Elections over, opposition denied, CES says free and fair, OSCE says improved but flawed, BETA ties Juventus; Russia, Ukraine and Polish scandal
President Alexander Lukashenko Participates in Elections of Deputies to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly
From: BelTA and the Office of the President
|Alexander Lukashenko at a polling station|
After voting, the Head of State answered questions of representatives of Belarusian and foreign mass media.
Speaking about the possible future of the relations between Belarus and the West after these elections, Alexander Lukashenko said, “Everything has probably already been said here. If the elections are carried out well, the West is prepared to recognise Belarus and take a look at it with the naked eye, I am now saying what they said themselves. I can hardly add anything here. As for recognising or not recognising the elections, I think it will be difficult for any of the western observers not to recognise them. If they do not recognise the elections, it will also be a result; but I have already said it several times that we hold elections for ourselves, for our state, for our nation, everything is decided by the people”.
According to the President, “he who is impartial and unbiased sees how these elections are taking place”.
When asked what Russia’s reaction might be to the normalisation of relations between Belarus and the West, Alexander Lukashenko said, “I do not think it is in the interest of the Russian leadership that Belarus should have problems with America and the West. At least, it is what officials of the Russian Federation have always told us. If we succeed in normalising our relations with the West in the way we believe is appropriate, it will be a worthy contribution to the common record of achievements in Belarusian-Russian relations. I think, both Russians and Belarusians will only benefit from it”.
Belarus “has absolutely no problems” with Russia, the President underscored. “And these elections have nothing to do with our relationship with Russia. I am convinced that Russians will not only recognise but will also support the results of these elections. I know the opinions of observers from Russia about these elections and know what they have been saying in the course of the election campaign. The elections have been in progress for the fifth day now; they were observing things here even before the start of the voting,” said the President.
Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus needs constructive opposition
The political life of the Belarusian present day opposition is not long, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told reporters on September 28.
“There should be an alternative opinion, an oppositional point of view- I am talking about the true meaning of these words. It should not be the kind of opposition we have now. A real, constructive opposition that influences the life of the society is always necessary. Because the absence of the opposition causes a political stagnation. This is why the opposition always plays an important role in the society,” the Head of State noted. “But I am not talking about the opposition that is 100% fed and financed from abroad. It is obvious what position it will take and what point of view it will advocate.”
The President is convinced that “the opposition should be constructive, it should exist due to its political activity, it should live in the same way as ordinary people do; otherwise it will not be elected.”
“A society needs an opposition. But nobody is going to create opposition in Belarus artificially. It is very rare when I make forecasts, but the political life of the today’s opposition, especially its leaders who view themselves great democrats, will not be long. It has probably several months or years to live, and then it will disappear. It will disappear because it is not opposition, it represents only itself.”
“I will tell you more: when it came to the nomination of opposition candidates for parliamentary elections, the leaders did not see anyone except themselves. They did not nominate new people. But they have discredited themselves so much that people get scared even of the name written in the ballot. This is why they should have given way to new, young people, who have not ruined their reputation, if they have such people,” the Belarusian leader added.
Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus’ opposition is afraid of meeting with people
The Belarusian opposition is afraid of meeting with people and talking to them.
“The most important part of the election campaign is communication with people, not speech presentation on television,” Alexander Lukashenko said. He underlined that in the Soviet times voters met with candidates face to face. “Come, present speeches, talk to people. The problem is, however, that our opposition is afraid of meeting with people. Some oppositionists had to be forced to meet with voters,” the Head of State noted.
The President got familiar with the work of polling station No 5 where he cast his ballot.
Belarus President: observers and West cannot but recognize Belarus’ elections
|Lukashenko and son casting their vote|
Talking about the prospects of the Belarus-West relations after the 2008 parliamentary elections, Alexander Lukashenko underlined, “I think, all has already been said about it. The West is ready to recognize Belarus and take another look at it provided the elections are held in the proper way, those were their words. It is hard to add something to it. Speaking about the recognition or non-recognition of the elections, I think it will be difficult for the western observers not to recognize them. If they do not recognize them, it is also meaningful, but I have said many times that we hold the elections for ourselves, our state and our people who make their choice.”
According to the President, “those who are impartial and non-partisan see how the elections are being held.”
International observers: Belarus’ elections are democratic and progressive
As an international observer Vladimir Churov visited polling stations in Minsk and Smorgon. “Together people cast their votes in line with the legislation. Voting was arranged in a very convenient way for electors. There are no violations of the Electoral Code but I think more explanatory information should be available for electors at polling stations. For example, information about how electors can fill in ballot papers,” said the head of the Russian CEC.
He also underscored, the parliamentary elections in Belarus generally demonstrated free expression of the will of people.
The head of the Russian CEC remarked the Belarusian parliament will be formed.
International observers representing the OSCE and the CIS mentioned the democratic and progressive nature of the elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus. They shared their preliminary conclusions in the Kontury (Outlines) programme broadcast by the ONT TV channel.
The observers noted the elections had been held in compliance with the Electoral Code. One of the observers said he had noticed no violations visiting polling stations. Long-term observers could get familiar with election regulations, candidate registration procedures, the state of polling stations, and composition of election commissions. The observers registered no violations in these areas.
Vladimir Pekhtin, international observer representing the Russian parliament, mentioned good legislative and technical preparations for the elections. “At polling stations we saw other observers, a fact which points to the democracy of the elections,” he underscored.
Opposition candidates enjoyed better treatment partaking in the elections in comparison with other candidates, BelTA learnt from Aleksei Ostrovsky, Chairman of the CIS Affairs and Compatriots Committee of the Russian State Duma, head of the State Duma delegation sent to monitor the elections in Belarus.
“Talking to members of election commissions I learnt that in some cases the law was even bent in order to let opposition candidates reach the election day,” said Aleksei Ostrovsky. Thus opposition candidates got a distinct advantage in comparison with other candidates.
