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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, August 24, 2008

3 More Golds for Belarus, Air Defense System, Elections, OSCE, Last dissidents freed, Tanya stays in US, South Ossetia and Abkhasia and Polish Scandal

  • From the Top...
  • #336

    President of Belarus Meets With Presidents of South Ossetia and Abkhasia

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    President Eduard Kokoyty of South Ossetia, President Sergei Bagapsh of Abkhasia, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
    On 20 August, President Alexander Lukashenko, who is currently in Sochi (Russian Federation), met with the presidents of South Ossetia and Abkhasia. The meeting took place at the initiative of the Abkhasian and South Ossetian sides.

    The Belarusian President detailed what preceded the August conflict in South Ossetia, "About seven years ago the President of Georgia proposed the CIS heads of state to lock Abkhasia in the "gorge", block it and virtually put its people, government, state, which was being established there, on the brink of catastrophe. Who was the first to say that that would not happen, that even if anything happened we would be the first to supply food to the people of Abkhasia? That was Belarus. I was categorically against signing that document proposed by Georgia, and it was not adopted at the meeting of the CIS heads of state. This is for history. As for the reaction of Russian officials, they did not have to excuse themselves. Although I am not the oldest President, but I am an old-timer among the heads of state of the Commonwealth, and all that was happening before my own eyes."

    The Belarusian President said that "it was not the Russians that caused that conflict in Ossetia and Abkhasia; that was Georgia's problem, that was a dispute between peoples".

    Alexander Lukashenko remarked, “Both the people of South Ossetia and the people of Abkhazia knew they cannot live as part of Georgia. A conflict emerged. I remember the session of the CIS heads of state when South Ossetia and Abkhazia expressed indignation on behalf of their nations. The President of Georgia asked the international community to interfere and bring peacemaking troops. The USSR was collapsing at that time. Every one was overjoyed. The international community didn’t need these conflicts. Things were coming apart here and there: nobody cared for Abkhazia, Ossetia or Transdniestria. Back then representatives of the international community didn’t take turns protecting Ossetia, Georgia or Abkhazia. On request of the President of Georgia (I remember it well) we made a decision. I was the first to say: I will not send troops there, our constitution disallows it. Russia had a lot of internal problems, it was torn apart by conflicts, and it had other things to see to. Russia wondered what should be done. We, the CIS heads of state, decided to convince the President of Russia to send Russian peacemakers to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, I mean peacemakers were sent following a request of the President of Georgia. That is the truth. What happened now? Russia fulfilled its duty. As time passed, not a single time did Georgia say that the Russian peacemakers should leave Ossetia and some other peacemaking troops should be brought in. You should read verbatim records, Russia has them. Every time the President of Georgia thanked Russia for its peacemaking efforts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Every single time. He has never said, never raised the issue (although he could) of removing the peacemaking troops. He only thanked Russia for keeping peace. And Russia had no other way out. First, it had to fulfil its peacemaking mission. Second, did it have to accept the slap in the face calmly? I also strongly object to claims that Russia waged a war. There was no war.”

    Addressing the presidents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Belarusian head of state underscored, “There was an excellent operation carried out by Russia and your people. People protected their land, the peacemakers fulfilled their mission. The issue was dealt with within 2-3 days and peace was established. What would have happened if peace hadn’t been established like the USA and the West demand now? There would have been war and bloodshed. When I saw West figures come here to make publicity and make some statements I emphatically said we are not participating in it. Because they are telling totally different things, they have forgotten the prehistory of the conflict, they have forgotten everything. You shouldn’t kick Abkhazia, Ossetia, or Russia for behaving the way they did. They did it on request of the President of Georgia as I have reminded already. I told Dmitry Medvedev yesterday: I am not going to make my presence in all the hubbub saying that I support somebody or don’t approve of somebody. Here is our view. Russia acted in the right way. And it acted like that because it was our decision, the decision made by the CIS heads of state. Only one more thing might have been done: the day after Russia should have gathered the CIS heads of state and tell them that it had acted on their own request”.

    The President of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoyta thanked the Belarusian President, "We very much appreciate your support, your condolences expressed to our people. People in South Ossetia know your position and we understand what pressure has been exerted on Belarus by the forces that organised the aggression. I should express my gratitude to both Belarusian people and the natives of Belarus who live in South Ossetia". Eduard Kokoity informed that with support of Western military specialists Georgia developed a purposeful military programme designed to eliminate the Ossetia and Abkhazia nations. The operation’s codename Bare Field is self-explanatory, he remarked.

    The President of Abkhasia, Sergei Bagapsh, also thanked the Belarusian President for the support of Belarus, for the firm and clear position of the Belarusian side in this issue. He also said, "neither Abkhasia, nor South Ossetia will be a part of Georgia, and nobody will make us stay there". Further on the relations with Georgia should be conducted "as relations between two independent states," the President of Abkhasia added.

    At the end of the meeting, the Belarusian President gave instructions to send a group of Belarusian experts to Abkhasia and South Ossetia to analyse the situation on the ground and see what exactly kind of humanitarian aid should be supplied to these regions. Besides, the experts should come up with specific proposals to expand economic cooperation between Belarus, South Ossetia and Abkhasia.

    President Alexander Lukashenko Meets with President Arsen Kanokov of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria

    Alexander Lukashenko and Arsen Kanokov
    On 21 August, President Alexander Lukashenko met in Sochi with President Arsen Kanokov of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.

    The talks centred on expanding bilateral trade and economic cooperation . Today the trade between Belarus and Kabardino-Balkaria is relatively small and does not meet the economic potentials of Belarus and Kabardino-Balkaria.

    The bulk of Belarusian exports to this republic is furniture, chemical fibres, articles made of cement and concrete, plastic, integrated circuits, food and some consumer goods. Belarusian companies are prepared to supply road construction equipment, agricultural, quarry equipment, machines and equipment for the timber industry, special-purpose equipment, refuse collection and street cleaning vehicles, products of the Belarusian automobile industry, refrigerators, more types of food and consumer goods.

    The President of Belarus said that the Belarusian and Kabardino-Balkarian peoples had much in common. “Your people are very kind and hard-working, just like the people in Belarus,” said President Alexander Lukashenko to Arsen Kanokov.

    The Belarusian President believes that to intensify bilateral trade Belarus and Kabardino-Balkaria need to take specific practical actions. “Do come to Belarus with any delegation, and we will conclude an agreement at the interstate level to which we will adhere unswervingly. Our Government has developed the respective mechanisms for it,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    The President added that he could take the implementation of big joint projects under his personal control.

    Alexander Lukashenko believes it is quite possible to remove all the unnecessary middlemen in bilateral trade between Belarus and Kabardino-Balkaria, “You would be able to trade with us directly.”

    In this respect, the Belarusian President added, “It is very profitable for us to cooperate with Kabardino-Balkaria.”

    Alexander Lukashenko said that expansion of trade and economic relations between Belarus and Russia took place primarily through development of direct contacts between Belarus and Russian regions.

