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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, August 06, 2008

More harvest News, CIS, Gazdebt, MAZ, Pensions up, Karen Stewart, Kazulin, Solzhenitsyn, Russia, Polish scandal, culture and Sport

  • From the Top...
  • #331

    Belarus’ grain harvest to approach 4 million tonnes today

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    The President on a tour of the Gommel region this week
    By the end of the day Belarus’ grain harvest is expected to approach 4 million tonnes, Agriculture and Food Minister Semyon Shapiro told President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko as the President visited the Dzerzhinsk region on August 5.

    The Minister remarked, according to provisional estimations this year’s harvest is expected to reach 8 million tonnes. In the morning of August 5 the collected harvest amounted to around 3.4 million tonnes.

    Alexander Lukashenko stressed one more time the crops should be harvested as fast as possible and without losses.

    The President got familiar with the operation of OAO Agricultural Company Dzerzhinsky, visited a grain field of the company, where Alexander Lukashenko saw capabilities of Gomselmash-made combine harvester Polesie-14. Specialists say qualities of the Belarusian harvester parallel those of US grain harvesters John Deere.

    The head of state underscored for the next harvesting campaign Belarusian machines should be polished, with existing defects removed.

    The same day the President visited the poultry factory, which is part of Agricultural Company Dzerzhinsky. Alexander Lukashenko got familiar with effective plans for production development as well as technologies used for advanced processing of poultry meat.

    President urges to optimise rapeseed processing

    The efficiency of rapeseed processing in Belarus needs to be increased, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said as he visited the Dzerzhinsk region on August 5.

    The responsibility for addressing the issue of establishing complete rapeseed processing is vested with Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky.

    The problem is urgent. We need to optimise processing of this crop in the country. The situation with rapeseed today resembles the sugar problem when sugar refineries could not cope with the harvest of 3.5 million tonnes, the President said.

    Alexander Lukashenko urged to construct as many rapeseed processing facilities as necessary by the start of a harvest campaign next year.

    Alexander Lukashenko in disfavour of artificial enlargement of farms

    In Belarus matters relating to the enlargement and mergers of agricultural companies should be approached carefully, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said when he visited the Dzerzhinsk region on August 5.

    On the whole, Alexander Lukashenko was positive about practices used by OAO Agricultural Company Dzerzhinsky (Agrokombinat Dzerzhinsky). It was founded as a poultry factory and now unites several agricultural companies. Specialists say that approaches used by the company will allow increasing the output as well as salaries.

    The President asked Agriculture and Food Minister Semyon Shapiro to thoroughly work out possible projects for further development of poultry factories and their expansion if need be.

    “There should be no artificial mergers. If you can do without mergers, please do so. Profitability is the most important thing. Agricultural companies should be enlarged only after consideration, pursuing practical goals and merged with a stable rich company. We have examples to follow and decisions should be taken using relevant examples,” stressed the head of state.

    “It is not limited to poultry factories. We have various cattle-breeding facilities, which can be used to unite agricultural companies,” remarked the President. “Actions should be taken when it is necessary, when there is a market to sell products”.

    He underscored Belarus already has many examples of effectively operating cattle breeding businesses. These positive practices should be assimilated everywhere.

    Alexander Lukashenko added, such enlargement decisions should be taken without delays. “We should get this phase over with fast. These are kind of growth points. Tomorrow we won’t have to see to fields, we will deal with future plans,” said the President.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Information about gengineered components in food now on price tags in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    The Belarusian government has stepped up regulations for selling products, which contain genetically modified components, and has amended relevant retail trade regulations. Information about gengineered components in food will now be available on price tags. The decision is laid down by the Council of Ministers’ resolution No 1115 of August 4.

    Head of the trade and services organisation department of the Trade Ministry Lyudmila Petrakovskaya told BelTA, now sellers will have to indicate information about gengineered products using price tags or labels, stickers and posters.

    In Belarus producers are supposed to place such information on retail packaging but prefer doing it in fine print. In short they are not intent on advertising it.

    The measure is meant to decrease risks for life and health of individuals brought about by the consumption of food, which contains gengineered components.

    According to the source, gengineered components are more often represented in foreign food (soy beans). Belarusian producers prefer manufacturing products using only natural components.

    CIS Heads of State to discuss 18 issues at Bishkek summit

    From: BelTA
    The CIS main bodies are to consider a number of documents stipulated in the concept of the CIS further development, BelTA learnt from Russia’s permanent representative in the CIS Eugeny Belov who is to take part in the session of the CIS council of permanent plenipotentiary representatives in the CIS main bodies that is to take place in Minsk on August 5.

