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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New appointments, Bombing arrests, Elections, Unions State, NATO, Economics, Russia, Ukraine, Polish corruption, News, Sport and Culture

  • From the Top...
  • #325

    Belarus enjoys peace, stability and social consensus

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    President Alexander Lukashenko on 15 July at the reception for the graduates of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Faculty, Command and Staff Faculty of the Military Academy of the Republic of Belarus and military academies of the Russian Federation.
    Today Belarus enjoys peace, stability and social consensus, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said at a meeting with graduates of the department of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Command and Staff department of the Military Academy of the Republic of Belarus and the Military Academy of the Russian Federation.

    “The modern world has not become any safer and today we have been witnessing the aggravation of geopolitical, economic, ecological and demographic problems. All these problems affect Belarus someway or other,” the Head of State noted.

    The Belarusian President noted that military and terrorist activity has intensified in many regions of the planet including in Europe. “The Nato eastward expansion and the deployment of the US anti-missile system near our borders, devaluation of international arms control legal base seriously complicate the military and political situation,” Alexander Lukashenko noted.

    Belarus strictly observes international agreements, Alexander Lukashenko says

    “Belarus strictly observes the international agreements and rejects the use of force as an instrument of foreign policy. Belarus takes an active part in strengthening the international security.” The Head of State said that Belarus is the pillar of peace and security in the European region. Since Belarus gained independence the country has not involved in any political reckless schemes or international conflicts.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted that the historical experience of the Belarusian people and the objective realities of the world policy require constant attention to national security issues.

    The economic sanctions against Belarus and political pressure in disguise of democracy “concerns” contradict the principles of good neighborliness and cooperation.

    The head of state said that “unfortunately, some western politicians persistently call for the unconstitutional change of power in Belarus, for the spread of western model of the so-called democracy.”

    According to the Belarusian President, the goal of such actions is to destabilize the situation, destroy the political system and subordinate a sovereign state to those powers that are seeking to establish a unipolar world. “No one should tell us how to live, which way to choose, with who to cooperate. That’s what they call real independence,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    Presidential appointments

    Vladimir Makey, a presidential aide up to this point, has been appointed Head of the Administration of the President of the Republic of Belarus.

    Vladimir Makei was born in the Grodno oblast on August 5, 1958.

    In 1980, graduated from Minsk State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages. In 1992-1993, studied in the Diplomatic Academy of the Foreign Ministry of Austria. Knows German and English.

    In 1980-1992, served in the USSR Armed Forces.

    In 1993-1995 - third secretary of the information and humanitarian cooperation department, second secretary of the analysis and prognostication department, second secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus.

    In 1995-1996 - worked as deputy head of the State Protocol Service of the Foreign Ministry.

    In 1996-1999 – a representative of Belarus in the Council of Europe, Councilor of the Belarusian embassy in the Republic of France; in 1999-2000 – head of the European cooperation department of the Foreign Ministry.

    Other appointments

    Yuri Zhadobin and Vadim Zaitsev have been appointed to higher posts
    In addition, Yuri Zhadobin has been appointed State Secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Belarus and Major-General Vadim Zaitsev has been appointed Chairman of the State Security Committee to replace Yuri Zhadobin. Up to this point, Vadim Zaitsev was First Deputy Chairman of the State Border Committee – chief of the main operational activities directorate.

    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has also conferred generalship grade on four officers – representatives of the Belarusian Defense Ministry and the State Security Committee. Shoulder straps were presented at a meeting with graduates of the department of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Command and Staff department of the Military Academy of the Republic of Belarus and the Military Academy of the Russian Federation.

    Alexander Lukashenko also presented 12 students who graduated from the military institutions with honours with the letters of official thanks of the President of the Republic of Belarus. These are Oleg Krivonos and Dmitry Kovalev, graduates of the department of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Military Academy of the Republic of Belarus, Vadim Gerasimenko, Igor Pilnevich, Andrei Ermak, graduates of the Command and Staff department of the Military Academy of the Republic of Belarus and Vadim Denisenko and Pavel Muraveiko, graduates of the Military Academy of the Russian Federation.

    Officers are responsible to the government for the life and health of their subordinates: the higher their position is, the greater responsibility they should assume, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at the meeting with the graduates of the department of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Command and Staff department of the Military Academy of the Republic of Belarus and the Military Academy of the Russian Federation on July 15.

    The head of state underlined that the society and the state place high demands on officers. They should not be tainted by corruption, abuse of position, alcohol and drug addiction.

    “An officer is a model of moral purity and intelligence, scrupulousness and discipline. Never forget that you can fulfill any task if your official position is backed by your personal authority,” Alexander Lukashenko underlined.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Union State budget may rise 2 or 3 times, Pavel Borodin says

    From: BelTA
    The budget of the Union State of Belarus and Russia may rise two or three times in the nearest future, State Secretary of the Union State Pavel Borodin said at a press conference on July 13.

    He underlined that the increase in the budget will be reflected in the quantity and quality of the Union State programmes. In particular, a third diesel motor-car construction project is being prepared. The goal of this project is to launch the production of engines that will comply with Euro 5 and Euro 6 emission standards; a new promising project in the area of agricultural machine building has been adopted.

    Pavel Borodin touched upon the problems impeding the cooperation development. He is particularly unhappy about the bureaucracy that affects the process of adopting Union State programmes. “It takes us 4-5 years to adopt a programme; we coordinate them with finance ministries 8-10 times. We have been stalling a most important programme on quarry motor transport for 8 years already,” the State Secretary said.

    He added that joint boards of defense, interior, transport, justice ministries, customs and supervisory bodies are successfully working within the framework of the Union State. However, joint boards of economy, finance, agriculture ministries have not been set up, though they could efficiently solve acute issues of the Belarusian-Russian relations, Pavel Borodin said. This situation may change in the nearest future: Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave the relevant tasks to the Russian authorities at the recent session of the Council of Ministers of the Union State.