Aleksei Ostrovsky has stayed in Belarus for three days. He visited the Vitebsk and Minsk oblasts. In his words, he could watch the preparations for voting and the voting process itself at 19 polling stations of Minsk. “I saw nothing the so-called human rights campaigners have been talking about,” he said. “I believe the elections in Belarus were held entirely in compliance with the legislation”.
Aleksei Ostrovsky underscored he had talked to members of election commissions and regular voters. “Belarus citizens had comprehensive opportunities to get information about all candidates and could cast their votes as their heart and mind told them to”.
According to the source, calm regular work was dominant at polling stations. “I have seen no facts able to essentially influence the election campaign,” said Aleksei Ostrovsky. “I hope very much that observers from various Western organisations will give an objective evaluation of the elections in Belarus which unfortunately hasn’t happened before”.
Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus expects Europe to lift sanctions
“The iron curtain should be removed first. Instead of talking like bad neighbours over the fence we should start a normal political dialogue,” the head of state is convinced.
Alexander Lukashenko underscored Belarus has never broken its commitments. “You should know that if we reach an agreement, the Belarusians will always keep their word. If in political and economic cooperation Europe makes two steps, we will make five,” said the President.
The Belarusian head of state expects Europe to be consistent. “You always criticised the Soviet Union for building some sort of an iron curtain, fencing itself from the entire world and Europe. Well done! Why did you build this metal fence around us now? We expect the various sanctions you introduced and offended the Belarusian nation to be lifted,” said Alexander Lukashenko.
In his words, there are at least two reasons Europe did not have the right to introduce even the slightest sanctions against Belarus. “First, during World War Two we lost one third of the nation, we defended the entire Europe. Second, the Chernobyl tragedy: it wasn’t us who built the station, we didn’t operate it and we didn’t blow it up. But 85% of the disaster befell us. Why do you have to force some kind of a European Chernobyl on us by introducing sanctions and pressuring our country, our people? What is the Belarusian nation guilty of for Europe? We don’t expect you to do miracles and don’t ask to give us money to enter the European Union like other countries do. Let’s cooperate in a normal way,” said the President.
Alexander Lukashenko underscored the Belarusians don’t want to live at the expense of the Europeans and can earn their living independently. “But we have to talk. One more time, if Europe is not ready for it, tell us about it, we will understand it and will not press it upon you,” added the head of state. He also remarked, visa restrictions for some Belarusian officials are the least of the concerns.
“In Europe they are starting to understand that they made a very unwise move. It is just not natural for old Europe. What kind of view is that: we will not let you into Germany, Austria, the Netherlands. Fine, we don’t need it but we will not let anyone into Belarus! It is an asymmetric response,” said Alexander Lukashenko.
The head of state said visa restrictions disgrace Europe. “Placing our nation into visa conditions different from those of Ukraine and Russia even humiliated Europe,” believes Alexander Lukashenko.
Belarus foreign trade in goods 56.7% up in January-August
Belarus’ export went up by 57.7% to reach $23.696 billion while the import increased by 55.8% to $27.256 billion. In January-August the foreign trade deficit totalled $3.560 billion.
The trade with the CIS member states is rapidly growing. Over the eight months of 2008, the trade with these countries rose 59.8% to $29.312 billion. The export amounted to $10.412 billion (50.8% up), the import $18.900 billion (65.3% up). The deliveries of the Belarusian goods to Russia soared 37.6% to $7.599 billion, while the import grew 67.3% to $17.206 billion in comparison with the same period of 2007.
Over the eight months, the trade between Belarus and Ukraine rose almost 2 times to reach $3.550 billion. The export was $2.094 billion (157.8% up), the import $1.455 billion (50.5% up).
The trade with the non-CIS countries picked up 52.6% to $21.640 billion in January-August 2008. The export rose 63.5% to $13.284 billion, the import 37.9% to $8.357 billion.
Belarus downs export oil duty October 1
On October 1, 2008, Belarus will down the crude oil export duty from $495.9 to $372.2 per tonne. The Council of Ministers issued relevant resolution No 1426 of September 27, BelTA was told in the Council of Ministers Office.
The oil export duty has been revised upward following a similar reduction in the export oil duty in the Russian Federation effective from October 1. On October 1, the export duty on oil products will be downed to the level of the duties valid in the Russian Federation. For example, duties on light oil products (light and middle distillates, gas oil, liquefied gas, benzol, toluene and xylol) will be reduced from $346.4 to $263.1 per tonne. Duties on heavy petroleum products (engine oil, processed oil products, mineral wax, oil coke, oil asphalt) will be reduced from $186.6to $141.7 per tonne.
In line with the intergovernmental Belarusian-Russian agreement, export duties on oil and oil products in Belarus are equal to the duties applied in Russia and are introduced on the same date.
In conformance with the Belarusian-Russian agreement, in 2008 the coefficient of 0,335 will be used for calculating the duty on oil supplied to Belarus from Russia. On October 1, the customs special duty on the Russian oil imported to Belarus will make up $124.7.
Exhibition Orthodox Icon of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus to present rarities of 14-19th centuries
The project is timed to the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Kiev Rus. From May 29 to July 13, the exhibition was showcased in the State Tretiakov Gallery of Moscow. After this, it was displayed in the National Kiev-Pechersk Cave Monastery Historical and Cultural Reserve of Kiev from July 29 to September 14. In Minsk, the exhibition is held under the auspices of the British American Tobacco Trading Company.
It is the first project when the every Slavonic country presents 30 best icons. The main goal of the exhibition is to show the peculiarity and consanguinity of fine arts of the three Slavonic nations who have common roots, common sources and the common teacher – Byzantium.
