Belarus’sovereignty, Credit rating, Parliamentary elections, Harvest, Investment, Wages, Turkcell, Russia, Ukraine, Polish scandal, Culture and Sport
Belarus’ sovereign credit ratings confirmed
From: BelTA and the Office of the President
|The president during a tour of the Brest Region earlier this week|
Standard& Poor’s experts remarked, the ratings reflect the level of conditional liabilities, which is unusually high for a sovereign emitter due to the dominating role of the state in the economy. They also mentioned weak external liquidity of Belarus (it is lower than that of other sovereign governments of the same rating category), which is manifested as less than one month of reserve payments coverage for the current account.
The ratings are also positively influenced by the comparatively high levels of prosperity ($5,900 per capita in 2008), a low enlarged government debt (18% of the GRP, with guarantees accounting for 9%), comparatively high foreign trade balance figures, a significant national economic potential attributed to a major presence of the fixed capital in the industry and the presence of qualified workforce.
Analytics believe so far the negative influence of the shock growth of energy prices and worse conditions for purchasing and processing Russian oil is not as significant on the national economy and the balance cost sheet as it was expected. The steady growth of non-energy exports and an essential increase in investments allow keeping the high economic growth (9.1% on the average in 2007-2008) and prevent the current account and the national budget from worsening.
The low net state debt (6% of the GDP in 2008) and the narrow net external debt provide a substantial buffer able to soften the negative influence of economic shocks. Besides, the government’s economic policy is getting on track of liberalisation and privatisation, which should encourage foreign investments.
The forecast on Belarus’ ratings is stable taking into account the low level of the state debt, including the external debt, and major problems relating to the growing energy prices, the need to improve the competitive ability, possible strain on the budget due to measures taken to control inflation. Reinforced with major investments and gradual development of liberalisation and privatisation processes (which stimulate the aggregate supply), the country’s ability to further survive hardships brought about by growing energy prices could have influenced the ratings favourably. Further growth of gold and foreign exchange reserves and continuation of the measured fiscal policy could decrease the restraining influence of other factors on the ratings and allow their further growth.
Polling stations for Belarusian parliamentary elections open in 32 countries
There are four polling stations in Russia and Poland each, two — Germany, the USA, Latvia each, one in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the UK, Hungary, Venezuela, Israel, the Netherlands, Serbia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, France, Italy, Kazakhstan, Canada, China, Cuba, Lithuania, Moldova, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Sweden, Estonia, South Africa, Japan.
Nikolai Lozovik reminded, in line with Belarusian laws the polling stations are set up by diplomatic missions if there are at least 20 Belarusian voters. The official said, early voting will be organised at the polling stations outside Belarus.
The next session of the Central Election Commission is supposed to define which two electoral districts of Minsk will include these polling stations.
422 initiative groups registered in Belarus
422 initiative groups for the nomination of candidates to deputies of the House of Representatives have been registered in Belarus, Secretary of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Belarus Nikolai Lozovik told BelTA.
The nomination of candidates through signatures collection is one of the three ways to participate in the elections. One can also run for the Lower Chamber of the Belarusian Parliament if one is nominated by their co-workers or a political party. The signatures (a total of 1,000) are collected by an initiative group consisting of at least 10 people.
According to the final estimates, 454 applications have been submitted to the district election commissions to register initiative groups representing those candidates who want to run for the seats through the collection of signatures. 23 applicants were denied registration, 8 applications were withdrawn voluntarily. One application was not considered because it missed the deadline, Nikolai Lozovik said.
310 initiative groups registered by the district election commissions represent independent candidates. The other candidates that were nominated through the collection of signatures are members of various political parties, including Agrarian Party (1 initiative group), Belarusian Social Democratic (Gramada) (16), Communist Party of Belarus (19), United Civil Party (27), Belarusian Popular Front (21), Belarusian Party of Communists (18), Republican Party of Labour and Equity (1).
Belarus will not restrict number of international election observers, Lidia Yermoshina says
|Chairperson of the Central Election Commission of Belarus Lidia Yermoshina presents international observer certificates|
According to Lidia Yermoshina, Belarus has sent invitations to take part in the election observation to 18 international organisations, among them to the CIS Executive Committee, CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, CSTO PA, OSCE/ODIHR, OSCE PA. Invitations have been sent to the central election commissions of all CIS countries and also Lithuania and Latvia.
Lidia Yermoshina assured that the Belarusian side will take every effort so that comfortable conditions should be created for the work of all observers.
“This is a very important election campaign for the country. The head of state hopes that the elections will be free, open and democratic,” Lidia Yermoshina said.
Lidia Yermoshina presented an international observer certificate No 1 to Sergei Lebedev. She noted that the observation mission of the CIS Executive Committee which Sergei Levedev supervises is the first one to be registered in Belarus during the current electoral campaign.
In turn, Sergei Lebedev said that inviting a great number of international observers attests to Belarus’ intention to hold open and free elections. Inviting the CIS mission speaks of the trust to this organisation, he said. The headquarters of the mission will be set up in the CIS Executive Committee in Minsk. It will be led by his deputy Nauryz Aidarov.
“We are going to work in close contact with the Central Election Commission of Belarus, Sergei Lebedev stressed. “Our firm principle is not to interfere in internal affairs of a country. Our task is to help ensure that the elections should be democratic and open and that the rights of voters observed. Impartiality is another our principle,” he concluded.
Roughly equal number of CIS, OSCE observers at elections in Belarus
The Central Election Committee of Belarus expects around 700 international observers to be present during elections of deputies to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly, Chairperson of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Lidia Yermoshina said as she met with Sergei Lebedev, head of the monitoring mission of the CIS Executive Committee, Chairman of the CIS Executive Committee.
Judging by the information presented by the two major organisations (the CIS and the OSCE) the number of observers will be around 700, said Lidia Yermoshina. A record number of observers (1,235) was present during the 2006 presidential elections in Belarus. More than 1,000 international observers for such a small country as Belarus is too much, believes the CEC head.
