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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, October 15, 2008

EU lifts travel ban, Opposition jilted, Chinese business, Energy investment, Russia, Ukraine, polish scandals and a WC Qualifier vs England

  • From the Top...
  • #352

    Belarus’ President meets with China’s CITIC Group Chairman Kong Dan

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    The President meeting with CITIC Group Chairman Kong Dan
    On October 14 President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko met with the Chinese CITIC Group Chairman Kong Dan, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    CITIC Group (China International Trust and Investment Corporation) is one of the largest state-owned companies of the People’s Republic of China. Its initial mission is to carry out financial, banking, securities and investment operations, contracts and construction of large industrial sites in China and overseas.

    The corporation includes two commercial banks headquartered in Beijing and Hong-Kong, over 50 subsidiaries in China and 11 companies and offices overseas, seven listed companies at the New York, Hong-Kong and Australian stock exchanges. Among them are the Chinese largest plant which produces equipment for mineral and cement industries, and the Asian maker of motor spare parts.

    CITIC Group capital exceeds $122 billion. In 2007, the company’s assets were worth more than $200 billion. The trade made up more than $20 billion, profits reached $4 billion.

    The corporation has acquired an oil deposit in Kazakhstan, implemented a project to construct two metro lines in Tehran, partaken in the construction of the Bird’s Nest national stadium in Beijing. Today the company is engaged in the construction of a dwelling district in Angola and a highway in Algeria.

    Alexander Lukashenko urges to start projects with CITIC Group as soon as possible

    It is necessary to start implementing the projects in the cement industry with the Chinese CITIC Group as soon as possible, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at a meeting with CITIC Group Chairman Kong Dan on October 14.

    “The two countries have laid a good foundation for the bilateral cooperation. You are going to upgrade cement plants and launch new construction lines in Belarus. It is imperative to start the implementation of these projects as quickly as possible and settle all the issues concerning the quality of the equipment and our feedstock,” the Head of State said.

    The President said that China is Belarus’ key trading partner. This year the bilateral trade is expected to exceed $1 billion. The Head of State said the mutual trade is not high enough yet and added that annual profits of CITIC Group alone total $5 billion.

    Alexander Lukashenko confirmed Belarus’ interest in cooperation with the Chinese corporation in finance, engineering, town-planning, sports and tourism. “We have a lot of plans. It would be good if they translate into concrete agreements and projects in the course of your visit to Belarus,” he said.

    The Belarusian leader reminded that the cooperation with CITIC Group was discussed on the eve of the Olympic Games in Beijing. “Then I addressed you with a request to help us in setting up a similar company in Belarus,” the President said and added that CITIC Group is one of the largest multifunctional companies that is of great interest for Belarus.

    Chinese CITIC Group Chairman Kong Dan said that owing to the joint efforts the two sides have been making fast progress in the cement industry project, much faster than in any other projects. He added that the Chinese side is committed to its cooperation with Belarus.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    EU suspends travel ban on Belarus’ high-ranking officials

    From: BelTA
    The European Union has suspended its travel ban on the Belarusian high-ranking officials, inform the news agencies referring to Foreign Minister of Bulgaria Ivailo Kalfin.

    In his words, the foreign ministers of 27 EU member-states that convened in Luxemburg took such a decision as the situation with human rights has improved in Belarus.

    Foreign Ministry expects advanced EU decisions concerning Belarus

    Belarus welcomes the decisions taken by the European Council on October 13 and expects the decisions to be extended and advanced, Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov told media after a meeting with Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

    “It should be taken into account that we continue working together for the sake of improving our relations, overcoming differences and honest distinctions in our opinions which still exist in some issues,” remarked the minister.

    During the meeting with Javier Solana the Belarusian Foreign Minister said Belarus is interested in very productive and substantial relations with the European Union. “We are ready to work with this goal in mind. We understand that these relations mean a lot for both the sides due to a range of reasons — from economic ones to modern challenges, including contraband, illegal migration, transit, ecological problems and several other matters,” said the minister.

    The head of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry underscored, “Our authorities have done a lot to make this day come true”. “As I said, we are ready to cooperate with the European Union. We are ready to welcome the EU team, which is arriving within the next few weeks. Working hand in hand for the sake of wellbeing and economic stability of the continent is very important,” said the minister.

    Belarus to partake in Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Geneva October 13-15

    A Belarusian parliamentary delegation is set to take part in the 119th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva on October 13-15. The delegation will be headed by Chairman of the House of the Representatives Vadim Popov, BelTA learnt from the lower chamber of the Belarusian parliament.

    The delegation includes member of the Commission for the International Affairs and National Security of the Council of the Republic Natalya Baranova and Chairman of the Permanent Commission for Legislation and Legal Issues of the House of Representatives Alexander Arkhipov.

    The assembly will focus on the issues related to Palestine’s admission to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the CNTB Treaty entering into force, the role of the parliaments, the freedom of speech and the right to know. A new chairman of the Inter-Parliamentary Union is expected to be elected.

    Vadim Popov will preside at a session of the geopolitical group Eurasia. The Belarusian speaker will hold several bilateral meetings with the officials of the parliamentary delegation of other countries.

