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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

President raises salaries, July 4 blast, Election monitoring, Million in loans, CIS, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Polish Corruption and Sports

  • From the Top...
  • #337

    Belarus President instructs to raise salaries for education workers

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has asked for proposals for raising salaries for workers of pre-school establishments and teachers. The head of state outlined the goal at a working meeting with Education Minister Alexander Radkov on August 26, the press service of the President of Belarus told BelTA.

    The head of state was informed about the fulfilment of the instruction concerning the development of the national education system.

    All schools and educational institutions of Belarus are ready for the new academic year. According to the Minister, schools have received the necessary documents, curricula and textbooks.

    By September 1 four new schools will be opened. All in all, nine new schools and three kindergartens have been opened this year.

    The President asked to precisely calculate and determine the structure of training of workers, medium level management and university degree professionals. He remarked the desire of young Belarusians for education should be encouraged.

    Alexander Lukashenko drew attention to the need to improve material resources of educational establishments. The government has adopted programmes for developing pre-school education and vocational education. According to the President, a draft programme for developing university education is needed. In particular, the document has to provide for developing the material base, building new education premises, labs and residential hotels.

    Alexander Radkov also informed the President about the development of public associations — the Belarusian Republican Youth Union, pioneer organisations in schools. These organisations help children to take an active part in the public life and show their worth via doing good deeds.

    The head of state was informed about the fulfilment of decree No 18, which deals with the reimbursement of state money spent on raising abandoned kids by careless parents.

    At present Belarus is actively using practices of foster homes — family-type children’s homes and SOS villages. These social institutions gradually replace orphan asylums. The President asked about the state of affairs in this area in detail. The Education Minister underscored that prophylactic efforts taken by the government had reduced the number of kids abandoned in maternity homes.

    Alexander Lukashenko also inquired about the adoption of Belarusian children. In Belarus 6,500 kids are adopted while around 5,800 kids are raised by foster families.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    People injured in July 4 blast in Minsk to receive material aid

    From: BelTA
    People who got injured in an explosion at a concert at the Minsk Hero City memorial marking the Independence Day of Belarus in Minsk on July 4 2008 will receive material assistance. The President of Belarus signed the relevant decree No 442 on August 26, BelTA was told in the presidential press service.

    Thus, people who sustained severe bodily injuries will receive a total of 100 basic amounts, people with less severe injuries - 50 basic amounts and people with minor bodily injuries - 20 basic amounts. In case of disability determination, the amount of material assistance (taking into account the earlier paid amounts) is revised upward to 200 and 400 basic amounts depending on a disability group.

    The injured persons will be provided with temporary disability benefits, free medicines and social rehabilitation in line with the medical certificate.

    The decree will come into force ten days after its official publication except for some clauses.

    Georgia withdrawal from CIS to be discussed by CIS main bodies

    From: BelTA
    The withdrawal of Georgia from the Commonwealth of Independent States will be included in the agenda of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers and the Council of the Heads of State. This decision was taken at the session of the CIS council of permanent plenipotentiary representatives in Minsk on August 26.

    Yevgeny Belov, the Russian Permanent Representative to CIS bodies, told journalists that the CIS Executive Committee received official papers from the Georgian Foreign Ministry on the withdrawal of this country from the CIS.

    Commenting on the consequences of Georgia withdrawal from the CIS, Yevgeny Belov said: “I cannot give an utter evaluation, but I would like to note that within at least three years, Georgia hardly participated in the CIS activities, but the organization remained.”

    The Russia’s representative underlined that the decision made by Georgia to leave the CIS is its right stipulated in the CIS statute. He added that Tbilisi confirmed its intention to observe all the treaties and agreements signed within the CIS framework until their expiration.

    The CIS Council of Foreign Ministers will be held in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) on October 9 2008 and the session of the Council of the Heads of State will be held on October 10.

    CIS seeks migration cooperation intensification

    Vladimir Gorovoi, Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the CIS bodies, stated that the CIS countries are interested in deepening cooperation in the migration area, BelTA was told in the Commonwealth Executive Committee.

    Vladimir Gorovoi was elected to preside at a session of the working group elaborating proposals for the CIS coordinated migration policy. The session is taking place in Minsk on August 26-27.

    In his words, “it is quite early to say that the CIS migration policy has been fully coordinated”. However, almost all the states show great interest in civilizing and optimizing it and reducing the amount of illegal migrants. The major steps in its implementation are contained in the CIS further development concept.

    The session will analyze the adopted enactments and documents being elaborated, consider proposals on improving the regulatory system of cooperation in the migration area, define further cooperation areas. Vladimir Gorovoi noted that the most important of them will be considered in detail by the Council of the Heads of Migration Services, the Advisory Council of Labour, Migration and Social Security and the joint commission of the states participating in the agreement on cooperation in combating illegal migration.