    Arsen Kanokov thanked the Belarusian President for this opportunity to meet. He outlined what was being done in Kabardino-Balkaria to maintain and promote friendly relations with the Belarusians, “It is impossible to treat the Belarusian people with disrespect. These are open, decent and kind people.”

    Speaking about ethnic relations, President Arsen Kanokov said, “Our countrymen feel at home in Belarus.”

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus, Russia to sign agreement on United Air Defense System in 2008, Russian Ambassador says

    From: BelTA
    During a press conference in Minsk on August 21 Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Belarus Alexander Surikov noted that the agreement on setting up the United Air Defense System of the Belarus-Russia Union State is expected to be signed in 2008.

    According to the Ambassador, the agreement is expected to be signed during a session of the Supreme State Council of the Belarus-Russia Union State. “The date is still to be set,” the diplomat added.

    The United Air Defense System has been negotiated since 2001. “At last, we have arrived at an understanding: the two urgent issues concerning the Union’s property and the United Air Defense System will be settled this year,” Alexander Surikov said.

    “Whether the sides will adjust the document taking into consideration the situation with the US missile defense installations will be clear by the time of signing,” the Ambassador noted.

    Sergei Martynov, David Merkel discuss steps to improve US-Belarus relations

    Further steps meant to improve relations between Belarus and the USA were discussed at a meeting between Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov and David Merkel, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of State, in Minsk on August 21, the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry told BelTA.

    The meeting tabled the entire range of the US-Belarus relations. The parties also talked over ways to improve the relations, said the source.

    Ukraine has no plans to leave CIS

    There are no plans for Ukraine to leave the Commonwealth of Independent States, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Belarus Igor Likhovy told a press conference in Minsk on August 22.

    “Surely certain political forces will soon initiate revising the model of Ukraine’s participation in the CIS in the Ukrainian parliament. I don’t think the walkout from the CIS will be adopted,” he said.

    The diplomat remarked, as an associated member of the CIS Ukraine takes quite an active part in Commonwealth processes but gives priority to promoting bilateral relations. “Bilateral cooperation is more productive and more responsible,” underscored Igor Likhovy.

    OSCE observers to be present at registration of candidates for deputies

    From: BelTA
    The OSCE observers will attend the registration of candidates for deputies at the sessions of the district election commissions, BelTA learnt from Chairperson of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Belarus Lidia Yermoshina.

    The CEC Chairperson noted that these sessions are scheduled for August 27-28. At present, the district election commissions are checking the papers submitted by the candidates running for the seats at the House of Representatives. They are verifying signature lists, protocols of the meetings of labour collectives and political parties that nominated their candidates. The members of the district election commissions are scrutinizing the data indicated in the submitted papers, including income declarations. The lists of the registered candidates will be released on August 29. On this day the candidates will start canvassing voters.

    Lidia Yermoshina noted that the candidates whose registration was denied have the right to appeal to the CEC within three days. The appeals that do not require additional examination will be considered within three days, the other ones within ten days.

    89 long-term observers from 25 countries are in Belarus for parliamentary elections

    89 long-term observers from 25 countries are in Belarus to monitor the parliamentary elections, secretary of the central election commission of Belarus Nikolai Lozovik told a press conference on August 20.

    The international observers represent three organisations: 30 from the CIS, 5 from the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, 54 from the OSCE/ODIHR.

    Nikolai Lozovik has also informed that the central election commission has registered five national observers from political parties. More than 150 local observers work at the constituency election commissions.

    An important stage of the parliamentary election campaign got underway on August 19: the registration of the candidates to the deputies of the House of Representatives. It will run until August 28. 365 people are seeking the seats in the 110-member parliament. The constituency election commissions are now verifying the documents submitted by the candidates. For example, they are checking whether the congresses of labour collectives or political parties nominating their representatives were legitimate. The commissions are also verifying the authenticity of the signatures in signature’s lists and income and property statements from the candidates.

    Belarusian restaurants may open in Japan

    From: BelTA
    The cooperation between Minsk and its twin-town Sendai (Japan) has a great potential, Mikhail Pavlov, Chairman of the Minsk City Council, said at the meeting with Sendai Vice Mayor Emiko Iwasaki on August 20.

    “We have to analyze our cooperation again and stir up the interaction between our cities,” Mikhail Pavlov said. “The links between Minsk and Sendai should become stronger; there are all the necessary prerequisites for that.”

    According to the Mayor of the Belarusian capital, the existing cultural, economic and business potential of the twin-towns is not used to the full extent. The Days of Minsk and Sendai should be held to introduce the Belarusians and Japanese to the cultural life of the two countries. The Minsk Mayor also suggested that restaurants serving Belarusian food should be opened in Sendai. It would also make sense to open stores selling Belarusian and Japanese goods in the twin-towns.

    The Sendai Vice Mayor suggested that the joint children’s programmes should be developed. As early as in 2008, a photo exhibition will be organized in Sendai introducing the Japanese citizens to the Belarusian way of life.

    The Japanese delegation is to visit Minsk consultations and diagnostic centre, the Komarovsky market, and National Arts Museum and the Slodych confectionary.

  • Economics...

    Economy Ministry marks Belarus’ economic growth speed-up in January-July

    From: BelTA
    Looks like the economy is recovering...
    In January-July 2008, the national economy of Belarus showed dynamic development in production and investment activity in the key economic areas, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Economy Ministry.

    “The majority of the most important indices demonstrate a growing tendency as against the same period of 2007. Over the seven months, the country met 17 out of 19 most important socio-economic development forecast,” the ministry noted.

    In January-July 2008, the GDP was up 10.3% as against the same point of 2007 with the 8-9% forecast. The industry accounted for 31.6% of GDP, agriculture 4.6%, construction 8.7%, transport and communications 8.4%, trade and public catering 10.8%. The economic growth went alongside reduction in GDP energy intensity – in January-July 2008, it fell 7.3% over the same time a year ago (the 2008 forecast – 7-8%).

    In January-July 2008, Belarus’ industrial output swelled by 13.1% as against January-July 2007. The industrial output is supposed to increase by 8-9% this year. Over the seven months of the year Belarus made Br13.691 trillion worth of consumer goods, 13.8% up on the same period of last year (the annual growth forecast stands at 9-10%) including food – 14.8% (8-9%) and non-food – 13% (10-11%). In January-July 2008, new products accounted for 16.6% of the total industrial output, the highest index (34.5%) was registered in the Industry Ministry.

    Reduction of expenditures in the production is one of the most important trends in increasing the economic efficiency. In H1 2008, the country preserved a tendency on reducing the level of material output ratio in the industry. On the whole, in January-July the reduction of material output ratio in the industry totaled 1.8%, exceeding the 2008 forecast parameter (minus 1.5%).

