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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Slavonic Bazaar opens, Elections, Eu Relations, Russian Nukes, Ukrainian economy, Polish scandal, News and Culture and Sports, Sports and more Sports

  • From the Top...
  • #324

    Alexander Lukashenko: Slavonic Bazaar symbol gets international recognition

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    Opening of the 17th Slavonic Bazaar International Arts Festival
    The festival Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk and its famous symbol, a Belarusian cornflower, received the international recognition, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at an opening ceremony of the festival on July 11.

    “The festival is almost a contemporary to our young state, the most favorite creation of the whole Belarus which we put our soul in. From a modest meeting of the artists of the Slavonic countries it turned to become a world-scale forum,” the Head of State noted. According to Alexander Lukashenko, the secret of the magnetic power and popularity of the Slavonic Bazaar is in the art festival that took its place in the world art Olympus in the toughest competition with other international festivals. “It has acquired a unique appearance; it did not become a banal, monotonous event. The festival is a combination of good traditions and new art developments,” the president underlined.

    The Head of State turned the attention to the fact that the number of friends and fans of the festival has been increasing. Thus, this year, the Vitebsk forum will gather more than 5,000 people from different countries and continents. In 2008, Belarus will first welcome the artists from Venezuela, UAE, Egypt, Indonesia. “We are always glad to make new friends,” Alexander Lukashenko assured. At the same time he added that to keep old friends around is even more pleasant. “I would like to welcome the most representative delegation of our brothers, Russians. Belarusians and Russians have always felt themselves a united nation,” the president said.

    “Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk gives us a bright and unique holiday, provides a wide space for all talents, brings us new stars who become favorites of millions and millions,” the Head of State noted. He added that the festival wins people’s hearts with its openness, democracy and purely Olympic spirit of the art unity. “Outstanding people as well as young artists feel themselves at ease here,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    The 17th International Festival of Arts Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk will opened on July 11.

    Taking part in the opening of the festival were famous singers and bands from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Lithuania, France, Israel, Egypt, Greece. Irina Dorofeeva, Piotr Elfimov, Anatoly Yarmolenko and his band Syabry, Pesnyary (Belarus), Josef Kobzon, Alexandra Pakhmutova, Dima Bilan, Oleg Gazmanov, Tamara Gverdtsiteli, Nadezhda Kadysheva and her band Zolotoe Koltso, Nikolai Baskov, Maxim Galkin, art-band Turetsky Choir (Russian Federation), Ani Lorak (Ukraine) will perform on the stage of the Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk. Venezuelan dance group Folclor Cochense, South African band Eastern Cape will take part in the festival for the first time. The concert will be broadcast by the Belarusian Television and Radio Company.

    The first official day of the Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk was rich in various events. For instance, a press conference with the participation of laureates of the Belarus-Russia Union State’s Prize – Vladimir Gostiukhin and Mikhail Finberg will be held in the International Press Centre. During the press conference, BelTA will also present its new project – book “Laureates of Belarus-Russia Union State’s Prize”.

    The Vitebsk Folk-Crafts Centre Zadvinne will host the Town of Craftsmen. An exhibition of children’s art and a book fair will open in the Vitebsk Concert Hall.

    The 17th International Festival of Arts Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk will be running through July 18.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus President wants public health system to be put to rights within 1-2 years

    From: BelTA
    Within the two years time the whole public health system should be put to rights – both in terms of structure and material and technical facilities, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at the opening of Vitebsk municipal maternity hospital No 1.

    The head of state said that in line with the current five year plan, all the public health institutions, from feldsher-midwife stations to hospitals of national importance, should be put into perfect condition. All the medical institutions of the country will be equipped with cutting-edge facilities. The President underlined that nursing homes for elderly people should be re-established. Some hospitals might be turned into such nursing homes.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted that once the medical institutions of the country have been reconstructed, the salaries of the medical staff will be increased. “You want your salaries to be as high as in the West. In this case, the quality of your work should be as high, and the doctors should have the same workload. Provided all this, our medical workers will be as well-paid as their western counterparts,” he said.

    The President underlined that highly professional specialists who perform complex surgeries are already getting good salaries. “Work on the same level, and get the same salary. We will always find money for that,” Alexander Lukashenko added. The head of state said that Belarusian specialists can already perform the surgeries that used to be done only abroad and were very expensive. He assured the doctors that the government will provide them with any kind of assistance so that they will be able to perform their duties on a very high level.

    Belarus invites international observers for parliamentary elections

    From: BelTA
    The Foreign Ministry of Belarus has sent invitations to international observers to monitor the elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly which are due on September 28, BelTA was told in the press service of the Foreign Ministry.

    The Foreign Ministry has sent official invitations to the CIS Executive Bureau and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The invitations will be sent to the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

    “The Belarusian side will create necessary conditions for international observers to carry out their mission in a proper manner,” the Foreign Ministry said.

    “The election legislation in Belarus, in contrast to several western countries, gives wide authorities to international observers. Yet, there are also obligations which we expect will be duly performed. First of all it concerns the non-interference in the electoral process and strict compliance with the national legislation,” the press service said.

    The Foreign Ministry hopes that the findings of international observers “will be unbiased and will be based on concrete facts.”

    Mireille Musso: Free parliamentary elections will help Belarus make progress in relations with EU

    Holding free and fair parliamentary elections will help Belarus make progress in relations with the European Union and international community on the whole, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Belarus Mireille Musso said at a press conference dedicated to France’s EU presidency and the national holiday of the country on July 10.

    If the election campaign is held in the way the Belarusian authorities have repeatedly stated, that is open and transparent, then we will be able to gain new dynamics in the EU-Belarus dialogue, the diplomat said. “I would like to see this happen during France’s presidency,” she added. The Ambassador added that not only the voting day but also the entire election campaign were important in this respect.

    According to the diplomat, the main criteria in assessing the election campaign in Belarus will be providing equal registration opportunities of all candidates, equal access to the media, preventing abuse of “administrative resources”, including representatives of various political parties in election commissions.

    France welcomes the decision of Belarus to invite international observers to participate in the parliamentary elections. The head of the French diplomatic mission noted: “We are glad that invitations have been sent to the OSCE and the CIS to participate in the observation of the parliamentary elections in Belarus. These organizations possess a great experience in the elections observation. The OSCE is composed of European states and their representatives will come to Belarus to work as observers. Hundreds of people will be invited, including national observers. Their opinion will be enough to evaluate the whole election campaign, not only the day of the elections. I would like to stress that we observe the whole election campaign

    French-Belarusian relations are developing in different areas. In particular, the French Embassy has organized many cultural events,” the ambassador said.

