Belarus' policy with Russia, Science Diplomas, Chavez to visit, Environment, Radioactive waste, Economy,Polish Customs, Blogs, Culture and Sport...
Belarus prepared for fundamental coordination of its foreign policy with Russia
From: Office of the president
‘I am very glad that nothing has changed for the worse in the relations between our countries since your previous visit,’ Alexander Lukashenko said to Sergei Lavrov. ‘On the contrary, we have made some adjustments, specifically in economy,’ he added. ‘I am very glad to see progress in our cooperation in all fields, including in politics and the military sphere. And it can’t be otherwise judging by how today’s situation in the world is developing,’ he summed up.
For his part, the Foreign Minister said the Russian authorities were also very satisfied with the results of the bilateral cooperation between Belarus and Russia. ‘Moreover, the real economy and the growth in trade prove that the creation of the Union State has been successfully in progress,’ he said.
Sergei Lavrov called the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 the period of ‘intensification of political contacts between the two states’.
Tomorrow there will be a joint session of the board of foreign ministries of Belarus and Russia, which is expected to adopt a programme of coordinated actions in foreign policy of the states-members of the Treaty of the Creation of the Belarus-Russia Union State 2008-2009.
Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus ready for radical foreign policy adjustment with Russia
Belarus is ready to radically adjust its foreign policy with Russia, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said during a meeting with Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on January 29.
“We are totally ready for a Belarusian-Russian council for working out fundamental proposals for adjusting the foreign policy of the two countries,” said the President.
“I am very glad nothing has changed for the worse in relations between our countries since your previous visit,” Alexander Lukashenko told Sergei Lavrov. “Contrariwise, we've corrected some things, in particular, economic ones”.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, Russia and Belarus develop cooperation in all avenues, including politics and military sphere. “It cannot be otherwise due to the modern situation in the world,” said the head of state.
Alexander Lukashenko confers Doctor of Science Diplomas and Professor Certificates January 29
|President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko conferring Doctor of Science Diplomas and Professor Certificates on Belarusian scientists and education professionals.|
In 2007 Belarus’ Supreme Certifying Commission conferred scientific degrees on 584 people including Doctor of Science degrees – on 53 scientists. Among them are 38 foreign citizens from 19 countries. Besides, the geography of competitors has considerably expanded: in 2006 some 32 scientists from eight countries were awarded academic degrees in Belarus. Nine citizens of Belarus, who defended theses abroad (one Doctor's and eight Ph.D. theses), were conferred academic degrees after the reclassification.
The age of scientists pretending to get a Doctor of Science degree lowers in Belarus. In 2005 the average age of a Doctor of Science was 55,4 years in Belarus; in 2007 – 51,3 years. Last year the number of persons, who defended Doctor of Science theses under 40 increased from 4.5% in 2006 to 9.4%. The average age of scientists pretending to get a candidate of science degree is 33 years.
In 2007 the biggest number of scientific degrees were awarded to medical workers (94 people – 16.1%), technicians (93 people – 15.9%), physicists and mathematicians (62 people – 10.6%), biologists (51 people – 8.7%), philologists (46 people – 7.9%) and jurists 938 people – 6.5%).
The number of those who were awarded an academic degree fell by 6% in 2007 compared to 2006 (from 622 to 584 people). At the same time the number of those who got a Doctor of Science degree increased by 20.5% (from 44 to 53 people). The share of unapproved theses fell by 10.6% compared to 2006 to 8.2% of all theses considered by the Supreme Certifying Commission.
Insofar as the Professor degree is concerned, in 2007 some 63 scientists became Professors. At the same time the number of refused applications for getting this degree fell by 2.6% in 2006 to 1.5% in 2007. In November-December the number of those pretending to get an academic degree increased from 29 to 70. It happened thanks to the presidential decree on paying bonuses for the academic decree passed in September 2007. As of the beginning of the year there were 183 councils for defending theses in Belarus (137 Doctor of Science and 46 Ph.D. councils). Some 34 expert commissions working under the Supreme Certifying Commission examine theses.
Achievements of Belarusian scientists in demand abroad
Achievements of Belarusian scientists enjoy demand abroad. The fact was emphasised by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko as he presented doctor of science certificates and professor diplomas to scientific and scientific and pedagogic workers on January 29.
As an example the head of state cited medical achievements made by Sergei Krasnyi, chief research officer with the N.N. Alexandrov Oncology and Medical Radiology Research Institute. Sergei Krasnyi developed an original method of surgical interference for treating oncological patients. Largely improving treatment effectiveness, the method has been introduced in clinical practice of the institute and Belarusian oncological dispensaries. Foreign specialists have expressed interest in the method. Scientific advances made by Lyubov Markova with the V.A. Belyi Metal Polymer Systems Mechanics Institute of the National Academy of Sciences have found application in Belarus and abroad.
The number of discoveries, which are made by Belarusian scientists and enrich the Belarusian and international science, has been on the rise recently, stressed the President.
With satisfaction Alexander Lukashenko noted, the number of aspirants for scientific degrees is on the rise in universities of oblast cities. “An essential replenishment of the number of Belarusian scientists in the country’s provinces allows creating new scientific schools and working for the future,” said the head of state.
Alexander Lukashenko also believes it is symbolic that foreign specialists travel to Belarus for professional development. Every year foreigners account for over 5% of the total number of scientists, who are awarded new degrees. In 2007 38 aspirants for scientific degrees were citizens of 19 countries, including Russia, Germany, Kazakhstan, China, Latvia, Poland and other countries.
Addressing scientists, Alexander Lukashenko underscored, “New scientific degrees are not only the recognition of your merits at the supreme level. It is the utmost responsibility of yours to the country and the nation for high productiveness of scientific research, for the successful fulfilment of the State Innovations Programme, which requires everyday scientific support.”
Chбvez to visit Russia and Belarus in February or March
From: El Universal and BelTA
|Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro|
"We are expecting his visit, but the exact dates are still unknown," said a member of the diplomatic mission in the Russian capital.
Meanwhile, Russian sources succinctly said that Russian Head of State Vladimir Putin was scheduled to welcome Chбvez in Moscow before leaving the Kremlin following the Russian presidential vote next March 2.
Further, Venezuelan Chargй d'Affairs in Belarus, Amйrico Dнas Nъсez Wednesday told reporters that Chбvez in February or March would visit again Moscow and Minsk, where he was last June.
In December 2007 President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko visited Venezuela. During the visit Belarusian-Venezuelan joint venture PetroVenBel was opened in the Venezuelan state Anzoategui. Intergovernmental and interagency documents, which envisage collaboration in various areas, were signed. Among them were agreements on cooperation in trade and economy, promotion and mutual protection of investments, avoidance of double taxation and prevention of tax dodging, cancellation of visas for holders of national, diplomatic and service passports. Cooperation agreements were signed by the Finance Ministry of Belarus and the Ministry of People’s Power for Finances of Venezuela as well as an agreement on the cultural cooperation between the two countries. Apart from that, more than a dozen contracts were signed by economic agents.
Chбvez's visits last year focused on political, economic, military and technical cooperation with Russia and Belarus, two countries that are tightening their links with the government of Caracas.
No military threat from anti-imperialistic alliance ALBA
President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez suggested setting up an anti-imperialistic alliance ALBA (consists of Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua) in order to repulse the US threat. Hugo Chavez called upon ALBA member-states to work out a joint defensive strategy and establish armed forces. An attack of the USA or its allies against an ALBA member-state will signify an aggression against all countries of the coalition. Hugo Chavez’ position was backed by the President of Nicaragua.
The President of Venezuela made the statement after the ALBA summit in Caracas was over. The resulting declaration adopted by this political and economic coalition criticised the US policy in the world and in Latin America.
Belarusian-Venezuelan military agreement regulates only defence issues
The existing Belarusian-Venezuelan military agreement regulates only defence issues and is in no way meant to launch any aggression. In particular, the cooperation is related to technologies, Charge d'affaires Ad Hoc of Venezuela to Belarus Americo Diaz Nunez told media on January 30.
The diplomat underscored, Venezuela has no aggressive plans and attack plans. Ensuring the country’s own security is the single goal of Venezuela in this area.
“Venezuela has large reserves of oil, gas and fresh water. Naturally these riches need to be defended. Meanwhile, it is necessary to protect the country’s sovereignty,” noted Americo Diaz Nunez.
Belarus to put Br416.1bn into environmental protection in 2008
The funds will be distributed among the oblast authorities and national governmental bodies, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.
Over 90% of the resources will be put into the state programmes and the hydrological system protection, improvement of the water supply, recovery and preservation of the natural ecological systems, pollution prevention. In particular, the finances will be injected into the state programme on water supply Clean Water 2006-2010, the ecological recovery of Lake Naroch for 2005-2008, the exploration work to develop the mineral and raw material basis of Belarus for 2006-2010 and up to 2020, the national plan on rational utilization of natural resources and environmental protection of Belarus for 2006-2010 and many more.
