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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Belarusian-Russian integration, Parliamentary elections, Nuclear energy, China, Russia, Ukraine, Polish scandal; News, Sports and Culture

  • From the Top...
  • #319

    Presidents of Belarus, Russia urge to deepen Belarusian-Russian integration

    From: BelTA
    Alexander Lukashenko and Dmitri Mevedev meeting and the Hero Fortress in Brest
    The priority areas of Belarusian-Russian relations are gradual enlargement and deepening of all-round Russian-Belarusian integration, strengthening of the collective security, building up the interaction in humanitarian area and improving living standards of citizens of Belarus and Russia, reads the joint declaration which was signed by the Presidents of Belarus and Russia after the talks in Brest.

    Alexander Lukashenko and Dmitry Medvedev expressed the satisfaction with the gradual development of relations between the two countries and confirmed the adherence to the Union State Treaty of December 8, 1999.

    The sides stressed there is a need to intensify the efforts to develop trade and economic cooperation based on the principles of market economy, equal rights, mutual benefits and respect of the interests of each other.

    The declaration says that Russia and Belarus will encourage the activity of Russian and Belarusian investors on the territory of each other, promote the creation of highly effective joint productions, expand industrial cooperation including within the framework of the Union State programmes.

    The sides noted the importance to unify the legislations of the two countries in economic and other areas. The intensive work will be continued to form the Customs Union, to conduct single tariff and non-tariff policy, eliminate barriers in bilateral trade.

    The priorities also include the development of interregional links, creation and improvement of an effective system of transport transit, strengthening of interaction in nuclear energy, efficient use of the Union State property.

    The Presidents wish to see the vigorous efforts to be continued to ensure equal rights of citizens of Russia and Belarus, to implement the Union State social development concept, to form the agreed approaches to the cooperation in education, healthcare, science, sport, tourism, culture, youth policy, mass media.

    Belarus, Russia condemn any attempts to rewrite history

    Belarus and Russia strongly condemn any attempts to rewrite history and revise the results of World War II, says the joint declaration signed by the Presidents of Belarus and Russia in Brest.

    “A selective, politicized approach to history should be opposed by honest, scholarly debate. It is the only way for Europe to draw a lesson from its hard history, avoiding the repetition of tragic mistakes from the past,” the document says.

    The heads of state noted the significance of the further enhancement of the Belarusian-Russian relations to maintain collective security, including within the framework of the CSTO, to develop military and military-technical cooperation and to help the international community work out the appropriate response to new global challenges and threats.

    The sides expressed their willingness to continue coordinating their approaches to solve most crucial issues of international relations for the interests of the just and democratic world order within the central role of the United Nations Organization and the supremacy of international law, including the goals and principles of the UN Charter.

    Alexander Lukashenko and Dmitry Medvedev underlined the necessity to take constant care of the veterans of the Great Patriotic War and people who served on the home front; they also attached much importance to perpetuation of the memory of the war heroes and patriotic education of the youth. Belarus and Russia will carry out joint festive events dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

    The Presidents of the two countries paid tribute to the outstanding courage of the heroes of the Great Patriotic War who were the first ones to face the attack of the Nazi invaders in the land of Brest. According to the document, the memory of the war and the Great Victory that became the common spiritual and moral property of all the European nations, sorrow for the dead have forever fastened the relations between Belarus, Russia and the other CIS member states, this memory inspires these countries to establish a strong, just and secure world order. “The lessons from the past are a solid base for the joint fight against any manifestation of racism, aggressive nationalism and xenophobia,” the declaration underlines.

    Belarus, Russia Presidents urge to keep high growth rate of bilateral trade

    The Presidents of Belarus and Russia believe it is necessary to keep the high growth rate of bilateral trade. The statement was made during the opening of the talks in an extended format in Brest.

    For the four months 2008, trade between the two countries was up 65% from the same period 2007. According to Dmitry Medvedev, it is necessary to keep that pace. “The fact that trade is increasing despite the difficulties on the international financial and food markets is a good sign. The trade was up by two thirds. This is not little. Last year we had trade worth $26 billion. And we would like to increase this figure”, the President of Russia said. He also said that it is necessary to take all efforts to keep this dynamics during the year.

    “There are other issues in our relations, but still economy determines the development of the two countries”, Dmitry Medvedev noted.

    The visit of Dmitry Medvedev to Belarus as the Russian President “is a working trip”, Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov told BelTA,

    “The fact that the visit was held on June 22, which is an important day for Belarus and Russia, gives it special importance attesting, above all, to the common past and close ties between the two nations”, the Foreign Minister said.

    Belarusian President gives interview to Komsomolskaya Pravda June 24

    On June 24, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gave an interview to the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Head of State.

    The first issue of the newspaper was published on May 25, 1925. The then circulation was 31 copies. At first the newspaper published popular-science and adventure stories for the youth. During the “perestroika” time, the newspaper started to publish critical articles and became more popular. In late 1980s the circulation reached 20 million.

    Belarus, Russia have similar views on state security protection, Alexander Lukashenko says

    Belarus and Russia have similar views on the areas of state security protection, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said during a meeting with Director of the Russian Federal Security Service, General of the Army Alexander Bortnikov in Minsk on June 24.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted that during the recent meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, they discussed the joint work of the security services of Belarus and Russia in ensuring the Union State security. “We discussed a lot of issues,” the Belarusian President highlighted.

    According to the Head of State, he and Dmitry Medvedev share the opinion that it is necessary to pay special attention to the cooperation in the security, social and economic areas which are aimed at protecting the interests of every citizen. Alexander Lukashenko noted that they discussed near-term tactical and strategic cooperation of the two countries in security.

    “I wish all our agencies cooperated in the same way as our security services do,” the Belarusian President highlighted.

    A cooperation agreement was signed by the Belarusian State Security Committee and the Russian Security Ministry on May 13, 1992. The two services signed 38 additional protocols which identify the concrete areas of cooperation.

    Russia does not refuse from Union State Treaty

    Russia is not refusing from the Union State Treaty. This fact was confirmed by President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev at a meeting in Brest, the Belarusian President said.

