News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

UN appreciates Belarus, WTO accession, China against US interference, Business proposals, Tractors, Humans rights, Poplish scandal, Culture and Sport

  • From the Top...
  • #311

    UN appreciates Belarus’ contribution to European and global stability

    From: BelTA
    Meeting with Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Maria Costa
    European states do not fully realize the importance of the contribution of Belarus to the regional stability, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at the meeting with Antonio Maria Costa, UN Under-Secretary-General, Director General of the UN Office in Vienna, Executive Director of the UNO in Minsk on May 27.

    “Unfortunately, European states underestimate the role we play in preventing international crime. Belarus is an effective barrier which blocks the way for this evil which is coming from the west to east and from east to west,” the head of state underlined. “We would like European countries to give us the credit we deserve for the great contribution that we have been making to the European safety by combating terrorism, drug trafficking, trade in arms and radioactive elements,” he said.

    Alexander Lukashenko added that Belarus regularly and efficiently participates in all the UN projects. “Belarus has a considerable experience concerning international crime prevention. And more than that we have achieved good results in this area,” the President underlined. According to him, this is most eloquently revealed through the fact that at present traffic flows of drugs, arms and illegal migrants do not cross the borders of the country. “Today these flows bypass Belarus”, Alexander Lukashenko noted.

    The UN Secretariat appreciates Belarus’ contribution to strengthening the European and global stability, Antonio Maria Costa said. “UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon knows well about the significant role which Belarus plays in counteracting such dangerous phenomena as human trafficking, illicit arms trade, illegal migration and illicit drugs,” Antonio Maria Costa noted.

    He reminded that on the initiative of Belarus the UN General Assembly will hold special debates on human trafficking on June 3.

    Antonio Maria Costa noted that in the course of his visit to Belarus he intends to discuss the ways of addressing certain problems relating to the fight against transnational crime.

    According to the UN official, UNODC is considering a possibility of setting up a UNODC regional office in Minsk.

    Belarus interested in productive relations with European nations

    Belarus is interested in developing productive relations with European states, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said on May 27 as he accepted credentials from foreign ambassadors.

    “Belarus is open to mutually beneficial contacts and full-fledged partnership. We are glad to welcome all we are connected with through common interests and ambitions,” underscored Alexander Lukashenko.

    The President added, “We work with our allies and all partners for the sake of making the world fairer and better, in order to make mutual trust, openness, and equality permanent practices in international relations”.

    Accepting credentials from Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Hungary to Belarus Ferenc Kontra, the President expressed hope the opening of the Hungarian embassy in Minsk convincingly demonstrates the achievement of a higher level of cooperation between the countries across the entire range of relations, first of all, trade, economic and investment ties, which already have a good start.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, historically developed spiritual and cultural ties between the two nations, Slavonic affinity, well-developed interpersonal contacts are a reliable foundation for building up partnering relations between Belarus and Montenegro. In turn, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Montenegro to Belarus Zeljko Radulovic remarked, Belarus and Montenegro have great prospects for cooperation.

    Belarus has leading role in international combat against human trafficking, Antonio Maria Costa says

    Belarus has a leading role in the international efforts to fight human trafficking, Antonio Maria Costa, UN Under-Secretary-General, Director General of the UN Office in Vienna, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said at the meeting with Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov.

    “There is a wide range of issues in which the UN relies on Belarus’ support,” Antonio Maria Costa said. “Your country attaches much importance to the prevention of human trafficking which has no right to exist”.

    The Foreign Minister of Belarus noted that in recent years the cooperation between Belarus and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has been successfully developing. “All the issues that we tackled have a considerable importance for Belarus, Europe and all the international community”, Sergei Martynov underlined.

    Belarus believes the UN General Assembly should develop and adopt a global strategy for counteracting slave trade as soon as possible.

    The official reminded, following Belarus’ initiative the UN General Assembly will start topical debates on slave trade on June 3. “We hope the debates will become a serious step towards making a decision to develop a global strategy for fighting this evil,” noted the Minister. Sergei Martynov expressed hope the relevant decision will be taken by the General Assembly as early as this autumn.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Talks on Belarus' WTO accession start in Geneva

    From: BelTA
    Another round of negotiations on Belarus joining World Trade Organization opened in Geneva on May 27, BelTA learnt from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

    The Belarusian delegation is composed of the representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Economy Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the National Bank and the Permanent Representative Office of Belarus to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

    The main goal of the negotiations is to find the common ground with the WTO member states involved on the obligations of Belarus concerning the import customs tariff and the terms of access to financial, insurance, banking and other markets. The schedule of the negotiations includes the talks between the Belarusian side and the delegations of five WTO member states as well as the discussion of topical issues of cooperation within the WTO which will be held at the WTO Secretariat and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

    This round of negotiations will come to an end on May 30.

    China against US attempts to interfere with internal affairs of Belarus

    From: BelTA
    China is concerned over the tightening of economic sanctions by the USA against Belarus, Han Qide, Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China said when meeting with the chairman of the Council oft eh republic o the National Assembly of Belarus Gennady Novitsky on May 27.

    “The Chinese side understands and respects the path of development and the internal and foreign policy of Belarus. We support your efforts aimed at defending the sovereignty and dignity of the country and maintaining the country’s stability and development,” Han Qide said.

    “We are against any attempts by any country to interfere in Belarus' internal affairs under the human rights pretext. The Chinese side is concerned over the tightening of the economic sanction by the USA against Belarus and issued a special statement in support of Belarus urging the international community to give an unbiased and just assessment of the developments in the country,” he said.

    Han Qide also said that the Chinese side “highly appreciates the fact that Belarus always supports China in the issues relating to the sovereignty of the country.”

    Han Qide thanked Belarus for sending condolences to the Chinese government after the quake and for providing humanitarian aid. According to his data, the earthquake toll has reached more than 60,000.

