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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lukashenko Talks With Medvedev, Aramnau wins weightlifting gold, Elections, Tanya Kazyra, S. Ossetia, Harvest, Oppostion and Polish scandal...

  • From the Top...
  • #335

    President Alexander Lukashenko Holds Talks With Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Sochi

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    Alexander Lukashenko and Dmitry Medvedev
    On 19 August, while on his working visit to the Russian Federation, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko held talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Sochi.

    The agreement to hold this meeting was made in June during the Russian President’s visit to Belarus.

    At the outset of the talks Alexander Lukashenko highlighted the “important positive moment” in the bilateral relations after the June meeting with Dmitry Medvedev in Brest. “I have been watching closely how our agreements are being fulfilled. Even the minor issues that we considered then were solved virtually the next day, the next week after our meeting. The Belarusian side too has been acting in this manner,” said the Belarusian President.

    Speaking about the plans for expanding the relationship in trade and economy, the Belarusian President said that all the necessary prerequisites were in place for Belarus and Russia to reach the mark of $30 billion in their bilateral trade in 2008.

    “But today, in our everyday relations – in economy, politics – time has come, and the situation pushes us to it, including the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia when Russia had to defend its people, pushes us to some complex actions within the framework of our Union State. I think the time of simple actions and decisions has gone. We need to act more closely,” he said.

    Referring to the recent conflict in South Ossetia, Alexander Lukashenko thanked the Russian President for his wisdom displayed in solving that difficult situation. “That was a cool-headed, tranquil reaction which led to the establishment of peace in the region, and for a long time, I think. Everything was done calmly, wisely and neatly.” The Belarusian President paid attention to the reaction of some western countries and the US to the tragic events in South Ossetia. Alexander Lukashenko said he believed it was wrong to teach Russia how it should act in solving this conflict.

    Dmitry Medvedev called the Belarus-Russia trade record-breaking, and cited Russian experts’ opinion that the bilateral trade could indeed surpass the $30 billion mark in 2008. “This would be a good, solid result,” said the Russian President. He proposed Alexander Lukashenko to consider “some issues of international life, international consequences of Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia, issues pertaining to development of cooperation within the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO)”. “We need to discuss our nearest joint steps toward strengthening our strategic partnership,” said Dmitry Medvedev.

    During a long conversation the heads of state considered a wide range of issues regarding the Belarusian-Russian bilateral relations, topical issues on the international agenda. In particular, the presidents talked about stepping up the trade and economic cooperation, cooperation in power engineering and transit, approaches to ensuring the European security, Union State development, participation of Belarusian builders in erecting Olympic facilities in the Krasnodar Territory.

    In 2007 trade between Belarus and Russia exceeded $26 billion, with Russia accounting for 49.2% of Belarus’ foreign trade. Belarus ranked sixth among the largest trade partners of Russia. In January-June 2008 the mutual trade exceeded $18 billion, 60.7% up on the same period of 2007. Manufacturing cooperation ties between companies in various industries develop well. Thanks to joint efforts the removal of most mutual economic claims confirmed the ability of the two governments to effectively handle complicated problems.

    Yet Belarus believes it is time for transition from simple trade relations to a higher form of economic cooperation, namely the implementation of big mutually beneficial projects. The positive experience accumulated through manufacturing cooperation used to set up joint enterprises can be used as an example for other industries to a certain extent. Projects able to unite the significant industrial potentials of Belarus and Russia are necessary. In view of the global competition on international market the approach looks most pragmatic and logical. Continuing ideas spoken out in Brest two months before the presidents discussed the possibility of such cooperation.

    Belarus is ready to step up contacts with Russia in power engineering and energy transit. In particular, improved utilisation of Belarus’ transit potential is exceptionally beneficial for both the parties. The same applies to the transit of Russian energy resources to Europe.

    Special attention was paid to topical international issues. Belarus believes the security and counteraction of modern challenges and threats in the Euro-Atlantic region should be handled through an open equivocal dialogue of all interested countries. It is impossible to ensure the European security taking into account interests of some countries and ignoring interests of other ones. Views of Belarus and Russia on the matter coincide.

    A while ago the Russian Federation put forward an initiative for working out a comprehensive European security treaty. It is supposed to become an effective instrument for ensuring peace in this part of the planet. Belarus supports the initiative. According to the Belarusian side the potential of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation should be used in promoting the initiative.

    Alexander Lukashenko and Dmitry Medvedev also agreed that a treaty to set up a Belarusian-Russian united air defence system will be signed by late 2008.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    365 contenders for seats in Belarusian parliament documented

    From: BelTA
    There are 365 people aspiring to get seats in the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus according to the number of documents candidates for deputies have filed with territorial election commissions, Secretary of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Belarus Nikolai Lozovik told BelTA.

    There are 110 seats in the lower chamber of the Belarusian parliament. The elections are scheduled for September 28, 2008. The nomination of candidates ended on August 18, the territorial election commissions will be busy registering them on August 19-28.

    The commissions have received 494 document packages, which means some candidates use several ways to nominate themselves, said the source. Candidates can be nominated by a political party, a labour collective or through collecting signatures.

