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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, August 31, 2008

Presidential appointments, Grain harvest, Parliamentary election, Energy reserves, US relations, Russia, Polish corruption, Culture, News and Sport

  • From the Top...
  • #338

    President Considers New Appointments

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    The President Considering New Appointments
    On 29 August, the President of the Republic of Belarus considered personnel issues. The Head of State appointed:

    Alexei Yelfimov:
    Deputy State Secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Belarus

    Alexander Konovalov:
    Deputy State Secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Belarus

    Stanislav Zas:
    Deputy State Secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Belarus

    Andrei Gorulko:
    First Deputy Chairman of the State Border Committee – chief of the main operational directorate

    Anatoly Lappo:
    Deputy Chairman of the State Border Committee – chief of the main logistics directorate

    Viktor Filistovich:
    Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs – chief of the main staff directorate (State Secretary)

    Anatoly Kuleshov:
    Deputy Minister of Internal affairs – chief of the public security militia

    Leonid Farmagei:
    chief of the City Internal Affairs Directorate of the Minsk City Executive Committee

    Alexander Naidenko:
    chief of the Internal Affairs Directorate of the Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee

    Ivan Savchits:
    chief of the Internal Affairs Directorate of the Minsk Regional Executive Committee

    Fyodor Baleiko:
    chief of the Internal Affairs Directorate of the Mogilev Regional Executive Committee

    The President has given his approval to appoint:

    Viktor Zhiburtovich
    official representative of the Interior Ministry at the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in the Republic of Poland.

    Alexander Lukashenko said that these appointments were being made against the background of special international events: over the past several days the geopolitical dispute in the Caucasus led to military confrontation. “The ensuing events have seriously exacerbated the international situation. Their direct aftermath will be the speedy strengthening by the North Atlantic bloc of its military and political positions; and all this will be happening, in the first place, in the vicinity of our state border,” said the President.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Grain harvest completed in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    The grain harvest has been completed in Belarus, BelTA was told in the main plant growing department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

    Belarus has cropped 2.3 million hectares. Now agricultural companies are getting down to harvesting buckwheat and millet.

    The grain harvest in Belarus has made up 8,927.600 tonnes, up 1,580.800 tonnes from last year. This is a record-high harvest in the history of independent Belarus.

    The Minsk oblast is the leader of the grain harvest campaign with 2,301.032 tonnes, up 339,059 tonnes over last year. The Grodno oblast has gathered in 1,732.053 tonnes (up 501,027 tonnes), the Mogilev oblast 1,371.012 tonnes (up 161,067 tonnes), the Brest oblast 1,310.029 tonnes (up 357,008 tonnes), and the Gomel oblast 1,122.087 tonnes (up 249,005 tonnes). The harvest in the Vitebsk oblast has approached 1,089.005 tonnes as against 1,118.048 tonnes last year. With the harvest campaign still underway, the oblast is set to outperform last year’s figures.

    The grain harvest including corn in the agricultural companies of all categories will amount to 9.3 million tonnes, informs the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. The average yield countrywide has made up 38.8 centners/hectare as against 30.8 centners/hectare last year. The Grodno and Mogilev oblast has had the highest yield: 50.5 centners/hectare and 40.3 centners/hectare respectively. These are 13.6 centners and 5.5 centners up from last year.

    The farmers are now completing the harvest with 30% of the areas remaining to be cropped. The harvest has so far made up 77,700 tonnes, the average yield reaching 34.9 centners/hectare.

    Belarusian farmers fulfil government contract for grain purchase

    Belarusian agricultural companies have fulfilled the government contract for grain purchase by selling 1 million 6.9 thousand tonnes of grain to the state (107% of the target), BelTA learnt from Yelena Poltoran, Senior Economist of the Resources and Trade Office of the Cereal Products Department of the Agriculture and Food Ministry.

    The state has bought 389,400 tonnes of wheat while the planned target is set at 352,000 tonnes (10.6% over), 428,800 tonnes of rye (412,000 tonnes, 4.1% over). The state has also bought 188,700 tonnes of other crops out of the planned 236,000 tonnes (80%). The state purchases of some other crops (buckwheat, millet) will be done later as their harvesting has just started. The source said, all the oblasts, except for the Grodno oblast, managed to fulfil the government purchase contracts.

    The Minsk oblast had the hardest target to achieve. While the target was set at 225,000 tonnes agricultural companies of the region supplied 233,000 tonnes to the state, 3.6% above the planned figure. Agricultural companies of the Mogilev oblast have sold 153,400 tonnes, 2.3% above the targeted volume of 150,000 tonnes. The Gomel oblast exceeded the plan by 2%, shipping 132,600 tonnes of grain to the state while the target was set at 130,000 tonnes. Agricultural companies of the Vitebsk oblast shipped 126,700 tonnes (the target was set at 125,000 tonnes, 1.4% above the planned figure). Agricultural companies of the Brest oblast, which shipped 171,500 tonnes of grain while the planned figure stood at 170,000 tonnes (0.9% over the target), were the first ones to fulfil the government purchase contract. Agricultural companies of the Grodno oblast are supposed to ship 200,000 tonnes. So far 189,700 tonnes have been shipped, 94.9% of the target.

    CIS observation mission praises organization of parliamentary election campaign in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    National Assembly of Belarus is open and transparent. No obstacles in the work of observers have been created on the part of the members of the commissions, says the interim report of the CIS observation mission.

    “The visits to the election commissions showed that the organisational readiness is high and that the commissions are supplied with necessary equipment and normative documents for the elections,” says the report.

    The CIS mission also says that Belarus has created necessary conditions for internal observation of the election campaign and the voting process.

    The observation mission believes that the executive bodies and election commissions of all levels have ensured proper organization of the electoral process at the first stages of the campaign for the elections of deputies to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus of the fourth convocation.

    As of August 26 the mission included 35 long-term observers. The accreditation was given to 62 observers representing the member states of the Commonwealth, CIS Interparliamentary Assembly.

    276 candidates for House of Representatives registered in Belarus

    In Belarus there are 276 candidates for deputy seats in the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the fourth convocation, Chairperson of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Lidia Yermoshina told a press conference on August 29.

