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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Belarus-EU cooperation, Export-oriented enterprises, UN, 100 cafes, Economics, Russia, Ukraine, Polish Scandal, Sport and Culture

  • From the Top...
  • #362

    Belarus-EU cooperation on systematic basis

    From: BelTA 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 last week
    Building a productive and comprehensive dialogue with the European Union, Belarus takes concrete steps, which form the basis of Belarusian-European relations. Decrees No 633 and 634 signed by the President of Belarus on November 20 are aimed at achieving the goal, the press service of the President of Belarus told BelTA.

    In line with decree No 633 the head of state approved the signing of a framework agreement between the Government of the Republic of Belarus and the Commission of the European Communities on defining the status and conditions for the technical aid the European Union will provide as part of the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. Thus, the cooperation between Belarus and the European Union will become systematic. It will allow effectively implementing joint projects in spheres of mutual interest, in particular, in such priority areas for both the sides as energy, transport, enhancement of the customs infrastructure, fight against illegal migration and international crime, environmental protection.

    Decree No 634 is meant to assimilate the principles laid down by the agreement Belarus and the Commission of the European Communities signed on March 7, 2008 to regulate the establishment, privileges and immunities of the Representative Office of the Commission of the European Communities in Belarus into the Belarusian legislation. The agreement has not come into force yet. Thus, Belarus creates favourable conditions for the operation of the representative office. The step will enable a more effective dialogue about a wide range of issues regarding relations between Belarus and the European Union.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Sergei Sidorsky: stable Belarusian economy through new export-oriented enterprises

    From: BelTA
    The stability of the Belarusian economy lies with setting up export-oriented enterprises. The statement was made by Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky on November 21 as the second technological line for manufacturing mineral wool products based on basalt fibre was launched in Gomelstroimaterialy company.

    The more similar enterprises Belarus has, the faster and simpler it will be to overcome negative phenomena on the global market.

    The new line will allow fully satisfying the demand of the domestic construction industry with modern heat-insulating boards and exporting some of the make.

    The construction of the new line was supervised by the Prime Minister. The new facility was set up within eight months instead of the 18 planned months. The output capacity stands at 264,000 cubic metres of mineral wool boards per annum.

    The company commissioned the first such line in 2005. Karelia basalt, porphyrite and dolomite are used as raw materials for manufacturing the boards, ensuring their acidity value as high as 1.8. The engineering level of the mineral wool facility ensured the inclusion of the technology into the list of high-tech production facilities and enterprises of Belarus by 2010. The mineral wool heat-insulating slabs are designed and manufacturing in line with standards STB ISO 9001-2001, STB ISO 14001-2005, STB ISO 18001-2005.

    Construction materials enterprise Gomelstroimaterialy was founded in 1949. It manufactures light, semi-rigid, rigid and super-rigid heat-insulating mineral wool boards available under the trademark Beltep. The enterprise also offers lime bricks and stones, porous concrete blocks, and linoleum.

    In 2008 the Gomel enterprise became Belarus’ first company to get European quality certificate EH 13162:2001. The certificate allows the enterprise to use CE marking.

    Societe Generale to take part in financing export projects of Belarusian companies

    In a related story, Societe Generale will take part in financing export projects of Belarusian companies, Philippe Citerne, Societe Generale Deputy Chief Executive Officer, told reporters on November 21.

    “What we are going to do in Belarus we have been successfully realising in 42 countries where we have full-service banks. What we are going to do in Belarus will contribute to the development of the Belarusian-French relations most of all. We plan to provide expertise in the areas where we are stable global leaders: export and project financing,”

    The Chairman of the Board of Directors of Rosbank Vladimir Golubkov said that Societe General is taking part in direct financing of the BMZ EUR 15mn project which was launched early this year. “This is a part of a big programme which Rosbank jointly with Belrosbank will be implementing in Belarus with the support of Societe Generale. Export financing is a strong point of Societe Generale. We now have a lot of projects in operation which are financed by Societe Generale,” Vladimir Golubkov said. “There are three levels of interaction: through Belrosbank if its capacities allow, Rosbank and through Societe Generale. In the future we are planning to maintain all three levels of cooperation,” he said. Rosbank will continue financing the Belarusian companies of the petrochemical, oil and gas sectors.

    When answering a question on possible investing in other Belarusian banks, Philippe Citerne said that yet there are no such projects. “We are happy with the cooperation with Belrosbank which is maintained due to the Rosbank activity,” he said. He emphasized that considering the potential of the market there is always an opportunity for growth.

    Philippe Citerne said that in January 2009 a group of French businessmen will visit Minsk under the auspices of Societe Generale to hold negotiations with Belarusian businessmen. “The fact that we are bringing such a representative French delegation to Belarus is the example of the level of cooperation Societe Generale and Belarus can have,” he said. The visit will help French business learn about the doing business environment in Belarus.

    In Russia the French Group operates several subsidiaries - Bank Societe Generale Vostok, ALD Avtomotiv, Rusfinansbank, Delta Credit, Sozhekap, Rosbank.

    In Belarus Societe Generale is represented by AKB Belrosbank, which net assets are steadily on the rise and stood at Br916.8 billion as of October 1, 2008. AKB Belrosbank (virtually 100% owned by AKB Rosbank) believes that the temporary liquidity crisis on the global and Russian financial markets will not entail lower funding from the mother structure — AKB Rosbank.

    AKB Belrosbank was registered on July 22, 2003. AKB Rosbank is a shareholder of the bank (99.99998%). AKB Belrosbank is a universal bank, which offers a wide range of banking services to clients. The bank focuses on investment projects of Belarusian companies, servicing and financing of foreign trade of companies, provision of modern banking products taking into account individual requirements of customers.

    The bank has state-run and private clients. During its operation AKB Belrosbank and AKB Rosbank (Moscow) have set limits for enterprises of Belneftekhim and Belenergo concerns as well as the Industry Ministry in excess of $1.5 billion. The enterprises can use the sum for financing to replenish floating assets and implement investment projects. As of October 1, 2008 the legal capital stood at Br44 billion.

