenipotentiary for fighting corruption, Julia Pitera, is preparing an amendment to anticorruption law, which broadens the list of people obliged to publish their property statements on the Internet, Gazeta Wyborcza writes.

    If the new law is passed, the duty to make the property report public will be binding, among others, for heads of the Supreme Chamber of Control (NIK), the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS), as well as heads of the Polish special services, including the Agency for Internal Security (ABW) and the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA).

    The largest satellite operator SES Astra is to introduce a new service in Poland, which is likely to reach the two million Polish homes that so far have remained outside the reception of the stationary Internet, Rzeczpospolita informs.

    According to experts, Astra is likely to win some 200-300 clients in Poland, what will bring the company some 300 million zlotys a year.

  • Sport...

    Alexander Hleb 'will not buy out Arsenal contract'

    Alexander Hleb would not resort to buying out his Arsenal contract but could still be set for a summer move away from Emirates Stadium, according to the player’s agent.

    The future of the Belarus winger has been the subject of much speculation ever since reports emerged of secret talks with Inter Milan, allegedly held while he was in the Italian city ahead of Arsenal’s Champions League game against rivals AC Milan at the San Siro.

    Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, was less than impressed by public comments which followed from the Serie A club expressing their interest in a player under contract, and even went as far as threatening to report them to Fifa.

    Nikolai Shpilevski. Hleb’s agent, last week added further fuel to the flames, claiming his client was “leaving Arsenal - there’s no way back now”.

    However, Wenger had warned any player who was contemplating the termination of their contract under the ‘Webster clause’ – a reference to the former Heart of Midlothian player who took advantage of a loophole in European law to engineer a cut-price move to Wigan Athletic - that the process was not as straightforward as it had been made out, with the risk of being banned while the dispute was resolved through arbitration.

    Yet it appears Hleb, signed from Stuttgart in June 2005 in a ?12 million deal, is considering his options.

    The 27-year-old - who missed the final three games of the Barclays Premier League through suspension - admits he is “not a big city man”, and may be looking for a move for other than footballing reasons.

    With Wenger keen to get his squad shaped for the new campaign as quickly as possible - having already seen midfielder Mathieu Flamini walk away to join AC Milan on a free transfer - the situation is likely to be resolved sooner rather than later.

    However, any transfer would, according to Hleb’s representative, be conducted in the usual and proper manner.

    “Alexander understands perfectly well that he plays for a great team, but the moment has come where he needs to make a choice,” Shpilevski said.

    “Hleb has been playing in London for three years now and isn’t sure whether in the future he can show the level of talent that he is showing currently. I can only confirm that some of the world’s biggest clubs are interested in him.

    “In any case I can say simply that Alexander will not buy out the remaining part of his five-year contract for a fixed sum of his sale. Hleb is a gentleman and will not stoop to that level. Everything will be done properly.

    “I am sure that the situation surrounding this issue will finally be resolved in the next 10 days.”

    Shpilevski added: “There are no problems with regard to his playing opportunities. Alexander is just tired of the noisy and chaotic life in the British capital and feels like living in calmer surroundings.”

    In a separate interview with a newspaper in Belarus, Shpilevski said: “If any clubs want to add Hleb to their ranks then they should hold talks with Arsenal.

    “Nobody is hiding the fact that a player of Hleb’s class is of interest to all teams, including Barcelona and Real (Madrid). But the subject of a transfer to Inter has been going round and round for over for a year now. It’s a normal occurrence.”

  • Cultural scene...

    Belarus, Russia to implement project in book publishing

    From: BelTA
    The project on publishing the Belarusian-Russian book collection will be implemented in 2009-2010, the director of the publishing house “Mastatskaya Litaratura”, Vladislav Machulsky, told a roundtable session “Commonness of fates – commonness of literatures: Neman Magazine in the context of the Belarusian-Russian literary links” on May 12.

    The Belarusian-Russian collection will include 50 volumes. One part will feature the editions of Belarusian writers, the other Russian ones. This is a Russian language project. The list of the authors and works is being compiled now. The Russian side has already prepared its proposals which will be considered by the editorial council headed by Information Minister of Belarus Vladimir Rusakevich.

    The $2mn project will be financed by the Belarus-Russia Union State. The project will be carried by the Information Ministry of Belarus, the Union of Writers of Belarus, publishing house “Mastatskaya Litaratura”.

    The circulation of the Belarusian-Russian collection will be 15,000 copies; of them 5,000 will be distributed among Belarusian libraries, 10,000 among Russian libraries.

    Vladislav Machulsky assumes the Belarusian-Russia collection can increase up to 60 and more volumes. This project has evoked interest in the Commonwealth of Independent State. The CIS collection project may appear in the future.

    Six years of this…

    From: The Story
    I have not been writing lately. I am speaking about this blog. It has probably been several months since I specifically wrote something for here. Today I am though because it is May 15th, and of course May 15th is the anniversary of Zaremba running into me with his car.

    But there are several real reasons for my having stopped witting blog essays. Firstly, and probably the biggest reason is that I simply lost interest in writing about either my current situation or how it might relate to Poland's taking away a year of my life. There is probably a good argument which says that all of my original motives were economical: i.e., I wanted (and still want actually) some severe and real compensation from the Poland and American governments for what they did to my life. This, both directly, because of how screwed up things were for me after Poland, and for the public justice of it all. But on the other side I needed whatever money I could find because of how screwed up things were.

