News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Belarus-EU Relationship Rethought, Elections, Tourism, Space program, Sportmen banned, Investment, Opposition, Russian milirary and Polish scandal

  • From the Top...
  • #346

    Time To Rethink Fundomentally Belarus-EU Relationship

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    The President with Ambassador Timothy May Shepidi of Nigeria, at the ceremony where credentials from various foreign embassies were presented to the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation on September 23
    On 23 September, President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko received credentials from Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of 10 foreign states.

    The credentials were presented by Ambassador of Australia to Russia, with concurrent accreditation to Belarus, Margaret Tumi; Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium to Russia, with concurrent accreditation to Belarus, Bertrand de Crombrugghe de Picquendaele; Ambassador of the Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to Belarus Nigel Gould - Davies; Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to Belarus Americo Dias Nunes; Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Belarus Seyyed Abdollah Hosseini; Ambassador of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg to Russia, with concurrent accreditation to Belarus, Gaston Stronck; Ambassador of the Federative Republic of Nigeria to Russia, with concurrent accreditation to Belarus, Timothy Mai Shelpidi; Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to Belarus Marian Serwatka; Ambassador of the Republic of Finland to the Republic of Lithuania, with concurrent accreditation to Belarus, Marja-Liisa Kiljunen; Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden to Belarus Stefan Eriksson.

    “Diplomacy is a time-tested effective instrument enabling countries to have a dialogue, co-operate to mutual advantage and resolve problems peacefully,” said the Head of State. “Where democracy is rejected and the emphasis is placed on the use of force, there is bloodshed and economic decline. We know many examples of it from history, both ancient and contemporary,” he said.

    Given today’s unipolarity crisis in the world, diplomacy is becoming increasingly important, the President said.

    Addressing the new ambassadors, Alexander Lukashenko said, “We have the understanding of and great respect for your mission – to help strengthen relations between our countries by representing the interests of your states in Belarus”.

    “Belarus is an open country economically, culturally and intellectually. We, the Belarusians, are prepared for versatile, comprehensive and mutually advantageous co-operation with our partners in any corner of the world. The only thing we expect in return is (for our partners) to respect our right to have and defend our interests, respect our sovereignty, our cultural identity,” said the President.

    “We are neighbours. Belarus and the European Union have common interests ranging from the fight against terrorism, slave trade, illegal migration to economic stability and enhancement of Europe’s role in international affairs,” underscored the head of state. “We also register a growing interest of European business in our country, we welcome and support it,” added Alexander Lukashenko.

    “Let’s enhance our trade and investment relations. Belarus will be a profitable and prospective partner in this regard,” the President told the heads of diplomatic missions of European Union states.

    Alexander Lukashenko assured the ambassadors that Belarus was prepared to do its utmost so that foreign ambassadors could carry out their diplomatic mission in Belarus successfully. Belarusian ministries, agencies and institutions will provide the diplomats with all the necessary assistance for it, he said.

    UK appreciates Belarus intention to improve relations with West, UK Ambassador says

    According to UK Ambassador to Belarus Nigel Gould-Davies, the United Kingdom highly estimates Belarus’ intention to improve relations with Western countries and the European Union first and foremost.

    “I really hope for the success in our relations. It is very important for my country," the Ambassador underlined.

    Belarus is interested in stepping up cooperation with Belgium, the United Kingdom, Luxemburg and Slovakia, said President.

    “We welcome a more active presence of Belgium in our country. This pertains to trade, investment, science, culture and education,” the President said. “I think that the strengthening of our relations will eventually result in a full-fledged Belarusian-Belgian dialogue.”

    The Head of State underlined the interest of Belarus in the development of a close cooperation with the United Kingdom as this country is one of the world’s leading financial and economic centres which plays an important role in Europe. “It is London that has been chosen the venue for the Belarusian Investment Forum in November 2008,” he noted.

    Alexander Lukashenko stated that the level of the bilateral relations with Luxemburg does not correspond to the mutual interests. “Belarus could become a promising trade partner of Luxemburg. The prospective areas of cooperation include finances and banking, tourism, construction and energy industry,” the Belarusian Head of State noted.

    Belarus views Slovakia as an important partner in Europe, the President stated. “We are ready to take practical measures to step up the economic cooperation, including the introduction of new forms of production cooperation, the diversification of trade,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    Sweden Ambassador envisages more Swedish investment in Belarus economy

    Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Sweden to Belarus Stefan Eriksson envisages the growth of Swedish investment in the economy of our country.

    “Obviously, the interest of the Swedish business in the Belarusian economy is growing, the trade is picking up, more and more companies from Sweden come to Belarus,” the diplomat said. Stefan Eriksson pointed out the development of cultural contacts between Belarus and Sweden.

    The Ambassador expressed his hope that the other members of the European Union will uphold Stockholm’s initiatives on the Eastern Partnership to boost ties with the eastern neighbors of the European Union.

    Cooperation in facrt with all Scandinavian countries is a special avenue of Belarus’ foreign policy. The head of state mentioned a substantial increase in cooperation with Finland. “However, unused reserves for developing relations are still large,” said the President. “The number of areas of mutual interest includes small-scale and nuclear power engineering, renewable energy sources, forest exploitation, timber processing”.

    Belarus welcomes the essential expansion of the dialogue with Sweden, said Alexander Lukashenko. “We consider the new approach elements outlined by the proposal for Eastern partnership, Sweden’s decision to open an embassy in Minsk, as very important initiatives,” said the President.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    CIS observers name election process in Belarus open

    From: BelTA
    International observers representing the CIS states have no hindrances in monitoring the elections to the Belarusian parliament, head of the CIS monitoring mission Sergei Lebedev told reporters in Brest on September 22.

    It was the second time he had visited the Brest oblast. He had visited the Mogilev oblast before. September 22 saw Sergei Lebedev visit three constituency election commissions in the Brest oblast. The head of the CIS monitoring mission plans to visit the Minsk and Gomel oblasts soon.

    Sergei Lebedev mentioned the openness of the election process in Belarus. “Members of the mission experience no hindrances from Belarusian authorities: we can freely visit election commissions of all levels and see the documents we are interested in,” specified Sergei Lebedev. CEC decisions are promptly delivered to mass media, the general public and subordinate election commissions, he added. Sergei Lebedev mentioned the CIS observers have good overall impressions from the election campaign in Belarus.