    Answering the questions of Vladimir Sungorkin, the editor-in-chief of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, Alexander Lukashenko quoted Dmitry Medvedev who said “since we have not adopted the Constitution of the Union State then we will abide by the treaty.”

    According to the Belarusian leader, Dmitry Medvedev suggested focusing on 15 or 20 pressing issues rather than pursuing global tasks and goals. People should see that concrete problems are addressed. “By solving these daily issues we will reach the great goals which we set out for ourselves today,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    Alexander Lukashenko: Union State will accomplish global goals through daily tasks

    On June 24 President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko gave an interview to the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, the presidential press service told BelTA.

    It is the most popular newspaper in Russia, with the circulation as large as 3.1 million copies. The newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Vladimir Sungorkin interviewed the Belarusian head of state.

    The interview was mainly focused on Belarusian-Russian relations, the future of the Union State.

    Alexander Lukashenko underscored, despite a certain slowdown in the Union State construction Russia does not scrap the Union State treaty. It was confirmed by President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev at a meeting in Brest.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, instead of global goals Dmitry Medvedev suggested choosing 15-20 issues to address so that people could see how specific problems are dealt with.

    “By accomplishing the daily tasks, we will come to the accomplishment of the goals we set for ourselves today,” stressed the President of Belarus.

    Speaking about parliamentary elections in Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko underscored, the elections should be held in an open and democratic manner.

    “We would like to demonstrate how elections are supposed to be done both to the West and Russia. We will make them as democratic as you will see the real result, who the nation supports today,” said Alexander Lukashenko. “We would like to hold the elections in an open way so that we would not be reproached in any way”.

    “The first international observers have arrived in our republic already and nobody would interfere with their work provided they observe the effective Belarusian laws,” added the head of state.

    During the interview other questions, including personal ones about the President’s family, his pastime, and other topics were asked.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Parliamentary elections in Belarus to take place September 28

    From: BelTA
    The elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly are scheduled for September 28, 2008. President Alexander Lukashenko signed relevant decree No 344 “On calling the elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus of the fourth convocation” on June 24, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Head of State.

    On June 24, the President issued a decree to call the elections to the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of the fourth convocation during the period from July 14 till October 14, 2008.

    The parliamentary elections in Belarus will be held in an open and democratic way, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview to Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

    “We want the elections to be held in an open and democratic way, so that nobody would be able to criticize us,” the Belarusian head of state underlined.

    “We want to show western countries and Russia how elections should be organized. We will make them so democratic that you will see practically whom the Belarusian people really support,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    The President noted that the Central Election Commission is responsible for holding parliamentary elections which should be organized in strict compliance with the Belarusian legislation. The first international observers are already in Belarus, and nobody will prevent them from working provided that they do not break the Belarusian law, the head of state noted.

    International organisations free to determine number of observers to send to monitor Belarusian elections

    The elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus will be monitored by many international observers. There are no plans to limit the number of observers. The international organisations that will send the observers will define their number, Chairperson of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Lidia Yermoshina told BelTA.

    In line with the effective legislation the election campaign will be held publicly, which envisages the presence of national and international observers as well as extensive coverage by mass media. These are all parts of the same chain, said the official.

    “Two major missions may be distinguished. There are plans to invite representatives of the OSCE and observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States. The CIS mission may very likely be separated into several teams. As far as the Central Commission is concerned, according to the tradition we will invite our colleagues from other countries, as a rule, those who invite us. Those are Latvia, Lithuania, the Commonwealth states,” said Lidia Yermoshina.

    Belarus’ CEC has already passed a resolution, which regulates the operation of international observers. Their accreditation will be carried out by the Central Commission on the basis of election monitoring invitations and corresponding questionnaires. According to the Belarusian legislation international observers can be invited by the President, the Council of Ministers, the parliament, the Foreign Ministry, and the Central Election Commission.

    House of Representatives adopts law on nuclear energy

    From: BelTA
    The House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus passed the second reading of the bill on nuclear power on June 24.

    Presenting the document, Evgeny Kazimirchik, a member of the Permanent Commission for Industry, Fuel and Energy Industry, Transport, Communications and Business, noted that the document introduced fundamental principles in using nuclear power. These principles include the priority of life and health protection of the present and future generations, environment protection over all other aspects of the activity relating to the use of nuclear energy. According to the law, the benefits to citizens and society from utilizing nuclear energy should outstrip the damage as a result of this activity.

    The document also contains the principle of providing full, trustworthy and timely information about the use of nuclear power if this information does not contain state secrets.

    The document also secures the principle of prohibition of production of nuclear weapon and other nuclear explosive devices.

    The law fixes the authorities of the state bodies in the field of the use of nuclear power. The document identifies the state bodies which regulate the security while using the nuclear power.

    The document also spells out requirements for designing, constructing and commissioning of nuclear facilities. It secures the requirements aimed at ensuring nuclear security including physical protection of nuclear facilities.

    China ready to increase investments in Belarus’ economy

    From: BelTA
    Chinese companies are ready to increase investments in the Belarusian economy, Charge d’Affaires ad Hog of China to Belarus Jiang Xiaoyang stated at an opening ceremony of the Chinese exhibition in Minsk on June 24. The event comes within the Days of Science of China in Belarus.

    Mr. Jiang Xiaoyang noted that Belarus had recently improved its investment climate what advances closer cooperation between the business circles of the two countries and increases the amount of Chinese investments in the projects of the national economy. “Belarus demonstrates high scientific and production potential; further cooperation is prosperous and advantageous for the two countries,” he underlined.

    Charge d’Affaires ad Hog of China to Belarus Jiang Xiaoyang briefed that the trade between Belarus and China is on a constant increase. In 2006, the bilateral trade reached nearly $1 billion, in 2007 - $1.3 billion. “We hope the exhibition will promote the establishment of new contacts between scientific and business circles of the two countries. The exhibition attracts great attention of the Belarusian people what proves Belarus values the relations between our countries,” he said.