    Belarus submits proposals to improve UN Security Council activity

    From: BelTA
    During the discussions of the UN Security Council report and the issue of fair representation in the Security Council and expansion of its member staff in the UN General Assembly in New York and the delegation of the Republic of Belarus submitted its practical proposals to improve and upgrade the efficiency of the UN Security Council activity, BelTA learnt from the Permanent Representative Office of the Republic of Belarus in the UN.

    Andrei Dapkyunas, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Belarus in the UN, called on the Security Council to cease submitting statistics on the held events to the General Assembly and ensure a profound analysis of the document. The members of the Council were offered to consider an opportunity of including into the report divergent positions and estimation of the particular international situations by the Security Council members.

    Andrei Dapkyunas expressed the similar proposal – a profound analysis, quality and efficiency of the documents – to the delegations which preside at the Security Council on a rotation basis and prepare its monthly reports. The idea of the Belarusian delegation was supported by the Non-Aligned Movement member-states.

    As for the forthcoming intergovernmental negotiations on the UN Security Council reforms, the Belarusian delegation emphasized that the negotiations need be held in the environment of strengthened trust between its member-states and a thorough search of balanced approaches towards the Council reforming. Andrei Dapkyunas said that the negotiations cannot be forced in view of considerable disagreements between the countries proposing different models of reforms as the Security Council new staff should not separate but unite its member-states for the joint activity to counteract global challenges and threats in the international security area.

    The Head of the Belarusian diplomatic mission in the UN said that Belarus considers the issue of the Security Council methods to be as important as the problems related to expanding the Security Council member staff. The Belarusian diplomat called the development of a self-discipline and responsibility atmosphere in the Council and prevention of double standards in decision taking as the key issue to improve the activity of the UN Security Council.

    Mikhail Pavlov: 100 cafes will be opened in Minsk every year

    From: BelTA
    A public catering development programme has been elaborated in Minsk. Under this programme, more than 100 cafes and small restaurants will be opened in the capital every year, Minsk City Council Chairman Mikhail Pavlov told reporters on November 21.

    The public catering development programme involves the construction of new facilities and readjustment of old ones. “The number of tables in Minsk cafes is insufficient and we are seriously working on this issue. This subject will be brought up at the session of the Minsk City Council in the nearest future,” the Minsk Mayor said.

    He added that the problem of parking places in downtown Minsk will be settled within five years. “Both underground and ground level parking lots will be constructed in the city centre within five years”, Mikhail Pavlov added.

    Digital television available to 80% of Belarusians by 2011

    By the end of 2010 digital television will become available to 80% of the Belarusians. It will be made available in line with the plan of measures developed by the Information Technologies and Communications Ministry to expedite the introduction of digital television in Belarus, Information Technologies and Communications Minister Nikolai Pantelei said during an online conference hosted by the BelTA website on November 21.

    There are plans to introduce digital television at all TV and radio broadcasting stations of the country to ensure maximum coverage by 2015. After that analogue broadcasting will be discontinued.

    The plan also provides for working out a programme for providing the nation with Belarus-made adapters designed to receive digital TV signals. Enterprises of the Industry Ministry are supposed to start manufacturing the devices in Q1 2009. Apart from that, there are foreign-made adapters available on the market. Taking into account the heavy competition, the growing market capacity and hence production capacity, prices for the adapters are supposed to shrink to levels affordable to the population, remarked Nikolai Pantelei.

    BelTA reported earlier, at present digital TV broadcasting is available in almost 40% of the country. Digital television has been available in Minsk since 2005 when a transmitter was installed in Kolodishchi. There are five digital TV channels and one digital radio channel.

    In September 2007 a radio and television retransmitter was commissioned in the town of Sharkovshchina (the Vitebsk oblast). Last year also saw digital broadcasts made available in the town of Trokeniki (the Grodno oblast) and Mogilev. In April 2008 a transmitter was installed in the town of Kopyl (the Minsk region). At present digital broadcasts are available in the town of Orsha (the Vitebsk oblast), the village of Zashchebye (the Gomel oblast) and adjacent areas. By the end of the year the option will be made available in Gomel, Brest, Staryye Dorogi and Berezino of the Minsk oblast, the village of Luki (the Korelichi region, the Grodno oblast).

    Belarus to increase its European Internet gateway capacity to 2 Gb/s in December

    Belarusian landline communication monopoly Beltelecom will increase the capacity of the country’s European Internet gateway to 2 Gb/s, Belarusian Information Technologies and Communications Minister Nikolai Pantelei said during an online conference hosted by the BelTA website on November 21.

    After an analysis Beltelecom decided to increase the capacity of the external gateway to Europe up to 2 Gb/s. The increase is supposed to complete in December 2008, said the minister.

    Nikolai Pantelei remarked, at present there are delays in transmitting data to Europe in the Belarusian data grid. He attributed it to the growing number of Internet users and their interest in the gaming content hosted abroad by non-Russian-speaking companies.

    At present the capacity of Belarus’ Internet gateway to Russia stands at 4 Gb/s, that of the gateway to Europe — 1.2 Gb/s.

  • Economics...

    Belarus economy growth rate continues accelerating

    From: BelTA
    In January-October 2009 key industries of the Belarusian economy preserved positive dynamics of manufacturing and investment activities, representatives of the Economy Ministry told BelTA after analysing the country’s social and economic development over the ten months of the year.

    Growth rates in the majority of the most important indicators continue growing in comparison with the same period of last year. As a result, over the ten months 17 out of 19 most important targets of the 2008 social and economic development forecast were reached.

    In January-October 2008 Belarus’ GDP grew by 10.7% up on the same period of 2007 while the annual forecast is set at 8-9%. In January-October 2007 the GDP growth totalled 8.4% as against the same period of the year before.

    The industry-added value in the GDP amounted to 29.9%, agriculture — 9.2%, construction — 8.8%, transport and communication — 7.8%, trade and public catering — 10.5%.