In turn, Sergei Lebedev said, around 35 long-term CIS observers will start working on August 10. He reminded, the headquarters of the monitoring mission had been set up in Minsk, with affiliates to be created in all oblasts of the country and the capital city. Around 300 short-term observers will start working 2-3 days before the election day, specified Sergei Lebedev. He remarked, the number of CIS and OSCE observers will be roughly equal.
Lidia Yermoshina added, domestic Belarusian observers are already working hard in all election commissions, including the Central Election Commission.
Belarus harvests 1,1million tonnes of grain
With 366,000 tonnes, the Gomel oblast is the countrywide leader in terms of the gross grain output. It is followed by the Brest oblast (286,500 tonnes), Grodno (175,000 tonnes), Minsk (171,300 tonnes). The Mogilev oblast is approaching the first 100,000 tonnes. The Vitebsk oblast cropped 30,000 tonnes.
A total of 323,200 hectares have been harvested. This makes up 14% of the total cropping area. The leader of the harvest campaign is the Gomel oblast (35.4%). The Brest oblast has gathered almost 22%, Grodno 12%, Minsk and Mogilev oblast 8% each. Some 80,000 hectares were cropped on July 28, or 3.5% of the total cropping area. To complete the harvest campaign in 20 or 25 days, the farmers need to harvest 100,000-120,000 hectares every day.
The yield this year is 34.8 centners per hectares, up 4.8 centners than last year. All regions of the country have improved their yield indices from last year. The highest yield is in the Grodno oblast: 44 centners per hectare, up 7.8 centners over last year.
According to specialists, there are all the grounds to expect that the Brest, Vitebsk, Mogilev and Gomel oblasts will harvest 1 million each. The Grodno oblast will outperform them while the Minsk oblast is expected to come close to 2 million tonnes.
Alexander Lukashenko wants all sports facilities repaired by November 1
According to Leonid Kozik, FTUB trade unions are intent on productive cooperation with authorities. Over the last two years FTUB has created over 1,500 new trade unions in the private business.
Leonid Kozik presented detailed information about the organisation of recreation for adults and kids. The official said, the number of children, who enjoy so-called school camps, is on the rise.
Alexander Lukashenko believes reducing the number of countryside recreational facilities for children is inadmissible: young Belarusians should be able to enjoy proper rest outside towns. The President pointed out it is important to audit the relevant facilities.
Speaking about recreation for adults, Leonid Kozik said, all sanatoriums run by FTUB operate at 100% capacity, with hotel vouchers in demand among Belarusians and foreigners. In his words, so far 14,700 foreigners, primarily from Russia, Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic states, have been able to enjoy services of the sanatoriums. People are attracted by good healthcare services, highly qualified personnel and food. However, guests have made suggestions concerning organising entertainment.
The President suggested that the FTUB should consider the possibility of building swimming pools in sanatoriums.
Alexander Lukashenko asked about the state of mass sport in the country in detail. At present 55,000 people attend junior sports schools of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus.
The President pointed out all sports facilities have to be restored and sport school buildings have to be repaired. It was noted, many small sport schools are lodged in basement premises allocated back in the Soviet times. At present these premises are not in their best state.
The head of state underscored, by November 1, 2008 all of them should be repaired across the country. Local authorities should get down to addressing the problem.
Supported by people, Belarus’ leadership defends country’s sovereignty, says Russian political analyst
“Russia’s future lies with integrating the post-Soviet space and creating a solid interstate association. Belarus plays the key role in this process. It is the country that demonstrates successful implementation of its own social, political and economic model. Belarus’ development is accompanied by extremely complicated international conditions,” remarked Igor Panarin.
Igor Panarin is known as the author of the information ideological concept of the world development. In his speech he substantiated the need for Russia’s gradual switch from sovereign democracy to a geopolitical project for integrating Eurasia.
In recent years Belarus has virtually faced an information war, believes the Russian political analyst. It was waged by certain powers of the West and unfortunately by part of Russia’s liberal elite. Information weaponry is one of the most perfect weapons in the modern world. Its victims are the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia. However, Belarus has managed to survive the encounter.
A regular session of the Livada Club took place on July 28-29. It also discussed prospects of the Russian ruble being used as one of the world’s reserve currencies, influence of the American economic crisis on Russia and Belarus.
*** The meeting will be fully covered by magazine Belaruskaya Dumka No 8.
Foreign investment in Belarus up 2.8 times in H1
In January-June capital investment increased 23.9% over H1 007. In H1 the investment in the non-production outperformed the investment in the real production sector. That was due to the increased activity of small and medium-scaled private business, liberalization of the economy. At the same time such investments are not injected into the material production sector. For example, out of the $617.5 millions of direct foreign investment in H1, some $282.4 million, or 45.7%, was funneled into the general commercial activity (audit services, marketing research, lease).
Vladimir Semashko criticized the Industry Ministry, concerns Belneftekhim, Bellesbumprom, Bellegprom, Belgospischeprom, Belbiopharm for lagging behind the capital investment targets. Region-wise, it is the city of Minsk that is not reaching the target. The First Vice-Premier believes that the main reason is the weak preparedness of the government bodies for the implementationsof investment projects.
By and large, 750 large investment projects worth of Br4.7 trillion were pursued in H1.
Belarus’ trade deficit growth slows down, Vladimir Semashko says
The growth of the international trade deficit of Belarus has substantially slowed down, First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko said at the session of the Council of Ministers of Belarus on July 29. The session was dedicated to the socio-economic development of the country in January-June 2008.
“In April, the deficit rose by $400 million, in May only by $214 million,” he said.
In January-May 2008, the trade deficit of Belarus totalled $840.5 million. The international trade during this period grew by 56.2%, the exports rising 58.4% and the imports 54.1%.
Vladimir Semashko noted that in 2008, the government plans to reduce the deficit of the international trade in goods and services to $1.4 billion. Additional measures have been introduced to fulfill this task; in particular, the projected growth of exports was set as 20%. The Industry Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry and Belneftekhim concern have been informed about the changes in the projected indices.
