Belrusian University Graduates, Constitutional Court, Union State, Venezuela, Hungary, Foreign investments; Polish scandal, News, Sport and Culture
Alexander Lukashenko to takes part in National Ball of University Graduates
Annually 60 thousand degree professionals graduate from Belarusian universities.
In the 2007/2008 academic year, the number of university students made up 413,658 people, or more than 425 students per 10,000 of the population. This is one of the highest rates in Europe.
For the past 15 years the number of state higher educational establishments has increased from 33 to 43. They include 31 universities, 7 academies, 3 colleges, 2 institutes. There are 10 private universities in Belarus.
The best university graduates from all over the country were invited to the Palace of Republic to participate in this traditional event, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.
Ten of them received special Letters of Gratitude of the President of the Republic of Belarus, souvenirs and flowers. The head of state noted academic excellence and active participation in the public life showed by Liudmila Orlovskaya, Victor Belko, Anna Goroshko, Sergei Zubok, Julia Ignatenko, Dmitry Kupchin, Denis Podobed, Olga Rimko, Irina Chervinskaya and Natalia Shumigai.
Education, science, innovation technologies are among Belarus’ priorities
The development of education, science and innovation technologies is one of the major priorities of Belarus, Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko said at the National Ball of University Graduates on June 27.
The Belarusian President noted that Belarus is ahead of its neighbours in many social and economic aspects. Over the recent years, universities in Baranovichi and Pinsk have been established; new blocks of the existing universities and other facilities have been built. The encouragement and support system of the talented students is successfully working.
The state does not leave the young people to the mercy of fate after the graduation. “The mandatory post-graduation job placement that very few people like should be appreciated because it offers safeguards for the graduates. Later the graduates will see it even more clearly that the first job assignment is a great blessing,” the President noted.
According to the head of state, employers prefer to hire experienced specialists and do not want to take trouble over graduates. This is why, the state had to make an appropriate administrative response, Alexander Lukashenko said.
“The status of a young specialist provides you with certain legal and social guarantees, serves a springboard for your future. Then everything will depend on you,” the head of state noted addressing the graduates.
Alexander Lukashenko wished all the 2008 university graduates the fulfillment of all they aspire, a lot of joy and love. The Belarusian President also thanked heads of universities and professors for their hard and conscientious work dedicated to the education of what will be the future of the country. “Thanks to your efforts the Belarusian land sprouts with the seeds of the intelligent, kind and eternal things; wisdom and knowledge are flourishing,” the President said.
Belarus’ Constitutional Court vested with additional authority
In particular, the Constitutional Court would exercise control over the validity of all laws adopted by the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus and approved by the Council of the Republic, before they are signed by the President.
The Constitutional Court was commissioned to give an official explanation of decrees and documents related to the constitutional rights, freedoms and duties of the citizens.
The Constitutional Court also proposed holding checks at the suggestion of the Council of the Republic into system-based and flagrant violations of the effective legislation committed by local councils of deputies.
Besides, according to the commission of the Head of State, judges of the Constitutional Court are vested with a right to check the validity of the avenues of the rule-making activity defined by the president.
The decree comes into force on the day of its official publication. The document is submitted for consideration of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus.
Union State agencies should be more efficient, Vladimir Putin says
“To use the potential of the two countries to the maximum we need to move forward,” the Russian Prime Minister said.
Speaking about the results of the session, Vladimir Putin said they were fruitful. “General constructive attitude allowed us to discuss concrete issues of cooperation in economic and social areas,” the Premier said.
According to him, one of the key areas of further cooperation is the work on creation of the Belarus-Russia unified transport system. “We have approved the basic budget parameters. The expenditures to finance cooperation programme and links will be increased,” Vladimir Putin said.
According to him, the session considered social issues, including the measures to implement an intergovernmental treaty on cooperation in social security. “We have identified certain steps for its further implementation,” the Russian Prime Minister said.
Union State Council of Ministers meet in Moscow June 27
Moscow hosted a session of the Union State Council of Ministers on June 27. The event was preceded by the talks between Prime Ministers of Belarus and Russia Sergei Sidorsky and Vladimir Putin.
The agenda of the meeting included more than 20 issues covering the major areas of the Belarusian-Russian collaboration, BelTA learnt from the Union State Permanent Committee. The Permanent Committee underlined that the session of the Union State Council of Ministers followed the recent visit of President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev to Belarus. The two heads of state confirmed adherence to the bilateral cooperation and the Union State Treaty development.
The Union State Council of Ministers considered a report on the Union State budget performance 2007 and major parameters of the draft Union State budget 2009. The Union State budget 2009 will exceed RUR 5 billion in view of the new joint programmes. In 2008, the Union State budget made up over RUR 4 billion.
The Union State government mulled over the implementation of the Union State social development concept 2010. Besides, the session considered the measures on executing the agreement on cooperation in social security.
The Council of Ministers decided upon the formation and functioning of the united transport system, development of the border customs infrastructure, the issues of the transport-customs sector.
The session touched upon the joint pilot projects in line with the programme of the joint actions to mitigate the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe 2006-2010.