    The GDP growth was accompanied by falling GDP energy intensity. In January-September the GDP energy intensity shrank by 7.8% in comparison with the same period of last year (the annual forecast stands at minus 7-8%).

    In January-October 2008 the index of physical volume of production in the Belarusian industry amounted to 112.8% as against the corresponding period of last year (the annual forecast stands at 8.5%).

    In January-October 2008 the consumer goods output made 112.7% as against the same period of last year (the annual forecast is set at 109-110%). The foods output amounted to 113.3% (the annual forecast — 108-109%), non-foods production — 112.4% (110-111%).

    Decreasing production costs, in particular, reduction of materials consumption, is one of the most important ways to raise economy effectiveness. In January-October 2008 the falling materials consumption trend continued in the industry. All in all, in January-September materials consumption in the industry went down by 2.7%, thus exceeding the annual target (1.5% reduction).

    In January-October 2008 agricultural output increased by 8.1% in comparison with the same period of last year, while this year’s target is set at 7-8%. Positive dynamics of animal production continues in Belarus. In January-October 2008 the amount of cattle and poultry sold for slaughter (live weight basis) increased by 5% in comparison with the same period of last year, milk production — 8.9%, egg output — 5.2%.

    Belarusian agricultural companies have virtually finished the harvesting campaign. This year’s yield of major agricultural crops exceeds last year’s. Grain production (without corn) went up 28% in comparison with the previous year, with the yield as high as 38.7 centners (30.8 centners per hectare in 2007). As of November 3, 2008 the gross potato production stood at 971,000 tonnes, 22% up on the year. Potato yield made 206 centners per hectare against 186 centners per hectare in 2007. This year’s vegetable production exceeds last year’s by 40.7%, with the yield averaging 191 centners per hectare (153 centners per hectare in 2007).

    Measures taken by the government to encourage investments, organise business planning of investment projects contributed to a 23% increase in fixed-capital investments in January-October 2008 (this year’s forecast is set at 15-17%). In January-October 2007 fixed-capital investments increased by 15% up on the corresponding period of the year before.

    In January-October 2008, the expenses connected with the purchase of machines, equipment and vehicles were 27.5% up from the same period of 2007. They accounted for 43.3% of the total investments. Capital investments in production facilities were 22.6% up from January-October 2007. Over the ten months, the capital investments accounted for 25.9% of the GDP as against 24.3% in January-October 2007.

    In January-October 2008, the utilization of funds allocated for financing the projects included in the 2008 State Investment Programme made up Br 1,754.1 billion or 86.5% of the annual amount, including Br1,364.5 billion (91%) that came from the national budget. During the same period 18.3% of the total investments was spent on housing construction.

    Over the ten months of 2008, 4,101.4 thousand square meters of housing was put into operation which is 78.9% of the projected amount. The total area of the housing constructed in January-October 2008 was 10.1% up from the same period of 2007.

    In rural areas 1,260.9 thousand square meters of housing was put into operation which accounts for 30.7% of all the housing constructed in the country over this period (34.1% in January-October 2007). In rural areas and small towns 1676.1 thousand square meters of housing was constructed over the ten months which is 2.8% up from the same period of 2007.

    The foreign trade efficiency of the country in January-September 2008 is revealed through the following figures. The foreign trade in goods and services according to the method of balance of payments in actual prices was 53.9% up from the same period of 2007 (the annual projection is 14.5-15.5%), with export 53.9% up (16-17%), import 54% up (12.5-13.5%).

    According to the method of balance of payments, the deficit in trade in goods and services over the nine months amounted to $2,474.3 million (projected at $1,400-1,420 million for 2008). The deficit in foreign trade in goods totalled $3,737.6 million, while the surplus in trade in services made $1,263.3 million.

    The economic growth contributed to maintaining the outstripping growth rate of real cash income of the population. In January-September 2008, the real cash income of the population (adjusted to the consumer price index) rose 11.9% from the same period of 2007, projected at 9-10% for 2008.

    In January-September 2008, the salaries of people working in the production area kept growing. According to the National Statistics Committee, in January-September 2008 the nominal monthly wages of Belarusians averaged Br 857,000 or $401.5, 25.5% up from the same period of 2007. In September the wages amounted to Br942.9 thousand or $445.9, 32.1% up from September 2007 which is 18.8% up from the projected amount.

    In the budget sector the nominal wages in January-September made up Br693,500, or $324.9 in equivalent, up 15,2% over the same period last year. The wages in September amounted to Br705,900, or $333.9, up 16.9% from September 2007. Real wages increased by 9.2% in January-September 2007 over the same period last year.

    The pension system functions stably. In order to increase labour pensions and to ensure uptrend the labour pensions were indexed twice (in February and August). Minimum labour and social pensions were increased three times following an increase in the per capita subsistence wage.

    In October 2008, the pension averaged Br389,400, old age pension Br408,300, disability pension — Br357,200, survivor’s pension — Br242,400, social pension Br169,800. Real pension (pension adjusted to the CPI) was up 11.4% in October 2008 from October 2007.

    The Economy Ministry says that the situation on the labour market is manageable, the unemployment rate is within socially acceptable limits. In October 2008 the registered jobless rate made up 0.8% of the economically active population (the 2008 projection is 1.2-1.4%).

    In January-October the retail trade including public catering was up 22.9% over the same period last year while the projection for 2008 was up 10-11%.

    Paid services in January-September 2008 went up 13% over January-September 2008 (the forecast up 9-10%). The services provided by state-run organisations accounted for 56.7% of the total volume, those by privately-owned companies — 36.1%.

    In January-October the consumer price index amounted to 10.5%, or 1% per month on average.

    In January-September the financial state of the organisations of the real production sector kept on improving. The profitability of sold products, works and services made up 15.9% as against 12.4% over the same period last year, profitability of sales — 9% as against 7,2%. The profitability of sold products, works and services of industrial enterprises in January-September reached 18.1% (January-September 2007 – 13.2%), profitability of sales — 12.6% (January-September 2007 – 9.6%).

  • From the International Press...

