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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President guarantees bank deposits, Europe lifts travel bans, Gaddafi in Belarus; UN, Russia, Ukraine, polish scandal, culture and Sport

  • From the Top...
  • #357

    Belarus President expands safety guarantees for bank deposits

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting on domestic and foreign policy
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has signed Decree No 22 on safety guarantees for households' deposits and Ordinance No 601 on some issues regarding financial activity of banks, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    The documents are designed to provide additional safety guarantees for deposits of population in the banks and to raise the confidence in the Belarusian banking system.

    Belarus happens to be in a more advantageous position in the face of the present global economic challenges, said President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko at a government session held on November 4 to discuss state guarantees of the safety of bank deposits of individuals.

    He noted the reasoning behind this confident thinking is based on two factors. First, the development model Belarus is implementing positively influences people’s lives. “Apart from that, no matter how hard the life can be our people trust both the authorities and the banking system. They didn’t rush all at once to take back their deposits,” said the President. In his opinion, if they did not trust the banking system, nobody would keep their money in banks.

    The head of state remarked, “Although Belarus has been affected by the negative processes on global financial markets to a lesser degree in comparison with neighbours, our integration into the global economy should be taken into account”. He added when everyone suffers from the global financial and economic crisis, Belarus needs to considerably advance in liberalising the economy and there are relevant instruments to make it happen.

    The President explained, the adoption of additional legal instruments meant to secure deposits of individuals had been brought about by the concern about the stability of the national currency and the desire to protect interests of the people who keep money in banks.

    Belarus’ SCC to keep financial, economic bills adjusted

    The State Control Committee of Belarus has been charged with adjusting draft financial and economic laws. The measure is laid down by decree No 600 “Amendments to Belarus President decrees and invalidation of some lawmaking decrees and clauses in decrees of the President of Belarus” signed by the head of state on November 4.

    According to the press service of the President of Belarus, up till now the procedure has been in effect only for draft legal instruments of the Belarus President in this area. The decree comes into force after the official publication.

    On November 4 the head of state also issued decree No 21 “Amendments to the regulation on official publication and enforcement of legal instruments of the Republic of Belarus”.

    The decree has amended the regulation to enable the enforcement of normative legal acts, which regulate rights, freedoms and obligations of individual entrepreneurs and juridical persons, on the publication date unless specified by the legislation otherwise, said the source.

    The decree comes into force after the official publication, is a temporary one and is subjected to consideration of the National Assembly in line with part 3, article 101 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus.

    The two decrees are meant to perfect the lawmaking process and bring legal instruments signed by the President into compliance with the law “Amendments and addenda to some lawmaking laws of the Republic of Belarus” of July 15, 2008.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    European Commission to start cooperating with Belarus in three new areas

    From: BelTA
    The European Commission is initiating cooperation with Belarus in three new areas, namely regulation of the quality of products and standardisation, interaction of financial services, agricultural and food security. The information was released by Deputy Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for External Relations Hugues Mingarelli on November 5 as he met with Belarus Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov.

    Belarus recognises the need to continue working to achieve the goals outlined in the Belarus-EU dialogue and expects an adequate response from the European Union, said Andrei Kobyakov during his meeting with Hugues Mingarelli.

    “As a whole, we positively evaluate the European Union’s decision to suspend visa restrictions and restore contacts with Belarusian authorities. Yet we believe these decisions are intermediary on the way towards establishing full-scale cooperation between Belarus and the European Union,” remarked Andrei Kobyakov. The official underscored Belarus is interested in full and pragmatic cooperation with the European Union, with the focus made on the economic component.

    According to Andrei Kobyakov, the recent steps made by Belarus and the European Union are starting a new page in the bilateral relations. “In our opinion it would be timely as the level of the foreign trade relations speaks for itself,” he said. Andrei Kobyakov added, the European Union accounts for 32% of Belarus’ foreign trade and 44% of Belarus’ export.

    The Vice Premier stated limitations and barriers in the bilateral cooperation are being removed. “We hope the process will gain momentum,” he said.

    Belarus, EC to expand cooperation in energy security and transit

    Belarus and the European Commission have agreed to expand interaction in the areas of mutual interest, including energy security, the Foreign Ministry told BelTA summing up the results of the visit of the European Commission to Minsk on November 3-5. The delegation was headed by Deputy Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for External Relations Hugues Mingarelli.

    According to the Foreign Ministry, negotiations with the EC delegation were held at the Presidential Administration, the Council of Ministers and the Foreign Ministry.

    “The meeting featured the discussion of a wide range of issues regarding the interaction between Belarus and the European Commission and the ways to bring the cooperation between the country and the EC on a brand new level. The sides have agreed to expand the cooperation between the bodies of Belarus and the European Commission in the areas of mutual interest, including energy security, transit, and customs. The participants of the meeting paid a special attention of the ways to step up the trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and the EC,” the Foreign Ministry underlined.

    The sides considered a possibility to expand the use of the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) Instrument in Belarus.

    European Union has serious political intentions to develop relations with Belarus

    From: BelTA
    The European Commission is initiating cooperation with Belarus in three new areas, namely regulation of the quality of products and standardisation, interaction of financial services, agricultural and food security. The information was released by Deputy Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for External Relations Hugues Mingarelli on November 5 as he met with Belarus Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov.

    “It will be our first step to resume full-fledged relations with your country. Belarus is such an important neighbour for us that we are ready to do much more to make it possible,” noted Hugues Mingarelli.

    According to the official, the present visit to Belarus is a continuation of the decisions made by the EU Council and EU ministers of foreign affairs three weeks before. “Our political leadership has decided to resume contacts, partially suspend the sanctions introduced against Belarus several years ago and promote technical cooperation with your country in several areas of mutual interest. Our presence here today is a testimony of our readiness to continue fulfilling our obligations,” he remarked.