    He noted that the CIS permanent plenipotentiary representatives will discuss the draft agenda of the sessions of the CIS Ministerial Council and the CIS Council of the Heads of State, which are due to take place in Bishkek in early October 2008, and provisional agenda for a session of the CIS Heads of Government.

    The draft agenda for the session of the CIS Ministerial Council includes 23 issues concerning cooperation of the CIS countries in humanitarian field, power engineering and security. The Heads of State are expected to discuss 18 issues. They include the draft strategy of the CIS economic development for the time period till 2020 and the CIS presidency. They will also decide whether the cooperation in the energy field should become the key area of the cooperation in 2009. The Heads of Government are expected to discuss 36 issues.

    The permanent representatives will also hear a report on the activity of the joint commission for cooperation in counteracting illegal migration. The session will also focus on the coverage of the CIS activities in the course books of the CIS countries and on staging an international football tournament.

    Belarus pays off Russian gas supplied in H1 2008 in full, Gazprom says

    From: BelTA
    Belarus has paid off the Russian gas supplied in H1 this year in full. The statement was made during a meeting between Deputy Energy Minister of Belarus Rimma Filimonova, Beltransgaz Director General Vladimir Maiorov and Deputy Head of Gazprom Board of Directors Valery Golubev, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Russian gas concern.

    “The supplement to the contract which was signed in July settled all the problems concerning the supplies of Russian gas to Belarus and its transit in 2008. The payments for the gas used by Belarus in H1 and also the payments for its transit have been made in full,” representatives of Gazprom noted.

    During the meeting the sides agreed the price policy for the gas sold in Belarus, settled all financial and economic problems of the joint venture Beltransgaz in 2008.

    The Belarusian and Russian sides summed up the cooperation in the gas area in H1 this year, considered the prospects of the work till the end of 2008. The sides are satisfied with the course of implementation of the long-term contract for the delivery and transit of gas in 2008, specialists of Gazprom noted.

    First MAZ vehicles with new YMZ engines exported to Russia

    From: BelTA
    Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ trademark) has delivered the first party of MAZ vehicles with the new YMZ-650 engines to Russia. The new MAZ trucks have already been exported to Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Volgograd, Chelyabinsk, Nizhni Novgorod, Yaroslavl, Samara, Krasnodar, Tver, Sochi and Kiev.

    The GAZ Group press service told BelTA that the newest samples of the MAZ road tractive vehicles equipped with the new engine YMZ-650 were presented at the conference of the dealers of GAZ Group and Minsk Automobile Plant. The dealers and major customers got familiar with the advantages and distinctive features of the new MAZ vehicles with YMZ engines and their maintenance.

    The conference featured the joint strategy of GAZ Group and MAZ on the development of new kinds of automobile products. The participants of the forum discussed the acute issues related to the sales of the new machinery in the regions and the maintenance of the MAZ vehicles equipped with YMZ-650 engines. Participating in the conference were about 100 representatives of distribution and service networks from various regions.

    GAZ Group is the largest manufacturer of automobile transport and road construction machinery. It comprises OAO GAZ, 18 Russian automobile construction companies, the British LDV company, distribution and service networks.

  • Economics...

    Retirement pensions in Belarus up 11.2% on August 1

    From: BelTA
    Retirement pensions in Belarus were increased 11.2% on average on August 1. President of Belarus signed relevant decree No 415 on August 4, BelTA was told in the press service of the Belarusian leader.

    Thus, an average retirement pension will be equal to Br408,100.

    The move is aimed at improving the social security of retirees, meeting the pension security target of the socio-economic development forecast for 2008, informed the press service.

    Belarus GDP growth CIS second in H1

    In H1 2008, Belarus’ GDP growth stood at the level of 10.4% to January-June 2007, the second place among the CIS countries, BelTA learnt from the CIS Statistics Committee.

    The highest GDP growth for the six months was registered in Azerbaijan – 16.5%. Armenia’s GDP growth of 10.3% took the third place. GDP in Uzbekistan went up by 9.3%, in Russia – by 8.2%, in Kyrgyzstan – by 7.1%, in Ukraine – by 6.3%, in Tajikistan – by 5.8%.

    On average the CIS gross domestic product in H1 grew 8% over the same point a year ago.

    There is no information about the GDP growth in Turkmenistan. As for Georgia and Moldova, GDP growth for Q1 made up 9.3% and 4.3% respectively.

    BPC to boost potash fertilizer exports to USA in 2008

    In 2008, the Belarusian Potash Company (BPC) plans to increase supplies of potash fertilizers to the USA up to 800,000 tonnes, BPC director general Vladimir Nikolayenko told reporters on August 5.

