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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, October 12, 2008

Belarus chairs EurAsEC meeting, UN Traficing resolutions, Schengen visas, Chagall Hotel, Refinancing rates, World Cup, Russia and Polish scandals...

  • From the Top...
  • #351

    President Alexander Lukashenko Elected Chairman of the Interstate Council of the Eurasian Economic Community

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    The President at the CIS summit earlier this week
    The President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has been elected Chairman of the Interstate Council of the Eurasian Economic Community. The decision to this effect was taken unanimously on 10 October at the EurAsEC summit in Bishkek. In accordance with the EurAsEC principles, the heads of the Community change on the yearly basis, following the principle of rotating presidency.

    Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Interstate Council; Andrei Kobyakov was appointed Chairman of the Integration Committee of the Eurasian Economic Community.

    The next EurAsEC summit will take place in the autumn of 2009 in Moscow.

    Opening the meeting, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan expressed confidence that the Eurasian Economic Community could play the role of a locomotive in what concerns first of all economic cooperation within the general format of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

    The presidents considered 15 issues included on the agenda and took decisions on eight of them.

    According to the heads of state, the EurAsEC summit in Bishkek was fruitful; and its results were important for the Community, both in the short term and long term perspectives. During the meeting, the heads of state were unanimous about the need for intensifying integration processes and effective implementation of the objectives aimed at creating a free trade zone within the Community. The member states could use international experience in this sphere; but at the same time it is clear that the results will depend on active and well-coordinated efforts on the part of the EurAsEC member states.

    CIS countries to intensify cooperation in fight against drug trafficking

    During the CIS summit in Bishkek, the CIS Heads of State have passed a resolution on intensification of the cooperation in fight against drug trafficking, President of Kyrgyzstan Kurmanbek Bakiev told reporters on October 10.

    During the summit, the sides signed the convention on the border cooperation of the CIS member states and the agreement on the council for interregional and border cooperation of the CIS member states. The development of these documents was initiated by the Belarusian side.

    The expansion of the interregional cooperation between oblasts and other administrative units of the CIS member states should become an additional reserve to strengthen the cooperation within the framework of the Commonwealth.

    During the Bishkek summit the sides also adopted the documents concerning the strengthening of the cooperation in the security area. They have approved the programme on counteracting illegal migration for 2009-2011.

    During the final press conference Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin noted that in spite of the fact that the energy area was recognized as the key area for the cooperation in 2009, the CIS member states will also discuss other urgent issues including agrarian sector, transport, social and humanitarian problems.

    CIS to set up working group to counteract negative consequences of world financial crisis

    The CIS member states will set up the working group at the level of the finance ministers which will analyze the situation in the world economy. The relative decision was passed at the CIS summit in Bishkek on October 10.

    According to Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev, the working group will be set up in connection with the world financial crisis.

    The first session of the group at the level of the CIS finance ministers will be held in Moscow within near ten days.

    Summing up the results of the summit, Kurmanbek Bakiev said that the CIS summit in Bishkek has confirmed the aspiration of the CIS member states for further strengthening of integration processes. He also thanked the counterparts for the support and help to liquidate consequences of the recent natural calamity in Kyrgyzstan.

    According to Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, the Bishkek summit has allowed the CIS countries “to synchronize watches” and to discuss the key issues of the Commonwealth.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus advocating coordinated approach to human trafficking prevention

    From: BelTA
    Belarus advocates a comprehensive and coordinated approach to human trafficking prevention, Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Viktor Gaisenok said at the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly during the Third Committee dedicated to Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

    The Deputy Foreign Minister put forward Belarus’ proposals on the development of the UN global plan of action on human trafficking prevention. Viktor Gaisenok said that Belarus views this plan as an algorithm of immediate steps taken by the UN member states to address the human trafficking issue.

    The Belarus’ representative praised the decision of the African Union Summit to launch the negotiations upon the global plan of action on human trafficking prevention. The active participation of African countries in the elaboration of this document is the prerequisite of the successful implementation of the goal that has been set.

    Viktor Gaisenok pointed out the draft resolution “Improvement of the coordination of efforts in combating human trafficking” which the Belarusian delegation submitted to the consideration of the UN General Assembly. The Belarus’ representative urged the participants of the session to take part in the consultations on this draft resolution in order to work out a coordinated approach to the implementation of the UN comprehensive plan of action on human trafficking prevention.

    Belarus supports new security architecture in Europe

    Within the framework of the United Nations Organisation Belarus backed Russia’s proposal to create new security architecture in Europe and expressed readiness to take an active part in the effort, BelTA learnt from the Permanent Representative Office of the Republic of Belarus in the UN.

    The statement was made by Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Viktor Gaisenok in his speech before the First Committee of the UN General Assembly in the UN Headquarters in New York.

    The Belarusian diplomat called upon the USA and Russia to develop a new agreement instead of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty as a tangible practical contribution to the fulfilment of the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Ratification of existing treaties, first of all, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, could be a positive signal in support of the NPT.

    As far as non-proliferation and disarmament are concerned, it was stressed that every member-state has an inalienable right to peaceful nuclear activities and that existing mechanisms of the international community should contribute to ensuring equal non-discriminating access of all interested countries to the nuclear energy production.

    Viktor Gaisenok drew attention to Belarus’ resolution on banning the development and production of new kinds of weapons of mass destruction. The draft resolution has an element of political commitments of the member-states and suggests a mechanism of response via the Conference on Disarmament.