    Draft agendas of CIS main bodies sessions ready

    The Council of the CIS Permanent Plenipotentiaries considered draft agendas of the forthcoming sessions of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers and the Council of Heads of State in Minsk on August 26, BelTA learnt from the CIS Executive Committee.

    The session of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers will take place in Bishkek on October 9. The Foreign Ministers are due to consider 26 issues related to the CIS cooperation in different areas. The session of the CIS Council of Heads of State will be held on October 10. The agenda of the CIS Council of Heads of State will include 18 items together with the consideration of a draft strategy of the Commonwealth economic development up to 2020 and the issue of defining the collaboration in energy as the key cooperation area in 2009. The Council of Heads of State will also talk over the documents prepared in line with the plan of major events on the implementation of the CIS further development concept. Among them are draft provisions on the CIS presidency, the procedure rules of the Council of Heads of State, the Council of Heads of Government, the Council of Foreign Ministers and the Economic Council, the provisions on national coordinators.

    The permanent plenipotentiary representatives decided on appointing CIS Executive Secretary Sergei Lebedev head of the CIS mission of observers at the presidential elections in Azerbaijan and CIS Deputy Executive Secretary Yevgeny Novozhilov head of the CIS mission of observers at the parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan.

    Sergei Lebedev: objective evaluation vital in election monitoring

    From: BelTA
    Planned preparations for elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus are in progress in the Mogilev oblast, Sergei Lebedev, head of the CIS election monitoring mission, told reporters. On August 25 he visited the Mogilev oblast, met with Mogilev oblast governor Boris Batura, visited district and polling station election commissions.

    The head of the mission said, an objective evaluation of the election process, assistance to election commissions and local authorities in holding the elections for the sake of democratic elections are key things in the work of election observers.

    In his words, his impressions of visiting two district election commissions and a polling station election commissions are positive, “good planned work is going on”. The local authorities and heads of election commissions have a responsible attitude towards elections and do their best to make elections democratic in order to take into account all wishes of observers and to observe their rights, said Sergei Lebedev.

    OSCE observers work alongside the CIS observers. “Heads of the election commissions we have visited told us that the Western observers have no remarks at present. Everything goes according to the plan,” stressed Sergei Lebedev.

    He also noted, “Western observers had a somewhat biased attitude towards requirements for holding elections in the CIS but the last few months showed a good tendency we like: a desire for cooperation expressed by the OSCE and CIS monitoring missions”. “We are ready for collaboration. We also keep in touch with representatives of other monitoring missions,” added Sergei Lebedev.

    The CIS monitoring mission started working in Belarus on July 29. On August 12 branches of the observing mission started working in all oblasts of the country, including the Mogilev one. The Mogilev oblast branch of the CIS monitoring mission is headed by Kazakhstan representative Bakhyt Dosanov.

    Present parliament to consider around 40 bills during autumn session, Vadim Popov says

    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko met with Chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus Vadim Popov on August 26, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Head of State.

    During the meeting, the sides discussed the forthcoming session of the House of Representatives.

    During the autumn session of the present parliament, deputies are expected to consider and adopt the draft budget of Belarus for 2009 and other bills. The total number of the bills is 40 including 14 bills which are ready for consideration. According to Vadim Popov, in the near future the draft budget for 2009 will be introduced before the House of Representatives.

    The new parliament will start to work when all organizational and other issues are settled. Approximately, it will be late November-early December.

    Heads of OSCE, CIS observation missions to meet September 28

    Head of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Gert Arens and Head of the CIS Observation Mission Sergei Lebedev are to meet on the election day, September 28, BelTA learnt from the CIS Executive Committee.

    The relevant agreement was reached during the meeting between Chief of the staff of the CIS Observation Mission Nauryz Aidarov and Gert Arens. The sides discussed the organization of the work of the missions during the Belarusian parliamentary elections and agreed to cooperate on the level of the heads of the missions and on the level of experts.

  • Economics...

    Over Br1.21 trillion to be put in Belarus’ construction in 2008

    From: BelTA
    Over Br1.21 trillion is set to be put in the development of the Belarusian construction industry, up 50% on 2007, BelTA learnt from the Construction and Architecture Ministry.

    The country is due to implement more than 40 projects this year. The majority of them concern upgrading of the construction material producing companies, integrated house-building factories and other construction firms. Among top-priority objectives are to increase the capacities of the production of ferroconcrete items, mineral wool boards, glass industry development.

    About ten investment projects have already been fulfilled. In January-June 2008, the Construction and Architecture Ministry utilized a total of Br357.5 billion of investments (32.2% to the 2007 level). Those were own resources of the companies, the innovation fund of the ministry, loans and foreign investments.

