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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, November 30, 2008

Foreign economic threats minimal, Radiation security, German consulate opens, Illegal immigrants, Russia, Chagall, Polish scandal, Sport and Culture

  • From the Top...
  • #364

    Foreign economic threats will be minimal for Belarus, Andrei Kobyakov says

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    The Prsident meeting with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian of Armenia
    The foreign economic threats related to the global financial crisis will be minimal for Belarus, Vice-Premier of Belarus Andrei Kobyakov said when speaking in the House of Representatives of the National Assembly on November 28.

    He noted that Belarus “has not burdened itself with a heavy foreign debt.” The country has been enjoying quite a stable high economic growth. At the same time Belarus will not be able to totally avoid the influence of the global financial crisis,” Andrei Kobyakov said.

    “We are all concerned over the global financial crisis, how bad it can affect our economy, how reliable and liquid are assets and reserves are,” the Vice-Premier said.

    The foreign threats for Belarus can be connected with external economic trends. However, Belarus has not allowed speculative capital in its economy. Nor has it violated the criteria of economic security. These factors will help the country minimize the influence of the crisis, the Vice-Premier believes.

    He also informed that additional legal support could be provided in order to continue implementing the programme for the development of small towns.

    In January-September 2008, direct foreign investments in Belarus amounted to $1.9 billion, or 35.8% of the total nine-month foreign investments ($5.2 billion).

    According to him, by the end of the year Belarus will preserve high investment activity: capital investments will increase by no less than 20% (the projections stood at 115-117%).

    He reminded that Belarus has recently held the Investment Forum in London. “We got an opportunity to present Belarus’ economy, socio-economic policy and new investment possibilities for potential investors. Considering the response of the western businesses showed that we have made a serious step forward on the way of increasing the investment attractiveness of the country and that we will have an additional inflow of foreign investments in the near future,” Andrei Kobyakov noted.

    The government of Belarus has tightened the requirements with regard to meeting the target on increasing the export of services, Vice-Premier of Belarus Andrei Kobyakov said.

    “We pin special hopes on the transit potential of the country and its efficient utilization,” Andrei Kobyakov said. Special programmes have been developed for this purpose. They stipulate the construction of 53 logistics centres.

    In general, the foreign trade has been growing but there is some slowdown in respect to some indices. In January-September 2008, the export of goods and services was up by 53.9%, import by 54%. The deficit reached $2544 million, up $888 million from January -September 2007.

    “The final balance of foreign trade is a many-component parameter which is influenced by the global trends, innovation potential of the economy, competitiveness of products and institutional environment. Foreign trade is the area most sensitive to the threats of the global financial crisis,” Andrei Kobyakov said. He also explained that the higher the economic growth is, the more feed stock, energy, equipment is needed to be imported.

    “The prices for the Belarusian goods have already plummeted, especially for the products of chemical, petrochemical and machinery construction industries. The turnover of assts in foreign trade operations has slowed down which has increased the demand for loans,” he said. The ministries and concerns of Belarus have been taking necessary measures to minimize the influence of the global financial crisis.

    “We do not rule out that the rate of growth of exports will slow down by the end of the year. Thus the government is taking the measures to avoid the deficit in the foreign trade by means of optimizing imports,” Andrei Kobyakov said.

    Belarus President urges resolution of banking system liberalisation, de-bureaucratisation issues

    In a related story, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has demanded that issues concerning the liberalisation and de-bureaucratisation of the banking system should be immediately addressed. On November 27 the head of state heard out a report from Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich, the press service of the President of Belarus told BelTA. The President was informed about the national banking industry operation in January-October and the tasks it will have to accomplish by the end of the year.

    Alexander Lukashenko was told that the National Bank closely monitors all tendencies on global financial markets and takes the necessary measures in order to prevent their impact on the domestic market and secure all goals outlined by the 2008 Major Monetary Management Guidelines.

    Piotr Prokopovich informed the President, in January-October all forecast goals were reached. “We have a stable exchange rate of the national currency. We have repeatedly stated that in 2008 the Belarusian ruble exchange rate will stay within the range we outlined. For the US dollar it varies between Br2,100 to Br2,200 for $1,” he said. In January-July when the Belarusian ruble grew weaker against other currencies, it grew stronger against the US dollar. When the US dollar started getting stronger, the National Bank started gradual devaluation of the national currency.

    “In the future the exchange rate will be stronger or weaker depending on the external market situation but we will not leave the outlined corridor,” said the NBRB head.

    In January-October 2008 Belarusian banks did a lot financing the real sector. As of November 1, 2008 credit indebtedness was 60% higher than that registered on November 1, 2007. Piotr Prokopovich assured the President that the banking system will continue supporting the real economy in the future.

    As far as the interest rate policy is concerned, in early December the NBRB will think about changing the refinancing rate. The refinancing rate will be either increased or decreased slightly: 0.25 percentage points at most.

    In view of the situation on external markets the state puts a lot of efforts into reinforcing the banking system. Piotr Prokopovich said, a decision had been made to increase the legal capital of state-run banks by around $1.5 billion using the state budget in December.

    A lot has been done to attract foreign investors into the banking system. In January-October 2008 over $400 million in foreign resources was added to the legal capital of Belarusian banks. The increase is unprecedented. It is very important that the process continues. Apart from that, new banks with a share of foreign capital are being opened. It means that foreign investors place huge trust in the Belarusian banking system. “They are not afraid of investing in our development as they see that our banking system is stable and works effectively. There are no perils for investors here,” said the NBRB head.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    EU eager to cooperate with Belarus for radiation security of common border

    From: BelTA
    The European Union is interested in cooperation with Belarus in ensuring nuclear and radiation security of the common border. The statement was released by the press centre of the State Border Committee of Belarus after a working meeting of representatives of the State Border Committee and the European Commission. The meeting was dedicated to the fight against illegal transit of nuclear and radioactive materials.

