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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Prizes for Spiritual Revival, Inflation, Currency devaluation, EU Cooperation, Gas and Oil Transit, Gay Activists, Russia, Polish Scandal and Sport

  • From the Top...
  • #376

    President Confers For Spiritual Revival 2008 Prize On Belarusian Cultural Figures

    From: BelTA and the Office of the President
    Alexander Lukashenko delivering his remarks during the award ceremony "For Spiritual Revival 2008"
    On 8 January President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko conferred the prize ‘For Spiritual Revival 2008’ and special prizes of the Head of State on Belarusian cultural figures.

    Established more than ten years ago, these awards demonstrate the national recognition given to representatives of the creative and artistic intelligentsia, to those who distinguish themselves through humanitarian and charitable activity.

    This year representatives of a broader range of professions have been nominated for the prize For Spiritual Revival than in the previous years. This year the list of nominees included not only masters of culture and representatives of the clergy, but also representatives of other professions, which are essential for the society. The laureates of this prize work in a variety of areas, said the President, ‘but all of them serve one goal – to materialize the high ideals of humanism’.

    The prize was awarded to doctors and foster parents for the first time. The prize was given to the workers of the national children's oncology and haematology research and practical centre and to the Okhonovs family, Pruzhany District, who were raising eight children, both their own and adopted children.

    According to the Head of State, it vividly demonstrates spiritual regeneration in the society, which essential priorities include comprehensive support for maternity and childhood. ‘Concern for children is a key to the confident future of our country’, he said.

    Service medal “20 years after Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan” introduced in Belarus

    On January 8, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree to introduce a service medal “20 years after Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan”, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    The medal will be bestowed upon the citizens of the Republic of Belarus (posthumously, too) who fought in Afghanistan from December 1979 to February 1989.

    The service medal will be conferred on the military of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus, other armed services and units, officers of state bodies and other persons who made a great contribution to the patriotic upbringing of Belarusian citizens, the perpetuation of the memory of the fallen, the development of the veterans’ movement, the work to provide social and medical rehabilitation of the warriors-internationalists, disabled veterans and family members of the fallen servicemen.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Alexander Lukashenko: stable currency market in time

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko believes the domestic currency market will be stabilised. He expressed his opinion as he made several personnel appointments on January 9, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    Alexander Lukashenko called upon the Belarusians to calm down. “Everyone is asking themselves: what will happen in the future? In the future it will be normal. There is no need to rush to buy hard currencies. To be honest, the 20% devaluation of the national currency was caused by two reasons. First, Russia is a major trade partner of ours and our exporters faced major losses on the Russian market when the Belarusian ruble was strong. Therefore we had to take this measure. The cost of the US dollar has increased by Br400 on the average. It is comparatively little but we supported producers. Manufacturing is the key thing today. If there is production, there will be rubles and everything. Without manufacturing there will be no rubles. Second, the International Monetary Fund offered a good loan to Belarus, a better one than Russia’s. But they put forward two requirements: don’t give away Belarusian rubles because people would use them to buy dollars (although we didn’t agree completely, we made a compromise) and second, we had to devalue the ruble by 20% at a time. Those were IMF requirements. We had to do it for almost $3 billion they offered to us. Anyway, we had to carry out devaluation due to our export-oriented economy”.

    According to the head of state, the Belarusians should not rush to buy dollars at crazy prices. “It is unknown yet what will happen to the US dollar and the euro. If someone thinks about buying products, he will do the right thing. But buying three, five, ten TV sets or refrigerators, thinking that they are a good investment, is totally silly as prices for commodities are declining. Money should be deposited in banks,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    On the whole, the President believes, the situation will be stabilised. “We even expect that we will need to reinforce the ruble and the dollar will be cheaper. Everything will depend on the people and on what the market situation will be. And after all, in Belarus everything is paid for and bought with rubles. We are working even now to increase the attractiveness of our currency. Manufacturing and sale of products are the key things. We need to look for markets and sell products,” finished the head of state.

    Devaluation to enhance export component of Belarus economy

    The devaluation will contribute to enhancing the export component of the economy of Belarus, academician Piotr Nikitenko, Director of the Economy Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, told media in Minsk on January 9.

    The expert remarked, the devaluation was reasonable, it was a coercive measure. It is impossible to pursue the financial and economic policy in view of the global economic crisis in some other way.

    The devaluation was mainly targeted at forming the necessary conditions for balanced overseas trade. Due to the high exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble domestic companies had problems with selling their products abroad and started incurring rather large losses. The devaluation will contribute to raising the competitive ability of Belarusian products on foreign markets, first of all, Russia, to reinforcing their positions and promoting products, the academician believes. Exporters have been allowed reducing prices for their products, making them more attractive for customers, expanding the sales market and hence gaining additional revenues.

    According to Piotr Nikitenko, Belarus will live through the devaluation with calmness. “We were once in a worse situation. Everyone remembers the time when in crisis conditions we had to prematurely introduce our national currency system. At present it is sovereign, has reserves and highly-qualified personnel, who are capable of bringing it to a proper level even in complicated situations,” said Piotr Nikitenko.

    Government hopes for constructive cooperation with independent experts to boost Belarus’ image

    From: BelTA
    The Government hopes for the constructive cooperation with independent experts who are members of the interagency task group in charge of the development of the plan of action to design Belarus’ country marketing, First Deputy Economy Minister Piotr Zhabko told reporters on January 9.

    The group that has been set up in pursuance of Resolution No 49 of the Prime Minister of Belarus of December 31, 2008 is headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Yevdochenko. Piotr Zhabko is his deputy. The chief of the task group has the right to involve officials of the government bodies, oblast executive committees and town councils in this work. The first session will be held in Minsk on January 10.

    “This is not some one-time PR campaign of the government. This is purposeful systematic work,” Piotr Zhabko said. The idea to draft the plan of action emerged long ago. Five moths ago the Prime Minister of Belarus gave an instruction to study this issue. It is important to not only make a commodity but to sell it. For that it is important to know the market and partners, and to learn how to present a commodity.

    One of the goals of the interagency task group is to unite and coordinate all elements of marketing to enhance social, economic and political showings of the country, to elaborate the uniform concept of the image and marketing of Belarus.

    Until recently nobody in Belarus dealt with the problem on a professional footing. “Every company has its own marketing service. The coordination and elaboration of general conceptual solutions for the country are yet to be established,” Piotr Zhabko said.

    It is necessary to make our foreign partners realize that Belarus is a country in the centre of Europe which has its own elite, the country that is able to generate ideas and attract investment, which should be treated as an equal, the First Deputy Economy Minister said.

    He noted that big business needs time to develop. But tangible results will be seen very soon. The interest in Belarus is enormous.

    The interagency task group to elaborate a plan of actions to promote country marketing is composed of 14 people who represent the Economy Ministry, Finance Ministry, Industry Ministry, Ministry of Sport and Tourism, a number of concerns as well as heads of private enterprises, including the Marketing Systems strategic development centre of the Strategy Analytical Centre national public organization.