    Belarus meeting all recommendations of international observers within national legislation

    The Belarusian state responds to all the recommendations of international and domestic observers which accord with its legislation and realities, Chairperson of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Belarus Lidia Yermoshina told journalists after the CEC session on September 18.

    She underlined that the elections comprise a variety of legal, organizational and financial activities. “Everything is done within the limits of the budget, Belarus’ Electoral Code and the CEC resolutions stipulated in regulations guiding the election commissions,” Lidia Yermoshina said.

    The CEC session thoroughly studied the observance of law during the formation of district election commissions at the suggestion of the representatives of political parties that entered CEC in a consultative capacity. The representatives of the bodies in charge of the formation of the commissions presented their reports.

    “The today’s session attests to the fact that we are trying to take into consideration the recommendations of the OSCE observers within the framework of the existing law. We had a long and fruitful discussion. The sides advanced their remarks. This discussion is the demonstration of respect to the representatives of political parties who came to the CEC,” Lidia Yermoshina noted. In her opinion, a great number of people deemed competent and non-partisan became the members of the district election commissions which is in line with the international observation regulations.

    St Petersburg to host forum on tourism development in Union State

    From: BelTA
    A forum “Tourism in the Union State: present day challenges” will be held in Saint Petersburg on October 5-7, BelTA learnt from the Permanent Committee of the Union State of Belarus and Russia.

    The forum is aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation between Belarus and Russia in the area of tourism, raising interest of people in tourism within the Union State, assisting joint efforts in tourism projects.

    The programme of the forum includes a round table dedicated to the social, cultural, economic and legal prerequisites of the tourism development in the Union State, task groups on the cooperation in tourism personnel training and the role of media in the development of the tourism industry. A final resolution will be taken and a collection of reports and articles of the participants of the forum will be published.

    Participating in the forum are expected to be Belarusian and Russian parliamentarians, representatives of ministries and governmental bodies of the two countries, local authorities, universities, public organizations.

    The forum is organized by the Permanent Committee of the Union State together with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Belarus-Russia Union, the Ministry of Sports and Tourism of Belarus and the Ministry of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy of Russia and the Federal Agency for Tourism

    Belarus’ space satellite to be launched in 2009

    From: BelTA
    The Belarusian space satellite is set to be launched in 2009, Chairman of the Presidium of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Mikhail Myasnikovich said at a session of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers on September 23. The session presided by First Vice Premier Vladimir Semashko highlighted the 2008-2012 draft national programme on space research and use for peaceful purposes.

    Mikhail Myasnikovich stated that the space satellite will be launched in Q4 2009. At present all the works are held in line with the schedule. The new satellite is not an analogue to the previous one. It possesses “much better characteristics”, he said.

    The creation of a space satellite for the land remote sensing is of high necessity for Belarus for the present and long-range purposes. It will be purely Belarusian prerogative, the Chairman of the NAS Presidium said.

    The satellite has been developed together with the use of up-to-date space technologies. According to Mikhail Myasnikovich, the Belarusian scientists also used “the previous experience gained during the work with the first Belarusian space satellite”.

    Today, the Belarusian specialists are working “with the similar satellite in the Russian Federation”. They are going to conduct a cluster launching. Thus, according to the Head of the Belarusian NAS, “a space group will be working in orbit simultaneously that will improve the commercial constituent as well as the reliable performance”. Mikhail Myasnikovich added that the programme envisages the introduction of up-to-date technologies in the area of digital broadcasting and tele-health.

    The chairman of the NAS Presidium stated that Belarus needs to receive its independent information from the space. The creation of a space satellite will allow Belarus to develop navigation systems including the GPS system.

    Mikhail Myasnikovich also informed on the need to develop necessary space infrastructure including centers on receiving and processing the information.

    In the future Belarus plans to take part in the development of a Russian group of satellites.

    Some RUB128bln and 430mln to be assigned for Belarus’ national space programme

    Some RUB128 billion and 430 million will be assigned for funding the Belarusian national space programme, Chairman of the Presidium of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences Mikhail Myasnikovich told the session of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers which discussed the draft programme of space exploration and use for peaceful purposes for 2008-2012. The session was held under the chairmanship of First Vice-Premier Vladimir Semashko.

    According to Mikhail Myasnikovich, the funds will be assigned for creation of the infrastructure of an Earth remote sensing space satellite.

    The Head of State has charged to develop the national programme of space exploration and use. The implementation of the programme will contribute to development of the national economy, Mikhail Myasnikovich noted. The programme includes the complete innovation cycle from generation of new knowledge, creation of experimental samples to results introduction.

    At present, Belarus is carrying out several subprogrammes on space exploration. Budget funds and extra-budgetary resources are assigned for them.

    According to Mikhail Myasnikovich, there are nine ministries in Belarus which use the space information. Before, just the State Weather Forecasting Centre has used satellite imagery. At present, this information is used by the Emergencies Ministry, the Forestry Ministry, the Ministry of Agriculture and Foodstuffs and other departments.

  • Economic News...

    Minsk to host international conference Assessment and Investments in Belarus September 25-26

    From: BelTA
    The 7th international conference Assessment and Investments in Belarus will be held in Minsk on September 25-26, BelTA learnt in the organizing committee of the forum.

    The conference will discuss such issues as regulation of valuation activities in Belarus, evaluation and revaluation of hieratical values, market and cadastral value of land, advertising activity in real estate. Participants of the conference will also assess the investment activity in Belarus, consider the investment processes in Central Europe, other issues.

    This year the conference will gather representatives of leading assessing organizations from many CIS countries. Attending the forum will be also specialists from Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, the USA, Turkey, Estonia and other countries. Representatives of Belarusian ministries and governmental departments including the Economy Ministry, the Belarusian State Property Committee, the Belarusian State Standardization Committee, banks will take part in the work of the conference.

    Hewlett-Packard to pour more investments into Belarusian IT market

    Hewlett-Packard company (HP) plans to increase the amount of investments poured into the development of the Belarusian market of information technologies, Konstantin Leonov, Regional Director of Hewlett-Packard’s subsidiary company Hewlett-Packard Bel, told a press conference in Minsk on September 23.