Belarusian exhibits demonstrate the variety of styles of the Belarusian icon: from the icons which keep the Byzantium traditions to the icons which present the periods of baroque and classicism. The icon painting is presented from various regions of Belarus, mainly from the Brest, Mogilev and Gomel oblasts.
The Tretiakov Gallery features the oldest icons (the 14-16th centuries) from the old Russian art centers – Yaroslavl, Suzdal, Velikiy Novgorod, Pskov and Moscow.
Visitors of the exhibition will be able to see the images of saints – princes Boris and Gleb, their father – Kiev Prince Vladimir who baptized Kiev Rus, Metropolitan of Rostov Demetrius. The exhibition will present the icons “The Holy Mother of Vladimir”, “The Virgin Hodigitria”, “The Dormition of the Virgin” and others.
The Ukrainian icons allow us to follow the way of the development of icon painting during the 16-19th centuries from the post-Byzantium times to the baroque epoch. the National Kiev-Pechersk Cave Monastery Historical and Cultural Reserve features the icons from the various regions of Ukraine – Volyn, Galicia, Kiev and the Kiev region, Chernigov which were the leading art centres during various stages of the development of the Ukrainian national icon painting school.
The Belarusian Exarchate has prepared catalogue “Orthodox Icon of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus”. It also intends to shoot a movie.
The exhibition resumed the cooperation between the museums, Sergei Kolevits, the director of the National Kiev-Pechersk Cave Monastery Historical and Cultural Reserve, noted. He expressed hope that the cooperation between museums of the three countries will be intensified.
EU concerned at Belarus vote after opposition wiped out
From: AFP and US Gov
The OSCE had judged Sunday's legislative elections in Belarus, in which no opposition candidate was elected, to be undemocratic.
The findings of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) election watchdog "concern" the EU presidency which called on the Belarussian authorities "to pursue efforts in order to conform with international democratic standards."
However the EU presidency statement also spoke of "positive developments which preceded the vote, in particular the freeing of the remaining political prisoners and the invitation to the OSCE to observe the legislative elections".
The European Union has been seeking a way to hold out a hand to what it sees as a key state at the outer reaches of Western and Russian influence, especially in the wake of the Georgia conflict.
EU foreign ministers, meeting in France earlier this month, mooted lifting their sanctions against Belarus following the prisoner release.
"Given that we said we were asking Belarus to release political prisoners and demonstrate electoral reform, they have done some but not all of that," one European diplomat said Tuesday.
"So now we need to have an analysis of whether we are going to give them something but not everything," in terms of lifting sanctions."
Of all the 27 EU nations, Poland and Lithuania, neighbours of Belarus and particularly anti-Moscow, have been pushing the hardest to get the sanctions lifted.
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has made the comparison with Cuba, noting that the EU has lifted its sanctions there despite the fact that Havana is still holding political prisoners.
The Lithuanian foreign ministry said in a statement that the elections do not change the fact that dialogue with Belarus is "indispensable".
Both countries are likely to call at the next meeting of EU foreign ministers next month for a selective review of the sanctions in place and other measures of encouragement in the form of visa facilitation and scholarships, said another European diplomat.
Forty Belarussian figures, including Lukashenko, have been banned from entering the EU since the 2006 presidential election which was judged not to comply with international norms.
Loyalists of autocratic Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko won every seat in Sunday's parliamentary polls that were also widely condemned by the US government and Western observers.
Full election results indicated all 110 lower house seats in the former Soviet state would go to allies of Lukashenko, dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by the United States.
Lukashenko himself on Tuesday called for the European Union to lift its sanctions and vowed not to seek closer ties with the West at the expense of its old ally Russia.
The president, who has ruled Belarus for 14 years, said that "if we are asked to improve relations with Europe at the expense of Russia, we will not agree to this."
The OSCE has said the Belarus vote "fell short of OSCE commitments in spite of minor improvements."
The organisation, which deployed some 450 poll monitors in the former Soviet state, said they were denied access to more than a third of polling stations for the count and found "several cases of deliberate falsification of results" at other locations.
According to the US Department of State, The United States is disappointed that the September 28 parliamentary elections in Belarus fell significantly short of international standards, and that the Government of Belarus failed to uphold pledges for a transparent vote count.
According to the preliminary report of the OSCE’s election monitoring mission, the conduct of the parliamentary elections in Belarus did not meet OSCE standards despite minor improvements. The vote count in particular was judged negatively at nearly one-half of the precincts where OSCE observers were present.
Problems included election monitors being denied access to the vote count process, discrepancies between the number of voters observed and the number of votes recorded and outright falsification of votes.
The United States commends those individuals and members of political parties who participated fully in the elections. We note that a demonstration was held after the elections in a peaceful and orderly manner.
It is the intention of the United States to maintain our dialogue with the government and people of Belarus. We encourage the authorities to take steps to uphold Belarus’ international commitments to promote democratic freedoms, including holding genuinely competitive elections, and to improving respect for internationally recognized human rights. Such steps are necessary in order for relations between the United States and Belarus to improve significantly.
Belarus calls for UN to reach deeper insight of global interests
From: Trend Az and UN.org
|Ambassador Andrei Dapkiunas of the Republic of Belarus|
Belarus calls for the UN member-states to reach deeper understanding of the global interests, Andrei Dapkyunas, permanent representative of the Republic of Belarus in the UN stated in his speech in the UN headquarters in New York in the course of the high-level debate of the UN General Assembly (GA).
Belarus is confident in the necessity to reorient international relations from “confrontation fuelled by petty national interests to equal and mutually respectful dialogue and cooperation”, the Belarusian diplomat said. Enhancing the General Assembly’s impact on world affairs could only be possible when the contributions of all member-states received attentive and unbiased consideration, reported Belta.
The Millennium Development Goals could not be advanced unless the member-states could set aside their own geopolitical interests, stated the head of the Belarusian missions in the UN.