    Let us remind you that there are 110 deputies in the lower chamber of the Belarusian parliament. The nomination campaign put forward 365 people willing to run for the House of Representatives seats.

    According to Lidia Yermoshina, five candidates have removed themselves from the candidate list, including deputies of the effective parliament Sergei Kostyan, Anatoly Krasutsky, Nikolai Chursin.

    Unfortunately, 84 potential candidates or 23% of the total have been denied registration, said the source.

    Out of the registered 276 candidates 119 people were nominated through collecting signatures in their support, 96 — through collecting signatures and by labour collectives, 20 — by citizens and political parties, 4 — by citizens, parties, and labour collectives, 11 — labour collectives, 26 — political parties.

    As far as party nominees are concerned, during the registration time the Belarusian People’s Front and the Party of Communists of Belarus suffered most. Five candidates of each party were denied registration. They are followed by the Communist Party of Belarus — 4 candidates, the United Civil Party — 3, the Liberal Democratic Party — 1, the Republican Labour and Justice Party — 2, the Belarusian Social and Democratic Party (Hramada) — 3, specified Lidia Yermoshina.

    The CEC Chairperson added, the unregistered candidates are now sending complaints to the CEC. So far nine applications requesting the revision of the registration denial have been filed. Early next week the Central Election Commission will start considering the applications. By the end of the week all the complaints will be considered.

    Belarus’ Central Election Commission accredits 161 international observers

    As of August 29, the Central Election Commission of Belarus has accredited 161 international observers, Head of the Central Election Commission Lydia Yermoshina told a press conference in Minsk.

    According to her, 63 observers will represent the CIS Executive Committee, 21 observers – the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, 57 observers will represent the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission.

    Moreover, representatives of the Central Election Commissions of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are expected to arrive in Belarus. A part of them will be included in the mission of the CIS Executive Commission.

    Lydia Yermoshina also noted that every week she meets with the head of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission and also with representatives of the CIS mission.

    NYC polling station is Belarus’ first in Western Hemisphere

    From: BelTA
    The Belarusian polling station in New York located at the Belarusian Consulate is the first polling station of Belarus established in the Western Hemisphere, BelTA learnt from the Consulate General of the Republic of Belarus in New York.

    After Belarus became an independent state, a polling station was established there in 1994 when the Belarusian citizens were electing the President of the Republic of Belarus. Since that time, a polling station was set up for all the referendums or national elections.

    This station is also the largest Belarusian polling station in the Western Hemisphere: the number of Belarusian citizens registered at the New York polling station averages 8 000 people. Still a relatively small number of voters take part in the elections because of the long distance and for other reasons. Most of the voters are Belarusian citizens permanently living in the United States, Belarusian diplomats working in New York and other groups of people.

    All the Belarusian citizens living on the territory of the United States have the right to vote, but this right is mainly exercised by Belarusians living in the New York City, the state of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

    As there is a 7 hour time difference between New York and Minsk, when the New York polling station closes for vote counting, sometimes the preliminary results of the elections are already known in Minsk.

    An election commission has been established in New York for the organization of the elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus scheduled for September 28. The election commission is gearing up for the elections strictly observing the schedule set by the Central Election Commission of Belarus.

  • Economics...

    Belarus still has reserves to decrease energy generation costs

    From: BelTA
    Not all reserves have been used in Belarus to decrease energy generation costs, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky told a session of the Council of Ministers Presidium on August 26. The session tabled results of energy-saving efforts in the country in H1 2008 taking into account the fulfilment of Directive No 3 requirements.

    The head of government remarked, Belarus has not created an effective system for reducing energy generation costs yet. Adopted in 2006, the energy-saving programme should be beefed up.

    The session analysed the progress in fulfilling the programme, its reserves and the mechanism for achieving goals.

    The Prime Minister outlined more advanced goals. Belarus should reach market conditions in securing a high energy production growth. Belarus should become a developed country in the economic use of fuel and energy generation. It is complicated but the power engineering industry should accomplish it while every state agency should be busy with the fulfilment of the programme, stressed Sergei Sidorsky.

    The Prime Minister criticised energy-saving efforts in provinces where decisions required for introducing energy-effective equipment at energy installations are taken slow. He also demanded that the Energy Ministry should keep to the scheduling network in modernising major power engineering facilities. Scheduled projects should be fulfilled, said Sergei Sidorsky.

    The Prime Minister remarked upon the role of the State Standardisation Committee in this system. “The performance of the State Standardisation Committee should be stepped up. For this goal we removed the Energy Effectiveness Committee from the Energy Ministry and made the committee accountable to the State Standardisation Committee,” he explained. In view of this the Energy Effectiveness Department of the State Standardisation Committee should be more active in guiding all industries in accomplishing the goals the programme outlines. Every enterprise should be busy with the idea, said Sergei Sidorsky.

    He also demanded that people in charge of accomplishing every measure the energy effectiveness programme lists should be specified. Before the new heating season of 2008 all the measures, which may lag behind the schedule, should be taken.

  • From the International Press...

    Belarusian official returns home without student

    A Belarusian official sent to Petaluma to secure the return of 16-year-old Tanya Kazyra, a visiting student who refused to return home at the end of her program Aug. 5, has returned to Belarus.

    Talks between Pavel Shidlovsky, a special envoy from Belarus' Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kazyra and her host family ended Friday when the girl declined all of her government’s enticements to return to Belarus.

    Shidlovsky spent one week in the Bay Area and spoke with Kazyra three times. At least two of the sessions lasted for several hours.

    Kazyra remains a legal visitor to the United States. Her tourist visa expires Dec. 25 and she has filed for a six-month extension.

    She lives with the family of Debra and Manuel Zapata, with whom she has stayed for six weeks each summer for the past nine years. Her visits were arranged the Petaluma- based Chernobyl Children’s Project.

    One of the program’s two chaperones stayed behind with Kazyra when she refused to return with the rest of her group. That chaperone returned to Belarus on Saturday.

    The status of Kazyra’s visa application is unclear. Her lawyer, Christopher Kerosky of San Francisco, said visa applications can take several months to process.

    That leaves many questions about her future. Kazyra is not eligible to go to public school here under the conditions of her visa, but she refused to return to school in Belarus.