    The representative of Belarus also reminded, in line with Ottawa Convention obligations Belarus still faces a difficult task of utilising over three million antipersonnel mines, a task difficult to accomplish without international aid.

    The Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus reminded, Belarus will continue supporting and promoting measures of trust and transparency in control over arms and exports through regularly submitting data to the UN register of conventional arms and participation in UN standardised military expenses accounting.

    Belarus ready for talks on Schengen visa cost reduction, Valery Voronetsky says

    From: BelTA
    Belarus is ready to join the negotiations on the reduction of Schengen visa costs for Belarusian citizens, Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Valery Voronetsky told reporters on October 10.

    “We are ready to advance in this issue as much as the European Union is,” the Deputy Minister said.

    The Foreign Ministry is active in making the issue of the visa cost reduction be settled. “Such high prices are quite unfair for the Belarusian citizens,” Valery Voronetsky said.

    In his words, half a year or a year is a real term to address the problem.

    Valery Voronetsky is confident that the issue related to the reduction of the cost of Schengen visas for Belarusians will be discussed at a session of the Council of the Foreign Ministers of the European Union in Luxemburg on October 13. Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov is supposed to take part in the session.

    Belarusian Foreign Ministry welcomes decision of European Parliament to recommend EU to reconsider sanctions against Belarus, Valery Voronetsky says

    The Belarusian Foreign Ministry welcomes the resolution of the European Parliament passed on October 9 which recommends the European Union to reconsider the sanctions against Belarus, Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Valery Voronetsky told reporters on October 10.

    “It is a movement to a right way. We hope that all the restrictions on cooperation between Belarus and the European Union will be removed,” he said. According to Valery Voronetsky, it concerns both the UN’s Generalized System of Preferences and visa issues.

    Hotel with view of Marc Chagall house to open in Vitebsk

    From: BelTA
    When the museum of Marc Chagall is modernized, tourists coming to Vitebsk will be able to stay at a hotel with a view of the house where the famous artist lived. The modernization project includes the restoration of the house of the family of the renowned artist and the construction of the related tourist infrastructure, BelTA learnt from director of Marc Chagall house-museum Liudmila Khmelnitskaya. The project has been presented at the 6th international investment forum which closed in Vitebsk on October 10.

    The project is aimed at restoring the historical environment of the late 19th century in the Pokrovskaya Street around the museum of Marc Chagall. “It will be a typical building of that time: the first floor of the house will be made of brick, the second one will be wooden,” Liudmila Khmelnitskaya said.

    The house will be a tourist complex with a cafe and a giftshop; there will also be a small inn on the second floor. The opportunity to see the house of Marc Chagall from a hotel window will produce an unforgettable impression. The development of the area around the museum will help create a whole block dedicated to Marc Chagall. Apart from that, people familiar with Chagall works will be able to recognize the atmosphere of the 19th century Vitebsk.

    Marc Chagall Art Centre will be modernized and an additional building will be constructed to house modern exhibition halls, children’s art school, a library and the museum amenities.

    The project cost is estimated at $2.5 million. The forms of cooperation will be negotiated with potential investors interested in participating in the construction of a unique complex in the historic part of Vitebsk, Liudmila Khmelnitskaya said.

  • Economics...

    NBRB to raise refinancing rate to 10.75% as from October 15

    From: BelTA
    As from October 15 the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) will raise the refinancing rate by 0.25 percentage points to 10.75% per annum. The decision is laid down by resolution No 143 of the NBRB Board of Directors, BelTA learnt from the NBRB Information Department.

    The NBRB refinancing rate has been kept at 10.5% per annum since August 13, 2008.

    The NBRB refinancing rate may total 11-14% at the end of the year according to the 2009 draft Major Monetary Management Guidelines. The calculations were done taking into account that in 2008 the consumer price index is expected to approach 114% according to the Economy Ministry.

    Naftan starts building low temperature isomerisation plant

    Belarusian petrochemical company Naftan has started building a low temperature isomerisation plant Penex, Naftan representatives told BelTA.

    The project is part of the 2005-2010 Naftan development programme meant to enhance crude oil processing index, bring quality of Naftan fuels into compliance with European standards. The new equipment will allow the company to use a high-octane number component to improve the quality of automobile petrol. The new technology is licensed from US company UOP.

    The plant is designed to turn out around 280,000 tonnes of the high-octane number component. The latter will be added to AI-92 and AI-95 petrols to improve their ecological qualities and bring them closer to Euro-4 standard. Now the company offers Euro-3 petrols. The environmentally friendly additive will decrease the content of aromatic hydrocarbons, securing a new quality level compliant with future European requirements.

    Naftan has started building the foundation for the new facility and is shipping in new equipment. The low temperature isomerisation plant is supposed to be commissioned in late 2009 – early 2010.

    In line with the Naftan development programme this year the company continues rebuilding the primary oil processing installation AT-8, implementing projects for building the vacuum unit of the visbreaking plant and oil discharge flyovers. Preparations are underway to build a complex for slow caking of oil residual.

    Novopolotsk-based oil refinery Naftan was commissioned in 1963. The company is part of Belarusian petrochemical concern Belneftekhim. It specialises in manufacturing fuels and oils in over 70 titles. About 70% of the make is exported to the CIS, the European Union, Middle East and the USA. In 2007 Naftan processed 10.5 million tonnes of oil.