    “Our analysts predict that the demand for potash fertilizers will grow in North America within five or seven years. According to preliminary estimates, the growth rate will account for 3% per year”, the general director said. “It makes the market of the region attractive for our company”.

    According to Vladimir Nikolayenko, BPC delivers 500,000-700,000 tonnes of potash fertilizers to the USA annually. In July 2008, the company signed a contract to ship 30,000 tonnes of potash fertilizers to the USA at the price of $1,000 per tonne. Deliveries will commence in August.

  • From the International Press...

    Departed U.S. ambassador to Belarus gets new post

    From: Reuters
    The U.S. ambassador to Belarus, asked by authorities to leave Minsk during a row over sanctions, has been given a new job with international responsibility for human rights, the U.S. embassy said on Tuesday.

    Karen Stewart, a frequent critic of Belarus's human rights record, has been appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

    She left Minsk in March at the urging of authorities who also twice ordered cuts in the size of the embassy staff, now numbering five.

    Charge d'affaires Jonathan Moore, the senior U.S. diplomat in Belarus, said the appointment ended Stewart's assignment in Minsk and further nominations were a matter for the White House.

    Both the United States and European Union maintain sanctions against Belarus, including an entry ban on President Alexander Lukashenko, on grounds that he violates fundamental freedoms.

    Stewart had said immediately after her departure that she hoped at some point to return to Minsk.

    Lukashenko has in the past year tried to improve ties with the West, particularly the EU, after relations with traditional ally Russia became uneasy over energy price increases.

    Belarussian authorities, anxious to attract foreign investment and sell off state banks and other enterprises, have been particularly aggrieved at U.S. economic sanctions against oil producer Belneftekhim.

    Several EU states have suggested that a parliamentary election next month, if held according to Western standards, could improve ties with Belarus. The opposition holds no seats in the current parliament.

    Lukashenko has vowed the vote will be free and fair and election officials have allowed nearly all opposition candidates to begin registration procedures -- unlike at previous polls.

    Belarus oppn sacks leader ahead of vote

    From: The Peninsula
    A Belarussian opposition party has sacked its jailed leader, seen in the West as the country's most prominent political prisoner, ahead of parliamentary elections in September.

    The Social Democrats decided on Sunday to replace Alexander Kozulin, a former presidential candidate who is serving a 5 ? year prison sentence for organising protests against President Alexander Lukashenko's 2006 reelection, by Anatoly Lenkovich, a former deputy head.

    Kozulin, who had been involved in a personal dispute with Lenkovich, was appointed the party's honorary chairman, a ceremonial position. Kozulin last year refused an offer by Lukashenko to go free on condition he leaves Belarus, saying that amounted to exile.

    Western countries demand his release as a condition for resuming dialogue with Minsk, accused of violating basic rights.

    His supporters argued that the move to replace Kozulin would play into the hands of the government.

    Belarus sees 800,000 T in '08 potash export to U.S

    From: Reuters
    Belarussian Potash Company will increase exports of the mined fertilser to the United States to 800,000 tonnes this year against the 500,000-700,000 tonnes of previous years, the firm's director said on Tuesday.

    The company, a 50-50 joint venture between Belaruskali and Russia's Uralkali (URKA.MM: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), is the world's biggest potash exporter.

    In July, the company announced a contract with the United States for 30,000 tonnes at $1,000 per tonne and later a 40,000 tonne deal with Sri Lanka for a record price of $1,050.

    "According to our analysts, in the next five-to-seven years, demand for potash fertiliser will rise significantly in North America, which makes the market in the region very attractive for our company," General Director Vladimir Nikolaenko told journalists.

    The company exported about 12 million tonnes of potash last year to 45 countries, including China, India and countries in Latin America.

  • From the Opposition...

    Kobryn: MP confesses blackmailing Alexander Mekh

    From: Viasna
    Kobryn court has carried out preliminary consideration of the case on complaint of the Belarusian popular Front Party activist Alexander Mekh. He complains of illegal dismissal from work.

    A month ago Alexander Mekh, an engineer of Kobryn branch of Beltransgas, a member of the Belarusian Popular Front party decided to take part in the Parliamentary election, and after that he was dismissed. He was on the list of 110 deputies of democratic parties. On 28 July he sent a complaint to the court and challenged the dismissal as an illegal and politically motivated one. On 4 August a preliminary session of the court trying on the complaint took place, informs.