    Officials, independent experts, analysts should find a common ground, Piotr Zhabko said. According to him, the objective set before the group is to find ways to ensure the GDP growth, the influx of investment, the improvement of economic performance.

    February 1, 2009 was set as a deadline for the task group to develop a plan of action to promote country marketing of Belarus. The plan of action should contain the proposals regarding the cooperation with foreign investors taking into consideration the level of development of certain branches and regions, the measures to inform foreign investors about the investment opportunities of the country. The plan of actions will be submitted to the Council of Ministers to be further adopted.

    Belarus, EU to negotiate draft agreement to finance cooperation projects

    From: BelTA
    Belarus and the European Union will negotiate the draft agreement concerning the financing of transborder cooperation programmes. Decree No 2066 of the Council of Ministers affirmed this draft agreement as the basis for the further negotiations, BelTA learnt from the Office of the Council of Ministers.

    The draft agreement was proposed by the Belarusian Foreign Ministry and coordinated with the Justice Ministry, Finance Ministry and other interested bodies.

    Vice-Premier of Belarus Andrei Kobyakov has been authorized to hold negotiations and sign the agreement.

    A reminder, this framework agreement was signed between the government of Belarus and the Commission of the European Communities in Minsk on December 18. The document is meant to regulate the relations between Belarus and the European Union in the area of technical assistance. The document was signed by Vice-Premier of Belarus Andrei Kobyakov in the presence of Head of EC Delegation in Ukraine and Belarus Mr Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira.

    In December, Belarus and the EU held a round of consultations on new cooperation areas: food security and agriculture. The consultations regarding financing, power engineering and environment protection are expected to be held, too.

    Belarus interested in pragmatic dialogue with EU

    Belarus demonstrates a real interest in a pragmatic and businesslike dialogue with the European Union, Press Secretary of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry Andrei Popov told media on January 9 when asked about prospects of creating a comprehensive legal base of relations between Belarus and the European Union.

    Unfortunately, at present there is no comprehensive legal base to regulate the entire range of relations between Belarus and the European Union, underscored the Foreign Ministry spokesman. In the new conditions the legal vacuum feels more and more acute. It is especially topical in view of the European Union’s search for a new paradigm of relations with its closest eastern neighbours. In response to that Belarus signed the agreement on the establishment, privileges, and immunities of the Representative Office of the Commission of European Communities in the Republic of Belarus on March 7, 2008. The agreement opens new opportunities for establishing a full-fledged diplomatic mission of the European Union in Belarus. On January 6, 2009 President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko approved the law on the agreement ratification. On January 1 the representative office and its personnel have been legally assigned tax privileges.

    Andrei Popov reminded, in December 2008 a framework agreement on financing was signed. It regulates cooperation with the European Union in technical aid matters. Several other agreements signed at that time are the basis for implementing projects together with the European Union in specific areas such as power engineering, transboundary matters and nuclear security.

    The Foreign Ministry press secretary underscored that these steps confirmed Belarus’ genuine interest in a maximum pragmatic and businesslike dialogue with the European Union. Belarus considers the signed and ratified agreements as a tool to address the topical issues for the benefit of all involved. “We work purposefully to extend the range of topics the dialogue with the European Union encompasses. At present it includes customs, energy, transport, ecology, and agriculture matters. We would like to expect that, following objective imperatives of our relations, Brussels will soon take consistent steps to activate legal instruments of cooperation with Belarus”.

    Formation of legal base for Belarus-EU cooperation named primary goal

    The primary goal in the dialogue between Belarus and the European Union is the formation of the legal base of cooperation, BelTA learnt from Igor Karpenko, Deputy Chairman of the International Affairs and CIS Relations Commission of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus.

    “Unfortunately, I am forced to state that at present there is practically no such base,” said the MP. He added both Belarus and European agencies are interested in working out new cooperation documents. According to the MP, in the near future special attention should be paid to cooperation in such areas as science, education, culture and trade and economic relations.

    Speaking about the prospects of an interparliamentary dialogue between Belarus and the European Union, Igor Karpenko remarked, “Basically the interparliamentary dialogue didn’t stop even when attempts were made to keep Belarusian MPs out of the dialogue. Even then meetings and contacts took place. Nowadays Belarusian parliamentarians would only welcome the expansion of the communication. We are always open to any dialogue”.

    Igor Karpenko added, the productivity of the Belarus-EU dialogue depends on both the sides.

  • Economics...

    Inflation in Belarus at 13.3% in 2008

    From: BelTA
    Inflation in Belarus was running at 1.2% in December 2008, BelTA was told in the National Statistics Committee.

    In December 2008 the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 13.3% from December 2007, or 1% per month.

    The inflation is fueled, first of all, by outside factors such as growing prices for energy, raw materials, food.

    Belarus’ GDP 10% up in 2008

    In 2008, the gross domestic product of Belarus rose 10% in comparable prices over 2007, BelTA learnt from the National Statistical Committee.

    In line with the projections of the socio-economic development of Belarus, the country’s GDP was to rise 8-9% in 2008.

    The industrial production grew 10.8% (the annual projection 8-9%). The manufacture of consumer goods increased 12.1% (the annual projection 9-10%), the production growth of food products being 13.1% (projected at 8-9%), the production growth of non-food products being 11.6% (projected at 10-11%).

    Belarus’ foreign trade 42.7% up in January-November 2008

    In January-November 2008 Belarus’ foreign trade in goods and services went up 42.7% in comparison with the same period of 2007 while the annual goal was set at 14.5-15.5%, BelTA learnt from the National Statistics Committee.

    Over the eleven months Belarus’ export rose by 42.3% (the annual target — 16-17%), import — 43.2% (the annual target — 12.5-13.5%).

    In January-November 2008 the deficit of Belarus’ foreign trade in goods and services amounted to $3,423.4 million. Last year’s foreign trade deficit was expected to total $1,400-1,420 million.

    Almost Br3.1 trillion to be put in 80 investment projects in Belarus in 2009

    In 2009, more than 80 crucial investment projects will be implemented in Belarus. About Br3.082 trillion of capital investment, including Br1.174 trillion of foreign investment, is to be allocated for this purpose. Relevant Decree No 2068 was adopted by the Council of Ministers, BelTA learnt from the Office of the Council of Ministers.

    The decree is aimed at fulfilling the objectives regarding the use of capital investment adopted by Decree No 459 of August 29, 2008. The capital investment growth is to be 23-25% to the level of 2008. In line with Decree No 2068, the total of capital investment from all the sources should reach Br 49.47 trillion.

    The annual capital investment growth for ministries, concerns, committees, oblast executive committees and the Minsk City Council, administrations of free economic zones has been defined. The Decree also specifies the volume of banking loans in the productive sector of economy in 2009 to carry out investment activity.

