Chernobyl remembered, Council of Europe, New NPP, Activists jailed, Hleb wanted, Russia, Ukraine, Polish scandal, Economy and Opposition news
Following tradition, on the days preceding the anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe, President Alexander Lukashenko visited the Brest and Gomel regions, the regions that suffered most as a result of that man-made disaster
On the eve of the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster the head of state will traditionally get familiar with the socio-economic development of the regions affected by this catastrophe.
In line with the schedule the President visited agricultural enterprises, social and cultural institutions and talked to local citizens.
Stolin: Ukrainian relations are very good
Belarusian-Ukrainian relations are very good both as relations between the governments and as friendship of the nations, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said when asked by residents of the agro-town Fedory (Stolin region).
“It should be understood that rulers come and go while nations stay. The Ukrainians have always been our people,” said the President. “As far as relations with the president and the government of the country are concerned, I have very good relations. Both with Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Timoshenko”.
Alexander Lukashenko reminded, the trade between the two countries has recently skyrocketed, with Belarus’ export to Ukraine exceeding import. “We still have some border issues and some other issues, but I am convinced that in the near future we will resolve all of them in meetings with Ukrainian leadership,” stressed the head of state.
“Once borders were put in place to divide our peoples. You know I argued against that. I‘ve always said don’t hurt neighbours. If you can, always help them,” said Alexander Lukashenko.
“Which is why as soon as we complete harvesting our fields, we go to help them. With friendly actions we form not only a belt of friendship, but a belt of unity, which will never make evil things to Belarus,” added the President.
President supports idea of growing sunflower and soybean crops in Belarus
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko welcomed an idea to start growing sunflower and soybean crops in Belarus. When on a working visit to the Stolin region of the Brest oblast the President said that “we should support such farms”. He also added that “funds should not be invested in a litre or a kilogram but in import substitution programmes and new technologies”.
Next year farms of the Stolin region intend to increase the areas to be sown with sunflower and soybean crops to produce sunflower oil and feedstuff.
“There’s no need to take me around well-performing companies and think that I do not see the companies which are in a worse condition,” the President said. “They turned Belarus into a country of contrasts. About 60% work well, the rest need to come a long way to reach perfection,” Alexander Lukashenko noted. “There are good examples and it is the responsibility of the governors to encourage agricultural companies to follow suit,” the Head of State highlighted.
Increase in prices for farm produce will be compensated by rise in wages, President says
The increase in prices for farm produce will be compensated by the rise in wages, President Alexander Lukashenko said when visiting the Stolin region of the Brest oblast on April 25.
According to the head of state, Belarus should make use of the growing demand and prices for farm products worldwide. “In rich Europe, in America the prices for agricultural products have risen significantly. This is good for Belarus. Our agricultural workers will be able to get twice as much for their products. Naturally the processes going on in the world trigger an increase in prices here, you wouldn’t escape this. Having earned two times as much we should meet all salary targets set in the rural revival programme. In the near future we will revise the wages in the agricultural industry,” the Belarusian leader stressed.
“If you increase prices for products, increase wages to people. Then there will be no need to restrain prices in shops. We will not be able to restrain them otherwise all our cheap products will leak abroad as in some neighboring countries the prices are twice as high. It is impossible to restrain prices artificially. We have learnt this lesson,” the President said,
Alexander Lukashenko added that Belarus will take measures to protect interests of people in this situation.
Responsibility for land misuse will be tough, Alexander Lukashenko says
Responsibility for land misuse will be tough, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko noted during a working visit to the Stolin region of the Brest oblast.
“The land is the state’s wealth and to destroy it is a crime. Bad management will not be excused any more,” the President said.
The President demanded to accelerate involving waste abandoned reclaimed lands in crop rotation. “We abandoned many reclaimed lands on the verge of the 21st century through our own mismanagement. Not all of the lands need to be returned to agricultural use: those which cannot be used for growing crops should be turned forests,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
Alexander Lukashenko also noted that there is a need to cheapen the construction of new farms which use where up-to-date technologies. “We can build inexpensive qualitative farms. This experience should be used countrywide in construction of new agricultural facilities,” the Head of State added.
The President also urged to use intensive rather than extensive methods of agricultural production.
Gas price for Belarus is still lower than for Europe, Alexander Lukashenko says
Belarus is still able to withstand the pressure from Russia and, despite difficulties in the negotiation process, imports natural gas at the price which is lower than the one for Europe, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said when meeting with the residents of the agro-town of Fedora, the Stolin region of the Brest oblast on April 25.
Answering the questions on extending gas supply to towns and villages in Belarus, the Head of State noted that the present prices for gas are rather high for Belarus. “You need to understand you have to be ready to pay for the gas. Energy carriers are not cheap today,” the President added.
Alexander Lukashenko stressed that the work on extending gas supply to main regional towns has been almost completed in Belarus. The second stage will see gas supply extended to remote villages. “In the future all agro-towns (their number is fewer than villages) should use natural gas. I am sure of that. This is the task of the near future rather than long-term perspective.
The President added that the state will continue supporting Polesye: the funds will be allocated to recover lands, construct villages and most important infrastructure facilities.
Council of Europe ready for constructive dialogue with Belarus
“We are ready to hold a constructive dialogue with Belarus in order to complete the construction of our common European home. We are here and it means that we are willing to develop the dialogue and help Belarus become member of the European family”, he said.
Gianni Buquicchio also noted that “the Belarusian society is making incremental progress”. “I expect the Belarusian authorities to show the signs of good will to integrate Belarus into Europe”, he said. According to him, such signs include holding conferences which unite the experts from Belarus and other European states. “This dialogue is very constructive and essential, because it gives us an opportunity to discuss serious issues”, he underlined.
“We are here not to teach lessons, but to share opinions and to try to solve common problems”, Gianni Buquicchio concluded.
Belarus: trade ties between transit-economy and developing countries should be reinforced
The development of trade and investment relations between transit-economy and developing countries was discussed at a roundtable session held in Ghana as part of the 12th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
BelTA learnt from Andrei Savinykh, head of the Belarusian delegation, deputy permanent representative of Belarus to the UN office and other international organisations in Geneva, the roundtable session had been initiated by Belarus, which was the first country to outline the need for a careful consideration of the new and dynamically developing dimension in trade and investments. The session was held under chairmanship of a representative of Belarus.
Around a year ago Belarus pointed out the importance of developing trade and investment relations between transit-economy and developing countries. Statistics shows that over the last six years trade between transit-economy countries and developing countries has been growing at an exponential rate. Export from developing countries skyrocketed by 424% from $14 billion to $73 billion. Meanwhile reverse trade from transit-economy countries increased by 290% from $21 billion to $82 billion. The range of traded goods is constantly developing. The growth of trade in some products with a high added value (automobiles, metals, ships) has exceeded 700%. Belarus makes investments into setting up assembling enterprises in developing countries, essentially contributing to their manufacturing and industrial base. All these issues were discussed by the roundtable session on April 24.