    "No way,'' she said last week, explaining in broken English her refusal to return to Belarus. "`I love my family and I scared in Belarus.''

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

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

    The teen has spent each of the previous nine summers in Petaluma with the Zapata family.

    US Ready for Better Relations With Belarus

    From: VOA
    The United States said Friday it is prepared for "significant" improvement in the chilly relationship with Belarus, but will be looking closely at the conduct of elections in that country next month as well as other issues. Belarus this month released what were believed to be its last three political prisoners. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

    The State Department says the United States is ready to consider dropping sanctions against Belarus and returning relations to normal if there is a further easing of political curbs by the Minsk government.

    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has run the east European country with an authoritarian hand since his election in 1994.

    But Belarus has been sending conciliatory signals to western governments since a dispute with neighbor and political ally Russia over energy supplies early this year.

    Within the last two weeks, Belarus released the last three persons considered by human rights groups to have been political prisoners, including opposition leader Alexander Kozulin who challenged Mr. Lukashenko in the 2006 presidential election.

    The United States responded late last week by sending Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs David Merkel to Minsk to meet government officials and opposition figures, including Kozulin.

    In a statement Friday, State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said Merkel's meetings with Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov and others were productive.

    Wood said positive steps by Belarus could lead to a "significant" improvement in relations including the removal of U.S. visa restrictions and economic sanctions.

    "Deputy Assistant Secretary Merkel made clear that the conduct of parliamentary elections September 28th will be important in this regard," he said. "Merkel emphasized our interest in returning to normal staffing in Belarus, which the Belarusian authorities reduced to only five American positions this spring."

    The two countries engaged in tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions earlier this year, after the Minsk government ordered the departure of U.S. Ambassador Karen Stewart in protest of human rights-related U.S. economic sanctions.

    The United States stopped issuing most visas to would-be Belarusian travelers because of the limited embassy staff in Minsk.

    Spokesman Wood said U.S. envoy Merkel's meetings with Kozulin and civil society members focused on the September elections, which are to be monitored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe among others.

    He said Merkel pressed Minsk authorities for "acceptable" treatment, including proper medical care and visitation rights, for American businessman Emanuel Zeltser who was given a three-year prison term on industrial-espionage charges in August.

    Wood said under questioning that the United States would not take a positive view if Belarus followed Moscow's lead and recognized as independent the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

    But he said he would not speculate if such action would kill chances for improved U.S. relations with Minsk.

    Belarusian President Lukashenko said Thursday Russia had "no other moral option" but to recognize the two areas and a foreign ministry official in Minsk said Belarus would follow suit within days.

    Thus far, Moscow stands alone in the recognition move, which has drawn sharp criticism from the United States and European Union as a violation of Georgia's territorial integrity.

    Belarus: grain quality is higher compared to previous years

    From: AgriMarket
    A new analysis of the quality of the new grain crop, which has been received by the Bakery Department of Belarus, indicates that this year's grain is of a higher quality when measured by technological indexes (actual weight, evidence of weed and grain admixtures, and small grain contents) compared to previous years, according to Elena Ananich, the Deputy Director of the State Bakery Inspectorate.

    Further, she said the grain is coarse-grained and plump. At the same time, the quality of the grain has not changed since the beginning of the harvesting campaign and the quality of some crops have also improved. Also, the weighted average value of injurious additives (ergot) in food rye totals only 0.11%.

    Reports also note that the small grain content in food barley totals 3.9%, feed barley - 8.2%, while, at the same time, the normal level of small grain contents in food grain totals 5%. According to specialists, 2-grade food oats volumes have reached 40%.

    However, this year gluten contents in wheat decreased and the ratio of wheat grades has also changed. 3-grade wheat volumes total 47.3% as opposed to 60% in the previous year and 4-grade wheat volumes total 52.7% (40% in the previous year).

    Belarus: production of starch increased by 1.9 times in January-July, products from potatoes – by 23.1%

    In a related story, Production of dry starch totaled 3.824 mln tonnes in Belarus in January-July, 2008, up 1.9 times compared to the same period last year, the representative of the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis reported to the agency Interfax-Zapad.

    Following the results of 11 months of the current season, the enterprises of “Belgospischeprom” concern produced 1.184 tonnes of starch, up 2.2 times compared to the level of January-July 2007, the enterprises, subordinated to the regional executive committees, produced 2.196 tonnes (up 77.4%), the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus – 394 tonnes (up 81.6%). The organizations of Belcoopsoyuz increased production of this product by 6.3 times – to 50 tonnes.

    Production of products from potatoes totaled 2.844 tonnes in January-July, 2008, and increased by 23.1% compared to the same period last year. Following the results of 11 months, the enterprises of concern “Belgospischeprom” produced the main volume of such products- 2.250 tonnes, up 23% as compared to the level of January-July of 2007. The legal entities without departmental affiliation produced 530 tonnes of products from potatoes during January-July, up 45.2% compared to the same period of 2007, Belcoopsoyuz – 38 tonnes (down 19.1%), the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus – 23 tonnes (down 14.8%). Production of dry potatoes during January-July totaled 110 tonnes (up 39.5% as compared to the level of the same period of 2007). The enterprises, subordinated to the regional executive committees, produced 106 tonnes of dry potatoes (up 34.2%), Belgospischeprom – 4 tonnes (last year they did not produced this product).

    Stocks of starch in the enterprises totaled 1.180 tonnes as of August, 1, or 216% to the average monthly production volume, products from potatoes – 92 tonnes (22.6%), dry potatoes – 4 tonnes (25.5%).

    Russia wants Belarus to recognize independence of South Ossetia, Abkhazia

    From: Naveny
    Moscow wants Belarus to recognize the independence of Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Surikov told reporters in Minsk on August 27.

    The news conference came a day after Russia formally recognized the independence of the regions, heightening its tensions with the West.

    “This is Belarus’ sovereign right to recognize or not recognize independence but we count on Belarus as one of our closest allies on this matter,” Mr. Surikov stressed.

    The ambassador said that both regions could join the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Union State of Belarus and Russia at some point in the future.

    South Ossetia and Abkhazia would need to be recognized by all members of the CIS to join the ex-Soviet bloc and by Belarus to become members of the Union State, he said.