    According to the source, 240 contenders used only one way of nomination. The number includes 197 contenders nominated through collecting signatures, 13 contenders nominated by labour collectives and 30 candidates nominated by political parties. 121 candidates used two ways of nomination, including 96 people nominated by labour collectives, 25 people nominated by collecting signatures or by political parties. Four contenders used all the three ways of nomination.

    Nikolai Lozovik said, 59 contenders had declared their allegiance to that or this party. Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) plans to register 5 activists, the Communist Party of Belarus — 14, Liberal Democratic Party — 7, United Civil Party — 12, Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada — 2, Belarusian People’s Front — 6, the Belarusian Party of Communists — 7, Republican Party — 1, Conservative Christian Party of the Belarusian People’s Front — 1, Republican Labour and Justice Party — 4.

    CIS and OSCE observation missions maintain constructive contacts, Nauryz Aidrov says

    The CIS and OSCE observation missions maintain constructive contacts, chief of the CIS observation mission Nauryz Aidarov told the media in Minsk on August 19.

    “The two missions have recently developed constructive contacts. The chiefs of the two missions meet regularly in the course of monitoring of the pre-election period. The experts of the two missions regularly exchange the results of the monitoring,” Nauryz Aidarov said.

    According to him, this practice will be continued during this election campaign in Belarus. The head of the CIS observation mission will soon meet with his OSCE counterpart Gert Arens.

    Nauryz Aidarov noted that unbias should be the main factor in assessing the results of the elections.

    CIS observers praise Belarus efforts to make parliamentary elections free and fair

    The international observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) give a positive estimate of the efforts undertaken by the Belarusian authorities and the Central Election Commission (CEC) to conduct elections in a free, fair and democratic manner, to invite a wide range of international observers to monitor the elections, Nauryz Aidarov, head of the CIS observation mission, told journalists on August 19.

    The experts of the mission took part in the session of the Supervisory Council for Control over the Order of Election Campaigning in Media attached to the Belarusian CEC. The experts considered the complaints and appeals submitted to the Supervisory Council.

    “The mission regards the establishment of a task group on the control over the observation of election legislation as an effort to create a favourable environment to conduct the election campaign”, Nauryz Aidarov said.

    The head of the mission added that beginning from August 12, long-term observers have been monitoring the election campaign in the Belarusian regions. During this time they have been working independently, complying with the Belarusian law and being guided solely by the principles of political neutrality. The observers met with the leadership of the country, the heads of the oblast and regional executive committees, Minsk City Council; they visited 29 district election commissions, attended the planning meetings organized by the commissions.

    “At present, the CIS long-term observers are studying the formation procedures of election commissions, the registration of initiative groups and the nomination of candidates to the House of Representatives in general,” Nauryz Aidarov said.

    OSCE/ODIHR observers to start long-term monitoring of election campaign in Belarus

    The OSCE/ODIHR long-term observers are to start the monitoring of the elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus on August 19, BelTA learnt from the OSCE Office in Minsk.

    The parliamentary elections in Belarus are scheduled for September 28 2008. On August 19, the election campaign enters its next stage – registration of candidates that will last through August 28. After that the candidates will start canvassing voters.

    About 40 OSCE representatives are expected to conduct a long-term observation of the elections. Another 300 OSCE/ODIHR short-term observers will arrive in Belarus on the eve of the elections. They will monitor the opening of polling stations and vote count. The long-term observers are to monitor the work of the election staff and the state bodies in charge of the elections, the observation of the election legislation and the media coverage of the election campaign.

    Belarus to host 2,500 children from S. Ossetia for recuperation in August-September

    From: BelTA
    The health resorts of Belarus are ready to host around 2,500 children from South Ossetia, Nikolai Mazur, the director of the national centre for recuperation and sanatorium-resort therapy, told BelTA.

    “If necessary we can accommodate 2,500 children every month starting October,” he said.

    The children will stay in sanatoria, children’s rehabilitation and recuperation centres and other recuperation organisations of the country. Around Br1.9 billion (the cost of one voucher average Br750 thousand) will be allocated to purchase vouchers. The sources of financing are the humanitarian activity department, reserve fund of the Emergencies Ministry and other organisations.

    Belarusian humanitarian aid for S. Ossetia arrives in Vladikavkaz

    The Belarusian humanitarian aid for S. Ossetia arrived in Vladikavkaz (Russia), BelTA was told in the Emergencies Ministry of Belarus.

    The humanitarian aid will be handed over to the South Ossetian authorities to be further distributed among the population affected by the conflict. The Belarusian machinery and 18 rescuers from the Belarusian Emergencies Ministry that took part in the operation are to return to Belarus

    The humanitarian aid is estimated at Br449.9 million. These are tinned meat and dairy products, 10 tonnes of sugar and dried milk and also soap and half-woolen blankets. The total weight is about 63 tonnes.

    Belarusian military to discuss prospects of military technical cooperation in Moscow

    Representatives of the Belarusian Defence Ministry are expected to visit the 3rd international salon of armaments and military technology MVSV-2008. The expo will take place in Moscow on August 20-24.

    The expo will showcase the latest armoured vehicles, aircraft armaments, air defence weapons, simulators for air force, air defence troops, and land forces.