The funds will be also allocated for other measures related to the environmental protection and rational use of natural resources.
Radioactive waste repository to be constructed in LithuaniaLithuania is to embark on a project to construct the country’s first low and intermedium radioactive waste repository near the Belarusian and Latvian borders
From: Polish Radio
Experts say that radioactive waste repository is necessary as it is much safer and cheaper way of storing hazardous substances than at the reactor as it is done right now.
Lithuanian Radioactive Waste Management Agency (RATA) has been researching possible sites for the repository for some four years and studied two of them in greater detail.
One of them – Galilauke, in the Ignalina District, is in an area less than a kilometer from the Lithuanian and Belarusian border. The other one – Apvardai lies further 3 km away.
Despite the fact that both of them, especially the one in Galilauke, were suitable from the geological point of view, experts could not go on with the project at either of them. The head of the agency Dainius Janenas explains why.
"We received petitions from Belarus and Latvia, resident of those countries were really against it. Therefore our Environment ministry and Government had to take it into account and opt for a different location for the repository. Local municipalities demanded way too great compensations as well," he says.
The third location investigated for the radioactive waste repository is situated at the former Stabatiљke village, in the Visaginas Municipality, close to the Ignalina nuclear power plant (NPP) and some 4 km from the border with neighbouring Belarus.
The agency hopes to use some of the infrastructure of the existing nuclear power plant and ensure much safer transportation of waste containers to the site than in the case of the remaining two locations considered.
But experts admit that greater international acceptance was the main arguments in favor of this particular site. Even though the costs of building the repository here will be much higher because of underground waters that are dangerously high.
"Of course the Galilauke option would be cheaper, even though we would have to relocate one local resident from there and build more roads. But even considering extra costs for the irrigation system, Stabatiљke has more advantages and we can assure you that safety will not be compromised," Janenas adds.
The head of the Environmental impact assessment unit at the Lithuanian Ministry of Environment, Vitalijus Auglys, claims that compromise was the only option when choosing internationally and locally acceptable solution.
“There are no ideal locations for sites like this, just like there are no ideal locations for household waste disposal grounds, for example. People always object to building them in the neighbourhood.
“Of course the social aspect was an important one, but no matter what, we have to ensure the highest safety standards for at least 300 years. Our studies show that it is possible on this site and it was confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency too," Auglys notes.
Similar waste repositories are already in operation in France, Spain and Sweden. Processed waste will be packed into concrete containers and covered with several protecting layers.
A hundred thousand cubic metres of radioactive clothing, furniture and other materials will have to be safely deposited in the area of 40 hectares.
The responsibility for designing the repository rests with the Ignalina NPP.
Dr. Stasys Motiejunas from the waste management anency RATA explains why this particular repository model was chosen for Lithuania:
"Swedish experts suggested that we cover the repository with stones. But as its considered to be a valuable construction material in Lithuania, we had to diregard this option as unsafe. We will plant it over with the layer of grass and look after it to avoid the growth of trees."
“There will be a thick layer of soil under the grass and a metre think layer of clay underneath – protecting the concrete containers with waste from water," Motiejunas says.
Experts also stress that the construction will also meet the so-called inherent safety standards – it will remain safe despite absent engineering facilities and human interference.
The distinct nature of the object that requires hundreds of years of monitoring determined the choice of old and reliable building materials. Luckily, a high-quality waterproof clay is what Lithuania has in abundance.
The design work is to start this year, the construction in 2012, and the near-surface repository is to be commissioned in 2015.
The costs of the project are estimated between 100-200 million euros, all to be provided by European Reconstruction and Development Bank and European Commission.
Unlimited number of international observers at Belarus’ parliamentary elections
This year the term of office of both the chambers of the parliament, namely the Council of the Republic and the House of Representatives of the National Assembly, expires. In line with the Constitution the President of Belarus is supposed to call elections to the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic.
The election is to be held by October 12 at the latest. As the Constitution allows two rounds of elections, most likely the elections will be held in late September. Hence the election campaign may officially start in late June 2008.
The elections should be held in a transparent and democratic manner. During the election the well-reputed practice of appointing a commission member with the advisory vote right will be used. Political parties, which nominate their representatives as candidates for deputies for the House of Representatives, will be able to have one representative included in the Central Election Commission for the duration of the elections. The representatives will be able to participate in discussing all issues and problems the CEC will consider.
Alexander Lukashenko and Lidia Yermoshina also talked over international monitoring of the elections.
The President reaffirmed that international observers will be invited to the elections, invited in numbers international organisations, which will be involved in monitoring the election, consider necessary. As a rule both the OSCE and the CIS send their missions. The number of people in these missions will be limited in no way.
Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus makes problems neither for neighbours, nor for western countries
On January 31 President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko met with Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Belarus Gebhardt Weiss. The press service of the President of Belarus told BelTA, the President pointed out the positive attitude of the head of the German diplomatic mission in Belarus to the host country.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, any ambassador is supposed to establish normal friendly relations between his home country and the host country.
“Regretfully Western ambassadors lack this desire,” remarked the head of state. “We have a paradox as a result. In private ambassadors always, I believe, sincerely approve of what is going on in Belarus. They are satisfied with the stability in the country. They say it is advantageous for them, they are very dependent on energy supplies from Russia, especially nowadays. The stability in Belarus means stability in the economies of their countries. But when we hear official statements some ambassadors make and see their real actions, it is very saddening. In view of the fact I don’t completely understand the role of ambassadors of the European Union states and the USA and would not like to hide it. This is why I sometimes speak harshly to stop some especially zealous people and show that Belarus is a sovereign independent country and has been such a country for one and half decade. It is a fact that we are stable and make no troubles for anyone — neither the neighbouring countries nor Germany, nor France, nor the USA. What do they want from us then?”
Alexander Lukashenko underscored there are many issues and he is ready to hear out any proposals or critical remarks of the German Ambassador. “You should say what you don’t like and what you would like to change. I will try to respond to what you’ll say,” noted the head of state.
The President expressed hope the meeting will be productive.
The head of the German diplomatic mission suggested looking forth instead of looking back. “The forthcoming months before the elections will be to a certain extent decisive for Belarus and its status in Europe. In view of these events if the process goes on, a new situation may emerge,” said the diplomat.
Alexander Lukashenko baffled by views of certain European ambassadors on Belarus
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko believes views of certain European ambassadors on Belarus are paradoxical. The President made the corresponding statement as he met with Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Belarus Gebhardt Weiss on January 31.
“Our meeting should be honest, plain-speaking and, most importantly, sincere. I would like to thank you for your mission in our country,” the President told the Ambassador.
According to the Belarusian head of state, the goal of an ambassador in the host country is to establish normal friendly relations between his home country and the host country. “Regretfully Western ambassadors lack this desire,” remarked Alexander Lukashenko. “We have a paradox as a result”. The President explained, in private the ambassadors always sincerely approved of what is going on in Belarus. They are satisfied with the stability in the country, it is advantageous for them. But when “we hear official statements some ambassadors make and see their real actions, it is very sad,” said the President.
Alexander Lukashenko noted, he does not completely understand the role of ambassadors of the European Union states and the USA and would like to be clear on it. “This is why I sometimes speak harshly. Belarus is a sovereign independent country and has been such a country for fifteen years. It is a fact that the country is stable and makes no troubles to anyone — neither the neighbouring countries nor Germany, nor France, nor the USA. What do they want from us then?” wondered the President.
The head of state also underscored, he is ready to hear out any proposals of the German Ambassador. “You should say what you don’t like and what you would like to change. I will try to respond to what you’ll say,” said Alexander Lukashenko.
During the meeting the Ambassador suggested looking forth instead of looking back. “The forthcoming months before the elections will be to a certain extent decisive for Belarus and its status in Europe. In view of these events if the process goes on, a new situation may emerge,” he said.
Belarus’ real economy lending to go up by at least 41% in 2008
According to the press service of the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko was informed about the total fulfilment of last year’s major monetary management guidelines.
Belarus managed to accumulate the necessary resources to reinforce the national currency in 2008 and later on at the expense of considerable gold and foreign exchange reserves. The latter increased by 190% in 2007 to reach $5 billion as of January 1, 2008.
The National Bank fulfilled all instructions of the President to credit state programmes and the real economy. In 2007 the lending volume was twice as high as the figure set by the Major Monetary Management Guidelines.
Piotr Prokopovich said, necessary measures had been taken to reach goals outlined by the 2008 Major Monetary Management Guidelines. In particular, credit support for the real economy will be largely increased. Additional measures have been worked out to pursue an effective interest rate policy and reinforce the payment system.
The head of state gave an instruction to ensure the fulfilment of all goals listed by the Major Monetary Management Guidelines in 2008.
The President was also informed about the fulfilment of instructions concerning the development of rowing sports in Belarus and the build-up of sports base. This year there are plans to open two rowing canals — in Zaslavl and Gomel. Several rowing training facilities will be refitted to largely boost the number of those, who go in for these sports, and create good foundation for training Belarusian national teams.
