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Sunday, May 04, 2008

US orders Belarus embassy closed, US diplomats leave Belarus; Russia, Ukraine, Cuba, EU, Polish scandal, Economics, Opposition, Culture and Sport

  • From the Top...
  • #304

    Russia has no more reliable and decent partner in West than Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko says

    From: BelTA
    Alexander Lukashenko in Turov before an Easter divine service
    Russia cannot have more reliable and decent partner in the West than Belarus, Belarusian Head of State Alexander Lukashenko stated at a meeting with Defence Minister of Russia Anatoly Serdyukov in Minsk on April 29.

    The Head of State noted that the creation of a joint regional force grouping of Belarus and Russia means a lot. “I think that in the future we will be acting from a unified position as we do today”, the President underlined.

    Alexander Lukashenko considers the level of Belarus-Russia military cooperation high. “We would have no problems if we had such interaction with the Russian Dederation in other areas,” the Belarusian leader said. Alexander Lukashenko added that Belarus has never had any moot points with the Russian army.

    Anatoly Serdyukov praised the level of the Belarusian-Russian cooperation in the military area and underlined that “all the serious issues are addressed in time”.

    On April 30, the joint board of the Defence Ministries of Belarus and Russia plan to sign an intergovernmental agreement on joint technical supply of the regional force grouping of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation and a bilateral agreement on interaction in radioelectronic struggle.

    Alexander Lukashenko: Russian elections created solid foundation for continuity in Belarusian-Russian relations

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko believes it is important that results of the Russian elections had created a solid foundation for ensuring continuity in the development of Belarusian-Russian relations. The President made the statement as part of his Address to the Belarusian nation and the National Assembly on April 29.

    In his words, the Union of Belarus and Russia has been created and operates with a view to reinforcing the two countries and promoting a real multipolar world. “I can tell those who predicted a rapid demise for the Union that while Russia and Belarus gain more and more power, our union grows stronger,” said the President of Belarus.

    Alexander Lukashenko also noted, “The geography of international visits over the last few years explicitly indicates major components of our multivector policy: Russia, the CIS states, the Persian Gulf, China, Venezuela, India, and South Africa”. In his words, the country has to diversify its foreign relations, to ensure Belarus’ real economic presence in these countries. “On the other hand, cooperating with these countries we can safeguard Belarus’ economy from threatening changes on global commodity and financial markets. Belarus will continue consistently and pragmatically building up its position in major strategic avenues,” stressed the President of Belarus.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Sanctions against Belarusian companies undermine trust in US as partner, Sergei Aleinik says

    From: BelTA
    The actions of the USA against some Belarusian companies do not only undermine trust in the United Sates as a partner but also show a selective attitude of the USA to its international-legal obligations, Permanent Representative of Belarus to the UN Office and other international organisations in Geneva Sergei Aleinik said when taking part in the general discussion of the second session of the Preparatory Committee in the run-up to the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The forum is held in Geneva on April 28-May 9, BelTA was told in the Belarus permanent mission.

    The diplomat stressed that in the context of NPT, security safeguards are of crucial importance. “For the NPT non-nuclear members the legally binding safeguards are the key to trust and predictability in the relations between states, to the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime. Providing security safeguards is an important step in this direction, though not the only one. What is more important and, as it has turned out, more difficult is to observe the given guarantees,” Sergei Aleinik said.

    According to him, Belarus voluntarily gave up an opportunity to have nuclear weapons and joined NPT as a non-nuclear state in 1993.

    “Russia, the USA and Great Britain hailed that decision and in 1994 signed a memorandum of security safeguards in connection with Belarus’ accession to NPT. In line with this document, in exchange for the voluntary withdrawal of nuclear weapons, the aforementioned states pledged to respect the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus and not to apply measures of economic pressure. Some ten years later the USA forgot about those safeguards in respect of several Belarusian petrochemical companies. This unfriendly move does not only undermine the trust in the United States as a partner but shows the selective attitude of the USA to its international-legal obligations,” Sergei Aleinik said.

    According to him, “there comes a logical question: What are the security safeguards of the biggest possessor of nuclear weapons worth of?”

    “In this connection we stress the importance of signing an international legally binding document on security safeguards,” Sergei Aleinik said.

    US diplomats who have been declared persona non grata to depart Belarus at a set date

    The US diplomats who have been declared persona non grata will leave the Republic of Belarus within the agreed upon period.

    As BelTA was told in the Foreign Ministry of Belarus, a working meeting with Charge d’Affaires a.i. of the United States of America in the Republic of Belarus Jonathan Moore took place in the Foreign Ministry on May 1.

    At a meeting a day before, the US diplomat was informed that as of April 30 the staff of the Belarusian Embassy in Washington was decreased down to 6 people, including the Ambassador. The USA had been informed about the step in advance. In view of the USA’s refusal to follow the Foreign Ministry’s proposal to decrease the staff of the US Embassy in Minsk in a similar manner, Jonathan Moore was given a note of the Foreign Ministry and a list of US diplomats, who are now persona non grata and must leave the Republic of Belarus.

    Belarus’ Foreign Ministry gives persona non grata list to Jonathan Moore

    Charge d’Affaires a.i. of the United States of America in the Republic of Belarus Jonathan Moore was invited to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus on April 30.

    During the meeting the US diplomat was informed that as of April 30 the staff of the Belarusian Embassy in Washington was decreased down to 6 people, including the Ambassador. The USA had been informed about the step in advance.

    In view of the USA’s refusal to follow the Foreign Ministry’s proposal to decrease the staff of the US Embassy in Minsk in a similar manner, Jonathan Moore was given a note of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a list of US diplomats, who are now persona non grata and must leave the Republic of Belarus.