    Belarus, Greece, Turkey failed to destroy mines

    From: AP
    Greece, Turkey and Belarus have missed deadlines to destroy their land mine stockpiles, as required under an international treaty, said a report Friday by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

    Diplomats from the three countries declined to be interviewed about the report in Geneva, but it quoted their governments as acknowledging their deadlines have been missed. Greece, Turkey and Belarus should have destroyed a total of nearly 7.5 million of land mines by March.

    The 1,155-page annual report by The International Campaign, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, said Greece mentioned legal problems with contracting a company to carry out the destruction and the difficulty of finding environmentally safe destruction sites as reasons for the delay.

    Turkey claimed preparations for getting rid of its stockpiles took longer than planned.

    Belarus said it had been set back by delays in receiving support funds from the European Union. It said its remaining stockpile contains a type of mine that is more difficult and costly to destroy.

    Globally, only half a million mines were destroyed over the past year, the report said. But it said Afghanistan, Burundi and Sudan got rid of all of their stockpiles.

    This brings to more than 42 million the number of destroyed stockpiled mines since the treaty to ban land mines came into force in 1999, the report said. But 44 countries still have 176 million mines.

    More than 1,400 people were killed and 3,900 wounded by land mine explosions worldwide in 2007, the report said, adding the number may be much higher because reporting is poor in many countries.

    All of the 156 countries that have joined the treaty are given four years to destroy their stockpiles. Major users of land mines, including the U.S., Russia and China, have not signed the treaty.

    Greece, Turkey and Belarus will not face sanctions for missing their deadlines, said Steve Goose, arms control director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, which helped produce the report.

    Belarus approves protocol with Russia on property ownership rights

    From: Trend
    “Sanatorium Belarus”

    The Council of Ministers of Belarus issued resolution No1679 to approve the protocol between the governments of Belarus and the Russian Federation on the legal status (ownership right) of some facilities located on the territory of the Republic of Belarus and on the territory of the Russian Federation, BelTA learnt from the Council of Ministers Office.

    The document completes the interstate procedures necessary for the protocol to enter into force. The protocol was signed in Moscow on September 16, 2008.

    The protocol recognizes the right of ownership of the Republic of Belarus for the objects (property): the state establishment “Sanatorium Belarus” of the Presidential Property Management Department (62 Politechnicheskaya Street, Sochi, Krasnodar krai); the state establishment “Sanatorium Belaya Rus” of the Presidential Property Management Department (Maisky, Tupse region, Krasnodar krai).

    The document recognizes the property right of the Russian Federation for the Belinteravtoservice production premises in Minsk (23 Rakovskaya Street).

    The protocol entitles the Russian authorized bodies to register the Belarus and Belaya Rus health facilities as a property of the Republic of Belarus in line with the legislation of the Russian Federation. The document also entitles the Belarusian authorized bodies to register Belinteravtoservice production premises as the Russian property in line with the legislation of the Republic of Belarus.

    The protocol legitimates the Belarusian health centres on the territory of the Russian Federation and the Russian company in Belarus.

    Belarusian companies have difficulties with purchasing of foreign fat-and-oil products

    From: Agrimarket
    According to the experts of IA APK-Inform, to date Belarusian importers have high interest in purchases of Ukrainian and Russian sun oil and meal. At the same time, Russia offers the products more actively compared to Ukraine, according to the participants of Belarusian market.

    During the financial crisis most Russian and Ukrainian export-oriented companies prefer to sell the products in the terms of up-front money.

    However, the decree of the National bank of Belarus Republic of November 11, 2008, # 165 "About the payment procedure of import foreign economic contacts" forbids advances on import external transactions.

    The participants of Belarusian market expect forcancellation of the law or softening of the law demands.

    Lukashenka signs edicts aimed at establishing «constructive and comprehensive dialogue» with EU

    From: Naveny
    Alyaksandr Lukashenka on November 20 signed two presidential edicts aimed at establishing a “constructive and comprehensive dialogue” with the European Union, said the Belarusian leader’s press office, ??laPAN said.

    One the edicts, Edict No. 633, provides for signing a framework agreement between the government of Belarus and the European Commission, which would specify the status and implementation conditions of technical assistance in the framework of the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), the press office said.

    Cooperation between Belarus and the EU would thereby be put on a “systemic basis,” which would make it possible to efficiently carry out joint projects of mutual interest, the press office said, pointing to energy, transportation, the improvement of Belarus’ customs infrastructure, the prevention of illegal migration and trans-border crime, and environmental protection as priority cooperation areas.

    According to the press office, the other edict, No. 634, is aimed at adapting national regulations to the principles specified in an agreement on the establishment of the European Commission’s delegation in Minsk, which was signed on March 7, 2008 but has not yet come into force.

    The edict “creates favorable conditions for the activities of this delegation on the territory of Belarus and will help more efficiently maintain a dialogue on a broad range of issues concerning Belarus’ relations with the EU,” the press office said.

  • From the Opposition...

    Lawyer not allowed to meet with defendant Barazenka

    From: Viasna
    Barazenka's lawyer was not allowed to visit the political prisoner, kept in a detention facility in Valadarski Street.

    A visit was scheduled for Tuesday, November 18, but the lawyer was denied access to his client. A formal ground was absence of permission which must have been given by judge Yesman.

    Lawyer of the political prisoner Pavel Sapelka refused to comment on the situation and gave an advice “to search for answer in newspapers”. It should be reminded that judge Yesman and two other judges of the Centralny district of Minsk Tatsyana Paulyuchuk and Alena Illyina were accused of corruption by Aliaksandar Lukashenka, but still remain at their positions.

    Aliaksandar Barazenka’s relatives and human rights activists worry about his destiny. Little information is known about the activist. His mail seems to be “filtered” thoroughly by the prison administration. Barazenka wrote in a letter of November 10 that he went on a hunger strike. Nothing is known about his health since that time.

    Aliaksandar Barazenka was arrested on October 27 in a building of the Investigative Committee of Preliminary Investigation of the city militia department of the Minsk city executive committee, where he had been called in for questioning. The oppositionist is one of the figures of the Process of 14, a criminal case, instigated on article 342 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus against participants of a peaceful rally of entrepreneurs, held in Minsk on January 10, 2008.

