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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, October 19, 2008

President sees new risks and threats, Banks guaranteed, Foreign investment, NATO, EU, Abkhazia, S.Ossetia, Russia, Ukraine and Scandalous Poland

  • From the Top...
  • #353

    President Participates in Security Council Meeting

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting of the Security Council
    Given today’s new risks and threats, there is an urgent need for a new treaty on security in Europe, said President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on 16 October during a meeting of the Security Council.

    “Unfortunately, this Russia’s proposal, which has been supported by Belarus, has not received a serious response in western capitals so far,” said the President.

    Opening the meeting, Alexander Lukashenko said the Security Council members were to identify the place and role of Belarus in the European and regional security system.

    “This necessity arises from the dynamism of international life,” he explained. “It is an open secret that dramatic changes have taken place recently in the geo-political and military-political situation,” said the President.

    “The effectiveness of the international arms control system, the European security architecture and non-proliferation system has largely been impaired and has turned out to be ineffective,” he said. “It has simply become outdated. The recent events in the Caucasus have become a clear evidence to it. It can be said that there is practically no effectiveness at all. A fine example here is what has happened to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe,” he said.

    The Belarusian leader also reminded the meeting participants that in 2009 the on Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty between the US and Russia, and there are absolutely no hints suggesting there would be another analogous agreement.

    “The efficiency of the international system of control over armaments and nonproliferation has been undermined in many things. We can say there is no system as such. An example is the fate of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.” The Belarusian head of state also reminded the participants that the Treaty on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms between the USA and Russia expires in 2009. A new similar agreement is not even in the pipeline.

    “The world is on the verge of invention of brand new types of weapons including WMD,” Alexander Lukashenko said. Therefore Belarus brings an initiative to give non-nuclear states legally-binding security guarantees, the President said.

    According to the Head of State, the power balance in Europe has been disturbed, and not through Belarus’ fault. The US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and the deployment of the anti-missile defence in the Czech Republic and Poland has heightened the tension. “NATO eastward expansion has become a tendency. The facts are the following: NATO military infrastructure has gained a footing near the Belarusian border. American military bases have been moved into Eastern European countries, the offensive potential of the bloc has been increasing,” the President said. Alexander Lukashenko reminded that on the agenda is Ukraine’s accession to NATO. This process is being feverishly pushed.

    The President said that unfortunately the Russian proposals supported by Belarus to sign a new agreement on European security have not brought any serious response in the West. According to Alexander Lukashenko, the Security Council will have to determine the place and role of the country in the system of European and regional security as it is necessitated by the dynamics of international life.

    “We should take into account these realities, first of all, in order to strengthen the state and ensure security,” the Belarusian leader said. Alexander Lukashenko added that the session of the Security Council is set to consider the issues related to the creation of the Union State Anti-Aircraft Defence System on the western borders as well as crucial economic issues.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Full bank deposit return in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    Full return of all bank deposits will be guaranteed in Belarus in line with the presidential decree the National Bank has been commissioned with working out within a short time. Head of state Alexander Lukashenko gave the relevant instruction to Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich on October 17, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    The decree provides for state guarantees for all deposits regardless of the sum and allows accepting unlimited deposits from Belarusians and foreign citizens without declaration, with privacy of deposits guaranteed in line with Belarusian laws.

    Piotr Prokopovich remarked, the decree had also been brought about by the fact that in view of events in neighbouring countries a lot of foreigners are now willing to trust Belarusian banks with their deposits.

    The President also charged the NBRB with bringing in the regulations, which will enable Belarus to become one of the world’s top 30 countries with the most favourable lending terms. The documents will be submitted next week.

    The head of state was told that all goals outlined by the 2008 Major Monetary Management Guidelines are being reached as well as goals meant to create conditions for the country’s economic growth.

    The national currency continues being stable. Since early this year the Belarusian ruble has gained 1.7% against the US dollar and has become stronger with regard to euro and Russian ruble.

    Piotr Prokopovich assured, the stability of the national currency will be preserved till the end of the year in compliance with the Major Monetary Management Guidelines.

    According to the NBRB head, this year’s lending volume is unprecedented. Credit resources lent to the real economy over the nine months increased by over 60% in comparison with the same period of last year.

    Special attention is paid to financing state programmes and lending for individuals, especially housing loans and consumer loans. In 2009 the amount of preferential loans for individuals is supposed to increase by over 40%. The sum can be increased even more if necessary. Piotr Prokopovich assured, the volume of regular housing loans for individuals will increase as well.

    He remarked the interest rate policy of the NBRB keeps in line with the Major Monetary Management Guidelines.

    The official underscored, the payment system continues working steadily and without hitches.

    Over the nine months deposits of individuals increased by over Br2.8 trillion in comparison with the same period of last year. The increase is higher than the expected sum. In September and October deposits of individuals increased instead of falling. Piotr Prokopovich believes it is very important in view of the negative phenomena concerning deposits of individuals in neighbouring countries and the world. It means Belarusians trust the banking system and the state. The banking system and the government fully guarantee the safety of individuals’ deposits, stressed Piotr Prokopovich.

    The NBRB head assured the President the national banking system will continue creating conditions necessary for rapid economic development of the country and better living standards for people.

    Rate of unemployment in Belarus is one of lowest in Europe, Antonius Broek says

    From: BelTA
    The rate of unemployment in Belarus is one of the lowest in Europe, UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative in Belarus Mr. Antonius Broek said at the workshop in Minsk “Social entrepreneurship: new possibilities to settle social and economic challenges”.

    According to him, the economic growth in Belarus is widely used in the interests of the people; wages have been increasing. Social policy of the government is aimed at maintaining general security and social security of people. Yet, the risk of falling into the poverty category is still quite high in remote rural settlements, small towns where there is just one town-forming enterprise, Antonius Broek said. The inevitable work on their restructuring may lead to an increase in the jobless rate and social tension. In this connection Antonius Broek praised the national programme of development of regions, small and medium towns for 2007-2010 in Belarus and noted that more new tasks should be set to maintain social stability in small towns.