    The further modernization of the production aimed to improve the quality of construction materials and increase the output will be continued in 2009. The implementation of the preset goals will lead to a 13-15% growth of industrial production in comparable prices; profitability is expected to stand at 18%.

    Russia’s UniCredit Bank grants $50 million of loans to Belarus in H1

    In H1 2008, UniCredit Bank (the Russian Federation) provided over $50 million of loans to the Belarusian corporate clients, the bank’s press release informs.

    Among the largest customers of the bank are the companies engaged in the key economic sectors of Belarus including Gomselmash, Minskenergo, Beltransgaz and others.

    “The bank considers every case of granting a loan. At the same time there are standard parameters with respect to the potential clients: the amount of a transaction should be not less than $1 million, the major purpose is the financing of a circulating capital, a two-year term and an adequate backing. With business being grown and clients’ needs being taken into account, these parameters can be further expanded,” said Sergei Ovseichik, head of the UniCredit Bank representative office in the Republic of Belarus.

    The transaction with one of the Belarusian economic leaders Gomselmash, which received a $10-million loan to finance the current activity, can be cited as an example of sufficient flexibility in loan issuing.

    A UniCredit Bank representative office was opened in Minsk in October 2007 to intensify the activity and expand its presence on the Belarusian market in the terms of developing economy and banking sector of the Republic of Belarus. The representative office assists Belarusian corporate clients in attracting financial resources granted by the leading bank and Russian clients interested in cooperation with the Belarusian partners.

    UniCredit Bank was founded in 1989 under the name of International Moscow Bank. In 2005 the bank joined the largest European financial group – UniCredit. The bank specializes in providing services for corporate and private clients, as well as in corporate financing and treasury operations.

  • From the International Press...

    Jursenas: EU countries should soften relation with Belarus

    From: The Baltic Course
    Ceslovas Jursenas.
    Lithuanian Seimas Speaker Ceslovas Jursenas thinks that European countries should soften relations with Belarus.

    According to the Lithuanian Radio, the head of state is going to express such a suggestion at the conference of the heads of parliaments of the Nordic and Baltic states, which is scheduled to begin in Jurmala on Tuesday. Lithuania considers the release of political prisoners in the country to be a serious signal from Belarus to the Euro-Atlantic community. In the middle of Augustm the Belarussian president ordered to release Aleksandr Kozulin, one of the opposition leaders, his former rival in the presidential elections in 2006.

    According to Jursenas, these facts should encourage the West to reconsider its position.

    "The position on Belarus could change, because we have seen bright new facts – the release of political prisoners and especially that of Kozulin. This is not a simple thing, this is a real event and I think that this should encourage thinking whether further harsh isolation policy towards Belarus is necessary. Maybe it should be softened a bit," the Seimas speaker claimed.

    Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas also shares this opinion.

    "Belarus is changing its position towards the West, I think we should also think about accepting these signals sent by this county," he said on Monday. Currently official relations with Belarus are not developed properly and president Aleksandr Lukashenko is not permitted to go to the EU member states.

    Belarus MPs support Russia recognition of breakaway regions

    From: Earthtimes
    Belarusian MPs on Tuesday said they supported Russia's move to accept the independence of the renegade Georgian provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Belapan news agency reported. "I think it was an absolutely correct decision," said Sergei Kostian, a member of the parliament international affairs committee. "All responsible people should support Russia, so as to put an end to the unilateral influence in the world of the US and the European Union."

    Kostian echoed earlier Kremlin statements, drawing a parallel between international recognition of Kosovo's independence, and Russia's recognition of South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's independence.

    "Have the US and the West forgotten, how they accepted Kosovo's independence, how they bombed Yugoslavia, are bombing Iraq, and have forgotten Afghanistan?" he asked.

    "Russia has irrevocably got up off of her knees," said MP Sergei Gaidukevich.

    "(Russia) has announced that she is a major state able to influence the geopolitical situation in the world ... and she has begun to act using the language of the US, on the basis of her interests, without worrying about the dissatisfaction of other countries," Gaidukevich said.

    Rosbank established credit limits to the Belarus companies.

    From: Analytical Information
    OJSC "Rosbank" established the credit limits to 28 largest Belarus enterprises to $1.4bln. It is spoken about in the materials of the Belarus embassy in Russia.

    The sum of the granted credits makes $529.3mln.
    Besides, now the bank Societe Generale (France) spends works on organization of direct financing to the Belarus enterprises, is spoken in the report, referring to CJSC "JSCB "Belrosbank".

    CJSC "JSCB "Belrosbank" is the affiliated bank of Russian OJSC "JSCB "Rosbank". The control share holding of Rosbank belongs to the French bank group Societe Generale. Now Societe Generale - the third largest corporate and investment bank in Europe with the size of actives of more than 950bln euro and own capital in 33.4bln euro.