In H1 potash export revenues up 2.5 times
In H1 potash fertiliser export revenues were up almost 2.5 times, First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko said at a session of the Council of Ministers on July 29.
According to him, the prices for potash fertilisers rose up significantly this year. “In H1 the export price averaged $405.2 per tonne as against $167.7 in the same period last year,” Vladimir Semashko said. As a result, export revenues in January-June this year reached $1.458 billion ($585 million in H1 2007). “The surplus in trade in this commodity increased by $872 million,” Vladimir Semashko said.
Belarus has resumed export of its oil this year. In January-May the country exported 568.8 thousand tonnes of oil to the tune of $425 million. Exports of tractors increased by $196.5 million, trucks by $96.6 million. Exports of food and other goods have grown, too.
“By pursuing an active export policy we have managed to compensate in most part for the negative effect of the energy price growth,” Vladimir Semashko said. According to him, the total cost of imported oil and oil products (taking into account the growth of prices and physical volumes of import) was up 2.2 times in January-May.
In December average salary in Belarus should reach $460, Vladimir Semashko says
The President of Belarus commissioned the government with the task to substantially increase the average monthly salaries of the population by 2010. In order to fulfill this task, in 2008 the salaries should rise by 25.9% to reach Br883 thousand. The procedures of raising salaries pursued by all the governmental bodies, oblast executive committees and the Minsk City Council were revised.
In H1 2008, the nominal average monthly salary in Belarus was equal to Br817.3 thousand which is 23.8% up from the same period of 2007. In June the salaries reached Br892.4 thousand or $418.8, the salary of employees of industrial enterprises being $469.7, construction companies - $553.3, transport - $474.6, communications - $454.
In H1 2008, the average monthly salary of employees of state-run enterprises rose by 14.8% to reach Br684.5 thousand, in June it was equal to Br744 thousand or $349.1.
The actual earnings of Belarusians rose by 8.4% during this time.
Vladimir Semashko noted that in H1 2008, the intersectorial differentiation in salaries fell, while the purchasing capacity keeps rising.
In H1 2008, the growth of labour productivity exceeds the growth of the real salaries by 1.8 percentage points.
Russia's Rosatom to bid to build nuclear reactor in Belarus
From: Ria Novosti
Belarus plans to build a nuclear power plant with a capacity of 2,000 MW, with the first unit to come online in 2016 and the second in 2018. The plant is expected to have Generation III water-moderated reactors.
Belarus has sent invitations to Rosatom, French-German firm Areva and U.S.-Japanese company Westinghouse-Toshiba, the three main producers of this equipment, to participate in the tender.
"Rosatom has officially confirmed its intention to participate," the Belarusian energy ministry said, adding that Areva had also consented to take part in the tender.
The ministry said it had not received an official response from Westinghouse.
"We have sent an offer to that company as well. We are still waiting. The deadline will expire on August 1," the ministry said.
Belarus, European Commission to prepare introduction of biometric identifiers in passports
Belarus and the European Commission intend to accomplish a project meant to prepare the basis for introducing biometric identifiers in passports, said Bernard Bogensperger, representative of the European Commission, at an international seminar “Application of biometric identifiers in electronic passports — international standards and the best practices”, on July 29, reported Belta.
In his words, for Belarus and the international community organised crime and international terrorism are some of the threats of the modern times. The issuance of protected documents, which allow border crossing, is one of the measures meant to counteract the spread of such phenomena. Belarus-issued documents are fully compliant with international standards. However, the international community has developed more advanced methods — biometric identifiers.
The European Commission representative remarked, Belarus and the European Commission had started implementing a project meant to prepare the basis for introducing new documents, which include biometric identifiers among other things. Held in Minsk, the seminar is supposed to secure the goal. In particular, the Belarusian legal base is supposed to be compared with existing international standards.
“Efforts will continue to implement a joint project with partnership of the Belarusian Interior Ministry, the European Commission, and the International Organisation for Migration. Harmonising corresponding legislation is one of the major avenues of efforts in this area,” said Bernard Bogensperger.
Turkey's Turkcell buys Belarus's BeST for $500 mln
Turkcell said it will pay the government $300 million within 30 days after striking the deal and $100 million a year in 2009 and 2010 for BeST, Belarus's third largest mobile operator with 187,000 subscribers.
Turkcell agreed to pay another $100 million if BeST shows a net profit in 2008 and invest $500 million in BeST's development. The Belarus government has promised not to sell the remaining 20 percent stake within the next five years.
BeST had a profit of $1.2 million in 2008, Turkcell said in a statement. Turkcell earlier described the business environment in the isolationist ex-Soviet state, as "difficult".
The Belarus government, which announced a large scale privatisation programme this year following a hike in prices for Russian gas, sold 70 percent of the country's second largest mobile operator, Velcom, to Austria Telecom (TELA.VI: Quote, Profile, Research).
The government also owns a 51 percent stake in the largest operator MTS, in which Russian MTS (MBT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) holds the remaining 49 percent.
"We had resources to develop this company (BeST) but needed an additional impulse because our two other mobile operators have been developing rather actively in recent years," Belarus Communications Minister Nikolai Pantelei told reporters.
Pantelei said Belarus's mobile market was not saturated yet and still had about 1 million potential subscribers.
Lord Goldsmith caught up in Zeltser 'oligarch riddle'
From: Times On-line
Emanuel Zeltser, who once testified on Capitol Hill about the Russian mob, is a key character in a wrangle over the $12billion (?6billion) fortune of a Georgian oligarch found dead at his country home in Surrey. He was arrested after flying to Belarus and accused of possessing false documents. According to Amnesty International, he has been tortured in custody.
Quite how Mr Zeltser ended up in Belarus is a mystery. The lawyer flew there on a private aircraft owned by the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky - even though Mr Zeltser and Mr Berezovsky are on opposite sides in the fight for the fortune of the dead Georgian, Arkadi Patarkatsishvili.
