President: Belarus pursuing open policy, Dazhynki 2008, Elections, Travel for kids, BelAZ, Listapad; Russia, NPP, Polish scandal, Sport and Culture
President Gives Interview to the Financial Times and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
From: BelTA and the Office of the President
|The President giving an award at the “Dazynki-2008” national harvesting festival and fair for rural toilers|
The President answered about two dozens of questions concerning Belarus' relations with the European Union, US and Russia, urgent issues in economics and international relations, preparation for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Belarus and other issues.
Answering the question put by the Financial Times journalist concerning Belarus’ intention to improve its relations with the EU, the President said Belarus always looked forward to having good relations with Europe. “From the very first days of my presidency, I identified very clearly the country’s foreign policy strategy based on the premises that it should be multidirectional,” said the Head of State.
“Our foreign policy cannot be different, it is Belarus’ geographical position that requires it to be so,” said Alexander Lukashenko. “Belarus, as it is known, is not only an inseparable part of Europe, it is also Europe’s geographical centre,” said the Head of State. Another factor underpinning Belarus’ commitment to strong and friendly relations with western European countries is the mentality of the Belarusian people. “Our people are friendly, non-aggressive, got used to living by their own wits. Therefore, the Belarusians have never wanted any exacerbation of relations with their neighbours,” said the President. The economy also pushes Belarus to pursuing open multidirectional policy.
Answering the question relating to the parliamentary election campaign in Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko said Belarus was absolutely open to international observers.
“So long as you say that parliamentary elections are so important to you, we have fully opened the country for you: you can go and look around, observe whether the pre-election period, early voting and the elections proper are proceeding in conformity with our laws,” said the President. Regardless of whether the West wants it or not, the President said, the new parliament will be elected, and the composition of the new parliament will be defined by the Belarusian people. “My main objective and role in this election is to make sure that it will be the people who will define the face of the new parliament,” he added. The authorities of Belarus do not want to communicate with the EU over the iron curtain the West has built on its border with Belarus. “We want to communicate with you in all areas, ranging from science to the most complicated issues of interstate relations,” he concluded.
The Financial Times and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung are influential western European periodicals with enormous circulation, popular throughout the world.
National festival Dazhynki 2008 begins in Orsha
Over 700 top harvesting performers, executives of agricultural companies, enterprises and organisations of the country went along streets of the town to the central stage placed in the central square next to an ancient Jesuit divinity school. The festival flag will be erected and the solemn opening ceremony will take place there.
The first day of celebrations will be dedicated to winners of the national harvesting competition. Music bands from all parts of Belarus and guests from Russia will perform for the best agricultural workers of Belarus.
On the first day of the festival twelve music stages organised in various parts of Orsha were opened. People’s and folklore music bands of the Vitebsk oblast welcome fans. Orsha’s best music bands are expected to present a concert “We are Belarusians!” In the central square of the town an Artisans Town showcases crafts and offers master classes. Over 200 folk craftsmen will demonstrate their skills. Over 1,500 artists will perform within the day. A renewed children’s entertainment park will be opened and a presentation of the cinema hall of the town community centre will take place.
Catering industry will make the celebrations more joyful. Around 400 food vending stalls (all in all, almost 5 km long) have been installed in the town. According to preliminary information the capital of Dazhynki 2008 is expected to welcome over 5,000 guests.
CEC advises to seal ballot boxes every day during early voting
During the early voting, chiefs of the district election commissions should seal the slot on ballot boxes into which ballot papers are cast with a piece of white paper at 7pm every day.
A chief of a district election commission and one of its members should put their signatures on this paper. Every morning at 10am, the time when polling stations open, the chiefs of the commissions should remove this paper.
The early voting of the elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the fourth convocation will start on September 23. The main day of the elections is scheduled for September 28.
Belarus’ CEC registers 55 candidates for upper chamber seats
On September 18 the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Belarus registered 55 candidates for members of the fourth convocation Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus, BelTA has learnt.
The Council of the Republic includes 64 MPs, with 8 of them appointed by the President. Seven regions elect eight members each via secret vote cast by local councils of deputies. The voting sessions will take place from September 21 to October 10. Results are supposed to be summed up by the Central Election Commission by October 14 at the latest.
All in all, 56 candidates for the upper chambers have been nominated. No violations of election regulations have been registered.
Initially 8 people were nominated by the city of Minsk but one of them withdrew its application.
CEC Secretary Nikolai Lozovik said, archpriest Fedor Povny had withdrawn his application. On the eve Fedor Povny talked to Patriarch of Moscow and Russia Aleksii II, who believes that the nomination of Fedor Povny is a token of respect for churchmen. However, as the Orthodox Church focuses on preserving united space and emerging splits inside the church are caused by too vigorous political efforts of the clergy, Fedor Povny came to a conclusion that politics should be a secondary matter for the clergy. On September 18 he informed the CEC that he was not going to run for the Council of the Republic, said Nikolai Lozovik.
The Central Election Commission will define a new deadline before which the city of Minsk is to nominate a candidate to the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly.
The number of registered candidates includes former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to France and Canada Nina Mazai, Minsk Mayor Mikhail Pavlov, First Deputy Head of the Belarus President Administration Anatoly Rubinov, Belarusbank CEO Nadezhda Yermakova, speaker of the effective convocation Council of the Republic Gennady Novitsky.
Countries offering recreation to Belarusian kids suggested signing international agreements
Belarus expects understanding and assistance of the foreign partners in this matter, stressed the source.
The situation related to the non-return of Belarusian underage citizen Tatiana Kozyro after recreation in the USA was made possible by the absence of a US-Belarusian international agreement regulating the recreation of underage Belarusians in the USA.
The signing of the suggested agreements will allow ruling out such situations in the future, believes the source.
