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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Belarus salutes Olympians, Children’s homes, Terrorism, Russia, S.Ossetia, Abkhazia, Economics, Elections, EU talks, Polish scandal, News and Sport

  • From the Top...
  • #341

    President Meets with Medal Winners of the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    Alexander Lukashenko confering an Order of Honour on Andrei Rybakov
    The performance of Belarusian athletes at the 29th Summer Olympic Games in Beijing was a major improvement on their performance at the Athens Olympics, said President Alexander Lukashenko on 9 September at his meeting with the athletes-prize-winners of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

    “Yesterday, at the meeting with journalists from Russian regional mass media, I made a hasty remark calling these Games an Olympics of ‘missed opportunities’. According to my estimates, we could have won five gold medals more, and had good reasons to expect them,” said the Belarusian President. There are outstanding professionals in many sports in Belarus who are capable of training high-class athletes, and all the necessary conditions for their professional growth are in place, he said. “It is because of this that I said that although this Olympics was successful, it was also an Olympics of ‘missed opportunities,’” Alexander Lukashenko added.

    Alexander Lukashenko expressed profound gratitude to Olympic champions Andrei Armyanov, Oksana Menkova, brothers Alexander and Andrei Bogdanovichis, Aleksei Abalmasov, Artur Litvinchuk, Vadim Makhnev and Roman Petrushenko, and to silver and bronze winners of the Olympic Games. “The entire country was supporting you, hoping for your sports victories and expecting them; with the feeling of pride was watching the State Flag being hoisted and the Belarusian anthem played in honour of the winners,” said the President.

    Belarus won 19 medals in 7 types of sport, including 4 gold medals, 5 silver and 10 bronze medals. Belarus was 13th in the overall medal count among 204 countries. This is a major improvement on the performance at the Athens Olympics, Alexander Lukashenko said, when the Belarusians were 18th in this respect.

    Alexander Lukashenko said that a detailed analysis of the Olympics results would be held at the next meeting of the Belarusian Olympic Committee, scrutinizing the performance of each Belarusian athlete in each particular kind of sport. Particular attention will be paid to the management of the Belarusian sports federations, up to the point of dismissing some of the top managers of the federations. The Head of State underscored that his earlier instructions related to development of sport should be accomplished.

    “Trainers are a special link and therefore special attention should be paid to supporting them. To encourage sportsmen to accept trainer posts. Today we can afford more financial support for them and we should do it,” said the head of state. He also added, “We will do our best to make trainers obvious when sportsmen are discussed”.

    Alexander Lukashenko also underscored the need for more attention to financial support of all the sportsmen, who have glorified Belarus, regardless of whether they would continue their sport career or not. “It is necessary to take a close look at every sportsman, support them with more than what was promised, and resolve their problems. It is necessary to take a look at future Olympic athletes: they need support now and not only after they make us bask in glory,” said the President.

    The raising of future winners of the Olympic Games in Great Britain should begin today, Alexander Lukashenko said.

    The President also noted the achievements of the women’s basketball team that managed to get to the Olympic Games for the first time in the Belarusian history and was the 6th there. The President drew attention to the fact that out of 28 Olympic prize-holders, 22 athletes won there first Olympic medals. “They represent a new generation of athletes raised by our Belarusian sport school,” Alexander Lukashenko underlined. He added that 40 Belarusian athletes in 15 sports who ranked 4-8 received the diplomas of the International Olympic Committee.

    The Belarusian Head of State expressed appreciation to the coaches of their “painstaking work and constant efforts to raise the sports elite of the country.”

    Alexander Lukashenko presented state awards to the athletes and coaches in appreciation of their achievements of the national importance. “Try to preserve your strength, deftness, courage and motivation to surpass the Beijing results at the Olympic Games in London,” the President said.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    All children’s homes in Belarus will be closed within 5 years, Belarus President says

    From: BelTA
    All the children’s homes in Belarus will be closed within 5 years. The children will move to children’s villages, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at a press conference for the Russian media on September 8.

    “There are about 30 000 children’s homes in the country. They will be replaced with children’s villages where the so-called social mother will be in charge of 8-10 kids. She will have an assistant to help her about the household. Ten houses hosting 10 kids each amount to almost 100 children. Our children’s homes have 110-120 children,” the Belarusian Head of State said. Alexander Lukashenko also noted that the adoption of kids within the country is currently picking up.

    The President underlined that the state is taking care of the children that are growing up in disadvantaged families. “We take children away from such families; their parents have to pay for their support. If they do not want to - they will be forced to do it. Even most tough measures may be employed to make them pay,” the Belarusian leader said. According to him, today up to 40% of parents pay for the support of their kids, some are ready to take them back home. Yet, giving children back to their parents, the government closely watches how they are treated at home.

    “We are just beginning. We are taking very tough measures for which we were criticized, but there is no other way. The children are the centre of our life.”

    The Head of State added that the compensation for children’s care will be given a high-profile consideration in the nearest future.

    Belarus completes creation of national terrorism response system

    From: BelTA
    Belarus is completing the development of a national terrorism response system, State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus Yuri Zhadobin stated at a session of top-ranking officials of the counter terrorism units of the CIS security bodies and special services.

    Yuri Zhadobin said that terrorism and radical extremism are global threats facing all countries. Counteracting these global threats and challenges of the 21st-century is one of the top priorities of the foreign policy of Belarus. Although the political situation is stable in Belarus, the country has been undertaking all necessary measures to prevent and stop any manifestations of terrorism. Terrorism, however, knows no frontiers; therefore not a single country can combat this threat alone.