    Belarusian-Chinese scientific and technical cooperation improves competitive ability of both countries

    Belarusian-Chinese scientific and technical cooperation contributes to improving the competitive ability of both the countries, First Vice Premier of Belarus Vladimir Semashko said in Minsk on June 24 at the opening of an exhibition timed to China Science Days in Belarus.

    Scientific and technical cooperation between Belarus and China has been successfully developed since 1992. Over the time it has grown precise. At present scientists jointly work on projects in industry, agriculture, new materials, biotechnologies, chemistry. “Our specialists are united by common interests. Their cooperation brings tangible results, which contribute to raising the competitive ability of our economies,” said Vladimir Semashko.

    He believes, scientific and technical cooperation would not have been so successful without friendly and trusting relations, which have been established between the two countries over the recent years. “China is a rapidly developing country with a rich scientific potential we can learn from,” stressed the official.

    In turn, Deputy Science and Technology Minister of China Cao Jianlin added, scientific cooperation between Belarus and China ensures more rapid assimilation of high technologies and scientific achievements in manufacturing industries. The promotion of Belarusian and Chinese research results is spurred by joint scientific and technological centres as well as the Belarusian-Chinese industrial park. “Though our countries are separated by distance, our friendship and close economic relations develop steadily and bring high results,” said Cao Jianlin.

    He noted, due to the recent earthquake in China the expo features fewer exhibits than it was planned. “However, we hope that it will not influence the establishment of new scientific and business contacts between the two countries,” added Cao Jianlin. “We are also genuinely grateful to Belarus and the Belarusian nation for aid given to us at a hard time”.

    Timed to the China Science and Technology Days in Belarus, the expo features over 120 scientific achievements. The exposition includes scientific achievements of Chinese scientists, researches done as part of Belarusian-Chinese joint programmes and projects. Visitors will be able to get familiar with scientific researches into new materials, biotechnologies, electronics, optoelectronics, ecology, transport, resource-saving technologies.

    The event is organised by the State Science and Technology Committee of Belarus and the Chinese Science and Technology Ministry. The Chinese delegation is led by Deputy Science and Technology Minister Cao Jianlin.

    Union State budget for 2009 estimated at over RUB5.5bn

    From: BelTA
    The Union State budget for 2009 is estimated at over RUB5.5 billion, Secretary of State of the Union State Pavel Borodin told media on June 24.

    Pavel Borodin said, the formation of the Union State’s draft budget bill for 2009 and other topical issues relating to the Belarusian-Russian trade and economic cooperation were discussed during his meeting with Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin on June 23 prior to the forthcoming session of the Union State Council of Ministers in Moscow on June 27. Contributions of Belarus and Russia to the 2009 budget are supposed to be increased by 25%. RUB523 million left from the 2008 budget will be transferred to the next year’s budget revenues.

    All in all, 32 manufacturing programmes are financed by the Union State budget at present, with applications for 84 programmes filed for 2009.

    The forthcoming session of the Union Cabinet is also supposed to consider performance of collegial bodies of the Union State. According to Pavel Borodin, performance of joint boards of the Justice Ministries, Defence Ministries, Foreign Ministries, and Interior Ministries deserves praise while boards of the Finance Ministries, Economy Ministries, Industry Ministries, Agriculture Ministries, and Transport Ministries virtually do not operate.

    The agenda of the forthcoming session of the Union Cabinet includes cooperation in transport, customs, pricing policy issues, cooperation in agricultural products trade.

    Apart from that, the State Secretary of the Union State believes it is necessary to ensure the participation of representatives of the Union State Permanent Committee in Union State meetings.

    “We also need the third programme for diesel automobile engineering, we need Euro-5-compliant, and Euro-6-compliant engines,” he said.

    Apart from that, Pavel Borodin believes it is necessary to ratify the Union State property agreement.

    According to Pavel Borodin, at present 28,000 enterprises with 5 million jobs operate within the framework of the Union State.

  • Economics...

    Inflation in Belarus is under control, PM says

    From: BelTA
    Inflation in Belarus is under control, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky said at a session of the Council of Ministers on June 24.

    “There are good prerequisites to keep inflation within the projected levels”, he noted.

    In January-May 2008, the price consumer index was up 6.6% what meets the 2008 inflation target.

    According to preliminary estimates, in H1 inflation will not exceed 7.4%, Economy Minister Nikolai Zaichenko said at a session of the Council of Ministers on June 24 focusing on the five-month economic performance.

    According to him, in January-May inflation was 6.6%. In Russia the rate of inflation is 7.7%, in Ukraine 14.6%. Inflation increased driven up by higher energy prices. A rise in services tariffs and meat and dairy prices accounted for 60% of the rise of inflation. Seasonal price growth for fruits and vegetables also contributed to the growth.

    Additional measures have been taken this year to restrain inflation. In May the government introduced a system of measures to restrain growth of prices for fruits and vegetables. In June the Economy Ministry took a decision to adopt ceiling trade mark-ups on essential foods and wholesale mark-ups on foods from abroad. The measures of state regulation in price formation will be taken in the future.

    Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky noted that in June inflation remains at the rate of 0.5%. This instills confidence that inflation will remain within the projected levels in 2008.

    In H1 GDP in Belarus will be up 10.3%, Economy Minister says

    Most important targets of the socio-economic development forecast of Belarus in H1 2008 will be met, Economy Minister Nikolai Zaichenko said at a session of the Council of Ministers on June 24.

    In H1 2008, GDP will be up 10.3%. In January-May the labour productivity will be up 9.6%, which is above the target of 8.8%. Profitability of sold products in industry will increase by 17.3%, well above the 13% target.

    In January-June capital investment will be up 23%; retail trade 20% (the target was 13%). The commissioning of new housing will be 2.6 millions square meters, a half of the annual plan.

    The targets in agriculture production, growth of real earnings and chargeable services will not be achieved. A foreign trade deficit will be $835 million.

    According to Nikolai Zaichenko, this is the objective reflection of the state of national economy. The results attest to a high rate of economic growth and are the good basis for successful work in H2.

  • From the International Press...

    Presidents of Belarus, Russia meet in Brest

    From: Naveny
    Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, visited the Brest Fortress Memorial on June 22 to commemorate the 67th anniversary of Nazi Germany`s attack on the Soviet Union.