    In turn, Gennady Novitsky noted the dynamic development of the China-Belarus relations. “The countries exchange visits on the highest level; the bilateral treaty-legal base is strong; the trade has been increasing,” he said.

    Gennady Novitsky thanked China for the support in the international arena. “We are happy that China is a trade and economic partner of Belarus and that our positions in the international arena coincide,” he said.

    US economic sanctions against Belarus contradict international legal norms

    In a related story, US economic sanctions against Belarus do not meet international legal norms, Belarus Justice Minister Viktor Golovanov told media in Minsk on May 28.

    After the USSR collapse Belarus removed nuclear weapons from its territory. In exchange the USA promised not to use any sanctions, including economic ones. Now the agreement has been violated, said the Minister.

    Viktor Golovanov said, Belarus does not consider appealing to international justice institutions in connection with the enforcement of the economic sanctions by the USA.

    “I hope the common sense will prevail and justice will triumph,” concluded Viktor Golovanov.

  • Economics...

    Belarus receives 215 foreign business proposals

    From: BelTA
    Belarus has received 215 business proposals from foreign investors. Of them 76 are cooperation agreements, First Deputy Economy Minister Piotr Zhabko told reporters on May 28.

    According to the estimates, if these 76 proposals are implemented, their investments will total $12 billion. “We will achieve high result in case only part of these proposals is put into practice,” the first deputy minister said.

    Piotr Zhabko names several companies that work today in Belarus and benefit hundreds of millions of dollars. Among them is South-African Lyons Financial Solutions Holdings (PTY) Ltd which signed an investment agreement with the High-Tech Park. The Russian Itera Group has been erecting a business center in Minsk. The project will demand “billions of dollars”, the first deputy minister said. Belarus signed an investment agreement with one of the Cyprian companies on reconstruction of the business and cultural center. Irish investors have been organizing fuel ethanol production in Belarus. The country is in talks on the issue of cooperation with Grandexpress Company (Russia) on setting up a company on production of containers, repair of the freight rolling-stock.

    The Economy Ministry has recently held negotiations with the representatives of the world-known brand Indesit. The company also plans to invest in Belarus. In early June, the company’s representatives will visit Belarus to detail the opportunity of setting up relevant manufactures.

    The Economy Ministry also met with the representatives of the Korean Investment Agency KOTRA. On May 29, Minsk will host a meeting with the Turkish Investment Agency.

    Piotr Zhabko informed that in November 2008 Belarus plans to host an investment forum in London. The event is set to attract foreign investments in the Belarusian economy.

    Representatives of 21 foreign companies to make reports at session of Advisory Council for Foreign Investments in Minsk

    Many foreign businessmen would like to participate and make reports at the session of the Advisory Council for Foreign Investments which will be held in Minsk on May 30, First Deputy Economy Minister of Belarus Piotr Zhabko told reporters.

    Some 28 people will make reports at the session of the Advisory Council for Foreign Investments which will be held by Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky. These are representatives of 21 foreign companies and 7 Belarusian companies. Attending the session will be 500 people including 200 foreigners and also diplomats from many countries. The Russian Federation, Turkey, Israel, the EU member states, Korea, China, the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the USA will be represented at the forum. Representatives of the UNDP, International Finance Organization, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development will take part in the work of the session as well. Ernst and Young Company is the coordinator of the work of the Advisory Council for Foreign Investments from the part of foreign investors and international organizations.

    The Advisory Council for Foreign Investments was set up to hold a direct dialogue between the Belarusian Government and foreign investors, the international organizations which work in this country. The Council develops the measures to improve the investment climate in the country and to set up a positive image of Belarus abroad.

    Mexico interested in assembling Belarusian tractors

    From: BelTA
    Mexico is interested in starting up the assembly of Belarusian tractors in its territory. It will advance Belarus and Mexico to a higher level of the bilateral trade and economic cooperation. The project was discussed during a meeting of Belarusian Economy Minister Nikolai Zaichenko with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mexico to Belarus (combined office) Alfredo Perez Bravo in Minsk, BelTA learnt from the Belarusian Economy Ministry.

    The sides confirmed the readiness to sign an agreement between the Belarusian Economy Ministry and the Mexican Economy Ministry on setting up a joint economic commission. An agreement was reached to hold the first session of the commission by late 2008 and organise a visit of the Belarusian business delegation to Mexico.

    According to the Economy Ministry, in 2007 Belarus-Mexico trade totalled $21.3 million, 31.5% up on 2006. In January-March 2008 the volume of export-import shipments reached $4.9 million, 52.2% up. Belarus exports to Mexico such products as tractors, rolled ferrous metals, tyres and casein.

    MAZ-MAN rolls out first batch of dump trucks with increased lift capacity

    In May this year, joint venture MAZ-MAN Company rolled out the first five dump trucks with increased lift capacity (25 tonnes), BelTA learnt from the Business Relations Agency.

    The first batch of the dump trucks has been produced for a Belarusian customer.

    The new dump trucks are designed for the work in northern regions and Eastern Europe. The gross vehicle weight is 41 tonnes. The truck has all the things needed to use it during a cold season.

    The 480 hp engine MAN D 2876 LF 12 meets ecological standard Euro-3. The vehicle is equipped with brake system MAN BrakeMatic and MAN cabin. The dump trucks may transport any kinds of construction materials including road concrete mix.

    MAZ-MAN Company was set up by MAN Nutzfahrzeuge AG, MAZ and Lada OMC Holding in 1998. The stockholders of the company are II&V GmbH (Austria, 48.2% of stocks), MAZ (Belarus, 44.43% of stocks) and ZAO Trustbank (Belarus, 7.37% of stocks). The company produces eight models of freight vehicles and a model of front loader.

  • From the International Press...

    Putin to head the Russia-Belarus alliance

    From: USA Today
    The Belarusian president says he has named Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin the prime minister of the Russia-Belarus alliance.
    Russia and Belarus signed an agreement in 1996 that envisaged close political, economic and military ties, but efforts to achieve a full merger have foundered. Structures of the alliance have limited powers.

