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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

State of the Nation Address, Union State, Foriegn trade, Economics, Political prisoners, Russia, Venzuela, Polish scandal and Belarus Cycling victory

  • From the Top...
  • #303

    Alexander Lukashenko gives the State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus

    From: BelTA, NLIPRB and Naveny
    Belarus is not going to betray principles of the people-oriented policy, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in his Address to the Belarusian nation and the National Assembly on April 29.

    “The people-oriented policy has been and will be our priority,” stressed the head of state. Every citizen can expect state support if he cannot cope with life difficulties on his own.

    “In the country for people, as we named Belarus, aid should be given to any citizen in a difficult life situation. On terms of justice, fairness and transparency. It is now important for performers not to destroy the good endeavour with red-tape and lack of care,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus needs quality market

    Belarus needs a quality market, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in his annual Address to the Belarusian nation and the National Assembly on April 29. The Address is focused on “A healthy state is human welfare, civil accord, purposefulness of the nation”.

    The head of state remarked, a healthy nation is the foundation of the country’s welfare. People are the key competitive advantage and a major source of the country’s development at present.

    This year has been declared the Year of Health in Belarus. “Its real content should not be accepted in a simple way, exclusively as the physical state of a person,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko. The idea includes the health of people, families, the society and the state as a whole. People’s well-being is determined by their habits and life quality, level of spirituality and comfort in families.

    A healthy society is one without discord, bitterness, enmity and moral degradation. A state lives the life to its fullest if there is personal wellbeing, civil accord and purposefulness of the nation.

    “Over the last fifteen years we’ve been catching up with history and the global economy defending our sovereignty after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We’ve been catching up on what we lost in the late 1980s – early 1990s,” said Alexander Lukashenko. “Overcoming ‘chronical diseases’ that may have led to a lethal outcome was the main task”.

    Today sovereign Belarus is a fact, the President is convinced. “A solid foundation that allows energetic and effective development in all areas has been created. Time has proved we did everything right and have accomplished a lot. According to the UN human development index our country is between medium and high development countries,” he said. “But the fact that the world around us is changing cannot be ignored. We cannot stay aside from this development. It is important to be more than ready to operate in the changing world, more than fit requirements of the time, it is important to do one’s outmost to advance Belarus from the group of overtaking countries to the group of leading countries, simultaneously preserving the chosen time-tried economic policy and social security for our people”.

    Time to stop aiming for standards of those who lag behind, said Alexander Lukashenko. Using sport terms he underscored, it is time to partake in drag race and then to fight for leadership.

    Average wages in Belarus should be raised to $700 by the end of five-year term

    Average wages in Belarus should be raised to $700 by the end of the five-year period, President of the country Alexander Lukashenko said in the State of the Nation Address.

    The head of state believes that given the heavy deficit of food in the world market, huge demand and growing prices, it will be impossible to restrain prices inside the country.

    "The issue of increasing wages should be revisited. There is no other way. By the end of the five-year term we need to raise wages to $700. $500 is not enough. Then we will be able to preserve stability in the society. Today we need to re-direct the executives for achieving these parameters. The problem is not that big. Then the talks about benefits will stop," the President said.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted that Belarus should make use of the growing demand for food. Exports of farm products can generate almost $2 billion.

    Belarus’ population should at least triple in future

    Belarus’ population should at least triple in the future, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in his annual address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly on April 29.

    “This is a matter of life and future for our state,” he said.

    The Belarusian leader stressed that “it must be prestigious and beneficial to have a healthy normal family with a few children in our time.”

    He claimed that the government’s policies had resulted in a steady increase in the birth rate and the number of marriages.
    Mr. Lukashenka said that Belarus ranked higher than Poland, Russia and Ukraine in terms of favorable motherhood conditions. “The level of infant mortality is the lowest among CIS countries and has reached that of European countries,” he noted.

    The Belarusian leader played up the government’s effort to discourage people from abandoning their children and encourage families to adopt orphans.

    “State support for families with children, steps to encourage a higher birth rate, raise parents’ responsibility for the upbringing of children are our policy and we will stand by it,” Mr. Lukashenka said.

    Government to create new tax payment system

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka ordered his government to create a new tax payment system while delivering his annual address to the National Assembly and the nation on April 29.

    “Build a new tax payment system in general,” the Belarusian leader said. “This is task number one and one more test for the prime minister.”

    The tax system should be light for the economy in all respects: in terms of the quality of the applied taxes, the level of their rates, and the organization of accounting, Mr. Lukashenka suggested. “It should stimulate payers’ interest in legal payments of taxes and duties, not make them invent gray schemes,” he stressed.

    He suggested that the tax payment system should be simple and clear to all taxpayers. He noted that changes made by the government in the tax system were so small that nobody could notice them.

    “Any economic preferences should be reduced to the minimum,” Mr. Lukashenka suggested. The government should only provide support for top-priority economic sectors, he noted. “Supportive government measures should only become a starting impetus, not a permanent source of financing, and should directly depend on the achievement of specific results in economic activities,” he said. “We should stop engendering parasitic attitudes and supporting non-viable organizations.”

    Mr. Lukashenka ordered the government to immediately devise a system of assistance to investments. “We should not be afraid of foreign capital,” he said, noting that foreign money would work in Belarus, creating new enterprises and jobs, increasing the population’s income, and developing the infrastructure.

    “Belarus should be among the world’s best 30 states in terms of investment climate and become a country not only beneficial but also friendly and convenient to capital,” he said. According to him, a number of decisions have been made lately to create an attractive investment environment in the country, but it has turned out that investors should not be drawn into the country, as they go there voluntarily. “But we repel them or pass them through such red tape that any desire to work here is killed,” he said.

    Mr. Lukashenka pointed out to Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski that the nation’s average pay should be raised to $700 by the end of the current five-year period, that is, by 2011, not to $500 as specified in the government’s 2006-10 social and economic development program. Given the rise in food prices in the world, Belarus would have to increase these prices domestically, he said. “If we curb prices, and they are several times lower than in Russia and Ukraine, all food will be taken out of our country,” he explained. That is why he said the government should aim to ensure that average pay increases to $700. “Then we’ll be able to keep stability in our society,” he noted.

    According to the statistics ministry, in February, Belarus’ average pay was 762,000 rubels, or some $355. Consumer prices reportedly rose by almost 20 percent in 2006 and 2007 and are projected to increase by at least eight percent this year.