    Belrosbank maintains correspondent relations with 93 Belarus and foreign banks.

    Belarus: auctions of fruit and vegetable production to start at the universal commodity exchange

    From: FreshPlaza
    JSC Belarus universal commodity exchange (BUTB) announces about staring of exchange auction on sales and purchases of fruit and vegetable production on the local market of the Republic as well as on the export one.

    According to the report from the commodity exchange to the agency Interfax-Zapad, the auctions will be held simultaneously at the central trading floor of the commodity exchange in Minsk and on the trading floors of its subsidiaries in Brest, Vitebsk, Gomel, Grodno and Mogilev.

    The commodity exchange invites everybody to take part in auctions, obtain accreditation and submit proposals for sales and purchases. “Specific data of auctions will be informed later” – the source from the commodity exchange added, referring to dependence on proposals.

    Belarus concludes mass harvesting campaign

    In a related story, Belarus has concluded its mass harvesting campaign in all regions, except the Vitebsk oblast, the Ministry of Agricultural and Food has announced.

    As of August 25, Belarusian farmers harvested grain and legumes in 2.2 mln ha, or 96% of sowed areas. The grain crop totaled 8.51 mln tonnes compared to 6.8 mln tonnes last year. The yield totaled 36.86 c/ha, up 8 c compared to 2007.

  • From the Opposition...

    Executive committees disdain principles of openness and transparency

    From: Viasna
    All election commissions have been formed. Human rights defenders point out, the process was closed for the public – all over the country observers were simply not admitted to the sessions of the executive bodies of power. It was also impossible to look through the documents about nomination of representatives to commissions. For instance, Hrodna rayon executive committee sent an official response to observer Mikola Voran, who had requested an opportunity to get acquainted with minutes of the sessions of NGOs and political parties and meetings of work collectives nominating representatives to commissions, and with signatures collected in support of such nominations. In the official reply he read that “observers are not entitled to that”.

    Observer Raman Yurhel, BHC representative, was also deprived of an opportunity to attend the session of the presidium of Hrodna oblast council and oblast executive committee which formed district commissions. He had sent an inquiry to Ms. Yarmoshyna and received her response two day ago. In the official letter Yarmoshyna explained the observer that the election law did not regulate the order of holding sessions of representative and executive bodies and did not stipulate for sending observers there. She also explained she had no competence to take any measures against Hrodna oblast executive committee. This way, Ms. Yarmoshyna has confirmed the fact that the Belarusian legislation does not provide for an opportunity of presence of observers during forming of commissions, which are very significant stages of the election.

    Let’s turn to Article 13 of the Election Code. Really, the list of observer’s rights does not include the right to attend sessions of bodies that create commissions. However, part 1 of the Article states that “preparation and holding of elections should be done openly and transparently”. Part 2 of the Article obliges the appropriate commissions, local representative, executive and administrative bodies to inform citizens about their work of preparing and holding elections. That is why the law can be interpreted in different ways. However, the executive authorities continue to insist on their understanding of the principles of openness and transparency of the election process and of observers’ rights.

    This can be seen very well from the letter of A. Drako, chair of Slutsk rayon executive committee, to observer Vital Amialkovich, who on August 15th was not admitted to joint session of the executive committee with the leadership of the newly-created precinct commissions (the observer left a note in the complaint book). In his letter the chair of the executive committee revealed his understanding of the principle of transparency: “responding to the complaint you left in the complaint book of Slutsk executive committee on August 15th, 2008, we inform you that with the purpose to provide for transparency during elections to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus of teh fourth convocation you have the rights of an observer, accredited by district commission of Slutsk election district # 74”. Period. Openness and transparency seem not to be spread on anything else.

    Meanwhile, administrations of Leninski and Kastrychnitski rayons of Hrodna name other reasons why it is unlawful to provide documents on creation of precinct election commissions to observers. The reason is contained in the official response received by observer Sviatlana Rudkouskaya. Leninski rayon administration of Hrodna replied, teh documents demanded by teh observer, contain personal information about nominees. That is why they, as a state institution, do not have the right to open such documents for public inspection. Observer Raman Yurhel received a similar response from Kastrychnitski rayon administration of Hrodna. They also pointed out, under clause 69 of Article 11 of the Regulations of the work of rayon administration of December 29th, 2007, such documents “are to be provided for inspection to staff of the apparatus, and heads of structural units of the administration”. In addition, what kind of “personal information” is contained in the nomination documents, which is not compatible with the transparency of the election process?

    Government waiting for disaster: Gazprom “ate” budget surplus

    From: Charter '97
    The latest data, published by the Ministry of Finance of Belarus, are represented by Russian “Gazeta”. Surplus of the Belarusian budget amounts to USD 1.3 billion, or 4.2% GDP, over seven months in 2008. According to the latest data of the Ministry of Finance, the surplus will reach 2.5% GDP, or USP 1.4 billion till the end of 2008.