A Belarusian-Italian intergovernmental agreement on conditions of recreation of Belarusian children in Italy on the basis of foreign gratuitous aid has been in effect since January 2008. Over the period the practice of cooperation with Italian organisations, which welcome Belarusian kids, demonstrated that the bilateral cooperation has reached a new level. Safe stay for children in Italy and their safe return to the home country are guaranteed. It is supported by competent Italian bodies such as the Committee for Underage Foreign Citizens under the Social Solidarity Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Justice Ministry, and the Family Policy Ministry. This summer no complaints from legal representatives of the Belarusian children, who stayed in Italy, have been received.
Customers queue up for future BelAZ 360-tonne rock hauler
The new model BelAZ 75610 is a modification of the existing BelAZ 75600, which payload capacity is as large as 320 tonnes. The new vehicle will have major components and the steering mechanism reinforced, with new tyres used. The company plans to install a more powerful engine (around 3,700 horse powers) and a power train made by General Electric.
The company plans to finish working out the design documentation by the end of the year and create a pilot sample next year. The source specified, it is an initiative development of the company. Customers have confirmed that there is a demand for such vehicles. Several Russian mining companies are ready to upgrade their manufacturing practices for the new dump trucks. “If there is demand, there will be dump trucks,” said Oleg Stepuk.
He noted, similar dump trucks with the payload capacity of 320 tonnes and 364 tonnes are available from foreign producers. “But we are confident that our 360-tonne vehicle will once again surprise the community just like the 320-tonne vehicle did,” said the designer.
BelAZ is also working on a dump truck with the payload capacity of 240 tonnes. The documentation is ready already and the first sample will be made late this year. The vehicle will be powered by a Cummins engine with the capacity of around 2,500 horse powers. The company is now choosing the producer of the power train.
Founded in September 1948 in Zhodino, Belarusian Autoworks mainly offers rock haulers, frontal wheel loaders and bulldozers, tow trucks, special vehicles for underground operations, heavy payload trucks for metallurgy industry and other specialised technological vehicles. These days the company is celebrating its 60th anniversary.
The company employs around 10,000 people. Since its foundation the company has designed over 400 models of rock haulers with the payload capacity varying from 27 to 320 tonnes and has turned out over 120,000 rock haulers exported to 50 countries across the globe. In 2007 new products accounted for 55.7% of the total output. Belarusian Autoworks occupies one third of the world’s rock haulers market and is one of the world’s seven largest manufacturers of quarry vehicles along with Komatsu-Dresser, Euclid-Hitachi, Caterpillar, Liebherr, Terex, and Kress.
Belarus increases export of oil products by 2.4% in January-July
For the seven months, non-CIS countries accounted for the bulk of the oil exports – 8.241 million tonnes (96.6% as against the same period of last year). The deliveries of the Belarusian oil products to the CIS countries soared almost 2.5 times to 851.2 thousand tonnes.
In January-July, Belarus supplied the foreign market with 2.537 million tonnes of potash fertilizers, 98.3% over the same period of 2007. The country exported 57 thousand tonnes of nitrogen fertilizers (63%), 87.5 thousand tonnes of chemical fiber and threads (94.8%).
According to the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis, for the seven months of 2008, the exports of the Belarusian tractors grew 16.3% to 36.5 thousand vehicles, truck tractors – 22.6% to 5.05 thousand units. The exports of Belarusian trucks almost totaled 7.8 thousand vehicles, 3.2% down over the same period of last year. The country exported 2.8 thousand metal-working machines (a 12.8% growth). The sales of metal cord at the foreign market reached 55 thousand tonnes, 14.3% up from January-May 2007, ferrous metals – 1.215 million tonnes (96.9% over the same period of last year). The exports of tyres grew 17.6% to reach 2.205 million units.
In January-July 2008, Belarus also saw a rise in the exports of refrigerators, freezers and refrigerating equipment. These exports jumped 2.2% up to 523.8 thousand cooling appliances. The deliveries of furniture made up 100.3 thousand tonnes (5% over the same period of last year), fiber boards – 29.7 million square meters (100.3%). The export of bicycles increased by 78.4% to make up 192.6 thousand vehicles. The deliveries of TV sets, video monitors reached 227.1 thousand pcs. (7.5% up over the same period of 2007). At the same time the exports of flax fiber, watches and motor-bicycles downed.
As for the major imports of Belarus, oil deliveries in January-July totaled 12.5 million tonnes (a 12.5% growth), natural gas – 12.1 billion cubic meters (a 6.2% rise), electric energy – 1.368 million kilowatt per hour (a downturn of 55.4%). For the seven months of 2008, the imports of ferrous metals grew 10.1% up to 1.976 million tonnes. Belarus imported 6283 tonnes of cotton fiber (80.7% to January-July 2007), 332.7 thousand tonnes of grain (64.5%), 60.3 thousand tonnes of vegetable oil (76.7%), 94 thousand tonnes of frozen fish (92.6%).
Belarus-Russia trade could be calculated in national currencies, Sergei Sidorsky says
Belarusfilm to present three animations at Listapadzik 2008 Festival
Partaking in the contest will be the picture A story of the Preceding Years narrating about the history of the Belarusian emblems. Listapadzik 2008 will screen its third part telling about the emblems of the regional centers. The producers of the picture are Alexander Lenkin, Igor Volchek, Natalia Khatkevich and Vladimir Petkevich.
The animation “How Nesterka was selling pots”, the third part of Igor Volchek’s picture Nesterka and Vladimir Petkevich’s animation Frog The Traveller will compete for the public jury prize.
Apart from Grand-Prix the festival will award the prizes of the professional jury, diplomas and souvenirs from the sponsors of the festival.
The Listapadzik Festival demonstrates different genres of films: fairy-tales, adventure, fantasy, drama stories and so-called problem-solving pictures reflecting the mutual relations in the family, at school, etc.