    “We do not rule out the possibility of this scenario,” Mr. Surikov added.

    He acknowledged that the Union State Treaty allowed Belarus and Russia to make different decisions on recognition of other countries’ independence.

    The ambassador noted that Alyaksandr Lukashenka had met with the leaders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi earlier this month. “It’s hard for me to say whether they held consultations on independence recognition,” he said.

  • From the Opposition...

    Minsk: Rayon administrations conceal information about membership of precinct election commissions

    From: Viasna
    Formation of precinct election commission ended almost two weeks ago, on August 13th. However, all interested parties of the election campaign still do not have complete information about members of Minsk precinct commissions.

    After August 13th when interested citizens, representatives of political parties and non-governmental organizations called rayon administrations to find out if their representatives had become commission members, they received similar answers: “You can read that in the press”. The only exclusion was organizational department of Savetski rayon administration: a representative of the Party of Communists of Belarus from election district # 106 made an inquiry and received all information he needs. Practice has shown, it is very difficult to receive information about all precinct commissions from Minsk press. A group of enthusiasts tried to do that in a joint effort and encountered the following:

    Where they looked

    The city newspaper Minski Kuryer, founded by Minsk city executive committee, did not publish the data on precinct election commission. On August 15th lists of precinct election commissions were printed in the editions of rayon administrations of the city. However, not all citizens have free access to these editions. In some cases, they were available only for members of district commissions.

    Firstly, the circulation of such editions is 1, 000 copies per rayon. Secondly, it turned out that only three editions like that “Vesti Pervomaiskogo Rayona", “Minski Meredian” (published by Kastrychnitski administration), and Frunzenski Vestnik come out regularly and are distributed through subscription. One could easily buy only “Vesti Pervomaiskogo Rayona", “Minski Meredian” in Minsk kiosks. The volunteers managed to obtain Vestnik Sovetskogo Rayona only after their inquiry with the ideological department of Savetski administration. Obtaining Frunzenski Vestnik turned out to be more complicated. The newspaper was not found in kiosks. When volunteers addressed newspaper’s editor-in-chief Andrei Kuzmin directly, he refused to present an issue of August 15th, where lists of precinct commissions were published. Kuzmin even allowed looking through the newspaper only after permission of Barys Vasilyeu, head of Frunzenski administration.

    The August issue of Vesti Moskovskogo Rayona reached the voters on its own. The newspaper was distributed to mailboxes in districts # 99 and # 100. However, instead of information about members of precinct election commissions it published materials that could easily be considered agitation for pro-governmental contenders – the report of incumbent MP Karpenka (runs in district # 100) and interview of contender in district # 99 Shylava. The lists of commission members of Maskouski rayon were published as a separate brochure of unknown circulation. The brochure is not available for ordinary citizens.

    The volunteers still did not manage to obtain periodical editions founded by administrations of Zavodski, Partyzanski, and Centralny rayons.

    What they found

    When volunteers read the lists of precinct election commissions published by rayon press, it became obvious that the voters were limited not only in the access to the information sources but also directly in the volume of data about commission members. There is no information about commission members besides their full names. Jobs, places of work and nomination ways were not indicated.

    Even quick review of the lists makes it clear why the bodies that created precinct commissions did not try to deliver the information to the public in the proper way.

    For instance, precinct election commission # 222 has the following members: S. L. Kostsina (organized signature collection for the pro-governmental candidate), T. V. Rubakha – principal of school # 194; N. A. Salavei, deputy principal of school # 194; I. V. Sinitskaya – teacher of school # 194.

    Analysis of the lists of precinct commissions in district # 97 has shown, the commissions consist of many managers of different levels of Integral state company. For instance, in precinct # 96 there is unit manager A. F.Martsinovich; in precinct # 200 – deputy head of personnel department L. Zhuk; in precinct # 201 – deputy unit manager A. Karastseliou and deputy CEO of “Tranzistar” plamt S. Poka; in precinct # 206 shop superintendent S. Stromski; in precinct # 209 – procurement engineer L. Zhydalovich, head of personnel department A. Korzun; and in precinct # 210 – mechanical operator of plant # 3 V. Biruk, marketing officer Yu. Zhuk, head of economic planning department S. Mikhalevich, and shop superintendent V. Trukhan. Such a spread network of managers of one industrial association in precinct commissions of one district can not be accidental. We will not be surprised if it turns out that these people have been elected chairs of their commissions. Their “mission” is evident: to provide for success of “official” contender A. Kazlou in Kastrychnitskaya district. Kazlou occupies the post of deputy CEO for personnel policy of the “Integral” company. We have mentioned active but unlawful efforts of Kazlou’s team in our previous reports.

    It is clear that such “discoveries” are not the exclusion in Minsk. Had the local authorities had nothing to hide, they would have presented information about the precinct commissions without any obstacles.

    Lukashenka: “Security Council and militia involved in “election process” directly”

    From: Charter '97
    Alyaksandr Lukashenka made some loud statements on the so called parliamentary election appointing of personnel in law enforcement bodies.

    The Belarusian ruler said that “our western partners have already determined this election as a main figure of merit, a litmus test in the relations of Belarus with the US and the West.” “I again stress our principal position: we hold this “election” for ourselves, for the Belarusian people, for our country. It will be absolutely fair,” Lukashenka said.

    According to him, “all minister present here, especially officers of militia, State Secretariat of the Security Council, minister, will be involved in this process directly. Militia must provide public security, the State Secretariat must coordinate actions of law enforcement bodies.”

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka said “the US and the EU don’t make steps towards the willingness of Belarus to normalise the relations with the West.”

    “In response to a sincere wish of Belarus to normalise the relations with the West and the United States, to our concrete steps, nor European Union neither US don’t hurry to take adequate measures,” Luakshenka said.

    “There are no positive concrete steps in this direction. It makes certain forces step up their attempts of destabilising the situation in our state,” he said.

  • Around the region...

    Russia warns will respond to "aggression"

    From: Reuters
    Russia does not want confrontation with the West but will hit back if attacked, Kremlin leader Dmitry Medvedev said on Sunday, a day before EU leaders meet to draft a response to Moscow's actions in Georgia.