    According to Antonius Broek, the UNDP has been actively cooperating with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security of Belarus. The sides have been carrying out a joint project to monitor and diagnose the living standards in Belarus, the rate of unemployment and poverty at the regional level. “This work is aimed at providing assistance to the country in elaborating the system of prompt measures to prevent these phenomena and to reduce the risks for socially vulnerable sections of the society in small towns, remote settlements,” he said. The project provides for active use of local initiatives, implementation of innovations in the services sector, creation of new jobs.

    In 2005, the UNDP launched a pilot experimental mechanism aimed at minimizing possible consequences of the reformation of a town-forming enterprise. The aim of the project was to reduce the risk of unemployment, social tension and poverty.

  • Economics...

    Belarus economy expected to attract over $7bn in foreign investments in 2008

    From: BelTA
    There are plans to attract over $7 billion of foreign investments into the Belarusian economy, First Deputy Economy Minister of Belarus Piotr Zhabko told a press conference on October 15.

    In his words, in H1 2008 foreign direct investments amounted to $1.23 billion. “It is virtually equal to the amount of foreign direct investments received in 2007 and three times as much as in 2005,” noted the First Deputy Economy Minister. In 2005 Belarus’ economy attracted $1.8 billion of foreign investments, in 2006 — almost $4 billion, in 2007 — $5.4 billion. The dynamics proves the effectiveness of the measures taken by the government to improve Belarus’ investment climate, noted Piotr Zhabko.

    At present Russia is the largest investor country (33.2% of the gross foreign investments in January-June 2008). Russia is followed by Switzerland (20.2%), the UK (14.2%) and Austria (10.7%). In early 2008 the number of joint ventures and foreign-owned companies exceeded 4,200, 10% up on the year.

    Piotr Zhabko remarked, Belarus is attractive for foreign investors thanks to the political and economic stability, rapid economic growth, a favourable geographical location. In addition to that, Belarus boasts highly qualified workforce, high scientific and technical potential as well as progressive investment legislation.

    Piotr Zhabko reminded, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2009 report, Belarus moved 30 positions up in the doing business rating and now occupies the 85th position among 181 countries.

    Piotr Zhabko noted, Belarus intends to be one of the world’s thirty countries most attractive for doing business. The official explained, to reach the goal the tax system will have to be perfected, the tax burden on the economy will have to be reduced, with bureaucratic barriers to business removed. Apart from that, the National Investment Agency should become a one-stop welcome desk for investors.

    In January-August Belarus trades with 175 countries

    In January-August 2008, Belarus traded with 175 countries worldwide. The country exported to 135 states and imported from 160, BelTA learnt from the National Statistics Committee.

    Belarus’ major trading partners were Russia (48.7% of the total trade), the Netherlands (8.3%), Ukraine (7%), Germany (4.5%), Poland (4.1%), Latvia (3.3%), Great Britain (2.4%), China (2.2%) and also Brazil and Italy.

    According to the Committee, over the eight months 2008, Belarusian exports to Russia were up 37.6% to $7.599 billion and accounted for 32.1% of the total exports. Exports to the Netherlands increased 46.7% to $4 billion (16.9% of the total amount). Exports to Ukraine were up 2.58 times to $2.094 billion (8.8%).

    In January-August 2008, Belarus’ foreign trade in goods reached $50.952 billion, up 56.7% on the same period of 2007. Belarus’ exports rose by 57.7% to $23.696 billion, imports by 55.8% to $27.256 billion.

    Preferential housing loans for individuals to increase by over 40% in 2009

    The amount of preferential loans to be granted to individuals in 2009 for building homes is supposed to increase by more than 40% in comparison with the figure expected in 2008, the press service of the President of Belarus quoted Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich as reporting to President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on October 17.

    Piotr Prokopovich assured the amount of regular housing loans for individuals will also be increased.

    According to the official, this year’s lending figures are unprecedented. Over the nine months real economy lending went up by more than 60% up on the same period of last year.

    Special attention is paid to financing state programmes and lending for individuals, especially housing loans and consumer loans.

  • Cultural scene...

    “Эмигранты” Славомира Мрожека

    Спектакль “Эмигранты” Славомира Мрожека

    пройдет на сцене РТБД (Кропоткина, 44)

    21 октября в 19:00

    Действие спектакля перенесёт вас в канун Нового года куда-то в Европу, где на сцене-складе, в присутствии своих ангелов-хранителей, распакуются души двух эмигрантов А.А. и Х.Х..

    Кто кого? Интеллектуал и космополит А.А. против работяги и скряги Х.Х.-а. Один одержим идеей создания суперкниги о сущности рабства, другой прячет и копит все заработанные деньги. Один выуживает еду, сигареты, деньги и человеческое общение, другой ставит психологические эксперименты, обнаруживая проявления раба. К чему приведёт это столкновение?

    Из Всеобщей декларации прав человека:

    Статья 1.
    Все люди рождаются свободными и равными в своём достоинстве и правах. Они наделены разумом и совестью и должны поступать в отношении друг друга в духе братства.

    Статья 3.
    Каждый человек имеет право на жизнь, на свободу и на личную неприкосновенность.

    Статья 4.
    Никто не должен содержаться в рабстве или в подневольном состоянии.

    Статья 13.2.
    Каждый человек имеет право покидать любую страну, включая свою собственную, и возвращаться в свою страну.

    из пьесы Славомира Мрожека “Эмигранты”:

    Х.Х. Был там один японец в пальто, думаю, нездешний.
    А.А. Ты стоял у спального вагона и обжигал себе пальцы этим своим несчастным окурком.

    А.А. Генерал брал под козырёк, и они устроили в твою честь фейерверк, а потом купили тебе мороженого.
    Х.Х. Ты, а почему у них мух нету?

    А.А. Где ещё напьёшься по-настоящему чаю, как не дома?
    Х.Х. Открою один глаз, посмотрю на месте ли небо, и опять засну.