    Experts of the assessment mission of the Joint Research Centre appreciated efforts exercised by the Belarusian border guard to counteract illegal turnover of nuclear and radioactive materials at the Belarus-EU border and expressed interest in working out a joint project for building up the system used to ensure the nuclear and radioactive security of the common border.

    In 2009-2011 the European Commission intends to finance a project for fighting illegal transit of nuclear and radioactive materials. The project budget for Belarus will make around Euro 1.5 million, including Euro 1 million to be allocated for buying the equipment.

    OSCE Minsk office mandate to be extended

    The mandate of the OSCE office in Minsk will be extended till December 31, 2009. This decision was taken at the session of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, BelTA learnt from Maria Vanshina, Deputy Head of the Information Department of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

    The Belarusian side has confirmed its position regarding the OSCE mission and has promptly given its permission to extend the mandate based on the constructive and mutually beneficial cooperation between the Republic of Belarus and the OSCE through its office. The Belarusian side hopes for the further pragmatic cooperation with this organization, Maria Vanshina said.

    She underlined that the prompt extension of the mandate of the OSCE office in Minsk should be viewed as part of Belarus’ efforts to build up open and friendly relations with the OSCE and the European Union.

    Belarus’ first honourable consulate opens in Germany

    From: BelTA
    The opening of the first honourable consulate of the Republic of Belarus in Germany will be an additional impetus to the development of the Belarusian-German relations in all areas. It will also contribute to the establishment of new contacts and give the German citizens an opportunity to learn more about Belarus, said Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Germany Vladimir Skvortsov at the solemn opening ceremony of the consulate with Brandenburg and Saxony defined as the consular district on November 26, BelTA has learnt.

    Germany citizen Frank Kossik has been appointed Belarus’ Honorary Consul in Germany. “The man is very well familiar with our country, knows the history and culture of the Belarusian nation well. For the last few years Frank Kossik has been working a lot promoting the development of Belarusian-German relations,” stressed Vladimir Skvortsov.

    Brandenburg and Saxony were chosen to host the consulate thanks to their active and effective cooperation in various areas of the Belarusian-German bilateral relations. Both the regions are interesting to Belarus partially because they are some of the most dynamically developing federal lands with a high scientific and innovative basis, said Vladimir Skvortsov.

    The Ambassador explained, the honourable consulate is supposed to promote bilateral relations, first of all, trade and economic ones, establishment of contacts in science, culture, sport and other areas of mutual interest. Participation of the institution in organising bilateral exchanges of business circles, seminars, forums and exhibitions looks very promising.

    It is essential that the work of the hounorable consulate is aimed at shaping and maintaining a positive image of Belarus in Germany, the Ambassador added.

    If necessary, the consulate is supposed to provide assistance to Belarusian citizens and legal bodies within the scope of its authority. This assistance includes information on the protection of rights and interests of the Belarusians and advice to those who apply to the German local authorities.

    Valery Voronetsky: interest of German business in Belarus remains stable

    The interest of the German business in Belarus is not falling in spite of the global financial crisis, BelTA learnt from Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Valery Voronetsky.

    “The interest in Belarus is not falling. Quite the opposite, the German business is showing a great interest in our country. Our cooperation potential is so huge that it has not been employed to the full extent. We are expecting an increase in the interest of the German business circles in Belarus. Our country offers new opportunities for German businessmen, especially in view of the liberalization of the economy and privatization”, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus underlined.

    He added that a substantial delegation of the German business circles is expected to arrive in Belarus in 2009. “We are hoping to step up the credit and investment cooperation,” he added.

    “In the Chinese language the word ‘crisis’ is written in two hieroglyphs which can be translated as ‘a big threat’ and ‘a big opportunity’. I am sure Belarus and Germany will be able to focus on great opportunities,” Valery Voronetsky said.

    “I hope that we open a new page in our relations,” Valery Voronetsky added.

    The FRG is one of Belarus’ major non-CIS trading partners. In January-September 2008, the Belarusian-German trade was up by 30.1% from the same period last year to $2,657 billion. Exports increased by 35% ($636.5 million), imports by 28.7% ($2,021 billion).

    Since 1992 Belarusian companies have raised the loans to the tune of EUR 550 million under the German credit facilities.

    In January-September 2008, the German investments in Belarus amounted to $73.3 million, including $58.3 million of direct investment.

    There are 338 companies in Belarus involving German capital and 76 offices of German firms. Six offices of Belarusian companies operate in Germany.

    Belarus’ Interior Ministry prepared for possible influx of illegal immigrants

    From: BelTA
    The Interior Ministry of Belarus is prepared for the possible influx of illegal immigrants in the country, Belarusian Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov told reporters on November 28.

    According to him, job cuts in the neighbouring countries prompted legal and illegal labour migrants that came to those countries to try to enter Belarus by any means. “Of course, they will not come back as there are no and will not be jobs there. This is why they are likely to try to get on the territory of Belarus,” the Minister said.

    Vladimir Naumov underlined that the Interior Ministry is undertaking the adequate measures.

    International pilot project “Green Border” finishes in Ozerny Krai Euroregion

    In a related story, International pilot ecological project “Green Border” is finishing in the Ozerny Krai Euroregion, Mikhail Orekhov, the head of the physical culture, sport and tourism department of the Glubokoe Regional Executive Committee, told BelTA.

    The ecological project, initiated by the Latvian side, will be summed up at a joint Belarusian-Latvian-Lithuanian session in the Verkhnedvinsk region in December. The Latvian side invested EUR10.000 in the project.