    The capital investment efficiency indices have been defined, too. On January 1, 2010, the level of depreciation of the active part of fixed assets should be 60.2%, the expenditures connected with the purchase of new equipment should account for 47.5% of the total investment.

    The personal responsibility for the implementation of the investment objectives has been vested on heads of state bodies and organizations, heads of administrations of free economic zones.

  • From the International Press...

    Belarus president says devaluation was IMF demand

    From: Guardian
    Last week's sharp devaluation of the Belarussian currency, a shock to many in the ex-Soviet republic, was a condition of a $2.5 billion IMF loan, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday.

    The devaluation has sent people rushing to buy goods before prices go up and some say it could shake faith in the rule of Lukashenko, who had insulated the population from world market turbulence by keeping much of the economy in state hands.

    In a measure of the scale of the world economic turmoil, even Belarus has felt the effects and has been forced to seek a $2.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.
    "There were two demands: not to raise salaries or pay in Belarussian roubles, because people will change them into dollars," Lukashenko said via his press service.

    "The second demand was that we devalue the (Belarussian) rouble by 20 percent."

    Freeing up the currency system, cutting social spending to balance budgets and imposing wage controls are common conditions set by the IMF for its loans to help rebalance ailing economies.

    On Dec. 31 Minsk agreed to the IMF loan and on New Year's Day it devalued the rouble to 2,650/$ from 2,200/$.

    Lukashenko said the devaluation was also a support measure for Belarussian industry:

    "Russia is our major trading partner and, with a strong Belarussian rouble, our exporters had begun to make large losses trading in its markets."

    The average wage in Belarus, at $400 a month according to the latest data, is now worth $332 after the devaluation.

    Lukashenko, widely known in his country as "Batka" or "Dad", said everything would be normal from now on: "There's no need to run to the bureau de change."

    Belarussians have rushed to the shops to buy what they can in anticipation of steep price rises once the next set of imports hits the shelves.

    "If somebody wants to invest their money in goods -- that's correct. But to buy three, five, 10 televisions or refrigerators in the belief this is a good investment is complete stupidity, because the prices of these goods will fall," Lukashenko said.

    Russian Gas Transit Through Belarus Up to 117 Mcm/Day - Beltransgaz

    From: I Stock and Kyiv Post
    The daily volume of Russian natural gas supplied in Poland's direction through Belarus has been increased by about 35 million cubic meters to 117 million cubic meters since the beginning of 2009, the Belarusian national gas transportation company Beltransgaz told Interfax on Saturday.

    "In particular, gas delivery through the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline owned by [the Russian gas monopoly] Gazprom has been increased by 25.5 million cubic meters a day and that through the Beltransgaz system by 9.6 million cubic meters a day," it said.

    It was reported earlier that gas transit through Belarus had been increased on January 1, 2009, when Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine itself and started increasing gas transit to Europe through alternative routes.

    Gas transit through Belarus amounts on average to 50 billion cubic meters a year, including 33 billion cubic meters pumped through the Belarusian section of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline.

    Belarus disputes Ukraine claim about need to use transited gas for technological reasons

    In a related story, The use of part of natural gas transited through a country to maintain the flow of this gas through the pipeline is unacceptable, said a top manager from the Belarusian national gas transportation company Beltransgaz.

    "Beltransgaz has long been transiting Russian gas through Belarus to Europe, and we perfectly know how this work is arranged. One of the issues that have arisen between [the Russian gas monopoly] Gazprom and [the Ukrainian national energy company] Naftogaz Ukrainy concerns technological gas used at compressor plants to pump transited gas," Beltransgaz Deputy General Director Dmitry Anyuk told journalists.

    "This dispute appears very strange to onlookers," Anyuk said. "Not a single gas transportation company in the world takes part of transited gas free of charge for pumping it. It is the same as if you ordered a taxi, paid according to the meter, and also stopped at a gasoline station and paid for filling the gas tank. Gas transiting companies, just as any transportation companies, charge for transportation services, and this is international practice," Anyuk said.

    "Beltransgaz is not an exception in this respect. We use gas bought from Gazprom for transiting gas through our network, and we charge Gazprom a certain price for our services," he said.

    Belarus raises Russian oil transit tariff

    From: Reuters and I stock
    Belarus has raised transit tariffs on Russian oil flowing to Europe through its pipelines by up to 22.5 percent, Belarus's economy ministry said in a statement on Friday.

    "The average increase in tariffs in euros per tonne depends on the direction of transportation and is between 21.6 percent and 22.5 percent," the ministry said in the statement.

    The economy ministry said it needed to raise the transit price because it had modernised its facilities.

    "From January 6 the oil transit rate via the route from Unecha (Vysokoye) to Adamova Zastava [towards Poland and Germany] will be raised by 22.5% to 3.43 euro per tonne," says the Economic Ministry's resolution of January 5 2009, available to Interfax.

    The rate for pumping oil via the Unecha (Vysokoye) - Brody route [towards Ukraine] has been raised by 22.5% to 1.47 euro per tonne.

    The resolution also increases the rate per tonne of imported oil pumped via the Gomeltransneft Druzhba pipeline to the Mozyr NPZ oil refinery [Unecha-Mozyr-Mozyr NPZ) by 21.7% to 0.73 euro from January 6.

    Earlier reports said that Belarus last raised the rates for oil transit on January 6 2008. The rate for pumping oil via the Unecha (Vysokoye) - Adamova Zastava pipeline was raised by 15.7% to 2.8 euro per tonne, and the rate for the Unecha (Vysokoye) - Brody route by 16.7% to 1.2 euro per tonne.

    About 70 million tonnes of Russian oil passes through Belarus each year, mostly through the Gomeltransneft Druzhba pipeline. Shipments to the Mozyr oil refinery included, the Gomeltransneft Druzhba pipeline handles 80 million - 81 million tonnes of oil, annually.

    The Novopolotsk Druzhba pipeline has not been transiting oil since August 2006, after oil shipments to Lithuania were halted due to a breakdown on the Russian stretch of the pipeline.

    The Gomeltransneft Druzhba pipeline running towards Poland and Germany, and towards Ukraine is 1,900 kilometers long.

    Top Gay Activist in Belarus Drafted By Homophobic Military

    From: and Navany
    You're a failed cold-war state with a predilection for repressing your native gay and lesbian population and you have a pesky editor of a gay website calling your government out for all its human right violations. So what do you do? Well, if you're Belarus, you do what you do with all dissidents– draft them.

    23-year-old Alexander Paluyan, the editor-in-chief of the largest and most popular LGBT website in Belarus,, was previously excused from service for medical reasons, but has been ordered to report to the military department in Mozyr today to find out if his medical exemption is confirmed or if he will be called up to service.