Apart from the Belarusian diplomat representatives of Russia, Brazil, India and Kazakhstan made their speeches. The discussion noted the huge potential for growth in this area. Transit-economy countries have technologies developing countries need. These technologies are very effective and considerably less expensive than those of developed nations. Construction of infrastructure, power engineering, oil prospecting and extraction, and mining were discussed.
Participants of the roundtable session agreed it is necessary to restore infrastructure, promote trade and investment between countries, work to lower trade and investment barriers. Advertising trade opportunities and finding partners should be the start. In view of the financial crisis of the West relations with transit-economy and developing countries make become a serious and stable factor of development.
UNCTAD plans to continue studying the problem in order to find specific ways to implement the existing opportunities and build up cooperation between the countries.
Tender for building atomic station in Belarus may be announced in 2009
He noted, the tender will be announced as the corresponding documents are prepared.
Yet according to Vladimir Bobrov, there are certain factors, which guide the choice of the strategic partner for building the Belarusian atomic station. “The deadline for launching the first power unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant is quite strict. Factors that may slow down the implementation of the project using these or those technologies should be taken into account. For example, Westinghouse’s equipment requirements suggest the need to sign a three-way agreement between America, Japan, and Belarus first. It may take a long time, in particular, it took about six years for China to prepare such an agreement”. As far as French Areva is concerned, the company demands a decision to be taken by the head of state. “These peculiarities will define whether the strategic partner will be chosen through negotiations or through a tender,” stressed Vladimir Bobrov.
The official said, international prices for building a nuclear power plant vary from $2,000 to $3,000 per 1 kW of installed capacity. According to recent data it cost slightly more than $2 billion to build 1,000MW reactors in Ukraine. Vladimir Bobrov did not specify the possible cost of building the Belarusian nuclear power plant. He noted the cost will depend on many factors and is not specified by potential partners in advance. Yet he remarked, at present nuclear power engineering is developing fast and the number of orders for nuclear station equipment is rising.
Vladimir Bobrov also said, Belarus cooperates with Kyiv-based institute Energoproject and uses aid of Russian institutes in choosing the location and other matters regarding the preparation for building the nuclear station. Along with training Belarusian personnel there are plans to invite highly qualified specialists from Russia, Ukraine, and Lithuania to work at the Belarusian nuclear power plant.
Tax burden on Belarus economy may be 1.2% down in 2009
According to him, tax burden will be reduced as several taxes are abolished. For example, the budget-tax policy guidelines 2009-2011 developed by the Finance Ministry envisage a piecemeal abolishment of the tax to the national fund to support agricultural producers which is now 2% of proceeds.
The government plans to introduce a single rate of local tax on retail trade and local tax on services (currently sale tax is levied at the rate of 5% and 15%, tax on services -10%).
The active part of production assets of companies are expected to be excluded from taxation.
In 2010 Belarus plans to abolish purpose duties (for maintaining and developing infrastructure and a transport duty) which are now 3% of after-tax profits.
Maksim Yermolovich noted that reforming the income tax system is being considered.
No other big cardinal changes of the tax system are expected, he said.
The Finance Ministry has started projecting some budget indicators for the mid-term (3 years). Relevant document will itemise main sources of budget revenues and expenditures. These parameters will be approved by the government. The budget will be approved as usually – by law for the term of one year.
According to Maksim Yermolovich, mid-term budget planning will ensure stability in financing expenditures of budget-funded organisations and will help them become more efficient in planning their activities.
Maksim Yermolovich also informed that the government approved the 2009 budget preparation schedule. In line with the document the budget bill will be introduced before the government on June 26. In August it will be considered in the presidential administration and in September – in the House of Representatives.
The budget policy will be updated next year. For the first time Belarus expenditures will be classified on a programme-based principle. In 2009 the budget will finance 200 state programmes.
On the whole the 2009 budget will be socially-oriented. It will envisage the rises in expenses to finance wages, pension benefits and also expenses on healthcare, education.
Belarus gold and foreign currency reserves close to international standards
“According to the international criteria of sufficiency of gold and foreign currency reserves (the amount of import over three months), we have reached about two thirds of this figure which means that we are close to the sufficiency criteria according to international standards”, the Deputy Prime Minister noted.
As of April 1, 2008, the amount of Belarusian gold and foreign currency reserves exceeded $5.5 billion.
According to him, the financial system of Belarus can be termed stable. The banking system copes with its tasks well, too. Over the three months, the increase in the exchange-value of the Belarusian ruble to the US dollar was equal to 0.2%, though the exchange value to other currencies is falling. Over January- March 2008, the amount of the credit provided by banks increased by 9.2% to reach Br33 trillion. Household bank deposits in national and foreign currency are also growing (up 9.3% to near Br11.5 trillion over Q1 2008).
Over January-March 2008, the Belarusian budget revenues were equal to Br10.5 trillion which attests to a high level of macroeconomic stability which is going to continue in a long term perspective, Andrei Kobyakov noted.
Belarus not planning to place Eurobonds in international markets
In a (somewhat) related BelTA story, in the near future Belarus is not planning to float Eurobonds in the international borrowing markets, First Deputy Finance Minister of Belarus Andrei Kharkovets told reporters on April 25.
According to him, a decision to float the bonds is based on the assessment how much the country needs additional financial resources considering high cost of loans in international markets. “So far there is no urgent need in expensive loans – the budget of Belarus is being executed well,” he said. The issue on placing Eurobonds will be revisited if the situation changes.
According to Andrei Kharkovets, additional financial resources will arrive in the country when the corporate bond market picks up.
The Finance Ministry of Belarus is working on attracting loans with several foreign financial institutions. The negotiations are underway with Russia on extending a $2bn loan to Belarus.
Biggest man-made disaster in history remembered
From: Russia Today
|Chernobyl Nuclear Power plant|
It was one fateful mistake that lead to history’s biggest manmade disaster. On April 26, 1986, workers at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, some 100 kilometers from Kiev, incorrectly performed a technical experiment.
The reactor which carried almost 200 tonnes of radioactive fuel exploded.
“After the explosion, all the radioactive materials were emitted from the reactor up to six kilometers above ground. Then came the north-eastern wind which carried it towards Poland, Belarus, Sweden. And this concerned the whole of Europe,” Boris Gorbachev, Chernobyl liquidator, said.
The immediate death toll was just 28 people. But more than 50.000, who lived in a nearby city of Pripyat were exposed to strong dozes of radiation in the 36 hours they were forced to wait for the evacuation.