    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Sunday said he would press fellow European Union leaders to review ties with Russia in retaliation for Moscow's decision to sent troops to Georgia and recognize two Georgian breakaway regions.

    But underlining the differences in approach inside the 27-member EU, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier took a softer line, saying isolating Russia would harm the interests of the bloc.

    A senior U.S. diplomat said Washington hoped the EU would express strong and concrete support for Georgia's territorial integrity, and urged Europe to reduce its dependence on Russian energy supplies.

    Medvedev faces growing condemnation from the West, which accuses Russia of occupying parts of Georgia, while the Kremlin said it acted to prevent what it called genocide against the separatist regions.

    "Russia does not want confrontation with any country. Russia does not plan to isolate itself," Medvedev said in an interview with Russia's three main television stations.

    But he added: "Everyone should understand that if someone launches an aggressive sortie, he will receive a response." He said Russian law allowed the Kremlin to impose sanctions on other states, though it preferred not to go down that path.

    He also said there were parts of the globe where Russia had "privileged interests" -- a clear warning that the Kremlin will not accept NATO expansion into Russia's traditional sphere of influence.


    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Russia's intervention in Georgia was dangerous and unacceptable for Europe.

    "In the light of Russian actions, the EU should review -- root and branch -- our relationship with Russia," Brown wrote in a comment published in Britain's Observer newspaper.

    Russia supplies more than a quarter of Europe's gas needs. Some observers say this makes tough punitive sanctions from the bloc unlikely.

    The German foreign minister said Moscow deserved criticism but that European stability and security depended on cooperation with Russia.

    "Thus Europe would only be hurting itself if we were to get full of emotion and slam all the doors shut to the rooms that we will want to enter afterwards," Steinmeier said.

    Speaking on a visit to Istanbul, Georgia's Foreign Minister Ekaterine Tkeshelashvili said it was "not pivotal" that the EU impose sanctions on Russia but it must take steps to deter Russian aggression.

    The emergency summit is a test of unity for the EU, which struggles to reconcile differences between states which want punitive action and others, including European heavyweights France and Germany, which favor a more calibrated approach.

    Russia sent in its troops after Georgia's military tried to retake South Ossetia, like Abkhazia a Moscow-backed region which rejects Tbilisi's rule.

    Moscow has pulled out the bulk of its forces in line with a ceasefire deal but has kept soldiers and equipment in "security zones," which include undisputed Georgian territory around South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

    Western governments have demanded that Moscow pull its troops back to pre-conflict positions. The Kremlin says the troops are peacekeepers needed to protect the separatist regions from new Georgian aggression.

    "Whatever people say, right is on our side. We conducted ourselves absolutely morally and in line with international law," Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in his own interview with Russian television.

    White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement that Bush, a leading critic of Russia's actions in Georgia, called Berlusconi on Sunday morning.

    "The leaders discussed the importance of supporting Georgia's territorial integrity, and the need for Russia to comply with all elements of the ceasefire agreement and withdraw its troops from Georgia," Perino said.

    Signaling Washington's support for its Georgian ally, the navy command ship USS Mount Whitney was en route to Georgia. The Pentagon said it was carrying relief supplies but the Kremlin has accused the United States of military posturing.

    Merkel ally says G8 should temporarily exclude Russia

    From: Reuters
    Russia should be temporarily excluded from G8 meetings because of its actions in Georgia, a conservative member of parliament and ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday.

    Eckart von Klaeden, foreign policy spokesman for Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) in parliament, said leading industrial nations should meet as the G7, without Russia, as long as it failed to work in concert with the U.N. to resolve the conflict.

    "The West took Russia in as a member of the G8 grouping of the most important democratic industrial nations even though it fulfilled neither the economic nor the political requirements," von Klaeden wrote in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

    "Thus, these nations should meet in the old G7 format as long as Russia is not prepared to find a solution under the framework of the United Nations."

    European Union leaders will meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss the bloc's response to Russia's military intervention and its decision to recognise Georgia's separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

    Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov: "If we lose Sevastopol, we'll lose the Caucasus"

    From: Pravda
    Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov is convinced that a new Black Sea Fleet agreement must signed with Ukraine.

    "I submitted a proposal to finish the new agreement by September. Russia needs to invite Ukraine to the table to consider this agreement," RIA Novosti quoted Luzhkov as stating.

    The Moscow mayor referred to Ukraine's recent actions as a "blatant disregard" for the present agreement due to the country's NATO aspirations. He added that Russia is "losing Sevastopol."

    "If we lose Sevastopol," said Luzhkov. "We'll lose the Caucasus."

    In May 2008, at a celebration marking the Black Sea Fleet's 225th anniversary, Luzhkov reiterated earlier calls to reintegrate Sevastopol and the Crimean Peninsula into Russia.

    "Sevastopol was never given to Ukraine," said Luzhkov. "I have carefully studied all the main documents." After the speech, Ukraine's security service declared Luzhkov persona non grata.

    Recently, Ukraine's government stated a new agreement must be signed with Moscow that will regulate such issues as the Black Sea Fleet's participation in armed conflicts and ensure Ukraine's soverign right to monitor the fleet while on Ukrainian territory.

    Several weeks ago, Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko signed an order stating the Black Sea Fleet's commanding officer must inform their Joint Chief of Staff if Russian ships plan to leave Ukrainian territory. Russia's Interior Ministry referred to the order as "another serious anti-Russian maneuver" breaking the agreement on cordial relations between Kiev and Moscow.

    Orange Fox and Black Panther: Feminine tricks and masculine minds:
    How Yuliya Timoshenko and Condeleezza Rice manage to remain on top in male-dominated politics

    From: Pravda
    Two female faces appeared on the backdrop of the gruesome Georgia-South Ossetia conflict recently — U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Timoshenko. As the events unfolded, Rice uncharacteristically threatened Russia, while Timoshenko kept unusually quiet. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's inner circle had expected more support from the PM who now refused to challenge Russia's foreign policy. The behavior of these two politicians during the conflict is good reason to examine them more closely, as well as how they manage to maintain their positions in international politics.

    Why did Rice's and Timoshenko's policies differ in August?

