Belarus: Military readiness, Sanctions, Vietnam, NATO, Venezuela, Diplomatic rows, Opposition news, Sports and the usual Polish corruption scandals
Belarus should maintain battle readiness of its army, Alexander Lukashenko says
|The president at the meeting on combat training of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus|
“We need to keep our finger on the pulse of the country and not only of the country,” he said,
“We are not rattling the sabre, and I would like to emphasise this. But the situation around Belarus is now developing in such a way that we cannot say that everything is calm,” the Head of State said.
There will be comprehensive operational military exercises in Belarus soon, the President said. “The necessity to hold such exercises on a regular basis was recognized long ago,” he said. Once in two years Belarus holds large-scale military exercises involving all branches of the Armed Forces, and every year exercises featuring some specific branch.
Alexander Lukashenko said that maintaining combat readiness of Belarus is an essential condition for ensuring appropriate defence for the borders of the Union State. “The treaty with Russia is of paramount importance. We need to honour it unswervingly like Russia is fulfilling it, providing a defence shield for Belarus, including a nuclear shield,” the President said.
The spending on the exercises, the Head of State said, should be minimum but at the same time it should enough to ensure the high quality of the exercises.
Belarus protects western border of Belarus-Russia Union State, Alexander Lukashenko says
Protecting the border of the Republic of Belarus, we are protecting the western border of the Belarus-Russia Union State,” said the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, at a meeting on combat training of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus on April 3.
“We are not rattling the sabre, and I would like to emphasise this. Unfortunately we cannot say that peace and stability reign outside Belarus. The latest developments prove this point. The Nato has big plans about the former Soviet republics. I think that Ukraine and Georgia’s Nato membership is a matter of time”, the head of state noted. “The position of Russia, Belarus and other countries of the former Soviet Union is ignored”, Alexander Lukashenko added.
On the western border of the Union State the Belarusian army is the main restraining force. “The treaty with Russia is of paramount importance. We ought to honour it unswervingly like Russia is honouring it and providing a defence shield for Belarus, including a nuclear shield,” the President said.
Speaking about the forthcoming exercise, the Head of State said that the spending on the exercises should be minimal, but at the same time it should be enough to ensure the high quality of the exercises.
Defence Minister of Belarus Colonel-General Leonid Maltsev said that the exercise “Autumn 2008” is aimed at polishing the skills of all security agencies of Belarus in order to ensure the country’s security. According to him, the goal of the exercise is to study modern methods of conducting armed conflict, check the preparedness of the army. These all will help ensure reliable defence of the state. One of the main tasks is to achieve the cohesion of the military organisation of the state.
Once in two years Belarus holds large-scale military exercises involving all branches of the Armed Forces, and every year exercises featuring some specific branch.
Belarus considers unilateral sanctions in respect of separate countries as counterproductive
When asked about the possibility of EU’s following the US and introducing sanctions against Belarus, Andrei Popov said that this question should be addressed directly to European partners. However Andrei Popov said, “All our international partners know well our firm position on sanction-based measures: this is an absolutely unacceptable and counterproductive instrument from the point of view of civilized international relations.”
Andrei Popov also noted that Belarus and Russia have been implementing the programme of joint action in foreign policy. In conformance with the document the sides discuss various international problems of mutual interest. “This document provides an absolutely legitimate and legal opportunity to discuss with Russia the problems of US sanctions against Belarus,” Andrei Popov said.
President denounces economic pressure
Speaking about the economic situation in Belarus, the President said that if Belarus had not been hampered in its economic development, its economy would have been growing even faster than it is now. Some “try to pressurise Belarus by means of sanctions,” the President said. “These are futile attempts. We will find sales markets for our products,” he said.
In spite of some frictions, Alexander Lukashenko said, Belarus will soon establish normal relations with all countries. “We don’t want to quarrel with anyone: either with the East, or with the West. I think we’ll normalise our relations with the Americans, there are prospects for normalisation of relations with the European Union,” he said. “I see no problems in the relations between Belarus and the rest of the world,” Alexander Lukashenko added.
Belarus plans to expand trade with Vietnam, President says
According to the head of state, the level of the present trade relations does not correspond to the potential that the two countries possess. This is why the increase in the bilateral trade is the most important goal of the visit of the President of Belarus to Vietnam. “Despite highly successful political relations and the relations between the nations, we do not have an adequate base which bilateral trade could provide. We have to boost it and we should start doing it immediately.”
Alexander Lukashenko expressed his intention to invite Vietnamese businessmen to Belarus to set up their enterprises here and to trade with other countries through Belarus. Belarus is ready to offer Vietnamese businessmen the best conditions to carry out their businesses, the head of state noted.
President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko gave an interview to Vietnamese journalists
On April 4, President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko gave an interview to Vietnamese journalists representing the Voice of Vietnam Radio and the Vietnam News Agency, BelTA was told in the presidential press service.
The President of Belarus is scheduled to make an official visit to Vietnam soon. Therefore the Vietnamese journalists were interested in the agenda of the visit, the state of Belarusian-Vietnamese relations and planned measures to boost the bilateral trade and economic cooperation, and political and economic development of Belarus.
Belarus intends to boost trade with Vietnam, Alexander Lukashenko said. The level of trade as it is now does not meet today’s potential of Belarusian-Vietnamese relations. Therefore the main objective of the President’s visit to Vietnam is to ensure an increase in trade between the two states. “It’s a shame that having such traditions, brilliant political relations and relations between the peoples, Belarus and Vietnam do not have a fitting level of bilateral trade as yet. It’s necessary to step up the trade turnover, and do it promptly,” said the Head of State.
The Belarusian side intends to invite Vietnamese businessmen to Belarus so that they could do their business in Belarus and trade with the entire western world via Belarus, said Alexander Lukashenko. For this, Belarus is prepared to offer Vietnamese businessmen the most favourable conditions, he added.