As for cooperation in the area of high technologies, the Union State Council of Ministers considers the implementation of the programme aimed at commencing the manufacture of special technological equipment for the production of super-dimensioned integrated circuits, the draft programme on the production of new polymer and composite materials, chemical fibre and threads.
As to the joint cultural development, the session decided upon the date of the Union State festival Youth Creativity and perpetuation of the memory of the defenders of the Fatherland.
Venezuela to give $500m loan to Belarus
The diplomat underscored, the necessary papers are being filled now.
2008 will be a critical year in cooperation between Venezuela and Belarus. It will be a year to make a foundation of cooperation, which will grow with time and support of the two countries. The cooperation will encompass not only joint ventures but also spiritual alignment of the two nations, said Americo Diaz Nunez. He also noted, the bilateral relations are rapidly evolving.
The diplomat believes it is symbolic that on the eve of the celebration of the Venezuela Independence Day in Belarus for the first time Days of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are held. As part of the Days lots of events meant to reveal national traditions and peculiarities of Venezuela are to take place.
Cooperation with Belarus is productive, Venezuela Ambassador says
Venezuela considers bilateral cooperation with Belarus as productive, Head of the Venezuelan diplomatic mission to Belarus said at the press conference in Minsk on the occasion of the Independence Day of Venezuela, which is marked on July 5.
“In a few days Belarus and Venezuela will celebrate their national holidays. The dates of the celebrations almost coincide. So do the views of the two governments on the most important aspects of bilateral cooperation”, the diplomat noted.
Speaking about rapid development of the relations between Belarus and Venezuela, Americo Diaz Nunez noted “we can speak about a phenomenon in international relations”. The first official meeting of the presidents of the two countries took place in July 2006. The presidents met for teh first time at the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana, he explained. At the meetings in Minsk the two sides concluded first mutually beneficial agreements in energy, industry, food, agriculture, technology, science, education and defense. Americo Diaz Nunez noted that the two countries seek to promote wellbeing of citizens and maintain independence and sovereignty.
President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez may visit Belarus in late July, head of the Venezuela diplomatic mission in Belarus Americo Diaz Nunez told a press conference on June 27.
“In Moscow yesterday Vice President of Venezuela Ramon Carrizales said that President Hugo Chavez may visit Russia in late July. Usually he travels via Minsk, which is why his third visit to the region may include staying in Belarus in about one month,” said the diplomat.
Hungary supports idea to reduce Schengen visa fees for Belarusians, Ambassador Ferenc Kontra
“We would like the visa barrier which exists near the Belarusian border to be removed,” the Hungarian ambassador said.
According to the Ambassador, there is a possibility to reduce visa fees for the Belarusians. “Belarus and the EU member states understand that €60 for a visa is too much,” the diplomat noted. “Why the Belarusians should pay for the Schengen visas more than the Russians, Ukrainians or Moldavians do?” Ferenc Kontra noted.
The Hungarian Embassy opened in Minsk on June 3, 2008. Belarus and Hungary established diplomatic relations on February 12, 1992.
According to the information provided by the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis, in 2007 trade between Belarus and Hungary was up 29% from 2006 to $270.4 million. Exports made up $140 million (up 42.2%), imports $130.4 million.
In January-March 2008, mutual trade between Belarus and Hungary amounted to $83.7 million, up 38.5%. Belarusian exports to Hungary which are oil products, tractors, ferrous metals and products of them, timber goods, potash fertilizers, made up $49.2 million. Belarus imports from Hungary mainly medicines, TV sets, phones and other electrical goods, agricultural machines.
Foreign investments in Belarus 1.7 times up in Q1 2008
Direct investments totaled $617.5 million, 2.4 times up from January-March 2007.
According to Vladimir Semashko, the majority of foreign investments were attracted by private companies. Investments in the fixed capital are usually own funds of organizations, budget resources, bank loans and resources of the population. Investments in the industry are slow.
Vladimir Semashko underlined that there is a lack of direct foreign investments though there are all opportunities for that. In late 2007-2008, the country undertook necessary measures to enhance the investment potential. The liberalization of the legislation in related to business doing procedures, a credit rating, the abolishment of the golden share rule, privileges for potential investors are those instruments that are necessary today, the First Vice-Premier said.
For the five months of 2008, fixed capital investments in Belarus soared by 22.5% as against January-May 2007.
Belarus’ Government develops additional measures to stabilize foreign trade
The Belarusian Government is developing additional measures to stabilize foreign trade, First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko said during a joint session of the two houses of the Belarusian Parliament.
According to him, over the four months this year, Belarus had a deficit in foreign trade at the amount of $626.2 million. “This parameter corresponds to the forecast but in April alone foreign trade deficit surged by $400 million,” the official noted. “We need to take appropriate measures to improve foreign economic activity,” Vladimir Semashko highlighted.
According to him, the Government thoroughly analyzed the reasons of growth of foreign trade deficit. At present, specialists are developing special measures which will be taken in H2 2008 to stabilize foreign trade.
Vladimir Semashko: wages in Belarus to average $760 by 2010
Belarus' socio-economic development forecast 2009-2010 will increase wages in the national economy up to $760, First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko stated at a joint session of the two chambers of the Belarusian parliament on June 27.
