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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Belarus and the global economic crisis; EU dialogues, EurAsEC, Transplantology, Breakthrough innovation; Russia, Ukraine, Polish scandal and more…

  • From the Top...
  • #350

    Alexander Lukashenko: adequate measures are needed to respond to increasing number of threats

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    President Alexander Lukashenko meets with the senior staff of the State Security Committee
    The range of foreign and domestic threats Belarus faces is expanding and it requires working out adequate response measures, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told top officers of the State Security Committee (KGB) on October 7.

    “Modern challenges are becoming more dynamic and versatile. It requires us to thoroughly monitor them, estimate and work out adequate response measures,” stressed the head of state. “Recent Caucasus events vividly demonstrated how fragile the security architecture in Europe is. It has obviously become outdated. I absolutely support the Russians, who suggest creating normal really functioning security architecture in Europe”.

    The Belarus President believes “the placement of rapid response forces in the neighbouring country is more dangerous for us than the deployment of air defence installations in the Czech Republic and Poland”. Alexander Lukashenko didn’t specify in which country the rapid response forces will be placed.

    According to the head of state, a genuine information war goes on. Due to its significance and danger the war is advancing to one of the first positions in the arsenal of political and military warfare. Terrorism and extremism are getting more and more aggressive. “The XXI century plague has advanced right up to our country,” said Alexander Lukashenko. “We faced it on the night of July 3-4 in Minsk. The response will be very strong and adequate if we solve the criminal case,” he added.

    The President pointed out that some young Belarusians have come under the influence of destructive ideas alien to the Belarusian society and under the influence of alien money. The influence of ideas is worse than that of money, believes Alexander Lukashenko. Closer attention should be paid to these problems.

    “Despite the futility of attempts to destabilise the situation in the country radicals are still pushing young people to the malignant way of provocations and asocial behaviour,” said the head of state. He remarked today’s meeting should table what forms of youth work are used by the agencies designed to ensure the order and political stability and to what degree these measures are effective and productive.

    Meanwhile, economic security problems are none the less topical, stressed the President. “There is yet no reliable barrier impeding the penetration of criminals into the national economy. Corruption rears its head, including corruption in power-wielding bodies. The KGB is in charge of dealing with these issues to a major extent. The effectiveness of the resolution of these problems by the committee will determine our security and wellbeing of the nation. This is why I would like to hear out today what is done to stop these negative phenomena,” said Alexander Lukashenko. He reminded these and other problems were discussed at a government session involving heads of state security bodies in March. That government session set specific tasks and today the effectiveness and consistency in accomplishing the tasks will be analysed.

    According to the head of state, the KGB performance boasts certain positive dynamics, however, there is still a sufficient number of problem issues. The session will discuss what is being down to further improve the operation of state security bodies.

    Situation after elections in Belarus opens new possibilities for constructive dialogue with West, Alexander Lukashenko says

    The situation after the parliamentary elections in Belarus opens new possibilities for constructive dialogue with the West, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko noted during his meeting with the key personnel of the Belarus State Security Committee on October 7.

    The Head of State noted that the parliamentary elections, which were held in Belarus, demonstrated the transparency and democratic character of the Belarusian election system, the high confidence of the citizens in the power and the chosen policy.

    “I would like to show some officials, businessmen, people in the know that our relations with the West are not the relations between Lukashenko and the West. Lukashenko is not a reason of these relations,” the President said. According to him, at present the number of the Belarusians, who consider that Europe waits for us with open arms, has reduced significantly.
    Alexander Lukashenko noted that the West has identified the parliamentary election as a criterion of the relations with Belarus. “We have opened ourselves completely. I gave orders to let in all the observers, not to prevent their activities,” he said.

    Stressed that the elections have been held in line with the EU and OSCE’s standards, the President said: “You saw the result. I say thanks to representatives of the West for their behavior. It is impossible to talk to the Belarusian people like that. The people reacted appropriately: if you interfere in our affairs, we will do it in our own way.”

    Alexander Lukashenko noted the difference in approaches to the parliamentary elections. In Belarus, the parliamentary elections are usual elections and the main elections are the presidential ones. As for the European countries, in fact, the parliamentary elections there identify who will lead the state.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus ready for any relations with EU in equitable dialogue

    From: BelTA
    Belarus is open to cooperation with any European structures, is ready for any relations with the European Union, said President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko as he met with OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb on October 7.

    “In exchange we only ask to respect our sovereignty, our traditions and not to demand what we cannot do,” said the President. “I’ve said already that if Europe makes two steps towards us, we are ready to make five,” he added.

    “If the European Union wants the centre of Europe to stay in Europe, any iron curtains should be removed,” believes the President of Belarus. In his opinion, Alexander Stubb’s visit is a serious signal signifying that relations with Belarus should be developed. “We shouldn’t lock each other on different sides of some new Berlin wall. We should negotiate and jointly address topical issues,” said Alexander Lukashenko. He also pointed out there are so many serious issues and challenges for Europe that “the things you criticise us for pale beside these challenges”.

    “We are absolutely normal people who would like to cooperate with the European system, as it is the system we live in,” said Alexander Lukashenko. In his opinion, the Belarusian dictatorship stereotype was devised beyond the Atlantic Ocean and was artificially planted in Europe.

    “Europe’s problem is setting impossible tasks for us, tasks formulated from a one-sided point of view, which arose from talks with representatives of the so-called opposition”, Alexander Lukashenko said.

    The Head of State addressing Alexander Stubb as Foreign Minister of Finland underscored that Belarus is ready to promote cooperation with Finland. “We are learning a lot from you. Finland is a country very similar to Belarus, with a similar climate,” he said. “We transfer your practices to our agriculture, civil engineering and energy industry”. “A while ago I instructed the government to actively assimilate Finnish experience, including experience of building an atomic power plant, and to take into account the environmental protection experience of your country,” added the Belarusian leader.

    “I am sure no Finn believes Belarus represents any threat to him or to Europe,” remarked the Head of State. “We pursue a productive peaceful policy and cannot pursue any other as the economy itself will not allow us to do it,” he added.