Listapad-2008 film festival to present movies from 55 countries
Movies from 55 countries will participate in the competition and non-competition programme of the anniversary 15th Minsk international film festival Listapad-2008, Rostislav Yankovsky, chief of the film forum, People’s Artist of Belarus and the USSR, told a press conference in Minsk on September 17.
The movies from Mexico and Norway will enter the competition programme of the Listapad festival for the first time. The programme of the festival has not been finalized yet, the geography of the festival therefore may be expanded.
The solemn opening ceremony of the Minsk international film festival Listapad-2008 will be held in the Palace of Republic on November 15.
In 2008, the competition of television movies will be included in the festival programme. National film studio Belarusfilm will present the movies “Samurai Shadow”, “As Long As We Live…”, “It Rhymes With Love”, “In June 1941”.
The movies will be displayed in the Minsk cinemas “Moscow”, “October”, the House of Cinema. The programmes of the forum will also be held in the oblast centres of Belarus.
Festival of Belarusians living abroad to be held in Belarus in near future
“The representatives of about 10 countries are to participate in the first festival. These are not only CIS countries, but also Poland and other parts of the world,” he noted.
According to Leonid Gulyako, the Russian side promised to provide assistance in the implementation of this project. The relevant agreement was reached during the signing of the 2008-2009 cooperation protocol between the Commissioner for Religions and Nationalities and the Department of International Relations of the Russian Ministry of Regional Development in Moscow on September 12, 2008.
The festive events are to be held in all the oblasts of the country with a final concert in either Minsk or Grodno (Grodno possesses a valuable experience in hosting the national festival of cultures).
Leonid Gulyako noted that the Belarusian and Russian sides agreed that the representatives of the Commission for Religions and Nationalities will be invited to Russia to attend the events related to national minorities which are held with the participation of the OSCE and the Council of Europe. “It will offer an opportunity to demonstrate our experience,” he added.
The sides reached an agreement to hold a national conference of the Belarusians living in Russia. This conference will also be attended by the Belarusians living in Ukraine and Moldova and will be held in Belarus. Apart from that, the Russians are willing to participate in the 7th national festival of cultures in Grodno in 2009.
Apart from that, the protocol stipulates for the further mutual information support. The Russian side expressed its willingness to promote the expansion of contacts between the Commission for Religions and Nationalities and the Culture Ministry of the Russian Federation to involve the potential of this institution for the implementation of joint projects.
Belarus tells West: recognize vote, or no talks
Lukashenko has staked his hopes on the September 28 vote as a way to improve ties with the United States and European Union, which see it as a test of Belarus's democratic credentials.
No poll in Belarus since the mid-1990s has been judged free and fair in the West. Most opposition hopefuls have been allowed on the ballot this time and hundreds of Western observers are attending.
But opposition officials say they have been denied access to commissions overseeing the count and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says the campaign has failed to give voters a clear idea of issues or candidates.
"If even this time the election turns out to be undemocratic, we will cease all discussions with them," Lukashenko, quoted by local news agencies, told reporters at a harvest festival in eastern Belarus.
"Let's just see how they react. We have blatantly broken our own laws to hold an election the way it is understood by the West and the OSCE. This election is unprecedented, run according to the West's rules."
An interim report issued on Friday by the OSCE, Europe's biggest rights and security body, said there was little evidence of full-fledged campaigning. State media, it said, offered few opportunities for debate, with most airtime devoted to praise for the authorities.
No campaign posters enliven the streets of Minsk, only a handful of leaflets have been distributed and few candidate meetings have been held. State television has generally limited coverage to five-minute candidate spots as required by law.
POSSIBLE OPPOSITION SPLIT
Belarus's disparate liberal and nationalist opposition, frequently beset by internal rows, was shut out of parliament in a 2004 poll. On Sunday, its groups will debate calls for more representatives on polling station commissions and analysts predict a split, with some pulling out of the poll.
Lukashenko has said he would be happy to see opposition candidates in parliament to temper Western criticism, but expressed doubt they could win over enough voters to capture any of the 110 seats.
"How will people vote for them when they are constantly having a go at the authorities?" he said on Saturday. "I will not lead the opposition into parliament by the hand."
Lukashenko, accused of hounding the opposition and muzzling the media during 14 years in power, issued a new appeal to the West this week to recognize the election.
"We do not want to talk to you across the Iron Curtain which you have erected on the borders of Belarus," he said in an interview with the Financial Times and Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
The president has sought to improve ties with Washington and the EU after quarrelling with traditional ally Russia over energy prices. Belarussian courts last month released the last detainees deemed "political prisoners" in the West.
Both the EU and the United States have imposed financial sanctions and a travel ban on Lukashenko and 40 other officials.
Observers see problems in Belarusian election
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says the campaign for the Sept. 28 vote has been marked by "weak activity" and is being conducted in a "strictly controlled atmosphere."
A total of 282 candidates are vying for 110 seats in the legislature.
Opposition candidates have started withdrawing from the campaign, saying authorities are pressuring them.
Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko is hoping a clean election will convince the European Union and the United States to ease tough sanctions on his regime.
The OSCE released its assessment of the campaign Friday.
Forty-nine percent of Belarusians said to be ready to invest in construction of nuclear power plant
|Chornobyl Unit 4|
A random sample of 2,011 residents in all the six regions of Belarus was surveyed, Mikhail Khurs, of the Sociology Institute, told reporters in Minsk on September 18.
When asked on what conditions they would be ready to invest in the project, 25.2 percent of the interviewed said that they would acquire stock, six percent replied that they would make long-term deposits at the National Bank’s refinance rate plus 1.5 or two percent, and 11 percent answered that they would buy bonds.
Individuals and the nation in general would benefit from such investment, Mr. Khurs noted. "Why borrow money if individuals keep so much in banks?" he said. "This money should be put to a good use. If people are offered favorable conditions, they will eagerly make deposits. We’ve even put forward a proposal to declare the construction of the nuclear power plant a people's project."