    Belarus Foreign Ministry refutes accusations of disrupting Radio Liberty’s website operation

    In a related story, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus believes that accusations that Belarus is to blame for problems in the operation of the website of the radio station Liberty/Free Europe are unfounded.

    Deputy Head of the Information Department, Head of the Press Service of the Foreign Ministry Maria Vanshina noted, “Unfortunately in the modern world cybercrime problems are more and more frequent. However, the statement made by Jeffrey Gedmin, head of the Liberty/Free Europe radio station, is nothing but an emotional and unfounded accusation. Mr Gedmin might have thought, in particular, about liability for slander in mass media before making rash comments”.

    Ликвидирован крупный пожар на нефтебазе в Бресте

    Около 180 тонн бензина сгорело во время пожара на нефтебазе, находящейся в черте Бреста, сообщили "Интерфаксу" в воскресенье в брестском областном управлении по чрезвычайным ситуациям.

    "Пожар на одной из брестских нефтебаз, в результате которого сгорело 180 тонн бензина, ликвидирован", - сообщили в управлении.

    По словам собеседника агентства, пожар тушили около 90 единиц техники. Эвакуация населения не проводилась, пострадавших в результате пожара нет.

    Как сообщалось, в субботу загорелась нефтебаза "Брестоблнефтепродукт", находящаяся в черте Бреста. Пожару была присвоена третья категория сложности.

    По данным областного управления министерства по чрезвычайным ситуациям Беларуси, "причиной пожара могло стать попадание грозового разряда в резервуар".

    Всего на нефтебазе расположено шесть резервуаров с бензином, в которых могло находиться около 400 тонн топлива.

    Belarus thinks it inadmissible to use nuclear weapons in international disputes

    From: BelTA
    As the country which was worst affected by the Chernobyl disaster, Belarus believes it is inadmissible to use and threat to use nuclear weapons in addressing any international dispute, Permanent Representative of Belarus in the UN Office and other international organisations in Geneva Sergei Aleinik said when taking part in the general discussion of the second session of the Preparatory Committee in the run-up to the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The forum is held in Geneva on April 28-May 9, BelTA was told in the Belarus permanent mission.

    Sergei Aleinik said that for forty years NPT has been the fundamental element of the international security system. Belarus attaches equal importance to all key elements of the Treaty – disarmament, non-proliferation and the right for peaceful nuclear energy.

    “Belarus was the first state which voluntarily refused from a possibility to possess nuclear weapons which were left on its territory after the Soviet Union collapse. Confirming its commitment to the NPT obligations, Belarus urges to work towards the NPT strategic goal which is nuclear disarmament. In this respect the statements of several nuclear countries on the measures to reduce strategic nuclear weapons are of a positive importance. At the same time Belarus thinks these steps are not enough especially considering the further upgrading of nuclear weapons, development of new weapons and the existence of the defence doctrines which admit the use of nuclear weapons. Belarus believes that the steps of the international community in nuclear disarmament should be supplemented with tangible efforts of the nuclear states both within the framework of the existing and future treaty obligations and also unilaterally,” Sergei Aleinik said.

    According to him, the Belarusian side welcomes the progress on the way of the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as the number of the states which have ratified it has been growing. Belarus also urged the countries, on which the entry into force of the treaty depend, to ratify it as soon as possible. “We believe that the existing moratorium on nuclear tests cannot replace the CTBT legal obligations,” Sergei Aleinik said.

    No plans for double citizenship in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    The concept of the bill on compatriots abroad that will be brought in the House of Representatives of the National Assembly in July 2008 does not provide for introducing double citizenship for ethnic Belarusians abroad, Commissioner for Religions and Nationalities under the Council of Ministers of Belarus Leonid Gulyako said as he met with representatives of the Belarusian diaspora in Minsk on April 30.

    “Taking into account the forthcoming parliamentary elections the bill is likely to be given the second reading by the new convocation House of Representatives,” remarked Leonid Gulyako.

    The bill on compatriots abroad was developed by the Foreign Ministry of Belarus with participation of the Office of the Commissioner for Religions and Nationalities. Leonid Gulyako admitted the bill may be amended to take into account Poland’s introduction of the Pole cards. “The bill is unlikely to directly refer to the ‘Pole cards’ however some additional principles in view of the situation will be stipulated,” he remarked.

    Belarus elected to two UN commissions

    At the organizational session of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in New York Belarus was unanimously elected for a 4-year term to two ECOSOC functional commissions: the Commission on Population and Development and the Commission on the Status of Women, BelTA learnt from Belarus permanent representative office in the UN.

    The Commission on Population and Development is composed of 47 states. The Commission constitutes an intergovernmental mechanism that plays the primary role in the follow-up to the implementation of the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development. Its main objectives are monitoring, reviewing and assessing the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, providing appropriate recommendations to the Council. The only time Belarus participated in the work of this commission was in 2000-2003.

    It is symbolic that the election of Belarus to the commission coincided with a relevant statement of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. In the State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly the head of state underlined that the population of Belarus should increase at least three times and the state considers it vitally important for the future of the nation.

    Commission on the Status of Women is a central intergovernmental body responsible for the implementation of the resolutions of the international UN conferences on women’s rights. The membership of the commission includes 45 states. The commission was created as a mechanism to promote, report on and monitor issues relating to the political, economic, civil, social and educational rights of women. The commission also prepares the recommendations for ECOSOC on most urgent problems in the area of women’s rights that require immediate resolution. Last time Belarus was elected member of the commission was 15 years ago.

  • Economics...

    Belarusian oil Company opens subsidiary company in London

    From: BelTA
    Belarusian Oil Company (BOC) opened a subsidiary company in London - BNK (UK) Ltd., BOC deputy director general of Alexander Demidov told BelTA.

