News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, November 16, 2008

Anti-Corruption Atmosphere, Lukashenka WSJ Interview, Oil, EU, Moscow, Ukraine, Missiles, Loans, Sport, Culture, Polish Scandal and a New Story

  • From the Top...
  • #360

    Anti-Corruption Atmosphere Should Be Created in Belarus

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting on the effectivess of the anti-corruption measures taken in Belarus
    Strong measures will be taken in Belarus to root out corruption, above all in law enforcement agencies. Appropriate orders and instructions were given on 13 November by the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, at a meeting on the effectiveness of the anti-corruption measures taken in Belarus. The fight against corruption has become especially relevant today as the Belarusian government is taking steps to liberalize the national economy.

    The President expressed his indignation at the widespread corruption “among those who are duty bound to fight against it”.

    “Members of law enforcement agencies whose duty is to prevent and stem these criminal phenomena get involved in bribery and other lucrative endeavours. I warn everyone: There will be no such outrageousness in Belarus! Not even individual cases. As long as I am the President, at least. I will make allowances neither for offices nor for posts,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    According to the President, such actions are a shame not just for an individual person or a government body, but “it is an indelible stain on the reputation of the government as a whole”. There should be a clear understanding that corruption is a threat to political and economic security of the country, complete degradation of the state machinery, absolute loss of control over the economic sector and an impediment towards building a law-abiding social democratic state, said Alexander Lukashenko.

    “What will we come to if the fight against corruption is carried out by people who violate laws and moral standards themselves? What can be expected of government bodies authorised to fulfil specific control and oversight functions if their members receive “fixes” themselves?” asked the President.

    Alexander Lukashenko expressed serious concern over the fact that sometimes unscrupulous actions of members of law enforcement bodies are legally acceptable. “But [the actions] are so unscrupulous from the moral point of view that there is no way they can be justified! In other words, these people find loopholes in the legislation to do something they must not,” said the Belarusian President.

    Alexander Lukashenko: some high-ranking interior ministry officials will be dismissed

    A number of high-ranking officials of the Belarusian Interior Ministry will be dismissed within November, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at the meeting to discuss the efficiency of anti-corruption measures on November 13.

    According to the Belarusian Head of State, ten high-ranking officials of the Interior Ministry illegally acquired land plots in the Minsk region. “I will tell you their names: First Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Shchurko, Deputy Interior Minister Viktor Filistovich, former Deputy Ministers Radiukevich and Glukhovsky, Head of the Finance and Logistics Department Melnikov, Director of the Citizenship and Migration Department Ivanchikova, former Head of the Correctional Department Kovchur, former Adviser of the Interior Minister Karpeichik, doctor of the Interior Ministry hospital Burko and member of the Interior Department of the Minsk City Council Novik,” the President said.

    The Belarusian Head of State ordered to seize their land plots and construct houses for orphans there. The former owners will be given three months to demolish what they have built.

    Apart from that, Alexander Lukashenko commissioned the Prosecutor General with a task to prepare the necessary papers to relieve Nikolai Kupriyanov of the position of Deputy Prosecutor General and Mikhail Snegir of the position of Minsk oblast Prosecutor because of a dishonest acquisition of property and to bring a legal case against them.

    Belarus President to decide on softer punishment for corrupted law enforcement officers

    Starting January 1, 2009 decisions on whether the punishment for law enforcement officers sentenced for corruption should be softened or not will be in hands of the President of Belarus only, head of state Alexander Lukashenko said at a government session dedicated to discussing the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures on November 13.

    Convicted law enforcement officers will serve their sentences in the worst prisons alongside with the most notorious criminals, added the President.

    In his report Prosecutor General Grigory Vasilevich remarked, prosecution officers still demonstrate a lot of formalistic approach and fail to use all the available opportunities.

    The Prosecutor General made several proposals meant to improve the performance of the agency and subordinate structures and to improve the fight against corruption. In particular, it was suggested that amnesties cannot be applied to people sentenced for taking bribes, especially executives. Grigory Vasilevich also believes it is necessary to step up the responsibility of those who bribe.

    President of the Supreme Court Valentin Sukalo mentioned defects, which decrease the effectiveness of the fight against corruption. In his words, these are the quality of justice, pre-trial investigation and support for the state prosecution in the court.

    According to State Secretary of the Security Council Yuri Zhadobin, major briberies detected last year made up only 2-4% of the total number of such crimes. Briberies among executive officers are isolated. Forgeries, money laundering, low level of indemnification prevail among corruption crimes.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    West has no idea of what is going on in Belarus: Alexander Lukashenko speaks to the Wall Street Journal

    From: BelTA
    The West has absolutely no idea of the processes going on in Belarus, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    “The West demanded that we should release Kozulin plus some businessmen (I do not know why) who violated the tax laws. In America people who committed such crimes would serve long sentences. They were convicted rightly. No one has the right to explode bombs on quiet streets of Minsk; no one has the right to break tax laws. Many crimes like this are committed both in America and here. But for some reason the West perceived these cases as politically charged. Ok, you thought that politics was involved here so if the President released them (the so-called political prisoners), they would bring drastic changes to the country. We released them long before the parliamentary elections. Tell me, what they changed in the country? It proves that the West does not understand what is going on in Belarus and overestimates the role and significance of some politicians. The West found that not only these people, but all the so-called opposition members that ask the Americans and Europeans to give them money to exist, cannot achieve anything,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    The Belarusian Head of State said, “If closer relations with the West depended on the release of Kozulin, we did not see it as a problem. We released him and gained great political benefits from it. And the West found again that both he and his milieu are completely worthless. They are a spent force now. We have achieved a positive effect. The West perceived it as a step toward democracy.

    The President asked a reasonable question: what political prisoners they are talking about if these people were charged with criminal cases. “We do not conceal that they were convicted and there are materials, including videomaterials about it. There is no avoiding it. Europe and America perceived this as the right step. We appreciate it,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    Belarus President: development of Belarus-US relations depends on US

    The development of the relations between Belarus and the United States of America depends on the actions of the US side, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    “Everything depends on America. If America is interested in developing relations with us with no strings attached, we will advance significantly and the Americans will be pleased with the cooperation with Belarus,” the Head of State underlined.

    Alexander Lukashenko thinks that Belarus and the US should come back to the pre-crisis relations and engage in a dialogue. “I think the Americans have realized that Belarus is a key European country and that they should collaborate with us,” he added.

    As to the mutual reduction in stuff of the US Embassy in Belarus and the Belarusian Embassy in the US, the President said that “there are no issues that cannot be settled.” “Let us suppose that the US Department of State knows what we expect the Americans to do and they know what requirements we have set forth for the United States of America here. This is why we should end the disagreements and start negotiating. We should resume a dialogue,” the Head of State underlined.

    The main raison d'etre of any embassy is to normalize, establish good relations between the states. We are ready to move in this direction, the President added.

    Belarus President: West realizes necessity of state interference in economy

    The West came to understand that the state should interference in the economic development; President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    “Now in the US they are talking about an alternative to the liberal market economy where everything is allowed, where you can spend more than you earn. It led to the collapse,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    “I warned the Americans and others. They did not listen to me, though. After all, I am not at the head of Germany or Russia. As it turned out, I was right. Now in the West, they started talking about the system we have been establishing for a long time. The state should have certain leverage; the control over business and the financial area is needed. It means that the state should not and does not have the right to withdraw from any area of human life. The socially-oriented policy should be pursued.”