    The meaning of the move Tuesday by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was not immediately clear. Some observers expected Vladimir Putin to become president of a unified state of Russia and Belarus after he stepped down earlier this month as Russian president.

    The Belarusian news agency BelTA quoted the executive secretary of the alliance as saying Lukashenko had coordinated the move with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev.

    Belarus eyes economic ties with Israel

    From: JTA
    Belarus wants to develop economic relations with Israel.

    "There is neither Israeli bank nor Israeli investment in the banking sphere in Belarus, and it is a great shortcoming of our relations," Piotr Prokopovich, the head of the Belarusian Central Bank, told the RTVI TV channel.

    The Belarusian Central Bank will be discussing economic cooperation with the State Bank of Israel, Prokopovich said, adding that the banking sector in Belarus is attractive for foreign businesses.

    Prokopovich also said that Minsk is interested in attracting Israeli investment in industry, agriculture and other spheres.

    Belarus also wants to develop ties with Israel in tourism. Tours in Belarus may be interesting to Israeli travelers, Prokopovich said, since several Israeli leaders were born in Belarus. He noted, for example, current President Shimon Peres and the country's first president, Chaim Weizmann.

    Soviet Jewry activists meet in Moldova, Belarus

    In a related story, A delegation from the National Conference on Soviet Jewry met with leaders in Moldova and Belarus.

    The six-person delegation met with Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on May 20 and confirmed his support for the United States' position on a 2009 follow-up to the World Conference Against Racism. The United States has said it would not participate if the conference becomes a platform for anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric like the 2001 meeting in Durban.

    NCSJ executive director Mark Levin told JTA the Moldovan president also stressed strong support for strengthening and rebuilding the Jewish community, which the U.S. State Department estimates at 25,000 members.

    In Minsk, a roundtable of Belarusian Jewish community leaders voiced their concerns to the visiting delegation.

    Twenty-four Belarusian Jewish leaders said that to maintain continuity in their community, they needed to find a way to build a Jewish school that could enliven a younger generation.

    The NCSJ delegation also met with the charges d'affaires of the American Embassy in Minsk, which has been forcibly reduced from a staff of more than 30 to four American diplomats in recent months in a diplomatic tit-for-tat with the Belarusian government.

    At the meeting, the delegation discussed the state of the Belarusian Jewish community and recent incidents involving Jewish cemeteries that have drawn international attention.

    Jonathan Moore, now the highest ranking U.S. diplomat in Belarus, said that local officials had made an effort to do the right thing with a cemetery in Gomel that was unearthed during the expansion of a soccer stadium.

    Belarus to sell 3G licence in H2 '08

    From: Reuters
    Belarus is planning its first ever tender for a third generation licence in the second half of this year," state news agency BelTA reported on Monday, citing the information minister. "We are planning to hold a tender in the second half of the year," Information Minister Nikolai Pantelei was cited by BelTA as saying. "It all depends on how many operators will meet the conditions that the government will set."

    He did not give any details of the cost of the licence nor conditions. The government had first talked about selling a licence a year ago, saying that there would be no discrimination between market players.

    Belarus' MTS, 49 percent owned by Russia's MTS (MBT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and 51 percent owned by the state, had expressed interest before in gaining the licence. Also in the market is Velcom, owned by Telekom Austria (TELA.VI: Quote, Profile, Research).

    Turkey's Turkcell TCELL.IS may also enter the Belarussian market after expressing interest in buying a controlling stake in another Belarussian operator, BeST, which the government wants to sell at no less than $500 million.

  • From the Opposition...

    Amnesty International Report 2008, state of the world human rights (Belarus' section)

    From: Viasna
    The clampdown on civil society by the government continued. Any form of public activity not sanctioned by the state, including religious worship, was liable to prosecution and rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly were disregarded. Opposition activists were given long prison sentences for the peaceful expression of their views, or activists were harassed and prosecuted under the administrative code for lesser offences and fined or detained for short periods. Human rights and opposition organizations faced considerable difficulties in registering and activists were prosecuted for acting in the name of unregistered organizations. Belarus remained the only country in Europe still executing prisoners.

    International scrutiny
    In December, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning human rights violations in Belarus and calling for, among other things, the release of all individuals detained for politically motivated reasons, an end to the prosecution, harassment and intimidation of political opponents and human rights defenders, respect for the rights to freedom of speech, assembly and association, and respect for the right to freedom of religion or belief.

    Freedom of expression
    Government critics were sentenced to long prison terms or continued to serve long prison sentences for voicing their opposition. Alyaksandr Kozulin, presidential candidate during the March 2006 elections, continued to serve his five-and-a-half-year sentence imposed in 2006 for “hooliganism” and “organizing group activities that breach public order”. Alyaksandr Kozulin had protested the conduct of the elections, which the OSCE judged to be unfair.

    On 25 March, 50 to 60 people were detained throughout the country during peaceful demonstrations to mark Freedom Day, the anniversary of the creation of the Belarusian People’s Republic in 1918, celebrated by the opposition but not officially recognized. Most of those detained were subsequently sentenced to up to 15 days’ administrative detention. Police reportedly used fists and batons against the demonstrators to stop them gathering on October Square in the centre of the capital city of Minsk. Vintsuk Vyachorka and Vyacheslav Siuchyk, two of the organizers, were detained on March 13. Vintsuk Vyachorka was charged with using obscene language; Vyacheslav Siuchyk was initially detained for his likeness to a known criminal and then charged with urinating on the street. Both politicians denied these charges. At separate trials on 4 April both were found guilty of petty hooliganism, but the judge did not impose a fine or detention because the offences were “insignificant”.
    Freedom of association
    Human rights groups and opposition organizations faced considerable obstacles when they attempted to register with the state, and unduly stringent controls on their activities. There were many convictions under Article 1931 of the Criminal Code. This article was added to the Criminal Code in December 2005 and outlaws any activity on behalf of an organization that has been closed or has not been registered regardless of the nature of the activity. In 2007 the law was used almost exclusively against members of the youth opposition movement, Malady Front (Young Front). Malady Front has applied four times for registration and has been turned down on each occasion.