    Messrs. Lukashenka and Medvedev laid wreaths at the main monument of the memorial complex, made a walking tour of the complex, visited the Museum of the Defense of the Brest Fortress, and talked to WWII veterans.

    After that, the two leaders had face-to-face talks. In a joint declaration signed as a result of the talks, they expressed “satisfaction with the progressive development of Belarusian-Russian relations” and confirmed their adherence to the Treaty on the Formation of the Belarusian-Russian Union State.

    “Belarus and Russia will always be together,” Mr. Lukashenka said during the meeting. “Our nations will never live separately of each other.”

    Mr. Medvedev thanked him for the invitation to visit Belarus on this significant date for the two nations, the Day of the Remembrance of the Victims of the Great Patriotic War.

    “It’s important that the memory of those events remains,” the Russian president said. “The presence of thousands of people here confirms the simple thought that we don’t only remember those times, but they also unite us. And you were right to say that we should do everything that depends on us not to disappoint their expectations.”

    Belarus election may bring opposition

    President Lukashenko said the election would allay any doubts about fundamental rights being upheld
    Belarus today announced a September 28th election to a parliament where the opposition holds no seats.

    Belarus is determined to disprove Western allegations that it violates human rights, and President Alexander Lukashenko, barred from entering the United States and the European Union, pledged a fair vote to prove his ex-Soviet state was a democracy.

    But the liberal and nationalist opposition said little would change even if some opposition parliamentarians did win seats.

    Speaking after a presidential decree announcing the date was issued, Mr Lukashenko said the election would allay any doubts about fundamental rights being upheld in his country.

    "We want to show the West, and Russia, how to conduct an election," he told the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda .

    "We will do it so democratically that you can be sure the outcome is real and see who has the people's genuine support. We want to do it openly, democratically so that no one will criticise us and we can say: 'What more do you people want from Belarus?'"

    Last month Mr Lukashenko said that having the opposition in parliament would help Belarus's image but that he doubted whether opposition parties would get enough votes to win seats.

    Nikolai Lazovik, secretary of Belarus's Central Election Commission, said new rules would allow opposition parties to play a role in the commission's affairs. No election in Belarus has been recognised as fair since the mid-1990s.

    Mr Lukashenko has been trying to cultivate better relations with the West, especially the European Union. Several detainees were freed from prison and Western ambassadors suggested a successful September poll would help end Belarus's isolation.

    Belarus tightening controls on Internet journalism

    From: AP
    Belarusian lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a crackdown on Internet journalism, one of the last remaining independent sources of information in the repressive former Soviet republic.

    The legislation also forbids all Belarusian media outlets from accepting foreign funding, a restriction that will affect about 30 publications that now receive U.S. or EU money.

    The bill, drafted by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko's office, "is among the harshest in Europe and throws Belarus back to the worst Soviet times," said Oleg Gulak, the leader of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee rights group.

    The new restrictions come ahead of parliamentary elections, which Lukashenko on Tuesday set for Sept. 28.

    His government argues that the Internet needs to be brought to heel to shield the population from foreign propaganda.

    "We have to protect society from the negative effects of the Internet," First Deputy Information Minister Liliya Ananich told parliament members Tuesday.

    The new measures require all Internet sites to be officially registered with the government; many independent newspapers that have been closed down by the authorities have taken refuge in cyberspace.

    The legislation also toughens controls on journalists, who can be imprisoned for two years for reproducing foreign media reports that "discredit Belarus."

    Lord Bell set to launch program to improve Belarus’ image

    From: Naveny
    Timothy Bell, a member of the British House of Lords, said in an interview with BelaPAN that his PR firm, Chime Communications, would launch a program aimed at improving the international image of Belarus, which would consist of an information campaign and a marketing campaign.

    According to him, the objective of the former campaign is to “get across a more accurate view of Belarus,” whereas the latter will be for the purpose of encouraging investment.

    Lord Bell declined to elaborate, citing the confidentiality of this information.

    He said that Chime Communications would sign a contract with the Belarusian government within the next few weeks.

    Lord Bell visited Minsk on March 13 to meet Alyaksandr Lukashenka. “We expect you to be an ambassador of good will from the United Kingdom itself,” the Belarusian leader told him then.

    Lord Bell said that online information sources contain a lot of two-faced and hypocritical comments regarding Belarus. Serious work should be done to remedy the situation, he noted. It is essential that information about the state of affairs in the country be unbiased and accurate, he said.

    "I went to see him, at his request. He's asked me to put a proposal together about how his image could be improved," Lord Bell told the BBC following the meeting.

    "He would like his country to be better understood, and his successes to be better grasped," Lord Bell told the Moscow Times. "Lukashenka doesn't see why Belarus can't be a friend to the West and a friend to Russia at the same time."

    Belarus' state media offered little coverage of the visit, saying that it was a "private business visit" by the British PR expert.

    Timothy Bell, 66, is known for his advisory role in Margaret Thatcher's three successful general election campaigns. He is president of Chime Communications, an advertising/PR firm.

    He was knighted by Margaret Thatcher in 1990 and made a Life Peer by Tony Blair in 1998.

    He has served on various arts and public administration bodies. He has recently been an advisor to the Iraqi government on the "promotion of democracy.”

    Lord Bell, a friend of Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, handled the media attention behind poisoned Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died in the hospital in November 2006.

  • From the Opposition...

    New Mass Media Law passed

    From: Viasna
    Belarusian parliament has approved the bill that will considerably limit the rights of on-line mass media in the country, including obligatory registration of web resources that will be performed by the government.

    According to Belarusian Association of Journalists, with the adoption of the law Belarusian independent media will receive a huge blow and be forced to stop their activity in the country.

    The bill was drawn up as a result of a long campaign of intimidating independent media in Belarus and is likely to result in such unpopular measures as limiting access to foreign Internet resources.

    Zhanna Litvina: new mass media law will ruin Belarus-Europe dialogue

    According to Zhanna Litvina, head of Belarusian Association of Journalists, by passing the regressive mass media bill Belarusian authorities will ruin Belarusian dialogue with EU bodies.