    Speaking about the recent political events in the country, the President of Belarus stated that the accusation that the Belarusian parliamentary elections are not compliant with OSCE standards looks very strange. “It was strange that the OSCE accused us that our elections do not meet OSCE standards,” said the President. “Thank god it was said that the elections took place in compliance with our Constitution. Just like they should be in any country of the world”.

    “It is known that there are no uniform OSCE standards for elections,” remarked Alexander Lukashenko. “Not knowing it means not knowing the legal base of the organisation”. Belarus would very much like such OSCE standards to exist, stressed the head of state. In his opinion, it would prevent duality in the interpretation of political events, including elections.

    The President of Belarus reminded, before the end of September 28 OSCE observers were most optimistic about the election campaign in Belarus and were ready to ink the final document of the CIS monitoring mission. But several hours later incomprehensible metamorphoses occurred, he remarked.

    “Frankly speaking we have a problem with the OSCE,” said the President. “We are convinced the organisation’s priority task is ensuring exactly security and cooperation in Europe just like the OSCE title says. But unfortunately the body has been lately unable to effectively respond to pressing challenges”. He reminded the OSCE has not held sessions of heads of state since 1999. It is abnormal, believes Alexander Lukashenko.

    In his turn, Alexander Stubb said that “it is high time to turn the page of the relations between Belarus and Europe”. “My message is delivered as from the Foreign Ministry of the country – a member of the European Union, so from the OSCE,” Alexander Stub said.

    “After the recent events in Georgia, the balance is moving to the East: I mean Belarus, Caucasus and Central Asia,” the head of the Finnish Foreign Ministry said.

    According to Alexander Stubb, he will discuss everything that he will know about Belarus during the visit with his colleagues next Monday. “The EU has a conviction that Belarus is going in the right direction,” the Finnish Foreign Minister said. “Touching upon the latest elections nobody can deny positive changes,” he said.

    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Foreign Minister of Finland Alexander Stubb discussed the issues concerning the democratic development and economic cooperation.

    OSCE Chairman: It is high time to turn page of Belarus-Europe relations

    It is high time to turn the page of the relations between Belarus and Europe, OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Foreign Minister of Finland Alexander Stubb noted during his meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on October 7.

    “My message is delivered as from the Foreign Ministry of the country – a member of the European Union, so from the OSCE,” Alexander Stubb noted.

    “After the known events in Georgia, the balance is moving to the East: I mean Belarus, Caucasus and Central Asia,” the head of the Finnish Foreign Ministry said. “We believe in the prospects of the positive cooperation,” he added.

    According to Alexander Stubb, he will discuss everything that he will know about Belarus during the visit with his colleagues next Monday.

    “The EU has a conviction that Belarus is going in the right direction,” the Finnish Foreign Minister said. “Touching upon the latest elections nobody can deny positive changes,” he said.

    On October 7, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Foreign Minister of Finland Alexander Stubb discussed the issues concerning the democratic development and economic cooperation.

    EurAsEC Interstate Council to spotlight Customs Union formation

    From: BelTA
    The Customs Union formation will be brought to the forefront of the forthcoming 21st top-level session of the Interstate Council of the Eurasian Economic Community. The event will take place in Bishkek on October 10, EurAsEC Secretary General Tair Mansurov told reporters.

    The heads of state that are engaged in the formation of the Customs Union – Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia - are supposed to decide upon entering into force of the agreement on the Customs Union Commission and the agreement on the development of the single customs area and the Customs Union formation signed on October 6, 2007. The participants of the session will also define the composition of the Customs Union Commission.

    The heads of the EurAsEC six member-states are set to decide on the formation of the Customs Union and the single economic zone within the Eurasian Economic Community. Thus, the EurAsEC Secretary General underlined that the Customs Union formation is entering a balanced phase with all universal global standards: the single customs area, the single foreign border and single customs tariffs for goods imported from the third countries.

    The summit in Bishkek will also take an array of decisions related to the financial and budgetary policy. The EurAsEC heads of state are to decide upon granting a status of an observer in the EurAsEC to the Eurasian Bank for Development.

    CIS Ministerial Council to consider cooperation in energy area at Bishkek summit

    On October 9-10, Bishkek will host three important events – a session of the CIS Ministerial Council, a session of the CIS Council of the Heads of State and a session of the EurAsEC Interstate Council, BelTA learnt in the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

    On October 9, Bishkek will host a session of the CIS Ministerial Council. Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov will take part in it. The draft agenda for the session of the CIS Ministerial Council includes 26 issues concerning the cooperation of the CIS countries in humanitarian field, power engineering and security. In particular, the foreign ministers of the CIS member states will discuss the cooperation programme of the CIS member states in counteracting illegal migration for 2009-2011, the draft agreements on security and fight against terrorism. The sides will also discuss the draft resolution on announcement of 2009 as the Year of the Youth of the Commonwealth. This issue was included in the agenda on the initiative of the Republic of Belarus.

    The foreign ministers of the CIS member states will also consider the draft documents concerning the implementation of the concept of the CIS further development and also the draft documents which will be introduced before the CIS Heads of State.

    A number of bilateral meetings between the Belarusian Foreign Minister and his colleagues are expected to be held as well.

    On October 10, a session of the CIS Council of the Heads of State will be held in Bishkek. The CIS Council of the Heads of State is expected to discuss 19 issues. They include the draft strategy of the CIS economic development for the time period till 2020 and the CIS presidency. The presidents of the CIS member states will also decide whether the cooperation in the energy field should become the key area of the cooperation in 2009. The CIS Heads of State will also consider the concept of contacts in the information security area and its implementation for 2008-2010, the plan of the main measures for preparation of the celebrations timed to the 65th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

    The CIS Heads of State are expected to consider the issues concerning the strengthening of the Commonwealth as the international organization, the standing order of the CIS Council of the Heads of State, the CIS Council of the Heads of Government, the CIS Ministerial Council and the CIS Economic Council, the regulation on the national coordinators of the CIS member states.