    Mr. Lukashenka insisted that the recent abolition of privileges and benefits for certain social categories benefited most of the population. According to him, the number of recipients of “targeted social assistance” increased more than threefold. He noted that even if the government’s expenses on the targeted social assistance exceeded the costs of the removed privileges and benefits, they should have had to be abolished anyway. The main objective was to ensure fairness in the distribution of government support, not to save funds, he said.

    “Instead of supporting certain categories, we have introduced a system that allows us to help everyone who needs this,” he added.

    Belarus capable of global economic leadership

    Belarus has every thing necessary for occupying leading positions in the international economy, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in his Address to the Belarusian nation and the National Assembly on April 29.

    “Preserving the present concept of our economy, we have to continue quality upgrades, advancing it to higher levels. We have every thing necessary for occupying leading positions in the world economy,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    According to the head of state, 2008 is a key year for the implementation of the five-year national social and economic development programme. He remarked, preconditions for successful implementation of the adopted plans are obvious. In particular, though gas prices are high, they are acceptable for Belarus. The market situation for many Belarusian exports is favourable. Belarus has received a sovereign credit rating. The inflow of direct foreign investments is on the rise. “Today we can choose which investors may work in the country”.

    “It is important not to lose the opportunity, important to use the favourable conditions,” underscored Alexander Lukashenko. He added, “We see in what direction the world is developing and cannot stay aside from this development”.

    Russia has no more reliable and decent partner in West than Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko says

    Russia cannot have more reliable and decent partner in the West than Belarus, Belarusian Head of State Alexander Lukashenko stated at a meeting with Defence Minister of Russia Anatoly Serdyukov in Minsk on April 29.

    The Head of State noted that the creation of a joint regional force grouping of Belarus and Russia means a lot. “I think that in the future we will be acting from a unified position as we do today”, the President underlined.

    Alexander Lukashenko considers the level of Belarus-Russia military cooperation high. “We would have no problems if we had such interaction with the Russian Dederation in other areas,” the Belarusian leader said. Alexander Lukashenko added that Belarus has never had any moot points with the Russian army.

    Anatoly Serdyukov praised the level of the Belarusian-Russian cooperation in the military area and underlined that “all the serious issues are addressed in time”.

    On April 30, the joint board of the Defence Ministries of Belarus and Russia plan to sign an intergovernmental agreement on joint technical supply of the regional force grouping of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation and a bilateral agreement on interaction in radioelectronic struggle.

    Belarus does not trade in sovereignty

    Belarus does not trade in sovereignty, Alexander Lukashenko said when delivering the State of the Nation Address.

    The Head of State noted: “I think everyone inside and outside the country who openly or on the quiet doubted in the independence of Belarus, gambled on the theme blaming the power have received a clear answer: Belarus does not trade in sovereignty”.

    In this respect, Alexander Lukashenko underlined that Belarus is ready to build the Union State with Russia, establish the relations with the European Union and the USA.

    According to the Belarusian leader, the two countries would advance further in the construction of the Union State if there was not a question on Belarus’ accession to Russia. “I am sure that the present and the future leadership of Russia understand: there is no need of this accession,” Alexander Lukashenko considers.

    Promoting Belarus’ relations with EU, USA important

    Alexander Lukashenko believes it is important to develop Belarus’ relations with the European Union and the USA.

    “I would like to stress that we are in the centre of Europe and are not going to go away or change the world. The European Union is trade partner number two for us. Apart from economy we are connected by common challenges and threats, the need to work together to resolve them. Our mutual importance can only grow,” President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in his Address to the Belarusian nation and the National Assembly on April 29.

    The head of state remarked, Belarus’ sovereignty and independence, its contribution to the European and global security are “important factors for our continent and all in Europe understand it”.

    Alexander Lukashenko was confident, sooner or later the USA will understand it too. Belarus wants to quarrel neither with the East nor the West. “There are no insurmountable problems between us. There is misunderstanding, mutual claims, rough things we have to work on,” he believes. “But we have to work together, not through unilateral ultimatums and sanctions. The time for those has passed,” added the President of Belarus.

    No ethnic clashes in Belarus

    Today, there are no ethnic contradictions in Belarus, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said when delivering the State of the Nation Address.

    “We cannot allow the ethnic confrontation to disrupt our monolithic society. Deeply mistaken are those who hope to establish their laws on our land developing scenarios as “Pole’s Card” and acting like “defenders of the minority groups”. We simply cannot have any ethnic clashes. We are the most international country worldwide,” the President underlined. The Head of State noted that the international and confessional consent has always been a distinguishing feature of Belarus.

    Alexander Lukashenko admitted that he had been wrong in his reaction to the introduction of “Pole’s Card”. Speaking about the Poles living in Belarus, the Head of State noted: “This is our people. They are not betrayers. They will always live in our country”.

    Alexander Lukashenko is confident that “our citizens will never blindly obey the professional traders of the Motherland and will resist this cheap temptation”.

    authority between parliament, president can be re-distributed

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko believes that in future authority can be re-distributed between the head of state and the parliament. The President made the statement on April 29 when answering questions of members of the National Assembly.

    “We may and are likely to come to it some time in the future,” said Alexander Lukashenko. “Some functions of the president may be handed over to other legislative, executive and judicial bodies”.

    “It is a normal process,” added the head of state.

    Independence and sovereignty of Belarus are inviolable

    Independence and sovereignty of Belarus are inviolable – this is the constitutional duty of the parliament and the president, head of state Alexander Lukashenko said when delivering the State of the Nation Address on April 29.

    “We need to preserve the country at any cost, however hard it might be, even if we have to fight for the independence of our country – we should be ready for that,” the President said. He also said that Belarus belongs to children and grandchildren. Europeans, Americans and Russians should clearly understand this.

    “Belarus is ready for cooperation, concessions but only in those areas which are not related to fundamental things,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    Belarus’ Parliament rundown is inappropriate

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko considers inappropriate to rundown the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus. The Head of State voiced his standpoint while answering the questions of the Belarusian parliamentarians.

    “When we were developing a new wording of the Constitution, we took into account the amount of the population and the number of deputies correlated with it in other countries. 174 parliamentarians is not a big number,” the President noted.

    Commenting on deputy Olga Abramova’s proposal to put funds released from reducing the two chambers in the parliamentary legal aid center, the Head of State said: “This money had better go into the training of deputies as the country’s personnel reserve. There are other structures that need reshuffling,” he underscored.

    “I am not ready for such a turn of events. However, a referendum has to be initiated by you, members of the Parliament,”

    Russian elections created solid foundation for continuity in Belarusian-Russian relations

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko believes it is important that results of the Russian elections had created a solid foundation for ensuring continuity in the development of Belarusian-Russian relations. The President made the statement as part of his Address to the Belarusian nation and the National Assembly on April 29.