Belarusian military concerned with possible accession of Ukraine to Nato
“Any aggravation of military-political situation around Belarus arouses certain concern. This confirms the viewpoint that Belarus should take measures to maintain the combat readiness of its Armed Forces,” he said.
At the same time Igor Azarenok believes that no concrete changes in the military-political situation will take place for Belarus in the foreseeable future.
When asked about the deployment of the US missile defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland Igor Azarenok said that the system will be aimed at early warning against the missile ballistic warheads which Belarus does not possess. “Thus it will pose no threat for Belarus. The only thing we are concerned about is the aggravation of the military-political situation around our country,” Igor Azarenok said.
Belarus will not import Ukrainian electric energy in near future, Eduard Tovpenets
In the near future Belarus will not import electric energy from Ukraine, BelTA learnt from First Deputy Energy Minister of Belarus Eduard Tovpenets.
According to him, the sides failed to reach the agreement regarding the price. “The price for the Ukrainian electric energy is unacceptable for Belarus as it is higher than the price for the energy generated by Belarusian electric power plants,” Eduard Tovpenets noted.
Belarus generates sufficient amount of electric energy on tis own. Belarus also imports electricity from the Russian Federation, the first deputy minister added.
Air force of Russia to take part in exercise “Autumn 2008” in Belarus
The air force of Russia will take part in the large-scale exercise “Autumn 2008” at the level of sub-units, commander of the air force and air defence of Belarus Major General Igor Azarenok told a press conference in Minsk on April 4.
“Russian air force will take part in the exercise at the level of sub-units. The concept of the drill is being worked out in detail. The issue related to the exercise will be on the agenda of my visit to the Russian Federation,” he said.
Igor Azarenok noted that the priority will be given to the air force and air defence.
Belarus’ construction industry development valued at Br6 trillion, Sergei Sidorsky says
According to him, the programme envisages the creation of new manufactures and restoration of construction companies operated in the 1990s.
A new brickworks with the total capacity of 7-8 thousand bricks per year will appear in Obol. Russian investors showed their interest in the project, Sergei Sidorsky noted.
The programme will help housing construction reach 10 million square meters by 2010. It is necessary to reconstruct completely the companies of the construction industry and introduce new capacities, the Prime Minister said.
CIS Economic Council approves draft agreement on currency exchange regulation
The CIS Economic Council has approved the draft agreement on currency exchange regulation in the CIS member states. A session of the CIS Economic Council was held in Moscow on April 4. The document will be introduced before the CIS Council of the Heads of Government the session of which will be held in Minsk on May 23, Vladimir Kiblov, the deputy head of the currency exchange regulation department of the National Bank of Belarus, told reporters on April 4.
According to him, if the agreement is signed by all the heads of the governments of the CIS member states and then ratified by the parliaments of the Commonwealth, in two years practically all the restrictions for currency operations between residents of the CIS member states will be removed.
Participants of the session of the CIS Economic Council also approved the draft convention on boundary cooperation of the CIS member states. This document is a base for developing the boundary cooperation and it will be introduced before the CIS Council of the Heads of Government in Minsk as well.
On the whole, the CIS Economic Council considered more than 20 issues.
Over 700 Vitebsk oblast companies develop cooperation with Russia
Over 700 companies of the Vitebsk oblast develop economic partnership with the Russian Federation and supply the Russian market with over 2500 descriptions of goods, Pavel Losich, the Deputy Chairman of the Vitebsk town council, stated a meeting marking the Day of Unity of the Nations of Belarus and Russia on April 2.
Every year the oblast companies purchase more than 70% of raw materials and spare parts in 60 regions of Russia. Russian investors account for over 90% of the investments put in the oblast. Every fifth company with the foreign investments in the Vitebsk oblast has been founded with the Russian participation. Vitebsk companies purchase oil, high-pressure polyethylene, alloys, linen, thread and export engineering tools, carpets, building materials, meat and dairy products.
Interregional agreement relations have strengthened cooperation between the regions of Belarus and Russia. The Vitebsk oblast executive committee signed agreements on cooperation with 20 Russian regions.
The Vitebsk oblast is the meeting point for the figures of Slavonic and world culture within the Union State project – Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk. The Vitebsk oblast and the Russian regions are linked by joint projects on preserving the Western Dvina, addressing scientific issues in the area of the pipeline transportation, geodesy, healthcare, veterinary science, education, cooperation in law-enforcement activity.
“The partnership has been reached in all spheres and it enriches our life, makes it more interesting and diverse,” Pavel Losich added.
The meeting was attended by the authorities of the oblast and Vitebsk, representatives of labour collectives, establishments of education and culture, public organizations, veterans and the youth of the town. The solemn evening will end with a holiday concert with the participation of creative teams of the Cultural Center Vitebsk and the theater of dance and song of Smolensk State Art Institute.
Around 130,000 Nazi victims from CIS and Estonia receive compensatory payments
“Today the fund has completed the payment of compensations to the surviving victims of the Nazism and their assignees. About 130,000 of the victims who currently live in Belarus and other CIS countries and Estonia have received payments,” he said. At present the fund is preparing documents for providing them to Germany’s archive and the national archive of Belarus.
Jointly with the ministries of healthcare, labour and social security, defence of Belarus the fund has developed eight projects on treatment and recuperation of the former Nazi victims in the hospital of the Defence Ministry and the republican boarding house of war veterans.
According to Valentin Gerasimov, the Nazi victims living in Belarus would like to see the social support centre to be set up at the fund. Today there are some free social facilities at the fund.
The fund has set up also a museum of forced labour, launched the projects on targeted aid to cancer patients, prisoners-of-war.