    А.А. Догорит свечка - и хоть ты лопни.
    Х.Х. Интеллигент, а письма написать не может.

    Актёры: Олег Сидорчик, Дмитрий Есеневич, Ольга Иванова, Александр Павлов, Иван Потапов
    Режиссёр-постановщик Андрей Савченко.
    Художник-постановщик Андрей Меренков.

    Билеты: (GSM)
    688-72-45, 170-58-57,
    (GSM) 199-07-55,
    (МТС) 259-06-33

    тел./факс 292-07-55.

    “Неправильный магазин” (гл. вход Академии Наук),
    артхаус галерея “Подземка”

    e-mail: teatrkompania @

  • From the International Press...

    Belarus leader blasts NATO after EU concessions

    From: Forbes
    President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday denounced NATO's defence plans and possible further expansion, his first criticism of the West since the European Union eased sanctions on Belarus this week.

    Analysts said Lukashenko's new attack on the planned deployment of NATO anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic reflected concern that Belarus still had to negotiate terms for importing gas from Russia.

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

    The EU responded to the release of what it called political prisoners in Belarus and improvements in its conduct by dropping travel bans on Lukashenko and dozens of officials.

    'What NATO is doing is practically drawing new lines of division in Europe,' Lukashenko, quoted by local media, told a meeting of Belarus's security council.

    'This amounts to NATO's military infrastructure being strengthened right near Belarus's border. Bases for U.S. forces are being placed in eastern European countries and boosting the bloc's offensive potential.'

    The West, he said, objected to Belarus's 'independent policies, its refusal to bow down before the powerful'.

    Russia objects to the deployment of the anti-missile systems and NATO's pledge that one day ex-Soviet Georgia and Ukraine will be granted alliance membership.

    EU foreign ministers meeting this week suspended for six months a visa ban imposed on Lukashenko after he was accused of rigging his 2006 re-election, together with restrictions on other officials. They also ended a separate four-year-old ban on high-level contacts with Belarussian officials.

    But ministers maintained asset freezes on top Belarussians and upheld the ban on Belarus's top election official to show disappointment over shortcomings in a September election in which the opposition again failed to win a seat in parliament.

    Relations with the ex-Soviet republic and Brussels have warmed since August, when Belarus freed the last three detainees considered political prisoners and declined to follow Russia in recognising breakaway regions of Georgia as independent.

    'The president's criticism of the United States and EU is a clear illustration that there is no real Western trend in Belarus's policies,' said independent analyst Alexander Klaskovsky. 'Minsk will undoubtedly continue dialogue with the West. Its policy will involve manoeuvring between Russia and Western states.'

    Belarus has yet to clinch a deal with Russia on gas supplies for next year, but hopes to limit any increase to $140 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.

    Abkhazia, S.Ossetia get observer status in Russia-Belarus union

    From: Ria Novosti
    The parliaments of Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been given permanent observer status in parliamentary sessions of the Russia-Belarus Union State, a union official said on Friday.

    Abkhazian and South Ossetian lawmakers will now be able to address parliamentary assembly sessions of the union state, Nikolai Tcherginetz, who heads the assembly's commission on foreign affairs said.

    Russian media quoted a deputy speaker of South Ossetia's legislature, Yury Dzitstsoity, as saying that if Belarus recognized the breakaway republics, they would become permanent members of the assembly.

    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko earlier said his country would consider the regions' recognition request. Russia recognized the regions as independent states after a brief war with Georgia, which attacked South Ossetia in an attempt to regain control in early August.

    Nicaragua has so far been the only other country that has followed Russia in recognizing both breakaway states.

    The Caucasus conflict is the focus of international talks in Geneva, the next round of which will take place on November 18. The talks were suspended on Wednesday after Russia insisted Abkhazia and South Ossetia should participate and Georgia objected.

    Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been de facto independent republics since they broke away from Georgia after the bloody post-Soviet conflicts in the early 1990s.

    The Russia-Belarus Union State is a supranational entity consisting of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus. It was formed in 1996 "with the intention of providing greater political, economic, and social integration."

    Conference of Presidents calls on Belarus to lift entry ban on EU politicians

    From: Europarl
    The European Parliament Conference of Presidents has called on the authorities of Belarus to lift their entry ban on EU politicians. The leaders of the European Parliament's political groups demanded on Thursday that Belarus reciprocate the Council's decision earlier this week to lift travel restrictions imposed on certain leading Belarusian politicians for a trial period of six months.

    MEPs from Parliament's delegation for relations with Belarus are meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, later this month because they are not allowed to enter Belarus. Aliaksandr Milinkevich and Aleksandr Kozulin, Belarusian opposition leaders, have been invited to meet the MEPs on 28 October.

    "The persistent refusal by the Belarusian authorities to issue visas to Western politicians is all the more objectionable as the Council has decided this week to lift the visa ban on certain Belarusian politicians. This act by the Council should be met with a reciprocal measure from the Belarusians", said Hans-Gert Pottering, President of the European Parliament.

    The European Parliament adopted a resolution on 9 October 2008 asking EU governments to re-examine sanctions against Minsk, with the aim of easing visa bans against Belarusian officials for six months. Those directly involved in violating democratic election standards and human rights would not be concerned.

    The delegation of Parliament will also meet Belarusian students of the European Humanities University in exile in Vilnius. In its resolution the House asked the Council and the Commission to call on the Belarusian Government to enable the European Humanities University to return legally to Belarus.

    MEPs seeking to observe elections in Belarus have also been barred from entering the country.

    Belarus views Baltic region as attractive for electricity exports, says Deputy Energy Minister Mikhadzyuk

    From: Naveny
    Belarus views the Baltic region as attractive in terms of electricity exports, Deputy Energy Minister Mikhail Mikhadzyuk told reporters in Minsk on Wednesday.

    Five power lines connect Belarus with Lithuania and one with Latvia, Mr. Mikhadzyuk said.