A law firm representing Mr Berezovsky had already tipped off the authorities in Minsk that the lawyer might be carrying bogus material on his laptop. Lord Goldsmith, now a private lawyer and representing Mr Patarkatsishvili's widow in the case, e-mailed the Belarus ProsecutorGeneral's office to support its investigation of Mr Zeltser and offering to swap information. His spokesman has insisted that, after mistreatment allegations were made, he urged that Mr Zeltser be dealt with properly and withdrew the offer to help.
Today's trial - to be held behind closed doors - is the latest twist arising from the death of Mr Patarkatsishvili, who was found dead at home in Leatherhead in February. A post-mortem examination showed that he had severe heart disease.
Mr Berezovsky wants half of the $12billion legacy, since he and Mr Patarkatsishvili were business partners as well as close friends. The widow, Inna Gudanadze, is also seeking a share. However, Josef Kay, Mr Patarkatsishvili's adviser, claims that he controls the estate. Mr Zeltser, a New York lawyer, said that he was Mr Kay's lawyer and produced a laptop computer with scanned documents dated last November purporting to be a will appointing Mr Kay as executor.
On March 3 a letter was sent by Cadwalader, at that time acting for the widow and coincidentally Mr Berezovsky's law firm, to the Belarus Prosecutor-General alerting him to the alleged forgeries. There was no mention of any forthcoming visit by Mr Zeltser to Belarus.
On March 12 Mr Zeltser and his secretary boarded Mr Berezovsky's aircraft in London and flew to Minsk, where they were arrested. Lord Goldsmith sent his e-mail on March 19, saying that he now represented the widow and proposing co-operation.
Mr Zeltser has been accused of use of false documents and industrial espionage. He has also been charged with drug trafficking in relation to the prescription painkillers he takes for gout and arthritis, which contain codeine. He faces seven years in jail.
The US has demanded Mr Zeltser's release on humanitarian grounds, saying that his health may suffer irreversibly and that he may die. Friends of Mr Berezovsky denied he had anything to do with the arrest.
Analysis: Formation of district election commissions
According to Article 28 of the Election Code, the parliamentary elections are prepared by district and local election commissions.
District election commissions to the Chamber of Representatives are created by presidiums of oblast and Minsk city Councils and by oblast and Minsk city executive committees no later than 75 days before elections, and are composed of 9-13 members.
Joint decisions of a presidium of the corresponding local Council and executive committee are made by the majority of votes. No less than two thirds of members of a presidium of a local Council and local executive committees are to attend the joint sessions where such decisions are to be made.
Decisions about formation of election commissions indicating their membership, location, and telephone numbers are to be published within 7 days, or reported to citizens (voters) in some other way.
According to Article 35 of the Election Code of the Republic of Belarus, political parties, non-governmental organizations, working bodies of organizations or their structural divisions, as well as citizens by application can nominate only one representative to an appropriate district election commission.
The following bodies are entitled to nominate representatives to election commissions:
governing bodies of political parties and other national-level non-governmental organizations -- to district election commissions.
Political parties are to nominate their representatives at sessions of their governing bodies.
Meetings (conferences) of working bodies of organizations which are located on the territory of a rayon, city, city district, town, village council and have no less than 30 members, -- have the right to nominate a representative to appropriate district election commissions.
100 citizens living in a district have the right to nominate their representative to a district election commission by application.
If working bodies of structural units of organizations nominate representatives to commissions, the working body of the whole organization should not do the nomination. A meeting is authorized if more than half of members of a working body participate in it. Conferences of working bodies are organized if it is difficult to gather a meeting because of a big number of workers, multiple shifts, or various locations of structural departments. A conference is authorized if no less than two thirds of delegates, elected by a procedure set up by a working body, participate in it. Meetings (conferences) make decisions by the majority of votes of the participants.
Voters also have the right to nominate their representative to a district election commission by application. Application for nomination of a representative to a district election commission must be signed by at least 100 citizens who live in that election district.
It’s worth mentioning that district election commissions play the main role in organizing and holding elections to the Chamber of Representatives. It is the district election commissions that organize and hold elections in a corresponding election district. District election commissions are also responsible for:
District election commissions also have power to give warnings to candidates if they violate the election legislation, and cancel their registration.
Iran received Russian weapon. Belarus under suspicion
From: Charter '97
As The Cutting Edge News reports referring to reliable sources, they are still disassembled in boxes and undeployed.
In the meantime, the situation around S-300 radar systems is more than knotty, and experts’ forecasts on possible terms of their installation vary much, Lenta.ru notes.
So, according to Pentagon’s information, the Iranians will not be receiving that Russian anti-aircraft system this year. Israel in its turn says the anti-aircraft batteries can be delivered by Russia by September of this year and then be installed and prepared for combat duty within 6–12 months.
According to Israeli military officials, S-300s would be delivered by September via Belarus. The official Minsk refutes this information.
At the same time, according to information of Russian sources of The Cutting Edge News, as many as five batteries were recently delivered to Iran, these having been pulled from active Russia defense units. The transaction is thought to be valued at USD800 million.
It should be reminded that Irani minister of defence Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said in the end of 2007 about purchase of 5 S-300 systems. However, there is no official information about the contract.
It should be noted that possible S-300 delivery is a key factor in Israel’s pre-emptive Iran strike strategy.
The Israeli Air Forces are supposed to have tested the strengths and weaknesses of a similar S-300 system during military exercises over Crete with the cooperation of Greece.
Israel also takes into consideration that Iran possesses 29 Tor M1 air defense short range missile systems which were delivered in 2007. They provider protection of the most important state and military objects, in first turn the nuclear ones in Esfahan and Bushehr in the east of the country.
Russia man on missile talks named ambassador to US
Kislyak, a deputy foreign minister, also has led Russia's delegation of the six nations that are seeking resolution to tensions over Iran's alleged intentions to develop nuclear weapons.
The announcement was made Tuesday by the Foreign Ministry.