The head of state backed proposals to promote these kinds of sports and gave instructions to do everything necessary to create strong national teams, which would decently represent the country at the forthcoming Beijing Olympics and other international level events.
Customs clearance simplified for bona fide entities of foreign economic activity
By Decree No 40, the President of the Republic of Belarus has approved the Provisions on the status “Bona Fide Entity of Foreign Economic Activity”, procedure of keeping the register of the individuals with this status and providing information from this register, the Provisions on the peculiarities of the procedure for placing goods under the customs free circulation regime, BelTA was told in the presidential press service.
The document will simplify the operations related to the provision of goods for customs clearance, for corporate entities and individual entrepreneurs acting in conformity with the legislation of Belarus and having the respective status.
The Decree regulates the customs clearance procedure for bona fide entities of foreign economic activity when undergoing customs transit procedures, procedures for temporary storage of goods, and the procedure for placing goods under the customs free circulation regime.
The status “Bona Fide Entity of Foreign Economic Activity” is conferred on an entity if the entity has been engaged in foreign economic activity for no less than three years, if the entity has no history of violating the customs regulations and has never been brought accountable for criminal offence as a result of his foreign economic activity.
The status “Bona Fide Entity of Foreign Economic Activity” is given for three years. The status can be withdrawn in case of customs legislation violations.
World Bank: 2008 will be good year for Belarus’ economy
The year of 2008 will be good for the Belarusian economic sector, said Paul Bermingham, World Bank Country Director for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.
“The situation will continue improving and economy growing in Belarus in 2008. The growth in the foreign currency reserves and the external debt level will protect the country from the possible processes taking place in the international financial market,” he stressed.
When addressing reporters, Paul Bermingham noted that it is too early to speak about a crisis in the international financial market. The matter most likely concerns “certain vulnerability of the markets and certain crisis risks.” “Certainly none of the countries is isolated from exterior influence. But this year the economic situation will be stable in Belarus. This will be a good year for the country,” the World Bank official considers. According to him, at present investors are ready to enter new markets, so Belarus will get new opportunities for attracting investments if the situation remains stable.
Paul Bermingham praised the results of cooperation between the World Bank and Belarus and expressed hope the sides would continue expanding it.
A reminder, in 2006 the World Bank granted a $50 million loan to Belarus to carry out a project aimed at rehabilitating regions suffered in the result of the Chernobyl catastrophe (the project is designed for 2006-2010). In 2007 the World Bank allocated additional $15 million to implement a project “Modernization of the infrastructure of social facilities of Belarus”, which is coming to an end. The World Bank is ready to give Belarus new loans.
“We hope that in the next few weeks the sides will settle an issue relating to giving Belarus a new $60 million loan for carrying out a project aimed at upgrading water supply and drainage systems. A loan for the energy efficiency project is expected to be approved in 2009. The loan may exceed $100 million,” Paul Bermingham stressed.
EU administration opts out from resolving Polish Customs problem
“There has been no serious response to the situation on their part. Though naturally there might have been the response and actions of Polish customs officers might have been evaluated,” he remarked. At present it is unclear at what level negotiations between the Polish customs service and the government are held.
According to Leonid Dosov, the situation with queues at the border changes every hour. It is rather difficult to pinpoint the exact number of vehicles that cross the Belarusian-Polish border, but potential opportunities are not used. “We are ready for any developments. If necessary, officers from other customs houses will reinforce Brest and Grodno customs houses,” he added.
According to the official, the Brest and Grodno customs houses are working harder now. All other Belarusian customs houses are working harder, too, in order to clear exports and imports as fast as possible.
Polish customs officials still on strike
Polish customs officials are still on strike, BelTA learnt from the Belarusian embassy in Poland.
The negotiations with the Polish authorities were derailed – the sides could not agree on welfare allowances and other social security issues. The Polish authorities continue taking measures to settle all the disputes and to improve the situation, which arose from the strike, the embassy informed.
Most of the Polish customs officials demanded a wage increase and virtually stopped working. To achieve the goal they were going on leave and taking sick-lists. The “quiet strike” ended in long-kilometer queues on the eastern borders of Poland.
There were 245 trucks standing in a queue at the fright terminals of the border checkpoint Kozlovichi on Thursday morning. On Wednesday 280 trucks entered Poland through the border checkpoint Kozlovichi and 54 trucks entered Belarus. The queue on the Polish side is about 54 kilometers long.
Polish embassy: number of Polish customs officials at border checkpoints increased
|The situation on the Belarusian-Polish border is the EU economic blockade against the neighboring countries|
“We have information that a part of customs officials came back to their workplaces. At present officials the Polish Finance Ministry are meeting with representatives of the trade unions to discuss the situation,” said Monika Sadkowska.
Demanding a pay rise the Polish customs officials virtually stopped working. Most of them took sick-lists or went on leave to achieve their goal. As a result, many-kilometer-long lines were formed at the eastern borders of Poland.
Situation at Belarusian-Polish border checkpoints getting back to normal
The situation at Belarusian-Polish border checkpoints is getting back to normal, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Poland Pavel Latushko told BelTA.
In his words, over the night shift the queue to the cargo border checkpoint Kozlovichi-Kukuryki has decreased by 10 km. The Polish customs service has cleared 500 vehicles. For the morning shift 21 customs officers started working while the standard crew counts 16 officers. The queue at the border checkpoint now makes up 3 km.
The consulate of Belarus in Biala Podlaska pointed out a considerable decrease in the number of heavy haulers queuing up for crossing the border.
There are queues on the Polish side at large cargo border checkpoints Bobrowniki-Berestovitsa and Kuznica-Bruzgi. However, the size of the queues is similar to that observed during normal operation. According to the Polish customs service, around 80% of the usual crew is working there.
The Embassy of Belarus in Warsaw has received reports about the situation getting back to normal from the customs service of the Finance Ministry of Poland. Readiness to continue negotiation for signing an agreement between the Polish government and trade unions of the customs service has been expressed.
Pavel Latushko stressed, the situation witnessed over the last few days indicates the necessity of establishing fast information exchange between Belarus and Poland as well as a system of proactive information sharing between corresponding agencies in accordance with the existing agreements, which regulate border issues between Belarus and Poland. These proposals were once again presented to Polish partners.
The embassy and consulates of Belarus in Poland continue monitoring situation in contact with central and regional border and customs services of Poland.
Belarusian president lashes out at EU, US ambassadors
Lukashenko began signaling a desire for better relations with the West following Russia's decision to sharply hike prices for oil exports to Belarus — exports on which the country's Soviet-style, centrally controlled economy had long depended.
The United States and European Union, however, have made clear that Lukashenko must free political prisoners and allow more democratic freedoms before long-standing travel restrictions and economic sanctions can be eased and relations normalized.
Last month, U.S. Ambassador Karen Stewart said Washington could add to the existing sanctions if Lukashenko doesn't take more concrete steps. The Belarusian leader responding by threatening to throw the ambassador out if new sanctions are imposed.
"The role of an ambassador in the country of arrival in spite of everything is to establish normal, friendly relations. Most unfortunately, Western ambassadors do not have this wish," he said at a meeting with German Ambassador Gebhardt Weiss.
"I don't fully understand the role of the ambassadors of the European Union ... and the United States and I don't want to hide this. Therefore I am stating this harshly in order to stop those who are particularly mettlesome and to show that Belarus is a sovereign, independent state," he said.
Russia, Belarus ink one-voice foreign policy plan
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Belarussian counterpart Sergei Martvnov also signed a plan of ministerial consultations in 2008 and discussed cooperation within international organizations, news agencies reported.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said the document stressed a new quantity of foreign political cooperation of the Russia-Belarus Union State in 2008-2009 that is based on common views on key world political issues.
Their talks also focused on United States' plans to deploy anti-ballistic missile components in East Europe, the West's pressure on Belarus and monitoring over elections.
"We're concerned over certain Western countries' attempts to put pressure on Belarus. This is pressure, which is aimed at changing Belarus' policy. It's counter-productive," Itar-Tass news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.
Martynov appreciated Russia's supports, saying the West's criticism "groundless."
The two former Soviet allies have pledged to realize re-integration and Belarus is also developing ties with Washington's rivals such as Iran and Venezuela.
Diplomat Says There Will Not Be Big Changes in Russian Gas Prices for Belarus
In a related story, Russian ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov has said that there will be no serious changes in the price of natural gas for Belarus in the second quarter of 2008.
"There will be no anxious situations with the gas price for Belarus in the second quarter of 2008," he told the press on Friday.
"The price may change depending on the oil price but within reasonable limits but by no more than 10%," he added.
In the first quarter the price of gas for Belarus is $119 for 1,000 cubic meters up from $100 in 2007. Under a four-year contract on gas deliveries to Belarus signed in December 2006 the price of gas for Belarus will constitute 67% of the average European price in 2008.