The long-term effect on their health and consequences of radioactive contamination still remain unclear. It is believed that tens of thousands of cancer cases across the former USSR and Europe came as a result of the Chernobyl blast.
Not only did the disaster impact on human health, but also the political system. The soviet authorities had been concealing the tragedy from their own people and the rest of the world. That, as many still believe, was the final straw that broke the Soviet Union’s back.
A metal shelter over the reactor, called the sarcophagus, was built less than a year after the fallout to prevent radiation from spreading.
But more than two decades on, a 30 kilometer area around the plant remains a dead-zone. In some places, radiation levels are still very high.
Renewed hope to deal with the danger came with a plan to build a new containment structure for the plant, the so-called arch, which will cover the whole building.
The French company Novarco invested one billion Euros into the project, which is destined to remove the radioactive threat for at least 100 years and, possibly, allow the plant to be completely dismantled.
But despite the efforts to contain nuclear contamination, it seems clear that this land will never be inhabited again. While the fallout period of radioactive cesium and trans-uranium particles is 30 to 50 years, traces of plutonium will take up to 24.000 years to disperse.
Opposition in Belarus protest on tragedy’s anniversary
Several thousand opposition supporters have marched through the Belarusian capital, Minsk to mark the anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy.
They were protesting against the government's policy of sending university graduates to areas thought to still be contaminated by the 1986 explosion.
The demonstrators were also demanding the government drop its plans to build a nuclear power station.
The president of Belarus backs the construction arguing it will counterbalance the country's dependence on oil and gas.
Belarus rally chides nuclear plan on Chernobyl date
Belarus was the country most affected by the world's worst nuclear accident and the anniversary is traditionally the year's biggest rally for opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko, accused in the West of violating fundamental human rights.
A modest crowd of about 2,000 passed along a route approved by authorities leading from the city centre to an outlying square. Police last year beat protesters in Minsk at the end of the annual march.
In neighbouring Ukraine, site of the plant, low-key ceremonies coincided with the time of the fire and blast -- 1.23 a.m. local time.
Protesters in Minsk carried the red-and-white nationalist flag banned by authorities and demanded an end to plans to build the country's first nuclear power station from next year.
"We oppose the nuclear technology which led to the biggest technological catastrophe of the century," Levon Barshchevsky of the nationalist Belarussian Popular Front told the rally.
"Building a nuclear plant is very dangerous given our conditions," said a rally participant who identified himself as Alexander. "The authorities are subject to no control."
Lukashenko, barred entry to the United States and European Union, said rally leaders threatened national interests.
"These people are not academics, they are political bandits," Lukashenko, quoted by local news agencies, said in southeastern Belarus, the area worst affected by the disaster.
"They will not exploit this topic. I will not allow it. They are not even politicians -- they are enemies of the people."
The Chernobyl station's last working reactor was closed in 2000, 14 years after the accident. A French company last year won a tender to build a new shelter for the shattered fourth unit.
Fifteen reactors now produce some 50 percent of Ukraine's electricity and opposition to nuclear power is limited.
Lukashenko quarrelled with Russia over energy prices in 2007 and has sought better ties with the West, especially the EU.
But the opposition's most recent rally in March was broken up by police and two activists from an opposition movement of small businessmen were sentenced this week to prison terms for assaulting security forces.
Radioactive substances from the blast fell throughout much of Europe. Belarus, downwind from the plant, had about one-quarter of its territory contaminated and some 200,000 residents were evacuated from Ukraine alone.
Estimates of the number of deaths directly related to the accident vary. The World Health Organisation estimates the figure at 9,000 while the environmental group Greenpeace predicts an eventual death toll of 93,000.
Belarus Activist Gets 2 1/2 Years
From: The Moscow Times,
Authorities were attempting to intimidate rights advocates with the jailing Wednesday evening of Sergei Parsyukevich, a participant in January protests by small business owners, opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich said.
Parsyukevich was one of dozens of protesters detained after the 3,000-strong rally, and he was jailed for 15 days on public order charges, Milinkevich said. Parsyukevich was later convicted of assaulting a guard, he said.
"This is the authorities' way of trying to intimidate civil society," said Milinkevich.
Another prominent activist in the movement, Andrei Kim, was jailed for 1 1/2 years Tuesday for attacking a policeman at a protest. Kim's sentence prompted U.S. and EU denunciations.
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko had been particularly harsh in criticizing the rallies by the entrepreneurs, including market stallholders, who complain new regulations make it difficult for them to operate.
Opposition leaders say the two trials signaled an end to what they described as a "relative thaw" in the country of 10 million.
Lukashenko, long accused by the United States and European Union of human rights abuses, had in recent months been trying to improve relations with the West after the former Soviet state quarreled with Russia last year over energy prices.
Belarus had especially sought to improve ties in the past year with the EU. It remains locked in a diplomatic row with Washington over human rights and sanctions. The U.S. ambassador left Minsk last month, and Belarus wants the U.S. to cut its embassy staff from 17 to five.
Belarus to Expel More US Diplomats
From: Alalam News Network
|The US national flag is seen behind a fence of the US Embassy in Minsk|
A US Embassy source said that the Belarusian Foreign Ministry had summoned the US charge d'affaires in Belarus, Jonathan Moore, and told him that the ministry wants the embassy to present by April 30 a list of five diplomats who will remain in the country.
Moore warned the ministry that such a step could have serious consequences, the source said.
Tensions between the two countries heightened after Washington imposed sanctions last November against Belarus' state-controlled petrochemical company Belneftekhim and froze the assets of its US subsidiary.
American companies were banned from dealing with the company.
The foreign ministry said it had told the US ambassador to "carry out the recommendation of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry on mutual cuts of the American diplomatic presence in Minsk and that of Belarus in Washington."
In March, Belarus had already ordered a cut from 32 to 17 at the US Embassy in protest at economic sanctions imposed over human rights disputes. US ambassador, Karen Stewart, was also asked to leave.
Belarus says that US sanctions against domestic oil monopoly Belneftekhim violate international law.
Washington imposed the sanctions on foreign assets of Belneftekhim to put pressure on the country's leadership to impose political changes and release political prisoners.
The US national flag is seen behind a fence of the US Embassy in Minsk.
Siarhei Parsiukevich sentenced to 2.5 years of imprisonment
When the verdict was announced, Parsiukevich said: “This is a political reprisal. Please, don’t leave my family without support!”
Eight new political prisoners
Verdict for participants of the “case of the 14” was announced yesterday:
Andrei Kim was sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment; Uladzimir Siarheyeu and Anton Koipish will pay fines of 3.5 million BYR; and the rest 7 people received 2 years of restricted prison without sending them to penitentiary institutions.