    “We intend to expand the business in Belarus, investing money into the development of the domestic IT market, increasing the number of our regional partners,” he remarked. “In Belarus serious projects, which require high-tech equipment and IT solutions, are implemented and we are ready to offer them both to major corporations and small and medium businesses”. In the near future HP plans to open a service centre in Belarus, provide several educational establishments with complete IT solutions, increasing its share in the corporate and state segments.

    Konstantin Leonov remarked, HP has already accomplished several IT projects in Belarus. The company has supplied IT and communication technologies to the National Library of Belarus, implemented several IT solutions for the Interbank Currency Exchange of the country, created a system of united computerised border checkpoints.

    HP innovations are also used by major Belarusian companies. For example, Belshina has had modern electronic technologies for designing automobile tyres developed. The technologies have halved the development of new products. Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) has had a special system designed to counteract frauds in mobile communication.

    “The company puts efforts not only in expanding its business in Belarus, but in accomplishing social projects, including entrepreneurship support, environmental protection, healthcare and education,” added Konstantin Leonov.

    Hewlett-Packard is one of the world’s largest IT companies with the income of the last four financial quarters, which ended on April 30, 2008, as large as $110.4 billion. There are Hewlett-Packard offices in Belarus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. HP offers printing and image processing solutions, personal computers, software, IT services and infrastructure.

  • From the International Press...

    Belarus Opposition to Boycott Upcoming Elections

    From: DW
    Opposition parties in Belarus said they will boycott next week's parliamentary elections despite assurances from President Alexander Lukashenko they will be democratic.

    The United Democratic Forces alliance justified the move Sunday, Sept. 21, by saying the government had refused to allow the opposition to sit on regional election commissions, thus depriving them of the chance to monitor the vote.

    Lukashenko, criticized by human rights groups in his homeland as "Europe's last dictator," said Belarus had strictly adhered to the guidelines laid down by the West in preparing the elections.

    On Saturday, the president, who has been in power since 1994, threatened to place relations with the West on ice if it declares the Sept. 28 polls undemocratic.

    If there is no recognition of the elections "we will stop talking to them," the president told the news agency Interfax.

    Opposition calls for more freedoms

    The Belarus opposition has complained of the president's authoritarian style of leadership and lack of press freedom and free speech in the former Soviet republic.

    Opposition protest rallies were frequently banned or broken up with force by the police.

    Alliance spokesman Winzuk Vetsherko said opposition parties were at a disadvantage in the upcoming polls because candidates "are not elected but named" to sit in parliament.

    The opposition planned to field 78 candidates to contest the 100 seats at stake in the legislature, but left a decision on whether to boycott the polls up to the contenders themselves.

    Lukaschenko denounced the opposition as "unemployed rowdies," who had no chance of being elected. He said campaigning for the election had proceeded smoothly, a sign of "the healthy state of society" in the country.

    Observers to monitor election

    Hundreds of foreign observers will be monitoring the polls. Experts from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will give their verdict on whether they are free and fair.

    On Monday, the European Union said it would reward Belarus with stronger official, economic and cultural relations if the elections are sufficiently fair.

    No Opposition Boycott in Belarus

    In a related story however, The Moscow Times reports that Belarus' liberal and nationalist opposition overcame divisions Sunday and agreed not to boycott a parliamentary election that the government hopes will improve its poor relations with the West.

    About 70 opposition candidates have been allowed on the ballot for 110 seats, far more than in previous elections.

    President Alexander Lukashenko has staked his hopes on next Sunday's vote to secure legitimacy from the United States and European Union and expressed impatience with Western demands on Saturday, saying Minsk had bent over backward to stage an election that would win their approval. "If even this time the election turns out to be undemocratic, we will cease all discussions with them," he said.

    Russia, Belarus hold joint military drill

    From: Xinhua and Press TV
    A Russian Tu-160 Blackjack bomber
    A joint military exercise between Russia and Belarus started on Monday to defend the security of the neighboring allies, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

    The month-long Stability-2008 strategic command staff exercises involved several ministries of the two countries and will be held in various regions of Russia and Belarus, said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky.

    The war game is intended to "train the deployment of the Russian Armed Forces, combat missions of troops to localize and fight armed conflicts, terrorist activity, natural disasters and man-made catastrophes in order to provide strategic deterrence and security for the Russia-Belarus Union State, Itar-Tass said, citing Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.

    Missies and bombers to be deployed

    Practice missile launches using strategic bombers will be conducted from 6 to 12 October as part of large scale Moscow-Minsk maneuvers which began on Monday.

    Meanwhile, an undisclosed number of Russian warships, including a nuclear-powered cruiser and an anti-submarine vessel, are heading for Venezuela to engage military exercises there.

    Moscow has repeatedly stressed the need to continue the development of its Strategic Nuclear Forces, including its airborne component, so that they are able to respond promptly and effectively to any aggression.

    The month-long Stability-2008 exercise forms part of more than 200 scheduled maneuvers including 350 live firing drills in the second half of 2008 intended to "train the deployment of the Russian Armed Forces, combat missions of troops to localize and fight armed conflicts, terrorist activities, natural disasters and man-made catastrophes in order to provide strategic deterrence and security for the Russia-Belarus Union State,” Itar-Tass said, citing Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.

    According to RIA Novosti the Russian Air Force currently has at least 141 Tu-22M3 Backfire-C, 40 Tu-95 Bear-H and 16 modernized Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers in service which can deploy both long-range cruise missiles and short-range nuclear missiles.

    The Kremlin has been actively trying to strengthen contacts with Latin American nations recently, including Venezuela and Cuba because of tense relations with the US following the Russia-Georgia conflict last month.

  • Agrocultural scene...

    Belarus imposed customs duties for tomatoes and cucumbers

    From: LOL
    Seasonal customs duties for import of tomatoes and cucumbers to Belarus were imposed by the President decree #523 d.d. September18, reported “InterfaxZapad.

    According to the document, the rate of customs duties for import of fresh or cooled tomatoes and cucumbers was determined at 50 % from the customs value till December 1, 2008 and from March 1 to June 1, 2009.

    Besides, till March 1, 2009 the rate of import customs duty for onion was determined at the level of 180 % from the customs value of the produce, for table-beet - at the level of 150 %, for carrot – 120 %, for white cabbage – 75 %. As compared to the previous year, the rates of seasonal customs duties for import of onion increased in 1.8 times, white cabbage – up 2.1 times, beet – up 2.5 times, carrot – up 2 times.

