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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, June 01, 2008

Belarusian hospitals to be modernised, Gifted students, Visa fees, Chernobyl orphans and helicopters; Polish scandal, Sport, JESC & The last Beatroot

  • From the Top...
  • #312

    All Belarusian hospitals to be modernised in this five-year plan

    From: BelTA
    Visit to the republican research traumatology and orthopaedics centre in Minsk
    The modernisation of all Belarusian hospitals will be completed in this five-year plan, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko was told as he visited Minsk City Emergency Aid Clinic on May 29.

    “On the whole, the modernisation of all medical institutions will be completed in this five-year plan. They should be advanced to the top level and kept there,” said the head of state. He underscored, medical institutions should be fitted with the latest equipment. “If we buy something average, we will lose more and lag behind,” added the President.

    Alexander Lukashenko got familiar with the operation of the rebuilt surgery and intensive care department and its capabilities. The head of state examined operating rooms, departments for resuscitation and intensive care for surgical, burn, and neurosurgical patients as well as the clinic diagnostic laboratory.

    The President praised the hospital’s medical equipment and highly qualified personnel. “All medical institutions should be brought up to this ideal state,” underscored the head of state.

    Alexander Lukashenko remarked, at present extensive funding is allocated for healthcare. “When the modernisation of all medical institutions is over, the released money should be used to raise salaries for doctors,” said the head of state. He added, salaries of specialists, who perform extra complicated operations, should be raised now.

    According to Viktor Sirenko, chief doctor of the hospital, the institution is a powerful surgery and resuscitation centre unparalleled in the ex-USSR. It has accumulated unique equipment for treating burn patients, has a toxicological laboratory as well as other modern equipment, which matches the most advanced European diagnostics and treatment technologies. The hospital has 20 operating rooms, including two with a special ventilation system for bone operations and transplantations.

    The reconstruction of the surgery and resuscitation unit, which is the main base for placing highly intensive treatment and diagnostics technologies used to provide emergency aid, has been completed. The modernisation of a five-storey treatment wing continues, with the work scheduled to complete in 2009. The reconstruction of a twelve-storey treatment wing will be the next step. The hospital’s reconstruction is supposed to be completed in 2011. The reconstruction does not impede treatment functions of the institution.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus counts on knowledge, talent and intelligence, President says

    From: BelTA
    Contemporary Belarus counts on knowledge, talent and intelligence. Energetic, hard-working and gifted people is the main asset of the country, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at the meeting with gifted students and youth, laureates of the special funds of the President.

    “Knowledge, talent and intelligence underpin the strategy of the socio-economic development of Belarus. One of the major tasks of the state is to find and bring up young talents,” the head of state underlined.

    Belarus is sincerely proud of intelligent and talented youth; it has a great belief in them and is strongly convinced that the achieved success will not be the only one in their life, the head of state underlined.

    Special funds for social support of the gifted students and youth were established in 1996. Since then, 15.984 students, young people and professors became the awardees of the fund.

    Over 12 years, 2.514 students and young people and 59 artistic groups have received financial help from the fund. 252 grants have been allocated for financing the participation of the youth in international contents and competitions, exhibitions and other cultural events, for awarding prizes to the winners of the national and international artistic competitions, for acquiring musical instruments, stage costumes and the necessary facilities for studying arts.

    A lot is being done in Belarus to discover and develop the talents: lyceums and gymnasiums have been opened; numerous art schools, hobby groups, studios and amateur groups have been created. The national programme “Young talents of Belarus” is being successfully implemented.

    According to the President, Olympiads in various subjects, tournaments, festivals and children’s and youth competitions have become very popular. “In 2007, all 28 participants from Belarus became prize-winners of international Olympiads and prestigious tournaments. Our young artistes gained undoubted success at the Mikhail Glinka competition; our youngest singers became the winners of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest for the second year consecutive. These impressive results speak volumes about the high efficiency of the Belarusian system of supporting young talents, the President noted.

    Alexander Lukashenko handed over certificates and fund laureate breastplates to the young talents. “Let this success and well-deserved awards inspire you to mount new heights in education, science and art, help surmount all the difficulties and become the incentive for professional and creative growth,” the President said.

    The Belarusian head of state thanked teachers and professors for their enthusiasm and devotion. He drew the attention of the young talents to the fact that their success was achieved to a great extent due to their teachers

    Europe understands that visa fees for Belarusians are very high, Andrei Giro says

    From: BelTA
    Europe understands that EUR 60 for a visa for Belarus is very high, the chief of the consular department of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus, Andrei Giro, said during an online conference hosted by the BelTA news agency.

    “More and more countries of Europe understand that the EUR 60 visa fee for Belarusians is very high and that it, in some extent, hampers the development of contacts with Belarus,” Andrei Giro said.

    However, the EU has not adopted any decision on this issue yet. “We have received no response to our official requests. Yet we continue working in this direction,” he said.

    He added that Europe is designing a new visa code which is supposed to be adopted by the end of the year. “Possibly the requests and remarks of the Belarusian side will be taken into account,” Andrei Giro said.

    According to him, Belarus appreciates the position of the neighbouring countries in this issue. “We are very pleased that Lithuania and Poland have been advocating the reduction of visa fees. We have recently exchanged messages. The Foreign Ministers of Poland and Lithuania sent a message to the Foreign Minister of Belarus. In his reply Sergei Martynov stressed that Belarus is prepared for the negotiations with the European Union on simplifying visa requirements and reducing visa fees,” Andrei Giro said.