    According to Mikhail Orekhov, the project included working sessions and conferences with the participation of experts in environment protection from Belarus, Latvia and Lithuania, their visits to various ecological facilities. Participants of the project got familiar with the natural resources and ecological problems of the regions of the Ozerny Krai Euroregion.

    During the final session, the experts will develop an ecological project on environmental assets preserving. For instance, the Glubokoe region has proposed a project on lakes and springs preserving, Mikhail Orekhov noted.

    The Euroregion was founded due to transformation of the Council for Trans-Border Cooperation of Border Regions on January 29, 1999. The Ozerny Krai Euroregion includes the Braslav, Miory, Verkhnedvinsk, Glubokoe and Postavy regions of Belarus, the Latvian towns of Daugavpils and Rezekne, the Ignalina, Visaginas and Zarasai regions of Lithuania. There are three euroregions more in Belarus: Bug, Neman and Belovezhskaya Puscha.

  • Economics...

    Russian Union of Manufacturers and Entrepreneurs to visit Belarus December 1

    From: BelTA
    Alexander Murychev, first executive vice president at Russia's Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs
    A delegation of the Russian Union of Manufacturers and Entrepreneurs will be in Belarus on a visit on December 1-2, BelTA learnt from the Belarusian Scientific and Industrial Association (BSIA).

    The Russian delegation is led by First Executive Vice-President, Chairman of the Council of the Association of Regional Banks of Russia Alexander Murychev. The delegation comprises the head of one of regional offices of the Russian Union of Manufacturers and Entrepreneurs and Russian companies.

    The representatives of the Russian business circles would like to meet with the top executives of the National Bank of Belarus and hold negotiations with the BSIA heads, representatives of the Association of Belarusian Banks and other organizations interested in the development of the mutually beneficial trade, economic and investment cooperation.

    Apart from that, the Russian manufacturers will take part in the session of the BSIA National Board of Directors. The session will feature the ways to raise the competitiveness of the Belarusian companies and enterprises through their reincorporation into joint stock companies and privatization.

    Regulatory capital of Belarusian banks 22.7% up in January-October

    As of November 1, 2008 the total regulatory capital of Belarusian banks amounted to Br8,010.6 billion, or an equivalent of around ?2.9 billion. In January-October 2008 the total regulatory capital gained Br1,483.8 billion (a 22.7% increase), BelTA learnt from the Central Banking Supervision Department of the National Bank.

    Four state-run banks account for over 68.9% of the banking system capital. In January-October the regulatory capital grew mainly thanks to the increasing legal capital of banks and rising profits and assets formed at the expense of bank profits.

    As of November 1, 2008 the regulatory capital adequacy stood at 16.3%.

    In January-October the total registered legal capital of Belarusian banks gained Br902 billion to reach Br5,423.5 billion as of November 1, 2008, or an equivalent of around ?1.9 billion.

    As of November 1 foreign capital was present in the legal capital of 24 out of 30 existing Belarusian banks. As of November 1 the foreign investments share in the total legal capital of Belarusian banks amounted to 22.5% (9.84% as of January 1, 2008), with Russian capital accounting for 11.9% of the legal capital of banks. Capital of Austria, Cyprus, the UK, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, Iran, Latvia, the USA and other countries is also present in the legal capital of Belarusian banks.

    Polymir, Naftan merger adds Br150 bln to Naftan authorized fund

    The merger of the Naftan and Polymir companies has been successful, BelTA learnt from Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Naftan company Viktor Menshov.

    A joint general meeting of shareholders of the Naftan and Polymir companies that took place in Novopolotsk on November 28 decided to increase the Naftan authorized fund by more than Br150 billion in connection with the merger with the Polymir company. About 46 million shares will be additionally issued to be further distributed among the former Polymir shareholders.

    The shareholders affirmed the amendments to the charter of the Naftan company.

    According to Viktor Menshov, the merger of Polymir and Naftan and the establishment of the petrochemical complex will help implement major projects to modernize the two enterprises and attract investors.

    According to the economy committee of the oblast executive committee, Polymir and Naftan need $1.8 billion and $600 million respectively to implement technical upgrade projects. The modernization at the Polymir company will include the reconstruction of the olefin production which will raise the ethylene output up to 120,000 tonnes, the construction of facilities to manufacture polyethylene, super slim and super strong films, insulating materials.

    A reminder, Belneftekhim is considering the selling of the shares of these companies in package and investing in the single economic entity.

  • From the International Press...

    Uzbek President Approves Economic Cooperation Agreement with Belarus

    From: Trend

    Uzbekistan, Tashkent, 28 November / corr Trend Capital T. Jukov / Uzbek President Islam Karimov approved an agreement on economic cooperation between Uzbekistan and Belarus from 2008 to 2017, Uzbek President’s press service told Trend News.

    The agreement was signed on 19 July 2008 in Minsk. Correspondingly, the Uzbek president also approved an agreement between Uzbek and Belarus governments on cooperation in the struggle against criminal activities.

    “Submit respective notifications on implementation of intergovernmental procedures, essential for attachment of indicated international agreements, to the Foreign Ministry of Uzbek Republic. Provide full control in accordance with established procedure to the Cabinet of Uzbekistan and authorities of the corresponding ministries and departments on execution of obligations of Uzbek Republic after the attachment of the international agreement,” presidential decree stated.

    Belarus' Chance to Get Imf Loan High - Deputy PM

    From: IStock
    Belarus' chance to get an International Monetary Fund (IMF) stabilization loan is high; however, Minsk "will do nothing under coercion" in this issue, Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov said.
    "I think that there is a chance that the IMF will give the loan, and it is rather high," Kobyakov told journalists in Minsk on Friday.