By leading talks with the U.S. over missile defense, Kislyak has been at the center of one of the most divisive issues between Moscow and Washington of the post-Soviet era. Russia vehemently opposes U.S. plans to place elements of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, and has threatened an unspecified military response if the plans go through.
Russia claims the system would undermine its own missile capability, but Washington says the system is aimed only at intercepting possible missile attacks by rogue countries such as Iran.
US-Russian relations have been strained as well by other issues. Russia deeply resents the push by the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO, while both countries' aspirations are backed by the United States.
The United States also backed the independence of Kosovo, while Russia supports Serbia's contention that it should have remained part of Serbia.
From Russia, With Sell-Offs
Shares of giant Russian miner Mechel OAO, which trades American depository receipts on the New York Stock Exchange, have been pummeled after unexpected outbursts from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who criticized the company Thursday and then renewed his criticism Monday. The stock fell 7.3% in active trading in New York Tuesday, and shares are down 61% since July 16.
Mr. Putin criticized Mechel’s pricing policy for coking coal, alleging that the company was charging domestic customers double the international price. He has ordered an antitrust probe, but the harsh commentary reminded skittish Russian investors of the Kremlin’s attack on oil giant Yukos, which was charged with tax evasion in 2004 and later bought by a state-owned firm.
The second attack, where Mr. Putin also said the company has minimized tax payments, served notice to investors that Mr. Putin’s influence, for one, has not waned even though he is no longer the country’s president. “The case has also shown that Putin has a firm grip on economic policy. President Medvedev’s participation in the matter was conspicuous for its absence,” wrote fixed-income analysts at ING.
However, ING analysts also said that the business community in Russia is “much more attentive to what the state authorities say.” The company has already pledged to cooperate with authorities, and ING believes it is unlikely that the company will be “re-privatized in the Yukos style.”
Still, that has not stopped investors from selling shares and bonds. The two-year ruble-denominated bond of the company was yielding 13% overnight, compared with 9% last week, ING says. And the RTS, Russia’s benchmark index, is down 11% in the last week.
“If there is one thing that’s impossible to do without the rule of law, it’s to predict,” says attorney Robert Amsterdam, partner at Amsterdam & Petroff in Toronto. “The fact that [Mr. Putin] spoke a second time knowing the damage it would cause represents a matter of grave concern to all investors.”
Slavic rivals embroiled in church rift
As Ukraine and Russian churches drift apart, a sense of loss
|Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the titular head of Orthdox Christianity and President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine attend a ceremony at a Kiev's airport on Friday. Yushchenko is seeking Ukrainian independence from the Russian church|
President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine chose the 1,020th anniversary of the advent of Christianity in the Slavic kingdom that predated both Ukraine and Russia - a date that each country claims as a founding event of its nationhood - to issue a public plea for Ukraine's Orthodox Christians to gain independence from the Russian Orthodox Church.
With Orthodox church notables from around the world looking on, Yushchenko asked Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the titular spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians, to bless the creation of an independent Ukrainian church - "a blessing," he said, "for a dream, for the truth, for a hope, for our state, for Ukraine."
The Ukrainian president - who claims that Russian agents tried to murder him with poison that left him with a pockmarked face - snubbed the Russian Orthodox Patriarch, Alexei II, giving him a businesslike handshake after warmly kissing Bartholomew on both cheeks.
During three days of solemn religious ceremonies, rock concerts and political brinksmanship in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, the power struggle was not resolved. Both sides declared victory as Bartholomew stopped short of supporting or rejecting the independence movement, saying only that divisions in the Ukrainian church would have "problematic consequences for Ukraine's future."
But there was insulted pride and inflamed nationalism on both sides, and it was clear that it would be hard to resolve the dispute without causing a schism in the church, heating up ethnic tensions in Ukraine and deepening the division between Russia and the former Soviet republic.
The possibility of a split in the church revealed that behind the geopolitical bluster that the two countries have directed at each other since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 lies an identity crisis and a deep sense of loss.
Many Ukrainians believe the Russian empire and later the Soviet Union robbed them of the chance to develop a national identity, while many Russians feel that Ukraine is now claiming for itself both land and history that belong to them as well.
For Svetlana Dyomena, a nurse who prayed Monday at Yelokhovsky Cathedral in Moscow, the idea of an independent Ukrainian church immediately reminded her of her objections to an independent Ukraine.
"How can Ukraine not be part of Russia?" she said after lighting a candle at the turquoise, golden-domed church, which was the Russian capital's main practicing Orthodox cathedral under Soviet rule. "We have a common faith, a common history."
Dyomena said it was less painful to see countries like Georgia seek to escape Moscow's sphere of influence.
"Georgians - well, they were always from the Caucasus," she said, referring to the restive mountainous region that has fought wars against Russian rulers for centuries. But Ukraine and Russia, she said, have "one language, one religion, even one cuisine."
Ukrainians disagree. Russian was the language of government and education in Ukraine under the Soviet and Russian empires, and Ukrainians struggled to maintain their language. They view the absorption of the Ukrainian state and church into Russia's institutions under Peter the Great as an annexation that was not reversed until 1991.
"How can you live like neighbors when your neighbor says the house you live in is not your own house, but our common house?" asked Bishop Yevstraty, the spokesman for one of two Ukrainian breakaway churches, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchate, which the Moscow Patriarchate has declared heretical.
Establishing an independent church is essential for Ukraine to consolidate its national identity and statehood, and it will probably happen eventually, said Alexei Malashenko, an expert on religion and society at the Moscow Carnegie Center.
"But for Russia it is also a tragedy," he said. "I don't know how they are going to agree."
When Ukraine left the Soviet Union in 1991, the new nation took with it much that was dear to Russian hearts.
The Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, won by Catherine the Great from the Turks for the Russian empire, was a vacation getaway for generations of Russian nobles and, later, Soviet laborers. Its port, in Sevastopol, is the home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
Odessa, an important shipping hub now part of Ukraine, is also the source of cultural touchstones from its bawdy jokes to the famous shot of the baby carriage rolling down the steps in the classic Eisenstein film, Battleship Potemkin.