Speaking about the priority ways of the activity of the Belarusian delegation at the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly and describing climate change, as well and energy and food shortages, as interrelated issues of international concern, he said cooperation on the proliferation of energy-saving technologies, as well as renewable and alternative sources of energy, was the most promising way to address those dilemmas. Belarus offers to hold special debates in this respect. Andrei Dapkyunas backs the establishment of a multi-faceted energy agenda, including a code of conduct for transnational corporations engaged in oil and gas production and mining in developing countries.
Belarus called for increased efforts to find a feasible way to desalinate sea water. The United Nations could be integral to defining the future of such technologies that should belong to the whole mankind.
A matter of immediate concern was preventing human trafficking through the elaboration of a plan of action initiated by Belarus at the 63rd session of the UN GA, he said.
The Head of the Belarusian Mission in the UN also touched upon the initiatives of Chairman of the 63rd session of the UN GA Miguel D’Escoto on further democratization of the United Nations. To that end, Belarus called on the member states to bring a successful conclusion to its lengthy quest for its rightful membership in the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation and appropriateness in a strict observation of the principle of fair geographic representation in selecting governing personnel in the UN Secretariat departments.
Belarus endorses widespread democratization of UN
In a related story, The most senior officials in the United Nations Secretariat should come from a much broader spread of countries, Belarus told the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate today, calling for wide-scale democratization of the entire Organization.
Addressing the debate’s final day, Belarus’ Permanent Representative Andrei Dapkiunas said his country “has always been a proponent of honest democratic relations in the UN system, a supporter of equal opportunities for all Member States and of the establishment of common rules of the game for the whole membership.”
He backed the call earlier this month by General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto for a democratization of the world body so that it can deal more effectively with the most pressing global problems and ensure that the voices of a few do not overwhelm the views of the majority of others.
That kind of reform, Mr. Dapkiunas said, must include accelerated change within the UN Secretariat.
“The principle of fair geographical distribution has to be consistently implemented in the selection of the highest officers of the Secretariat departments: the highest five officers in each department have to represent five regional groups.”
He added that Belarus calls on UN Member States to support “the inadmissibly lengthy quest of Belarus for the rightful membership” in the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of the Atomic Radiation.
Belarus harvested 50 % of potatoes
As of September 30, 505.721 tonnes of potatoes were harvested with the average yield of 208.89 c/ha, as compared to the same date of 2007 – 586.870 tonnes and 187.49 c/ha, respectively.
By the way, the leaders of potatoes harvesting are the farms of Minsk oblast – 149.536 tonnes of potatoes were harvested with the average yield of 208.59 c/ha. The smallest amounts of potatoes were harvested in Vitebsk and Brest oblasts - 59.300 and 59.780 tonnes, respectively.
Belarus has rich crop of potatoes in 2008
According to Marian Rubel, the First Deputy general director on science of the Research and practical centre of potatoes- and fruit-and-vegetable-growing of the National Academy of Science, during 2008, 9 mln tonnes of potatoes will be harvested in Belarus in the farms of all categories, including 1 mln tonnes of potatoes in the public sector, reported AgroBel.
As the deputy general director of the research and practical centre reminded, the share of potato production in the public sector is increasing in order to compensate its reduction in the private farms. “According to the potatoes-growing development program, by 2010 production of potatoes in the public sector will increase by 50 % as compared to the current year, and total 1.58 mln tonnes”, he added. Also, the increase of potatoes exports to 600.000 tonnes is intended.
In 2007, gross crop of potatoes throughout the farms of all categories totaled 8.7 mln tonnes.
According to the Ministry of agriculture and food of Belarus, as of September 29, 2008 , the agrarian organizations harvested potatoes throughout 22.200 ha, which is 45.9 % of the plan. 462.300 tonnes of potatoes were harvested with the yield of 208.3 c/ha, which is up 20.8 c/ha as compared with the same date of the last year.
Belarus: Welcome to the Eurofest project!
Headed by Aleksandr Tihanovich, a superstar of Belarusian pop-music, producer and People's artist of Belarus the fourth edition of Eurofest will be a four-phase project open to all performers, permanent residents of the country. Songwriters, on the other hand can be foreigners as well. Song submission starts on 5th October until 20 November.
The selection will be held in four phases. Initially, a professional jury will select fifteen songs which will proceed to the semi final to be aired by First Channel. During the semi, a mixture of jury and televote will select 2 or 3 songs which will proceed to the final. The Eurofest winner will be selected in the third phase, ie the final, by an expert jury. But the show will not end there. The fourth phase will be a series of shows following the country's representative's preparations on the way to Moscow.
Belteleradiocompany, the organisers of the Belorussian preselection, look upon Eurofest as more than a show to choose the country's representative in the contest. They also consider it to be an opportunity for local talent to enjoy the limelight and be exposed to the Belorussian as well as international public: "During last years, National Project EuroFest became not only a competition. It is a reliable start for young and talented singers, because during their participation in the project they have a great chance to appear in front of the huge audience of spectators all over Belarus and other countries. In 2008 we happily announce, that we begin to accept requests. We are gladly waiting for collaboration with our future contestants. Welcome to the "EuroFest" project! Let's open the doors to Eurovision 2009 together!" - says executive producer of the project, well-known Belarusian singer Anastasiya Tihanovich.
Last year, the Belorussian bradcaster did not stop the Eurovision celebrations with the end of Eurofest, which saw Ruslan Alehno to Belgade. Many more shows followed, such as Belarus - 12 points and Stars of Eurovision, which saw many Eurostars like Dana International (Israel), Lordi (Finland), Marija Serifovic (Serbia), Sertab (Turkey), Boaz (Israel), Ani Lorak (Ukraine), Dima Bilan (Russia), Sirusho (Armenia), Mor ve Otesi (Turkey), Dima Koldun (Belarus), Ruslan Alehno (Belarus) and many others.