    Belarus will put $1bn in its energy sector in 2008, Vladimir Semashko says

    From: BelTA
    Over $1 billion will be invested in the energy sector of Belarus in 2008, First Vice-Premier Vladimir Semashko said at an opening ceremony of the Belarusian Energy and Ecology Forum in Minsk on October 14.

    According to him, three years ago the investments in the energy industry were $0.5 billion. The state has necessary financial resources to develop power engineering; Belarus is also interested in raising private investment in this industry.

    Vladimir Semashko said that by 2010 the country seeks to reduce the GDP energy intensity by 31% over 2005. The deterioration of the key production assets of the Belarusian energy system is projected to go do to 45%, which will ensure its reliable and effective operation. An important goal is to increase the share of local fuels to 25% by 2012.

    In this connection the Belarusian Energy and Ecology Forum plays an important role in addressing these challenges by showcasing advanced technology, promoting their prompt implementation, Vladimir Semashko said. He wished the participants of the forum to establish mutually beneficial contacts and reach agreements to implement new projects.

    Taking part in the 13th Belarusian Energy and Ecology Forum are around 300 companies and organisations from 16 countries.

    The programme features the 13th international specialized exhibition “Energy. Ecology. Energy Saving. Nuclear Energy” (EnergyExpo), 4th specialized exhibition of lighting technology "ExpoLight," 3rd specialized Water and Air Technology exhibition and 13th Belarusian Energy and Ecology Congress.

    The exhibitions are aimed at presenting advanced equipment and technology to produce and distribute electrical and heat energy, automated systems, energy and resource saving technology. This year equipment and technology for nuclear power stations will be showcased for the first time. The nuclear energy exposition is presented by 15 companies form Belarus, Russia, Germany and Sweden.

    EnergyExpo is one of the biggest energy exhibitions in the CIS and Baltic countries. The total area is more than 10,000 square metres.

    A plenary meeting of the Belarusian Energy and Ecology Congress will take place on October 15. It will focus on the development of nuclear energy in Belarus, state policy in energy saving and implementation of the measures stipulated in Directive No 3 on economy and thrift. The congress will analyze the state of the fuel and energy industry and review the strategy of its development.

    The organizing committee is headed by Energy Minister of Belarus Alexander Ozerets. The organizers include the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Industry, Housing and Utilities, State Committee for Science and Technology, National Academy of Sciences, Energy Efficiency Department of the State Standard Service and other departments. The forum will stay open by October 17.

    Nuclear power plant to produce 25% of Belarus’ electricity in future

    From: BelTA
    The nuclear power plant will produce around 25% of electricity in Belarus, First Vice Premier of Belarus Vladimir Semashko told media during the Belarusian Energy and Ecological Forum on October 14.

    He stressed, Belarus has no alternative to building a nuclear power plant. Now the energy industry heavily relies on gas, with around 95% of electricity and heat generated using gas. “No other country is so dependent on gas. For instance, in Poland gas is used to produce 8% of electricity, in Ukraine — 26%, thermal stations in Russia — 60-61%,” said Vladimir Semashko. Meanwhile, rich in deposits of energy resources, Russia plans to increase the capacity of its nuclear power plants by 150% by 2020.

    According to Vladimir Semashko, the Belarusian nuclear power plant will allow increasing the reliability of energy delivery and diversifying energy supplies. At present nuclear fuel is more affordable than conventional ones, besides, its share in energy generation costs is lower. Thus, with the commissioning of the nuclear power plant, the Belarusian energy system will become less dependent on external factors.

    Ostrovetskaya site named priority for building Belarusian nuclear station

    The Ostrovetskaya site in the Grodno oblast is a priority for building the nuclear power plant, Chairman of the Board of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (NASB) Mikhail Myasnikovich told media on October 14.

    He remarked after a recent session of the government commission the potential sites for building the nuclear station are ranked in the following order: Ostrovetskaya, Kukshinovskaya, and Krasnopolyanskaya. In particular, soil characteristics and some other factors make the Ostrovetskaya site more advantageous.

    On the whole, Mikhail Myasnikovich believes the accumulated information is more than enough to make the final choice. “It is not only our opinion. Experts of the IAEA, Russia and other countries believe it is so, too,” stressed the official.

    Asked about the procedure for choosing the general contractor for building the nuclear power plant, Mikhail Myasnikovich specified two variants are possible: holding a tender or making the choice via direct negotiations. The second variant will require serious reasons, stressed Mikhail Myasnikovich. The reliability of the project (it is of utmost importance) as well as co-financing of the project, participation of Belarusian construction companies, service companies and industrial enterprises will be taken into account.

    According to Mikhail Myasnikovich, along with proposals of Russian company Rosatom interesting proposals for the participation in the project have been received from China. France also shows interest in participating in the project and the degree of the possible participation is being determined, he remarked.

    Alexander Lukashenko congratulates Belarus' women on Mother’s Day

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has congratulated the Belarusian women on Mother’s Day, BelTA was told in the presidential press service.

    “Mother love is the strongest feeling in the world. Together with high tolerance it helps you develop the best human qualities in your children – diligence, kindness and devotion to the Motherland,” the message of congratulations says.

    Alexander Lukashenko said that this day is a tribute to all the Belarusian mothers, recognition of their crucial role in strengthening the family, upbringing young citizens, preserving spiritual and cultural traditions of the nation.