    - The bill is essential for our society, so why is it passed so fast then? There only one reason for that – after the upcoming parliamentary election the new deputies will blame the old parliament members for having adopted this bill, says Litvina.

    Civil campaign “European Belarus” doesn’t run in elections

    From: Charter '97
    Some websites have reported that “the “European Belarus” movement announced the decision to run in the elections.” We asked Andrei Sannikov, one of the leaders of the civil campaign “European Belarus”, to comment on the reports.

    – The objective of the civil campaign European Belarus is promotion of European values in our country and gathering signatures of Belarusian citizens for joining the European Union. Members of the civil campaign take independent decisions whether they run for the elections or not. Most of the active participants of the “European Belarus” civil campaign stand for boycotting of the coming “elections”, because the present regime in the country doesn’t create any conditions for more or less transparent and fair electoral processes, – Sannikov noted.

    – Members of the “European Belarus” view boycott of the elections on this stage in broader sense – boycott to dictatorship and boycott to the regime. It is evident today that preserving of the current political system in Belarus will lead to extremely dangerous consequences for independence of our state, so running for the elections would mean support the regime and created by it falsification system. One should be careful about the promises of the regime to European and international institutions, first of all, because the authorities haven’t made a single step to improve the conditions of holding the elections, while there remains high danger of legitimation of the regime if democratic opposition will participate in the elections. Party leaders, as it follows from their statements, understand the situation and will use the election campaign to change the current election system. In my view, leaders of opposition parties won’t take part in electoral farce if there are no their representatives in electoral commissions, if the authorities choose who from the united list of opposition will be registered and who won’t. In the end we must by combined efforts return the right to choose to the Belarusian people and make the regime change considerably its policy, – one of the leaders of the “European Belarus” civil campaign believes.

  • Around the region...

    General: Russia must guard Arctic region

    From: UPI
    Russia must be ready to fight for its national interests in the Arctic region, home to vast untouched natural resources, a military official said Tuesday.

    "After several countries contested Russia's rights for the resource-rich continental shelf in the Arctic, we have immediately started the revision of our combat training programs for military units that may be deployed in the Arctic in case of a potential conflict," Lt. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, head the Defense Ministry's combat training board, told the Krasnaya Zvezda, or Red Star, newspaper.

    As part of a scientific expedition in August, two Russian submarines dove below the North Pole to boost Russia's claim that the Arctic's Lomonosov Ridge is within the country's economic zone, RIA Novosti reported Tuesday. A Russian flag also was planted on the seabed.

    Wars are "won or lost long before they start," Shamanov said, and combat training was critical for any future military operation's success.

    "The Americans, for example, recently conducted the Northern Edge 12-day large-scale exercise in Alaska, involving about 5,000 personnel, 120 aircraft and several warships," Shamanov said, noting that Russia could no longer ignore a show of military force near vital regions in the Arctic.


    From: Jamestown
    Russia’s Gazprom has announced its intention to launch exploration for oil and gas in Abkhazia on July 1, apparently offshore in the Black Sea. According to a notice just circulated by Gazprom’s board, the June 27 shareholders’ meeting will discuss plans by Gazprom, its subsidiary Promgaz, and the Abkhaz authorities to conduct a “technical and economic assessment of the resource base in hydrocarbons of the Republic of Abkhazia and the development of proposals regarding the forms of cooperation between OAO Gazprom and the Republic of Abkhazia in the areas of geological exploration work, production of hydrocarbons, supply of gas and gasification.” Promgaz will undertake this work from July 1, 2008, to December 31, 2009, “in accordance with instructions from OAO Gazprom” (“Gazprom: Informational Statement Regarding the Holding of the Annual General Meeting,” received on June 20).

    In a parallel move, Abkhaz “president” Sergei Bagapsh’s spokesman has announced intentions by Russia and the secessionist authorities to start flights by “international” airliners between Sokhumi and Russia. The spokesman rejected the position of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), whose European and North Atlantic Office had recently warned, “The ICAO deems unacceptable the initiation of international flights from Sokhumi airport.” Dismissing the ICAO’s position as “irresponsible,” Bagapsh’s spokesman retorted, “flights of airliners between Abkhazia and Russia are suitable to us and no one will be able to oppose this.” He warned international airlines, moreover, against using existing air routes over Abkhazia without Abkhaz permission, “because the republic’s air force uses the airspace” (Apsnypress, June 12).

    It is hardly conceivable that the Sokhumi authorities would use such confrontational language toward the ICAO without Moscow’s encouragement. Moreover, the reference to “the republic’s air force,” which does not exist, is a thinly veiled threat that the Russian air force or air defenses might henceforth, by their mere presence, stop unwanted international flights from using those air routes.

    These moves are only the latest in the series of predatory Russian moves against Georgian property, internationally recognized commercial interests, and sovereign rights. They follow Russia’s April 16 presidential decree to develop direct official relations with the secessionist authorities and the May 31 seizure of the railroad in Abkhazia, property of Georgian State Railways, by the Russian Defense Ministry’s railroad troops.

    Russia’s moves add to Georgia’s legitimate reasons for opposing Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Georgia had ample grounds for this long before the recent developments. Russia had forcibly seized the Georgian customs stations and checkpoints on the Abkhaz and Ossetian sectors of the Russia-Georgia border, in internationally recognized Georgian sovereign territories. Russia has thereby generated rampant illegal trade and trafficking, with region-wide repercussions. In 2006 Russia cut off energy supplies to Georgia in mid-winter. Since 2006, moreover, Russia has imposed a commercial and transport blockade on Georgia as a means of political coercion. Moscow declared those sanctions officially and maintains them outside any framework of international law.

    Georgia, like any WTO member, has the right to give or withhold consent to Russia’s accession to the organization. Georgia seeks a negotiated solution and has been engaged in discussions with Russia on two levels: multilaterally, within the WTO’s informal working group on Russia’s bid to join the organization; and bilaterally, in talks with Russia at the technical level.

