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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lukashenko praises Belarusian army, Russia loans $2B, EU trade, Abkhazia, S.Ossetia, Minsk Ghetto remembered, Economics, Sport and Polish scandal

  • From the Top...
  • #354

    Alexander Lukashenko praises Belarusian army professionalism demonstrated during exercise Autumn 2008

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    President of Belarus, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, Alexander Lukashenko participating in the final stage of the complex operational exercise “Autumn 2008”
    High professionalism, strong morale and comradeship in arms of the Belarusian military were demonstrated during the exercise Autumn 2008, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said on October 21 at the firing range Domanovo, where the complex operative exercise of the Armed Forces of Belarus ended.

    Alexander Lukashenko remarked the exercise confirmed the correctness of the chosen directions of the Armed Forces development.

    “Belarus has fully restored its defensive capacity. We have returned to the state of the Armed Forces that the army should have if the USSR hadn’t collapsed. We have reached the level from the downfall point The key goal of the Autumn 2008 exercise has been reached,” said the President. “Another step in building up the defensive capacity of the country has been made”. The head of state remarked, a training situation as close as possible to probable scenarios of aggression against Belarus had been created in order to achieve tasks of the exercise. The focus was made on the most complicated part — perfection of control over the Armed Forces and other troops and military units during a repulse of a military attack.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, the exercise presented an opportunity to gain practical experience of the effective utilisation of the entire state military organisation. The President praised the high level of preparedness of the troops and units of the Belarusian army as well as personnel of the State Security Committee, the Emergencies Ministry, the border service and internal troops of the Interior Ministry, who participated in the exercise. The President also thanked obligated reservists recruited for the exercise.

    The President underscored the Autumn 2008 exercise was an open one: observers, foreign military attaches, and reporters were able to see for themselves that the government focuses attention on maintaining a high defensive capacity of the country.

    “I thank all participants of the exercise for the utmost skill, dedication and understanding of the importance of ensuring the military security of our Fatherland,” concluded the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Belarus.

    Alexander Lukashenko urges Russia to take more active part in Belarusian manoeuvres

    Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko spoke in positive terms about the cooperation of Belarusian and Russian military. He expressed the opinion after the end of the complex operative training Autumn 2008 on October 21.

    The President added, Belarus expects larger representation of the Russian military at similar exercises in Belarus.

    “I am very grateful to the Russian guys, who had arrived in Belarus to partake in the present exercise. But to tell you the truth, I’d like larger presence of our Russian brothers during similar exercises,” underscored the head of state.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted, “We have created a Belarusian-Russian military taskforce in this direction. The Belarusian army bears the main burden, plays the key role in protecting the Union State from Odessa to the Baltic Sea in the western direction”.

    Fully refitted Belarusian army by 2015

    By 2015 the Belarusian army will be fully refitted and will meet high international standards, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told the press after the end of the complex operative army exercise Autumn 2008 on October 21.

    “The decline of our Armed Forces is over. The army we have today is on virtually 100% military combat readiness,” he said.

    “You know that the global military and political situation has truly changed. We can see albeit minor changes in the materiel and tactics used in armed conflicts,” noted the President. “But today we know precisely what war is, we have studied warfare experience in conflict situations, we have full experience thanks to our Russian brothers, including the example of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict”.

    Comparing the Autumn 2008 with exercises more than ten years old, Alexander Lukashenko reminded, “Back then we used to ‘fight’ like this: here is the frontline, we break it, push the assault in a specific direction and so on. There will be no such war in Belarus. Even if it took place in our country, it would be a most disadvantageous war for our enemy”. The head of state explained the natural landscape itself determines the fact. In his words, nobody will use previous-century front formations to wage war against Belarus.

    The Commander-in-Chief pointed out at present everyone uses high-precision armaments and high-precision methods to use those armaments. At present technical detection and destruction solutions are very good. “Taking into account these factors, the exercise which ended today had major advantages over the previous ones,” stressed the President.

    “We follow the pace of time, see how things change, what wars are like today,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko. “Moreover we forecast what things will be like in the future”. The President reminded exercises are held not only for the purpose of training, but in order to show that dealing with Belarus by aiming weapons at the country is extremely and deadly dangerous. Alexander Lukashenko reminded Belarusian exercises are defensive and Belarus is not going to assault anyone. “Manoeuvres are constraining factors,” concluded the head of state.

    “Once the army was in a deplorable state, people were ashamed of wearing shoulder boards,” said the President. “This is why I put on a military outfit to show that the army is honoured in our society at present”. The head of state remarked the period is over now.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted, the Armed Forces have enough personnel, territorial defence units have been created, the army has been rebuilt, and all governors are military people. Everything has been created to manage the country in a time of crisis. “Today we can mobilise up to 500,000 men if necessary,” said the President. He remarked the modernisation, establishment and refitting of the Armed Forces of Belarus is over.

    “We’ve gained what we lost and now follow the programme of the Armed Forces development precisely,” stated the President.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Russia to extend $2bn stabilisation loan to Belarus

    From: BelTA
    Russia will extend a $2bn stabilisation loan to Belarus, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said October 21, inform the news agencies.

    “Last week Russia took a decision to extend a $2bn loan to the Republic of Belarus,” he said. The funds will be transferred in two tranches. $1 billion will be given this year, another $1 billion in 2009,” he said.

    Finance Minister of Belarus Andrei Kharkovets is in Moscow for a meeting of the finance ministers of the CIS member states, BelTA learnt from the Finance Ministry of Belarus.

    A reminder, in 2007 Russia gave a $1.5bn stabilisation loan to Belarus for 15 years under the rate LIBOR +0.75% with a five-year delay on the principal payment.