    “We are proud of our wonderful countrywomen who are excellent wives and mothers and, more so, well-qualified specialists in different areas, who do their utmost for the benefit of Belarus’ prosperity and well-being,” the Head of State said.

    The President asserted that the country’s social policy helps Belarusian women accomplish their main mission – bring up healthy and happy children. The current Year of Health is a logical follow-up to the Year of Mother and the Year of Child in pursuing large-scale nation-wide programmes aimed at protecting the maternity and childhood, enhancing the status and prestige of the family and improving the demographic situation in the country.

    Alexander Lukashenko underlined that the Belarusian state would continue setting up all necessary conditions for women's successful activity in all areas.

    The President wished all mothers to have everyday life filled with attention, care and tenderness of their dear ones.

    New decree to raise child care allowance in Belarus

    A draft presidential decree has been prepared in Belarus to raise the monthly care allowance for children under three.

    The document envisages raising the allowance from 80% of the subsistence wage to 100% as from January 2009, Tatiana Shemetovets, Deputy Head of the Central Employment and Population Policy Department of the Belarusian Labour and Social Protection Ministry, told reporters on October 13.

    She reminded, the monthly care allowance for children under three has been 80% of the subsistence wage since January 1, 2008. The state welfare system takes care of over 500,000 children.

    An increase in one-time allowance for giving birth to the first child from two subsistence wages to five wages was an essential measure for supporting families with children. The one-time allowance for giving birth to the second child was also increased from two subsistence wages to seven wages and from three subsistence wages to seven wages for the third child and consequent children. The new allowances were introduced by the relevant presidential decree in June 2007.

    After welfare requirements were raised and the individual approach to the provision of children under two with free food was introduced, the number of beneficiaries of this kind of state social aid has greatly increased.

    The government policy aimed at making families stronger will remain a priority, underscored Tatiana Shemetovets.

    Interested ministries are discussing the introduction of maternity capital (government subsidies for families with more than one child) in Belarus. Tatiana Shemetovets remarked, the proposal is part of the measures which are being developed to stimulate birthrate. They will be introduced step by step.

    Some maternity capital elements already exist in Belarus, first of all, preferential loans for multiple-child families, said Tatiana Shemetovets. The Russian Federation introduced a maternity capital system on January 1, 2007, with no family encouragement measures similar to Belarusian ones available before.

    Other measures vigorously discussed today include partial reimbursement of salary losses parents face due to child care leaves. Undoubtedly the measures will require additional funding, however, they are advisable for the sake of improving the demographic situation in the country, encouraging birthrate and enhancing the prestige of the family.

    Apart from that, the possibility of extending antenatal leaves and post-delivery leaves is under consideration.

    In Belarus pregnancy and confinement grants are paid for 126 calendar days once and for 140 calendar days if the pregnancy is complicated or two and more children are born. Russia practises well-recommended longer leaves. In the Russian Federation pregnancy and confinement leaves total 140 calendar days, complicated pregnancy leaves — 156 days, leaves for plural pregnancy and birth of two and more children — 194 calendar days.

    In Belarus it is possible to increase the pregnancy and confinement leaves by two weeks, believes Tatiana Shemetovets. In her words, the measure will positively contribute to the health of mothers and babies.

  • Cultural scene...

    Авторский вечер поэта Дмитрия Строцева

    From: Minsk Blog
    16 октября
    в конференц-зале минского Дворца Искусств
    (ул. Козлова, 3)

    состоится авторский вечер поэта Дмитрия Строцева – «КАВКАЗ РАДОСТИ».

    Дмитрий понимает/позиционирует предстоящее выступление как лирическое приношение Грузии, стране, которой поэт, по его словам, обязан своим творческим и духовным становлением. Автор прочитает стихи и прозу, расскажет о знаменательный встречах на Кавказе.

    В программе вечера примут участие друзья поэта.

    Режиссер-аниматор Ирина Кодюкова познакомит минскую аудиторию с документальным фильмом «Ближе к Небу», работой своего московского коллеги Сергея Серегина.

    Режиссерский дуэт Татьяны Стативченко и Максима Черноголова представит фото-, видео-композицию «Дневник грузинских путешествий», рассказывающую о двух паломничествах многодетной православной семьи к Иверским святыням.

    Вокальный ансамбль «Ваганты» исполнит избранные грузинские песнопения из своего репертуара.

    Начало вечера в 18:00.
    Вход свободный.

  • From the International Press...

    EU eases sanctions against top Belarus officials

    From: AP
    European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana speaks with the media prior to a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. European Union nations are planning to ease the political isolation of Belarus and are considering lifting a travel ban against the regime of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. As part of improved relations, the EU's 27 foreign ministers will hold talks with their Belarus counterpart, Sergei Martynov, on Monday.
    The European Union has temporarily lifted a travel ban on the president of Belarus, a country regarded as Europe's last dictatorship, as relations with the country start to thaw, according to diplomats.

    The move comes as relations between the European Union and Russia are strained over Russia's war with Georgia in August. The Kremlin has objected to steps other former Soviet republics in the region have taken to move closer to the West, but it is unlikely EU-Belarus relations will soon warm to the extent that it becomes a problem for Moscow.

    EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said earlier that geopolitical issues were at stake in the relations with Belarus. The EU's primary goal, however, was for Belarus to improve human rights and institute democratic reforms, she said.

