Belarus/Viet Nam, International relations, European restrictions, Opposition opinions, Chernobyl’s Harvest, Polish scandal and Sports
President of Belarus visits Vietnam
From: The office of the president
|The President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, and the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Nguyen Minh Triet|
After that the President of Belarus had a short guided tour of the Ho Chi Minh Museum.
Today Alexander Lukashenko also met with Vietnamese graduates of Belarusian institutions of higher education, representatives of the Vietnam-Belarus friendship society, scientific circles, trade unions, women’s union and other public associations of Vietnam.
The similarity of Belarusian and Vietnamese economic development models is a strong foundation for expanding the economic relationship between the two states, Alexander Lukashenko said. According to him, Belarus and Vietnam have opportunities for boosting their mutual trade and establishing joint manufacturing companies. Belarus and Vietnam have promising cooperation prospects in petrochemical industry, in mechanical engineering, agriculture, science and technology, healthcare and culture.
Alexander Lukashenko said he was happy to note that Belarus and Vietnam either shared or had similar positions on key international issues. “These are, above all, issues relating to the necessity to move towards a multi-polar world order, strengthening of the authority and role of the United Nations Organisation, inadmissibility of external interference with the affairs of sovereign states,” the President of Belarus said.
Belarus , Alexander Lukashenko said, is ready to provide training for Vietnamese citizens.
Belarus attaches great importance to creating the best possible environment for foreign students, to matters pertaining to ensuring their security and helping them become true professionals. “I hope, the possibilities of the Belarusian education system will be made a full use of by Vietnam,” said Alexander Lukashenko.
According to him, the two countries already have a long record of cooperation in education. Belarus began cooperating with Vietnam in this sector in 1962. Over 1,100 university graduates have been trained over these years, 152 candidates of sciences, 3 doctors of sciences. 155 Vietnamese citizens have completed their vocational training in Belarus, 1,816 have diplomas from technical colleges. Many Vietnamese graduates of Belarusian institutions of higher education subsequently went on to become leading party officials, authoritative scientists, successful businessmen.
Today the President of the Republic of Belarus ended his official visit to Vietnam.
Russian parliamentarians to visit Russian military units in Belarus
A delegation of the Defense and Security Committee of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia is on their visit to Belarus which will be held till April 10. The senators intend to familiarize themselves with the work of Russian military units on the territory of Belarus, head of the delegation, deputy chairman of the Federation Council Defense and Security Committee Valery Trushnikov said at the meeting with 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.
“We want to see how the Russian military are living in Belarus, which problems they face, including in the legislation area. There are also certain issues concerning citizenship, housing and pensions”, Valery Trushnikov said.
The participants of the meeting discussed the issues related to the security in Europe, Nato eastward expansion and the deployment of the US anti-missile defense in the Czech Republic. The Belarusian and Russian parliamentarians strongly opposed such plans. According to Valery Trushnikov, the majority of Czech parliamentarians and the population are against the deployment of the US anti-missile defense system on their territory.
Nikolai Cherginets said that “the United States of America do not take into account the sovereignty and national legislation of other states. This is the style of the President Bush administration”, the Belarusian politician said.
Nikolai Cherginets also added that “the West forces Russia to undertake retaliatory measures. The US used to say that Nato would not move a single step eastward, but in reality they have made a huge step forward. This is why the statements of the American leadership cannot be reliable any more”, the Belarusian parliamentarian said.
Belarusian-Syrian ministerial consultations focus on political dialogue
The sides intend to consider the whole range of issues of bilateral cooperation. The consultations will focus on the interaction of the two countries in international organisations, exchange of visits of businessmen under the aegis of the Belarusian-Syrian business council, intensification of contacts in education, culture and sci-tech areas.
Attending the consultations are Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Viktor Gaisenok and Deputy Foreign Minister of Syria Abdel Fatah Ammura. Viktor Gaisenok is expected to hold talks with Foreign Minister of Syria Walid al Muallem, Minister of Economy and Trade Amer Housni Lutfi.
Viktor Gaisenok will also take part in an official ceremony to open the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Belarus in Aleppo.
Vadim Popov points to some intensification in Belarus-PACE dialogue
In due time the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe put an end to those minimum contacts which it had with Belarus. However recently we have seen some intensification of the dialogue, the speaker of the House of Representatives of the National assembly of Belarus, Vadim Popov, said at a meeting with PACE President Luis Maria de Puig in St. Petersburg on April 4.
“We are happy that the former leadership of PACE visited the Republic of Belarus. Belarus follows the recommendations of the Council of Europe,” the Belarusian politician said. One of them was to set up an information centre in Belarus. Now the technical project on opening such a centre in Belarusian State University is being worked through. He stressed that the opening of the PACE Office in Belarus is another step forwards.
At the same the speaker said that the accession of Belarus’ neighbours into the Schengen zone has brought new challenges. “Belarus has taken unilateral steps to simplify the trips to Belarus. You just have to pay a consular duty and this is it. However, the reciprocal steps have been few,” Vadim Popov said. The Belarusian parliament is completing the work on the agreements with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to ease the situation. At the spring session the parliament of Belarus will complete all necessary interstate procedures in respect of these documents, Vadim Popov said.
Vadim Popov noted that the issue of development of the infrastructure on the EU border remains an important problem. The Belarusian border is the only barrier on the way of drugs, weapons, illegal migration to the EU. Freight flows to and from the EU also necessitate equipping customs terminals. “We need the border which would function in the interests of the EU countries and in the interests of Belarus. We have seen more understanding recently and the EU allocates some part of the money. The process has started, and needs to be accelerated,” Vadim Popov said.