    On 29 May, five members of Malady Front, Nasta Palazhanka, Boris Garetskii, Oleg Korban, Zmitser Fedoruk, and Aleksei Yanushevskii, were convicted for “organizing or participating in the activity of an unregistered organization”. Four of the accused were fined and the fifth member of the group received an official warning. On 4 September two further members of the organization, Ivan Shilo and Nasta Azarka, were also found guilty of the same offence in two separate trials. Nasta Azarka was fined, but in the case of Ivan Shilo the judge did not impose a penalty. Zmitser Dashkevich, one of the leaders of Malady Front who had been sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment in 2006 under Article 1931, was tried while serving his sentence. He was convicted on 9 November for refusing to give evidence as a witness and fined. The charge referred to the police investigations of Ivan Shilo.

    On 24 July the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that the dissolution of the human rights organization, Viasna (Spring), in 2003 had been a violation of the right to association and that the organization was entitled to an appropriate remedy, including re-registration and compensation. The members of Viasna applied for re-registration on 23 July, but the application was refused on 28 August for several reasons including the fact that 20 of the 69 founders had convictions for administrative offences. The organization’s appeal was rejected on 26 October.

    Death penalty
    Belarus retained the death penalty for “premeditated, aggravated murder” and 12 other offences. There were no official statistics available for the number of executions carried out in the period under review. Execution is by a gunshot to the back of the head, and relatives are not officially told of the date of the execution or where the body is buried. According to press reports, on 22 May the Supreme Court imposed the death sentence on Alyaksandr Syarheychyk for six murders, and other crimes. He was reportedly executed in November, but the exact date and place of burial are not known.

    On 9 October Syarhey Marozaw and Ihar Danchanka were sentenced to death for a series of murders carried out in the Gomel region. These were the second death sentences imposed on the two men, who had previously been sentenced to death in December 2006 along with Valery Harbaty. On 16 November, commenting on the UN Resolution on a Global Moratorium on the Death Penalty passed the day before, the Minister of Internal Affairs told journalists that it was too early to introduce a moratorium in Belarus.

    Restrictions on religious communities continued. Under the restrictive 2002 Law on Religion, only registered nationwide religious associations have the right to establish monasteries, missions and educational institutions, as well as to invite foreign citizens to preach or conduct other religious activity in Belarus. State permission is required to hold religious services in non-religious buildings, yet entities which do not own their own property, such as Protestant churches, found it increasingly difficult to rent property.

    Polish national Jaroslaw Lukasik, a Protestant pastor and member of the Union of Evangelical Faith Christians, was detained on 27 May when police raided a church service held in the home of Pastor Antoni Bokun of the John the Baptist Pentecostal Church. He was released the same day after the Polish Consul visited the police station. On 30 May he was sentenced under the Administrative Code for holding an unsanctioned meeting and engaging in “illegal religious activity”. He was issued with a deportation order and fined one month’s salary. Jaroslaw Lukasik had been resident in Belarus since 1999, and his wife and three children are all Belarusian citizens. Jaroslaw Lukasik was deported on 8 June.
    Violence against women
    Women from Belarus were trafficked, including for sexual exploitation, to western Europe, the Middle East and Russia. According to the US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report published in June, the government made significant efforts to prosecute traffickers, but did not offer adequate protection and assistance to victims, relying almost exclusively on non-governmental organizations to provide such support. No progress was made towards introducing a law against domestic violence.

    Restricted to travel abroad Lyabedzka got to Warsaw

    From: Charter '97
    A meeting in University Warsaw was the beginning of a working visit of the delegation of the united democratic forces of Belarus.

    “We will hold a profound conversation with Mr Malicki, a Polish coordinator of Kalinouski educational programme,“ Radio Svaboda learnt it today from a telephone conversation with Viktar Karnyaenka, a member of the delegation. “This is an educational programme for the Belarusian students, who were expelled from Belarusian universities for their political activity. We will ask the Polish party to help where possible our boys and girl to adapt to a foreign country.“

    Mr Karnyaenka also said a political situation in Belarus would be discussed today in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland with the delegation of the united democratic forces.

    The delegation to Warsaw consists of Viktar Karnyaenka, Lyavon Barshcheuski, Syarhei Kalyakin, Anatol Lyabedzka and Anatol Lyaukovich.

    It’s interesting to note that Mr Lyabedzka was restricted to leave Belarus. On the question of Radio Svaboda how the co-chairman of the united democratic forces managed to get to Warsaw, Mr Karnyaenka said “it’s not a telephone conversation.”

    Belarus open to mutually beneficial contacts, Lukashenka says

    From: Naveny
    Belarus is open to mutually beneficial contacts and comprehensive partnership, state media quoted Alyaksandr Lukashenka as saying on Tuesday when he was accepting credentials from newly appointed foreign ambassadors to Belarus.

    The Belarusian leader said that Belarus was interested in the development of constructive relations with European countries. "We are happy to see all with whom we are tied by common interests and aspirations," he said. "We work with our allies and all partners to make the world fairer and better, to ensure that mutual trust, openness and equality enter the practice of international relations once and for all."

    When accepting credentials from Hungary' ambassador, Ferenc Kontra, Mr. Lukashenka expressed hope that the opening of the Hungarian embassy in Minsk was a sign that relations between the two countries had reached a higher level in all areas.

    He told Montenegro's ambassador that historically close cultural and spiritual ties between the two countries, strong personal contacts and Slavic unity provided solid foundations for the strengthening of bilateral partnership.

  • Around the region...