Belarus gets ready to ascend Venezuela’s Pico Bolivar
The Belarusian delegation has held several meetings, seminars and training to exchange the experience. The second stage of the expedition envisages the programme of survival in the Amazonian jungles. The final phase is the reaching of the highest point of Venezuela.
The Belarusian team is headed by Andrei Krasovsky, the head of the special training center of the Belarusian Physical Culture and Sports Society Dinamo. The Belarusian-Venezuelan expedition under the motto “Special Forces of Friendly Countries against International Terrorism” takes place on the eve of the 85th anniversary of Dinamo on April 18. The idea of the project appeared in 2006 at the meeting of Nikolai Cherginets, the Chairman of the Permanent Commission for the international affairs and national security of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly, with the deputies of the National Assembly of Venezuela.
The Belarusian team includes nearly 20 people, members of the special training center of the Belarusian Physical Culture and Sports Society Dinamo, the KGB group Alfa, the president’s security service and the representatives of the Belarusian Alpinism Federation.
US calls Belarus demand to cut diplomatic staff to 7 "unwarranted and unjustified"
The statement posted on the U.S. Embassy's Web site Friday was the latest development in the mounting dispute between Minsk and Washington.
President Alexander Lukashenko wants the United States to lift sanctions imposed against its state-controlled oil-processing and chemicals company, Belneftekhim. The sanctions are designed to punish the Belarusian leadership for its heavy-handed treatment of critics and intolerance of dissent.
The U.S. ambassador left Belarus last month and the embassy cut its staff from 35 to 17 under pressure from Lukashenko's government, which made similar cuts at its embassy in Washington. The U.S. Embassy has largely stopped issuing visas, as well.
On Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry said the Minsk embassy should have just seven diplomats, and that only the "full and unconditional removal" of the Belneftekhim sanctions could end the diplomatic pressure and improve relations.
"We consider these demands by the Belarusian government to be unwarranted and unjustified," a U.S. Embassy statement said.
The United States and the European Union have imposed travel sanctions on Lukashenko and government officials. Washington says the government must release all inmates it considers to be political prisoners as a condition for improving ties.
Lukashenko said Friday that he wants to normalize relations with the United States and the European Union.
"We don't want to argue with anyone — not with the East, not with the West. I think that relations with the Americans will be normalized, and there's a perspective for normalizing relations with the EU," he told reporters. "In the near future we will develop normal relations, despite certain rough patches," he said.
He also said the sanctions were affecting Belarus' economy.
"If they didn't hinder the development of our economy, then we would be growing it at a fast pace," he said.
Lukashenka expresses certainty that Belarus will normalize relations with USA, EU
“We want to quarrel with no one, neither with the West nor with the East,” official information sources quoted him as saying in an interview with Vietnamese reporters on April 4. “I believe that relations with Americans will normalize, there are prospects for the normalization of relations with the European Union.”
“I don’t see any problems in relations between Belarus and the rest of the world,” he said.
Mr. Lukashenka described the United States’ sanctions imposed on the Belnaftakhim petrochemical conglomerate as pressure but said that “these are futile attempts.” “We will find markets for our products,” he was quoted as saying.
The Belarusian leader reportedly said that “if they had not interfered with Belarus’ efforts to develop the economy, it would have grown at an even faster pace.”
Lukashenka: Belarus is interested in dialogue with West
In a related Naveny story, Belarus is interested in a dialogue with Western countries, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said while speaking to a group of students at a new building of Belarusian State University on February 12.
“Our approaches are extremely constructive: we need dialogue, not dictation,” government news sources quoted the Belarusian leader as saying. “We are very interested in cooperation with Western countries, especially European Union countries.”
According to Mr. Lukashenka, Belarus advocates the creation of a pan-European security system for all states without exception.
He insisted that certain Western circles do not like Belarus’ active policy regarding integration processes in the post-Soviet region.
US Embassy stops issuing visas again
From: Charter '97
“The Government of Belarus requested on March 31 that the United States again reduce the size of our Embassy in Minsk. As you are aware, only last week, our Embassy reduced the number of American staff by half. We consider these demands by the Belarusian Government to be unwarranted and unjustified,” the statement reads.
At this time, the Consular Section is only able to provide American citizen services by appointment only.
Vietnamese President goes on TV in Belarus
From: Vietnam News
Mentioning the relations between Viet Nam and Belarus, Triet said that after the countries belonging to the former Soviet Union declared their independence, Viet Nam quickly recognised and established diplomatic relations with them, of which Belarus was one of the first with which Viet Nam set up relations.
Triet said the bond between Viet Nam and Belarus had inherited the good traditions of the relationship between Viet Nam and the Soviet Union, and that it continued to be based upon the principles of equality and mutual benefit.
The Vietnamese people who have lived, worked, and studied in Belarus have always experienced the Belarusian people’s hospitality and enthusiasm, he added.
Triet said he believed that the ongoing official visit to Viet Nam by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko would open a new stage of development in the friendly relations and comprehensive co-operation between the two countries, especially in economy and trade. Economic and trade relations between the two nations saw strong development in recent years, with 2007 bilateral turnover increasing 1.5 times over that of 2006.
Belarusian enterprises now have a number of projects in Viet Nam, including the construction of an automobile manufacturing and maintenance plant and a microchip design centre in Ha Noi.
The two countries also enjoy co-operation in oil and gas exploration and extraction.
The President said the two governments should create more favourable conditions for the enterprises of the two sides to directly co-operate with each other, as well as encourage investment between the two nations.
He said the two governments should offer each other increased quotas for commodities in which they hold respective advantages, such as Belarus’ heavy-duty trucks, mining equipment and fertiliser, and Viet Nam’s seafood, timber, processed vegetables and fruits, pepper and cashews.
The two countries also needed to sort out difficulties in transport and payment, he added.