Vladimir Semashko stated that wages in the public sector will be equal to $700 by 2010. In 2009, average wages will total $590 in the national economy and $550 in the public sector, Vladimir Semashko added.
According to the First Vice-Premier, the GDP growth in 2009 will secure an increase of real incomes of the people at the level of 14-15%.
In 2009, the growth of paid services is projected at the level of 13-14%, retail trade – 16-17%.
Belarus ups rate, hopes '08 CPI lower than 10 pct
Earlier, the central bank said it would raise its key refinancing rate to 10.25 percent as of July 1, from 10 percent now, to increase "returns on savings in the national currency".
Belarus, like many of its neighbours, is fighting accelerating inflation which has been boosted by higher prices for staples such as energy and food.
"We are taking measures to keep inflation at minimal levels. We are trying to keep inflation no higher than 9-10 percent," Zaichenko told journalists, blaming inflation on external factors.
Russia has increased gas import prices to Belarus to $119 per 1,000 cubic metres at the beginning of this year from $100 in 2007 when the price was doubled from the previous year, which Zaichenko said knocked inflation into double-digits.
Inflation jumped to 12.1 percent last year, overshooting a government target, against 6.6 percent in 2006. This was still lower than the 16.6 percent reached in neighbouring Ukraine but a touch higher than 11.9 percent in Russia.
Belarus last year received its maiden credit ratings from Moody's and Standard & Poor's, raising foreign investors' interest in the former Soviet state.
OSCE media freedom representative urges Belarus not to adopt restrictive media law
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, today called on the upper chamber of Belarus's parliament not to adopt a draft law that would further restrict media freedom in the country.
"Unfortunately, against expectations in and outside Belarus, this draft establishes further obstacles to the development of free media in the country," said Haraszti.
On 17 June, the draft Law on the Mass Media was adopted by the Chamber of Representatives, the Parliament's lower chamber, without prior consultations with civil society. On 25 June, the draft law passed the second reading in the lower chamber with only insignificant changes. It now awaits approval by the Council of the Republic on 27 June and the President's signature, reported OSCE.
On 18 June, the Representative on Freedom of the Media submitted a review of the draft law, detailing the shortcomings of the draft and offering ways of correction. Haraszti referred to several media freedom concerns regarding the draft.
"The draft further extends the government's right to warn, suspend and close down media outlets," he said. "A fuzzy requirement of 'compliance with reality' for media materials was also introduced. We found in the draft complicated, burdensome systems of media registration and journalist accreditation. The draft law does not offer sufficient measures to prevent monopolization of the media. It does not protect in practice journalists' confidential sources. It opens the possibility for restrictive future regulations on Internet-based media."
"I urge the Council of the Republic to return the draft media law to the Chamber of Representatives for further deliberation. I also propose that any upcoming media legislation is carried out with the involvement of non-governmental organizations and the journalistic community of Belarus," said Haraszti.
"I regret that almost none of the recommendations made by my Office were included in the second draft of the law. I hope that my concerns will be incorporated in an upcoming draft, and that this version of the law will go substantially further in meeting Belarus's international obligations on freedom of the media."
RF-Belarus Union State Council of Ministers meets in Moscow
From: Itar Tass
Russian journalists have learned from a source within the Russian government that the meeting would be preceded by a talk between the two premiers, who are planning to discuss some key problems, linked with the development of the Russo-Belarus economic relations, including interaction in the fuel and energy sector, reciprocal access of goods to the markets of the two countries, implementation of the earlier reached agreements, etc.
According to the said source, the problem of a common currency for the Union State would not be broached during the negotiations. The source noted that it “was not forgotten”, but “time is needed” to implement it. Ninety-nine per cent of the technical work to go over to common currency was done and “only some final touches were needed”, but the Belarus side said it was not ready for them yet, PRIME-TASS reports. “Realising that this is an important step for any country, nobody is forcing or will ever force the Belarus Republic to do it,” the source stressed, adding that the Belarus side has to realise itself the potential and advantage of a new currency. “We are ready to go back any time to the discussion of this problem,” he noted.
According to this source, it is also planned to raise at the negotiations the problem of the Belarus side’s ratification of the agreement on the property of the Union State. Such an accord was signed in 2002 and Russia has ratified it, while the Belarus Republic has not. It is necessary to ratify the agreement in order to have “a comprehensible procedure, needed to form the property, created as a result of the implementation of the Union State’s programs”.
Some problems could also be raised at the negotiations, linked with the implementation of the agreements on equal rights of the citizens of Russia and the Belarus Republic. According to this source, Russian citizens were sometimes discriminated against within the Belarus Republic, compared to Belarus citizens. For instance, citizens of the Russian Federation are not allowed to privately own land in the Belarus Republic, although Belarus citizens enjoy this right.
Moreover, Russian citizens have to pay for using some motor roads, although no payments are required from Belarus citizens. “This is sheer discrimination.