    Alexander Babaskin, judge of Kobryn court, showed two positive signals. He asked the head of Kobryn branch of Beltransgas Uladizmir Halishka whether a conversation with Mekh had taken place when he was offered to choose ‘either work or elections’, and was given a positive answer. Besides, the legal adviser of the head office of Beltransgads, who was a representative of the employer as well, was asked whether Mekh had had reprimands at work. When answered he hadn’t, the legal adviser was asked why the contract had been concluded several times over one year, and why it hasn’t been prolonged. The answer was;” It’s a right of the employer”. And “I do not know”.

    Judge Barabaskin could have been given a credit also for allowing a representative of the complainant, a lawyer of the independent Belarusian Radio and Electronics Workers’ Union (REWU) Uladzimir Malei, if it had not been for his words: ‘Well, are we going to argue with you again?’

    The amicable settlement agreement offered by Malei, was declined. It means that the complainant as before insists on reinstating at work, on a payment for his forced absence, moral damages of 500 000 Br for politically motivated discrimination at the working place.

    The court satisfied A.Mekh’s motion on making available the collective contract of 2004 to him. He was not allowed to read it when he was dismissed. And the court could have force Beltransgas to grant an original document, as requested by lawyer Malei, as a Minsk representative of the firm brought extracts from the document and offered to read its internet-version (!). It looks as if workers do not have an opportunity to read the collective contract, as it is kept in the head office in Minsk, as Mr. Mekh was told.

    Motions on calling witnesses to the court were satisfied as well. A publication of a Dictaphone-recorded conversation of Alexander Mekh with the head of the branch office Halashka and the head of Kobryn regional KGB office Basko on June 4 published in the Narodnaya Volia appeared in the court. The conversation had elements of blackmailing and threats.

    The next session of the court is to take place on August 22 at 10 a.m.

    ‘The mission of Judge Babaskin can hardly be accomplished’, one of the BPF activists said. ‘On one hand, the recording by Mekh in the office of Mr. Halashka has undoubtedly shown the politically motivated character of the dismissal. The case has become widely discussed by independent media and in people’s rumors.

    Lukashenka spat upon Council of Europe’s appeals

    From: Charter '97
    In the run-up to the “elections” Alyaksandr Lukashenka defiantly signed into law the new version on mass media, ignoring appeals of the Council of Europe that this law could finally destroy freedom of speech in Belarus. As we have informed, not long before Lukashenka’s signing the draft law, Andrea Rigoni, special rapporteur on Belarus in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), urged Minsk to refrain from enacting a new media law.

    “I call on the Belarusian authorities to suspend any further examination of this draft and its entry into force,” Mr. Rigoni said.

    “Once this legislation comes into force, it will restrict freedom of information in the country even further, especially when it comes to electronic media, and will extend the power of the authorities to interfere with media activities in a way which is contrary to European standards,” Mr. Rigoni says in a statement issued in Strasbourg on July 1. “What is more, even before its entry into force, the new draft law is bound to have a chilling effect of self-censorship on the media. Given the forthcoming parliamentary elections, this gives particular and acute cause for concern.”

    As the Charter’97 informed, a number of international organisations urged the Belarusian authorities not to adopt this document. Among them were the OSCE, the European Commission, the international human rights organisations “Reporters without Borders”.

    The new law introduces registration of mass media distributed via World Wide Web. This registration and activities of mass media are to be regulated not by a law, but by enactments of the Council of Ministers of Belarus. Activates of any

    Besides, the law bans registration of mass media with more than 30% of a foreign capital’s share. To disseminate a foreign publication at the territory of the country, a special permission is needed. Accreditation of foreign media’s journalists at the territory of Belarus is to become obligatory.

    Under the draft law on mass media, the list of violations for which an official warning could be made to the editorial office, is imprecise and not defined clearly, and it is possible to suspend issuing a mass media even after one warning. And not only the Information Ministry, but any judge, prosecutor of official of any district capital could issue warnings to mass media. A warning can be issued for “dissemination of unreliable information which can damage state or public interests”.

    Under the new law, the state registration of on-line mass media is within the competence of the Council of Ministers of Belarus. It is stated that all registered mass media are to be included in the state register of mass media. The information Ministry is responsible for its creation.

    Lukashenka is given a right to address the nation on important issues of public and political life without preliminary consultation with the state-run TV and radio authorities. The new law does not contain a provision that the organisations at which a journalist is accredited, are to inform him or her about upcoming events or provide documents.

    The law is to come into force in 6 months after its official publication.

  • Around the region...

    Russia pays Solzhenitsyn respects

    From: BBC
    Russians have been paying their last respects to writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died on Sunday at the age of 89.

    The open coffin of Solzhenitsyn, whose books revealed the horrors of Stalin's regime, is lying in state at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

    People bearing flowers filed past the coffin making the sign of the cross.