In turn, Luic Maria de Puig said that PACE would like to see the dialogue with Belarus develop. “We need to engage in the dialogue to achieve those common goals we set before ourselves,” the PACE President said. At the same time the situation is like this: Belarus is a European country but is not a member of the Council of Europe. In his opinion, developing a constructive dialogue should “promote closer contacts between Belarus and European countries for the Republic of Belarus to become member of the Council of Europe.”
New Type of Bonds Approved
The provisions enter into force in three-month period from the official publication of the Edict.
Belarus and Vietnam can increase trade almost ten times in two or three years
Belarus and Vietnam can increase trade almost ten times in two or three years and this is the goal the countries want to achieve, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said during a meeting with Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nong Duc Manh.
In 2007, the bilateral trade amounted to $63.3 million what, as Alexander Lukashenko believes, is not enough.
The President of Belarus said that during the talks with his Vietnamese counterpart they agreed that there are no closed topics in the bilateral cooperation. “We are ready to do everything for Vietnam you ask us about and offer us,” the Belarusian head of state said. “On my visit I am accompanied by the chiefs of the most important ministries, companies. Many of them have already signed contracts concerning further development of interaction between the two countries. We are ready to identify the list of goods which we will buy from Vietnam,” Alexander Lukashenko said. He also invited Nong Duc Manh to visit Belarus.
Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nong Duc Manh called the visit of Alexander Lukashenko as an important event and expressed hope that the visit will help enhance the current level of the relations between the two countries.
In January-March, Belarus’ gold and currency reserves 9% up
In January-March 2008, Belarus’ international reserve assets increased by $521.6 million, or 10.4%, to $5514.3 million. Last month they increased by 1.2%, BelTA leant from the information department of the National Bank.
Hard currency reserves account for the greatest share of the international reserve assets of Belarus ($4460.6 million, or 80.9%) and precious metals and gems ($968.6 million, or 17.6%). Over the past two months they increased by 9.9% and 14.4% respectively. Other assets account for $85.1 million, or 1.5%.
In January-March 2008, Belarus’ international reserve assets calculated following the IMF methods increased by $563.4 million, or by 13.5%, to $4745.6 million. In March they increased by 9%. A reminder, according to International Monetary Fund, the Belarusian international reserves are defined as marketable foreign assets, which consist of monetary gold, special drawing rights, the country’s reserve position in the IMF and currency reserves. The reserve assets can be used quickly for money market interventions in order to stabilize the exchange rate of the national currency, for the government to finance import of goods and services, for paying and servicing the foreign national debt and for other purposes.
In 2007, the Belarusian international reserve assets calculated using national terms spurred 3 times, to total $4992.7 million.
By 2010, Belarus plans to grow its international reserve assets up to $10 billion.
World Bank to give Belarus $60m loan for Clean Water Programme
According to him, the loan agreement has been prepared. “We will soon submit the documents for consideration of the government,” he said.
The loan will be used to implement 22 projects of the Clean Water Programme to construct new and modernise existing water removal and water supply facilities in Belarus. The list of facilities has been compiled.
Sergei Sushko said that B120 billion will be allocated from the budget for the programme this year. The total volume of financing in 2006-2010 makes up Br700 billion.
The international specialized exhibition “Waste Management” is held in Minsk on April 8-11. It features the equipment and technology to process industrial waste, use the wood waste, pellet technology and also waste management technology.
A specialized exhibition “Water and Heating” showcases all kinds of equipment and products for industrial and household consumers.
A scientific-practical conference “Waste management. Problems of Utilization and Recycling” on April 10 will focus on the achievements and prospects of waste management, the state of waste management in Belarus, prospects of government support and coordination in waste management, mechanisms of involvement of commercial and public organisations in collection and utilisation of waste, formation of ecological thinking.
The event is organised by the exhibition company Expoforum with the support of the Ministry of Housing and Utilities, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus.
Vietnam-Belarus joint statement issued
From: VietNamNet Bridge
|Alexander Lukashenko and Nguyen Minh Triet|
The joint statement was issued during the visit from April 7-8 by Belorussian President A.G. Lukashenko.
The joint statement says:
1. The two sides expressed their satisfaction at the development of Vietnam-Belarus traditional friendship and multifaceted cooperation through high-level political dialogues and regular exchange of delegations between ministries, sectors and localities of the two countries.
2. The two sides expressed their pleasure at the dynamic development in completing the legal basis for bilateral cooperation, as well as the establishment of institutions for implementation of cooperation for mutual benefit in economy and commerce, science and technology, military technology and other areas.
3. The two sides affirmed that they want to expand trade relations and develop cooperation in other areas such as machinery manufacturing, agriculture, electronics, mining and petrochemical industry.
4. The two sides agreed that regular meetings between ministries, sectors, localities and businesses of Vietnam and Belarus is an important factor to help boost the economic and commercial ties between the two countries.
5. The two sides spoke highly of activities of the Vietnam-Belarus Inter-governmental Committee on Economic, Commercial, Scientific and Technological Cooperation, calling for practical measures to help improve the efficiency of this cooperative mechanism. The two sides acknowledged the dynamic and active development in scientific, educational and cultural cooperation between the two countries as well as between their localities.
6. Vietnam praised Belarus for creating favourable conditions for Vietnamese nationals living in Belarus, contributing to strengthening and enhancing the traditional friendship and multi-faceted cooperation between the two countries.