Everything permitted to Belarus citizens within the Belarus Republic should be permitted to a Russian citizen,” the source stated. It is planned to discuss nineteen problems at the current meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State. A report on the execution of the 2007 budget of the Union State is to be discussed, as well as amendments and supplements to the 2008 Union Budget and the principal parameters of the draft budget of the Union State for 2009. The source said the 2009 Union State’s revenues and expenditures are to add up to 4 billion 615 million Russian roubles. Three billions will be contributed by the Russian side and 1 billion 615 millions – by the Belarus side. Furthermore, the meeting of the Council of Ministers will consider the fulfilment of the concept for the social development of the Union State up to 2010, the results of the implementation of the plan of joint steps to form and ensure the operation of a joint transport system of the Union State, the implementation of the program to develop the infrastructure of the customs services on the territory of the Belarus Republic, and problems linked with the drafting and implementation of several Union programs.
US, Belarus trade charges over jailed American lawyer
From: Earth Times
Doctors at a Minsk jail operated by the Belarusian KGB are refusing to provide Zeltser medicine and are placing his life in danger, US diplomats said.
Belarusian prosecutors have charged that drugs Zeltser had in his possession at the time of his March 12 arrest were illegal, and as evidence cannot be handed over to a suspect.
Prison officials allowed an independent New York physician to check Zeltser's health earlier this week, in response to a US embassy request.
The check-up showed Zeltser suffering from low blood pressure, ulcers, and a heart condition worsened by prison manager's unwillingness to allow Zetser modern medicines, US embassy officials said.
Belarus' KGB reacted sharply to the US allegations, saying the doctor's visit had been "unprecedented in Belarusian prison history," as KBG detainees by law have no right to visits by outside medical personnel.
The dispute over Zeltser and his detention is only the latest in years of conflicts between the US and Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko.
Beltransgaz issue not to be tied to gas price for Belarus
From: Itar Tass
"We're hoping to find a constructive solution regarding Beltransgaz in the course of negotiations, and it cannot be tied with the gas price for Belarus," the official said.
He explained that "Russia has concerns with respect to this Belarussian company, which is a joint enterprise at present," reminding that Belarus had passed a decision to increase deductions to the republic's innovative fund.
The source underlined that it was an additional financial burden.
"We agreed that there would be no additional financial burdens, and that's what we call these deductions," he stated.
Earlier, the norm of deductions stood at 9 percent, and now Belarus has increased it to 18 percent.
"They then offered assurances that they would bring it back to 9 percent, but the situation had not changed thus far," the official underlined.
"We fully support Gazprom's stance that financial burden on Beltransgaz should not be increased; and that it is inadmissible to revise the existing accords," he added.
At the same time, he assured that the settlement of this issue would not be tied to the price of gas supplied to Belarus, because price is calculated on the basis of market principles.
"The growth of prices is caused not by Gazprom's decision but the objective gas price hikes on world market," the government official noted.
"It's important for us that the payments for gas be effected on time and in full measure," he said.
In this connection, he remarked that Belarus has been paying the 2nd quarter gas bill at the prices of the 1st quarter.
In January through March, 1,000 cubic meters of gas supplied to Belarus cost 119.53 dollars, while in the second quarter, the price was 127.9 dollars.
"So far, they've been paying for the 2nd quarter with 1st quarter prices," the Russian official said.
He did not rule out that Belarus, in the runup to the Council of Ministers' meeting might fully pay the debt.
КДБ працягвае запалохваць студэнтаў
Алесь Галавач вучыцца на пятым курсе факультэту традыцыйнай беларускай культуры і сучаснага мастацтва. Алесь рыхтуецца абараняць дыплём на тэатральнай катадры. Ён апавёў, што сёньня яго выклікалі ў дэканат на размову. Там яго чакаў супрацоўнік КДБ. Як толькі Алесь прыйшоў, ім прадставілі асобны кабінэт.
Алесь Галавач: “Ён патрабаваў ад мяне, каб я даў яму інфармацыю аб тым, дзе я знаходзіўся падчас акцыі прадпрымальнікаў. Запытваў, сябрам якой арганізацыі я зьяўляюся. Пасьля гэтага ён паказаў мне здымкі з Дня Волі, пачаў падвышаць голас. Я ўстаў і сказаў, што больш не жадаю зь ім размаўляць. Ён мне казаў: “Ня хочаш размаўляць са мной па-добраму, дык вучыцца тут ня будзеш!”. Пачаў розныя пагрозы казаць на мой адрас.
Я выйшаў у калідор і пайшоў. Ён там мне ўздагон крычаў, але я не аглядаўся. Крычаў: “Ты актывіст?! Я такіх актывістаў як ты ня першы раз бачу!"Хаця сам добра, калі гады на тры старэйшы за мяне”.
Алесь Галавач прыгадаў, што 21 студзеня, калі на Кастрычніцкай плошчы зьбіраліся прадпрымальнікі на мітынг, яго затрымалі людзі ў цывільным і зацягнулі ў Палац прафсаюзаў.
Алесь Галавач: “Забралі сьцягі, якія афіцыйна зарэгістраваныя, а гэта сьцягі АГП. Пабілі мяне троху. Забралі дзьве расьцяжкі: “Свабоду Казуліну!” і “Свабоду прадпрымальнікам!”. Я адштурхнуў аднаго зь іх. Мне ўдалося выбегчы і схавацца ў натоўп. Я лічу, што яны помсьцяць мне за тое, што ўпусьцілі тады. Яны ня ведалі майго прозьвішча, нічога. 25-га сакавіка яны мяне апазналі, відаць, пасьля таго, як мяне паказалі ў “Панараме” буйным плянам”.