    There were heated debates during lengthy talks on the loan with the IMF, he said. "They managed to convince us in many respects," the deputy PM said. He also noted that a number of IMF proposals coincided with the initiatives of the Belarusian government.

    "The talks with the IMF will continue [this December], but we will do what we think our country needs. If our positions coincide, this is good. But naturally we will do nothing under coercion," Kobyakov said.

    Summit: CEI highly useful in strengthening co-op among members

    From: Xinhua
    The Central European Initiative (CEI) is seen as highly useful in strengthening cooperation among participating countries from within and outside the EU, said the final document adopted on Friday by the heads of government at the CEI Summit in Kishinev, capital of Moldova.

    The document reiterated the importance of the CEI in getting non-EU members closer to the accomplishment of their European ambitions, hailing the continuous progress made by countries in the region towards getting closer to the EU.

    CEI members also hailed the 2008-2009 Enlargement Strategy and Major Challenges, that reiterate the EU commitment towards the European perspective in the Western Balkans and affirms the continuation of the EU expansion process.

    The heads of government encouraged Western Balkan countries to consider the advance of the dialogue towards the liberalized visa regime, voicing appreciation for the progressively tighter relations between EU and Ukraine, as well as for the progress made by the Republic of Moldova in the implementation of the Plan of Action agreed upon with the EU.

    The one-day summit is considered the most important annual act of the CEI, which was established in 1989 as an intergovernmental forum for political, economic and cultural co-operation among its member states.

    The main aim of the organization is to help transition countries in Central Europe come closer to the EU.

    The CEI is composed of 18 member states: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. At present, nine countries of the organization are EU members.

  • From the Opposition...

    Lukashenka explains why EU seeks closer ties with Belarus

    From: Naveny
    Alyaksandr Lukashenka has outlined his vision of the reasons why the European Union has been seeking to forge closer ties with Belarus.

    “The European Union is concerned that we may lose independence, although I don’t know why there’s such concern,” Mr. Lukashenka said in an interview with Agence France-Presse on November 24.

    A transcript of the interview was posted on the Belarusian leader’s website on Thursday.

    The EU has realized Belarus’ role and drawn “certain conclusions,” Mr. Lukashenka said.

    “And then, probably, the most recent elections have convinced Europeans that whatever ‘dictatorship’ is here, it’s not Lukashenka who is guilty that the opposition cannot delegate its people into the government,” he stressed.

    Mr. Lukashenka claimed that all foreign observers had been allowed to monitor September’s parliamentary elections. “Even those barred from our territory also were allowed, all of them came. They saw the true state of affairs and understood that regardless of whether Lukashenka is bad or good, he was elected by the people. Whether they like it or not, the lawmakers also were elected by the people. That means that they should have a dialogue with this government,” he said.

    Mr. Lukashenka welcomed the European Union’s steps toward warmer ties with Minsk. “I would like them to be more significant, dramatic, so that this dialogue could be more intensive,” he said.

    Editors of independent newspapers: “We are being played with like puppets”

    From: Charter '97
    “Narodnaya Volya” has been returned into the state network of distribution, “Nasha Niva” weekly is to be the next. However, other independent media are still under unequal conditions with state-run mass media.

    Weekly “Svobodnye Novosti” was crossed out of the state subscription catalogue of Belposhta 6 years ago. By a miracle the newspaper managed to preserve relations with Belsayuzdruk, so the newspaper is still sold by kiosks of this state-run organisation, Radio Svaboda informs.

    However, if there were no limitations for subscription, the today’s circulation of 22,000 could be much higher, the editor-in-chief Uladzimir Zdanyuk informs. In September, he recalls, he sent a letter to Belposhta asking to return “SN” into the subscription catalogue, but he didn’t get any answer. The fact that “Narodnaya Volya” and “Nasha Niva” have been given such permission looks like a positive sign for him.

    “If the Belarusian authorities would be consistent, I hope the next step would concern other media, and they would solve their problems with distribution and printing. I hope very much that it is the first step to be followed by next steps,” Uladzimir Zdanyuk said.

    The editor-in-chief of “Svobodnye Novosti” greeted activities of the Belarusian Association of Journalists which according to him defends interests of independent media in relations wit the state.

    Regional newspapers are in especially difficult state because of absence of subscription. Weekly “Volnae Hlybokae” had a circulation of 3,500 three years ago, and now only 2,100. As said by the editor-in-chief, Uladzimir Skrabatun, it had become hard to sell “Volnae Hlybokae” which is liked in neighbouring districts. In Sharkaushchyna and Myjory districts, he says, vendors of newspapers are detained by police, though they have all necessary documents. U. Skrabatun does not believe that “liberalization” in the sphere of independent media would outstep “Narodnaya Volya” and “Nasha Niva”.

    “I was told by a man from an agency which knows everything (Do you understand what I mean? The one which has three letters in its name), that “Volnae Hlybokae” newspaper is on a special list of oppositional media, in which one gets for a long time,” U. Skrabatun said to radio Svaboda.

    As said by him, local branches of Belposhta and Belsayuzdruk are interested in their return, as it would help to reach sales targets, but it is hampeerd at the regional level.

    Baranavichy newspaper “Intex-press” ahs a circulation of more than 16,000, it is one of the most popular newspapers in the region. Its editor-in-chief Uladzimir Yanukevich believes that even permission of the regime to return the newspaper into the common network of retail and subscription won’t improve the situation with unequal conditions for state and independent media.

    “We are being played with as if we were puppets, and the problem is not resolved fundamentally. On February 8 the new law on press comes into force. It is even worse. And if some media are returned into the nationwide network, in a few months they can be easily thrown away. That is why it’s good news, but it’s not even a step, not a half, but one quarter of a step towards freedom of expression in Belarus,” Uladzimir Yanukevich believes.

  • Around the region...