  • Economics...

    PM suggests introducing two new indicators of economic development

    From: BelTA
    At a session of the Council of Ministers on July 15, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky suggested introducing two new indicators of economic growth. These are the volume of investment per one worker and the volume of innovative and high-technology products in total exports.

    Economy Minister Nikolai Zaichenko said that there are no clear criteria for associating a product with innovation or high-technology products. So far only one term “new products” is used in Belarus. As for the level of investment per one worker, this indicator is used in many countries as a reference tool, the minister said. Raising investment is aimed a creating and modernizing basic assets, increasing the efficiency of their use. The new indicator “is in some way similar to the old indicator of return on assets”, Nikolai Zaichenko said.

    Sergei Sidorsky stressed the importance of these issues for the economy of the country which has no natural resources and increases GDP by means of high-technology productions. “We have no other way but to boost exports of high-technology goods, therefore we need to project how this process will fare in the future,” he said. The Prime Minister suggested thinking over and discussing various variants bearing in mind the increase in the prices for energy, metals and other materials used in the Belarusian manufacturing industry. According to him, introducing new indicators will stimulate producers to work more effectively, modernize outdated basic assets, set up new productions. Sergei Sidorsky also said that today “only 42% of business-plans are implemented”. “We need to encourage other companies to implement innovation projects. They need to know what volume of investment accounts per one worker. Then we will see the dynamics,” Sergei Sidorsky said.

    President signs Law “On Guaranteed Refund of Bank Deposits to Natural Persons”

    From: The office of the President and BelTA
    President Alexander Lukashenko has signed the Law “On Guaranteed Refund of Bank Deposits to Natural Persons”.

    This regulatory legal act identifies the procedure to refund natural persons’ cash assets invested in bank deposits in cases when the respective bank is unable to honour its obligations before the citizens, i.e. in case its license is revoked (the bank goes bankrupt).

    From 1 January, 2009, citizens are guaranteed to be refunded 100 per cent of their deposits (regardless of the deposit currency) in any bank to the amount that is equivalent of up to 5,000 euros inclusive. According to the data provided by banks, deposits under 5,000 euros account for 95 per cent of all bank deposits in Belarus. Therefore, the sum of money mentioned in the Law is optimal; however, the maximum amount that can be refunded may be later revised upward.

    Growth in household lending stimulates economic development, Piotr Prokopovich says

    Today Belarusians borrow more from banks, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Bank Piotr Prokopovich said at a session of the Council of Ministers July 15.

    “This is a normal tendency which stimulates the economic development of the country,” Piotr Prokopovich said. The volume of retail deposits has been growing, too, he stressed. Next year they are projected to increase by 35%. “This is quite a big growth,” Piotr Prokopovich said.

    The resource base of Belarusian banks is projected to increase by at least 42%, or Br20 trillion. Funds of the population, enterprises and non-resident companies remain the main sources of growth. In fact, each of these sources accounts for one/third of the increase in the resource base of the banks.

    Piotr Prokopovich also said that the work will be continued next year to ensure stable and safe performance of the banking system. The goal will be achieved by means of meeting “all standards of safe performance, which have been brought close to international standards.” Any crisis situations in the banking system, separate banks will be revealed and liquidated at the earliest stage.

  • Numbers...

    Belarusian ruble to remain within Br2,000-2,200 per 1 US dollar in 2009

    From: BelTA
    In 2009 the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against US dollar will fluctuate between Br2,000 and Br2,200 per $1 within a band plus or minus 5% depending on the situation in the country and abroad, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Bank Piotr Prokopovich said at a session of the Council of Ministers on July 15.

    According to him, the exchange rate policy is aimed at maintaining the financial system, stabilizing the national currency.

    Piotr Prokopovich also informed about the gold and foreign currency reserves plans. They are projected to increaser by at least $2.25 billion to reach no less than $10 billion by 2010.

    Investments will account for 30% of Belarus’ GDP in 2009, Nikolai Zaichenko says

    The investments will account for 30% of the Belarusian GDP in 2009, Economy Minister of Belarus Nikolai Zaichenko said at the session of the Council of Minister on July 15.

    He noted that the investment in the fixed capital should grow by 23-25% in 2009. Br47-48 trillion from all the sources of financing is to be allocated for the fulfillment of this task. The investment growth is stipulated in the State Investment Programme and five year branch and regional investment programmes.

    According to the minister, the total number of objects that will be put into operation in 2009 has been increased by 82 to reach 213. The commissioning of industrial objects will secure an additional growth of 1.9 percentage points in the industrial complex.

    The state support for the investment projects that won the competition will remain in place. The recipients of this support will receive bank credits on preferential terms. Br54 billion will be allocated to finance these projects. The 2009 draft budget will allocate Br20 billion for the implementation of the innovation projects.

    According to the Economy Minister, the legal framework for the entrepreneurship development should be elaborated. In 2009, the state policy in the area of small business will be aimed at increasing the role of small business in the development of economy through its deeper involvement in the production and service sectors, as well as through the invigoration of investment, innovation and export activities.

    Nikolai Zaichenko added that apart from the improvement of the investment climate, measures are undertaken to develop new regulations to stimulate the industrial production, develop corporate securities insurance market and venture activities. The legal support for the technology transfer will be enhanced. The privatization will be boosted.

    Tax burden in Belarus to be reduced by 1.3% of GDP in 2009

    The tax burden in Belarus in 2009 will be reduced by 1.3% of GDP, or Br2 trillion, First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Kharkovets said at a session of the Council of Ministers which focused on the 2009 draft budget on July 15.

    According to him, next year the duty to the national fund of support of agricultural producers will be decreased from 2% to 1%. The move will help companies boost their turnover assets, increase the competitiveness of Belarusian goods in foreign markets and step up exports. As a result of this move, tax payers will retain Br1.4 trillion in their budgets.