    His body will be buried in an Orthodox ceremony at the 16th Century Donskoi Monastery in the capital on Wednesday.

    The writer's wife Natalya and his two sons, Stepan and Yermolai, stood near to the coffin as mourners walked through the cavernous hall to lay long-stemmed flowers at the foot of the casket.

    The author of The Gulag Archipelago and One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich died of heart failure on Sunday at his home near Moscow.

    Solzhenitsyn had returned to Russia in 1994, following two decades in exile in the West.

    The mourners included Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who embraced Solzhenitsyn's wife as he passed the coffin.

    In later televised remarks, Mr Putin said: "Through his works and his entire life he inoculated our society against tyranny in all its forms."

    He called for Solzhenitsyn's works to become an important part of the Russian school curriculum.

    The Soviet Union's last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, was also in attendance. He said: "[Solzhenitsyn] was a free spirit. I respected him a lot even though we had our differences."

    One mourner, holding a copy of one of Solzhenitsyn's most famous texts and a bunch of white flowers, told AFP news agency that the writer's death had come as a shock.

    "I came here because in the 1970s, I read this one little book that completely changed everything for me... When I heard the news yesterday, it was a terrible blow for me," said 64-year-old Sergei Aristarkhov.

    News of the Nobel laureate's death prompted tributes in Russia and around the world.

    Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who restored Solzhenitsyn's citizenship in 1990 and whose reforms helped end communism, said the writer had played a key role in undermining Stalin's totalitarian regime.

    His works "changed the consciousness of millions of people", Mr Gorbachev said.

    France's President Nicolas Sarkozy described him as "one of the greatest consciences of 20th-Century Russia" and praised his intransigence and ideals in the face of personal danger.

    Soldier, prisoner, celebrity

    Solzhenitsyn served as a Soviet artillery officer in World War II and was decorated for his courage, but in 1945 was denounced for criticising Stalin in a letter.

    He spent the next eight years in the Soviet prison system, or Gulag, before being internally exiled to Kazakhstan, where he was successfully treated for stomach cancer.

    Publication in 1962 of the novella Denisovich, an account of a day in a Gulag prisoner's life, made him a celebrity during the post-Stalin political thaw.

    However, within a decade, the writer awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature was out of favour again for his work, and was being harassed by the KGB secret police.

    In 1973, the first of the three volumes of Archipelago, a detailed account of the systematic Soviet abuses from 1918 to 1956 in the vast network of its prison and labour camps, was published in the West.

    Its publication sparked a furious backlash in the Soviet press, which denounced him as a traitor.

    Early in 1974, the Soviet authorities stripped him of his citizenship and expelled him from the country.

    He settled in Vermont, in the US, where he completed the other two volumes of Archipelago.

    While living there as a recluse, he railed against what he saw as the moral corruption of the West.

    Scathing of Boris Yeltsin's brand of democracy, he did not return to Russia immediately upon the collapse of the USSR in 1992, unlike other exiles, but made a dramatic homecoming in 1994.

    Ukraine Confident Of Keeping Euro 2012

    There have been fears that the country would not be ready to fulfil its duty as a co-host along with Poland in 2012.

    UEFA president Michel Platini (pictured) had warned the country over its slow preparations in a recent visit. There will be a meeting next month to confirm whether they will retain their status as co-hosts.

    “There is no doubt that the final of the Euro 2012 championship will take place in Ukraine,” Storozhenko told the press.

    “No one is going to take it away and any such talk is sheer gossip. But our people are such that we need time for reflection. And I would say that this time is up.”

    Hungary and Croatia are outside contenders to co-host the showpiece, and Italy have also thrown their hat in the ring as a country already well equipped to host the tournament.

    Lithuania coach quits to launch political career

    From: AP
    Lithuania coach Algimantas Liubinskas has quit his job to concentrate on campaigning for a seat in parliament, the Baltic state's football federation announced on Monday.

    In a statement on its website, the Lithuanian federation said Liubinskas had officially handed in his resignation, ending weeks of speculation about his future after pressure from the country's footballing body.

    Liubinskas, 56, said he regretted having been forced to choose between his sporting career and political future.

    "I will try to continue to work for the development of football, and for sport as a whole" from the benches of parliament if elected in the October 12 parliamentary polls, he told fans' website

    Liubinskas' political choice is far from uncontroversial: he is standing for the populist Order and Justice Party, which is lead by Lithuania's impeached former president, Rolandas Paksas.

    Liubinskas began his football career in the 1970s as a player with Vilnius side Zalgiris and in the 1980s managed the club in what was then the Soviet league.