    Human rights groups are concerned and Sergey Androsenko spokesperson for the Belarusian Initiative for Sexual and Gender Equality says, “It is not safe for openly gay persons to be called-up for military duties”

    UK Gay News has more on the situation:

    "with the number of conscripts down this year, the Belarusian authorities are believed to now be “calling up” those who have previously been medically exempt.

    As a leading gay activist, Mr. Paluyan could face a very difficult eighteen months in the largely homophobic military, fellow activists say.

    “We are anxious for the physical and psychological health of our friend, colleague and activist.

    “We want to stand against disrespect, violence, and rudeness, which he can come across in the Belarusian army” said the activists in their email.

    In addition to Mr. Paluyan, another gay activist has been called-up. His identity is not being revealed.

    Activists in Belarus, whose membership of the Council of Europe has been suspended as the country does not meet the European human rights standards, point to the fact that there has been considerable “gay rights” activity in Minsk over the past year.

    And Belarus often uses the “trick” to call-up dissidents of the Lukashenko regime for military service, the activists say."

    Alleged neo-Nazi sentenced to prison term over stabbing attack

    In a related story, A district judge in Homyel on January 8 sentenced an alleged neo-Nazi who stabbed a man in July 2008 to four years and one month in a medium-security correction institution.

    The accused was found guilty of deliberately causing life-threatening bodily harm, an offense penalized by Part One of the Criminal Code's Article 147.

    "While speaking at his trial, the accused denied his membership in any group," the 25-year-old victim told BelaPAN.

    The young man received a knife wound in the chest during a scuffle that broke out in Homyel on July 2 following a hard rock concert. A group of some 30 young people, said to be anti-Nazis, were returning home when they were attacked by roughly as many men believed to be local activists of Russia's ultra-nationalist Russian National Unity ("RNE"). The assailants were reportedly wielding clubs, bats and knives.

    The wounded man was rushed to the resuscitation unit of a Homyel hospital and his attacker, a 20-year-old Homyel resident, was immediately arrested by police.

    In 2007, he received a suspended prison sentence on charges of hooliganism and illegal possession of firearms.

    Belarusian mobile phone operator raises call rates over rubel weakening

    From: Navany
    A Belarusian mobile phone operator has raised call rates for nearly all subscribers and its rivals are expected to follow suit in the wake of the sharp weakening of the Belarusian rubel.

    Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), in which the government holds 51 percent and the rest belongs to Russia’s largest mobile operator MTS, increased call and short message service rates by between 15 and 30 rubels on January 9.

    The company’s press office linked the rise to the depreciation of the rubel earlier this month, saying that MTS had to pay for much equipment and many services in a foreign currency.

    The rise did not affect special calling plans for retirees and people with disability, the press office said.
    When reached by BelaPAN, a spokeswoman for Velcom, Belarus’ second-largest GSM operator controlled by Telekom Austria, said that the company was “studying the situation.” “We cannot say with complete certainty that our price policy will change somehow,” Natallya Lyahenchanka said.

    The press office of the Belarusian Telecommunications Network (BeST), in which Turkey’s GSM operator Turkcell holds 80 percent, issued a similar statement. “The management of the operator is studying the financial situation in the country’s market. After it is studied and analyzed, a decision will be made,” the statement said.

    The number of GSM subscribers is projected to reach 8.5 million in Belarus this year.

  • From the Opposition...

    Salihorsk: individual entrepreneurs refuse to pay rent

    From: Viasna
    The administration of the two markets of Salihorsk is in panic. The overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs refuse to sign agreements with new rent costs. Instead they send to state organs collective complaints and present to the markets’ administration collective complaints.

    The reason for the mass revolt of individual entrepreneurs is that since 1 January the administration of the markets, following the wish of the local authorities, increased the tax rate from 5 to 7 Euros per square meter.

    ‘We know that the head of the state adopted a rigid tax rate,’ says individual entrepreneur Tatsiana Kuchynskaya. ‘These rates must not exceed 5 Euros per square meter for such markets as ours. When the head of Kastrychnitski market Lidziya Zhukavets declared that we would have to pay 7 Euros we came to the head of the district executive committee and reminded him about the appropriate presidential decree, but he ignored what we said to him.’

    The head of Salihorsk district executive committee Alexander Rymasheuski said that the executive committee had to pay the credit for building of the market and the bank raised the percent. In other conditions the entrepreneurs could put up with such an explanation, but:

    ‘There is no water course at the market ground. There’s either mud or ice between the market pavilions. We bought the pavilions at our own expense. We cannot understand where are the huge sums of money, to which the head of the district executive committee refers as to means spent on building of the market,’ says individual entrepreneur Sviatlana Chakur.

    In their letters to the presidential administration and the State Control Committee the entrepreneurs demand to hold a check-up of the expenditures on construction of the Kastrychnitski market and the financial check-up of the markets. They also call one of the reasons for large expenditures made by the administration of the markets – the personnel of the market has been artificially increased – in fact, many of them had nothing to do.

    Protest “No to Nuclear Power Plant!” held in Salihorsk

    From: Charter '97
    Salihorsk activists of the civil campaign “European Belarus” have held a picket against construction of an atomic power station in Belarus.

    Young activists were holding a streamer with the words: “No to nuclear power plant! Nature and health are more important than energy” and handed out leaflets criticizing construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus.

    As we have informed, on January 21 construction of the first houses for nuclear plant builders started in Astravets. “And in a year we are to start construction of an industrial site near Astravets,” stated the first vice prime minister of the Belarusian government Uladzimir Syamashka at the session of the National Council on labour and Social issues.

    The north-west of Belarus is the land of beautiful lakes situated between picturesque hills. It’s the place which is rich in reservation parks and nature reserves. A national park Narachanski, the most popular holiday resort in Belarus, is situated nearby.

  • Around the region...

    Russia signs gas deal with European Union; no Ukraine price deal

    From: Kyiv Post
    Russia and the European Union signed an accord on Saturday aimed at restoring Russian gas supplies via Ukraine, whose cut-off has plunged large parts of Europe into a midwinter energy crisis.

    Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, representing the EU presidency, then flew to Kiev hoping to persuade Ukraine to sign the deal, which would allow EU, Ukrainian and Russian observers to monitor the gas flows across Ukrainian territory.

    The agreement would assuage Russian fears that Ukraine is siphoning off fuel for its own use. Kiev denies the charge.

    "As soon as the mechanism of control starts working, we will send the gas to the system. If we see that it is stolen again, we will again cut flows," Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said after five hours of talks with Topolanek in Moscow.

    The dispute, which began when Russia and Ukraine could not agree on this year's gas prices, has led to the worst ever disruption of Russian gas supplies to Europe.

    The continent relies on Russia for a quarter of its supplies. Eighty percent of Russian gas to Europe is piped through Ukraine.

    Eastern and central Europe have borne the brunt of the dispute, which has shut down factories and left tens of thousands of households shivering in sub-zero temperatures without gas heating. Supplies to 18 countries have been disrupted.

    Despite clearing the deal on Saturday, Putin showed no sign of easing his tough rhetoric on Ukraine.