    In January-July 2008, the agricultural production grew 4.4% on the same period of 2007 (the annual forecast – 7-8%). Thus, in January-July the agricultural and other companies increased livestock and poultry sales by 6.7%, milk production – by 8.9% and production of eggs – by 4.6%.

    According to the Economy Ministry analysis, in H1 2008, a trend towards the improvement of the financial situation in the real production sector started emerging. In generally the profitability of sold products was equal to 15.6% as against 12.5% in January-June 2007, the profitability of sales – 8.9% as against 7.3%. The profitability of sold products in the industrial companies reached 18.3% (in H1 2007 – 13.2%).

    Over the seven months of 2008, capital investments were up 22.3% (the 2008 forecast – 15-17%). Expenditure on the acquisition of machines, equipment, transport means made up 25.9% to January-July 2007. Own funds of the companies, budget funds and bank loans (including foreign bank loans) remained to be the main sources of financing capital investments, they respectively accounted for 42.3%, 25% and 19.4% of the total. Foreign investments totaled 1.3% (0.6% in January-July 2007).

    Housing construction took 19.1% of the total investments, or 20.2% to January-July 2007. The 2008 main target indices envisage the construction of 5.2 million square meters of housing by means of financing resources. In January-July, the country commissioned the construction of 2.856 million square meters of housing (up 13.5%). Some 895.8 thousand square meters of houses were constructed in the rural settlements, 31.4% of the total.

    The foreign economic activity of Belarus in H1 2008 was characterized by the following parameters. Belarus’ foreign trade in goods and services swelled by 57.1% in comparison with the same period of last year (the annual forecast – 14.5-15.5%), export went up by 59.3% (16-17%) while the import increased by 55% (12.5-13.5%). In January-June the foreign trade deficit totalled $1.081 billion (the deficit is expected to make $1.4-1.42 billion in 2008). The deficit of the merchandise trade amounted to $2,003.8 million while the surplus of the foreign trade in services reached $922.8 million.

    Over the seven months the Belarusian consumer market showed dynamic growth in the sales of goods and services. In January-July 2008, the retail trade including public catering upped 20.5%, with the annual forecast of 10-11%. The paid services for the population grew 11.9% over the same period last year (the annual forecast of 9-10%).

    In January-July 2008, the index of consumer prices made up 8.1% or 1.1% monthly (the 2008 forecast – 0.5-0.6% monthly). The Economy Ministry explained that inflation is fueled, first of all, by outside factors such as growing energy and food prices. “An increase in world prices necessitates increasing prices and tariffs at the domestic market to reduce underperforming in the real production sector, prevent unauthorized exports of foodstuffs,” the ministry said.

  • From the International Press...

    More Belarus dissidents released

    From: BBC
    Andrei Kim
    The European Union and United States have welcomed the Belarus authorities' release of two dissidents regarded by the West as political prisoners.

    Sergei Parsyukevich and Andrei Kim were released from jail on Wednesday, reportedly on the orders of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.

    Another prominent dissident, Alexander Kozulin, was released last week.

    The EU and US said they hoped ties could now improve with Belarus, which critics label a dictatorship.

    The UK ambassador to Minsk, Nigel Gould-Davies, told the BBC that Belarus now "no longer has any internationally recognised political prisoners".

    The EU Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said she was "delighted" by the news.

    "This news comes at a critical time as Belarus prepares for parliamentary elections next month. I very much hope the positive momentum will continue and allow the European Union and Belarus to rapidly develop closer relations," she said.

    A US state department spokesman, Robert Wood, said "the release of these individuals, combined with what we hope will be further positive steps, offers the real possibility of a significant improvement in relations" between the US and Belarus.

    Strained relations

    President Lukashenko's relations with Western nations have been frosty in recent years, as he has stifled dissent, breaking up opposition rallies and exercising tight control over the media.

    The US and EU have imposed visa bans on Mr Lukashenko and a number of his top aides.

    Mr Kozulin was jailed for five-and-a-half years in 2006 for staging protests against President Lukashenko.

    Mr Lukashenko had defeated Mr Kozulin in an election that international observers said was severely flawed.

    The UK ambassador said the prisoner release was "a welcome and important step," as the EU had long requested it.

    "We hope there will be further progress, building on this achievement. The next step will be the conduct of the parliamentary election on 28 September," Mr Gould-Davies told the BBC News website.

    Some election observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are already in Belarus.

    Senior Belarus officials are due to attend a major investment forum in London in November, Mr Gould-Davies said, adding that it would be the first such UK-Belarus business forum.

    Teen rejects final offer for return to Belarus

    Exchange participant Tanya Kazyra of Belarus poses outside her host family's home in Petaluma, Calif., Friday, Aug. 22, 2008. The 16-year-old from Belarus has spent nine summers in this wine country town as part of an exchange program for children from regions affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. But now she's refusing to leave, causing a rift in diplomatic circles and prompting her native country to halt its exchange and adoption programs to the U.S.
    Tanya Kazyra, the 16-year old Belarusian girl at the center of an international standoff, has refused her country's final diplomatic offers that would have put her on a flight home via Frankfurt today.

    "No way," she said, explaining in broken English her refusal of the offers. "I love my family and I scared in Belarus."

    That decision ends negotiations between Pavel Shidlovsky, a special envoy from Belarus' Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Kazyra and the Zapata family, her host for nine summers in Petaluma.

    Belarusian officials said Kazyra would have been able to apply for a student visa to the United States after her return to Belarus and reunion with her grandmother. Kazyra, however, would have to graduate from high school in Belarus before she could come back.

    "Basically he said this is the only option to return and she said 'no,' " her host mother, Debra Zapata, said. "We are backing Tanya in whatever decision she wants to make. There were offers and the answers were 'no.' "

    The stalemate came Friday after three hours of talks in English and Russian that included Kazyra's grandmother on the phone from Belarus.

    Shidlovsky also met with Kazyra on Tuesday and spoke with her by phone last Saturday.

    "The family's decision is wrong," he said. "They should let Tatsiana go back to Belarus sooner rather than later. Tomorrow is the last chance for her to get on an airplane, go to Belarus, get reunited with her grandmother, finish her studies and do everything the right way."

    Kazyra and the Zapata family's decision threatens the travel plans of about 1,400 other Belarusian children who participate in youth programs in the United States each summer. The Belarusian government has halted those programs in the wake of Kazyra's refusal to go back.

    "The decision of Tatsiana and the Zapatas to stay here creates a bad and dangerous precedent," Shidlovsky said. "It means that other children from Belarus on summer respite can take advantage of the situation of staying in the U.S. to apply for legalization and stay."

    Although today is the last chance for Kazyra to follow the direction of her home government, she will be welcomed back into the country should she decide Sunday, or later, to return, he said.

    "We believe the sooner she returns the better, but she is our citizen," Shidlovsky said. "If she chooses to return, she will always be welcome."

    The remaining Belarusian chaperone, who stayed behind in Petaluma with Kazyra, is expected to return to Belarus today. Shidlovsky said he is awaiting orders from Belarus on how to proceed with his diplomatic mission and whether or not he might return to Belarus without her.