    Seasonal customs duties were determined in order to protect interests of Belarussian producers. Seasonal customs duties for some groups of vegetables have been imposed in Belarus evay year since 2004.

    more than one third of potatoes areas to be harvested in Mogilevskaya oblast

    According to the Committee of agriculture and food of the regional executive committee, more than one third of potatoes sowing areas were harvested in Mogilevskaya oblast, reported ”Interfax-Zapad”.

    As of September 22, 2008, harvesting campaign of potatoes completed throughout 1.428 ha in the agricultural organizations, which totals 35 % of the plan. In addition, 32.500 tonnes of potatoes were harvested with the average yield at 228 c/ha.

    The leaders in potatoes harvesting are the farms of Mogilevsk region, showing the index at 52 % , and 9.200 tonnes of potatoes were harvested with the average yield at 237 c/ha, Bobruisk region – 6.300 tonnes of potatoes were harvested with the average yield at 346 c/ha, Kirovskij region – 3.700 tonnes with the average yield at 237 c/ha, Belinichskii region – 2.700 tonnes of potatoes were harvested with the average yield at 271 c/ha.

    Also, they reported, that the agricultural organizations of the southern regions harvested 20 % of sugar-beet . 30.600 tonnes of sugar-beet were harvested with the average yield at 327 c/ha.

    The agricultural organizations sold 26.800 tones of sugar-beet towards the government order with the average sugar-content at 15.4 %.

    Belarus envoy says biofuels sector will be key to cleaning up Chernobyl contamination

    From: Press Reliese
    A senior Belarus diplomat told a conference in Brussels today that his country has decided to make decontaminating the lands affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster its number one priority, and that it will pursue this aim by building up a giant biofuels sector. Mr Andrei Savinykh, deputy permanent representative at his country’s mission to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, told delegates at the meeting that his government was convinced by scientific advice that repeated harvesting of biomass crops as feedstock for biofuel refineries would remove radionuclides from the soil in the contaminated areas. He said it is possible that the construction of this new agro-industrial sector could result in radioactivity being removed from 50,000 square kilometres of land within 20 to 40 years, rather than the centuries which natural decay would take.

    Speaking at a conference organised by Greenfield Project Management Ltd, which already plans to build a multi-fuel biorefinery in Belarus to produce bioethanol, biodiesel, biogas and green electricity, Mr Savinykh said his government would rapidly complete a planning phase for the revolutionary enterprise by the end of 2009, and that he hoped implementation would begin in 2010. Saying that the government of Belarus was “fully committed” to the Chernobyl Bio-clean Programme, he stressed that the agricultural production cycle in the affected territories was unable to remove radionuclides via the cycle of ‘planting/harvest/process/food’. Even though plants absorb radioactive particles such as caesium 137 and strontium 90, these went back into the soil as straw and other crop wastes were put back on the land.

    “At the final stage, we can remove food from the production chain,” he said, “and substitute an agro-industrial product in the form of biofuels. In addition, we must add safe processing and storage of radionuclides from the final waste. Then we can expect that repeated harvesting of biomass crops which absorb the radioactivity will remove it once and for all. Instead of centuries of natural decay, this process will cut the time to 20 to 40 years.” Greenfield plans a multi-fuels refinery at Mozyr, Belarus, producing 550 million litres of ethanol annually along with biodiesel, biogas and electricity.

    Each stage can use waste from the previous stage along with fresh biomass feedstock. Initially, the fuels will use feedstock such as sugar beet and oil-bearing plants from clean lands, but following field trials and safety design all facilities will begin using crops from the affected areas. Existing technologies will be applied to remove all radioactivity from the final products and from any effluents and emissions, leaving small quantities of radioactive waste to be stored in safe facilities. “This land is ideal for growing energy crops,” said Mr Savinykh, “by switching to these crops, we will not be competing with existing agriculture or taking any food from even one person’s mouth. Instead, we will bring employment, incomes, and hope to these devastated regions, which have seen little improvement since the catastrophe in 1986.”

    The Greenfield conference was attended by senior executives from companies interested in participating in the Mozyr project and others, including De Smet Engineering, Belgium, Genencor International, Netherlands, PM Group, Ireland and GreenStream Network (Germany), an expert in carbon credits, as well as financial advisors and potential investors. A seminar in Minsk is planned for November 2008 to elaborate plans for the enormous project, in conjunction with international organisations already involved with the Chernobyl problem, such as the UNDP, WHO, IAEA, World Bank, EU bodies, and NGOs. It will also reach out to the governments of Russia and Ukraine, whose territory was also seriously contaminated by the explosion at the Soviet reactor in 1986, the world’s worst civil nuclear disaster.

  • From the Opposition...

    Belarus opposition leader shortlisted for EU human rights prize

    From: Ria Novosti
    A Belarusian opposition leader is among three candidates shortlisted for the European Union's top human rights award this year, the European Parliament said in a news release.

    Alexander Kozulin will compete with Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia and Congo's electoral commission chairman, Abbot Apollinaire Malu Malu, for this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and a sum of 50,000 euros.

    According to the press release, Kozulin has been nominated for his "great courage to withstand the [Belarus] regime's actions and to fight for freedom of thought and expression and basic civil rights."

    Kozulin was sentenced to five and a half years in jail following protests against the re-election of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in 2006. He was, however, released in August.

    The Chinese campaigner for civil rights, environmental protection, and AIDS advocacy, Hu Jia was arrested, charged with "inciting subversion of state power" and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail following his testimony on human rights in China, given on 26 November 2007 via a conference call to the European Parliament's Human Rights Subcommittee.

    Abbot Apollinaire Malu Malu has been praised for his efforts aimed at bringing peace to the Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu, and for "dedicating his wisdom and experience to realizing these principles throughout his career."

    The shortlist was drawn up from eight candidates, including the Dalai Lama, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Franco-Colombian ex-hostage Ingrid Betancourt, and Russia's Mikhail Trepashkin, a former security service officer convicted of divulging state secrets. Trepashkin was released in November 2007.

    The winner will be selected in mid-October and the prize will be awarded to the laureate or his representative in Strasbourg on December 17.

    The Sakharov Prize, named after Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, was first awarded in 1988. Former winners include Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Belarusian Association of Journalists.