    Venezuela, Russia to start naval exercises Monday

    From: AP and Moscow News
    Venezuela's state news agency says three days of joint naval exercises with Russia will kick off in Venezuelan waters on Monday.

    The state-run Bolivarian News Agency says the operation involving 11 Venezuelan and four Russian ships has been christened Venrus 2008.

    Saturday's report said exercises will include anti-aircraft defense and tactics to combat terrorism and drug trafficking. Some will involve helicopters and planes.

    The Russian squadron arrived in Venezuela on Tuesday, led by the nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great — the first deployment of its kind since the Cold War.

    It's widely seen as a demonstration of Kremlin anger over aid delivered by U.S. warships to Georgia after its fighting with Russia. Russian officials deny that.

    Not at all covert

    Twelve Venezuelan warships will take part in a joint exercise with a Russian naval group due to start on December 1, a senior Venezuelan military official said on Wednesday.

    Russian and Venezuelan warships will conduct a series of joint naval exercises in the Caribbean, involving sea rescue operations, maneuvering, and live-ammunition artillery drills.

    "Three frigates, a transport amphibious vessel, four patrol boats, and four coastal defense vessels will take part in the exercise on the Venezuelan side," Rear Adm. Salvatore Cammarata said.

    He added that a total of 700 Venezuelan servicemen would take part in the drills.

    A group of warships from Russia's Northern Fleet arrived on Tuesday at the Venezuelan port of La Guaira.

    The task force, led by the Pyotr Veliky missile cruiser, is on a planned visit that follows a two-month tour of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, which saw Russian ships visiting Libya, Turkey and France.

    The group includes the Udaloy class destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and two support vessels with a total of about 1,600 naval infantrymen on board.

    The exercises will be conducted in line with bilateral agreements and in accordance with international maritime law. They will be held in an area beyond Venezuela's territorial waters, about 150 nautical miles from the South American country's coast.

    All shipping in the area will be halted for the duration of the exercises, subject to special notice due at the end of November.

    Russia, India to hold joint naval drills in Jan. 2009

    In a related story, Russia and India will conduct joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean in January next year, a spokesman for Russia's Pacific Fleet said on Thursday.

    INDRA is a biennial Russian-Indian exercise aimed at practicing cooperative engagement to enforce maritime law and counter piracy, terrorism, and drug smuggling. It is the fourth such exercise since 2003.

    "A task force from the Pacific Fleet, led by the Varyag missile cruiser, will leave Vladivostok in December and set sail for the Indian Ocean to participate in joint drills with the Indian navy," Capt. 1st Rank Roman Martov said.

    He said that the task force will also conduct joint exercises with a task force from Russia's Northern Fleet, led by the Pyotr Veliky nuclear-powered missile cruiser, which will arrive in the Indian Ocean after joint drills with the Venezuelan Navy in late November.

    "Following the exercises, the Russian warships will pay friendly visits to several ports in India and China," the spokesman said.

    Martov also cited Vice Admiral Konstantin Sidenko, commander of the Pacific Fleet, as saying that Russian warships from the fleet will make several long-range training sorties in the South Pacific and Indian oceans in 2009, and participate in a number of exercises involving live-firing drills.

    Russia announced last year that its Navy had resumed and would build up a constant presence in different regions of the world's oceans.

    Russia Allows Ruble to Fall Once Again

    From: WSJ
    The Russian central bank allowed the ruble to weaken slightly Friday for the third time this month and raised key interest rates to combat inflation and capital flight.

    The central bank let the ruble weaken around 1% Friday, taking its loss for November to about 3%. The bank has been executing the staged moves by widening the ruble's trading band against a basket composed of 55% dollars and 45% euros by around 30 kopecks in each direction.

    The ruble was trading midday Friday at 31.21 against the basket of currencies. The central bank uses the two-currency basket to establish a value for the ruble that it deems appropriate.

    Some economists forecast the ruble's value will be halved from current exchange rates within a year, while others see only a 20% fall. The decline in the ruble's value reflects the strain on the currency from declining oil prices, which have fallen almost two-thirds since their July peak above $147 a barrel, and also $83 billion in capital outflows from the country from August to October.

    The central bank didn't comment on expanding the ruble's fluctuation band.

    But the regulator said in a statement it decided to raise its key rates by one percentage point from Monday, including the refinancing rate to 13% and the minimum one-day repo rate at auctions to 9% from 8%. The central bank previously raised rates on Nov. 11, the same day as the first ruble corridor widening, in an attempt to increase the ruble's yield and reduce selling pressure on the currency.

    The government has repeatedly ruled out a steep depreciation of the currency. But the latest moves suggest the government is gathering pace in its move toward a managed devaluation.

    Russia’s Gas Monopoly Warns Ukraine to Pay Up

    From: New york Times
    With winter approaching, Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled natural gas monopoly, and Ukraine are again locked in a dispute over the price of natural gas.

    Gazprom said Wednesday that if Ukraine did not pay a $2.4 billion debt by Jan. 1, it might more than double the price of natural gas, which would deal a blow to Ukraine’s economy.

    The company said it would try to avoid cutting off gas to Ukraine, which it did briefly in 2006, disrupting supplies in Europe.

    Ukraine now pays $179.50 for 1,000 cubic meters of gas, far below the market price of over $400, Gazprom said.

    Oleg Dubina, the chief executive of the Ukraine state energy company, said it was struggling to find the money to make payment.

    The $2.4 billion that Gazprom has demanded includes penalties for late payment.

    Claims of Secret Arms Sales Rattle Ukraine’s Leaders

    From: NYT
    With the Ukrainian government reeling from a financial crisis and internal power struggles, the country’s pro-Russian opposition has been leveling potentially damaging accusations of improper arms sales to Georgia during that country’s brief war with Russia.