Belarus experts to help build new air defense system in Venezuela
From: El Universal
"We are going to provide only know-how and technical assistance for Venezuela to create a new national air defense system. Political issues do not concern the Defense Ministry," said Azarionok in a press conference in Minsk, reported the Russian agency Interfax, as quoted by Efe.
A Belarus high-ranking military officer, Piotr Tijonovski, said that more than ten military consultants and experts would travel to Venezuela this year, but added that the figure would increase.
Tijonovski explained that Belarus would take some six years to help Venezuela to build an air defense system and radio-electronic war.
Belarus to stay away from NATO summit
Belarus has long been a fierce critic of Washington and President Alexander Lukashenko has been barred entry to the United States and European Union.
Belarussian officials had been invited to attend a meeting on Thursday in Bucharest of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, which oversees cooperation with states that are not NATO members.
"Belarus was informed that NATO had decided to place restrictions on the level of Belarussian participants at the meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"Belarus has therefore been obliged for reasons of principle to cancel its participation in the Bucharest summit."
Officials did not say which officials had been denied permission to attend the meeting.
But a source close to the ministry said: "Belarus had presumed it would be taking part at the ministerial level. But we were told there were restrictions."
Lukashenko has sought to improve relations with the West, particularly the EU. But he continues to denounce NATO and the United States, whose ambassador left Belarus last month at the urging of authorities angry at what they saw as new sanctions.
The Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday said it had asked the United States for a new staffing cut of more than 50 percent at its Minsk embassy. Washington has called Belarus the "last dictatorship in Europe".
Belarus' satellite channel starts to be broadcast to North America
According to him, since March 28, the channel has been available for viewers in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala.
Under a contract with the BSTRC, France Telecom transmits Belarus TV to those countries via Galaxy 25 satellite in a package together with Russian, Ukrainian, Azerbaijani, Armenian, and other channels, Mr. Radutski said.
The channel has thereby increased its constant audience by 10 million people and the number of its potential viewers by 90 million to some 200 million, Mr. Radutski said.
Belarus TV was launched on February 1, 2005 for the purpose of disseminating “true” information about the situation in Belarus. Last year the BSTRC signed contracts for transmissions to Cuba, Syria, Moldova, and Kazakhstan.
Wake Up!: Melodic Hardcore Punk Show
From: The Minsk Bog
promo при поддержке sparrows’ sons
Melodic Hardcore Punk Show
Пр-т победителей 13
Jet Market [Италия, melodic hardcore punk]
Bedtime for Charlie [Италия, melodic hardcore punk]
Devil Shoots Devil [Минск]
I Hope You Die [Гродно]
Билеты в ТЦ “Купаловский” пав. 19
инфо и заказ билетов:
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Also from the Minsk, blog-
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Bush in Russia for missile talks with Putin
Speaking to reporters travelling with Bush, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said it would be "premature" to hope for a US-Russia agreement on the US missile scheme.
"We're going to have to do more work after Sochi," she said.
"No one has said that everything would be finalised and everyone would be satisfied."
She said the United States and Russia were "still in the early part of these discussions" but also described the talks as "headed in the right direction".
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was more circumspect about the chances of progress.
"Let's wait until tomorrow's negotiations," he said.
The meeting between Bush and Putin at the Russian leader's Black Sea coastal home in southern Russia has been billed by both sides as an attempt to put US-Russian relations on a more solid footing before the two men leave office.
Officials said Putin, who leaves the Kremlin next month, and Bush, who leaves the White House in January, were expected to issue a "strategic framework" paper to act as a general roadmap for relations in the years ahead.
Although Bush and Putin have long spoken of their personal friendship, acrimony in US-Russian relations has grown in the past seven years, and both hoped the Sochi talks could put a more positive lustre on their legacy.
But despite the relaxed oceanside setting, it was the tension between Russia and the United States over Washington's missile defence plan that was likely to be in the spotlight in Sochi.
The plan calls for installing nine US interceptor missiles in former Warsaw Pact member Poland and a powerful radar in another ex-Soviet satellite, the Czech Republic.
Bush says the system is needed to protect the United States and its allies from missile attack by "rogue states" like Iran. Putin says Iran poses no missile threat to the United States and sees the US plan as a threat to Russia.
The US plan got a major boost when it was endorsed by the 26 members of NATO at the alliance's summit in Bucharest this week.
After taking some heat last year for essentially ignoring Russia's worries about the missile defence plan, the United States has in the past six months moved to assuage some of Moscow's concerns.
Russia has described those moves as "useful and important" and Washington had voiced hope that Moscow would at least acknowledge in the Sochi document those US moves to address its concerns over the missile system.
Russia has also taken steps to bridge the gap with the United States, in particular proposing use in the US system of a Russian radar station in the ex-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan near Iran's border.
That offer however has so far remained essentially a dead letter, with the United States saying the Russian-controlled radar in Azerbaijan might prove of some use but could be no substitute for the US radar in the Czech republic.
Bush arrived in Sochi after visiting new NATO ally Croatia and after starting his European trip on Monday in Ukraine, where he strongly endorsed the ex-Soviet republic's bid to join NATO despite Putin's strenuous objections.
Despite the White House downplaying chances of a major breakthrough on the missile defence issue at Sochi, a top adviser to Putin, Sergei Prikhodko, suggested earlier that Moscow might meet Washington halfway.
The US attempt to address Russia's worries about the missile shield "might be useful and remove part of the Russian concerns," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
He also predicted that any document to emerge from the Sochi meeting would contain "a mention of missile defence," leaving open the possibility that Russia would in some form acknowledge US gestures toward Russia.