    In 2009 real estate tax will not be levied on productive assets (tools, equipment). As a result of this measure, the tax burden will go down by Br412 billion.

    According to Andrei Kharkovets, in 2009 single rates of local tax on retail sales and services will be introduced at the amount of 5% of profits.

    An important measure to reduce the tax burden will be reducing the tax on purchasing transport vehicles from 5% to 3%. The cutting down of the rate of mandatory insurance premiums to the social security fund from 35% to 34% shall act as an additional stimulus to increasing wages, Andrei Kharkovets said.

    Belarus' budget deficit in 2009 projected at 1.8% of GDP

    The deficit of the consolidated budget of Belarus in 2009 is projected to make up Br2.8 trillion, or 1.8% of GDP, First Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Kharkovets said at a session of the Council of Ministers focusing on the 2009 draft budget on July 15.

    In 2009 the revenues are prognosticated at Br71.9 trillion, expenditures Br74.7 trillion.

    According to the 2009 draft budget, Br8.7 trillion will be assigned to finance 56 national programmes, up almost 30% from 2008.

    A priority in the expenditure policy will be to ensure the growth of wages in the budget-covered sectors to increase wages to $700 in equivalent by the end of 2010. By the end of 2009 wages in the budget-covered sectors are expected to average $550.

    In 2009 the expenditures on health care will be up 34.7% from 2008 to Br6.5 trillion, on education 36% to Br8.8 trillion. Defence expenditures will up by 37% to almost Br2 trillion.

    Andrei Kharkovets noted that in 2009 additional expenditures will be secured in the budget in connection with increasing costs of energy imports. Thus Br1.7 trillion will be assigned to subsidize utilities companies.

  • From the International Press...

    Belarus KGB arrests Russian national in bombing case

    From: Earth Times
    The Belarusian KGB on Tuesday arrested a Russian national, bringing to 11 the number of persons jailed as the authoritarian former Soviet republic continued a search for the perpetrators of a July bomb blast. Uniformed and plain clothes police took into custody student Vladimir Berlunin, 21, in the capital Minsk, his lawyers said.

    KGB interrogators are questioning Berlunin and the other 10 suspects about possible complicity in a July 4 bombing of an outdoor concert, which injured 50, six seriously. Suspects thus far have been held without bail, contact with relatives, or formal charges.

    Berlunin's parents through attorneys asked the KGB for the student's release on bail, saying their son was anorexic and would suffer irreversible injuries to his health if detained in prison.

    There was no public response to the request, in keeping with an almost total ban on comments to media by any Belarusian official on the case.

    Spokesmen from Belarus' embattled opposition have accused authoritarian President Aleksander Lukashenko, who was present at the concert but uninjured by the blast, of using it as a pretext for cracking down on his critics.

    All 10 of the Belarusians detained in connection with the bombing are known members of anti-Lukashenko groups. Berulin was the first foreigner held.

    Berlunin's arrest coincided with conflicting reports of an alleged police beating of Anatoliy Lebedko, leader of the opposition United Citizens' Party.

    Police spokesman Aleksander Naidenko said Lebedko was participating in an unsanctioned anti-government demonstration on Monday and, when instructed by law enforcers to leave Minsk's central Oktiaber Square the opposition leader threw himself to the pavement, and declared himself a victim of police violence.

    "I was there (at the demonstration) and police did not even lay a finger on him," Naidenko said.

    Lebedko told the Interfax news agency a dramatically different version of events, saying, "The police...pushed us (demonstrators) out of Oktiaber Square, then they threw me on the ground and they began kicking me."

    In a related story, The Russian embassy in Belarus is seriously concerned over Russian citizen Vladimir Belonin, 21, who was seized by Belarusian police in Minsk several days ago.

    “Oddly, Belarus has not replied to the embassy statement, which asked for a meeting between consular officers and the detainee,” embassy adviser Vadim Gusev told Itar-Tass on Tuesday. He said there was no response to the request for releasing Belonin on his own recognizance. “The embassy worries for the detainee’s health,” he said.

    “We are surprised with the Belarusian unwillingness to supply objective information about the detention of the Russian citizen and the indefinitely delayed meeting with consular officers,” Gusev said.

    Parents said that Minsk student Belonin was seized on July 9. His home was searched several days earlier. Parents said that the student was suspected of the explosion that occurred in downtown Minsk early on July 4 morning, during celebrations of Belarus’ Independence Day. Parents also said the boy had nothing to do with the blast – he was at home preparing for exams. They said that the boy was seriously ill and could not stay in custody for health reasons.

    KGB chief appointed Belarus security council head

    From: AFP
    Belarus's President Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday named the KGB security service chief as head of the former Soviet republic's security council, less than two weeks after a bomb explosion injured dozens.

    Yuri Zhadobin, 54, headed the former Soviet state's police troops before taking the helm at the KGB last year.

    "Zhadobin was appointed to bring in new personnel. Lukashenko trusts him very much, it is possible that Zhadobin completed his mission in the KGB," analyst Pavel Bykovsky told AFP.

    The explosion on July 3 of a home-made bomb filled with bolts and screws injured dozens of young revellers at a concert held to celebrate Belarussian Independence Day, causing shock in this tightly-controlled country ruled by authoritarian Lukashenko.

    After publicly berating officials for failing to prevent the blast, Lukashenko sacked the head of the security council and long-time ally Viktor Sheiman, and the chief of his presidential administration, Gennady Navyglas.

    Navyglas is to be replaced by Vladimir Makei, a personal friend of Lukashenko's son Viktor, Bykovsky said, suggesting that Lukashenko sought to bring in an entirely dependent new team.