    And Russia’s leaders, furious with Ukraine’s president over his pro-Western leanings and vocal support of Georgia, have personally weighed in, making accusations of their own.

    It may not matter that the opposition has provided no conclusive evidence of the claims, despite weeks of pronouncements that the evidence — once released — will be explosive. The claims alone, which have made headlines, have nonetheless helped to further undermine the government’s authority at a time of heightened political instability, while also roiling Ukraine’s already tense relationship with neighboring Russia.

    At issue are accusations that the government of President Viktor A. Yushchenko, who supported Georgia during the crisis, covertly supplied it with weapons before and soon after the fighting broke out in August, and sold tanks and an antiaircraft system to the Georgians at reduced prices.

    A parliamentary commission set up by Ukraine’s opposition parties has been investigating the claims, which also include allegations that the president decommissioned equipment sorely needed by Ukraine’s military and gave it to Georgia.

    President Yushchenko has flatly denied any wrongdoing, describing the investigation as nothing more than a political show. He has indicated that Ukraine has every right to sell weapons to any country, including Georgia, that is not under international sanctions.

    The opposition lawmakers say the point is not whether Ukraine had a right to sell weapons to Georgia. They say the government secretly sent the arms, bypassing disclosure rules in order to avoid antagonizing Russia. They also say that some of the proceeds of the sales have gone not to the Treasury, but to people in Mr. Yushchenko’s circle, even as Ukraine’s military is in dire need of funding.

    “We are on the verge of a huge political scandal that could have immense political repercussions,” said Vitaly I. Konovalyuk, a member of Parliament who leads the commission. Mr. Konovalyuk is from the leading opposition party, the Party of Regions, which seeks warmer ties with the Kremlin.

    The charges come at a time of a deep economic downturn and political discord in Ukraine, with a seemingly intractable power struggle between President Yushchenko and his main pro-Western rival, Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko. The Parliament has often been stalemated, and President Yushchenko’s popularity has plunged.

    Russia’s senior officials have been fueling the dispute. Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, called the alleged weapons sales a “crime against the Russian and Ukrainian people” in a meeting with Ms. Tymoshenko in October.

    The Kremlin has long opposed Mr. Yushchenko because of his pro-Western bent and was infuriated by his vocal backing of Georgia during the crisis. The leadership of both Ukraine and Georgia took power in the so-called color revolutions and both want to join NATO. Russia has vociferously opposed such a step.

    Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, last month accused countries that supplied Georgia with weapons of helping to provoke the August conflict. “Unfortunately, several countries close to us participated in this,” he said. “We will never forget this, and, for sure, we will consider this when formulating policy.”

    Last week, Gazprom, the state-owned natural gas monopoly once headed by Mr. Medvedev, announced that it might double the price of gas for Ukraine if it failed to pay off $2.4 billion in debt by Jan. 1. Two years ago, in a similar dispute, Gazprom turned off the gas to Ukraine. (Gazprom has said it will try to refrain from doing so again this time.)

    Ukraine was left with huge stockpiles of weapons and military equipment after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, and has relied on arms exports as a major source of income.

    In 2007, Ukraine sold Georgia 74 T-72 tanks, some armored combat vehicles, a BUK M1 surface-to-air missile system, two 2S7 self-propelled artillery guns, among other weapons, according to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.

    Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said in a statement that the country’s last shipment of military hardware arrived at the Georgian Black Sea port in Poti on Aug. 8, the day the war started, but that the cargo “did not include weaponry.” Rather, the statement said, “pyrotechnical equipment” for aircraft emergency and fire prevention systems were delivered.

    Though Ukraine’s weapons export system has been criticized for lack of oversight, most analysts say controls over weapons sales have improved since the 1990s, when the country was a main source of weapons sent to conflict zones around the world.

    President Yushchenko has said that Ukraine’s arms shipments did not violate any laws and has indicated that Ukraine will continue to sell weapons to Georgia. Ukraine also sells military hardware to Russia. “Ukraine conducts military-technical cooperation with countries that are not under international restrictions,” the president said this month. “We will trade with those whose relations with us correspond to our national interests.”

    Though its inquiry began two months ago, the opposition’s parliamentary committee has not yet released a full report on its findings, despite regular statements in the Ukrainian news media from Mr. Konovalyuk about the explosiveness of the information.

    Ms. Tymoshenko, who rarely hesitates to snipe at Mr. Yushchenko, has remained largely silent, and no representatives from her faction sit on Mr. Konovalyuk’s commission.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Beenhakker ready to quit as Poland manager?

    From: ESPN
    Veteran Poland coach Leo Beenhakker has hinted internal politics may prompt him to end his term as national team boss.

    Beenhakker, 66, is currently overseeing Poland's qualification campaign for the 2010 World Cup with the team third in Group 3 behind Slovakia and Czech Republic.

    Football in Poland has been in disarray since investigations into corruption were instigated in 2005 and matters came to a head when the Sports Ministry filed a petition to suspend the football association (PZPN).

    FIFA in turn threatened to impose sanctions on Poland, which would have cost them their right to host the next European Championships, if the government continued to intervene in football matters.

    The matter seemed to be resolved but Beenhakker clearly has ongoing issues with the administration.

    The former Ajax and Feyenoord coach told Dutch broadcaster RTV Rijnmond: "I must admit that I don' t have an easy task at the moment, because of the work of the FA, who look to fall back to the past.

    "I am 66 years old and I don't feel much like being annoyed all the time.

    Beenhakker is set to hold talks with the Polish association before the weekend.