    Talking about the global financial crisis, Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus is well positioned to survive it, as the stock market is not very well developed here and the foreign borrowings are not that great. Yet, the President underlined that as the prices for oil and other raw materials are falling, the country will have to reduce the cost of production while maintaining the profitability of the manufacture. It is also necessary to look for new markets.

    Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus, US could have great trading prospects

    Belarus and the US could have good prospects for developing bilateral trade, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    If the sanctions had not been imposed, we would have supplied the products about billion dollars worth to the US market. The bilateral trade could have reached $10 billion and even more. US investment is important. We are interested in the high-tech equipment produced in the US. But if the US refuses to supply it to Belarus, we will find it in Europe, if not in Europe, than in Asia, the President underlined.

    “I say it again: we have great trading prospects. One billion dollars of the bilateral trade is insignificant compared to $35 billion of our trade with Russia,” the Head of State said.

    Alexander Lukashenko added that Belarus managed to diversify its export. “Today the supplies to Russia account for less than half of our total export, though it used to be 80%. Now our export to the EU is about the same as the export to Russia,” the President said.

    Alexander Lukashenko: IMF refusal to grant Belarus loan would be politically charged

    The refusal of the International Monetary Fund to provide a loan to Belarus would be determined by political, not economic reasons, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    Alexander Lukashenko underlined that the International Monetary Fund recognized comprehensive progress that took place in Belarus. “The negotiations are coming to an end; they have admitted our progress in all the areas. It is true, they make critical remarks sometimes, some of them are fair and we respond to them immediately,” the Belarusian leader said. He added Belarus regularly pays dues and attends the sessions of the fund.

    According to the President, the IMF criticized Belarus for raising salaries in November during the crisis. “Our people are not that rich; even though we raised the salaries, it was not much. They are right, salaries are not supposed to be increased during crises. But we had taken this decision before the financial crisis broke out in Europe and America. This is why it would be wrong to cancel this decision now,” the Head of State said.

    The IMF is not happy about the low rates of utility fees in Belarus. Alexander Lukashenko admits the correctness of these remarks. Yet, “our people are not so wealthy to be able to pay the bills for utility services in full.” “We are gradually raising the rates. Little by little, our people will pay 100% of these fees, just like you do. At present, they do not and we accept these critical remarks,” the Belarusian leader stated.

    Talking about the IMF loans, the President said that Belarus “managed without them before, when the country was facing most difficult times.”

    The IMF decision regarding the loan will determine the relations between Belarus and the IMF. If the IMF does not help Belarus, the country will not be interested in the cooperation with this organization. Belarus is IMF member, pays its dues and regularly attends the sessions. Why would we need to do that, if they would treat us like that, the President said.

    Belarus, Russia companies should be offered same energy prices

    As the prices for energy sources have fallen dramatically, Russia’s decision to increase the gas prices for Belarus would not be right, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    “The prices for hydrocarbons have plummeted. I do not think it would be right if Russia raises the prices for gas. You know, the price fixed in our budget is $140,” the President said.

    According to him, the gas price will determine the presence of the Belarusian goods on the Russian market. “If gas prices for Belarus are 2-3 times higher than those for Russian consumers, how will we be able to compete with them on the Russian market? What kind of the Union State would it be, if there is such a difference? Was the question formulated correctly? Yes, it was. After all, we have agreed that the Russian and Belarusian economic entities will be offered the same terms, including the same energy prices. This is why, if we want to make progress in the construction of the Union State, the conditions should be equal. Even if the prices are $200, $300, they should be applied equally for both Belarusian and Russian companies,” the President said.

    Commenting on the Russia’s intentions to amend its constitution, Alexander Lukashenko said that it is Russia’s own business.

    Russia uses Belarusian experience, Alexander Lukashenko says

    Russia uses Belarusian experience to a certain extent, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said.

    Take Russian national projects, four national projects; such projects have almost been completed in Belarus. There (in Russia) they were presented in a different way and looked more impressive, because their mass media is more powerful. They used to criticize us for building the vertical power structure, but then they did the same, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    According to the President, Russians use some of Belarus’ experience, Belarusians use some of Russia’s experience.

    Commenting on the failure of the opposition to get to the Belarusian parliament, the President said. “How could they get there, if only a few percents of people voted for them? People think: oh, he is oppositionist and vote against.”

    Alexander Lukashenko added that though the opposition exists due to other people's money, it cannot pay those people who collected signatures in their support during the 2006 election campaign.

    Belarus President: Russia does not press Belarus to recognize S Ossetia, Abkhazia

    Russia does not exert any pressure on Belarus to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    “There is no pressure. It is no use exerting pressure on us. The pressure would produce the converse effect. This is why it would be absurd and stupid to say that someone is pressing us. Russia has never exerted pressure on us in this respect,” Alexander Lukashenko underlined.

    The Belarusian leader said: several months ago President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev made a public statement saying that the Russians are interested in every country’s independent decision about the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

    “Naturally, this question is of a certain interest for Russia. It would serve a kind of support for the Russian Federation. We will consider this issue taking into consideration our own regulations. I have already said: the new parliament will be elected and it will be responsible for adopting Belarus’ stance on this issue. Let the parliamentarians discuss it, like they did in Russia, and then voice their decision,” Alexander Lukashenko added.

    When asked about possible negative repercussions for the relations between Belarus and the West, the President expressed his confidence that “Europe and America understand our position and our situation.”

    “I will be honest, they are no longer pushing it as rigidly with us as before. I think this question is no longer as acute as it was two months ago,” the President said.

    “If you (the US) recognized Kosovo, why not recognize Abkhazia? There is a precedent already,” the Belarusian leader added.

    Belarus, EU should strive to remove barriers

    From: BelTA
    Mutual rapprochement of Belarus and the European Union has good prospects. To make them come true, first of all, the existing barriers in relations should be removed, Justas Paleckis, member of the European Parliament, told BelTA in an interview on November 14.

    “May as many European Union citizens as possible come to Belarus and see its achievements and contrariwise as many Belarusians as possible should get familiar with Europe,” the MP said. In his words, visas are still a problem for the Belarusians, Lithuanians and Poles. Apart from that, Justas Paleckis is convinced the dialogue will develop in a proper manner provided European politicians talk to the widest range of representatives of the Belarusian nation: representatives of the government, political parties, trade unions, youth organisations. “I mean the dialogue with the widest range of people is necessary, not only the opposition,” stressed the European Parliament deputy.

    “It would be very sad if the prospects of rapprochement available now will be lost. I think at present the ball is in Belarus’ hands,” remarked Justas Paleckis. “The European Union resumed the dialogue with Belarus and it is necessary for Minsk to take concrete reciprocal steps,” said the source. He underscored the importance of the dialogue with the civil society. “Certainly, these are not lectures. It is up to you to decide what to do or not,” added Justas Paleckis.

    “Lithuania and Poland may learn something out of Belarus’ experience. For instance, state regulation of the economy in a financial crisis. There are quite many adherents of the Belarusian model in Lithuania,” said the MP. “And contrariwise, why can’t Belarus use the things that work well for other countries?” Justas Paleckis also added he believes annulment of economic restrictions of the European Union against Belarus would be a very sound step.