    In his words, the Union of Belarus and Russia has been created and operates with a view to reinforcing the two countries and promoting a real multipolar world. “I can tell those who predicted a rapid demise for the Union that while Russia and Belarus gain more and more power, our union grows stronger,” said the President of Belarus.

    Alexander Lukashenko also noted, “The geography of international visits over the last few years explicitly indicates major components of our multivector policy: Russia, the CIS states, the Persian Gulf, China, Venezuela, India, and South Africa”. In his words, the country has to diversify its foreign relations, to ensure Belarus’ real economic presence in these countries. “On the other hand, cooperating with these countries we can safeguard Belarus’ economy from threatening changes on global commodity and financial markets. Belarus will continue consistently and pragmatically building up its position in major strategic avenues,” stressed the President of Belarus.

    Belarus created basis for “energetic and efficient” development in all spheres

    “We worked to catch up with the course of history and the world economy in the past decade and a half, defending our sovereignty following the Soviet Union’s breakup,” Mr. Lukashenka said in his annual address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly on April 29.

    “We were making up for what was missed and lost in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Our main task was to overcome chronic ailments that could lead to a lethal outcome.”

    Mr. Lukashenka said that the country was on the right track and had already achieved much. However, he added, “we cannot ignore the fact that the world around us is changing.” “And it’s important not just to be ready to act in changing realities, not only to fit the new times. We must do our utmost to ensure that Belarus leaves the group of those who pursue and becomes a member of the group of those who lead, keeping its chosen and time-tested economic course, the social protection of our people,” he noted.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Pavel Borodin: Union State may welcome new countries in future

    From: BelTA
    Further development of the Union State will not only reinforce positions of Belarus and Russia in the international arena, but will also create preconditions for welcoming new member-states, Secretary of State of the Union State Pavel Borodin said at the III Belarusian information forum “Mass Media in Globalisation Age: Topical Issues” on April 29.

    Economic indicators have become the most obvious result of the Union integration of Belarus and Russia: annual growth of trade, a larger Union budget, and successful implementation of Union programmes. For example, these are programmes meant to develop diesel automobile engineering, start up the production of heavy-duty agricultural machines, design and use SKIF family computation solutions. The Union State will also continue developing because most Belarusians and Russians believe themselves to be part of a single cultural and historic unity of Eastern Slavs.

    According to Pavel Borodin, the Union State will continue developing in view of the growing political tensions in the world (prospects of Georgia’s and Ukraine’s membership in NATO, the Kosovo precedent). In the modern international situation the importance of the Belarusian-Russian union will grow on. Rapid development of the Union State will contribute to creating conditions for forming a multipolar world, for securing stability and safety on the Eurasian continent, noted the State Secretary.

    Mass media needs to cover CIS integration processes more objectively, Vladimir Garkun says

    Mass media should more actively and objectively cover the integration processes in the CIS, Vladimir Garkun, the First Deputy Chairman of the Executive Committee – the CIS Executive Secretary, stated at the III Belarusian Information Forum “Mass Media in Globalization Age: Topical Issues” on April 29. He reminded that in 2007, the Dushanbe summit adopted the CIS Further Development Concept that defined the Commonwealth development prospects.

    The CIS new development phase demands competent information coverage. However, there is no permanent true information about the CIS activity. As a result, the people have not enough information about the integration processes in the Commonwealth of the Independent States.

    Vladimir Garkun praised the work of the Belarusian mass media on the CIS coverage. The Commonwealth Executive Committee welcomes any journalist initiatives aimed at the constructive collaboration. “Only joint efforts can establish competent information coverage, full-fledged cooperation within the Commonwealth of the Independent States,” Vladimir Garkun said.

    Future of CIS member states depends on successful integration within framework of Commonwealth, Sergei Lebedev says

    The future of the CIS member states depends on successful integration within the framework of the Commonwealth, Chairman of the Executive Committee – CIS Executive Secretary Sergei Lebedev noted during a session of heads of branch-wise councils of the CIS member states in Minsk on April 25.

    According to him, specialists developed a part of the CIS Development Concept concerning the humanitarian sphere. The main goals of the humanitarian part of the Concept is developing the common educational, scientific, information and cultural area, health care system, sport and tourism, involving the business circles and non-governmental associations in the humanitarian cooperation.

    The first and the second forums of the intellectuals of the CIS member states were successfully held under the auspices of the Council on Humanitarian Cooperation of the CIS countries and the CIS Interstate Fund. Specialists have already started preparation for the third forum of the intellectuals of the CIS member states which will be held in Dushanbe on September 18-20 in Dushanbe. Owing to the Council and the Fund these forums are held on a regular basis, Sergei Lebedev noted.

  • Economics...

    Belarus budget surplus totals Br1.8 trillion in January-March

    From: BelTA
    The surplus of the republican budget of Belarus made up Br1.8 trillion in January-March 2008, the Finance Ministry of Belarus told BelTA.

    The specialists noted that the real surplus of the republican budget without taking into account special-purpose funds comes to around Br100 billion.

    According to the Finance Ministry, in January-March 2008, the revenues amounted to Br10.5 trillion, or 105.7% of the Q1 plan. Revenues from the income tax made up Br563.5 billion or 102% of the plan. For the three months the republican budget received Br1.8 trillion worth of VAT, or 102.4% of the quarter’s plan. Revenues from the foreign economic activity totaled Br2.3 trillion, 100.4% of the plan.

    As of April 1, 2008, the budget arrears to the budgets of all levels totaled Br135,5 billion.

    In January-March 2008, the expenditures of the republican budget were 8.7 trillion, or 88.5% of the Q1 plan.

    As of early April 2008, the credit indebtedness of the republican budget made up Br54.1 billion.

    Union State budget to reach RUR 7 billion in 2009

    The Union State budget will reach RUR 7 billion in 2009. Today, it stands at nearly RUR 4 billion, Secretary of the State of the Union State Pavel Borodin told reporters at the III Belarusian Information Forum “Mass Media in Globalization Age: Topical Issues” on April 29.

    According to him, this figure will be increasing in the future.

    Pavel Borodin noted that the Union State would continue developing and may welcome new countries in the future.

  • Business...

    Belarusian-Venezuelan joint venture to extract 700,000 tonnes of oil in 2008

    From: BelTA
    In 2008 Belarusian-Venezuelan joint venture Petrolera BeloVenesolana plans to extract around 700,000 tonnes of oil in Guara Este and Lagomedio deposits, Belorusneft’s representatives told BelTA.