    "Our actions do not aim to worsen but rather to improve the situation in Ukraine, to help Ukraine get rid of crooks and bribe-takers and make its economy more transparent," he said.

    He said that in addition to monitors from Russia, Ukraine and the EU, specialists from European gas firms would join the team checking flows across Ukraine, something Kiev has opposed. Putin said Topolanek had also asked to include specialists from Norway.


    Relations between Moscow and Kiev, already tense because of Russian opposition to Ukraine's push to join NATO, have suffered a further sharp downward lurch.

    Russia has accused Ukraine of corruption and stealing gas meant for Europe, and Kiev said Russia's actions amounted to blackmail to extract an unjustifiably high price for the gas it sells to Ukraine.

    Sources close to the talks, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the agreement signed in Moscow had been tweaked slightly at Russia's request, but had not changed substantially from an earlier draft.

    Even if the gas supply is resumed to Europe, it is unlikely to be delivered to Ukrainian consumers, as Moscow and Kiev have yet to agree a supply contract for this year.

    Russia, which cut off supplies to Ukraine on New Year's Day because of the dispute over pricing and debts, has repeatedly said Ukraine must pay the going market rate for gas.

    Oleh Dubyna, chief executive of Ukrainian state energy company Naftogaz, returned from Moscow on Saturday having failed to agree a 2009 gas supply deal in the latest round of talks with Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom.

    "Unfortunately the talks with Gazprom have finished with nothing," Dubyna told reporters at Kiev airport on his return. "The talks now have to proceed at a higher level."

    Dubyna said Gazprom had again demanded a price of $450 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas, which he said Ukraine could not accept. Naftogaz has previously insisted on a price of $201, up from $179.50 in 2008.

    A Crossroad for Russia and America

    From: New York Times
    In August of last year, a new Russia presented itself to the world. From the battlefield of Georgia, the message said: We are no longer seeking the good opinion of the West. The new taste for confrontation was seen by many as a byproduct of oil and gas wealth, which had given Russia’s leaders the confidence to risk international isolation. In the title of a book he published in April, the scholar Marshall Goldman offered a one-word explanation: “Petrostate.”

    That thesis may have a short shelf life. Russian leaders, no longer hoping to make the ruble an international reserve currency, now face a confluence of disasters: The price of a barrel of oil has slid below $40, shares of Gazprom fell 76 percent in a year and more than a quarter of Russia’s cash reserves have been spent shoring up the ruble.

    But does that mean we can expect a thaw between Russia and America?

    The question arises at a moment of high tension. The deadlock between Russia and Ukraine on gas prices has drawn in all of Europe; violence in Georgia could flare up again. Barack Obama’s Russia policymakers are taking office under the pressure of unfolding events.

    Henry Kissinger, who was in Moscow last month, is offering the hopeful view that the global financial crash could lead to “an age of compatible interests.” But others see the crisis pushing Russia in the opposite direction. So there are two paths:

    SCENARIO 1: COOPERATION In the global financial collapse, as Alexander Rahr of Germany’s Council on Foreign Relations put it: “We have all become weaker. We have all become poorer.” So, pressed by domestic concerns, both sides pare back their foreign ambitions. Washington slows its timetable on NATO expansion and missile defense; Russia defers the dream of recapturing the Soviet “privileged sphere of influence.” Leaders in Moscow present this to the public as a victory.

    The logic here is straightforward: A cash-strapped Russia would need Western money and technology to develop its energy fields. State monopolies would seek foreign partners, and bare-knuckled power grabs like Russia’s past moves against BP and Shell Oil would look counterproductive. The “battle of ideas” within the Kremlin, as Igor Y. Yurgens, an adviser to President Dmitri A. Medvedev, describes it, would turn away from “isolation, seclusion, imperial instincts” and toward long-term partnership with the West.

    “If we take care of the crisis by isolating ourselves, if we don’t learn the lessons from what is already being done, then the fate of Russia can be the repetition of the fate of the U.S.S.R.,” Mr. Yurgens said. “I don’t think we are stupid enough.”

    SCENARIO 2: RETRENCHMENT AND NATIONALISM “Less resources means more selfish behavior,” as Sergei A. Markov, director of the Institute of Political Studies in Moscow, has said. In this case, Russia finds itself facing internal dissent and the threat of regional separatism, and lacking large piles of oil money to disburse in hopes of keeping control. Forced to fight for their own survival, political leaders tailor their policies to domestic public opinion. They focus on an external enemy — the United States, which leaders have already blamed for Russia’s financial crisis, and with whom Russia is already deeply irritated over the prospect of American military influence reaching Ukraine.

    By this logic, it would be absurd to cede ground to the West now, after the long-awaited taste of satisfaction that Russians got in Georgia. Many Russians see the August war as a restoration of Russia’s rightful place in world events — a product not of oil wealth, but of the Russian society’s recovery from the Soviet collapse.

    “Russia has returned, period,” said Vyacheslav A. Nikonov, president of the Kremlin-aligned Polity Foundation. “That will not change. It will not get back under the table.”

    WHICH scenario is more likely? To begin, it is clear that Russian authorities are preparing to defend their political power. After presenting himself to the world as a liberal modernizer, President Medvedev has prioritized one major reform — lengthening the presidential term to six years. Last week, he signed a law eliminating jury trials for “crimes against the state,” and pending legislation would expand the definition of treason.

    The authorities are nervous, it seems. Mr. Medvedev, in his State of the Nation speech, sent a barbed warning to “those who seek to provoke tension in the political situation.” And last month, riot police were sent 6,000 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok, where hundreds of people were protesting automobile tariffs, The Associated Press reported. “I just think they don’t trust what they can’t control,” said Clifford Kupchan of the Eurasia Group, a global risk-consulting firm based in New York. “Their instinctive reflex is to clamp when faced with uncertainty.”

    The first scenario, in which economic considerations dictate a more subdued foreign policy, requires conditions that may not exist. In the government, economic liberals might challenge hardliners. The constituencies who might back them up are ones that fell silent during the boom.

    People in epaulets who feel they are middle class, people in bureaucracy who feel they are middle class, they could be part of this coalition,” Mr. Yurgens said. “Whether this coalition will be strong enough, I have no way of knowing.”

    These days, Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, sees signs of “policy confusion” as Moscow’s leaders adjust to Russia’s sudden economic slide. Moscow has allowed the Georgia crisis to subside, but has escalated tensions over gas with Ukraine.

    The choice the elites face, Mr. Sestanovich said, is whether to keep talking in ways that make them look like “angry risk-takers and disturbers.”

    “Is that still their real view of themselves, and of the appropriate policy in a time of crisis?” he said. “It may be. But I’m not sure, and I don’t think they are.”