    Prior to Russia’s latest moves, Georgia was demanding a legal solution to the issues of customs stations and checkpoints on the Abkhaz and Ossetian sectors of the Georgia-Russia border. Tbilisi has proposed various forms of sharing control and presence at those points, a goal designated as “legalization” because it would include the legal sovereign, Georgia, in a mutually agreed solution. Russia has stonewalled for years, however. Georgia waited until last year before using its procedural right to relegate the discussions on Russia’s accession to the WTO from official multilateral negotiations to informal, working-group consultations.

    Following Russia’s April 16 presidential decree, Georgia has suspended its participation also in the bilateral technical talks with Russia. The Georgian government is asking Russia to reverse that decree as a condition to further bilateral talks on Russia’s WTO accession. Meanwhile, multilateral working-group consultations go on at the WTO’s Geneva headquarters. For the June 16 to June 20 sessions, Georgia’s Economic Development Ministry submitted a list of Russian violations of the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and related international norms. For its part, Moscow maintains that WTO rules do not apply to Russia’s moves regarding Georgia (Civil Georgia, Interfax, June 20).

    Moscow has thus far concluded bilateral negotiations successfully with more than 60 WTO member countries, that is, elicited their consent to Russia’s membership in the organization. Russia still, however, needs to complete bilateral discussions with Saudi Arabia and with Georgia.

    Some business interests in Western Europe and the United States would like their governments to pressure Georgia into giving up and admitting Russia into the WTO regardless. Whether for business or political considerations, some EU and U.S. officials are calling for Russia’s admission to be completed by a certain date, for example, by year’s end. One rationalization is that once inside the WTO, Russia would respect the rules of the game, an argument that ignores Russia’s breach of the rules of all games it has joined with the West, including G-8 “energy partnerships,” among the issues directly related to the WTO’s agenda.

    The WTO faces much more than a Georgia-Russia issue: it faces a paramount issue of international economic and political order and international law. It would be illusory for business interests to pursue unilateral relations with a Russia emboldened to set its own rules of the game with impunity in international trade.

    Ukraine demands final withdrawal of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in 2017

    From: xinhua
    Ukraine is not going to review the deadline for withdrawal of the Russian Black Sea Fleet from its territory, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry's spokesman Vasyl Kyrylych said Tuesday.

    "The Black Sea Fleet must leave Ukraine by May 29 in 2017. This is not a subject for discussion," Kyrylych told a briefing in Kiev.

    The issue of the Black Sea Fleet base cannot be "a subject of trade," he said, adding that Ukrainian Constitution does not allow a foreign military to be based in the country's territory.

    Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said that Moscow is willing to consider paying a higher rent for the Black Sea Fleet staying in Crimea after 2017.

    Ukraine PM's daughter 'assaulted'

    From: BBC
    Yevhenia Tymoshenko and Simon Carr met at a Red Sea resort
    Authorities in Ukraine are investigating allegations that the daugher of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was assaulted by police.

    The alleged incident took place last week at a Black Sea resort, where Yevhenia was staying with her husband.

    Yevhenia and her partner, British musician Sean Carr, say they were beaten by police on a beach in Odessa.

    Media reports had suggested the pair attacked the police first - but now the interior ministry denies that.

    Ms Tymoshenko and her husband were reportedly with a group of biker friends and tried to enter a restricted area of the beach when the fight broke out.

    Two policemen were detained as a result of the scuffle and a preliminary investigation is reported to blame them for using force without reason and exceeding their authority.

    Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was a leading figure in the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004 and is tipped as a likely contender for the presidency in the future.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Lech Walesa was a Communist spy, says new book

    From: Times Online
    Lech Walesa addresses striking workers at the Gdansk shipyard in 1980 when the Solidarity movement was formed
    Lech Walesa, the Polish shipyard worker with the trademark droopy moustache, is regarded as one of the heroes of modern Europe: the leader of the revolution that brought communist rule crashing down.

    Now Poland is in uproar over an intriguing riddle: was communism actually destroyed by a communist agent? If so, why?

    Two writers claim that Mr Walesa — the founder of the Solidarity movement, Nobel Peace prizewinner, former President of Poland - was a stooge of the communist secret police.

    In The State Security Service and Lech Walesa, Slawomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk make two central claims. The first is that Mr Walesa was an informer for the secret police between 1970 and 1976 under the codename “Bolek”. The second is that as President from 1990 to 1995 he borrowed his police file from the Interior Ministry archives and returned it with key pages missing.

    Mr Walesa has already successfully contested in the courts that he was Bolek. His argument, backed by a handwriting expert, is that documents were faked by the secret police to discredit him with the Church hierarchy, to sabotage his relationship with the Polish-born Pope John Paul II and to influence the Nobel Peace Prize committee against making him a laureate.

    Most of the documents found by the authors in the Institute for National Remembrance (IPN) are photocopies and many are unclear. It is certainly true that the secret police, the notorious SB, concocted material to compromise Mr Walesa. The short, fast-talking electrician was a profound embarrassment for the regime in the 1980s, largely because he embodied the romantic idea in the West that the Soviet empire could be brought to its knees by a simple worker.

    In his autobiography Mr Walesa admits that he may have “signed something” after an interrogation in the early 1970s. There was never any possibility, he says, that he would co-operate with the SB, betraying fellow dissidents. The book tells a different story.

    “We provide clear evidence in our book,” Mr Cenckiewicz says, “registration cards, memos, notes from the secret police . . . we know the secret police methods and the way that the archives and registry were run.”

    Documents implicating Mr Walesa, he says, were found in other archives. “These files still had their original seals and it could be proven that they haven't been opened since the 1970s. Manipulation is out of the question.”

    If Mr Walesa was Bolek, what damage did he cause? The authors say that he informed on about 20 people who were later harassed or oppressed. Oppositionist activity, however, was minimal and Mr Walesa's role in it marginal. He came to the notice of the police during riots against food price rises in December 1970. As workers prepared to storm the police headquarters in Gdansk, Mr Walesa pushed his way inside and offered the commander a deal: the workers would not attack if jailed colleagues were freed. He was given a megaphone to address the crowd. Unbeknown to him, the police were ready to shoot. The tragedy unfolded - but the police may well have spotted a useful ally.