Andrei Kim received 18 months of imprisonment. Uladzimir Siarheyeu and Anton Koipish will pay fines of 3.5 million BYR. Mikhail pashkevich, Tatsiana Tsishkevich, Mikhail Kryvau, Ales Bondar, Artsiom Dubski, Ales Straltsou, and Ales Charnyshou were sentenced to 2 years of freedom restriction without placement in penitentiary institutions. They remain under ban to leave the country. They will work in their regular place of work, paying 20% of their salary to the state.
The audience met the verdict shouting “Shame!” The police arrested Aliaksandar Atroshchankau in the courtroom for that.
When the judge announced the verdict to Andrei Kim, his mother – Tatsiana Kim – shouted: “Andrei, I am proud of you!”
The term of sentence to Andrei Kim will be counted from January 21st. The rest will start serving their sentences from the moment they are put on the police register.
As for the losses which were allegedly made to Minsktrans and other transportation organizations, the judge said they had their right to file separate suits later.
The verdict can be appealed to Minsk city court during 10 days. The claims of GUM department store, and other stores on the street were found groundless.
Lukashenka: All those who are against nuclear power station are “enemies of the people”
From: Charter '97
Speaking about the opponents of the idea to construct a nuclear power station, A. Lukashenka stated that “they are not simply political intriguers, but enemies of our nation”.
“They would be kindling this incensory in the run-up to the parliamentary elections. But they won’t succeed,” A. Lukashenka said in an interview to journalists on Saturday during his working visit to Homel region.
As said by him, a nuclear power station would allow avoiding dependence on oil and gas to some extent.
Problems with access to Charter’97 site due to DDoS attack
Today at 9.00pm (April 24) the distributed denial-of-service attack on Charter’97 site was continued. There are problems with access to the site.
We have already informed that yesterday supporting staff recorded a short 30-minute DDoS attack from a little number of IP addresses. The yesterday’s attack was easily repelled. Unfortunately, today we have faced a serious DDoS attack and the access to the site will probably be unavailable in the next few days.
The time and the character of the attack demonstrate that the Belarusian authorities continue to take attempts of blocking unwanted information on the Internet, they even descend to such criminal methods as DDoS. The yesterday’s test attack showed that hackers had been contracted to perform it and an executor demonstrated an ordering party his abilities.
The DDoS technique is rather simple. An abuser infects a large amount of computers all over the world with a special virus. By this action a hacker creates a net of computers, which can fulfil his or her orders. Then an abuser enters data and sends a command to attack a certain address on the Internet. The infected computers send mass requests to the attacked site and inundate the channel access with false requests, not allowing ordinary users to open the site.
It should be reminded that Charnobyl Way is held today in Minsk.
Our news is available via WAP protocol. You can use a mobile phone to read it on the address wap.charter97.org
Minsk government bans opposition’s Chernobyl march from taking place downtown
The organizing committee for the annual march, called Charnobylski Shlyakh (Path of Chernobyl), wanted it to start on the square in front of the National Academy of Sciences at 2 p.m. and run along Independence Avenue, Minsk’s main thoroughfare, to Independence Square, where a rally would be held.
While meeting with organizers of the march on Monday, city government officials suggested that the march should run from the National Academy of Sciences to Bangalore Square on the outskirts of Minsk, where a rally would be held in adjoining Peoples’ Friendship Park, Ihar Rynkevich, deputy chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party “Hramada,” told BelaPAN.
“The Minsk City Executive Committee sent us again to follow the traditional route, although we assured the officials that we would bear all responsibility for possible disorder during the march,” he said. According to him, the organizers will discuss their position on the imposed route at a meeting on Tuesday.
Apart from Mr. Rynkevich, the official organizers include former presidential candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich, who leads the Movement for Freedom; Aleh Novikaw, a leader of the Belarusian Party of Greens; Alyaksandr Valchanin, chairman of Ukrainian-registered Soyuz Chernobyl-Belarus; Yury Melyashkevich, chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front’s commission on the environment and the Chernobyl aftermath; human rights defender Uladzimir Labkovich; Mikhail Pashkevich, a leader of the United Civic Party’s youth wing; and Aleh Shapavalaw, a member of the Belarusian Party of Communists.
In Belarus under Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s rule, Chernobyl marches have become one of the largest annual protests staged in the Belarusian capital by opponents of the government.
Some 3,000 people took part in last year's Charnobylski Shlyakh and 10,000 in 2006, when the 20th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was observed. A crowd of up to 50,000 took part in the march on the 10th anniversary, during which demonstrators overturned cars and clashed with riot police. Dozens were injured and more than 200 were arrested.
Authorities allow minute of silence to be observed during Chernobyl anniversary march
The administration of Minsk’s Savetski district has allowed a minute of silence to be observed during an April 26 opposition demonstration on the occasion of the 22nd anniversary of the Chernobyl accident.
Ihar Rynkevich, deputy chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party “Hramada,” and Uladzimir Labkovich of the Belarusian Popular Front discussed the route of the march with Savetski district administration and police officials on Thursday.
The organizers were officially warned against taking a route other than the one permitted by the city authorities earlier this month, Mr. Rynkevich told BelaPAN.
The march will start with a gathering on the square in front of the National Academy of Sciences at 2 p.m. and run along Surhanava Street to the Chernobyl commemorative temple at the intersection of Arlowskaya and Karastayanavay Streets a little farther from Bangalore Square.
The organizers of the annual march, called Charnobylski Shlyakh (Path of Chernobyl), initially wanted it to start on the square in front of the National Academy of Sciences and run along Independence Avenue, Minsk’s main thoroughfare, to Independence Square, where a rally would be held.
However, the Minsk city government banned this route, suggesting that the march should run from the National Academy of Sciences to Peoples’ Friendship Park where a rally could be held.
No rally is expected to be held however.
Ukraine remembers Chernobyl amid anti-nuclear protests
A group of Ukrainians led by President Viktor Yushchenko laid a wreath during the night at a monument to the victims of the catastrophe in which a reactor exploded one night in April 1986.
"The Chernobyl catastrophe became planetary and even now continues to take its toll on people's health and the environment," the health ministry said in a statement marking the anniversary.
Demonstrators gathered in the centre of the capital Kiev brandishing placards including one reading: "Don't build a new Chernobyl."
"The consequences of the Chernobyl power station accident are huge," said activist Dmitry Khmara. "We are worried that they are again telling us to go along the risky path of developing atomic energy."
In Minsk, capital of the neighbouring republic of Belarus which suffered fallout from Cherobyl, some 2,000 people protested against plans for the country's first nuclear power station.
"No to another Chernobyl," read one placard. "We have two misfortunes, Lukashenko and radiation," read another. Alexander Lukashenko is the authoritarian president of Belarus, much criticised by the opposition and foreign governments for perceived human rights violations.