7. The two sides shared the same views on many important international issues, supported the establishment of an equal world order in the principles of non-interference into internal affairs of each country, equality, mutual respect, benefits, and abiding by international laws and the United Nations Charter, and respecting the development path of each country.
The two sides called for not using direct or indirect force or promoting unilateral economic coercion measures, putting pressure on international relations and being contrary to the United Nations Charter and international laws.
8. The two sides underscored the United Nations’ key role as a dynamic international organistaion in resolving international issues, affirming the significance of the continued collaboration and close cooperation between the two countries at the UN and other international organisations.
They agreed that the UN reform will increase the effectiveness of the organisation’s activities in keeping international peace and security. The two sides agreed that the UN Security Council’s activities should base on the UN long-lasting interests and the needs for democratisation of the UN key agencies’ activities.
The two sides also advocated the increased presence of developing countries in the UNSC.
9. The two leaders reiterated their expectations for continued cooperation in the fight against new dangers and challenges at global level. Of which, terrorism in all forms and expressions is the most dangerous factor that is threatening the world peace, stability and security. The fight against terrorism should be done frequently and no double standards and viewpoints should be applied.
10. The Vietnamese side highly appreciated and backed Belarus efforts in boosting cooperation with the Southeast Asian countries.
Belorusian President A.G. Lukashenko expressed his sincere thanks to the Vietnamese side for their warm welcome and invited State President Nguyen Minh Triet and Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh to pay official visits to Belarus at convenient times. The Vietnamese leaders accepted the invitation. The timing of the visits will be arranged through the diplomatic channel.
EU extends for on year ban on Belarus leaders’ entry in Europe
From: Itar Tass
The European Union introduced sanctions against the Belarussian leadership soon after the presidential election in the country held in March 2006. The EU Council said in a statement that the sanctions are introduced against the persons responsible for curtailment of democratic freedoms, violation of Belarussian citizens’ rights and persecution of opposition during the March 19 presidential election.
The sanctions were introduced in two stages: in late March 2006 the EU prohibited the entry in its territory to 30 Belarussian functionaries, including the president and in May of the same year it decided to freeze all accounts of the Belarussian president and his staff officials in European Banks. The EU Council’s press service said then that this resolution contains a ban on any movement of assets on accounts of these politicians in Europe.
According to the EU Council press release as of Monday, “The Council adopted a common position extending for a further year, until 10 April 2009, the travel restrictions and freezing of financial assets against certain Belarus officials, in view of the situation in the country. These measures, building on initial measures introduced in 2004, had been adopted against persons responsible for fraudulent elections and referendum in October 2004, violations of international electoral standards in the March 2006 elections and the crackdown on civil society and the democratic opposition. The list of persons affected by the restrictive measures remains unchanged.”
It said, “The list may be reviewed at any time on the basis of its review criteria and in the light of events on the ground. The Council and the Commission adopted the following joint statement: “The Council and the Commission welcome the release of five of the six internationally recognised political prisoners in Belarus.”
According to the document, “The Council and the Commission reiterate their position that the unconditional release of all political prisoners would be considered by the EU as a concrete step towards Belarusian compliance with core European values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This would provide for a possibility to review the restrictive measures in place against certain officials of Belarus, and to enable the EU to progressively re-engage with Belarus, in connection with further steps by Belarus in that direction.”
“The Council and the Commission also note in this respect the particular importance of the conduct of the upcoming parliamentary elections in accordance with international electoral standards, which would provide an opportunity for the assessment of the situation in Belarus and for possible positive steps,” is noted.
“The Council and the Commission recall that Council Common Position 2006/276/CFSP is kept under constant review and can be modified in light of political developments in Belarus. The release of all political prisoners and the conduct of September 2008 parliamentary elections would provide specific occasions for such a review,” the press release said.
Official Minsk has repeatedly made statements that Belarussian officials have no personal accounts in foreign banks. Over the period of the sanctions European officials have failed to specify if they have found a single Belarussian account in European banks subject o freezing.
Lukashenko Hopes for Better Relations With U.S.
From: Moscow Times
Lukashenko was speaking to Vietnamese media ahead of a visit in the next few days.
"I believe relations with the United States will soon be normalized, and chances are good for normalized relations with the European Union," he said, the BELTA news agency reported.
Belarus asked Washington earlier in the week for a new staffing cut of more than 50 percent at its Minsk embassy, following the departure of its ambassador at the urging of the authorities. The embassy is to provide an answer by Monday.
The embassy said staff reductions had obliged it for a second time to suspend the issuing of visas for Belarussians.
"As you are aware, only last week, our embassy reduced the number of American staff by half," it said in a statement. "We consider these demands by the Belarussian government to be unwarranted and unjustified."
The U.S. ambassador left Belarus last month, and the reduction is the second demanded by Minsk, which wants sanctions against Belarus dropped -- mainly measures against national oil products firm Belneftekhim.
Washington last year froze the U.S. accounts of Belneftekhim, which earns about one-third of foreign currency revenues in Belarus, and barred Americans from dealings with it.
It says a resumption of dialogue depends largely on Belarus releasing its most prominent detainee, Alexander Kozulin, who ran against Lukashenko in a 2006 election and helped stage protests against his landslide victory.
In his comments, Lukashenko predicted that U.S. measures to put pressure on his country would fail. "They are trying to corner us with sanctions. The Americans have tried to pressure us," he said. "These attempts are all in vain. We will find markets for our goods."