    "We have to show that progress is being rewarded," Ferrero-Waldner said. "For them to do something, we also have to do something."

    The EU had imposed sanctions on Belarus' authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, and other high Belarusian officials in 1999 after several crackdowns on the political opposition. The travel ban covered 41 people in all.

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

    Monday's EU decision leaves travel bans in place against six people, including Central Election Commission chief Lidiya Yermoshina and Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov, who were involved in a 1999-2000 crackdown against opposition groups and disappearances of four notable opposition leaders.

    The decision was made by the 27 EU foreign ministers after Ferrero-Waldner held talks with Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov — the first high-level talks between the EU and Belarus in four years. Ferrero-Waldner said she wanted to limit the ban to those directly implicated in human rights violations and disappearances.

    The Russian Government would prefer to keep Belarus as a close partner, without much EU influence. But lifting the travel ban was not expected by itself to raise too many hackles in the Kremlin.

    EU member Finland holds the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In that capacity, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb has been calling for better cooperation.

    "Things are improving, but they are far, far, far from perfect," Stubb said Monday.

    He said it was too early to unfreeze the assets of a number of top Belarus officials, including Lukashenko.

    Belarusian authorities recently freed detained opposition figures after Western governments demanded they be released from prison.

    Belarus' government also allowed opposition candidates to take part in Sept. 28 parliamentary elections.None of the 70 opposition candidates won places in the 110-seat Parliament, though, and European observers said the elections fell short of international standards.

    "They need to fulfill standards of democracy; they need to remove the death penalty; they need to focus on human rights, and let's get going from an empty page from that," Stubb said.

    The EU also dropped a travel ban on Uzbek officials imposed after a bloody crackdown on an uprising in 2005, saying the central Asian country had made some progress in improving human rights.

    The ministers based their decision on the recent release of human rights activists, including Mutabar Tojibaeva, a vocal critic of the government's bloody crackdown during the 2005 uprising in an eastern Uzbek city.

    EU meets Belarus' foreign minister to ease tension

    From: AP
    The European Union held its first high-level talks in four years with internationally isolated Belarus on Monday, hoping to boost democratic progress in a nation still viewed by many as the continent's last dictatorship.

    EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said her meeting Monday with Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov could be seen as a reward after Belarus freed political prisoners.

    "We have to show that progress in being rewarded," she said. "For them to do something, we also have to do something."

    Meanwhile, the EU's 27 foreign ministers were considering whether to lift a travel ban against top officials of President Alexander Lukashenko's authoritarian regime.

    Ferrero-Waldner said she wanted to limit the ban to target only those directly implicated in human rights violations and disappearances in Belarus.

    The EU imposed sanctions on Lukashenko and top Belarus officials after several crackdowns against the Belarusian opposition.

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

    EU-member Finland holds the chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and in that capacity, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb has been calling for better cooperation.

    "Things are improving, but they are far, far, far from perfect," Stubb said.

    He said, however, that it was too early to consider lifting the assets freeze imposed on a number of top Belarus officials, including Lukashenko.

    Belarusian authorities recently released detained opposition figures after Western governments demanded they be freed. Belarus' government also allowed opposition candidates to take part in Sept. 28 parliamentary elections, though none of the 70 opposition candidates won places in the 110-seat parliament and European observers said the elections fell short of international standards.

    "They need to fulfill standards of democracy, they need to remove the death penalty, they need to focus on human rights, and let's get going from an empty page from that," Stubb said.

    Belarus and Russia agree joint defence system 'to counter Nato'

    From: Telegraph
    Speaking ahead of a series of meetings between defence officials from the two countries in Moscow, Pawel Borodin, head of the Russia-Belarus regional bloc, said that he expected both sides to sign an agreement confirming the plan to unify their defence systems on Nov 2.

    He added that Nato's eastward expansion made the creation of the joint system necessary. "Military speaking, this is essentially a defence against Nato," he was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

    In a further move indicating a strengthening of ties between the Moscow and Minsk, the Russian defence minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, said that defence co-operation was "continuing to develop", while his Belarussian counterpart, Leonid Maltsev, said that both sides had made headway in planning common tactics.

    The statements will be seen as direct response to American plans to deploy an anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

    Despite assurances from Washington that the system is designed to counter threats from alleged rogue states in the Middle East, Moscow has opposed the deployment vehemently, arguing that it its primary targets are Russian armed forces.

    Closer military ties should also help to ease strains on the relationship between the two Eastern European states.

    Once close allies, Minsk and Moscow have had a serious or rows following Russia's demand that its neighbour pays market rates for energy supplies, and, in what was seen as snub to Russia, Belarus's authoritarian president, Aleksander Lukashenko, even made overtures to the West.

    But following parliamentary elections at the end of September that Western observers described as flawed, Mr Lukashenko has sought to reaffirm his friendship with Moscow.

    "We aren't selling our friendship with Russia," he said during a meeting with Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, on Tuesday. "We never barter with anyone."

    Belarus: 79 % of potato lands harvested

    From: LOL
    According to data of the Ministry of agriculture and food of Belarus, as of October 13, 2008, in the agrarian organizations of Belarus, potatoes were harvested throughout 38.240 ha that is 79 % from the plan, reported Fruit-Inform project.

    According to the operative data, as of the reporting date, 789.420 tonnes of potatoes were harvested.