    The Foreign Ministry official noted that the consolidated position or consensus is the main principle of the European Union. So, if at least one country has some doubts or does not agree to reduce visa fees, no decision will be taken. “Therefore we need to continue working in this issue, first of all, with those countries that support us in this issue or those countries which have not yet formulated their positions or are hesitating,” Andrei Giro said.

    He underlined that time and again the Belarusian Foreign Ministry made attempts to find a mutually acceptable solution. “I would like to make it clear: we are not begging for cheap visas for Belarusians. We propose to hold negotiations and to sign an equitable agreement on the simplification of visa formalities, one of which is the cost of visas. And we are ready to change the cost of Belarusian visas for EU citizens on a parity basis if the European countries find it possible to simplify the formalities and to lower the cost of visas for Belarusians,” Andrei Giro said.

    He also added that Belarus unilaterally lowered the cost of visas for the countries with which it has closes economic, political, cultural and historical relations. These are Belarus’ neighbours: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia as well as Estonia where a considerable number of Belarusians live. The citizens of these four countries can get a visa to Belarus for EUR 25 though the Belarusians have to pay as much as EUR 60 to be able to enter these countries.

    “In January-May 2008, the number of applications for the Belarusian visa from the citizens of these countries increased which proves that our decision was right. In particular, in 2008, our consulate institutions in Poland received almost twice as many visa applications in comparison with the same period of 2007,” Andrei Giro noted.

    Unique relations between Belarus, Italy

    From: BelTA
    Unique relations have been established between Belarus and Italy, believes head of the Italian diplomatic mission in Minsk Norberto Cappello. He made the statement during a press conference timed to the Italian Republic Day.

    “After the Chernobyl catastrophe relations, which are probably unique in the history of Europe, were born between Belarus and Italy,” he said. “Usually relations between two countries are developed as diplomatic and intergovernmental relations and very rarely involve personal human relations. In the relations between Belarus and Italy we see something unique: very close relations between families and individuals”.

    Norberto Cappello said, over the last 20 years around 340,000 Belarusian kids visited Italy during recreation trips at least once and some of them have been to Italy many times. Over the time Italian families adopted 600 Belarusian children. “What Italian families do for recreation of Belarusian kids is done exclusively as their own initiative without external aid,” added the Ambassador.

    The diplomat appreciated tourism cooperation between the countries. He also believes there are prospects for developing agritourism cooperation. “It is an area we have good know-how in. We are considering the possibility of the parties starting working together in this area,” added the head of the diplomatic mission.

  • Economics...

    Belarus open for talks with any investors, Sergei Sidorsky says

    From: BelTA
    Belarus is open for talks with any investor, Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky said at a session of the Advisory Council on Foreign Investments in Minsk on May 30.

    “We are open for talks with investors and are ready to consider any proposal,” Sergei Sidorsky said.

    According to him, the main task of the government of Belarus is to improve the investment climate and bring the country into the list of the world’s most investment attractive destinations. Today Belarus is ranked 110th on this list. “We have been working on creating comfortable conditions for investors, for improving the investment climate,” Sergei Sidorsky said.

    Further steps on the way of improving the investment potential will be aimed at creating the favourable business doing environment. The Prime Minister reminded that Belarus is the only CIS country which has adopted the investment code. The country has recently simplified registration procedures, reduced the list of documents necessary for obtaining a licence, established the time framework for officials for certain procedures.

    Moreover, the country adopted a number of decisions to intensify the flow of foreign investments into small and middle towns. For instance, the country introduced the European method of selling facilities for one basic amount, privileged taxation schemes and simplifed loan obtaining and customs procedures. According to the Belarusian Prime Minister, assigning of the sovereign credit rating to Belarus will also promote foreign investments into the national economy.

    On May 30, the plenary session of the Advisory Council on Foreign Investments of the Council of Ministers of Belarus discussed the issues regarding the creation of positive image of Belarus abroad, the development of small and medium-sized business. Attending the session are 500 people including 200 foreigners and also diplomats from many countries. Taking part in the session are also representatives of the UNDP, International Finance Corporation, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, heads of Belarusian ministries, concerns, oblast executive committees and the Minsk city council, free economic zones, the Belarusian companies.

    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 create a positive image of Belarus abroad.

    Belarus creates conditions clear for civilized business

    According to Sergei Sidorsky, the economy and its development is not an easy path that has to be tried by the investors in every country. Belarus has set up an ambitious task to enter the list of 30 countries with a good business climate.

    The Advisory Council on Foreign Investments adopted a memorandum. The document provides that in 2008 Belarus will continue strengthening reformations in the property area. The country will develop an efficient financial market, all financial documents, institutes and mechanisms necessary for their functioning.

    The country intends to strengthen interaction with the governments of the foreign states, international financial organizations and foreign corporations.

    Over 70% of foreign investors praise Belarus’ investment

    Over 70% of the foreign investors praise the investment climate in Belarus, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky told reporters on May 30.

    “If earlier only 20-25% gave a strong approval to the investment climate of the country, than today 57% consider the investment climate of Belarus as satisfactory and 15% - as good,” Sergei Sidorsky said.

    The Prime Minister noted that the major goal of Belarus for the near future is to enter the list of the countries with the most favourable investment climate. The international experts will assess the investment opportunities of Belarus.

    According to Sergei Sidorsky, the Belarusian Investment Forum scheduled for November in London will enhance the investment attractiveness of the country. The Premier underlined: “We would like to enter the European ground and demonstrate our investment potential there”. On the whole, Belarus needs to conduct more innovation, investment forums inside as well as outside the country, he said.

    Belarus’ investment attractiveness grows worldwide

    Belarus’ investment attractiveness has been growing worldwide, Saad Ahmad, the Chief Executive Director of the UAE company Al Qudra Holding, told reporters on May 30.