No oppositionists get through to Parliament
Ms. Yarmoshyna claimed that she did not have data about the voting results in the remaining 11 districts.
According to her, Syarhey Kalyakin, leader of the Belarusian Party of Communists, won only 15.6 percent of the vote. As for other prominent opposition candidates, 15 percent of the vote went to Ihar Rynkevich; 14 percent to Ales Mikhalevich; 10.6 percent to Lyudmila Hraznova; 9.7 percent to Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the United Civic Party; and 8.6 percent for Volha Kazulin, a daughter of former presidential candidate Alyaksandr Kazulin.
Ms. Yarmoshyna also said that two members of the outgoing House, Volha Abramava and Viktar Kuchynski, failed to get reelected.
Among those elected are, in particular, Uladzimir Andreychanka, head of the Vitsyebsk Reguional Executive Committee; Uladzimir Zharela, chief of Belarusian Railroads; Alyaksandr Papkow, deputy head of the Presidential Administration; Anatol Hlaz, deputy head of the Mahilyow Regional Executive Committee; and House of Representatives members Alyaksandr Shawko, Tatsyana Holubeva, Tatsyana Asmalowskaya, Alyaksandr Yushkevich, Halina Yurhyalevich, Anatol Pawlovich, Raman Korap, Ihar Karpenka, and Halina Palyanskaya.
Head of CIS mission lauds Belarus' vote
Belarus' elections for the House of Representatives were "free and open," Sergei Lebedev, head of the CIS election observation mission, told reporters in Minsk on September 29.
The mission did not spot instances that could cast doubt on the legitimacy or democratic nature of the vote, he said.
Mr. Lebedev said that the mission had made conclusions based on its own observation, as well as materials and reports collected during its long- and short-term observation and submitted by election commissions, government officials and other international observers.
He said that local election commissions and the executive branch of government had created conditions in Belarus to allow "the maximum amount of political forces" to participate in the election process, and had ensured the protection and execution of voters' rights in accordance with national law.
"We think that the elections were held in Belarus at a high organizational level in accordance with electoral regulations in place in the country and generally recognized international standards for the conduct of democratic elections," Mr. Lebedev said. "The mission states that the elections were an important factor for the further democratization of society's life in Belarus."
Secretary General of the Council of Europe: “Lukashenka never loses opportunity to lose opportunity”
From: Charter '97
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was unable to observe the voting, but the OSCE observers concluded that the elections fell short of European standards. Terry Davis said that as a friend of Belarusian people, he was deeply disappointed but still hoped the Belarusians would soon be able to take part in really free and fair voting.
It should be reminded that the OSCE/ODIHR election monitoring mission didn’t recognise the “parliamentary elections” in Belarus free and democratic. OSCE observers noted “bad or very bad” process of vote counting in 50 per cent of the cases. 40 per cent of the observers weren’t able to monitor the vote counting in full. The elections ultimately fell short of OSCE standards.
Flawed victory for 'last dictator' Lukashenko as Belarus elections denounced
From: Charter '97
|Lord Bell meeting with the President of the Republic|
Today however Western monitors denounced the Belarussian parliamentary elections — in which all the President's men swept to victory — as flawed. “Voting was generally well conducted but the process deteriorated considerably during the vote count,” said the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in a statement.
The opposition, denied a single win in the 110-seat House of Representatives, was even sharper in its criticism. “This was an electoral farce staged for the West,” said Anatoly Lebedko, the leader of the United Civil Party, one of several opposition parties that had fielded candidates.
Denied access to state television and dismissed as money-grabbing opportunists by the 54-year-old President, the opposition parties struggled to make an impact. This evening demonstrators again chanted protests in central Minsk but the police, unlike on other occasions, did not intervene and there seemed to be none of the tension felt during the Ukrainian Orange and Georgian Rose revolutions.
Did Mr Lukashenko - already in power for 14 years - win by fair means or foul? Did he drum up his support using ballot box stuffing techniques he has deployed in the past, or has he, under the tutelage of Lord Bell — a former image advisor to Margaret Thatcher and the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet — made himself more loveable and more respectable?
The questions are critical because the West, the EU and the United States, is becoming more interested in upgrading its relationship with the Minsk regime as part of a general re-shaping of policy towards Russia.
Lord Bell, who has personally met the President in Minsk, does not comment on details of his political counselling. But the effects are plain to see.
The President, a roller-blading former collective farmer with a cleanliness obsession, was always going to be a difficult sell. For this election he appeared to loosen up, letting himself be photographed in the voting booth with his younger son, the offspring of a relationship with his now openly acknowledged mistress.
And step by step he has been making gestures that could be interpreted as the acts of a liberal leader: releasing from prison the former presidential candidate Alexander Kazulin, relaxing rules on foreign investment and sacking hard-liners. All his recent appointments seem designed to create a government of technocrats under Prime Minister Sergei Sidorski and backed by his increasingly powerful son, Viktar Lukashenko.
The point — and the advice of Lord Bell seems to be at work — is to shed the title of Last Dictator and tick off the boxes in a check-list presented by the European Union in a memorandum of understanding. Until then Belarussian officials, including the President, would be banned from entering the European Union — a sanction imposed after the rigged presidential election results of 2006.
The President, it seems, was willing to go some way with Lord Bell but ultimately felt unable to make all the necessary concessions. Some 400 monitors from the OSCE were allowed into the country but found themselves blocked from more than a third of polling stations. They noted several cases of deliberate falsification of results. “This compromised the transparency of this fundamental element of the election process,” said the statement.
Opposition activists said that they were not allowed to sit on electoral commissions and that many votes by organised institutions - above all, the army - had been cast even before Sunday. And the most fundamental problem remains Mr Lukashenko's bitter campaign against Western non-governmental groups which have been trying to boost the political skills of the opposition.