    Kazyra, who will be 17 on Dec. 14, has participated in the Chernobyl Children's Project for nine years and was in her last year of eligibility for the program. The project gives children from areas affected by radiation released in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster a chance to visit other countries.

    The visa granted to her by the State Department for the trip is valid until Dec. 25, about 20 weeks longer than the program runs.

    Project organizers fear for the girl's well-being, warning that she is now an unchaperoned minor without insurance.

    "We are gravely disappointed in the Zapata family," said Ruth Williams of the children's project. "Decisions that are not in Tanya's best interest are being made by people who are not her legal guardians."

    A San Francisco immigration attorney hired by her host family said Kazyra's extended stay is permitted by the State Department.

    Belarusian officials, however, said the visa had been issued expressly for travel with the program and believe her refusal to return to her family in Belarus violates agreements made by host families with the organization.

    "The decision of the Zapata family to hold the child violates the provision of the agreement," Shidlovsky said.

    Shidlovsky arrived in San Francisco from Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on Aug. 16 to speak with Kazyra and negotiate her return to Belarus.

    Those close to his discussions with Kazyra and her host family said various offers were on the table, including allowing her return to the United States, granting her a place in a boarding school in Belarus to remove her from an abusive home life, and English lessons to improve her chances of receiving a student visa to the United States.

    "Even with all these things that were offered to her, she is still fearful, very fearful to go back. Her life isn't going to be normal there anymore," Debra Zapata said.

    "My question to (Belarus) was why are you offering 'Princess Tanya' all of these things, but you didn't care about the 1,400 other children whose program you were canceling? Why are you pushing so far for this one child?"

    News that Kazyra had declined her government's offers saddened national organizers of the Chernobyl Children's Project.

    "When (the Zapatas) go to bed at night, they should lie there and think of 1,400 children that are crying and hoping that they can see their American mama and their American papa next year," said Cecelia Calhoun, Belarus liaison for the Children of Chernobyl United States Alliance. "Children crying big tears because one family has decided to be selfish in keeping her."

    Kazyra, exhausted from a week of diplomatic attention, planned to have a pizza Friday night and attend a family gathering today.

    Her tourist visa does not allow her to attend school, but the Zapatas are home-schooling her in Petaluma with an emphasis in reading and writing English, Zapata said.

    The family is also looking into Kazyra's legal options, Debra Zapata said.

    "I don't know what is legally available to her now," she said. "I haven't dug too far. I will now, as soon as I have an extra moment. I will start now."

    Insurer Generali says to start operating in Belarus

    From: Forbes and Reuters
    Italian insurer Assicurazioni Generali said it would start operating in Belarus by end-2008 after its Generali PPF Holding joint-venture obtained a licence for the eastern European country's non-life sector.

    'This move confirms the company's interest to continue its expansion in countries with meaningful growth potential, due to low insurance penetration rates and high GDP growth,' said Generali's managing director Sergio Balbinot.

    Belarus has around 10 million inhabitants and its economy is growing by about 9-10 percent on an annual basis.

    Generali said on Thursday the new company would be called Generali Belarus.

    "By entering Belarus, Generali PPF is now operative in 13 different markets in the CEE (Central-Eastern Europe) region," Generali's managing director Sergio Balbinot said in a statement.

    Generali PPF Holding is 51 percent owned by the Italian insurer while Czech financial group PPF holds the remaining 49 percent.

    Iran, Belarus talking nuclear power

    From: JTA
    Iran is ready to help Belarus advance its peaceful nuclear program.

    "We are ready to discuss any Belarusian proposals" in this sphere, the Belarusian official news agency BELTA quoted the Iranian ambassador to Minsk, Abdolhamid Fekri, as saying.

    Belarus is planning to build its first atomic power plant by 2016.

    Officials of the former Soviet republic have been in discussions with the Russian company Rosatom and the French company Areva over the possibility of their participation in the project.

    On Wednesday, Fekri met with the speaker of the upper chamber of the Belarusian parliament, Gennadii Novitsky. Belarus and Iran hold similar views on international issues, Novitsky said, thus enabling the two countries to cooperate.

    Meanwhile, a Belarusian delegation headed by the deputy minister of foreign affairs is in Libya. Victor Gaisenok reportedly is discussing new bilateral relations with Libyan political official Abdul al-Ati al-Obeidi, notably the improvement of economic cooperation.

    The trip wraps up Wednesday.

    For the past several years, Belarus has courted improved ties with Arab states. Some Belarusian political experts say this could negatively influence the country's desire to build closer relations with Israel.

    Earlier this month, President Alexander Lukashenko declared that Belarus must improve cooperation in all spheres with Israel.

  • From the Opposition...

    Formation of election commissions

    From: Viasna
    A?cording to Article 28 of the Election Code, preparation and organization of the election to the Chamber of Representatives is provided for by the district and precinct election commissions.

    According to Article 34 of the Election Code, precinct commissions for election to the Chamber of Representatives are formed of 5-19 people by rayon and city executive committees (in cities with rayon division – by rayon administrations) no later than 45 days before election.

    The decision about forming commissions with indicated membership, location, phone numbers shall be published in the press or brought to notice of citizens (voters) by other means during 7 days.

    Outside the Republic of Belarus during the elections to the Chamber of Representatives precinct commissions are created by heads of diplomatic missions (consulates) of the Republic of Belarus, which act on the territory of foreign states.

    The procedure of nominating representatives to precinct commissions is regulated by Article 35 of the Election Code. According to the Article, political parties, other non-governmental organizations, work collectives of organizations or collectives of their structural units, as well as citizens by signature collection can nominate only one representative to a corresponding precinct election commission.

    the following bodies are entitled to nominate representatives to precinct commissions:

    -- governing bodies of oblast, Minsk city, rayon, city (in the cities of rayon subordination), city rayon organizational structures of political parties, and other non-governmental organizations, which have subordinated structures;

    -- governing bodies of city (in cities with rayon subordination) organizational structures of political parties and other non-governmental organizations, which have lower organizational structures, or conferences of their primary organizations. primary organization of a political party, or another non-governmental organization is entitled to nominate a representative to the precinct election commission of the precinct, where the primary organization is located.

    -- meetings (conferences) of work collectives of organizations that are located on the territory of a rayon, city, city rayon, town, village and have no less than 30 employees. Representatives to precinct election commissions can also be nominated by work collectives of their structural units which have no less than 10 employees. If representatives are nominated by collectives of structural units, nomination of representatives from the whole work collective of the organization is not carried out. Meeting is competent if it was attended by more than half of the work collective. Conferences in work collectives are held if calling a meeting gets complicated because of the big number of employees, multiple shifts or territorial detachment of structural units, and is competent if no less than two thirds of the delegates elected in the order set up by the collective, are present. A meeting (conference) of work collective makes decisions by the majority of votes of its participants.