Алесь Галавач паведаміў “Свабодзе”, што размова з супрацоўнікам КДБ ніяк не паўплывае на яго перакананьні. Ён ня першы студэнт, якога наведаў прадстаўнік спэцслужбы. Цягам году ва ўнівэрсытэты і нават школы прыходзілі супрацоўнікі КДБ. Яны патрабавалі, каб актывісты моладзевага дэмакратычнага руху давалі ім зьвесткі пра сваю дзейнасьць. Яны палохалі настаўнікаў і бацькоў актывістаў праблемамі на працы.
Часам супрацоўнікі КДБ распытвалі аднакурсьнікаў апазыцыянэраў і суседзяў у інтэрнаце нават пра тое, аб чым размаўляюць актывісты па-за вучобай.
Некаторых студэнтаў пасьля візытаў супрацоўнікаў КДБ адлічылі з вучобы з фармулёўкай “за акадэмічную непасьпяховасьць”. Сярод іх Кася Салаўёва з Полацкага ўнівэрсытэту, Франак Вячорка з Белдзяржунівэрсытэту, Вольга Мядзьведзева зь лінгвістычнага ўнівэрсытэту, салігорскі школьнік Іван Шыла ды іншыя.
Borodin: Russia and Belarus can introduce common currency this year
From: Charter '97
“I think we finally introduce a common currency on the territory of Russia and Belarus,” Borodin said at a session of the Council of Ministers of the “union state”.
“Concerning the final integration of the two states, I can say there is a will of the governments of the both sides, but much depends on the presidents,” Borodin said.
Enough Rope for Russia
From: Washington Post
Traffic jams knot into epic proportions as streets around the Kremlin are regularly shut down for the motorcades of Putin and his handpicked successor as president, Dmitry Medvedev. "It is natural," a Russian motorist said the other day. "We have two presidents now."
Since his May inaugural, Medvedev has put a softer face on Putin's fierce determination to show the world that Russia is back as a major power. Traveling to Berlin early this month on one of his first trips as president, Medvedev stressed the need for "a new world order."
Leaders call for the founding of a new world order only when they are convinced that their nation will dominate it. That was true for George H.W. Bush in 1991, and it is true today for Putin, Medvedev and others in Russia's reformulated leadership.
The term Bush popularized in the wake of his heady military triumph in Kuwait is increasingly used by Kremlin officials to demonstrate that the U.S. moment in world power has passed and that Russia's moment is fast arriving.
For a variety of reasons, Putin is likely to come up as short in reshaping the world as Bush did -- if the next U.S. administration is smart about handling the challenges Russia intends to mount to America's lessening but still dominant role in European security and in international financial institutions.
In Berlin, Medvedev provided few details of Russian intentions. But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a June 20 speech and a follow-up conversation I had with him here, outlined an ambitious agenda of change in a new era of "multipolar cooperation . . . and collective leadership" in international affairs.
A "new world order" cannot be based on "an Anglo-Saxon pattern that some have tried to establish for the rest of the world," Lavrov said. It would involve doing away with "the Cold War architecture for the security of Europe."
He proposed a European Security Conference to bring together the United States, Russia, the European Union and other regional organizations, such as NATO, to establish new controls on armies and alliances in the "Euro-Atlantic space."
The idea as presented will not appeal to either the Bush administration or its successor. The unacknowledged intent is to reduce the importance of the United States and NATO in European security.
But it does reflect a realization by Russian leaders that they are now seen by the rest of the world as a "veto power" constantly saying no -- to NATO expansion, Kosovo independence or greater international involvement in Darfur. They have concluded that under Medvedev, they need instead to start putting forward more positive-sounding proposals.
Medvedev's role so far involves presentation more than substance. He has not been able to name his own foreign policy adviser, while Putin is installing Yuri Ushakov, the outgoing and effective ambassador to Washington, as his deputy chief of staff and de facto diplomatic adviser.
Lavrov also fleshed out general criticisms that Medvedev had voiced of U.S. financial markets and their influence on the world economy. A new world economic order "must also be multipolar and must include a more balanced distribution of finances and national resources," Lavrov said.
Russia is reported to be considering an effort to bring other natural gas exporters into an international cartel similar to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Venezuela and Iran are also said to be pushing the cartel idea for an October unveiling.
Energy exports have earned Russia massive foreign reserves. But the natural resources boom masks a general failure to develop other sectors of the economy.
Industry has stagnated, while annual inflation runs at 12 percent. Reforms launched in the 1990s under former prime minister Yegor Gaidar brought growth in Russia to 10 percent. Now it has fallen to about 7 percent under Putin and Medvedev.
In short, the Russian economy has feet of clay that will prevent the Kremlin from dominating a new world order for very long -- if at all. The effort expended and the animosities incurred in trying to remake the world quickly will put that goal beyond reach, as the United States has already learned.