    The CIS Heads of State will also discuss Belarus’ initiative concerning the announcement of 2009 as the Year of the Youth of the Commonwealth.

    On October 10, a session of the EurAsEC Interstate Council will be held in the Kyrgyz capital as well. The issues concerning the formation of the Customs Union will be considered at the session. The Bishkek summit will analyze the results of the reached agreements and adopt decisions to give an impetus to accelerate the formation of the Customs Union.

    The EurAsEC Heads of State will consider the EurAsEC General Secretary’s report on formation of the Customs Union and the single economic area, the issue concerning the granting the Eurasian Development Bank the observer status in the EurAsEC and the EurAsEC draft budget for 2009.

    The sides will consider the draft of the measures for implementation of the priority avenues of the EurAsEC development for 2008-2010 and subsequent years. The document includes the measures which were not implemented in 2003-2007 including the formation of the energy market, the transport union, the cooperation in the real sector of the economy and also the issues concerning the food security, the cooperation in social-humanitarian , ecological areas, in the field of migration policy.

    Moreover, the summit will consider the changes which are to be inserted in the Regulations on the EurAsEC Interstate Council.

    Minsk to host international transplantology conference

    From: BelTA
    The leading transplantologists of Belarus, Russia, Lithuania, Germany and Great Britain will take part in the international scientific conference Transplantology Status and Prospects. The forum will take place in Minsk on October 9-10, BelTA learnt from Surgeon-in-Chief of the Healthcare Ministry of Belarus Ivan Pikirenya.

    In his words, the event will be held in the country for the first time and it is aimed at experience exchanging. Besides, Ivan Pikirenya is sure, the event will promote popularization of donation among the Belarusian people.

    The participants of the forum will consider issues related to the transplantation of kidneys, marrow, stem cells, pancreas, liver, heart and anesthesia peculiarities during the operations.

    The conference has been organized by the Healthcare Ministry of Belarus, the National Academy of Sciences, the Healthcare Committee of the Minsk City Council and Minsk Hospital No 9.

    18 Belarus’ recipients undergo complete assessment for heart transplantation

    18 recipients have undergone a complete assessment and preparations for the heart transplantation in Belarus, Professor Yuri Ostrovsky, head of the heart surgery laboratory of the national cardiology centre, told reporters on October 8.

    In his words, the number of recipients has been constantly increasing. All in all 70-90 people require heart transplantation in Belarus. It is natural that not all of them will have an opportunity, first of all, due to a deficit of transplants. However, many of them are able to receive artificial heart ventricles. “This step can be more efficient and more economically sound for such patients than the heart transplantation,” Yuri Ostrovsky said. He reminded that Belarus has joined the Belarusian Transplantology Association this year.

    Anatoly Uss, chief transplantologist of the Healthcare Ministry, head of the transplantology centre, said that it is quite a positive step that will contribute greatly to the activity of the Belarusian transplantologists. Besides, the membership in the association that joins all European countries opens wide opportunities in up-to-date information receiving and invitation of Belarus to take part in different international transplantology forums, Anatoly Uss said.

    Belarusian cardiac surgeons to get training in Prague and Berlin

    Two teams of Belarusian cardiac surgeons will leave for Prague and Berlin to get training in the field of heart transplantations operations, Professor Yuri Ostrovski, director of the heart surgery lab of the Cardiology Research Centre, told reporters on October 8.

    Eight Belarusian surgeons will have special training courses at Prague University and the Berlin Cardiology Centre for two months. “Heart transplantation operation is a complicated operation which requires not only technological and technical training. Before this, specialists receive a long-term training,” the Professor said.

    In 2008, the Cardiology Research Centre performed serious preparatory operations – two artificial hearts were transplanted. One patient has been already discharged from the centre

  • Economics...

    Belarusian government ready to apportion $1bn for breakthrough innovation projects

    From: BelTA
    The Belarusian government is ready to allocate $1 billion for implementing breakthrough innovative projects developed by the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (NASB), Georgy Grits, Deputy Director for Science of the NASB System Analysis and Strategic Research Centre, told a roundtable session on October 8.

    He said, the National Academy of Sciences had been charged with working out such breakthrough technologies. More than ten projects have been developed and will be forwarded for consideration of the government one of these days, said Georgy Grits. All the projects are very attractive for investors and bear low risks. They are mainly designed to start manufacturing import substitutes.

    The payback term of these projects is short — 2.5-5.5 years. Georgy Grits mentioned the production of braided surgical sutures, woven and knitted medical fabrics as one of the developed projects. At present Belarus imports tens of millions of dollars worth of these products. The project will use the state budget among other funding sources. Its payback period is 3.5 years.

    Production of food additives (the payback term is 2.5 years) and production of photodiode equipment are also breakthrough innovative projects. Georgy Grits remarked the latter is especially attractive. The NASB and Dutch company Phillips have signed a memorandum and the company is ready to invest in the project.

    Russian investors also show interest in the projects. In particular, negotiations with Russians are in progress regarding the production of braided surgical sutures. The projects are not part of the 2007-2010 state innovative development programme but may be included into it.

    Belarus, Ukraine to set up joint ventures in engineering industry

    In the near future Belarus and Ukraine intend to set up joint ventures in the engineering industry, First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko told reporters after the 15th session of the Belarus-Ukraine Intergovernmental Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation in Kiev on October 7.

    The First Vice-Premier in particular named a construction project of a passenger car plant in Gomel. The Belarusian side is interested in its implementation. According to Vladimir Semashko, it will help Belarus to renew the fleet of freight and passenger cars, demand for which annually makes up nearly 3.5 thousand.

    The session also considered an issue of organizing jointly with the Bogdan Corporation of Ukraine a passenger bus assembly in the Gomel Motor-Car Repair Works.

    A decision was taken to construct in Ukraine a plant on Belarus’ tractor assembly, with expanded production capacities up to 10-12 thousand tractors per year. A construction site has already been allotted by the Ukrainian side. The existing assembling of MTZ tractors in the Kiev Plant Leninskaya Kuznya produces only three or four thousand vehicles per year.