    -- citizens who have the right to vote, through submitting an application signed by no less than 10 citizens who live in the precinct.

    According to the Calendar Plan, nomination to precinct election commissions continued until August 10th, inclusive. «<0}

    Creation of precinct election commissions was to be finished by no later than August 13th.

    Local mass media should to publish lists of members of precinct election commissions during 7 days.
    Story continues...

    Alyaksandr Mekh: “This trial is example of cynicism and treachery of the authorities”

    From: Charter '97
    Judge of the Kobryn district Alyaksandr Babaskin passed a decision today to dismiss all counts of the suit filed by Alyaksandr Mekh, member of the Belarusian Popular front party.

    The informer demanded to allow him to return to his work for Beltransgaz, compensate for material and moral damage. Alyaksandr Mekh was disappointed with the result:

    “I didn’t expect this decision. We presented good proofs to the court that show this case is fabricated. It is an example of fraud, cynicism and treachery of the current Belarusian authorities,” the politician told to Radio Svaboda.

    The trial in Kobryn lasted for three days. Most leaders of the BPF party, Brest region opposition activists and journalists attended the trial.

    Uladzimer Malei, lawyer of the trade union of the radio electronics workers, civil defender of Alyaksandr Mekh, says the decision of the Kobryn district court will be appealed against:

    “we asked for them to give us reasons of the judgement. We are going to file a cassation appeal. When I spoke at the trial, I said the political situation in Belarus was changing, all political prisoners had been released. I asked,”Don’t make a mistake!” But the judge didn’t listen to me.”

    Engineer Alyaksandr Mekh was dismissed from Beltransgaz Kobryn department of gas transition pipeline this June. Head of the Kobryn department Uladzimer Halashka and head of the Kobryn KGB office Andre Basko had a 16-minute preventive conversation with Mekh. They tried to make him give his intention to run in the election and threatened to fire him in other case. They said he wouldn’t find job in Belarus, reminded him he had a family – wife and small children. Alyaksandr Mekh made a Dictaphone record of his conversation with his chief and the KGB officer. This conversation was transmitted over Radio Svaboda and published in “Narodnaya Volya” newspaper.

    Alyaksandr Mekh has two university diplomas. He worked as an engineer for Beltransgaz for more than 14 years and was fired in June after he had decided to run in the parliamentary election. Alyaksandr Mekh contest for a seat in the parliament in Kobryn election district #12.

  • Around the region...

    The proof that Russia is digging in deep in the heart of Georgia

    From: Guardian
    Smoke rises and a fire is seen, in the Georgian village of Kekhvi, some 15 km (9 miles) north of Tskhinvali.
    A day after announcing that it had 'withdrawn' from Georgia, Russian troops continued to occupy large areas of the country yesterday in defiance of international pressure and in breach of a ceasefire deal signed by Moscow.

    The country's forces were in control of several key areas outside the original conflict zone - including the Black Sea port of Poti and the western town of Senaki. Additionally, troops had established new 'buffer zones' around the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

    The United States, France and Britain have denounced Russia's failure to fully withdraw troops. They say it has blatantly failed to 'comply' with a ceasefire agreement obliging it to pull back to its positions before the conflict started on 7 August.

    There was compelling evidence yesterday, however, that Russia is planning a long-term occupation of Georgia. The Observer witnessed Russian soldiers digging trenches seven kilometres outside the port of Poti next to the Rioni river and the main highway to Tbilisi.

    A Russian flag flew above a grassy camp; around 20 soldiers were spread out in trenches and next to an armoured personnel carrier. A crowd of about 1,000 demonstrated in front of them yesterday afternoon, waving Georgian flags and shouting: 'Go home.'

    'This isn't peacekeeping. This is occupation. Their objective is to blockade Georgia and Georgians,' Fatuna Rubakidze, 29, said. Pointing to the bridge across the river, she said: 'This allows them to stop traffic to Poti. It means they can always blackmail us.'

    The Russians had taken off their regular army helmets and replaced them with blue peacekeeping ones. Locals flung leaflets at them in Russian with the slogan: 'No to Russian fascism'. The soldiers stood implacably in the afternoon sunshine. Once the crowd left, they took the leaflets away. 'Yesterday they were regular soldiers. Today they are peacekeepers. Whatever they are, we want them to leave our territory,' Fatuna, a police lieutenant, said, clicking a photograph of the soldiers with her mobile phone.

    The Kremlin's plan now appears clear: to maintain a significant military presence in Georgia, capable of choking the country's economy and shutting down its major trade routes. It also allows Russia the option of a future invasion, should it want one.

    The deputy head of Russia's general staff, Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, was unrepentant yesterday. He said Russia would continue to patrol Poti - even though it lies outside any so-called 'security zone'. Russia insists that under a previous agreement it can station 2,600 'peacekeeping' troops beyond the borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

    'Poti is not in the security zone. But that doesn't mean we will sit behind the fence watching as they drive around in Hummers,' Nogovitsyn said, in sardonic reference to the four US Humvees seized by Russia in Poti last week. The vehicles were used in joint US-Georgian military exercises.

    The general accused Nato of increasing tensions in the Black Sea. American, Spanish German and Polish ships are all heading to the area, with US ships due to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia today. This 'did not contribute to the settlement of the situation', he said.

    Georgia yesterday described Russia's occupation as 'absolutely illegal'. Moscow's failure to leave is deeply embarrassing for French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who brokered the ceasefire deal last weekend with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev.

    Georgian officials yesterday took The Observer by helicopter across a landscape of shimmering green pasture and mountain to the steamy port of Poti. Their aim was to show off its destruction by Russian soldiers - and to point out that they were still there.

    Russian bombers destroyed Poti's naval base, killing five people, on the second day of the war. Yesterday, the gun turret of a sunken vessel stuck out above the turquoise water; nearby a white coastguard boat was listing and sunk. Russian soldiers had ransacked the port's main building, blowing open doors and upturning filing cabinets. One had written on a whiteboard: 'Georgian bitches. Die pederast cocks'.

    'They turned up in 23 BMP armoured vehicles and took whatever was valuable,' said Reza Managadze, a port employee. 'They didn't even leave us anything to eat.' In a smashed-up medical room lay a portrait of Georgia's pro-US president Mikheil Saakashvili. A Russian soldier had stamped on it. He then added one word: 'Dick'.