    The United States has real interests in a cooperative Russia; it wants help in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and NATO needs more supply routes into Afghanistan. And with Mr. Obama’s arrival in the White House, there seems room for compromise on two big Russian concerns: possible NATO expansion to Ukraine and Georgia, and the plan to station missile-defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic.

    But in the deep freeze of a Moscow January, the gains of August are still thrilling. When Mr. Putin went on television last week to cut gas shipments to Ukraine — retaliation, he said, for thefts from Russia’s pipeline — who could miss the glint of satisfaction at another tough-guy stance? Foreign policy emits an energy that goes far beyond mere economics, and the new year will call for all the resources Moscow can muster. To a Russia intent on reclaiming great-power status, there may be something elemental about resisting America.

    “It’s just the way things are,” said Mr. Nikonov, whose grandfather, Vyacheslav Molotov, was Stalin’s foreign minister. Searching his memory for periods of warmth between the two countries, Mr. Nikonov came up with two: March and April of 1917, and August through December of 1991.

    Rise of Russia's political fortune

    From: BBC
    In recent years, Russia has enjoyed unforeseen riches as a result of a huge rise in revenues from oil and gas exports. The BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow reports on what this wealth has done to the country, and what it means for its future.

    Of course, this is a commercial dispute, but you have to understand what that means in a country where the line between politics and business is not clear.

    In some places it is broad, blurred and easy to cross. In others, it disappears.

    Before he became President, Dmitry Medvedev combined the chairmanship of Gazprom, the giant Russian gas company, with his role as Russia's first deputy prime minister.

    Now, when Gazprom wonders whether it might be a good idea to reduce the amount of gas it sends to Europe via Ukraine, its chief executive goes to discuss the matter with the Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin. Not quietly, or in any smoke-filled room, but in Mr Putin's office, in front of the television cameras.

    Mr Putin scowls as he hears tales of Ukraine stealing gas it has not paid for. He gives his consent to the plan. The taps are turned.

    Nothing has influenced Russia's recent history more than the riches generated by oil and gas revenues.

    There must be a fascinating piece of academic research to be written on how the oil price has influenced Russia's political fortunes.

    Could Communism have lasted longer if it had been propped up by more dollars from selling energy to the capitalists? Might Boris Yeltsin's reform programme have succeeded if he had enjoyed the higher oil prices which came after his time in office?

    The effect is not confined to the realms of research and political theory.

    Boom time

    I recently travelled to Perm, in Russia's Ural Mountains region. This is the edge of Siberia, and the edge of the oil fields.

    Russia's new riches are most obvious in the streets of the capital and the country's big cities, but this is where they start, in wilderness where the winter wind freezes your face.

    No gleaming tower blocks here, only a few wooden houses - and pumps and pipes which take the oil on the first stage of its journey to the refineries. Huge skies arch over these man-made structures, dwarfing them all.

    Vladimir Seleznov, the area manager of the oil company Lukoil, showed me round.

    "A lot has changed over the last 10 years," he told me.

    "Our production standards have improved.

    "People's living standards in this area also have improved. Oil is the only thing we have got here, and people's lives depend on it."

    Massive projects

    The next day, on the outskirts of Perm, I saw what he meant.

    Travelling around this country, you sometimes hear complaints that not enough oil money is being used to help ordinary people.

    Here, the local authorities had embarked on a massive construction project.

    A new road was taking shape on the floor of a shallow valley. The slopes on either side recalled Russia's past - the wooden houses of pre-revolutionary village life faced 20th Century tower blocks.

    The new road - paid for by petro-roubles - looked to the future.

    Alexander, one of the workers, shrugged when I suggested that falling oil prices might lead to the project being halted.

    "Other ones, maybe," he said. "Not this one."

    I do not know why he was so sure. It may have been an example of Russia's new national self-esteem, a pride which has been hard to puncture, but which is now feeling slightly brittle.

    The wealth is not just important because it is building new roads, but because it makes Russia feel better.

    It is only 10 years since there was a major financial crisis here. The currency collapsed. There was a run on the banks. That ghost still haunts Russia today.

    Staying strong

    National pride is one factor as Russia fights its war of contracts and prices with Ukraine. Another is Russia's approach to negotiations.

    I have heard it from oil men, I have heard it from diplomats: Russia rarely seems to appreciate that something can be mutually beneficial. If your opposite number seems content, the suspicion is that he has somehow deceived you. It must be a bad deal, so do not do it.

    All of this is complicated further by the poor state of recent political relations between Russia and Ukraine.

    If there is one thing that keeps Kremlin officials awake at night, it is the prospect of some kind of "Orange Revolution", like the one which ushered in the current Ukrainian administration, coming to Russia.

    There is no prospect of that happening at the moment, but then no one imagined that the oil price would plummet as it has.

    Russia is about to struggle back to work after a lengthy holiday for New Year and Orthodox Christmas.

    As they sober up, millions of Russians will be worrying about unemployment - 400,000 lost their jobs in November.

    Faced with possible popular discontent in a country where public protest is rare, the government cannot be seen to be weak - either at home or abroad.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...


    From: Daily Star
    POLISH migrants fear they could become the victims of a violent backlash as Brits suffer economic meltdown.

    They claim hate crimes against Polish workers are on the rise as the credit crunch bites.

    They fear it could get worse as thousands more Brits face redundancy and blame immigrants for “stealing” jobs.

    Leaders of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain are concerned about the rise in racist incidents last year “as resentment grew”.

    They want the Govern-ment to introduce new laws to stop further attacks.

    Spokesman Wiktor Moszczynski said the downturn already appears to be fuelling a fierce backlash.

    “We are aware that many of these incidents occur because of growing tension in the traditional indigenous population
    following increasing anxiety about job losses,” he said.

    “While the Polish workforce has proved to be highly flexible and some 300,000 appear to have left the country as the economic situation deteriorates, a large number who still have jobs are staying – particularly if they have families here.

    “And media scare stories can fuel resentment at a time like this.” Figures from the Metropolitan Police show there were 8,800 racist incidents in London last year.

    MigrationWatch chairman Sir Andrew Green said: “Attacks of this kind are inexcusable, but the Government must realise this severe recession has changed the whole picture.

    “It destroys the remains of their case for continued immigration. EU citizens have free movement but we must take serious steps to cut back on the rest.”

    The Federation’s suggestions include more free English lessons for EU citizens, and up-to-date statistics provided to show how many Poles live in each area.

    They also want more Polish speakers to work in local services such as the police, to improve communication.
    Gangmasters and employers should also be monitored and fully licensed.

    A Department of Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “We deplore all forms of hate crime and are committed to tackling it.”

    A French politician last night attacked Britain’s immigration policies as “inhumane and illegal”.

    Ex minister Etienne Pinte, a veteran member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party, said the UK is “solely to blame” for the build-up of thousands of migrants in northern France.

    He said almost all of those trying to illegally board ferries to Dover are from former British colonies and asked: “Why are the British now rejecting them while welcoming thousands of citizens from Poland?’