    According to him, the company was registered in April 2008. It will sell oil products to end consumers in North-Western Europe. The goal is to start using the mechanism of insuring price risks and attracting financial resources. BNK (UK) Ltd. will be working under direct contracts with end users, for example, the companies which have networks of filling stations in that region.

    The company is expected to start working in H2 this year and will promote sales of Belarusian oil products in North-Western Europe.

    Alexander Demidov did not rule out that Belarusian Oil Company will be opening its subsidiaries in other curtness including in the neighboring states, for example, Poland and Ukraine. “This is our first subsidiary company. We will be working on opening new ones on other markets,” Alexander Demidov said.

    Belarusian Oil Company consolidates the exports of Belarusian oil products to increase their efficiency. In Q1 BOC handled around 80% of exports of Belarusian oil products. In H2 the share will be increased to 100%. The exports average 400,000 tonnes a month.

    In 2008, BOC is expected to export around 6.6 million tonnes of oil products to the tune of $3.7 billion.

    Belarusian Oil Company was registered in the Republic of Belarus on May 17, 2007. The shareholders are Belorusneft, OAO Naftan, Mozyr Oil Refinery, and Belarusian Oil Trading House. Belarusian Oil Company was founded following the President’s instruction to optimise oil purchases and the export of petroleum products. Belarusian Oil Company is expected to specialise in bulk purchases of oil, oil processing at Belarusian oil refineries and exporting petroleum products. Belarusian Oil Company held the first trading session in petroleum products using Belneftekhim’s e-trade system on June 29.
  • Note: BNK - Bel Neft Kem

    Belarus can become one of thirty countries with best investment climate, Piotr Prokopovich says

    In the upcoming years Belarus can become one of thirty countries with best investment climate, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Bank of Belarus Piotr Prokopovich told BelTA.

    “The plans are feasible,” Piotr Prokopovich said. “By attracting investments we strengthen our economy. Therefore foreign investments are helpful in enhancing economic security, sovereignty of Belarus on the whole,” he said.

    “The main thing is that the sovereign Belarus has become a reality. This is what President of the country Alexander Lukashenko spoke about in his State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly. As a sovereign state we need to ensure our future independence including economic independence,” Piotr Prokopovich added.

    Ukraine to join Grodno hydroelectric power station construction

    Ukrainian specialists will partake in the development of the construction project of the Grodno hydroelectric power station, BelTA learnt from the Grodnoenergo Company.

    The general designer of the hydroelectric power station is a research company BelNIPIenergoprom. The most difficult stage is to design the building of the hydroelectric power station and an overflow dam. The specialists of the Ukrainian company Hydroproject were engaged to assist in designing these elements.

    At present the specialists of the company Grodnopromstroi are preparing a foundation pit that is to be ready by the end of the year.

    In May, Belarus plans to sign a contract with the Iranian company Marvestan Group on the delivery of equipment for the hydroelectric power station.

    The Grodno hydroelectric power station will be built in the high-water bed of the river Neman in line with the state comprehensive programme on modernization of the major production funds of the Belarusian energy system. The capacity of the new hydroelectric power station will total 17MW. The Grodno hydroelectric power station slated for the completion in 2010 will develop cheap eco-friendly energy and enhance the stable electric supply of the oblast center.

  • From the International Press...

    US orders Belarus embassy closed in widening diplomatic rift

    The State Department on Thursday ordered Belarus to close its embassy in Washington and its consulate in New York and said it will shut down the U.S. Embassy in the Belarusian capital.

    In a new escalation of a diplomatic dispute, Belarus has been given until May 16 to withdraw its six diplomats at the two missions and the American embassy in Minsk will cease operations as early as Friday, officials told the Associated Press. The move is just a step short of severing diplomatic relations and is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat exchanges with the former Soviet republic.

    The officials said Belarus was notified of the decision in simultaneous meetings between U.S. and Belarusian diplomats in Washington and Minsk at 10 a.m. EDT. They spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement expected later Thursday.

    Closing a U.S. embassy abroad is extremely rare and usually occurs only in conflict zones or in anticipation of instability, the officials said. It was not immediately clear when the United States had last shut down an embassy for purely political reasons.

    The United States is one of the fiercest critics of Belarus' authoritarian president, and relations have deteriorated notably this year amid pressure from Washington for Belarus to release political prisoners or face punitive sanctions. Belarus on Wednesday ordered most of the U.S. Embassy staff in Minsk to leave the country in 72 hours.

    The U.S. ambassador left Minsk in March after Belarus pulled its ambassador from Washington. The U.S. embassy in Minsk, which had 35 diplomats at the beginning of the year, was being forced to cut its staff to four. The officials said the mission would not be able to function with such a small number of personnel.

    The State Department had protested the expulsions as "unjustified and unwarranted" and on Wednesday said it was considering a wide array of options to respond.

    "We want to have a good relationship with Belarus and work to try to improve that," spokesman Sean McCormack said then. "But we are not going to do that and sacrifice the principles of pushing for freedom of expression, political freedoms and other freedoms in Belarus."

    The officials said arrangements were being made with a third country to assume "protecting power" responsibilities for the U.S. interests in Belarus, most notably looking after the care of an ailing American lawyer who is currently in Belarusian custody.

    The United States has demanded that the lawyer, 54-year-old Emanuel Zeltser, who suffers from diabetes, be released from a psychiatric ward where he is being held. Zeltser was detained on March 12 on suspicion of using false documents and his family says Belarusian authorities are denying him medication. He faces three years in prison if convicted.

    Relations between Minsk and Washington have spiraled downward in recent months, mainly because of U.S. sanctions imposed on a state-controlled oil-processing and chemicals company, Belneftekhim, as well as travel restrictions on President Alexander Lukashenko and top government officials.