    Spokesman for Russia-Belarus Union State: Transdnestr, Abkhazia and South Ossetia can join the Union State as well

    From: Regnum
    Transdnestr, Abkhazia and South Ossetia can join the Union State of Russia and Belarus, a spokesman for the Union State administration Ivan Makushok informed a Regnum correspondent today on July 15.

    “The treaty signed in 1999 on establishing the Union State provided an opportunity of joining it by any other country, being an international entity and sharing aims and foundations of our union and take in full all commitments, arising from this treaty. Any state which is an international entity, including, by the way, Georgia can join the Union treaty, by entering de jure the Union State,” the official noted.

    “This does not mean that Abkhazia and South Ossetia will join Russia, what the Georgian side enviously meant. An example of it is Belarus, which being an international entity decided on its own with whom it would develop friendly or integration relationships,” Makushok stressed.

    “The first step is obtaining a permanent observer status. This institution is provided by the regulation of the parliamentary assembly of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. Any state, which is an international entity, has an opportunity to join the Union State,” the spokesman of the Union State informed.

    “We discussed this with the president of Transdnestr, talked to the authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. When the matter concerned membership to the Union State, a lot of states with different status interested in it. The subject of Kosovo caused this interest,” the official marked.

    Answering a question of a Regnum correspondent, if it was possible that unrecognized republics would join the Union State in their current status, Makushok said: “The entry of this kind is not provided. But the steps towards a special status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as you know, are being taken. Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdnestr determined their way. Transdnestr president, Igor Smirnov stated directly, if a referendum wasto be held in Transdnestr, about ninety percent would vote for the membership. “We want to enter the fraternal Union and we are ready to do this. Above all Russia and Belarus would do this,” – the president of Transdniestria said. In other words, unrecognized republics see their future in the Union State. Thus this project will prove its effectiveness,” Makushok states.

    “Undoubtedly, these states should become independent to enter the Union of Russia and Belarus. But I repeat that Transdnestr, Abkhazia, South Ossetia in their independence want to enter the Federal state where Russia is an equitable member,” Ivan Makushok summarized.

    Belarus police disperse detentions protest

    From: Reuters
    Police in Belarus dispersed a protest on Monday by dozens of opposition activists denouncing what they said was the detention of comrades after a bomb blast at a concert attended by President Alexander Lukashenko.

    Riot police moved into the capital Minsk's main October Square and pushed out about 30 demonstrators carrying portraits of opposition figures they said were being held after the July 4 explosion, which wounded more than 50 people.

    Senior opposition figure Anatoly Lebedko was knocked to the ground and told reporters he had been kicked by an officer.

    "The authorities have ignored our call not to launch a crusade against those who do not agree with them on the pretext of fighting terrorism," Lebedko said. "The crusade has started and every day there are more and more victims."

    Lukashenko is accused in the West of violating basic freedoms and says he hopes a September election to parliament will prove that Belarus respects democratic principles.

    The often divided liberal and nationalist opposition says about a dozen activists were rounded up after the explosion at an outdoor concert marking Belarus's national holiday.

    Three were released after proving they were unconnected with the incident. Authorities have said nothing about detentions.

    Authorities played down the seriousness of the blast by calling it "hooliganism", implying no political dimension and no one has claimed responsibility. Lukashenko has pledged to stage no crackdown on opponents.

    Opposition groups say the detentions could compromise the September election and suggested last week they could pull out unless their members were freed.

    A boycott would diminish any chance of Western recognition. The opposition currently has no seats in parliament.

    Lukashenko, barred from entering the United States and European Union, has been trying to improve ties with the EU, which says any such development depends on democratic change.

    Broadly popular among Belarus's 10 million people, the president has pledged to oversee a fair campaign, with broadcast time for all candidates and free access for Western observers.

  • From the Opposition...

    Human rights activists for free elections: there are no changes in forming of electoral commissions this year

    From: Viasna
    The forming of district commissions on election to the Chamber of Representatives of the Republic of Belarus is over. According to the elections’ schedule which was adopted by a ruling of the Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus on elections and republican referenda, the nomination of representatives to district electoral commissions was to start 26 June and end not later than 11 July.

    Taking into consideration the exceptional role of the district electoral commissions in the organization and holding of the elections to the Chamber of Representatives, the question of forming of these organs caused many disputes even before the beginning of the electoral campaign.

    The political parties who belong to the coalition of the United Democratic Forces have prepared a single list of candidates to district electoral commission, which was approved by the UDF Political Council on 8 June 2008. The choice of candidates was made according to the following criteria: the experience of work in state agencies, political and public status, place of work and education. The list consisted of 110 candidates, including such well-known activists as Stanislau Shushkevich, Mechyslau Hryb, Alexander Sasnou, Pavel Kazlouski, Leu Marholin, etc.

    The political council of the United Democratic Forces stated that inclusion or non-inclusion of the candidates from the single list would be one of the conditions for recognition or non-recognition of the parliamentary elections by the international community. The leader of the United Civil Party Anatol Liabedzka expressed the opinion that in the case of non-inclusion of members of parties which belong to the UDF in the electoral commissions they could revoke candidates to deputies as well and start boycott of the elections.

    Lidziya Yarmoshyna, chair of the Central commission of the Republic of Belarus, stated that the wishes of the United Democratic Forces could be taken into consideration. According to her, Lukashenka was positive about inclusion of members of oppositional parties in the district electoral commission, but with regard to their ‘working experience and political maturity’.

    On 14 July the joint sittings of the presidium of Minsk oblast soviet of deputies and Minsk oblast executive committee and of the presidium of Minsk city soviet of deputies and Minsk city executive committee took place.

    At these sittings the question of forming the district electoral commissions was considered. 110 district electoral commissions were formed on decision of the aforementioned state organs. All in all, 1 853 candidates had been nominated to these commissions by all parties who had the legal right to it. According to the law, the maximal number of members of a district electoral commission is 13. That’s why only 1 430 candidates could be included in the commissions.