    Hugues Mingarelli also underscored they will do their best to continue developing Belarus-EU cooperation in power engineering, transport, environmental protection and cooperation of customs services.

    Yet the European Union expects Belarus to make several steps in specific areas. “Within the next six months we intend to maintain a constant dialogue with Belarusian authorities with a view to discussing the development of the system of non-governmental organisations, perfection of election laws and labour protection legislation,” he said. According to Hugues Mingarelli, it will contribute to the changes in Belarus able to bring the country closer to European norms in some areas.

    “We have serious political intentions to develop relations with your country so that Belarus could become a full-fledged participant of the European neighbourhood policy, within which we could develop our trade and economic mutual relations. We could also take steps to facilitate border crossing for individuals and to promote interpersonal contacts,” said Hugues Mingarelli.

    Belarus to work to achieve goals outlined by dialogue with EU

    Belarus recognises the need to continue working to achieve the goals outlined in the Belarus-EU dialogue and expects an adequate response from the European Union, Belarus Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov said on November 5 as he met with Deputy Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for External Relations Hugues Mingarelli.

    “As a whole, we positively evaluate the European Union’s decision to suspend visa restrictions and restore contacts with Belarusian authorities. Yet we believe these decisions are intermediary on the way towards establishing full-scale cooperation between Belarus and the European Union,” remarked Andrei Kobyakov. The official underscored Belarus is interested in full and pragmatic cooperation with the European Union, with the focus made on the economic component.

    According to Andrei Kobyakov, the recent steps made by Belarus and the European Union are starting a new page in the bilateral relations. “In our opinion it would be timely as the level of the foreign trade relations speaks for itself,” he said. Andrei Kobyakov added, the European Union accounts for 32% of Belarus’ foreign trade and 44% of Belarus’ export.

    The Vice Premier stated limitations and barriers in the bilateral cooperation are being removed. “We hope the process will gain momentum,” he said.

    UN GA decides on UN-EurAsEC cooperation

    From: BelTA
    The UN General Assembly (GA) unanimously adopted the resolution “Cooperation between the UN and the Eurasian Economic Community” in the UN headquarters in New York, BelTA learnt from the permanent representative office of the Republic of Belarus in the UN.

    The elaboration of the GA resolution was coordinated by a delegation from Belarus as the country presiding at the EurAsEC. The resolution was submitted on behalf of the EurAsEC member-states – Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan and its three co-authors: Armenia, Thailand and the Philippines.

    The UN GA praised the EurAsEC member-states’ adherence to the expansion of the regional economic integration by means of setting up the customs union, the free trade zone and the EurAsEC united energy market.

    The UN General Assembly emphasized the importance to continue developing the dialogue, cooperation and coordination between the UN and EurAsEC system and offered the UN Secretary General to hold regular consultations with the EurAsEC Secretary General on the issues.

    The UN GA urged specialized institutions and other organizations, programmes and funds of the UN system, international financial institutions to strengthen cooperation and develop direct contacts with the EurAsEC.

    The EurAsEC became an observer in the UN GA in 2003. A memorandum of mutually understanding was signed between the EurAsEC and the UN Development Programme in 2006. The agreement between the EurAsEC Interparliamentary Assembly and the UN Economic Commission for Europe was signed in 2007. Adopted in 2007, the GA first resolution on cooperation between the UN and the EurAsEC laid the foundation for strengthening cooperation between the two organizations.

  • Economics...

    Priorbank increases its authorized capital by EUR 50mln

    From: BelTA
    Priorbank has increased its authorized capital by EUR 50 million to EUR 150 million, BelTA learnt from the bank.

    On October 16, 2008 the General Meeting of Shareholders of Priorbank decided on the additional issuance of shares to increase the authorized capital by EUR 50 million, or by 50%. On October 20 Priorbank arranged for closed subscription on shares which ended on October 29, 2008. Practically all the shares (99.7%) were acquired by Raiffeisen International Bank-Holding AG, the principal shareholder of the bank. Cash funds for the purchased shares have been transferred to the bank and accumulated on the interim account.

    "The shareholders consider this decision as an important step in reaching the strategic targets such as business expansion and strengthening of the bank's positions in the financial market of the country", Sergey Kostyuchenko, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Priorbank, commented on this decision. "Increasing the authorized capital with the help of Raiffeisen International is the logical continuation of the previous actions which Priorbank has taken in this area."

    In June 2008 Priorbank increased its authorized capital from Br102.8 billion to Br270 billion out of the internal sources. In August-September 2008 Raiffeisen International Bank-Holding AG bought some minority stakes to increase its share from 63.05% to 81.41%.

    During the nine months 2008 Priorbank demonstrated a stable and successful growth of its main business activities. Over the period under review the profit amounted to Br84.4 billion, up 1.5 times from the same period last year. The return on equity was 29.8% and the return on assets 2.4%.

    As of October 1, 2008 the bank’s resource base was Br4,063.5 billion ($1 925 million), up 35.9% since the beginning of the year. Legal entities funds were Br1,723 billion ($816 million) or 42% of the bank’s resource base, whilst private individual deposits amounted to Br783.3 billion ($371 million) or 19%. During the period under review the resources of legal entities increased by 72%. Private individuals' deposits have increased by 43%.

    Priorbank is a member of RZB Group and a subsidiary of Raiffeisen International Bank-Holding AG. Priorbank was founded in January 1989. The largest shareholder is Raiffeisen (81.41% of shares as of September 18, 2008).

    In 2003, 2004 and 2005 The Banker Magazine named Priorbank The Bank of the Year in Belarus. The Global Finance magazine named Priorbank Belarus’ best bank and the country’s best bank in foreign exchange operations in 2004, 2005 and 2006. The Euromoney magazine named Priorbank Belarus’ best bank in 2005 and 2008 while as part of the Trade Facilitation Programme the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development named Priorbank “The most active bank in financing Belarus’ foreign trade” in 2006 and 2007.