Belarus plans to start the construction of the nuclear power plant in 2009. The government is considering three possible locations for the plant: near the village of Kukshynava between Horki and Shklow, Mahilyow region; in the Astravets district, Hrodna region; and near the village of Chyrvonaya Palyana near Bykhaw, Mahilyow region.
The 2,000-MW plant is supposed to supply some 15 percent of the country’s electricity needs. One of the two 1000-MW reactors is to be put into operation in 2016 and the other in 2018.
Sharapova to donate $210,000 for Chernobyl victims
From: Economic Times
Announcing the joint initiative between United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and her private foundation, Sharapova noted her own connection to the issue she was born in 1987 after her family fled Belarus for Siberia because of concerns about radiation in the wake of the Chernobyl accident.
"It has always been my dream to contribute to the recovery of a region where I have a personal connection," she said. "Enabling talented young people to pursue higher education is part of a broader effort to build a brighter future for the region," she added.
The Maria Sharapova Foundation will award 12 students five-year scholarships to study at two leading universities in Belarus. Working with UNDP, which coordinates the UN's work on Chernobyl, the first scholarship recipients will begin their studies in September 2009.
UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis warmly welcomed the alliance. "Her engagement helps to convey a message of optimism to young people in a once-blighted region where a return to normal life is now a realistic prospect," he said.
UNDP implements programmes to encourage economic and community development across the region, based on scientific findings that indicate radiation is below negative health-affecting levels. Sharapova had previously donated USD 100,000 to youth-oriented projects implemented by UNDP in Chernobyl-affected regions.
Valiantsin Stefanovic: authorities have another chance to prosecute opposition members
“We observe unprecedented processes when the regional Committee for State Security (KGB) appeals to court under the Code of Civic Procedures, asking to recognize the legal fact that some printed editions are extremist. Among the editions on their list there is the Chronicle Review of Human Rights Violations in Belarus”, published by Viasna in 2004. According to the plaintiffs, it contains pictures from the rallies of anti-Belarusian nature: the Freedom Day, the Chernobyl March, Ancestors’ day, and others. The KGB also thinks the Review contains calls to overthrow the regime in an unconstitutional way.
Meanwhile, in 2004, when the draft law "about counteraction to extremism" was still considered by the parliament, we warned the Belarusian society about possible usage of the law against the political opposition and dissidents. Now, in Hrodna, we are actually observing the facts when any kind of criticism, including publishing of human rights materials, is assessed as extremist and containing (although it is still not clear, where) calls to anti-constitutional change of state system.
In our opinion, this is a very dangerous tendency. Although the law does not contain any sanctions and is more of a guiding nature, it still can be logically concluded that if the materials (in our case, the Chronicle Review of Human Rights Violations in Belarus -- 2004) are recognized extremist editions containing calls to overthrow the constitutional system, then their authors might be prosecuted.
We have a criminal article “Calls to overthrow the constitutional system”, which provides for criminal responsibility for such actions. This way, the Belarusian authorities have another chance to prosecute dissidents. Now we need to do everything we can to draw the public attention to these lawsuits. Moreover, we are in the election period at the moment. We should not allow for such a persecution now.
Paval Sevyarynets: “Voting today is deceit of Belarusian people”
From: Charter '97
– I gathered signatures during this election campaign, visited houses of people in eight constituencies. All over Belarus. I had thousands meetings and talks. People don’t believe in democracy in Belarus. In election as a process itself. This election is very difficult. This is difficult political process, very difficult political choice for the national movement.
To boycott this election or to run in it? To withdraw or to run to the end? Everyone in the democratic movement has his or her own answer to this question.
The situation is difficult, it is rather hard to say categorically what is better boycott or running in the election. Nevertheless, in my view, the most optimal formula for the Christian democrats is the following.
We should run in the campaign almost to the end, and use it to promote our leaders, to suggest an alternative to these authorities. But we shouldn’t participate in voting. Because it is a deceit of the Belarusian people. It is an attempt of legitimisation of the current authorities. And a possible deligitimisation of the Belarusian independence.
In my view, running in the election and refusal to vote may be an optimal position, an optimal strategy, which would be effectively by the united democratic forces,” Sevyarynets says.
Ukraine Reverses Odessa-Brody Pipeline Flow
From: Oil and Gas
On Aug. 15, the Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko signed a decree “On resolution adopted by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine on July 28, 2008 ‘About urgent measures to ensure the operation of the Odessa-Brody pipeline in the direction as designed.’ ”
The government was tasked with completing by Sept. 1, 2008, the necessary organizational and legal arrangements and ensuring that by the end of 2008 the Odessa-Brody pipeline operates in an averse regime. The Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Raissa Bogatyreva is charged with supervision of the implementation of the decree. The Secretariat of the President has often criticized the government’s position with relation to starting the pipeline operation in an averse mode.
On Aug. 1, Andrei Goncharuk, the deputy chief of the Secretariat of Ukrainian President, said that recent pronouncements of the head of the government on the plans to operate the Odessa-Brody pipeline in the direction as initially designed show that the cabinet of ministers is determined to continue to sabotage the plans.
According to Goncharuk, the main goal of operating the Odessa-Brody pipeline in an averse direction is to ensure a flow of oil supplies from the Caspian and other regions to Ukrainian and international oil refineries. Besides, today this the only real opportunity to save the Ukranian oil refining industry from decline. Regrettably, though, the Ukranian president’s decree is not the final say in the protracted battle over the pipeline’s direction.