The next U.S. administration should give Russia time and rope enough to prove it again. Either John McCain or Barack Obama can play a long game in which Russia is taken seriously but not necessarily on its own terms.
Platini issues 2012 warning to Poland and Ukraine
Platini, who did not give a deadline for the stadiums, will lead a 12-man delegation to the two countries next week to examine the progress being made.
Speaking to a packed news conference in Vienna on the eve of the Euro 2008 final between Spain and Germany, Platini said: "We will do everything we can to hold it in Poland and Ukraine.
"There is no back-up plan. We have not had any second thoughts, or other thoughts and we respect our decision to go to Poland and Ukraine.
"The only thing that will make me decide not to go is if there are no stadiums in the capitals of Warsaw and Kiev. If there are no stadiums, there will be no tournament."
UEFA warned Poland and Ukraine after January's executive committee meeting in Zagreb that the months to come would be decisive in determining whether the countries were in a position to host the finals.
Platini said on Saturday that UEFA would make its final decision at its executive meeting in Bordeaux on September 25-26.
Infrastructure problems including the modernisation of airports and road and rail networks, the construction of new hotels and the stadium plans have all plagued the project.
Building work at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, which is due to host the final in 2012, has been further complicated because of the planned demolition of a shopping centre near the stadium.
On Wednesday, Ukraine's sports minister Yuri Pavlenko said two companies were vying for the right to renovate the stadium in Kiev.
Eight venues are due to stage games, four in each country. As well as Warsaw, the Polish venues are Poznan, Wroclaw and Gdansk. Ukraine's four venues are Kiev, Donetsk, Lvov and Dnipropetrovsk.
UEFA awarded the tournament to Poland and Ukraine in April last year, ahead of rival bids from Italy and a joint bid from Croatia and Hungary.
Gazprom chief warns Ukraine on gas price
From: FT.com and AFP
Alexei Miller said prices for Ukraine could rise to more than $400 per 1,000 cubic metres in 2009 - up from $179.50 this year - if, as expected, the Russian state-controlled monopoly has to pay more for the gas it buys from Central Asia.
The increase could spark a new price dispute as Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukrainian prime minister, headed for Moscow yesterday evening.
Gazprom delivers more than a quarter of Europe's gas supplies, mostly through Ukraine. Previous pricing disputes have led to disruptions in supplies to Europe.
Gazprom has signalled that deals with Central Asian suppliers could be reviewed upwards. It is yet to agree any new contracts.
"We would like to move to European prices for Ukraine little by little, but our central Asian partners want to do so from January 1, 2009," Putin told journalists.
"We are negotiating on this question. But it is still too early to talk of results," he added.
Mr Miller's comments came as Gazprom elected Viktor Zubkov, an ally of former president Vladimir Putin and a former prime minister, to take over from Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president, as chairman of the world's largest gas company at its annual meeting yesterday.
Arguing that state energy companies were set to dominate the global battle for new resources, Mr Miller told shareholders that Gazprom intended to extend its global reach by buying power and oil assets abroad.
He also said that Gazprom intended to expand its presence in the Russian oil sector.
Russia has a number of times reduced or cut altogether gas supplies to its neighbour Ukraine, raising concerns in European Union countries about Moscow's reliability as an energy supplier.
Meanwhile, on Ukraine's NATO ambitions, Putin said Russia remained opposed.
"We believe that the enlargement of NATO is counter productive from the point of view of international security," he said.
Despite appeals from US President George W. Bush, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, at its April Bucharest summit, refused to put Ukraine on a definite track for membership in the Western military alliance.
Wary of alienating a resurgent Russia, European leaders denied both Ukraine and Georgia access to the alliance's Membership Action Plan, or MAP, which grooms states for accession.
Polish MP faces ten years imprisonment in corruption case
From: The News
The former MP is suspected of incitement and inducement to corruption and of paid protection, accepting financial gain in connection with 'setting up' a tender on a plot of land.
She now faces up to 10 years in prison.
Former MP Sawicka and the mayor of the town Hel, northern Poland, were detained after allegedly taking a bribe in a 'sting' operation prepared by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) on October 1 last year.
The case catered for a great deal of attention in the Polish media, with Sawicka accusing CBA officers of going beyond their powers. She has also cried and once fainted at a press conference and hinted at thought of suicide.
Recently, Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza alleged the possible involvement of the American FBI in the corruption case.
CIA agents admit their jails were in Poland for three years
"This news does not surprise me, as this confirms what we were saying for a long time," said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. He added that he did not understand why Polish authorities denied the truth, if it was going to be revealed sooner or later.
"Since President Bush admitted that such centers existed, there is no need to deny it. Until the authorities confirm it, we shall not know the truth," said former head of the National Security Agency
Polish gov't denies NY Times report on CIA prisons
In a related story, After the New York Times once again reported on the alleged existence of secret prisons of CIA located in Poland, where Al-Qaeda terrorists were to be tortured, Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said that this was an attempt to discredit Poland in the eyes of the international public opinion.
"It is an attempt to question the position of Poland as a country where international standards are being violated," said the Minister.
Moreover, the Presidential Palace issued a communique declaring, "The President possesses no information which would indicate that there are secret CIA prisons, where terrorists would be allegedly held," said Minister Michal Kaminski.