Even historical tragedies are subject to the tug of war: There is a Ukrainian movement to convince the world that the famines that killed millions of Soviets during forced collectivization was a genocide aimed at ethnic Ukrainians - while many Russians object that their ancestors, too, starved after being stripped of their private land.
But the biggest prize is the inheritance of Kievan Rus, the kingdom that Prince Vladimir converted to Christianity in the 10th century. Some historians consider the kingdom to be the predecessor of the three east Slavic nations existing today - Russia, Ukraine and Belarus - as well as a cultural high point in the medieval history of Europe as a whole.
Speaking in Kiev, the Russian patriarch called it "the mother of Russian cities, a city from where Holy Orthodoxy began to spread through our land."
Moscow church officials, who are close to the Kremlin, linked church unity to political efforts to maintain close ties among Slavic countries.
At a rock concert organized by the Moscow patriarchate, the popular rock band DDT performed alongside Metropolitan Kirill, a Moscow church spokesman who declared in a kind of ecclesiastical rap: "Russia, Ukraine, Belarus - That is Holy Rus!"
There is also division within Ukraine itself over the issue.
The idea of church independence is less popular in Ukraine's mainly Russian-speaking, pro-Russian industrialized south and east than in the Ukrainian-speaking, Western-leaning part of the country west of the Dniepr River.
Alexei II canceled a planned trip to Donetsk, a pro-Russian city, citing health reasons, but was widely seen to be either trying to avoid stirring up conflict by rallying his supporters, or to be leaving early because the Ukrainian president did not show him enough respect.
At Yelokhovsky Sobor, another worshipper, Aleftina Prosvirnikova, 65, declared that all the problems had started in Western Ukraine.
"The south and east - that's the normal, Russian Ukraine," she said.
Polish Football Federation pushes back date for new elections in wake of match-fixing scandal
The federation said Tuesday it was forced to delay the new elections after a Polish court rejected the organization's new bylaws that would have allowed it to shorten the time frame for calling elections from 90 to 45 days.
In April, the federation's governing board announced it would step down on Sept. 14, three months ahead of schedule. That decision was meant to pave the way for a vote on new leadership in the fallout of a widening corruption scandal that has rocked Polish soccer and caused a public outcry.
Prosecutors in Wroclaw launched an investigation in 2005 into corruption in Polish soccer. So far, authorities have charged about 120 people — including federation members, coaches, referees, players and club officials — with rigging matches in the top domestic leagues. Twenty-nine clubs have been implicated.
Meanwhile, Poland's top domestic league announced a further delay to the start of it season due to the corruption scandal.
The league postponed the first round of games last week, and league president Andrzej Rusko was quoted by PAP news agency on Tuesday as saying he hopes for play to instead start on Aug. 9.
The decision comes less than a week after a disputed ruling by the country's highest sports arbitration court that could result in two more teams being added to the league.
Earlier this year, the Polish federation relegated Widzew Lodz to the second tier after it was found guilty of match fixing.
Last week, the Polish Olympic Committee's arbitration court ruled that the punishment was too severe and that the statute of limitations had expired on the offense.
That ruling has opened the door for Korona Kielce and Zaglebie Lubin, which the federation also relegated to the second tier for match-fixing, to appeal their demotion and seek reinstatement. The Polish Olympic Committee hopes to rule on those appeals this week.
The postponed first-round and second-round games would be played later during the season.
Poland: State-owned military supplier faces corruption allegations
A construction project for a new zl.70-million headquarters facility for military optical-equipment producer Przemyslowe Centrum Optyki (PCO), a member of the state-owned military equipment giant Bumar group, has led to allegations of corruption after subcontractors claimed that they were not paid for their work.
One of the developers involved in the project, Warmet, was responsible for renovating several of the older buildings within the complex. Subcontractors hired by Warmet claim that they were not fully paid, and are now holding PCO responsible.
Warmet is a very small company, consisting of just a few people, according to a source close to the case. Documents obtained by WBJ indicate that the firm has not submitted financial statements to the National Court Registry (KRS) since 2004. The company’s bank accounts have been blocked and it has previously been sued a number of times for not paying its subcontractors, Jaroslaw Kowalczyk, president of Kowalczyk Incaso, a vindication company that is representing the subcontractors, told WBJ.
All of this begs the question as to why PCO decided on Warmet to carry out the renovation.
Public companies such as PCO are legally required to hold a tender for construction projects worth more than zl.5 million. However, Kowalczyk claims that a tender was never held. "Instead, the project was divided into several smaller parts, and each part had its own selection process," he told WBJ.
When asked for specifics about the selection process, Ryszard Kardasz, the president of PCO, pleaded ignorance. "I do not know any details," he said, claiming that PCO’s technical director and a member of the board, Robert Wrona, was in charge of the process. "If you want any details, call Wrona, because he is responsible for this," he said.
According to credible information obtained by WBJ, Mr. Wrona is accused of having a close relationship with Warmet executives and of intentionally granting Warmet the project without a tender.
WBJ attempted to contact Mr. Wrona several times, but was told he was unavailable for comment.
Whatever the reason, PCO’s failure to thoroughly investigate Warmet may cost them. According to Polish construction law, a project’s investor is responsible for payment for all work on the construction site, including work carried out by subcontractors.
Records show that PCO regularly paid Warmet for the work being carried out. Why Warmet’s subcontractors never got their share is unclear.
According to Kowalczyk, Kardasz claims that PCO has stopped payment to Warmet.
PCO, Warmet and Kowalczyk Incaso met at the end of July in an effort to try to hammer out a resolution, but none was found. The companies are expected to meet again in the coming days.
Former Justice Minister fled Warsaw to save immunity?
From: Polsjie Radio
Zbigniew Ziobro (Law and Justice) has denied that he fled Warsaw on Wednesday to cause disruption to the meting of the Regulations Committee that gathered on Wednesday to discuss steps to be taken to rid him of his MP’s mandate and hold him responsible for disclosing secret documents to his party chairman, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, in 2006.