    Suspicious manipulations cause speculation at the WSE

    From: WBJ
    The order placed by JP Morgan shortly before the closing of trade on the WSE on November 12 pushed indices up 5 percent and was regarded as a manipulation by the Financial Supervisory Commission (KNF)
    The issue will now be handled by the prosecutor. "Accusations presented by KNF are serious. It looks like manipulation. It is good that the supervisory board handled this issue that well," said Wieslaw Rozlucki, former president of the WSE.

    The bid had a value of zl.130 million of which zl.100 million was carried out as a shares purchase. A broker acted on behalf of JP Morgan Securities, and decided to carry out his own economic interests related to futures contracts. Previously a broker at the Polish side was informing that the execution of such a bid could significantly influence the condition of the market. However, he was being informed that there will be a huge sales order at the other side and despite it was not carried out, the client decided to push through with the transaction.

    The task of the prosecutor will be to point out who personally made this order and wanted to influence share prices on the side of JP Morgan.

    WSE suffers another terrible day, hits five year low

    In a related story, after Wednesday's surprising rise the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE) entered a downward spiral with stocks tumbling with double the force yesterday
    The WIG20 lost 5.79 percent and was pulled down mainly by Bioton, Agora and KGHM. The wider WIG index lost 4.81 percent and hit its lowest level since December 2003. The falls were accompanied by larger than usual turnover, which stood at zl.1.3 billion.

    These results came as analysts fear the deepening global recession. In the US, the number of those who registered as unemployed hit a 16 year high, while the price of oil fell in London to below USD 50 per barrel as European bourses also suffered major loses.

    Poles are late on their payments

    From: WBJ
    InfoDlug has released a report stating that Poles overdue debt has surpassed zl.8 billion

    Poles are lagging behind in their monthly payments and the overdue debt has amounted in November to zl.8.12 billion, according to a report published by InfoDlug. According to the report, not only has the number of people with overdue bills has grown, but so has the average sum of overdue debt. In the last quarter, the average sum owed has risen 10 percent, to zl.6,425. Meanwhile, the number of Poles who owe money has risen 5 percent to 1.26 million people.

    The zl.8.12 billion debt includes payments owed for loan installments and lease payments, as well as for energy, telecommunication and rent bills. Most of the debts are between zl. 2,001-5,000 and almost half of debtors, 46 percent, are petty debtors, whose debts do not cross zl.2,000.

    According to Andrzej Topinski, main economist of Biuro Informacji Kredytowej S.A., mortgage loans are paid off much better than commercial loans. Meawhile, Mariusz Wyzycki, vicepresident at BIK said, "We should remember that today even the slightest debt will effect the banks decision in granting loans, mortgages and credit cards."

    Teen arsons torch bus in Lublin

    From: The News
    Two high school students in Lublin, southeastern Poland, torched a bus while intoxicated.

    For attempting to take the life of the other bus passengers, the students face up to ten years in prison.

    The eighteen-year-olds were returning home from school on the national bus carrier PKS after having taken their practice-baccalaureate exams. They were seated at the rear of the bus when they set fire to the seats. The driver of the bus immediately stopped the vehicle and put out the fire.

    Passengers on board did not allow the arsonists to escape.

    One of the teens had more than one per mil in their system.

  • Sport...

    БАТЭ отправляется в Италию для подготовки к матчу с "Ювентусом"

    Футболисты борисовского БАТЭ 29 ноября отправляются в Италию для подготовки к заключительному матчу группового этапа Лиги чемпионов против туринского "Ювентуса".

    Как сообщил БелаПАН пресс-атташе белорусского клуба Сергей Дашкевич, команда вылетит из Минска в 14.25 рейсом "Люфтганзы" во Франкфурт-на-Майне, откуда продолжит путь в Рим.

    БАТЭ разместится на окраине итальянской столицы и будет готовиться к матчу в местном спортивном центре. На 3 декабря запланирован спарринг с клубом серии Б "Фрозиноне", который после 15 туров чемпионата страны занимает 14-е место среди 22 команд. Кроме того, футболисты посетят матчи серии А "Рома" — "Фиорентина" (30 ноября) и "Лацио" — "Интер" (6 декабря).

    9 декабря БАТЭ вылетит в Турин. Вечером главный тренер Виктор Гончаренко даст пресс-конференцию, после которой на "Стадио Олимпико" состоится тренировка.

    Матч "Ювентус" — БАТЭ пройдет 10 декабря (начало в 21.45 по минскому времени). На следующее утро белорусская команда вылетит в Минск (с пересадкой во Франкфурте).

    12 декабря в Борисове и Минске состоится чествование футболистов БАТЭ, после чего команда уйдет в отпуск, сообщил С.Дашкевич.

    Положение команд в группе Н Лиги чемпионов перед последним туром: "Ювентус" (Турин, Италия) — 11 очков, "Реал" (Мадрид, Испания) — 9, "Зенит" (Санкт-Петербург, Россия) — 5, БАТЭ (Борисов, Беларусь) — 2.

    Первая встреча БАТЭ и "Ювентуса" в Минске 30 сентября завершилась вничью 2:2 (Кривец, 17, Стасевич, 23 — Яквинта, 29, 45+3).

    "Ювентус" обеспечил себе путевку в 1/8 финала. БАТЭ не имеет шансов подняться выше четвертого места, поскольку в очных встречах с "Зенитом" имеет отрицательный баланс (1:1 и 0:2), но может помешать итальянцам сохранить первую строчку в группе при условии победы "Реала" над петербуржцами.

  • Cultural scene...

    Презентация сборника “Постсоветская публичность”

    Интернет-журнал “Новая Эўропа”
    Издательство «Пропилеи»

    приглашают на презентацию сборника
    «Постсоветская публичность: Беларусь, Украина» (под ред. Вл. Фурса).