The Defense Minister also criticized the report which stated that Poland wanted to cooperate with the US administration and even could have been regarded as the '51st state'.
Kaczynski: ‘I saw Walesa’s file’
From: The News
|Kaczynski and Walesa|
Kaczynski added that among the files were reports by secret collaborator “Bolek”, who Walesa is accused of being in a new book out this week.
Jarosalw Kaczynski denied on Polish Radio that it was his party of Law and Justice that had inspired writing the book by Slawomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk on Walesa’ co-operation with the Communist Secret Services (SB) and that the historians are independent scholars and not politicians.
Kaczynski also said that at the beginning of 1990s he didn’t know anything about Lech Walesa’s contacts with secret services, but was aware of heard some allegations.
It was only after he became the head of the Presidential Chancellery, when Lech Walesa was in office that documents confirming the allegations were shown to him by the head of the Polish intelligence agency Office for State Protection, Andrzej Milczanowski.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski explained that he didn’t reveal this information back then because at that time it was a state secret.
Former President Lech Walesa denies collaboration with the Communist Secret Services. He says that the SB might have forged documents against him to discredit him after his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Lech Walesa was the co-founder of the Solidarity trade union, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 and served as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995.
Agata undergoes abortion
The story of Agata, who was initially denied permission to have an abortion, was broken by Gazeta Wyborcza and it was originally claimed that she had been raped, although doubt has since been cast on that claim.
The story polarized the pro-life and feminist communities.
World Indoor silver medallist Kravchenko rules…Belarus and Ukraine are leading in Hengelo
|Belarus' Andrei Kravchenko in Talence|
This competition along with all lower levels of the European Cup count as part of the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge 2008.
The competition started with rain in the morning but at the beginning of the afternoon the weather cleared and the circumstances were far better.
Last year’s European U23 champion (8492) Andrei Kravchenko of Belarus was today making his outdoor season’s debut and is the emphatic overall individual leader in the Decathlon after five events with a total of 4413 points (10.90-7.68 - 14.22 – 2.13 – 48.17), with victories in three of the five events.
In the Shot, one of the disciplines in which Kravchenko didn’t set the top mark his 14.22m put added 22cm to his Decathlon event PB, though he had produced 14.29m indoors when taking the Heptathlon silver at the World Indoors in Valencia.
The winner of two World Combined Events Challenge competitions in 2007 in Gotzis and Talence, respectively with 8617pts (his personal best) and 8553, Kravchenko who has been held back since his winter success by injuries also high jumped very well in Hengelo and was just 3cm short of his 2.16m outdoor PB.
Kravchenko with an overnight total of 4413 points is way ahead of his nearest opponents Estonian Andres Raja and (4233) and Dutchman Ingmar Vos (4035).
In the women’s Heptathlon, last year’s World Student Games bronze medallist Anna Melnychenko of Ukraine scored 3759pts in the first four events: 13.28 – 1.78 – 13.77 – 24.39 and is 69 points ahead of Dutchwomen Jolanda Keizer (3690). Ludmila Jospchenko is third with a score of 3589.
Team competition after the first day:
1. Belarus, 12,266 points
2. Estonia, 12,071
3. The Netherlands 11,963
1. Ukraine, 10,791
2. Russia, 10,467
3. France, 10,276
Women's singles Third Round: Nadia Petrova (21), Russia, def. Victoria Azarenka (16), Belarus, 7-6 (11), 7-6 (4).
Women's doubles Second Round: Akgul Amanmuradova, Uzbekistan, and Darya Kustova, Belarus, def. Anne Keothavong and Melanie South, Britain, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.
In the third round, Victoria Azarenka, Belarus, and Shahar Peer (6), Israel, lead Dinara Safina, Russia, and Agnes Szavay (10), Hungary, 7-5, susp., darkness.
Doubles Men Second Round: Max Mirnyi, Belarus, and Jamie Murray (14), Britain, def. James Cerretani, United States, and Victor Hanescu, Romania, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (0).
Second Round Mixed dubles, Simon Aspelin, Sweden, and Lisa Raymond (13), United States, def. Rohan Bopanna, India, and Tatiana Poutchek, Belarus, 6-3, 7-6 (1).
Belarus celebrates 'Days of Israel'
The three-day celebration, sponsored by the cultural center of the Israeli Embassy, started Monday in the city of Brest. It includes concerts, screenings of award-winning Israeli films, an exhibit of Israeli artists' paintings and a book exhibit.
Brest officials and foreign diplomats attended the opening events.
The same event will be held later this month in the Belarusian city of Bobruisk.
Israel names new Belarus envoy
In a related story, Israel has appointed a new ambassador to Belarus.
Eddie Shapiro will begin his work in Minsk at the end of this year, Zeev Ben Arieto, the acting Israeli ambassador, told the Belapan news agency. Ben Arieto's credentials are set to expire in approximately six months.
Shapiro, 46, has worked at Israeli embassies in Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Thailand.
He came to Israel with his parents from the former Soviet republic of Moldova at the age of 11. He has a degree in management from Tel Aviv University.