    She underlined that beginning from July 2007, France and Belarus have held two series of political consultations between the foreign ministries. “These consultations are not aimed at signing documents. They are designed to get to know each other better, share views on all bilateral and international issues and frankly discuss those problems where our opinions do not coincide,” Mireille Musso said.

  • Economics...

    World Bank to allot €8 million to Cyprus for office construction in Minsk

    From: BelTA
    The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has signed an agreement with Erilin Holdings Limited to provide €8 million to help build a new commercial building in Minsk to address the shortage of commercial real estate in the capital city.

    The main contractor and project administrator is Strominvest, one of the top five privately owned construction companies and real estate property developers in Belarus. The project will contribute to foreign direct investment inflows and help increase private sector development.

    According to Director of Erilin Holdings Limited Irina Koumpari, the company is grateful to the International Finance Corporation for its flexible financing structure and comprehensive approach to project development. “This will strengthen our financial position and help us complete construction by November 2008,” she said.

    With this project, IFC is providing long-term financial products that are not available locally to help improve the quality of commercial real estate offering in the country. “We look forward to further collaboration with Erilin Holdings to improve environmental, fire, life safety, and social practices in Belarus,” said Dimitris Tsitsiragos, IFC Director for Global Manufacturing and Services.

    Founded in 1956 as “an investment instrument” in the World Bank Group, the International Finance Corporation is the largest multilateral investor at the developing markets. Today, some 178 countries are IFC members.

    In 2007, IFC committed $8.2 billion and mobilized an additional $3.9 billion through syndications and structured finance for 299 projects in 69 developing countries. IFC also provided advisory services in 97 countries.

    Trade Ministry to implement 11 innovation projects in 2008

    In 2008, the Trade Ministry companies plan to implement 11 innovation projects, of them five projects are on the creation of trade-logistics centers abroad, one – on polypropylene processing production, five – on the modernization of boilers and installation of new technological equipment, BelTA learnt from press-secretary of the Trade Ministry Elena Kovaleva.

    The state programme on the innovation development of the Republic of Belarus 2007-2010 provides the implementation of 13 most important innovation projects.

    For the last three years, capital investments of the Trade Ministry companies soared more than three times. Some 70% of the total investments were put in the acquisition of machines, equipment, transport means. Another important investment area is introduction of energy-saving technologies including local fuels.

    In 2007, the Trade Ministry implemented a project on the installation of modern knitting equipment in Charovnitsa Company. The efficient multifunctional equipment will make high-level products of different variations, use new types of feedstock and considerably reduce hand work.

    Women’s unemployment in Belarus down to 27,000

    The women’s unemployment in Belarus has been gradually reducing, BelTA was told in the main policy and population department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

    As of July 1 this year the female unemployment was 27,000 (1,500 down in June; 1,700 in May and 1,000 down in March).

    The highest female unemployment is in the Brest and Gomel oblasts (around 5,000), the lowest in Minsk (2,200).

    Yet, the problem of female unemployment remains urgent, the ministry said. Women account for 63.2% of the total jobless rate in the country (63.7% a year ago).

    As of July 1, 2008, the jobless rate in the Vitebsk and Brest oblasts was at the level of 1.3%. The unemployment in the Gomel and Grodno oblast was 1.2%, in the Mogilev oblast - 1%, Minsk oblast - 0.9% and in the city of Minsk - 0.3% of the economically active population. A total of 42,662 unemployed were registered with the employment assistance services as of July 1 this year (44,000 as of June 1 this year; as of July 1 last year there were 46,300 unemployed).

  • From the International Press...

    4 arrested in Belarus bomb attack probe: report

    Four people have been arrested in connection with a bomb attack in Belarus last week that wounded dozens of people, state television reported on Wednesday.

    "Four people have been detained," the report quoted Igor Kuznetsov, head of the KGB secret service in the Belarusian capital Minsk, as saying.

    "These include people who belong to an unregistered destructive organization and people with experience in using explosives," the report said.

    The explosion of a home-made bomb filled with bolts and screws injured dozens of people in the early hours of Friday morning at an outdoor concert attended by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

    The concert was held to commemorate Belarusian Independence Day on July 3. The authorities said Saturday that they had found a second explosive device at the concert that had failed to detonate.

    The arrests came after opposition forces urged the authoritarian Lukashenko not to use the bomb attack as a justification to crack down on his opponents in a regime classified by Washington as "the last dictatorship in Europe."

    The wife of one of the detainees and a human rights activist named the four as Sergei Chislov, Igor Korsak, Viktor Leshchinsky and Miroslav Lozovsky, all members of the White Legion, a nationalist youth group.

    "All four of the detainees are members of the unregistered organization the White Legion," the youth wing of the outlawed Belarusian Union of Military Personnel, Lozovsky's wife Nina Shidlovskaya told AFP by telephone.

    "They kept my husband until very late last night on the orders of the Minsk region KGB, then they handed him over to investigators in the capital," said Shidlovskaya, a former spokeswoman for opposition leader Alexander Kozulin.

    The Belarusian Union of Military Personnel was formed in the last years of the Soviet Union and enforced public order at demonstrations in the early 1990s but was banned in 1996 after Lukashenko's rise to power.

    Viktor Sheiman, the former head of the national security council, who was sacked by Lukashenko in the aftermath of the attack along with presidential administration chief Gennady Navyglas, was also a member of the organization.

    Human rights activist Lyubov Luneva told AFP that Korsak has been in custody for the past three days.

    "Igor lives with his stepmother. They found bolts, screws and rubber gloves in his apartment. The stepmother pointed out that all these things can be found in any apartment and that on July 3 the family had left the apartment for the countryside, got back late and did not go out again," Luneva said.

    An activist with the Youth Front opposition organization, Nastya Azarka, told AFP that she had been questioned on Tuesday by the KGB. Six Belarusian opposition figures were questioned earlier in connection with the bombing

    Belarus, Turkey have huge potential to boost trade, Vladimir Semashko says

    From: Trends

    Belarus and Turkey have a huge potential to boost bilateral trade, First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko noted during a meeting with a Turkish delegation led by Turkish Secretary of State for External Trade Tuncer Kayalar, reported Belta.