    In the town of Gori, normal life slowly resumed after the withdrawal of Russian forces yesterday. Residents began trickling back; a few shops reopened. But the Russians had not gone far, setting up a new checkpoint about 15km north of the city. Russia says that it intends to have 18 checkpoints on the road to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

    A Respectable Russia

    Vladimir Putin's war has intensified the debate over his nation's future

    From: Newsweek
    On a concert podium set up last week in the ruins of the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, Russia's greatest conductor took a deep breath of smoke-scented air and raised his baton. Valery Gergiev, a native Ossetian and godfather to Vladimir Putin's younger daughter, launched into a passionate rendition of Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony as Russian troops looked on from their armored personnel carriers. Millions more Russians watched via satellite link. Officially, the concert was a tribute to the victims of this month's fighting in the breakaway republic. But to many Russians, the concert was freighted with political symbolism. For viewers with an eye for such things, it was a mirror image of Leonard Bernstein's rendition of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at the fallen Berlin wall in December 1989. Gergiev was playing for dead Ossetians, no doubt—but for many, he was also marking the symbolic end to Russia's post-cold-war retreat. And, indeed, this triumphalist turn in the aftermath of its lightning invasion of Georgia earlier this month suggests that after almost 20 years of humiliation, Russia has finally recovered what it has been so longing for: respect. "We do not wish to aggravate the international situation," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told a group of Red Army veterans in Kursk recently. "We simply want respect for our state, for our people, for our values."

    Such a goal was the hallmark of Vladimir Putin's two terms as president. Ever since he came to power in 2000, Putin, now prime minister, has dreamed of reversing the decline in Russia's power over its own backyard. But while he talked a big game, harking back to the rhetoric of Soviet and tsarist Russian imperialism, Russia's actual power shrank dramatically. Between 2000 and 2004, pro-Moscow regimes in Ukraine and Georgia were replaced by pro-Western ones. NATO expanded to include the Baltics, in clear violation of security guarantees that Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, claimed were given to him in the 1990s. And Russia has proved to be powerless in stopping the United States from stationing missile defense radars and missile batteries in Poland and the Czech Republic.

    The war in Ossetia is all about drawing a line under further NATO expansion—and sending a strong signal to Georgia, Ukraine and Europe that Russia won't be pushed around. And from the moment Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, Russia's neighbors started to take its threats more seriously. The invasion marked the end of Russia's browbeaten, humiliated post-cold-war era and the beginning of a new, more assertive, more imperial Russia. What will Russia's next move be? In Georgia, according to Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of Russia's General Staff, Russia will establish a "security zone along the administrative border of South Ossetia" that will include 18 strongpoints manned by Russian peacekeepers. Just where that border runs will be defined by Russia. On the ground last week, Russian backhoes were seen digging in just north of the Georgian city of Gori—well beyond the old front line, and close enough to Georgia's main east-west road to cut Georgia in half within minutes.

    What worries Russia's neighbors now is that the messy breakup of the Soviet Union left millions of ethnic Russians stranded in other post-Soviet states. Ukraine is 17 percent ethnic Russian; Estonia and Latvia nearly 40 percent; Kazakhstan 26.1 percent. And there are signs the Kremlin is systematically reaching out to these Russian-speaking communities through a range of lavishly funded cultural programs designed to boost Russia's soft power in the region. Other programs are more overtly political: the Kremlin-backed annual Foros Forum convenes in Crimea, a majority ethnic Russian region in Ukraine, and aims to "shape a new generation of young Russian politicians," according to one of the organizers, Duma deputy Sergei Markov. A selection of young activists from Kremlin-created youth groups like Nashi and the Youth Guards join the leaders and activists of Ukrainian pro-Russian movements to listen to lectures by the likes of Aleksandr Dugin, a leading light of the Eurasia movement, which preaches a Russian-led power block as an alternative to the West. "People gather to support our fraternal Ukrainian nation, which is groaning under the pressure of NATO," says Gennady Basov, leader of the nationalist Russian Bloc Party, a pro-Moscow pressure group based in Crimea.

    If Russia invaded Ossetia to end Georgian hopes of NATO membership, could Crimea be next? While he was president, Putin spoke of "dismembering" Ukraine if it continued to pursue its dreams of NATO membership. Then, the Ukrainians dismissed the threat as so much hot air. Now it no longer seems such an idle threat. "Of course Ukraine is easy to split—it is two different countries," says Basov, who also heads Russian Choice, a campaign for recognition of Russian as an official language, and for Russian language schools in Crimea. "The east's economy depends on Russia, the west's depends on Europe; the east is Russian-speaking and Orthodox, and the west is Ukrainian-speaking and Roman Catholic."

    Ukraine's government was rattled by the fear that Russia's occupation of Georgia would inspire secessionism in the Crimea. The leadership immediately ordered a survey of how many Crimeans had Russian passports (dual nationality is illegal under Ukrainian law). The count turned up only about 6,000, out of a Russian population of more than 1 million. And, reassuringly for Kiev, support for rejoining Russia has slipped from more than 60 percent in the late 1990s to about 25 percent now, according to Vladimir Kozarin, deputy mayor of Sevastopol, a majority-Russian Crimean port city.

    Georgia on their minds

    A crucial corner of Ukraine is forever Russian, say the locals, and that could spark another conflict

    Women in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol greet the first Russian navy ship to return from its operations against Georgia. Bigger celebrations are planned for tomorrow.
    Russian flags hung from balconies, many cheered the army sent to fight Georgian troops and the town is giving a hero's welcome for the ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

    A Russian town? No, this is the port of Sevastopol in Ukraine, where the government and president backed Georgia in its conflict with Russia over South Ossetia. Some believe that Ukraine could be a new flashpoint as Russia flexes its muscles in the former Soviet Union.

    "Everyone is talking about the same issue, everyone is against the way Georgia behaved. I also support Russia," said Aleksei Romanov, a 33-year-old working in advertising.

    Russia used ships from the Black Sea Fleet to land troops in Georgia and patrol its waters. The first boat returned yesterday and local pro-Russian organizations are planning a pro-Russian rally and a military band for when more arrive tomorrow.

    The 18th century empress Catherine the Great built the neo-classical port to house the Russian navy after taking decades to conquer the Crimean region.

    The pride and joy of the Russian military, the region was granted to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1954. After the Soviet Union fell, Moscow was forced to lease the harbour space.

    But the contract is due to run out in 2017. Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko says Kyiv is not planning to renew the lease, angering Moscow, which is already furious at Ukraine's ambition to join the NATO military alliance.

    The region - a popular holiday destination for centuries due to its green mountains, deep-blue sea and sunny climate - is dominated by ethnic Russians and the Ukrainian language is almost never heard.

    "We are all the same - Russia and Ukraine and Sevastopol are bound so tightly in a knot that it is difficult to untangle it," pensioner Pavel Pankratov said.

    Such comments would be an anathema to Ukrainians living, for example, in the west of the country who have asserted their Ukrainian nationality since independence in 1991 by increasingly refusing to speak Russian and by celebrating Ukrainian history.

    Russia's military dominates the town - the Black Sea Fleet employs thousands of its residents and monuments to Russian military heroes stand prominently in squares. Russian money keeps the town clean and freshly painted.

    Local politician Gennady Basov said: "The Black Sea fleet will be in Sevastopol after 2017 and Sevastopol will not allow any provocation from the Ukrainian government." Such sentiments have raised fears among some Ukrainians and politicians that Russia could start a conflict here in the same way it was able to aid the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, also populated by ethnic Russians, and invade Georgia.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Homesick for Poland: Migrants' dreams in tatters

    From: Independant
    Life has been getting harder for many of the thousands of Poles in Britain, who suffer alarming levels of poverty, depression and suicide.