    Belorusneft is consistent in its efforts to expand operation in Venezuela. The company has prepared business plans for three oil deposits Venezuela had suggested giving to the joint venture.

    Founded in Venezuela in December 2007, at present joint venture Petrolera BeloVenesolana extracts oil from Guara Este and Lagomedio deposits. With another three oil fields the company will be able to boost oil extraction.

    Founded in 1966, production association Belorusneft is part of the Belarusian petrochemical concern Belneftekhim. It prospects and develops oil fields, drills wells, extracts oil and associated petroleum gas. According to the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis, in Q1 2008 Belarus extracted 432,000 tonnes of oil, 100.2% as against the same period of 2007. In 2007 Belarus extracted 1.76 million tonnes of oil, 98.9% as against 2006.

    Over 50 new juice processing plants in Belarus within three years

    There are plans to build over 50 processing plants in Belarus within three years, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky said at the opening of a juice factory in Bobruisk on April 28.

    “The country’s economy is stable on the way of innovative development. A corresponding programme provides for building over 20 tinned food enterprises,” said the Premier.

    Sergei Sidorsky said, imported juices account for about 60% of Belarus’ consumption. “The state has to build such companies independently or through inviting investors,” he said. In particular, the Bobruisk juice factory was built by investors. The enterprise meets the latest requirements and can turn out over 70 million litres of juice annually. At present the raw stock is imported. “But this year it is necessary to determine raw stock areas and start using raw stock supplied by domestic producers,” said the Premier.

    “I closely watch over the implementation of the investment programme. As far as the processing industry as a whole is concerned, within three years we plan to build over 50 such enterprises,” added the head of government.

    Sergei Sidorsky also said, the government had put forward an initiative to introduce a “green” standard in Belarus for marking ecologically pure products. It will enable domestic producers to more actively explore the national and international markets.

    The Prime Minister visited workshops of the new enterprise, examined the equipment and met with the company’s administration.

    Iranian companies may partake in Belarusian civil engineering projects

    Civil engineering projects may be implemented in provinces of Belarus with participation of Iranian companies, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Iran to Belarus Abdel-Hamid Fekri told BelTA. The diplomat is on a two-day working visit to the Mogilev oblast.

    “Iranian companies have quite a high potential and wide opportunities, which is why cooperation in civil engineering may be carried out in provinces of Belarus, including the Mogilev oblast,” said the Ambassador.

    At present a major civil engineering programme, which provides for implementing several interesting projects in Minsk, has been outlined together with Belarusian partners. In particular, there are plans to build a shopping centre, a modern hotel, a sports complex, design and build a logistics centre in the free economic zone Minsk.

  • From the International Press...

    Belarus president says no more political prisoner releases

    From: AP
    Belarus' authoritarian president said Tuesday the country won't release imprisoned political figures early, despite pressure from the United States and Europe.

    The U.S. and the European Union already have imposed various sanctions on Belarus to try to force the release of people they consider political prisoners, and the United States has threatened further sanctions.

    Earlier this year, Belarus released a handful of political figures from detention early in what President Alexander Lukashenko called a goodwill gesture to the West.

    But Lukashenko said in his annual address to Belarus' parliament that "we have closed the topic of political prisoners."

    "If the Americans introduce new sanctions and think we will collapse, that's rubbish," he said.

    Lukashenko, in office since 1994, has cracked down on opposition and independent news media and has been described by U.S. officials as "the last dictator in Europe."

    Lukashenko also told lawmakers that he was opposed to establishing a government commissioner for human rights.

    "Even without a commissioner we guarantee a person's right to life, the right to have work, pay and to feed his family," he said.

    Belarus against boycotting Beijing Olympics

    From: Xinhua
    Belarus opposes to some politicians' proposals to boycott the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games, a senior official said here on Tuesday.

    "Belarus trusts that the Beijing Olympic Games will be a success and an opportunity for boosting friendship among world people," Belarussian Minister for Sports and Tourism Alexander Grigorova told the opening ceremony of an exhibition in Minsk for the August Games.

    Chinese Ambassador to Belarus Wu Hongbin said that the Games belong not to the Chinese people, but all the human beings around the world. He expressed wishes for Belarussian athletes to score high in the events.

    Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko also voiced objections to boycotting the grand event during his annual state-of-the nation address on Tuesday.

    Belarus leader says Commerzbank aims to enter market

    From: Reuters -
    Germany's Commerzbank (CBKG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) plans to enter Belarus, the ex-Soviet state's president, Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday.

    Investors' interest in Belarus, ruled with an iron grip by Lukashenko, has increased since ratings agencies Standard & Poor's and Moody's gave the country its maiden ratings last August and signs appeared that the largely command economy could be unwound.

    "Recently I was told that Commerzbank is coming here. It wants to create its own bank in Belarus," Lukashenko told parliament in his annual state of the nation address.

    Russian banks VTB (VTBRq.L: Quote, Profile, Research) and Gazprombank, and two Ukrainian investors already own several small Belarussian banks. The country's largest, state-owned Belarusbank, said last year it wanted to sell a 10 percent stake to a foreign investor.

    Commerzbank is active in Ukraine, where it controls Forum bank, plans to up its stake in Russia's Promsvyazbank, and plans to set up shop in Azerbaijan.

    Commerzbank had no immediate comment.

    Belarus to help build socialist towns in Venezuela

    From: El Universal,
    The Venezuelan Ministry of Housing plans to build socialist cities this year. Progress in this field is expected to be made under international agreements. Minister of Housing Edith G?mez pointed out that the first phase of a program to build socialist cities is slated to start under an agreement with Belarus. She added that a number of Ministry specialists would travel to Belarus to learn about the construction of such cities.

    The creation of socialist cities has been planned under social welfare program Misi?n Villanueva, which is focused on developing town-building projects. Under Misi?n Villanueva, socialist towns are intended "to promote the endogenous potential and prioritize social economy." Therefore, small- and medium-size businesses, cooperatives, family businesses, micro-businesses, and any other form of communitarian associations have to be promoted.

  • From the Opposition...

    Criminal charges against Young Front member dropped

    From: Viasna
    Head of Homel branch of Young Front Andrus Tsianiuta received a note signed by KGB investigator D. Sidliarou saying that the criminal charges under Article 193.1 had been finally dropped. The decision is based on Article 259 part 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides for satisfaction of the petition of the suspect.

    About a month ago Andrus Tsianiuta addressed the head of Belarusian KGB Zhadobin with the demand to stop unlawful criminal persecution or send his case to court. The petition was forwarded to Homel prosecutor’s office which satisfied it. Besides that, they will return the seized property.