We provoke Russian paranoia at our peril; By agreeing to place an American defence system in Eastern Europe, Nato has given the Kremlin the perfect excuse to further cement its autocratic rule
Vladimir Putin, who steps down as President in May, hardly bothers to pretend to be a democrat any more. When standing for election in 2000 and 2004 he ensured that any serious rival candidate was vilified. He did the same on Dmitri Medvedev's behalf this year. They showed an almost ridiculous zeal to assure their victories. This was no Mugabe-style situation. Russians vastly prefer them to what they remember of being ruled by Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. All the opinion polls suggested they could win by a landslide without their supporters resorting to the black arts of what is called 'political technology', the monopolising of TV airtime, the killing of troublesome journalists and the bullying of media magnates.
Benefiting from the geyser of revenues from Russian energy exports, Putin has done the minimum needed to improve general living conditions. Pensions were paid reliably. State employees such as teachers and doctors have received their salaries on time. Small shops and businesses made profits out of servicing the needs of the entrepreneurial elite.
Even so, Russians are anything but content with conditions in the country. Elections are only one method of testing public opinion. As surveys have shown during the eight years of Putin's presidency, he has disappointed most people by failing to resolve their problems. Whole regions have suffered neglect while Moscow and Putin's own St Petersburg have prospered. Manufacturing industry has collapsed, agriculture has languished and the law courts have favoured the rich and corrupt. Street robberies have increased. If criminals want possession of an apartment in a central district of town, it is dangerous to refuse to sell up on their terms. Those who have refused to co-operate have sometimes been found dead after a mysterious fall down their stairs.
Where Putin scored mightily was in his handling of international relations. In the eyes of Russians, he restored the country's power and dignity. When Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe on the table at the United Nations General Assembly in 1960, he brought ridicule on the USSR. Russian people like their rulers to be 'cultured'. When Mikhail Gorbachev went cap in hand for a foreign loan to bail out the Soviet economy in 1991, Russians felt demeaned by the image of their leader as the beggar at the banquet. In 1994 when Yeltsin drunkenly cavorted at a concert in Berlin, his citizens covered their faces in shame. Even Putin is not as refined as he might be, occasionally using the language of the streets. He once promised to flush terrorists down the toilet. Medvedev, with his polished manners, is less likely to offend the sensibilities of his electorate.
But Putin never disgraced his country abroad. He cheered up the Russians by lecturing on Chechnya, democracy and global politics to George Bush and Tony Blair. He said that Russia is fed up at being talked down to - and his entire nation applauded. He played upon the folk memory of the appalling dangers endured by their country in the 20th century. Russians lost wars against Japan in 1904-1905 and against Germany in 1914-1918. They came close to national extermination by Germany in 1941. They were threatened by the constant perils of the Cold War through to the end of the Eighties. The Russian people see the history of the last century as an existential struggle for survival, peace and independence. Conspiracy theories are readily and widely believed.
It is against this background that the Nato summit, held last week in Bucharest, must be assessed. Washington has proposed to build a Nato 'shield' in Poland and the Czech Republic against a putative Iranian missile attack. In both these countries a sizeable minority questions whether the geostrategic need is genuine or urgent. Washington also desires to induct Ukraine and Georgia to Nato membership. Many Ukrainians, especially in the eastern provinces, are reluctant to endorse this initiative. And although Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili is the darling of the American media, Georgia is hardly less corrupt as the result of his ministrations.
What is more, Russians, from their present and future Presidents downwards, can see no justification for the US to turn states on Russia's borders into engines of American regional power. Trouble last came to Russia from Poland when the Germans were in occupation of Warsaw. Now George Bush wants to place advanced military technology on Polish soil, expecting Russians to accept his word that he has only Iran in his sights. With that susceptibility to conspiracy theories, the image conjured up in the Russian mind is a picture of Hitler reassuring Stalin in 1940-1941 that Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft were only overflying Soviet territory by accident. America's Nato allies have by and large believed and supported Bush. Their sole display of resistance came through German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She successfully sought a delay in the induction of Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance.
Former judo champion Putin is deft with the feints and hand-grapples. Ably wrestling with Bush at the Nato summit, he gained a lot to be pleased about. Bush is providing the Kremlin with exactly the international atmosphere for Putin to tell Russians that the existing 'security state' must be conserved. A siege mentality can now more easily be justified. Ex-KGB functionaries such as Putin can parade themselves as the country's greatest patriots. The chauvinistic youth organisation 'Nashi', funded by the Kremlin, can acquire popular respectability. If Russian ministers say that the British Council is a subversive agency, they have a greater chance of being believed. If the assets of foreign companies operating in Russia are sequestered, Russians will more probably accept their government's case.
So a seismic shock has been delivered to European politics without preparatory discussion in parliaments or the media. Western leaders, the media and the public remain preoccupied with Iraq, for understandable reasons. But at least in the case of the Iraq war there was a long debate beforehand about international law and weapons of mass destruction. It did not stop the war, but it had the effect of delegitimising and eventually ending the premiership of Tony Blair.
Now we are blundering into trouble with Russia by choosing the wrong ground to confront its anti-democratic leadership. The Nato summit has bothered too little about genuine Russian concerns. A better strategy for handling Russia is possible and desirable. Russia's rulers should be nailed down to the international obligations they have signed. Murmurings about the onset of a new Cold War help nobody. Ordinary Russians will only suffer if a rupture with the West were to occur.
I am not advocating gentle diplomacy. Russia badly wants to do more business in Europe and badly needs European finance. In return it has solemnly agreed to European standards on the rule of law and human rights. Russian dissenters have made use of this. They have taken their grievances to the European Court of Human Rights and won their cases. It is in everybody's interest to sustain this process. The scorched shoots of democracy, justice and international partnership inside Russia need to be tended.