    Vladimir Semashko underscored, these projects are absolutely real and there is a working schedule for their implementation with the fixed dates. Thus, in November 2008, the two sides are to develop a business plan on the construction of a tractor assembly works in Ukraine and organize a joint venture by the end of December. A financial scheme of the plant construction should be ready in Q1 2009.

    First Vice Prime Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine Alexander Turchinov emphasized the significance of developing integration processes and cooperation between Ukraine and Belarus in such important areas as the agricultural engineering industry. Deputy Head of the Ukrainian government expressed confidence that the number of the Belarusian-Ukrainian joint ventures will increase in the future, they will become powerful, competitive companies able to work on the domestic markets of Belarus and Ukraine as well as on the global market.

  • Cultural scene...

    Belarusian music to be performed at Yuri Bashmet International Festival

    From: BelTA
    Several works of the Belarusian composers will be performed at the 3rd Yuri Bashmet International Festival, artistic director of the festival Rostislav Krimer told a press conference on October 6.

    Composition Pagan Dance by Vyacheslav Kuznetsov will be performed on October 7 at the opening of the music festival for the first time. It was composed specially for this event. On this day, the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Belarus will be conducted by the maestro on the stage of Belarus State Philharmonic. The festival will gather renowned musicians, including Natalia Gutman (violoncello), Viktor Tretyakov (violin), Rostislav Krimer (piano). Yury Bashmet`s Moscow Soloists chamber orchestra, Grammy 2008 award winner, will give a performance, too.

    On October 8, Moscow Soloists, Igor Butman and his band as well as Bravo music band will gather for the programme Bravo – classical music. An evening dedicated to David Oistrakh, Soviet violin virtuoso, will be held on October 9. Two days later, young musicians Ksenia Bashmet (piano, Russia), Alexei Ogrinchuk (oboe, the Netherlands), Artem Shishkov (violin, Belarus) and other laureates of various international competitions will performe at Belarusian State Philharmonic. The orchestra will be conducted by famous Italian conductor Claudio Vandelli. Belarusian musicians Vlada Berezhnaya and Artem Shishkov will have an opportunity to play the famous Stradivari violins that will be specially brought to Minsk.

  • From the International Press...

    OSCE: Belarus should not be isolated anymore

    From: IHT
    The West should stop isolating the government of Belarus, the chairman of the OSCE said Tuesday.

    Alexander Stubb's statement on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe signaled the European Union might consider easing sanctions against Belarus, even though OSCE monitors said the Belarusian election last month fell short of democratic standards.

    "My message is clear: it's time to turn the page in Belarusian-European relations," said Stubb, who is also Finland's foreign minister. The OSCE is a security-oriented intergovernmental organization.

    The U.S. and EU have imposed economic and travel sanctions on Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and demanded he end his crackdown on the opposition.

    Lukashenko, who has ruled the nation of 10 million people since 1994, recently signaled his intention to improve ties with the West at a time when he is arguing with Russia over energy prices.

    Earlier this year, Belarusian authorities freed jailed opposition figures after Western governments demanded they be freed. And Belarus' government allowed opposition candidates to take part in Sept. 28 parliamentary elections, though none of the 70 opposition candidates won seats in Parliament.

    The United States and the European Union became more receptive to Lukashenko's overtures after Russia's war with Georgia in August. Washington lifted some of the sanctions before the election. The EU hasn't acted yet because of the OSCE's assessment.

    Stubb said Tuesday the vote showed progress.

    "The OSCE and the European Union noted improvements in the ballot," Stubb said. "Belarus shouldn't be isolated, and Europe's policy toward it is changing."

    Belarus' foreign minister plans to visit Luxembourg next week for discussions with EU officials.

    Anatoly Lebedko, the leader of the opposition United Civil Party said he opposes lifting all Western sanctions against Belarus.

    "The West is ready to turn a blind eye to some of Lukashenko's actions to prevent Belarus from becoming Moscow's protectorate," Lebedko told The Associated Press.

    Alexander Klaskovsky, an independent political analyst, said Lukashenko was using his rapprochement with the West to force Moscow to continue selling energy to Belarus at relatively low prices.

    The latest round of energy talks between Lukashenko and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ended Monday without any clear progress.

    Lukashenko: "Our friendship with Russia isn't for sale. You can be sure."

    From: Комсомольская правда
    Yesterday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flew to Minsk to attend a conference of the Coalition State's Council of Ministers. But while on route to the Zaslavl residence just outside the Belarus capital, Putin decided to stop by the presidential administration to visit Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko.

    The offices of the Belarus administration are now equipped with high-tech detectors and electronic walkways that court visitors and employees through the entrance. The technology allows secret service employees to scan all those entering the building.

    Putin was exempted from the procedure. However, the officials and journalists who arrived to take part in the conference were thoroughly examined from head to toe. After meeting with Putin, Lukashenko unexpectedly made several statements, which sounded more like justifications or explanations, about some misunderstandings in the press that appeared as though Belarus was selling its friendship with Russia for links with the West.

    "We never barter with anyone," Lukashenko said vehemently. "We aren't selling our friendship with Russia. You can be absolutely sure." Lukashenko also said he thought "Russian and Belarusians" waiting for something.

    Putin refrained from commenting on Lukashenko's justifications. But he did make the following statement regarding the expectations of the Russian and Belarusian people.

    "Our citizens are waiting for well structured economic development that will reflect on their well being. And we're able to provide this to them."

    Putin and Lukashenko discussed the expectations of their nations at the conference. In Putin's opinion, high tech projects most in demand. However, the chief sparring point in Russian-Belarusian relations is the price on gas. Russia has been increasing the price on gas for Belarus, but not yet to market level. The price for 1,000 cubic meters of gas has risen to $500 on the international market. At the moment, Belarus pays $127, and may possibly pay $190 next year. But Belarus hopes to pay no more than $140. Russia is willing to give Belarus additional credit to support their economy in light of the increased costs. Last year, Russia loaned Belarus $1.5 billion.