    The sanctions are designed to punish Lukashenko, who U.S. officials routinely describe as "Europe's last dictator," and his government for its heavy-handed treatment of critics and intolerance of dissent.

    The United States has repeatedly raised the case of imprisoned dissidents, including opposition leader Alexander Kozulin who was arrested during a protest after challenging Lukashenko in the 2006 presidential election, which the U.S. dismissed as illegitimate. He was convicted of organizing mass protests and sentenced to 5 1/2 years in a high-security prison.

    US backs down on Belarus embassy closure

    From: AP
    John Negroponte
    The United States abruptly backed down on a decision to order the closure of the Belarusian embassy in Washington and consulate in New York just minutes before American diplomats were to inform Belarus of the move on Thursday, U.S. officials said.

    The State Department had planned to notify Belarus of the step, which had been approved by Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, in both Washington and Minsk. But officials said they were instructed not to do so at the last minute. The change in plan came as a meeting between U.S. and Belarusian diplomats was under way, the officials said.

    Instead, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the diplomats had warned that such steps were possible as Washington continues to explore ways to retaliate for Belarus' expulsion of most of the U.S. Embassy staff in Minsk.

    "We told them we would comply with the expulsion order and we warned them that there is a range of actions that we can take," Casey said. "We have to consider whether, after drawing down our staff, we can effectively operate there."

    He would not elaborate on what measures might be taken.

    But orders had been prepared to tell Belarus it had until May 16 to withdraw its six diplomats at its missions in Washington and New York, officials said. At the same time, Belarus was to have been told that the U.S. embassy in Minsk would shut down as early as Friday, they said.

    Planning for the closure of the Minsk Embassy has been under way for some time and had reached the stage of securing a third country to serve as a "protecting power" to represent U.S. in Belarus, the officials said.

    US diplomats leave Belarus amid escalating diplomatic spat

    From: AP
    Eleven U.S. diplomats left Belarus on Saturday after being declared persona non grata amid escalating diplomatic tensions between Washington and the ex-Soviet nation, an embassy official said.

    Belarus on Wednesday had ordered 10 of the embassy's 11 diplomats to leave the country, giving them 72 hours to comply.

    All 11 left Saturday, a U.S. Embassy official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

    The departures leave the embassy with just four U.S. staffers, down from 35 at the start of the year. The U.S. ambassador left in March after Belarus pulled its ambassador from Washington.

    The State Department has warned Belarus it may order the Belarusian embassy in Washington and the country's consulate in New York closed, and shut down the U.S. Embassy in Minsk.

    Washington is one of the fiercest critics of Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko and is pressuring Belarus to release political prisoners or face punitive sanctions.

    Relations have worsened in recent months, mainly because of U.S. sanctions imposed on a state-controlled oil-processing and chemicals company, Belneftekhim, as well as travel restrictions on Lukashenko and top government officials.

    The sanctions are designed to punish Lukashenko, routinely described as "Europe's last dictator," and his government for its heavy-handed treatment of critics.

    Belarus opens temporary access to cemeteries in Chernobyl exclusion zone

    From: Itar Tass
    As of Monday, May 4, the Belarussian authorities have opened temporary access to cemeteries in the Chernobyl nuclear accident exclusion zone, which embraces a number of areas in eastern and southeast parts of the country affected by radiation in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.

    The exclusion zone has restricted access, and the population from there was largely resettled to other parts of the country shortly after the accident.

    Temporary access is now given to the cemeteries, as Eastern Orthodox believers are going to mark Radonitsa, the Tuesday of the second week after Easter on which the Eastern Orthodox Church remembers all the departed.

    The Belarussians have a tradition of visiting cemeteries on the eve of Radonitsa for clearing and decorating the graves of their departed relatives.

    This year, the cemeteries in the exclusion zone will be open for access through to May 6.

    Experts at the special administration supervising the exclusion zone told Itar-Tass that people get permission to go to the cemeteries only and cannot travel freely within the areas affected by the Chernobyl radioactive fallout.

    To prevent undesirable traveling inside the zone, the authorities have placed special patrols there.

    Fire precautions take on special significance these days, and Belarussian law enforcers call the attention of all the visitors to the importance of strictly observing the fire safety regulations.

    More than 250 cemeteries are located in the exclusion zone and about 50,000 visit them annually for remembrance purposes.

    Cuba Awards Belarus Diplomat

    From: Prensa Latina
    Cuba awarded Belarus ambassador Igar I. Paluyan with the Order of Solidarity for his outstanding work and important ties of friendship and cooperation between both countries.

    Bestowed by the Council of State Friday, Paluyan received the award from Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, recognizing his excellent links and collaboration between Cubaand Belarus, states the document.

    Teresita Vicente, director of Europe Department at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said Paluyan had the virtue of interpreting with his work and attitude the international framework in which mutual relations and the role of both countries in that context have been developed.

    His dynamic diplomatic labor during a five year mission on the island was always marked by joining forces and increasing all kind of cooperation against hostility from common political adversaries, she stressed.

    Vicente passed on to the Belarussian ambassador the support of Cuba to the honorable position of her government faced with US aggression.

  • From the Opposition...

    Hrodna: pupils prohibited to participate in historical scientific conference

    From: Viasna
    Siarhei Batura and Aliaksandr Liutomski, pupils of Hrodna school #28, and their teacher Aliaksandr Rabkou were prohibited to take part in the historical scientific conference.

    The reason is that two years ago the pupils shot a film about protection of the historical center of Hrodna from ruination. The authorities learned about it after presentation of the documentary at school. A thorough check-up was organized, as a result of which the chair of the education department of Hrodna city executive committee Siarhei Blazhei, the school director Ihar Akhmetau and Aliaksandr Rabkou could lose their job.