    Belarusian parliament ratifies Union State property agreement

    The House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus ratified a Belarusian-Russian agreement regulating Union State property issues on October 10, BelTA has learnt.

    Signed in Saint Petersburg on January 24, 2006, the agreement is supposed to enable accounting of Union State property. It includes Union budget, property created in the Union State, including property created through joint programmes. The agreement will contribute to increasing the Belarusian-Russian budget.

    Chairman of the State Property Committee of Belarus Georgy Kuznetsov remarked, Union State property issues were supposed to be regulated by the Union State Property Law. As the law is supposed to be preceded by the Constitution Act, unification of civil laws, the presidents of Belarus and Russia signed the Union State property agreement in 2006 as a temporary document. It will stay in effect until the relevant law is adopted.

    Georgy Kuznetsov said, Russia ratified the agreement in July 2007.

    In his opinion, the agreement will allow starting working out mechanisms for forming Union State property and organising the use of the property in interests of the Union State. As of January 1, 2008 the Union property amounted to Br580 billion in Belarus.

    The document defines reasons for establishment and cessation of union property rights. The emergence of the rights is defined by the country the property is in. Union State property can be alienated or managed in other ways following a decision of the Union State Council of Ministers. The Union State property shall be kept record of in a special register, with record keeping rules defined by the Union State Council of Ministers.

  • Cultural scene...

    We come from the street

    выставка-призер международного конкурса кураторских проектов «На пути к современному музею»

    12–19 октября 2008
    Пресс-коференция и открытие выставки состоятся 12 октября 2008 в 16.00

    стеснительное искусство прячется в музеях и галереях, чтобы его не видели… или видели, но не все… а может его там прячут… от посторонних непосвящённых взглядов… а может, так проще отделить искусство от не-искусства – то, что ВНУТРИ, – считается, то, что СНАРУЖИ, – не в счёт…

    наша задача - показать ВНУТРИ то, что родилось СНАРУЖИ.
    эта выставка вводит в классическое экспозиционное пространство неожиданного гостя – знакомьтесь, street art!
    возможно, вы уже сталкивались с ним – в соседней подворотне? или в электричке по дороге на дачу? или в собственном подъезде?
    возможно, он вызвал у вас раздражение своей навязчивой открытостью и несоблюдением общепринятых социальных норм
    возможно, вы прошли мимо и просто не обратили на него внимания
    возможно, вам захотелось познакомиться с ним поближе
    возможно, вы подумали, что неплохо было бы рассказать об этой приятной встрече друзьям…

    уже давно street art официально признан art’ом, но его «вандалистические» корни по-прежнему закрывают перед ним двери художественных институтов. и хотя в лишённом условностей и предрассудков мире современного искусства всецело одобряется и энергично поддерживается движение ИЗНУТРИ – НАРУЖУ, из стерильного музейно-галерейного пространства – в пространство публичное, с целью «приобщения масс» к высокому или, наоборот, проверки высокого на прочность, жизнеспособность и сопротивляемость окружающей среде, то обратный процесс, передвижение СНАРУЖИ – ВНУТРЬ, даётся значительно сложнее. понятно, что выйти из дому прогуляться на улицу значительно проще, чем напроситься к кому-нибудь в гости.
    а некоторых стоило бы и пригласить… разбавить компанию, поучиться простоте в общении, расспросить о последних новостях, о погоде… что мы и делаем.

    на выставке представлены работы 15 молодых художников из Беларуси, Украины и России. все работы сделаны специально для выставки. для того, чтобы дать представление о том, что происходит СНАРУЖИ, о том, чем живёт улица. чтобы рассказать об этом ВНУТРИ художникам пришлось перевести свои произведения на «внутренний» язык и соотнести их с «внутренними» масштабами. но суть от этого не поменялась. всё что мы увидим на этой выставке, мы могли бы увидеть в соседней подворотне, в электричке по дороге на дачу или в собственном подъезде. всё что мы увидим на этой выставке сделано молодыми людьми, которые занимаются street art’ом, потому что для них – это способ коммуникации с миром, способ освоения пространства, способ мировоззрения.

  • From the International Press...

    EU Parliament calls for easing Belarus sanctions

    From: AP
    EU governments should consider easing visa bans against Belarusian leaders to promote democratic change in the country, the European Parliament said Thursday, four days before foreign ministers meet to discuss the issue.

    In a nonbinding resolution, the EU assembly's lawmakers called on EU nations to "consider a selective review and possible suspension" of some visa bans slapped on 35 Belarusian leaders, including President Alexander Lukashenko.

    Lukashenko, who has ruled the nation of 10 million people with an iron fist since 1994, has recently signaled his intention to improve ties with the West at a time when he is arguing with Russia over energy prices.

    The European Parliament motion, which passed 597-31, recommended that the bloc apply a six-month partial suspension of the visa ban, provided that during that time a restrictive media law is changed and other democratic reforms are made.

    The lawmakers also recommended the 27-nation EU make it easier for Belarusians to get a travel visa to the EU's passport free travel zone, and that visa costs be reduced. They said it was "the only way to prevent Belarus and its citizens from becoming increasingly isolated."

    EU envoys considered a proposal to ease visa restrictions against Lukashenko and some of his officials at talks Thursday as a way to encourage change in the ex-Soviet country, which remains deeply isolated from the rest of Europe.