In 2008 Russia will deliver 21.6 billion cubic meters of gas to Belarus up from 21.1 billion cubic meters in 2007.
Subsistence Minimum Budget raised by 7.8 percent
The new SMB took effect on February 1.
The average per-capita SMB is now 200,080 rubels ($94), amounting to 221,420 rubels ($103.7) for economically active individuals, 176,650 rubels ($82.7) for retirees, 210,860 rubels (about $98.8) for students, 234,810 rubels (about $110) for children aged between three and sixteen, and 168,900 rubels (about $79.1) for children aged under three.
Under the Subsistence Minimum Budget Law, the SMB helps the cabinet analyze and forecast the population's living standards and reckon the level of government support for low-income groups.
The SMB is quarterly adjusted to the prices of foodstuffs, clothes, underwear, footwear, medicines, toiletries, household goods and the rates of utility, transport and consumer services.
Owing to the 7.8-percent increase of the SMB, the government's monthly allowance for families with children, social pensions, and increments to pensions for some categories of retirees will also be increased by 7.8 percent.
The new SMB will remain effective until April 30, 2008.
It amounted to 185,670 rubels (about $87) from November 1 through January 31 and to 185,360 rubels from August 1 through October 31.
Belarus won't impose any restrictions on the imports of plant products from India
From: Agro Market
According to the provided information, starting from January 28th Russia has blocked the imports of plant products from India and has established a special regime for tea and coffee imports which in particular predetermines new requirements to the packs of such products. This sanction is a result of the detection of khapra beetle in sesame shipment. "Belarus has had no intentions yet to impose the similar sanctions as they were imposed on Indian tea and coffee and other plant products from India", the state authorities informed.
At the same time, the interviewees told that the freight inspection of plant product shipments from India was tighten. "Now we also require all suppliers of such products from India to provide documents which prove the additional freight disinfection by fumigators", they added.
The specialists of Chief state inspection of seed industry, quarantine and plant protection reminded that the freights are inspected on the border and are secondly checked in the warehouses of the enterprises - freight recipients in order to prevent the quarantine life forms to enter the territory of the country.
More than 367 hectares of land included in Pinsk town line
In line with the decree, more than 367 hectares of land was included in the Pinsk town line. This is the land which is the property of juridical persons, individual entrepreneurs and also the Molotkovichi and Osnezhitsy rural executive committees.
Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz visits Pinsk
Naveny reports that Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus, on Sunday traveled to Pinsk, Brest region, to visit the St. Barbara church.
A service marking his entrance into the church was attended by Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek, apostolic administrator for the Pinsk Diocese who formerly headed the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus, local government officials, Catholic priests, nuns, theology school students and believers.
"I believe and I am even completely sure that you will show mastery and patience in heading the church in Belarus," Cardinal Swiatek said during the ceremony.
Msgr. Kondrusiewicz thanked Cardinal Swiatek for his service as head of the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus.
"Let the kind God bless the cardinal priest so that we could work jointly for the benefit of these people with whom we originate and for whom God has blessed us to be shepherds, and let our work bring as much good as possible to people," he said.
In his speech, Msgr. Kondrusiewicz expressed concern about low birth rates, family crisis, abandoned children, aborts and the secularization of society in Belarus.
The sum of his own fears; WAVE OF TERROR By Theodore Odrach
From: Globe and Mail
His double life was further complicated by the fictions he spun about his identity. Born Fedir Sholomitsky, he assumed the name Odrach when his anti-Bolshevik activities made him a marked man in Soviet-occupied Belarus. What his daughter, who would one day become his translator, never knew until she travelled to her father's birthplace, was that his entire family did not perish in the war, as he'd insisted, and that Odrach-Sholomitsky was as likely to have been Jewish or Belarusian as Ukrainian.
Questions of identity and origins matter greatly in Wave of Terror, which is set partly in a marshland village and partly in the town of Pinsk - the birthplace of the Polish writer Ryszard Kapuscinski, as readers of Imperium will know. Territorial politics in this region are fraught: A short-lived Belarusian People's Republic (1918-19) was superseded by the Belarusian Soviet Republic, but only in 1939 did that republic repossess Belarusian territory annexed by Poland between the two world wars. Belarusians argue that this territory was ethnically theirs: Ukrainians claim otherwise, as does Ivan Kulik, the protagonist of Odrach's novel.
Kulik's deepest passions involve the preservation of the embattled Ukrainian language and the struggle for an independent Ukraine; these passions surface in his feelings for the blondly beautiful, but Russified, Marusia, and the mysterious, dark-haired Zena, who appears to be ardently Ukrainian, though she works for the Soviet administration in Pinsk. And yet the dominant trait of Ivan Kulik is neither nationalist nor romantic zeal; rather, it is the urge to save himself from the "dark hole" of history in which he fears he will perish at the hands of men ruled by crudeness, brutality and abject ignorance.
Kulik is the Ukrainian word for sandpiper, a bird far less pugnacious than the hawk or eagle; not a swimmer, but a wader, a creature of margins and shorelines. So perhaps it is fitting that Kulik, the witness of so much violence perpetrated against so many innocent people - mass deportations to Siberia and its labour camps, summary executions, baseless arrests, torture and demoralization through an all-pervasive fear of self and others - is not so much a hero as a survivor, though he is never a conformist or a collaborator. Kulik feels compassion for those who suffer most - the miserably poor cleaning woman with her dying husband and five half-starved children, or the ill-clad, ill-provisioned deportees - and he does act to better the life of the school bully, who turns out to have suffered savage physical abuse at the hands of his own father.
His own past - revealed only in capsule form, and in the novel's last chapter - is marked by exceptional dislocation, resourcefulness and courage. Yet under Soviet rule he becomes helpless and despairing.
Perhaps Odrach's greatest achievement in this depiction of a season in Stalinist hell is to show how, given certain political and social conditions, even an intelligent, cultured, decent man can be reduced to the sum of his fears for his own safety and his strategies for saving his own neck. Tellingly, the phrase "wave of terror" occurs once in this translation, to describe Kulik's panic when he realizes the danger in which he has put himself by offering to help rescue Marusia's consumptive brother, who is trapped in Lvov. (The translator often transliterates names into Russian, not Ukrainian, forms.)
At the novel's end, Kulik, who has been arrested and interrogated by the secret police, resolves on a course of action rather than reaction. Fearing that he will be rearrested and tortured by the NKVD, he abandons homeland, profession and hard-won love in order to flee "a land with no future, a land forever at the mercy of a ruthless despot up to his elbows in blood."
Though it may save the protagonist's life, this flight sabotages the novel: The fates of Marusia, her parents and brother are left up in the air; the question of Zena's motives is barely
probed, and the lives of the various villagers to whom Odrach has introduced us, notably the courageous Sergei, seem to be unimportant by comparison to Kulik's belief that "his life was not over," the words with which Wave of Terror abruptly ends.
The novel's weakness has only partially to do with such loose ends, however. The minor characters are often far more engaging than the major: the "cultured" women are vapid creatures compared to the Rabelaisian Dounia, seller of schmaltz herring turned schoolteacher. It is thanks to the largesse of Dounia, as well as the antics of Cornelius, an ex-thief turned homo Sovieticus par excellence, that Wave of Terror achieves a comic dimension that makes the human horrors it portrays all the more appalling.
As T. F Rigelhof poignantly observes in his introduction to the novel, those horrors have not been exhausted: Some 50 years after the traumatic events Odrach records, the Belarusian marshes and their inhabitants bore the brunt of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, the Pinsk prison becoming a cancer hospital for survivors of another kind.
Month of French Language to be held in Belarus in March
On January 29 the Minsk House of Friendship hosted a Belarusian-French party, which was attended by a delegation of the Association of the French-Slavonic Friendship.
Over the past 15 years the association has been maintaining close links with the Belarusian Society of Friendship and Cultural Links with Foreign Countries and has been providing assistance to the regions suffered in the result of the Chernobyl catastrophe. The association purchases necessary medical preparations and equipment for the Belarusian medical establishments. This time the French guests visited several children’s hospitals to give presents to young patients.
On January 29 representatives of the Association of the French-Slavonic Friendship visited Vitebsk. On January 30 they will visit a maternity hospital in Borisov. The association has been maintaining close links with this medical establishment for a long time.
Presentation of novelties of French literature to be made at Minsk International Book Fair
A presentation of novelties of the French literature will be made at the 15th Minsk International Book Fair “Books of Belarus-2008”, BelTA learnt from the French embassy in Belarus.
The French diplomatic mission has been participating in the Belarusian book forum since 1996. This year the embassy will present a series of books published within the framework of the programme of assistance to the publications “Bogdanovich” (Belarus) and “Pushkin” (Russia). Guests of the fair will be also able to get familiar with new novels of the French authors such as “Jeremie, Jeremie!” from Dominique Fernandez, “The Man who was Planting Trees” from Jean Giono (the book has been translated into Belarusian) and “Sea Spider” from Marian Leconte.