    Given its increased generation capacity and better transit opportunities, Belarus is interested in cooperating with other countries on the basis of long-term contracts, he said. "Investing in the construction of new power lines is pointless if they are not used to their full capacity," Mr. Mikhadzyuk said.

    According to him, Belarus' Byarozawskaya HRES power plant currently supplies electricity to Poland. The two countries share two 110-kilovolt power lines and are in talks about resuming the operation of the Ros-Bialystok power line, which has a capacity of 220 kilovolts, Mr. Mikhadzyuk said.

  • From the Opposition...

    Opposition to struggle for new election law

    From: Viasna
    On 15 October, the United Democratic Forces of Belarus adopted an action plan for the nearest future. Their primary goal is introducing changes to the electoral legislation.

    Viktar Karneenka, coordinator of the For a Free and fair Election campaign, says that, after the recent EU foreign ministers meeting, Belarusian opposition should be especially cautious while planning their activity. He named four basic points that unite pro-democratic movements of Belarus: changes to the election legislation, abolition of legislation-based political harassment, free mass media and official status for Belarusian NGOs. ‘These are the four things that the Belarusian government should implement within the next six months, so that a dialogue could be resumed.’

    Hooliganism trial in Brest

    On 17 October Leninski borough court judge Piotr Babrouski announced the beginning of hearings of the case of 19 so-called ‘hooligans’ which have served various terms for disorderly conduct.

    Only six of them appeared in court: Raman Kisliak, Uladzimir Vialichkin, Ryhor Bakievich, Valiantsin Lazarenkau, Siarhei Vakulenka and Dzianis Turchaniak. The others either entrusted Kisliak to represent them or agreed to conduct the trial without them.

    In the summer of 2008 the 19 activists applied for conducting a demonstration in one of Brest central streets. However, town vice-mayor Viachaslau Khafizau replied that the action would not take place since the only site allocated for mass actions is a stadium situated on the outskirts of Brest. At the same time, he said that the stadium is no place for demonstrations.

    Iryna Barysiuk, lawyer of Brest town executive committee, says that the decision taken by a separate official was not collective.

    Human rights activist Vialichkin is sure that the position of the authorities is a lame attempt to wriggle off the difficulty.

    Lukashenka doesn’t allow European parliament deputies enter Belarus

    From: Charter '97
    On October 16 the chairman of the European parliament and factions leaders called upon the Belarusian regime to lift ban for entering Belarus against EU countries’ politicians.

    As the BelaPAN informs with the reference to the press-service of the European Parliament, deputies have called upon the official Minsk to make such a move in response to the decision of the heads of the EU countries’ Foreign Ministers about suspension of the entry ban on Belarusian officials.

    The president of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Pottering said that constant refusals of the Belarusian authorities to issue visas to Western politicians causes special dissatisfaction in the light of the recent decision of the Council of the EU ministers.

    On October 28 the meeting of the deputies from the delegation of the European parliament on relations with Belarus is to take place n Vilnius, as they have been denied a possibility to visit the country. In Vilnius they are to meet with former candidates for presidency Alyaksandr Milinkevich and Alyaksandr Kazulin, and students of the European Humanities University.

    MEPs who wanted to monitor the elections in Belarus were not granted Belarusian visas either.

    On October 9 the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Belarus, urging the EU countries to reconsider sanctions against the official Minsk, and to make the EHU return into Minsk as one of the conditions for normalization of relations.

  • Around the region...

    Self-invited Republics:
    Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s representatives to be admitted to Geneva talks

    From: Kommersant
    French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, left, and EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana believe it’s high time to resume a full-scale dialogue between Russia and the EU.
    Yesterday at their meeting in Luxemburg EU foreign ministers acknowledged that Russia fulfilled most of its Medvedev-Sarkozy plan commitments. However they refused to sanction resumption of negotiations for a new partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA) with Moscow. The meeting’s key outcome was the EU’s agreement to admit Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s representatives to tomorrow’s peace talks in Geneva. However, Kommersant found out that the format of the republics’ participation is not the one Moscow sought.
    Concessive statements

    The Foreign Office Chiefs, who convened yesterday in Luxemburg, were to prepare a meeting of EU leaders, which starts in Brussels on Wednesday. Like the emergency EU summit of September 1, it will focus on the consequences of the Georgian war and relations with Russia. It’s no surprise that these issues dominated yesterday’s meeting. First of all, the ministers had to discuss Moscow’s complying with its commitments in the framework of the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan, and decide on resuming talks with the Russian Federation about concluding a new PCA.

    French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner delivered a report on the first matter: he visited Georgia on October 10-11 to monitor the situation in the buffer zones at the Abkhaz and South Ossetian borders. “The Russian party withdrew its troops from the territories adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There are no Russian military in Georgia any longer,” Mr Kouchner shared his pleasure with his counterparts avoiding to give an estimation of the Russian troops’ presence in South Ossetia’s Akhalgori district and in the Upper Kodori. Almost all his colleagues agreed with Mr Kouchner’s assessment. Only Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt opposed. “We agreed that Russians should get to the positions they occupied before August 7. But if you look at the map, you will see they haven’t done it,” he exclaimed.

    Arriving at a conclusion that Moscow fulfilled the peace plan provisions concerning withdrawing from Georgia, the Ministers turned out to have diverse views of their future line. Germany’s Deputy Foreign Minister G?nter Gloser proposed announcing immediately resumption of the PCA talks. “Some people say that we do Russia a favor. But it’s time to consider whether the European Union does itself a favor blocking the negotiations,” he tried to persuade his colleagues. “We need to take account of the relations with Russia, especially in the energy sector.” Finland’s Foreign Office Chief and OSCE current Chairman Alexander Stubb proposed resuming the talks with Moscow ahead of the next Russia-EU summit, which will be held in Nice on November 14. This idea was supported by Italy’s Franco Frattini.

    Nevertheless, Britain’s David Miliband was against resumption of talks. “We can take up the PCA in due time, but now it is far more important to make sure that September’s agreements are realized as soon as possible,” he stated. In Mr Miliband’s opinion, it is sound to resume the PCA talks after the Geneva talks, planned for yesterday, give any results. Representatives of Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Poland and the Baltic States sided with him.