    According to Vladimir Semashko, for the past five years, trade between Belarus and Turkey quadrupled. “It is too little for such countries as Belarus and Turkey,” the Vice Premier highlighted. “However, our countries have a huge potential to increase trade in the next two or three years. The time is favourable to make this quickly and efficiently,” the official noted.

    Vladimir Semashko also noted that the Belarusian economy has been rapidly developing. Within the last four years, Belarus’ GDP was up 9.7% on average. This year GDP will increase 10.4%. GDP is projected to grow by 10-11% a year for the next several years. Capital investment increase at the pace of 25% annually.

    In 2007, the trade between Belarus and Turkey made up $206.8 million (35% up). The Belarusian exports hit $67.8 million (75% up). The Turkish imports reached $139 million (21% up). In 2008, Belarus had a surplus in trade with Turkey for the first time in the past five years. In January-April 2008, Belarus had a surplus at the amount of $17.2 million (over the same period 2007, Belarus had a deficit at the amount of $12.7 million). The bulk (90%) of Belarusian exports to Turkey is stock steel, potash fertilizers, flax linen, synthetic and artificial thread, synthetic fibre.

    As of January 1, 2008, there were 27 companies with Turkish capital in Belarus including 4 joint ventures and 23 Turkish companies.

    A visit of a Turkish business delegation to Belarus will be running until July 12. The Turkish guests took part in the 10th session of the Belarusian-Turkish Business Cooperation Council. The Turkish delegation included representatives of 40 companies which specialize in such areas as power engineering, food and light industry, the production of construction materials, household appliances, various equipment and other goods.

    The Belarusian-Turkish Business Cooperation Council was set up in 1992 under the auspices of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Association of Turkish Chambers of Commerce to boost the economic ties between Belarus and Turkey, to develop business contacts between businessmen of both the countries. The Council organized 9 joint sessions in which more than 800 Belarusian and Turkish companies took part.

    Westinghouse-Toshiba to bid on Belarus nuke station tender

    From: M&C
    The US-Japanese energy corporation Westinghouse- Toshiba will bid on the construction of a nuclear power station in Belarus, a US diplomat said Thursday.

    Westinghouse-Toshiba will compete against French Areva and Russian Atomstroiexport to act as general contractor for the project, estimated at between 23 to 25 million dollars in value.

    The US government would not prevent Westinghouse from participating in the bidding process, but would insist on proper 'international agreements' were the US side of the company actually to win the contract, US Ambassador Jonathan Moore said, according to a Belapan news agency report.

    Mireille Musso, the French ambassador to Belarus, in comments earlier this week said Paris would consider approving Areva's participation in the tender process, but said a 12-point European Union recommendation for greater democracy in Belarus would influence the decision.

    Belarusian leader Aleskander Lukashenko has been harshly criticized by NATO nations for his authoritarian government and oppression of opposition politicians and media.

    Lukashenko has called the EU 12-point recommendations on democracy, and limits by Washington to US firms' operations in Belarus on grounds of Belarus' poor human rights record, foreign interference in Belarusian internal affairs.

    Dependant on Russia for most of its energy, Belarus is badly in need of new power generation capacity of its own.

    The Kremlin, unlike France and the US, has placed no strings on Russian companies' participation in the Belarusian nuclear power programme, but Lukashenko has said he is lukewarm on the idea, as that would continue Belarusian dependance on Moscow for energy.

    Lukashenko earlier this year declared a return to the use of nuclear power as a keystone of a national energy independence programme, but international sanctions on Belarus have made attracting foreign interest in the project problematic.

    Belarus was immediately downwind of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear station explosion, and suffered the world's worst damage from an atomic energy accident.

    Million-pound flats and gastropubs - welcome to Hleb's chaotic world

    From: Guardian
    If Alexander Hleb resided in Harlesden or Tooting he might have received a touch more sympathy. Life in those parts of London can indeed be chaotic and people do seem to be racing around 24 hours a day. But Hampstead? The loudest sound you hear is the banging of hammers as builders enhance already luxurious properties.

    Of all his attempts to force a move from Arsenal, Hleb's most recent - living in London is so frenzied that it has left him "mentally tired" - is the most feeble. The Belarus international, who is expected to sign for Barcelona shortly, lives in one of the capital's most affluent enclaves, a hill village littered with coffee shops and gastropubs, which, according to a recent survey, has more millionaires than any other area of Britain. The average price for a property there is ?1.2m.

    "I can't get used to the chaotic way of life in London," he said. "Everyone is racing around 24 hours a day."

    Hleb's own bit of Hampstead is particularly exclusive, a stretch of eye-catching apartments and towering trees which has gained something of a reputation within the Arsenal dressing room. Cesc F?bregas and Robin van Persie also live there, as did Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry. How Hleb could find life there stressful is anybody's guess. Six people walked through the road during the two hours the Guardian was there.

    Hleb was not around - he was attending possibly his final training session at London Colney - but, had the noise got to him, the 27-year-old could have strolled to Hampstead Heath, five minutes away, which offers enough tranquillity to soothe the most frazzled mind. "This is a lovely area to live in and those that do should count themselves very lucky," said one resident, Caroline Shepherd. "How this man can say it is chaotic is beyond me."

    If Hleb is looking for a quiet life then he will not do much better than the leafy patch of north London he currently calls home. The winger will certainly not be getting more sleep if, as expected, he is soon living within range of Las Ramblas. Money seems to be the overriding factor but one look at his address makes that explanation, too, difficult to believe.

  • From the Opposition...

    Monitoring of the electoral campaign: the general public and political atmosphere is disturbing

    From: Viasna
    By his decree #344 of 24 January 2008 Alexander Lukashenka appointed the elections to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus of the fourth convocation to 28 September 2008.

    Since then the work of the Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Belarus has been open to the general public. The sittings of the commission were attended by observers from NGOs and political parties and representatives of mass media. However, the commission adopted its rulings without any discussions among its members, which shows that the procedure of decision-taking at the CEC was a mere formality.

    While adopting its rulings the Central Electoral Commission did not take into consideration the OSCE recommendations which had been made after the previous electoral campaigns. For instance, the CEC adopted no rulings to regulate the rights of the observers, aimed at realization of the principles of openness and transparency of the electoral process in general.

    During the reporting period the Central Electoral Commission adopted 13 rulings. Seven of them were put to its official website. The website also includes sample documents, announcements, the schedule and instructions for district and polling station electoral commissions. These documents are presented for general access. Human rights activists could also familiarize with the six rulings of the Central Electoral Commission which were not put to the website.