Ziobro told Polish Radio Three on Friday morning that the committee, presided by the ruling Civic Platform, convened the gathering on Wednesday morning even though they knew he would not be able to attend it, as he had previously planned a press conference in Krakow, southern Poland, at that time.
Ziobro said he had informed the Regulations Committee that he could attend the meeting in the afternoon on the same day, but his political opponents from PO decided to go ahead with the meeting agenda to debate ridding him of the immunity in his absence.
Former Justice Minister said that the behaviour of his fellow party members, who attended the meeting and left the conference room ostentatiously after a row broke out when the chairman of the meeting, Stefan Niesiolowski (PO) decided to proceed without Ziobro’s presence, was justified.
Zbigniew Ziobro appealed to PO MPs for a public apology for insulting Polish voters and breaching the opposition’s rights.
Ziobro also declared that he would voluntarily give up his MP’s immunity provided he was given a chance to present his point of view before the Parliament.
The Speaker of the Lower House Bronislaw Komorowski admitted on Polish Radio One on Friday morning that the rules regulating the work of the Parliamentary Committees should be amended, explaining that the row between the PiS and PO MPs during the Regulation Committee’s gathering on Wednesday was unprecedented in the Polish Parliamentary history.
Komorowski stressed however, that the Committee gathering was not meant to be a “trap” for the former Justice Minister, because Ziobro left Warsaw after the Regulations Committee had gathered and “he knew he was fleeing Warsaw".
Polish footballers attack policemen
From: The News
At around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning the police were called to one of the pensions in the seaside town of Mileno, where the footballers were having a wild party. Piotr Swierczewski allegedly beat up the policemen and threatened to kill them, say reports. Radoslaw Majdan also took part in the brawl.
In order to restrain the violent men the police had to call a back-up team.
The public prosecutor’s office has already questioned the policemen who were attacked, each suffering facial injuries, but as the footballers were still drunk last night they will be interrogated later today.
The violent football players are likely to be charged with assault and battery and threatening to kill. They are facing 10 years in prison.
Polish politicians don’t deserve holidays, poll says
From: The News
The survey by the TBS OBOP pollster for the TVP Wiadomosci news programme reveals that 64 percent of Poles believe that politicians don’t deserve summer vacations.
The study also asked if respondents are proud of their politicians. More than a half (52 percent) said that there are no politicians in Poland to be proud of.
Only 2 percent said that they are proud of the majority of politicians and 39 percent admitted that only some parliamentarians make them feel good.
Though national politicians have earned the electorate’s contempt, local politicians have a better image. Twenty eight percent appreciate the work performed by local authorities though only one in five gave the thumbs up to the work of the government (17 percent) or president (16 percent). Just seven percent are satisfied with what parliament does.
As many as 17 percent of respondents, however, said that they don’t appreciate any of these institutions.
Nadezhda Ostapchuk shows season's best throw result
The silver medal went to Sydney Olympic champion Yanina Provalinskaya-Karolchik (18.49m).
Andrei Mikhnevich took the men’s event title with a mark of 22m, his personal best.
Dmitry Sivakov was victorious in discuss throwing (64.83m).
The gold medal winners in hammer throwing were Daria Pchelnik (74.24m) and Valery Svyatokho (81.31m).
Alexander Ashomko (84,27m) and Marina Buksa (52.80m) won the javelin.
Belarus wins three medals at World Rowing Championships in Austria
Belarusian Olga Scherbachenia, Natalia Gelakh, Yulia Bichik and Anna Nakhaeva won the W4- 2000m title at the World Rowing Sr and Jr Championships in Linz. The Belarusian team was 3.67 seconds ahead of the USA and Denmark. After the world championships Natalia Gelakh and Yulia Bichik will go to Beijing where they will compete in the Women’s Pairs (W2-).
The Belarusian juniours (Maria Smolyakova, Ekaterina Shliupskaya, Ekaterina Bakhankova, Maria Dubik) picked up silver in the W4-. Ekaterina Yarmolich and Tatiana Kukhto came in third in the Women’s Pairs.
Alexander Gleb debuts in FC Barcelona
Yesterday, July 24, captain of the Belarusian national football team Alexander Gleb debuted in the first game of the preseason of FC Barcelona with which he signed a four-year contract.
Alexander Gleb was sent in at the 66th minute of the match against Scotland’s FC Hibernian. The match ended at 0:6 in favour of Barcelona.
While in Scotland, the Catalonians plan to play two more sparring matches with the local Dundee United and Hearts.
FC BATE into Champions League second qualifying round
FC BATE Borisov beat Iceland’s Valur 1:0 in the second-leg match of the first qualifying round of the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League that took place in Reykjavik on July 23. The goal was scored by Igor Stasevich in the 1st minute of the match.
A reminder, BATE scored a 2:0 victory in the first-leg match in Borisov.
The Belarusian club will face RSC Anderlecht of Belgium in the second qualifying round.
Alla Pugacheva appreciates civil position of Belarusian participant of New Wave 2008
|Brest plays host to the brass bands festival 2008|
According to the New Wave 2008 official website, Alla Pugacheva’s prize “Golden Star of Alla” went to Belarusian participant Uncle Vanya (Ivan Vabishchevich).
The mega star of the Russian stage noted that the Belarusian singer, though not excelling vocally, has the most important thing- a civil position which is quite rare for modern artistes. Alla Pugacheva also thinks that the Belarusian singer possesses manliness and has a peculiar image.
This estimation contrasted with the one given by the jury, this is why Alla Pugacheva’s prize came as something of a surprise to Ivan Vabishchevich, too. The second “Golden Star of Alla” went to the participant from Kyrgyzstan, Omar. This prize was established in 2005, and the first one to receive it was Ukrainian singer Tina Karol.