    10 opposition activists, namely Alyaksei Bondar, Artsyom Dubski, Mikhail Kryvau, Mikhail Pashkevich, Aliaksandar Straltsou, Aliaksandar Charnyshou, Tatsyana Tishkevich, Mikhail Subach and Paval Vinahradau were sentenced to 2 years of restraint of liberty without sending them to penal facilities for participating in protest actions of entrepreneurs. Minor Maksim Dashuk got 1.5 year of restraint of liberty.

    Aliaksandar Barazenka was in Poland during the investigation. He is a student of Wroclaw University. After first year student Aliaksandar had been expelled from Belarusian State University for a protest action against cancelling of social benefits, he applied for education Kastus Kalinouski Program.

    It is remarkable that the youth activist was arrested after the EU had suspended sanctions on high ranking Belarusian officials.

    Vilnius conference on situation in Belarus after “parliamentary elections”

    From: Charter '97
    The Council of Europe, uniting 47 countries, organises a conference in Vilnius on the situation in Belarus after the “parliamentary elections”.

    Belarus had a special guest status in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) till the middle 1990s. But it was deprived of this status after the Assembly recognised undemocratic referendum of 1996 and dismissal of the Supreme Council. The Belarusian authorities have made several unsuccessful attempts to return t Strasbourg.

    In September, the “parliamentary elections” were held in Belarus. According to OSCE observers, they fell short of international standards.

    As RIA Novosti learnt from an officer of the Council of Europe, participants of the conference are to discuss “measures against rigging of elections results, support of civil society, and steps to expand freedom of media.”

  • Around the region...

    Gazprom not to supply gas to Ukraine without contracts

    From: Itar Tass
    Gazprom will not supply gas to Ukraine without contacts and hopes the debt problem will be settled until the New Year, the Russian company's spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said on Saturday.

    There is no progress so far, he said in a Vesti news broadcast on Russian television.

    When asked about possibility to stop the Russian gas supply on the New Year night, Kupriyanov Gazprom has done everything possible to settle the problem. "We have worked out a special scheme allowing Naftogaz of Ukraine to pay off, including advance payment for gas transit," he explained. said: " We would like to avoid it."

    There still is time to agree, he noted, warning that to supply gas without contracts was impossible.

    The world financial crisis has had no effect so far on gas consumption in Ukraine, and it has no connection with the debt settlement problem, he noted.

    Commenting on the difference in the assessment of the debt sum, Kupriyanov explained that the Ukrainian side spoke only about September and October, while Gazprom took into account this November's supplies. Besides, there are fines for nonpayment.

    As soon as the debt is paid off, Gazprom is ready to conclude direct contracts, the company's representative said.

    The company prepares a package of documents to switch to longer-term contract relations with Naftogaz of Ukraine.

    Payment in roubles is not discussed with Ukraine, Kupriyanov noted, adding that Gazprom negotiated with Moldova and Belarus to switch to payments in roubles for gas.

    Ukrainians mark 75th anniversary of the Holodomor

    From: In the News
    Millions of people in the Ukraine will this weekend commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor, remembered in the country as a Soviet-made famine which caused the deaths of up to six million people.

    The commemorations are generally viewed with distrust by Russia which officially denies the Holodomor as ethnic genocide, and it is likely the commemorations will do little to ease tensions between the two nations.

    Earlier this year the Russian state Duma passed a resolution on the subject of the Holodomor saying it should not be considered genocide.

    "There is no historical proof that the famine was organised along ethnic lines. Its victims were millions of citizens of the Soviet Union, representing different peoples and nationalities living largely in agricultural areas of the country," the resolution said.

    Meanwhile vice-speaker of the Duma, Lyubov Sliska, when asked in Kiev when Russia would apologise for its part in repressions and famines in Ukraine replied: "Why always insist that Russia apologise for everything? The people whose policies brought suffering not only to Ukraine, but to Russia, Belarus, peoples of the Caucasus, and Crimean Tatars, remain only in history textbooks, secret documents and minutes of meetings."

    Many Ukrainians believe Russia contests their assertions that the famine was genocide, because other ethnic groups also suffered and as the Soviet Union's legal successor, Russia is concerned about the possibility of legal action or having to pay reparations.

    The final report of the International Commission of Inquiry Into the 1932–33 Famine in Ukraine, delivered to the UN under secretary for human rights in Geneva in 1990 stated the famine in Ukraine was genocide.

    But at time the commission was unable to confirm the existence of a preconceived plan to organise a famine in the Ukraine, in order to ensure the success of Moscow policies.

    According to the Aegis Trust however, a UK-based international genocide prevention organisation, the Holodomor involved Soviet confiscation of grain and other foodstuffs from most of rural Ukraine, combined with border closures which prevented the starving from fleeing to find food and stopped international aid from reaching them.

    In 1933, the lawyer Raphael Lemkin urged the League of Nations to recognise such mass atrocities against a particular group as an international crime.

    He was ignored until a few years later when the Nazi regime murdered six million Jews, including Lemkin's own family.

    In 1943, Lemkin created the new word genocide in order to describe such mass killing. He also proposed the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, approved in 1948.

    The first draft of the Convention included political groups as well as those defined by nationality, ethnicity, race or religion, but following objections from the Soviet Union and several other countries, political groups were left out.

    Some like the Aegis Trust argue the motivation for Soviet policy to bring about mass starvation in the Ukraine was the destruction of Ukrainian nationalism.

    Lemkin himself described the Holodomor as "perhaps the classic example of Soviet genocide, its longest and broadest experiment in Russification - the destruction of the Ukrainian nation."

    Regrettably, the debate over whether or not the Holodomor constitutes genocide often becomes overlaid with political considerations and continues to distract governments and policy makers around the world from simply honouring the memory of its victims - and from reflecting on the lessons it holds for a world in which genocide continues.