    Relations with EU and Russia are equally important for Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko says

    Relations with the European Union and Russia are equally important for Belarus, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told reporters on October 20.

    “We pursue a multi-directed policy. We are in the centre of Europe and this says it all. Therefore Europe is important for us,” the Head of State said. “With the Russians we are one nation,” the President added.

    “Our destiny has been like this: we are the bridge between the East and the West. We must fulfill this role in full,” Alexander Lukashenko said. In his words, to be a connecting link between the East and the West is a great responsibility for the country, and it is very important, especially today.

    Belarus hopes to negotiate trade agreement with EC

    From: BelTA
    Belarus plans to hold negotiations with the European Commission on certain issues regarding the Belarus-EU relations including a possibility of signing a Belarus-EU trade agreement, Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Andrei Evdochenko told reporters on October 22.

    After the visit of the Foreign Minister of Belarus to Luxembourg and Brussels this year, Minsk is expecting a visit of an EC delegation to discus certain issues of strengthening the Belarus-EU relations. The date of the visit is being specified. Some group will arrive in Belarus at the beginning of November.

    Speaking about a trade agreement, Andrei Evdochenko said that this will be a strategic document. “It is time we set our relations with the European Union on a systematized legislative footing so that the EU countries and Belarus should understand clearly where they are heading,” he said. In 1997 Belarus and EC initialled a temporary trade agreement. But since then big changes have taken place in mutual trade, economies have changed too. “The trade agreement which was signed in late 1990s does not meet the modern-day challenges. We are ready for the negotiations on the new fundamental agreement which would reflect all aspects of interaction between Belarus and the EC in trade.”

    Belarus also hopes that the negotiations with the European Commission will facilitate its WTO accession talks. “On the part of the European Commission we have received a green light to hold Belarus’ WTO accession negotiations both on the bilateral basis and within the framework of multilateral working group. Now we are waiting for a signal from the USA and hope that the multilateral working group will gather for a session at the end of 2008 or early 2009,” Andrei Evdochenko said.

    Dialogue between parliaments of Belarus, EU countries to continue developing

    The new convocation National Assembly of Belarus has wide opportunities for promoting the dialogue with European Union parliamentary structures, Vadim Popov, Speaker of the third convocation House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus, told BelTA.

    The politician believes the fourth convocation of the parliament has good prospects for cooperation in the international arena. In his words, the third convocation parliament has laid down a solid foundation. There are over 70 draft international agreements with Belarus in European Union states now. Efforts are channelled into signing them. Intrastate procedures will follow after that, said the source.

    “However, the work is complicated. The European Commission tries to monopolise economy and doesn’t welcome bilateral relations of European Union states. Under the aegis of the European Union a dictate is imposed. However, after clarifying matters major European Union countries see that the approach is unprofitable for their economies and abandon the idea. So there is understanding and movement in this direction. It should be encouraged,” said Vadim Popov.

    According to the Speaker, contacts of the Belarusian parliament with heads of European parliamentary structures continue developing. “The isolation policy pursued by the European Union has proved to be invalid. The Belarusian economy continues developing. Over the three quarters the GDP growth reached 10.7%,” remarked Vadim Popov. “The life itself prompts a ‘a warming-up’ in relations with Europe. The Republic of Belarus is a transit country and borders on the European Union. Belarus is the only barrier preventing drugs, illegal migrants, arms, nuclear materials from entering the European Union,” said the politician.

    Issue of Abkhazia, S.Ossetia recognition will be thoroughly considered, Vadim Popov says

    From: BelTA
    The issue related to the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will be thoroughly considered and weighted, Vadim Popov, Chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus of the third convocation, told a press conference on October 20.

    According to the Belarusian speaker, “the issue should be considered taking into account all possible consequences in the future”. “The issue of Abkhazia and South Ossetia recognition or non-recognition is very delicate. This is always a process of bilateral relations,” Vadim Popov said.

    In his words, the issue will be included into the agenda of the Belarusian parliament of the new convocation. The House of Representatives of the third convocation has not received any requests and documents from the parliaments of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

    “We should understand if the countries use force to sort out their relations and as a result of which peacekeepers and civilians die, the matter cannot be considered within the framework of international law whatever primary intentions were. It is condemned by the international community including by the European Union. If a state violates the UN charter, it should be shown its place to show everyone that such acts are inadmissible,” Vadim Popov said.

    According to him, the fact that the Parliamentary Assembly of Belarus-Russia Union State has provided an observer status to the parliaments of Abkhazia and South Ossetia do not contradict to the fact that Belarus has not yet recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia independence. The Parliamentary Assembly has earlier granted an observer status to different international organisations.

    There is a need to develop Belarus-Georgia relations, Vadim Popov says

    There is a need to develop relations between Belarus and Georgia, Chairman of the House of Representatives of the third convocation of the National Assembly of Belarus Vadim Popov told reporters in Minsk on October 20.

    The press conference was dedicated to the visit of a Belarusian parliamentary delegation to Geneva where it took part in the 119th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. In Geneva, Vadim Popov had several bilateral meetings including a meeting with Georgian parliamentarians.

    “The Georgian parliamentarians raised a question whether Belarus would break off the economic relations with Georgia. We put the issue into the sphere of diplomacy. First, this issue should be considered by the foreign ministries. Our mission is to develop parliamentary cooperation,” the Belarusian Speaker said.

    Vadim Popov also underscored that Belarus should develop bilateral relations with all countries. “We do not have any insurmountable contradictions with any country including Georgia. We should develop the cooperation with that country. Yes, difficulties arise from time to time. But they arise with other countries too, even with Russia. For instance, we have some problems with Russia concerting sugar or dried milk supplies,” Vadim Popov said.