    Belarus opposes new “Berlin walls” in Europe, Vladimir Makei says

    Belarus sees as inadmissible the actions of European politicians aimed at imposing new dividing lines, civilization borders and “Berlin walls” in the form of visa barriers which hamper the movement of ordinary people, Head of the Administration of the President of Belarus Vladimir Makei said at the 11th Minsk forum “Neighbourhood and Security: Prospects for Belarus in Europe” on November 13.

    “I am confident that several years ago the European Union made a big mistake by turning down the idea of “the expanded Europe”. It is a pity to see how one part of Europe locks its door to the other part to protect itself from the global threats,” Vladimir Makei said.

    According to him, such philosophy is destructive, first of all, for the EU countries as it reduces dramatically the opportunities of formulating a coherent policy in Europe. “We should reanimate the motto to construct the Pan-European home,” Vladimir Makei said.

    The Head of the Administration of the President of Belarus said that the bloc thinking leads to new cultural, civilization, religious and economic boundaries. A tendency towards new defence borders has recently reinforced. “Unfortunately the lessons of the cold war taught many European politicians nothing,” Vladimir Makei said.

    In his words, it would be appropriate to discuss at the forum the so-called European egoism that shows itself in the unwillingness of the West-European countries “to lift the Schengen iron curtain”. According to Vladimir Makei, the visa issue is not a minor problem but the key issue in the Belarusian-European relations. “Let us make joint efforts to bring benefits for ordinary people, ordinary European citizens,” Vladimir Makei said.

    The Belarusian state has always been attentive to foreign critics. Vladimir Makei considers, however, that Western politicians need to take into account historical and national features of the formation of democracy in Belarus. “Today we are happy to see that our Western partners are starting to understand that Belarus’ isolation policy has no prospects,” the Head of the Administration of the President of Belarus said.

    Children organisations from CIS, Lithuania, Germany to exchange experience

    From: BelTA
    The international scientific conference “Development of Youth and Children Initiatives, Students’ Institutions of Self-Government” will take place at the national centre of children and youth creativity of the Education Ministry of Belarus on November 19-20, BelTA learnt from head of the centre Nadezhda Vasilchenko.

    The conference will mark the 15th anniversary from the adoption of the Law of the Republic of Belarus On Children’s Rights. The conference is to help children and the youth to implement initiatives. Attending the event will be governmental bodies, scientists, specialists of the educational establishments, heads and leaders of the children and youth public organisations from the CIS countries, Lithuania and Germany. The programme includes plenary and section meetings, roundtables, exhibitions, presentations, briefings with leaders of the children and youth public organizations.

    Nadezhda Vasilchenko said that Belarus was the first among the former Soviet countries to adopt the law on the rights of the children. The implementation of the president’s programme Children of Belarus and a large-scale support for mothers, children and families, first of all, families with many children have been consistently stabilizing the demographic situation in the country.

    The event has been organized by the Education Ministry, the national centre of the children and youth creativity under the auspices of the UNICEF Representative Office in the Republic of Belarus.

    Scientific institutions of Belarus, Chinese province Henan to expand range of joint projects

    Information technologies, chemistry and road construction will become priority areas of scientific cooperation between Belarus and the Chinese province Henan in the next few years. The agreement was reached during the third session of the council for managing scientific and technical cooperation between the two sides in Minsk, BelTA learnt from Yuri Alekseyev, Director General of the industrial park Metolit of the Belarusian National Technical University.

    In 2002 the State Committee for Science and Technologies of Belarus and the government of the Henan province inked an agreement on cooperation in innovation activities. The council for managing scientific and technical cooperation between the two sides has biannual sessions. The sessions are used to sum up results of scientific partnership and determine promising avenues of future cooperation.

    This year specialists of Belarus and China decided to expand the joint scientific and technical projects designed to create and assimilate information technologies, develop modern chemical materials and methods to manufacture them and decided to accomplish new projects related to road construction.

    Apart from that, an agreement was reached to hold two joint seminars for scientists of Belarus and China to consider the possibility of joint work meant to create new laser technologies.

    Yuri Alekseyev remarked, the creation of a bilateral centre for scientific and technical cooperation is one of the most successful examples of partnership between Belarus and the Chinese province Henan. At present the institution provides assistance to educational establishments, scientific organisations, innovation and industrial enterprises of Belarus for the sake of expanding business, scientific ties and contacts in the area of education with similar institutions and enterprises of the Henan province.

  • Economics...

    Belarus’ Oil Company almost doubles oil purchases up to 100,000 tonnes per month

    From: BelTA
    From the beginning of the year the Belarusian Oil Company (BOC) has almost doubled oil purchases up to 100,000 tonnes per month, BelTA learnt from the company.

    “Over the last several months we have purchased and sent for processing nearly 100,000 tonnes of oil per month, in early 2008 this index was over 50,000 tonnes,” the company said. Yet the amount of oil deliveries to the country via the Belarusian Oil Company is not high (the oil total processing by the two Belarusian oil refineries makes up nearly 1.7-1.8 million tonnes per month). It will probably increase in the future.

    The BOC has been now continuing to develop cooperation with Russian suppliers, the number of partners on the Russian market has been increasing.

    Belarusian Oil Company consolidated the exports of Belarusian oil products to increase their efficiency. When asked whether the global financial crisis affects the activity of the company, in particular, in terms of attracting loans for oil acquisition, the BOC said: “There are some difficulties, but we can deal with them”.

    Belarusian Oil Company was registered in the Republic of Belarus on May 17, 2007. The shareholders are Belorusneft, OAO Naftan, Mozyr Oil Refinery, and Belarusian Oil Trading House. Belarusian Oil Company was founded following the President’s instruction to optimise oil purchases and the export of petroleum products. Belarusian Oil Company is expected to specialise in bulk purchases of oil, oil processing at Belarusian oil refineries and exporting petroleum products. Belarusian Oil Company held the first trading session in petroleum products using Belneftekhim’s e-trade system on June 29.

    Law on renewable energy sources worked out in Belarus

    A law on renewable energy sources has been worked out in Belarus, Semyon Kundas, Rector of the A.D. Sakharov International State Ecological University, said during the XI Minsk forum “Neighbourhood and Security: Belarus Prospects in Europe” on November 14.

    The bill has passed the first stage of adjustment. It has been amended and expanded by various agencies. Within several months the bill will be adjusted by the Council of Ministers. “I hope it will soon be forwarded to the parliament for consideration,” said the Rector.

    Semyon Kundas remarked, among other things the bill provides for a multiplying factor for buying electricity from those generating electricity using renewable energy sources. For 5-7 years the factor will be set at 1.3 to be decreased to 1 and 0.8 later.

    The source reminded, by 2012 renewable energy sources are supposed to provide up to 25% of the energy Belarus uses. It is a very ambitious task, which can be achieved through sufficient investments and using qualified personnel, he said.

    There are around 1,800 locations able to house hydraulic installations in Belarus. It is a large space for investments and an opportunity for Belarus to resolve its energy problems, said Semyon Kundas.