    The chief executive director noted that Belarus still has some difficulties in attracting foreign investments and the government tries hard and successfully to eliminate them. Mr. Saad Ahmad paid special attention to the fact that the government and the private sector of Belarus maintain a productive dialogue that promote creation of favourable conditions for business development.

    Mr. Saad Ahmad confirmed an intention of the company to invest millions of dollars in the implementation of the projects in industry and agriculture of Belarus. “We feel comfortable here. I know that other UAE investors will come to the Belarusian market as well,” he underlined.

    According to Thomas Cradock-Watson, the coordinator for Ukraine and Belarus of the company Ernst and Young, “Belarus needs to increase its investment market”. He considers that the improved liquidity of the capital market will contribute to the attraction of foreign investors to Belarus.

  • From the International Press...

    Venezuela pays Belarus USD 90 million for construction

    From: El Universal,
    Belarusian Vice-Prime Minister Victor Buria announced on Friday in Minsk that Venezuela made Belarus an advanced payment of USD 90 million for building of houses in Venezuela.

    "Belzarubezhstroi, a state company organized to carry out some building projects in Venezuela, received already USD 90 million to build in that country a residential compound of 5,000 dwellings," said Burja, according to Russian official news agency Itar-Tass, Efe quoted.

    The senior official added that Venezuela paid also USD 5 million for construction of agricultural facilities.

    Belarus and Venezuela, whose government systems are viewed by Washington as "redoubts of tyranny," have strengthened over the past two years the bilateral economic, energy and commercial cooperation.

    Cabinet raises export duties on oil, petroleum products

    From: Naveny
    The Belarusian Council of Ministers raised the rate of the crude oil export duty from $340.1 to $398.1 per ton on June 1.

    The export duty on light and middle distillates, gasoil, liquefied petroleum gases, benzene, toluene and xylol was increased from $241.4 to $280.5 per ton and on oils, fuel oils, petroleum coke, asphalt and other petroleum byproducts from $130.1 to $151.1 per ton.

    Belarus has changed the rates of the export duties on petroleum products under an agreement with Russia signed last year. Under the accord, the two countries should have the same rates of the duties.

    Russia revises the rates of the export duties on oil and petroleum products every two months depending on a change in world oil prices. The rate of Russia's duty on oil exports to Belarus is 33.5 percent of the rate applied to crude exports to other countries. The duty rose from $113.9 to $133.4 per ton on June 1.

    Advisory Council on Foreign Investment holds meeting in Minsk

    From: Naveny
    In his opening speech, Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski said that fixed capital expenditures had exceeded $12 billion last year, with the amount of investments rising by 64 percent.

    Fixed capital expenditures are expected to total $17 billion this year.

    The government seeks to ensure that Belarus enters the top 30 countries in terms of business environment, Mr. Sidorski said.

    The government faced the task of easing registration procedures for investors. “Some said a year ago in this room that Great Britain had the world’s best procedure of simplified registration – a business can start operations within 11 days. We gave an ear to this, studied international experience, adopted a series of regulations… - the period of state registration in Belarus has been cut from 20 to five days today,” the prime minister said.


    From: Union of Councils for Jews
    American lawyer Emmanuel Zeltser, detained in Belarus on charges of carrying false documents, now faces drug smuggling charges, according to a report by the Interfax news agency. Zeltser and his secretary Vladlena Funk were detained upon their arrival in Minsk on March 12. In a letter to Belarus' prosecutor general earlier this month, UCSJ expressed "extreme concern" with reports to the effect that Zeltser was placed in involuntary confinement in a psychiatric institution and physically abused by police. The letter requested Zeltser's release from detention, an investigation of allegations of abuse, and a determination of the extent of his injuries. The letter emphasized that Zeltser's diabetes makes it crucial that he and Ms. Funk be released on humanitarian grounds, a request echoed by the U.S. State Department which cited a sharp deterioration of Zeltser’s health, as reported by the U.S. consul who visited him.

    It is not clear why the latest charges coming from the KGB took so long to be filed. So far, there has been no response from the Belarusian government to the State Department or UCSJ.

  • From the Opposition...

    KGB persecutes Belarusian human rights activists

    From: Viasna
    On Friday, 23 May 2008 three KGB officers suddenly burst into the apartment of Leanid Svetsik, human rights activist from Vitsebsk. They showed to him the ruling of the prosecutor’s office for initiation of criminal proceedings under Article 130.1 of the Criminal Case of the Republic of Belarus (fomentation of national and religious enmity). According to this ruling, Mr. Svetsik is considered a witness in the case of threats to certain citizens from the side of the underground neo-Nazi organization Russian National Unity (RNE).

    The KGB officers also brought with them several persons to witness the search which was directed by the senior lieutenant of KGB and lasted 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. During the search the KGB confiscated exempted from Svetsik his computer and supplies, printed human rights editions including the calendars which were dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the UN foundation.

    Then Mr. Svetsik, together with the confiscated items, was brought to Vitsebsk oblast KGB office and was interrogated for more than two hours by D.Sakovich. The interrogation was videotaped. Then Sakovich handed to Svetsik the writ for the next interrogation, appointed on 28 May.