    He has been at the helm of Lithuania twice.

    He was Lithuania's first coach after 1992, when they returned to international football a year after the country regained its independence following five decades of Soviet rule.

    In 1995 he went back to club football following a spat with the federation, and coached sides in Lithuania and neighbouring Poland before returning to the national fold in 2002 as Under-21 coach.

    He got back the job of steering the senior side in 2003, and oversaw two notable feats by the European minnows when they held Germany to a 1-1 draw during qualification for Euro 2004 and managed the same score against Italy ahead of Euro 2008.

    The federation said several potential replacements for Liubinskas were in the frame, but did not reveal their names.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Government divided over nepotism

    From: The News
    Deputy PM Waldemar Pawlak (pictured) and anticorruption minister Julia Pitera disagree over the significance of nepotism in Polish public life.

    "One should be glad when children show similar interests to their parents and want to want to follow in their footsteps,” Waldemar Pawlak told Polish Radio this morning.

    Pawlak said that nobody should be ostracised for being related to a political party member.

    Deputy PM Waldemar Pawlak’s Peasants Party (PSL) was mentioned in the recently published report by minister in charge of fighting corruption, Julia Pitera’s report on the subject.

    Julia Pitera,also on Polish Radio Three Monday morning, said that the practice among civil servants in Poland - favouring relatives or friends by giving them jobs over better qualified staff - was a complex problem, particularly at the local government level.

    Minister Pitera assured Polish Radio listeners that the government was doing its best to curb nepotism and ensure that the Polish state administration is run in an honest and professional manner.

    Julia Pitera said it was often very difficult to detect instances of Polish politicians awarding lucrative positions to their family members or friends, as there were hundreds of local-level institutions in Poland. Pitera acknowledged that those institutions were often submitted to tremendous pressure from influential individuals to employ those designated by them.

    She added that she rejected the arguments voiced in the public debate on nepotism by Deputy Premier and Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak, who said that there was nothing wrong in giving employment to family members.

    Stadium Chief Accused

    From: NWE
    The plans for construction of a national stadium in central Warsaw took a hit this week with a scandal developing around the head of the government agency behind the project.

    Prosecutors are investigating charges by Dziennik daily that Michal Borowski, previously Warsaw’s chief city architect, lied on property declarations while working in his previous post. The paper say he hid vested interests in the form of shares in a series of architectural and construction sector companies based in Sweden.

    Daily Rzeczpospolita also claims Borowski was at the center of a political cabal which was formed to funnel money out to allies of the last Law and Justice government.

    Borowski denies the charges and says he will await the results of the investigation.

    “I started working in the mayor’s office on August 18, 2003, and resigned from the boards of these companies on August 21,” he told a news conference.

    Save Ziobro

    From: NWE
    Opposition Law and Justice MPs brought parliament’s rules commission to a standstill this week in a protest against attempts to charge PiS former Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro with improperly distributing state secrets.

    Prosecutors say Ziobro, the iron man of the last government and a possible candidate for president or prime minister at the next elections, passed party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski files on the investigation against the “fuel mafia” – which has implicated a number of politicians, mostly on the left of the spectrum. Ziobro claims Kaczynski was a member of the national security agency and hence entitled to the documents at the time – their opponents say the aim was just to search for political sleaze on opposition figures for the government’s use.

    Either way, the national news was packed with Wednesday’s chaotic scenes in parliament. More than 100 PiS MPs turned up, saying they had questions for the committee. This effectively stopped the committee from voting to remove Ziobro’s legal immunity as an MP, and government officials described it as a return to the sit-in tactics of hard left farmers leader Andrzej Lepper, which blocked parliament from working in 2001 and 2002. Never the one to turn the other cheek, Kaczynski compared the ruling coalition’s tactics to those used by communists to crack down on the democratic opposition during martial law.

    “The spirit of [communist strongman Czeslaw] Kiszczak has returned to the Sejm,” he told reporters.

    The row is likely to continue when Parliament returns from its five-week holiday in September.

    Baby Abuse Cases Shock Country

    From: NWE
    One man is being charged with murder and another woman investigated for neglect after two incidents where young babies were pushed or fell out of apartment windows in Warsaw’s Praga district last week.

    Zbigniew W., a resident of Warsaw’s famously rough ul. Stalowa in the eastern Praga district, admitted to “throwing something out of the window but did not know what”, while drunk on Monday, July 21.

    His infant daughter, born just hours earlier, died in hospital the same day after being found lying on the ground outside the family’s flat.

    “The suspect has admitted to the charge [of murder],” a spokesman for city prosecutors told reporters on Wednesday.