    If there was a relationship with the secret police, did it really end in 1976 (when Mr Walesa was dismissed from his workplace)? The opposition to communist rule was beginning to take real shape in 1976. Intellectuals such as Jacek Kuron formed a committee to defend sacked and persecuted workers. Informers from within the factories had never been so valuable.

    The conspiracy theories go farther. If Mr Walesa continued as an agent, what really happened in the shipyard strikes of 1980? Were the police trying to engineer a change in the communist party leadership? Were there elements of the police that wanted to get rid of communism altogether?

    The shadows over Mr Walesa stretch into his presidency. One of his key advisers was his chauffeur, a former SB operative. And the new book is quite solid about President Walesa's various requests for his secret files; the pages that he removed were clearly documented by the archivist. Mr Walesa's defenders say that the book is a political put-up job. The head of IPN was appointed by President Kaczynski, no friend of Mr Walesa.

    “We consider Walesa to be a national symbol. He led Solidarity and remains an icon,” Mr Cenckiewicz says, “but he also worked with the secret police under the name Bolek. The truth isn't always black and white.”

    — Roger Boyes is the author of The Naked President, a biography of Lech Walesa. His reporting from that period can be accessed on the Times Archive.

    Rallying cry

    1986, addressing a meeting of the US Congress

    “We have had many beautiful words of encouragement but, being a worker and a man of concrete work, I must tell you that the supply of words on the world market is plentiful, but the demand is falling. Let deeds follow words now”

    2005, at the 25th anniversary of the Polish Solidarity movement

    “Freedom came, but it is still hard to get bread”

    1983, in his Nobel lecture

    “Let the veil of silence fall presently over what happened afterwards. Silence, too, can speak out”

    1983, in his Nobel lecture

    “The defence of our rights and our dignity as well as efforts never to let ourselves to be overcome by the feeling of hatred — this is the road we have chosen”

    2008, after receiving treatment in hospitals for a weak heart

    “It has been a long time since I have felt this good . . . I hope to work harder than ever to help people around the world. Dictators and oppressors should continue to fear me because I will be here for a long time”

    Government to clampdown on ‘politicised historical institute’?

    From: The News
    The governing coalition in Poland wants to amend the Act on the National Remembrance Institute (IPN), accusing it of acting as a an organ of ‘political revenge’.

    The political turmoil following the publication of a controversial biography of Lech Walesa, Communist services and Lech Walesa: A contribution to a Biography by two historians from the Institute of National Remembrance has inspired the government to consider making changes to the law regulating the powers of the IPN, a historical institute set up to investigate crimes against Poland during the Nazi and communist period, though its critics say that it has a radical rightwing political agenda.

    Coalition politicians are said to have already commissioned expert opinion regarding a possible direction for making amendments to the existing law.

    “We want to make the law more consistent, so that there are no more publications aimed at political revenge,” Stanislaw Zelichowski from the junior coalition partner, the Polish Peasant’s Party (PSL) told the TVN24 news channel.

    Zelichowski refused to reveal if the new draft amendment would strip IPN of its investigative powers regarding the vetting procedure of politicians and public officials and reduce it to merely a national archive and historical research institute.

    Politicians from the senior coalition partner, Civic Platform (PO), are also convinced that IPN should undergo reform.

    “IPN has failed in its current form. Its role is to study history and not to pass judgments. Changes in IPN are inevitable,” said MP Grzegorz Dolniak (PO).

    If a new law is to be passed by the Lower House, the ruling coalition will have to count on support from the opposition, leftwing Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in order to overrule a likely Presidential veto.

    “If the changes go in the right direction, we will support [the government in parliament],” Ryszard Kalisz (SLD) told TVN24.

    Michal Kaminski, minister from the Presidential Chancellery, told Polish Radio this morning that President Lech Kaczynski would indeed veto any move to strip IPN of its investigative powers. He claimed that the government was the one trying to politicise the institute, not politicians loyal to Kaczynski and the largest opposition party, Law and Justice.

    But the government and opposition parties from the left argue that the allegations made against Lech Walesa in the book released yesterday, claiming that the ex-Solidarity trade union leader collaborated with communist secret services, is merely an attempt to discredit him in a revenge attack by politicians loyal to the Kaczynski brothers, who, though also from the Solidarity movement, have been at loggerheads with Walesa since he was president in the first half of the 1990s..

    The Institute of National Remembrance - Commission of the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (IPN) was established by the Polish Parliament on December 18, 1998 and began to operate in July 2000. The Institute is headed by a Chairman whose post is independent of the state authorities. The IPN Chairman is elected for a five-year term.

    According to IPN’s statute, its primary mission is to preserve the memory of the losses suffered by the Polish Nation during WWII and the Communist era, as well as Polish citizens' efforts to fight for an independent Polish State, in defence of freedom and human dignity.

  • Sport...

    Arsenal want €23m for Hleb

    Arsenal have named their price for Alexander Hleb (27), with Bayern Munich the latest club looking to sign the player.

    Bayern Munich will have to pay around 19 million pounds for the Belarusinternational – around €23 million at the current exchange rate.

    Franck Ribery (25) cost around €25 million when he joined Bayern from Olympique Marseille, making the Frenchman the most expensive player in the history of the Bundesliga.

    Hleb is a technically gifted midfielder like Ribery, but is more of a right-sided player, and excels at the kind of one-touch football that new coach Jorgen Klinsmann wants Bayern to play next season.

    After joining Arsenal from VfB Stuttgart for €15 million in 2005, Hleb learnt how to play a fast-paced game under manager Arsene Wenger.

    The problem is that Hleb is under contract at Arsenal until 2010, but is unhappy in London, so Wenger will allow him to leave. In an interview the player said: “I am not a big city person, and I need the option to escape from the hustle and bustle. I often go back to Stuttgart, which is my second home.”

    Bayern are able to offer Hleb the prospect of continuing to play Champions League football, something the player is keen to do, and his agents Uli Ferber and Nicolai Spilewski offered him to Bayern - but when chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge called Arsene Wenger about the possibility of signing the player, he was told the hefty price

    Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus victorious at Rowing World Cup in Poland

    Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus won the Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) final at the Rowing World Cup 2008 in Poznan, Poland. She recorded the result of 7 minutes 24.85 seconds to claim the title, 4.5 seconds ahead of Poland’s Julia Michalska and Rika Geyser of South Africa.