    The report which the pupils presented for the conference was dedicated to the history of the Lutheran protestant community in Hrodna. Their teacher also prepared a substantial report called ‘Patriotic upbringing of children on the example of the museum of the 23rd army.’ However, the authorities still remember the film. That’s why they decided to take revenge on its authors.

    At the same time, the documentary is actively distributed in Hrodna. It is even more interesting that the pupils’ parents work in KGB and frontier troops and have also received rebukes for the actions of their children.

    Siarhei Parsiukevich sentenced to 2.5 years of imprisonment

    On April 23rd Maskouski court of Minsk made a sentence to the leader of Vitebsk entrepreneurs Siarhei Parsiukevich. Judge Uladzimir Audzeyenka found him guilty of committing of an offence under Article 364 of the Criminal Code (“Violence or a threat of violence towards a police officer”). Parsiukevich was sentenced to 2.5 years of imprisonment. Parsiukevich will also have to pay 1.1 million BYR to police officer Dulub.

    When the verdict was announced, Parsiukevich said: “This is a political reprisal. Please, don’t leave my family without support!”

    Andrei Kim transferred to prison hospital because of eye inflammation

    Recently the political prisoner Andrei Kim has had the first meeting with his mother, Tatsiana Kim. Andrei has been transferred from jail to prison hospital, because of rapid deterioration of the eyesight.

    In order to meet with her son, the mother had to wait outside the prison hospital since 5.30 a.m. ‘The meeting lasted for about an hour’, she said. ‘Andrei’s eyesight is getting worse, his eyes are read. The doctors diagnosed an inflammation. I cannot say anything more than that, because it is very difficult to get any information from the doctors. The regime in the prison hospital is even harder than in the pre-trial prison. That’s why I don’t know even how much Andrei will spend at the hospital.’

    According to militia, fascist swastika is not “disturbance of public peace”

    From: Charter '97
    The office of the Belarusian Popular Front party (BPF) received an order to dismiss criminal complaint “on the facts on window damage and drawing inscriptions on office’s door.”

    Militia decided these actions (including drawing of fascist swastika) were not “gross disturbance of public peace.”

    It should be reminded that unknown people broke window in the BPF office, wrote “Minsk is Russian city” and drew fascist swastika at night 30 March. Moreover, leaflets of the unregistered National Bolshevik Party were found out on the scene.

    It was found out that Militia Academy cadet Kruhlik, who was walking around night Minsk with his wife, saw three men near the BPF office “drawing inscriptions on the door.“ Moreover, the cadet heard sound of alarm. Kruhlik phoned to militia and said about the crime. Meanwhile, the offenders, having committed the black deed, went away: on of them went to metro, and the two others took tram 3 to Serabranka district, the newspaper “Salidarnast” writes.

    Following the results of the examination the Soviet district militia department decided to dismiss criminal complaint and sent the following order to the BPF office: “Tracing activities have failed to found out a person, who wrote an inscription and damaged the window... There are no elements of a crime, provided by article 339 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus in the actions of unknown people. The examination showed these actions were not directed to disturbance of public peace and didn’t cause public disorder.”

    Surely! Under definition of the current authorities, “disturbance of public peace” is if someone writes “I love Belarus” on a wall. But one may draw as many swastikas as one wishs!

    Israeli ambassador surprised that Belarusian militia can’t find and punish fascists

    In a related story, Israeli ambassador to Belarus Zeev Ben-Arie doesn’t find it necessary to compare quantitatively facts of display of anti-Semitism in Belarus and the neighbouring countries, paying attention that such cases should be criticised and investigated more effectively.

    “I’m not so bewildered at display of anti-Semitism, because there are enough hooligans in any country. In this case the position of the government is important, its desire and skills to find guilty persons and punish them,” the ambassador said on the press conference in Minsk.

    In this connection he reminded the cases of vandalism on Jewish cemeteries in the republic, picture of swastika on the ghetto monument in Slutsk, spreading of leaflets in Vitsebsk on behalf of RNU (Russian National Unity). “We expect these facts to be discussed in public by high-rank officials, the investigative agencies to investigate, not to talk they can’t find members of the unregistered RNU because the RNU is unregistered organisation,” Z. Ben-Arie said.

    “I’m not going to compare anti-Semitism in Russia, Ukraine and here in pro cents. It is subjective to rank countries according to the level of anti-Semitism. I am more interested that every possible should be done for fighting anti-Semitism,” the Israeli ambassador emphasised.

    Lukashenka denies need for human rights ombudsman in Belarus

    From: Naveny
    Alyaksandr Lukashenka denied that there is a need for a human rights ombudsman’s office to be established in Belarus.

    “Even without a human rights ombudsman, we ensure our citizens’ rights of life, security, a normal job, and of being able to feed their families,” the Belarusian leader said while answering legislators’ questions after his annual address to the nation and the National Assembly on April 29.

    The establishment of this office would not soften the West’s criticism, Mr. Lukashenka said. “They find fault with us not because we have less human rights protection than the West or the East,” he noted. “For example, we didn’t go to another country to kill people and hang its leader; our aircraft carriers are not patrolling in another country’s coastal waters. What could be more important than the right of life?”

    “No matter how many various offices we may institute, we’ll still be treated in the same way, that is, until we start acting like mongrels catching crumbs that fall off the lord’s table,” Mr. Lukashenka said. According to him, foreign critics do not like the Belarusian sovereign state’s independent policy.

    “The thing is that they don’t like the president that Belarus has,” he said. “But I didn’t take power myself. I was elected by the people. They think that a new president will hand the country over to them. But they hope in vain. The Belarusians would kick such a leader out.”