    Then Bernard Kouchner offered compromise: the issue of resuming PCA talks was shifted to the summit in Brussels. In their final resolution the participants of the meeting endorsed the Russian troops’ withdrawal, pointing out that the situation in Akhalgori and the Upper Kodori will be discussed in Geneva. At their final press conference Mr Kouchner stated that Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s representatives will be admitted to those talks. However, he didn’t specify their status.

    According to the sources of Kommersant with the EU headquarters in Brussels, Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s representatives won’t participate in a brief plenary session, but they will be admitted to expert consultations in two working groups, which will thrash out security issues and refugees’ problems. “Russian representatives agreed to a format like that,” the sources of Kommersant said.

    This said, the format of the negotiations can be regarded as satisfying both parties: Russia sought the presence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s representatives, and the EU managed to avoid regarding Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. The UN debates over Kosovo proceeded a similar way before the region was recognized.

    Correctional conclusion

    Another important outcome of yesterday’s talks was the EU’s lifting the sanctions it imposed against Belarus and Uzbekistan “because of the considerable progress in human rights”. Curiously, Brussels used to believe Minsk and Tashkent the worst human rights violators in the post-Soviet space. Alexander Lukashenko’s regime was accused of persecuting opposition. The Belarusian leadership’s European accounts were frozen; Mr Lukashenko and some of his closest supporters were denied entrance to the European Union in 2002. The sanctions against Islom Karimov’s regime, including a ban on Uzbek top politicians’ entrance to the EU and embargo on arms supplies, were introduced in 2005, after the Andijan tragedy.

    Interestingly, the EU’s stance towards both Minsk and Tashkent changed in August, after the end of the war in the Caucasus. The Uzbek government released human rights activist Mukhtabar Tojibayeva, who was sentenced to eight years in prison. Yesterday the EU Foreign Office Chiefs abolished the ban on issuing visas to Uzbek officials, although they extended the weapons embargo for another year. At the same time the EU communiqu? reads that Brussels will be glad to develop its dialogue with Tashkent.

    A similar story happened with Alexander Lukashenko, who released political prisoners in August. European politicians began speaking about a possible thaw in the relations between the EU and Belarus. The parliamentary elections of September 20 were called the major test for Minsk: to wipe away his fame of Europe’s last dictator, Alexander Lukashenko was to allow opposition in the Parliament. However, no opposition activist got a mandate, and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights lashed out at the voting.

    Nevertheless, yesterday Bernard Kouchner, EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner and EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana conducted talks with Belarus’ Foreign Minister Sergey Martynov, which were the first ones in three years. Then the Foreign Office Chiefs announced suspension of the ban on Belarusian officials’ entrance to Europe (including Alexander Lukashenko). “We were to demonstrate that progress is rewarded. If they do something, we should do something in response,” Ms Ferrero-Waldner stated yesterday.

    Belarus’ opposition didn’t protest against the EU initiatives. “Excluding Lukashenko from this list is premature, to my mind. But this measure is intended to encourage Lukashenko only,” one of the opposition leaders Alexei Yanukevich told Kommersant. “The EU’s decision is time-limited. If no steps are taken to democratize the country, it won’ be prolonged.” “The sanctions were not lifted, they were suspended. This position satisfies The United Democratic Forces. So, it is now up to the government whether to develop good relations with the EU or not. Europe expects reciprocal measures from Lukashenko,” another opposition leader Anatoly Levkovich told Kommersant.

    However, the sources of Kommersant with European diplomatic circles believe that Mr Lukashenko was rewarded for his refusal to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The interlocutors of Kommersant presume that further improvement in the relations is possible only in case this condition is preserved.

    Russians Want Execution for Corruption

    From: Kommersant
    Thirty percent of Russians approve of the idea of public executions to fight corruption, the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion has found. Fifty-nine percent of those opposed to that innovation are not opposed to public execution itself, they simply doubt its effectiveness against corruption. The idea found the most support (40-41%) among respondents older than 35.
    Forty-eight percent of Russians do not think state control over the major purchases of the public would be an effective anticorruption measure. Among them, 34 percent “probably disapprove,” and only 14 percent strongly disapprove. Older respondents are more favorably inclined toward the idea, with 28 percent of the 18-24 – year-old age group approving of it, as opposed to 44 percent of those over 60.

    The average price at which a purchase should be subject to state control was set at 982,901 rubles. Residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg favored a much higher sum – 3,236,164 rubles, which village dwellers thought 538,598 rubles was already a significant enough sum to merit oversight.

    Thirty-one percent of Russians would inform law enforcement agencies about corruption if it became known to them. Thirty percent would tell no one. Two years ago, only 24 percent of respondents would be willing to inform the police of corruption, and 29 percent would tell no one. Others would tell other local authorities (8%), the media (7%), human rights or other public organizations (6%) or the president personally (3%). Fifteen percent were unable to provide an answer to the question.

    Political Turmoil Jeopardizes Financial Relief for Ukraine

    From: NYTimes
    Aid for Ukraine’s staggering economy may be endangered by the country’s continuing political instability.

    Like Iceland and Hungary, Ukraine is seeking aid from the International Monetary Fund to counter the global financial crisis. But Ukraine, its economy reeling from falling steel prices, is also struggling with political problems.

    The infighting threatens an emergency loan from the monetary fund. The fund is seeking assurances from the cabinet that next year’s budget will be balanced, but President Viktor A. Yushchenko issued a decree this month dissolving Parliament and, with it, the cabinet.

    That decree, which would lead to elections on Dec. 7, is being contested by the president’s opponents in Parliament. So until the decree’s validity is decided in the courts, it is unclear whether the current cabinet holds power. The prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, says it does, while the president’s office says it does not.

    In the interim, a delegation from the monetary fund has been meeting with representatives of the prime minister and the president. The fund is offering a loan of as much as $15 billion to shore up the country’s finances as foreign investors flee.