  • From the Foriegn Press...


    From: Jamestown
    On October 13 the foreign ministers of the 27 member-states of the European Union met in Luxemburg and agreed to lift sanctions on travel for 36 high-ranking members of the Belarusian government, including President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, for a trial period of six months. The decision was received angrily by leaders of the Belarusian opposition.

    The EU decision is based on the Belarusian government’s decision to release all designated political prisoners earlier this year prior to the parliamentary election held on September 28. That election was less violent than earlier ones but was not recognized as free and fair by OSCE observers, and the new parliament is even less representative than its predecessors. In a speech to a joint assembly of the two houses of parliament on October 23, Lukashenka stated that his government had succeeded in preserving political stability despite obstacles placed in its path with foreign support. A government carrying out reforms without violence, in his view, has the right to be termed democratic (European Radio for Belarus, October 23).

    The lifting of the travel ban excludes five people: Lidziya Yarmoshyna, chairperson of the Central Election Commission; Minister of Internal Affairs Uladzimir Navumau; Dzmitry Paulichenka, former commander of that ministry’s special response forces; Viktar Sheiman, former Secretary of the Security Council; and Minister of Sports and Tourism Yuri Sivakau. Aside from Yarmoshyna, who is excluded because of the obvious infringements of the electoral processes, the list bars those believed responsible for the disappearance of several prominent figures in 1999 and 2000. The decision did not satisfy all EU members. Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb commented that “There has been progress, but the situation in Belarus is very, very, very far from ideal”; and Holland, Portugal, and Switzerland had earlier expressed their objections to appeasing “the last dictator in Europe” (Belorusy i Rynok, October 20-26).

    After a meeting in Luxemburg between Belarusian Foreign Minister Syarhey Martynau and Javier Solana, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, the former declared that he anticipated productive and substantive relations with the EU and that Belarus was ready to welcome an EU team into the country within a few weeks (Belarusian Telegraph Agency [BELTA], October 14). His deputy Andrei Eudachenka commented a week later that the two sides might sign a trade agreement shortly and that a group from the EU would be in Minsk in November. Belarus also reported that it had received a “green light” from the EU to commence talks on joining the World Trade Organization and was now awaiting a signal from the United States (BELTA, October 22).

    That signal may not be immediately forthcoming. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs David Merkel at the U.S. Department of State said that “at this point” the United States did not intend to follow the EU’s example. In response to the release of political prisoners, the United States suspended visa sanctions for three subsidiary companies of the oil-processing company Belnaftakhim in early September, but a ban on the company itself remains in place (Reuters, October 22). The coordinator of the civic movement “European Belarus,” Andrei Sannikau, was much more outspoken, referring to the lifting of the ban as “appeasement of a dictator” comparable to the attitude exhibited toward Hitler in the 1930s. He added that the decision made in Luxemburg showed that Europe lacked moral leaders, and he noted that whereas officials of the Lukashenka regime could now travel to Europe freely on diplomatic passports, the average Belarusians had to pay the hefty Schengen Agreement visa of $77 (ˆ60) to do the same (, October 14).

    Not only did Belarus conduct another controversial election, Yarmoshyna has announced plans to advance the date for the next presidential election to coincide with municipal elections, which must take place before December 14, 2010. She anticipates the withdrawal of all sanctions by April 2009 (BELTA, October 23). Amid the more relaxed attitude in Europe toward the Belarusian government, Reporters Without Borders issued its annual 173-nation Index of Freedom on October 22, which placed Belarus in 154th place, three places lower than last year and 13 places behind Russia (

    The EU’s decision is an expedient policy at a time of difficult relations with Russia—the lifting of similar travel sanctions against Uzbekistan (BBC News, October 13) suggests that the decision was a geostrategic one. It is a risky venture in that the Lukashenka regime has clearly not eased its grip on citizens, control over the media, or manipulation of elections. The barring of Yarmoshyna is also purely symbolic: the implicit notion that she acts independently of the president is far-fetched.

    On the other hand, unless all 27 EU countries consent unanimously to the permanent raising of the travel ban, the decision will be reversed next April. Also, having direct access to and communications with officials of the Belarusian government may allow the Europeans more influence within the ruling circles of Minsk. Neither of these provisos will provide much solace to the Belarusian opposition, particularly those who carried out futile campaigns for election to the parliament under adverse and uncompromising conditions. The cycle of isolation and engagement has continued between Europe and Belarus for just over 11 years, since EU-Belarus relations were lowered to the sub-ministerial level following the dissolution of parliament and the referendum of 1996. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

    Libya's Gaddafi in Belarus, Lukashenko calls for 'multipolar' world

    From: Earth Times
    Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko called for a "multipolar world" not dominated by any superpower, upon Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi's arrival in the former Soviet republic. Gaddafi was in the Belarusian capital Minsk on the first of a two-day official visit.

    Lukashenko, isolated internationally because of his authoritarian regime, in a welcome statement to Gaddafi argued smaller countries must band together, to block hegemony by a major country.

    State-controlled Belarusian television broadcast live much of the pomp and ceremony from the Libyan visit. Announcers called Gaddafi's presence "evidence Belarus has an important role to play in the world."

    Much of the Belarusian leadership - Lukashenko included - was until recently unable to visit most developed nations, because of Western retaliation for Belarus' poor human rights record.

    Gaddafi's remarks in response were muted, the Libyan leader saying he was "pleased with how Belarusian-Libyan relations are developing," according to a Belapan news agency report.

    Lukashenko and Gaddafi were scheduled to discuss trade relations, legal cooperation, and exchanges on communications technologies.

    Gaddafi had visited Russia prior to Belarus, and was scheduled to travel onwards to Ukraine on Tuesday.