    The EU's foreign ministers will discuss the issue at talks Monday in Luxembourg and also meet with their Belarusian counterpart.

    EU nations remain divided over whether to ease sanctions they imposed on Lukashenko and his regime two years ago, to protest his crackdown on opposition groups.

    Finland and Poland are pushing other EU nations to agree to easing a visa ban despite elections there last month falling short of international democratic standards. They would keep in place an assets freeze on the 35 officials.

    Earlier this year, Belarusian authorities released detained opposition figures after Western governments demanded they be freed. Belarus' government also allowed opposition candidates to take part in Sept. 28 parliamentary elections, even though none of the 70 opposition candidates won places in the 110-seat parliament.

    Frictions Emerge Between Belarus and Russia

    From: VOA
    Russia has praised recent parliamentary elections in Belarus while international observers criticized the balloting. In this report from Washington, Senior Correspondent Andre de Nesnera looks at the relationship between Moscow and Minsk.

    Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko said the September 28 parliamentary elections were conducted in line with his country's laws and were an important step towards democracy. But observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said they fell significantly short of international standards.

    One-hundred-ten seats were at stake with 78 opposition candidates appearing on the ballot. But when the final tally was counted, not a single candidate opposed to president Lukashenko won a seat.

    Russia, Belarus' staunchest ally, defended the election results while criticizing the OSCE assessment.

    Robert Legvold from Columbia University, says Mr. Lukashenko is very much dependent on Russia.

    "He is dependent on it economically," he said. "He is dependent on it for political and diplomatic support. Each time he holds an election that is not recognized on the outside, the Russians sign off on it. He knows that and indeed the opposition in Belarus knows that in the long-run, the relationship with Russia remains close.

    But analysts such as Legvold see cracks emerging in the Minsk-Moscow relationship.

    "There have been frictions over energy because he sees the Russians as having been heavy-handed," he said. "The most recent episode of that was last fall, when [Russia's state gas monopoly] Gazprom threatened to cut gas deliveries by half, if the Belarussians did not pay the debt that that they have accumulated for the last six months supply about half a billion dollars. And he was forced to pay that."

    In addition, Russia has increased energy prices for Belarus as it has done for other customers, such as Ukraine. Moscow says it wants to end subsidized gas prices and gradually bring them to world market levels.

    David Marples from the University of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada says Belarus is trying to become less dependent on Russia for its energy supplies but that will take time.

    "Belarus has announced the development of its own nuclear power station over the past year, in an effort to offset reliance on Russia for imports of energy," he said. "It is a long term solution and nothing is likely to be operational until 2017 and even that might be an optimistic prognosis. But in the long term, you can tell that Lukashenko would like to be more independent of Russia and have more freedom of maneuver."

    Analysts point to another source of disagreement between Moscow and Minsk and that is Mr. Lukashenko's reaction to Russia's brief war with Georgia in August over the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

    "Belarus was facing a situation where Russia was putting intense pressure on it to support its moves against Georgia," said David Marples. "And Belarus, for whatever reason - it is hard to read Lukashenko's mind - not only did not really support this campaign of Russia, but it has not recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states - despite Russia not only wanting Belarus to do this, but even announcing that Belarus was about to do this."

    "So in that respect, Lukashenko defied Russia and I think this kind of symbolizes his ongoing disputes with prime minister [Vladimir] Putin and also suggests that his relationship with [president Dmitri] Medvedev is not very good either," he added.

    Analysts say frictions between Minsk and Moscow could eventually pave the way for better relations between Belarus and the West, especially the European Union. Experts point out that president Lukashenko has taken positive steps this year, such as gradually releasing all political prisoners, including former presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin - a key demand from the West.

    But analysts also say Mr. Lukashenko must take other important steps such as allowing free and fair elections before serious discussions with the West can take place. And they say Mr. Lukashenko must be very careful not to take steps that would alienate Russia, which still remains Belarus' closest ally.

    Belarus President pays official visit to Kyrgyzstan

    From: ENG 24
    Alexander Lukashenko and Kurmanbek Bakiyev
    Official visit of the Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to Kyrgyzstan starts today. In fact Lukashenko arrived in Bishkek on October 9 to partake in summits of the EurAsEC Interstate Council and CIS Council of the Heads of State where he was elected a chairman of the first one.

    The Belarus delegation reportedly consists of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Culture, Industry, Mayor of Minsk and other officials.

    The visit of Belarus leader is expected to result into a number of joint agreements to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in foreign policy, culture and finance, social and labor sphere, local media and television. Capitals of the two countries – Minsk and Bishkek will officially become brother cities.

    Official visit of Alexander Lukashenko will open Days of Belarus Culture in Kyrgyzstan effective for humanitarian cooperation and close-up of the two nations.

    On October 11, Lukashenko will attend opening ceremony of the Belarus MT3 tractor factory in Kara-Balta town.

    Belarus President: Belarus is not empire, Kyrgyzstan is our important partner

    “Belarus is not an empire, and Kyrgyzstan is our important partner,” the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said after the bilateral talks with his Kyrgyz counterpart in Bishkek on October 11, 2008.

    Lukashenko stressed that Belarus will observe all commitments according to the agreements signed. “Our both countries have a lot in common, such as revolutionary thinking and smart people,” Lukashenko added.