    The Belarusian military also plan to hold several meetings with representatives of the federal service for military technical cooperation of Russia and the federal state unitary company Rosoboronexport.

    Gross grain harvest in Belarus reaches almost 7.7mln tonnes

    From: BelTA
    Belarus’ gross grain harvest has reached almost 7 million 674 million tonnes, BelTA learnt from Grigory Romaniuk, the head of the main plant growing department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of Belarus. Last year, in the period under review, the country threshed 6 million 786 thousand tonnes of grain.

    The highest yield is in the Minsk oblast: almost 2 million tonnes of grain. As of today, the Minsk oblast has threshed 1 million 942 thousand tonnes of grain. It is the highest harvest in the Minsk oblast for the whole history. The Grodno oblast has harvested 1 million 504 thousand tonnes. The top three also includes the Brest oblast with 1 million 222 thousand tonnes. The Mogilev oblast has cropped 1 million 111 thousand tonnes, the Gomel oblast – 1 million 31 thousand tonnes. The Vitebsk oblast has harvested 862 thousand tonnes of grain.

    The average yield this year is 39.5 centners per hectare, nine centners more than last year. The highest yield is in the Grodno oblast – more than 48 centners per hectare, eleven centners more than last year.

    All in all Belarusian farmers have harvested 86% of the total areas under grain crops and leguminous plants, or 2 million hectares. The Gomel oblast harvested 96% of the cropping area, the Brest oblast - 93%, the Grodno oblast – 88%, the Minsk oblast – 85.3%, the Mogilev oblast – 86.5%, the Vitebsk oblast harvested 74% of the cropping area.

    According to Grigory Romaniuk, today’s task is to intensify the sowing of winter rape.

  • Economics...

    Unemployment tops 2% in five Belarus’ regions

    From: BelTA
    According to the operational data, from the beginning of the year the registered unemployment rate reduced in 73 regions of Belarus, remained at the same level in 29 regions and increased in 28 regions, BelTA learnt from the main department of employment policy and population of the Labour and Social Security Ministry.

    As of August 1, the unemployment rate did not exceed 1% to the economically active population in 60 regions of the country, stood at 1-1.5% in 55 regions and reached 1.6-2% in 13 regions. The registered unemployment was over 2% in five regions of Belarus. Among them are the Gantsevichi and Ivanovo regions of the Brest oblast (2.8%), the Postavy region of the Vitebsk oblast (2.3%), the Bragin and Rechitsa regions of the Gomel oblast (2.1%).

    As of August 1, 2008, 42,300 unemployed were registered with the employment assistance service, down 9.5% from August 1, 2007. The jobless rate in the country was at the level of 0.9% to the economically active population (1% in 2007). As of August 1, 2008, the unemployment rate in the Vitebsk and Brest oblasts was at the level of 1.3%, in the Gomel oblast was 1.2%, in the Grodno oblast – 1.1%, in the Mogilev oblast - 1%, Minsk oblast -0.9% and in the city of Minsk - 0.3% of the economically active population.

    No obstacles to investments in Belarus, Piotr Zhabko says

    From: BelTA
    There are no obstacles to attracting investments in Belarus, First Deputy Economy Minister Piotr Zhabko told reporters after a session of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers on August 19. The session chaired by Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky discussed the results of the investment activity in Belarus in H1 2008.

    According to Piotr Zhabko, there are no economic reasons in Belarus for failing to meet the investment target which is to increase investments up as against last year. The banking system is ready to satisfy companies’ demand for loans to the full. The Belarusian companies have gross profit, increase investments in production. The Government has already adopted the major part of the documents necessary for investments attraction. To perform the task for 2008 we need work hard, meet the schedules and realise the plans, the First Deputy Minister highlighted.

    He also noted that investments are not attracted for the sake of investments. These are new technologies, development of production, output of new products and, as a result, higher wages including small towns. The Government has set the task to control the investment processes at big companies and also small and middle-sized companies.

    According to Piotr Zhabko, foreign business shows interest in the Belarusian economy and the investment process has been gathering momentum.

    Today specialists are preparing a document which will change the status of the National Investment Agency. Once the document is adopted, the integral system for raising investments will have been created. An effective mechanism of implementing turn-key investment projects will be set up. The agency will become “a door for the investor who wishes to work in Belarus,” Piotr Zhabko noted.

  • From the International Press...

    Russia, Belarus to sign air defense agreement in fall

    From: Xinhua
    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko have agreed to sign an agreement this fall to set up a joint air defense system, a Russian presidential aide said.

    At a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday, the presidents agreed to hold a regular meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Russia-Belarus union in Moscow this fall, when "an agreement on building a unified air defense system will be signed," a Kremlin aide was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying.

    Medvedev and Lukashenko also discussed "some practical issues of bilateral trade and economic cooperation," the aide said, noting that bilateral trade between the two nations could reach 30billion U.S. dollars this year.

    Moscow and Minsk are developing a unified air defense system in accordance with plans to create a Union State, which they have been working on since 1997, envisioning a common economic, customs, and political space.