As early as July 1, the Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko emphatically said that all agreements reached on supply of Caspian oil via the Odessa-Brody pipeline to EU countries are being complied with, including the agreements reached during the Kiev energy summit about supplying crude Caspian oil for this pipeline. “Both parties, including the joint venture Sarmatia, are taking steps to implement the agreements reached at the previous meetings,” said Yushchenko adding that “there are no disputes over these issues at the level of the states.” Yes, it is very likely there will be no disputes at the level of the states, unless the state concerned is Ukraine.
On the same day, the prime-minister of Ukraine Yulia Timoshenko commented on the situation at a briefing in Ternopol. She believes that the plans for averse operation regime of the Odessa-Brody which are now being contemplated by the Secretariat of the Ukranian President are just a corrupt scheme similar to that of RosUkrEnergo.
The agreements that are due for signing have nothing in common with the international projects. This is yet another deal being hustled through by the President’s Secretariat,” emphasized the prime-minister. “Just like the RosUkrEnergo project fell through, just like the plans to take away from Ukraine the Black Sea shelf together with its biggest gas fields were thwarted, this trick will not come off either – appropriating the Odessa-Brody for their offshore firms, selling the crude oil used to fill the pipeline today and practically leaving Ukraine with nothing. Maybe this will happen sometime in the future, but I do not think this is going to happen any time in the nearest 20 years while our team is at the helm,” said Timoshenko.
Commenting on the written order whereby Timoshenko prohibits the director of the Ukrtransnafta board Igor Kirushin and his deputies to sign relevant documents and participate in meeting and consultations about oil transit via the Odessa-Brody pipeline before the government issues a special resolution, the head of the Ukranian President’s Secretariat Baloga reminded about the President’s Decree No. 474 signed in May this year which requires that all organizational and technical arrangements for ensuring an averse operation mode for the Odessa-Brody, as initially designed, be accomplished by the end of 2008.
Baloga firmly rejected the prime-minister Timoshenko’s allegations of corrupt intents in the plans operating the Odessa-Brody pipeline in an averse regime. Previously the President’s Secretariat said that the government was obstructing the signing of an agreement about management of the Odessa-Brody pipeline with a company of Igor Kolomoisky’s Private Group.
“A unique diversification of the Ukranian position in energy sector. A unique European project,” said Viktor Yushchenko on July 28, while opening the session of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.
“Today in Europe there is no other project like the Odessa-Brody-EU pipeline, although there are three alternative pipeline projects,” added Yushchenko.
With this argument in hand the president warned about possible consequences of delaying the implementation of the project itself. “We can lose the race if we continue the political debates around this project,” he said.
The National Security and Defense Council expressed its disapproval of the Cabinet of Ministers’ efforts to ensure the operation of the Odesa-Brody pipeline in an averse regime. Besides, the National Security and Defense Council ordered that the cabinet of ministers prior to September 1 review the proposals of an interagency task force and either approve its conclusions or submit its own proposals with regard to crude oil suppliers needed for operating the pipeline in an averse regime.
The announcement that the Odessa-Brody pipeline is to be filled with technological oil in the nearest future was made on July 1 during the general press-conference devoted to the results of the talks between the president of Ukraine and the president of Azerbaijan held in Baku. “Very soon we shall start a test run of the pipeline and evaluate these plans in action,” said Ilham Aliyev. The president of Azerbaijan added that presently work is underway to prepare a complete feasibility study of the project, which will give a full picture of the commercial advantages of this project.
He emphasized that the test run of oil for which Azerbaijan is ready will also fully demonstrate the potential of the project. Yet, the parties did not specify the date when the project was to begin only saying vaguely that this would happen “in the nearest future.”
In May 22-23 in Kiev the International Energy Security Summit took place, attended by delegations from nearly 30 countries. One of Ukraine’s main partners at the summit is EU. This was demonstrated when at the opening of the International Economic Forum in May the president Viktor Yushchenko said that the EU could provide $2.5 billion for renovation of the Ukrainian gas transportation network.
The new project was to have as its basis the Odessa-Brody-EU pipeline, and the need to complete the construction of the pipeline was one of the top issues of the summit’s agenda. The Czech Republic, Poland, the Baltic nations, Belarus and several other Central and Eastern European nations are interested in completing and putting into operation the pipeline as soon as possible.
Ukraine initially planned to use the Odessa-Brody pipeline for transporting Caspian gas and oil to Europe. When the construction was completed in 2002 the 674-kilometer-long pipeline, built at a cost of 550 million hryvnyas – the sum denominated in the as yet soft national currency, could annually transport up to 14 million tons of oil to Ukraine’s western border.
The cost of building the additional line of the Odessa-Brody pipeline reaching Poland will cost up to 350 million euro. Such was an estimate of the chairman of Ukrtransnafta Igor Kirushin. “The cost of building the new branch reaching Poland will be 300-350 million euro. I don’t think this is an awful lot of money. After we start operating the Ukrainian section of the Odessa-Brody in a mode as initially designed, it will be much easier to secure the money. We have the period from 2009 to 2010 to complete the pipeline construction,” said he. According to Kirushin, the Granherne company is figuring out the optimal route for the pipeline: whether it would lead up to Pock or to Adamowo-Zastawa.
A final version of the feasibility study will be presented at the 4th Energy Summit in Baku in November.
At that time there were hopes that the initial operation mode of the pipeline would catch the interest of European governments and companies keen on ensuring security of energy supply.
However, in spite of the token gestures made by the potential partners in oil/gas supply and transit or the fact that influential auditors (for instance, PriceWaterhouseCpers) assessed the project as internationally competitive, the Odessa-Brody remained idle for three years.
Representatives of the Polish political circles and oil industry were in no hurry to extend the pipeline to Pock, and Central Asian suppliers were in no hurry to set aside oil from the already contracted volumes. So operating the pipeline in a reverse mode was the only possible alternative usage.