    The average yield of potatoes totaled 206.43 c/ha. The highest yield reached the level of 237.69 c/ha.

    As BELTA reported, the agrarian enterprises plan to harvest 1.8 mln. tonnes of potatoes, up 279 tonnes as compared to the last year. At the moment purchasing of potatoes for interseasonal period is in progress, 56.700 tonnes are to be supplied to the stabilization funds. The farms are supplying the raw material for starch and syrup plants.

    Taking into account the harvest from private farms and agrarian farms, 8.75 mln. tonnes of potatoes will be harvested in Belarus.

    During the last year, 793.000 tonnes of potatoes were produced in the agrarian farms, including 366.300 tonnes which were harvested in the particularized farms and the participants of the program on potato-growing development. The yield exceeded 210 c/ha that is up 26 c/ha as compared to the data throughout the Republic. The gross crop totaled 8.5 mln. tonnes. 60.700 tonnes were purchased for the interseasonal period that is up 10 % from the plan.

    Belarus takes the eighth place in the world on gross production of potatoes and the first place on production per head.

    Belarus to harvest 570.000 tonnes of maize

    In a related Agrimarket story, this year Belarus plans to harvest 570.000 tonnes of maize, according to Nicholas Sivodedov, the chief mechanical engineer of the Main department of plant growing of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Republic of Belarus.

    Belarusian live farming consumes 350-400 thsd tonnes of maize. In two years Belarus plans to increase maize production to 1 mln tonnes.

    As of October 11, the agrarians harvested 24.500 ha of maize or 15.5% of planned territory with the crop of 140.000 tonnes. An average yield totaled 57 c/ha.

    The agrarians also harvested 20.000 tonnes of crushed maize as opposed to 55.000 tonnes on the same date in the previous year.

  • From the Opposition...

    Brest citizens are not allowed to demand return of social guarantees

    From: Viasna
    The local authorities are doing everything possible to smother the civil initiative for returning of the liquidated social guarantees.

    Recently the civil activists L.Dzianisenka, A.Khudasoutsava and Z.Mikhniuk have applied to Brest city executive committee for authorization of the meeting of the initiative group for returning of discounts for public transport. At first they reached the agreement of the administration of the Culture House of the trade unions of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus to rent its hall since 10 am till 2 pm on 11 October 2008 (as it was not planned to hold any other actions there at the specified time).

    However, five days before the meeting the executive committee refused to authorize it as the number of the participants had not been mentioned in the application.

    But the most interesting thing is that the following day the applicants received a letter from the director of the Culture House: ‘On 11 October Brest theater of puppets will hold a charitable performance ‘Small fairy’ for orphan and disabled children. That’s why the House of Culture has no opportunity to present the hall for holding your assembly. We offer You our apologies.’

    Hrodna: house sold together with dwellers

    This spring the authorities of Hrodna sold at an auction the house in Kaliuchynskaya Street, 23. Soon it will be ruined, but its dwellers still don’t have even a slightest idea when and where they will be relocated.

    Hrodna authorities have been trying to sell the house for many years already. The press wrote that the house was in a very bad condition and it did not correspond to the outlook of the ‘restored’ Savetskaya Square. However, instead of holding capital repairs the authorities tried to prepare ground for destroying the house.

    The only institution by which the house could be bought is the ‘people’s’ pension fund, which has been fruitlessly struggling with Muravyov House in Savetskaya Square (which it allegedly intends to turn into a posh hotel) for two years already.

    Of course, the pension fund does not need the house in Kaliuchynskaya Street, 23. It needs only the ground for parking near the future hotel. Hrodna city executive committee organized several auctions for the pension fund before, but the latter refused to buy the house because of a huge cost (the relocation of people will cost about 2 billion rubles or $1 million).

    In order to solve this ‘trifle’, this spring the house was sold together with dwellers. The time passes. The authorities promised that the people would be relocated to anew house which is allegedly being built by Minsk enterprise ‘Spetspradmash’. However, they don’t even know how much of the house has been built and whether there is such a house at all. However, even if such a house really exists, the administration of the pension fund does not lose anything on this bargain.

    The matter is that the head of the supervisory board of the pension fund Ihar Kavaliou is also the director of ‘Spetspradmash’, so the money only migrates from one pocket to the other. Imagine: the house is bought at the expense of pension fees, then a new house is built (also for the pension fees) and the people are moved to it. Everyone is satisfied: the hotel gets the parking and the dwellers get new apartments. The fact that some 2-3 billion rubles of state money will disappear in someone’s pocket seems to disturb no one.

    There is also another aspect of the problem: the house in question is a monument of history. It was built after the fire of 1885 and used to be one of the largest houses in Hrodna, where different educational establishments were situated. This house was one of the main houses from which Kaliuchynskaya Street began starting from Savetskaya Square. The central part of the street was overlapped by the Hrodna cinema in 1960-ies. The part of the street adjacent to Savetskaya Square was being ruing throughout the 1960-ies. The ruins of a house could be seen on the turn from Kirau Street, near the city prison. Recently they have been demolished as well. Now, instead of restoring the remaining house in Kaliuchynskaya Street, the authorities plan to turn one of them in a shallow ground and then turn it into a car parking.