    By its ruling #6 of 24 April 2008 the Central Electoral Commission established the average number of electors per electoral district – 64 042 persons, and by its ruling #16, adopted the same day, in conformity with Article 15 of the Electoral Code the CEC established 110 electoral districts for elections of deputies to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus of the fourth convocation (lower chamber of the Belarusian parliament).

    The electoral districts must consist of approximately the same number of electors. According to the law, the divergence in numbers per circuit cannot exceed 10%.

    However, in some of the electoral districts which were formed by the Central Electoral Commission the divergence is more than 10%. In particular, Baranavichy village electoral district #7, Luninets electoral district #13, Iuye electoral district #53 and Shchuchyn electoral district #60 lack more than 10% of electors to meet the average number, whereas Mazyr electoral district #42 exceeds this number by more than 10%. Thus, the difference between the number of electors between the smallest electoral district and the largest ones is 32%.

    As a result of such difference the electors may not have equal possibilities to receive information during the agitation campaign, because according to the law all candidates receive from the state budget an equal sum of money for production of printing of agitation materials.

    According to Article 35 of the Electoral Code, at 5 p.m. on 11 July the state agencies stopped accepting the documents for nomination of representatives to district electoral commissions. It’s worth noting that the appropriate departments of the six oblast executive committees and Minsk city executive committee accepted the documents for nomination of representatives of district electoral commission without any noticeable problems.

    At the same time, the general public and political atmosphere in which the electoral campaign has started causes a great concern of observers.

    At the moment when this text was written, more than 12 persons were detained within the frames of a criminal case which was brought on the fact of a blast which had taken place in the morning of 4 July 2008, at the official celebration of the Independence Day and brought about 50 victims who received different kinds of injuries. In their commentaries the state media directly accuse the opposition of the crime, thus trying to create a hostile image of the political opponents in the eyes of the Belarusian society.

    There’s also administrative persecution of representatives of the electoral process. In particular, the United Civil Party nominated its member Mikhail Pashkevich an observer to the Central Electoral Commission. Shortly after this Pashkevich was detained and sentenced to 10 days of jail for ‘petty hooliganism’. The same sentenced was given to the participant of election monitoring, member of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC) Eduard Balanchuk. Human rights activists are pressurized by tax inspections. The BHC head Aleh Hulak, the well-known human rights activists Ales Bialiatski and Valiantsin Stefanovich and their families received the requirements of tax agencies to present income declarations. Thus, such persecution directly concerns participants of monitoring of the electoral campaign.

    The state media continue the campaign on discrediting certain opposition activists and oppositional political parties in general. The state TV regularly broadcasts programs which are aimed at forming a negative public image of oppositional representatives, declaring them an internal enemy, etc. Meanwhile, representatives of oppositional forces are deprived of access to state media, first of all electronic ones. Therefore they have no possibility to argue against the false accusations or disprove them. This situation let’s us state that the state media already conduct a campaign on agitation against opposition and its representatives.

    The atmosphere of fear predominates in the society. Representatives of democratic organizations are pressurized and harassed. Belarus still has political prisoners. This information hardly favors holding free and fair elections which can manifest the real will of the Belarusian society.

    Taking it into consideration, the political organizations which are member-parties of the United Democratic Forces, state that they can refuse from participation in the electoral campaign and call the BDIHR OSCE to review its intention to send an observation mission to Belarus in the case no significant changes take place in the political climate of Belarus.

    Another cause for concern is also direct pressurization of certain individuals for intention to run at the parliamentary elections. In particular, Alexander Mekh, activist of the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) Party from the town of Kobryn, was fired from Kobryn branch of the Beltranshaz gas main. The administration of the enterprise did not extend the working contract to him. The activist’s wife was threatened with expulsion as well. Leanid Autukhou, BPF member from the town of Horki, who also intends to run at the elections, was fired from an enterprise of housing economy, due to the expiry of the working contract. In both cases the fired persons were told that their working contracts were not extended because of their wish to participate in the elections. Sviatlana Panamarova had to refuse from participation in the elections as a candidate from the United Democratic Forces because of dismissal threats at work.

    Human rights activists will continue their work on monitoring of the electoral campaign.

    Authorities use blast to strengthen political terror against opposition

    From: Charter '97
    Human rights activists are indignant at mass arrests of figures of the democratic community allegedly on suspicion of their implication in bomb blast in Minsk on 4 July. “the recent events in country can’t be named other than political terror, launched by the authorities against the political opponents,” human rights activist Ales Byalyatski, vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights, said today at a press conference in Minsk.

    Relatives of the arrested democratic activists gave a press conference today in an office of the Belarusian Popular Front party, where they commented on a wave of mass detentions of opposition figures in the connection with the bomb blast on 4 July.

    “After the bomb had exploded, the leaders of the political parties addressed Lukashenka calling on him not to use this situation against the opposition, not to look for rats among the political opponents. Lukashenka stated officially he wouldn’t do it. However, it evident now that the authorities have decided to benefit from the tragedy of 4 July to dispose of the opposition and human rights defenders,” the human rights activist believes.

    Byalyatski also noted the authorities had turn the country into a police state, where the law enforcement agencies had learnt to tap telephones, fight against the youth and the opposition politicians, but are not ready to combat terrorism. “The militia has chosen the simplest and most primitive version, which begins to take features of civil terror,” Byalyatski thinks.

    In this connection the human rights activist reminded that a political campaign under the name “parliamentary election” has started in the country. “But how can the “free and fair” “election” be held in the conditions of repressions and intimidation?” Byalyatski wonders.

    Palina Kuryanovich, sister of the arrested activist of the “European Belarus” civil campaign Paval Kuryanovich confirmed the human rights activist in this question. “The parties must stop immediately this so called election game with the authorities. What is the sense of some opposition figures in the “house of representatives”, if dozens of activists, most of them the youth, who has faced a real war from the authorities, will be in prisons,” Palina Kuryanovich said.

    The girl also told how her brother was arrested. “At 6 in the evening yesterday my brother phoned and said there had been a search, nothing was seized, but he would be taken to jail. He managed to say me a phone number of a KGB investigator, who said me later he didn’t want to explain anything, and he would have questions to Paval more than my brother could answer. That is why I am sure the KGB is going to fabricate the case, accusing the opposition of blasts. In this connection we should demand an independent international investigation of this case to be carried out,” Palina Kuryanovich said.