    Putin offered Belarus to pay for the gas in rubles from now on.

    "Why are the payments being made in U.S. dollars?" Putin asked. "We're witnessing the problems the U.S. economy and currency system is encountering."

    In terms of a single currency for Russia and Belarus, Putin said the issue is on hold, but still open.

    The major intrigue in Russian-Belarus relations is installing Russia's anti-missile shield in Belarus to counterbalance the U.S. anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. However, the issue wasn't on the conference agenda. Highly positioned Belarus officials told KP that agreements will be signed in the near future at the Coalition State's Supreme Council in Moscow. They also said Belarus approves of Russia reacting harshly to U.S. intentions to surround the coalition with their shield: "Russia isn't the country it was one year ago. And we’re happy."

    Russia, Belarus to set up regional air defense system

    From: Ria Novosti
    Russia and Belarus will sign an agreement on November 2 to set up a joint regional air defense system, the state secretary of the Union State said on Wednesday. (Russian mobile surface-to-air missile systems - Image gallery)

    The countries are developing a joint air defense system in line with Union State plans, which they have been working on since 1997, involving a common economic, customs, and political space.

    The Supreme State Council of the Russia-Belarus Union State is due to hold a meeting in Moscow on November 2.

    Asked if an agreement would be signed then on a regional air defense system, Pavel Borodin said: "I have no doubt of that."

    He added that the treaty was vital in the context of NATO's ongoing eastward expansion.

    "Military speaking, it is virtually a shield against NATO," Borodin said.

    Although talks on the Union State stalled recently over a host of issues, including natural gas prices, military cooperation between the countries is gaining momentum, bolstered by recent U.S. steps to deploy missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic.

    The two countries also plan to hold a number of military drills, including a joint strategic command-and-staff exercise, Zapad-2009, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said.

    "The drills should become another practical step in training our armed forces and contribute to the creation of an actual security system for the Union state," the minister said.

    This October, Belarus will also host comprehensive operational exercises, Osen-2008, as part of the joint strategic command-and-staff exercise Stabilnost-2008.

    The minister added that Russia would meet its obligations in supplies of arms and military equipment on time.

    Belarus has several Russian-made S-300 air defense divisions on combat duty and is negotiating the purchase of advanced S-400 systems from Russia, which will be made available by 2010.

    Russia's defense minister said last year his country would continue to supply arms and military hardware to Belarus at subsidized rates and on a priority basis.

  • From the Opposition...

    Belarus lacks determined leader, Lech Walesa says

    From: Naveny
    Belarus lacks a determined leader, structures and solidarity, former Polish President Lech Walesa said.

    He recalled the triumph in the 1980s of the Solidarity movement, which he led.

    "By former bloody and not successful raisings I was aware of the fact that only hard work and cooperation day by day were what we needed," he said. "Only after such homicidal and ungrateful work, compromises we were successful in taking Poland and other countries of Eastern Europe on the way leading to freedom in a peaceful way."

    "There are still some countries waiting for such a success," he said.

    When commenting on Belarus' relations with the West and Russia, Mr. Walesa expressed the opinion that Alyaksandr Lukashenka "started to understand little by little that Belarus is not going to survive in isolation."

    "The world is different nowadays and President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is leading his country and himself to failure. One, even great ally is not enough in a contemporary world," he said.

    At the same time, he suggested that cooperation with Minsk might be "too early."

    "We do not know if President Alyaksandr Lukashenka understands that he will not be successful without democracy and freedom," he said. "If mentioned matters were only a front starting a kind of the third way and controlled democracy, it would not change anything."

    Authorities extend ‘black lists’

    From: Viasna
    Some activists of the democratic movement have faced with foreign travel restrictions and the surnames of some more have been introduced into the lists for being searched on the border. The persons to whom such measures are applied cannot receive an answer about the reasons.

    At present several dozens of persons who have been interrogated in the case of the blast that had taken place in Minsk on 4 July in the morning cannot leave Belarus.

    Siarzhuk Vysotski, chairman of the unregistered Belarusian Party of Freedom, has addressed the Committee of frontier troops and to the Investigative committee to require explanations why he is prohibited to travel abroad.

    On 24 September Vysotski was set down from a train on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. A seal for foreign travel restriction was put in his passport. On 10-13 July Vysotski was kept in the isolation ward of KGB in Minsk, where he was interrogated in the blast case. By the way, he is not a suspect in the case.

    ‘On the border I was told that I was a party in several cases. It is interesting for me to find out what are these cases. I petitioned the investigative committee to be excluded from the database, because I am neither an accused, nor a suspect. There’s an assumption, that it is a new method of blocking public activists,’ said Vysotski.

    A youth activist Franak Viachorka was set down from a train for the first time on 28 June, on the Belarusian-Lithuanian border. On 17 July, after he was confessed unfit for army service in peaceful time, Franak tried to get to Lithuania once again. This time he was again set down and a seal for foreign travel restriction was put in his passport. Franak Viachorka has still received no explanations concerning this fact.

    The database of the persons who are restricted for foreign travel is supplemented by different agencies, including the Ministry of Defense.

    There are also other lists: some persons can cross the border, but only after personal examination.

    Aliaksei Shein, co-chairman of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party, says: ‘Two months ago all co-chairmen of BCD were introduced in the list for complete personal search. Sometimes, when you travel by car, four hours are wasted on a search. If you go by train, the train is detained. If you use a bus, the bus is late. All people who travel together with you suffer from such a situation.

    Many of them are quite familiar with such cases. The people understand, that the searched people are either representatives of democratic parties, organizations or independent journalists.’

    Lukashenka makes law enforcement bodies oppose global financial crisis

    From: Charter '97
    Alyaksandr Lukashenka thinks the global financial crisis may affect interests of the country in some way. He called on the law enforcement bodies to oppose it.

    “This crisis may affect us, and we may face a problem of exporting. Our task is to resist it in spite of everything,” A. Lukashenka said during his visit to the KGB, Interfax reports.

    “They will try to destabilise the situation during the crisis,” the head of the Belarusian state said.