The first prize of the New Wave 2008 went to the Georgian duet called Georgia. Iris from Russia took the second prize. Italian singer Allessandro Ristori was awarded the third prize. All of them received diplomas and prizes - $70 thousand, $40 thousand and $30 thousand respectively.
Monument to Day of Belarusian Written Language to be set up in Borisov
A monument to the Day of the Belarusian Written Language is to be set up in Borisov, the capital of the 15th festival, BelTA learnt from Deputy Information Minister of Belarus Igor Laptenok.
A monument is to be erected in one of the parks of the town. It is meant to represent the 15 year old history of the Day of the Belarusian Written Language. 12 steles will be put up to symbolize all the towns where the festival was previously held.
The Day of the Belarusian Written Language has been held in Belarus starting from 1994. The first one was organized in Polotsk. After that the festival took place in Turov, Novogrudok, Nesvizh, Orsha, Pinsk, Zaslavl, Mstislavl, Mir, Kamenets, Postavy, Shklov.
The theme of the anniversary festival is the historical role of the Belarusian culture and written language. The festival is dedicated to the history of the Day of the Belarusian Written Language. The festive venues will take place at the Center of Culture. Every town will be presented at a separate ground with meetings, presentations and art group performances. Most of the events will be held on September 7.
Participating in the festival in Borisov will be Russian, Ukrainian and Serbian writers. The guests from the Baltic states and Moldova may also come to Borisov. Representatives of about 30 diplomatic missions are expected to attend the festival.
An unprecedented number of Belarusian writers will participate in the festival. Up 120 members of the Union of Belarusian Writers plan to come to Borisov.
Poland’s left turn
From: Socialist Worker
Poland has been presented as a neoliberal success story in eastern Europe. And against the background of recession and near recession in several European Union (EU) countries, Polish economic growth looks quite healthy – it is currently 6.4 percent.
But with other countries, especially Germany, in trouble the fear is that the growing economic crisis will hurt Poland too.
Despite this unemployment is decreasing, from 20 percent a few years ago to around 10 percent today, though this fall is partially due to a mass emigration in search of jobs. In some sectors in Poland, such as construction, employers are crying out for workers.
This means that workers are feeling more confident to fight. Government figures show that two years ago there were 659 collective disputes – last year there were over 2,800, mostly over wages.
Inflation is fuelling the militancy. Many groups of workers are winning without strikes, with the threat of strike action enough to win a pay increase.
Unions are organising in sectors that were previously non-union, such as among security guards and in supermarkets. Recently the first ever strike in a Polish supermarket took place in Tesco.
The worst insult in politics is now to call someone a “liberal” or a “neoliberal”. The Civic Platform, the most pro-business party, won last October’s parliamentary elections by pretending it was not neoliberal.
The government wants to attack workers’ rights, including depriving 900,000 people of the right to early retirement.
But it does not know how to go about its attacks in the face of workers’ growing confidence.
In these conditions, the prospects for building a genuine left in Poland with broad support are good. People often have left wing views without calling themselves left wing.
Unfortunately, the left is commonly associated with 50 years of a Stalinist state that ruled in the name of Communism before 1990.
It is also connected with the free market and pro-war policies of the “post-communist” SLD social democrats.
Despite this, opinion polls suggest people would be open to a new, authentic left if activists seize the opportunity to build one now.
In a poll conducted in April people were asked what kind of party they would like to see.
Some 89 percent said they wanted a party whose aim was to help the poor and excluded, and 62 percent wanted a party that cared for the interests of wage earners.
While 59 percent also said they wanted a party that would fight for the rights of women and minorities – including sexual minorities. This is important in a country where the Catholic church has a huge influence.
Other polls show most people opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Polish troops were deployed, and the installation of the US nuclear missile “shield” in Poland, which many see as aimed at Russia. The majority of the population support strikers.
Things have changed dramatically in Poland. It is almost 20 years since cheering crowds, with hopes that
the free market would transform their lives, greeted US president George Bush senior.
When his son came to Poland last year he was protected by thousands of police and kept away from the public.
There have been several interesting developments on the left in recent years. The leaders of August 80 have created the Polish Labour Party (PPP).
This is a left wing party that originates from the Solidarity union movement, which led the revolt against Stalinism but then moved to accept the market.
The PPP criticises neoliberalism, support strikes and tenants evicted from their homes, and takes part in anti-war demonstrations.
It has stood candidates for parliament and the presidency.
The weakness of the party is that it is based on one trade union. The leader of the union is also the leader of the party.
Another interesting grouping is made up of the people around the journal Political Critique. They have held meetings that have attracted around 100 people in various towns.
They did good work last year when they produced a newspaper with the nurses protesting outside the prime minister’s office for better pay and conditions.
Some members of the Greens 2004 are involved in Political Critique. This is significant as when the party emerged it was not so critical of neoliberalism.
Other groups include the New Left led by Piotr Ikonowicz, who was the most left wing member of parliament for most of the 1990s, and a non-party grouping called the Young Socialists.
The SLD social democrats are keen to incorporate such people into their orbit to pull them back towards acceptance of the market. But the genuine left is pulling in the other direction.
The most important way to build a real left is to work around issues in which the maximum numbers of those not affiliated to any organisation can be mobilised.
Workers’ struggles are key to building a new left. This can involve a wide number of people not affiliated to any organisation.
The left must mobilise in support of strikes and demonstrations to strengthen them. This can help ensure that trade unionists are not abandoned to the establishment parties.
Trade union and anti-war protests have seen the biggest mobilisations in Poland in recent years.
Poland will be at the centre of the world’s media attention when the United Nations (UN) climate conference is held in Poznan. This is a wonderful opportunity for organising a sizeable protest and an alternative conference.
The mood may be left wing among the public but inside parliament all four parties support some shade of neoliberalism. If we can manage to form a broader left for the European parliamentary elections next year it will be a huge step forward.
A coalition of organisations and unaffiliated activists will encourage workers in their struggles and strengthen movements against war, poverty, discrimination and climate change.
The development of a revolutionary left will be key to successfully linking the different movements and shifting politics to the left.