    Human rights activist Valyantsin Stefanovich noticed there arises more and more questions, the authorities don’t answer to, in the situation around the events in Minsk on 4 July. “I’m surprised by the reaction of the authorities. There was a bomb explosion, but the concert went on. What if there were some blasts? Moreover, it is unclear, how many blasts there were. According to a militia report, an explosive device detonated partially near house 23 on Winners Avenue at 11.00 pm. What a device was it? The one, found by people earlier, or a third one? How many explosive devices were found in fact?” the lawyer wonders.

    Stefanovich also drew attention to the fact the case over blast in Minsk , instigated under article “Hooliganism” , is investigated allegedly by the Ministry of Internal Affaires, but all detentions are carried out by KGB officers. The Ministry of Internal Affaires doesn’t give any comments on the case, while the events are actively commented by KGB head of Minsk and the Minsk region.

    A human rights activist of the human rights centre “Viasna” Valyantsin Stefanovich believes that in the circumstances concerned, human rights activists doubt that rights of the arrested would be respected. “According to our knowledge, lawyers offered to the detained by the state, offered to collaborate with the investigation and answer all questions, and then they would be allegedly released. But according to information we have, investigators are primarily interested by political activities of the detained. As long as the term of detention for most of them has been extended to 10 days, we are convinced that the investigators had been assigned a mission to level official charges against them over this period,” Valyantsin Stefanovich believes.

    But, as said by him, the most terrible thing is that there are no motives which could justify detention in the order under which people are detained. “It is not stated there that somebody looks like a facial composite, for instance, or there is some material evidence, which could be connected to the blast in some way. All of them are detained on some abstract “suspicion” which is not reasoned by anything”, the lawyer said.

    “The KGB says about possible participation of the detained in “destructive organisations”. But it is known that “Bely Lehiyon” (White Legion) was engaged in physical training of the young. But why investigators are not interested in the Belarusian Republican youth Union then and other pro-regime organisation, which also organised different camps for their activists?” told Nina Shydlouskaya, commenting on the arrest of the former members of the “Bely Lehiyon”, and among them her husband Miraslau Lazouski.

    Nina Shydlouskaya believes that secret services cannot trace real terrorists, that is why they are detaining oppositionists to imitate activity and to accuse them of the blast falsely.

    As we have informed, the blast in Minsk took place in July 4 during a concert dedicated to the official Independence Day. 57 persons were injured. At the moment about 35 persons are staying in the hospitals of Minsk, some of them in a grave condition. Most of the wounded have minor injuries. A criminal action was brought up on charges relating “hooliganism”. Starting from July 7, 13 persons have been detained as suspects in implication in the crime. Most of them are representatives of youth organisations and oppositional political parties. They are Syarhei Chyslau, Viktar Lyashchynski, Ihar Korsak, Miraslau Lazouski, Tatsyana Pikun, Syarhei Vysotski, Anton Kojpish, Paval Kuryanovich, Alyaksandr Serhiyenka, Mikhail Pashkevich, Vital Stazharau, Kiryl Paulouski and Illya Bohdan.

  • Around the region...

    Europe faces Russian nuclear missile threat

    From: Times Online
    President Medvedev has dispelled any illusions that the Kremlin would be any less hardline than it was during Vladimir Putin’s presidency
    Russia is thinking of aiming nuclear weapons at western Europe for the first time since the end of the cold war, according to defence sources in Moscow.

    The move is being considered in response to American plans to develop a defence shield against missiles from Iran and other countries.

    The plans under discussion include the possible deployment of ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between the European Union countries of Lithuania and Poland. Kaliningrad has been nuclear-free since America and Russia agreed to scale back their nuclear arsenals at the end of the cold war.

    A Russian parliamentary committee visited the enclave 10 days ago to examine how a new generation of nuclear missiles could be based there. Any such deployment would significantly escalate tensions in Europe between Moscow and Washington.

    Condoleezza Rice, America’s secretary of state, signed an agreement in Prague last week to build a radar station in the Czech Republic. The station is an important part of the US missile shield. Washington says the shield will defend Europe and America against attacks from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea.

    Another deal, for Poland to host a base for 10 interceptor rockets on its border with Russia, is expected to be concluded later this year.

    Moscow is bitterly opposed to the shield, saying that it is part of an aggressive US military expansion into its own back yard.

    “One of the main steps under consideration is a redeployment of nuclear missiles to Kaliningrad and Belarus,” said a source with close connections to the Russian defence ministry.

    “These missiles would be pointed at Europe. It would be a perfectly legitimate step. If America wants to expand its military capabilities in Europe, then we have the right to act accordingly.”

    The source disputed America’s claim that the shield was intended to intercept missiles only from rogue states. “How would Washington feel if we placed interceptor missiles on Cuba or Venezuela?” he said.

    Experts said the threat of deploying missiles in Kaliningrad was largely aimed at fuelling opposition to the shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, where oil supplies to its refineries from Russia fell sharply last week.

    It would require Russia to build new long-range ground-based ballistic missiles since it has destroyed most of its Soviet-era arsenal.

    “We take the possibility of missiles being redeployed against Europe very seriously and are aware of the discussions about Kaliningrad,” said a western diplomat. “But we also think there is some bluff involved. The Kremlin is banking on one thing — that the shield won’t see the light of day before President George W Bush leaves the White House next year and it could be scrapped after that.”

    Russia’s angry response dispelled any illusion that under Dmitry Medvedev, its new president, the Kremlin would be any less hardline than it was during Vladimir Putin’s presidency. Putin, now prime minister, is widely viewed as Russia’s most powerful man.

    Any hope that relations between Russia and Britain, which are at their worst since the end of the cold war, might improve following Gordon Brown’s meeting with Medvedev at the G8 summit last week was short-lived.

    On Friday the Russians accused a British diplomat of being a spy. The claim followed accusations in Britain that the Russian state had been involved in the polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB agent, in London in 2006 — which Moscow denies.

    The FSB, the former KGB intelligence service, claims British spies are the world’s most aggressive in covert operations against Russia. It also suspects the British Council, a cultural organisation, of being a front for intelligence.

    “Britain and Russia are in the middle of an intelligence battle,” the western diplomat said. “New president or not, it will take a long time to repair relations. More cold war spy scandals are very likely.”