    Although talks on the Union State have been held up recently over a series of issues, military cooperation between the two sides have been gaining momentum, spurred by U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

    Belarus leader praises Moscow's "beautiful" Georgia operation

    From: Hurriyet
    Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday praised Russia’s military operation in Georgia, saying Moscow had acted "beautifully," Russian news agencies reported.

    "Everything was done excellently -- very calmly, wisely and beautifully," Lukashenko told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a meeting at the Russian leaders Black Sea coastal residence in Sochi.

    Lukashenko, dubbed in the West "Europe’s last dictator," told Medvedev he appreciated "the wisdom you showed in response to aggression from a neighboring state," RIA Novosti reported.

    The Belarussian leader also urged more work to build on a "union state" accord that exists between Belarus and its giant neighbor, although he left the matter vague.

    "The time for simple steps and solutions is over and we need to think how to act more effectively in this area," Lukashenko said.

    Lukashenko’s visit came after Moscow’s ambassador to Minsk sharply criticized the Belarussian leadership on Aug. 12 for maintaining a "modest silence" over Russia’s assault on southern neighbor Georgia.

    Russia says its incursion deep into Georgian territory was justified as a defense of Russian citizens in the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia.

    Lukashenko first pushed for a "union state" with Russia in the 1990s in a move many commentators saw as a bid to become head of both states.

    Since then he has sometimes accused Russia of trying to take over Belarus.

    While maintaining close economic and political ties to Moscow, the Belarussian leader has also made overtures to the West, particularly since a 2006 presidential poll heavily criticized by Western observers.

    On Saturday, Belarus’s highest-profile political prisoner, opposition leader Alexander Kozulin, was released from jail after heavy pressure by Western powers for him to be freed.

    Student visits remain at risk

    From: Santa Rosa Press Democrat,
    Tearful goodbyes have given way to nail-biting and anger for host families of Belarusian exchange students across the United States as Tanya Kazyra, 16, continues to refuse to leave her Petaluma host family.

    "If this girl does not return to Belarus then the chance of us seeing our daughter is over," said Gina Baumgarner of Hickory, N.C. Baumgarner is a host mother to 12-year-old Zaryna of Belarus.

    "\[Kazyra's] return is the only chance we have of seeing our daughter," she said.

    Children in the Belarus programs often visit the same families year after year, and many of them are involved in respite programs for young residents of areas hit hard by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in nearby Ukraine.

    With exchange and adoption programs to the United States now halted by Belarus, families like Baumgarner's are joining the Belarusian government's efforts to convince Kazyra to return.

    Among those families protesting the situation are many who participate in the Petaluma-based Chernobyl Children's Project, which coordinated Kazyra's summer visits to the home of Manuel and Debra Zapata of Petaluma for nine years.

    The teen-ager's attorney, Christopher Kerosky of San Francisco, said Monday that Kazyra intends to remain in the United States. Though she could change her mind after meeting this week with Pavel Shidlovsky, envoy of the Belarus ministry of foreign affairs.

    Kerosky said he met with Shidlovsky on Saturday and that Kazyra met with him Sunday. However, Shidlovsky said in a brief statement Monday afternoon that he has yet to meet with the girl.

    "I came to Petaluma to resolve the situation peacefully and in the best interest of the child," he said.

    Shidlovsky said he could not comment further until having met with her.

    Phone calls to the Zapata home were not returned Monday.

    Host families of students who are now back in Belarus after spending the summer in the U.S. said they are sending photos of the children to Kazyra.

    "I want to ask her to please consider all the children that she's affecting," said Susan Jones, also of Hickory, N.C. "Going back would be the most generous thing she could do in her life."

    But Kerosky said the government of Belarus has not offered to reinstate the exchange programs if Kazyra were to return and that the debate remains one more about government than about a child's choices.

    "Why is the government so upset? Why is the government insisting on the return of a 16-year-old girl with a visa whose grandmother has voiced her support of her continued stay?" he said.

    Kazyra's grandmother is her guardian.

    "It would be a tragedy if the programs were to not continue. But there are a lot of other factors that may be contributing to that decision beside Tanya's decision not to return."

    Kerosky and Belarusian officials said Monday that an ideal solution would include the re-instatement of exchange programs that allow approximately 1,400 Belarusian children to visit the U.S. each summer.

    The respite programs for young people living in the path of Chernobyl nuclear contamination typically ask that families provide medical and dental care for their host child and feed them healthy food.

    Other programs serving Belarusian orphans give children an opportunity to live outside an orphanage for the summer.

    "We are looking forward to [Kazyra's] return to make things better to her and all to all the thousands of families," said Oleg Kravchenko, charge de affairs at the Belarus embassy in Washington D.C.

    Belarus to decrease albuminiferous rapeseeds imports

    From: Agrimarket Consulting
    Belarus will minimize imports of albuminiferous rapeseeds, according to the Main Department of Plant Growing of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

    According to officials, the country plans to increase production of rapeseeds, sunflower and soy, as well as build new processing facilities.

    To date, three grain producing complexes, and one mixed fodder plant, have installed lines for processing rapeseeds. Their total annual capacity allows for processing 14.700 tonnes of rapeseeds and produce 10.000 tonnes of rape meal and cake. The government plans to increase the total capacity to 50.000 tonnes to allow for production of nearly 34.000 tonnes of rape meal.