    Ales Bialiatski, vide-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) considers such actions of the KGB as a grave human rights violation. ‘The open pressurization of Svetsik by the KGB is doubtlessly connected to his human rights activities and an uncompromised public position, aimed at protection of the Belarusian citizens. In 2007 Leanid Svetsik was fired from the secondary school where he was working as a teacher, before the expiry of his working contract. Now the authorities boldly demonstrated their cynicism by accusing human rights activists of fomentation of national enmity. Leanid Svetsik helped those who had received the RNE threats in applying to the appropriate state organs for protection of their rights. It is not an occasion, that all computer equipment and documents concerning the human rights activities of Leanid Svetsik, were confiscated during the search. It was done on purpose, with the aim to hinder these activities. He participated in preparation of five complaints concerning violations of the citizens’ rights by the Belarusian authorities. These complaints were accepted for consideration by the UN Committee on Human Rights in Geneva.

    Bear in mind that often the Belarusian law machinery does not give any legal evaluation to manifestations of extremism by neo-Nazi groups which operate in the country. Instead, they apply moral and psychological pressurization towards human rights defenders and public activists.

    We, Belarusian human rights activist, are gravely concerned with the groundless pressurization of Leanid Svetsik. We will watch this incident with a great attention and inform the international communities about all the following actions of the Belarusian authorities against Leanid Svetsik.

    Belarusian Investigators Interrogated Boris Berezovsky

    From: Charter '97
    It has been told to Kommersant by the Russian oligarch himself. He has been interrogated in the case of the US lawyer Emanuel Zeltser.

    Boris Berezovsky has informed that he hadn’t met one investigator, but the whole operational and investigative team from Belarus. “They asked to testify about Zeltser, in particular, what he and Joseph Kay are laying claims for,” Berezovsky explained. “I told everything I knew”.

    When Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili died, his assets became the subject of a dispute pitting the widow backed by Boris Berezovsky, against his step cousin, Joseph Kay, who is represented by Mr. Zeltser. Emanuel Zeltser, a lawyer of Joseph Kay, is kept in the remand prison of the KGB of Belarus since March 12. First reports said he was charged with a crime under Article 380 Part 2 of the Criminal Code (“Use of falsified official document representing rights by a group of people by previous concert”).

    Yesterday it was reported that a case was opened under Part 1, 328 Article of the Criminal Code penalizing the carriage and possession of illegal drugs and under Part 2, Article 228 that carries punishment for the smuggling of drugs.

    “The case of U.S. national Emanuel Zeltser, detained in the middle of March at Minsk-2 Airport has been sent to court,” KGB spokesman Valery Nadtachayeu said. “He has been charged with the smuggling and illegal possession of drugs and psychotropic substances.”

    The US Department of State has urged Minsk to release Emanuel Zeltser on “humanitarian grounds.” Emanual Zeltser health condition is reported to decline in the KGB prison.

    On 25 April the United States consul Caroline Savage visited the arrested in Minsk American lawyer Emanuel Zeltser.

    According to the consul, Zeltser said her he had been beaten on the second and third days of his detention. Caroline Savage said it in the interview to BelaPAN. According to the consul, Zeltser lost a considerable amount of weight and was very weak, had difficulty walking and talking.

    The U.S. consul sent a report to Washington based on her visit. After that the Belarusian Charge d'Affaires in the U.S. was summoned to the Department of State.

  • Around the region...

    Ukraine foils radioactive cafe plot

    From: Telegraph
    A plan to smuggle a highly radioactive helicopter from the Chernobyl disaster area and turn it into an eye-catching cafe has been foiled in Ukraine.
    Police said several people were detained after they were found transporting the scrap from the 18-miles exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power station, which exploded in 1986.

    The helicopter, an Mi-8 "Hip", was found to emit up to 30 times the legal level of radiation.

    According to a statement issued by the elite SBU special services, the criminals "tried to take an Mi-8 helicopter out of exclusion zone to use it as an original coffee shop in one of Ukraine's cities".

    A workhorse of the Soviet armed forces, the Mi-8 helicopter is capable of carrying up to 28 people, although it was not made clear how many customers the gang had been hoping to seat.

    Almost 2,000 helicopter sorties were ordered to douse the Chernobyl station after a reactor suffered melt down.

    As a result, many of the helicopter pilots received lethal doses of radiation.

    The Chernobyl disaster released at least 100 times more radiation than the atom bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

    Russia's new czar?

    From: Daily Star
    The style had been typically that of a KGB operative, quiet, sneaky and even secretive. That's the way the little-known spy adopted in catapulting his country to its lost height as he became the second president of the Russian Federation, the largest partof once-powerful Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin, who laments the collapse of the Union as the “greatest geo-political catastrophe of the century” couldn't have been oblivious of the humiliation it entailed, with the loss of the country's stature as a superpower if not of the ideological defeat accompanying it.

    To add insult to the injury, Boris Yeltsin, his predecessor, had left the country in a total mess, with high corruption, the rise of the mafia and unruly oligarchs who controlled the economy in the name of free-market and created anarchy in the name of democracy, chronic unemployment and critically devalued currency.

    Obviously, it was far from easy to restore the country's socio-economic and political order as well as its financial discipline. But, as a judo expert, he combated the hostile forces and went about consolidating the central authority over the world's still biggest geographical entity with a determination that took everyone by surprise. With a new class of loyalists known as “Siloviki,” comprised of Putin's former KGB fraternity and ambitious young politicians, he could bring up faithful people like Medvedev from almost nowhere. Now elected the federation's third president, the incumbent himself called it a day for constitutional bar, and made way for Medevedev to take over the presidency in May.

    It was, however, merely swapping over of the offices, because Putin, still superbly fit at 55, decided to remain part of the Kremlin's power-structure as prime minister but, more importantly, also as the head of the ruling United Russia Party thus forming a duumvirate of state authority. This bizarre change of guard obviously raised the question as to how it would work out and precisely who was the Kremlin's real boss.