    Decision of European Union is treachery, perfidy, and hypocrisy

    From: Charter '97
    “Actions of the European Union have precise definition and analogies in the history. This is called appeasement of dictator. Europe behaved in such a way towards Hitler in 1930ies, and later towards other dictators in Africa, Latin America, and Central Asia,” Andrei Sannikov, coordinator of the civil campaign “European Belarus”, said.

    In the view of the politician, a decision of the EU on lifting visa bans on Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his officials will most likely have not the consequences, expected by some Europeans.

    “The regime of Lukashenka won’t take it as a signal of good will, but will regard this as a weakness of Europe and recognition of the lawlessness and impunity of powerful people in the country,” Sannikov believes.

    The coordinator of the “European Belarus” noted that the summit of EU foreign ministers decided to lift visa bans on officials of the regime of Lukashenka, but didn’t even discuss an issue on reducing Schengen visa fees for citizens of Belarus.

    “In actual fact, the EU took a decision on granting free visas for the most devoted defenders of the regime, but forgot about simple Belarusians. Citizens of Belarus will continue to pay great money for an opportunity to go to Europe and will stand long queues for visas, while officials from the list will easily get free visas in their diplomatic passports. I don’t think the Europeans are so naive not to understand that their actions extend the life of dictatorship. Due to their credits and investments, the regime counts on full legalisation on European markets remaining close for control of the Belarusian citizens after lifting of bans. The Europeans most likely failed their policy towards Russia and seek to create urgently a buffer state between Europe and the Russian Federation. We know well from the history, what it can lead to,” Sannikov notes.

    The politician is sure: “The decision, taken by EU foreign ministers in Luxemburg, demonstrates that Europe has neither moral leaders nor moral leadership of a state of today.”

    Sannikov thinks that it means the one thing for the Belarusian democrats: “We must defend the principles, which laid in the foundation of the European Union, m ore actively, in spite of treachery, perfidy, and hypocrisy. These principles are simple, but we won’t have freedom and state without them. They are unconditional respect for human rights, democracy, and freedom of choice for everyone. Representatives of the regime of Lukashenka and he himself say openly they are not going to integrate Belarus into the European Union. But we must say resolutely that only in the European Union we a re able to stand upon our rights and defend our state. I believe that a public opinion in Europe supports us and all constructions of European politicians, based on empty promises of the Belarusian regime, will soon demonstrate their untenability.”

  • Around the region...

    Gazprom Management Committee addresses status of calculations with business enterprises of Belarus and Ukraine in gas area

    From: Oil and Gas News
    Gazprom Management Committee considered the status of calculations and potential relations with business enterprises of Belarus and Ukraine in the gas area.

    The core business divisions were entrusted with continuing a stagewise bringing of natural gas prices supplied to Belarus to the level adopted in west European gas markets. The Management Committee also prescribed to take necessary measures aimed at settling indebtedness for natural gas delivered to Ukraine and continue the work of transiting to a new relationship scheme with Ukraine in the gas sector and a stagewise shifting to market gas prices for consumer, having arranged for negotiations and preparation of the relevant contracts with due consideration of the Memorandum of cooperation in the gas sector signed by Prime Ministers of Russia and Ukraine.


    On December 31, 2006 Gazprom and Beltransgaz signed the Gas Supply & Transit Contract for 2007 through 2011. The Contract in particular fixed the pricing formula starting from January 1, 2008 (which is in line with the Russian gas supply pricing formula for Europe), as well as the discounts for the market price for 2008-2010 (0.67, 08 and 0.9 respectively). Starting from 2011, Belarus will have gas prices equally profitable for Gazprom versus prices of gas delivered to Europe.

    Gas delivered by Gazprom in 2007 and the first half of 2008 has been paid by Beltransgaz in full.

    In May 2007 Gazprom and the State Property Committee of the Republic of Belarus signed the Purchase and Sale Agreement for a 50 per cent stake in Beltransgaz. At present, Gazprom holds a 25 per cent stake in the company.

    Pursuant to the January 1, 2006 Accord on settling the issues of cooperation in the gas sector entered into by ROSUKREENRGO AG, Gazprom and Naftogaz, ROSUKREENRGO was named as a company responsible for natural gas supplies to Ukraine.

    In conformity with the Agreement to develop the relations in the gas sector signed between Gazprom and NAK Naftogaz Ukrainy in March 2008, Ukraine will be supplied during the current year with gas from Central Asia in the amount of no less than 55 bcm priced at USD 179.5 per 1,000 cu m. NAK Naftogaz Ukrainy is currently a gas purchaser on the border with Ukraine.

    According to the Agreement starting from May 1, 2008 gas supplies to Ukrainian industrial consumers in the amount of 7.5 bcm have been effectuated by Gazprom sbyt Ukraine (a wholly owned subsidiary of Gazprom).

    On October 2, 2008 in the course of the meeting between the Russian Federation Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his counterpart, Julia Timoshenko the Memorandum of Cooperation in the gas sector was signed. One of the key provisions of the Memorandum is a possibility to transfer to direct long-term relations between Gazprom and NAK Naftogaz Ukrainy, starting from January 1, 2009. The Memorandum also confirms the intention to establish a stagewise (during three years) transition to market, economically expedient and mutually agreed gas prices for Ukraine, as well as tariffs for gas transit across its territory.