    Bail for man sought in Poland for theft

    A 35-year-old Polish national who is being sought in his home country over a theft committed in 1993 was granted bail in the Maltese law courts after pleading not guilty to the charge. The Warsaw regional courts have requested a European Arrest Warrant for Mariusz Norbert Kawka, currently a Fgura resident, over the alleged theft of Euro 4,193.

    Lawyer Gavin Gulia, appearing for the defendant, noted that under Maltese law, the statute of limitations for the alleged crime had passed.

    Magistrate Tonio Micallef Trigona granted Mr Kawka bail against a deposit of Euro 8,000 and a personal guarantee of Euro 8,000.

    Inspector Mario Cushcieri prosecuted.

    Car pile-up in Poznan

    From: Polski Radio
    Forty one cars crashed on one of the exit roads from Poznan, western Poland. Four people have been slightly injured as a result of the pile-up in which cars crashed into each other after going into a skid on slippery roads. According to police information, the road was extremely slippery during the accident and the drivers failed to adjust their speed to the road conditions. Seven teams of firemen took part in the rescue action.

    Cigarette gang leader arrested

    From: The News
    Poland’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBS) has arrested a 53-year-old businessman from Pomerania for organizing a ring of cigarette smugglers between China and the U.K.

    The gang bought knock-off cigarettes produced in China for 30 cents, transport them by sea to Poland, by truck to the U.K., and sell them to unsuspecting Brits as brand-name cigarettes for an average of six pounds.

    The arrest of Zbigniew L., the leader of the international ring of cigarette smugglers, is just another step in a two-year effort to shut down this particular ring of smugglers. Police have already arrested 43 people in connection with this group.

    Last March, a heavy-goods vehicle transporting 340,000 packages of cigarettes was stopped near Torun, central Poland. A man arrested with the vehicle was found to have over 2 million euro, over half a million British pounds and nine kilograms of gold bricks in his possession.

  • Sport...

    Historic Brisbane victory for Belarus dynamo

    From: Brisbame Times
    In one triumphant pump of the fist, a jubilant Victoria Azarenka revealed more in a single gesture than she has to the sporting public all week.

    The 19-year-old Belarusian is sparse with her words but brimming with confidence following last night’s demolition of Marion Bartoli to claim the women’s singles crown at the Brisbane International.

    Four times Azarenka had been in tour finals. Four times she had failed. On her fifth, the out-of-sorts Bartoli would feel the wrath of a woman steeled by the determination to announce her arrival as a major force in women’s tennis.

    She did just that in fine style, blowing third seed Bartoli off the court 6-3 6-1 in just 71 minutes to make Queensland tennis history by hoisting the first championship trophy inside Pat Rafter Arena at Tennyson.

    Instead of a nervous teenager trying to break her worrying drought in finals, second seed Azarenka looked like a tour veteran, unleashing a broadside of power tennis on the back-peddling Frenchwoman.

    From watching her dominating procession through the tournament this week – in which she failed to drop a set - few would believe her claims that she was “freaking out” in the pre-season and barely able to land a ball in the court.

    It was some sort of turnaround.

    “I’ve been working so hard in the pre-season and I’m just happy all this is paying off. There was some trouble for me in the pre-season. I just couldn’t hit the ball in. I was just freaking out. But I’m so glad that it worked very well now,” Azarenka said.

    With a sell-out crowd urging both parties on, Bartoli was never in the mix. The world number 17 melted away in a muddle of unforced errors and double faults, two of which gift-wrapped the first set to her opponent.

    In the face of Azarenka’s unrelenting groundstrokes, she found the bottom of the net more times than LeBron James on a hot streak.

    The mismatch in power was obvious from the first rallies, where the 24-year-old Bartoli was scrambling and counter-punching at every turn. If she was zipping around like a hybrid Prius, Azarenka was roaring like a souped-up Monaro.

    Azarenka, ranked 15 in the world, said there were no nerves walking onto the court for the final, in spite of her blank record in tournament deciders.

    “I don’t really believe it yet. Everybody says the third one is the chance but for me it’s the fifth one. I’m just glad I got it,” she said.

    “There wasn’t any nerves. The way I think on the court is very different than the way I was before. I go and play every point no matter what happens and that’s what’s helped me a lot.

    “I wasn’t thinking I was playing a final. I was playing a regular match, regular points and felt motivated throughout the whole match. That’s what helped me to finish it.”

    The Azarenka that held aloft the crystal plate at Tennyson is a far cry from the 18-year-old who lost to China’s Li Na in the final of the now defunct Australian Women’s Hardecourt on the Gold Coast last year.

    She credits much of that improvement to her coach of almost four years, Antonio Van Grichen, who has helped Azarenka take great strides in her game since she first emerged as a world junior champion in 2005.

    “Maybe it’s maturity. Maybe some other things. I’ve been working on my game and I’m different outside the court now. It’s helped me a lot,” Azarenka said.

    “It’s very different. I’m at a different level now, especially physically.

    Last year I was a different player and it was a different mentality for me. There’s still a lot of room to improve.

    “He’s (Antonio’s) an amazing coach. I just want to thank him for his patience with me. I’m not always the easiet person to work with.”

    There was little time for celebration. Azarenko will board a plane to Sydney this morning to cram in some more matches before January 19’s Australian Open.

    Her win in Brisbane will no doubt have some of the women’s tour top guns wary of her talents, although Azarenka wasn’t looking that far ahead.

    She failed to progress past the third round of the Australian Open in 2007 and 2008, with her best Grand Slam result a fourth-round appearance at Roland Garros last year and the US Open in 2007.

    “I’m not looking like that. I’m just going to play the next tournament and the next match and we’ll see where it takes me,” she said.

    Bartoli has battled mono nucleosis, a fatigue disorder, to make an inspiring return to the elite ranks of the women’s game after almost being unable to get out of her bed at the beginning of last year.

    Azarenka was in no mood to give her the happy ending she was craving. Despite Bartoli showing some fight in the first to bounce back from 4-1 down to rally at 4-3, she never looked like turning the tide.

    Bartoli had her chances at times but could only manage to convert two of her five break points. Azarenka was far more ruthless, completing six of her 10 chances.

    Rivalry between Leafs and Habs takes on new Belarusian twist

    Toronto Maple Leafs' Mikhail Grabovski gestures to the crowd as he leaves the ice on a misconduct as they face the Montreal Canadiens during third period NHL hockey action Thursday, January 8, 2009 in Montreal.
    The long and storied rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs has added another chapter.

    Fellow Belarusians Mikhail Grabovski of the Leafs and Sergei Kostitsyn of the Canadiens tried for a second game in a row to get at each others throats near the end of Montreal's 6-2 win at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.

    Grabovski said he expects to be suspended for shoving linesman Scott Cherrey while trying to get at Kostitsyn, who was also fighting off officials to try and engage in a fight.

    But Grabovski added that he wouldn't mind challenging Kostitsyn where there are no officials in sight.