    Georgia demands apology, compensation from Russia over alleged spy plane attack

    From: Xinhuan
    Absent compelling evidence to the contrary, this leads to the conclusion that the aircraft belonged to the Russian air force
    The Georgian Foreign Ministry has demanded an official apology and financial compensation from Moscow for allegedly shooting down its unmanned spy plane, the Itar-Tass news agency said Tuesday.

    "Tbilisi demands Moscow tender an official apology in connection with Russia's act of aggression against Georgia - the downing of the unmanned plane of the Georgian Interior Ministry - as well as compensation for material damage," Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze was quoted as saying.

    Tbilisi also demanded the withdrawal of Russia's peacekeeping reinforcements sent to Abkhazia this spring and the annulment of former President Vladimir Putin's order on closer ties with the breakaway region, Vashadze said.

    The UN mission in Georgia Monday said a Russian air force plane was responsible for shooting down the Georgian drone over Abkhaziaon April 20, citing evidences of radar records and video footage.

    Russia denied the accusation. Moscow had previously said the drone was shot down by anti-aircraft batteries operated by Abkhazian separatists.

    Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vyacheslav Kovalenko was summoned by the Georgian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday over the row.

    "I do not question the professionalism of those people who workin the UN mission, but the material with which these professionals worked gives us cause for great doubt," Kovalenko said after his meeting with Vashadze.

    Russian support for Abkhazia has been a source of tension between Moscow and Tbilisi.

    Russia has been increasing troop deployment in Abkhazia since tension flared up over the shooting down of the spy plane.

    Separatists in Abkhazia declared independence following bloody conflicts with Georgian government forces in the 1990s and an uneasy ceasefire is being monitored by CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Collective Peacekeeping Forces.

    The peacekeeping forces, made up of Russian servicemen, were first deployed in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone in 1994.

    Russia's Lavrov to attend Arctic conference in Greenland

    From: Ria Novosti
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will attend on Wednesday a ministerial meeting of the five states bordering on the Arctic Ocean, to be held in Ilulissat, western Greenland.

    Norway and Denmark will be represented by their foreign ministers, Jonas Gahr Store and Per Stig Moller, respectively, and Canada by Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn. The United States has sent Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.

    The Foreign Ministry of Denmark, the meeting's host country, said the states are expected to reiterate their willingness to abide by existing rules and treaties, including the 1982 United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea.

    The sides are expected to adopt a joint declaration saying the United Nations will rule on possible territorial disputes.

    Russia has claimed ownership of a vast section of neutral arctic territory, believed to be rich in oil and gas.

    The meeting in Greenland will also focus on climate change, which scientists have warned could destroy all floating summer ice in the Arctic in the next few years.

    "We need to send a common political signal to both our own populations and the rest of the world that the five coastal states will address the opportunities and challenges in a responsible manner," the Danish foreign minister said.

    Under the Law of the Sea, coastal states hold sovereignty over a zone of 200 nautical mile (370 km) limit, but this area can be extended if it is a part of the country's continental shelf or shallower waters. Some Arctic shelves extend for hundreds of miles, creating a possibility of overlapping territorial claims.

    Last August, as part of a scientific expedition, two Russian mini-subs made a symbolic eight-hour dive beneath the North Pole to bolster the country's claim that the Arctic's Lomonosov Ridge lies in the country's economic zone. A titanium Russian flag was also planted on the seabed. Russia first claimed the territory in 2001, but the UN demanded more evidence.

    The expedition irritated a number of Western countries, particularly Canada.

    Russia says won't be pushed from Ukraine base

    From: Sign on San Diego
    Russia said on Wednesday that keeping a Black Sea base for its navy in NATO-aspirant Ukraine was in its national interests and it would press to prolong the lease after it ran out in 2017.

    Reacting to moves by Ukraine to end Russia's naval presence in Sevastopol when the lease expired, foreign ministry special envoy Vladimir Dorokhin said: 'We don't understand this haste.'

    'The main message I want to deliver is that yes, Ukraine has the legitimate right to adopt any decisions it deems important, but they should not run counter to our national interests or make us give them up,' Dorokhin told a news conference.
    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko last week ordered his government to prepare a draft law formally ending Russia's presence in Sevastopol in 2017, prompting complaints from Moscow that he was acting hastily.

    The growing dispute over the Black Sea base forms part of a broader picture of deteriorating relations between Russia and its former Soviet ally since Yushchenko came to power in 2005, pledging to take Ukraine out of Moscow's orbit into the European mainstream.

    Under the current lease deal, the deployment of the Black Sea fleet in Ukraine could be prolonged by a further five years if both sides agree.

    But Yuschenko's instruction to start drafting a law on the Russian pull-out in 2017 seems to exclude that.


    Dorokhin said Yushchenko's move was 'an extra irritant in Russia's uneasy relations with Ukraine and sowed the seeds of mistrust.'

    'Why do they think we need nine years for the fleet's withdrawal? Why not 15 years or five, or four? In the end, this is our fleet, yes? So this must be our headache,' he said.

    'Our dialogue with Ukraine will continue. We hope what was said in Kiev was not the last word,' he said.

    The dispute led to Ukraine barring entry to Moscow's powerful mayor Yuri Luzhkov after he said Russia should take ownership of the port.

    Ukraine says its would-be NATO membership will not threaten Russia. To allay Moscow's concerns, Kiev has said Ukraine will never host foreign bases other than the Russian fleet, because its constitution bans this.

    Russia's Catherine the Great established the base at Sevastopol in the 18th century.

    When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and Ukraine became an independent state, the Black Sea fleet remained there and in 1997 Moscow and Kiev signed a lease deal. Dorokhin said Russia was paying Ukraine some $100 million a year in rent.

    Russia's Black Sea fleet numbers some 13,000 servicemen, 42 warships, 32 planes and 50 helicopters, according to official figures. It also has land-based weapons including 91 armoured vehicles and 24 artillery systems.

    In the last year Black Sea fleet ships have taken part in exercises in the Mediterranean and Atlantic.