    Ukraine seeks IMF assistance amid economic crisis

    From: AP
    Ukrainian authorities have asked the International Monetary Fund for help in stemming a financial crisis in the country, the organization said Wednesday.

    The government took emergency measures to rescue banks and stabilize the national currency, the hryvna, after worried depositors withdrew more than US$1 billion from their accounts this month, spooked by a fall in the national currency, a shaken banking sector and a stock market crash.

    An IMF delegation in Ukraine on Wednesday will meet with officials to discuss economic policies, the organization said.

    Prime Minister Tymoshenko on Tuesday dodged a question about whether the country was seeking an IMF loan, saying only that Ukraine's contacts with international organizations were proceeding as usual.

    The central bank declined to comment Wednesday.

    The government said it was freezing transportation costs, lowering natural gas prices and planning to cap electricity costs for the steel and chemistry industries in an effort to boost the core sectors of the national economy.

    Meanwhile, the central bank pressed ahead with efforts to sell a troubled bank, and said it had enough reserves to shore up the fallen hryvna.

    The measures follow a central bank freeze of selected retail accounts across the country, limits on loans and measures to stabilize the hryvna, after worried depositors withdrew cash worth more than US$1.3 billion from their accounts this month.

    Ukraine needs to sort out its problems on its own

    From: IHT
    Once again, the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, has called for a parliamentary election - the third in as many years - in an attempt to resolve his never-ending political struggle with his two main rivals, Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovich, the current and former prime ministers.

    We sympathize with Yushchenko and his vision of anchoring Ukraine economically and politically in the West. And if new elections help clear up the political mess in Ukraine, well and good. The main thing is to make sure these are elections by and for Ukraine, without meddling from Russia, or the West.

    Yushchenko and Tymoshenko were favorites of the West in the 2004 "Orange Revolution." Thousands of Ukrainians went into the streets to overturn the rigged election of Yanukovich, backed blatantly by Russia, as president. But the "Orange" allies soon fell out. Yanukovich was soon back in the Parliament and, for a spell, Yushchenko's prime minister. In all that time, the three rivals have dismally failed to find a way to share power, seriously hampering Ukraine's development. Part of the problem is the division of Ukraine itself, with Yushenko supported in the European-looking west of the country, Yanukovich in the Russia-leaning east, and Tymoshenko moving back and forth.

    The divisions are not going away anytime soon. And they will not be helped by any new meddling from Russia or the United States. After the nasty war in northern Georgia in August, both East and West should have no illusion about the danger of a conflict in the far larger and far better-armed Ukraine. The only way to avoid that, and to move toward political stability, is to leave the Ukrainians to sort out their own identities and prospects.

    We still believe that Ukraine's future is with the West. But we don't believe that its Westward journey will be helped by pressures to join NATO so long as a sizeable portion of Ukrainians are against it. At the same time, all three major political contenders have already declared their support for joining the European Union, which at this stage seems to be the best and most promising route for Ukraine. Supporting the Ukrainians in this endeavor while staying out of their internal politics seems like the best support the EU and the U.S. could show for this young country.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Pig’s head scores point

    From: BPTimes
    Scandal Monger Janusz Palikot
    The crisis in Polish football took an unexpected turn last Wednesday when MP Janusz Palikot brandished a pig's head on a late night television show saying “this is for the PZPN (Polish Football Federation) mafia”. The previous week the government had suspended the board of the PZPN and appointed its own director in Prime Minister Donald Tusk's crusade against corruption in the domestic league. The suspension jeopardised Poland's participation in the 2010 World Cup and its hosting of the 2012 European Championship when FIFA and UEFA demanded the board to be reinstated. However, football's world and European governing bodies subsequently relented after receiving letters from both the ministry and the federation that, FIFA said, showed a “positive evolution” of the situation between government and the PZPN. A telephone poll conducted the day after Palikot's grotesque stunt revealed that while 51% of respondents thought the politician had “gone too far”, 48% thought he was right to do what he did.

    Simon Mol dies in hospital

    From: Polskie Radio
    Simon Mol, the Cameroonian charged with intentionally infecting several Polish women with HIV, died in a hospital, Saturday night.

    Last week Mol’s trial was suspended due to his ill health after being released from detention in September and transported to one of Warsaw’s hospitals. Medical staff described his condition, linked to his HIV infection, as “critical”. Reputedly M. refused to undergo medical treatment.

    The public prosecutor’s office in Poland established that the Cameroonian infected over 40 women with HIV. He himself claimed that he was not aware of his condition.

    He was arrested in January 2007. The trial, which began in July this year involved a total of 13 charges levelled against him – 11 in connection with intentionally infecting women with HIV, one of exposing a women to the disease, and one of possessing cold weapon without a permit. He was facing 10 years in prison.

    The Cameroonian first arrived in Poland in 1999. He claimed to be a political refugee and that he was persecuted in Cameroon for publishing an article on a corruption scandal in the government. However, Polish media reported later on that his life history was to a great extent a fabrication.

    Polish father shoots son because "I thought he was a boar"

    From: The News
    A 61-year old from Krotoszyn, western Poland, accidentally shot his 36-year old son on a hunting trip during the weekend.

    The tragedy happened in a cornfield in Chachalnia, around 5km south of Krotoszyn. Local police have said that the death was unintentional.