Chernobyl’s Harvest; For the Iowa-size area around the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, it’s not just the air, but the soil, that stands to benefit from biofuels
From: Ethenol Producer
The contamination fell onto vast areas of land that will remain radioactive for centuries. What was supposed to be a routine shutdown turned into the worst industrial accident in human history.
More than 20 years after the nuclear accident in Ukraine, an 18-mile perimeter around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant remains abandoned—the exclusion zone, still too radioactive for human occupation.
Farther out are huge toxic swaths in Ukraine as well as in neighboring Belarus and Russia—at least 70,000 square miles, an area larger than Iowa. These zones are less contaminated than the exclusion zone but still too radioactive to grow crops as food. Chernobyl is just four miles from the border with the nation of Belarus, where 20 percent of the land remains poisoned with radioactive fallout from the disaster.
These less-contaminated areas have the attention of Greenfield Project Management Ltd. of Dublin, Ireland. “With the right kinds of crops, technology, safety systems and processing,” says Basil Miller, Greenfield’s chief communications officer, “pure fuel ethanol can be safely produced from the nuclear zone.”
Scientists estimate that contamination in Belarus, the country hardest hit by the fallout, is severe enough to prevent the safe cultivation of food for 300 to 600 years. Through repeat harvests of grain for ethanol feedstock, however, Greenfield thinks that the land will be safe for food production in as little as 60 years.
That’s the dream, in any case. Greenfield’s chair, Ann McClain, says she and the nation of Belarus agree that ethanol is an “economically sustainable way of remediating and redeveloping the contaminated Chernobyl lands,” according to a release on the Greenfield Web site. McClain calls the effort a “long-term humanitarian and social project.” And, she claims, it’s good business—with stable supplies of feedstock in market conditions that are volatile in much of the world.
Belarus may nevertheless be a daunting place to do business. The government, led by President Alexandr Lukashenko, controls prices and currencyexchange rates and intervenes in management of private business, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Web site.
Central and local governments in Belarus have pressured businesses with “arbitrary changes in regulations, numerous rigorous inspections, retroactive application of new business regulations, and arrests of ‘disruptive’ businessmen and factory owners,” according to the CIA. Foreign investment is limited.
In any case, the government seems to welcome Greenfield. Belarus and Greenfield agreed in late 2007 to launch an ethanol production project that would use grains and sugar beets—perhaps from contaminated areas—as feedstock. A first Greenfield plant at the city of Mozyr would generate 550 MMly (145 MMgy) of ethanol annually.
The target market is Europe, which currently imports ethanol from Brazil. The European Union has set 2020 as the year by which member states must derive at least 10 percent of their fuel supply from biofuels (see “Vive la Difference” on page 144). It’s likely that many EU member states will resort to importing biofuels to meet the target—some already are, in fact—and sourcing ethanol from producers closer than Brazil would be advantageous.
Greenfield plans research to test the extent to which radioactivity can be removed by harvesting. Vegetation draws radioactive contamination from the soil and incorporates it into the plants themselves. Hypothetically, repeat harvesting would remove contamination faster than if the land lay fallow.
Ensuring Consumer Safety
“There are many scientific bodies behind our approach," claims Greenfield’s Miller. “Not just the Belarusian and Ukrainian research institutes, but the U.S. Department of Energy, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the Danish National Laboratory have all been involved in studies supporting this.”
Of course, Greenfield also needs a process to reduce the level of radioactivity in its ethanol to levels acceptable under international standards—and therefore safe for use in vehicles. “There is the perceived notion that the final product will contain radioactivity, which it won’t,” says spokesman Miller. “There was a headline in an Irish paper that said ‘Will Your Car Glow in the Dark?’ That’s just ridiculous.”
Observers agree it could work. “I can see the idea of letting the crops absorb the radioactive isotopes and up-concentrate them in a boiler, where they would be collected together with the fly ash and slag,” says Anders Jensen, sales manager at biomass specialist Bioener APS of Copenhagen. Didier Louvat, head of the Waste and Environmental Safety Section at the International Atomic Energy Association, says radioactivity could remain in the fuel, but only at acceptable background levels that are present worldwide. “After the oil processing,” says Louvat, the remaining radioactivity “doesn't make a big difference.”
Greenfield wants to begin field tests on crops harvested this year. It seeks to identify plant species that offer both rapid radioactivity absorption and high ethanol yield. Prime candidates are wheat and sugar beet. Wheat is expensive, to be sure, but available more cheaply under Belarusian price controls.
Danish and Swedish technology already exists to remove radioactivity from feedstock, says Greenfield’s Miller. Workers at the production facilities handling contaminated feedstock would follow existing international standards in what Miller describes as a setting that handles “medium to low” radioactivity.
In any case, Greenfield is going step by step. A plant at the city of Mozyr on the Pripet River would start producing ethanol as early as 2010—but at first with uncontaminated feedstock. Meanwhile, Greenfield anticipates building a pilot plant further north at Bobruisk less than one-fifth the size of the Mozyr facility to test ethanol production from contaminated feedstock. Success at the pilot plant would mean production using radioactive feedstock at the bigger Mozyr plant, all perhaps within five years.
Greenfield, which has already invested €8 million ($12.6 million) in the project, announced in late March it would spend another €65 million ($120 million) this year in its Belarusian
Belarus: a new workshop for berry and mushroom freezing is launched in Glusk
From: Agricultural Marketing Project
"This facility is launched in the framework of the investment project "Establishment of the freezing facility for wild berries and mushrooms in Glusskiy district" in accordance with the regional program of the development of small and medium municipal communities", Mr. Belyatskiy explained. He added that Br 9.1 billion ($4.5 mln.) was spent for the implementation of this investment project, including Br 3.5 billion ($1.8 mln.) of the budget funds.