  • From the Opposition...

    Future parliament looms from publications in state media

    From: Viasna
    State mass media continue to promote certain candidates. They obviously know who they should write about. From the publications we can actually see who is going to become the “elected representative” of the people.

    Ivatsevichy: another article published by Brest regional newspaper Zarya on August 12th (# 89) praises another official who is running in Ivatsevichy election district # 11. The article “Verges of Truth” presents Leanid Kavalevich, general manager of Ivatsevichy utility company. In the huge article with rubrics and headlines journalist Valery Hapeyeu describes the positive traits of the hero, stressing how talented one should be to manage the country.Obviously, zarya does not write about other candidates to the parliament, who do not supported by the authorities.

    Baranavichy: the local newspaper Nash Krai found another ground to write about Sviatlana Pishch who runs to the parliament in Baranavichy (# 95 of August 14th). The article with the picture is titled: “What present did the city give to “Garant-Servis”?” Chairman of the executive committee Viktar Dzichkouski answers the question in the headline by telling the readers that the present Garant-Servis company had received from the city executive committee was “our partnership”.

    Sviatlana is the general manager of Garant-Servis. Judging by the number of recent articles about Sviatlana Pishch in Nash Krai, the partnership continues into the election campaign.

    Homel: State newspapers continue the series of publications about Tatsiana Filimonchyk – candidate to the parliament in district # 35 and head of administration of Savetski rayon of the city. On August 13th Sovetski rayon newspaper, founded by Homel city executive committee, published an interview with Ms. Filimonchyk “I do not give empty promises”. This is the 5th appearance of Filimonchyk in the city media space in three weeks; she also appeared in the newspapers Homelskiye Vedomosti and Homelskaya Pravda, on the city TV and on 101.3 FM radio. The official reason for such a “PR” is the 35th anniversary of Savetski rayon (which is to be celebrated only on September 20th). In the interviews Tatsiana Filimonchyk appears as an experienced and professional city manager: the main issues of the conversations are housing, roads and municipal improvements.

    Members of Union of Poles in Belarus detained at border

    From: Charter '97
    Representatives of the Union of Poles in Belarus are detained at Belarusian-polish border.

    As Radio Racyja was informed by a representative of the Union of Poles in Belarus Ines Todryk: “For 3 hours I and the head of Hrodna branch of the Union of Poles in Belarus Myachyslau Yaskevich are kept at the border, and we cannot go to Poland”.

    Over this time Belarusian customs officers were simply keeping their passports without saying nothing, and then personal search started. Besides, they were ordered to fill in bills, though now private persons are not required to do so.

    As we have informed, Ines Todryk is the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Glos z-nad Niemna (In Exile)”.
  • Note: Good work boys!

  • Around the region...

    Russia hits back at Nato warning

    From: BBC
    Russia has dismissed a warning by Nato that normal relations are impossible while its troops remain inside Georgia.

    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Nato of bias and of trying to save the "criminal regime" in Tbilisi.

    He insisted Moscow was not occupying Georgia and had no plans to annex the separatist region of South Ossetia.

    Earlier, Nato demanded that Russia pull out its troops from Georgia as agreed in an EU-brokered ceasefire plan signed by both parties at the weekend.

    Russian President Dmitri Medvedev told his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in a phone call that the pull-out would be complete by 21-22 August, with the exception of some 500 troops, who will be installed in peacekeeping posts on either side of South Ossetia's border.

    France later tabled a US-backed draft resolution at the UN Security Council, demanding full compliance with the ceasefire and calling on Moscow to withdraw its forces to the positions held before the conflict.

    Russia's UN ambassador rejected the text.

    Some Russian troops have been seen leaving Gori, the largest Georgian town close to the South Ossetia border.

    But BBC correspondents on the ground say there are still Russian artillery positions in place. In addition, there are Russian checkpoints close to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

    See map of the region
    The conflict broke out on 7 August when Georgia launched an assault to wrest back control of the Moscow-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia, triggering a counter-offensive by Russian troops who advanced beyond South Ossetia into Georgia's heartland.

    Both sides have accused the other of violating the peace plan, and correspondents say there has so far been little sign of any large-scale withdrawal.

    Buffer zone

    Following crisis talks in Brussels, Nato's 26 foreign ministers said in a joint statement that they could not have normal relations with Russia as long as Moscow had troops in Georgia.

    "The Alliance is considering seriously the implications of Russia's actions for the Nato-Russia relationship," the statement said, read out by Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

    "We have determined that we cannot continue with business as usual."

    Mr de Hoop Scheffer added that he could not see how the Nato-Russia Council - set up in 2002 as a framework for dialogue - could convene at this time.

    But he said lines of communication would not be abandoned.

    He also said that the member states had agreed to set up a Nato-Georgia commission to strengthen ties with Tbilisi, but stopped short of giving a timetable for Georgia's accession to Nato.

    In a televised address, Russia's foreign minister underlined Moscow's view that Russian troops only entered South Ossetia after Georgia tried to reintegrate the breakaway region by force.

    Sergei Lavrov accused Nato of being "unobjective and biased".

    "It appears to me that Nato is trying to portray the aggressor as the victim, to whitewash a criminal regime and to save a failing regime," he said.