    Both parents and the girl’s grandmother were detained under the influence of alcohol at the scene, and the mother was taken to hospital for treatment. The family has a second older child who has previously been removed from the home.

    The second case also related to a Warsaw woman, who was also drunk when she left her five-year-old daughter alone in the home on Wednesday. The girl is in hospital after falling out of the second floor flat.

    Child abuse and parental neglect has become a generally bigger issue in Poland in recent years, most memorably after a shocking incident that made international headlines where a family kept the bodies of several smothered infants in a barrel in their home.

  • Drunken fools...

    Roll On

    From: NWE
    A road worker building a new roundabout in the western town of Wschowa may have set a new standard for drunk driving when he was arrested with 15 times the legal blood alcohol level while driving a heavy road roller. The police were alerted by local residents, who saw the machine moving about erratically. When detained, the driver had trouble standing up straight.

    Car Streaking

    In a related story, Police in the northern town of Izbica Kujawska on Monday stopped a driver who not only had 10 times the legal blood alcohol level but was also completely naked. The witness who reported the incident to the authorities attempted to stop the naturist driver, but the 35-year-old reacted aggressively, knocking out his windshield with a rock. He started running away, but was quickly apprehended by officers who had by that time arrived on the scene.

    Plastic Manhood

    And in one final drunk story, A 41-year-old Olsztyn native was fined 150 zlotys after he was caught showing off a plastic penis to the passengers of a Warsaw-Krak?w train last week. The perpetrator had to sober up before being presented with the fine. He could offer no logical explanation for his actions.

  • Sport...

    Gennady Nevyglas dismisses talks of fixed match Anderlecht vs BATE as absurd

    From: BelTA
    The reports in some Bulgarian newspapers allegedly asserting that the match of the Champions League second qualifying round Anderlecht vs BATE (1:2) was fixed are absolutely absurd, Gennady Nevyglas, the chairman of the Belarusian football federation, told reporters on August 5.

    He remarked that this is not the first time that Bulgarians journalists have started hoaxes about the results of different matches. As a rule their rumours are beneath criticism and not even worth being discussed, Gennady Nevyglas said. This time the explanation is easy. In the third qualifying round the winner of Anderlecht - BATE match will play Bulgaria’s FC Levski and somebody is willing to distemper the future opponent of the Sofia team.

    The UEFA officials said they had no claims either to the Belarusian or Belgian clubs and that no inquires will be launched. The second-leg match of the Champions League second qualifying round will be held on August 6 at Borisov’s city stadium.


    Victoria Azarenka of Belarus made it to the semi-finials of the Rogers Cup tournament in Montreal, losing 6-0, 2-6, 6-3 to the eventual tournament winner, Dinara Safina.

  • Cultural scene...

    Belarusian singer takes 1st place at international song festival in Malta

    From: BelTA
    Belarusian Aleksey Krechet took the 1st place of the 5th international festival of young singers Golden Cross which was held in Malta, BelTA learnt from Vadim Ruzov, an official representative of the festival in Belarus.

    According to him, more than 30 singers from seven countries took part in the contest. Belarus participated in the music forum Golden Cross for the first time. Aleksey Krechet presented the song Yanka Kupala and one of Queen’s compositions. A Turkish representative won the Grand Prix of the festival.

    Representatives of the festival asked Vadim Ruzov to write an anthem of the festival Golden Cross (lyrics by Maltese poetess Talitai Mashdi). Vadim Ruzov is the author of the anthem of the international film festival Listapad.

    Four young Belarusian poets pretend to international prize Commonwealth of Debuts

    Four young Belarusian poets – Timur Kalyaev, Rogned Malakhovsky, Yanka Laikov and Oksana Sprynchan have been included in the list of the international prize Commonwealth of Debuts, BelTA learnt from Oleg Krasnov, the coordinator of the project.

    The international prize Commonwealth of Debuts was established by the CIS council for humanitarian cooperation and the CIS interstate fund for humanitarian cooperation in April 2008. The prize is awarded annually. This year, the CIS council for humanitarian cooperation decided to reward young poets aged under 35 years old.

    All in all, the list of the prize Commonwealth of Debuts 2008 includes 33 authors from 10 CIS countries. In the middle of September the jury panel led by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Azerbaijan to the Russian Federation Polad Bul-Bul ogly will announce the names of the winners and laureates. The award ceremony will be held within the framework of the 3rd forum of the people engaged in culture and science of the CIS member states which will be held in Dushanbe on September 18-20.

  • Endnote...