    If the budget was balanced and had minimal deficit and surplus during the last three years, the analytics think it may meet increasing deficit in future. One of the main causes is gas price rise.

    Under the signed agreements, Belarus has been receiving Russian gas on a principle of equal income since the beginning of 2008. It means gas price for Belarus is determined according to the same principle as prices for Europe.

    However, Minks managed to gain favourable conditions of transferring to market pricing due to concession of 50 per cent stake in Beltransgaz. Belarus will have discounts till 2010 (33 per cent this year, 20 per cent – in 2009 and 10 per cent – in 2010. Since 2011, Belarus is to buy gas at the same price as Europe buys: gas price must increase at least3.8-fold within four years.

    The Belarusian side has reached a conclusion that if Russia doesn’t review its pricing methods, the country may face an economic disaster. Percentage of unprofitable enterprises having efficiency from 0 to 5 per cent will amount to 60.5 per cent in 2009, and will reach 81.3 per cent in 2011.

  • Around the region...

    Rice calls Russia's declaration 'regrettable'

    From: AP
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday blasted Russia's recognition of breakaway Georgian territories as "regrettable."

    At a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Rice said that Russia's formal recognition of the territories at the heart of its war with Georgia "puts Russia in opposition to the Security Council resolution to which it is a party."

    "I think it is regrettable," Rice said, adding, "Since the United States is a permanent member of the Security Council, this simply will be dead on arrival in the Security Council."

    President Bush had appealed to Russia's president to ignore the advice of lawmakers and refrain from recognizing Georgia's breakaway regions as independent.

    But Russia formally recognized the breakaway Georgian territories at the heart of its war with Georgia on Tuesday, heightening tensions with the West as the United States dispatched military ships bearing aid to a port city still controlled by Russian troops.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Georgia forced Russia's hand by launching an attack targeting South Ossetia on Aug. 7 in an apparent bid to seize control of the breakaway region.

    THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

    RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is calling Russia's recognition of breakaway Georgian territories "regrettable."

    Rice said Tuesday at a news conference that Russia's formal recognition of the territories at the heart of its war with Georgia "puts Russia in opposition to the Security Council resolution to which it is a party."

    Rice termed the move "regrettable." On Monday, President Bush had appealed to Russia's president to ignore the advice of lawmakers and refrain from recognizing Georgia's breakaway regions as independent.

    Missile defense backers now citing Russia threat

    From: IHT
    A Congressional battle over funding of a U.S. missile defense plan in Eastern Europe threatens to undermine the Bush administration's case that the system is not aimed at Russia.

    President George W. Bush's administration has argued that the missile shield — which was bolstered last week by the signing of an agreement to allow U.S. interceptors in Poland_ was aimed at securing the United States and allies in the region from nuclear threats by North Korea and Iran.

    But as Republicans try to convince Democrats to speed along legislation to fund the program, they are pointing to Russia's invasion of Georgia as a reason the program is vital. The rhetoric, however, risks strengthening Moscow's argument that the system, which Russia vociferously opposes, is merely a new Cold War incarnation directed against them.

    "As Russian ballistic missiles rain down on Georgia, we should honor our commitment to allies in Poland and the Czech Republic," Republican Rep. Mark Kirk said in a statement last week.

    Kirk is seeking to boost funding for the plans to deploy 10 interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. His amendment to an appropriations bill would restore funds cut from the Bush administration's request.

    Congressional Democrats have sought to block funding for the construction of a base until Poland and the Czech Republic have given final approval_ their parliaments have not yet weighed in. In a separate bill nearing completion, they have restricted construction money until the new interceptors have been tested.

    Democrats will not bend on the testing issue, said Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher, one of the authors of the restrictions.

    "The events in Georgia have nothing to do with the interceptors the U.S. is considering deploying in Poland and Congress believes that this system is untested and fails to defend against current and emerging threats," she said in a written response to questions from The Associated Press. "Congress will not be funding an untested system, period."

    For the Russians, the missile shield program is but one of a number of developments they feel threatens their maternal claim to many of the former republics that declared independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

    Georgia, whose government is pro-West, has been angling for NATO membership — a bid whose significance is not lost on Moscow. On Monday, Russian lawmakers urged the Kremlin to recognize the independence of two separatist Georgian regions — South Ossetia, whose invasion by Georgia triggered the Russian invasion, and Abkhazia.

    While the push by the Russian lawmakers drew condemnation by the United States, which said Russia should respect Georgia's territorial integrity, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's response spoke volumes about how the Kremlin views Western pressure on this issue and, by extension, the missile shield program. It would be "nothing frightening" if NATO were to sever ties, he said.