Literature lovers will be able to speak to Claire Le Foll, a French historian and the author of “Vitebsk Artistic School (1897-1923)” and the director of the publishing house “Planet of People”.
The exhibition will also feature novelties of the French literature including books awarded literary prizes in 2007, books for children and young people, special French language editions. French art albums will be presented at the exhibition as well.
About Br90bn to be invested in reconstruction of National Film Studio Belarusfilm
|The youth theatre “Koleso” from Vitebsk presents the comedy “Yellow Ground”|
According to the Vice Premier, the reconstruction of the facility should be completed by September 1, 2009.
At present, specialists are developing the architectural design and construction documents. The renovation works of the old building will start on March 1.
According to the Vice Premier, a modern film-producing facility will appear in the center of the Belarusian capital. Apart from the technical and administrative base it will include a hotel, a cafe and even the movie stars’ alley.
The final stage of the reconstruction includes the construction of a building of the Theater of Film Actor and a movie centre.
Polish Institute in Belarus puts on show for Minsk residents
The Polish Cultural Institute (PCI) in Minsk has prepared a cycle of concerts by Polish musicians, painting exhibitions and film presentations in the Belarusian capital.
Over the next few weeks shows will be held in Minsk’s Philharmonic and the Central Cinema.
Elena Zdobnikowa from the PCI has said that the idea is to present a wide-range of Polish cultural and artistic genres.
One of the main events of the cycle is a concert to be held in the Belarusian capital’s Philharmonic of the Wlodek Pawlik Jazz Trio on February 6.
A selection of new Polish movie releases is also going to be shown in Minsk, including “Saviour Square”, which recently won an award at the Trieste Film Festival in Italy, “Jasminum” and comedy “Testosteron”.
The PCI in Minsk has added that the second quarter of 2008 will also be of interest to the citizens of the Belarusian capital.
Russia officially kicks off presidential campaign
Russia's First Channel, the Russia TV Company and the TV Centeras well as Mayak, Radio Russia and Voice of Russia will grant free airtime to advertising spots and TV debates.
The ruling United Russia party, which has nominated First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as its candidate, published its election program -- "Putin's Plan, the Great Country's Worthy Future" -- in the national Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper.
The plan aims at developing Russia as a unique civilization, boosting its economy, improving people's lives through massive and extensive national projects for social development, supporting civil society, strengthening national sovereignty and defense capabilities as well as ensuring Russia a proper role in the multi-polar world arena.
In the plan, the party vowed to build Russia as a great power "on the basis of historic traditions and the distinctive cultural values of its peoples and the best world civilization achievements."
"The Russia we choose is a strong democratic and socially-oriented state. It is a free, just and spiritually united society," according to the plan. "It is an innovative economy able to compete. It is a high quality of life for its citizens."
Medvedev, who has been publicly endorsed as his handpicked successor by the popular incumbent President Vladimir Putin, enjoys high popularity across the country and is the clear front-runner in the election campaign.
The other three candidates are Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, head of the Russian Liberal-Democratic Party Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Chairman of the Russian Democratic Party Andrei Bogdanov.
The state-run VTsIOM opinion center forecast on Jan. 31 that Medvedev, who has been working along with Putin since the early1990s, would receive 74.8 percent of the votes, Zyuganov would obtain 12.8 percent, Zhirinovsky 11.5 percent and Bogdanov a mere 0.9 percent.
Medvedev's campaign team, headed by Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin, is planning an "ascetic" campaign, the Moscow Times newspaper quoted a United Russia official as saying, who declined to give his name.
Medvedev has refused to take part in TV debates, saying he will continue his daily job.
"This is not only because the other candidates are not serious competitors. It was the wish of Medvedev himself," the official said.
Analysts, however, said Medvedev's relatively quiet campaign is to avoid overtaking the popularity of his boss and close ally Putin, who wants to remain his influence after stepping down in May.
In fact, Medvedev has been dominating television news broadcasts, mostly alongside Putin, ever since the president publicly gave him the nod as his preferred successor last December.
Zyuganov's team threatened to quit the campaign after Medvedev rejected the TV debates but later pledged not to withdraw from the presidential race, despite media restrictions and an alleged intimidation campaign.
Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky launched their campaigns by publishing open letters and campaign outlines in national newspapers such as the Komsomol Pravda on Saturday. Officials for Zhirinovsky's campaign said 60 different television advertisements will be broadcasted in support of him.
Russia, US sign $5 bn uranium sales deal
From: Economic Times
|Uranium is a silvery-white metal. Photo is a billet of highly enriched uranium recovered from scrap|
"The deal is worth $5-6 billion over the next 10 years," said Rosatom director Sergei Kiriyenko, after signing the document together with US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.
The deal allows for sales of Russian enriched uranium directly to US utilities. Previously, such direct transactions were not permitted.
Gutierrez said: "The agreement will encourage bilateral trade in Russian uranium products for peaceful purposes. It will also help to ensure that US utilities have an adequate source of enriched uranium for US utility consumers."
A Rosatom spokesman said with the new trade deal the volumes of direct deliveries of uranium enrichment services may total 20 percent of the market.
Under the deal, Russian uranium exports to the US would increase slowly over a 10-year period, beginning in 2011.
In September, the US Court of International Trade lifted discriminatory, anti-dumping restrictions on Russian low-enriched uranium (LEU) supplies, ordering, the US Department of Commerce to cancel a 112 percent duty on Russian low-enriched uranium, which is used by US nuclear power plants, within 60 days.
Russia currently exports uranium to the US duty free via the US Enrichment Corporation (USEC), a special intermediary agent, under a conversion programme called HEU-LEU.
The HEU-LEU contract, also known as the Megatons to Megawatts agreement, was signed in February 1993 and expires in 2013. It aims at converting 500 tonnes of high-enriched uranium (HEU), the equivalent of approximately 20,000 nuclear warheads, from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons into low-enriched uranium (LEU), which is then converted into nuclear fuel for use in US commercial reactors.
Russia Moving Ahead With Plant Closings
The official said Sergey Kiriyenko, the director of Russia's nuclear agency, Rosatom, told Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman during a 40-minute meeting Friday that shutting down the two reactors in the Siberian town of Seversk so soon was "realistic."
Bodman also was given assurances that a program to upgrade security at many of Russia's nuclear sites would be completed on schedule by the end of the year and that steps would be taken to ensure the security improvements will be maintained into the future, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the exchange had not yet been announced.
The United States and Russia have been working for years on arrangements to close Russia's three plutonium producing reactors — the two at Seversk and a third in the city of Zheleznogorsk that is scheduled to be shuttered at the end of next year.
While Russia has agreed to dispose of 34 metric tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium, it has continued to produce about 1.2 metric tons a year of new plutonium in the three reactors, raising additional proliferation risks.
The reactors provide electricity and heat to the nearby towns and the Russians have refused to shut them down until two fossil fuel plants are built. The United States has committed $926 million to help build the fossil plants, with the one at Seversk almost completed.
Kiriyenko told Bodman that the two Seversk reactors already have been operating at half power, cutting in half the amount of plutonium being produced, said the U.S. official.
Shutting the reactors has been a major U.S. nonproliferation goal. It's been an "up and down" struggle over the years to get the Russians to scrap the reactors, said Matthew Bunn, a nuclear nonproliferation expert at Harvard's Project on Managing the Atom who closely monitors Russia's post-Cold War handling of nuclear weapons material.
Aside from the plutonium issue, said Bunn in an interview, "the three reactors are among the most unsafe reactors, possibly the most unsafe reactors, in the world." He said the reactors were used by Russia to develop the design of the ill-fated Chernobyl reactor.
On a broader issue, Bodman and Kiriyenko discussed progress in completing security upgrades — improved fencing, alarm systems and guard houses — for weapons materiel at hundreds of buildings and bunkers at sites across Russia.
Kiriyenko "gave Bodman his promise that he would do what's necessary" to complete the upgrades by the target date of the end of this year, said the U.S. official.
Bodman told Kiriyenko that the United States views these safeguards as a key area of U.S.-Russian cooperation and "essential to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists."
So far upgrades are completed at 85 percent of the sites covered by the U.S.-Russia security improvement program with the work at the remaining sites expected to be finished by year's end, according to DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the program.
Bunn, who has been critical of the pace of the Russian security improvements, said it "remains a struggle to get it all done" but that there appears to be "worthwhile progress."
Fifteen years ago, Bunn has noted, some of the nuclear sites had gaping holes in fences, lacked detectors to set off alarms if plutonium or highly enriched uranium was carried out the door, and padlocks that could be easily snapped.
"We now need to be working hard on the next stage," said Bunn, which he said is making sure Russia will spend its own money to keep the improved security in place. "That remains a struggle."
At the meeting, Kiriyenko agreed with Bodman that steps needed to be taken to ensure the security enhancements would be maintained, the U.S. official said.