    Election week: events and generalizations

    From: Viasna
    The main intrigue of the week is a question: will or won’t opposition candidates participate in elections? The integrated approach is not developed, though some of the candidates have withdrawn their candidacies. The BNF party compromised with candidates for promotion and gave them an opportunity to make decisions independently.

    The quantity of uncontested districts for this week has accrued up to 14, that make up 15 % from total.

    The "Champion" in this question - Grodno region: in 6 of the 13 districts elections will be uncontested. The elections in the parliament’s upper chamber – Council of the Republic – will pass absolutely uncontested.

    Considerable quantities of citizens are not included in the lists of voters.

    Observation mission of ODIHR OSCE expresses concern about the formation of these lists.

    Human rights defenders have found out, how power structures "have prepared" for the selective company. On a week of the public the official document on the Brest region have been presented. Certain categories of citizens, first of all youth, "will be neutralized". What does it mean — everybody knows by the experience of the previous election campaigns.

    Is it necessary to speak about exclusive importance of a stage of candidate’s propaganda, on which an acquaintance of voters with the future people's choices, acquaintance with their program occurs?!.

    Is it necessary to speak about how it is important to realize the rights provided by the selective legislation: to carry out meetings with voters, to place printing propaganda materials?!.

    Meanwhile, it is necessary to ascertain with regret that proimperious candidates are provided not only with the minimum guarantees of propaganda, but also moreover.

    At the same time, independent candidates are compelled to face barriers: exert candidates and heads of the organizations and the enterprises, who are compelled to refuse in granting premises for carrying out meetings, to forbid to hang out propaganda materials or to remove them... And to the supporters of boycott which, by the way, is resolved by the selective legislation, are already prepared places in insulators.

    On Hamlet’s question everyone will answer by himself

    Within a week UDF and separate opposition parties did not manage to develop the uniform approach to a question of participation or nonparticipation in elections. At the same time, on September, 19 five members of the Incorporated civil party refused further participation in the selective company — Stanislav Bogdankevich, Alexander Dobrovolsky, Valentine Polevikova, Ekaterina Molosaeva and Anna Egorov.

    The reason of such decision was razing the publication of their propaganda materials by the authorities.

    Leader of UCPB Anatoly Lebedko who is laid down in the same conditions, has not descended from a selective distance: he declared his district to be the "range for the proof of falsifications".

    The same day promoted workers from BNF in Minsk have declared removal of their two nominees: Alexey Janukevich and Valentine Svjatskaja. On September, 17 was accepted a decision on the removal of the nominee by the member of the same party Stanislav Sudnik from Lida.

    They have motivated the refusal of the further participation in elections by the decision of the BNF party’s Soim, which has provided removal of all candidates of the party by the first day of preschedule voting (by September, 23).

    However, candidates have hastened: on September, 20 party’s Soim reformulated the previous decision on removal of nominees. Now candidates can solve: to participate or not, to be or not to be.

    Uncontested elections will take place in 14 districts

    After withdrawing Stanislav Sudnik’s candidacy the quantity of uncontested districts in Grodno area has increased: now there are 6 of 13. It is an original "record" — on other areas picture is not so brutal.

    The quantity of uncontested districts in the country is 14, what makes 15 % from total. It is a unique event for the Newest history of Belarus.

    Let's remind: last week the candidate of Vilejka election district ? 64 Victor Anikeenko withdrew. As a result only one candidate remained in the district - the candidate from power Spilnichenko Igor - the head physician Vileika TMA.

    100 % uncontested elections in Council of the Republic

    On September, 18 at the session of the Central electoral commission 55 candidates in members of Council of the Republic of National meeting of Belarus were registered. It was planned to register 56 persons, but archpriest Feodor Popovnyj has refused to be put forward from Minsk: the reason for this decision was that the policy in a life of the priest should take secondary place and he was going to continue spiritual activity.

    Council of the Republic consists of 64 persons: eight from each region and Minsk, eight more are appointed by the president. Thus, elections in Council of the Republic will pass on an uncontested basis. Elections of members of Council of the Republic will take place from September, 21 till October, 10, at the sessions of deputies of local Councils of deputies of base level in each region and deputies of Minsk council of deputies.

    "List" anxieties

    The authorities are very anxious about the elections have taken place. Members of the local commissions come to the decision of a problem of appearance simply: strike surnames off the list voters. Logic clear: thus it is possible to overestimate percent of the voters which have voted. Member of the local selective commission in Svetlogorsk has informed: "On each polling district there are people who usually do not go on elections. The members of the local commissions who work not for the first time, know about them. The chairman of the commission has told that it is not necessary to include them".

    Observation mission of ODIHR OSCE also expresses concern about the formation of these lists. International observers have underlined: "In Belarus lists of voters are composed on each polling district. Thus, there is no any centralized or summary list. Absence of the centralized data of the account of voters at national or district level means that there is an actual impossibility of cross checking repeated names". This problem disturbs mission because exists the possibility of the reusable voting of the same citizens.

    Alyaksandr Kazulin: “Privatisation shouldn’t be carried on by means of backstage deals”

    From: Charter '97
    Former Belarusian political prisoner Alyaksandr Kazulin pays a working the politician visit to the US. The politician warned the West of recognition of the “parliamentary election” in Belarus, as its results are already known in the Lukashenka’s administration.

    The politician has already had some meetings with high ranking officials of the Department of State, office of National Security Advisor of the US, as well as officers of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute, the Voice of America reports.

    The main events of the visit of the Belarusian politician to the US are a meeting with the US President George Bush in the frames of the session of the UN General Assembly in New York, and contacts with advisors for foreign policy of campaign headquarters of John McCain and Barack Obama.

    On September 22, Alyaksandr Kazulin spoke in the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Washington, where he told his view of the situation in Belarus to politologists, diplomats and journalists.

    First of all, he thanked the US nation, US government and president bush for taking part in his destiny. Kazulin thinks interference of the United States, who demanded to hear his case in the UN Security Council, saved his life, because it was one of his conditions for stopping his long-term hungry strike.

    He also thanked the US for the readiness to render medical aid to his wife Iryna Kazulina, though her disease was too strong at that time. Alyaksandr Kazulin emphasised that his wife struggled not only for his release, she scarified herself for freedom and independence of Belarus.