    Representative of the Belarusian Institute of System Analysis and Information Support for Science Yurgen Shrink remarked, Belarus is just starting the development of renewable energy sources. He underscored the importance of developing a relevant bill. It is important to create conditions, a stimulus for developing renewable energy sources in order to attract investors into the industry and set it on its feet, he said.

    According to the source, German specialists are busy developing a country profile for Belarus. “We will represent Belarus and opportunities for developing renewable energy sources to European companies,” said Yurgen Shrink.

  • From the International Press...

    Belarus offers to host Russian missiles

    From: Daily Times
    Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko wants to host Russian missiles to counter US plans for a missile defense shield in eastern Europe, according to an interview published on Friday that drew US condemnation.

    In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lukashenko said he has been talking with Moscow about having Iskander missiles deployed in Belarus, which borders Poland. Warsaw has agreed to deploy part of the US shield. “Even if Russia does not offer these promising missiles, we will purchase them ourselves,” Lukashenko was quoted as saying. “Right now we do not have the funds, but it is part of our plans – I am giving away a secret here – to have such weapons,” he added.

    Washington was quick to respond. “Any of these threats to deploy missiles in the European theater, you know, would just not be helpful with regard to civility,” State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood told reporters. “As we’ve said over and again, this missile defense system is not targeted at the Russians... on Belarus or anybody,” Wood said. “It’s basically designed to... prevent and to deal with rogue threats, rogue missile threats from the Middle East region, particularly from Iran,” according to Wood.

    The current US administration has argued that the deployment of a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland is essential to guard against a possible future missile threat from Iran. Russia has said the planned US installations so close to its borders are a threat to its own defenses and says the plans are in fact part of a broader aim of building up US and NATO bases on its western frontier. The dispute is triggering an increasing war of words. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday blasted Russia’s threat to deploy Iskander missiles in its Baltic Sea territory of Kaliningrad in response to the anti-missile system.

    Russia gives $2 billion loan to Belarus

    From: AP
    Cash-strapped Belarus will receive a $2 billion loan from Russia to help stabilize its struggling, Soviet-style economy, the government said Friday.

    The deal was signed Thursday in Moscow by the two countries' finance ministers, Belarus said in a statement. Belarus has also asked the International Monetary Fund for a $2 billion loan.

    Minsk hopes the 15-year-loan will stabilize the former Soviet republic's economy, with a gross domestic product of $57 billion. Belarus has been badly hit by the global economic crisis.

    But analysts say Moscow is luring Minsk into a debt trap to make sure Belarus, with its strategic location on the eastern borders of the European Union, remains firmly under Russia's thumb.

    Belarus' centrally controlled economy is heavily dependent on cheap Russian oil and gas. In recent years, however, President Alexander Lukashenko has tried to reduce his dependency on Moscow, building ties with oil-rich countries like Venezuela.

    He has also sought to mend fences with the European Union, which considers Lukashenko a pariah for his 14-year, iron-fisted rule of Belarus.

    The huge outlay comes at a time of significant belt-tightening, with countries having their budgets slashed by falling oil prices. Both Russia and Belarus have taken huge chunks of their gold and foreign cash reserves to prop up their currencies.

    In the past six weeks, Belarus has spent 10 percent of its $5.6 billion gold reserves in propping up its currency.

    Belarus threatens to quit IMF

    From: RT
    Cash-strapped Belarus has said it may turn its back on the International Monetary Fund if the organization refuses to give it a US$ 2 billion loan.
    The hard-line President of the former Soviet state, Aleksandr Lukashenko, issued the warning in an interview to the Wall Street Journal, which was broadcast on Belarusian TV on Friday.

    "We survived without IMF loans before, during the severest of times" he said. “If they deny it now, we will build our co-operation with the IMF accordingly”.

    This means the country would likely to sever ties with the IMF, often described as the international lender of last resort.

    “I have told the government and the chairman of the National Bank that if they don't help us in our situation - which is not as bad as in other countries to which they [the IMF] give loans - why should we co-operate?" Lukashenko said.

    The hard-line leader added that as a member of the IMF, Belarus had regularly contributed money to the fund and taken part in its meetings.

    “So what for do we need it all, if we are treated like this?” the Belarusian president concluded.

    Foreign ministry suggests formalizing Belarus-EU relationship

    From: Naveny
    It is necessary to legally formalize the relationship between Belarus and the European Union, Dzyanis Sidarenka, head of the OSCE and Council of Europe division of the Belarusian foreign ministry’s Main Europe Directorate, said while speaking at the 11th Minsk Forum on Saturday. Mr. Sidarenka suggested making a decision on the status of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which was signed in 1995 but has never come into force.

    A new page has been turned in the relations between Belarus and the EU, Mr. Sidarenka said, suggesting continuing a dialogue and an effort to work out differences. He stressed that Brussels should talk about its expectations, not conditions for the development of relations with Belarus. The interests of common people in the EU and Belarus should be prioritized, he said.

    Ernst Reichel, head of the division for Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova at Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, noted that there is no legal basis for the development of relations between Minsk and Brussels without the PCA. The closer Belarus is to the EU, the higher expectations will be, he said. No matter how the EU’s conditions may be called, expectations or otherwise, the time will come in five months for Brussels to determine what the Belarusian authorities have done, Mr. Reichel said. The EU’s conditions are not what the EU needs; they are in the interests of the Belarusian people, he added.

    According to him, Brussels does not make Belarus choose between the EU and Russia. There is nothing wrong with Belarus’ intention of cooperating with all of its neighbors, he said.

    Michael Georg Link, a member of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) group in Germany’s Bundestag and a member of the Bundestag’s Committee on the Affairs of the European Union, suggested that the Belarusian authorities would have to move from promises to action in the next five months. Belarus is an important independent state that should become a subject, not an object of international politics, Mr. Link said. “We can’t afford wasting time,” he added.

    In mid-October, the European Union suspended for six months its travel ban against Alyaksandr Lukashenka and 35 other Belarusian officials in an attempt to encourage democracy in the country.

  • From the Opposition...

    KGB is interested in priest’s activities

    From: Viasna
    On 5 November Siarhei Vashkevich, an aide of a protestant pastor Viachaslau Hancharenka at Novaye Zhyttsio church, received a writ from KGB. According to this document, he was to come to Minsk and Minsk oblast KGB department on at 2 p.m. on 10 November for giving explanations.

    At the specified time Siarhei Vashkevich came to the KGB office. There he was asked questions concerning the 4 July explosion and his earlier activities in a charitable organization.

    During the ‘conversation’ a KGB officer expressed the wish to take Vashkevich’s fingerprints. However, the latter refused from it as well as from signing the minutes of the ‘conversation’. He thusly explained his refusal: ‘I am a believer. My being a clergyman and my religious convictions and life values are incompatible with participation in unlawful actions.’

    At the departure the KGB officer promised not to invite the pries to such ‘measures’ any more.

    National Bank imposed ban on foreign currency purchase

    From: Charter '97
    The National Bank of Belarus imposed a ban on foreign currency purchase at an over-the-counter market for advance payments for imported goods and services. Interfax has learnt if from the information department of the National Bank of Belarus. These restrictions are provided by regulation of the National Bank’s management #165 of November 11, recorded in the National Legal Acts Register on November 14.