    According to Yuri Zhadobin, the CIS counter terrorism units and special services have gained good experience in this area in the course of joint measures including joint exercises. He is confident that this year’s session and joint Bastion-Counter Terror 2008 strategic exercise in Belarus will contribute to increasing the efficiency of the cooperation between the CIS countries in combating the 21st-century threats.

    Efficient cooperation of CIS special services to ensure appropriate response to global threats

    An appropriate response of the CIS countries to the global threats will depend on the efficiency of cooperation between the CIS counter terrorism units and special services, State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus Yuri Zhadobin told reporters on September 10.

    In his words, a session of top-ranking officials of the counter terrorism units of the CIS security bodies and special services in Minsk will generalize the experience gained in the course of cooperation, finalize the documents on cooperation in case the global 21st century threats arise.

    Yuri Zhadobin welcomed the participants of the forum and wished them every success in their work.

    According to the Head of the CIS Counter Terrorism Centre Andrei Novikov, who is presiding at the forum, this is not the first exercise of special services. This year’s session of representatives of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Moldova will analyze the results of the previous exercises. The Head of the CIS Counter Terrorism Centre said that such joint events increase the efficiency of cooperation and broaden experience in combating any manifestations of terrorism.

    The participants of the session and exercise will exchange the opinion on the urgent problems of the fight against terrorism, discuss the measures to increase the efficiency of cooperation and learn about the advanced experience in conducting counter terrorism operations.

    Attending the events organised by the State Security Committee of Belarus under the auspices of the CIS Counter Terrorism Centre are the delegations of the security agencies and special services of the CIS member states, officials of the CIS and CSTO bodies, anti-terrorism organisation of the SCO Executive Committee, military attaches accredited in Belarus and other foreign observers. The events will conclude on September 12.

    Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus-West relations will not affect relations with Russia

    From: BelTA
    Belarus will work on smoothing relations with the West without affecting relations with Russia, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told a press conference for mass media of regions of Russia on September 8.

    “We will smooth relations with the West, we have no other choice, we have a common border. But we will hold dear the interests of Belarus and Russia and our liabilities as we are part of the tightest union with the Russian Federation in economic, political and military regards,” said the Belarusian leader.

    “The West knows our view that we cannot be friends with America, for instance, at the expense of Russia. I said long ago that I don’t sell the friendship with the Russians. It is our principled position,” said the President.

    Alexander Lukashenko said there are many problems in relations with the West and Russia. “We didn’t want to arrange a confrontation with the West. We just built our own country. We sometimes were in a tight spot because of Russia and the West. We, however, didn’t fall, we continued developing even after Russia raised gas prices by 150% and introduced oil duties, which is so far from our allied relations,” said the President. In his words, “The price raise is not the most fearful thing but the possibility of Belarus’ getting pushed out of the trade and economic area of Russia.” “How can Belarusian products compete in these conditions?” wondered the head of state.

    Alexander Lukashenko remarked Belarus’ geopolitical location obliges the country to maintain relations both with the East and the West. “We are not going to quarrel with anyone. We are a bridge between the East and the West. And we should use our geopolitical location,” said the Belarusian leader.

    He also remarked, if need be, Belarus is ready to protect Russia in its own territory. “If fire breaks out here and it will be aimed at Russia, we will fight here for our common interests,” said Alexander Lukashenko. The President also added, “We should learn how allies should be treated from the USA. One should not be afraid of defending its own interests”.

    “We watch the development of the world and emerging challenges. Nobody will be able to hole up out of the developments, including the calm and peaceful Belarus,” concluded the President.

    Belarus, Russia youth to support Union State construction

    To manifest their civil position on the Union State construction, Belarusian and Russian youth organizations are going to convene at the 3rd festival “Youth – For the Union State” in Rostov-on-Don on September 11-17, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Parliamentary Assembly of Belarus-Russia Union State that triggered the organization of the forum.

    The participants of the festival will take part in a rich and fascinating programme that will include concerts, thematic gatherings, a fair of youth initiatives, a presentation of youth organizations, meetings between the leaders of the youth organizations and the deputies of the national parliaments of Belarus and Russia.

    The international contest of young singers will headline the programme. Winner of the 2007 contest, Vitaly Gordei from Belarus, will partake in the festival as a holder of the first prize of the Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk. Russian Elena Valevskaya who Vitaly Gordei shared the first place at the Vitebsk festival with will also become a guest at the Rostov festivities. Rostov-on-Don will see Piotr Elfimov, Gyunesh, Honoured Artist of Russia Sergei Izbash, the Russian musical studio Yard Magicians taking top spots.

    The major goals of the festival is to create the single cultural space on the territory of the Union State, strengthen friendship and mutual understanding between the youth of Russia and Belarus, preserve and develop the best traditions in culture and arts, unveil new talents. The organizers of the festival are eager to help young people of Belarus and Russia to feel themselves full members of the political and public life and join the process of the Union State construction. The festival will show a growing importance of the new generation participating in all spheres of life, the Parliamentary Assembly said.

    The participation of the deputies of the Parliamentary Assembly, state, public and political figures will help implement all the preset goals.

    The festival is financed from the Union State budget.

    Relations between presidents of Russia and Belarus are based on a high level of trust

    Relations between presidents of Russia and Belarus are based on a high level of trust, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at a press conference for the Russian regional mass media on September 8.

    The Belarusian head of state said that in the course of the bilateral meetings at the highest level the agreements were reached on many fundamental issues. Alexander Lukashenko does not rule out that two more meetings with Dmitry Medvedev will take place by the end of the year: within the framework of a session of the Supreme State Council and, if necessary, prior to this session.