    Medvedev on collision course with US over missiles and Georgia

    From: Times Online
    Russia and the United States headed for confrontation on two fronts yesterday as the Kremlin threatened to retaliate over a planned missile shield in Europe and edged closer to open conflict with neighbouring Georgia.

    Georgia claimed that Russian fighter jets had invaded its airspace ahead of a visit to Tbilisi by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to offer support in its spiralling crisis with Moscow over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

    Russia made no immediate response but accused Tbilisi’s pro-American government of involvement in a series of mysterious bomb attacks in the two regions in an attempt to provoke a new war.

    “The actions of Tbilisi present a real threat to peace and security in the South Caucasus and put the region on the edge of a new armed conflict with unpredictable consequences,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.

    President Dmitri Medvedev warned of “retaliatory steps” after Dr Rice sealed a deal to locate a radar station in the Czech Republic as part of the missile defence shield. He said that Russia was “extremely upset” by the move.

    But his tone was markedly more moderate than that of his predecessor Vladimir Putin, who threatened to aim nuclear missiles at European states that took part in the project. Mr Medvedev said at the G8 summit in Japan: “We will not be hysterical about this but we will think of retaliatory steps.”

    The US insists that the shield, which includes plans to base 10 interceptor missiles in Poland, is aimed at rogue states such as Iran and does not threaten Russia. Moscow is adamant, however, that the project undermines its security.

    Dr Rice, on a stop in Bulgaria en route to Georgia, called Mr Medvedev’s response “predictable, if disappointing”. She said: “I still hope that Russia will look at the actual threat environment, look at the fact that the Iranians are developing ever-longer ranges of missiles and the Russians will see that this is not aimed at them.”

    As she arrived in Tbilisi, a senior State Department official travelling with her warned of “catastrophe” if Russia did not pull back from a campaign of military and political pressure on Georgia.

    Speaking in unusually blunt tones, the diplomat said: “Russia needs to realise the empire is gone. Russia needs to respect the territorial integrity of its neighbour.”

    Asked what he meant by a catastrophe, he said: “I mean a renewed cycle of fighting that would be horrific in human terms. In strategic terms, it would do no-one good.”

    Dr Rice’s visit was intended “to express support for Georgia’s territorial integrity in the face of pressure from Russia” as well as back its bid for membership of Nato. Russia strongly opposes Nato membership for Georgia.

    Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s in wars following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Tensions have soared in recent weeks between separatist forces and Georgia, which accuses Moscow of plotting to annexe the territories by backing the rebels.

    Georgia is seen as critical to western hopes of creating a stable supply routes for energy from Central Asia to Europe that bypass Russia. Moscow regards the Caucasus as within its sphere of influence and resents US intrusion.

    The deputy commander of Georgia’s military, Zurab Pochkua, said that four Russian jets had circled over South Ossetia for 40 minutes on Tuesday night. Georgia’s Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said that Moscow was attempting to sabotage Dr Rice’s visit to discuss the crisis.

    “It’s a well-known policy of the Russian Federation to arrange provocations to coincide with high-level diplomatic activities. It’s not only this visit of Miss Rice,” she said.

    Several G8 leaders, including President Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, raised concerns about Georgia at the summit.

    UKraine PM accuses president of sabotaging budget

    From: Guardian
    Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, once allied with Ukraine's president in "Orange Revolution" protests against election fraud, accused him on Saturday of torpedoing a budget intended to improve living standards.

    Tymoshenko, prime minister for a second time, survived a confidence vote in parliament on Friday launched by the opposition on grounds that she had wrecked the economy. But she later failed to win approval for amendments to the 2008 budget calling for increased revenues and a slightly reduced deficit.

    Tymoshenko told a news conference she was dismayed that President Viktor Yushchenko had submitted his own amendments and that members of the presidential Our Ukraine party had given no support to changes already before the house.

    "Everything was destroyed yesterday, toppled for no good reason. Let me tell you who did this. The budget was not adopted primarily because of the president's position," she said. "Who benefited from this? The country lost and so did the people."

    Parliament voted to submit the government's and president's amendments to a committee for further consideration and closed for its summer recess.

    The president proposes applying additional revenue from economic growth and improved tax and customs duty collection to investment projects. Tymoshenko wants some of it directed towards social needs and local authorities.

    Yushchenko appointed her prime minister immediately after being swept to power in the 2004 "orange" protests, but fired her within seven months.

    She took office again when "orange" parties scored a narrow victory in a snap election last year, but has been at odds with Yushchenko over a variety of issues as politicians have their sights firmly on a presidential election due by early 2010.

    Both the opposition and the president accuse Tymoshenko of failing to contain Ukraine's highest inflation in a decade -- cumulative price rises over the first half of 2008 stand at 15.5 percent, with year-on-year inflation of 31 percent last month.

    The government adjusted the 2008 inflation forecast to 15.9 percent from the original figure of 9.6 percent.

    Tymoshenko says price rises are already coming down and predicts the figure will be negative this month with a bumper grain crop expected.
    The growth forecast was unchanged at 6.8 percent and the deficit put at 18.7 billion hryvnia against 18.8 billion previously.

    Tymoshenko said she had little hope deputies would interrupt their summer holiday and believed the changes would ultimately be approved when parliament resumed in September.

    "It is sad that because of illusory political ambitions linked to the presidential campaign everything in the country is collapsing," she said.

    Ukraine inflation unsustainable-IMF head

    From: Guardian
    Ukraine's rate of inflation, with accumulated price rises of 15.5 percent for the first half of 2008, is "absolutely unsustainable", the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund said on Friday.

    "The rate of inflation that you have today is a rate of inflation that is absolutely unsustainable for social reasons and for economic reasons," Dominique Strauss-Kahn told reporters at a conference in Ukraine's Black Sea resort of Yalta.

    "You can have such a situation for a very short term and not for the long term. Even if you live with it for a short term it takes afterward a very long time to sort out the consequences."

    Month-on-month inflation slowed to 0.8 percent in June, compared with 1.3 percent in May and a peak of 3.8 percent in March. Year-on-year inflation measured after the first six months of the year stands at 29.3 percent.
    The government this week raised its year-end inflation target to 15.9 percent against 16.6 percent in 2007.

    Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn said on Thursday the government and central bank had agreed to maintain this year's rate at a level no higher than the 2007 figure.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    State pays fines rather than employ disabled

    From: Polskie Radio
    The Polish state prefers to pay millions of zloty in fines rather than employ the disabled.