In 2004 Ukrtransnafta and a Russian-British joint venture TNK-BP signed an agreement providing for the transport of up to 9 million tons of Urals oil vie the link Mozyr-Brody-Yuzhny oil sea terminal for three years. Overall for the whole period when the pipeline was operated in a reverse mode (from late 2004 to May 1, 2008) 22,036,000 tons of crude oil was pumped through, Ukraine’s profits from the transit fees and harbor dues totaling $226.3 million. By the end of 2006 the parties announced they were ready for further cooperation and struck an agreement providing for the transit of 9 million tons of Russian oil and gas via the same link annually until 2010.
As we can see, a reverse regime proved not that bad. Especially in the absence of realistic alternatives.
On July 21 the presidium of the government of Russia was doing exactly that – discussing supply of Russian oil and gas in connection with the issue of oil supply to the Czech Republic. “In effect, the Czechs are addressing their claims to a wrong party,” said the Russian deputy prime-minister Igor Sechin. “The Ukrainian plans for starting to operate the Odessa-Brody in a reverse regime this year has stirred concerns among Russian companies supplying oil to the Central and Eastern European markets and make them look for more stable transportation links. In particular, our companies are looking closer at routes through Novorossiisk and Primorsk which can ensure a more stable work and efficiency of supply,” said he.
However, the head of the Russian government Vladimir Putin opined in response to Igor Sechin’s statement, “This is not going to be a reverse mode, this will be an averse mode.” Obviously, this is what is going to happen.Although Kiev is unpredictable. And it would be too early to make any conclusions at this stage.
Meanwhile, the directors of Galitchina oil refinery (Drogobych oil refinery, Lvov region) and Petrochemist of Ciscarpathian Region (Nadvirnyansk oil refinery, Ivano-Frankovsk region) accused the Ukrainian cabinet of minister of failure to adopt a decision to switch the Odessa-Brody pipeline to the Odessa-Brody direction. Such was the statement made during a press conference on July 22 by the head of the board of the Galitchina oil refinery Alexander Lazorko and the head of the board of the Petrochemist of Ciscarpathian Region Alexander Shilyaev.
According to them, memorandums of understanding were signed providing for transportation via the Odessa-Bordy link of 5 million tons of light Caspian oil annually for refining at two Western Urkanian refineries with a “pump or pay” payment scheme benefiting Urktransnafta. They added that Ukrtransnafta would have been getting as much money as it is getting now from pumping Russian oil from Brody to Odessa.
The prime-minister Yulia Timoshenko said she considered it indispensable that oil supplying countries participate in the project to start operating the Odessa-Brody pipeline in an averse mode (toward Brody). She told that at a briefing at the cabinet of ministers on July 30.
The prime-minister added that the cabinet of ministers will never allow that the Milbert Ventures company (Virgin Islands) sign contracts for supplying Caspian oil via the Odessa-Brody pipeline operating in an averse mode. “The cabinet of ministers would not support any strange schemes for operating the Odessa-Brody pipeline and so we will never support the partnership and de-facto shady privatization through an offshore company,” said she.
However, the government is not alone in its opposition to the president’s plans. On July 31 59 parliamentarians submitted to the Ukraine’s Constitutional Court a request to review the constitutionality of the Ukrainian president’s decree “About ensuring the operation of the Odessa-Brody pipeline in the direction as designed” of May 22, 2008 No. 474. In accordance with the Constitutional Court’s rules, the request has been submitted for review to the Court’s secretariat.
Reverse or averse? Is this really the question? The future of the Odessa-Brody pipeline depends solely on whether clients will be found. Otherwise Ukraine risks ending up with nothing, suffering the same defeat as when the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was built resulting in most Caspian oil being “syphoned off” via Turkey.
Thus, one of Ukarine’s most ambitious oil and gas projects initially conceived as an enhancer of the country’s security of energy supply and a boost to its international reputation in fact proved to be a big headache.
Putin: Georgia military presence up to regions
The statement was in frank defiance of calls by Georgia, the U.S. and the European Union for a withdrawal of most Russian troops from the breakaway territories, which only Russia and Nicaragua have recognized as independent nations.
Thumbing its nose at Georgia and the U.S., South Ossetia rolled what Russian media said were captured American-made Jeeps and Georgian tanks through the streets of its capital in an Independence Day military parade.
The developments underscored the reality taking shape in the wake of last month's war.
Putin stressed that Russia will adhere to its promise to pull back from the strips of land surrounding South Ossetia and Abkhazia once European Union monitors are deployed. Those areas are Georgian territory, he said.
But he said any “possible” Russian pullout from South Ossetia and Abkhazia themselves was a “separate issue,” suggesting Moscow's recognition of the separatist regions as independent nations has changed the rules.
“The question of the presence of our armed forces on these territories will be decided bilaterally, in the framework of international law and on the basis of agreements between Russia and these states,” Putin told a news conference in the seaside resort of Sochi with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.
The remarks indicate Russia will continue to ignore Western calls to pull nearly all its forces out of Georgia under a cease-fire deal brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to end the five-day war that erupted last month in South Ossetia.
The U.S. and European countries say Russia is violating its commitment to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions. Russia has announced plans to maintain nearly 8,000 troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, far more than in the months before the war.
Putin said Russia has no intention of annexing any land, saying it was “solely a question of providing security in the region.”
Putin suggested that by backing Kosovo's independence declaration in February, Western nations had ruined any argument against Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
“It is not we who opened this Pandora's box,” he said.
In the war-battered South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, residents lined streets to watch South Ossetian soldiers and military vehicles roll by, behind what state-run Russian media said were Georgian tanks, armor and military vehicles – booty grabbed as Georgian forces retreated.
Russia's First Channel showed what it said were American-made military Jeeps and an armored vehicle.
In an evocation of a World War II victory parade on Moscow's Red Square, Georgian flags were thrown to the ground in front of a podium on the central square.