"The production capacity of this technological line is 2 tons of flash frozen berries per hour", the Deputy Chairman specified. He added that "the first shipment of cranberries of the total weight of 600 kg has been already frozen and packed on this line; there is a plan to process and to produce around 1,300 tons of the frozen berries and mushrooms in a new season".
"We have an intention to process and to freeze strawberry, raspberry, black and red currant, gooseberry, cranberry and other berries of Belarus, and also wild mushrooms from our forests", Mr. Belyatskiy explained.
He also told about the 5-section cold storage for 500 tons of the frozen products to be launched in the module-type workshop.
The Deputy Chairman also points out that 32 new jobs will be created this year on a new facility. He also informs about the perspectives to mount one more technological line for the production of frozen vegetables.
From: Minsk Blog
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Medvedev: Russia can join WTO in 2008
From: Press TV
"We are ready for entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). We can complete the accession process this year," said Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday.
"At the same time, we should acquire the WTO membership on regular terms, not like a poor relation," he added.
"A lot has been done, and nearly all the solutions have been found. The latest meeting with the American colleagues showed that they are ready to help and do away with atavistic laws. At least, they say so," noted the President-elect.
"We shall see what happens. We must enter the organization with our head high rather than bowed," concluded Medvedev.
The issue of Russia's admission to the WTO was addressed in Sochi Declaration issued after a meeting between outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart George W. Bush in Sochi on Sunday.
"The US and Russia are committed to achieving WTO accession for Russia as soon as possible and on commercially meaningful terms," said the declaraion.
"Russia can qualify for membership and thus accession to the WTO can be achieved this year," it added.
Russia and the US have previously failed to agree on terms for Russia joining the WTO.
Russia to conduct 28 space launches from Baikonur in 2008
From: Ria Novosti
Baikonur, built in Kazakhstan in the 1950s, was first leased by Russia from Kazakhstan under an agreement signed in 1994 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russian officials have repeatedly said Russia will continue to use the Baikonur launch site until at least 2050.
Alexander Mezentsev, the mayor of Baikonur, told a news conference that Russia launched a total of 21 carrier rockets from the site in 2007.
At present, the two countries are working to build a space complex at Baikonur, Baiterek, to launch Angara carrier rockets capable of delivering 26 metric tons of payload into low-Earth orbits. The project is being implemented on a parity basis and enjoys tax, customs and other privileges.
Kazakhstan and Russia have reportedly each allocated $223 million for the construction of the Baiterek launch site under a 2004 agreement.
"We have prepared the documentation and developed technical requirements [for the project], and all that's left is to start construction," Mezentsev said without revealing any specific details.
World's First Spacewoman Saw Off First Spacewoman of South Korea In Tears
In a related Kommersant story,
World's first woman-cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova burst in tears when seeing off South Korean first astronaut Yi So-yeon, RIA Novosti reported with reference to the telephone conversation with Roskosmos briefer Alexander Vorobiev, who is currently in Baikonur.
“In Baikonur, Alexei Leonov and Valentina Tereshkova were seeing off Russia’s-Korean crew that is to blast off today at 3:16 p.m. from Gagarin’s launching pad. Valentina Vladimirovna's attitude to Yi So-yeon was particularly hearty, she couldn’t keep in the tears of happiness,” Vorobiev said.
Chief of Russia’s space agency Roskosmos Anatoly Perminov introduced Yi So-yeon to Tereshkova yesterday, calling her “the Korean Valentina Tereshkova.”
The ISS mission of the crew includes ensuring docking of U.S. Shuttles, Russia’s Progress cargo spaceships as well as re-docking of Soyuz TMA-12 from Zarya (Dawn) to Zvezda (Star) modules. The cosmonauts will have a spacewalk under Russia’s program. They will also set up a number of scientific experiments, including biological, geophysical, educational and medical ones.
The crew will replace Russia’s cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson, who will return to the Earth together with Yi So-yeon on April 19.
Moscow to prevent Ukraine, Georgia's NATO admission - Lavrov
From: Ria Novosti
"We will do everything possible to prevent the accession of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO and to avoid the possible worsening of relations with the alliance, its leading member states and our neighbors," Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the Moscow-based Ekho Moskvy radio.
Lavrov said Ukraine's and Georgia's possible admission is "the key irritant threatening to turn relations into a real problem with those NATO countries trying to force through this decision."
At a summit in Bucharest on Thursday, NATO members decided to postpone offering Georgia and Ukraine the chance to join the alliance's Membership Action Plan (MAP), but promised to review the decision in December. The ex-Soviet republics had received strong U.S. backing for their bids.
The minister said that prior to the Bucharest summit, the alliance's leading members affirmed that Ukraine and Georgia would decide for themselves whether to join NATO.
Lavrov, however, said after the summit that NATO members had indicated that Ukraine's and Georgia's admission would take place for sure which meant "interference in the countries' internal affairs."
"In Ukraine about 70% of the population are against joining NATO. If we take Georgia, then [the unrecognized republics of] Abkhazia and South Ossetia don't even want to hear about Georgia becoming a NATO member," Lavrov said.
Thirteen Injured in Coal Mine Explosion in Ukraine
From: Red Orbit
A total of 57 miners were working underground when the blast occurred at the mine in the Donetsk region, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. The Donetsk region is about 640 km southeast of the capital, Kiev.
The rescuers evacuated 57 miners from the site, the injured miners were receiving adequate medical treatment at local hospitals.