    Ms. Tymoshenko, who met with the delegation on Friday, expressed support for the loan. But if the president’s order to dissolve Parliament is upheld, she said, the cabinet will lack the authority to negotiate with the fund.

    In that case, negotiations will be delayed until a new Parliament is formed after the elections. After previous elections, coalition-building in Ukraine has taken months.

    “Alarm bells aren’t ringing yet,” Sergei Teriokhin, a former minister of the economy and member of Parliament in Ms. Tymoshenko’s bloc, said in a telephone interview. But if the contested status of the cabinet is not resolved, he said, the monetary fund will not know whom to meet with. “It is necessary that somebody in the country make guarantees on the budget policy of next year.”

    Mr. Yushchenko and Ms. Tymoshenko have alternately collaborated and competed since they rallied crowds together on Independence Square in Kiev during the protests known as the Orange Revolution in 2004. Most recently, his Our Ukraine bloc was in a coalition with Ms. Tymoshenko’s, an arrangement that gave her the prime minister’s post. But the two split after the Russian invasion of Georgia in August. Mr. Yushchenko accused Ms. Tymoshenko of muting her criticism of the Russian military action to please the Kremlin.

    The political turmoil has coincided with a steep economic decline. On Friday, the international agency Fitch Ratings downgraded Ukraine’s sovereign debt rating and issued a negative outlook for the country. A Ukrainian shipping company, Industrial Carriers, has gone bankrupt. The government has frozen rail tariffs for steel companies, and as foreign investment dries up, speculators are betting on a decline in the national currency.

    In response, Ukraine plans to nationalize some commercial banks, which have liquidity problems, a member of Parliament told the monetary fund’s delegation on Friday.

    Hungary, which has struggled to cope with the effects of the financial crisis, also received a vote of no confidence on Friday when Fitch cut its rating to negative from stable. Hungary’s large debt, much of it in foreign currencies, has made the country particularly vulnerable to the current external shocks.

    The government scaled back its growth estimates for 2009 to just 1.2 percent from 3 percent. Hungary has lined up support from the European Central Bank and the monetary fund in an effort to reassure credit and currency markets.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    17 hurt in Polish train crash

    From: USA Today
    Two trains collided at a station in southern Poland, injuring 17 people, and police said Saturday they detained two rail traffic controllers.
    An intercity train from Warsaw to Bielsko-Biala was on the wrong track at Ligota station in Katowice when it collided Friday evening with a local train that was about to depart, Katowice police spokesman Jacek Pytel said.

    He said two rail traffic controllers on duty at the time were detained on suspicion that they were responsible for the collision, and said that one of them was drunk.

    Seven people remained hospitalized on Saturday, Pytel said.

    Ex-soldier jailed for slaughter of paedo friend

    From: Harrow Times
    The skull of Mr Grigorjev was discovered in the back garden of a Wembley house he shared with Sokolowski
    A FORMER soldier who battered his housemate to death after the victim admitted raping a five year old girl was today jailed for life.

    Wojciech Sokolowski, 35, buried the body of Jurij Grigorjev in a shallow grave in their back garden in Wembley Park Drive.

    When the house was sold the 28-year-old victim's skull was found in the undergrowth by a twelve-year-old boy.

    Ordering Sokolowski to serve a minimum of 16 years before he can be considered for parole Judge Timothy Pontius said: 'Whether or not Mr Grigorjev was a paedophile we cannot be sure, although evidence from a number of witnesses tends to support the suggestion he may have been.

    “If he was, that provided no excuse whatsoever for what you did.”

    The two men had been drinking together at the house on the night of January 14 last year when Grigorjev had confessed to friends he liked to have sex with children and bragged about raping the little girl.

    Sokolowski, who is 6ft 5ins, weighs 18 stone and has served in the Polish army, has an eight-year-old daughter and angrily accused him of being a paedophile.

    He attacked the victim with his open palms, fists and knees as he sat on the sofa in the living room.

    Others in the room tried to stop him but they could not prevent the Pole from battering the victim to death, the Old Bailey heard.

    One housemate said the victim's face was “all mashed up” and Sokolowski had blood on his arms up to the elbow, and he shouted insults at his victim even as he sat senseless on the sofa.

    Later that night, together with at least two other men, Sokolowski dragged the body into the huge garden at the back of the house, and a piece of bloodstained carpet was cut out and thrown away and the walls were cleaned.

    Sokolowski was later seen with mud on his clothes and apologised to the other residents for “what had been going on”.

    When the body was discovered in August last year parts of the dead man's jeans and pants were still on his body, and there was even a ?5 note in the pocket of his leather jacket.

    His teeth were chipped and several of his ribs were fractured but the cause of death could not be ascertained.

    Sokolowski, who has his daughter's name tattooed on his arm, had moved a few streets away to Grasmere Road and he was arrested nearby on December 11, almost a year after the killing.

    The Pole claimed he had been at the house but had left before the attack and said witnesses who saw him killing the victim had lied.

    Charles Miskin, defending, said: “The evidence of witnesses suggest there was some level of provocation, words which sparked a chance quarrel.”

    Mr Miskin read from the impact statement of the victim's mother who said: “I knew my son does not have a very even temper.

    “He liked to be involved in conflict. I was afraid he would kill someone when he was fighting with others.”

    He added: “There was an explosive cocktail that night. These were all men who were living on the edge of society with no real security.”

    Sokolowski bowed his head as the judge said: “I am prepared to accepte for the purpose of sentence that you did not specifically intend to kill Jurij Grigorjev.

    “However, on the jury's verdict you clearly intended to hurt him very badly.

    “You may well have been influenced by alcohol which is no excuse at all.

    “I do accept that lost your temper fuelled by drink when you heard what apparently he had admitted. Then you beat him very severely.

    “The single aggravating feature and it is a significant one is having realised you had killed your victim you set about attempting to conceal your crime by burying his body in the ground in a desperate attempt to avoid responsibility for his death.”