    “I hope our relations, both personal and on the level of state leaders, will continue developing in this way. If there is a necessity we will find time to meet immediately in any place. That what we have agreed about,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

  • Economics...

    Belarus’ GDP up 10.6% in January-August

    From: BelTA
    In January-August the Gross Domestic Product of Belarus was up 10.6% in comparable prices over the same period last year, BelTA was told in the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis.

    In accordance with the social and economic development forecast of Belarus, GDP is projected to increase by 8-9% in 2008.

    Over the eight months this year the industrial output was up 13.1% (the forecast growth is 8-9% in 2008). In January-August the manufacture of consumer durables increased by 12.8% (9-10%), that of foods by 13.3% (8-9%), non-foods 12.3% (10-11%).

    Belarus’ industrial output up 13.1% to Br86.6 trillion

    Over the eight months of 2008, the industrial output in Belarus totaled Br86.562 trillion, up 13.2% over the same point a year ago, BelTA learnt from the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis. The industrial production forecast 2008 provides growth at the level of 8-9%.
    According to the Ministry, in January-August 2008, the country’s output of consumer goods reached Br15.873 trillion, up 12.8% on the same period of 2007 (the annual forecast – 9-10%). Food production grew 13.3% (the annual forecast – 8-9%) up to Br7.893 trillion, nonfood output – 12.3% (10-11%) to Br6.945 trillion. Manufacture of spirits exceeded Br1 trillion, 112% to January-August 2007.
    According to the Ministry, over the seven months of 2008, the GDP energy intensity fell 7.5%, with the 7-8% forecast. In January-July, the profitability of sold products in the industry totaled 18.6% as against the annual forecast of 12-13%.

    Belarus’ capital investments up 21.8% in January-August

    In January-August 2008, capital and construction investments in Belarus exceeded Br20 trillion, up 21.8% on the same period of 2007, BelTA learnt from the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis.
    Over the eight months, the implementation of building and assembly jobs made up Br8.722, up 20.6% in comparable prices over January-August 2007.

    Housing construction with all financial resources surpassed 3 million square meters, up 13.2% over the same point a year ago. In January-August 2008, rural and small urban-type settlements constructed 1.295 million square meters of dwelling (up 3.5%), of them 976.3 thousand square meters in the rural settlements (up 1.4%).

    Inflation in Belarus at 0.2% in August

    Inflation in Belarus was at 0.2% in August, BelTA was told in the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis.

    In January-August the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) increased by 8.3% from December 2007, or 1% per month since the beginning of the year.

    A reminder, in accordance with the 2008 monetary policy guidelines of Belarus inflation is projected within 6-8%. In 2007 the rate of inflation was 12.1%.

    In January-July 2008, Belarus’ foreign trade in goods and services swelled by 57.2% in comparison with the same period of last year (the annual target is 14.5-15.5%), the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis told BelTA.

    According to the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis, in the period under review, Belarus’ export went up by 57.4% (the annual target is 16-17%), the import increased by 56.9% (the annual target is 12.5-13.5%).

    Over the seven months this year, Belarus posted a deficit in foreign trade at the amount of $1762.1 million. In 2008, the foreign trade deficit is projected at the level of $1400-1420 million.

    The unemployment rate in Belarus remains at 0.9%, BelTA learnt from Nikolai Kokhonov, the chief of the main department of the employment policy and population of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

    According to the specialist, the number of the unemployed has slightly increased. As of September 1, 2008, 42,254 unemployed were registered with the employment assistance service (to compare: as of July 1, 2008 – 42,700, as of September 1, 2007 – 48,600).

  • From the International Press...

    World Bank: Belarus enters list of top ten regulatory reformers

    From: Trend AZ

    According to Doing Business 2009, the sixth annual report published by the World Bank and IFC, the Republic of Belarus entered the list of ten top countries – regulatory reformers, BelTA learnt from the representative office of the World Bank in Belarus.

    From June 2007 to June 2008, Belarus made improvements in six out of 10 indicators of regulatory reform to take the fourth place in the list of top ten regulatory reformers. The country moved up a full 30 slots, from 115 to 85, in the overall ease of doing business.

    The report provides the information that Belarus’ public credit registry expanded credit information by eliminating the minimum threshold for loans recorded in its database. Starting a business became easier: a unified registry database was created, a time limit was introduced for registration, and the minimum capital requirement was cut by half.

    Belarus created a one-stop shop for property registration and introduced a broad administrative simplification program that set strict time limits at the registry and computerized its records. As a result, the time required to register property in Belarus fell from 231 days to 21.

    The time required for dealing with construction permits fell by 140 days, thanks to new statutory time limits for preapproval clearances and building permits.

    A new customs code and new banking regulations simplified the rules of trade in Belarus. Belarus eased the tax burden on some duties and amended the simplified tax system for small businesses.

    World Bank Group representative in the Republic of Belarus Craig Bell noted: “This year Belarus’ impressive results in the Doing Business rating show the attempts of the country to introduce reforms and improve the business and investment climate. Stable and versatile reform efforts will continue Belarus’ advancement in Doing Business rating”.

    According to the World Bank, the top 10 are, in order, Azerbaijan, Albania, the Kyrgyz Republic, Belarus, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Egypt. Between June 2007 and June 2008, 23 of the region’s 25 countries implemented 62 reforms that make it easier to do business —over 25 percent of the total worldwide.