In Geneva, hundreds of anti-nuclear demonstrators wearing white masks formed a human chain around the headquarters of the World Health Organisation.
The anniversary was also marked by an all-night vigil in a small Ukrainian town called Slavutich, 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Chernobyl, where many of the reactor site's employees lived.
The disaster occurred on April 26, 1986 at 1:23 am local time, when one of the reactors exploded -- contaminating the Soviet states of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus with the fallout also spreading to other parts of Europe.
Over 25,000 people known as "liquidators" -- most of them Ukrainians, Russians and Belarussians -- died getting the accident under control and constructing a concrete shield over the wreckage, according to Ukrainian official figures.
A United Nations toll published in September 2005 set the number of victims at just 4,000, a figure challenged by non-governmental organisations.
In Ukraine alone, 2.3 million people are designated officially as "having suffered from the catastrophe."
Some 4,400 Ukrainians, children or adolescents at the time of the accident, have undergone operations for thyroid cancer, the most common consequence of radiation, the health ministry says.
Chernobyl nuclear power station was finally closed in 2000 after one reactor had continued producing electricity.
But the dead power station remains a threat because the concrete cover laid over 200 tonnes of magma, consisting of radioactive fuel, is cracking.
The magma is "our worst problem. It is highly radioactive and we are doing all we can so that rain and snow do not make it into the sarcophagus," said Ukrainian Emergency Situations Minister Volodymyr Shandra.
Work is in hand to reinforce the seal hurriedly flung over the reactor in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.
Work will also start later this year on a new steel cover due to be in place by 2012.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday marked the anniversary by pledging UN assistance for the stricken region's renewal.
U.S. Raises Concerns about IPR Piracy in Russia
Piracy and counterfeiting remain major concerns in Russia. The U.S. copyright industries estimate that they lost in excess of $1.4 billion in 2007 due to copyright piracy in Russia. The U.S. copyright industries continued to report that in 2007, Russia's optical disc production capacity was far in excess of domestic demand, with pirated products being produced both for domestic consumption and export. Due to growing broadband penetration and the continued proliferation of pirate websites, the United States remains concerned about Internet piracy in Russia.
In spite of some improvements, weak enforcement against piracy and counterfeiting in Russia remains a serious problem. In 2007, Russian law enforcement authorities initiated raids on optical disc production facilities and retail sites, and investigations of Internet sites. However, prosecutions and adjudications of IP cases remain sporadic and inadequate; there is also a lack of transparency and a failure by courts to impose deterrent penalties for IPR violators.
The United States conducted an Out-of-Cycle Review in 2007 to encourage Russia to implement its commitments in the IPR Bilateral Agreement and evaluate further actions that Russia needs to take to improve protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. As part of the IPR Bilateral Agreement, Russia has committed to fight optical disc and Internet piracy, protect against unfair commercial use of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products, deter piracy and counterfeiting through criminal penalties, strengthen border enforcement, and bring Russian laws into compliance with WTO and international IPR norms. Russia's implementation of those IPR commitments will be essential to completing the final WTO accession process. While Russia has made some progress in implementation, additional work remains for Russia to fully implement its commitments under the IPR Bilateral Agreement.
Part IV of Russia's Civil Code, which covers IPR, went into effect on January 1, 2008. Russia has pledged in the IPR Bilateral Agreement to ensure that Part IV and its other IPR measures will be fully consistent with the TRIPS Agreement upon Russia's accession to the WTO. Russia has also committed to introduce legislation in the Duma to implement its TRIPS Agreement obligations that will take effect upon Russia's accession. The United States is awaiting additional efforts by Russia in this area.
In addition to the multilateral work to ensure Russia's compliance with the TRIPS Agreement and Russia's other international IPR obligations, the United States continues to work with Russia on the enforcement of IPR and Russia's compliance with its bilateral obligations through the United States - Russia Bilateral Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights. In addition, the United States is reviewing Russia's status as a beneficiary country under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Program.
Belarus will remain on the Watch List in 2008. The United States remains concerned about Belarus' delayed implementation of its intellectual property commitments under the U.S.-Belarus Trade Agreement. The United States encourages Belarus to strengthen its IPR laws, reduce piracy and counterfeiting levels, and increase its IPR enforcement efforts. Belarus reportedly plans to amend its copyright law in 2008, and the United States will continue to monitor Belarus' progress to ensure that it provides adequate protection for sound recordings and pre-existing works and properly implements the WIPO Internet Treaties, which Belarus ratified in 1998. Belarus' IP laws neither provide ex officio authority to allow police officials to initiate criminal copyright cases or for customs officials to seize illegal products at the border, nor provide for civil ex parte search procedures necessary to protect against end-user software piracy. The United States will work together with Belarus to strengthen its IPR laws.
Lithuania raises Russia concerns
From: BBC News
Lithuania insists that any EU mandate for talks must include assurances on energy supplies and other issues.
Any EU member state can prevent talks between the entire 27-nation bloc and third countries taking place.
The EU hopes that discussions on the pact with Russia, blocked since October 2006, can be launched at a June summit.
The pact is due to involve energy, migration and other issues. EU foreign ministers may return to the partnership issue when they meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday.
Lithuania, a former Soviet republic, complained that not all of its concerns had been addressed by the EU presidency, currently held by Slovenia.
"We believe that not all our remarks were taken into account, so negotiations have to continue [within the EU]. We cannot accept this proposal," said Violeta Gaizauskaite, a spokesperson for the country's foreign ministry.
Diplomats reportedly attempted to meet Lithuania's demands, which centre on safeguards over a pipeline which transports oil from Russia through Ukraine and Belarus to Europe.
Lithuania has also expressed concern about Russian policy towards Georgia and Moldova.
The EU-Russia negotiations have been stalled since late 2006, when Poland blocked the mandate after Russia had banned meat imports from Poland.
Hitler dolls for sale in Ukraine
The Hitler figurine features moveable arms that enable it to reproduce the Nazi dictator's infamous salute, and consumers are able to choose from a variety of outfits, including "early days Adolf" and "wartime Adolf" (A grey double breasted tunic, black trousers and simple Iron Cross medal), the Daily Telegraph said.
The box containing the doll features Hitler's birth date and date of death. Even though officially the distribution of racist of fascist materials is illegal in Ukraine, the dolls have reportedly already been put up for sale in local supermarkets.
A representative for the toy manufacturer did not attribute any political significance to the doll, saying it's "like Barbie." She added that if the company sees high demand for the Hitler doll, it will continue to produce a whole series of toys inspired by the Third Reich.