    Andrus says, this way the regime continues the “money” game with the West: “After terrible, and really harsh verdicts to Siarhei Parsiukevich and Andrei Kim, the Belarusian regime needs to demonstrate again that they have not forgotten about “liberalization” and make a “positive” step forward. However, this step is incomparable with the crimes the regime is committing now”.

    We should point out that Kiryl Atamanchyk and Arsen Yahorchanka remain suspects in the same case.

    Uladzimir Kishkurna fined for Chernobyl flyers

    On April 25th Minsk district court found BPF activist Uladzimir Kishkurna guilty of violation under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code and fined him 15 basic units.

    Uladzimir Kishkurna was detained on April 21st in his own car near kaliadzichy. The police examined the car and found flyers dedicated to the planned mass rally. In the police station they drew up a report about the offence and seized the flyers.

    Minsk city executive committee changed the route proposed by the organizers and allowed to gather the action participants at 2 p.m. near the Academy of Sciences.

    The rally organizers refused to hold a rally at Bangalore Square. The decision was made by the organizing committee on April 22nd. From the Academy of Sciences they plan to walk along Surhanava Street to the church on the crossing of Karastayanavai and Arlouskaya streets. They will have a minute of silence.

    Chernobyl March will be held under slogans of protest against construction of a nuclear power plant, and against benefit cuts to liquidators and victims of Chernobyl disaster.

    Andrei Sannikov: “Actions of some European officials lead to increase of repressions in Belarus”

    From: Charter '97
    Right after sentencing Belarusian oppositionists Andrei Kim and Syarhei Parsyukevich to long terms of imprisonment, Minsk was visited by Secretary General of the European Commission for Democracy through Law, better known as the Venice Commission (the Council of Europe’s advisory body) Gianni Buquicchio.

    “The official has made simply mocking statements. How could be mentioned “great efforts of Belarus to release political prisoners”, when Kazulin whose release is demanded by Europe and the US is imprison, and such harsh verdicts are delivered to participants of peaceful protests?” stated the international coordinator of the Charter’97, a member of the organizing committee of the campaign “European Belarus” Andrei Sannikov.

    “An international official of such a level cannot be unaware of the fact that the Venice Commission once gave a harsh evaluation to holding in Belarus an unconstitutional referendum in 2004, as stated by it. And the head of this commission arrives and meets with judges of the Constitutional court who helped to carry out that referendum! The Council of Europe adopts a harsh resolution based on the report of Christos Pourgourides, and the head of one of the divisions of the Council of Europe arrives and makes such statements,” Sannikov noted.

    Besides, the member of the organizing committee of the civil campaign “European Belarus” reminds that the Council of Europe has supported 12 recommendations of the EU, one of the key points of which is release of political prisoners.

    “Not the fact of the Venice Commission Secretary’s visit is scandalous, but that he had chosen the most inappropriate moment and tried to close eyes to the situation with human rights in the country, in particular at political prisoners in Belarus. We have observed many times when actions of international officials or representatives of international organizations that radically disagreed with decisions of those organizations, caused increase of repressions in Belarus. Gianni Buquicchio should remember about that, as well as the PACE Rapporteur Andrea Rigoni and the Head of the PA OSCE working group on Belarus Uta Zapf, who plan their visits to Belarus as well,” Andrei Sannikov said.

    Opposition politician Lyabedzka arrested in Minsk

    From: Naveny
    Anatol Lyabedzka, chairman of the United Civic Party (UCP), was arrested on Tuesday when he was passing out copies of the newspaper Narodnaya Volya in downtown Minsk, UCP spokeswoman Katsyaryna Tkachenka told BelaPAN.

    Mr. Lyabedzka and members of the UCP youth wing, Vital Stazharaw, Mikalay Syarheyenka, and Kiryl Pawlowski, were apprehended near the National Bank of Belarus at about noon. The copies that they were handing out contained the UCP’s Address to the Citizens, Businesspeople and the Government, which was adopted at a party convention on April 20.

    Police also arrested Narodnaya Volya correspondent Vital Harbuzaw who was observing the scene on assignment from the editor.

    The five people were taken to the Tsentralny district police department.

    An hour earlier, riot police had prevented the group from delivering copies of the party’s address to the House of Government.

  • Around the region...

    Russia accuses Georgia of plans to invade breakaway region

    From: Guardien
    Russia accused Georgia yesterday of planning to invade the breakaway republic of Abkhazia and said it was sending more troops to the region.

    Russia's foreign ministry said Georgia had amassed more than 1,500 troops in the mountainous Upper Kodori valley - a small but strategic enclave inside the separatist territory but controlled by Georgian forces. It was "possible to conclude that Georgia is preparing a base for a military operation against Abkhazia", the Russian foreign ministry said. Russia was responding by sending more peacekeeping troops to prevent a Georgian attack, it added.

    Yesterday's move escalates the crisis between the two ex-Soviet neighbours over Abkhazia. Abkhazia broke away from Georgia following a civil war in 1992-3. Georgia wants the territory back. Russia's president Vladimir Putin recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another breakaway region of Georgia, as legal entities this month - prompting Tbilisi to accuse Russia of "de facto annexation".

    Yesterday Georgia denied that it was planning to recapture Abkhazia, where Russia has around 1,000 peacekeeping troops under a 1994 accord. "This information is false. It is aimed at exacerbating tensions in the conflict area," the Georgian interior ministry spokesman, Shota Utiashvili, told Interfax.

    He denied Russian defence ministry reports that Georgia had moved heavy artillery into the Kodori gorge and said there were only police posts there. Last week Georgia accused Russia of shooting down an unmanned drone over Abkhazia. Russia denied the claim.

    Yesterday's developments are likely to alarm the US and the European Union, which have watched the crisis in the Caucasus region with growing concern. Both have expressed their support for Georgia and its territorial integrity.

    Abkhazia's foreign ministry said yesterday that the threat of a Georgian attack was real. "We have a very distinct feeling that Georgia is preparing something," Maxim Gunjia, Abkhazia's vice foreign minister said. "We expect an attack from Georgia at any time."

    EU fails to start talks with Russia on partnership treaty

    From: xinhua
    The European Union (EU) failed on Tuesday to start talks with Russia on a key partnership treaty as Lithuania refused to approve the launch due to bilateral disputes with Moscow.

    "We have not completely finished our consultations in the EU regarding the PCA (Partnership and Cooperation Agreement), but it will be ready in a couple of weeks," said Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

    "It (PCA) will be the cornerstone of our relations," Rupel told reporters after a EU-Russia ministerial troika meeting in Luxembourg.