    "We don't need an illusion of partnership, when they surround us by bases from all sides, they drag more and more states into the North Atlantic bloc and they tell us, 'Don't worry, everything's fine' — of course we don't like that," Medvedev said.

    The timing of the agreement in Poland also fueled Russian suspicions.

    After reaching an agreement with the Czech Republic in April, the Bush administration faced hurdles to deploying the system. But after Russian troops entered Georgia, Polish and U.S. negotiators quickly resolved their differences. The two countries signed an agreement last Wednesday.

    In concluding the agreement, Polish officials made clear that they are more threatened by Russia than Iran and want a U.S. military presence on their soil. As part of the deal they got just that.

    The U.S. now plans to deploy a U.S. Patriot anti-missile battery to Poland. According to the chief U.S. negotiator, acting Undersecretary of State John Rood, a garrison with about 100 U.S. military personnel would be established by 2012.

    Rood argues that Congress needs to take in to consideration the security fears of Poland and the Czech Republic, now that agreements have been reached.

    "I would be concerned about the signal it would send to our allies, should Congress not back the agreements," he said Monday. "We all have to consider very carefully how our actions are going to be read right now."

    Russia conflict draws Ukraine election battle lines

    From: Reuters
    Russia's conflict with Georgia has increased divisions between Ukraine's leaders over whether to steer the country to the West or towards Russia, drawing battle lines for the next presidential election.

    President Viktor Yushchenko, lagging in polls less than 18 months before the election, has called for closer ties with the West and attacked his former "Orange Revolution" ally, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, for staying silent on the conflict.

    Opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich, who eventually lost a presidential election to Yushchenko in 2004, has criticized the president, saying former Soviet Ukraine must remain neutral and not be drawn into a dispute with Russia.

    Analysts said Tymoshenko hopes to make political gains by balancing Russian and Western interests, replacing her usually anti-Russia rhetoric with careful statements aimed at winning friends in Moscow and major European capitals.

    They are positioning themselves for the election in 2010 and adopting strategies that highlight the political fault lines in a country divided between the Western-leaning Ukrainian speakers and pro-Russian regions in the east and south, they said.

    "Tymoshenko is the arch-pragmatist, whereas both Yanukovich and Yushchenko's positions are much more positions of principle. I think you have to interpret her silence as an effort to gauge where the swing voters are on this issue," said Geoffrey Smith, a strategist at Renaissance Capital.

    "What this is about is the long-term view that to launch a successful presidential bid in Ukraine requires you not to make an enemy of Russia. She's obviously looking back to 2004 and thinking I really don't want to be fighting next year's campaign against a headwind from Moscow."

    Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, once united in overturning a Soviet-style leadership in the 2004 Orange Revolution, have fallen out.

    Sparring over almost all policy decisions since Tymoshenko returned for her second spell as prime minister in December has stalled reforms, privatization has come to a halt and annual inflation has climbed to highs of 30 percent.

    Yushchenko has stuck by his belief that Ukraine, a country of 47 million squeezed between Russia and the West, should enter the NATO military alliance and European Union.

    But Tymoshenko, who signed up to the policies, now has eased off on her enthusiasm for NATO membership, mindful of the alliance's unpopularity in Ukraine. All politicians have agreed that NATO membership should be put to a referendum.

    And Yushchenko's circle has accused Tymoshenko of being a "traitor" by failing to support Georgia in its conflict with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

    Tymoshenko eventually said she supported Georgia's territorial integrity but chose her words carefully to soften any blow to Moscow.

    "Only the president has forcefully put his position forward and ... he has taken this and that measure to complicate relations with Russia," analyst Oleksander Dergachev said.

    "Tymoshenko has more or less taken the position not to get directly involved and her priority is to find a peaceful resolution."

    Recent opinion polls give Tymoshenko 24 percent backing -- enough to win a presidential election if it were held now -- and put Yanukovich on just over 20 percent. Yushchenko trails on about 7 percent.

    With the economy likely to sway voters as well as foreign policy, Tymoshenko is trying to shake off the reputation she had as an unreliable economic partner during her first spell as prime minister in 2005, when she suggested revisiting state sell-offs and interfered in markets.

    "The last couple of months, in the West she is winning more points as a politician in relation to domestic events and deteriorating relations with the president," Dergachev said.

    "She has attracted more attention from Western partners who are increasingly disappointed with Yushchenko, and she is concentrating more on bringing about reform than he is."

    Political analysts said Yanukovich, whose support base lies mostly in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine and was prime minister in 2006-2007, could have problems widening his electoral appeal.

    The election, said Dergachev, could be Tymoshenko's to lose. "But she has to navigate a very difficult path."