Methane gas ignited by an as-yet unknown means was the most likely cause of the explosion, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported.
Ukraine's coal mines are among the world's most dangerous, with an average of 250-300 workers losing their lives on the job each year.
The country's worst mine accident took place in November 2007, when a methane gas explosion in the Donetsk region Zasyadko mine killed 101 workers, and injured dozens more.
Polish doctors vow to stamp out bribery
From: tHE nEWS
Health service employees have proposed ways to fight corruption, abundant in their profession by introducing clear rules on medicine refund and health services contracting.
The chairman of the Supreme Medical Council, Konstanty Radziwill stressed that health and life are so important too many, that they will resort to bribes; and there will always be someone willing to take it in a profession where wages are so low.
That is why, according to Radziwill, without the government increasing budget expenditure on the health service there is no way to effectively solve the corruption problem.
Doctor Piotr Kasztelowicz from the district hospital in Chelmza, central Poland, thinks that if patients have to officially pay for services, they will be reluctant to offer extra payments in the form of bribes.
Polish lawmakers open probe of ex-minister's suicide
A special commission of seven lawmakers is starting its work Monday. It is supposed to determine whether police and prosecutors acted properly when special agents staged the April 25, 2007, search of the house of Barbara Blida, a former construction minister.
Blida was under investigation for alleged corruption. She served in a former left-wing government.
It is not clear how long the investigation will take.
Polish teachers to strike again
From: The News
The strike is to last one day, during which teachers will not attend to their duties.
A vote on the strike is to take place five days before the date, at the latest. If in a given school, less than 50 percent of teachers are for the strike, it will not take place in that facility.
The teachers demand wages increase by 50 percent by 2010. They also want to retain the possibility of early retirement.
The chairman of the ZNP union, Slawomir Boniarz, stressed at the meeting today that teachers are ready to talk with the government. He added that the strike will not obstruct the oral school-leaving exams (matura) and that it is the headmasters' responsibility that the exams proceed without disruption.
The teachers are another group from the public sector who are pushing for higher wages, after doctors, nurses, postmen, judges, miners and customs officers.
Former Polish president's trial adjourned
From: The News
Kwasniewski was sued by the Polish weekly Wprost, after the former president called it a "magazine of the former communist secret service".
Today's hearing did not take place due to illness of the judge chairing the proceedings.
For the June hearing the court has scheduled questioning several Wprost journalists, among them Maciej Rybinski, and the defendant, Aleksander Kwasniewski.
Wprost's plenipotentiary stated that the journalists are ready to testify that Kwasniewski's words undermine their credibility as accountable journalists. Kwasniewski's lawyer said that he will notify the former president of the new date of the hearing, but stipulated that Kwasniewski might be unable to attend, due to frequent visits to the US.
Lukashenka: Belarus ready to do everything for Vietnam
Belarus' state-run media outlets quoted him as saying that the two countries shared common "ideological foundations" for the development of ties.
"We do not have differences over foreign policy," he said. "We support multi-polar world and back the equality and the right of countries to decide by their own how they should develop in accordance with the wish of the peoples. Certainly, some do not like such policy. There are attempts to put pressure on us also by means of economic sanctions, but we are taking them calmly. It is not very easy to lead us astray."
Mr. Lukashenka stressed the need for Belarus and Vietnam to increase their trade almost 10-fold in the next two or three years from $63.6 million in 2007, the figure that he described as insufficient.
"The heads of major ministries, companies and enterprises have arrived with me. Many of them have already struck important contracts that concern the further development of cooperation between the two countries. We are prepared to compile a list of goods that we will buy from Vietnam."
The Belarusian leader invited the secretary general, Nong Duc Manh, to visit Minsk, according to the report.
Mr. Manh said that Mr. Lukashenka's visit was a landmark event and expressed hope that it would contribute to the development of cooperation between the two countries.
Lukashenka notes "solid" prospects for Belarusian-Vietnamese cooperation
In a related story, Belarus and Vietnam have solid prospects for cooperation in the petrochemical and agriculture industries, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in Hanoi on Tuesday when he was meeting with graduates of Belarusian educational institutions and members of non-governmental organizations.
He said that prospects also were good for the two countries' scientific and cultural ties.
He said that they also had an opportunity to increase trade and establish joint companies, noting that a similarity between the two countries' "development models" provided solid foundations for the development of the economic relations.
Mr. Lukashenka noted common stances held by Belarus and Vietnam in the international arena, citing their support for a multi-polar world and a bigger role of the United Nations, and opposition to outside interference with the internal affairs of a country.
Mr. Lukashenka also spoke about studies of Vietnamese students in Belarus. "I hope that the opportunities of the Belarusian educational system will be fully used by the Vietnamese state," he was quoted as saying.
He noted that Belarus had been offering training to Vietnamese students since 1962, with more than 1100 Vietnamese nationals receiving a higher education diploma in the country in the period, 152 a doctoral candidate's degree, three a doctor's degree and 1971 a diploma of a vocational training school.
Lukashenka complains about “strong pressure” to Vietnam president
From: Charter '97
“Issues of overcoming the unipolar structure of the world, prevention of interference with internal affairs of sovereign states, establishing fair relations between all states and creating conditions for their successful social and economic development have a special relevance for us,” Alyaksandr Lukashenka told during the meeting with his Vietnamese colleague Nguyen Minh Triet.
“The both our states carry out an independent foreign policy to the interest of our own nations. Because of that both Belarus and Vietnam experience strong economic and political pressure from some states pretending to the dominant role in world community,” A. Lukashenka said.