    On October 23rd, 2008, the European Parliament passed its own resolution which called the Holodomor "an appalling crime against the Ukrainian people, and against humanity" that was "cynically and cruelly planned by Stalin's regime in order to force through the Soviet Union's policy of collectivization of agriculture".

    But the resolution stopped short of calling the famine an act of genocide.

    Meanwhile two years ago the Ukrainian parliament passed a bill, describing the Soviet-era forced famine as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.

    And in 2007 president Viktor Yushchenko proposed a law criminalising the denial of the Holodomor. That law has still not been voted on by the country's parliament.

    US wary on chances of normal NATO-Russia ties

    From: Daily Times
    The United States on Friday raised doubts about the prospect of a fast return to normal ties between NATO and Russia after the Georgian war, despite a European Union (EU) move to restart partnership talks with Moscow.

    “We understand there is a lot of interest in NATO in resuming dialogue and contacts with Russia and that is important and we support that,” US Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried told a briefing in Brussels.

    Back to business: “It is difficult for us to go back to business as usual since the Russian military did actually attack another country,” he said. “It’s hard when you also have Russian troops in another country against its will.”

    The 26-nation military alliance scaled back its co-operation with Russia after the August conflict over Georgia’s rebel South Ossetia, declaring that ‘business as usual’ was impossible after a Russian incursion condemned by the West as disproportionate.

    Despite differences on the extent to which Russia has complied with a ceasefire accord in Georgia, European nations have agreed to re-launch talks on an EU-Russia political and economic pact on December 2.

    Fried acknowledged ‘modest progress’ at talks between Russian and Georgian officials in Geneva this week, but said Moscow had not fully complied with the ceasefire.

    The assistant secretary said that he hoped the EU would raise issues on Russia’s energy policy and concerns over democracy in its talks. “We hope that the EU effectively addresses some of our larger concerns about Russia, about its use of energy to push around some of its neighbours,” he said.

    US NATO Ambassador Kurt Volker, an architect of the NRC, was wary on prospects of re-launching the forum. “The NATO-Russia Council was based on the idea that we had shared principles and values ... So that’s why we don’t want to just go back to where we were,” he told the briefing.

    Both Fried and Volker stressed that the US did not rule out all contacts with Russia, which NATO officials say have been taking place at the low level since the Georgia war. NATO foreign ministers meet in Brussels in two weeks to review the decision to suspend high-level meetings of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), the main forum for their ties. However, neither Fried nor Volker would forecast the outcome of the talks.

    Arms pact: An official statement said that the US and Russia ended talks on Friday on the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) without making a decision on extending the landmark pact, which expires in a year.

    Officials from the former Soviet republics of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, where Soviet nuclear weapons were withdrawn under the treaty, also took part in the weeklong discussions among technical experts in Geneva.

    “The parties desire to point out that there was no treaty requirement to make a decision to extend the treaty at this meeting,” said the US statement issued after the session.

    Officials from all five countries involved would “continue to consider the issue and note that a decision on this issue can be made up until the date of expiration of the treaty on December 5, 2009,” it said.

    Washington sent Moscow a proposal last month for a follow-on to the Cold War-era pact. Moscow has indicated it would be willing to consider the US proposals for a new version of the pact, whose implementation is overseen by a joint commission. But with President George W Bush leaving office in two months, real decisions are likely to be left to his successor, arms control analysts said. The Geneva talks should help the outgoing administration to hand over a detailed state of play to the incoming team of President-elect Barack Obama, they said.

    “It would help everybody understand what they need to be telling the transition team about the process, what they need to say to the Obama team to get them ready to take over this dossier,” said a disarmament expert.

    The United States and Russia said in 2001 that they had met requirements under the pact to deploy a maximum of 6,000 nuclear warheads each. reuters

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Lepper denies Rydzyk tip off

    From: Polskie Radio
    Former deputy PM and agriculture minister, Andrzej Lepper, has denied that he was tipped off about a Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) sting operation against him by controversial priest, Father Tadeusz Rydzyk.

    Lepper’s remarks were made at a parliamentary investigative committee which is trying to establish whether a former government influenced investigations by the secret services in Poland in 2007 when he was the minister of agriculture. It is alleged that Lepper was tipped off by founder of Radio Maryja, Father Rydzyk, about an investigation by the CBA into a land deal involving the Agriculture Ministry.

    “I was not warned by Father Tadeusz Rydzyk nor by Archbishop Slawoj Glodz,” said Lepper.

    Relations between Lepper, a former deputy PM in the Law and Justice led coalition government, deposed in elections last year, and Father Rydzyk, aroused the interest of the head of the parliamentary commission, Andrzej Czuma of Civic Platform. Several witnesses have testified before the commission that the two priests could be involved in Lepper’s case.

    The leader of the Self-defence party told the commission, Thursday, that he only met with Father Rydzyk after he found out about a planned sting operation against him, not before hand, as has been alleged. He said he did not recall meting with Archbishop Slawoj Glodz at all.

    The parliamentary committee is trying to establish whether former state authorities put pressure on Poland’s secret services and used them for political purposes, as had been alleged by the current government. One of the threads of the investigation is connected with a corruption scandal in the former Ministry of Agriculture which led to the collapse of coalition of Law and Justice, Self-defence and the League of the Polish Families.

    The Central Anti-Corruption Bureau agents attempted sting operation against the head of the Ministry Lepper failed after somebody tipped the politician off.

    Polish internal security agency authorises the scanning of address data on letters

    From: Heise
    In a pilot project at the Posnan postal sorting office, Poland's largest internal security agency ABW has collected the sender and recipient information on letters as well as the relevant graphological details. Founded in 2002, the government agency for internal security deals with Poland's anti-terror policies, counterintelligence, prosecution of industrial and organised crime and anti-corruption measures.

    As reported by the Dziennik daily newspaper – Google translation here, a modern scanner system is used for collecting the data and graphological details of senders and recipients in the city of Posnan, for forwarding to the ABW. The security agency intends to use this information for establishing a database that will allow the surveillance of all letter correspondence. The ABW plans to introduce the scanners nationwide at all postal sorting offices in Poland, which would cost around 250 million zloty (about ?65M).