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    U.S., Canadian Investors Ask European Union to Impose $183-Million in Damages on Poland

    From: PR Newswire
    Investment companies, Elia Inc., and its sister company Renaissance Trust Inc, of Dunmore, Pennsylvania, and Dessaport International Corporation Inc. of Halifax, Nova Scotia, have filed a formal complaint to the European Union about Poland's confiscatory treatment of their Gdansk-based joint stock company, EuroPort Inc Poland.

    The investors lodged the complaint with the European Commission's Directorate General for Competition, alleging EuroPort has suffered losses totaling $183-million as a result of actions by the Port of Gdansk Authority (ZMPG), and Poland's Ministry of the Treasury, owner of 85 percent of ZMPG's shares.

    EuroPort was building a modern deepwater grain terminal in the Port of Gdansk, at an estimated cost of $76-million, to facilitate the import and export of bulk agricultural products to and from Poland and its neighboring countries in Central Europe.

    The project, backed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Royal Bank of Canada, had been approved by the ZMPG and the Polish Government in 1995.

    Construction began in late 1998 and was half-way completed by August 2002, when a new Board of Directors took over control of the state-controlled ZMPG. Shortly thereafter, ZMPG's managing directors began obstructing EuroPort's completion, according to the complaint, and ultimately succeeded in stalling the project. Expenditures to date total $59 million.

    This account is part of the complaint to the European Commission -- as is the assertion that ZMPG's board of directors, dominated by post-Communists, the complaint alleges, was associated with "a powerful group of business persons and politicians who have had extraordinary control over what transpires in their territory even to the extent of influencing the local courts."

    Hostile actions documented by the American and Canadian investors in their complaint to the European Commission include repeated illegal attempts by ZMPG, to nullify their 25-year lease on the pier and adjacent land, signed in 1995.

    The American and Canadian investors allege those illegal acts constitute an attempt to evict them without compensation and eliminate EuroPort from the market.

    Discriminatory and hostile actions directed at EuroPort, including intimidation by armed agents, prevented the investors from securing additional financing needed to complete their project, according to the complaint. Moreover, arbitrarily created administrative obstacles have frustrated EuroPort's repeated attempts to reach a fair settlement of their compensation claims with ZMPG and the Government of Poland.

    Interventions on EuroPort's behalf by the American and Canadian embassies in Warsaw have been futile -- as were the reconciliation hearings in the Court of Arbitration of the Polish Chamber of Commerce.

    Local courts in Gdansk have repeatedly refused to hear EuroPort's pleas for redress. The grain terminal remains unfinished. EuroPort has lost close to $200 million and efforts of its American and Canadian owners to find a solution in Poland continue to be stonewalled.

    "The owners of EuroPort and their advisors believe their complaint to the European Commission," says their formal brief to Brussels, "that in order to have a fair settlement of the situation, authorities outside Poland ... must participate and fully examine the evidence."

    Since 2003, EuroPort has testified before two arbitration hearings in Warsaw, instigated an investigation by the Prosecutor's Office in Gdansk, appealed to the Anti-Corruption Bureau in Warsaw, and made numerous approaches to the Ministry of the Treasury through the American and Canadian embassies. All these efforts have met with hostile indifference, rejection or inaction on the part of Polish authorities.

    Top officials at agriculture agency arrested in corruption probe

    From: Warsaw Voice
    The Central Anti-corruption Bureau (CBA) detained two high-ranking officials at the Agency for Agriculture Restructuring and Modernization (ARiMR) on suspicion of taking bribes and financial kickbacks.

    The CBA detained Jaroslaw G., the director of the office of the president of ARiMR Dariusz Wojtaszek, accusing him of soliciting bribes. Wojtaszek has suspended Jaroslaw G. for the duration of the investigation. The CBA also detained Zbigniew G., an ARiMR official from Gdansk and Gabriel J., a representative of a “company controlling farms which receive EU subsidies.”

    ARiMR is the agency responsible for distributing EU subsidies to Polish farmers and is the largest such agency of its kind in Europe. Polish farmers have applied for nearly PLN 10 bln in EU subsidies this year.

    The Regional Prosecutor in Warsaw ordered a three-month arrest for Gabriel J., but Jaroslaw G. was released on his own recognizance.

    The CBA has been conducting an investigation for more than six months and more arrests are probable.

    The daily Gazeta Wyborcza reports, citing unnamed sources, that the arrested ARiMR officials tried to sign a deal, bypassing a public tender, with a stock exchange-listed company to verify the accuracy of farmers’ subsidy applications, as required by EU law. This year, ARiMR was to spend about PLN 86 mln on the verification process.

    Wyborcza also reports that, on Wednesday, a close associate of Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki (PSL), Przemyslaw Litwiniuk, tendered his resignation. It is unclear what Litwiniuk’s role in this matter is, but it is widely believed that Litwiniuk was Sawicki’s hand-chosen successor for the presidency of ARiMR.