    Condoleezza Rice (lovingly called "Condie" in the U.S.) and Yuliya Timoshenko (known as "Yuliya" in Ukraine) entered the informational playing field at about the same time this month. But Rice's appearance on the scene was much more noticeable. Never before had she spoken so harshly about Russia. She was quick to back Saakashvili's aggression against South Ossetia and showed no sympathy to the innocent civilians who suffered in Tskhinvali. She was assertive and decisive and aptly seized the moment to force Poland to sign the U.S. anti-missile shield agreement.

    Meanwhile, Timoshenko unexpectedly lingered in the shadows. When Yushchenko headed to Tbilisi to console Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili (his close friend and the godfather of his children), Timoshenko took a week's vacation to rid herself of the stress of Ukrainian politics.

    A few days later, rumors spread that Timoshenko had been spotted with a key member of the Party of Regions fraction in Sardinia, Nestor Shufrich, reportedly her long-time friend and ally. The deputy head of Ukraine's presidential secretariat soon released the following statement: "Earlier, we received information that Yuliya Timoshenko was acting on behalf of the Russian party. This information has been confirmed. Unfortunately, there is no road back now. Her stance on the South Ossetian conflict is a result of these maneuverings." According to Ukraine's Special Forces, Timoshenko met with influential individuals in Sardinia, including members of ex-President Leonid Kuchma's inner circle. They allegedly discussed the upcoming presidential elections and formed a secret coalition.

    Indeed, Ukraine loves witch hunts. Now the authorities are accusing Timoshenko of betraying her country. Timoshenko has refuted the allegations.

    Expert opinions

    Stanislav Radkevich, political image maker and director of the public relations agency PR-3000, spoke with KP about these two powerful politicians.

    "Condoleezza Rice merges two integral elements in the U.S. approach to staffing issues. She's a female in politics who also fills the minority quota. The U.S. staffs Afro-Americans in the government's higher echelons due to political correctness. But Rice is just an average-level civil servant. She is the ideal candidate for her job as she is a double minority. This is how she rose so quickly through the political ranks. Her image makers spent an immense amount of time working with her, giving her polish, and completely changing her from the inside out. However, she doesn't have the flexibility that is a prerequisite to succeed in politics. She acts far too sharply. She is also an clear lobbyist of the U.S. military complex.

    "Timoshenko is a politician with a masculine brain. Money and power are more important for her than anything else. Having said that, she has wisely chosen the image of a village school teacher. This creates a closeness with the Ukrainian voter. But essentially, Timoshenko is a pragmatic cosmopolitan who entered politics from business. And regardless of how hard her image makers try, at the end of the day, this pragmatic businesswoman always shows through. She has the face of a fox. Timoshenko takes the same types of risks that male politicians do and makes sharp decisions. If she was a bit more flexible, like most women, she would have far more success. However, she is still more flexible and brighter than Yushchenko. She knows that Saakashvili's military march is just one event at the end of the day and she is staying clear of the fight dominated by males. This is where her gender gives her the upper hand. She could well become Ukraine's next president if things go her way."

    Sexy versus Man-in-Skirt

    Psychologist Aleksandr Kichayev spoke with us about the differences between these two politicians.

    "If Timoshenko is a leader and self-sufficient politician, then Rice is the grey eminence, an adviser, who can always protect herself with her boss' opinion. Timoshenko is playing the role of the nation's loving mother. Rice on the other hand is an iron woman, a hero and a savior, who is always making radical decisions. Timoshenko relies on her ethnic roots, using her braid to show her deep connection with the Ukrainian intelligentsia and Lesa Ukrainka. Meanwhile, Rice has completely broken from her black roots. She is an international politician.

    "Timoshenko also has a feminine image. She's sexy and seductive. She wears open, tight dresses and never wears long pants. She has a sexy, slow voice. But Rice is just a man in a skirt. Rumors say she's bisexual.

    "The U.S. press even found her girlfriend. She and Rice purchased a home together when Rice was a university vice rector. At the time, if we go by what U.S. journalists and witnesses report who knew her at the time, she didn't hide her sexual orientation. Many experts say this is why she isn't running for president. The U.S. isn't as politically correct as one would like to believe when it comes to minorities.

    "Of course, these could all be just rumors. Rice might be an iron lady, but she's not devoid of femininity. Three years ago, we all saw her dine with Russia's former Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov at an Italian restaurant in Moscow. She was smiling the whole time. It seemed like she didn't want to go home — ordering more cappuccino and wine. (Of course, the relations between Russia and the U.S. were less tense then.)

    "One paper recently reported that Rice had demostratively tucked her jacket into the waistline of her pants during a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. She may have used this move to lower the bar, to remind her opponent she was a woman, and to seize the moment to attack. This is the tactic panthers use on their prey.

    "Having said all this, there is one important difference between these two politicians. The Bush administration is on its way out and Rice's time on Capitol Hill is limited. She may well leave politics for good when the new U.S. president is elected in November and return to teaching. Timoshenko, though, is at the start of her political career despite the many ups and downs she has already faced. She is heading toward the presidential office. She has shown herself to be sly and foxes often come out on top in international politics."

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Jail for not burning cigarettes

    From: Polski Radio
    A company in Chelm, eastern Poland, has been found guilty of hiding cigarettes it was supposed to be getting rid of.

    The Chelm police raided the company on Wednesday and found almost 50,000 packets of contraband cigarettes that the company received from customs to burn. According to the company's documents, the cigarettes did not exist any more.

    The police entered the company's premises immediately after a new batch of contraband cigarettes were brought in for burning by customs officers. They found a 6-metre deep hiding place containing the officially destroyed cigarettes. Three such hiding places were found at the company's premises. Each had a fake bottom, even covered with fake trash, and had enough space for a whole truckload of cigarettes.

    The 45-year-old co-owner of the company was detained. He faces even up to three years in prison. The police are now questioning his employees and are trying to established where the illegal merchandise went to.

    New anti-corruption measure to fight bent refs

    From: The News
    The News
    The Polish Football Association is introducing a new measure fighting corruption among Polish refs and wants them to sign a blank promissory note for a million zlotys each.