    According to the preliminary information from the secretary of the Central commission of the Republic of Belarus on elections and holding of republican referenda, the greatest part of members (738 persons, 38,9%) were nominated to the commissions by collection of signatures from citizens and 472 (25,5%) were nominated by NGOs. Eight of the officially registered political parties nominated 371 (20%) candidates. Most of them were nominated by the pro-governmental ones: the Communist Party of Belarus (91 persons) and the Agrarian Party (62 persons). Among the oppositional parties the largest number of candidates (50) was nominated by the United Civil Party. 272 candidates (14,7%) were nominated by working collectives.

    It’s worth mentioning, that like during the previous electoral campaigns, the nominated candidates were not invited to the joint sittings of the executive committees and presidiums of the soviets of deputies. Neither were they informed about the decisions of these state agencies concerning their candidacies.

    In a number of Belarus’ oblasts representatives of mass media and public circles were not admitted to the joint sittings of executive committees and presidiums of soviets of deputies on forming of the electoral commissions. In particulars, the representative of the republican human rights NGO Belarusian Helsinki Committee Leanid Markhotka was banned presence at the joint sitting of Minsk oblast executive committee and Minsk city soviet of deputies, and the BHC member Uladzimir Osipchyk – at the joint sitting of Minsk city executive committee and Minsk city soviet of deputies, in both cases without any explanations. The same happened in Vitsebsk oblast, where the BHC representatives Vadzim Barshcheuski and Vasil Berasneu weren’t admitted to the joint sitting of Vitsebsk oblast executive committee and the presidium of Vitsebsk oblast soviet of deputies.

    Besides, the state officials refused to present to members of the United Civil Party, the Belarusian Popular Front Party and the Party of Communists Belarusian information on forming of district electoral commissions, though these parties had nominated candidates to the electoral commissions in Minsk and Minsk oblast.

    In Hrodna oblast the officials gave no information on formation of the electoral commissions to representatives of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and other persons.

    By refusing to admit of delegates of public organizations to the sittings of oblast executive committees and presidiums of oblast soviets of deputies the authorities violated the principle of publicity during elections. In particular, Article 13 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus provides that the preparation and holding of the elections to the Chamber of Representatives is conducted publicly and openly. The appropriate commissions, local representative, executive and regulatory authorities inform citizens about their activities on preparing and holding of elections and about time, place, location and work of electoral commissions.

    There are only 42 oppositionists out of 1430 members of district electoral commissions

    From: Charter '97
    The Central Election Committee of Belarus has accounted for forming 110 district electoral commissions for election of deputies of the “chamber of representatives”. The number of oppositionists there is negligibly small.

    1430 citizens have become members of the commissions, the CEC Secretary Nikalay Lazavik informs.

    The Communist Party of Belarus (KPB), a pro-regime party, is the one which is represented most widely. 58 persons have become members of the commissions. The Agrarian party, the Belarusian Social and Sports party and the Liberal Democratic Party, the Republican party of Labour and Justice, which are loyal to the regime, are represented by 11, 10, 15 and 19 members respectively.

    As for representatives of democratic parties, the United Civil party, the Belarusian Popular Front, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) and the Belarusian Party of Communists have become members of electoral commissions. (Among them are 17 members of the UCP, 5 members of the Belarusian Popular Front, 10 members of the Belarusian Party of Communists, and 6 members of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada)). Only 4 persons representing the public association of the Belarusian Popular Front “Adradzhenne” have become members of the commissions. Thus, the total number of oppositionists in district electoral commissions is 42. As we have informed, the oppositional parties had offered the CEC a list of 138 candidates for of district electoral commissions.

    Other members of district electoral commissions (more than 1300 persons) were nominated by some groups of citizens, labour collectives and public associations.

    According to leaders of oppositional parties, sessions of regional executive committees were the district electoral commissions were composed, were non-transparent. Not all executive committees have allowed opposition representatives to be present at these sessions. The reasons for that haven’t been explained by the authorities, however.

    “They were just reading out a list previously made up by somebody, and said that these people are included into the commissions. Why some of them are included, and some not, and who had submitted applications to become members of the commissions, is not known at all,” the leader of the Belarusian Party of Communists Syarhei Kalyakin says.

  • Around the region...

    Russia will defend interests abroad: Medvedev

    From: Reuters
    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will robustly defend its interests abroad, President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday in a speech that made clear he would not soften the assertive policies that irked the West under his predecessor.

    Russia-watchers scrutinise statements from the Kremlin leader, who took office in May, for any indication of changes from his mentor and previous president Vladimir Putin.

    Putin re-asserted Russia as a major power after a decade in which the country saw its Soviet-era influence sharply reduced. In the process, Putin irked the West by confronting it on issues from Kosovo to Iran.

    Some observers predicted that 42-year-old former lawyer Medvedev would take a softer line.

    But addressing a gathering of Russia's top diplomats, he said he would stick to Putin's doctrine of seeking a role for Russia on the world stage worthy of its resurgent power.

    "Russia has become stronger and is capable of assuming greater responsibility for solving problems on both a regional and global scale," Medvedev told a meeting with over 200 Russian ambassadors and senior foreign ministry officials.

    Ex-KGB spy Putin, has stayed on as prime minister and continues to help shape policy.

    "The world, which got rid of the Cold War, still cannot achieve a new balance," Medvedev said in his, speech delivered in the foreign ministry's Stalin-era building still decorated with the Soviet emblem.

    "Moreover, a trend towards the use of force (in international relations) has become stronger."


    Medvedev said security arrangements established in Europe at the end of the Cold War could collapse if the United States continued to chip away at their foundations, notably by deploying elements of a missile shield in Eastern Europe.

    Washington says the system aims to avert potential strikes from Iran but Moscow views it as a threat to its own security.