Ukraine's Iron Lady: Glamor, hairstyle and a fierce political will
The hair is the high point of Yulia Tymoshenko's glamorous image. But she also has a steely, in-your-face resolve. It made her the heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought democracy to her country, and four months into her second premiership she continues to fascinate Ukrainians.
To her adoring supporters she's simply "Yulia," selfless fighter for democracy. The hairdo is more than just a fashion statement; it evokes a beloved symbol of Ukrainian identity — the humble, honest peasant.
Her critics say she's anything but humble and honest, seeing her as a corrupt and power-hungry opportunist. She was accused of enriching herself in corrupt energy deals in the 1990s, which earned her the nickname of "gas princess," and was briefly jailed seven years ago on money-laundering charges. (The charges, which she claims were politically motivated, were dropped.)
Her tenacity leads some to call her the Iron Lady, and Tymoshenko herself looks to Margaret Thatcher as a role model. Nowadays, however, Europe is getting used to women leaders — German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Finnish President Tarja Halonen, Moldovan Prime Minister Zinaida Grecean?i and Borjana Kristo, president of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
But none rules a country as divided as Ukraine, a former Soviet republic torn between its Europe-friendly west and pro-Russian east.
In that tug-of-alliances, 47-year-old Tymoshenko is with the pro-Europeans. She embraces democracy and Western ways with gusto, promising to turn Ukraine into a prosperous, law-abiding European nation. She put her daughter, Evheniya, 28, through a British school, and says her motto is the Adidas slogan, "Impossible is Nothing."
"Ukrainian politicians must solve impossible problems if they want to see the country happy," she explained in a recent interview with a Ukrainian newspaper.
Born in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk, Tymoshenko earned an economics degree and began her career as a financial manager at a machine-building factory in the Soviet era.
The "gas princess" nickname dates from when she and her husband, Olexandr, 47, ran a fuel company that eventually became United Energy Systems, the country's top gas dealer in the mid-1990s, buying natural gas from Russia and reselling it to local and foreign consumers.
Critics accuse Tymoshenko of illegally pocketing huge profits from her United Energy System deals — and of evading taxes — suspicions that led to her brief imprisonment. Pavlo Lazarenko, who was prime minister and Tymoshenko's ally at the time, was convicted of fraud and money laundering in the United States in 2005.
Tymoshenko denies all the accusations, saying her company in fact helped energy and cash-starved Ukraine survive in those chaotic years.
As prime minister, Tymoshenko has become the enemy of the gas traders which, her critics say, are not unlike the one she herself ran in the mid-1990s.
She became an internationally recognized political figure in 2004 following a flawed presidential election, when she rallied hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Kiev's main square demanding that reformist Viktor Yushchenko be declared the winner over a pro-Russian rival.
The Gas Princess became the Orange Princess, and to her most ardent fans, Ukraine's Joan of Arc.
Yushchenko won a court-ordered revote and appointed Tymoshenko as his prime minister in early 2005, but fired her after only seven months in office in a bitter feud.
Tymoshenko didn't give up. Last December she managed a remarkable political comeback, regaining the premiership when her party won the second biggest share of seats in parliament and reunited with Yushchenko's team in a coalition government.
Political analyst Ivan Lozowy says Tymoshenko is simply unstoppable. "She is an incredibly driven person," he says.
Tymoshenko is known as a relentless worker. During her first stint as premier, she kept a folding bed in her office for when she worked late, and says she may use it again.
Western financial analysts praise her anti-corruption efforts. Her drive to clean up the gas trade with Russia plays well with the public, and she has gained further popularity with a program to compensate Ukrainians for the savings they lost due to skyrocketing prices that followed the Soviet breakup. But her measure is stoking inflation.
Meanwhile, she is once again at odds with Yushchenko. She is attacking his latest gas deal with Russia, while he is accusing her of lying and scheming to increase her power. So their power-sharing deal is very shaky.
Ukraine politicians, media say NATO decision 'betrayal', 'sell out'
From: Eart Times
"We now can see who are the real opponents to Ukrainian membership in NATO," Shkil said, according to a Korrespondent magazine article. "Their promises turned out to be empty air."
NATO leaders on Thursday rejected a proposal to give Ukraine a fast track to membership. The leader of the opposition was, according to reports, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who along with France was worried about harming relations with Russia.
Shkil rejected claims by a NATO spokesman that the alliance in fact was in favour of Ukrainian membership, but had just decided to defer a formal decision on allowing Ukraine to move forward in the accession process until December.
"If they had wanted us in, they would have extended the invitation," Shkil said. "They didn't...and I for one am glad I don't own a German or French car, but a Japanese one."
On the other side of Ukraine's political spectrum Viktor Yanukovich, leader of the opposition Regions Ukraine party, called Ukraine's failure to obtain an invitation during the recent NATO summit in Bucharest "nothing more or less than the natural outcome of political pressures."
"No other outcome could have been possible, as no one but a few Kiev politicians are for it," Yanukovich said, according to an Interfax news agency report.
Yanukovich is a strong supporter of closer Ukrainian relations with Russia, and opposes his country even considering membership in NATO. Roughly two in three Ukrainians oppose NATO, according to polls.
Sehodnia newspaper, the country's largest daily, led its Friday report on NATO's decision to defer MAP discussions regarding NATO to a later date with the headline: "No place for Ukraine in Europe."
The article repeated a common Ukrainian complaint that, although NATO nations appeared happy to accept Ukrainians as illegal migrant labourers, they seemed unwilling to give Ukraine the same treatment as neighbouring Romania and Poland.
Almost as grating to many Ukrainians is the fact that Ukraine's military has contributed troops to every NATO peacekeeping mission currently in progress, making it the only non-NATO nation to do so.
"We Ukrainians are acceptable to them (NATO nations) as cannon fodder or to clean toilets - just not as equals," declared Natalia Vitrenko, an extreme Left politician and outspoken NATO opponent. "And if somehow Ukraine were to join, there would be nothing left but civil war."