    Belarus finished green fodder maize harvesting campaign

    From: Agrimarket
    Agricultural organizations of Belarus finished maize harvesting campaign for green fodder, reported the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

    As of November 3, Belarus harvested maize for green fodder and silo throughout 686.400 ha, an increase of 4.7% compared to planned volumes. The crop totaled 15.96 mln tonnes, up 1.5 mln tonnes compared to the same date of the previous year. The yield totaled 232.5 c/ha.

    As of November 3, Belarus harvested maize for grain throughout 58.2% of planned areas as opposed to 100% for the same date of the previous MY. To date, the crop totaled 544.300 tonnes with an average yield of 61.6 c/ha as opposed to 66.45 c/ha in the previous year.

    1,000 call for freedom, remember purges in Belarus

    From: IHT
    Hundreds of people marched through Belarus' capital on Sunday to remember the victims of Stalinist purges and call for an end to repression in a country that still has many of the trappings of the former Soviet Union.

    Opposition leaders who organized the march of about 1,000 people said the former Soviet republic has not yet turned its back on repression.

    Participants carried portraits of purge victims and banners reading "No to repression." They criticized President Alexander Lukashenko's authoritarian government for refusing to acknowledge the scale of Josef Stalin's purges, even denying that mass graves contain the dictator's victims.

    Lukashenko has been called "Europe's last dictator" in the West for cracking down on the political opposition. The Belarussian secret police kept the name KGB, the government has arrested opposition leaders and media freedom is highly limited. The country still has collective farms and the economy has seen very little privatization.

    "Belarus is once again going through a period of stifling dictatorship, which has its roots in the Stalinist repression," said opposition leader Viktor Ivashkevich.

    Police allowed the annual march to proceed peacefully through central Minsk to Kuropaty, a site of Soviet-era mass executions on the outskirts of the capital. Tens of thousands of people were shot there in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

    Despite historical evidence to the contrary, Lukashenko's government has insisted the victims were Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II. This has allowed Lukashenko to deny that the victims were Belarusians killed by their own dictatorial Soviet leaders.

    "Only by knowing the whole truth can Belarus become a free and democratic country, but the government doesn't want it to be," said Pyotr Shashkel, who as a toddler was sent to Siberia with his parents, who had been declared "enemies of the people." His parents died in a Siberian labor camp.

    More than 600,000 Belarusians were killed or sent to labor camps under Stalin, according to historians. Independent estimates of those buried at Kuropaty run as high as 200,000.

    The anti-communist movement in Belarus began in Kuropaty in 1988.

    Lukashenko has made some efforts in recent months to improve ties with Europe, including freeing political prisoners and allowing the opposition to field candidates in September parliamentary elections. None won a seat.

  • From the Opposition...

    No ‘extremism’ in ‘Svaboda’?

    From: Viasna
    On 5 November Hrodna oblast court considered the cassation complaint against the verdict of Iuye district court by which an August issue of the Svaboda newspaper had been declared extremist. The judge Alexander Sitsko ruled to return the case to Iuye district court for review.

    Bear in mind that on 9 September Iuye district court had declared Svaboda, #127 for 14-27 August 2008, extremist and ruled to liquidate 5 000 copies which had been confiscated from democratic activists. The civil case had been brought on the initiative of the head of Hrodna oblast KGB department Ihar Siarheyenka, who took for ‘extremism’ the article War in Georgia.

    Brest: procuracy does not grant Yauhen Skrabets’ complaint

    Recently the democratic activist Yauhen Skrabets has complained to the procuracy of Maskouski district of Brest about unlawful confiscation of printed editions, DVD disks and a computer hard drive during a search in his parents’ apartment.

    The police officers had been allegedly looking for a stolen radio receiver. However, instead they confiscated the abovementioned items.

    In his answer to the complaint the senior justice advisor L.Teadarovich wrote: ‘The confiscated items have the traits of crimes under article 361 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus ‘Calls to non-constitutional change of the political system of the Republic of Belarus or commitment of crimes against the state’ and article 368 – ‘defamation of the president of the Republic of Belarus’. The confiscated items have been passed to Brest oblast KGB department for being checked-up in conformity with the requirements of the criminal-process legislation.’

    European Union and Lukashenka speak different languages

    From: Charter '97
    The delegation of the European Commission which is on a visit in Belarus, has met with the Vice Prime Minister Andrei Kabyakou. The European Politicians spoke about human rights, while Belarusian officials about the economy.

    During the meeting with the Vice Prime Minister of Belarus Andrei Kabyakou, the European Commission’s Directorate-General Director for External Relations Hugh Mingarelli reminded that the political leadership of the EU has adopted the decision to renew contacts with Belarus at the level of Ministers and partially lift sanctions. “In the next 6 month we are set to maintain the dialogue with the authorities of Belarus in order to discuss issues in such spheres as freedom of mass media, development of the system of non-governmental organisations, improvement of the electoral code, law on defense of labour and freedom of speech,” the head of the European Commission said.

    As said by him, holding democratic changes in Belarus in these spheres would allow the country to become a full-fledged participant of the European policy of good neighbourhood, in the framework of which the EU is ready to offer reinforcement of political and economic cooperation, facilitation of traveling through borders and interpersonal communications.

    Hugh Mingarelli has also underlined that the offer by the EU to expand areas of cooperation with Belarus are the first steps, but “Belarus is so important neighbour of the EU, that we are ready to do more”. “At the same time, in order to make it possible, we expect reciprocal steps in such directions that human rights, rule of law, democratization,” the European Commission representative said.

    Belarusian vice premier: “Cooperation with EU with emphasis on economy”

    Belarus is ready to take concrete steps aimed at improving relations with the European Union and expects adequate actions from the EU, vice premier of the Belarusian government Andrei Kabyakou told at the meeting with Hugh Mingarelli, European Commission’s Directorate-General Director for External Relations.

    “The Belarusian side realises necessity of working over the so called hometask, outlined by the EU, but counts on adequate actions of the European Union,” A. Kabyakou said.