Amid increasing Russian support and mounting exchanges of fire, Georgian forces launched a large-scale offensive targeting Tskhinvali on Aug. 7. Russian forces repelled the attack and drove deep into Georgia.
South Ossetia broke from Georgian government control in a war in the 1990s, but its independence claims were not acknowledged by any nation until Russia's recognition last month.
“For 18 years the people of South Ossetia, day after day, have been declaring and proving their right to an equal place among other nations of the world,” South Ossetia's leader, Eduard Kokoity, told the crowd in remarks broadcast on state-run Russian television.
The conflict has dimmed Georgia's hopes of regaining control over the separatist regions. Russia's persistent military presence has also raised questions about whether ethnic Georgians driven from their homes in the separatist regions will ever be able to return.
Western countries are also concerned about the fate of ethnic Georgians remaining in South Ossetia. Displaced Georgians have said Russian forces – nominally peacekeepers – did little to protect them from armed South Ossetians.
After the recent removal of a nearby Russian checkpoint, a group of South Ossetians entered the ethnic Georgian village of Dvani near Tskhinvali, looted several houses, stole cars and told the villagers to leave, Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said Saturday.
South Ossetian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Russia's invasion of Georgia put the West on notice that it will be assertive in regions near its borders.
Amid deeply sour relations with the U.S. and Europe, Russian newscasts Saturday also showed President Dmitry Medvedev announcing plans for a major monthlong military exercise beginning Monday in collaboration with Belarus, a small ally sandwiched between Russia and NATO member Poland.
Medvedev approves plan for Stability-2008 drill
At a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, Medvedev asked the "preparedness for the active phase of the exercises and what stages of the exercises have been prepared."
"We are fully prepared for the exercises," said the defense minister, who also presented a detailed report on the plan of the exercises to the president.
Serdyukov told reporters on Friday the Stability-2008 drill will be held from Sept. 22 to Oct. 21. The scenario of the exercises was developed with the involvement of a broad range of Russian authorities and the Defense Ministry of Belarus.
The exercises will practice the deployment of armed forces, the rollout of troops to localize and stop armed conflicts, terrorist operations, and to mitigate natural and man-made disasters.
According to the press service of the Belarusian Defense Ministry, the purpose of the exercises is to examine the combat capability of the two countries' troops in order to ensure the security of the Russia-Belarus Union State
Poland risks repaying 150 mln euro in EU farm funds
The European Commission has proposed to recover the sum, after an audit for 2005-2006 showed irregularities in establishing areas eligible for EU farm payments through the use of satellite pictures.
'We are not talking about corruption, we are talking about administrative flaws,' an official at the European Union executive said, asking not be named.
The Commission will take a final decision on the fine in early 2009 after a conciliation meeting with Polish officials in December, so the lost funds may burden next year's budget.
Poland's farm minister said he hoped the negotiations with Brussels would clarify the case so Poland would not have to repay the money.
'We are in the process of clarifying things with the European Commission and we think the attempt to punish us so severely exceeds our guilt,' Marek Sawicki told Reuters on Thursday. 'We still have some time. Even if the EC sticks to the punishment, it will definitely not be as high as this.'
The Commission may tell a member state to repay up to 50 percent of farm aid funds 'depending on the gravity of the problem', the Commission official said.
More than 40 percent of the EU's annual budget of about 120 billion euros is spent on farm subsidies or rural development projects.
Poland premier's call for pedophile castration draws fire
From: Bloomberg News Service
"What the prime minister said was a scandal," Ryszard Kalisz, a deputy for the Democratic Left Alliance, said in an interview today with Radio Tok FM. His comment that 'there are people in Poland who aren't human beings' violates the constitution entirely."
Tusk made his remarks after police arrested a man in the eastern Polish town of Siedlce on suspicion of sexually molesting his 21-year-old daughter for six years.
Tusk has vowed to push for new laws allowing for the forced castration of sentenced pedophiles, saying the legislation would be the toughest in Europe. While some other European Union members such as Denmark offer chemical castration for sexual offenders on a voluntary basis, none have made it obligatory.
The Helsinki Federation for Human Rights has criticized Tusk, saying medical treatment should not be forced on anyone and that nobody had the right to "state that any human was no longer a human."
Seventy-nine percent of Poles are in favor of chemical castration for pedophiles, according to a SMG/KRC survey of 1,000 Poles conducted on Sept. 10-11.
In Poland ‘Chemical castration is constitutional’
From: Polskie Radio
Yesterday, MPs from the left addressed a parliamentary question to the prime minister, asking him how the government plans to reconcile the obligatory castration of paedophiles with the constitution, which stresses that nobody can be submitted to torture or cruel, inhumane or humiliating treatment and punishment.
The call for castration of sex offenders, made by Prime Minister Donald Tusk last week comes in the wake of the so-called ‘Polish Fritzl’ case where a man has been accused of long-term abuse of his daughter and fathering two children consequently.
The justice minister stressed that chemical castration is not tantamount to surgical castration and is not, therefore, corporal punishment. "It is a reversible process," he stressed and explained that paedophiles would be merely given a drug lowering their sex drive.
Cwiakalski said that doctors will decide about possible chemical castration. The offenders will be sent for treatment only after they serve their prison sentence. He explained that paedophiles should be taking medicine costing 500-600 zloty a month.
Polish mother sold baby for two thousand zlotys
From: The News
"The child has been born at September and shortly after that given to the young couple who reside in England" – said police spokesman Jaroslaw Bucholc Mogilno.
After receiving information about the transaction police took in the mother of the child for further investigation. The woman said that the deal had been made in early June, three months before the birth.
Police commenced a rapid search and informed border guards in case the couple tried to escape to England.
The child is now under the doctors' protection.
The mother of the the new-born has already five children and the police suspect that it might have been poverty that pushed her to sell the newborn.