Vatican handed file on Polish priests’ actions
From: Gulf times
“After wrapping up the investigation, we have transferred the files to the Vatican. Now all we can do is wait,” Father Kazimierz Dziadak, spokesman for the diocese of Plock in central Poland, was quoted as saying by the Polish news agency PAP.
The diocese launched the investigation after the scandal broke in the Polish media in March 2007.
Three priests from the region are suspected of having harassed at least 10 seminarists and choir boys from 1992-2005. They have been suspended from Church duties.
Local justice authorities also investigated but later decided to shelve the case, saying they only found evidence of behaviour that was questionable on “moral but not criminal grounds”.
Polish media have blasted the former bishop of Plock, Monsignor Stanislaw Wielgus, for allegedly tolerating errant priests and denting the reputation of the Church in Poland, where more than 90% of the population of 38mn is Catholic.
Wielgus also found himself in the spotlight last year for other reasons. In January 2007 he was forced to quit as archbishop of Warsaw, only hours after being sworn into as the successor of the retiring Cardinal Jozef Glemp, after it emerged that he had collaborated with the secret police in communist-era Poland.
Test drive Bentley is stolen on arrival in Poland
From: Daily Record
The BP230,000 Continental GT Speed had been transported from Berlin to Wroclaw for a car magazine's reviewers.
Editor Roman Skapsi said: "The car had probably been monitored by professional thieves as it crossed the border. It had 600 miles on the clock.
"The thieves managed to break open the locks and disable the alarm. The car was well protected but the criminals were clever.
"We have been testing cars for 17 years. This is the first time we've not returned one to its owner."
A police spokesman said: "Such luxury cars are either stolen to order or quickly find buyers, quite often beyond the Polish border."
Two youths arrested on murder charges in Poland
From: The News
The man, involved in loan-shark practices for years, was attacked in his apartment and died after receiving multiple head injuries.
The police established that a sum of 50,000 zlotys was stolen. Three-thirds of this money was found in the flats of the arrested men.
Both twenty-year old borrowed money form Wieslaw K. on numerous occasions. The man earned his living by borrowing money on high interest rates and intimidated insolvent debtors. He had a criminal record.
Police Reopen Brixton Murder Appeal
In a related story, Detectives are appealing for information in connection to the murder of a man in east London last April.
Alfred Liverpool, 25, was shot in Rushcroft Road, Brixton, and died at the scene.
The Detective Chief Inspector leading the investigation, Adnan Qureshi said: "A year has passed since Alfred was fatally shot, and despite extensive enquiries we are still unable to provide his family and friends with the answers they desperately seek.
"I have no doubt there are people who know what happened, and I ask them to find the courage to come forward - to place themselves in the position of a parent who has lost a son, or a friend who has lost someone they cared for, and to imagine the devastating effect such a loss could have, coupled with the anguish of knowing those responsible are still at large."
DCI Qureshi added: "All information is treated confidentially and at court there are a wide number of measures that can be used to help protect witnesses, including voice distortion techniques, giving evidence from behind a screen or using a false name.
"The measures are granted by the courts and are tried and tested. There have been a large number of cases across the country where these measures have worked and have helped families get justice."
Police in particular want to speak to members of the Polish community as well as members of the media who serve London's Polish community and media outlets in Poland.
Reports last year say the suspects were in their early 20s and left the scene in a small red car.
A reward of ?20,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrests of person(s) responsible.
Anyone with information is asked to call the incident room on 020 8247 4554.
Wenger warns Inter over Hleb interest
From: International Herald Tribune
Wenger was furious with media reports quoting Inter coach Roberto Mancini as saying the Serie A leaders were interested in signing Hleb in the close-season, even though he is under contract to Arsenal until 2010.
"I find all the talk about the players completely disrespectful. When it comes directly from the club, enough is enough, we shall report them directly to (world soccer's ruling body) FIFA from now on," Wenger told reporters.
But Mancini later issued a statement on Inter's Web site (www.inter.it) denying he had discussed Hleb.
"I have never talked about Hleb or other players contracted to other clubs," Mancini said, adding that reporters asked him about the transfer market but he had declined to answer.
Away from the dispute, Wenger is refusing to close the door on a move for Thierry Henry after the France striker said Arsenal were the only English club he would consider playing for.
Henry ended an eight-year association with Arsenal by joining Barcelona last year but the prolific forward has failed to produce his best form in the Primera Liga this season.
"In our situation you can never say never. He only left last year and I think Thierry is disappointed because things haven't gone as well as he would have liked them to go," added Wenger.
"I still feel he is a world-class player and I think he will prove in Barcelona he is one of their better players."
Minsk to host European juniour cycling track championships in 2009
The European juniour cycling track championships will be held in Belarus July 2009 on the cycle track which makes part of the sports compound “Minsk-Arena” which is currently being constructed in the Belarusian capital, BelTA was told in the Belarusian cycling federation.
Despite rich traditions and international success of Belarusian cyclists there was not a single cycling track in the country and Belarusian athletes have had to train in Moscow or the Crimea. The new cycle track is expected to give a new impetus to this sport in Belarus.
The construction of the cycle track is slated for completion in November this year, Nikolai Ananiev, a deputy chief in charge of the construction of the Minsk-Arena facility, stated at an annual conference of the Belarusian cycling federation.
15 countries to take part in rhythmic gymnastics tournament for prizes of Marina Lobach
The 7th international rhythmic gymnastics tournament for the prizes of Olympic Champion Marina Lobach will be held on April 26-27 in the Minsk Palace of Sports.
Competing in individual events will be athletes aged between 9-15 from Belarus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Georgia, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Finland, Montenegro and Estonia. The competition will be held in three age groups.
Thirteen countries have confirmed their participation, first deputy chairman of the Belarusian physical culture and sport society “Dynamo” Igor Zaichkov told reporters on April 22.
The tournament is organised by the President’s Sports Club, Ministry of Sport and Tourism, National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus and Minsk City Council.
According to state coach for rhythmic gymnastics Victoria Kushnir, the tournament will become an important even ahead of the European championships on June 5-7 in Italy.
“In spring the rhythmic gymnastics schedule is very tight. The events are held almost every week. It took years for the calendar to get formed and it is not easy to get into it, to win the authority. Therefore I am very pleased that the popularity of this traditional competition grows on a year-to-year basis,” Marina Lobach said. According to her, excellent organisation and warm response of visiting teams promote popularity of the Minsk tournament.
The chief judge of the tournament will be Olympic champion in rhythmic gymnastics Marina Lobach.
From: Minsk Blog
Вообще-то, сама передача завуалировано шла под тематикой Интернера и книги, заменит ли первый вторую (хотя ответ на этот вопрос давно уже известен – не заменит), но на первую позицию все-таки вышла тема современной белорусской литературы, и почему современных белорусских авторов совсем не знают читатели, не продают продавцы, не печатают издатели.