    The vice premier thinks that “the latest steps made by Belarus towards the EU turn a new page in the relations”. He emphasised that a decision to lift “far-fetched restriction and barriers in mutual relations” was a good measure of the European Union and Belarus hoped “this process will gain momentum”.

    “We positively evaluate the European Union’s decision to suspend visa restrictions and restore contacts with Belarusian authorities,” A. Kabyakou noted, adding that Belarus believes “these decisions are intermediary on the way towards establishing full-scale cooperation”.

  • Around the Region...

    Russia Warns of Missile Deployment

    From: NYTimes
    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev addressed the nation from the Kremlin in Moscow on Wednesday.
    In a wide-ranging attack on the United States as it elected a new president, the Russian leader Dmitri A. Medvedev warned on Wednesday that Moscow might deploy short-range missiles in the Baltic region to counter a perceived threat from a proposed American missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

    Mr. Medvedev also proposed to extend the constitutional term of the presidency from four years to six — a move that could enable future Russian presidents to serve 12 years in two consecutive terms. His remarks, in his first state of the nation address since assuming the presidency in May, were delivered within hours of the election of Barack Obama and offered a chilling glimpse into the potential issues and tensions confronting the new American leader when he takes office in January. His comments also seemed at odds with the broader groundswell of support for the American president-elect from many governments across the globe.

    In his speech, Mr. Medvedev did not congratulate Mr. Obama on his victory, saying only that he hoped that “our partners — the new U.S. administration — will make a choice in favor of a full-fledged relationship with Russia.”

    But he sent a telegram later saying that “Russian-American relations have historically been an important factor for stability in the world and have great importance and sometimes key significance for resolving many of today’s international and regional problems.”

    ‘“I hope for a constructive dialogue with you based on trust and consideration of each other’s interests,” Mr. Medvedev’s telegram said, according to the Kremlin Web site.

    In his speech a few hours earlier, Mr. Medvedev spoke of a “new configuration for the military forces of our country” that would include abandoning plans to dismantle some missile regiments and the stationing of missiles in Russia’s Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.

    “We earlier planned to take three missile regiments within the missile division stationed in Kozelsk off combat duty and discontinue the division itself by 2010. I have decided to refrain from these plans,” Mr. Medvedev said.

    “The Iskander missile system will be deployed in Kaliningrad region to neutralize, when necessary, the missile shield,” Medvedev said.

    “Radioelectronic equipment located in the western region” of Russia in the Kaliningrad region “will jam objects of the U.S. missile defense system,” Mr. Medvedev said.

    “These are forced measures,” Mr. Medvedev said. “We have told our partners more than once that we want positive cooperation, we want to act together to combat common threats, that we want to act together. But they, unfortunately, don’t want to listen to us.”

    He was apparently referring to discussions on the proposed missile shield with the United States.

    Kaliningrad lies between Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea, a wedge between countries firmly aligned with the West since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lithuania and Poland are members of the American-led NATO alliance.

    Iskander missiles have a range of about 250 miles and use conventional warheads, according to news reports. The United States say the missile shield is needed to intercept missiles from states including Iran and does not threaten Russia. But Russia says it regards the system as a threat and has warned that it would target such installations in lands that belonged to the Warsaw Pact.

    In the 90-minute speech, he rounded on the United States, saying the global financial crisis had begun as a “local extraordinary event” in American markets and blaming the August war in Georgia on “the U.S. administration’s policy which is selfish, cannot stand criticism and prefers unilateral decisions,” Reuters reported.

    He said Washington’s belief in “its own opinion as the only right and indisputable one” had “in the final account led the United States to economic blunders.”

    Referring to the fighting in Georgia, he said: “The conflict in the Caucasus was used as a pretext for sending NATO warships to the Black Sea and then for the forceful foisting on Europe of America’s anti-missile system, which in its turn will entail retaliatory measures by Russia.”

    The fighting in Georgia was “among other things, the result of the arrogant course of the U.S. administration which hates criticism and prefers unilateral decisions,” Medvedev said, according to news reports.

    His speech was broadcast live on television and radio.

    Speaking about Russia’s constitutional arrangements, Mr. Medvedev said he proposed increasing term limits for presidents from four to six years and for lawmakers from four to five years. He did not say when the changes would come into effect.

    The issue of term limits surfaced during the eight-year rule of Mr. Medvedev’s successor, Vladimir Putin, when there was speculation that Mr. Putin might seek to remain in office by changing the Constitution to secure a third term. Instead, Mr. Medvedev appointed his predecessor to the prime minister’s post.

    Mr. Medvedev said the proposed extension was necessary to confront challenges. And, he said, he wanted to enhance the powers of Parliament.

    “I am convinced that our movement toward freedom and democracy will be successful and steadfast only if the authority of the president and the State Duma will be high,” he said, according to Reuters. He said the authorities should have “enough time to implement what they announced and show the results of their work to the people.”

    Ukraine parliament speaker goes to U.S. to discuss IMF loan

    From: Ria Novosti
    The speaker of Ukraine's parliament flew to Washington on Tuesday to meet with the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for discussions on a $16.5 billion loan that the country hopes to receive.

    The IMF will hold a meeting on the loan to Ukraine on Wednesday.

    Last Friday, Ukraine's parliament approved a set of measures needed to receive the credit, as the country struggles to cope amid the global credit crisis. President Viktor Yushchenko signed the bills into law on Monday.

    "Supreme Rada Speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk has urgently left on a working visit to Washington, for discussions on the provision of IMF credit to Ukraine. During his visit, the head of the Ukrainian parliament intends to meet with IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and World Bank President Robert Zoellick. Several bilateral meetings are also planned," a statement on the parliamentary website said.

    The IMF announced the emergency loan nine days ago, to help the country through the financial crisis, but demanded that Ukraine first pass new legislation to stabilize the economy and modify banking regulations.