    Instead of employing the disabled, government offices and ministries prefer to spend millions from public finances on fines, reports the Rzeczpospolita daily.

    The amounts are staggering. Last year, ministries paid a total of 6.5 million zloty in fees to the State Fund for Rehabilitation of People with Disabilities (PFRON) for not employing enough disabled people.

    The Finance Ministry alone paid 1.2 million zloty.

    The Ministry of Labour and Social policy employs the most people with disabilities (17), which is still three times less than required by law.

    The Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as the Ministry of Justice, hire no disabled people at all. Other state-owned entities are not much better - the Social Insurance Company (ZUS) pays 2 mln zloty in fines a month; the Polish Post paid 67 mln zloty in 2007.

    Employers hiring more than 25 employees must take care that at least six percent of them are people with disabilities. If they do not meet the requirement, they must pay an obligatory fee to PFRON. The fee is calculated in proportion to the number of employees, therefore it is no wonder that in big institutions, hiring thousands, the penalties add up to millions.

    Jaroslaw Duda, government plenipotentiary for disabled people, wants to make the state offices stop the practice.

    Mother gets 25 years for killing five newborns

    From: The News
    The Circuit Court in Lublin, eastern Poland, has sentenced Jolanta K. to 25 years imprisonment for killing her five newborn children.

    Her husband was declared not guilty of the crime that shocked Poland.

    Reasons for the judgment were not made public for the sake of the other children of Jolanta K. Both the prosecution and defence may now appeal.

    The gruesome murders were brought to light after Andrzej K., the defendant's husband, was making sauerkraut and ordered his sons to get him a barrel to put it in. While the boys were moving the barrel, the lid fell off revealing two plastic bags with the remains of the babies inside.

    The investigation shed more light on the details of the murders, which happened between the years 1992-1998, when the couple was living in Lublin, eastern Poland.

    Jolanta K. killed four of her sons and one daughter claiming she was forced to do so by her husband who abused her. Each time she gave birth at home in a bathtub she then drowned the baby, and put the body in the freezer.

    When a couple of years later the family moved to Czerniejow, near Lublin, the woman moved the bodies into a barrel.

    Feminist organizations were appalled at the strict sentence and sent a letter of protest to the minister of justice signed by over 20 organizations and individuals demanding the sentence be mitigated to five years imprisonment and that the husband be declared the main perpetrator. They claim, quoting one of the experts at the trial, that Andrzej K. must have known about the pregnancies and therefore the murders.

    Exeter rapist to serve time in Poland

    From: The News
    Jakub Tomczak, sentenced by a British court to double life imprisonment for rape is returning to Poland to do time.

    "According to declarations made by the British side, Tomczak will come back to Poland in about 14 days,” said Grzegorz Zurawski, spokesman for the Polish Ministry of Justice.

    Jakub Tomczak was handed over to the British authorities last autumn after a European Arrest Warrant was issued after him on the condition that if sentenced he would be able to serve time Poland.

    The British court sentenced Tomczak from Poznan, western Poland - at the time a university student - to double life imprisonment for raping and causing permanent bodily harm to a 48-year-old female inhabitant of Exeter, western England, in July 2006. The jury declared him guilty by 11 to votes to one.

    The trial received massive coverage in the Polish media as well as in the local media in Exeter.

    Ethics to be made compulsory in Polish schools

    From: The News
    Polish pupils will have to take religion or ethics as a compulsory school subject; prosecutor in Nangar Khel troops’ case dismissed; Tesco security frog marches innocent customer out of a Rzeszow supermarket.

    Ethics will become a compulsory subject for those pupils who refuse to attend religion classes, under the provisions of the new syllabus for Polish schools to come into effect in September, Gazeta Wyborcza daily has found out. The Ministry of Education wants to oblige schools to provide pupils with a choice between RE and ethics.

    The newspaper writes that as a result of the current loophole in the regulations, out of 32,000 Polish schools only 354 teach ethics and 27,000 have RE.

    Karol Frankowski, the prosecutor who drafted the indictment against the Polish troops charged with the unlawful killing of Afghan civilians in the Nangar Khel killing case has been dismissed from his position for procedural errors included in the indictment, reports Dziennik daily.

    Although the spokesman of the Justice Ministry has denied that the errors included in the documentation were the reason for Frankowski’s dismissal, the daily informs that according to unofficial sources, the prosecutor lost his job because material evidence had been omitted from the indictment, including an American report regarding the communication among the Taliban confirming that the Polish troops had been shelled by Taliban terrorists before they carried out the mortar assault on the village.

    Super Express tabloid unveils another scandal involving a Tesco supermarket in Poland.
  • Note: Polish Ethics? Sounds like an oximoron to me.

    Super Express tabloid unveils another scandal involving a Tesco supermarket in Poland.

    From: The News
    The paper describes CCTV coverage from a Tesco supermarket in Rzeszow, south-eastern Poland, showing the supermarket security officer brutally frog marching a slender female from the shop. The 29 year-old captured on video told the tabloid that she was thrown out of the shop when she reported a missing bottle of perfume that she had left in the supermarket security locker before she went shopping, in order to avoid potential accusations of theft.

    “The lady’s behaviour was unacceptable. The head of security asked the woman to leave the shop. She attacked him when he was trying to march her out of the premises,” Tesco press officer Przemyslaw Skory told Super Express.

  • Sport...

    Ostapchuk, Tsikhan produce world leaders in Grodno – Belarus national championships

    From: IAAF
    Shot putters Nadzeya Ostapchuk and Natallia Mikhnevich and hammer thrower Ivan Tsikhan provided the key highlights at the Belarus Open Championships, held on 8-10 July at the renovated Neman Sports Center in Grodno.

    Ostapchuk prevails over Mikhnevich in strong Shot Put competition

    Mikhnevich, who recently impressed at the Olympic Champion Prize meeting in Minsk, continued her solid momentum. She took control of the competition with an opening round 20.70m throw. Ostapchuk responded with a nearly identical throw in the third round, taking the lead with a 20.71m effort. Ostapchuk, however, wasn’t finished. In the final round she added 19cm to her throw, to extend the world lead to 20.90m. It was too much for Mikhnevich, who nonetheless finished the competition with a solid 20.18m toss.