    Earlier, the Russian military warned that the withdrawal would be slow until the weekend at least, and that troops would remain in an undefined buffer zone around South Ossetia.

    It said such a move was permitted under the ceasefire deal which allowed Russia to take additional security measures until international peacekeepers were deployed.

    But Georgia accused Moscow of going much further, saying Russian troops have seized control of a key commercial port in Poti in an attempt to cripple the Georgian economy.

    In an apparent goodwill gesture Russia exchanged 15 Georgian prisoners for five of its own troops at a Russian checkpoint in Igoeti, about 30km (18 miles) from Georgia's capital.

    Georgian officials told the BBC's Helen Fawkes, who was at the scene, that two of the Russian prisoners were airmen who had been shot down by Georgian forces about two weeks ago.

    Meanwhile, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said Russia and Georgia had agreed to allow 20 extra military observers to be deployed in and around South Ossetia.

    In total, the OSCE said it would send up to 100 additional monitors to join the handful it already has in Georgia.

    The OSCE has had a presence in South Ossetia since the end of a civil war there in the early 1990s, which resulted in de facto independence for the region.

    It also supports a UN-led peace process in Georgia's other separatist region of Abkhazia.

    Georgia: Cold war map will not be redrawn, US warns Russia

    From: Guardian
    The Bush administration warned Russia today that it would fail in its "strategic objective" of redrawing Europe's post-cold war map by invading Georgia as 26 Nato countries declared there would be "no business as usual" with Moscow until it withdraws its forces from Georgia.

    An emergency meeting in Brussels of Nato foreign ministers voiced strong support for Georgia and agreed to establish new structures cementing Georgia's links with the west, but avoided speeding up moves to bring Georgia into Nato.

    Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, accused Russian forces in Georgia of "bombing civilians and wanton destruction" and told the Kremlin that the Russian government had hard choices to make if it wanted to avoid international isolation. The ministers also opted to freeze sessions of the six-year-old Nato-Russia council until the Russian retreat from Georgia was completed.

    "This Nato which has come so far in a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace is not going to permit a new line to be drawn in Europe," said Rice. "There will absolutely be no new line."

    With the US, Britain, and the former Soviet satellites of central Europe adopting a robust position on the Kremlin's conduct, the more pro-Russian governments in the European Union such as Germany, Italy, and France were muted today.

    French, British and US officials are drafting a UN security council resolution in New York stiffening the terms of a Russian pullout, and agreement was reached to deploy the first western monitors in Georgia. Twenty unarmed military officers are to go to Georgia tomorrow, with another 80 expected to follow within weeks.

    But the agreement to deploy international monitors took a week to finalise and was only sealed after negotiations through the night today in Vienna by Finnish diplomats and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe together with the Russians and the Georgians.

    The agreement suited the Russians, who had insisted the monitors not be permitted into South Ossetia. The observers are to patrol in "Georgia proper" and in what the Russians describe as their "security zone" bordering South Ossetia.

    "The Russian side supports the deployment of a considerable number of additional observers in the security zone," said the Russian foreign ministry.

    "There is no security zone," the US under-secretary of state, Dan Fried, told the Guardian.

    The Russians are erecting checkpoints on the roads outside South Ossetia, raising fears of an extension of the area under their control. The Georgians opposed the deal amid concerns that any land-grab could include the key town of Gori.

    "The Russians should withdraw from Georgia proper, but this is open to interpretation," said a European diplomat involved in the negotiations.

    The Georgians came under pressure from western officials who said the priority was simply to get an international presence on the ground in Georgia.

    The monitors could eventually be followed by armed peacekeepers. Russian peacekeepers have been in South Ossetia and Abkhazia since the early 90s, but Rice said they had forfeited their credibility.

    Despite the tougher rhetoric and a mood of increasing exasperation with Moscow, the Russians toyed with the Georgians and the west, sending mixed signals about the withdrawal they signed up for last week.

    A small Russian armoured convoy was reported to have left Gori heading north. At the same time a prisoner exchange was carried out at the frontline village of Igoeti, 27 miles west of Tbilisi. Fifteen Georgians were swapped for five Russians.

    However, elsewhere in Georgia, Russian troops appeared to be expanding their operations. In the Black Sea port of Poti, well outside the two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Russians arrested, blindfolded and drove away 20 Georgian port police and seized US-supplied Humvee vehicles.

    A spokesman for Georgia's interior ministry, Shota Utiashvili, said the Russians had looted commercial shipping offices. "They took everything from cars to toilet paper, and everything they didn't take, they destroyed," he told the Guardian.

    The deputy head of Russia's general staff, Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, confirmed the seizure of the Humvees. "We are not pulling troops out, we're pulling them back. Pull back - this is the term we use," he said, suggesting Russian forces would remain in the provinces.

    Lawrence Sheets, the Caucasus project director for the International Crisis Group, said Russian tactics appeared to be aimed at "sowing total confusion and wearing the Georgians down". He added that their task was made easier by the deal negotiated by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. The ambiguities in it have "allowed the Russians to manipulate it", he said.