    This season the renowned athlete from Belarus has won three world cups. According to specialists, Ekaterina Karsten is a favourite at the Olympic Games in Beijing. The Olympic rowing team of Belarus will also include Yulia Bichek and Natalia Gelakh (W2- women’s pairs), Alexander Novikov, Valery Rodevich, Kirill Lemeshkevich and Pavel Shurmei (M4x Men's Quadruple Sculls), Alexander Kozubovsky, Andrei Demianenko, Vadim Lialin and Evgeny Nosov (Lightweight Men's Four) and also Denis Migal and Stanislav Scherbachenia (M2x Men's Double Sculls).

  • Cultural scene...

    Concerts at Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk to be traditionally colourful

    From: BelTA
    The concerts dedicated to the Days of Belarus, Russia, Moscow and Ukraine held within the 17th international festival of arts Slavonic Bazaar will become a traditionally colourful page of this song forum, First Deputy Culture Minister of Belarus Vladimir Rylatko told a press conference in Minsk on June 24.

    The festival held in Vitebsk on July 11-18 will be rich in events. The chief director of the festival is Ilia Glazunov.

    The directors of the concerts dedicated to the Days of Russia and Moscow are organizing performances of the famous Russian singers that will come to Vitebsk.

    The concert dedicated to the Day of Belarus will be mottoed “We are Belarusians!” Yakov Naumenko and Igor Luchenok are expected to give their solo concerts. Ukrainian singer Ruslana is also to give a performance which will be held on the Day of Ukraine.

    A concert given by the participants of the Eurovision Song Contest is expected to become one of the most interesting events of the festival. The concert will be broadcast in other European countries.

    Vladimir Rylatko added that a special prize of the President of Belarus “Through art to peace and understanding” will be presented to People's Artist of the USSR, Laureate of the Union State Prize in Literature and Arts Alexandra Pakhmutova. This prize is given to those people who have made a significant contribution to art, Slavonic Bazaar and whose creative work is aimed at strengthening Slavonic fraternity, First Deputy Culture Minister noted.

    Slavonic Unity Festival to take place on border of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine

    The traditional Slavonic Unity festival is scheduled to take place near the Friendship Monument at the border of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine on June 28. This year the festival will be organised by the Bryansk region (Russia), BelTA learned in the Permanent Committee of the Belarus-Russia Union State.

    The Slavonic Unity festival was founded 30 years ago. Every year the festival is attended by thousands of people from frontier regions of the three countries and by political and public figures. In 2002, the guest of honour was Patriarch of Moscow and of All-Russia Alexi II and in 2004 - the presidents of Belarus and Russia.

    The programme of the festival includes a trade fair of companies from the Gomel oblast (Belarus), the Bryansk region (Russia) and the Chernigov region (Ukraine), numerous concerts, the youth action “We are together!”, and the air show of the aerobatic team of the Russian air force “The Russian Knights”.

    Minsk to host international bodyguard competitions June 23-29

    From: BelTA
    The fifth international tournament of bodyguards will take place in Minsk on June 23-29, BelTA learnt from press secretary of the competitions Aleksei Gusev.

    The major objective of the tournament is to exchange international experience and enhance the professional level of bodyguards. The traditional leadership of the President’s Security Service at prestigious competitions for professional bodyguards caused the regular international tournament being held in Minsk.

    Annually held, the competitions gather the best teams of the CIS and non-CIS countries. Partaking in the competitions in Minsk will be ten teams including the teams of the state security service and special service.

    As a rule, the major part of the programme is kept in secret. In general, the tournament consists of the following stages: close fight techniques, resistance to attacks on a guarded official, accompaniment and security of a guarded official, shooting to ensure security of a guarded official in emergencies, skills to orient in difficult operating environment, defensive driving.

    The tournament will include profile seminars and a selling exhibition of equipment and arming for members of the state and private security structures.

    The competitions are held under the auspices of the International Professional Bodyguard League (IPBL) and the Security Service of the President of Belarus.

  • Endnote...


    Russian and Belarusian leaders meet to discuss long-debated merger

    From: IHT
    Russian President Dmitri Medvedev met with the president of Belarus on Sunday to discuss the merger of the two former Soviet countries into a single state.

    "The movement forward is very good," Medvedev said after talks with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.

    Russia and Belarus signed an agreement in 1996 that called for close political, economic and military ties — and eventually a full merger — but negotiations on strengthening the union of the two countries have stalled.

    "Politically and legally we created a union state, and now it is important to fill it with real content," Lukashenko said.

    In the 1990s, Lukashenko — who has been called "Europe's last dictator" by Western critics — pushed for the merger, apparently hoping to take reins from Russia's weakening president, Boris Yeltsin.

    But Vladimir Putin's election in 2000 demolished Lukashenko's hopes to rule both countries.

    Two years later Lukashenko angrily rejected a Kremlin proposal to incorporate his nation into the Russian Federation, and ties have further soured due to disputes over the price of Russian natural gas. Cheap Russian energy is critical to propping up Lukashenko's Soviet-style economy.

    Some observers had speculated that Putin might become the president of a new unified state of Russia and Belarus after he stepped down in May after eight years as Russian president. That speculation ended when Putin made clear he intended to serve as premier under his protege Medvedev.

    "The last eight years of working with Russia and its former president were full of summersaults and stumbles, but we gained a powerful momentum," Lukashenko said.

    A merger of the two predominantly Slavic, Russian Orthodox countries would be the first of any two ex-Soviet republics since the Soviet Union split apart in 1991. But it would deepen Western concerns about an increasingly assertive Russia that seeks to restore its lost Soviet clout.

    After the talks, Medvedev and Lukashenko were scheduled to visit a village where in 1991 leaders of the then-Soviet Russia, Belarus and Ukraine signed an agreement that ended the Soviet Union.

    "The place was desecrated, and after walking there we might think of something good for our citizens," Lukashenko said.