    President Delivers Address to Mark the 65th Anniversary of Demolition of the Minsk Ghetto

    From: BelTA
    Alexander Lukashenko speaking at the Yama memorial complex
    Dear countrymen,

    Distinguished foreign guests,

    Sixty-five years ago, in occupied Minsk, the Nazi invaders eliminated the last prisoners of the Minsk ghetto. This sorrowful date reminds us of the terrible ordeals that befell our people during the Great Patriotic War.

    In that hard and tragic time Belarus suffered irreplaceable losses. Every third Belarusian was killed on the fronts and in guerrilla squads, was tortured to death in concentration camps and prisons. On the Belarusian land, which had endured numerous ordeals, the Nazis organised a ghetto which prisoners were doomed to inevitable death. The Minsk ghetto was one of the biggest in Europe. Not only residents of our country, but also nationals of Germany, Austria, Poland and other states were being eliminated here.

    The entire Belarus took the grief of the Jewish people as its own grief. Risking their lives, Belarusians were saving many Jews, adults and children, from inevitable death. Nearly seven hundred citizens of our republic have been honoured with the lofty title “Righteous among the Nations” in recognition of their nobility and heroism.

    The prisoners of the Minsk ghetto, like prisoners of the other death camps, did not bend their heads before the executioners. Behind barbed wire, they were creating underground military groups. Many young people managed to escape from the camp and become members of guerrilla squads, in which they fought courageously and fittingly against the enemy.

    The sorrowful anniversary of the demolition of the Minsk ghetto fills our hearts with pain. In the name of the victims of the Hitlerite genocide, we should do our utmost to make sure that those terrifying events will never happen again. We are full of determination to counteract any manifestations of Nazism and religious intolerance. May the peaceful and beautiful Belarus will always be our common dear and cosy home.

    Alexander Lukashenko

    21 October 2008

  • Economics...

    Belarusian companies will soon be ready for IPO, Andrei Evdochenko says

    From: BelTA
    Belarusian companies will soon be ready for initial public offering, Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Andrei Evdochenko told reporters on October 22.

    “I think Belarusian companies will soon be ready for initial public offering. There are not so many alternatives,” he said,

    According to Andrei Evdochenko, Belarus’ economic growth projections are quite high. The country uses its own resources for this purpose. But there is an urgent need for foreign loans, which are getting more expensive given the global financial crisis and which are difficult to obtain now.

    The deputy minister reminded, after the default in 1998 Russian companies recovered quite quickly and started raising actively foreign resources. “Russian companies have been followed by enterprises from Ukraine and Kazakhstan. All processes are faster in the new environment, and Belarus will need less time to go this road. The road well-trodden now, we know what to do to adapt our companies to new modern-day challenges,” Andrei Evdochenko said.

    EC cancels several quotas on Belarusian textile exports January 1, 2009

    The negotiations on abolishing quotas on Belarusian textile exports to the European Union have been completed. The European Commission passed a decision to cancel textile quotas regarding 13 out of 32 positions starting January 1, 2009, Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Andrei Evdochenko told reporters on October 22.

    According to him, for the first time in fifteen years (the agreement setting quotas has been effective since 1993) that quotas on Belarusian exports to the EU have been abolished. “Exports of the goods that fall under these 13 categories will not be big. Yet, in the new context of Belarus-EU relations, this is a positive move,” Andrei Evdochenko said. "It may be that this move is more about symbolism and politics rather than economy. But it is very important,” Andrei Evdochenko said.

    In accordance with the new protocol which Belarus will sign with the European Commission the countries will start new consultations next year to liberalise further mutual trade in textile, Andrei Evdochenko informed.

    Belshina exports to Russia 1,5 times up in January-September

    In January-September 2008, the exports of the Belshina Company to Russia grew 52.7% to $180 million, the company told BelTA.

    Over the nine months Russia imported over 1.6 million tyres, including 1.3 million car tyres ($38.6 million), 287,500 truck tyres ($128.2 million), 28,400 tyres for tractors and farm machines ($13 million).

    According to the company, the Russian market is the priority area for the Belarusian exports. In Russia there are seven Belshina trading houses. Besides, the company sells its goods via the Belneftekhim commodity-distribution network. Belshina exports to Russia account for 56% of the total exports of the company.

    In January-September, the exports of the Belarusian tyres to the CIS countries went up by 62.3% to $92.7 million. The company exported nearly 1 million car tyres, 153,800 truck tyres, 18,500 tyres for tractors and farm machines.

    In January-September, Belshina supplied the domestic market with over 1.1 million tyres at the total amount of $228.9 million, 27.3% up over the same period of 2007. The company delivered 381,400 truck tyres ($130.4 million), 312,700 tyres for tractors and farm machines ($80.8 million) and 424,800 car trucks ($16.4 million).

    Belshina is one of the European largest tyre makers. The company produces nearly 200 nominal sizes of tyres for cars, light and heavy-duty trucks, road construction and lifting transport vehicles, electric motor vehicles, buses, tractors and farm machines. The major local customers are BelAZ, MAZ, MTZ, the Minsk Plant of Wheeled Carriers, the Production Association Gomselmash, Amkodor. Over 60% of Belshina products are exported to the CIS countries, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Africa, North and South America.

  • From the International Press...

    Belarus leader welcomes EU travel ban suspension

    From: IHT
    Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday praised as a "small, but significant" step the suspension of a European Union travel ban affecting him and dozens of officials.