    The project was not only criticised for spying on Polish citizens but also for the way the ABW is said to have influenced the public tendering procedure for the scanners. The Polish postal service reportedly received an offer that was 30 per cent better by Japanese vendor Mitsui. However, the ABW preferred the Siemens machines because they are the only ones that can also provide a graphological analysis, and is said to have put pressure on the Polish postal service accordingly. "In a state of emergency there is a global threat. In such events there is a necessity for the censoring of letters. And the postal service needs to be prepared for such an event". Reportedly this is the explanation given by the agency for internal security in response to the allegations that the agency exerted pressure on the Polish postal service.

    Critics say that spying on the letters of all Polish citizens is illegal and against the constitution. The Polish Commissioner for Civil Rights, Janusz Kochanowski, and the Polish Data Protection Agency have announced they will investigate the surveillance measure. The Polish Supreme Chamber of Control also plans to scrutinise the ABW's planned collection of information and its role in the postal service's public tendering procedure.

    Polish opposition leader calls for resignation of Internal Security Agency head

    From: Axis Globe
    Poland’s opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski stated that Krzysztof Bondaryk should resign as head of the Internal Security Agency (ABW), The Warsaw Voice reports.

    The paper refers to daily Gazeta Wyborcza report that the head of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) Mariusz Kaminski wrote a memo to Prime Minister Donald Tusk in which he stated that “Bondaryk receives from the company Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa [the Era mobile network] compensation which greatly exceeds his monthly remuneration from the ABW.”

    According to media reports, the CBA has accused Bondaryk of concealing the size of his severance package when he left his management post at Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa.

    This sum is reportedly PLN 1.5 mln. Bondaryk says he never concealed any income and filed an asset statement truthfully before taking the position as head of the ABW.

    Prime Minister Tusk came to Bondaryk’s defense, saying that he very accurately listed his assets and income (as required by law) before his appointment as head of the ABW in January.

    Meanwhile, Wladyslaw Stasiak, the head of the National Security Bureau (BBN), says that former agents of Poland’s hated communist secret services, the SB, are returning to work at the ABW. He added that this is not a staffing issue, per se, but rather the fact that people tied to the communist secret services are gaining increasing influence on the country’s most important agency. According to Stasiak, this stems from a lack of trust in the newer agents. Stasiak says that his comments are “moment of reflection about the country” and not an accusation related to recent reports about the ABW. The Warsaw Voice marks that Stasiak served as Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration between August-November 2007 under then-Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. In November 2007, he became head of the BBN.

  • Sport...

    "Керамин" сохраняет шансы на выход в суперфинал Континентального кубка

    Завершился второй игровой день третьего раунда Континентального кубка, который проходит в латвийском городе Лиепая, сообщает корреспондент БЕЛТА.

    В вечернем поединке лиепайский "Металургс" взял верх над киевским "Соколом" - 3:1 и, набрав 6 очков, возглавил турнирную таблицу перед заключительным днем соревнований.

    Впрочем, хоккеистам минского "Керамина", которые начали турнир с поражения от "Сокола" (2:4) и продолжили победой над казахстанским "Горняком" (4:0), такой расклад даже на руку. Ведь сегодняшняя победа "Сокола" над "Металургсом" досрочно гарантировала бы украинцам первое место в группе, а с ним и путевку в суперфинал Континентального кубка, который состоится 16-18 января 2009 года во французском Руане.

    Теперь интрига сохранится до окончания заключительного игрового дня - 23 ноября. Его откроет встреча "Сокола" и "Горняка", а завершит поединок "Металургса" и "Керамина".

    Единоличным лидером таблицы с 6 очками является "Металургс" (разница заброшенных и пропущенных шайб 8-3). У "Сокола" 3 балла (разница шайб 5-5). Также 3 очка у "Керамина" (6-4), а у "Горняка" зачетных баллов нет (2-9).

    Не исключен вариант, когда сразу три команды ("Металургс", "Сокол" и "Керамин") наберут одинаковое количество очков - по 6. Для этого "Соколу" необходимо брать верх над "Горняком", а "Керамину" - побеждать хозяев. Тогда придется вести подсчет показателей в очных встречах между тремя лидерами. В таком случае гарантией первого места для минчан станет победа над лиепайской дружиной с разницей либо в три шайбы, либо в две, но при этом надо забрасывать не менее 4 раз (4:2, 5:3, 6:4 и так далее).

    К сожалению, в решающем матче с "Металургсом" под вопросом участие самых опытных игроков "Керамина" Игоря Андрющенко и Тойво Суурсоо, которые получили травмы.

    Аналогичный лиепайскому турнир проходит в итальянском Больцано, где второй пропуск в суперфинал оспорят местный "Больцано", британский "Ковентри", словенский "Марибор" и венгерский "Дунауйварош".

    Имена еще двух суперфиналистов Континентального кубка уже известны - это французский "Руан", получивший путевку на правах хозяина, а также словацкий "Мартин", квалифицированный без отбора благодаря высокому рейтингу Словакии.

  • Cultural scene...

    «Jazz way» с премьерой «Джерри Маллиган блюз»

    27 ноября 19.00
    В клубе им. Дзержинского
    лучший певец литовского джаза Стэпонас Янушка и группа « Jazz way»
    с премьерой «Джерри Маллиган блюз».

    Это концерт из плеяды тех джазовых событий, которые просто нельзя пропустить.27 ноября поклонники изысканного самобытного балтийского джаза получат приятный сюрприз. Впервые в Минске выступит знаменитый певец литовского джаза Стэпонас Януска и группа «Jazzway».

    Это джазмены мирового класса . Их резиденция –легендарный Клайпедский «Kerpe-Jazz-Club». Вместе с «Jazzway», которой руководит самый элегантный литовский саксофонист Альгис Киллис, маэстро Януска выступил на многочисленных джазовых фестивалях Балтии, Скандинавии и Европы, записал сольные альбомы, соединяя джазовые стандарты и старинный литовский фольклор.