A divided village highlights a divided Europe
The package is then tossed over a metal fence and into what is now another country, to be picked up by former neighbors and placed on the grave.
The border between Belarus and Lithuania, two countries that were part of the Soviet Union, was once little more than a line on a map.
Now a fence runs along the border, representing a new version of the Iron Curtain that separated Eastern and Western Europe until communism collapsed. The autocratic regime of Belarus portrays this heavily policed border as the last line of defense against an encroaching West, represented by Lithuania, now a member of the European Union and NATO.
Here the fence cuts right through the village, separating Pyatskuny on the Belarus side from its Lithuanian half, Norviliskes. Villagers are cut off from the neighbors, the parish church and the cemetery, just a few steps but a whole world away.
People living across the fence can travel visa-free throughout Europe and work there. Those who stay in Norviliskes are paid by the EU to farm their land, and have money to fix up their homes and buy new clothes.
Those on the Belarusian side have little choice but to work on the local collective farm, and they depend on their gardens for food.
Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko, who permits no real economic or political reform, uses the fortified border much as the Soviet bloc once did: as a way to keep people in as much as keep them out.
Villagers cannot even walk to the fence to talk to neighbors or pass parcels. Just leaving a footprint in the 10-foot-wide raked dirt track along the fence can mean a fine or 10 days in jail.
"Our hearts were left on the other side of the fence," said Subach, 67, as she sat on the border watching a service through the open door of the Catholic church and joining in the prayers. She has not visited her husband's grave for more than two years, nor can she attend Mass in her church on Easter and Christmas.
To travel there, she would have to journey 90 miles to the nearest Lithuanian consulate, wait in line for several days, pay about $90 for a visa (almost her entire monthly pension), travel 60 miles north to a border checkpoint and another 60 miles south before finally arriving in Norviliskes.
This is the only border village that is cut in two. As under Soviet rule, border guards and secret service agents keep tabs on everyone in the border region, and those traveling here from elsewhere in Belarus need permission.
Three men in leather jackets who introduced themselves as border guards accompanied two journalists throughout a recent visit. Some villagers said they were afraid to speak in the men's presence.
Anton Alyantsynovich, 68, has taken the precaution of hanging a large portrait of Lukashenko, torn from a newspaper, in the entryway of his home.
Elderly villagers joke that they have lived in three countries without ever leaving home. Once part of Poland, the village was taken over by the Soviet Union in 1939, which gave one half to Belarus and the other to Lithuania.
After the Soviet collapse in 1991, the border with Lithuania became an international one, but travel rules remained relatively lax and Belarusian villagers were able to cross over to the Lithuanian side on religious holidays.
Then, in 2004, Lithuania joined the EU and NATO, and required visiting Belarusians to have visas, since it had become part of the EU's border-free zone.
Many Belarusians would like to travel West, but the European Union says it will ease travel restrictions only after Lukashenko frees political prisoners and holds free elections.
Yanina Yanovich, 61, says she shouts across the border to communicate with her nephew, Stanislav, who lives in the first house on the Lithuanian side.
"This is one thing the government can't stop us from doing," said Yanovich, wearing old rubber boots and a darned sweater with the lettering U.S.A.
In Norviliskes, many of the 35 inhabitants have cell phones. Pyatskuny's 50 people have only the phone in the grocery.
The store's clerk, Tereza Turkevich, says she often sells food to villagers on credit. "Some survive on bread and water so they can save enough money to travel to Lithuania," she said.
Norviliskes has a recently restored a 16th century castle that draws tourists year-round, and a summer music festival that attracts thousands.
Marja Dudowicz, 68, who lives next to the castle, sells milk to tourists to supplement her monthly pension of about $275. She also receives more than double that sum from the EU for sowing wheat, rapeseed and oats on her 37 acres of land, some of which she rents out.
"We have problems, but I can't complain after looking across the fence at our Belarusian neighbors," said Dudowicz. She has renovated her house and has groceries delivered to her door.
For 50-year-old Leokadija Gordiewicz, living in the EU means being able to serve visitors Brazilian coffee, Belgian amaretto, ham, homemade sausage and fresh brown bread. It also means being able to talk politics without fear.
Her dog is named Landsbergis, after Lithuanian independence leader Vytautas Landsbergis. She named her cat name Lukashenko, even though "I could be jailed for this in Belarus."
Despite Norviliskes' relative prosperity, most of the young Lithuanian villagers have left, either for Vilnius, the capital, about 50 miles away, or farther afield.
Yan Mikul, 24, grew up in the village but for the past two years has been working in Dublin, Ireland as a plumber, where, he says, he earns up to $4,500 a month.
"Only a fool would not take advantage of the opportunities of a Europe without borders," said Mikul, who was wearing a new green sweater and red jacket. He had driven back to Norviliskes in his used BMW to tend his grandparents' graves, and was also helping to collect the flowers thrown across the fence and placing them on the graves.
Giedrius Klimkevicius, the Lithuanian businessman who restored the village's castle with EU help, would have liked to place the stage for the music festival right on the border as a gesture of unity, but says the Belarusian authorities forbade it.
"The iron fence on the border has become a symbol of the division of two civilizations, to our deep regret," he said.