Belarus and Vietnam condemn use of unilateral economic sanctions as a means of political or economic duress. “The sides support agreement of the Non-Alignment Movement which condemns use of economic measures by one state as a means of political and economic duress, which interfere free flow of international trade, and call upon the states to refrain from their imposing and application,” the joint declaration signed by presidents of Belarus and Vietnam reads.
Vietnamese president Nguyen Minh Triet, commenting on the nature of the cooperation with Belarus at a press-conference, stated that Belarus and Vietnam do not have any difference on these issues. “I believe that Belarus and Vietnam will conduct more coordinated actions to fight some nations’ schemes to put political and economic pressure on countries that pursue independent internal and external policies,” Lukashenka said.
Swedish Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights' Open Letter to Lukashenka
Dear Mr. President,
We would like to express our serious concern regarding the trial agaisnt Ms Katsiaryna Salauyova, that is to be held on 8 April in Polatsk.
The criminal case brought against Ms Salauyova is based on Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus. Article 193-1 makes it a crime to take part in activities within the frames of a non-registered organization.
Already when adopted, Article 193 was heavily criticized by human rights organizations within as well as outside Belarus, as there were strong reasons to believe that it could be used as a tool to suppress the legitimate political opposition. Experience shows that this fear was well-founded. Up till now 13 young persons have been charged under Article 193, all of them in processes that clearly must be regarded as politically motivated.
Article 193 undoubtedly contradicts to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, where freedom of association is guaranteed. Futhermore, it is incompatible with the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (article 22), which has been signed and ratified by the Republic of Belarus.
There fore, we urge You to eliminate Article 193 from the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus immediately, and to make sure that neither Ms Salauyova, nor anybody else, risks being punished for using their constitutional right to freedom of association.
Swedish Initiative for
Democracy and Human Rights
Swedish Initiative for
Democracy and Human Rights
European Athletics Association president lauds sports facilities in Brest
Hansjorg Wirz, who had arrived in Belarus on Sunday in company with EAA Treasurer Karel Pilny, visited the city in southwestern Belarus on April 7.
Messrs. Wirz and Pilny examined Brest’s indoor athletics arena and Brestski multi-sport arena to find out whether they meet criteria for hosting EAA tournaments.
Mr. Wirz said that he was impressed with what he saw and that the arenas met international standards.
The EAA representatives also studied the city’s hotel and transport conditions, visited a rowing canal and met with Brest’s top officials.
Up to 20 international sports tournaments take place in the Belarusian city annually.
Brest will host a qualifying tournament for the Baseball European Champions Cup this June and the European Rowing Championships in 2009.
Belarus' Yuri Foreman: The Tale of the Tape and the Talmud
From: New York Times
This hectic schedule is familiar to Foreman, a 27-year-old rabbinical student and an undefeated professional light middleweight boxer who wears the Star of David on his boxing trunks and a black skullcap when he is studying or praying.
He answered rapid-fire questions from his teacher, Rabbi DovBer Pinson, an author and lecturer. The mental exercise, Foreman said, was tougher than any boxing routine.
“It’s a sharpen-your-mind workout,” he said. “When I go to the gym, I’m training my physical self. With the rabbi, I’m training my spiritual muscles.”
His manager, Murray Wilson, said a victory against Román on Thursday night in Brooklyn could earn Foreman (24-0) a shot at Joachim Alcine, a Canadian who holds the World Boxing Association title.
Foreman said his studies to become an Orthodox rabbi eased the physical stress of his boxing training. But he said he set the sport aside while reading the Talmud or attending classes twice a week at IYYUN, a Jewish institute in Brooklyn.
“Boxing and Judaism go side by side, because it’s a lot of challenges,” he said. “I would love to be a world champion and a rabbi.”
A three-time Israeli amateur national champion, Foreman came to the United States eight years ago to become a professional fighter. In 2000, he hoped to win the New York Golden Gloves and parlay it into a successful career. Instead, he lost a close decision in the final.
“I was very disappointed, but looking back, it was good I stayed another year in amateurs,” he said. “I won the next Golden Gloves, and then I was really ready.”
At first, Foreman had trouble getting fights while members of his first management team clashed. He was financially strapped.
About four years ago, Wilson, a New York City restaurant owner, stepped in as his manager and guided him to Bob Arum’s Top Rank organization. As Foreman’s career prospects improved, so did his personal life.
At Gleason’s, he met Leyla Leidecker, the Hungarian woman he would eventually marry and who would help set him on his religious quest. Leidecker, an amateur fighter and former fashion model, did not consider herself religious while growing up. She converted to Judaism in 2006.
Growing up in Belarus and later Israel, Foreman was not religious. As a Russian Jew, he said he was considered an outcast in Israel.
About five years ago, Leidecker suggested they study kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism. In an Internet search, she stumbled upon Rabbi Pinson’s classes at IYYUN.
Foreman said the first class went over his head. But he stuck with it, attending dinners with the rabbi and beginning to observe the Sabbath and other Jewish laws. He now wears tefillin — scrolls of Scripture attached to his arms and head during prayer — and tassels under his clothes.
“God gave me opportunities,” Foreman said. “I feel like I have to do something in return.”
Eighteen months ago, Rabbi Pinson sent an e-mail message to his students about the prospect of rabbinical studies. Foreman said he seized the opportunity out of a thirst for knowledge and a desire to help others. He said he hoped to one day return to Israel to share what he learned, although he is at least three years from being ordained as a rabbi.