Poland 'agrees' to US missile defence deal
The deal, struck in Washington this weekend, will fuel growing tension between Russia and the West, which are competing for influence in central and eastern Europe in a struggle with uncomfortable echoes of the Cold War.
Under the agreement, announced by Poland's foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, America will help bolster Polish air defences in return for permission to place 10 interceptor missiles on the country's Baltic seaboard.
"There is still a great deal of work for our experts," said Mr Sikorski on his first trip to Washington since Poland's centre-right government came to power in November. "But yes, I am satisfied that the principles that we have argued for have been accepted."
The weapons are meant to defend Europe and Israel against missile attacks from Iran and other emerging threats from rogue states or terrorists, but Russia sees the move as an attempt to undermine its own nuclear deterrent. President Vladimir Putin has been angered by the steady expansion of Nato up to Russia's borders, including the establishement of US bases in some former Soviet republics of central Asia.
Poland joined Nato in 1999. Mr Putin has also sharply increased defence spending and played to his own voters by ordering the resumption of flights to test western air defences, and major naval exercises in waters close to Western Europe.
US officials have tried to soothe Russian fears, saying the system would be impotent against Russia's huge nuclear arsenal. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice later played down its links to the programme known as Star Wars, originally conceived under Ronald Reagan, which was intended to deflect missiles fired by the Soviet Union.
"This is not that programme," she said. "This is not the son of that programme. This is not the grandson of that programme." America aims to install the missiles later this year, probably at a former Second World War airbase at Redzikowo, in the country's north east. Under the Ј1.75 billion American plan, a large radar base will also be set up in the Czech Republic to give early warning of incoming missiles.
Czech agreement to host the radars could itself be threatened if the opposition defeats the government in an expected tight election later this year.
Last year the head of Russia's missile forces, General Nikolai Solovtsov, said Russia could aim its own nuclear warheads at Poland if American interceptors were placed there. Raising the stakes still further, Russia's ambassador to Belgium said last week the programme could trigger an inadvertent nuclear holocaust.
"The trajectory of any American missile from Poland would be south-south-east and the speed would be very high," Vadim Lukov said at a seminar in Brussels. "In this situation any notion of an early warning evaporates. Poland is just six and a half minutes from Moscow and in this situation the Russians would rely on an automated response. I am sure you may all well imagine the unfortunate consequences."
Domestic criticism of the plans has focused on fears that the interceptors will place Poland on the frontline of a new nuclear dispute between Russia and the West. But the scheme has broad political support and is likely to be approved by the parliament.
"We know that we will have European colleagues who will not be very keen on this so we will have to weigh it up," said Urszula Gacek, a member of the European Parliament and supporter of the Polish government.
"But ultimately it is a question of Polish defence and whether this shield, and the package that comes with it, will increase our security or decrease it." To assuage these concerns, the US has offered to strengthen Poland's short-to-medium-range air defences.
These could include missiles capable of shooting down incoming bombs. The deal partly vindicates the tougher line adopted in talks with the US by the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, since his party came to power in November.
He and Mr Sikorski are known for their pro-American views, but criticised the previous government for not asking enough from Washington in return for missile bases. The issue will likely dominate his scheduled meeting with Mr Putin on Friday, as well as a meeting with President Bush planned for early March.
Ukraine may beat Russia to WTO: minister
"On the wave of its political relations with the West, Ukraine will most likely join (the WTO) on unfavorable terms just to join ahead of Russia and get some advantage, so I am afraid some Ukrainian industries will be in a unfavorable position," he told the First television channel.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko told AFP that Ukraine's expected membership of the World Trade Organisation will give the country leverage in trade disputes with neighbouring Russia.
The pro-Western leader said that membership of the WTO would allow Ukraine to negotiate with Russia over "restrictions" imposed on Ukrainian exports worth up to three billion dollars (two billion euros).
Members of the 151-nation global trade body have the right to demand bilateral agreements with aspiring members that can be used to extract trade concessions.
Russia had planned to join the WTO this year but has continually set back its deadline for joining. Ukraine, which submitted its membership in 1993, is the biggest country besides Iran and Russia outside the WTO.
Ukraine's candidacy is expected to be approved at a WTO meeting next week.
Cops bust neo-Nazi for Jewish grave vandalism
From: Sun Times
|Mariusz Wdziekonski, a 21 year-old Norridge neo-Nazi, confessed Friday to desecrating 57 headstones at Westlawn Cemetery with anti-Semitic graffiti, including blue and silver swastikas and slurs, police said.|
Mariusz Wdziekonski, 21, is being held awaiting hate crime and criminal damage to property charges for allegedly painting blue-and-silver swastikas and slurs — including “Aryan Power” and “white power” — on 57 headstones at Westlawn Cemetery in unincorporated Norridge Park Township last month, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said.
Wdziekonski, a machine mechanic, told investigators that he’s a “dues-paying member” of the “National Socialist Movement 88,” and that he vandalized the cemetery to stand out as a hero among his hate group peers. The “88” is a symbol for “Heil Hitler,” police said.
Wdziekonski, a Polish immigrant who has been in the United States for four years, was involved in the neo-Nazi movement in Poland, police said.
Cook County sheriff's police investigators caught a break in the case when Des Plaines police got a tip that Wdziekonski, of the 7800 block of Lawrence in Norridge, was responsible for the cemetery crime.
Police initially thought several vandals were involved, but Dart said Wdziekonski acted alone. If convicted, Wdziekonski, who lives a few blocks from the cemetery, could face up to 10 years in prison.
Cemetery general manager Vickie Pulido said she was glad police made an arrest so quickly.
“Hopefully, now justice will prevail and our families can begin the process of healing,” she said. “This has weighed very heavy on our families’ minds.”
The cemetery’s granite contractor told Pulido he expects to be able to remove the graffiti from the headstones for about $13,000, she said.
Poland tries to defuse truck-jam crisis on eastern EU border
|A group of Belarussian drivers chat beside their trucks as they block the road ahead of the Polish-Belarussian border crossing|
The road 30 kilometres (24 miles) from Poland's Terespol crossing with Belarus was completely blocked Monday. Furious at having to wait days to cross the border, truckers parked across the road near the crossing, refusing to let anyone pass.
"This is the fourth day I've been waiting here and I've moved just a kilometre and a half. Since yesterday I haven't even moved one metre," explained Sergei, a trucker from Kazakhstan, en route for his homeland. The 50-something driver declined to give his family name.
"I understand the Polish customs agents want to earn more money, but nobody is paying attention to our situation, nobody is helping us," he said bitterly.
"I'm not paid for the hours of waiting and my employer is losing money. Everyone is losing in this case."
Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk visited the nearby town of Biala Podlaska Monday to examine the situation up close and launched an "ardent appeal" for customs officers to return to work.
Rather than formally go out on strike, customs officers began earlier this month to take holiday or sick-leave to underscore their wage demands, resulting in backups of thousands of lorries.
They are looking for wage hikes of up to 1,500 zlotys (420 euros, 620 dollars), while the government has proposed just 500 zlotys. The current starting salary for a Polish customs officer is 1,300 zlotys per month.
The protesting officers also want better legal protection against accusations of corruption and improved retirement benefits. The government has vowed to satisfy those demands in the coming months.
So far two drivers have died stuck in the gridlock, one from a heart attack and the other after his vehicle's cabin caught fire. Massive queues of lorries on Poland's frontier with Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad continued to grow Monday.
At the Dorohusk crossing with Ukraine, around 1,000 trucks were queued in a 40-kilometre-long tailback, with an estimated 100-hour-long wait for passage.
Furious truckers have threatened to block the Polish capital Warsaw in order to force a resolution to the crisis. Drivers' union officials said they will take a decision on Tuesday following talks with Interior Minister Grzegorz Schetyna.
Schetyna, who is also Poland's deputy prime minister, vowed to resolve the crisis on the border "within two to three days."
Customs procedures were beefed up along Poland's eastern border with non-EU Ukraine, Belarus and Russia after the country was one of nine states to join Europe's Schengen free travel zone on December 21.
While members of the 24-nation Schengen zone drop internal border controls, countries on its outer rim are duty-bound to boost checks with non-members.
Tusk said Monday that only fully-qualified customs officers could meet the requirements for processing border traffic and that police or soldiers could not step in to speed-up border traffic.
Poker-faced Poles cleaning up their act
From: Times On-Line
Of course, we’re told that life imitates art and, true to form, Zaorski’s vision seems to have come true in Polish football. In the past two seasons, five top-flight clubs have been found guilty of match-fixing and were relegated, most notably Zaglebie Lubin, the champions, and Widzew Lodz, twice winners of the Polish league in the 1990s. Zaglebie were also docked ten points and fined 80,000 zloty (about Ј16,000). The relatively low sum was explained by the fact that Zaglebie are owned by a state company and, therefore, prosecutors did not want to burden the taxpayers.
But the web of corruption stretches far below the top flight. Indeed, dozens of clubs in the second and third tiers have also been implicated. More than seventy people have been arrested, many of them match officials.