    Mr. Lukashenka said that he would continue policies solely based on the interests of the Belarusian nation, not on the wishes of foreign governments.

  • Around the region...

    Medvedev is Russian president, but who's in charge?

    From: Reuters
    Group of Eight leader needs to speak to Moscow right away, but who should they call: President Dmitry Medvedev or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin?

    Diplomats are having to grapple with this imaginary scenario because from the moment on Wednesday when Kremlin cannons fire a salute to mark the inauguration of the new president, Russia will effectively have two leaders.

    Medvedev, 42, will have all the trappings of presidential power but his 55-year-old mentor Putin will be prime minister, head of the biggest party in parliament and command a power base that could make him the country's principal decision-maker.

    Asked who they would call in an emergency, two senior officials from a G8 government, visiting Moscow last month, looked at each other and then shrugged. "Perhaps you know the situation better than us?" one of them asked a reporter.


    The question of who is in charge matters because Russia has no track record of power-sharing. Observers say there is great potential for confusion and incoherence that could make the vast, nuclear-armed country ungovernable.

    "You cannot rule out that their (Putin and Medvedev's) views will differ fundamentally on some important question. That will lead to political crisis," analyst Grigory Dobromelov wrote in a comment for the Centre for Political Technologies, a think tank.

    What is not in question is that Putin will have more power than indicated by the job description for prime minister -- a junior role to the president which for the past eight years has been filled by low-profile technocrats.

    He controls the legislature through United Russia, the party he has agreed to chair and which has a majority in parliament. That allows him to block some Kremlin decisions, change the constitution or launch impeachment proceedings against the president.

    In a symbolic move, United Russia has transferred its headquarters to a building near the Kremlin, where its neighbour is the presidential administration.

    Putin has a sky-high popularity rating, and a network of allies in government who are likely to retain key posts after the handover. Medvedev, by contrast, has spent his political career in Putin's shadow.

    "Medvedev does not have his own team, his own people. He doesn't have his own bureaucrats or businessmen on which he can rely," said a source with links to the Kremlin.

    "He can rely only on Putin, therefore he has no choice but to do as he is told."


    Putin has also been quietly beefing up prime ministerial powers. One example: he issued a decree on April 28 ordering regional governors to submit annual reports on their performance to the government. Previously, they were filed to the Kremlin.

    "(There is a) process of 'soft' redistribution of power between the president and the prime minister," Russia's Centre for Current Politics wrote in a research note.

    "For the first time in the history of post-Soviet Russia, the prime minister's job is being transformed from a technical one to a real decision-making centre."

    Putin is stepping down as president in line with a constitutional ban on leaders serving more than two consecutive terms. Some supporters had pressed him to seek a third term, but he has always ruled out changing the constitution to do this.

    Observers say that staying on could have damaged Russia's international standing and dented the reputation Putin cultivated at home as a leader who respects the law.

    Russian officials hang the portrait of the serving president on their office walls in a mark of respect. Putin, asked by a reporter if Medvedev would adorn his prime ministerial office, said he did not feel the need.

    Less clear than Putin's power is whether he will exercise it, and if he does, for how long.

    "It comes down to how that is used," said a diplomatic source. "It is difficult to make a judgement because hard information is so scarce."

    One theory is that once Medvedev has settled in to the presidency Putin plans to step back and let his protege put his own mark on the job, perhaps by implementing liberal reforms and adopting a less abrasive approach with the West.

    Others say that is wishful thinking. "Nothing will change," said the source with Kremlin links. "Putin will remain the only effective force in the upper reaches of power."

    Russia Will Raise Oil Export Tax by 17% to Record

    From: Bloomburg
    Russia will increase its crude export tax by 17 percent to a record on June 1, after oil prices rose in March and April.

    The tax will be set at $398.10 a metric ton, the seventh consecutive increase, Alexander Sakovich, deputy head of the Finance Ministry's customs department, said by telephone in Moscow today. The current duty is $340.10 a ton, or $46.40 a barrel.

    Russia revises its export taxes on crude and oil products every two months based on the previous two-month average price for Urals, the country's benchmark export blend. That stood at a record $102.76 a barrel in the period, Sakovich said. Oil prices have risen 68 percent since the same time last year.

    ``The government is addicted to high oil revenues,'' said Michael Teagarden, a sales trader at UBS AG in Moscow. ``Russia needs to wean itself from this windfall and encourage producers to spend the money developing new fields.''

    Russia's oil production, which fell to an 18-month low of 9.72 million barrels a day in April, may decline this year for the first time in a decade as producers struggle with high costs, aging fields and new deposits in increasingly remote areas. The government is considering tax breaks to stimulate investment.

    Export taxes on refined oil will rise 16 percent to $280.50 a ton for light products, such as gasoline and butane, Sakovich said. They will reach $151.10 a ton for heavy products, such as fuel oil.

    Summit calls for EU membership for all Western Balkan states

    From: AFP
    EU integration is the only "viable political alternative" for the Western Balkans, a two-day summit of leaders from across central, eastern and southern Europe concluded on Saturday.

    However, as expected, the get-together failed to find common ground on the status of Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February. Kosovo's leader, Fatmir Sejdiu, was not invited to attend.

    "The process of Euroatlantic integrations should not be considered completed without the full inclusion of all western Balkan states and Ukraine into the NATO Alliance and the EU," said Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski, presenting the main conclusions of the summit.

    Crvenkovski, the host of the summit that has gathered the presidents from 18 countries said the leaders "have agreed to make additional efforts to provide stability and prosperity of the region."

    "The integration into the EU does not have a viable political alternative for the candidates and aspiring states," Crvenkovski told reporters.

    EU hopefuls "should intensify the necessary reforms, while the EU will continue to support their efforts," he added.