    According to the document, banks must refuse currency transaction to a resident subject in case it applies a bank for purchasing foreign currency at the over-the-counter market for advance payments for imported goods and services. Imported good and service may be paid only after they have been received and the necessary documents have been introduced.

    However, the National Bank can permit buying foreign currency for advance payment for import at the over-the-counter market if the Council of Ministers gives a petition.

    Rules of buying foreign currency at the stock market remain the same.

    Before this decision was adopted, the National Bank tightened control over the situation at currency market via compulsory monitoring of deals at the over-the-counter market. To buy foreign currency, residents needed to give information to the bank about the sphere they work in, a sum of required currency, and an aim of the purchasing.

    Banks send these data to the National Bank of Belarus next business day. After that, on next day the banks sell foreign currency according to the request. An exception is advance payments for import.

    As it has been informed earlier, the National Bank restricted buying foreign currency by banks on their own funds. Now only the amount of foreign currency that will be sold to people through currency exchange offices can be bought by banks on their own funds at the stock exchange.

  • Around the region...

    Russia President Dmitry Medvedev warms up toward U.S.

    From: LA Times
    The leader, who is in Washington for economic talks, expresses hopes that President-elect Obama will help improve the deteriorating U.S.-Russian relationship.
    By Paul Richter
    November 16, 2008
    Reporting from Washington -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, arriving in Washington for international economic talks, Saturday struck a conciliatory tone toward the United States and expressed hope that President-elect Barack Obama will help improve the deteriorating U.S.-Russian relationship.

    Medvedev, who spoke defiantly of the United States hours after Obama was elected, told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington that Russia believes Obama will act to overcome problems that have been accumulating in the relationship between the two countries. He said he believed that a meeting with Obama should take place soon, and felt that Obama shared that view. Obama has said that he wants better ties with Moscow.

    In his Nov. 5 speech, which was widely taken as a challenge to the incoming U.S. president, Medvedev signaled that Moscow was ready to deploy missiles near Poland in response to U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

    He clarified Saturday that his government had no intention of delploying missiles at the present, but reserved the right to respond to the missile defense system. Russia considers the system a first step toward countering its huge missile arsenal, though U.S. officials insist that it is intended to deal with what they say is a potential missile threat from Tehran.

    "We will not do anything until America takes the first step," said Medvedev, who took questions from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and others. "Hopefully a new president and a new administration will have a willingness to deal with this problem." Medvedev lamented that there was "no trust" in the U.S.-Russian relationship.

    The Russian leadership has been eager to engage Obama's team as soon as possible on the missile defense issue and other matters, including concern over Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia.

    Obama has been more cautious on the missile defense system than have Bush administration officials, saying he would consider supporting it if there was proof that it will work. Some scientists question whether the system, not yet complete, will be effective.

    Though some Obama advisors have been urging a more conciliatory course, it would be difficult for the new administration to quickly defuse the difficult issues, analysts say. Obama will not want to make any concessions that would be seen as abandoning Eastern European allies such as Georgia and Ukraine.

    Medvedev also made a pitch for a new European security organization that would include all of Europe, Russia, the United States and Canada, and would not replace current security groups such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He said such a group could have helped avoid the war in Georgia in August by providing a forum for discussion.

    Medvedev said Russia had little interest at the moment in joining NATO, pointing out that NATO had considered, but rejected, the idea of integrating Russia in the early 1990s.

    "Now, the situation is a bit different," he said. But he added that Russia has not ruled out the idea for all time, saying "never say never."

    Russian spy in Nato could have passed on missile defence and cyber-war secrets

    From: Times Online
    A spy at the heart of Nato may have passed secrets on the US missile shield and cyber-defence to Russian Intelligence, it has emerged.

    Herman Simm, 61, an Estonian defence ministry official who was arrested in September, was responsible for handling all of his country's classified information at Nato, giving him access to every top-secret graded document from other alliance countries.

    He was recruited by the Russians in the late 1980s and has been charged in Estonia with supplying information to a foreign power.

    Several investigation teams from both the EU and Nato, under the supervision of a US officer, have flown to the Estonian capital Tallinn to assess the scope of what is being seen as the most serious case of espionage against Nato since the end of the Cold War.

    “The longer they work on the case, the more obvious it becomes how big the impact of the suspected treachery really is,” according to Der Spiegel magazine. A German official described the Russian penetration of Nato as a "catastrophe".

    Comparisons are being drawn with the case of Aldrich Ames, the former head of the CIA counter-intelligence department who was in effect Russia's top agent in the US.

    "Simm became a proper agent for the Russian government in the mid-1990s," says the Estonian deputy Jaanus Rahumaegi who heads the country's parliamentary control commission for the security services.

    On the face of it, the Simm case resembles the old-fashioned Cold War spy story. He used a converted radio transmitter to set up meetings with his contact, apparently someone posing as a Spanish businessman.

    As in the 1950s and 1960s, it seems that the operation was a husband-and-wife team. His wife Heete – who previously worked as a lawyer at the national police headquarters – has also been detained on charges of being an accessory to treason.

    Mr Simm was ensnared because of blunders that have dogged modern espionage ever since the KGB first pitted itself against the West. First, he bought up several pieces of valuable land and houses including a farmhouse on the Baltic Sea and a grand white-painted villa outside Tallinn.

    Second, his contact officer got careless and tried to recruit a second agent – who reported the incident to the security authorities. That is when the Estonian mole-hunters began to reconstruct the movements of the supposed Spaniard and followed the thread back to the agent inside Nato.

    But Mr Simm was not some relic from the days of Kim Philby or other notorious deep-cover agents. He was at the cutting edge of one of Nato’s most important new strategic missions: to defend the alliance against cyber-attack.

    Mr Simm headed government delegations in bilateral talks on protecting secret data flow. And he was an important player in devising EU and Nato information protection systems.

    Estonia – described by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as "Nato's most IT-savvy nation" – conducts much of its government and commercial business online. People vote and pay their taxes online, government meetings involve almost no paperwork.

    As a result, when it angered Russia in 2007, by removing a Soviet war memorial, it became the target of hostile attacks on the internet. Estonia has been lobbying hard to put cyber-defence on the Nato agenda, and has set up a Cyber Defence centre in Tallinn which is supposed to help the Alliance as a whole. Now that project could be compromised.

    The other important question in the Simm case is whether he was operating alone. A senior Estonian police officer claimed asylum in Britain in the 1990s reportedly telling the authorities that he was trying to escape pressure from the Russian secret service to sell secrets.

    The Russians, it seems, were keen to buy as many place-men as they could: the prospect of Nato forces hard up against the northern Russian border was too alarming for the Kremlin. Moreover, Mr Simm was for many years in charge of issuing security clearance: he could have nodded through other Russian agents.

    Mr Simm is likely to be formally arraigned at the beginning of next year after the damage control teams from Nato have completed their work. If found guilty he could face between three and fifteen years in prison. Neither the Simms, nor their defence lawyer, have commented on the charges.

    Nato too has refused to say anything. But there is no doubting that the case is a serious embarrassment. And though Russia may have lost an agent – "a gold card operative" according to one Estonian newspaper – it has achieved a tactical victory by sewing suspicion between western Nato members and the new east and central European entrants.