    The Polish Football Association (PZPN) has announced that by September 3, every Polish referee from the Polish Premier League who wants to keep his job, has to sign a statement saying that he will not set up match results. If caught doing so he will be liable to pay 1 million zlotys.

    "Those who will not sign will not be able to referee. End of story,” Head of PZPN’s College of Referees, Slawomir Stempniewski told journalists.

    “In general, the referees are against this measure,” a first-league referee, Jaroslaw Zyro commented on the new anticorruption steps in Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper.

    Wide-scale corruption in Polish football involving setting up match results was revealed in the course of a few months end of 2007 and beginning of 2008. As a result, several Football Association members, referees, coaches and footballers have heard charges and a few first league football clubs have been downgraded to lower leagues.

    Polish Enigma

    Exerpted From: Brave the World!
    Life was frustrating (in Poland), but that certainly wasn’t the full story. My experiences that evening, the surreal and incomprehensible swing from stagnation and irritation in the hypermarche to bliss and exhilaration ten minutes later on the streets reflected the complicated reality of life in Poland. It is full of inconsistencies, bureaucratic mazes, masked faces, false hopes, and intense pride, but also an enchanting aura wafting through the crevices, a sorrowful but angelic aria permeating the nation’s soul. In order to completely understand its mystery, one would need to spend a lifetime peeling back the layers, painstakingly deciphering its clues. Poland, I was discovering, was an enigma.

    I was in good company as I tried to resolve its riddles. My first months in Krakow were a tumultuous period in Polish domestic as well as foreign relations- a time when European Union leaders and Poland’s own citizens would become increasingly confounded with the status quo.
    Particularly within the EU, a swelling “Poland fatigue” came to dominate all diplomacy like an omnipresent and obstinate cloud. Having expanded to include Poland in 2004, the former member states complained increasingly vocally that Poland seemed to mistakenly believe that the EU had joined it, rather than the other way around.

    Resenting the march of European history that had nearly obliterated and then forgotten it, and realizing its geopolitical leverage for the first time, Poland overplayed its hand in round after round, alienating nearly every ally. The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) retaliated over the most minor infractions with Germany, at one point cancelling a high level visit due to an unfavorable newspaper editorial. As the EU attempted to wrap up the Lisbon Treaty negotiations, an increasingly mercurial and sanctimonious Polish posture towards Germany threatened to unravel years of international effort. Warsaw also impeded Brussels’ efforts to thaw relations with Moscow, raising concerns over Russian energy shipments to the subcontinent as winter rapidly approached.

    An overwhelming and self-defeating paranoia and victimization in combination with an intense messianic mission drove Warsaw’s self perception and policy. Acidly hostile towards Germany due to unresolved disputes from the Second World War and distrusting Russia following the Cold War; still bitter at the opulent “West” for its perceived abandonment of Poland twice to its enemies; convinced of its fraternal and moral mission to lead the nations of Eastern Europe to freedom; and finally, certain only of the military backing of the distant United States, Poland lashed out at its past and nearly lost its foothold on the future.

    The situation was at least as bad on the home front. Besieging its opponents with allegations of corruption, mafia ties, sex crimes and communism, PiS found itself caught in its own avalanche and lost control of the political implosion it had set in motion. Championing the interests of its primarily elderly, agrarian, impoverished and staunchly Catholic supporters, the President and Prime Minister (coincidentally, twin brothers) failed to inspire the hope of young, educated workers with upward aspirations and experience abroad. Clinging to a sense of moral superiority and confident in a victory, the majority party voted to dissolve itself in September.

    Weary of PiS’s overzealous political machinations, the EU held its breath for one month. When the results of the snap elections were tallied, it, and much of Poland, was able to finally breathe a sigh of relief. Donald Tusk, of the pro-business Civic Platform, had persuaded voters that the time for a new course in domestic and foreign policy had arrived. Young, attractive and athletic, well educated and articulate, hopeful and charismatic, he appeared the John F. Kennedy to the Nikita Krushchev. Immediately shaking hands with EU leaders, he promised to revive Poland’s relationship with the supranational body, and promptly set to work on ironing out old problems. Particularly with Russia, cracks appeared in the ice if not a thaw, as Tusk sent high level delegations to discuss bilateral issues. And with the US, Tusk has held a firmer line, delicately attempting to balance the wishes of its former champion with its geopolitical reality.

    In spite of the greatest turnout PiS had ever seen by its supporters, Tusk carried the election due to tidal wave of support, primarily by younger citizens, many of whom cast their votes from abroad. Whether Tusk will be the answer to Poland’s heartfelt prayers remains to be seen; what is clear at this point is the desire of the nation’s younger generation to make peace with the past and take its proper place on the pedestals of Europe.

  • Sport...

    Champions League: BATE and Anorthosis make history for Belarus and Cyprus

    From: Bangkok Post
    BATE Borisov and Anorthosis Famagusta made history Wednesday as they became the first Belarusian side and the first Cypriot side respectively to reach the group stage of the Champions League.

    Leading 1-0 from the first leg, BATE held Levski Sofia to a 1-1 draw despite the first-half dismissal of Genadi Bliznyuk.

    Sergei Sosnovski put them ahead after 14 minutes, with Vladimir Gadjev levelling.

    Their manager Victar Goncharenko is, at 31, the youngest coach ever to lead a side into the last 32.

    Anorthosis did the hard work in the first leg, winning 3-0, and a 1-0 defeat against Olympiakos was enough to see them through.

    Kaunas' hopes of becoming the first Lithuanian side in the group stage ended as they were reduced to nine men before going down 2-0 at home to AaB, having lost the first leg by the same scoreline.

    Schalke 04 were the biggest casualties of the night, their 1-0 lead from the first leg being comfortably overturned by Atletico Madrid.

    Sergio Aguero, fresh from his Olympic gold with Argentina, set them on their way after 20 minutes.

    Diego Forlan put Atletico ahead on aggregate nine minutes into the second half, and Luis Garcia made the game safe eight minutes from time.

    Christian Pander was sent off four minutes later, and Maxi Rodriguez, having been brought down in the box, made it 4-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate from the penalty.

    Arsenal also won 4-0, completing a 6-0 aggregate victory over FC Twente.

    Samir Nasri put them 1-0 up after 27 minutes, William Gallas added a second seven minutes into the second half, and further goals from Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner completed the scoring.