    One of the major topics discussed at the summit was Kosovo, a breakaway territory whose ethnic Albanian majority unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February.

    The move was recognized by nearly 40 countries, including the United States and most EU states.

    But Serbia and its traditional ally Russia rejected the move and a number of other European countries, including the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Spain, have refused to recognise the independence of the Serbian province.

    Crvenkovski said the participants at the summit had "different views" on Kosovo, but added that "everyone agreed that the regional stability is of utmost importance."

    "Additional resources and efforts should be used in order to reach lasting security, stability and prosperity for both Kosovo and the region," he said.

    While Kosovo was discussed at the summit, its leader Fatmir Sejdiu was not invited to attend, as there was no consensus on the issue among participants.

    Leaders from Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Moldova, Montenegro and Slovakia attended the summit which has been held annually for the last 15 years.

    The presidents of Albania, Austria, Bosnia, Germany, Hungary, Macedonia, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia and Ukraine also took part in the meeting, while leaders of Italy and Romania sent representatives.

    Turkish President Abdullah Gul was invited to join as a guest.

    The 2009 summit will be held in Serbia.

    Paul McCartney to play free Ukraine concert

    From: Sunday Mirror
    Paul McCartney is going back to the USSR - to play a huge free outdoor concert in the Ukraine.

    The former Beatle will perform to over 300,000 in the main Independence Square in Kiev on June 14.

    Macca, 65, will use the event to announce a huge world tour later this year and throughout 2009.

    A source said: "With his divorce behind him he's ready to hit the road again."

    Macca said: "It's going to be great evening."

    Apology: Adolf Hitler Arrives in Ukraine Shops

    From: The Trumpet
    The has withdrawn an article titled “Adolf Hitler Arrives in Ukraine Shops.” The source material that the article was based on was both inaccurate and misleading.

    In the article, we stated that 16-inch figurines of Hitler were to be sold in Ukraine. It implied that dolls were going on sale in large numbers. This is not the case. A few may be available in specialist shops; but dolls of Adolf Hitler have also gone on sale in specialist shops both in the U.S. and the UK. The same doll is, in fact, available in Britain. There is nothing unique or remarkable about the fact that these dolls are available to a niche market in Ukraine.

    We also stated that “Germany’s occupation of Ukraine, which was then part of the Soviet Union, left 2 to 3 million people dead, including 1.5 million Jews,” as reported in the Telegraph. This statement is misleading. It is hard to calculate exactly how many Ukrainians died in World War ii as Ukraine was then part of the Soviet Union. Reliable estimates put Ukraine’s wartime deaths as high as 10 million.

    The article has been removed from our website and we apologize for any offense we may have caused any of our readers. Thanks to those who wrote in to inform us of our error. The Trumpet remains committed to providing accurate reporting and analysis.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Self defence clause to be put into penal code

    From: The News
    Following the Supreme Court’s ruling that Piotr J. is innocent of murder after shooting someone breaking into his house, the government wants a change in the penal code to protect those acting in self defence.

    Victims of assaults who killed their attackers in self-defense will probably be able to avoid going on trial.

    At present, it can take years before their innocence is proved by court.

    Yesterday the Supreme court declared Piotr J., who in September 2005 shot a man trying to break into his house, not guilty. His trial lasted three years in total.

    This is why the Ministry of Justice announced plans to amend the Polish penal code in order to protect people acting in self-defence, making it possible for prosecutors to discontinue proceedings against a person at the investigation stage, without taking them to court. This way the procedure would last a couple of months, instead of a couple of years.

    Penal law experts vary in their opinion concerning the amendment. While some praise it for protecting those who take necessary action when their lives are in danger, others point out that in such grave matters prosecutors will be reluctant to rely on their own moral judgement, and would rather write an indictment and forward the case to a court anyway than discontinue proceedings.

    Another referee detained in Polish football scam

    From: The News
    Another referee has been detained today in connection with the ongoing investigation into widespread corruption within Polish football.

    "We have detained a referee who is suspected of corruption in sports, but our suspicions don't concern any premier league match," Edward Zalewski of the Wroclaw prosecutor's office told the Polish Press Agency. He added that the referee is likely to hear charges today.

    The investigation on the corruption scandal in Polish football has been underway since May 2005. So far some 100 people have been charged, including sport activists, referees and Polish Football Association officials.

    Last December the first corruption trail started in a court in Wroclaw, western Poland. In the dock there were 17 people, among others Ryszard F. aka Fryzjer, who is an alleged organiser of the illegal practices.

  • Sport...

    Sweden holds off Belarus 6-5 at world hockey championships

    From: AP
    Patric Hornqvist scored twice and Sweden fended off Belarus 6-5 in an opening preliminary round game of the world championships on Saturday.

    Rickard Wallin deflected Nils Ekman's shot at 10:32 of the third period for the winner. Defenseman Magnus Johansson and forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Robert Nilsson, all in the NHL this past season, also had a goal apiece.

    "Scoring six goals is not bad, but obviously we have to have better defensive play to compete against better teams," Wallin said.

    Backstrom and Nilsson, both NHL rookies last season, each added an assist.

    Viktor Kostyuchenok, Sergei Zadelenov, Alexei Ugarov and Aleksandr Zhurik and Dimtry Meleshko scored for Belarus.

    Many of Sweden's star players aren't at the world championships this year. The Swedes are without the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, Markus Naslund, Peter Forsberg, Daniel Alfredsson, Mats Sundin, and numerous Detroit Red Wings and others still in the NHL playoffs.

    What the Swedes lack in star power they make up for with international experience and seven NHL players. Belarus had no NHL players on its roster Saturday.

    Ruslan Salei of the Colorado Avalanche should help the Belarus defense starting Monday against Switzerland according to coach Curt Fraser.