    Speaking about economic processes in the world, he noted: “Who were right – Lukashenka, who said about defence of national economy, orientation to normal economic model, or those people, who called themselves supporters of market economy?” According to Lukashenka, “now a good enterprise may be purchased for nothing in the world”. “I think there (at the West) the state will own companies, as our state always owns them,” he noted. “This is my reply to the conscientious intellectuals,” A. Lukashenka noted.

    According to him, “money can’t be earned from nothing. One needs to work hard.“ “The US pledged 700 billion dollars (to support the financial market - IF), but nobody believed it. There’s enough flat money in the world, now they have added 700 billion more,” the Belarusian president said.

    Referring to estimations of Russian experts, he noted: “We can’t see the end of this crisis yet.”

  • Around the region...

    Ukraine leader offers more time to solve crisis

    From: Kiev Post
    President Viktor Yushchenko said on Wednesday he was offering more time to Ukraine's political parties to resolve a crisis over restoring or replacing the "orange" coalition underpinning the government.

    Yushchenko held last-ditch talks with political leaders on Wednesday to try to piece together a viable coalition in a country gripped by political turmoil since he was swept to power by mass "Orange Revolution" protests in 2004.

    Long at odds with his estranged ally, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the president had earlier suggested should no deal be reached he would dissolve parliament and call a new election.

    "I will give you this time," Yushchenko's website said he told parliamentary leaders at the meeting. "It is important after today's consultations to take an initiative so that leaders in parliament can find a way out of the stalemate."

    But he said that holding what would be the third election in as many years was "another mechanism and no less democratic".

    News agencies said Yushchenko then left on a trip to Italy.

    Yushchenko has paid scant heed to calls by Tymoshenko to patch up differences and reinstate the coalition.

    Participants in the meeting, which lasted no more than an hour, suggested Yushchenko had abandoned hope of forming a coalition and would issue a decree on dissolution.

    Volodymyr Lytvyn, head of the smallest faction in the chamber, said all present were resigned to an election campaign.

    "These were consultations essentially noting that there was no coalition and therefore we are into an election," he said.

    "We did not initiate this election and don't want one. But as the process appears unstoppable, a decision must be made."

    Mykola Tomenko, an ally of the premier, said a decree on dissolution would be "issued in the traditions of our country's old and new leaders -- once the president has left Ukraine".

    The "orange" coalition collapsed last month when the president's Our Ukraine party quit its alliance with Tymoshenko's bloc. Tymoshenko says she has met all conditions set by the president for reinstating the governing team.

    A parliamentary race, probably in December, is unlikely to bring much change to the political landscape.

    Polls give both Tymoshenko and ex-prime minister Viktor Yanukovich, adversary of "Orange" protesters, about 20 percent support. Yushchenko's support is in single figures.

    Somali pirate source: deal near on Ukraine ship

    From: Reuters
    An onshore associate of Somali pirates holding a Ukrainian ship with tanks and other weaponry on board said on Wednesday an $8 million ransom deal was in the offing which may enable the boat to be freed within days. "A boat will carry the money from Djibouti and pirates are expected to release the ship in the coming two nights," a business partner of the pirates, who identified himself only as Farah, told Reuters.

    In the highest-profile of scores of pirate attacks off Somalia this year, the MV Faina has been held since the end of September with 20 crew members on board. Its cargo includes 33 T-72 tanks which were en route to Kenya's Mombasa port.

    U.S. navy warships are watching the ship, which lies offshore near Hobyo town, guarded by about 50 pirates.

    "I think the Americans are aware of the deal because there is no other alternative to release the ship," added Farah, who has given reliable information in the past about piracy.

    "If the warships threatened, pirates would die in a last-ditch fight and risk the hostages."

    Pirates on the Faina, reached by Reuters via satellite phone, said they were no longer speaking to media despite giving numerous interviews in the last two weeks.


    Lieutenant Nathan Christensen, spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet whose boats are monitoring the Faina, could not confirm the state of ransom talks but said he hoped the saga ended soon.

    "Negotiations are between the pirates and the shipping company, we're not engaged...Having said that, we want this to end as soon as possible and as peacefully as possible," he said.

    "We are definitely concerned that the cargo may fall into the wrong hands ... terrorists and violent extremists and the pirates themselves."

    Kenya reiterated on Wednesday its denial that the Faina's military cargo was secretly destined for South Sudan as a regional maritime group and some defence sources have said.

    Nairobi has been embarrassed by that accusation because it helped broker a 2005 north-south peace accord in Sudan. There are also suggestions of kickbacks involved in the shipment.

    "The cargo on board the hijacked ship belongs to the Kenya government," Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said.

    The ship's manifest, seen by Reuters, lists Kenya as the "consignee" but gives MOD/GOSS as the contract reference.

    GOSS is an abbreviation widely used around east Africa for Government of South Sudan.

    But Wetangula said it stood in this context for "General Ordinance Supplies and Security" in Kenya's defence ministry.

    The Faina's seizure has galvanised international concern over piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean ship lanes off Somalia. The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday again urged a joint naval operation against the pirates, who have reaped millions in ransoms this year and pushed up insurance costs.

    Farah scoffed at the international threat.

    "The world has repeatedly voted to fight pirates, but if the situation were a piece of cake, then the American ship would not just be watching the Ukrainian ship," he said.

    Somali Foreign Minister Ali Jama Jangili said an end to civil conflict onshore was a pre-requisite to solving piracy.

    "Only the maintenance of peace in Somalia can help eradicate the menace of piracy," he told reporters in Nairobi.

    Russia begins final pull-out from Georgia buffer zone

    From: Guardian
    Russian soldiers load items on a truck as they dismantle a checkpoint at the Georgian village of Karaleti

    Russia began its final pull-out from the so-called buffer zone next to Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia this morning, in a move that is likely to lead to a permanent redrawing of the map of Europe.

    Russian troops today bulldozed their roadside checkpoint in the village of Kareleti, 5km away from the central town of Gori, before driving off towards South Ossetia. Their commander, Major General Marat Kulakhmetov, said soldiers would leave all six posts inside the buffer zone by the end of today.