    "This common heritage cannot survive if one of the sides selectively destroys isolated elements of the strategic construction. This does not satisfy us," Medvedev said.

    "Deployment of elements of the U.S. global anti-missile system in eastern Europe only makes the situation worse. We will need to react to this adequately," he added.

    Moscow, sensitive to any Western military advance towards its borders, also opposes U.S.-led moves to integrate ex-Soviet states of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO.

    The West, in turn, has been alarmed by Russia's decision to suspend participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) pact, which limits the deployment of heavy armour from the Atlantic coast to the Ural's mountains.

    "The crisis situation over ... the CFE treaty is also part of the problems with the European security architecture," Medvedev said.

    "We would not like to think that only its (the treaty's) final collapse would prove to everyone that the existing control regime is ineffective and unfair."

    Medvedev has proposed a European security conference to draft new rules offering equal security to all European states and settling arms control issues.

    He said on Tuesday narrow interests should not be allowed to bypass international law, citing as an example Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia earlier this year, which Russia said created a dangerous precedent.

    But Medvedev also echoed Putin by saying he was not picking fights with the West and that it was important to defend Russia's interests "without plunging into a confrontation."

    Russia gets Tajik tracking station

    From: AP
    Russia says it has forgiven Tajikistan's debt in exchange for ownership of a space-tracking station in the former Soviet republic.

    Russia has agreed to write off $242 million in Tajik debt and take control of the mountaintop station, which was designed to track satellites and even fragments of space debris.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's press service says he signed off on the deal Monday.

    Construction on the tracking facility, called Okno, Russian for window, started in 1979 but stopped after the Soviet Union broke up and Tajikistan slid into a five-year civil war. Russia and Tajikistan completed construction and it became operational in 2004.

    Fury grows over NATO war games in Ukraine

    From: Russia Today
    Ukrainian activists are out in force to protest against the country’s participation in NATO military exercises in the Black Sea. Campaigners say they’re increasingly worried about Kiev’s growing ties with the defence alliance and have vowed to keep up their demonstration until operation ‘Sea Breeze’ is over.

    Sea Breeze was conceived long before the idea of Ukraine's accession to NATO became an issue. But deliberations on the issue are now reaching crisis point.

    “Yankee, go home!” – This is how some Ukrainians are welcoming a thousand NATO servicemen from 15 countries who have arrived in Odessa to take part in the ‘Sea Breeze’ war games.

    A crowd of around 50 men voiced their disgust at what was happening. NATO soldiers on their way to the event's opening ceremony were met with a chorus of boos and jeers.

    The driving force behind the anti-NATO protests is the Progressive Party of Ukraine. They have set up tent camps close to where the Sea Breeze exercises are taking place.

    One activist explained how Ukraine’s relationship with the US-led alliance affected relations with Russia.

    ”Russian language, friendship with Russia and many other issues have become big problems for us now,” Anatoly Petrov said.

    “It is perfidious aggression from NATO forces, an unhampered invasion. They are just breaking into our Motherland”.

    But participants of the ‘Sea Breeze’ manoeuvres seem more concerned with their mission than the protests. For them it’s about gathering experience on the Black Sea coast. This is the eleventh time it has been held.

    In 2006, several thousand protested in the Crimean city of Feodosia, forcing the cancellation of the NATO exercises. This time security has been stepped up to avoid that happening again and the Ukrainian authorities have been keen to reassure all involved they are in control.

    Nikolay Serdyuk, head of Odessa administration, noted that there's only 1.5 per cent of the Ukranian population are protesting.

    “I believe 99 per cent have no problem with the NATO issue. At least, I can speak for the Odessa region, where for most of the 3.5 million people here, today is a regular working day and they're not into waving flags or chanting slogans,” Serdyuk said.

    And the NATO officers picked up on those assurances. U.S. Navy Captian John Moore, co-head of the war games, said the protesters “didn’t bother them at all”.

    ”We believe that the city of Odessa have taken every efforts to keep us safe as well as allow them to work in a lawful manner,” he said.

    The Sea Breeze war games will last for two weeks until July 26. The Progressive Party of Ukraine says it will continue picketing its sites until the very last day. But for now it remains unclear whether it will have any effect and whether their message will be heard.

    Ukraine hopes for access to Russian pipelines

    From: Reuters
    Kiev hopes a deal to allow Russia to join the World Trade Organisation will enable Ukraine to secure direct access to Russian pipelines carrying gas from Central Asia, a senior official said on Tuesday.

    "Within the context of a free trade agreement (with Russia), we are regulating only trade in goods, not trade in services," Deputy Economy Minister Valery Pyatnitsky told reporters.

    "But what we are really interested in is the Russian services market. And the most critical thing is access to pipelines. How are we to ensure free transit of gas and oil through Russian territory? How are we to receive goods?"

    Ukraine joined the WTO in May after nearly 15 years of talks, completing the process before Russia, and said it would use its new position to settle issues on gas imports.

    All imports of gas, including cheaper supplies from Turkmenistan in ex-Soviet Central Asia, pass through Russian territory.

    Half of Ukraine's gas comes from Turkmenistan via Russia, but officials there say they cannot send supplies directly.

    The price Ukraine pays for gas supplied by Russia has shot up from $50 per 1,000 cubic metres in 2005 to $95 a year later and now stands at $179.50.

    Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) said last month it wanted to raise the price further to European levels of $400-500 by next year.

    This sent a tremor of worry through the European Union, which receives a quarter of its gas supplies from Russia. Around 80 percent is shipped through Ukraine by pipeline.

    EU countries fear rows over gas prices between Moscow and transit countries that could lead to supply interruptions.

    Russia halted gas flows to Ukraine for several days in a dispute over pricing in early 2006 which had a knock-on effect for gas passing through Ukraine and on to European customers. Flows have periodically been reduced since in new pricing spats.