    Lukashenko's comments were his first since the 27-nation EU a week ago suspended for six months the restriction as a reward for freeing political prisoners in the ex-Soviet state.

    Some sanctions were kept in place to voice displeasure at the conduct of last month's parliamentary election, deemed by Western observers to have fallen short of international standards.

    "All impediments to dialogue have been lifted. The main thing is we can now talk without an iron curtain, a Berlin wall," Lukashenko told reporters at ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the destruction of Minsk's wartime Jewish ghetto.

    "Sanctions are an anachronism. Europe may have made a small step, even a half-step, but so significant. We will be making many steps in this direction. These steps are to be praised."

    Lukashenko has for more than a year sought improved relations with the West after quarrelling with traditional ally Russia over energy prices.

    The EU's move to remove travel bans on Lukashenko and more than 30 other officials followed the release of what it called the last political prisoners in Belarus in August.

    Ministers also ended a separate four-year-old ban on high-level contacts with Belarussian officials. The EU noted some improvements in the September election, but opposition candidates still failed to win a single seat in parliament and the ban remained in force for Belarus's top election official.

    Lukashenko has made plain in the last week that he intends to maintain his balancing act of improving ties with the West, while still maintaining a special relationship with Russia.

    Belarus and Russia are still formally pursuing the goal of forming a post-Soviet merged "union state" though little progress in realising the project has been accomplished.

    Belarus has yet to clinch a deal with Russia on gas supplies for next year, but hopes to limit any increase to $140 (82 pounds) per 1,000 cubic metres from $128 currently. Russian gas giant Gazprom has suggested it will press for $250 as part of a drive to bring prices for ex-Soviet states up to world levels.

    U.S. wants more reform before lifiting Belarus sanctions

    From: Kiev Post
    U.S. state department officials said it would unlikely to lift travel restrictions on Belarus' leaders until
    the nation did more to advance human rights reforms, on Oct 21.
    The United States wants Belarus to do more to advance human rights and to promote civil society before further easing sanctions against the former Soviet republic, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday.

    Washington sees no immediate need to match recent European overtures to Belarus because it already eased some sanctions this year, David Merkel, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said in an interview.

    "We are looking for them to take some other significant steps that would allow us to move on the sanctions," Merkel told Reuters.

    The European Union this month suspended a travel ban on Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko and dozens of other officials as a reward for freeing political prisoners in August.

    In power for 14 years, Lukashenko has recently begun seeking closer ties with the West after disputes over gas prices with key ally Russia.

    Washington has given no sign it would lift similar bans on Belarussian leaders' travel to the United States.

    But when asked whether the Bush administration would do so, Merkel said Washington had already responded to Belarus' freeing of the political prisoners by waiving sanctions for six months against two companies that are subsidiaries of Belarus' oil products giant Belneftekhim.

    Washington did not, however, lift a ban it imposed last year on dealings with Belneftekhim itself, which brings in up to a third of the country's foreign currency earnings.

    The Bush administration would now like to see a more permissive environment for independent media and independent organizations such as youth groups in Belarus, Merkel said.

    Washington also wants to see the removal of an "additional barrier" to better ties -- the forced April reduction of the size of the U.S. Embassy staff in Belarus, Merkel said. But he denied this was a precondition for U.S. sanctions being lifted.


    U.S. ties with Belarus almost completely collapsed earlier this year in the dispute over human rights and sanctions. In April, Belarus announced it was expelling 10 U.S. diplomats, and Merkel said the embassy in Minsk, which once had a staff of 34, now operated with five Americans.

    He said the United States recognized Belarus had a difficult balancing act vis-a-vis the Kremlin and the West, and was reliant on Russian gas.

    "They have a large, difficult neighbor that they want to have a good relationship with, but they recognize the need for having tentacles out to Europe and the United States," he said.

    Merkel said former Soviet republics like Belarus may also be looking at Moscow's recent intervention in Georgia and wonder, "what do they (the Russians) have in store for us?"

    The 27-member European Union left some sanctions in place to manifest its displeasure at the conduct of last month's parliamentary election in Belarus, which was deemed by Western observers to have fallen short of international standards.

    Washington also said it was disappointed in the conduct of those elections, in which opposition candidates failed to win a single seat.

    Russia to lend Belarus $2 bln, resume currency talks

    From: Guardian
    Russia will issue a $2 billion loan to Belarus and resume common currency negotiations with its ex-Soviet neighbour, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Tuesday.

    Russia and Belarus had declared an intention to create a unified state in 1996. Customs as well as immigration agreements are already in place but limited progress has since been achieved as both sides appeared to have cooled to the idea.

    Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko sought to improve its isolated country's relations with the West and open up its markets after a row with Russia over energy prices.
    But plans for a Eurobond faltered due to global financial turmoil, pushing Minsk back towards the Russian bear's orbit.

    Last year Russia gave Belarus a 15-year stabilisation loan for $1.5 billion at a rate of 0.75 percent over LIBOR. Belarus used the money in part to pay for Russian energy supplies and said it wants more money on similar terms.

    "Last week a decision was taken to grant Belarus a $2 billion loan -- $1 billion will be issued this year and $1 billion next year," Kudrin said, adding that the terms of the loan were still under discussion.

    "During this time we decided to draft a joint action plan to create a common currency," Kudrin said after a meeting with the finance ministers of ex-Soviet countries in Moscow.

    Belarus requested the first loan after Russia more than doubled gas prices for Minsk in 2007 to $100 per 1,000 cubic metres. Prices will rise further to $119 next year.

    Discussions over a monetary union between Russia and Belarus began in Sept. 1993, shortly after the break-up of the rouble zone. But talks stalled as Russian reforms advanced and Belarus' economy stayed along Soviet-era command lines.