“I can have my own community to help Russian kids,” he said.
His wife said she was not surprised by his commitment to studying his faith. “He was without his family, trying to get back to his roots, trying to belong somewhere,” Leidecker said.
Foreman’s endeavor has led to debate among some Jewish leaders.
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, said Jewish principles would seem to put Foreman’s professional career at odds with his religious education. It is forbidden, the rabbi said, to injure yourself or another person. Rabbinic law also asks individuals to avoid situations of potential danger.
“He has to recognize there are certain issues he has to confront,” Potasnik said. “Doing what he’s doing is problematic, but all of life is problematic. That’s something he has to resolve, and I respect him for his commitment.”
But Rabbi Benjamin Blech, an assistant professor of the Talmud at Yeshiva University, said Foreman could help fight the belief that Jews were weak or could be bullied. When asked how he would react to the notion of a world champion boxing rabbi, Blech said, “I would be proud.”
He added: “Everything has a risk-and-reward factor. Does that mean he can’t go bungee jumping, get in a car or a plane?”
Foreman said his goal was not to injure himself or his opponent, but to win by outscoring competitors. And Arum, who described himself as an observant Jew, said rabbis have told him that Foreman’s studies and boxing were not in conflict.
Rabbi Pinson said that if Foreman had approached him as a young man, he would not have suggested a boxing career. Because Foreman was already accomplished in the sport, however, he said he would not dissuade him.
Foreman attempts to restrict his fights to weekdays.
If a bout lands on a Saturday, as was the case in June, he observes the Sabbath by remaining within walking distance of the arena. Wilson, his manager, said the sun had yet to set when HBO officials called for Foreman to make his way to the ring. He refused to do so.
“He pulled me into the corner,” Wilson recalled, “and said, ‘Please, let’s pray for five minutes.’ ”
ARCHE, No. 3 (66), 2008
In his «The EU’s Limited Response to Belarus’ Pseudo ‘New Foreign Policy’» PhD Candidate in Political Science at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium George Dura, a Research Assistant at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels, scrutinizes the history of relationships between the Republic of Belarus and the EU following the oil and gas crisis in winter 2006—2007 which resulted in worsening Russia-Belarus relations and freezing the formation of the so called Russia-Belarus «union state». Such a situation prompted the Belarusian authorities to use pro-European rhetoric and forced them to seek chances of limited power engineering and economic partnership. Unfortunately the potential of rapprochement can not be fully used due to the fears held by the Belarusian regime regarding long-term stability of the regime itself, the deficit in coordination within the EU political structures and hegemonic ambitions of the neo-imperial Russia.
PhD Candidate in Institute of Islamic Studies of McGill University Rashed Chowdhury (Montreal, Quebec) in his «Barack Obama and New American Dream» sheds new light on the phenomenon of one of most popular American politicians Barack Obama, using as the starting point his book «Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance» (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004).
Education expert Uladzimier Mackievic in his «The education reform: an Apparatchik’s Game and Profanation of Knowledge» criticizes the ideas, expressed in article by first deputy of the Lukashenka Administration head Anatol Rubinau in biggest Belarusian newspaper «Sovyetskaya Byelorussiya», as incompetent and anachronistic.
The genesis of Belarusian nationalism is debated by Mahilou State University professor Ihar Marzaluk and EHU professor and director of the program «The History of Belarus and Cultural Anthropology» Ales Smalancuk.
Vasil Auramienka in his «The New Boundaries: Whose Doing is This?» continues the dispute in the issue of suicide and euthanasia started in ARCHE (12/2007).
The historians from Horadnia Andrej Va?kievic and Andrej Carniakievic trace the way that March 25th, the day of proclamation of Belarusian People’s Republic (BPR), came to be the national holiday of Belarusians in the interwar Poland.
This issue of ARCHE also presents the Belarusian translation of «An Algebra of Soviet Power. Elite Circulation in the Belorussian Republic 1966—1986» (Cambridge University Press, 1989) by Michael E. Urban, Politics Department UC Santa Cruz professor.
The «Reviews» rubric includes the judgments by Belarusian State University professor of the department of philosophy and methodology Andrej Mira?nicenka about Uladzimier Mackievic’s book «About Education. Polemic Sketches» (Об образовании. Полемические этюды. Минск: Издатель Змицер Колас, 2008. — 289 с.), and the opinions of Regina University professor Gediminas Lankauskas about the monograph «Baltic Postcolonialism» (On the Boundary of Two Worlds: Identity, Freedom, and Moral Imagination in the Baltics, Vol. 6. // Violeta Kelertas (ed.). Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2006. 464 pp.).
GEORGE DURA The EU’s Limited Response to Belarus’ Pseudo ‘New Foreign Policy’
RASHED CHOWDHURY Barack Obama and New American Dream
ULADZIMIER MACKIEVIC The education reform: an Apparatchik’s Game and Profanation of Knowledge
IHAR MARZALUK Symptoms of the «Desirable History»
ALES SMALANCUK A Debate about the Origins Against the Background of «Ideological Revolution»
VASIL AURAMIENKA The New Boundaries: Whose Doing is This?
ANDREJ VA?KIEVIC, ANDREJ CARNIAKIEVIC March 25th: Origins of the National Holiday
MICHAEL E. URBAN An Algebra of Soviet Power. Elite Circulation in the Belorussian Republic 1966—1986
ANDREJ MIRA?NICENKA Going the Way of Instrumental Mind Again
GEDIMINAS LANKAUSKAS The Baltic States As Historical Stage for Colonialism?