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko says she has reached an understanding with her Russian opposite number, Vladimir Putin, to raise Ukrainian prices over a number of years.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Mayor of Sopot accused of corruption

    From: The News
    A businessman has accused Jacek Karnowski, the Mayor of Sopot, of trying to bribe him while making a property deal.

    Slawomir Julke, a businessman from the seaside resort of Sopot, northern Poland, has revealed to Rzeczpospolita daily that the Mayor of Sopot, Jacek Karnowski from the ruling Civic Platform party demanded two flats from him in return for planning permission for the expansion of a residential building.

    The Chairman of the Supreme Chamber of Control (NIK), Jacek Jezierski told Polish Radio One Tuesday morning he hoped that the corruption case described by Rzeczpospolita was a one-off case, but if the charges against the Sopot Mayor were corroborated, a comprehensive investigation would have to be conducted.

    The head of NIK also reminded that Sopot had been subjected to many inspections, but he said another comprehensive audit in Sopot should go ahead.

    The corruption case involving the Mayor of Sopot was referred to the State Prosecutor’s Office yesterday.

    Jacek Kurski from the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) said he was not surprised at the media allegations regarding the Sopot Mayor’s involvement in corruption. Kurski told Polish Radio One that his party had notified prosecutors about cases of corruption among governing politicians from the Pomerania Region, northern Poland in the past.

    The Mayor of Sopot Jacek Karnowski has denied the allegations.

    I did inform prosecutor of Sopot corruption allegations, says Tusk

    From: The News
    Donald Tusk has vehemently opposed accusations by Law and Justice (PiS) politicians that he failed to inform the prosecutor's office about the fact that the mayor of Sopot, northern Poland, had allegedly committed corruption.

    PM Tusk stressed that a day after property deal corruption allegations concerning Mayor Jacek Karnowski reached him, he forwarded the case to Minister of Justice Zbigniew Cwiakalski. The next day he was informed that the prosecutor's office had already started investigating the case.

    Tusk said explicitly, Tuesday, that he was very interested in the case being thoroughly examined, adding that Karnowski should resign as Sopot's mayor if he is indeed indicted.

    A couple of days ago Karnowski suspended his party membership in Tusk’s party, the ruling Civic Platform (PO). However, Tusk is of the opinion that Karnowski should leave the party altogether and announced that he would lobby for having Karnowski removed as a member, as his conduct was dubious, to say the least.

    The Polish daily Rzeczpospolita published, Monday, a transcript of a conversation between a Sopot entrepreneur and Mayor Jacek Karnowski, in which he demanded two apartments in exchange for issuing a permit to rebuild a historic tenant house.

    Crib sheets for government politicians?

    From: The News
    Opposition politicians are outraged that the government has a central communications department which makes sure ruling party members stay ‘on message’.

    According to the Dziennik daily, the department of communications at the Prime Minister's Office sends out instructions to politicians belonging to the ruling Civic Platform (PO) party on what they are supposed to say in the media.

    The daily writes that the instructions spell out how PO members are to criticize the President and praise PM Donald Tusk whenever they talk to the media.

    The revelations have sparked fury in the opposition – the Law and Justice party demands that the PM reveal all 'cribs' sent to his party members. Head of Law and Justice parliamentary club Przemyslaw Gosiewski called the crib sheets "one of the biggest scandals of the last few years", as according to him, government institutions are being used to slander the head of state.

    Michal Kaminski from the President's office said that instructions on how to criticise President Lech Kaczynski are not only outrageous but are breaking the law. He said that PM Tusk is pulling wool over the public's eyes by assuring of his will to cooperate with the president while at the same time his advisers are working on 'black PR' against the head of state.

    PO's Zbigniew Chlebowski denied allegations saying that the instructions are not cribs, but a monitoring of the media. "They are not instructions for how politicians are to act. They are just a monitoring of the statements made by government and particularly Civic Platform politicians," explained Chelbowski.

    But Civic Platform is not the only party that sent out such instructions to its members. At the end of last year, Gazeta Wyborcza revealed that Law and Justice issued a 'guide' on how to criticize PM Tusk.

  • Sport...

    Belarus wins two medals at World University Wrestling Championship in Greece

    From: BelTA
    Alexander Motyl of Belarus (74kg category) won a silver medal of the World University Wrestling Championship in Thessaloniki, Greece. In the finals he lost to Ukraine’s Oleg Belotserkovsky 1:0, 1:3, 2:2. Another Belarusian Vladislav Andreev (55kg) convincingly beat Moldova’s Alexander Chirtoaka 1:0, 7:0 in the bronze-medal match.

    Belarus’ Khizri Duduyev (60kg) and Ekaterina Yanushkevich (59kg) placed fifth having lost the bronze-medal matches to the opponents from Turkey and Taiwan.

    Belarusian free-style wrestlers win 4 medals at Waclaw Ziolkowski tournament in Poland

    The Polish city of Lodz host 17th Waclaw Ziolkowski international free-style wrestling tournament. Participating in the competition were 58 sportsmen from 14 countries. The Belarusian athletes won 4 medals.

    The silver medal went to Magomedkamil Magomedov (60 kg) and Pavel Gribailov (66 kg), the bronze was awarded to Rizvan Gadzhiev (60 kg) and Murad Gaidarov (84 kg).

    It should be noted that Murad Gaidarov who won the Olympic license in the weight class of 74 kg competed in the unusual weight class of 84 kg, another Belarusian athlete, Rizvan Gadzhiev (55 kg), fought in the weight category of 60 kg.

    At the Tour De France

    Konstantsin SIUTSOU od f Belarus has risen to 25th place overall after 10 stages at the tour de France. He has finished in the top 1/3rd in the peloton in all of the last five stages. He is also in 34th place for the checkered jersey, worn by the king of the mountains.

    Aleksandr KUSCHYNSKI, currently 129th place overall, has gained points in both the climbing and the points competitions.