    Belarus, upset by Russia's decision to sharply rise gas prices, cancelled the peg of its currency to the Russian rouble, pegging it to the dollar. It now plans to peg it to a basket of currencies which includes the dollar, euro and rouble.

    During a visit of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to Belarus earlier this month he suggested Belarus should use the Russian rouble as a reserve currency as part of an effort to boost the international standing of the rouble.

    Economists have said a monetary union with Russia may amount to shock therapy for Belarus' state-protected economy with immediate curtailment of fiscal subsidies and support for enterprises and banks.

    Belarus says has requested IMF credit

    From: Guardian
    Belarus has requested credit from the International Monetary Fund to uphold stability and economic growth rates in the ex-Soviet state amid global crises, the central bank said on Wednesday.

    News reports said a loan of $2 billion was being sought.

    The central bank confirmed the request a day after Russia's finance minister said Moscow would issue a $2 billion loan to Belarus while resuming negotiations on a proposed common currency between the two ex-Soviet neighbours.

    "We confirm that we have approached the International Monetary Fund to provide credit to support financial stability, create a cushion of security and to maintain growth rates in the economy," central bank spokesman Mikhail Zhuravovich.

    "The amount of the credit depends on the IMF," he told Reuters.

    The bank's chief spokesman, Anatoly Drozdov, described the request as a "precautionary measure".

    "As the economies of our neighbours and trading partners are affected by the crisis to some extent, we are taking precautions to ensure their problems don't become ours," Drozdov said.

    "Belarus has not suffered directly from the crisis," he added.

    The IMF extended credits of $270 million to Belarus in the 1990s, but halted lending when the government failed to implement the Fund's recommendations on reforms.

    Belarus' economy is still largely state controlled and plans for selective privatisation have made little progress.

    The government has raised its inflation forecast for this year to 14 percent after Russia hiked gas prices, but growth rates remain high with a 2008 target of 8.5-9.5 percent.

    Dmitry Gourov, an analyst with UniCredit Bank in Vienna, said the request was logical to cover all short-term government and corporate debt, which amounts to about 60 percent of total debt of $14 billion.

    Minsk suspended its privatisation programme a week ago, saying there was little point selling state assets at discount prices. It has been unable to issue a debut Eurobond this year as planned.

    "They are trying to prepare themselves for the worst case scenario. If they were to cover all this short term debt on government and corporate side, they would need additional reserves," Gourov said.

    "Everyone is still predicting robust growth for next year, only a slight mark down from this year."

    Foreign reserves fell in September to $4.9 billion, covering about 40 percent of external debt, from $5.6 billion.

    Russian Finance Ministry Alexei Kudrin on Tuesday said the decision to grant the $2 billion loan was taken last week -- with half to be issued this year and the other half next year.

    The terms of the loan were still under discussion.

  • From the Opposition...

    Journalist Vieranika Charkasava Assassinated Four Years Ago

    From: Viasna
    Four years have passed since the time Vieranika Charkasava was cruelly murdered in her private apartment on October 20th. The legal investigation cannot find anything new on the case. It has been suspended for more than a year already. The latest suspension was announced "for the lack of the person that could be charged as the accused" in February 2007.

    However, the law machinery is not leaving Vieranika’s family alone. Thus, Vieranika’s mother Dyjana Charkasava and stepfather Uladzimir Mialeshka were interrogated again at the Public Prosecutor’s Office for Pershamayski City District of Minsk on October 8, 2008.

    The Public Prosecutor for Piershamayski City District of Minsk authorized holding a police search in the apartment, belonging to Vieranika’s parents on the same day. The police officers told that they were looking for "armory, drugs and stolen things" during the search. Finally, the police didn’t take anything after the search. Dyjana Charkasava and Uladzimir Mialeshka were inquired during the interrogation, where Vieranika’s son Antony could be found.

    "Antony is residing abroad now. He had to leave, as it was clear that the legal investigation was getting back to him as "the main candidate to the offender. During all four years they haven’t been searching for the real criminals. They were preparing grounds in order to link Vieranika’s murder to Antony," Vieranika’s mother Diana Charkasava noted in her interview to the BAJ Press Service.

    A group of journalists laid flowers on Vieranika’s grave in Kalodzishchy on October 20, 2008.

    US won’t lift sanctions against Lukashenka’s regime

    From: Charter '97
    The US will alleviate sanctions against Belarus only if the authorities would take further steps for improvement the situation with human rights and development of the civil society.

    It has been stated by David Merkel, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, in an interview to Reuters, BelaPAN informs.

    As stated by D. Merkel, to this point the US does not see a necessity to join the EU which suspended visa sanctions against Belarusian officials. He reminded that Washington responded to the decision of the Belarusian authorities to release all political prisoners, suspending sanctions against two Belarusian companies “Lakokraska” and “Polotsksteklovolokno” which are subsidiaries of “Belneftekhim” concern.

    Bush administration counts upon improvement of situation of independent media and independent organisations, for instance, youth organisations, David Merkel said. The US also hopes that “additional obstacles” such as a decision to cut down the number of the US diplomatic mission in Minsk would be removed. However de denied that expanding the staff of the embassy is one of the conditions for lifting the sanctions.

    The State Department representative has also indicated to the difficulties the Belarusian leadership faces balancing between the Kremlin and the West. They have a huge and complicated neighbour with which they are trying to maintain good relations, but at the same time the Belarusians understand the necessity of ties and contacts with Europe and the US, David Merkel said.

  • Around the region...