    Amid conflicting views, it is worthwhile recalling some of the antecedents of the Soviet system Putin himself grew up with. In that system, the real power used to be held by the Party, its general secretary and the Politburo, who made all important policy decisions. In tandem, the government headed by the president was charged with state protocol and running of the administration.

    As the real power is exercised by the party boss, a similar dual arrangement between Putin and Medvedev may be envisaged, where the former fills the role of Soviet-style party secretary, wielding all vital powers and also calling the shots. Meantime, Medvedev, Putin's longtime protege, who was only a deputy prime minister earlier is expected to remain happy while utilising his vast experience as former head of Gazprom, Russia's giant energy firm, to advance the cause of economic development for raising the people's living standard.

    Remember the Breznev-Podgorny equation, for example? It is not surprising that Putin, now of the status of a national leader after eight years of presidency when he single-handedly not only salvaged Russia from economic morass but also gave the country political and economic stability that put Russia among the ten most highly developed countries, is now inclined to wear another hat, that of the “older statesman,” to guide the destiny of the nation.

    No one seems to have objection to that inclination, as is reflected by his exceptionally high approval rating. “The Putin effect,” as they call it, has achieved it all. His passionate fondness for Czar Peter the Great, whom he takes to be his role model and whose portrait embellishes his office, points to his predilection and the vision he nourishes. To help in materialising his dream Putin is well aware of the bonanza he, together with Medvedev, could use. He also knows its potential to command for more influence over Western Europe than it did when the Red Army's 100 division, along with Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) were deployed in Europe at the height of the Cold War.

    In addition to the country's stockpile of nuclear warheadsonly second to the US in sizeRussia today has 20 percent of the world's gas reserves and at least 7 percent of proven oil reserves, some 75 bn barrels, the world's largest forest reserves apart from a quarter of its fresh water resources. Russia's new found prosperity has spawned a consumer boom in the country, and made it an attractive trade destination to do business with.

    Putin wanted to showcase the occasion of the reshuffling in Kremlin in his style with the attendance of the rock band Deep Purple, which both he and his successor are fond of. Swan Lake, being out of vogue, was discarded. The most striking aspect of the Medvedev's swearing-in had been the display of Russia's youthfulness, with tele-savvy new power-players of Kremlin who oozed vitality before 200 dignitaries from around the world. After a long hiatus, also back was traditional military parade for the first time after 1992. A new Russia was on the march. Putin has transformed Russia to an extent that it is once again reckoned a major power.

    It's more than that. Soviet Union war a uni-dimensional superpower -- a sort of Upper Volta with rockets, as the joke went round during those days. But Putin's Russia is a multi-dimensional power. So much so, it has made even Europe critically dependent on Russia for its energy. Imagine what can happen to the continent if the Kremlin turns off the gas export tap, as it recently did to late-paying Ukraine.

    Russia army unit sent to Abkhazia

    From: BBC
    Russia is sending a unit from the army's railway force to the breakaway province of Abkhazia, the country's defence ministry has said.

    The 300 unarmed troops are needed to help carry out repairs on the network, said the head of Abkhazia's railways.

    The move has been denounced by Georgia which says Russia is planning a military intervention in the province.

    Tensions between the states have been high since April, when a UN report said Russia shot down a Georgian drone.

    Russian authorities insisted the plane was shot down over Abkhazia by Abkhaz rebels.

    'Aggressive' action

    Russian defence ministry spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky said the deployment was part of the humanitarian aid to Abkhazia envisioned by former President Vladimir Putin.

    Work to restore road and rail communications and infrastructure has been organised in which units and special equipment of the Russian Railway Troops (without weaponry) are taking part," he said.

    But Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze called the deployment an "aggressive" step.

    "We view this as yet another aggressive step by Russia aimed against the territorial integrity of Georgia," he said.

    "They are strengthening their military infrastructure in order to start intervention in Georgia."

    Stately precedent

    Last month, Moscow accused Georgia of preparing to invade Abkhazia.

    Russia has kept a peacekeeping force in the province and South Ossetia under an agreement made following wars in the 1990s, when the regions broke away from Tbilisi and formed links with Moscow.

    There are around 2,000 Russians posted in Abkhazia, and about 1,000 in South Ossetia.

    Many in Abkhazia believe that Kosovo's announcement of independence from Serbia in February provides a precedent for it to be recognised as an individual state.

    Although the province has its own flag and postage stamps, it is not internationally recognised.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Renewed riots hit Polish football stadiums

    From: Mathaba.Net
    Polish football stadiums became the scene of renewed bloody riots over the past day, media reports said Thursday.

    A 12-year-old boy was critically injured Wednesday evening during hooligan clashes in Warsaw as he was hit by a stone thrown by 17-year teenager.

    The victim was rushed to a hospital where he underwent a surgery on his head.

    Police arrested at least seven hooligans who pelted fans of the opposing team with stones following the match between football clubs Radomiak Radom and Hutnik Warszawa.

    A police car was completely destroyed in the hooligan clashes.

    Meanwhile, violence broke also out at football game in the eastern Polish town of Bilgoraj as hooligans stormed onto the pitch and demolished the cabin of the reserve players.

    Some 41 people were arrested during the football riots.

    Poland which is to co-host the 2012 European Cup with Ukraine, is facing massive problem with hooliganism and football corruption.

    Polish racist groups have also used football matches to recruit supporters.

    Polish football had been rocked by a series of corruption affairs over the past three years.

    As part of a major investigative probe some 120 people, among them sports officials, referees, coaches and players had been arrested since 2005 for using bribes to manipulate the outcome of football games

    FBI involved in Sawicka corruption case?