    EU foreign ministers, who met in Luxembourg Tuesday, have been trying to adopt a negotiating mandate so that the European Commission can start talks with Russia on the wide-ranging pact, which will cover issues from energy and security policy to justice and scientific research.

    The previous PCA treaty was signed in 1997 and expired last year. The EU failed last year to start talks with Russia on a new pact due to opposition from Poland which was angry at a meat embargo by Moscow in 2005.

    EU officials did not elaborate on the failure to reach an agreement, but Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said earlier Tuesday that it was Lithuania which blocked the start of EU-Russia talks.

    Vilnius has been annoyed by the disruption in July 2006 of Russian oil supplies to Lithuania via the Druzhba pipeline, and the 1991 killing of seven Lithuanian border guards at the country's Medininkai border post by Soviet special forces.

    Lithuania indicated that the provisions of an energy charter should be obligatory and that the Medininkai incident be mentioned in the declaration.

    EU officials said Tuesday they are preparing for the EU-Russia summit in Khanty-Mansiysk

    Ukraine helicopter crash kills 19

    From: Tehran Times
    A Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter has crashed in the Black Sea, killing 19 people, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reports.

    The crash happened when the Mi-8's tail section struck an offshore gas drilling platform early on Monday, officials at Ukraine's Naftogaz energy firm said.

    One person on board the helicopter survived, Itar-Tass reported. It was carrying 20 people at the time.

    Last month 12 people died when a helicopter of the Ukrainian border guards crashed into the Black Sea.

    Mi-8 helicopters have long been used widely in the former Soviet Union for civilian and military flights.

    UEFA boss Platini to visit Poland, Ukraine in July to check Euro 2012 progress

    From: The Canadian Press,
    UEFA president Michel Platini will visit Poland and Ukraine in July to check on their preparations for co-hosting the 2012 European Championship.

    The two countries have to intensify their efforts over the next few months in order to meet UEFA's requirements, Platini told a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

    But "there is no Plan B," he said, referring to possible alternative venues in case the former eastern bloc states fail to put in place the necessary infrastructure to host the event.

    UEFA spokesman William Gaillard said Platini will travel to Poland and Ukraine after Euro 2008, held in Austria and Switzerland in June.

    Gaillard said UEFA's main concern is whether the hotels and transportation networks - including airports, railways and roads - will be sufficient to host the hundreds of thousands of fans expected for the event.

    "We're not thinking of moving it elsewhere," Gaillard told The Associated Press. "We have to do it there, but in order to do that the efforts have to increase."

    Gaillard also said UEFA was doing everything it could to crack down on illegal ticket scalping online, but that it faced legal constraints.

    "In some countries we cannot get a court order that stops someone from reselling tickets," he said.

    Several websites are selling tickets for Euro 2008 games, with prices for the opening match starting at 640 euros (C$1,000) and the best seats for the final in Vienna going for 4,480 euros (C$7,000).

    Gaillard said each ticket will be numbered and spot checks may be carried out to ensure that fans acquired them in accordance with UEFA rules.

    He warned that "there's absolutely no guarantee that when you go to the stadium you can get in" with a ticket bought through unofficial channels.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Football clubs will not be punished for corruption

    From: Warsaw Business Journal
    The Polish Football Association (PZPN) once again surprised the public announcing that there will be no more relegation of football clubs basing on corruption charges.

    The officials of the Ekstraklasa league and the management of PZPN had prepared a joint project of relegating punished clubs, however, now PZPN plans to grant an amnesty for the corrupted teams. Such a decision sounds beneficial for football players and fans of clubs which were charged with corruption, but not yet punished, such as Zaglebie Lublin and Korona Kielce. Tthe project is also supported by Canal+, the main sponsor of the league. According to Dziennik, sponsors have agreed to support it as the league is to be a product which can be sold, therefore it has to include the strongest domestic clubs, among which several are threatened by of relegation.

    Match fixing not discouraging investors

    In a related story,

    Match fixing, corruption and stadium hooliganism in Polish football is still not discouraging investors, Rzeczpospolita writes. According to one estimate, by 2015 the value of Polish football could 5 billion zlotys a year. However, investors admit that they treat football as a promotion of their brands, rather than an investment, writes Rzeczpospolita.

    Suicide of Barbara Blida impossible to recreate from evidence

    From: Polish Radio
    A report on the suicide of MP Barbara Blida, who shot herself after Internal Security agents entered her home to arrest her over corruption charges, has shown that in spite of the enormous amount of evidence gathered it is impossible to recreate the events which led to the death of the former government minister.

    According to a commercial Polish television station, whose journalists reached the confidential report, it points out major faults and fundamental inconsistencies in the evidence. Among others, the evidence fails to show in which hand Barbara Blida had held the gun she used to shoot herself, or where at that time was the agent assigned to accompany her.
    Although more than 600 hours was devoted to collecting evidence, the material can serve for various interpretations and several scenarios.

    The death of Social Democratic Left MP Barbara Blida is also being investigated by a special Commission of the Polish Parliament.

    Police pursue polish raiders

    Oslo police are on a hunt for a band of six polish men who they say have been traveling around Norway and Scandinavia on a thieving raid.
    Oslo police have started a campaign against pickpockets, and they are out on the streets telling people about it.

    The police have the names of the men, who are 26 to 38 years old, and have been showing photos of the six men at their afternoon meetings, writes

    The police hope to apprehend them on the open street, so that they can be immediately sentenced and sent out of the country.

    The six suspects are believed to be behind at least 33 serious robberies in the counties of Vestfold, Asker, Baerum and in Oslo.

    "These are extremely professional pickpockets... they have specialized in stealing wallets and are very good at abusing cards," said Bj?rn ?ge Hansen, station chief at the Central Police Station.

    But importantly, they are not just pickpockets, points out Hansen. They commit all types of crimes.

    And the six men who are being sought are not the only ones under police focus right now.

    Although the police say it has mostly been Polish "bands" covering the pickpocket market, Romanians are another major group behind these crimes, they add.

    They base their assessment on their own observations and the few statistics they have.

    So far this year, the police have only managed to catch 48 people committing pickpocket crimes. Of these, 19 were from Poland, 14 were from Norway, and 8 from Romania. The rest were of various nationalities.

    The Polish and Romanians have an entirely different method of stealing than the Norwegians do, say the police, while the Polish are in a professional class by themselves.

    "These are people who travel around in groups of four to six people, together with friends or family. They come to Norway with one goal, and that is to commit crimes," said Hansen.