В зале, тем не менее сидели представители белорусской пишущей братии: Батракова, Тарасевич, Лисицкая, Голденков, но это лишь малочисленные счастливчики, которых умудряются-таки публиковать и в родной стране. Тот же Голденков долгое время пользовался и все еще пользуется интересом лишь одних российских издательств, и его по сей день многие считают автором сугубо российским. А вот Жвалевского и Мытько, как и Ольги Громыко в зале не было: наверное не пригласили потому, что уверены, что они уж точно живут в Москве. Не было и таких популярных молодых белорусских авторов как поэт Змитер Вишнев и прозаик Ольгерд Бахаревич. О них даже никто не вспомнил, наверное по чистому незнанию, что таковые вообще существуют.
С другой стороны директор «Мастацкай лiтэратуры» убеждал публику, что все хорошо, что они работают не покладая рук. Но аудитория, включая ведущего, как-то к этим убеждениям отнеслись с улыбкой, мол, ну-ну. Хотя нам доподлинно известно, что тот же Вишнев, которого приглашают в Словению или Германию на поэтические фесты, которого там переводят на свои языки и восторгаются, и тот же Майкл Голденков, получили совсем недавно от ворот поворот из упомянутого издательства. На вопрос почему, Голденков ответил с улыбкой, что, видимо, потому, что не пишет про партизан и Василя с Ганной. Конечно, это все «шутки юмора». Но дело-то в самом деле серьезное. В эпоху брежневского застоя, кажется, и то было легче. Короткевич, к примеру, все-таки писал, его публиковали, переводили на русский, чешский и другие языки, и Союз писателей Беларуси как бы там ни было – работал. Сейчас у нас два подобных союза, но ни от первого, ни от вновь созданного эффекта нет. Существуют какие-то госпремии, но не ясно, кто их получает, ибо все они закрытого плана. Нет открытых конкурсов, нет поиска молодых талантов. Издательства абсолютно не заинтересованы в том, чтобы публиковать своих же писателей. Ну, разве, если только они не оплачивают сами расходы. Что же касается молодой генерации белорусских авторов, то тут, как говорится, полный аут. Продавцы не продают, а издатели не издают потому, что «никто не спрашивает». А как можно спрашивать то, чего нет? Вот и получается: Бахаревич едет в Австрию и Германию, где его, почему-то ждут с распростертыми объятиями, Вишнев едет в Германию и Словению, Голденков, Жвалевский, Громыко и иже с ними – в Москву. И это при том, что у нас аж два Союза писателей!
Тут даже эпохе застоя времен Брежнева невольно позавидуешь. Там хоть никуда бежать не приходилось.
Другие ответят, мол, а как же Батракова, Лисицкая? Да, но это люди, раскрутившие себя сами. Первая – бизнесвумэн, вторая тоже – известная в Беларуси телеведущая, телережиссер, потом ди-джей, потом ви-джей… Все они работают в жанре «женский роман», понятие, которое, кстати, многие литературные критики склонны не считать литературой, но публицистикой. Оставим этот спор на совесть спецов, но со своей стороны скажем лишь то, что наши женищины-авторы так или иначе не благодаря, а вопреки политике белорусских издательств издаются здесь. Когда Батракову спросили по поводу вступления в какой-нибудь из писательских союзов, то она также заявила, что не видит в этом ни выгоды, ни смысла. Членство в союзе не определяет, что человека непременно издадут, дадут квартиру, заплатят зарплату или еще что-нибудь в этом роде. Андрей Жвалевский назвал писательские союзы лишь общественно-политическими организациями мало имеющими отношения к литературе как таковой.
Конечно, экономически не выгодно издавать того же Бахаревича на белорусском языке. Книгу купят максимум человек пятьсот, ну или тысяча в лучшем случае при хорошей системе сбыта. Однако частный минский издатель Игорь Логвинов, издающий белорусских авторов говорит, что и в таком случае затраты на тираж вполне окупаются. Что же касается пишущих на русском (а русский все же государственный язык Беларуси), то такие книги можно продавать и в соседних России, Украине, Литве и везде, где живет русскоговорящий читатель. Книга Майкла Голденкова «Осторожно, hot-dog!» таким образом переиздавалась около десяти раз общим тиражом превышающим 100 000 экземпляров, но эти деньги, увы, заработали не белорусские издатели, а российские, которые одни и питали живой интерес к пишущему минчанину. Странно получается. Вроде бы и не нужны деньги нашим издателям? Нужны, но сие легко объяснимо: та же «Мастацкая лiтэратура» тихо и мирно живет себе на госбюджете, издавая друг дружку, а иные государственные издательства ждут лишь заказчиков, которые сами профинансируют издательство своей книги. А заказчики всегда находятся. Вот у нас в руках одна из новоиспеченных книг белорусского бук-райтера Валерия Иванова-Смоленского «Приключения, Реминисценция, Постмодерн». Книга красивая, в твердой обложке. Тема? Мастер и Маргарита… Что-то напоминает? Иванов-Смоленский, нисколечко не смутившись, написал свою версию знаменитой книги Булгакова, причем совершено беспардонно (интересно, а как на счет авторских прав?) заимствовал образы, мотивы, даже словесные обороты и все остальное. Только действие происходит чуть позже, в разгар сталинского режима. А сами главные герои Мастер и Маргарита как-то теряются по ходу сюжета. Кажется, зачем писать, если фантазии не хватает что-то сочинять самому? Да и вопросы по авторским правам всплывают. За такое же можно штраф некислый уплатить! Но таким у нас дорога.
Однако настоящие писатели – народ бедный. Им не за что окупить выпуск собственной книги, да еще и в твердой обложке. Тем более, что издать книгу в Беларуси за свой счет, как это не странно, для нашей, якобы, недорогой страны звучит, дороже, чем в России, Германии, Польше или Бельгии. Почему? К экономистам вопрос.
Эпоха застоя? Да это пожалуй мягко сказано. Тут в пору назвать нынешний «статус кво» в литературе Белой Руси эпохой разбрасывания камней. Такие тенденции, впрочем, были и ранее в истории нашей страны. Белорус Достоевский, к примеру, прославился как великий русский писатель, а полесскую Марию Радевич и по сей день называют польской писательницей. Но то были времена, когда царь после подавления восстания Калиновского запретил литвинский (белорусский) язык в качестве литературного и церковного, как запретил и сам термин Литва и даже заменивший его Беларусь. Сейчас же такого нет. И тем не менее тенденция разбегания писателей не просто существует – она прогрессирует. Что скажут о литературе наших дней потомки, держа в руках «реминисценцию?»