    U.S., Russia spar on missiles; Ukraine eyes NATO

    From: Reuters
    The United States criticized on Thursday Russian threats to deploy tactical missiles near the Polish border and the NATO military alliance said it would press for closer ties with Ukraine.

    Moscow is at odds with Washington over its plan to install parts of a missile defense shield in eastern Europe and with NATO over former Soviet Ukraine's ambition to join the military alliance, fearful Russian security would be threatened.

    The NATO-Ukraine talks were being held in the capital of Estonia, another former Soviet republic, which entered NATO in 2004, breaking away from its powerful neighbor to the east.

    Russia has threatened to put tactical missiles in Kaliningrad, its Baltic enclave next to Poland, if the United States goes ahead and puts parts of the shield against what Washington calls "rogue states" in Europe.

    U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking after a NATO meeting with Ukraine, said the Russian threats were "hardly the welcome a new American administration deserved," referring to the fact they were made immediately after Barack Obama won a presidential election.

    "Such provocative remarks are unnecessary and misguided," Gates told a news conference. He said the United States did not want a relationship with Russia "headed toward the past."

    "We just hope that the evolution of politics and economics in Russia moves Russia toward resuming the movement toward integration with western institutions ... We want them to be a part of this family," Gates added.

    Gates said an offer by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in an interview to French daily Le Figaro, to cancel deployment of the Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if Obama scrapped plans for the missile defense system was not "credible."

    Gates said Washington had put forward detailed proposals to Russia for working together on missile defense and said he was puzzled why Russia would point missiles at European nations, when the argument was between Washington and Moscow.


    NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Ukraine should press ahead with defense and security reforms to gain membership to the alliance.

    Though prospects looked dim for Ukraine to get a promised action plan in December for entrance into the alliance because of political turmoil at home, that was the direction the process was going, he said.

    Ukraine already takes part in all NATO's missions, but in Ukraine itself only about a third of the people support membership of the alliance, according to opinion polls.

    Political splits in Ukraine have made some NATO members anxious. Scheffer noted that there was a fist fight in Ukraine's parliament on Wednesday.

    "... silver, gold and bronze medals for boxing you do at the Olympic games and usually not in parliament," he said, though he added that this was "democracy at work."

    Gates has pushed allies to offer Ukraine and Georgia, a former Soviet republic that battled with Russia in August, a Membership Action Plan (MAP) -- the path to NATO membership -- this year, but this now seems unlikely, analysts have said.

    NATO is due to decide in December. De Hoop Scheffer said it was too early to say what the outcome would be.

    "If the outcome will be no MAP in December, that does not mean no MAP at all. The allies will follow the trajectory they set out in Bucharest," he said, referring to the promise made to Georgia and Ukraine that they would eventually enter NATO.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Poland: Racist Flyers Given to Children in a Catholic Church

    From: Global Voices
    Good Lawd a'mighty! You means they's racist too?!?!?
    One of the Catholic churches in Poznan, Poland's fifth largest city, generated a lot of online buzz yesterday, when the media (POL) published articles about a religious flyer printed by a Catholic weekly Maly Gosc Niedzielny and distributed to children. On the flyer's cover, there is a quote from the Bible - “A lamp without oil is dark, a human without a prayer, too.” Right above it is a drawing of a black child, who is saying: “What a pity that the prayer does not brighten the skin.”

    The chief editor Gabriela Szulik, when confronted (POL) with the fact, responded:

      It’s a mistake, an unfortunate one. We had no intention to offend anyone, because we are not racist. The thought that this can carry racist meaning does not even enter my mind; I simply have no associations of the kind.
    Later on, she responded to allegations of racism with a promise of an online statement, also referring to the company's involvement in charity work in Rwanda and their article about Zambia.

    Online reactions vary. Some discussion board users, like maczimo (POL), agree with Gabriela Szulik:

      Only a complete idiot can say that we are dealing with racism.
    Still others express rather cynical (POL) thoughts on the issue:

      It’s not that I am anti-Catholic, but the whole situation, mainly in the context of the Church, is slightly ridiculous. […] ;-)
    One of the Polish London-based bloggers writes (POL):

      […] This Sunday we will pray for [the 15 black children out of the total of 26 in the blogger's child’s school group]. So passionately, so Polish-way. Will it help? […]
    The majority of commentators on discussion boards find the flyer highly racist. Mecz-k (POL) said on Forum:

      Oh, yes, Polish Catholicism is a religion of hate and despise. Pity that there is nothing left of Jesus preaching. Now we have Father Rydzyk [a very controversial leader of the Catholic Radio] preaching… Shame, shame really.
    Jww commented on a post about the issue on this blog (POL):

      I am not surprised by the content and the level of the flyer. I know more examples of that type or even worst acts of ‘tolerance’ and ‘freedom of speech’ within the church, sadly most of them stay away from political scandal similar to the one about the flyer.
    One of the parents involved in the incident happens to be an outspoken blogger. After describing (POL) the day when the child came home with the flyer, she wrote:

      confiscated the flyer discreetly, but there is no way to cheat on my son: Mom, why did you hide the flyer in the pocket? Did you dislike it for some reason? Is there something wrong with it? This text is bizarre, isn’t?

      Yes, a little bit. After one hour of serious thinking whether I am overreacting and consultations with Kuba’s parents: do you also agree that someone was thoughtless? Do you see it too? I am calling the parish office:

      Dear Father, I understand you meant no harm, but this joke is tasteless, since all kids take such messages seriously, they do not see the intentions behind them; and you can see here clearly: the black baby regrets having dark skin, meaning being black is the worst…

      I do understand where you’re coming from, but I believe the priests who ordered those pictures aimed to stress Christian values, the message of the Holy Bible…

      Dear Father, you can be a Catholic and not a racist, you cannot promote messages of the kind, especially amongst children, for whom the Church sets example…

    The discussion continues. On, a Polish version of Digg bookmarking site, an article on this topic is on the main state category and has generated over 100 comments and gained 783 ratings so far.

    Miraculous fixing on Warsaw bourse?

    From: The News
    The Polish Commission for Banking Supervision is conducting an investigation into alleged fixing of the blue-chip index. Near the end of trade on Wednesday, the WIG20 in Warsaw had fallen 9 percent. However, several minutes later the index rebounded 5 percent.

    Warsaw brokers say that the new buy orders appeared quite suddenly and concerned several major companies, which usually have a huge influence over WIG20 index.

    Among the companies whose quotations went up at the very end of the sessions was Polish fuel giant PKN Orlen. The company closed this unusual session gaining three percent even though, several minutes earlier, its shares were down approximately 10 percent.

    This is not the only company posting questionable fluctuations, companies like BRE Bank, Getin Bank, KGHM, Lotos, PBG, Pekao, PGNiG, PKO BP and Polimeksu did as well.

    The minor investors are shocked. “This is a scandal,” they say. Those on the futures market could have lost even half of their investment portfolio.

    Currently, the Commission for Banking Supervision is investigating who made the orders and who gained on these transactions.

    “We have established that the orders come from one brokerage firm. We know from which one, but we cannot reveal that just now. We are checking if there were any manipulations,” spokesman for the Commission, Lukasz Dajnowicz, told Puls Biznesu.