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Friday attempted to put the best face on the non-extension of a MAP programme to Ukraine during the Bucharest summit, saying "we have received wholesale support...and I am sure we will get a positive result within this year or the next...the main thing is to keep working."
But the authoritative Ukrainska Pravda web magazine, and much of Ukrainian mainstream media, attacked that spin on NATO's "no" to Ukraine.
"This is nothing less than a foreign policy failure by the President," the magazine editorialized. "Before travelling to Romania he said he was confident of success, and 'success' is not coming home with empty hands."
Yushchenko on Friday, one day after NATO leaders backed off from the idea of Ukrainian membership, sacked Oleg Demin and Ihor Dologov, his country's ambassadors to Russia and Germany respectively.
Spokesman from Yushchenko's office had no comment on the reasons for the sackings.
Polish football corruption scandal appeals
From: The News
The hearings in the Widzew and Zaglebie cases will begin in Wroclaw, south-west Poland, today at 2 and 4 p.m., respectively. Widzew and Zaglebie will appeal against 100,000 zlotys financial penalties imposed on the clubs by the Polish Football Association (PZPN) in January for their involvement match fixing.
Head of the Football Association Tribunal Krzysztof Malinowski has told Polish Radio Wroclaw that the results of the hearing will be announced after 6 p.m. today.
Polish football club co-operates with corruption watchdog
From: The News
The co-operation is to initiate a complex programme aimed at preventing and fighting corruption in Polish football.
The planned audit is to include the structures of the club, its goals and basic rules of functioning, transparency of its financing and public commitments. Additionally an evaluation of the club’s anti-corruption policy so far is to be conducted.
According to Widzew Lodz vice president Marcin Animucki, co-operation with the anti-corruption watchdog proves that the club’s functioning is indeed transparent and that it is willing to actively participate in fighting corruption in sport.
The watchdog representatives cliam that the new initiative is likely to start some activities which in future could purify Polish sport.
Widzew Lodz was among the two football clubs which last year were relegated to the second league for their involvement in the corruption scandal which has seen over 70 officials, managers and players detained by police..
earlier this week, owner of first division football club Kolporter Korona Kielce, Krzysztof Klicki, announced that he is to stop sponsoring the club.
Klicki’s decision comes a few days after the Central Anticorruption Agency (CBA) and police arrested six individuals involved in setting up Korona’s match results for bribes in the season 2003/2004.
Sponsors pull out of Polish football sponsorship
More and more companies are resigning from sponsoring clubs; even the sponsor of the Polish premier league, TP SA, is considering withdrawing funding. The businesspeople explain that they can’t afford jeopardising the image of their companies.
Dziennik daily writes that Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski is going to take his time before signing the Lisbon Treaty Ratification Bill, which yesterday was accepted by the Polish Senate.
First, the President wants to amend the law on co-operation between the government and both houses of parliament on issues concerning Poland’s membership in the EU, in case of any departures from the Treaty’s Ioannina mechanism - which gives nation states a blocking mechanism on decisions perceived against national interest - and the so-called ‘British protocol’ guaranteeing opt outs from the EU fundamental rights charter.
Gazeta Wyborcza publishes a new poll on political parties support. The ruling Civic Platform is still on the lead supported by 59 percent of the electorate. The largest opposition party Law and Justice can count on 23 percent of the votes. The Democratic Left Alliance, recorded still jointly with the Democratic Party as the Left Democrats (LiD) gets eight percent of the votes and the junior coalition partner, the Polish Peasants’ Party (PSL) only five percent.
US Ambassador to OSCE: “Belarus has chosen path of confrontation and isolation”
From: Charter '97
In a special statement addressed to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna recent events in Belarus are recalled, including a brutal crackdown on participants of a peaceful rally on March 25 and a mass attack on independent journalists on March 27, Radio Svaboda informs.
“We call upon Belarusian authorities,” the statement reads, “to fulfill their commitments to the OSCE concerning human rights and basic freedoms, and to release Alyakzsandr Kauzlin immediately, as well as peaceful demonstrators and journalists who were detained and imprisoned”.
In the statement of the US mission to the OSCE touches upon the situation with the US Embassy in Misnk.
“Belarusian government that first insisted on Ambassador’s leaving, and then on reducing the staff of the Embassy twice, now has informed that the number of the US mission should be reduced even more. We see no reasonable grounds for such ungrounded demands. Moreover, staff of the Embassy feel pressure, and our diplomats have become an objective of derogatory demands in state-controlled media without any factual foundation”.
The statement expresses regret that “Belarus had chosen the way of confrontation and isolation, and not the path of defending human rights and freedom”.
Homel: youth activist Mikita Bahrou expelled from university
According to the BelaPAN information, Bahrou was familiarized with the order for his expulsion 1 April. The official reason is ‘poor academic progress’.
‘I haven’t passed one of my exams and had a talk about it with the dean and the rector several days before the expulsion. The rector allowed me to retake the exam till 5 April, but on 1 April I was familiarized with the order for my expulsion. I cannot understand the reasons for such a hurry – the administration lets me retake the exam and then expels me without any warnings,’ Bahrou commented.
The activist thinks the expulsion is connected to his civil activities, including participation in different street actions. ‘The university students were several times warned about the ‘inadmissibility of participation in the meetings, pickets and processions of the opposition’. I took part in the Freedom Day action in Homel on 23 March, when our column was shot with a video camera by people in civvies. The action participants were called to the police, so the expulsion may well be a punishment for my participation as well,’ said Mikita Bahrou.