    The bands target the largest cities in Norway: Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim.

    Hansen emphasizes that he doesn’t want to stigmatize certain ethnic groups. "This is actually tragic, because we have a large group of average Polish and Romanians here in Oslo. These thieves are ruining things horribly for their countrymen who work here," he said.

  • Sport...

    Sivtsov wins Tour de Georgia in first US race

    From: AP
    Kanstantin Sivtsov kept his tires full Sunday. The rest was easy.

    Sivtsov, competing in his first race in the United States, survived a rash of flat tires on the streets of Atlanta to win the Tour de Georgia.

    Sivtsov won the weeklong Georgia race as his Team High Road teammate Greg Henderson won the 63-mile final stage — 10 laps on a 6.3-mile course.

    The course in downtown Atlanta was swept before the race, but late-morning rain washed debris back onto the streets, possibly including broken glass from the March 14 tornado that hit downtown Atlanta. Windows in high-rise hotels and office buildings near Centennial Olympic Park — the site of Sunday's start and finish — are still being replaced.

    According to one estimate, there were 17 flat tires in the first 30 minutes of Sunday's final stage.

    "The problem was the rain was kicking up a lot of debris on the road," Henderson said. "As the course dried out a little more, that stuff doesn't stick to your tires as much."

    The 25-year-old Sivtsov took the overall lead by winning Saturday's grueling climb up Brasstown Bald Mountain, the signature stage of the event.

    Sivtsov, a native of Belarus, had a lead of four seconds entering Sunday's final day of the seven-day event, but all the flat tires had Team High Road owner and general manager Bob Stapleton concerned.

    "We were really nervous because if Consta would have had a flat at the wrong time he would have lost the race," Stapleton said. "We were super-nervous about that, but we were pretty lucky."

    Of the 116 riders who started Sunday's race, 98 finished. Stapleton estimated there were at least 25 flat tires, but only two by his eight team members.

    Henderson, from New Zealand, also won Stage 3 from Washington to Gainesville.

    Henderson beat Argentina's Juan Jose Haedo in the final sprint Sunday. Haedo won a Stage 2 sprint in Augusta to beat Henderson.

    Henderson was a factor throughout the week despite having surgery in February to remove his gallbladder.

    "It was heck of a comeback and it shows what a fighter and competitor he is," Stapleton said.

    Sivtsov, the 2004 Under-23 world champion, finished 32nd in the 2007 Tour de France and could be a rising star on a High Road team which also includes George Hincapie, who finished 13th overall this week.

    Sivtsov, who lives and trains in Italy, said the Tour de Georgia should be a good preparation for the Giro d'Italia. He confirmed he plans to compete again in this year's Tour de France.

    "This was a weeklong race with mountains, flats, speed," Sivtsov said.

    Sivtsov said his first impression of U.S. cycling fans was positive.

    "Crowds were very happy for all the riders, first or last," he said.

    Stapleton said the team's strategy was to promote Sivtsov for the overall championship because he had the best chance to conquer Brasstown Bald Mountain.

    "We have a lot of sprint talent but we don't have a lot of guys like Consta, guys who can ride in the mountains, so they get their chances here quickly," Stapleton said.

    "The thing I like about him is he's a humble guy. He works well as a teammate. He doesn't have a big head but he's got a huge work ethic ... and he's got that athletic talent."

    Sivtsov, pronounced SVITZ-sov, also has a name that even Stapleton finds difficult to pronounce, so he sticks with his "Consta" nickname.

    "You want to say it right, so he's graciously allowed us to shorten his first name," Stapleton said.

    Australia's Trent Lowe finished four seconds behind Sivtsov in the overall standings. Race favorite Levi Leipheimer was third, 14 seconds behind.

    Tyler Hamilton, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist who is returning from a two-year suspension for blood doping, finished 92nd overall and 53rd in Sunday's stage.

    Hleb in the dark

    From: UK Press
    Arsenal midfielder Alex Hleb insists he has no idea if he will be sold to Inter Milan this summer.

    The Italian giants have openly declared their interest in recruiting the Belarus international, which prompted Gunners boss Arsene Wenger to threaten to report them to FIFA.

    The 26-year-old, who will have two years of his Arsenal deal to run this summer, told the Sunday Times: "Who knows what will happen? All I can say is that I enjoy the game here and enjoy playing for Arsenal. There is more to come from this team and from me."

    Arsenal bought Hleb from Stuttgart from ?11.2million in July 2005 but article 17 of FIFA regulations would allow him to leave for a fixed fee, likely to be significantly less than that.

  • Endnote...

    Additional overage of the president's speach by Charter '97

    From: Charter '97
    Alyaksandr Lukashenka gave the “national assembly” his traditional “annual address.” The Belarusian head of state didn’t say anything new. Most of the statements have been already heard before. He said threefold (!) population growth in Belarus was a vital question, and stated he wasn’t going to release political prisoners, though the European Union and the United States insist on it.

    About political prisoners

    The Belarusian authorities have “closed a subject of political prisoners,” Lukashenka said.

    “We have taken a decision we are closing down this subject. Five are at large, the sixth refused. What are the claims against us?” A. Lukashenka wonders.

    (Comment: Lukashenka’s words “the sixth refused” are odd. One can hardly find people who don’t want to be released. If Kazulin is in question, he wants to be released, but he is not let, unfortunately).

    About Alyaksandr Kazulin

    “They found an oppositionist who polled one and a half per cent of votes, and made a great political prisoner of him... The opposition don’t want him to be released. Keep in view, if he is set free tomorrow, the opposition won’t exist. Don’t you understand what a person he is? There’s nothing sacred for him! Nothing sacred for him. We know what the opposition is and what they want. He had an opportunity... five prisoners used it... but he refused. H e said the time had not come for him. He needs that the whole world stands for his release, that the power crashes down under the pressure of the world. But does anybody need him?” Lukashenka said.

    About sanctions of the West

    “We won’t bargain. We are ready to make concessions and meet habitats, but only if it concerns fundamental positions,” A. Lukashenka said.

    He called on the West not to press on the official Minsk. “If the Russians, who saw all our failures and mistakes, didn’t push us around, didn’t’ make us do this or that, why then you afford it?!” the presidents raised a rhetorical question.

    Concerning the visa restrictions, the EU countries and the U.S. had imposed against a number of state officials, including the president, A. Lukashenka noted: “Lord be with you, preserve these visa restrictions. Do I have nowhere to go? By this you show your civilised democratic face to the whole world!”