    Russia, Iran and Qatar announce cartel that will control 60% of world's gas supplies

    From: Guardian
    Western concerns about global energy markets hit new heights last night when Russia, Iran and Qatar said they were forming an Opec-style gas cartel.

    The move by the three countries, which control 60% of the world's gas reserves, was met with immediate opposition from the European commission, which fears the group could drive up prices.

    Alexey Miller, chairman of Russia's Gazprom, said they were forming a "big gas troika" and warned that the era of cheap hydrocarbons had come to an end.

    "We are united by the world's largest gas reserves, common strategic interests and, which is of great importance, high cooperation potential in tripartite projects," he explained. "We have agreed to hold regular - three to four times a year - meetings of the gas G3 to discuss the crucial issues of mutual interest."

    Miller's comments, likely to increase pressure on the west to accelerate developments in wind and other renewable energy alternatives, followed a meeting in Tehran with Gholamhossein Nozari, Iran's petroleum minister, and Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, Qatar's deputy prime minister and oil and energy minister.

    Miller said the group was establishing a technical committee comprised of specialists and experts to discuss the implementation of joint projects embracing the entire value chain from geological exploration to marketing.

    The Russians avoided the word cartel but the Iranians spelled it out clearly. "There is a demand to form this gas Opec and there is a consensus to set up gas Opec," Nozari told a news conference.

    With Opec due to meet on Friday to look at ways of driving up oil prices, Miller said fossil fuels were going to cost more. "We share the opinion that oil price fluctuations don't put in question the fundamental thesis stating that the era of cheap hydrocarbons has come to an end."

    The European commission said last night that it would oppose the creation of any organisation that could restrict competition. "The European commission feels that energy supplies have to be sold in a free market," said its spokesman, Ferran Tarradellas Espuny.

    The west already suspects that Russia and Iran are happy to use energy to pursue political goals. The cutting off of gas by Moscow to Ukraine in the middle of a political and commercial spat caused outrage and worry in western Europe.

    For its part, Iran, in its stand-off with world powers over its nuclear programme, has threatened to choke off oil shipments through the Persian Gulf if it is attacked.

    A gas cartel could extend both countries' reach in energy and politics, particularly if oil prices bounce back to the highs seen this year, prompting politicians, businesses and consumers to look toward cleaner-burning natural gas and other alternative fuels.

    The gathering in Iran needs to be ratified by further meetings in Qatar and Russia but is the most significant step toward the formation of such a group since Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, raised the idea in January 2007.

    The European Union depends on Russia for nearly half of its natural gas imports. Moscow, which controls many of the pipelines from Russia and central Asia, already has a tight hold on supplies.

    "To try to manoeuvre the supply makes perfect sense," said James Cordier, president of the US-based Liberty Trading Group and "Just because it doesn't have the clout of oil, it's still in their best interest to deliver natural gas where it needs to go and manage supply in order to help manage the price."

    Liquefied natural gas, a rapidly growing segment of the market, could be traded as a commodity similar to oil and the move by Russia, Iran and Qatar appears to anticipate that, said Konstantin Batunin, an analyst with Moscow's Alfa Bank.

    "My take is that it is just a commitment to create something in the future," he said. "It's just a first step."

    Russia wants to extend Black Sea navy base lease

    From: AP
    Russia's foreign minister says Moscow wants to negotiate an extension of its Black Sea navy base lease at the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol.

    Sergey Lavrov says Russia will approach Ukraine with specific proposals on the issue when the time draws closer to the expiration of the current lease deal in 2017.

    Lavrov's statement Wednesday underlined the Kremlin's desire to keep the strategic base used by Russia's Black Sea Fleet.

    Ukraine's pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko has said repeatedly that the Russian navy will have to leave after the current lease ends. Yushchenko also wants Ukraine to join NATO, which has angered Moscow and badly strained relations.

    Ukraine seals IMF bailout with Russian backing

    From: Telegraph
    The breakthrough came after the country's feuding political leaders postponed a December election to ensure passage of financial reforms demanded by the institution.

    Ukraine has boomed in recent years on the back of higher commodity prices and a liberalisation of its property and financial sector. But the country's current account deficit has ballooned in recent months, exposing its currency and financial institutions to a loss of investor confidence.

    The National Bank of Ukraine has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into struggling banks but without extra cash from the IMF its reserves are dangerously depleted. The country's currency, the hryvnia, dropped to an all-time low against the dollar before progress was reported.

    Prime Minister Julia Timoshenko said an agreement on a $15 billion IMF loan was 90 per cent complete. Parliament will meet next week to approve the package. "The talks are almost finished with the IMF and we've almost agreed on what necessary changes to laws we have to make to get the loan," she said.

    But the populist leader, who is locked in a bitter power struggle with former ally, President Victor Yushchenko, warned that the country would have to make painful adjustments.

    "Ukraine will have to tame its social appetites," she said. "We will have to cut spending that Ukraine cannot now afford."

    The announcement of progress in the IMF talks came hours after Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin signalled its support for a bail out. The Kremlin's efforts to restore its influence in Ukraine has become the dividing line of domestic politics in the former Soviet state.

    Despite the gravity of the crisis the country's parliament saw scenes of disarray as supporters of Miss Timoshenko used chairs to jam shut the door of the chamber.

    Why Ukraine needs IMF funding

    From: Unian
    Kyiv has an eerie feeling. The many construction projects have come to a sudden halt. A couple of weeks ago, cranes were turning all over the skyline of Ukraine`s capital, but now they stand abandoned, as credit has dried up.

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is close to giving Ukraine a fast and large credit to salvage its economy. It is badly needed. The banking crisis in the West might have been mitigated with enormous financial injections. Now the emerging markets call for their salvation.