    Under the new laws, a stabilization fund will be set up to help struggling banks repay their foreign debt. The government will also provide more extensive guarantees for deposits in banks.

    The financial crisis has seen Ukrainians rush to withdraw their savings, fearing banking collapses. More than $3 billion were pulled out of banks in October.

    Ukraine's economy has been hard hit by the global credit crunch, along with the falling price of steel, a key national export.

    Weapons Point at Viktor Yushchenko
    // The Ukrainian president could be impeached

    From: Kommersant
    The Supreme Rada temporary investigative committee says some of the money from arms sales bypassed the treasury.
    Impeachment proceedings could be started in arms scandal
    As the battle for power heats up in Ukraine, the subject of Russia is coming to the forefront. The Supreme Rada commission investigating arms supplies to Georgia completed its visit to South Ossetia and Russia yesterday. Chairman of the commission Valery Konovalyuk told Kommersant that the commission has uncovered new information on Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s responsibility for arming Georgia before the war in the Caucasus. That information will be made public within a month. The Ukrainian president is fighting back. On Saturday, the Ukrainian national council on television and radio broadcasting made the decision to stop broadcasting Russian television channels on Ukrainian cable networks.
    A Hello to Arms

    The scandal over Ukrainian arms supplies to Georgia has reached it culminating phase. “We have received new data on the responsibility of the high leadership of Ukraine and President Yushchenko personally for deliveries of arms to Georgia, which was preparing for war,” Valery Konovalyuk, head of the Rada temporary investigative commission on Ukrainian supplies of military equipment to Georgia and Rada member from the Party of the Regions, told Kommersant. “We will present that data to in a hearing in the Rada in November.”

    The investigation began on September 2, the same day the ruling coalition of the pro-presidential Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defense and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc fell apart in the Supreme Rada. Since then, Konovalyuk has publicly accused Yushchenko of illegal arms supplies to the regime of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili several times. Konovalyuk claims many types of weapons were taken out of the active arsenal and delivered in circumvention of the treasury.

    The new source of information on Viktor Yushchenko’s malfeasance was the commission members’ trip to South Ossetia on Monday. “The Ukrainians met with Prosecutor General Taimuraz Khugaev, who presented specific information on how Yushchenko’s Ukraine was shoulder-to-shoulder with Saakshvili,” Irina Gagloeva, head of the South Ossetian committee on the press and information, told Kommersant. “They were given all the video recording we have and material on arms and the participation of Ukrainian mercenaries in the war on the Georgian side.”

    Konovalyuk did not mention the specifics of the evidence he received in Tskhinvali in his conversation with Kommersant. “We asked a series of specific questions and received concise answers. Now we have received confirmation that the Ukrainian leadership knew of the war as it was being prepared. We encouraged Saakashvili to act cruelly and rashly through the arms shipments, naturally,” Konovalyuk said. The temporary investigative commission is laying the full blame on Yushchenko, without making any charges against Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. “The cabinet of ministers oversees issues of arms deliveries only formally. It is all managed by the president in reality. We will prove that,” Konovalyuk said.

    The charges that the commission will make against the president will most likely play an important role in fight for power going on in Ukraine that may lead to early parliamentary elections. Talk of early elections has quieted because of the financial crisis and the political parties have begun to cancel their orders for outdoor advertising space in Kiev and other cities. Observers remain certain, however, that the battle in which Yushchenko, Tymoshenko and Party of the Regions leader Viktor Yanukovich are ensnared will continue even without a new election date.

    One possible course of development in that conflict could be Yushchenko’s impeachment. Both Party of the Regions members and supporters of the prime minster were talking about it not long ago. The well-publicized Rada hearings, in which Yushchenko figured prominently, could lead to an early end to Yushchenko’s term, thus creating additional space for maneuvers for Tymoshenko and Yanukovich. Moscow would be happy to see event develop that way as well.

    A Farewell to Television

    Yushchenko has been up to some intriguing of his own. One of the moves in the battle with his opponents was the cessation of Russian television broadcasts on the territory of Ukraine on the night of October 31. Yushchenko had long been in favor of removing the Russian television channels that presented him in a bad light, to the advantage of Yanukovich and Tymoshenko, from the Ukrainian airwaves. Four Russian television channels, Channel One Worldwide Network, REN TV, RTR Planeta and TVCI (the international version of TV Center), were taken off Ukrainian cable networks by order of the national council on radio and television broadcasting.

    The reasons for the council’s decision were explained by its deputy chairman Igor Kurus. “On March 1, 2006, we changed the principles for the rebroadcast of programs from countries that are not members of the European Union and have not ratified the European Convention on Transfrontier Television. Since then, we have repeatedly contacted the Russian Embassy, the television channels themselves and their distributors with the requirement that they adapt their broadcasting to our legislation, in particular, that they observe laws on copyright and public morals. But we never received a coherent response,” Kurus said.

    Kurus said the sanctions applied not only to Russian channels, but to other foreign channels as well. “We banned the broadcast of American, Georgian, Israeli, Chinese and Korean channels,” he told Kommersant. “We also turned off three British channels because they seemed nearly pornographic to us. Kurus added that Kiev is not interested in removing the Russian channels from Ukraine forever and, after they meet the requirements of the national broadcasting council, it will be willing to restore them to Ukrainian cable. Kurus acknowledged that not all cable operators had met the regulator’s demands and the banned Russian channels can be seen in the Crimea and several regions of Eastern Ukraine as usual. “That decision was made by local authorities, but the prosecutor general is already active. The law will be enforced in all the territory of the country,” he stated.