    Facebook and Youtube Banned For Polish Police

    From: Reuters
    Poland’s national police headquarters has banned officers from using a popular social networking site similar to Facebook because they were spending too much time using it, a newspaper said Monday.

    “Like many firms, we decided the site is not essential for our employees to fulfill their professional duties,” the Dziennik daily quoted police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski as saying.

    An internal investigation had shown police officers were often using Nasza Klasa, or ‘our class’, for idle chit-chat instead of working, the paper said.

    They will still have access to the site after their working day ends. The site will also remain available for officers trying to track down offenders over the Internet, Dziennik said.

    Some other Polish state agencies have also blocked access to websites such as YouTube to ensure their workers concentrate on their duties, the paper added.

  • Sport...

    Belarus ends Beijing Olympics with largest-ever medal haul

    From: Naveny
    Belarusian rhythmic gymnasts won the bronze in the team event on Sunday, the last day of the Beijing Olympics, increasing Belarus’ medal yield to the largest number since the nation started to take part in Olympic Games as an independent team.

    Alesya Babushkina, Anastasiya Ivankova, Zinaida Lunina, Hlafira Martsinovich, Kseniya Sankovich and Alina Tumilovich, who had won the qualification round, finished third in the final with a combined score of 34.900 points. The gold medal went to Russia, the reigning world champion and gold medalist at the previous two Olympics, which scored 35.550 points. China took the silver with 35.225 points.

    On Saturday, Belarus’ Ina Zhukava (Inna Zhukova) captured the silver medal in the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-round competition. The Russian-born 21-year-old was third in the rope, hoop, and clubs and fourth in the ribbon, earning an overall score of 71.925 points. Russian Evgeniya Kanaeva won the gold with 75.500 points and Ukraine's Anna Bessonova took the bronze with 71.875.

    Ms. Zhukava placed seventh at the Athens Olympics and finished fourth at the 2007 World Championships.

    The rhythmic gymnasts’ two medals gave Belarus a total of 19 medals (four golds, five silvers and 10 bronzes) at the Beijing Games. The nation won 15 medals (two golds, six silvers and eight bronzes) at the Athens Olympics, 17 medals (three golds, three silvers and 11 bronzes) at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and 15 medals (one gold, six silvers and eight bronzes) at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

    Belarus ranked 16th in the overall medal standings in Beijing. The Olympics, which opened on August 8, saw China for the first time emerge as the dominant sports nation. The host country fulfilled its goal of topping the medals table, taking 51 gold medals. However, the United States collected the largest number of medals in total, 110 (36 golds, 38 silvers and 36 bronzes), 10 more than China, who along with their gold tally had 21 silvers and 28 bronzes.

    The Belarusian team to Beijing included 182 athletes, more than to any other Olympics in which the nation took part after gaining independence. Sports Minister Alyaksandr Hryharaw said earlier this year that the Belarusian team should win more than 17 medals and enter the top 20 in the overall medal standings.

    Under Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s presidential edict, the Belarusian government is to pay prize money to all Olympic medal winners and their coaches. In particular, $100,000 is to be paid for a gold medal, $50,000 for a silver medal, and $30,000 for a bronze medal.

    Henadz Alyakseyenka, first vice president of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) and presidential aide for sports and tourism, promised last year that each Belarusian athlete who would win a medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics would be granted an apartment in Minsk.

  • Endnote...

    Children's Legal Web-site is a new Belarusian Internet resource for children

    From: NLIPRB
    Children’s Legal Web-site has been launched on August 23, 2008 and has become a present for schoolchildren to a new school year. It has been created by the National Center of Legal Information of the Republic of Belarus for children and teenagers of 6-16 years old on the initiative of the Administration of the President of the Republic of Belarus.

    The web-site furthers dissemination of legal knowledge, answers “adult” questions, gives advice in complicated situations, informs on the legislation of the Republic of Belarus and on the rights of citizens of our country. Is contributes to moral development of children and helps them to form active life position.

    Basics of legal knowledge and legal information are presented in absorbing and accessible form through game situations.

    The web-site consists of two main parts: playing and informational. In playing one there are situations illustrating juridical problems which we are facing in our life.

    Tips in answering legal questions are in the sections of informational part “Library”: “Legal ABC”, “Legal Labyrinths”, “Travel to Past”, “Our state – The Republic of Belarus” and “Belarusian State and Law in Photos, Pictures and Songs”.

    Amusing characters will become player’s assistants – future friends.

    Children’s Legal Web-site is a great chance to enrich knowledge, to show abilities and develop talents, to take a dive into the world of adventures, to find new friends and get the answer to important questions.