    “Countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia continue to lead the world in easing the regulatory burden on business and in sustaining their reform agendas,” co-author of the report Svetlana Bagaudinova said. Many countries that made improvements this year looked to earlier pacesetters for ideas on how to reform their regulations. It is obvious that Belarus’ reform in doing business has been determined as one of the top-priority goals and at present we estimate the first achievements of this work,” she added.

    Singapore leads the global rankings on the overall regulatory ease of doing business for a third consecutive year. New Zealand is runner-up, and the United States third. Top-ranked countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are Georgia (15), Estonia (22), Lithuania (28), Latvia (29), and Azerbaijan (33).

    Doing Business 2009 ranks 181 economies on the overall ease of doing business in 10 indicators of the governmental regulation of doing business including the time and cost of business opening, transborder trade, taxes and business closing. The ratings do not embrace such areas as macroeconomic policy, the quality of the infrastructure, currency stability, investors and the crime rate.

    Severstal eyes building $2 bln factory in Belarus

    From: Reuters
    Russia's Severstal is interested in building a steel factory in Belarus in a project valued at more than $2 billion, the Belarussian government said on Tuesday.

    Severstal, Russia's largest steel company, has been on a spending spree in the United States, where it is the fourth largest producer, and also has assets in Ukraine and Europe.

    "Russia's Severstal has shown an interest in building a new steel factory in Belarus," the government statement said. It added that Minsk would announce a tender for the project soon. Russian companies are already active in Belarus, which is slowly opening up its markets to outsiders and has talked of privatising major assets.

    Minsk has said it is in talks with Lukoil and Rosneft to sell them a state refinery and a petrochemicals company.

    Lukashenka: “Americans have been knocked teeth in. And it’s valuable!”

    From: Charter '97
    At a press-conference for Russian provincial mass media Lukashenka has taken the liberty to make a number of aggressive statements addressed to the West.

    Thus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka explicitly exulted over Russia’s invasion to Georgia. “It is not a conflict of Russia and Georgia,” he said. “It’s the incident when Americans have been knocked teeth in for the first time in many years. And it is really valuable!”

    To the question how Russia and Belarus would resist the NATO’s enlargement to the East, Lukashenka answered:

    “In fact, together with the Russians we have become surrounded. When we are challenged, whether we like it or not, we should respond. We are to respond now, immediately, so that the situation like in the Caucasus won’t develop. The recent events, if it weren't for bad luck have no luck at all, have forces the Russians to what I had always been harping on: that we should build our relations without shame and without fearing anybody. They won’t understand us anyway, no matter how long we would kiss the West in different body parts. We have always been told: we are ready to sell gas for you at an internal Russian price, but what would the West say? Well, that’s what they have said. And we have certainly supported Russia”.

    “We shall react; we shall proportionally defend interests of our states and our nations. And what it important, in advance. No more of bungling. We’ve seen that already during the Great Patriotic War, when we had been lulling ourselves saying that everything should be aright, and then suddenly thousands tons of bombs started to rain at our heads. We should be ready for whatever comes,” Lukashenka noted.

    The Belarusian leader is not going to build relations with the West at the expense of cooperation with Russia.

    “The West knows our position perfectly well, they understand perfectly well that we cannot be friends with the US at the expense of Russia. I said long ago that I would not trade friendship with Russia," Lukashenka said.

    Lukashenka has also stated that he would like to see the Collective Security Treaty Organisation “a real organisation, like the NATO”.

    “We would like the Collective Security Treaty Organisation to be a real organisation, like the NATO, where everybody wages war when a country had become a target of aggression. And this paragraph hasn’t been even ratified by us,” Lukashenka stated. “A challenge has been made for us, and whether we want that or not, we should respond, in order for the situation like in the Caucasus not to emerge. It is the worst variant, when this is so much the case, that hot clashes start”.

    He said about the NATO and deployment of anti-missile shield near the borders of Belarus:

    “It’s good it [ABM elements] have been deployed; for you, Russian citizens, to see what have been deployed over the tow years near our borders. The border is crammed with equipment for control and surveillance. Today the NATO aircrafts insolently control the territory nearby, sometimes flying over the territory of the “union state”. We are forced to respond to these challenges, we should think it over together without haste”.

    To the question whether Belarus would recognize independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, he answered:

    “For us the issue of recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia is not just support of Russia. We have long-standing relations with Abkhazia, for instance. We shall consider this issue. We shall consider it in the same way as the Russian federation considered it, in the “parliament”. We have elections in a few days, the new parliament will come, and I think that our deputies would return to this issue. We cannot and have no right to keep silent. It would be dishonest towards Russia and Abkhazia. The same thing is with South Ossetia”.

    Belarus likely to recognize S.Ossetia, Abkhazia soon

    From: RIA Novosti
    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday that his country would consider the issue of the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states in the near future.

    Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia on August 26. Nicaragua followed suit last week.

    "The time will most likely come when we, like Russia, will consider the question of the recognition of [the independence of] South Ossetia," Lukashenko said.

    He also said that Belarus would "soon hold parliamentary polls," and that the new parliament would discuss the issue of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia after the elections.

    Belarusian voters are due to cast their votes in parliamentary elections on September 28.

    Lukashenko denied that Minsk's decision on whether or not to recognize the republics would be influenced by Moscow, but said that "Belarus has always been Russia's reliable friend."

    Speaking a month after Georgia's August 8 attack on South Ossetia, Lukashenko said Minsk was offering "solidarity" with Moscow, its strategic ally, in the "information war being waged against Russia by the West."

    Lukashenko added that he had long maintained "warm" relations with Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh. "We blocked a resolution in the early days of the CIS on an embargo against Abkhazia," he said.