    Today's withdrawal follows an EU-brokered ceasefire deal last month. Under the agreement Russia agreed to withdraw all forces by this Friday from buffer zones next to South Ossetia and Russia's other separatist province of Abkhazia. EU observers, who watched today's pull-out, are due to take over security.

    But Moscow has refused to leave South Ossetia and Abkhazia - despite agreeing on August 12 to withdraw its forces to the positions they occupied before the war with Georgia. The Kremlin says realities changed when it recognised both breakaway regions as independent. It now plans to garrison 7,600 troops there.

    Additionally, Russian troops are refusing to leave newly captured territory seized during the five-day conflict with Georgia. Most contentiously, Russian and South Ossetian forces are staying in the strategic town of Akhalgori - which was under Georgian administration. The town, 34km north-west of Tbilisi, lies inside the old Soviet borders of South Ossetia.

    Western diplomats concede that, once Moscow completes its withdrawal from the "buffer zone", it is unlikely to budge further. The EU's appetite for sanctions against Moscow, meanwhile, appears to be rapidly diminishing ahead of an international conference in Geneva next week on the future of Georgia and the region.

    "The Europeans will now start making a lot of concessions to Russia," Zaza Gachechiladze, editor-in-chief of Georgia's the Messenger newspaper said today. "Russia has very strong levers. Around 60% of natural gas and oil supplies comes from Russia. This is a very powerful tool."

    "The Europeans care mostly about their comfort. They care for justice and the rule of law only on paper. When it comes to the alternatives [of justice and comfort] they will choose comfort," he said.

    There was little prospect of agreement next week at the Geneva conference, he said, adding that Russia's claim that Abkhazia and South Ossetia were now sovereign states was a fiction. "Everyone knows that they are puppet entities. Their sovereignty relies on Russian armed forces," Gachechiladze said.

    Inside Georgia, opposition politicians are calling for an independent inquiry into the war two months ago. They say that Russia undoubtedly provoked the situation but blame Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili, for launching an attack on South Ossetia on August 7. This, they say, prompted Russia's invasion.

    The head of the EU monitoring mission, Hansjorg Haber, today expressed satisfaction with the Russian moves to withdraw.

    "We always proceeded from the assumption that the process would be completed by Friday, and this is confirmation of that assumption," Haber told AP by telephone, speaking from the buffer zone outside Abkhazia.

    He said he expected Russian forces to withdraw from what he said were 12 checkpoints and a base outside Abkhazia by Friday, but probably not by the end of today. He confirmed that Georgian law enforcement officers would move into the buffer zones as the Russians withdrew.

    Russia said its pull-out was proceeding "on track". "Russia has begun the withdrawal of its peacekeepers from all the six checkpoints located in the south of the security zone," said Igor Konashenkov, aide to the commander of the Russian military's ground forces.

    In western Georgia, a Reuters television reporter saw a column of 50 to 60 Russian military vehicles leave a military base and cross the Inguri river into breakaway Abkhazia.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Poland improves on corruption, but still worst in EU

    From: Gazetta
    Poland is the most corrupt EU country, according to an index of the most corrupt countries in the world
    Poland shared 58th place with Turkeyand Lithuania in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.

    The index, published each year, focuses onhow businesspeople and other professionals perceive corruption in theircountry. Poland's score improved by 0.4 points this year to 4.6. The point systemranges from one (very corrupt) to 10 (least corrupt).

    Stanislaw Cichocki, executive director at Transparency International, said that Polandwas a leader amongst countries trying to change for the better.

    According to the report, the performance ofGreece, Italy, the Czech Republic and Poland was poor and "showed little or no sign of improvement." The reportadds that due to this the EU's credibility could be weakened in the fightagainst corruption among new members and countries in line for accession.

    Iraq and Myanmar tied for second-most corrupt in the ranking, while Somaliatook last place.

    "In the poorest countries, corruptionlevels can mean the difference between life and death, when money for hospitalsor clean water is in play," said Huguette Labelle, chair of TransparencyInternational.

    Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden took the three highest spots in the 180-country index.

    Three charged in Polish football corruption case

    From: IHT and The News
    Polish police have arrested three people in connection with an ongoing football corruption investigation.

    According to Edward Zalewski of the Wroclaw District Attorney’s office, the Central Corruption Bureau, on the recommendation of his office, arrested two active playesrs and one coach. Zalewski did not want to comment further as to the identity of the arrested or what region of Poland they are from.

    Two club officials and a coach were charged with handing out bribes worth more than 100,000 zlotys (US$40,000) between 2003 and 2006, the prosecutor's office in the western Polish city of Wroclaw said.

    The office declined to provide further details of Wednesday's arrests.

    Wroclaw prosecutors launched an investigation in 2005 into corruption in Polish football.

    Today’s arrests follow accusations by the Polish Sports Ministry that the PZPN is not doing enough to eliminate corruption. The Ministry suspended the management board of the PZPN, which caused backlash from UEFA and FIFA.

    So far they have charged 153 people — including members of the Polish Soccer Federation, coaches, referees, players and club officials — with fixing matches in the top domestic leagues.

    Poland risks Euro 2012 over government meddling

    From: Reuters
    Poland risks losing the right to co-host Euro 2012 after FIFA and UEFA said on Tuesday that football's governing bodies do not recognise the administrator appointed by the Polish government to run the country's FA.

    "FIFA and UEFA will immediately start joint consultation to decide the measures to be taken regarding the PZPN (FA) and the future of Polish football, and to be proposed to the forthcoming meeting of the FIFA executive committee in Zurich on (October) 23-24," FIFA and UEFA said in a joint statement.

    A FIFA spokesman confirmed that under FIFA rules one of the range of measures available to the world governing body is suspension from all levels of the game. If suspended, Poland risks losing the right to co-host Euro 2012 alongside Ukraine.

    "We cannot speculate on what might or might not happen. We must wait and see what happens at the meeting next month," a UEFA spokesman said.