    Speaking on behalf of the democratic forces of Belarus, he focused on problems of the oncoming “parliamentary election” on September 28 and warned the West against hastily recognition of the election in return for small concessions of the regime.

    In Kazulin’s view, the election campaign doesn’t give hope for honest and fair election. The results are known in the Lukashenka’s administration, none of the authoritative opposition figures and opponents of the regime won’t be included in the so called “house of representatives”.

    “Moreover,” he emphasised, “In spite of release of remaining political prisoners, a campaign of tight repressions against the opponents of the regime may begin in the country at any moment.”

    One of the most practical ways out of the system crises, the country has faced, is a round table with authorities’ representatives and democratic opposition through intermediary of the EU and the US.

    The Belarusian opposition must become an active party in such negotiations that will allow to avoid deciding of the destiny of the country and its democratic future behind the back of participants of the political process.

    A similar decision may be useful in regard to problems of foreign investments. Privatisation in the country shouldn’t be carried on by means of backstage deals between the regime and doubtful partners, as it is happening today.

  • Around the region...

    Containing Russia Without Containment

    From: Moscow Times
    Let's engage Russia if we can but contain it if we must." These two alternatives already defined Western strategy toward Russia in the mid-1990s. Since then, Russia may have changed dramatically, but not our questions about it. What do you do when your big neighbor widens the gap that exists between its culture, which is European, and its political system, which is becoming increasingly "Asian" -- at least in the bad old sense of "Oriental despotism"?

    Should the best answer to the return of Russia's imperial ambitions be a modern version of a Holy Alliance of stability designed to contain the world's new maverick? Or is a latter-day Yalta Conference aimed at redrawing the political boundaries of Europe necessary? Could the answer be a bit of both?

    If Russia is becoming what revolutionary France was under Napoleon or reverting to Soviet form -- shorn of a totalitarian ideology but with an appetite for conquest and re-conquest -- what is needed is not the "league of democracies" advocated by some conservatives in the United States. What is needed instead is a "stability league" that includes prominent actors like China, India and other countries that are more interested in economic growth than in "rocking the boat" of the international system. Such a strategy implies first of all a solid partnership with China, not because it is evolving in the direction of democracy, but because it is a status-quo power.

    Such a strategy could lead to the opening of negotiations with Iran and, of course, to a further closing of ranks within NATO. The message to the Kremlin here would be crystal clear: "Do not fool yourself. Nationalism and imperialism will lead you nowhere. You cannot expand geographically without serious costs to your economic growth and your personal enrichment. Europe may be weak and divided, the United States may no longer be what it was, but with your falling population and the sad state of your economy beyond oil and gas, you simply are not equipped to be in the league of great global powers. China is, but you are not."

    But the containment argument fails because the Kremlin can still make mischief around the world by acting with Syria or Venezuela in an irresponsible manner. More important, rallying the world solely against Russia would mean taking the Kremlin's great-power pretensions too seriously. For example, many Asians believe that Russia is a problem for Europe but no longer for the world. At the Cold War's end, Japan remained obsessed with Russia as the heir to the Soviet Union. Today, the Japanese are so concerned with China that they have little time for fears about Russia.

    The other alternative to a rebirth of "containment" would consist of accepting the Russian argument or, more precisely, the country's "emotions." It would mean saying, in effect, "We have unnecessarily humiliated you over the past 10 years. From NATO enlargement to the grant of independence to Kosovo, we have deliberately ignored your sensitivities and your interests. Let's sit down together like Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta and redesign a 21st-century map of Europe. What do you want back? What do we keep?"

    This approach might recognize Russia's right to monitor the future evolution of the Caucasus. Indeed, while talking tough under the guidance of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country heads the European Union, Europe has de facto resigned itself to Georgia's dismemberment. Russian troops are to remain in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The West is not about to declare war on Russia for the sake of a Georgia, whose credibility has been greatly eroded by its president's irresponsible behavior. As for Ukraine, it may one day become part of the EU, but its future is not in NATO.

    Yet, between all-out containment -- which is very unlikely and not necessarily desirable or realistic -- and accommodation, which borders on appeasement, which would be dangerous for Europe's future, a third way, based on a few firm principles, must be found.

    These principles are clear. First, Ukraine's territorial integrity is not negotiable. This has been said many times, but repetition does not diminish its importance. Russia without Ukraine is a manageable nation-state, but Russia with Ukraine is an unmanageable empire.

    Second, even if the West condemns Georgia's irresponsibility and factors in Russia's sensitivities regarding its ex-imperial territories, the Kremlin's shameless brutality is unacceptable. After all, this is Europe more than six decades after World War II and nearly 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The use of force to settle scores and impose one nation's will upon another cannot be accepted passively.

    In the short term, time may be on Russia's side. In the long run -- economically, demographically, politically and strategically -- time is on "our" side if we stick to our values and our principles.

    Georgia, Ukraine Seek UN Support

    From: Moscow Times
    Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili preparing in Tbilisi on Friday to fly to New York for the UN General Assembly
    The leaders of Georgia and Ukraine go to the United Nations this week hoping to shore up Western support for their future NATO accession in the face of a militarily resurgent Russia.

    "Young democracies in this region need the support of developed democracies," Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili will say in a speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, according to senior government official Kakha Lomaia. "That's why developed democracies need to provide clear roadmaps to meet our European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations."

    Beyond harsh words, Western powers have yet to define a strategic response to the war over Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, in which Russia showed that it was ready to use force to defend spheres of "privileged interest" in its former Soviet backyard. Russia is incensed by NATO's promise of membership for Tbilisi and Kiev.

    Before boarding a flight to New York on Friday, Saakashvili vowed to confront what he called "the law of the jungle."

    "There are lots of hurdles that Russia will put on our way because Russia has crossed the red line," Saakashvili told reporters. "They want to bring it back to the law of the jungle."

    Saakashvili also thanked the United States and European nations for their support after the Russian invasion.

    "We will speak to the General Assembly about this aggression and ethnic cleansing conducted on our territory that is still going on," he said.

    The Kremlin's decision to deploy forces in defense of pro-Moscow separatists in South Ossetia also rattled nerves in Ukraine, which accuses Russia of stoking tensions in Crimea, a region populated mainly by ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers.