    25 years behind bars for death of football fan

    From: Polsjie Radio
    Adrian Grygorczuk
    A court of appeal in Bialystok, north-east Poland, has convicted a 20-year old man with the murder of a football fan.

    Adrian Grygorczuk was put on trial for assisting the murder of a fan of one of Bialystok’s football clubs. It is the second time Grygorczuk has been on trial for the same offence. The first sentence was 15 years, but the court of first instance overuled the decision, suggesting a longer jail sentence.

    In handing out the verdict, the Bialystok court said that even though 25 years is the longest possible sentence for such a crime, it was justified due to the demoralised character of Grygorczuk.

    “It is a banishment from society, although the role of the court is to protect society from such wrongdoers,” judge Andrzej Czapka said after the court hearing. He added that the victim had no chance of survival after he was attacked by four football hooligans.

    Judge Czapka noted that Grygorczuk already had suspended sentences for violence, and that he “has no sense of guilt”.

    All the way through the trial, the accused pleaded only to battery, and not to murder. He apologised to his 19-year old victim’s parents after the trial was concluded.

    Two other members of the gang that killed the football fan are serving sentences of 13 and 15 years. The search is on for the fourth member, and a European arrest warrant is out for his capture.

    'Road pirate' clocks up 28 offences during police chase

    From: The News
    A 23-year old driver from Belchatow, central Poland, managed to break 28 regulations when being chased by police.

    The driver, who was eventually stopped by police, had managed to clock up 144 penalty points (the maximum limit in Poland being 21 before a licence is taken away).

    The event happened during the afternoon hours on Monday after police wanted to stop the car for a routine check. When flagged down to stop, the car, which had invalid number plates, sped up.

    After committing a total of 28 serious driving offences, police finally stopped the "road pirate" in Rzasawa, a few kilometres away from Belchatow. It so transpired that the driver not only did not have necessary documents, such as registration and insurance, but did not have a driving licence at all.

    In addition to not having any right to drive, the 23-year old was found to have over 2 per mil of alcohol in his blood, over 10 times the limit. He faces a jail sentence of up to 8 years.

  • Sport...

    Belarus (1) 1 England (1) 3;

    From: Telegraph
    Who needs a circus with entertainment like this? After all the distractions of the WAG era, England are maturing into a serious footballing force, guided towards an age of enlightenment by Fabio Capello’s determination to coax the best out of his two leading lights, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, who combined to destroy a decent Belarus side.

    Amidst all the euphoria inevitably dancing merrily in England’s wake, certain concerns need noting, particularly the alarming holes on the left when Gerrard followed his roaming brief, and with Wayne Bridge patently an inadequate understudy for Ashley Cole.

    Belarus’ clever technical players moved the ball effortlessly around Capello’s midfielders for long periods of the first half, but those jubilant visiting fans singing themselves hoarse in the Dynamo Stadium were hardly in a mood to fret about such details.

    Capello will, being a perfectionist. He will count the 23 passes that saw the ball manoeuvred through England’s midfield and defence for Belarus’ equaliser of Gerrard’s terrific opener. For all his fury at such a lapse, Capello should take solace from other numbers. Rooney’s second-half double made it four wins in four qualifiers with 14 goals scored and only three conceded as England have seized control of Group Six, enjoying their best start to a qualifying campaign in 38 years.

    The numbers add up to a bright future for England, after all the false dawns of recent years. Not that Capello was getting carried away. Those granite features might yield a smile if England were leading the World Cup final 3-0 with 30 seconds left but until then professionalism will keep out triumphalism.

    So much needs to be done. Those seeking to mention a feeling of satisfaction to Capello after the game, to invite him to revel in the re-awakening of the Three Lions were met with a dismissive stare by the Italian. Capello’s thoughts were turning to two tough-looking friendly assignments, against the finalists of Euro 2008, first Germany next month and then Spain in February.

    His mind was filling with ideas of how to strengthen the squad with Aston Villa’s Gabby Agbonlahor sure to be granted an audition before England return to the qualifying road with season-climaxing ties against Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Andorra.

    Capello also knows he must work on his midfield, particularly when Joe Cole is fit again. England’s left flank still needs sorting out. Gerrard’s energetic contribution was impressive, attacking from a starting position on the left of a 4-4-2, but it really confirmed why he must be used through the middle.

    Gerrard scored England’s nerve-settling first, pushed on to neutralise Alexander Kulchy, Belarus’ tempo-setting anchorman, in the second half, and formed the brains and heartbeat of England’s altered 4-2-3-1 formation. With Frank Lampard a disciplined presence in deep midfield, making tackles and nurturing forward motions, Gerrard was free to charge forward, frightening Belarus to death. Those requiring evidence that England should build around Liverpool’s captain found the answer here.

    Those close to Gerrard had felt he would deliver here, had known that the talent would emerge in the white of England as it does so regularly in the red of Liverpool. Suggestions that Gerrard might feature at right-back, even that he might even be omitted were swiftly dismissed. Capello wanted Gerrard on the ball, dictating play, terrorising the opposition with his passes and surges. Time after time, he linked with his great mate and fellow-Merseysider, Rooney. Their friendship and understanding could drive England to significant heights.

    If the names of Gerrard and Rooney dominate the headlines, Emile Heskey also merited praise. The oft-derided striker punched his weight, creating Rooney’s first with a barnstorming run, and letting England’s ecstatic fans dream even more about South Africa.

    England supporters had flocked to this chilly city in impressive numbers, bearing their flags of Grimsby Town, Scunthorpe United, and Bishop Auckland, filling the bars and filing respectfully through the harrowing museum dedicated to those millions of Belarusians who perished in the Great Patriotic War.

    The patriotism of the Belarus public was not in doubt, and the president of the local FA, Gennady Nevyglas, promised England an "uncompromising game because there is no place to worship’’ in such an important qualifier. But Gerrard and Rooney had other ideas.