    Reports in the Polish media hint at the possible involvement of the FBI in the corruption case with former MP Beata Sawicka.

    According to Zbigniew Chlebowski, head of the Civic Platform (PO) parliamentary club, if these rumours turn out to be true, then it would be a scandal because the law concerning the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) does not provide for cooperation with other intelligence agencies.

    The daily Gazeta Wyborcza and Radio ZET reported this morning that the arrest of the former Civic Platform member of parliament on corruption charges by the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) involved the participation of the FBI.

    The FBI allegedly lent the CIA a helping hand by creating an official background for a fictitious company Avantis and having one of its officers pretend to be an American businessman.

    Once the Americans found out that their assistance was used in a political power struggle, they limited their cooperation with CBA, claims Gazeta Wyborcza.

    Former MP Sawicka and the mayor of the town Hel, were caught red handed while taking a bribe in a 'sting' operation prepared by the CBA on October 1.

    FBI allegations will be investigated, says Tusk

    In a related story, Prime Minister Donald Tusk admits that he is aware of the allegations about the cooperation between the Polish Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) and the FBI.

    According to the PM, the case is now being investigated.

    Donald Tusk said that he will refrain for now from judging the alleged actions of the CBA head Mariusz Kaminski. He said that he will have the matter thoroughly investigated and if it turned out that the CBA has broken the law or was disloyal to the Polish state, Kaminski will be immediately dismissed.

    The daily Gazeta Wyborcza and Radio ZET reported this morning that the arrest of a former Civic Platform member of parliament on corruption charges by the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) involved the participation of the FBI. According to the daily, once the FBI found out that their help was used in a political power struggle, it limited its cooperation with CBA.


    From: Daily Star
    MIGRANT parents are claiming 33million Pounds a year in child benefits – for kids who might not even live here.

    EU rules mean citizens of other member states who work here can cash in on our child welfare system for their families back home.

    A Polish father with three children can claim nearly 45 pounds a week without the youngsters ever entering Britain.

    Hand-outs have soared 72% in the last nine months alone.

    More than 24,000 workers from former Soviet states in Eastern Europe now claim the benefit compared with 14,000 last June.

    This is yet another example of how Gordon Brown has lost control of Government spending Shadow Treasury chief Philip Hammond

    The bulk of the claims are made by Poles. Nearly 36,000 Polish youngsters receive the UK allowance.

    And the true cost of the payouts could be even higher than the figures reveal – because EU migrant workers are also entitled to claim tax credits for children.

    The Government has not revealed how much is being paid out on those.

    The benefit figures have been highlighted by Shadow Treasury chief Philip Hammond – who claimed the pay-outs made a mockery of Gordon Brown’s pledge to tackle child poverty at home.

    He said: “At a time when child poverty is rising, child benefit money is being siphoned off to children who don’t even live here.

    “The Government has no way of checking if these claims are genuine.

    “This is yet another example of how Gordon Brown has lost control of Government spending.”

    A Whitehall source said: “When Gordon Brown promised to tackle child poverty we thought he meant here in Britain, not in Poland and Lithuania.

    “No one imagined he’d be giving away our money to children growing up elsewhere.”

    Treasury financial secretary Jane Kennedy said the tax credit figures were “not available”.

    Polish Politician Takes on Radio Maryja

    From: Spiegel
    A member of the Polish parliament faces temporary suspension from his party's group after calling the founder of the controversial and ultraconservative Catholic broadcaster Radio Maryja the "personification of Satan."

    A member of Poland's ruling Civic Platform may soon be temporarily suspended from his party's parliamentary group because of critical comments he made about the controversial founder of ultraconservative Catholic radio station Radio Maryja.

    In an interview with the Polish daily Polska earlier this month, member of parliament Janusz Palikot accused Father Tadeusz Rydzyk of stealing money and "sowing hatred in human hearts" and being the "personification of Satan."

    Radio Maryja, a nationalist Catholic radio station that wields significant influence in Poland, has been accused in the past of broadcasting anti-Semitic statements (more...) and it has openly lobbied against gays and lesbians, which it commentators depict as "sick exhibitionists."

    Palikot, a proponent of gay rights, is expected to be suspended from his party group for up to three months, the Polish daily Dziennik is reporting. The head of the Civic Platform caucus, Zbigniew Chlebowski, called Palikot's statements "scandalous" and said disciplinary measures would be taken against him.

    The politician reportedly said he was willing to change the wording of his remarks about Rydzyk to make them less offensive. "I was, am and hope to be proud of being a member of the Civic Platform," he told the daily Rzeczpospolita, according to the English-language Web site "I would like to remain in the party and avoid being suspended."

  • Sport...

    Arsenal's Alexander Hleb off to Barcelona

    From: Sunday Mirror,
    ALEXANDER Hleb is set to join Barcelona in a ?12million deal.

    The future of Arsenal's Belarus midfield player has been the subject of intense speculation since his agent was reported to have met representatives of Inter Milan during a Champions League clash in Italy.

    Manager Arsene Wenger has insisted for the last two months that there had been no offers from Inter or any other club for the 27-year-old, that Hleb was under contract and that he was staying at Arsenal.

    But Hleb clearly wants to leave - and now Arsenal have accepted it.

    New Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has already persuaded Thierry Henry that he figures in his plans and fought off interest from Manchester United.

    Now he wants to bolster his squad by signing Hleb.

    Real Madrid were also said to be keen, but Barca appear to have won the race.

    Hleb was due to marry his fiancee, pop star and former model Anastasia

    Kosenkova, at a secret location outside the Belarus capital Minsk yesterday.