    Divisions over policy toward Russia contributed to the collapse last week of Ukraine's governing coalition, raising the prospect of a third parliamentary election in as many years.

    "The Russia-Georgia conflict has shown that there is no collective security," said Andriy Goncharuk, foreign policy adviser to President Viktor Yushchenko. "And we have seen the predictable result -- what happens when one side is stronger than the other and there is nothing to offset that."

    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that the West should not give in to Russian "bullying."

    But dependent on Russian gas and oil, some EU members -- notably France and Germany -- are anxious to avoid confrontation. In April, they blocked a U.S. bid to grant Georgia and Ukraine roadmaps to accession. A review is due in December.

    An influential think tank said last week that there was a risk of NATO enlargement policy dividing the West. The International Institute for Strategic Studies said Washington would continue to advocate expansion to Tbilisi and Kiev, but "Europeans have a strong case to argue that it is in NATO's strategic interest to pause its enlargement policy."

    "The West must not reply to [Russia's] defiant mood through a form of strategic autism, advancing its interests blind to the emotional response this can elicit from the Russian leadership," it said.

    Uneasy coalition talks in Ukraine

    From: AP
    Ukraine's opposition leader and former Orange premier Yulia Tymoshenko
    Ukrainian lawmakers held more talks Monday aimed at replacing the current government, as a deadline loomed for early parliamentary elections.
    The pro-Western coalition of President Viktor Yushchenko and his 2004 Orange Revolution partner, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, collapsed earlier this month. The two leaders have been feuding ahead of the 2010 presidential elections. They also have disagreed about how to react to Russia's war with Georgia last month.

    The Kremlin has bitterly opposed prospect of NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine, whose pro-Western leaders have sought to bring their ex-Soviet republics into the Western alliance.

    Yushchenko's party said in a statement Monday that it is ready to revive the shattered coalition and invite a smaller party to join.

    Tymoshenko also has advocated making the old alliance work, but hinted that if that doesn't happen she may team up with the Moscow-friendly Party of Regions.

    Top officials from parliamentary factions were meeting Monday in Parliament to discuss ways of forming the coalition. The head of Yushchenko's party, Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, officially made the call to revive the coalition and include the smaller party at the meeting, according to a statement on the party's Web site.

    Analysts say such an alliance may slow Ukraine's efforts to join NATO and pave the way for stronger ties with Russia. Still, it would be unlikely to hamper Ukraine's overall integration with the West, since all the three major political forces are interested in closer ties with the European Union.

    Many analysts believe, however, that the rival political forces are unlikely to come to an agreement and that a new parliamentary election will probably be held in the winter. Lawmakers have until mid-October to either work out a new alliance, or a new vote will be called.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Poland ranks 58 in most corrupt countries ranking

    From: WBJ
    Poland ranked 58th in an index of the most corrupt countries in the world prepared by Transparency International, sharing the spot with Lithuania and Turkey

    The report, which was based on perception of corruption by businesspeople and other professionals, revealed that Poland has scored 4.6, up by 0.4 points from last year. Stanislaw Cichocki, executive director at Transparency International said that Poland's score and perception improved due to the fact that the country is in the lead as one that has changed for the better.

    Countries such as Somalia and Iraq were among those showing the highest levels of perceived corruption. "In the poorest countries, corruption levels can mean the difference between life and death, when money for hospitals or clean water is in play," said Huguette Labelle, chair of Transparency International.

    Of 180 countries, Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden share the highest score at 9.3, while Somalia, Iraq and Myanmar scored the least.

    "Stemming corruption requires strong oversight through parliaments, law enforcement, independent media and a vibrant civil society," said Labelle.
  • Note: The results are way, way, way too low; obviously someone was bribed...

    Polish Man, 63, accused of sex assault on teen

    From: EADT24
    A TEENAGER was sexually assaulted by a man 50 years older than her after he accosted her on a bus as she was going to school, it has been alleged.

    Fernando Dias, 63, struck up a conversation with the 13-year-old girl as she was travelling to her Ipswich school and when she missed her stop he persuaded her not to go to school and to go for a cup of tea with him instead, Ipswich Crown Court was told.

    Stephen Dyble, prosecuting, said that while they were on the bus Dias, a Polish national, told the girl that if she ever needed money she could go to him and had put ?5 in her pocket.

    While they were having a drink Dias had allegedly started stroking the girl's leg and although she was unsettled by what he was doing she had agreed to go back to his flat.

    There they had watched television but when the girl said it was time for her to go Dias had allegedly grabbed hold of her and “gripped” her buttocks.

    “He said 'Let's make love' and had tried to kiss her on the face and around her neck,” alleged Mr Dyble.

    The girl pushed him away and a complaint was made to the police after she told relatives about what had happened.

    Dias was arrested and denied ever meeting the girl or inviting her back to his flat. “He said it was made up or a case of mistaken identity,” said Mr Dyble.

    Dias, of Parliament Road, Ipswich, has denied sexual activity with a child and two offences of sexual assault.

    Mr Dyble said that two months after the alleged attack on the schoolgirl Dias had allegedly carried out sex attacks on a 77-year-old pensioner and a 50-year old woman.

    He claimed that Dias, who had been drinking, had gone into an office where the women were having a meeting and had put his hand under the pensioner's top and touched her breast and had then tried to kiss the other woman's breasts and put his hand up her skirt.

    He said the alleged incident was witnessed by a man who had been with the women at the time.

    Dias had later denied the assaults on the two women and claimed he had been elsewhere.

    The trial continues today.

    Polish anti-corruption body highlights problems with 2007 reimbursement list

    From: HTA
    Following a long investigation, the Polish anti-corruption office (CBA) has reported a number of anomalies related to the inclusion of certain medicines in the human drugs reimbursement list, which was published by the Polish health ministry in November 2007.

    The CBA investigation started at the beginning of 2008, after a series of articles in the Polish press questioning the way in which ivabradine, manufactured by French pharmaceutical company Servier, was added to the list (see EURALex, Issue No 189).

    The press suggested that ivabradine - a drug used in the treatment of ischaemic heart disease - was included in the November 2007 list following a meeting at the health ministry between then-deputy health minister Boleslaw Piecha and Servier's representatives. The drug was first included in the draft reimbursement list, from which it was removed after a period of public consultation. The press claimed that the drug appeared again on the list after Mr Piecha's meeting with the company's representatives, when the final list was already signed by then-health minister Zbigniew Religa and was awaiting the signature of the finance minister.