“Why do you pay money to these so-called opposition activists?” demanded the President in a pre-election interview with Western media, broadcast in prime time on Belarussian state television.
The idea that opposition may somehow be unpatriotic is firmly anchored in Belarussian culture. Lidia Yermoshina, the head of the Belarussian election commission, emphasised that the elections were fair. One opposition intellectual quoted a character from a Tom Stoppard play last night: “Democracy is in the counting, not the voting.”
Ukraine's President Presses for NATO Membership
"Ukraine must join the military alliance and the European Union to protect its sovereignty," said Yushchenko, speaking through a translator during an appearance at the National Press Club.
His comments were strongly influenced by Russia's recent invasion of Georgia, in a dispute over a breakaway province backed by Russia.
"My main target is to bring Ukraine to membership in the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization," Yushchenko said. He spoke of vague threats to Ukrainian sovereignty but did not name Russia, which strongly opposes the country's bid for NATO membership. The Russian embassy could not immediately be reached for comment.
Political turmoil, rather than external pressure, may be the country's biggest obstacle to NATO membership, said Steven Pifer, a former ambassador to Ukraine who is now a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.
"Right now if you look at the progress they've made in political, economic and military reform, it's pretty hard to argue they're not ready for a membership action plan," Pifer said. Internal politicking derailed the country's membership bid in 2006. Infighting between Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko could further delay the membership process.
If invited to join the alliance, Yushchenko said Ukraine would not host nuclear missiles or military bases. Less clear is how Ukraine's admission would affect Russia's Black Sea fleet, which operates out of Sevastopol, a Ukrainian port.
The State Department estimates it will give about $83 million to Ukraine this year, slightly less than the $96 million the United States sent during 2007. Ukraine's military will use some of that money to train and equip its forces to work with NATO.
Yushchenko and his push for membership in the western military alliance remain unpopular in Ukraine - especially in Crimean Peninsula, where many identify more with Moscow than Kiev.
Tymoshenko recently split with Yushchenko over her alliance with opposition groups that successfully limited presidential power. Some speculate she will run for president when Yushchenko's term expires in 2010.
Yushchenko plays down rift in government
"We also discussed the domestic political situation in Ukraine, which in my opinion is far away from being tragic, and not dramatic," Yushchenko said at the White House.
"Ukraine has enough democratic resources and tools to give sufficient response to any crisis that may occur in the Ukrainian Parliament."
The coalition between Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's bloc came apart earlier this month, mainly over disagreements between the two leader over Russia's invasion of Georgia.
Yushchenko has advocated pro-Western policies, while Tymoshenko sees Russia as playing a more important role in Ukraine's future and is trying to build a new coalition with pro-Russian parties. Failure to form a new government could bring elections as early as December.
Bush and Yushchenko also discussed energy issues and Ukraine's desire to join the NATO alliance. NATO earlier this year agreed to put Ukraine on the path to membership.
Russia extends $1bn loan to Venezuela for defence purchases
Russian state information service RIA Novosti announced on 25 September that the loan would be advanced, citing Kremlin sources. The timing coincided with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's two-day visit to Moscow.
The July 2008 edition of Jane's Industry Quarterly - 'Eastern Promise: China, India and Russia in the global defence market' - reported that Venezuela had emerged as the second most significant customer for Russian defence materiel after Algeria in 2006, helped partly by the United States' decision in the same year to impose an arms embargo on Caracas.
The impact on Russian exports was significant: Latin America accounted for just 7.7 per cent of Russia's total foreign defence sales during 2006 (according to Moscow's Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies), but Venezuela alone accounted for 16 per cent of all military exports in 2007. Defence and aerospace contracts valued at USD3 billion were signed by the two countries in June 2006 to coincide with a visit to Moscow by Chavez.
Somali pirates deny shootout, renew ransom demand
A maritime group monitoring the situation had earlier said three pirates were killed in a shootout between rival gunmen on the MV Faina, seized six days ago in the most high-profile of a wave of hijackings off lawless Somalia this year.
"We want $20 million ransom from the ship and we are 53 Somalis," said Sugule, the spokesman of the pirates onboard the Ukrainian ship, which is being shadowed by U.S. navy vessels.
"I will not talk about mediators or negotiation because we are at risk. I will not name where we are particularly but we are on the coast of Somalia," he told Reuters, adding the pirates would stay on board until their demands were met.
The capture of the MV Faina has sparked controversy over the destination of its cargo and thrown a spotlight on rampant piracy in one of the world's busiest shipping areas connecting Europe to Asia and the Middle East.
The East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, monitoring the hijacking via relatives of the crew and contacts with pirates, had earlier said that factions had argued over whether to free the cargo and crew.
But the pirates denied there had been any fighting.
"There are two American warships near us but we have neither fought nor communicated with them," Sugule said.
Two other pirates and a regional leader had earlier told Reuters there had been no shootout. Sugule said one of the 21 crew members had died due to illness.
The U.S. navy has said the ship, which was heading for Kenya's Mombasa port, was carrying T-72 tanks, grenade-launchers and ammunition ultimately bound for south Sudan via Kenya.
Kenya says the weaponry was for its own military.
Taking advantage of chaos on shore, where an Islamist-led insurgency has raged for nearly two years, Somali pirates have seized more than 30 ships this year and attacked many more.
Most attacks have been in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and north Somalia, a major global sea artery used by about 20,000 vessels a year heading to and from the Suez Canal. The pirates have also struck in the busy Indian Ocean waters off south Somalia.
With U.S. and French military bases in the area, many are unhappy with the lack of international action.
"If civil aircraft were being hijacked on a daily basis, the response of governments would be very different," top shipping trade bodies and transport unions said in a joint statement.
"Yet ships, which are the lifeblood of the global economy, are seemingly out of sight and out of mind."