The scandal’s roots go back to 2005, when Piotr Dziurowicz, chairman of GKS Katowice and son of the former head of the Polish FA, gave an explosive interview to Gazeta Wyborcza, the newspaper. “I have had enough of a football where I have to pay money to buy matches for the team so that it occupies the top positions, so that the players can stay in the league and have jobs,” Dziurowicz said. “Especially when they cheat me and then sell games [to opponents].”
Thus Dziurowicz became Polish football’s whistle-blower, albeit one not necessarily moved by a profound sense of moral outrage, but rather one who evidently could not pay bribes as effectively as his rivals.
Jacek Debski, the Polish sports minister, sounded the alarm in 2001, when he said: “We have seen a systematic degradation of Polish football. This must be addressed urgently. It’s partly due to the fact that the communist-era model of financial sports was destroyed and no coherent new model has been introduced.”
Debski made no secret of wanting to clean up the game, which is probably why, a few months after making that statement, he was shot in the head, execution-style, in what many suspect was a mob hit. His death came at a time when Poland was undergoing transformation, as the nation fought hard to adopt a more transparent free-market economy. While other sectors of society were cleaned up, football remained behind. Now, however, there is a sense that things are changing. With the economy booming, some feel it will be only a matter of time before football catches up.
Which, as many things in Poland do these days, brings us back to the Kaczynski twins: Lech, the president, and Jaroslaw, who, until two months ago, was Prime Minister. In 1962, they shot to prominence as child actors in The Two Who Stole the Moon, the children’s film. It tells the tale of two boys, played by the Kaczynskis, who are cruel and lazy and decide to steal the moon (which, apparently, is made of gold) so that they will never have to work again. They manage to steal it but run into a gang of bad guys who capture them and the moon. But then the baddies – presumably as some sort of divine punishment – turn into gold themselves. The twins manage to escape and, having learnt their lesson, pledge to stop being lazy and help their parents on the family farm.
The moral is almost too obvious: you can’t achieve success by stealing (or, in this case, corrupting match officials). And you certainly can’t steal the moon. Success is achieved by intelligence, hard work and a bit of luck. Those elements have allowed the Polish economy to do well in recent years. They can help Polish football to do the same.
Coal-fired Poland in fighting mood over EU emissions rules
Sitting on an estimated 140 years' worth of coal reserves, Poland is on tenterhooks ahead of Brussels' announcement Wednesday of final proposals for how the EU's 27 member countries will have to shoulder the burden of slashing 20 percent of the bloc's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
"We hope the European Commission is taking into account the fact electricity production in Poland remains and, unfortunately, will remain based on coal burning, which is a polluting technology. That's a Polish specific, and there's no getting away from it," environment ministry spokeswoman Elzbieta Strucka told AFP.
Poland, which has a population of 38 million, generates 96 percent of its electricity in power stations fired by coal, much of it from the country's still-plentiful Silesian reserves in the south.
In contrast, the proportion in neighbouring Germany is 60 percent, and in France, 10 percent.
Coal miners were the aristocrats of communist Poland's working class and despite losing some of their privileges since its collapse in 1989 they still remain influential and command both respect and fear among politicians when they hit the streets with protests.
"Poland won't be in a position by 2020 to make significant changes to this dominant technology," said Wladyslaw Mielczarski, an expert from the European Energy Institute think-tank.
The 2004 EU entrant currently lacks the financial resources to upgrade to less-polluting fossil-fuel power stations nor is it ready to launch a programme for the construction of nuclear plants, said Mielczarski.
"Poland also lacks the right conditions to be able to develop wind power and hydraulic plants," he added.
Alternative energy sources and energy-saving programmes nonetheless represent the country's best chance to change tack fast, according to Andrzej Kassenberg, head of Poland's Institute for Sustainable Development.
"The communist era left us with an industrial base that wastes an incredible amount of energy. But whenever we've actually done a real economic calculation of the costs, and shut down or upgraded the most polluting plants, Poland has achieved real results," he stressed.
Poland was able to more than meet its Kyoto Protocol obligations to curb emissions of carbon dioxide -- one of the main gases held responsible for global climate change -- largely thanks to the closure of a swathe of polluting, communist-era industrial behemoths during market economy reforms after 1989.
The country's emissions are now 32 percent lower than in 1988 -- surpassing the required six-percent cut -- despite a tripling of the number of vehicles on the road amid growing wealth since the fall of communism.
But the EU's executive body, the European Commission, wants Warsaw to do even more.
In March 2007, the Commission gave Polish heavy industry a carbon dioxide emission quota of 208.5 million tonnes for 2008-2012, almost 27 percent lower than Warsaw had requested.
Like several other ex-communist EU nations which joined the bloc in 2004, Poland complained that Brussels' calculations had failed to take into account the needs created by rapid growth -- the country's economy is expanding by around six percent a year, keeping Poland near the top of the EU table.
As a result, Warsaw last year launched a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice to contest its quota.
"Poland has growing energy needs and should have the right to a higher quota," said environment ministry spokeswoman Strucka.
With producers required to buy pollution permits under the EU's carbon-trading system if they want to exceed their quotas, the ministry is forecasting electricity prices could balloon by 18 percent by 2012.
In a related article, the Mother Earth News has reported that Poland is the most polluted country in the world, according to a study by the Polish Academy of Social Sciences. Satellite photos of Europe show the largest clouds of particulates over Poland, probably because many large plants have shut down their pollution control equipment to save power. Fully 90% of the water in the country's rivers is undrinkable, and most of the water in the Vistula River, Poland's largest, is unfit even for industrial use. Fewer than half of the country's 800 cities have sewage treatment plants; even Warsaw, the capital, has no such facility.
Green Party Condemns Murder of Budgerigars
In its note of protest the Central council of the Belarusian Green Party points at the inconsistency of the Belarusian border guards. ‘On 23 January the Committee of border forces officially expressed its concern with the fact that the birds had been transported like ‘sprouts in tins’ and called it ‘pure barbarism’ resulting in death of two birds. A representative of the Committee of border forces stated that the birds would be passed to zoo shops for sale. However, a day later, on 24 January Brest border veterinarians reported about ‘utilization’ of the 275 birds due to ‘global epidemiologic situation with bird influenza’.
‘Such attitude to highly organized lifeforms cannot be justified. Murder of healthy birds, who had no traits of bird influenza, is barbarism and violates the Civil Code of Belarus, according to which the state or other temporary owner of homeless pets receives the right of ownership only in the case the previous owner is not found during within six months,’ reads the protest note.
The council of the party emphasizes that nowadays violations of this norm and murders of healthy animals become a usual thing.
That’s why the Belarusian Green Party demands an urgent elaboration and adoption of the law On protection of animals from violent treatment.
Poland’s winter of discontent
From: The Beatroot
Usually, governments get elected, the majority are relieved to see the back of the old government, and a period of optimism and popularity ensues for the new leaders.
In the UK, Tony Blair and New Labour had, post-1997, a honeymoon that seemed to go on for years. In fact, it went on until after the next election, which they won, too. And then the honeymoon just kept on going. Until, that is, Tony went and spoiled it all by doing something stupid: he invaded Iraq, alongside his buddy, George.
Oops! Honeymoon ends in tears.
After Civic Platform won the October 21 election, the honeymoon seemed to be going to plan. Opinion polls put their approval rating over 50 percent; people were genuinely relieved not to have to wake up in the morning and read the headlines full of Roman Giertych, Andrzej Lepper or Jarolsaw Kaczynski making a fool of themselves, or Poland, or both.
But the approval ratings for Civic Platform are already on the decline. Some members of Platform’s coalition partners – the ever opportunistic Polish Peasant’s Party (PSL) - are muttering, off the record, their discontent.
When Tusk wakes up in the morning he will not be hearing the birds in the trees singing their welcoming morning chorus; all he will be hearing are people on the march demanding more of…well, pretty much everything, actually.
Organized, and not so organized, labour, are having a go and trying to get as much out of the government before they have time to settle. Miners, hospital workers, teachers, customs officials…the list is endless.
Not all of this is Civic Platform’s fault. They have a budget, and deficit, that was drawn up by the previous government.
They have chaos on the eastern border, with HGVs queuing for miles and miles, and days and days, on the Ukrainian and Belarusian side after Poland joined the Schengen fortress. Jaroslaw Kaczynski was claiming that Poland was ‘ready’ to enter Schengen as early as last summer. Well, plainly Poland was not ready. The new restrictions on Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians entering the country - through already tough and inefficient borders - has created the increased delays and customs officials can’t cope with the extra bureaucracy. Naturally, they want more money for the work, and they want more staff to help them.
Though not their fault, the government, characteristically, seems ill prepared for what would happen after the election.
They created an expectation that here would be a government that would be competent – not like that Kaczynski farce – they would be decisive, resolute, purposeful, determined, strong, unifying.