    The president said that Belarus is ready to develop bilateral cooperation in agriculture. “I hope Kyrgyzstan will be able to meet to our demand. We may refuse purchasing fruit and vegetables from other counties and buy them from Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz people are not spoiled and the prices are rather acceptable,” the Belarus president noted.

    Lukashenko also highly appreciated opening of the Belarus tractor factory in Kyrgyzstan and expressed hope for its successful work for the good of the both countries.

    Kyrgyz, Belarus talks result into 8 joint agreements

    Bilateral talks held between the Kyrgyz and Belarus Presidents Kurmanbek Bakiev and Alexander Lukashenko in Bishkek on Saturday, October 11, 2008 resulted into eight joint agreements.

    The documents signed oblige the both parties to develop cooperation in economic, trade, culture, science and humanitarian spheres, as well as “grow constructive foreign policies’ collaboration on the bilateral bases,” namely under such interstate alliances as CIS, EurAsEC, CSTO, UN and OSCE – “in the name of peace, stability and security.”

    The cooperation agreements have been also signed between the finance, culture, foreign affairs, labor and social development ministries of the both countries.

    The presidents have also agreed to develop cooperation in the sphere of information. Therefore the Kyrgyz national news agency Kabar and the Belarus telegraph agency have signed information exchange agreement.

    Bakiev: Kyrgyzstan, Belarus close in spirit and mentality

    “Kyrgyzstan and Belarus are close in spirit and mentality,” the President of Kyrgyzstan Kurmanbek Bakiev told reporters after the bilateral talks with the Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko in Bishkek on Saturday, October 11, 2008.

    “It is difficult to talk about any cooperation when there are no spiritual relations between the countries. But Kyrgyzstan and Belarus speak common language,” Bakiev noted.

    Bakiev has also mentioned that collaboration of Kyrgyzstan and Belarus has been successful in both political and economic aspects. The both countries support each other in every international organization.

    The Kyrgyz President reportedly turned to his Belarus counterpart for a piece of advice in prevention and elimination of natural disasters’ effects.

  • From the Opposition...

    Procuracy is not interested in falsification of elections

    From: Viasna
    The procuracy refused to consider the complaint of the secretary of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party Dzianis Sadouski, ex-candidate at Masiukoushchynskaya electoral constituency #103. The day after the elections Sadouski directed to the procuracy the statements and acts about violations of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus, which had been composed by him and his proxies.
    On 9 October these documents were returned to Mr. Sadouski. The senior adviser of the procuracy of Frunzenski district of Minsk stated A.Svirydovich stated that they were submitted with ‘violation of the legal requirements’.

    ‘In my address I demanded that the investigation of the registered violations of the electoral legislation was conducted and the persons who falsified the elections were punished. I also demanded that a repeated voting was held. Instead I received a usual come-off that my complaint could not be considered for formal reasons. The lawlessness which could be observed during the elections continues at the procuracy’ stated Dzianis Sadouski.

    Shklou: ‘draft’ protocols are not considered as a violation of the electoral laws

    On 28 September, the Election Day, a member of Shklou constituency election commission Piatro Mihurski found three invalid final protocols of precinct election commissions.

    Two of them were from the village of Alexandria (the birthplace of Alexander Lukashenka). One of them was not filled, but was signed by the members of the commissions (so that the necessary numbers could be put later). The other was filled in pencil and also signed by members of the commission. The third (from the village of Bushliaki), was not filled, but was signed as well. As a result Piatro Mihurski refused to sign the protocol on the election results, which was prepared by Shklou constituency election commission. Instead he demanded that his commission annulled the results of the election s at Shklou constituency. He also addressed the Central election commission with an appropriate application.

    The CEC returned the application back to Shklou constituency election commission. A special sitting of the election commission was summoned in order to consider this document. All thirteen members of the commission were present, as well as the heads and the secretaries of the precinct commissions at which the invalid protocols were found. The sitting was also attended by an ex-candidate to the parliament Ryhor Kastusiou and a number of journalists.

    At the sitting the heads of the commissions Tatsiana Kavaliova (from Alexandria) and ?enadz Shantalosau (Bushliaki) said that the protocols that had been found by Mihurski were ‘drafts’ and were lying above the ones which were filled according to the legal requirements. Other members of Mihurski’s commission also stated that he was to have first discussed the issue in their commission rather than report directly to the Central election commission.

    After an hour’s discussion the head of Shklou constituency election commission Liudmila Hliakava read a protocol that had been prepared in advance. The essence of the document is that no distortion of the results of the voting at precinct #10 in Alexandria and #20 in Bushliaki were registered. The heads of the appropriate precinct commissions were warned about the inadmissibility of keeping draft protocols together with the valid ones. The actions of the commission member Piatro Mihurski were declared discrediting the constituency election commission and his complaint was rejected.

    After the end of the sitting Mihurski commented: ‘First of all, it was not me who discredited the election commission, but the heads and secretaries of the precinct commissions who had committed the aforementioned actions. The issue of blank papers with signatures of members of precinct commissions is a prelude to falsification of elections’.

    Andrei Sannikov: “European politicians hasten to encourage Lukashenka for his vain promise”

    From: Charter '97
    Andrei Sannikov, of the civil campaign “European Belarus”, commented on the resolution on the situation n Belarus, adopted by the European Parliament. The document suggests to suspend visa sanctions against some Belarusian officials for 6 months, though the recent “parliamentary elections” were recognised unfree and non-democratic.