Chornobyl: In Disaster's Wake, A Fading Legacy Of 'Green' Awareness
But then an odd thing happened. Environmental groups held public hearings, local residents were mobilized, and a letter-writing campaign to lawmakers was launched. Weeks later, the plan was dead.
It was a landmark victory for Kazakhstan's environmentalists -- a fledgling movement that traces its roots to the 1986 Chornobyl disaster.
It was a rare success, however. As the international community marks the 22nd anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident on April 26, vibrant Green movements that can influence environmental policy in the former Soviet Union remain few and far between.
The Chornobyl blast was caused by a massive power surge at the plant, located near Pripyat in Ukraine. It blew the 1,000-ton lid off a reactor and initially killed two people. Another 29 emergency workers died within the next three months. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that fallout from the disaster will account for no more than 4,000 deaths worldwide. But Greenpeace and other environmental groups say the total is in the hundreds of thousands.
Despite such dire predictions, authorities in the regions affected by Chornobyl have typically pushed ecological concerns far down on their agendas in favor of short-term economic or political gains. Nascent grassroots Green movements have also suffered from the emergence of authoritarian regimes in countries like Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan.
"Green movements are more developed in countries with stable regimes, where people are for the most part confident in their future, where they are provided for, where finding a piece of bread or life-supporting medication is not a problem," says Aleksandr Velikin, the head of the Chornobyl Union in Russia's Leningrad Oblast and a former "liquidator," one of the hundreds of thousands of people from across the Soviet Union who were brought in to clean up after the nuclear explosion at Chornobyl.
Rising Green Consciousness
Such luxuries have so far eluded the post-Soviet space, where environmentalists continue to face an uphill battle.
Russian activists, for example, failed in 2001 to prevent a nuclear waste-import scheme similar to the one that Kazakhstan's Greens blocked. Moscow also plans to build 40 new nuclear reactors by 2030, over the objections of the country's environmentalists. Belarus, which to this day screens milk and other agricultural products for radioactive contamination, is likewise planning to build a new nuclear plant.
It wasn't always this way. Many analysts describe the years between the Chornobyl disaster and the 1991 Soviet breakup as the high-water mark of environmental activism in the region.
"The Chornobyl catastrophe changed people's awareness and their attitude toward the environment; toward technical progress, which doesn't always bring good; and toward the fact that atomic energy must be handled very cautiously," says Vladimir Chuprov, the chief nuclear expert at Greenpeace-Russia.
Soon after the accident, physicists and other scientists lobbied for enhanced nuclear safety. Within a few years, as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika took root, even the general public began to press for more information.
"For those scientists who were aware of the immediate consequences of the Chornobyl accident, there was a very immediate reaction among a number of them to address the issues that the Chornobyl accident created," says Alan Flowers, an expert in radiology at London's Kingston University who has done extensive research on the effects of the Chornobyl disaster. "And this occurred directly in the period very soon after the accident in 1986, because many scientists were very aware of the fallout and of the very dramatic consequences on the population."
Flowers, who was expelled from Belarus in 2004 for unauthorized contacts with NGOs, says the scientists' concerns mushroomed into more broad-based political activism in the general public. He says the "large-scale" reaction that ensued included campaigns for the publication of information and maps about the Chornobyl fallout.
Observers say this gave a boost to environmental groups that were already forming in the increasingly open political atmosphere.
"In the Soviet Union, you couldn't criticize the system, the party, but ecology was one of the issues to which the Soviet leadership paid no attention. The ecological movement had already begun, and Chornobyl gave it a huge boost," says Chuprov.
In Ukraine, the new environmentalism dovetailed with an emerging independence movement. And in Belarus, as Flowers notes, it sparked the rise of the republic's first post-Soviet head of state, Stanislau Shushkevich, who led the republic's independence drive and served as chairman of the Supreme Soviet from 1991-94.
"In particular, Stanislau Shushkevich came to prominence because as a physicist, he was very aware of the true extent of fallout and the need to publicize and open up information to the public on the locations of the fallout," Chuprov says. "He became the people's champion on publicizing information on the Chornobyl accident in Belarus."
Kazakhstan, which was not directly affected by the Chornobyl fallout, nevertheless provided many of the liquidators who cleaned up after the explosion. When they returned home, some joined -- and helped publicize -- the emerging environmental movement there.
Today, Kazakhstan has one of the stronger environmental movements in the former Soviet Union. Analysts and activists say that this is because the environmental situation there is particularly dire, even by post-Soviet standards.
According to estimates cited in the media, nearly 10 percent of Kazakh citizens are suffering the aftereffects of hundreds of Soviet-era nuclear bomb tests at the Semipalatinsk testing site, which was closed in 1991. Falling rockets and debris from the Baikonur Cosmodrome have also caused ecological damage.
"Kazakhstan is a place where many international environmental problems are concentrated," Mels Eleusizov, leader of Kazakhstan's Tabighat (Nature) movement, tells RFE/RL's Kazakh Service. "Here we have Caspian problems -- a huge issue; the Aral Sea problem -- the whole world is talking about it and it has been affecting more and more aspects of life day after day; the Balkhash Sea issue -- the issue that has been getting similar to what we have in Aral region; Semey [Semipalatinsk nuclear test field] and many other test fields. Every single city in Kazakhstan has its own [ecological] challenges."
But the burst of ecological activism that followed Chornobyl lost its momentum after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991. The Soviet successor states quickly became more concerned with economic development than ecology.
"We gave a lot of recommendations to the government. But the government has made it clear that it doesn't need them," Eleusizov says. "The government is focusing on economic issues now -- it cares mainly about oil and other mineral resources. Meanwhile, ecological issues seem to be on the second level of interest. But I can tell you, at some point it will be too late for anybody to take care of the ecology."
Many post-Soviet governments in recent years have become increasingly authoritarian, leaving little room for independent environmental movements. The most glaring example, of course, is Belarus, the country most affected by the Chornobyl disaster and where President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime ruthlessly suppresses any form of public dissent, including environmental activism.
"Discussion of grassroots activism is pretty much a barren territory in Belarus, insofar as any nongovernmental activism is very closely scrutinized and has been for very nearly a decade in Belarus," Flowers says.
True to form, Belarusian authorities are widely expected to break up a march by the country's liquidators, which is scheduled for April 26 to mark the Chornobyl anniversary.
In an interview with RFE/RL's Belarus Service, Katsyaryna Gancharova, a member of the country's Ekadom environmental group, says that despite the numerous bureaucratic and political obstacles placed in its path, the Green movement is determined to persevere.
"The registration process is complex. On the whole, civic organizations are barely surviving because the very unfavorable situation in the country doesn't allow them to function as they should," Gancharova says. "But the Green movement is nonetheless developing, people are interested in ecology. This question is becoming increasingly topical."