    "Unfortunately for us, when you score five goals, you'd better win the game," Fraser said. "I thought our team as a whole played a very good game."

    Sweden outshot Belarus 46-24.

    In the other Group A game, Switzerland defeated France 4-1. Cristobal Huet made 40 saves for France.

    In a Group C opener in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Mikko Koivu scored twice in leading Finland to a 5-1 win over Germany. Finland took the lead in the second period when Koivu scored off Tuomo Ruutu's backhand pass in front of Germany's net.

    Finland later capitalized on a power play when Olli Jokinen sent a slap shot past a defenseless Dmitri Patzold making it 2-0. It was his first goal of the tournament and the game-winner. Koivu added a third-period goal and Hannes Hyvonen and Teemu Selanne also scored for Finland. Florian Busch had a power-play goal for Germany.

    In the other Group C game, Robert Petrovicky had a goal and two assists to lift Slovakia past Norway 5-1.

    The Americans will return to action Sunday night against Slovenia. Defending champion Canada will face Latvia on Sunday. The tournament is being played in Canada for the first time.

    Belarus emerges to challenge Russian dominance of women's tennis

    From: sportingo
    'Victoria Azarenka is a class act. The youngster has been a revelation on the WTA tour since her breakthrough in 2007'
    Olga Govortsova and Victoria Azarenka are among the Belarussian women making waves on the circuit as the former Soviet country seeks to establish itself as a centre of tennis excellence.

    'Victoria Azarenka is a class act. The youngster has been a revelation on the WTA tour since her breakthrough in 2007'Belarus is less known for its tennis than neighbouring Russia. However, over the past year the country has managed to deliver an increasing number of players onto the WTA tour.

    Belarus can now boast two top 50 players in the world and both of these talents have enough skill to go even higher, and sooner rather than later. Belarus has been firmly put on the tennis map and major success is not far away.

    Victoria Azarenka is a class act. Currently destroying her opponents in the Prague Open the youngster has been a revelation on the WTA tour since her breakthrough in 2007.

    She is still only 18 but has already had a fair amount of success and seems to be getting stronger and more experienced with every match she plays.

    She is learning from her mistakes, building up her confidence and is being rewarded for her efforts. Already world number 26 Azarenka has what it takes to be at least a top 10 player and has the power game to mix it with the best of the WTA tour.

    Although 2008 has been less successful than 2007 so far, she is coming back to form with the start of the clay court season, a surface she obviously loves as she reached the final in Estoril last year and the semis in Prague.

    She can play on any surface and at the later end of 2007 she reached the quarter finals in Los Angeles, Moscow and Luxembourg and had brilliant wins over Maria Sharapova, Nadia Petrova and Agnieska Radwanska.

    She is a top player and I think a good run at this year's French Open will make her the first player from Belarus since Natasha Zvereva to break into the WTA top 20.

    Olga Govortsova is equally as talented as Victoria. At only 20 the young player made huge strides up the rankings last year while playing on mainly the challenger circuit at low-key events. However on the US hardcourt season at the end of 2007 she stepped up to the main WTA tour with considerable success reaching the quarter finals in Cincinnati, Quebec and Stanford and also reached semi-finals in Tashkent.

    I think Govortsova just needs a little more consistency in her game to make the next step up from top 50 player to potential top 20 player, she certainly has the talent! She is one of the most hard working players on the tour and won an incredible 68 matches in 2007.

    in 2008 Govortsova has already reached her first WTA tour final, losing in Memphis by Lindsay Davenport.

    Both Azarenka and Govortsova are young enough to keep Belarussia on the tennis map for many years to come.

    Even younger is Anna Orlik who is a great prospect at only 15 and success could be soon around the corner for the brilliant junior.

    Watch out Russia, Belarus is catching you fast!

  • Cultural scene...

    Twenty-one-year-old resident of Vitsyebsk becomes Miss Belarus 2008

    From: Naveny
    Volha Khizhynkova, a 21-year-old resident of Brest, was named the winners of a biannual national beauty contest, Miss Belarus 2008, in a ceremony held in the Palace of Sports in Minsk on Friday night.

    She is said to be six feet one inch tall, with a hip size of 36 inches. Ms. Khizhynkova, an instructor at a vocational school, was awarded a 3.53-ounce white gold crown and a one-room apartment in Minsk’s Vyasnyanka neighborhood, which can be valued at more than $70,000.

    Attending the ceremony was Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

    More than 2,000 girls took part in the contest, with 26 advancing to the final. Thomas Anders of Germany, Philip Kirkorov of Russia and Belarusian pop singers Dzmitry Kaldun and Ruslan Alyakhno sang at the ceremony.

  • Endnote...

    Belarus: Lukashenka Abandons Courtship Of West

    From: RFE/RL
    Dissidents are being rounded up. U.S. diplomats are being kicked out. And European officials are once again pointing accusing fingers at the continent's "last dictatorship."

    Belarus's tenuous and clumsy courtship of the West has decisively hit the skids. And in case there was any doubt, authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka made it clear in his annual speech to the nation on April 29 that the West had no right to demand the release of political prisoners. A day later, Belarusian authorities gave 10 U.S. diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.

    In his speech, Lukashenka used a particularly mocking tone -- and some colorful language -- in reference to the person the West has been pushing hardest to have freed: imprisoned opposition leader Alyaksandr Kazulin.

    "He wanted the entire world to make speeches to free him and for the Belarusian authorities to cave in under the pressure. Who needs you?" Lukashenka told the nation. "You are like used toilet paper, and you think somebody needs you."

    Kazulin, a former university rector, finished far behind Lukashenka in a 2006 election and was jailed for helping organize mass protests against the results. The United States and the European Union have called for Kazulin's release as a condition for better relations.