    The CIS, or Commonwealth of Independent States, is a loose alliance of a number of former Soviet republics.

    EU invites Belarus foreign minister to Paris talks

    From: RIA Novosti
    The EU said Tuesday the Belarus foreign minister has been invited to attend a meeting in Paris on September 15 in a sign that the 27-nation bloc is shifting away from its hard line stance towards Minsk.

    During the meeting, Sergei Martynov is scheduled to meet with Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU commissioner, foreign policy chief Javier Solana and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. The talks are viewed as the first step by the EU in lifting sanctions, imposed four years ago, on Belarus.

    The EU imposed visa bans on 41 Belarusian officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, following his landslide victory in presidential elections in March 2006, which international observers and the Belarus opposition called flawed citing human rights violations.

    The EU move follows the release of three political prisoners by Belarus last month ahead of parliamentary elections in the country on September 28.

    Brussels said it could review sanctions against Minsk, on the condition that the OSCE gives the September polls a positive assessment and Belarus decides not to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

    The Belarusian leader said on Monday Belarus would discuss the recognition of Georgia's breakaway republics shortly after the new parliament is formed.

    Belarus increases list of products for possible export limitations

    From: Agrimarket
    Belarus has expanded the number of products whose export may be limited in the future to prevent shortages in the domestic markets, according to government officials.

    Government decree #1276 included products which could be restricted to include fresh and cooled peas, dried peas, maize, barley and oat flour, fine and coarse grinding flour and powder from dried peas. Also, mustard and colza seeds, fine and coarse grinding flour from seed and products from oilseeds or its fractions. Additionally, lupine and lupine seed was added to the list.

    Crude or refined maize and colza oils, and its fractions, without chemistry changes, mixtures or finished products made from different vegetable fats and oils, were also included on the list.

    Other products the government added for possible export limitations were cakes and other hard waste made from soy, sun, rape and colza oils and wheat bran, chaff and other remains of screening, grinding or other grain and legume processing.

    The list will allow the Ministry to control the selling of these products to avoid shortages on the domestic market and guarantee food security in the country, according to the Ministry of Trade.

    Belarus harvested a record crop due to use of intensive technologies, say officials

    In a related story, The predictions of scientists regarding Belarusian grain harvest came true, and has even exceeded earlier forecasts. Belarusian farmers now expect a harvest of 9.3 mln tonnes grain in bunker weight, or 8.3 mln tonnes in debugged weight, according to Constantine Shashko, the leading research worker of the Agriculture Science-practical centre of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.

    One of the main factors, which increased the grain harvest, was the perfection of specific and varied structures of sowed areas - as farmers increased the growing of high-yield triticale and wheat. Also, favorable weather conditions influenced the volume of crops. Thus, winter grains had a higher yield compared to previous years. An average yield totaled 38.8 c/ha, up 8.3 c/ha compared to 2007.

    According to C.Shashko, each year, over the past ten years, Belarus increased its grain yield by 1.5 c/ha. However, in 2008, this yield increased due to the intensification of production and the total maintenance of all processes. As a reminder, in 1998 an average yield only totaled 19.1 c/ha, in 2007 - 28.5 c/ha, while in 2008 it rose to 38.8 c/ha.

  • From the Opposition...

    Supreme Court upholds registration denial to Alexander Lahvinets

    From: Viasna
    On 9 September the Supreme Court upheld the rulings of Suharauskaya constituency electoral commission and the Central electoral commission for non-registration of Alexander Lahvinets as a candidate for the parliament.

    Bear in mind that Mr. Lahvinets was denied registration because of inaccurate information in the income and assets declaration: he forgot to put there a sum of 251.72 Euro. At the Supreme Court his case was considered by judge Samaliuk with participation of prosecutor Fedarenchyk.

    A.Lahvinets stated that he had presented precise information about the total yearly income for 2007 – 8 390 576 rubles, which included the sum in question. He also confessed having not put the sum of 251.72 Euro in the appropriate column, but stated that it was just a technical mistake. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court supported the rulings of the electoral commissions.

    ‘Equal conditions’ for candidates in Svetlahorsk

    During the agitation campaign a state newspaper Svetlahorskiya Naviny published a number of articles about a pro-governmental candidate Valiantsina Kavaliova. Earlier similar materials were placed in other mass media. Earlier similar articles were published in other state media, but there were no publications about Siarhei Daineka, another candidate at this constituency.

    Valiantsina Kavaliova is running for the second term in the parliament. Before becoming an MP she was the deputy head of Svetlahorsk district executive committee. On 2 September Svetlahorskiya Naviny published a 14-line quotation from Kavaliova’s speech at the opening of school #12 in Svetlahorsk. The same issue of the newspaper contained the public appeal of the local organization of the pro-governmental association of war veterans, with calls to vote for Kavaliova. On 4 September the newspaper published Kavaliova’s congratulations to the readers on Oilman’s Day. Svetlahorskiya Naviny is founded by Svetlahorsk district soviet of deputies and Svetlahorsk district executive committee.

    Earlier similar articles had been published in Ranak-plius, another local newspaper, and the local TV channel Ranak twice showed Kavaliova under different pretexts.

    At the same time, Siarhei Daineka will have only several minutes to appear on TV and the radio of Homel oblast. We really doubt that the state press will publish any articles about him.

    Regime hasn’t fulfilled demands of democratic forces. There won’t be elections

    From: Charter '97
    By postponing adoption of the decision on participation or non-participation in the “parliamentary elections”, the oppositional parties offered the authorities “to improve the situation” and to man up the district elections commissions with oppositionists before September 8.