    Mariusz Krasucki arrived in the UK from Poland in 2004. Aged 25, he had grand dreams of making a new life, with well-paid work in the booming UK economy; sending money home, and saving to set up his own business. Four years later those dreams lie in pieces, shattered by dead-end jobs and ever increasing bills.

    "It has been lonely, and sometimes it is hard. England seemed like a relatively stable country, but now the price of things is going up and we have to work harder just to keep going," said Mr Krasucki.

    He is just one of hundreds of thousands of Poles now living in hardship in Britain. Rising costs of food and fuel, the credit crunch and increasing unemployment have all taken their toll on the 800,000-strong Polish community, many of whom are in low-wage jobs.

    Polish organisations are reporting rising levels of suicide, depression, abortion and poverty. Unreleased figures from the Polish embassy in the UK reveal that as many as one in five of the 250 Poles who died in Britain last year took their own lives.

    The fate of 22-year-old Pawal Lipinski illustrates the growing difficulties Poles face. After he was found to have taken his own life near his rented room in Bedford, police discovered he had packed his bags and bought a ticket back to Poland. Like many migrants, Mr Lipinski had felt trapped in an impossible situation – desperately unhappy in England, but under pressure from family to send back much-needed money.

    The value of the Polish zloty has risen 17 per cent since the country's accession to the EU in 2004, meaning that the hundreds of thousands of UK-based Poles sending money home are now contributing much less in real terms.

    One result is that fewer workers see Britain as an attractive place to come. Home Office figures released last week revealed that levels of work-related migration to the UK from the eight Eastern and Central European countries had fallen to its lowest level since 2004. A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research concluded that almost half of Eastern European migrants to the UK since 2004 have already left.

    Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski is calling for the Polish government to improve support services for its citizens who have moved to the UK. "So many Poles came to the UK, the Polish government needs to do more. They have a responsibility to protect their citizens," said Mr Kawczynski. "I want to make sure that the Polish government realises there are a lot of citizens here and they need to make sure their investments in the embassy and consulate are appropriate."

    "Depression is a big problem for Poles living in Britain," Robert Szaniawski, press attache at the Polish embassy, acknowledged. "We try to support them somehow, but there are no special services."

    Eva Zandman, 27: 'I've been tremendously affected by rising prices'

    I'm on the minimum wage, and I've been tremendously affected by the rising food prices and gas bills. I'm not looking for huge money. I just want enough to last until the end of the month. I found it hard to get a job at first, and have mostly been working in care homes. I'm a trained physiotherapist. It can be lonely when you go to a new place. There are days when I think about my family, about the fact they are far away. I came over to England in 2004, and since then I've called the Samaritans. They were helpful, but if my English wasn't so good I wouldn't have been able to do that.

    Mariusz Krasucki, 29: 'I have a degree in journalism, but have to work as a driver'

    It has been lonely. It was difficult to make friends, because of the language and the cultural barriers. English people have a different sense of humour and sometimes they would make jokes and I would be offended. For the past two years, I have worked as a driver. I am by myself all day long, and sometimes it is depressing. I have a degree in journalism, and am overqualified to be a driver – it is easy, nothing to be proud of. I couldn't make enough money to live on in Poland.

    Ela Meller, 25: 'At one point there were 10 of us living in three bedrooms'

    When I came over from Poland in 2002 I was just 19. I ran out of money so quickly because my Polish money was worth so little. At one point there were 10 of us living in three bedrooms. After two years of waitressing I started to get a bit down – I thought I'd still be doing it aged 75. It happens to lots of Polish people. I began to study bookkeeping part-time while still working. It was hard – sometimes I worked 90-hour weeks. I became qualified and now work for the 'Big Issue' accounts department. In Poland it was way too expensive to study and I couldn't get a job. I come from quite a poor family, and however hard I have to work here I'm pleased that at least I can support myself.

    Anna Sajnog, 25: 'I came over hoping to have a better life but it isn't better'

    My husband Alex, my one-year-old baby and I all have to survive on 53 a week. If it wasn't for handouts from the Red Cross and the church charity, the Boaz trust, I don't know what we would do. They help us by giving us food parcels and helping with the rent. I work as a cleaner, but I do only a few hours a week so I hardly earn anything. It is so difficult. I want do be able to give my daughter things, but we have no spare money at all. I came over from Poland hoping that I would be able to have a better life, but it isn't any better. If I were still single I would return, but my husband is Sudanese and cannot leave the UK.

    Poles continue to lose faith of brighter future

    From: The News
    More than half of Poles think that Poland is heading in the wrong direction, says a new opinion poll.

    According to the newest opinion poll by the TNS OBOP research centre, 52 percent of Poles are pessimistic about Poland's situation, while 34 percent are optimistic.

    Pessimists are growing in number – from 50 to 52 percent from July - and optimists are in retreat - a fall from 36 to 34 percent. The number of respondents with no opinion on the matter remained constant (14 percent).

    Significantly more Poles (61 percent) are convinced that the Polish economy is developing (compared to 59 percent in July), but only six percent think that the development is dynamic, while 55 percent see it as sluggish.

    Despite a relatively booming economy, one third of respondents think that Poland's economy is ‘in crisis’; 27 percent thought of it’s condition ‘serious’.

    The poll shows that more than one in three respondents (34 percent) expect that their financial situation will improve within the next three years, while almost the same amount (33 percent) expect that living conditions in Poland will not change during that period. A little less, 28 percent, think that their life style will take a turn for the worse.

    The poll was conducted on 7-11 August 2008, on a representative group of 1005 citizens of Poland over 15 years of age.

    Drunk Polish official expelled from Olympic Village

    From: Polskie Radio
    Deputy President of the Polish Athletics Federation (PZLA) Jerzy Sudola has been found sleeping on one of the lawns of the Olympic Village in Beijing and immediately sent back to Poland.

    Sudola, who was drunk, has been threatened by the federation’s president, Irena Szewinska, that he will face ‘serious consequences’.

    The Deputy President was lying on the law with his name visible on the accreditation on his breast.

    President Szewinska has not made any decision on the case as yet and refused to comment further. She said she will deal with the drunken official after she returns to Poland.

  • Sport...

    Belarusian rowers win two Olympic gold medals

    From: BelTA
    Brothers Alexander Bogdanovich and Andrei Bogdanovich of Belarus won a gold medal in Canoe Double (C2) 1000m Men at the Olympics 2008 on August 22. Belarusians Roman Petrushenko, Aleksei Abalmasov, Artur Litvinchuk, and Vadim Makhnev won another gold in Kayak Four (K4) 1000m Men.

    The press service of the Belarusian head of state told BelTA, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko congratulated the sportsmen on the awards.