    He joined Arsenal for ?11m from Stuttgart three years ago and now the Gunners will recoup their initial outlay.

    But his departure will mean that Wenger has lost two members of his first-choice midfield from last season.

    Mathieu Flamini (below) was a key player for Arsenal throughout the campaign but he has joined AC Milan on a free transfer.

    But Wenger will at least get back what he spent on Hleb and he is ready to reinvest the cash immediately by bringing Olympique Marseille's exciting young star Samir Nasri to Arsenal.

    Nasri has already made it known that he wants to leave the French club and Arsenal are clear favourites to sign him. The asking price will be ?12.5m.

    Meanwhile, Johan Djourou has pledged his future to Arsenal - despite starting just two games for them last season.

    And the Swiss centreback has offered to come to Gunners boss Wenger's rescue as a central midfielder.

    Djourou spent the first half of last term on loan to Birmingham.

    He joined Arsenal from Swiss club Etoile Carouge in 2003, and has made 30 Premier League appearances.

    Now the 21-year old defender claims he can step into the shoes of Hleb and Flamini.

    "My future is still at Arsenal," Djourou declared. "I owe Arsene Wenger everything.

    "When I rejoined the club from Birmingham, he assured me that I would get significant amounts of playing time.

    "But I got injured in my first game, against Tottenham in the Carling Cup in January.

    "I want to play in midfield in the future.

    But I am just 21, so I still have time on my side before I take the plunge for good." Djourou and his Arsenal compatriot Philippe Senderos are due to play at Euro 2008 this month..

    Giro d'Italia

    Vasil Kiryienka of Belarus won the 19th stage of the Giro d'Italia, finishing more than 6 minutes a head of Alberto Contador who barely maintained the overall lead after a mountain stage in driving rain. The 26-year-old Tinkoff Credit System rider attacked from a breakaway group at the base of the Passo della Presolana to cross the finish line four minutes and 36 seconds ahead of his nearest rival Danilo Di Luca.

    A seven-man group including Kiryienka opened up a 20-minute lead over the peloton on the first climb of the day, the Passo del Vivione, before heavy rain began to fall.

    With none of the riders in the breakaway group a threat to the overall classification, Contador's Astana team-mates were content to take control at the front of the peloton and attempt to preserve his 41-second lead from the climbers that lurked behind them.

    Realising they needed to make a break, and despite the treacherous conditions, LPR team-mates Paolo Savoldelli and Di Luca raced away from the peloton at breakneck speed down the back of the second climb.

    The duo opened up a two-minute lead, mainly thanks to Savoldelli's adventurous riding, before Andreas Kloden eventually led an Astana charge with 30 kilometres remaining.

    That set the tone for an enthralling final climb as Ricco looked to eat into Contador's lead knowing he had to make the most of his superior climbing talent.

    Following Salvodelli's help Di Luca continued to push on to claim second place behind the well-clear Belorussian Kiryienka, but the real focus of the race was on Ricco and Contador's battle.

    The 26-year-old Kiryienka, world champion in the points race on the track in Manchester at the end of March, won his first Giro stage having already earned two runners-up spots -- at Pescocostanzo (7th stage) and at Alpe de Pampeago (14th stage).

    Kiryienka said afterwards: "I promised my team at the start of the Giro that I would make three breakaways and I have done that, twice finishing second and now I have won a stage. I would like to thank my team and my sporting directors (Orlando Maini and Dimitry Konyshev) who encouraged me during the stage."

    World Cup Rowing Regatta Results


    Single Sculls — 1, Belarus (Ekaterina Karsten), 7:24.99. 2, Czech Republic (Mirka Knapkova), 7:26.48. 3, China (Xiuyun Zhang), 7:30.17.

  • Cultural scene...

    Live from Minsk the first Belarus JESC semifinal

    Ksenia Sitnik, winner of the JESC three years ago has sparked national interest in the contest which Belarus has since won and finished second
    We are live in Belarus to see 20 participants look to make their way to the JESC National final and hopefully book their place to Cyprus. Our hosts are three children (two girls, one boy) who will liaise with the singers as our judges watch on from an adjoining room. We are expecting a lively show from the country who has brought us two previous JESC winners.


    Diana Gromova "Ta-ru-ram (Gomel)
    Our first performer of the night is a lively disco number. The singer (female) is accompanied by various girls who jump up and down while following a tuneful melody.

    Roman Voloznev "Mammy" (Minsk)
    Our second performer is singing a mellow ballad and accompanied by what can be described as gymnasts. There is nothing exceptional in the performance.

    Maria Lemeshevskaya - "SMS MMS" (Kobrin, Brest region)
    Our third performer, a girl who is singing about text messages. The song is easy to follow but her voice does seem to strain at times.

    Irina Kulagina "Midsummer Song" (Lepel, Vitebsk region)
    Our fourth performer, remember that there will be twenty in total is a folk song with a touch of dance. The song has a catchy chorus in "go, go, go".

    Maria Dubovskaya "The Camomiles" (Minsk)
    A lively number involving roller skates and some catchy chorus. May do well.

    Alina Moshchenko "Time" (Mogilev)
    This can only be described as an Amy Diamond wannabe. A pop tune with use of a mobile phone as a prop, seems to be typical tonight.

    Darya Soroko "So-Da-Super Star" (Minsk)
    Another pop tune with a catchy melody. The stage performance itself seems bizarre and this will need choreographic changes.

    Roman Voloznev "Mammy" (Minsk)
    This is a moving ballad with our male singer dressed in something resembling 70s sci-fi clothing. The song is ok but nothing outstanding.