    Military analysts said the war games were part of an effort by the Kremlin to flex its military muscles after years of under-funding since the Soviet collapse. The analysts said though questions remained about the fleet's combat readiness.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Another hearing in Self-defense sex scandal

    From: Polskie Radio
    The trial of Andrzej Lepper, leader of the Self-defence party and former MP Stanislaw Lyzwinski, continues in the court in Piotrkow Trybunalski, central Poland.

    Today the court will hear the testimony of Zbigniew B. According to the prosecutor's office, between 1999-2000 Lyzwinski allegedly instigated the man's kidnapping, which was a means of forcing Zbigniew B. to pay him half a million zlotys for alleged inconsistencies in a business they were running together. The case of Zbigniew B. is indirectly related to the main investigation.

    The Self-defence sex scandal hearings are proceeding behind closed doors for the sake of the alleged victims. Stanislaw Lyzwinski, in prison since August, was charged with rape, and, together with Lepper, for demanding and accepting services of a sexual nature from female party members, including Aneta Krawczyk, key witness and auxiliary prosecutor in the case.

    Both Lepper and Lyzwinski pleaded not guilty. They are facing eight and ten years in prison respectively if convicted.

    The investigation into the Self-defense sex scandal was launched after Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza published an article in December 2006 based on the account of Aneta Krawczyk, former Self-defense member and former head of Lyzwinski's parliamentary office. The woman claims to have been offered the position for providing both Lepper and Lyzwinski with services of a sexual nature.

    Palikot smear case continues

    From: The News
    Polish MEP Urszula Krupa has issued a notification to the Warsaw Circuit Prosecutor's Office on alleged crimes by MP Janusz Palikot.

    The notification was issued in relation with the interview Palikot gave to the Polska daily 17 May. According to Urszula Krupa, Palikot violated three provisions of the Penal Code concerning defamation of a clergyman, spreading false information, as well as propagating anti-Catholic attitudes and conduct.

    To support her claim Krupa reminded the prosecutor's office that Janusz Palikot compared controversial Radio Maryja founder Father Tadeusz Rydzyk to Satan, and painted him as a thief and a person of low reputation.

    According to Krupa slandering Rydzyk undermines his credibility as head of Radio Maryja and is a crime instigating hate against people of a certain religious affiliation.

    Additionally, Krupa stipulated that it was not a one-off offence, as Palikot launches attack on Rydzyk frequently.

    Yesterday, Palikot was officially reprimanded by his Civic Platform Party for giving the interview in which he accused Father Tadeusz Rydzyk of political ambitions, of being the 'impersonation of Satan', of 'stealing money' and spreading hate.

    In a related story, Janusz Palikot, the controversial member of the ruling Civic Platform (PO), hopes that he will not face suspension by his party after accusing a controversial radio station founder of being the ‘impersonation of Satan’.

    "I was, am, and hope to be proud of being a member of the Civic Platform. I would like to remain in the party and avoid being suspended,” Palikot is quoted by the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita.

    The controversial deputy hastened to add that he was willing to change the way he worded his thoughts and avoid media coverage for some time if his colleagues deemed it necessary.

    Last week head of the Civic Platform parliamentary club, Zbigniew Chlebowski, announced that he would demand the suspension of Palikot for a three month period.

    The statement was prompted by Palikot's interview for the Polska daily, in which he accused Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, head of an ulra-conservative radio station Radio Maryja of political ambitions, of being the ‘impersonation of Satan’, of ‘stealing money’ and spreading hate.

    The MP is no stranger to controversy. Earlier this year Palikot hit the news after he made allegations that President Lech Kaczynski's had an ‘alcohol problem’. On his blog, he wondered whether the president's frequent visits to hospital were related to his 'detox therapies'.

    A couple of days after posting these statements on his blog, MP Palikot apologized to the president.

    Slow and steady, or just lazy? -PM Tusk claims his government is working methodically, following claims of laziness

    From: WBJ
    On the occasion of his sixth month in power, Prime Minister Donald Tusk last week summed up his government's activity to date. According to the PM, work on reforms is being carried out systematically and the government's primary goal at the moment is to raise the standard of living in Poland.

    "We've adopted eight bills [so far] in the first half of the year," said Tusk, stressing that the simplification of the law was a better indicator of his government's work than the number of bills proposed. "We have decided to follow good European examples," Tusk told the media.

    "My cabinet aims above all to improve the quality of Poles' lives ... but it is doing this without revolution," the PM said.

    Tusk expects unemployment to drop below 10 percent by the end of the year and GDP growth to reach 5.5 percent. The key challenge is keeping the growth of prices below that of salaries, Tusk said.

    Earlier in the week, Law and Justice (PiS) chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski criticized the government and the current state of politics. In an interview on Polish Radio Jedynka's morning show, "Sygnaly Dnia," Kaczynski concluded that Polish politics was in a sorry state and that a number of current ministers were unproductive.

    "The work of Minister Cwiakalski is one big scandal. We can also add these doubts to Minister Grad. And then you can multiply these doubts in regards to all the ministers, because they don't do anything. One word can be inferred here - laziness," said Kaczynski. "There's one minister that actually does something, but he does it very poorly. I'm referring to Minister Sikorski."

    According to a survey by CBOS last week, around 50 percent of Poles had a positive opinion about PM Tusk's Cabinet. A poll by TNS OBOP, however, showed that 48 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with the present government and 79 percent of respondents claimed that it had not resolved any significant issue yet.

  • Sport...

    Germany Held By Impressive Belarus

    Germany were held to a 2-2 draw by Belarus in their first warm-up match ahead of this summer’s European Championships. The home side let a two goal lead slip and a second half double from Vitali Bulyga handed Belarus a deserved draw.

    Germany took the lead after ten minutes with Miroslav Klose grabbing a confidence boosting goal after good work from Bayern team mate Podolski. Their lead was doubled ten minutes later when Korytko put an Odonkor cross through his own net.