    Spokesmen for Russian television companies contacted by Kommersant all said that they do not understand Ukraine’s charges. “We did not receive any written charges from the council and neither did our distributor. So we are mystified by the sudden action of the Ukrainian regulator,” commented Sergey Koshlyakov, director of international relations for the All-Russia State Radio and Television Broadcasting Corp. “Our product is a specially licensed version cleaned up for international broadcast, so there are not likely to be any convincing charges of copyright violation. If it is a question of content, we are ready to discuss it, but no question shave been formally asked.” Alexander Pavlov, an official representative of TV Center, also told Kommersant that it broadcasts a “juridically cleaned up product” in Ukraine.

    Both sides of the dispute acknowledge the role of politics in it. “It is mostly a political topic,” a REN TV executive told Kommersant. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also raised the issue to the political level when he said on Saturday that Moscow would react to Kiev’s actions. “We will stand up for the rights of our companies to broadcast and, at the same time, achieve respect for the rights of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine,” Lavrov said. He mentioned as well, as if in passing, that, among the countries of the former USSR, Georgia has also turned off Russian television broadcasts “for political reasons.”

    The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry reacted sharply to Lavrov’s statements. “The demand made by Ukrainian authorities, which is absolutely legitimate and commonly accepted in the civilized world, that television broadcasts conform to national legislation has been subjected to political speculation,” a statement issued by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry reads. “Hopes that a Russian-speaking population can be made from the Ukrainian people are baseless.” Kurus told Kommersant that “Politicization on the conflict is coming from the Russian side. But the more Russia shouts, the less chances it has for those channels to show up on our cable networks.”

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Polish Pedophile in Pomerania arrested

    From: The News
    Pomeranian Police detained a 20-year-old resident of the Baltic Sea town of Gdansk for pedophilia.

    The man’s computer reportedly contains 13,000 photographs of child pornography.

    “Functionaries from the Pomeranian Regional Crime Bureau have worked on this case for several weeks. The twenty-year-old was arrested Tuesday,” stated police spokesperson Jan Kosciuk.

    Besides photographs on his computer, Wojciech Sz. possessed dozens of child pornography films. The man was presented with 21 indictments for the possession of pornography containing children under the age of fifteen.

    Wojciech Sz. faces eight years in prison. On Wednesday he will sit before a judge that will decide on his arrest and sentence.

    Alcoholism related to trauma, shows new Polish study

    From: Polskia Radio
    Every fourth alcoholic is a victim of violence, motor vehicle accident, of some other catastrophe, according to the reports of a several-years-long study of alcoholics in Poland.

    Dr. Malgorzata Dragan of the University of Warsaw Psychology faculty, who issued the report, says that 80 percent of alcoholics have undergone some traumatic event in their lives. Sixty percent claim that they have undergone more than one traumatic incident.

    The results show that every fourth alcoholic suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in other word, psychological or physical manifestations that recall the trauma they underwent. Dragan claims that her study shows that people turn to alcohol to numb their pain.

    “Alcohol fulfills these criteria. After one drunk, problems haven’t disappeared. One starts to drink again and a vicious cycle begins, which is extrememly difficult to break out of. It can become an addiction,” she states.

    According to the results of the study, the most commonly occurring trauma amongst women is related to sexual abuse. Thirty percent of alcoholic females were sexually molested in their lives.

    Dagan’s study is the first of it’s kind in Poland – a study analyzing trauma and addiction. Full results will be published on 30 October in her book Traumatic Experiences and Addiction to Alcohol.

    Bungling bureaucrats finally held to account over Centrozap

    From: WBJ
    Following three years of legal proceedings, a Katowice court ruled that Centrozap should receive compensation of zl.42.5 million for unlawful decisions leading to its difficulties
    This will be supplemented with statutory interest calculated since March 2005, which amounted to zl.18.5 million as of Tuesday. "This verdict satisfies me despite that I know that it is not legally binding. This is just the court of first instance. [...] Maybe something will begin to change in the approach of officials to entrepreneurs and they will be held responsible for their decisions," said Ireneusz Krol, president of Centrozap.

    He went on to say that he will apply for a written justification of the ruling, but he expects the State Treasury to appeal. "Decisions of the tax inspection office had some mistakes, but it does not mean that they were unlawful. The plaintiff did not prove it. It was also not proven that the decisions were the only reason for the bankruptcy of Centrozap," said Wojciech Dachowski of Prokuratoria Generalna representing the state.

  • Sport...

    Belarus sends eleven boxers for European championships

    From: BelTA
    The Men's 2008 European Amateur Boxing Championships will be held in Liverpool, England in November 2008. Top boxers from more than 40 countries will take part in the event. Belarus will be represented in each of 11 weight categories, BelTA was told in the Belarusian Amateur Boxing Federation.

    The Belarusian team includes Anton Bekish (48kg), Bato-Munko Vankeev (51kg), Khavazhi Khatsygov (54kg), Kirill Relikh (57 kg), Vazgen Safarjants (60kg), Evgeny Romashkevich (64kg), Magomed Nurudinov (69kg), Nikolai Veselov (75kg), Sergei Korneev (81kg), Viktor Chumakov (91kg) and Mikhail Sheibak (91kg+).

    Belarus’ medal hopefuls are Vazgen Safarjants, Bato-Munko Vankeev, Khavazhi Khatsygov and Magomed Nurudinov. Vazgen Safarjants and Bato-Munko Vankeev claimed bronze at the European championships in 2006, Khavazhi Khatsygov took the European title in 2002 and Magomed Nurudinov was a finalist of the world championships. In 2005 he picked up silver.

    The Belarusian team also includes young athletes who will debut at such high-level tournament.

    It will be the 38th European championships. It will be held at the Echo Arena and Greenbank Sports Academy arenas.

    FC BATE becomes five times champion of Belarus

    FC BATE has secured the golden medal in the National Cup after it defeated Torpedo (Zhodino) with the score 2:1 on October 31.

    The Borisov team scored 63 points and became too far ahead of its main rivals Dinamo Minsk and MTZ-RIPÎ. It is the fifth golden medal of FC BATE in the National Championship.