    From: Eurasia Monitor
    Stanislau Shushkevich
    Elections to the House of Representatives, the lower house of the two-chamber parliament, are to be held on September 28 in Belarus. As with previous election campaigns, there is intense international interest in the nature of the campaign, how democratically it will be conducted, and how opposition candidates will be treated and given access to the official media.

    Once again the Central Election Commission (CEC) is headed by Lidziya Yarmoshyna, a close associate of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who rarely refrains from politicized comments. She has already noted that as the electorate shows little interest in political parties, the candidates from such parties, mainly from the opposition, are unlikely to win seats. In 2004, 28 of the 274 people nominated by the opposition were accepted to the district electoral commissions that supervise the registration of candidates, while this year the CEC has accepted 38 out of 118 nominees, a somewhat better share, though only about a one-third acceptance rate (, July 18).

    By late July 448 candidates had declared their intention to run for office, an average of more than four per seat in the 110-seat lower house. Of these, 334 candidates do not have any party affiliation. Of the remaining 114, the opposition political parties’ totals are as follows: Belarusian Popular Front, 22 candidates; Party of Communists of Belarus, 18; Social Democrats supporting Alyaksandr Kazulin, 18; and Social Democrats supporting Stanislau Shushkevich, 6.

    One candidate only is running for the Liberal Democratic Party led by Syarhey Haidukevich, although this party has declared that its priority is the presidential election campaign anticipated to be held in 2011 (Belorusy i Rynok, July 28-August 4).

    The opposition is divided into four wings. First, the United Democratic Forces (UDF), which comprises the Popular Front, the United Civic Party, the Party of Communists under Syarhey Kalyakin, and the Kazulin-led Social Democrats. Second, the unregistered movement “For Freedom” led by former presidential UDF candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich. Third is the Euro-alliance led by Mikola Statkevich. Finally, there are the Social Democrats under former parliamentary chairman Shushkevich (1991-1994). Both the Popular Front and the Kazulin Social Democrats suffer, however, from internal splits. Both have congresses in the coming week that could clarify these problems.

    The opposition in general has found it difficult to meet the cost of running candidates, which is about 10 times higher than in the past. Both Shushkevich and Popular Front leader Lyavon Barcheuski have threatened to boycott the elections. The former expressed his frustration that several “prominent persons” had been denied a position on the electoral commissions (, July 18), while Barcheuski suggested that if the proceedings clearly violated democratic practices, the UDF could impose a boycott just prior to the vote. At least one Popular Front candidate, Svyatlana Lapitskaya, has already withdrawn from the contest because of what she perceives as the cynical attitude of the authorities and the preordained results in favor of the ruling party (, August 1).

    On July 31 the CEC announced the rules for campaigning, which appear somewhat more tolerant than in past elections. Candidates are permitted to publish their programs, up to a maximum of 4,000 characters, in official newspapers, including Zvyazda, Narodna hazeta (the official parliamentary newspaper), Respublika, and Belorusskaya niva, as well as in oblast and rayon-level newspapers. Statements on radio and television must be pre-recorded, perhaps to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing (to the government) TV appearance of Kazulin in the 2006 presidential election (, July 31).

    Seven hundred international observers, divided equally between the OSCE and the CIS countries, have been invited to monitor the elections. Of the OSCE representatives, 50 are long-term and will start to arrive in Belarus on August 11 and 12; the remaining 300 will arrive shortly before the election date. The CIS long-term observers arrived in Belarus on July 29 ( OpenDocument).

    Belarus is making some efforts to give the appearance of a more democratic election than in the past. This is a calculated risk. Polls suggest that those candidates supporting the policies of Lukashenka have a clear advantage and are also more popular than candidates clearly associated with the opposition (about 50 percent and 18 percent, respectively, in terms of popular support, according to Gallup). Thus, permitting some leeway to opposition candidates in an election that is unlikely to make much difference to the existing power structure seems to be a good way to acquire more international sympathy, particularly from the EU. The acting head of the U.S. Embassy in Belarus, Jonathan Moore, has also said that if the elections are perceived as democratic and fair, the United States may review its current policy toward Belarus, which includes sanctions on the petrochemical company Belnafttakhim and a ban on travel by Lukashenka and his cabinet (, July 7).

    For the opposition, the elections are an opportunity to address the public and a dry run for the presidential elections in three years. However, the plethora of different camps does not augur well for the future. The unity of 2006, which caused serious problems to the presidential campaign of Lukashenka, appears to have dissipated. The opposition may yet recognize that despite its obvious malevolence and cynicism, the statement by Yarmoshyna rings true. The best hope for the opposition lies in unity that is outside the spectrum of factionalized political parties, which have few grassroots connections.