    Both Mr Piecha and the company denied corruption allegations. In its latest statement on ivabradine, Servier Poland says that the drug was not a last-minute addition to the list, but rather a result of 20 months of consultation process followed by the company's application to include it in the reimbursement list, submitted to the health ministry in March 2006. "Servier fulfilled all the requirements pertaining to the drug's inclusion in the reimbursement list and provided all the necessary information, including the results of studies and opinions," the company maintains.

    According to CBA investigators, the documentation pertaining to the reimbursement list refers to a positive recommendation offered for the drug by the ministry's drugs policy department, but in fact this recommendation was never made. The CBA also established that the health minister - who signs the final list - did not receive full information on the costs of ivabradine's inclusion in the list. The CBA claims that the drug policy department estimated ivabradine's reimbursement costs at PLN240 million (Euros70.9 million) per annum, however, the figure provided for in the documentation accompanying the draft reimbursement list was PLN7.8 million. In addition, the CBA also highlighted the lack of mechanisms that would allow the health ministry to carry out an appropriate pharmaco-economic assessment of innovative drugs.

    On the other hand, in a report issued a few months ago, the Polish Supreme Chamber of Control (NIK) - a top audit institution overseeing economic efficiency in public spending - offered a positive assessment of the ministry's work on the November reimbursement list, although it, too, pointed out to various abnormalities. The Chamber stressed that Mr Piecha - from a formal point of view and in line with the current legislation - did not exceed his competencies as the deputy health minister responsible for the formation of the list, when he decided to include ivabradine - and two other drugs - without having a positive recommendation from the drugs policy department. The NIK noted, however, that such a practice gives evidence to the lack of transparency, as provided for in the EU Transparency Directive. The NIK report makes several recommendations to the ministry to revise the current legislation governing the reimbursement of medicines to make the process more transparent.

    In the meantime, the CBA has forwarded the results of its investigation to the Prosecutor's Office, which has been conducting its own investigation into the offering and receiving of financial benefits related to the inclusion of ivabradine in the reimbursement list. The investigation will also focus on the actions of Mr Piecha.

  • Sport...

    2 Belarusian athletes banned for doping

    From: AP
    Silver medalist Vadim Devyatovskiy, left, poses with fellow Belarusian Ivan Tsikhan after the pair won Olympic medals in the hammer throw in Beijing.
    A shot putter and steeplechaser from Belarus drew two-year bans for doping.

    The Belarusian Athletics Federation said Tuesday the decision to discipline shot putter Yulia Leantsyuk and steeplechaser Irina Bakhanouskaya was made last month. Both competed in the European Cup in France in June.

    Leantsyuk tested positive for testosterone on July 22 and Bakhanouskaya for stanozolol on July 21, federation spokeswoman Nastassia Maryinina said.

    IOC hears hammer throw doping suspects - decision delayed

    In a related M&C story,

    Olympic hammer throw medallists Vadim Devyatovskiy and Ivan Tsikhan of Belarus appeared before the International Olympic Committee on Sunday in the wake of positive doping tests.

    The IOC said in a statement that their fate will be decided at a later date as the athletes were given almost one month until October 17 to provide further information.

    The silver medallist Devyatovskiy and bronze medallist Ivan Tsikhan tested positive for the steroid testosterone after the August 17 final in Beijing.

    Both athletes have protested their innocence and they answered questions before the IOC disciplinary committee on Sunday.

    If they are found guilty and disqualified, Krisztian Pars of Hungary will move from fourth to silver and Japan's 2004 Olympic champion Koji Murofushi climb from fifth to bronze. The gold medal was won by Primoz Kozmus of Slovania.

    Devyatovskiy, 31, faces a life ban as a second-time offender as he served a first drugs ban 2000-2002. The three-time world champion Tsikhan faces a two-year ban.

    The IOC also looked into the case of Polish canoeist Adam Seroczynski, who tested positive for the anabolic agent clenbuterol after coming fourth in the K2 event.

    So far six athletes have been disqualified from the Beijing Games by the IOC, which conducted more than 5,000 tests there, for doping offences.

    They include Ukraine's heptathlete Lyudmila Blonska, who lost her silver medal, and North Korean shooter Kim Jong Su, who was stripped silver and bronze medals.

  • Endnote...

    Belarus impasse: Sorry, Tanya, you need to go home

    From: Yakima Herald-Republic
    Tanya Kazyra wants to be an American. For nine summers, she's lived with a family in Petaluma, Calif., and doesn't want to return to Belarus, where she lives with a loved but ailing grandmother, despite her government's promise of a free house and college education in exchange for her return. Officials from the Eastern European nation aren't happy with this teenager's rebellion.

    Neither are many volunteers with the Children of Chernobyl U.S. Alliance program, which brings about 1,400 children annually to build up their compromised immune systems, receive medical care and generally have a reprieve from the environmental concerns of living with the fallout from the world's largest nuclear disaster.

    Some of those children spend time in Ellensburg and Yakima, thanks to chapters started in 1995 and 1996, respectively, a decade after the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in neighboring Ukraine. In Ellensburg, there's also an educational focus, with older teens visiting to gain leadership skills and learn about American customs and government. Alliance volunteers say 16-year-old Kazyra's refusal to return will prevent thousands of other young Belarussians from getting the help they need each summer.

    As Ellensburg host Barbara Newman says, "It's a situation where everyone is harmed and no one in particular is at fault."

    They sympathize, but they also say Kazyra and her American host family knew the rules and are being selfish.

    We also sympathize. What kid from a poor country with an unstable family life (she was taken from the custody of alcoholic parents) wouldn't want a better life with more opportunities? But we think she and her American host family should follow the rules established by the program. Kazyra should go home and apply for a visa when she turns 18.

    However, we also think the Belarussian government shouldn't hold a valuable program hostage to try to force one teenager to toe the line. They've suspended all programs affiliated with the Chernobyl Children's Project, including the two in the Yakima Valley. Rather than squashing a goodwill program that fosters international relations and improves health, we think Belarus should allow the summer visits to continue. The benefits for Belarus -- healthier children who might grow up to be compassionate, educated leaders in their own communities -- far outweigh the negative fallout of ending the program because one teenager thought of herself before others.