    The father added that he heard a rustling in the field very similar to that of a wild boar, and shot at the area where the sound was coming from.

    An immediate rescue attempt by a medical team was unsuccessful, and the son died in situ. Police have said that the father was sober, and both had gun and hunting permits.

    Another reason given for the death was due to heavy fog in the area at the time of the tragedy.

    The father has as yet not been charged by police.

  • Sport...

    Belarus v England: Game Zone

    From: Telagraph
    Tactical Analysis

    This Belarus side move the ball about quickly, with the kind of sharp passing style that has already prompted Fabio Capello to make comparisons with Arsenal. Yet without the injured Alexander Hleb, the home team are bound to lose a bit of creativity.

    England, however, can not afford to take anything for granted, so they will probably set up with a similar shape to the one that worked so well in Croatia. That means reverting to 4-4-2, after the 4-3-3 system that initially faced Kazakhstan failed to get the best out of Wayne Rooney.

    It also furthered the argument that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard cannot play in the same midfield. While I am sure Capello also has his doubts, whoever he picks in the middle will surely be instructed to sit fairly tight. After all, there are enough good players elsewhere to keep Belarus busy.

    If Gerrard, for instance, ends up being asked to tuck in on the left, he can occasionally be the one to burst into the box.

    In reality, though, the visitors do not need to push it. Top of the table with nine points already, the Three Lions can afford to take things slowly.

    Key Clash Yegor Filipenko v Wayne Rooney

    With three goals in two games ending his dreadful England scoring run, Rooney must be desperate to get out on that pitch, especially if he plays through the middle.

    At just 20, Filipenko is a promising youngster, but he will rarely have encountered someone as capable as this.

    Touchline Duel Bernd Stange v Fabio Capello

    On tricky occasions like these, when things can easily go wrong, it is reassuring to know that Capello is highly unlikely to get tactically caught out, with little chance of him being under-prepared.

    In studying Belarus, he would have found a young group of enthusiasts galvanised by Stange, who has overseen some impressive results. Beating England, of course, would top the lot.

    Fallen Belarus star Kutuzov has point to prove against England

    In a related story, Belarus striker Vitaly Kutuzov can use tonight’s game to reignite a career, which once promised so much.

    The 28-year-old was considered the long-term heir to Andriy Shevchenko when AC Milan signed him from BATE Borisov in 2001.

    Kutuzov arrived in Italy boasting a record of 55 goals in just 99 games for the Belarus side but he was a virtual spectator at the San Siro playing just two games in three years.

    Since then he has forged a solid career in Europe, enjoying loan spells with Sporting Lisbon and Sampdoria as well as Parma, where he now plays.
    Although he has struggled to force his way into the Parma team, the Serie B side have a new manager with Francesco Guidolin replacing Luigi Cagni and the World Cup qualifier gives Kutuzov the chance to show his boss what he can do.

    Parma spokesman Gabriele Majo is convinced the forward, who scored 12 goals in 37 internationals, can pose England problems.

    Reasons why England could blow it against Belarus

    In another related story, The Spolier has this to say:

    God, how depressing was Saturday? Never before has a 5-1 victory felt so damn flat. It was rubbish. And while absolutely no one in Europe accurately knows where Belarus is, it could turn out to be the worst place ever, according to our pals over at Chickendinner. It’s going to be a gloomy night for English football. Here’s why:

    1. In their last competitive home game last November, Belarus triumphed 2-1 over a Holland side that had lost just one of their previous 24 tournament qualifying matches.

    2. They have lost just two of their last twelve matches and have recorded impressive friendly results, including home draws against Turkey and Argentina, not to mention coming from behind to draw 2-2 away to Euro 2008 runners-up Germany.

    3. MOST IMPORTANTLY… They have beaten England before. While Belarus’s 2-1 victory at the Madejski Stadium in May 2006 was officially against an England “B” team, eleven of the players involved in that match are in the current England squad, while other big names such as Jamie Carragher, Owen Hargreaves, Joe Cole and Michael Owen also played. On that day, Belarus scored their winner with just ten men.

  • Endnote...

    State officials can visit Europea, but opposition activists can’t

    From: Viasna
    Zmitser Dashkevich
    The leader of the Young Front Zmitser Dashkevich commented to the Charter’97 press center on a decision of the EU Council to lift visa bans on Lukashenka and his officials. It should be reminded that the authorities banned the youth leader to leave Belarus.

    ‘I was surprised by the decision of the EU council. I think it is a hasty decision, because the course in Belarus hasn’t changed, the ‘elections’ have been falsified, there are political prisoners – participants of the Trial of 14, repressions against the opposition go on. Why did the EU officials forget that participants of Boycott campaign got administrative arrests during the ‘electoral campaign’?

    Lukashenka can travel to the EU, while a number of leaders and activists of the democratic movement do not have the right to leave Belarus. I, leader of the United Civil Party Anatol Liabedzka, Young Front activists Ivan Shyla, Nasta Palazhanka and others are forbidden to leave Belarus. The main thing, I think, is that this decision is untimely, because Lukashenka has demonstrated no steps towards liberalization, but now European politicians will seat at one table, buy Belarusian enterprises from a man who praises Hitler and Stalin. I don’t think they will have a full dialog with Lukashenka. It’s time to prove the policy of the European Union is wrong,’ Zmitser Dashkevich said.