    “The rain had a big influence on the competition,” the winner said. “Only the first attempts were on a dry circle.” Mikhnevich said that approaching the 21m line wasn’t a direct aim of the competition. “- The aim was just to gain the competitive experience. And that I also won the championship, is certainly pleasing. I accomplished everything I wanted to at this competition.

    While the leading pair were certainly “on” at the competition, the same can’t be said for Sydney Olypmic champion Yanina Karolchyk-Pravalinskaya. Slipping and sliding across the circle, she fouled three times, and twice threw just beyond 18 metres. Her best, an 18.02m effort, was enough to finish third.

    Tsikhan debuts with 84.51m

    Reigning World champion Ivan Tsikhan made his 2008 debut a notable one, reaching 84.51, also a world lead. Two throws, his fourth and fifth, sailed beyond 84m and in the second he reached a solid 83.31m.

    “It was my first start in the season, Tsikhan said, addind, “The reserve is there for farther throws.”

    Another local standout, Valeriy Sviatokha, improved his season best by 3 cm to 80.73m, to finish second. Andrei Varantsou from Mogilyov took third (79.60m).

    Mikhnevich over Bialou in men’s shot

    The fiercest competition was in the men’s Shot Put. Andrei Mikhnevich produced a solid series, with six throws reaching beyond 20.70m, topped by his 21.33m in the final round.

    But he was under constant pressure by Yuriy Bialou, who in the third round reached 21.00m, a mark Mikhnevich didn’t surpass until his winner in the final round. One more apprentice of trainer Edita Gurskaya, Pavel Lyzhyn, reaced 20.81m in the second round, to finish third.

    As far as the weather was concerned, the male hammer throwers were much luckier than the women. World leader Aksana Miankova, who has thrown 77 metres, and Volha Tsander, the Belarusian No. 2, decided to skip the championship. In their absence, Darya Pchelnik took over temporary leadership, along with Mariya Smaliachkova. Everything was resolved in the first round when Pchelnik reached 72.16m, a lead which she extended by 75cm to 72.91m to take the commanding victory. Smaliachkova (70.47m) and Nadzeya Pauliukouskaya (69.01m) followed.

    After her success in Minsk, Iryna Yatchenko decided against competing in Grodno. But her husband and the trainer of the national team, Igor Astapkovich, insisted that she needed the competitive experience and took part after all. In the first round she reached 63.45m, despite a slippery throwing circle, to take the win.

    There appears to be a changing of the guard in the women’s Javelin Throw. Not long ago, Natallia Shymchuk had set the national record but in Grodno, it was Maryna Novik who won the title with a 62.04m throw, not far from the national mark.

    Elsewhere, after a rough start, Maksim Lynsha nonetheless took the 110m Hurdles title, coming close to his PB with a 13.68 performance. Leading from the start, Volha Krautsova won the 5000m in 15:24.40.
  • Note: For full results from the Belarusian championships, see here.

    At the Tour De France...

    After having fallen to 128th place over all despite finishing the first stage in 28th place, Belarus' Konstantsin SIUTSOU, riding for TEAM COLUMBIA, has fought his way back into the pack with strong finishes in the sixth through 8th stages. The Mink native now sits in 51st place overall, 10 minutes and 51 seconds behind Kim KIRCHEN of France, the current leader. SIUTSOU also has 10 points and is in sixteenth place for the checkered jersey , which signifies the best climber of the tour.

    Aleksandr KUSCHYNSKI riding for LIQUIGAS finished 62nd during the fourth stage, and overall sits in 166th place. He is 52' 11" behind

    Belarus Football Federation suspend drunken referee

    Blotto: Shmolik gleefully waves to the crowd as he is escorted off the pitch
    According to the Telegraph, Sergei Shmolik, who officiated at Wembley for England's 6-0 victory over Luxembourg in 1999, was escorted off the pitch, ostensibly because of back pain, at the end of Saturday's match between Vitebsk and Naftan.

    The stadium crowd were stunned by Shmolik's peculiar behaviour. The referee was hardly moving by the end of the match, which ended in a 1-1 draw, as he officiated the game from the centre circle, refusing to go to his pocket for any cards throughout.

    Russian television footage shows Shmolik, only last year voted the best referee in Belarus, waving to the crowd as he staggers off the pitch, attempting to brush off an official's attempts to prop him up.

    The 43-year-old was later was taken to the hospital for a test, which showed high levels of alcohol in his system.

    The Belarus football federation said Shmolik's case will be subject to a disciplinary committee.

    "I haven't seen a drunk referee before. It's just beyond my comprehension," said Belarus national coach Berndt Stange, who was at the game.

    A Belarus Football Federation spokesman said: "We cannot comment until the end of investigation into what happened in Vitebsk. At the moment Shmolik is suspended from his refereeing duties."

    Belarusian athletes win 212 Olympic licenses

    From: BelTA
    In a month, on August 8 at 8pm, an official opening ceremony of the 29th Olympic Games will start in China’s capital Beijing.

    A month ahead the Olympic Games 212 Belarusian athletes won the licenses in 26 sports to participate in the Olympic Games, BelTA learnt from press representative of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus Piotr Ryabukhin.

    An additional license or the so-called wildcard will be granted to trap shooter Andrei Gerashchenko. The Belarusian Cycling Federation is waiting for a decision of the International Cycling Union (UCI) about granting a wildcard to 2008 cycle track champion Alexander Lisovsky and leading Belarusian road racer Tatiana Sharakova.

    Belarus has won the licenses in athletics (76), swimming (15), rowing (13), basketball (12), weightlifting (10), rhythmic gymnastics (8), artistic gymnastics (7), canoe and kayak (7), shooting (7), freestyle wrestling (5), cycling (5 road and track), tennis (5), sailing (4), diving (4), boxing (4), judo (4), table tennis (4), Greco-Roman wrestling (4), modern pentathlon (4), fencing (3), equestrian (3), trampoline (2), synchronized swimming (2), archery (2), badminton (1), trap shooting (1).

    The final membership of the Belarusian team will be decided by the end of July. The team is expected to include 180-185 athletes in 26 sports. Athletes and swimmers still have a chance to win some more licenses. Anyway the Belarusian sports delegation to Beijing will be the most representative the country has ever had. Belarus sent 159 athletes in 21 sports to the Olympic Games in Atlanta, 139 athletes in 21 sports in Sydney, 151 athletes in 23 sports in Athens in 2004.

    All in all the Belarusian delegation will include more than 330 people including coaches, psychologists, technical staff and other specialists.