‘Trial of 14’ to start 16 April
In a related Viasna story,
A.Barazenka, A.Bondar, A.Charnyshou, M.Dashuk, A.Dubski, A.Kim, A.Koipish, M.Kryvau, M.Pashkevich, U.Siarheyeu, A.Straltsou, M.Subach, T.Tsishkevich and P.Vinahradau are accused in the criminal case brought for ‘mass riot’ at the unauthorized protest action of entrepreneurs held 10 January in Minsk.
They are accused under article 342 of the Criminal Code, ‘organization and preparation of the actions which rudely violate the public order, or active participation in such actions’. The maximal punishment is three years of jail.
Andrei Kim will be tried simultaneously on two charges – article 342 and article 364, ‘violence or threat of violence towards a policeman on duty’. The ‘threat of violence’ allegedly took place during another action of entrepreneurs, on 21 January. The first court sitting on one of the two criminal cases against Kim was held 1 April. The two cases were merged into one. Kim faces six years of jail.
Supporters urge Russian authorities to demand release of Kazulin
On Friday, Dr. Kazulin's close associates, politicians Ihar Rynkevich and Syarhey Skrabets, delivered the appeal to the Minsk-based Russian embassy.
The appeal bears a signature of Dr. Kazulin's elder daughter, Volha, apart from signatures of Messrs. Rynkevich and Skrabets; Alyaksey Karol, a member of the Union of Belarusian Intelligentsia; and prominent Belarusian journalist Svyatlana Kalinkina, who chairs the Belarusian-Russian group in the Russian president's Commission on Human Rights "Counselor Vladimir Pavlenko who is the second person in the embassy met with us," Mr. Rynkevich told BelaPAN. "The meeting lasted about an hour. We handed over our appeal, shared details about the situation with Kazulin and answered a series of questions."
"With the letter, we are opening the eastern front in the battle for the release of Ayaksandr Kazulin. This is a continuation of the international campaign of solidarity with the illegally convicted Belarusian politician. Russia should join the common position of the USA and the European Union in the settlement of this problem," he said.
Copies of the appeal are also to be sent to Boris Gryzlov, chairman of the State Duma (Russia's lower chamber); Vladimir Lukin, Russia's human rights ombudsman; Ella Panfilova, chairwoman of Commission on Human Rights under the Russian president, as well as to human rights organizations and media outlets.
Dr. Kazulin, sentenced to five and a half years in prison in 2006 after post-election protests, is believed by many to be the last convicted political prisoner in Belarus.
CR beat Belarus 7-1
From: Prague Monitor
The Czechs had already beat Belarus 7-2 in the first friendly played in Trebic, South Moravia, on Wednesday.
Czech Republic vs Belarus 7-1 (2-0, 2-0, 3-1)
Goals and assists: 2. Koukal (Rolinek), 5. Netik, 31. Netik (Hrabal), 37. Jansky (Cetkovsky), 48. Rolinek (Netik), 50. J. Straka (Rosa, Kohn), 52. Hrabal (Rolinek) - 52. Kukushkin (Demagin, Andrushchenko). Referees: Minar, Homola - Blumel, Kalivoda. Penalties: 6-9. Powerplay goals: 4-0. Shorthanded: 1-0. Attendance: 4123.
Czech Republic: Kopriva - Hrabal, Cernosek, Benak, Mojzis, Kundratek, Caslava - Rosa, J. Straka, Kohn - Netik, Koukal, Rolinek - Jansky, Cetkovsky, Krenzelok - Kubis, Sindel, Rachunek. Coaches: Josef Palecek and Frantisek Musil.
Belarus: Milchakov (48. Malyutin) - Tsvetkov, Bashko, Shvedov, Sushko, Maslenikov, Kolosov, Chernook, Shumski - Kulakov, Zadelenov, Antonenko - Demagin, Kukuskin, Andruscenko - Jelisejenko, Kurilin, Usenko - Gorbokon, Krutikov, Magdejev. Coaches: Curt Fraser, Glen Hanlon, Oleg Mikulchik and Eduard Zankovec.
European Athletic Association to inspect sports facilities in Belarus
Representatives of the European Athletics Association (EAA) will get familiar with the sports facilities of Belarus, BelTA was told in the Belarusian athletics federation.
EAA President Hansjorg Wirz from Switzerland and treasurer Karel Pilny of the Czech Republic will come to Minsk on April 6. They will stay in the Belarusian capital for three days to assess the potential of Belarus to host EAA tournaments. On the first day of the visit the guests will inspect sports facilities of Minsk. On the second day they will have meetings in the Ministry of Sport and Tourism and then the delegation will go to Brest to visit the Brestsky sports compound which was reopened in 2005 after reconstruction. The compound meets the highest internationals standards therefore the country plans to apply for staging the European tournaments such as Europe Cup and also European juniour championships.
On the final day of the visit the guests will inspect the republican centre of Olympic athletic training in Minsk and the sports facility “Staiki”.
Introducing unilateral sanctions against Belarus, USA undermines its credibility as international partner
According to him, this situation poses a rhetorical question: can we trust the United States, including in such a sensitive area as nonproliferation.
Commenting on some statements on Belarus voiced by the US Department of State, Andrei Popov said that “they contain some statements which are difficult to cohere with the civilized international practice”. For example, Belarus’ actions to reduce the personnel of the embassies on the mutual basis are reciprocal and fully meet the Vienna convention, he said. “As for the American side, which resorted to the unilateral measures of economic pressure on Belarus, it is clear for everyone that it has violated the international law from the UNGA resolutions to bilateral agreements between Belarus and the USA,” Andrei Popov said.
In this respect the proposals of the Belarusian side to reduce the diplomatic presence of the USA in Minsk remain in force. “It is natural and logical that Belarus maintains its demand that the USA should abolish unconditionally all economic sanctions against Belarusian companies as a basis for defusing the current situation in Belarusian-American relations,” Andrei Popov concluded.