    “The West insists we remain independent. It is right. But don’t lord over. Don’t say: release this political prisoner, that... Where have you seen a president releasing prisoners?.. If the Americans think they will impose sanctions, and we will collapse – it is complete nonsense! Belarus transported 50 per cent of oil and 30 per cent of gas to the EU. Do we create problems for you? No! We won’t stay pushing...” Lukashenka said.

    About relations with Russia

    The current and future Russian government have a conception. Why join something? We are able to solve our problems on today’s level,” Lukashenka declared. He also noted “if our partners wouldn’t have raised the question on joining Russia, we had progressed in the integration.”

    He emphasised “It’s not Lukashenka’s whim to talk about sovereignty, the history of our country requires it. We were thrown from side to side, we didn’t deserve it. We are a proud and independent nation. We want to live on that land, build our life here.”

    “We go the way of forming of the union state. If we have slowed down, it doesn’t matter, nobody makes us hurry,” he added.

    About corruption

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka charges 15 high-rank officials from parliament and the presidential administration with corruption.

    “Today 15 high-rank government members and officers of the presidential administration have sunk in corruption,” he declared.

    ”Schedules (of corruption schemes – IF) have been presented to me today, I will invite everyone in the nearest time,” the president said.

    According to him, “it concerns some members of parliament, too.”

    A. Lukashenka explained that those facts were connected with investigation of the case against “one of the eminent Belarusian businessmen, who used to kick open the door to the government and the presidential administration.”

    About “White Russia”

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka said creation of pro-president political structures in Belarus was inaccessible.

    “I am totally against creation of pro-president political structures,” Alyaksandr Lukashenka said.

    “I am not going to join any new party, even when I am not a president,” A. Lukashenka emphasised, talking about perspectives of creation of the public organisation “White Russia.”

    Lukashenka also stressed he didn’t think he had lost his membership in the USSR Communist Party.

    A. Lukashenka warned officials against forcing people into the “White Russia” party. Don’t force people to join public organisations and parties. I’ll see what officials do there (in “White Russia” - IF) – it means there’s not enough work for them,” he supposed.

    The Belarusian head of state explains his comments on this matter by the fact “speculations, coming to absurd, are gaining momentum that allegedly Lukashenka is forming his party and everyone must become its member.” “Those who name themselves democrats shout louder than others,” he added.

    In Lukashenka’s view, any public organisation may be successful only it is supported by people.

    Addressing the officials, the head of state stressed: “Don’t hinder it (“White Russia” – IF) to use healthy power from below – if it passes the examination, it is able to en a party.2

    Lukashenka promised he would support the organisation if its activity is constructive and creative from the point of view of the interests of the state. “This is my principal position concerning parties, public organisations and “White Russia” first of all,” he said.

    About Polish Charter

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka thinks it is necessary to resist the attempts to split the society into ethnical groups.

    “Interethnic concord has always been a distinctive feature of the Belarusian state. We should not let our monolithic society to be split apart by ethnical conflicts,” he said.

    He emphasised that “some people want to split our national unity, designing scenarios such the Polish Charter and playing the role of national minorities’ defender.” The head of state also declared “we have no minorities, we have citizens of our republic.”

    Lukashenka called not to have negative attitude towards the people to whom this so called Polish Charter is applied. “They are not betrayers. One should not make them betrayers using various charters. I know our people. Yes, they are the Poles, but they are our Poles,” he said.

    “We do not and will not have racial cleavage. We are the most international country in the world. It’s immoral to force wedge between our citizens. They will not follow professional bargainers,” A. Lukashenka summarised.

    About work of mass media

    “Belarusian mass media should proceed from passive covering events and response to informational newsmakers offensive-dominated work for forming attractiveness of the national and regional space for mass audience,” A. Lukashenka stated.

    “The real life in our country should not be fabricated, but reflected truthfully,” he believes.

    He has also noted that it is necessary to work out “a sensible balance which in equal measure reflects the policy of the state and a possible other point of view”. “A disproportion in both ways provokes a conflict between the authorities and population, and in this case mass media become a weapon of mass dissemination of false information,” A. Lukashenka stated.

    He noted the necessity to create informational products of good quality. “All radio companies, newspapers and magazines should produce their creative works which matches traditions of Belarusian society”. At the same time, he called upon not denigrate oneself “to vulgarity, immorality, cruelty and violence”. We have managed “to avoid mass spreading of this plague so far,” A. Lukashenka believes.

    He has also noted little progress of the local press. “It is not seen yet,” he said. In this connection, he believes, “the Information Ministry should deal with this topic closely, starting from fitting out with technical means, with quality of paper, capacity building of employees and so on”.

    Belarus’ population should at least triple in the future

    Belarus’ population should at least triple in the future. “This is a matter of life and future for our state,” Alyaksandr Lukashenka said.

    He noted that a spiritual constituent of health based on family should be looked after. The family is the main social institution influencing personality formation. “Belarusians have always been noted for their being house-proud, love for their family and children. These national traits of character have helped us to hold out preserving our identity over centuries”. The Belarusian leader stressed that “it must be prestigious and beneficial to have a healthy normal family with a few children in our time.”

    About Leo Tolstoy, smoking and alcoholism

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka has spoken in favor of prohibition of drinking alcohol and smoking in public places.

    “We cannot prohibit everyone to drink and smoke, but it is impermissible to encourage this and watch our citizens losing themselves into drinking,” he said, and favoured prohibition of drinking alcohol and smoking in public places.

    A. Lukashenka quoted Leo Tolstoy who wrote: “It’s hard to imagine a happy change that would take place in our life if people stopped intoxicating themselves with wine, vodka and tobacco”.

    The Belarusian leader told that drunk must be prevented to drive. The special concern of the president is caused by illicit drugs problem. “Facts of drugs consumption are detected today,” he said. However he called upon not turning health care into another campaign.

    About Bellywood

    Belarusian creative community is able to create masterpieces in any sphere of art, Lukashenka stated.

    “Culture is the sphere which doesn’t develop thanks to dictation from higher authorities, or thanks to orders of higher officials. It is advanced by talented people, who are abundant in Belarus,” he stated.

    The goal of the state, as said by him, is to create an appropriate environment for development of creative potential of citizens. “Many efforts and money have been devoted to it already. The unique National library has been built, a renovated Opera House will open its doors soon,” he noted.

    “The Belarusian cinema undergoes its second birth, and the time when Belarusfilm would turn into “Belarusian Hollywood” is near at hand,” the president said. “You shouldn’t speak about inadequate royalties,” he said addressing intellectuals. “Give us a product of good quality, and it would be paid for properly”.