    In the statement of the Political Council it is stated that district commissions have been formed “with violation of the principle of pluralism and with less members than the law permits”.

    However, the Central Election Commission hasn’t agreed to place the issue of checking the legality of forming precinct election commissions on the agenda of its last session.

    The chair of the CEC Lidziya Yarmoshyna has noted that the CEC had never viewed such generalizing issues. “We perform controlling functions in concrete work, in particular, when considering complaints,” she noted. “In order to consider the question offered by the political parties at the session of the CEC, we should check the order of formation of 6,523 precinct commissions and 110 district election commissions. It is impossible for us, and superficial consideration of this issue is pointless”.

    Thus, the demands of the political parties relating necessity of oppositionists’ presence in election commissions haven’t been fulfilled.

    Votes are to be counted by people “approved” by the regime, and this means there won’t be independent vote count.

    The total number of candidates in the parliamentary elections is 282 candidates. There are at least 115 pro-democracy candidates among them, which makes 41%. And opposition representatives make only 0.7% among members of precinct election commissions.

  • Around the region...

    Russians give BP fresh ultimatum

    From: Telagraph
    BP risks confrontation with another arm of the Russian government after the head of the natural resources ministry warned that the UK oil company must agree a gas field deal with Gazprom by the end of the year.

    Yuri Trutnev said yesterday that the proposed deal, to give state-owned Gazprom a controlling stake in the giant Kovykta field in Siberia, must be completed or "we will have to interfere in this again".

    But last week BP chief executive Tony Hayward disclosed to The Daily Telegraph that plans for its Russian joint venture, TNK-BP, to sell the stake to Gazprom had "no traction".

    He said: "We had an outline agreement, but I don't think they [Gazprom] want to do it." Mr Hayward said there had been no serious talks for months, and none were planned. However, it is clear that some people within the Kremlin want the matter back on the agenda.

    The situation over Kovykta must be "solved in the near future," Mr Trutnev said. "Before the end of the year either the licence holder, or we, have to make a decision."

    BP and Gazprom had a preliminary deal for TNK-BP to sell its 62.8pc stake in Rusia Petroleum, which holds the Kovykta operating licence. Last year, the natural resources ministry accused TNK-BP of breaching its licence and threatened to withdraw it.

    BP said yesterday that it did not want to add to Mr Hayward's comments last week.

    Russia threatens to aim at U.S. missile shield in Europe

    From: xinhua
    U.S. President George W. Bush decided Monday to delay submitting a U.S.-Russia civilian nuclear cooperation agreement to the Congress, the State Department said in a statement on Monday.

    "The president intends to notify congress that he has today rescinded his prior determination regarding the U.S.-Russia agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation," the statement said.
    Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles could be aimed at the U.S. missile defense shield in Europe, the commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces said Wednesday.

    "I cannot rule out that, in case the top military-political leadership makes such a decision," Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

    The missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic and other similar facilities in the future could "be designated as targets for our ICBMs," said Solovtsov.

    Russia has to take appropriate measures to keep the country's nuclear deterrence from being devalued under any circumstances, he said.

    "These 10 interceptor missiles cannot significantly devalue Russia's attack potential, although this will certainly make some negative effect on it. But the point is that the United States doesn't want to take on any legal obligations but is only asserting verbally: we aren't threatening you," Solovtsov was quoted as saying.

    The senior Russian general also said that another four missiles, including a RS-24 ICBM, will be test-launched by the end of this year.

    Three launches have been made so far this year, one in June and two in August. "All the launches were successful," he said.

    Washington proposed last year to establish an anti-ballitstic missile shield in Central Europe, including interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.

    Moscow has consistently expressed its opposition to the U.S. missile shield in Europe, saying it threatens its national security. However, Washington says the shield is designed to thwart missile attacks by what it calls "rogue states."

    The United States and the Czech Republic signed a bilateral treaty in July allowing a U.S. radar base on Czech soil. Last month, the United States and Poland reached an agreement on deploying parts of the U.S. global missile shield in the European country.

    EU tugs at Ukraine amid concerns about Russia

    From: AP
    The European Union is drawing a line in the sand with Russia: the bloc isn't going to let Ukraine get dissected like Georgia.

    The EU tugged Ukraine westward on Tuesday by launching a symbolic new accord, wading into Moscow's backyard for a second straight day on fears that Russia is flexing its muscle among former Soviet states.

    The 27-member bloc stopped short of offering Ukraine membership during an EU-Ukraine summit hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. But the two sides began work on an "association accord" — a step that offers closer political and economic ties and in the past has been designed to prepare nations for eventual membership.

    The summit was a potential boost for Ukraine's pro-Western President Victor Yushchenko, who hailed the move. He has recently faced the unraveling of a political alliance that was behind his country's Orange Revolution in 2004.

    "The EU does a huge favor to Ukraine by inviting it into this accord. This shows that (the EU) cares," said Arkady Moshes, director of Russian program at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, by telephone.

    "The EU wants to try at least to show Russia that the old sphere of influence is obsolete ... and that bringing the old Soviet borders back would not be accepted," he added.

    The meeting came a day after Sarkozy, whose country now holds the rotating EU presidency, led a diplomatic push in Georgia and Russia to cement a cease-fire deal and soothe tensions between the two neighbors following last month's war.

    He won a commitment from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to let EU monitors into parts of Georgia now occupied by Russian troops, and a timetable for Russian pullback of some forces from key positions inside the Caucasus Mountains nation. They also set a date for international talks on security in the region.