Human trafficking is a crime for which one can face from three years in person. Illegal abortion for profit is punishable by five years imprisonment.
IOC considering pending Beijing doping cases
An IOC disciplinary commission will meet Sunday to consider sanctions against, among others, the silver and bronze medalists from Belarus in the men’s hammer throw.
Vadim Devyatovskiy and Ivan Tsikhan tested positive for traces of testosterone after the hammer final Aug. 17. If the two are found guilty of doping, they would be disqualified and stripped of their medals.
Devyatovskiy’s silver would go to Krisztian Pars of Hungary, while Tsikhan’s bronze would go to Koji Murofushi of Japan. Primoz Kozmus of Slovenia won the gold medal.
The 31-year-old Devyatovskiy faces a lifetime ban if found guilty of a second doping offense. He served a two-year drug suspension from 2000-02.
It would be a first offense for 32-year-old Tsikhan, a three-time world champion and silver medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Other doping cases also will be examined.
IOC executive board member Gerhard Heiberg told Norwegian television that “several people from several nations” were implicated. He would not name them.
Emmanuelle Moreau, an IOC spokeswoman, said the panel would review “all pending cases from Beijing.” She said these included samples “that might have come back with adverse findings after the games were finished.”
Six athletes were disqualified for doping during the games.
The Olympics ended Aug. 24. It can take several days for samples to clear testing, so any positive tests from the second week of the games might only be confirmed afterward.
Moreau said the panel was only meeting now, nearly a month after the end of the games, because of the logistics in getting the members together and allowing athletes to attend the hearing.
The disciplinary panel can disqualify athletes on its own. It also can forward recommendations to the IOC executive board for a final ruling.
Disqualified by the IOC during the Beijing Olympics were Ukrainian heptathlete Lyudmila Blonska, Ukrainian weightlifter Igor Razoronov, Greek hurdler Fani Halkia, North Korean shooter Kim Jong Su, Spanish cyclist Isabel Moreno and Vietnamese gymnast Thi Ngan Thuong Do.
Blonska was stripped of her silver medal, while Kim’s silver and bronze medals were revoked.
The IOC carried out more than 5,000 doping tests during the games.
Real ease past Belarus minnows
In a David versus Goliath contest the latter came out on top with a first Champions League goal from Sergio Ramos and a strike from Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy helping Real collect the three points.
Real have won back-to-back league titles but have not advanced past the last 16 stage since 2004 and their coach Bernd Schuster is under pressure to have an impact on this season's competition after crashing out to Roma at the first knockout stage last season.
"It was my first goal in the Champions League which is great for me but the main positive is that we won," said Ramos.
"We have to concentrate on the league now and then there is the big game at St Petersburg. You can't afford to slip up in this competition if you want to go all the way."
BATE was always going to be an easy obstacle but Real's next group match is a tough trip to Russia to face UEFA Cup holders Zenit St Petersburg on September 30.
Schuster criticised his team for taking their foot off the gas against BATE and stressed stronger teams - such as Zenit and Juventus - would punish them.
"After we went 1-0 up and saw that our rivals were not in the position to respond we seemed to stop," lamented Schuster.
"We lacked the second or third goal to control the game and I am not happy about that. In another match it could cost us dearly."
Captain Raul, the all-time top-scorer in the Champions League with 61 goals, returned after recovering from a heel problem while Ramos came back in defence and Dutch international Rafael van der Vaart made his Real Champions League debut.
BATE had worked their way through all three qualifying rounds and their debut could not have been much more difficult.
The visitors kicked off and their nerves - for most of them this was the biggest game of their lives - showed as a misdirected pass went straight out of play.
With just six minutes gone Guti, a three-time Champions League winner with Real, should have scored but his chipped effort went wide.
Guti quickly made amends though sliding a terrific 10th minute pass to Ramos, who slotted the ball home.
BATE goalkeeper Sergei Veremko was peppered with shots as van Nistelrooy and Raul drove fierce efforts narrowly wide.
Fernando Gago hobbled off injured on the half hour mark so Schuster introduced Mahamadou Diarra in defensive midfield.
Real had conceded five goals in their first two league matches but the defence was comfortable against the visitor's blunt attack.
Although Borisov rarely threatened Real must have seen Romanian debutants CFR 1907 Cluj defeat Roma 2-1 on Tuesday and wanted a second goal to avoid the chance of a similar upset.
The home crowd were demanding more goals and on 56 minutes van Nistelrooy struck bundling the ball in after Raul's effort was well saved.
Minutes later BATE defender Anri Khagush was sent off for two bookable offences.
Doing Business in Belarus
From: PSD Blog
The DB "top reformers" list can get some surprised reactions. But the reality is that an increasing number of countries - like Belarus - are quietly and systematically working away at cutting red tape and expanding e-governance in key areas of regulation important for domestic businesses. In Belarus the IFC has actively been supporting the government in its streamlining efforts and its ambitious goal of significantly improving Belarus's overall DB ranking. And the IFC's "Bel.Biz" initiative provides a platform for the exchange of ideas for further reforms. With sustained reform efforts by the government of Belarus along with IFC assistance, expect to hear more about Belarus in forthcoming DB publications.
Congratulations to Belarus for being one of the four new members to the IFC's list of nations making the most reforms to improve business! And congratulations to your team.
President Lukashenko still needs to do much more to improve Belarus's climate for doing business, but this is a very positive sign of Belarus's potential.
A vibrant, free economy energized by what I call the engine of "New Enlightened Capitalism" (see the first entry on my blog), is necessary for the healthy and happy evolution of the economies of the 21st century. In making the necessary reforms good for your nation's business climate, Belarus's best and brightest need to do everything possible to influence your business leaders, your politicians and lawmakers decisions to advance toward novel approaches, combined with those economic models that we already know works well. Set an example for the world! Make Belarus a thrilling place to live in the future!