  • Cultural scene...

    Grand-Prix of 17th International Song Contest Vitebsk 2008 goes to Lithuania

    From: BelTA
    Donatas Montvydas from Lithuania took the Grand-Prix of the 17th International Song Contest Vitebsk 2008. The winner also got $10,000 of prize money, a special prize Lira and a diploma.

    The first prize of $6,000 was divided between Vitaly Gordei from Belarus and Lena Valevskaya from Russia. The second prize of $4,000 went to Georgian Nodiko. The third $2,000 prize was divided between Vladislav from Ukraine and Plamen Patov from Bulgaria.

    Special prizes of the Parliamentary Assembly were awarded to Vitaly Gordei and Lena Valevskaya. The representatives of Belarus and Russia also got an album production certificate from the CIS Humanitarian Cooperation Fund.

    Vladimir Mulyavin special prize “For the best realization of the national theme and professional performance” was bestowed upon Lucia from Romania. Florek from Poland received a diploma of the International Federation of the Festival Organizers. Young Artist from Armenia Sergei Grigoryan got a special award from the TV and Radio Broadcasting Company Mir. Other contestants received sponsor prizes.

    The International Song Contest Vitebsk 2008 was held within the festival of arts Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk. This year, partaking in the contest are 24 countries. The contest jury headed by French composer, author of the musical Notre Dame de Paris Riccardo Cocciante included Yadviga Poplavskaya, Laima Vaikule, Oleg Gazmanov and well-known producers.

    The Grand Prix “Lyre” of the International Junior Song Contest Vitebsk-2008 held during the arts festival Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk went to a 10-year old girl Lara from Russia.

    Alina Molosh from Muliavin National Music Centre won the first prize and a special award. The second prize was shared by Kanat Maulen (Kazakhstan) and Stephan Roshkovan (Moldova). The third prize went to Madalina (Romania) and Irena Velcheva (Bulgaria).

    According to the rules of the Junior Song Contest, the Grand Prix winner also gets a bonus of $5 thousand; the first prize holder gets $3 thousand, the bonus for the second prize amounts to $2 thousand, and for the third prize – $1 thousand.

    The awarding ceremony was held at the international press centre of Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk on July 13.

    Sculptor Maxim Petrul represents Belarus at Beijing International Art Exhibition

    Sculptor Maxim Petrul is representing Belarus at the 3rd Beijing International Art Exhibition. The layout has opened in the Beijing National Museum of Arts within the framework of the Olympic Festival of Culture which is held on the eve of the Olympic Games.

    Young sculptor Maxim Petrul actively takes part in international sculptor open-air art conferences, symposiums and contests. The sculptures created by Maxim Petrul have been already erected in the parks of the Chinese cities of Fuzhou and Kunming.

    On August 11, Maxim Petrul will demonstrate his new work at the international contest Olympic Art 2008 in Beijing. The exposition will operate during the Olympic Games.

    Organizers of the event intend to set up the Museum of Olympic Art in Beijing where Belarus will be represented by Maxim Petrul’s work “Ties”.

  • Endnote...

    Lukashenka: “Western model of so-called democracy implanted to us”

    From: Charter '97
    Economic sanctions by the West have become the topic of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s speech at a meeting with graduates of the department of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Command and Staff department of the Military Academy of the Republic of Belarus and the Military Academy of the Russian Federation.

    “The historical experience of the Belarusian nation, harsh reality of the world politics demand us constant attention to issues of national security,” Alyaksandr Lukashenka stated.

    The Belarusian ruler has underlined that maintaining highest level of the army’s defence potential is to be a priority of the country’s leadership ever, Interfax informs. “An independent policy can be pursued only when we would be strong and capable to give a rebuff to encroachments on our country and its sovereignty,” the leader of Belarus believes.

    He has added that the most important mission of the Armed Forces of Belarus is “to maintain a high level of defence potential and preventing military risks’ turning into military perils”.

    Speaking about the situation in the world, the Belarusian leader noted that military and terrorist activity has intensified in many regions of the planet including in Europe. “The NATO eastward expansion and the deployment of the US anti-missile system near our borders, devaluation of international arms control legal base seriously complicate the military and political situation,” Alyaksandr Lukashenka said.

    He has underlined that the economic sanctions against Belarus and political pressure “in disguise of democracy and freedom concerns” contradict the principles of good neighborliness and cooperation.

    Lukashenka has noted with regret that “unfortunately, some western politicians persistently call for the unconstitutional change of power in Belarus, for the spread of western model of the so-called democracy”.

    According to the Belarusian President, the goal of such actions is to destabilize the situation, destroy the political system and subordinate a sovereign state to those powers that are seeking to establish a unipolar world. “True independence is independence from a diktat from strong states, from imposing a way of life which is alien for the nation’s mentality,” Lukashenka is convinced.

    He has also voiced confidence that regional grouping of Belarus and Russia, “which is a guarantor of the “union state” Western borders’ security”, should be developed.

    According to Lukashenka, since Belarus gained independence the country has not involved in any political reckless schemes or international conflicts. Thus “Belarus is a bulwark of peace and security in the European region”.

    “Belarus strictly observes the international agreements and rejects the use of force as an instrument of foreign policy. Belarus takes an active part in strengthening the international security,” Belarusian leader emphasized.

    Lukashenka has also expressed an opinion that guaranteeing national security is impossible without skilled, well-rounded and professional officer. “That is why our state does everything for our officers to get modern and first-rate education in our educational institutions,” the head of the state noted.

    149 graduates have attended the reception, including the first graduates of the Command and Staff department of the Military Academy of the Republic of Belarus. Alyaksandr Lukashenka has awarded 12 best graduates who had been awarded a golden medal, letters of acknowledgement from the president. He has also given general’s shoulder straps to two representatives of the Defence Ministry and to two KGB representatives.