    Georgia amounts to a test case for a potentially more complex and consequential situation with Ukraine, which has historic ties to Russia and like Georgia has been signaling its hope to join the EU and NATO.

    Ukraine's population of about 45 million is nearly 10 times that of Georgia, and about one in six are ethnic Russians — and a political fracture between the Western-minded president and prime minister has given ethnic Russians more political clout in recent months.

    The Kremlin has watched warily in recent years as Ukraine and other former Soviet republics have pressed for closer Western ties — and Moscow vehemently objects to their joining the Atlantic alliance.

    Many Ukranians fear that Moscow covets Ukraine's strategic Crimea peninsula on the Black Sea, which is home to an ethnic Russian majority and is the site of a proud Russian naval base in the port of Sevastopol.

    The head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said closer ties between Europe and Ukraine should not upset Russia. "We don't need a Cold War in Europe, we need cool heads," he said at a news conference after the Paris summit.

    Sarkozy insisted that the EU's overtures with its eastern neighbors "aren't directed against anyone," but he also sought to cast Ukraine as part of the bloc's orbit in the strongest terms yet.

    "We say solemnly that Ukraine is a European country that shares a common history and values with European Union countries," he said.

    However, French diplomatic officials have acknowledged that EU member countries are divided about how quickly to try to integrate Ukraine — if at all.

    In a clear message to Moscow, Sarkozy said Ukraine's borders are "perfectly non-negotiable. And for that matter, nothing in the discussions we had yesterday in Moscow led me to believe there's any question about them."

    Russia's intentions are clearly on many minds. "These aren't the best of times to take on this dialogue," Yushchenko said.

    The association accord launched Tuesday has three key objectives: freeing up travel restrictions to EU states for Ukrainians, pointing out that future ties remain "open" between Ukraine and the bloc, and emphasizing that the country shares a common history and values with Europe.

    The accord isn't likely to be signed until next year at the earliest. Its launch came with a call for deeper ties in foreign policy, military cooperation, and energy policy, among other issues.

    For Sarkozy, the summit culminated a two-day focus on former Soviet states.

    After marathon negotiations with Medvedev in Moscow on Monday, Sarkozy said that at one point he threatened to walk out of the talks.

    When Medvedev stepped out of the negotiation room, the European delegation noticed that a draft of the text eliminated a reference to Russia pulling back its forces to positions held before Aug. 7, Sarkozy said.

    With jacket in hand, Sarkozy threatened to leave, saying "we cannot accept the invasion of a country," he said. At that point the Russians wheedled him back to the table and agreed to put that back in, he added, speaking to pool reporters on the flight from Moscow to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

    The Finnish institute's Moshes said both sides can claim a partial victory after Monday's talks.

    The EU helped cool tensions in its neighborhood, he said, while predicting the bloc will "acquiesce" to Russian recognition of independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

    The real question, though, he added, is whether the latest Sarkozy-brokered Russia-Georgia agreement will hold. "The EU is trying to do what it can; whether it will succeed is another matter."

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    The Polish Fritzl

    From: Beatroot
    A man has been arrested in Poland for imprisoning his daughter for six years, raping her repeatedly and fathering two children who were immediately put up for adoption. Sounds familiar?

    The 45 year old man comes from Siedlce, eastern Poland and is now in custody after she finally reported him.

    His wife knew about all this, but was too afraid to do anything about it. Police are now searching for the two children, born in February 2005 and January 2007, to establish that they were the result of the sexual abuse.

    Of course, the case clearly resembles the Austrian Josef Fritzl case earlier this year. I wonder if the western media will re-hash the nonsense they came out with then - that Fritzl was a product of Austria’s Nazi past and how “Central/Eastern Europe” just can’t come to terms with its past?

    Ziobro convicted

    From: WBJ
    Former Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro may have to apologize publicly for the defamation of a cardiac surgeon Dr. Miroslaw G.

    The district court in Krakow ordered Ziobro, currently a member of Parliament, to issue an apology on TVP, TVN and Polsat during prime time, after the evening news. The former minister was also ordered to pay zl.7,000 in compensation.
    During a press conference after the March 2007 arrest of Dr. Miroslaw G., who was at that time suspected of murder and corruption, Zbigniew Ziobro said, referring to the surgeon, "no person will ever be deprived of life by this man again."

    Ziobro's defense was that his words had been taken out of the context and misinterpreted. He also blamed the media for exaggerated coverage of this case. The court's verdict may still be appealed. "The court didn't give me a chance to show my evidence or listen to my witness testimony," said Zbigniew Ziobro upon exiting the court building, announcing his appeal.

    District prosecutor presses for corruption charges

    From: WBJ
    "Miroslaw G
    A year and a half after the spectacular detention of Miroslaw G., the former head of the cardiosurgery department at the Interior Ministry hospital in Warsaw, the prosecutor has accused him of corruption
    "Miroslaw G. was accused of committing 41 crimes related to accepting financial benefits from patients or their families," said Katarzyna Szeska, the spokesperson of the district prosecutor in Warsaw.

    "Another charge is related to persistent violation of employees' rights to the damage of medical personnel."

    The total value of bribes that the former doctor accepted stands at around zl.50,000. The accusation, however, does not include the several hundred bottles of luxurious cognacs and vodkas which were found by Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) officers while searching his house in February last year.

  • Sport...

    WCQ Preview: Andorra - Belarus

    Belarus opened their campaign with a trip to the Ukraine on Saturday, where both sides played out what looked to be a goalless bore draw.