    The Commission for Banking Supervision revealed also in September that it asked the authorities of the Warsaw Stock Exchange about the possibilities to introduce some mechanisms securing the market against similar situations, which would, for example, limit the possible fluctuation of closing bids.

    17-year-old tries to sell younger brother on Internet auction

    From: Polskie Radio
    A seventeen-year-old boy from Namyslow, western Poland, has attempted to sell his 9-year-old brother via Poland’s top shopping web site

    The starting price was one zloty. The boy wrote on the website that he is also willing to barter his brother.

    The case attracted the attention of Polish police, but the public prosecutor’s office refused to initiate proceedings. The prosecutor’s spokeswoman explained that it was not the case of human trafficking but rather a silly joke.

    The action was blocked and the 17-year-old boy admitted that his actions were simply a joke. The 9-year-old is safe and sound at home.

    The teenager is not going to suffer any official consequences for his behaviour.

  • Sport...

    Минское «Динамо» по буллитам уступило «Металлургу» в матче КХЛ

    From: Naveny
    В чемпионате Континентальной хоккейной лиги минское "Динамо" вновь сумело отобрать очко у команды, входящей в лидирующую группу.

    15 ноября подопечные Василия Спиридонова по буллитам уступили в Магнитогорске "Металлургу", который занимает третье место в общей таблице, — 3:4. Основное и дополнительное время завершилось вничью 3:3, в серии буллитов сильнее были хозяева — 2:1. Белорусские хоккеисты проигрывали 0:2 и 1:3, но за четыре секунды до конца третьего периода сравняли счет, заменив голкипера шестым полевым игроком. Отличился новичок "Динамо" Рихард Линтнер из Словакии. Ворота магнитогорцев защищал бывший вратарь белорусской сборной Андрей Мезин.

    В основное время шайбы забросили: у "Динамо" — Линтнер (11.02, 59.56), Демагин (55.27), у "Металлурга" — Кудрна (0.42), Пушкарев (7.28), Чистов (17.40). В серии буллитов забросили Линтнер ("Динамо"), Кайгородов и Мирнов ("Металлург"), не забросили Кулаков, Балмочных ("Динамо") и Марек ("Металлург"), сообщает сайт КХЛ.

    13 ноября в Мытищах "Динамо" в дополнительное время уступило идущему на первом месте "Атланту" — 1:2.

    После 25 матчей у "Динамо" 22 очка и 22-е место в общей таблице. Команда одержала пять побед в основное время, одну — в овертайме, одну — по буллитам, два раза проиграла по буллитам, один — в овертайме и 15 раз в основное время, забросила 50 и пропустила 88 шайб.

    Следующий матч "Динамо" проведет 17 ноября в Челябинске против "Трактора".

  • Cultural scene...

    Фотовыставка Яниса Глейзда “Исполнение мечты”

    В галерейно-выставочном комплексе Национальной библиотеки Беларуси пройдет
    Фотовыставка известного латышского фотографа Яниса Глейзда “Исполнение мечты”.

    Выставка будет работать по 26 ноября 2008 г. , в кольцевом холле 3 этажа.

    В рамках проекта, Беларусь – Латвия: диалог истории, науки и культуры
    Книжная выставка “Беларусь – Латвия: диалог истории, науки и культуры” из фондов Латвийской академической библиотеки и фотовыставка известного латышского фотографа Яниса Глейзда “Исполнение мечты”.

    Дополнительная информация про фотографа

    Обе выставки подготовлены совместно с Посольством Латвийской Республики в Республике Беларусь и посвящены 90-летию провозглашения Латвийской Республики.

    Телефоны для справок: 293-27-64, 293-28-23, 293-27-66.

    Е-mail: pr @

  • Endnote...

    Subject: American in Lithuania…

    From: The Story
    When speaking about the former Soviet Union, and especially when looking at things from the perspective of people who live here, one cannot go so many days without the word exploitation coming into the conversation. Avoiding one sided, money siphoning business arrangements with the west has been a staple of the president's rhetoric since day one and of course, the country's main political position in the United Nations is that it wishes to be in the forefront in the fight against human trafficking. The point of both of these arguments is that the country simply does not wish to be used and discarded simply because it is not financially independent. Yes, we can argue that losing that prime deal to manufacture Russian oil created the necessity to open the doors to the EU and American investors and we can say that this is the way the world is. The strong survive and the weak fade away; this is Darwin, the law of the land and the American way.

    But what about all of those people who do get used and exploited because they come from a disadvantaged place? Of course we can say that the cream always rises to the top and best people will always find their way, regardless of how difficult their road. We have been taught this by Hollywood and republican types for years and years. But what about the little people who do have to make incredibly difficult life decisions simply because they come from disadvantaged social and economic decisions? Who is there to protect them from being used and abused by those who simple come from a different social and economic climate? And remember, we are speaking about a social climate which allows for a better and more reasonable lifestyle even for people without admirable character than would be possible for genuine competence or even genius here.

    So this being said, over the last couple of days I have been trading letters with an American who has had a falling out with his Lithuanian wife. He wrote me because he had a problem and thought I might have some answer for him. I gave him my opinion and basically, he didn't like what I had to say. But in any case I thought the point had some relevance and so I decided to print the letters here. I'll let the text speak for itself and you can fill in any blanks you want and decide who's right and wrong. But to me, the point of all of this is how obviously right the Belarusian arguments have been concerning exploitation, usury and trafficking. I am sorry, but whether or not Lukashenko is a dictator hasn't a damned thing to do with whether or not Belarus really must sell itself on the cheap simply because they have been hung out to dry by the USSR and Gaprom. To me, the law of the jungle is simply the polar opposite of civilization. Civilized means reasonable and any reasonable civilization would not allow for unlawful and exploitative practices against its members. I think the following is a good example for this argument.

      I am in big trouble in Lithuania. My wife took off and left me alone and broke. I can use your advice.
    I am all ears. What can I do for you?

      It is a long story, but I married a Lith girl 8 years ago, have a 2 yr old and 4 yr old girls. I have no family so I thought it would be best to come here so the kids would have some family to share their life with. Big mistake. My wife's family is crazy and 7 months ago, she just packed up and left me for dead. I guess she married an American to live in America, and when we came here she did not need me anymore. Since she left my life has been hell. I am lucky to have made it this far alone. I have been in a depression that can't even be described. For a while I could not get out of bed, see children, shower, eat, shave. I am totally broke, behind on the rent, and want to kill myself. The embassy offered me a free ticket back to Boston, but I would be literally on the streets. It is not an option. I got a job teaching English recently, but I am so depressed, so behind on rent, it is impossible. I do not have money to rent a new place. People tell me to take the free ticket and leave. I can't go back to live like that. I do not know what to do?
    Very bad, S. Very, very bad.

    OK. First of all, we have to deal with issues separately. That you are having emotional problems is one thing but the financial problems are another.

    You must understand that you do have a right to see your children. This is a fact. You may not have a right to live with your ex as you did in the past because she might not want you to, so, you must come to grips with this fact. But there are always legal remedies for all things and Lithuania has a court system just like any other place in the world. Now, this system might work differently than the one you are used to (this also apples to her family seeming crazy to you) but there is a system and you do have rights. About how to go about getting legal permission for this, you need to go to the proper local organs and ask. Maybe you need a lawyer's help or perhaps just ask a friend, they'll tell you.