    Сейчас 50-летний певец находится в лучшей джазовой форме. В его жилах течет кровь польских магнатов и литовских князей. За плечами маэстро выступления с такими гигантами, как Сидни Кроуфорд, трио Джо Сэмпла, « Tower of power», « The Eath Wind Fire». Талантливый шоумен, Стэпонас Януска обладает уникальными вокальными данными, а его серьезная академическая школа помогает наибольшему выражению всей палитры джазовой страсти. Его джаз – сочетание виртуозного свинга и джаз-рока. Среди кумиров певца Элл Джарро и Тони Беннет, Бобби МакФеррин и Диззи Гиллеспи.

    Свою программу Стэпонас Януска всегда строит на контрастах . Мастерски сочетая проникновенность блюза и зажигательный колорит джаз-самбы, поэтичность и лиризм баллады с умопомрачительной виртуозностью быстрых обрядовых хороводных песен старинного литовского фольклора, певец мгновенно заводит публику, заставляя ее переживать всю полноту джазового драйва. Его коронный номер - импровизации скэтом в пулеметных темпах би-бопа всегда производит эффект разорвавшейся бомбы. Вообще, в мире немного мужчин -джазовых певцов. За 80 лет джазовой эволюции от Луиса Армстронга до Бобби МакФеррина их наберется не более двух – трех десятков.

    Стэпонас Януска из этой плеяды: настоящий джазовый певец- импровизатор. Отдельного внимания заслуживает саксофонист Альгис Киллис. Последователь традиций Джэрри Маллигана и Стэна Гетца, он с первых звуков доставляет публике удовольствие. Изящный «субтон», прирожденное чувство свинга, безупречная стилистика и изобретательные импровизации всегда вызывают чувство джазового наслаждения. В составе группы «Jazzway» выступают яркие солисты-импровизаторы. Все имеют консерваторское образование. Теперь это для джаза стало нормой. Среди них пианист Арнольдас Янкунас, басист Николас Фива и барабанщик Паулюс Стомкус.

    Безусловно, минская публика с удовольствием откроет для себя не только яркий, самобытный вокальный джаз Стэпонаса Януска и насладится саксофонным обаянием литовского Маллигана -Алгиса Киллиса, но и оценит уникальный драйв группы «Jazzway», в составе которой музыканты, прославившие литовский джаз на мировой сцене.

    27 ноября, 22:00
    И в тот же день во Дворце Республики, в помещении клуба “Варьете” эксклюзивный концерт мастеров Литовского Джаза: Стэпонас Янушка и группа « Jazz way» с премьерой «Джерри Маллиган блюз».

    Заказ билетов:
    616-30-60 Velcom
    755-10-50 MTS
    (017) 293-79-77

  • Endnote...

    SHUGHART: Russia's bare-knuckle policy on oil

    From: Washington Times
    Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov (center) between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) and Gen. Nikolai Makarov
    If President-elect Barack Obama and his top advisers learn nothing else from Russia's invasion and occupation of South Ossetia this summer it should be that Moscow aspires to be an energy superpower.

    Russia already is the world's second-largest producer of oil, pumping nearly 10 million barrels a day, and is the largest supplier of natural gas. Like all energy-exporting countries, Russia benefited enormously from the run-up in prices over the last decade. Every $1 increase in the price of a barrel of oil transferred about $1 billion into Russia's state budget. As a result, Russian foreign exchange reserves grew from $12 billion in 1999 to $470 billion at the end of last year, a balance equaled only by such countries as China, India and the Middle East oil producers.

    When its tanks rolled into Georgia, the Kremlin sent notice it intends to dominate the oil and natural gas resources of the former Soviet republics in the Caspian Sea basin, raising the threat of supply disruptions to Europe. That possibility could give Russia political leverage over Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine and other Central and East European countries that rely heavily on Russian fuels.

    As rising oil prices strengthened the Kremlin's hand, Mr. Putin clamped down on Russian businessmen, most notably by prosecuting and imprisoning Yukos Oil Co. Chief Executive Officer Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

    The company's assets were later sold at bargain-basement prices to state-owned enterprises, one of which - Gazprom - was headed by Dmitry Medvedev, Mr. Putin's handpicked successor as president.

    Despite existing contracts with Western oil companies, the Kremlin voided exploration licenses held by ExxonMobil and Chevron, then forced Royal Dutch Shell to sell some of its holdings to Gazprom. Increasing the pressure, Russia then raised previously subsidized natural gas prices to Ukraine and Belarus, two important conduits for gas exports to the West.

    The new Obama administration needs to realize Russia has a potential stranglehold on America's European allies and will play its energy card when it wants to: to block the further expansion of NATO, for example, or the EU.

    Russia's next likely move, which could be delayed until the global economy starts picking up again, will be an attempt to orchestrate a global natural gas cartel patterned on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. About 15 gas-producing countries, led by Russia and Iran, met in 2004 and agreed to establish an "executive bureau" to coordinate "interests" in the global gas market.

    As world demand for natural gas begins to outpace supply, incentives for collectively reducing production and increasing prices will strengthen.

    For the United States, a combination of conservation, increased energy production and improvements in energy efficiency is the best defense against volatile oil and gas prices and Russian blackmail.

    But congressional gridlock over energy policy - and lack of leadership from the White House - has blocked longer-term solutions.

    While increasing domestic energy supplies by tapping proven oil and gas deposits in the Outer Continental Shelf, the mountain West and Alaska will help, the most important step the United States can take on the energy front is to use more coal and nuclear power.

    America has a 250-year supply of coal, more plentiful on an energy-equivalent basis than the oil reserves of either Saudi Arabia or Russia.

    The president-elect should re-examine his position on coal in particular. "Clean coal" is not an oxymoron. Building more coal-fired power plants that use new technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions deep underground and converting coal into liquefied fuel for transportation are sensible policies.

    Increasing our reliance on coal and nuclear power would free up natural gas for household and industrial uses and go a long way toward immunizing the United States from both OPEC and Russian blackmail.