As well as using ransom money to build new homes and take new wives, the increasingly rich pirates have bought speedboats, satellite phones and other equipment to aid their trade.
"There is a striking similarity between the actions of these unscrupulous pirates and the activity in 'blood diamonds' in Liberia and Sierra Leone during the civil wars in these countries," said U.N. envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.
"No ship, big or small, civil or military, is spared. With the seizure of the Ukrainian ship, a new line has been crossed."
U.S. analyst J. Peter Pham, of Madison University, called for a united international naval response, more attention to solving Somalia's civil conflict, and better protection equipment on board commercial vessels.
"Many have done little aside from being prepared to pay ransoms which only perpetuate the cycle of violence," he wrote in a new report on the Somali piracy phenomenon.
Polish man cuts his head off with chainsaw
From: Polskie Radio
Police say he man decided to kill himself after a family squabble. The tragic event occurred in Nadbrzeze, near Elblag, on Thursday evening. Police officers who were called to the scene found the man in a pool of blood, the chainsaw next to him.
The public prosecutor, who attended the scene is satisfied that the act was suicide and no other person was involved.
Poland’s hospitals ‘ticking biological time bombs!’
From: The News
|Dustin Hoffman in "Outbreak"|
And it’s not just hospital patients who are at risk. Since the beginning of this year, at least one water supply network has been closed down in Poland due to contamination of the potentially deadly E. coli bacteria from hospital sewers. The probability that the bacteria will hit one of the biggest Polish cities is very high. Polish epidemiologists have no doubt that Polish hospitals are a ticking biological time bombs and a disaster waiting to happen, writes the newspaper.
The new draft media reform bill in its present shape gives politicians an instrument to exert yet more pressure on public radio and television, a media expert from Warsaw University, Maciej Mrozowski, is quoted in today’s Rzeczpospolita daily.
The new controversial draft bill, completely discrediting the current law, proposes an utterly new system of funding and control of public media may be more detrimental than the present system, says Mrozowski. In particular, the expert’s main cause for concern is the lack of transparency when financing public broadcasters from the state budget and exercising control via newly- establisher regulators dependent on the authorities, writes Rzeczpospolita.
On the positive side, the concept of programming licences, based of the French idea, and a merger of public radio and television stations, presently too disintegrated on the regional level, are the only good ideas proposed by the new law, in the expert’s view.
The Polish Justice Ministry wants to close down dozens of courts employing less than ten judges each, informs the left-wing Trybuna daily.
If the Ministry’s idea, bitterly criticised by the Polish Judges Association “Iustitia”, comes into force, access to courts, especially among the Poles living in rural areas and small towns, will be drastically impeded.
According to “Iustitia” member, judge Waldemar Zurek, if the shortage of judges in Poland is not remedied soon, “we will have to begin employing student judges to pass verdicts, which would be disastrous”, we read in Trybuna.
Former PM: government are vengeful whippersnappers
From: The News
|former Democratic Left Prime Minister (and former communist)Leszek Miller|
“The attempt to take away the military pensions from General Wojciech Jaruzelski and his former subordinates is a triumph of folly over decency. Political whippersnappers take revenge on the Polish exile to Siberia and frontline soldier [during WWII] who first saved our country from the Warsaw Pact’s military invasion [by introducing martial law in 1981] and then brought about the roundtable talks [in 1989] and political transformation at an unprecedented scale in Poland,” Leszek Miller writes on his blog on Onet.pl Internet portal.
In the former PM’s view, there are no such “mythical privileges” that could make amends to the General for his great contributions to contemporary Poland and the Civic Platform “have put themselves into the Law and Justice’s (PiS) shoes” trying to vengefully slash the former SB officers’ retirement pensions.
Miller has also recalled the fact that even the former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa vetoed a similar bill in 1992 when he was President.
The Dziennik daily wrote on Tuesday that the Polish Lower House would soon debate a draft bill prepared by the Civic Platform to lower the pensions claimed by some 35,000 former officers of the Communist militia still living in Poland. The newspaper informed that the average monthly pension claimed by the retired SB generals was 7,300 zlotys (2,300 euros) a month and would be reduced to 2,500 zlotys under the new law.
Note: Remeber that being Polish is not a nationality, it's a profession.
""BATE shocked us": Juventus, BATE draw 2-2 in Champions League
|Bate Borisov's Sergei Sosnovski (L) vies for the ball with Juventus' Vincenzo Iaquinta|
BATE jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead before Iaquinta headed in a cross from Sebastian Giovinco in the 29th minute. Iaquinta brought Juventus even in first-half injury time when he took another pass from Giovinco and threaded a shot between the legs of BATE goalkeeper Sergei Veremko.
Sergei Kryvets put BATE in front in the 17th when he beat Juventus goalkeeper Alex Manninger, who was playing for the injured Gianluigi Buffon, after taking a through pass that beat the defense.
Igor Stasevich added a goal in the 23rd, heading in Pavel Nekhaichik's high ball from the left.
"BATE shocked us," Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri said through a translator. "When you are losing 2-0 it's really tough to equalize, but my players saved the match which seemed to be lost."
Real Madrid, which defeated Zenit St. Petersburg 2-1 Tuesday, leads Group H with six points. Juventus is second with four, followed by BATE with one.
Juventus had been held to a 0-0 draw by Sampdoria on Saturday and hadn't scored more than one goal in a game since beating Slovakian side Artmedia 4-0 in Champions League qualifying on Aug. 13. But with Buffon sidelined, it was the Juventus defense that was in difficulty after previously giving up just two goals in five league matches.
With David Trezeguet out until at least January following surgery on both knees, Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri paired Alessandro Del Piero and Iaquinta in attack.
Iaquinta had been without a goal since an injury in May forced him to miss the final two games of last season. Amauri, who has scored three league goals since arriving from Palermo, replaced Iaquinta for the final 10 minutes of the game. He didn't start because of a recent bout of the flu.