    Like many other emerging economies, Ukraine has delivered to its people a magnificent average growth rate of 7.6 percent for eight straight years. The government has been fiscally conservative. The budget has been close to balance for the last three years.

    The public debt is tiny at 10 percent of GDP. With international currency reserves of $37 billion last week, Ukraine is by no means bankrupt. The moderate current account deficit of 4.2 percent of GDP last year was more than financed by foreign direct investment.

    Even so, the yields on Ukraine`s Eurobonds have shot up to 20 percent a year, a level characteristic of countries in external default, as the global financial crisis has also hit Ukraine. While interbank markets have seized up in the West, many Western financial institutions are abandoning emerging markets.

    Regardless of its performance, a Ukrainian company can no longer refinance a foreign loan and is forced to close down when a large loan falls due.

    Since July, the prices of many commodities have fallen by half, as is the case with steel, Ukraine`s main export. The steel companies cut production drastically, by 30 percent last month, and are laying off workers. Falling steel exports are aggravating Ukraine`s trade deficit.

    But most of the economy can be saved from financial collapse. Ukraine`s exclusion from international finance is a market failure that only the state can resolve, and in this international context, the IMF represents the state.

    The Ukrainian government has faced up to the situation and asked for emergency credits from the IMF, and the IMF management has responded swiftly and positively.

    The Ukrainian ministry of finance and central bank are working around the clock with the IMF mission in Kiev to conclude a program. This crisis is reminiscent of the Asian financial crisis of 1997–98, and the IMF has opened speedy emergency funding established then.

    The IMF needs to do two things.

    [1] First, it must check that Ukraine`s economic policies are solid and issue its approval. Late Saturday night, I met Minister of Finance Viktor Pynzenyk in his office in Kiev, after his latest IMF negotiations, who made clear that an agreement is within reach.

    [2] Second, the IMF needs to open a large credit line of some $20 billion to restore confidence in Ukraine`s financial well-being, just as wealthy Western governments have intervened at home.

    Speed is vital. Every day, Ukrainian companies fall off the financial cliff for no good reason. Their only fault is that they have taken a foreign loan.

    The slightest delay in an IMF agreement can lead to a run on the Ukrainian currency, the collapse of the Ukrainian bank system, mass bankruptcies, a double-digit fall in output, mass unemployment, and undoubtedly political unrest. But none of this is necessary. It can and should be avoided.

    Ukraine`s quarrelsome politicians seem to realize that their nation is in danger and to be ready to swallow the bitter pill of an IMF emergency program. They also need to take this opportunity to promote long-delayed reforms, because Ukraine will suffer badly in any case.

    Several other emerging markets, such as Pakistan and Hungary, are in a similar situation and also need IMF support. What is true for Ukraine is also true for them. Many other countries should come to the fore and receive financial support on due conditions in time.

    Fortunately, most emerging economies have entered this crisis with strong state finances and sound macroeconomic policies, rendering fast assistance feasible. Remember, an IMF loan is not a gift, but it is paid back within several years. Like the East Asians, the current IMF clients will be able to pay back.

    After a long rest, the IMF is badly needed. Today, its challenge is to act fast enough and to make sufficient funds available for emerging economies in danger.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Police detain former Polish national coach Wojcik

    From: IHT
    Polish police have detained former national team coach Janusz Wojcik in connection with an ongoing corruption investigation in Polish football.

    Police took Wojcik into custody at his Warsaw home on Wednesday morning, national police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski said.

    Wojcik coached the Polish team that won a silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and later headed the senior national squad from 1997-1999. He was also a member of Poland's parliament from 2005 to 2007.

    Wojcik was expected to be taken to Wroclaw later Wednesday for further questioning.

    The Wroclaw prosecutors office, which launched an investigation into match-fixing in Polish football in 2005, said it planned to charge Wojcik either later Wednesday or early Thursday. The office said Wojcik will face 11 charges but declined to give details.

    Prosecutors also said police had detained a Polish Football Federation official responsible for observing and rating referees during domestic league matches.

    Authorities identified the man as Krzysztof P., in line with Polish privacy laws.

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

    In a separate investigation, Wroclaw prosecutors on Wednesday charged Zdzislaw Krecina, the secretary general of the Polish FA, with mismanagement tied to debt payments.

    Krecina is running for president of the Polish FA in the trouble federation's Oct. 30 elections. It was not immediately clear what impact the charges would have on his candidacy.

    Polish pickpocket targeted 83-year-old

    From: Scunthorp
    A POLISH pickpocket, who targeted an 83-year-old North Lincolnshire woman, had a string of previous theft convictions both in the UK and her native land, a court heard.

    Marta Rudzinska (22), of Lilac Avenue, Scunthorpe, admitted two theft charges.

    Recorder Paul Johnson revoked two previous community orders and jailed her for 10 months at Grimsby Crown Court.

    He told her she had 'a dreadful record of criminality'. And, he added, she had been given 'chance after chance' by courts in Poland.
    "When you came to this country you resumed what you had left off in Poland. The time has now come for you to pay the penalty," he said.

    Jeremy Evans, prosecuting, said Rudzinska went to the Lakeside, Scunthorpe, branch of Currys on September 11. She picked up a webcam, removed the security tag, and left the store without paying. She was, however, stopped outside.

    "She was found to be in possession of the stolen webcam," Mr Evans said.
    Rudzinska was granted bail but, just two days later, she committed the second crime, which involved an 83-year-old woman shopping in Bargain Madness in Scunthorpe.