  • Cultural Scene...

    CIS sets up interstate information pool

    From: BelTA
    An agreement on setting up an interstate information pool was signed by the members of the Council of the CIS Heads of the State and Public TV and Radio Companies at a session in Moscow on October 31, BelTA learnt from the press service of the CIS Executive Committee.

    The pool will operate on the principles of television information exchange. The latest news of the CIS member-states will be compiled into information packages. Other member-states will not be allowed to introduce amendments to the information items if these amendments distort the information. The Mir Interstate TV and Radio Company will perform the role of coordinator of mutual exchange of video materials.

    The Heads of the CIS TV and Radio Companies considered the mechanism of realization of joint television products, approved the concept of an hours-long TV-marathon at the walls of the Brest Fortress on May 9, 2009.

    The members of the Council also recommend the TV and Radio Companies to organize regular meetings with the chairman and plenipotentiary representatives of the CIS states in the CIS bodies. These meetings can be organised as news briefings, press conferences, roundtables on the issues of the CIS development, cooperation with other countries, urgent issues.

    The Council also decided to address the interstate fund of humanitarian cooperation with a request to include into its top-priority action plan a programme to train 15 journalism students from the CIS countries and a programme of enhancing qualifications in the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

  • Endnote...

    Russia versus Europe - the same old story

    From: Ria Novosti
    According to a widely-held view, the election of Barack Obama is good news for Russia. The new US president - runs the argument - will abandon the confrontational style of George W. Bush and adopt a more conciliatory line in foreign affairs, including in relations with Moscow.

    There is little doubt that the Bush presidency has been disastrous for both America and the world. Any end to Republican control of the White House can therefore only seem welcome. Unfortunately, however, there are in fact many grounds for pessimism about the future of East-West relations under President Obama.

    The first is of course the likely foreign policy of President Obama himself. Vice-President elect Joe Biden is notorious for his anti-Russian views. In his speech accepting the Democratic nomination in August, Biden specifically attacked the Bush administration for failing to face down Russia, i.e. for directing its attacks against the wrong enemy. At a speech on foreign policy in Cincinnati on 25 September, Biden said that Russia was as much of a threat as Iran, and he spoke warmly of his visit to “Misha” Saakashvili, the president of Georgia with whom he is evidently on first-name terms, and with whom he discussed how President Obama would make Russia “pay” for her “aggression” against his “democratic” country.

    But the main ground for pessimism lies in relations with Europe. President Medvedev’s principal foreign policy initiative since his election has been to woo European leaders, especially at Evian last month. His proposals for a new European security pact are an attempt to give Russia a foothold in military structures which currently exclude her, and thereby to reduce American dominance over them. As such, his proposals should be seen as the continuation of a long-standing geopolitical project for Moscow, which goes back at least to the signature of the Helsinki accords by the USSR in 1975.

    However, the election of a Democrat as US president means that it is the US-EU relationship which will now be reinvigorated, not the relationship between Europe and Russia. The Bush years have been exceptionally difficult for the pro-American elite which governs Europe. All the major players in European politics are viscerally pro-US (and concomitantly anti-Russian) but their basic desire to like America - and to be like America, for instance by creating a United States of Europe - has been thwarted by the contempt in which George Bush is held around the world (and indeed in his own country) and by the evident stupidity of his foreign policy.

    In contrast to a Bush who revels in his reputation as a redneck, Barack Obama embodies all the values with which European leaders are themselves infatuated – left-liberalism, youth, dynamism, change, even ethnic diversity. In the run-up to the poll, they have hardly been able to contain their excitement at the prospect of his election. Why, Obama even writes books. Years of pent-up pro-Americanism will therefore now flood out as soon as the mood music of multilateralism starts to be played once more in the White House. EU leaders will again be able to identify “America” with “progress,” just as they did when they were young, and they will swoon with delight whenever President Obama proposes some new international (i.e. trans-Atlantic) plan to spread Western political values around the world (and to augment the power of the West over it). By contrast, they see Russia as politically reactionary and as a threat to the most cherished ideals.

    This much has been evident from recent statements by two leading EU politicians. Last week, in his annual speech to the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies in Paris, the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, spoke with obvious warmth and enthusiasm of the trans-Atlantic alliance. He said, “I have been and remain and firm believer in the power of the US and Europe to act as a force for good in the world,” and uttered not a single word of criticism of US foreign policy over the last dreadful eight years.
    When he came to speak of Russia, however, his tone of voice hardened and grew cold. He spoke as if Russia were a country with which he was obliged but reluctant to do business. He dropped a heavy hint that Russia was using energy exports as a strategic weapon – a severe accusation to make against a neighbouring country with which the EU is trying to negotiate a partnership agreement - and he dismissed President Medvedev’s proposal for a new European security pact (inasmuch as he mentioned it at all) as too “vague” to merit any consideration now. He even said condescendingly that Russians have a special political mindset which Europeans had a duty to try to fathom, as if Russia were suffering from some strange collective psychosis. Solana’s pro-US credentials, of course, have never been in doubt: he was Secretary-General of NATO during the Alliance’s three-month attack on Yugoslavia in 1999.

    The same goes for the article in The Guardian on Tuesday by the president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pottering. Pottering also enthused about the prospect of a “transatlantic fresh start” following the American elections, and he invited the new US president to address the European Parliament next year. By contrast, his reaction to the election of Dmitri Medvedev as Russian president in March, and to his inauguration in May, was complete silence on both occasions. Pottering’s only statements concerning Russia in recent months have been to support Georgia and to attack Belarus.

    Under these circumstances, it is highly unlikely that President Medvedev’s attempts to direct the attention and affection of the EU elites towards their fellow Europeans East of Ukraine will ever get off the ground. The division of the European continent between East and West, so useful for American geopolitical strategy, is likely to continue.