"We are proud of our team and the result," BATE coach Viktor Goncharenko said. "We lacked experience of playing with such opponents, but we came close to winning."
BATE was without defender Anri Khagush, who was sent off against Madrid, and captain Aleksandr Ermakovic, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
BATE is the first Belarus team to make it to this stage of the competition. BATE had a record 23-match unbeaten streak to start its domestic league and was unbeaten in its three Champions League qualifying rounds — against Valur Reykjavik, Anderlecht and Levski Sofia.
At TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, Ksenia Palkina, a teenager from Kyrgyzstan ranked 203rd, upset second-seeded Olga Govortsova of Belarus 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-5 Tuesday in the first round of the Tashkent Open.
Govortsova is ranked 44th, and this was Palkina first victory over a player in the top 50.
"I still cannot fully realize that I've won," Palkina said. "In the middle of the match I thought my chances of winning were about 40 percent."
Also, Tatiana Poutchek of Belarus downed eighth-seeded Galina Voskovboeva of Russia 6-1, 6-1 and Third-seeded Sorana Cirstea of Romania reached the second round by beating Ekaterina Dzehalevich of Belarus 7-6 (4), 7-5.
Legally qualified parliament is elected in Belarus
The Brest oblast: the 1st electoral district – Oleg Velichko, the 2nd electoral district – Larisa Bogdanovich, the 3rd – Anna Onischuk, the 4th – Nina Fedoruk, the 5th – Anatoly Vankovich, the 6th – Svetlana Pisch, the 7th – Vladimir Maisiuk, the 8th – Nikolai Andreichuk, the 9th – Evgeny Kazimirchik, the 10th – Vladimir Zdanovich, the 11th – Leonid Kovalevich, the 12th – Alexander Zozulya, the 13th – Larisa Vershalovich, the 14th – Zinaida Mandrovskaya, the 15th – Konstantin Shevchik, the 16th – Nina Kulsha.
The Vitebsk oblast: the 17th electoral district – Gennady Gritskevich, the 18th – Viktor Ovchinnikov, the 19th – Sergei Semashko, the 20th – Alexander Losyakin, the 21st – Vasily Baikov, the 22nd – Vladimir Andreichenko, the 23rd – Anfim Mikhalevich, the 24th – Vladimir Skovorodko, the 25th – Inna Antonova, the 26th – Vladimir Zherelo, the 27th – Vladimir Adashkevich, the 28th – Piotr Yuzhik, the 29th – Eduard Kazuro, the 30th – Alexander Popkov.
The Gomel oblast: the 31st electoral district – Alexander Chikilev, the 32nd – Alexander Belyaev, the 33rd – Alexander Shevko, the 34th – Larisa Kuznetsova, the 35th – Tatiana Filimonchik, the 36th – Alexander Shatko, the 37th – Vladimir Maiorov, the 38th – Vladimir Kuzhanov, the 39th – Mikhail Rusy, the 40th – Vladimir Batan, the 41st – Raisa Tikhanskaya, the 42nd – Evgeny Artiushenko, the 43rd – Sergei Konoplich, the 44th – Alla Isachenko, the 45th – Vladimir Mikhasev, the 46th – Valentina Kovaleva, the 47th – Georgy Dashkevich.
The Grodno oblast: the 48th electoral district – Leonid Eliashevich, the 49th – Alexander Antonenko, the 50th – Sergei Maskevich, the 51st – Marina Remsha, the 52nd – Nikolai Gorbachenok, the 53rd – Valentina Luzina, the 54th – Tamara Kleban, the 55th – Mikhail Orda, the 56th – Vasily Stepuro, the 57th – Filip Bogush, the 58th – Mechislav Kostiuk, the 59th – Tatiana Golubeva, the 60th – Maria Biuriukova.
The Minsk oblast: the 61st electoral district – Vladimir Petrovich, the 62nd – Viktor Guminsky, the 63rd – Vasily Gurianov, the 64th – Igor Spilnichenko, the 65th – Oleg Kot, the 66th – Vasily Liutikov, the 67th – Gennady Demidchik, the 68th – Vasily Usik, the 69th – Anna Levitskaya, the 70th – Nikolai Zhgun, the 71st – Vladimir Sinyakov, the 72nd – Elena Novik, the 73rd – Elena Dikovitskaya, the 74th – Inessa Kleschuk, the 75th – Evgeny Obolensky, the 76th – Anna Lavrukevich, the 77th – Ivan Bogatko.
The Mogilev oblast: the 78th electoral district – Elena Shamal, then 79th – Vladimir Karpyak, the 80th – Anatoly Glaz, the 81st – Tatiana Osmolovskaya, the 82nd – Oleg Sakadynets, the 83rd – Tamara Belkina, the 84th – Vladimir Vasilenko, the 85th – Alexander Yushkevich, the 86th – Tatiana Isachenko, the 87th – Evgeny Melnikov, the 88th – Alexander Rozganov, the 89th – Sergei Kryzhevich, the 90th – Valery Ivanov.
Minsk City: the 91st electoral district – Galina Yurgelevich, the 92nd – Alexander Vysotsky, the 93rd – Anatoly Pavlovich, the 94th – Gennady Davydko, the 95th – Valentina Leonenko, the 96th – Roman Korop, the 97th – Aleksei Kozlov, the 98th – Viktor Tokachev, the 99th – Svetlana Shilova, the 100th – Igor Karpenko, the 101st – Aleksei Kuzmich, the 102nd – Valentina Lukashenok, the 103rd – Svetlana Sukhovei, the 104th – Valentina Zhuravskaya, the 105th – Nikolai samoseiko, the 106th – Galina Polyanskaya, the 107th – Vitaly Busko, the 108th – Nikolai Kazak, the 109th – Ignaty Misuragin, the 110th – Tamara Scherbachevich.