    "But this is the most serious situation that can happen and, of course, we are very concerned about the situation since Poland is hosting Euro 2012."

    The management board of the Polish FA was suspended on Monday by the country's arbitration tribunal at the request of Warsaw's sports ministry in an anti-corruption drive. Robert Zawlocki was appointed as an administrator in their place.

    "FIFA and UEFA continue to recognise the current leadership of the PZPN chaired by Michal Listkiewicz as the only legitimate authority to run football in Poland and to represent it internationally," the FIFA/UEFA statement said.

    "As a consequence, any letter, correspondence and/or communication...that is signed under the authority of Mr Robert Zawlocki, will be ignored and considered irrelevant."

    FIFA rules do not allow government interference in the running of its associations. Poland was warned in 2007 it risked suspension after the government appointed a commissioner as head of the FA in a previous crackdown on corruption.

  • Sport...

    IOC to retest all doping samples from Beijing; Belarus hammer throwers have 'till the 17th

    From: Canadian Press
    The International Olympic Committee will retest all doping samples from the Beijing Games to check for traces of a new blood-boosting drug.

    The unprecedented move, announced Wednesday, is designed to search for a banned substance that was only recently detected during retesting of samples from the Tour de France.

    The Beijing samples - across all sports - are being sent to the World Anti-Doping Agency accredited laboratory in Lausanne, IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said.

    The IOC conducted more than 5,000 drug tests during the Beijing Games.

    The IOC disqualified six athletes for doping during the Beijing Games - Ukrainian heptathlete Lyudmila Blonska, Ukrainian weightlifter Igor Razoronov, Greek hurdler Fani Halkia, North Korean shooter Kim Jong Su, Spanish cyclist Isabel Moreno and Vietnamese gymnast Thi Ngan Thuong Do.

    Three other cases are still pending. The IOC has given Belarusian hammer throwers Vadim Devyatovskiy and Ivan Tsikhan until Oct. 17 to provide more information explaining why they tested positive for testosterone. A decision is due shortly in the case of Polish canoeist Adam Seroczynski, who tested positive for clenbuterol.

    The samples will be reopened and tested for CERA, a new generation of the endurance-enhancing hormone EPO. The substance boosts an athlete's performance by increasing the number of oxygen-rich blood cells.

    Details of the testing procedure are under discussion with WADA, Moreau said.

    The decision comes after a new lab test used by the French Anti-Doping Agency detected CERA during retesting of samples from Tour de France riders. The original urine tests had raised suspicions but proved inconclusive.

    "It's very good. It allows us to confound the cheaters," Tour de France chief Christian Prudhomme said Tuesday. "What's being done at the Tour de France has never existed in the world of sport."

    Officials confirmed Tuesday that German rider Stefan Schumacher, and Italians Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli had tested positive for CERA at the Tour. The three riders combined to win five of the Tour's 21 stages.

    IOC vice president Thomas Bach said Tuesday that the future of men's road cycling in the Olympics could be threatened unless the sport cleans up its act under the aegis of the international cycling union, or UCI.

    If the entire sport doesn't pull together to improve the situation, "then you have to consider giving men's road cycling a pause" from Olympic participation, Bach told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

    In a statement Wednesday, Moreau said, 'The IOC will continue to support the UCI - and any other international federation - as long as it is deploying meaningful and credible means and efforts to fight against doping."

  • Endnote...

    The Polish football war

    From: Polskie Radio
    After a week of heated debates and threatening statements the Sports Ministry in Warsaw, representing the government and FIFA have reached a tentative agreement on the manner in which personnel changes are to be introduced in PZPN - the Polish Football Association.

    Slawek Szefs reports

    It all started last week after a controversial statement by PM Donald Tusk who said straightforwardly that his government is fed up with endless footdragging in the Polish Football Association regarding action on corruptive practices in the various league divisions as well as the reluctance of top Association officials to test their worth in elections which have been tactically postponed several times already. Hence the Sports Ministry had been empowered to introduce a special commissioner to take charge over the Polish Football Association until new authorities are elected.

    The move triggered a sharp response on the part of FIFA. It threatened to ban Polish teams from international competitions, including the national squad engaged in World Cup playoffs, in retalliation for meddling into the internal affairs of a sovereign organization, meaning the Polish Football Association. The ultimatum caused a softening of the Polish government position, leading to a compromise to set up a four sided commission to substitute the designated curator as quickly as possible. It is to consist of a representative of the Polish president, PZPN as well as FIFA and UEFA.

    FIFA president Joseph Blatter seemed satisfied with the solution. He added that FIFA holds absolutely no prejudice against Poland and follows its Euro 2012 preparations with friendly attention.

    Minister of sports Miroslaw Drzewiecki explained that the decision to designate a special commissioner had been prompted by much broader considerations than just administration pressure to conduct a board reshuffle in the Polish Football Association.

    'The minister acts in accordance with the law when asking for a curator who is to introduce organizational and legal changes. This is much different from social expectations. These go in the direction of uncompromising actions to eradicate the Polish Football Association of its present authorities. Looking from the perspective of fans I uderstand the nature of these tensions when people complain that top Association officials have no self respect and remain glued to their posts.'

    Indeed, most of the football public agrees with the minister's assessment.

    'We can't give in to thieves, we won't tolerate corruption./ Stop making idiots out of Poles./ We have to start from the regional divisions. It's such a mess there.'

    Assessing the compromise to date, Polish Football Association spokesman Zbigniew Kozminski struck a conciliatory note.

    'Nobody has won, nobody has been defeated. Common sense is the victor. It was an unnecessary 7 days for Polish football and the Sports Ministry. I'm sure proper conclusions will be drawn by both sides. I hope we will be united in building a good Polish football scene.'

    Meanwhile, national team coach Leo Beenhakker worked uninterrupted with his players, confident the World Cup qualifiers with the Czech Republic and Slovakia on the 11th and 15th of this month, respectively, shall be held according to schedule.

    Hopefuly, so will the international foursome of decision makers who are to give a new lease of life to Polish football.