    However, the visitors kept plugging away and were rewarded with two deserved goals and a share of the spoils. Vitali Bulyga scored a deserved goal on the hour mark before grabbing his second and the equaliser two minutes from time.

    The main surprise in the German starting line-up was the inclusion of Thomas Hitzlsperger at full back. Marcell Jansen wasn’t risked due to a muscle problem, while Heiko Westermann was called away at the last minute after learning that his wife had gone into labour. David Odonkor started on the right of midfield with Podolski partnering Klose up front.

    Belarus based their game around Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb. Keeper Khomutovski from Carl-Zeiss Jena started in goal, while Hamburg’s Putsilo also started.

    First Half

    The away side created the first chance after three minutes with the Hleb brothers combining well. Vyacheslav passed to Arsenal midfielder Alexander and received the ball back but failed to make the right contact with the return pass. Soon after Thomas Hitzlsperger moved forward before unleashing a shot from distance that went wide.

    The visitors were looking lively and spending a fair amount of time in Germany’s half, but the final pass let them down. Belarus were certainly not holding back in the tackle either and a crunching tackle from Lentsevich on 9 minutes brought a booking.

    The opening goal however fell to the hosts with Miroslav Klose on the scoresheet. Lukas Podolski moved into the centre from the right and spotted his Bayern team mate. Klose was marginally offside but with no flag going up, he rounded the Belarus keeper before slotting home into the empty net.

    Another hefty challenge from Putsilo on Schweinsteiger after 15 minutes brought another yellow card and complaints from Joachim L?w regarding the heavy handed tackling from Bernd Stange’s side.

    On 19 minutes Per Mertesacker won the ball well before playing a long ball into the path of Podolski. The Bayern striker however was unable to take the ball properly under control. A minute later however and the lead was doubled for the hosts.

    David Odonkor broke down the right and fired across the penalty area. Klose missed the ball but the unfortunate Korytko fired the ball into his own net as he tried to clear the danger.

    Belarus continued to have their moments going forward but were too imprecise and failed to unduly trouble Jens Lehmann in the German goal. Then on the half hour mark a good piece of combination play between Odonkor and Schweinsteiger saw Torsten Frings fire an effort over the Belarus goal.

    Three minutes later Frings and Ballack played a clever one-two and the Chelsea midfielder played a great through ball to Klose, but the Bayern striker was denied by the feet of keeper Khomutovski.

    Belarus were concentrating their attacks down Germany’s left hand side where Hitzlsperger was the obvious weak link at the back. Alex Hleb and Bulyga combined well on 36 minutes but the striker fired wide from a tight angle.

    The visitors finished the half strongly with Metzelder losing the ball and handing a half chance to Vyacheslav Hleb. Jens Lehmann however was on hand to pull off a superb save to deflect the ball for a corner.

    Second Half

    Jogi L?w started the second half by sending on youngster Marko Marin and Jermaine Jones for Schweinsteiger and Ballack. The German defence was looking shaky at the start of the second half, and substitute Sitko was unlucky with an effort on 49 minutes under pressure from Mertesacker.

    Further changes from L?w saw both Patrick Helmes and Oliver Neuville come on to try and convince him they warranted a place in his final squad. On 59 minutes a mis-placed ball from Lahm let in Alex Hleb, but after dribbling around Per Mertesacker his through ball didn’t find a team mate.

    Two minutes later and Belarus’ endeavour was rewarded with a goal. Kulchy passed from midfield through the centre to Bulyga. His left footed shot beat Lehmann who tried to save with his leg, but the ball ended up in the back of the German net.

    Whenever Khomutovski was called upon he was up to task. He saved with a fine parry from Helmes on 65 minutes and denied Piotr Trochowski with a fine save on 79 minutes. Then Jens Lehmann was both hero and villain in the space of a few minutes in the last five minutes.

    On 84 minutes Rodinov marched his way to the penalty area before unleashing a shot from eight meters that Lehmann had to save well to deny the equaliser.

    However, the German keeper made an error on 88 minutes to hand the visitors a share of the spoils. Jermaine Jones lost the ball in front of the penalty area to Omelyanchuk and Vitali Bulyga received his pass before firing a shot that squirmed under Lehmann when he should have done better.


    1-0 Klose (10)

    2-1 Korytko o.g (20)

    2-1 Bulyga (61)

    2-2 Bulyga (88)

    Germany: Lehmann, Lahm, Metzelder, Mertesacker, Hitzlsperger, Frings (Trochowski 67), Ballack (Jones 46), Odonkor (Fritz 79), Schweinsteiger (Marin 46), Klose (Helmes 54), Podolski (Neuville 54)

    Belarus: Khomutovski, Omelyanchuk, Lentsevich, Filipenko, Korytko, Kulchy, A.Hleb, Romaschenko (Sitko 46), Putsilo (Pavlov 73), V.Hleb (Rodinov 54), Bulyga (Kornilenko 90)

  • Cultural scene...

    Alla Pugacheva to open Slavic Bazaar in Vitebsk

    From: BelTA
    Russia’s famous singer Alla Pugacheva will partake in the opening ceremony of the 17th international arts festival “Slavic Bazaar in Vitebsk”, First Deputy Culture Minister of Belarus Vladimir Rylatko told BelTA.

    The cast of the opening gala on July 11 will be really star-studded. The cast includes Nikolai Baskov, Nedezhda Kadysheva and her group Zolotoye Koltso, Tamara Gvertsiteli, Iosif Kobson, Maksim Galkin, Laima Vaikule and also the participants of the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 Diana Gurtskaya (Georgia), Jelena Tomasevic (Serbia), and Ani Lorak (Ukraine). Venezuela will send its dance folk group “Folklore Cochense”. The concert will also feature a dance company from Egypt and a circus group from China. A special guest in Vitebsk will be famous musician Riccardo Cocciante from France, who will be in charge of the jury of the singers contest.