    Scarcely had the anthems faded, the England fans lapping the Belarus choir in their enthusiasm, than the visitors were ahead through Gerrard. Collecting the ball off Rooney, Gerrard bent an irresistible shot around Yury Zhevnov and in. Gerrard celebrated as if all the woes of the world had been banished, the midfielder attempting a tumbling manoeuvre that that famous local girl, Olga Korbut, would have admired.

    Yet there was a steel to the Belarusians, seen nastily when Anton Putilo flew in on Lampard, but there was silk, too, threads of which threatened to throttle England. Belarus’ deserved equaliser climaxed a meandering move of 23 passes, showcasing their skill and movement.

    The goal also highlighted how much England missed Ashley Cole. Wayne Bridge is a decent Premier League full-back but he lacks Cole’s defensive nous. Gerrard should still have tracked Igor Stasevich when the winger began running at Bridge, twisting the Chelsea player this way and that, dummying to cross and leaving poor Bridge prostrate on the cold turf. The space created, Stasevic lifted the ball to the far-post where the unmarked Pavel Sitko headed simply past David James.

    Yet there is real character in this team of Capello’s, real belief in their coach and their cause. The lead was re-claimed after the break, thrillingly by Rooney, but the plaudits deserve sharing with Heskey. The Wigan striker tore down the left, before drilling in a cross that Rooney met superbly. Shaping his body to let the ball come across him, utterly deceiving Dmitry Molosh, Rooney steered an unstoppable superb shot past Zhevnov.

    Rooney had not finished. Ushered through the middle by Gerrard, Rooney let the ball run across him before firing past Zhevnov. Gerrard should have made it 4-1, rounding Zhevnov effortlessly, but hitting the post. Any irritation should be suspended; the point had been made. England need Gerrard.

    Vladimir Samsonov wins silver at European Table Tennis Championships

    The leader of the national table tennis team of Belarus, Vladimir Samsonov claimed a silver medal at the European Table Tennis Championships in St. Petersburg.

    Timo Boll of Germany beat Vladimir Samsonov in the finals 4:2 (12:15, 12:10, 11:5, 11:7, 7:11, 11:5). In the team event the Belarusian team of Vladimir Samsonov, Vitaly Nekhvedovich and Evgeny Shchetinin lost the finals to Germany and placed second too.
    The women’s team of Belarus, which comprised Veronika and Victoria Pavlovich and Tatiana Kostromina, placed 12th. Veronika Pavlovich and Oksana Fadeeva of Russia won bronze medals in the doubles.

  • Endnote...

    Belarus President okays 2009 National Investment Programme

    From: BelTA
    By decree No562 of October 16, 2008 President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko approved the National Investment Programme 2009, the presidential press service told BelTA.

    In 2009, the programme will spend Br2637.6 billion (including the money of the presidential reserve fund) on the construction of 669 facilities (243 are completely new), with 310 of them are to be commissioned in 2009.

    The national budget will allocate Br2074.4 billion to finance the programme including:

    Br1481.3 billion (96.1% from 2008 in comparable prices) – state capital investments;

    Br190.8 billion (102.7% including the resources of the local environmental protection funds accumulated in the national budget) – for the construction of production (ecological) sites;

    Br401.4 billion (131.9% taking into account the resources of the local road funds accumulated in the national budget) – for capital construction;

    Br0.9 billion (14.2%) the social security fund of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

    In 2009, the president’s reserve fund will put Br110.2 billion in the completion of the first and the beginning of the second stage of the plant processing solid domestic waste, silt and sewage sludge in Brest.

    Br453 billion of the state special-purpose budgetary fund for national development will be put into the construction of capital-intensive facilities such as the multifield cultural and sports centre Minsk-Arena (Br245.6 billion), a nuclear power station (Br172.4 billion), upgrading of the infusion solution production at the Nesvizh Pharmaceuticals Plant (Br5 billion).

    Several sites which construction is financed by the national environmental protection fund have been excluded from the programme as changes in their construction period will not affect the execution of the branch-wise programmes. Br20.2 billion which will be saved as a result of this move will be used to finance the development of the infrastructure of agro-towns.

    After every quarterly revision the government, if necessary, will submit amendments and addenda to the programme to the Head of State. The sites which design estimates have not been worked out in time will be dropped out from the programme. The programme will include new important social projects with design estimates prepared ahead of schedule (cardiology, neurosurgery, child centers and others).

    This will help concentrate state capital investments on large important social sites that have no other funding sources (healthcare, education, culture, sports and others) as well as promptly redistribute these funds in order to expedite the construction of the majority of the sites.

    The programme will make it possible to commission such important social facilities as the multifield cultural and sports centre Minsk-Arena, a hostel of Belarusian State University for 1,030 students in Dzerzhinskogo Avenue in Minsk, new facilities of the Vitebsk Biofactory, an indoor manege and a stable in the village of Ratomka of the Minsk region, the first phase of the construction of the plant processing solid domestic waste, silt and sewage sludge in Brest, ice palaces and other sites.

    The programme envisages the completion of the reconstruction of the National Opera and Ballet Theatre in Minsk, the 8th and 9th facilities of the national center for organ and tissue transplantation at hospital No 9, the second and third construction phases of the national research and practical centre Mother and Child, an educational building of Kuleshov State University in Mogilev, a equestrian stadium in the village of Ratomka, the Minsk region, pilot production premises for the Microbiology Institute of the National Academy of sciences of Belarus and many more.

    Under the programme the government will continue financing the construction of the Nesvizh History and Culture Museum Reserve, the Mir Castle, the national research and practical center Mother and Child, children medical and recuperation centre at Baranovichi State University, the restoration of the facilities of Belarusian National Technical University, medical-diagnostic and reanimation blocks at the National Clinical Medical Centre, ice arenas in Vokovysk and Slonim, an educational and pedagogical centre in the village of Lesnoi, the Minsk region, the construction of schools in Mozyr, Glubokoye, Grodno, Pogachev and others.

    Thus, the funds of the national budget will be used to finance important social facilities which are to be commissioned in 2009 and the facilities to be commissioned in the next few years in accordance with relevant special programmes.