    Diana Guzino "Number one" (Grodno)
    Accompanied by stage acrobatics, our performer (female) jumps up and down repeatedly to this pop tune with the catchy title of "Number One".

    Dmitry Yermuzevich, "All of us are Children of the Earth" (Gomel)
    Accompanied on stage by his female dancers and a globe, this is a pop tune that appeals to all bacause of it's lyrics. The performance itself is a little shaky but it works at this level.

    Ekaterina Goncharov and Dmitry Korchevsky (duo) "Beyond the Horizon"
    (Berestovitsa, Grodno district)
    Our first fuet of the night (male and female), a pop tune with some interesting rolling on the floor performances. The song itself is ok but in need of some touch up if it was to make it to the final.

    Nikita Zhurovich "Dreaming" (Lelchitsy, Gomel region)
    One of the more lively songs of the night but the words seem to be playing catch up to the melody. However this song does have the potential to entertain.

    Alina Konareva "Magic Dreams" (Vitebsk)
    A dance tune with our singer looking like she has been starring in the Neverending Story. A catchy melody and not a bad voice but a bit unsurprising.

    Cyril Yermakov "I Sing it for You" (Minsk)
    As we near our final few, this is a different take on a ballad. Our singer had mixed in soem rap into it but yet the song itself is extremely mellow. The backing dancers are all over the place.

    Darya Mikhailova "Ode to Jazz" (Vitebsk)
    With our performer describing herself as the Cristina Aguilera of Jazz we can expect a fascinating performance. Sadly this is a mellow jazz sounding number and I am still wondering what on earth our backing dancers are doing. The song does reming you of a 30's movie.

    Darya Shulgina "Dancing, Dancing" (Grodno)
    A catchy number as our singer makes his presence on stage tell. I am not however a fan of the costumes which appear to be the standard school uniform with even shorter skirts. At least our singer has a good voice.

    Ekaterina Mezhennaya "Pin Codes" (Minsk)
    A ballad with a mellow melody. Our singer is surrounded by a two girls wearing the same costumes that she is and for some reason she has a flower on her microphone.

    Alexandra Stelmakh "Young RNB" (Grodno)
    Dressed in traditional Belarus clothing, our singer starts doing hip hop. How this works is still unclear. Her performance is clearly moving but where to we're not quite sure.

    Polina Dutchik and Mikhail Sosunov (duo) "Ginny" (Brest)
    A nice disco tune with powerful lead performance. Could do well.

    Darya Nadina, Karina Zhukovich, Alina Molosh (trio) "Heart of Belarus" (Minsk, Baranobichi, Brets district and Ivatsevichi, Brest district)
    The only trio of the night, they are all dressed in white and perform a pop-rock tune which is well co-ordinated. There is the catchy use of the lyrics "la, la, la, la" and a melody that stays with you. One of the better songs tonight.

    That concludes the first Belarus JESC semifinal and now the judges will decide upon the qualifiers. We are also treated to a performance from the actual JESC winner of 2007.

  • Endnote...

    The last post

    From: The Beatroot
    Well...kind of. After three years and 646 posts, the beatroot is going into a summer hibernation - as all root vegetables should do at this time of year - only to re-emerge in the autumn bigger, better…etc.

    We will be back in a slightly different form, however, taking a little more multimedia approach. And I am still going to write for other places. In fact, I can write more often elsewhere.

    Thanks to everyone who has passed through here, at some time or another - and particularly the regular commentators, who helped give us a reputation for being a bit better than the ordinary blog.

    And there has been quite a few folk passing by.

    The reasons for the summer break are many: over work, the need to recharge batteries, etc.

    The Beatroot Republic

    But mainly it’s because the beatroot has run out of a subject. This blog was really about Poland under the Fourth Republic - that two years of lunacy from the Law and Justice government.

    It’s been six months since the demise of one of the strangest governments in Europe, certainly in my lifetime. And little did I expect to be caught up in it all.

    So in case your memory has dimmed, let me remind you of how it was.

    At one time we had a government with a cabinet made up of six inch nail swallowers, bearded ladies and other circus freaks.

    The PM was Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leading the charge against what he thought was a cabal of communists, still clinging on, post 1989, in public institutions, government, organized crime and media. Jaroslaw didn’t just think there were legions of Reds huddled together under his bed - he was of the impression that they were under his nose, his hat and probably under his pet cat’s basket (I never did find out what his cat‘s name is, so let‘s call him Sebastian).

    Jaroslaw launched an assault on what became known as the uklad by setting up a counter uklad. The nepotism that Poland has indeed laboured under since the fall of communism continued - except now we had a different bunch of cronies fighting over the spoils of being in power in this poor, long suffering country. Why a decent people like the Poles can’t ever get themselves a government good enough for them, we can only ponder on as one of those great unanswered questions - like, how large is the universe; or why it is we can’t tickle ourselves?

    So close was the net he weaved around him that many expected Sebastian the Cat to get a job as Minister of Feline Affairs.

    But he resisted. He did, however, end up by doing something even stranger - appoint Roman Giertych and Andrzej Lepper as his vice prime ministers.

    This was too much for many of Kaczynski’s supporters, and it was all down, down from there into an inferno of madness.

    Still, for a blogger, it was groszy from heaven. Every day brought some gory fascination. It was like watching the political equivalent of a slow motion car crash, on a loop.

    If you came in late and have no idea what I am talking about then feel free to look back through this blog….and I never had to make one word of it up….Cue here wobbly screen like they do in old corny movies when cutting to another time, a memory, or when it’s a dream sequence.

    Yeah, perhaps it was all a dream. And now we have woken up, haven’t we?

    Haven’t we?

    That's all, folks.