    "The woman had her handbag in her shopping trolley. Rudzinska has approached, unzipped the complainant's bag and then taken her purse and some ?85 that it contained," Mr Evans said.
    The theft was caught on CCTV and Rudzinska was later identified and arrested. Mr Evans told the court she was currently subject to 'a wanted notice' that had been issued by a Polish court.

    Richard Lunn, for Rudzinska, said his client had turned to drugs when she was unable to find employment and this had led to the offending.
    Mr Lunn said Rudzinska was not an uneducated young woman and, when she was not using drugs, she had the desire to make her way in the world.

    ‘Szkatuly’ gang arrested in Warsaw

    From: The News
    Police from the Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBS) arrested 10 members of one of Warsaw’s largest drug gangs that operates under the pseudonym ‘Szkatuly.’

    Mariusz Sokolowski, spokesperson for Police Headquarters said that the CBS operation resulted in the arrest of the gang’s ‘captain’ and nine ‘soldiers.’ The gang produces and sells narcotics on a massive scale.

    Amongst those arrested is a female member of ‘Szkatuly’ who is responsible for running an escort service in Warsaw.

    The police and CBS confiscated approximately 200,000 zloty (54,000 euro) worth of cash and vehicles.

    Drunk man abuses president

    From: Polskie Radio
    A 32-year old resident of Lublin, south east Poland, has been detained by police allegedly insulting President Lech Kaczynski.

    On Sunday, police in Lublin took Przemyslaw D. into custody after he started hurling abuse at Lech Kaczynski on Litweski Square, where the president was meeting local residents.

    The man is said to have been under the influence of alcohol when the incident happened.
    Przemyslaw D. has pleaded not-guilty; although the accused did admit to using foul language, he did not intend to defame Mr. Kaczynski.

    If found guilty, the man may be sentenced to three years in prison.

  • Sport...

    Borisov’s worthy performance in St. Petersburg: Zenit 1-1 BATE

    From: Charter '97
    BATE Borisov held Russian Zenit, last season's UEFA Cup winners, to a draw in the Champions League. The game ended with a score 1-1. The match was serious, lead by the Belarusians in general. BATE’s supporters were rooting for their team under national white-red-white flags.

    Belarusians were as good as Russians in the first half. Every Zenit’s attck was met by acute counter-attacks of BATE. There were dangerous moments to the nets of the both teams, the ball hit the post several times. BATE’s back Anri Khagush failed to score a goal being in a suitable position.

    After the break, St. Petersburg’s football players, supported by more than 20,000 fans, launched a mass attack. However, Viktar Hancharenka’s team wasn’t going to surrender. Substitute Nekhaychik ended a counter-attack with a goal to the hosts. Zenit started to recover the losses, and 10 minutes before the final Turk Fatih Tekke scored an equalizer 1-1.

    BATE is third with two points in the Group H, while St. Petersburg’s team took the first point in the Champion League. Juventus Turin beat Real Madrid in another game in the Group H.

    Starting lineups:

    BATE: Veremko; Khagush, Rzhevski, Sosnovski, Yurevich, Likhtarovich, Volodko, Kryvets, Bliznyuk, Stasevich, Rodionov.

    Substitutes: Hutor, Mirchev, Skavysh, Nekhaichik, Sevakov, Pekha, Kazantsev, Rzhevski, Yurevich.

    Zenit: Malafeev, Kryzanac , Sirl, Shirokov, Anyukov, Zyrianov, Denisov, Tymoschuk, Danny, Arshavin, Tekke. Substitutes: Contofalsky, Jin, Fayzulin, Pogrebnyak, Puygrenier, Dominguez.

    Nekhaichik substituted Stasevich in the beginning of the second half.

    Portuguese referees, headed by Pedro Proenca, were appointed for the match.

  • Endnote...

    'Never again,' vows Belarus president
    In rare about turn on Belarussian attitude towards Holocaust, Lukashenko tells crowd at memorial event to 'never forget'

    From: Ynetnews
    Lev Katsman, left, a Belarus Jewish World War II veteran, is seen before a wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the 65th anniversary of Minsk Jewish ghetto elimination by the Nazis, Minsk, Monday, Oct. 20, 2008. Some 800,000 Jews were killed in Belarus by the Nazis during the 1941-1944 occupation, and many have left the country since the 1991 Soviet collapse.
    Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday took part in a rare commemoration service for the hundreds of thousands of Jews killed in Belarus under Nazi occupation in World War II.

    "Ideas of xenophobia and ethnic injustice should never be celebrated.... The principles of humanism and goodwill carry great importance for Belarussians," Lukashenko told a gathering in the centre of Minsk, the Belarussian capital, by a pit where more than 5,000 Jews were shot by Nazi forces.

    "One mustn't forget these tragic events. If we forget them, they could be repeated," he said.

    In attendance were Israeli MK Avigdor Lieberman, representatives from the Jewish Agency and diplomatic officials.

    Altogether more than 800 000 Jews were exterminated in Belarus during World War II, including 50.000 Jews forcibly displaced from central and western European countries.

    The comments by President Lukashenko, who has been ostracized by the United States as Europe's "last dictator," represented a dramatic about-face on the subject of the Holocaust.

    Hitherto, he had stuck to a Soviet policy of not differentiating the fate of Jews in World War II from general Soviet losses, leaving a veil over Nazi Germany's special targeting of Jews.

    In October 2007, the Belarussian president was accused by Israel of making blatant anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli statements. Commenting on the state radio the "miserable state of the city of Babruysk,” he said: "This is a Jewish city and the Jews are not concerned for the place they live in. They have turned Babruysk into a pigsty. Look at Israel – I was there and saw it myself.”

    The Israeli Foreign Ministry protested officially but Lukashenko rejected accusations of anti-Semitism.