    Belarus will be represented by Anatoly Yarmolenko and his Syabry group, Pesnyary group, dance company “Khoroshki”, Igor Luchenok, Irina Dorofeyeva and Ruslan Alekhno.

    Belarus Opera Theatre to partake in Parnu festival in 2009

    The company of the National Academic Opera Theatre of Belarus will participate in an opera festival in Parnu (Estonia) in 2009. The relevant agreement was reached during a visit of well-known Estonian cultural figures to Minsk, BelTA learnt from Alexander Ostrovsky, the Consul General of Belarus to Tallinn.

    On May 25-27, Minsk welcomed Marika Park, the Director of the Parnu Concert Hall, and Toomas Kuter, the chairman of the organizing committee of Klaudia Taevi International Contest of Young Opera Singers PromFest. The visit was organized by the Consulate General of Belarus in Tallinn. The guests met with Valery Gedroits, the Director of the National Academic Opera Theatre, and Margarita Izvorska-Yelizaryeva, the art director of the theatre.

    The diplomat noted that Belarus and Estonia had been closely cooperated in the opera art. Soloists of the Belarusian Opera Oksana Volkova and Ilya Silchukov took the third place at the previous PromFest.

    This year, Ilya Silchukov took part in the festival PUCCINI-GALA in the Estonian towns of Parnu and Tallinn marking the 150th anniversary of the outstanding Italian composer Giacomo Puccini.

    Belarusians successfully performed at the fourth international vocal contest among children and the youth Small Opera 2008 in Kohtla-Jarve in April. Alexandra Maksimenko, a student of Oginsky State Musical College in Molodechno, was awarded a diploma of the contest, Yulia Shkvarko, a student of musical school #4 in Vitebsk, took the third place in the junior group.

    Representatives of 27 national unions to participate in festival of national cultures in Grodno

    More than 4,5 thousand people took part in the oblasts’ rounds of the 7th Festival of National Cultures which will be held in Grodno on June 13-15, BelTA learnt from organizers of the festival.

    The jury panel led by Mikhail Drinevsky selected more than 700 soloists and various bands which were invited to take part in the Grodno festival.

    This time the international forum will be represented by 27 nationalities. The Belarusian Bulgarians, Hindus, Palestinians, Kabardins, Balkars will take part in the national festival for the first time. The unions of the Belarusian Kazakhs and Chuvashs expanded their representation at the forum.

    During the forthcoming event, more than 20 grounds will be set up in the historical centre of Grodno where representatives of diasporas will demonstrate their cultural traditions.

    Around 40 various events will be held during the national festival in Grodno. The main of them will take place in Lenina and Sovetskaya squares of the city. A new covered stage and a huge plasma screen will be installed in Sovetskaya Square of Grodno to display forum’ performances.

  • Endnote...

    Yea, but would he talk with Lukashenko?

    From: The Story
    Just read an article from the Wall Street Journal which deals with Barak Obama's statement that he would meet with leaders of Rogue states:

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden took to the airwaves this week to "help" the rookie Barack Obama out of a foreign-policy jam. Oh sure, admitted Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee had given the "wrong" answer when he said he'd meet unconditionally with leaders of rogue states. But on the upside, the guy "has learned a hell of a lot."

    Somewhere Mr. Obama was muttering an expletive. But give Mr. Biden marks for honesty. As Mr. Obama finishes a week of brutal questioning over his foreign-policy judgments, it's become clear he has learned a lot – and is learning still.

    Right now, for instance, he's learning how tough it can be to pivot to a general-election stance on the crucial issue of foreign policy. He's also learning Democrats won't be able to sail through a national-security debate by simply painting John McCain as the second coming of George Bush.

    Remember how Mr. Obama got here. In a July debate, the Illinois senator was asked if he'd meet, "without preconditions," the "leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea." It was an unexpected question, and Mr. Obama rolled with his gut: "I would," he said, riffing that the Bush administration's policy of not negotiating with terror-sponsoring states was "ridiculous."
    It is hard to say whether the article is pointing out a flaw in Barak's character, but I for one would be wildly thrilled at such a possibility. A genuine dialogue and reasonable relations between countries and individuals is at the epicenter of living in a reasonable world. As a current resident of the Republic of Belarus and, at least as of the moment, a citizen of the United States, I would wholeheartedly back any president who would agree to help establish better and more open relations between the two countries.

    Belarus has enough problems feeding itself without the extra added weight of political manipulations and I absolutely agree with the Belarusian president's view that normal relations are what is needed from both sides. I liked Bill Clinton a lot and have long considered myself closer to the Democrats and from the beginning, had been of the mind that I wouldn't mind a Hillary White House. But now I am seriously starting to rethink my voting stance and not only due to her lack of popular support (or her Husband's open distaste for Lukashenko). If Obama would seriously state during a time of scrutiny and tension that he was interested in communication over economic fascism as a means to solve problems, he would have indeed, as the article stated, learned a lot and earned my write in vote while he was at it.

    I want peace and mutually beneficial options for all of humanity and not just for the privileged few who can afford it. Monitoring the real possibility of nuclear terrorism can just as easily be accomplished during peaceful relations as they can in times of antagonism. Yea, I know there would be a lot of people who would be horrified of the thought of an American president shaking the hand of the President of Belarus, or with Hugo Chavez' or even Ahmadinejad's, a guy I personally would have a really hard time with. But I say we need to be looking at potential leaders with open and (for a change) functioning minds if there even is to be a future for humanity.

    I say we have had enough of the axiom that war begets peace or that force begets agreement. We need to start solving the real problems of our world. I think we should get back to thinking about ecology, food and housing. I think we need to address the issue of reasonable population control and allowing for global opportunities. I for one would rather not look ahead to the lives of our children and think that they should never know a day of peace because our legacy was that we destroyed any possibility of its existence.

    If Mr. Barak Obama would be willing to unlock The US side of the double door, I would say we would be looking at a much brighter possible future.