    “Europe is likely to have not only a desire, but a plan on encouraging the dictator’s regime in Belarus. The Europeans are so eager to see positives signs, showing democratisation, that they don’t want to notice extremely negative events that happen in Belarus today. In spite of a rather precise estimation of the Belarusian “elections” by the OSCE observing mission, European politicians turn the blind eye and hasten to courage Lukashenka for his vain promises,” Andrei Sannikov told in an interview to the Charter’97 press center.

    As the politician thinks, the EP’s resolution contains many right ideas and precise estimations, but its spirit evokes great doubts of its effectiveness.

    “It seems that the resolution pursues the aim to give carte blanche to the Council of Europe for accelerating of the development of the relations with the regime of Lukashenka. It also contains a number of dangerous moments. Instead of demanding freedom of speech in Belarus, MEPs speak about a revision of the adopted and signed the Law on Media as if it the acting law was better. There really have been some positive events in Belarus. These are release of some political prisoners, who were set free not due to the good will of Lukashenka but due to the American economic sanctions. Hasty overestimation of this fact will lead to appearing of new prisoners of conscience and will make Lukashenka think he can trade with Europe in such a way.

    The regime has purposeful conducted the “elections” according the hard scenario in order for the EU not to have illusions about what can be expected from the current Belarusian authorities. Nevertheless, European politician prefer not to notice this challenge of Lukashenka, but pretend they hope for democratic changes under the direction of the dictator. Now it’s clear, why many western politicians and consultants advised so obstinately the parties to run in the electoral farce. Running of oppositions parties crated an illusion of competitive electoral process,” the leader of the “European Belarus” said.

    At the same time the politician notes: “Unfortunately, former single democratic candidate for presidency Milinkevich played a great part in the decisions, which will have harmful effect on Belarus. This is he who lobbies full recognition of the actions of the regime and se his main task in the negotiations between the regime and the West, not in the beginning of inner Belarusian dialog. In this situation the democrats should be more resolute in defending the principles of freedom and human rights and gaining real changes in Belarus.”

  • Around the region...

    Russia would not cut off gas to Europe -US envoy

    From: Reuters
    European dependence on Russian gas is dangerous partly because of future supply shortfalls, not because Russia may cut off supplies over tensions with the West, the U.S. envoy for Eurasian energy diplomacy said on Friday.

    "I don't think it would do that (cut off supplies). It hasn't done that to Western Europe in the past and I don't think it's going to do it intentionally," C. Boyden Gray said.

    Gray, speaking to reporters at the U.S. embassy in Rome, said he believed the strong U.S. and European response to Russia's brief war with Georgia in August had reduced the risk that Russia posed to its neighbours.

    "I don't think we anticipate more trouble," Gray said.

    "What we're doing now is trying to make sure that there is no inhibition on the part of either the producing countries in the Caspian or the transit or the consuming countries ... to see greater hydrocarbons come through to the West."

    A big problem for Europe, in Gray's view, is an overdependence on supplies from Russia while investment falls.

    "We see a reduction in the development that is taking place, a potential reduction in their own oil and gas production, which could hurt Europe in the not too distant future if it's not remedied," he said.

    He expressed confidence that the Nabucco pipeline, which is supported by the European Union as a way of reducing its heavy dependence on Russian gas, would be built "eventually".

    The pipeline is due to bring 30 billion cubic metres of Caspian and Middle Eastern gas annually from Turkey to an Austrian gas hub via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.

    A series of agreements were due to be signed earlier this summer but has been postponed due to Turkey's foot-dragging at the bargaining table, analysts have said, in order to gain rights to import a portion of Nabucco gas for its own domestic use.

    "They (the Turks) are worried about heating their own homes ... so there is a little bit of bargaining going on back and forth between the various countries involved here and we're trying to facilitate the talks," Gray said.

    He said another pipeline project called TGI could move ahead faster than Nabucco.

    "It's probable that TGI will be developed first, because it takes less gas to make it viable. But I would think over time, Nabucco will eventually get built," he said.

    He expects progress within six months on a pipeline deal involving transit through Turkey but declined to say which one.

    "I didn't say which one. I just said I think there will be an understanding for transit through Turkey for a pipeline," he said. "Firm, completely firm details with shovels in the ground, no. But the outlines of a deal, yes."

    Russia's Putin gets tiger cub for his birthday

    From: AP
    There's no doubt what Vladimir Putin's favorite birthday present is this year — a rare Ussuri tiger cub.

    State television showed the Russian prime minister tenderly petting the 2-month-old female cub Friday at his residence outside Moscow. The cub, weighing about 20 pounds, was curled up in a wicker basket with a tiger-print cushion.

    Putin said a good home will be found for the tiger, presumably in a zoo or wildlife preserve. He hasn't decided what to call her, but is leaning toward Mashenka or Milashka.

    Putin refused to say who gave him the cub for his 56th birthday, which was Tuesday.

    He called Russian journalists to his country home late Thursday without telling them why. Past midnight, after asking them "not to make noise, make a clatter or squeal," Putin ushered the curious journalists into the room where the tiger cub was waiting.

    As president and now prime minister, Putin is known for his tough talk and macho image. But children and animals seem to bring out a softer side.

    His dog, a Labrador retriever named Koni, is often with him, even during meetings with world leaders. He told journalists that Koni has not met the tiger cub.