    Ukraine PM accused of "betrayal" over Georgia

    From: Kyiv Post
    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's office on Monday accused Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, his "Orange Revolution" ally, of betraying national interests by not backing Georgia in its conflict with Russia.

    Yushchenko, who has strongly supported Georgia, was swept into power by protests against electoral fraud after defeating a Moscow-backed rival in 2004. He then embarked on a pro-Western agenda, seeking membership of NATO and the European Union.

    Yushchenko's deputy chief of staff accused Tymoshenko of remaining silent to secure Moscow's support during presidential elections in 2010.

    "Russia's leaders are seriously considering supporting Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in the presidential campaign once she ... fulfils the condition of adopting a passive position in the conflict with Georgia," Andriy Kyslynsky said in a comment on the presidential Web site.

    Tymoshenko became Yushchenko's first prime minister but was sacked after seven months, only to become premier again last year when "orange" forces won a snap parliamentary election.

    The president's office was handing prosecutors documents about Tymoshenko's "fully fledged work in the interests of the Russian side", the statement added.

    "The public has a right to know how far politicians will go beyond the boundary where political battles end and the betrayal of national interests begins."

    Kyslynsky provided no further evidence of his allegations.

    Tymoshenko and her bloc have been careful to maintain a balanced position in the conflict over Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, calling for an end to hostilities.

    Yushchenko travelled to Tbilisi last week along with leaders of four central European states to show support for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

    While avoiding criticism of the Kremlin, he enraged Moscow by placing restrictions on the movement of ships and aircraft from the Black Sea Fleet, based in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

    Opinion polls give Tymoshenko 24 percent -- enough to win a presidential election if it were held now. Former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, the rival Yushchenko beat in 2004, has just over 20 percent, while the president has about 7 percent.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Poland to offer asylum, money to Iraqis

    From: AP
    Poland's prime minister says his country will offer asylum or a $40,000 payment to any Iraqi working for its military or police in Iraq.

    Prime Minister Donald Tusk said his government on Tuesday approved the plan. Poland has decided to withdraw its troops from Iraq this October. There is a fear that Iraqis who worked for the U.S. allies could become the target of attacks.

    Tusk said that the plan covers Iraqi translators and other workers. He did not say how many people the scheme would cover.

    They can choose between the right to live in Poland with government assistance or have $40,000 per person if they stay in Iraq or settle in a third country.

    Poland contributed troops for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and now has 900 soldiers there.

    Polish runner criticises Polish Athletics Association

    From: The News
    Olympic athlete Marek Plawgo has accused the Polish athletics association of choosing the Beijing 2008 squad on the basis of an ‘old boys network’ and not on merit.

    “Let the management of the Polish Track and Field Athletic Association run in the 4x400-metre hurdles relay final themselves,” says Polish runner Marek Plawgo.

    Marek Plawgo, sixth in the Olympic 400-metre hurdles final, has accused the Management of the Polish Track and Field Athletic Association of favouritism.

    In Marek Plawgo’s view, the team’s coach, not the Athletic Association Management should appoint the Olympic line-up.

    “It was a group of perhaps 23 who appointed the Olympic team representatives. The coach, Jozef Lisowski, who is in charge of the relay race, had a different idea. The team should be composed of athletes who are healthy and in good physical shape. But the old boys network and favouritism won over the coach’s logic. My question is: what is Mr. Lisowski supposed to be responsible for? Let the Management of the Polish Track and Field Athletic Association run in the 4x400-metre hurdles relay final themselves”, Plawgo said on TVN24 in fury.

    According to Plawgo, there was still time to reverse the wrong decisions made before the Beijing Olympics. The runner said that in the summer, when it became apparent that the top four or five Polish track and field athletes were either unwell of in an overall poor physical shape, the coach, Jozef Lisowski wanted to appoint other athletes who were healthy and in better form, but the Association’s management refused.

    It is still unknown if Marek Plawgo, currently the best Polish hurdle race runner, will appear in the 4x400-metre hurdles relay final to be held on August 22.

    He says that Daniel Dabrowski, one of the four Polish athletes appointed for the relay final, “would lose against hurdle runners even if he was doing a straight run”.

    Summer vodka advertising craze

    From: Polski Radio
    Vodka producers are splashing out on advertising campaigns in an attempt to dramatically boost sales in the summer season.

    The biggest vodka producing companies in the country are spending even several million zlotys more on their summer campaigns than at other times throughout the year.

    "In the summer the fight for consumers is all about the resorts,” says Grzegorz Chojnacki, president of Nemiroff Polska, the distributor of the Ukrainian Nemiroff Vodka.

    The strategy for most Polish vodka producers is to constantly mark their presence in places that draw most tourists, especially at the seaside. One vodka manufacturer paid around one million zlotys (300,000 euros) for being the sole drink caterer in several clubs at the Polish seaside.

    The crucial problem that vodka producers are facing in the summer is that there is a tendency for Poles to be drinking more beer when the temperatures rise considerably and vodka sales are approximately 20 percent lower than in the other months of the year.

  • Sport...

    Aramnau of Belarus wins men's 105kg weightlifting gold

    From: China Daily
    Belarusian lifter Andrei Aramnau broke three world records to claim title in men's 105kg category on Monday, winning the first gold for Europe in weightlifting at Beijing Olympics.