    And, this little internet space did provide a little help from time to time. This is not to say I got rich off of this. Absolutely no way- I never even cracked ½ minimum wages. Hell, I didn't even crack food stamps. More than likely it was that doing this offered some hope for me; a way out or at least the thought that something righteous could come of it.

    And I guess I should also really say that there have been a lot of things other than financial that have happened because I am here and have this web space that I never have written about. Just today in fact I was involved in two separate affairs that came about because I was contacted and asked to help. So I can't say that it was nothing to me and that I have thrown it away because I found something better.

    But this last year I finally found my way around any number of detractors, local and the foreigners who paid them off, and finally got my gig together here. And this is really why I haven't been following up on the writing. I mean, I am very, very busy these days and what I have to do takes up a lot of my time and energy and so there simply just hasn't been the need to push on.

    And then there is also that I simply don't want to "use" my daily exploits here. Maybe this is about having respect for one's self or for the privacy of one's social circles or maybe it is just that I really never was the sort of person who wanted all that much attention. Or maybe it is all just basic practicality. We are after all speaking of six years ago and I don't know how many people have pointed out that the horse I have been endlessly beating might already be dead. In any case, it has just been really hard to get up for writing an essay.

    I have been writing though. I have two projects I am working on in addition to my daily chores. One is a compilation of my current teaching method and the other is a memoir of the time leading up to this year. The first should end up to be a text book and other might be titles being had II, or something equally creative. I would like to think of all of this as a "you can't keep a good man (Goodman?) down", but I have a hard time putting that particular adage in my pocket. Perhaps this is because of all of the people I no longer talk to- there has been a lot of baggage accumulated over time and just like my family, I myself can hold a grudge with the best of them. I also wouldn't call the memoir a "tell all" book, but just like I did with "BEING HAD", I didn't change any names or use initials. Hopefully there might be some interest in the story and you never know, something might come of this.

    But I do seem to have stopped typing for this space. Truthfully, none of this has been a very natural act for me. I got accused again lately of having done all of this just to get some extra attention. Probably this is a reasonable argument but I did not make this weblog to draw attention to myself; I made this for retribution, to force and admission of guilt and because I wanted to put some negative attention on Poland where it was needed and belonged. The corrupt Polish system was the one who needed to be cleaned out and especially those rather filthy criminal elements from the Police and prosecutor's office and I just wanted to tell both about what they did, how they did it and what kind of results what they had done had had on my life. .

    This is without mentioning those well meaning "let's look after our own" types at the US embassy who may or may not have been behind the whole thing from the start- well, at least as far as the after-the-incident dog and pony show.

    And I do think I have been reasonably successful. Somewhere between a quarter and third of a million people have opened my pages and reason might dictate that I might have influenced a few of them to think more harshly than they otherwise would have about going to Poland or about doing business with them. And yea, I would be proud t know that a couple of million dollars in tourist money might not have found its way over of if it has become just a little harder for the Justice people to screw over the citizenry than it used to be. And as I still get a lot of angry Polish crank letters, I can take some comfort in knowing that it has not all been for naught.

    And let me make this clear: I came here because I wanted to and I have stayed despite all of the "extra" pressure not to. And I will say this again: I stayed despite the antagonism not because of it. I suppose I could say why, but to me a better argument is really "why not?"

    You must understand that I really don't see any difference. I have a life here because I built one. I had a life in New York before September 11th because I built that one too. But you must understand that there is no difference. I had some extra money sometimes in New York but I was never rich and frankly, was never on any sort of path to even be rich. I was in the bike business and just like I do now, I did everything I could think of to be in that business. I didn't have anybody working for me then and I really don't have anybody working for me now. Any "success" I might feel here is simply because I might take a moment and admire a particularly beautiful piece of work. Maybe take some pride in it would be a better way to say it, but in any case, it is all the same to me.

    Well, this is not true. Here I have some family as well. This I didn't have in America. I have my daughter and my time with her is everything plus the bag of chips. I also like what I am doing these days. I like it a lot. And I have land. I love our garden. That's funny actually because I used to call it a farm but now I see it as a garden. But I didn't have this in America either.

    So you know, people still ask me which is better and I still answer the same way; there is good and bad in both places. Obviously there is more money which can be made in America, but then again everything costs more and the pace is different. Here can be pretty bad sometimes but it can also be pretty cool as well. Sometimes it can be great actually. Really.

    So basically I guess I would have to say that I have stopped because I just don't know what to say anymore or why I should say it. Or maybe the real truth is just that I live in Belarus, or that I have finally begun to really have a life here. I had to live without one for a long time and perhaps finally having one really changes my perspective on things for me. I guess I just have not been sure lately if blogging has a place in that life for me anymore.

    But of course I have been keeping the flame going, even if I have not been writing. I just completed the 307th Being Had Times and will shortly add a few more items into the polish Scandal files.

    And so that's the news for the 15th of May, 2008, officially six years since Zaremba and Wiesniakowski; Since Zurovska and Borus and Stolte; Since Drazek and Kat and Maka and Betty and all the Warsaw bikers; Since Ostrow and Uladsimir and Vitali and George and Andrew and Julia and Eva and her family. It's been six years since Pod Kablukom or writing BEING HAD at the internet café in Pinsk. I don't know, I guess I am still doing it after all. And of course I am still here. I'm just not writing so many essays about it any more.