    In August, Putin had occasion to pet a full-grown female Ussuri tiger after shooting her with a tranquilizer gun. He was visiting a wildlife preserve in Russia's Far East and shot the 5-year-old tiger as part of a program to track the rare cats, also known as the Siberian, Amur or Manchurian tiger.

    Once the tiger was asleep, Putin placed a collar with a GPS tracking system around her neck. Television footage showed him patting her cheek.

    Fewer than 400 Ussuri tigers are believed to survive in the wild, most of them in Russia and some in China. They are the largest tiger species, weighing up to 600 pounds.

    Ukraine set for third election in three years

    Ukrainians will go to the polls on December 7, the third parliamentary election in as many years, after Viktor Yushchenko dissolved parliament.

    The snap elections, announced this Wednesday after months of political in-fighting, will almost certainly end the pro-west president's lingering hopes of securing a Nato membership action plan at the alliance's ministerial meeting in December. But the business community in Kiev is more worried that it could complicate efforts to respond to the global financial crisis.

    With the currency falling, exports slowing sharply and the current account deficit set to widen, there is concern over the ability of Ukrainian banks to fund their activities.

    The economy has grown by 6 per cent this year and more than $7bn (?5bn, ?4bn) in foreign direct investment is forecast by the end of the year. But stock prices have plummeted and fears about the solvency of banks have spread.

    Petro Poroshenko, supervisory chairman of Ukraine's central bank, said it was not the best time for snap elections, but stressed that Kiev had sufficient cash reserves and instruments to prevent a meltdown.

    "We don't have any serious liquidity problems. Many European countries are in a much worse situation," Mr Poroshenko said.

    In recent days, the central bank rescued the country's sixth-largest bank with a $600m bail-out package.

    State management was also imposed at Prominvestbank, where an attack by so-called corporate raiders triggered a run on deposits.

    The remaining 180 Ukrainian banks are solvent, Mr Poroshenko said, adding that Ukraine had enough levers, including $38bn in reserves, to prevent or ride out financial shocks.

    Mr Poroshenko said many investors were "over-reacting" to Ukraine's messy politics, which was the country's "main problem".

    Mr Yushchenko called the election after repeated disputes with Yulia Tymoshenko, prime minister and former ally in the 2004 Orange Revolution. While the two leaders have generally agreed on pro-west policies, including the pursuit of European Union and Nato membership, they have clashed over their personal ambitions.

    Mr Yushchenko, whose poll ratings have slumped to less than 10 per cent, fears the popular Ms Tymoshenko will challenge him for the presidency in elections due in late 2009 or early 2010, observers said.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Poll show Poles have more mental disorders

    From: Polskie Radio
    The results of testing by the Polish Psychology Society (PTP) shows that Poland, over the last few years, has experienced an increased rate of cases of mental disorder. Experts highlight the fact that the psychiatric healthcare system is in desperate need of transformation.

    Aleksandra Araszkiewicz, head of the PTP, reported that there has been a 73 percent increase in outpatient care for people with mental disorders between 1997 and 2006. The most common disorders are related to alcohol or depression, she added.

    “There’s a kind of social anxiety surrounding psychological diseases, so many people do not seek help.” Araszkiewicz added that, in Poland, access to psychological help is limited.

    In 2006, Polish psychiatrists helped 150,000 people, or four percent of the population, compared to the average of 11 percent of people that get treated for psychological disorders throughout other EU countries.

    Doctor Joanna Meder of the Warsaw Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology helped prepare a plan to revamp the field of psychology in Poland. The changes will create additional psychological treatment centers throughout Poland that will prove therapy as well as promote outpatient care. As well, the plan includes an educational campaign.

    The proposal, entitled National Program for the Protection of Mental Health, will be worked on by the PTP and the Ministry of Health and is set to roll out between 2009 and 2013.

    The main goal of the proposal is to provide multi-faceted psychological care to those with mental disorders.

    Another essential component of the proposal are centers to help teach the mentally ill to function and integrate within society. This includes centers with round-the-clock nurses and residences.

    Meder highlighted the fact that the success of the proposal depends upon the education of more nurses, caretakers, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and doctors. Approximately 150 people specialize in psychiatry annually in Poland.

    Gang sells 34 mln zloty of car headlamps

    From: The News
    According to the District Attorney, the Polish National Treasury has lost at least 34 million zloty (9.8 million euro) to a criminal organization illegally selling xenon bulbs for automobiles.

    The head of the attorney’s office, Marek Welna, stated that the Central Bureau Investigation (CBS) arrested seven people from throughout Poland.

    Welna stated that the car bulbs were also sold in the European Union. The gang ran several fictional companies that “stole” light bulbs from a legally documented company which sold the “stolen” light bulbs. The gang thus stole 34 million zloty in VAT from the National Treasury.

    Caught on camera: Facing time behind bars, the Polish bike thief who took the railing too

    From: Daily Mail
    We all know that feeling where we just HAVE to get home, but we haven't got the car and there's no public transport to be had.

    However, most of us would not go to the lengths to which Janosz Kolbe went in Poland.

    Janosz Kolbe was not going to let the fact that this bike was chained to a handrail prevent him from stealing it

    Spotting a bike, he was not going to be put off when realised that it was chained to a banister outside the owner's home.
    He simply dismantled the railings and calmly rode off with the handrail still locked onto the side of the bike of the bicycle.