Well, I just don’t see any of those qualities. None at all. All I see is dither, dither, dither. How long before the Polish Peasant’s Party start to distance themselves from the mess piling up before Tusk’s incredulous eyes?
Honeymoon? It wasn't even a day trip.
Mark Falcoff: Good news from Venezuela
From: Power Line
The long term prospects of Chavez's "revolutionary" state in Venezuela are not good. A long report in the Spanish edition of today's Miami Heraldlays it out. Since the same story does not appear in the English edition I thought I'd offer at least a summary of this important article.
Everyone knows that Chavez's "revolution"--his popularity with the poor of Venezuela and his influence in the region--is entirely mortgaged to the price of oil. But few realize that it is even more dependent on the efficiency (or lack of it) of his state oil company, which goes by the acronymn PDVSA.
Since Chavez took office in 1999 Venezuela's oil production has dropped by 28 percent and PDVSA's debt has risen significantly. Meanwhile, some major foreign oil producers have left the country and taken their cutting edge technology with them.
The Venezuelan government claims that between 2006 and 2012 it will reinvest $76 billion of its earnings to increase production, but analysts canvassed by the three reporters who wrote the story think that the figure comes closer to between $2 and $5 billion a year--a drastic short-fall. Moreover, many of PDVSA's activities are now unrelated to oil--it has hatched subsidiaries to distribute powdered milk, or to mill corn, or even to build boats. (Anyone who knows Venezuela can imagine the lush opportunities this offers for illicit enrichment by the agency officials or the military who work with them.) Meanwhile, as oil production falters, the state company has decided to take on more employees. When Chavez took office PDVSA had 48,000 workers. It now has nearly 75,000, and the president-dictator has announced plans to hire an additional 30,000 by the end of next year. (One cannot help recalling the case of the Argentine YPF, which was the only oil company in the world that lost money in the go-go 1970s!)
This kind of crony capitalism is pushing Venezuela to the edge. Under these circumstances it won't take much of a decline in oil prices to destabilize Chavez's regime. Contrary to what the bloated dictator says on his radio programs every Sunday, the "empire" (that's the US) doesn't need to do anything at all to get rid of him. Fortunately he's doing our work for us.
Таццяна Беланогая: “Двукроп’е – гэта толькі пачатак”
From: Minsk Blog
Таццяна Беланогая скончыла прыродазнаўчы факультэт БДПУ. Там на студэнцкім фестывалі песні і паэзіі “Зоркі над Мінскам” упершыню прагучалі песні, якія яна дагэтуль “нікому ніколі не паказвала”. Гэты выступ Таццяна называе важнай падзеяй у сваім жыцці. Тое, што аўдыторыя прыняла і зразумела яе творчасць, надало 18-гадовай дзяўчыне сілаў, каб рухацца далей. А там яе чакала знаёмства з вядомым беларускім бардам Алесем Камоцкім і выступы на “вялікай сцэне”. У 2004 годзе Таццяна Беланогая стала лаўрэатам фестывалю “Бардаўская восень”, у 2005 – атрымала перамогу ў музычным конкурсе “Зоркі Маладзечна”.
Сёння, нягледзячы на свой малады ўзрост, беларуская бардэса мае ўжо 4 выдадзеных альбомы. Прычым тры з іх (“Там, дзе мы” (2004), “Пабачыць сьвет” (2006), “Система координат”(2007) былі зроблены ў сапраўды “спартанскіх” умовах. Часам нават даводзілася спяваць песні “проста на кухні, у пераматаны скотчам мікрафон”. Перамога ў “ОРРА 2006” дала магчымасць Т. Беланогай запісаць свой матэрыял у спрыяльных умовах з удзелам прафесійных музыкаў (бубнач А.Сазонаў, скрыпач К.Карапецян, віяланчэлістка Ю.Глушыцкая, флейціст У.Ліхашапка, гітарыст Зм.Крамушчанка, гукарэжысёр А.Чыжык).
Таму, на словы Таццяны, якасна альбом адчувальна выходзіць з шэрагу папярэдніх, з’яўляецца “новым ва ўсіх сэнсах”:
“Двукроп’е” – альбом пра каханне. У ім я паспрабавала адысці ад сацыяльнай тэматыкі, распавесці пра ўнутраны свет чалавека, адносіны між людзьмі. Гэтая кружэлка змясціла і новыя песні, і ўжо спяваныя раней, але сыграныя па-іншаму. Назва альбома гаворыць пра дзве кропкі, дзвюх асоб, з якіх адбываецца пэўны працяг – сям’я, адносіны. Калі ж глядзець з філалагічнага пункту погляду, то кропка ў канцы сказа азначае скончаную думку, двухкроп’е ж паказвае не на завяршэнне, а на тое, што будзе далей. Свой першы прафесійны альбом я лічу толькі пачаткам таго, што, з Боскай помаччу, яшчэ спадзяюся сказаць у будучым”.
Афіцыйны сайт Таццяны — www.bielanohaja.org
Вечеринка в день Св.Валентина
From: Minsk Blog
В вечеринке примет участие легенда рок-музыки Маша Макарова (Маша и Медведи) и властелин электронных танцполов DJ Остап, а также лучшие ди-джеи Беларуси 2007 по версии BESTDJ.BY.
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Winning start for Belarus
From: Malta Star
|Dynamo Minsk and Vitebsk play for the Championship of Belarus in hockey|
Belarus first goal came in the first-half when on 33 minutes striker Roman Vasilyak beat goalkeeper Stefan Magnusson, while the second two minutes after the break courtesy of defender Pavel Plaskonny.
The two teams will be in action again on Monday, when Belarus take on Armenia in the first game, which kicks off at 17:30, while after Iceland face Malta at 19:45.
Belarusian Alexander Steshenko takes gold at world judo cup in Georgia
Belarusian Alexander Steshenko (73kg weight category) won the gold medal at the world judo cup in Georgia. On the way to the finals the Belarusian defeated five opponents. No other Belarusian athlete scored points at the world cup. Competing in the tournament in Georgia were more than 250 athletes from Europe, Asia and America. Olympic champion 2004 Igor Makarov from Belarus did not compete in the event due to health reasons. According to the head coach of the national team, Pavel Yasenovsky, the athlete got sick two days before the tournament. Other leading athletes of the team, Andrei Kazusenok, Sergei Shunikov and Yury Rybak, did not take part in the event either due to various reasons.
Belarus’ Olga Leschenko (48kg) placed in 5th at the world judo cup among women in Sofia, Bulgaria. Maria Kuznetsova (70kg) bowed out in the first round and Svetlana Timoshenko (78kh) in the second round of the tournament.
This Earth Times story…
From: The Story
Formerly atheist Belarus embraces religionNow, I have been living in Pinsk, Belarus for six years now and I say this story is an unnecessary provocation. What those boys were doing is the equivalent of caroling and has been a part of Belarusian and Russian culture since the time of the Soviet Union. Boys and girls go out singing Christian songs every year and if there are any hard feelings anywhere it is only over the quality of their singing. We have had boys and girls come to our door every year during the holidays, they stand there, sing a song and we give them a couple of hundred rubles- basically somewhere between a dime and a quarter. Our 12 year old has no particular religious urges but has been doing this every year and claims to have made between $7 and $15 for his troubles. To say that there is any kind of crack-down or hard feelings over this activity is an utter falsehood. Belarus is mainly orthodox, all of the Pinsk's churches have their services attended by many, many followers each week and other than what might be called "normal" anti-Semitism, there does not seem to be any particular issues over religion at all. Even the president has often made great efforts to show his own connection to the church and religious principles [http://president.gov.by/en/press50447.html#doc].
The parents of Misha, 10, and Pavel, 12, were appalled. According to stern police escorting the shamefaced youngsters home, the two Belarusian boys had been actively practicing religion. Both sons of solid middle-class families in the Belarusian capital Minsk, the pair, whose family preferred not to be named in the media, had according to law enforcers been celebrating Christmas in public, specifically by singing carols from door to door in apartment buildings.
The pursuit is harmless in most places, but in authoritarian Belarus most organized religion is actively repressed by the state, and if it is popular or earns someone money, then even the secret police, still known as the KGB, can target the activity.
Most slammed the door in the boys' faces, but more than a few neighbours in the central Minsk city district forked over food, candy, and even cash to the enterprising youngsters. They spent it on vodka and cigarettes, leading to noisy behaviour by Misha and Pavel in public, arrest by Minsk security forces, and very unpleasant scenes with their parents.
"We were just absolutely shocked," Misha's Mother told a Deutsche Presse-Agentur
I really believe that the world has heard enough unnecessary negative news about Belarus. The real story here is about the police grabbing two boys for underage drinking and smoking. The legal age for both activities is 18 here and is seriously enforced. I think that the policy that says the press should feel free to slander and prevaricate over issues Belarus should stop. I really thought that will all of the latest talk of deeper integration with Russia and an expanding trade with Belarus had put an end to all of that, or, at least showed that it was all business based pressure on the part of the European press in the first place.