    Aramnau, 2007 world champion, snatched 200kg, bettering previous world record created by Polish lifter Marcin Dolega, by one kilo. He jerked 236kg, breaking the clean and jerk, as well as the total world records, which were both created nine years ago in 1999.

    Russian strongman Dmitriy Klokov, who cleared 423kg, got the silver and the bronze went to another Russian Dmitry Lapikov, 2005 world champion, with 420kg.

    It seemed pre-game hot favorite Marcin Dolega was his strongest rival in the snatch section, as Dolega lifted 195kg in his first attempt and ordered 200kg in the second, trying to break his own snatch world record of 199, but failed. It was achieved one minute later by Aramnau in his third attempt.

    Dolega tried 201kg, but failed again. However, he still had a chance as he finished second place in snatch, if he didn't fail two attempts again in clean and jerk.

    The 2006 world champion jerked 225kg in his first attempt, totaling 420kg. He was edged out from the third place by Lapikov due to bodyweight difference.

    Aramnau, 20, didn't miss a single attempt in clean and jerk and finally claimed the title with new world records.

    China advances to semifinals after beating Belarus in Olympic basketball

    From: Xinhua
    China beat Belarus on Tuesday and advanced to the semifinals of the Olympic women's basketball tournament for its first time for 16 years since 1992 Olympic Games.

    Mial Lijie scored a game-high 28 points from a 10-of-14 field goals including a 3-of-5 from long range for China, who took silver at the Barcelona Olympics 16 years ago but never reached the last four since then.

    "We have not played like this for a long time," Miao told the news conference. "We played with a very good teamwork and did all together just like one person. I am satisfied with what we played and will try our best in the semifinals no matter whoever we will meet."

    The Chinese will fight for the berth of gold medal final with the winner between world champion Australia and the Czech Republic in Tuesday's another semifinals.

    China took the lead early and finished the first period 19-13 after a 12-7 run and led as many as 13 points with two minutes to play in the second quarter.

    The host led 38-25 at halftime and expanded it to 54-32 with a 16-7 spurt with 4:30 minutes left in the third quarter.

    Belarus never gave in and cut the cap to 47-56 on Yelena Leuchanka's layup with 7:40 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

    China regained the game as Miao scored seven to help China to a 15-4 run for a 71-51 lead, the biggest margin of the game. Belarus managed to close but never fewer than 11 points.

    The Chinese shot 46 percent for 26-of-54 from the field goals including 4-of-9 out of long range to Belarus's 43 percent and forced the opponent to 27 turnovers, 15 of them in the first half.

    Chen Xiaoli added 15 points for China, who was out rebounded 22-41 by Belarus, who took part in the Olympic basketball for the first time.

    "I feel quite release now," said Tom Maher, the Chinese head coach. "It's not an easy way for us to win the game. I have to thank to Miao Lijie, who played great in the crucial time and lead the team for the victory."

    Belarus' 11 medals so far at Beijing:

    Gold Weightlifting Men's 94-105 kg Andrei Aramnau (also set 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 (actually tied for the Gold and also set a world record, but got the silver because he was 8 ounces heavier than the Chinese lifter)
    Bronze Wrestling Men's Greco-Roman 60-66 kg Mikhail Siamionau
    Bronze Weightlifting Women's 48-53 kg Nastassia Novikava

  • Cultural scene...

    “Free Theatre” searched at border: actor’s names blacklisted

    From: Charter '97
    The troupe of the “Free Teatre” faces rigorous search by Belarusian customs office twice over the last 24 hours.

    As the head of the “Free Theatre” Nikolay Khalezin told to the Charter’97 press-centre, yesterday the troupe was returning to Minsk from a theatrical festival I Ireland. The actors were travelling from Vilnius. Customs officers meticulously searched all the things of the actors, and property of the theatre. The train was late for an hour because of that.

    Today, when actors were travelling in a train to Vilnius, in order to fly to Sweden to a tour, they were searched again. The search lasted for at least an hour. Customs officers demanded to show even things of the theatre worker’s children.

    “There is no return to civilization yet, though the regime declares that. We are still living in a country which remains under a total control. Even people of the theatre cannot feel undisturbed. It’s an attempt of psychological pressure. Customs officers and border guards have our names are on a special list. I see no logics in their actions. Theatres do not transport underground literature, even the “Free Theatre”. Such searches… they have never taken place before,” Nikolay Khalezin said.

  • Endnote...

    New requirements for providing legal services in the Republic of Belarus

    From: NLIPRB
    The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus established, by its Decision of August 4, 2008 No. 46, the legal framework of providing legal services in the Republic of Belarus.

    The Regulations on conducting activities on provision of legal services adopted by the above Decision provide for requirements, a legal person or an individual entrepreneur licensed to provide legal services shall comply with. In particular, the Regulations specify certain kinds of services which shall be provided by the attested lawyers only (clause 8 of the Regulations), provide for considerable terms and conditions of contracts for providing legal services (chapter 5 of the Regulations), and measures of responsibility of persons licensed to provide legal services (chapter 7 of the Regulations).

    In addition, some ethic rules of providing legal services are set forth in the Regulations.