    During the final race the Belarusian team didn’t force the event at once. At 250, 500, and 750 metres the Belarusians were in the third position with Germans Christian Gille and Thomasz Wylenzek well ahead of the rest. At the final stretch the Belarusian team was able to beat the competition by only 0.223 seconds winning with the total time of 3 minutes and 36.365 seconds. Bronze medals went to Hungarians Gyorgy Kozmann and Tamas Kiss.

    It is the most important success in the sport career of Alexander Bogdanovich and Andrei Bogdanovich. Elder brother Alexander Bogdanovich, 26, was a European champion and landed sixth in a canoe double race at the Olympics 2004 in Athens. Younger brother Andrei Bogdanovich, 20, also was a European champion.

    The new Olympic champions will not have time to celebrate the achievement today as tomorrow they will have to compete in a 500-metre race.

    The Belarusian kayak four team toed the starting line just several minutes after the glorious victory of the canoe double team. Certainly they were inspired by the success and carried on the gold relay race.

    Right from the start the Belarusian team went ahead. Shortly after the Slovak team took the leadership till half of the distance. But then the Belarusian team found strength to regain the leadership and carry on till the end. The winning time is 2 minutes 55.714 seconds. The Slovak team won silver with 2 minutes 56.593 seconds while the bronze medal went to the German team with 2 minutes 56.676 seconds.

    It is the second Olympic award for Roman Petrushenko and Vadim Makhnev. Four years ago in Athens they won a bronze medal in a canoe double race. Tomorrow the duo will have to compete in a 500-metre canoe double event.

    With only two days remaining, Belarus has now 18 Medals at Beijing (5 gold, 5 silver and 8 bronze). Thanks to the success today the Belarusian team now stands in the 15th position in the overall medal standings of the Olympics 2008.

    Another Olympic gold for Belarus

    From: BelTA
    Oksana Menkova of Belarus has won the Women's Hammer Throw gold medal in a new Olympic record of 76.34 metres at the Olympic Games in Beijing. The previous Olympic record was 75.2 metres.

    As BelTA was told in the press service of the head of state, President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko congratulates the athlete on the gold medal.

    Another Belarusian, Daria Pchelnik, placed fourth with a throw of 73.65 metres. The Olympic silver medal went to Yipsi Moreno of Cuba, who tossed 75.20 metres. China's Wenxiu Zhang, who threw a season best of 74.32 metres, claimed bronze.

    Oksana Menkova leads the 2008 world rankings with her national record of 77.32 metres.

    Belarusian Medals at Beijing
    5 Gold, 5 Silver and 9 Bronze

    Bronze Gymnastics Rhythmic Gymnastics Group Competition Olesya Babushkina, Glafira Martinovich, Anastasia Ivankova, Ksenia Sankovich, Zinaida Lunina, Alina Tumilovich
    Silver Gymnastics Rhythmic Gymnastics Individual All-Around Inna Zhukova
    Bronze Canoe/Kayak Men's Kayak Doubles 500m Raman Piatrushenka, Vadzim Makhneu
    Silver Track & Field Men's Decathlon Andrei Krauchanka
    Gold Canoe/Kayak Men's Kayak Fours 1000m Vadzim Makhneu, Artur Litvinchuk, Aliaksei Abalmasau, Raman Piatrushenka
    Gold Canoe/Kayak Men's Canoe Doubles 1000m Aliaksandr Bahdanovich, Andrei Bahdanovich
    Gold Track & Field Women's Hammer Throw Aksana Miankova (Set new olympic record)
    Bronze Wrestling Men's Freestyle 66-74 kg Murad Gaidarov
    Gold Weightlifting Men's 94-105 kg Andrei Aramnau (Broke 3 world records)
    Silver Track & Field Men's Hammer Throw Vadim Devyatovskiy
    Bronze Track & Field Men's Hammer Throw Ivan Tsikhan
    Silver Track & Field Women's Shot Put Natallia Mikhnevich
    Bronze Track & Field Women's Shot Put Nadzeya Ostapchuk
    Bronze Rowing Women's Pair Without Coxswain Yuliya Bichyk, Natallia Helakh
    Bronze Rowing Women's Single Sculls Ekaterina Karsten
    Bronze Track & Field Men's Shot Put Andrei Mikhnevich
    Silver Weightlifting Men's 77-85 kg Andrei Rybakou (World record)
    Bronze Wrestling Men's Greco-Roman 60-66 kg Mikhail Siamionau
    Bronze Weightlifting Women's 48-53 kg Nastassia Novikava

  • Endnote...

    Belarus girl has grown into a young woman with ‘her Island family’

    From: The Journal Pioneer
    Tammy Jelley, right, says Masha Rasskazova is like a daughter. The teen from Belarus has spent eight summers with the Jelley family. Her fond memories include learning about hairdressing in Jelley’s studio. Lori A.
    Tammy Jelley feels like she’s losing one of her own.
    And in a way, she is.

    For the last eight summers, Jelley and husband Mike have welcomed Masha Rasskazova into their home. And then said goodbye when she went back to Belarus.

    “Every year it gets harder,” says Tammy. “People say, ‘It should be easier, you have a child of your own now.’”

    But Jelley hasn’t found that to be true.
    “People can’t be replaced. She’s special in our home.”

    Rasskazova, now 16, came through the Canadian Relief Fund for Chernobyl Victims in Belarus. The charity arranges for children from Belarus to visit and spend time in a cleaner, healthier environment. The former USSR republic and now country of Belarus was particularly vulnerable to radioactive contamination following the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986.

    “The air is just not fresh,” Rasskazova explains, sitting in the Jelley home in Summerside. “It’s more dirty there than here.”

    Jelley, a hairdresser, learned about the program through a client.
    And much has changed since Rasskazova’s first visit.

    “The first day she came, she couldn’t even say our names,” Jelley says. “And we couldn’t say hers! We called her Marsha for days.”

    She’s since learned English and become part of the Jelley family and their activities — shopping, travelling to Moncton or Halifax, having lunch at cafes, learning to do hair and going to an Avril Lavigne concert. In the meantime, she’s grown from girl to young woman.
    Jelley describes Rasskazova as strong and adventurous, explaining that from a young age she wanted to travel.

    While the charity arranged her placement and travel here, the Jelleys raise funds for trip expenses. And for the last number of years, the Summerside Lions Club has donated to help defray travel costs.
    A busy school year ahead, as she prepares for university, means this is her last official summer here.

    While she’s interested in hairdressing, Rasskazova says she’ll likely look at becoming a doctor or nurse.
    “My mom’s wanting me to,” she explains.

    Rasskazova is scheduled to leave for Belarus on Monday.

    The family doesn’t want to think about saying goodbye and already plans more visits.

    “I do want to see my friends, but I don’t want to go ’cause I like it here.” Rasskazova adds.

    What will she miss most?

    “My Canada parents – Tammy and Mike,” she says, crying.
  • Note: But she went home...