    Беларусские и украинские авторы сборника – политологи, социальные теоретики, философы, теоретики медиа, историки – рассматривают различные аспекты публичности в постсоветских контекстах: публичная сфера в структуре и динамике постсоветских обществ, публичность и политика, медиатизация публичной сферы (масс-медиа, WWW), политические импликации художественной публичности и др.

    Презентация состоится
    1 декабря 2008 года,
    в понедельник
    в 19.00

    в Минском международном образовательном центре (IBB)
    по адресу пр. Газеты Правда, 11,
    в Клубной комнате.

    Презентация предполагает выступление составителя и авторов сборника: Вл. Фурса, М. Соколовой, В. Фурс, В. Мартиновича, О. Шпараги и А. Паньковского, а также открытую дискуссию с ними на обсуждаемые в сборнике темы.

    Рабочие языки презентации русский и беларусский.

  • Endnote...

    Belarus is missing a tourist trick with Chagall

    From: Independant
    A childhood spent in Vitebsk, influenced much of the work of Marc Chagall
    The childhood or working homes of most painters of world renown are now well-established tourist honey pots. The massing of art-hungry visitors at Monet's Giverny came to mind as I wandered, alone, around the house of Marc Chagall. Despite his Francophone name, Chagall lived in a bungalow down a quiet cobbled lane, which is to be found in Vitebsk in the international tourism backwater of Belarus.

    Chagall was born in the city in 1887, and spent much of his youth at 11 Pokrovskaya Street, the eldest of nine children. You'd be forgiven for not knowing this because, historically, his home country has done little to promote his origins. When I lived in Belarus in 1989, when it was still in the Soviet Union, Chagall was invisible, all but a non-person, though he never quite made it to the status of an official enemy of the state. Even a recent review, by Andrew Motion, of the latest biography of Chagall made no mention of his Belarussian origins.

    Chagall was a Hasidic Jew, which may partly explain the Belarussian, and before that, the Soviet state's ambivalence towards him. After the Russian revolution he became director of the Art Academy in Vitebsk, but soon left for France.

    A visit to his house is a fascinating, and oddly moving, experience. The landscapes of Vitebsk heavily influenced his paintings, featuring small houses, fences, animals and children. These locations were likened in importance by his biographer, Jackie Wullschlager, to the influence that Dublin had on James Joyce. Chagall once said: "Not a single picture I have, where you cannot see a fragment of my Pokrovskaya Street."

    Behind the unremarkable exterior of his home, a thoughtful, if budget-oriented, restoration has taken place. Part of the house was a local store selling groceries and your footsteps echo on wooden floors as you brush past red-draped curtains and flock wallpaper. There are just two rooms, and a kitchen. The display is spartan but the sketches and prints present intimate glimpses of what family life must have been like. There are drawings of his father asleep at the dining table, a samovar boiling away and a couple snatching an embrace. Other pictures show Chagall with Picasso in 1906, and Chagall with his first wife Bella and their daughter Ida in France, just before they returned to the Russian revolution.

    There is nothing to signify that he was Jewish, nothing in English, and little interpretation, even in Russian or Belarussian, so you will need to do your homework before you arrive. Behind the house is a small, charming garden with a Chagall bronze cast enclosed by a brown and green crooked fence.

    The other Chagall must-see site in Vitebsk is the Chagall Art Museum, which lies across the huge valley carved out by the Western Dvina river. Funded by the European Union, it lacks proper air-quality control, which means that Chagall's illustrations to a copy of Gogol's Dead Souls is kept under wraps for much of the year. Thirty lithographs on the ground floor include some trademark images: fiddlers, lovers flying in the sky, Chagall on a chimney. A separate section is devoted to paintings on religious themes.

    Vitebsk also repays further exploration. It was all but razed during the Second World War, and the only surviving part of central Vitebsk from Chagall's time is a small quarter around the City Hall, from Lenin Street and along Suvarova Street, where fin de siecle wrought-iron railings top overhanging balconies.

    Elsewhere, the city's wide streets and functional buildings look as though they were dropped by airlift in pre-fabricated concrete blocks, but they boast a fading grandeur. Next to the Chagall Art Museum stands the Russian governor's palace. Napoleon spent his 43rd birthday here, during the ill-fated 1812 campaign. (A monument marking the centenary of the campaign stands in the centre of the wooded square.) Today the building houses the local secret service, though they seem happy for you to photograph it. As with other cities in Belarus, this is a place to take pictures of some of the few remaining busts of Lenin and other Soviet-era figures that remain on public display. Street names such as Sovetskaya and Kirov present an unexpected wind chill from the Soviet past.

    Yet Vitebsk is unexpectedly home to one of the best and most charismatic hotels in the former Soviet Union. It's run by accomplished, cosmopolitan owners, and the rooms of the Hotel Eridan have an individual flourish and the restaurant is superb, with a wine list that ranges from Georgia to Australia.

    The city has few high-rise buildings, which means it has superb views and big skies from vantage points such as the bridge across the dramatic, high-sloping banks of the Western Dvina. Close by is the Annunciation Church, with its classic Byzantine design of limestone blocks separated by brick and stucco exterior. It is the only intact surviving example of such architecture north of the Black Sea. Next door stands the exquisite, restored, wooden Alexander Nevsky Orthodox church, dating from the 10th century.

    I left Vitebsk by bus, passing the traditional wooden houses of Peskovatics, where Chagall was born. My guided tour had not included this quarter, not because of any lingering animosity towards Chagall but more because tourism in Belarus remains extremely embryonic. Here, frustratingly, were the gaily coloured stone houses that Chagall would have recognised from his youth, along with vivid green window frames, tidy fences and little rag-tag children. I wanted to stop the bus and explore. But in a way, the difficulty of tracking down the man's haunts seemed in keeping with the quirky, elusive nature of his otherworldly pictures.