    The other English side, Liverpool, had a much tougher time. They were fortunate to get away with a goalless draw in the first leg against Standard Liege, and struggled to break down the Belgian champions again at Anfield.

    With three minutes of extra time remaining, though, Dirk Kuyt got on the end of Ryan Babel's cross to make it 1-0 on the night and 1-0 on aggregate.

    Dynamo Kyiv strolled through their tie against Spartak, winning 4- 1, as they had in the first leg, while Banel Nicolita got the winner as Steaua Bucharest put out Galatasaray.

    The other Turkish side in action, Fenerbahce, eased to a 2-1 victory over Partizan Belgrade for a 4-3 aggregate win.

    The other Ukrainians also progressed, Shakhtar Donetsk putting their disappointing league form behind them to beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-1 for a 5-1 aggregate.

    Ehren Derdiyok got the winner as FC Basel beat Guimaraes of Portugal 2-1, after a goalless draw in the first leg.

    Mahamadou Niang scored two second-half goals as Marseille secured their progress with a 2-1 home win over Brann.

    Slavia Prague and Fiorentina drew 0-0, putting the Italian side through by a 2-0 aggregate.

  • Cultural scene...

    Of Bharatnatyam, Bollywood and Bangalore -in Belarus

    From: Press Trust of India
    As many of the residents of this Belarusian capital head for their dachas on weekends, a group of girls, young and not so young prefer to stay back home and head in the evenings for a special class that would help them achieve their dreams- to learn the classical Indian dances.

    The teacher is not Indian but a Belarusian.

    For many in this tiny country which was known as Silicon Valley of the earstwhile Soviet Union, India has always been a mystery. They avidly watched Hindi movies that were received, dubbed in Russian, from Moscow. None, however, dreamt of visiting India.

    The meagre incomes just didn't permit the luxury of foreign travel. Things, however, changed after Belarus became independent in 1992. More of India can be seen- thanks to the exhibitions of Indian goods - sarees, shawls, handicrafts and apparel that are being held regularly. An ISCON temple too has opened and aroused interest among many in th is former communist culture. New avenues have opened up.

    Tiny advertisements in the city's buses featuring the Taj Mahal are enough to drive hoards of Belarusian girls to the exhibitions that he has been organising for the past few years says Navin Kohli. Settled in Minsk for over a decade, Navin has married a Belarusian girl. Business is good, he says as he directs his sales staff to look after the customers in the exhibition that has Indian consumer goods for sale.

    Their natural inclination towards technology has drawn the Belorusians towards Bangalore. As many Soviet day statues and street names remain unchanged, a busy traffic junction and a huge park in the capital have been named after Bangalore which was made a sister city by Minsk.

  • Endnote...

    Belarus respite program needlessly ruined

    It’s important for readers to know the reasons behind the reaction of the Chernobyl Children’s Project board and those who support them, as there is much emotion and anger swirling around Tanya Kazyra’s decision not to return to Belarus. As a past president and former board member of CCP (, I understand the delicate workings of the organization and the passions that surround this issue.

    Regrettably, the Chernobyl Children’s Project, founded nearly 18 years ago by two caring political activists, long-time Petalumans Connie and Cliff McClain, will more than likely end due to what appears to be an emotional and impetuous decision made by a 16-year-old girl and her host family. I know Tanya and the Zapatas. Tanya is a willful, spirited girl and the Zapatas are a loving, caring family. They love her as one of their own, as many host families love their visiting children, and as our family came to love the two girls we hosted over nine years. But their love for her has blinded them to the international consequences of their actions. The last-minute call made Tuesday morning, Aug. 5, just hours before 25 children and two interpreters were to leave for Minsk, totally blindsided the current president and CCP organization. They weren’t given the heads-up in advance and didn’t see this coming.

    There are other ways the Zapatas could have gone about this. They had nine years to prepare, and when Tanya and the other 24 kids arrived in June with the clear understanding that everyone was returning on Aug. 5, the Zapatas could have begun legal, fair and above-board proceedings right away to find out how she could stay longer. They could have notified the board so that they were prepared. To say nothing until three hours before the flight departure when everyone else was at the airport ready to return to Belarus, was unfair, embarrassing for the organization and created an international event when there didn’t need to be one.

    It was upsetting for the U.S. families who were ready to send their young visitors back home as well as the Belarusian families waiting to receive their children. Other U.S. families have arranged guardianship and have found ways for their visiting children from Chernobyl to return for visits outside of the designated six weeks. They’ve gone through legal and proper channels to help the children return and stay in America. To know that the entire U.S. program could end because of this impulsive action taken in the wee hours of Aug. 5 in Petaluma, where the program was born, is heartbreaking for those of us who love CCP and our founders, the McClains.

    The letter titled “Supporting Tanya” in the Aug. 14 Argus-Courier states, “She is in a unique situation, unlike the other members of the program due to her family situation.” The writer of that letter is misinformed. Tanya’s situation in Belarus is not unique. While none of us want any of the children to return to bad home conditions, the reality is that many of them do. But since the beginning of the program in 1991, that has not stopped children from coming to America and returning home six weeks later. Of course everyone wants what’s best for Tanya, including me. But to cave in to the desire of one child while sacrificing thousands of others waiting for their chance at six weeks in America is a devastating blow to all who care about the children and the survival of CCP.

    The Zapatas’ lawyer states that the Belarusian government is overreacting. I find Mr. Kerosky’s arrogance astounding. Frankly, the Zapatas’ actions are a breach of the agreement made between them and CCP. They have always known the rules and for eight previous summers they obeyed them — the kids arrive on a day in June, and six weeks later they return. They could have worked to have Tanya stay longer or return at another time, outside of CCP’s six- week program, and let the board know they were taking steps to do so. Others have done it fairly and with full disclosure; why not they? I wish they had handled it differently, but since they didn’t, then sadly, I think this is the end. It’s tragic that Tanya and the Zapatas did not think beyond their own desires, resulting in this embarrassing international incident and long-term consequences.

    (Petaluma resident Julie Wilder-Sherman is a past president and former board member of the Chernobyl Child-ren’s Project. She was a host parent for nine years.)