    But about the moral issue insofar as exactly how unfair life really is, well, I guess I should say something which according to your letter, the locals seem completely to understand:

    Women do marry for money.

    Now S, this is not only true in poor countries where people had to live on only $100 a month for a decade, but also in America as well; women marry for money.

    If this wife of yours, a lady who agreed to have two children with you, went with you because you were an American and had potential access to larger sums of money, well, this is all pretty realistic if you ask me. Why the hell not? And really, the children need to eat, wear clothes, live in a nice house and maybe, G-d forbid, have some European style things sometimes; you know, some extra space and better texture now and then. So of course we are speaking of having enough money to take care of the kids for 18 years or so and most probably, weddings and housing after. Is this so strange? To me, this would be true anywhere in the world. And frankly, if you have failed to be the sort of person who can do these things for her and her kids, well, if this was a business and not family, I would say that you got fired for incompetence. Maybe this is not the case, but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that this is how she sees things. Think about it.

    Now, as concerns their crazy family: It is possible that they are nuts but then again craziness is a product of nature and nurture. Yes, they might be bipolar and schizophrenic and manic depressive (just like everyone) but also remember that they are a product of that inelegant financial situation, which, when mixed in with years of communist philosophy, would probably and logically create a situation which to your eyes might seem a little on the rough side. Come on S, they didn't have anything that you did growing up. They didn't have even an inch of room financially to play. Everything hurts. You know this. You knew this going in.

    So probably what happened was that you didn't have enough money and she ran home to mom. Sexually, she probably just didn't want to have any more children to have to feed because the ones she had didn't look like they were going to be fed. Or this is how it seems from what you have said. I think a lot of people would say that this would be a pretty normal reaction for any woman: She had a financial catastrophe on her hands (two kids to feed and not enough money) and made a choice from all the possibilities that she knew of in her life.

    Does this sound reasonable to you? Again, I don't know everything, but from your letter, this is what it seems like to me.

    So, all of this being said S, this is my advice for you: If you love her and wish to share in the joys of parenting, an activity I would highly, highly, highly recommend, you need to contact her and present yourself to her as the greatest possible husband and father and a man who is prepared to live and die for his family. You need to show her that you are willing to spend the rest of your days trying to give this family of yours everything they need for the present and for the future. You also need to tell this woman that you love, need and respect her and need her to give you some love, time, attention and affection in order to go on in life- How's that for romance? Well, you need to want this within reason of course because you know she has a lot to do as well, what with the raising of the kids, the bills to pay and all of the energy she spends cursing her deadbeat husband. Anyway, you get the picture.

    Now, let's say you go this rout. First of all, she might not say yes at first and, there is a chance she might never say yes to anything you offer except money. This is and has always been the woman's prerogative. But perhaps somewhere down the line you might find some satisfaction in having done a good job of being a dad to children you saw fit to bring into the world and maybe, she might even kiss you on the cheek some day and say thank you. Who knows, anything is possible.

    So, assuming you are buying into what I am saying, the next question would be: How to go about being this guy?

    If we are talking about making America your choice, well, I don't know you and I don't know your past, but most probably everyone around you understands that there are far better chances to make better money there than here. This is not fantasy, this is reality. But the truth is you are on your ass here as well. It is nice that you are doing some teaching. Teaching is a wonderful profession; pays some money, has a long vacation and has lots of potential satisfactions. If you don't want to go home though, and this IS YOUR prerogative, trying to be the best teacher for your students is a very reasonable option. And if you do go with this, by all means do use your American mind to try to expand on the possibilities. Who knows, maybe this will work out for you.

    But in any case, I think what we are really speaking about is your perception of whether or not you are accepted by the world, your wife, your community and by yourself as a man. Please S, do try and see the picture from a reasonable perspective. Let's say you are the boss of a company and two workers come to you for a job. The first one is on time, ready to work and seems ready to give his all for the project. The second is depressed, disheveled, behind on his rent and reeks of incompetence. Really S, who gets the job? And of course, doesn't this also apply to matters of love sex and family as well? Isn't the whole point of everything that the best man wins? Ok, ok, in the times of communism everyone was the same and even losers got their pay check. But I've got to tell you the truth, as much as you or I might want to wallow in nostalgia over the demise of the USSR (and they did that here for a long, long, long time, didn't they?), they just aren't doing that here any more. And really S, you simply are not living in the Soviet Union; you are living in the European Union. Lithuania is a European country and has been for several years now. You are not the Soviet Man, you are the Schengen zone.

    So like the Godfather taught us: What can you do? You can act like a man!! Do you see your family? No man can be a real man unless he spends time with his family. Go do your job and if this job doesn't cut it, go find one that does. Put your nose in the book and read the words. Put your ass on the saddle and start peddling. No pain no gain, nothing to it but to do it and of course, nobody knows what a lesson in life is supposed to cost, but if you don't learn it the first time, you pay and pay and pay and pay.

    Cheers to you and good luck on your road. I hope some of this was reasonably helpful to you. Let me know how things are going. And of course, I hope you will be ok if I use this material on the blog for others to think about as well.

    Good luck from Pinsk,



      Your advice is totally off the mark. It actually made me feel worse like the perpetrator instead of the victim.
      I do not want my email on the blog, I wrote you because you have had a hard time as well.
    Sorry. But you know, life is really hard and there aren't so many safety nets. You have got two kids: If they are not the first and only thing on your mind, you're not thinking straight. No matter what you say and no matter how you feel, you either provide for your family or you are a bum. You want them, go show her you love her and them and get your shit together. Maybe you need a lawyer. But in any case and especially if you have to go to court, you better be prepared to show you can handle the financial and emotional burden of caring for your children. This, my friend, is a fact of life.

    How about without your name or e-mail? Yours is a universal deal. And I think my advice is reasonable. would that be ok?

    Best of luck.

      If your wife took off and left you alone there, you would be screwed just like me. Imagine trying to survive alone in a country where you do not speak the language, are alone, and isolated. If she wanted to have a decent life we both could have worked to provide for the kids. Just like everybody does. If I am A bum, it is because I have no chance to survive here, and I can not go back to America. How can I provide for my kids, when I can't provide for myself?
    I am sorry S.
    You have been there for eight years and you can't speak the language? You don't understand the system? You have never tried? If you can't speak the language, go back to America. If you cannot survive, you cannot afford a family. If you need a doctor, go to a clinic and ask for help. We have many homeless people in the world and many, many people who receive government assistance. I don't know what this woman did for you while you were together, but to me it sounds like she did most of the work and you got used to it. Sorry buddy, this is enough for me.

    You have some hard decisions to make and I suggest you make them using a pen and paper and any family and any trusted friends you might have. But in any case you need to pull yourself together and try and do the right thing. The only thing I can suggest to you is that you consider that your main job in the world is to look after your children. If you can't find it in yourself to remember that you have two small, helpless and uneducated people who cannot at all survive with out competent, loving, strong, smart and responsible people helping them along, then you are one crazy stupid son of a bitch. Pull yourself together and get the hell back in the game and be a proper father. And if you can't, please get the hell out of the way and stop bothering people when they are trying to do their job.