    However, all that changed in the last minute when Aleksandr Kulchiya was adjudged to have handled in the area and Ukraine were awarded a penalty.

    Up-stepped substitute Andrei Shevchenko, who had only arrived on the pitch with 15 minutes to play. He made no mistake, thus condemning Belarus to an opening day defeat.

    The home side’s conservative approach to the game suggested that Bernd Stange would have been happy with a draw, a result he came within minutes of achieving. One suspects he will be a little more adventurous when it comes to taking on Andorra.

    Double Trouble

    Andorra, meanwhile, were entertaining Fabio Capello’s England on Saturday and for 45 minutes they proved to be the equal of England’s millionaire superstars.

    However, two second half goals from substitute Joe Cole ended Andorra’s spirited challenge, ensuring they remain pointless and goalless after two group games.

    After the game, coach David Rodrigo defended his side’s defensive tactics and also admitted that he fancies Croatia to top the group.

    Perhaps more interestingly, he also suggested that the dark horses of Group 6 might just be Wednesday night’s opponents, Belarus.

    Whether that comment was made with Wednesday’s night’s game in mind is difficult to ascertain but, having suffered an opening day defeat, Belarus need to get back on track quickly and anything other than three points in Barcelona would almost certainly be considered a failure.


    Interestingly, these sides are even on the head-to-head record. Although they have only faced each other twice previously, each side has recorded a victory. Belarus winning the last contest 3-0, whilst Andorra scored a rare victory at home 2-0 in 2000.

    In fact, Andorra’s win over Belarus counts as their joint biggest win in their footballing history (it is shared with a 2-0 victory over Albania). A modest achievement but then again this is a country whose population is a mere 71,000 and whose highest ever points tally in a qualifying competition is five.

    FORM GUIDE: Belarus

    06 Sep 08 Ukraine 1 Belarus 0 (WCQ)
    20 Aug 08 Belarus 0 Argentina 0 (Friendly)
    02 Jun 08 Finland 1 Belarus 1 (Friendly)
    27 May 08 Germany 2 Belarus 2 (Friendly)
    26 Mar 08 Belarus 2 Turkey 2 (Friendly)


    Alexander Hleb (Belarus)

    No surprise really but Alexander Hleb should be the man to watch on Wednesday night. Having moved from Arsenal to Barcelona over the summer this fixture at the Olympic Stadium finds the 27-year-old playing in his own home city.

    Although he has confessed that he is still settling into life at Barcelona where he is undoubtedly a small fish in a big pond, the reverse is true at international level and his pace and skill on the ball is likely to cause the uncompromising Andorrans plenty of problems.


    Although Andorra deserve credit for managing to hold England to a goalless draw for 45 minutes, it really is difficult to see Rodrigo’s side picking up many, if any, points in this group.

    Belarus, like most teams in the group, will expect a victory against the Andorrans and will also be desperate to respond to their last minute defeat to Ukraine.

    Anything other than an away victory will be a surprise and it looks unlikely to happen.

    Andorra 0 Belarus 2

  • Endnote...

    Travel for Belarus’ “Chernobyl Children” Temporarily Halted

    In case you haven’t heard, 16 year old Tanya Kazyra, a participant in a summer program for children from Belarus’ Chernobyl-affected areas, refused to return home to Belarus at the end of her summer holiday with the Zapata family in Petaluma, California. She has not requested asylum - only refusing to return home. The Zapatas have willingly allowed Tanya to remain in their home. In response, the Belorussian government has temporarily placed a ban for all children on future travel abroad organized by charities.

    These programs are designed to provide rest and recuperation for Belorussian children affected in some way by the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster. The programs allow these children to spend 6 to 8 weeks with a host family in another country.

    Some charitable organizations believe these programs allow the children’s immune systems to recover, making it easier for them to fight the effects of lingering radiation at home in Belarus.

    When considering the Belorussian government’s decision, don’t immediately assume they are doing something horribly wrong. All participants, including the sponsoring families, sign an agreement indicating the children will return to Belarus at the end of their stay. These children visit other countries on temporary visas. The programs are not exchange or adoption programs. The Belorussian government is merely trying to insure these agreements are honored by seeking bilateral agreements with the governments of participating families’ countries to ensure this type of situation does not happen again.

    You may think Belarus is using a heavy-handed tactic, but these children (approximately 1,400 participate in such programs each year) can be looked at as ambassadors for Belarus. The entire country receives aid, due in part to the presence of these children in other countries. If a child does not return home, the country loses a powerful face in their attempt to obtain aid and improve conditions at home.

    In Tanya’s case, not only is the young lady violating the terms of the agreement, but the Zapatas have violated their agreement as well. I am sure Tanya’s life in Belarus is nowhere near as good as she has it with her sponsoring family in California, but her decision is jeopardizing many children’s opportunity to enjoy the same holiday abroad that she has had for the last nine years.

    Tanya’s visa expires December 25, and her attorney has proposed that Tanya would seek a student visa to study in the United States, publicly apologize to the Belorussian government, help raise awareness in the US about Belorussian culture, history and traditions and help raise money for the Chernobyl Children’s Project charity in the area.

    I don’t agree with all policies of the Belorussian government, but I can’t blame them for trying to enforce these agreements and not losing valuable ambassadors for their country. Hopefully this issue can be quickly resolved so these Belorussian children can again get a much needed holiday abroad.

    The information presented here comes from a myriad of news stories and my own feelings. In the near future, I hope to contact people involved in the current situation (including Belorussian officials) to get a more complete picture of what is really happening. I will post an update when I have additional information.