    But he came unstuck when police traced him to his home in Warsaw after watching CCTV, and he is now facing five years in jail.

  • Sport...

    Hleb: Communism In England Camp

    Speaking ahead of England's Belarus visit on Wednesday in their World Cup qualifier, Barcelona midfielder Aliaksandr Hleb suggested that there was 'some kind of communism going on' regarding the bans and restrictions that Three Lions coach Fabio Capello has imposed on the England squad.

    "I believe all that is wrong. Nothing can be achieved with restrictions and bans," Hleb told Belarus' Segodnia newspaper in Minsk.

    "The players come to the national team for pleasure among other things. The most important thing is the atmosphere in the team," he said.

    "But it seems that in the English team there's some kind of communism going on with all his banning this and banning that."

    "For example, he says their breakfast is not from 8 till 9 am but strictly 8.15! It's all nonsense."

    England beat Kazakhstan on Saturday 5-1. They travel to Belarus for their midweek match on Wednesday.

    Hleb Desperate To Make England Date

    In a related story, Belarus coach Bernd Stange says that he is still not sure whether star man Alexander Hleb will be fit enough to face England in their World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

    The Barcelona playmaker injured his ankle during Spanish league action against Racing Santander last month and is now in a race for fitness to be back in time to take on his former country of residence.

    "It will be a late decision," Stange told BBC Sport about the ex Arsenal star. "He will join the squad in Stuttgart at the weekend where we will prepare."

    The Belarus side have elected to base themselves in Germany ahead of their meeting with England in Minsk. By that time, Fabio Capello's side will have another qualifer under their belt, as they play host to Kazakhstan on Saturday.

  • Endnote...

    Will Tainted Elections Open the West's Doors for Belarus?

    From: Worl Politics
    On Sept. 28, Belarus, a country branded by the U.S. government as "the last true dictatorship" in Europe, held elections for its 110-seat lower house of parliament. Despite some improvements, independent observers said the voting was neither free, nor fair.

    In an attempt to mend fences with the West, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had invited more than 900 international observers to monitor the voting, stressing his commitment to a democratic ballot. Seventy-six out of 276 registered candidates represented parties critical of the ruling regime, and a few opposition representatives were placed in precinct electoral committees -- a clear departure from the past when hardly any dissenters were allowed to run in, let alone supervise, elections. In August, Lukashenko released the last three opposition leaders remaining in jail. For a government consistently blasted by the West for persecuting political opponents, oppressing civil society, and rigging elections, the reversals were noteworthy.

    In the aftermath of the 2006 presidential ballot that extended Lukashenko's 12-year rule for another five years, 27 nations of the European Union denied travel visas to Lukashenko and other senior officials in his cabinet, calling the elections non-transparent and unfair. Now the previously recalcitrant leader of Belarus hopes to improve relations with Europe and the United States as a way to hedge against Belarus' dependence on Russia, and was hoping to use the elections to do so. "We do not want to communicate with you through the iron curtain that you erected on the border with Belarus," Lukashenko said in a pre-election interview, referring to political isolation his country faces from some of its neighbors. "[S]ince you said that parliamentary elections ought to take place for [cooperation in] this direction [to happen], we have opened the country for you," he added, claiming that the vote would be "unprecedentedly democratic and transparent."

    According to observers, Lukashenko's advances to the West are driven by Belarus' recent energy-related disputes with Russia. Last year, the Russian government revoked the preferential rates at which it supplied natural gas to Belarus, making Lukashenko nervous about the implications for the Belarusian economy. The president reportedly hopes to leverage Belarus' status as a transit point for Russian gas flowing to Europe to acquire European support in negotiating a better deal for Belarus with the Russians.

    Officials in Belarus were also unnerved by Russia's August 2008 military operation in South Ossetia and Georgia, which they interpreted as an expression of Russia's expansionist ambitions. Lukashenko hesitated to approve the Russian intervention, and ultimately refrained from recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway republic of Georgia, saying he would let the new national legislature weigh in on the issue.

    To the president's critics, however, the latest electoral improvements are not nearly enough. The opposition accused authorities of forcing citizens to vote in early balloting, and of tampering with ballots in the process. While early balloting is legally allowed, it has reportedly occurred with no independent observers present. According to a report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), observers were also prevented from monitoring the counting of the ballots. The group also condemned the state-controlled media's virtual blackout of the political opposition, with 90 percent of coverage devoted to President Lukashenko. According to the OSCE's report, voting "fell short of OSCE commitments for democratic elections," taking place "in a strictly controlled environment with a barely visible campaign."

    Preliminary results indicate that no opposition candidate garnered enough votes to be elected; final election results are to be announced in the next few days.

    It remains to be seen whether Lukashenko's limited concessions will be enough to win over the EU, which is trying to balance its human rights concerns with a growing sense of urgency -- especially among Eastern European member states -- to counter Russia in the aftermath of its invasion of Georgia. But as a first step in that process, Belarus seems to have accomplished its objective. Belarus' Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov has been invited to a sideline meeting at the upcoming EU foreign ministers' summit on Oct. 13, and some sanctions on travel visas and student exchanges may be relaxed as a symbolic gesture. But any long-term shift will probably depend on Lukashenko's willingness to distance himself from his human rights record and Russia, although not necessarily in that order.

    Marianna Gurtovnik is a freelance analyst based in the United States. She covers governance reforms, foreign policy, and civil society developments in the Newly Independent States.