    "I think he is not Belarusian now, he is French because I never fight with Belarusian guys," Grabovski said. "I don't know why he wants to fight with me. If he wants to fight, we'll go in the street and every minute of every day I'll wait for him and we'll fight."

    Grabovski, who was born in Potsdam in the former East Germany but raised in Belarus, wouldn't get into details of why there is such bad blood between the two. But the Canadiens winger explained the reasons for the feud.

    "He talks too much in the Russian papers about me and my brother," Kostitsyn said of his elder brother and teammate Andrei.

    But Grabovski noted he only has a problem with the younger of the two brothers.

    "He's not smart, because the older Kostitsyn, Andrei, he never fights with me and he never will fight because he plays hockey, he plays the game," he said. "I think it's stupid."

    The last time the Canadiens and Leafs met at the Air Canada Centre on Nov. 8, a game where Grabovski had a goal and an assist and also got away with a butt end on Habs goalie Carey Price, the younger Kostitsyn charged at him and drew a 10-minute misconduct at 17:01 of the third period in a 6-3 Toronto blowout.

    The two tried to get after each other again Thursday at 18:07 of the third, with the officials preventing a fight, but Kostitsyn predicted the feud will resume the next time the teams meet on Feb. 7 at the Bell Centre.

    Grabovski was not a favourite of Habs coach Guy Carbonneau while he played in Montreal and when asked about him, the coach shrugged and said, "I didn't have much to say about him when he was here and I don't have any more to say about him now."

    Grabovski didn't appear to show much regret for the incident with Kostitsyn, but he did admit he lost his head when he waved his arms and gestured to the sellout crowd of 21,273 at the Bell Centre who were booing him all night.

    "It was emotion," Grabovski said. "Maybe I didn't need to do this. It was just five seconds in my head."

  • Cultural scene...

    “Феномены кино”: Легенды Европы. Французское ассорти

    Киноклуб “Феномены кино” и кинотеатр “Ракета”
    c 12 января по 9 марта 2009 года представляют программу

    “Легенды Европы. Французское ассорти”

    Начало всех показов в 19.00.

    * 12 января
    “Орфей” (1949)
    режиссер Жан Кокто

    * 19 января
    “Опасное сходство” (”Рюи Блаз”) (1948)
    Режиссер Пьер Бийон, сценарий Жан Кокто.

    * 26 января
    “Веселенькое воскресенье” (”Скорей бы воскресенье”) (1983)
    Режиссер Франсуа Трюффо

    * 2 февраля
    “Маски” (1987)
    Режиссер Клод Шаброль.

    * 9 февраля
    “Это было в Париже” (”Чужая кровь”) (1983)
    Режиссер Клод Шаброль.

    * 16 февраля
    “Воскресенье за городом” (1984)
    Режиссер Бертран Тавернье.

    * 23 февраля
    “Эдит и Марсель” (1983)
    Режиссер Клод Лелюш.

    * 2 марта
    “Баловень судьбы” (1988)
    Режиссер Клод Лелюш.

    * 9 марта
    “Мужчина и женщина” (1966)
    Режиссер Клод Лелюш.

    кинотеатр “Ракета”
    Тел.: 298-25-00, 298-04-48, 298-46-37, 298-44-94
    Адрес: Рабочий переулок, 3, ст.м. «Пролетарская»


  • Endnote...

    What is behind Natallya Pyatkevich’s smile?

    From: Charter '97
    On January 9 Natallya Pyatkevich was the first deputy head of the Presidential Administration of Belarus. She is ordered to take under her control all ideology work in the country.

    The main demand of Lukashenka to Pyatkevich: “no formalism, no idle talk”. The Belarusian leader ordered to pay special attention to work of mass media, as “some decline, some standstill is taking place in some mass media,” Radio Svaboda informs.

    According to the editorial director of “Narodnaya Volya” Svyatlana Kalinkina, Pyatkevich was a spokesperson of the president and in fact was in charge of the ideology and mass media in the state.

    “I do not have great hopes, that Natalya Pyatkevich changed her outlook over these years, and in reality recognized the role of free mass media for the state. I am really disquieted that the same persons are appointed to different positions. There won’t be great charges. For instance, who had prepared the law on mass media which is coming into force? It has been prepared by Natallya Pyatkevich. Who in the first place started control over mass media and pressure on them? Who had introduced the system of approvals to journalists’ works by the presidential administration? Who invented the system of how Lukashenka is allowed to be pictured, and how not? It was namely Natallya Pyatkevich. Everybody who worked with her as a spokesperson, says that there is no such a harsh person as her in this respect. The first thing she should do is to persuade Lukashenka to suspend operation of the law on mass media”.

    The leader of the Party of Belarusian Communists Syarhei Kalyakin believes that Natallya Pyatkevich is in favour now, and that her influence in the administration now is very great:

    “She is one of the people who hold talks with the European Union. The last word belongs to the president, however. Maybe Natallya Pyatkevich looks good in talks with Europeans, but the things she can say and the corridor she is inside do not depend on her”.

    For instance, in 2007 N. Pyatkevich met with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer in one of Minsk cafes. He communicated a US message to the Belarusian leadership through her.

    As said by the deputy chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front Viktar Ivashkevichatkevich has “allegedly more pro-Western image”. It has influenced her appointment.

    “Pyatkevich’s appointment is a part of new approach and a new image. In difficult conditions of the state and authorities at the moment, and with her image in the eyes of the Belarusian people, ideology departments won’t be the only necessary thing. When people have a normal salary, they paid no attention to ideology. And now when everybody is in panic, mistrust to the authorities has grown, and some new approaches have appeared”.

    The former head of the main state legal department of the presidential administration Alyaksandr Plaskavitski is greatly surprised that Lukashenka has promoted Natallya Pyatkevich.

    “There cannot be any understanding between these two characters. With their things in common, they have many things which should course allergy”.

    As for N. Pyatkevich’s allergy, Plaskavitski said:

    “She had education just for pleasure. She does not read books. She does not know many things at all. What does she know about liberalism? Only the things which are often repeated on TV and written in newspapers”.

    Since 1994, when Lukashenka took power, Natallya Pyatkevich occupied different positions in the state legal department of the Administration. The young expert was noticed by the leader of the state, and Natallya Pyatkevich became the press-secretary of the president. In three years she was appointed the deputy head of the administration. Besides, she was elected the chairperson of the Belarusian ski union”.

    Natallya Pyatkevich: "When I come to the US, I am taken to a hoosegow with illegals"

    Natallya Pyatkevich, deputy head of the Presidential Administration of Belarus, complained about entry restriction, imposed by the US and the EU on her and other Belarusian officials.

    Pyatkevich visited a UN headquarters in New York in early June, where made a report on the debates on human trafficking. “It was my first visit, when I could entry the country rather fast,” Pyatkevich noted in an interview to Seventeen Moments programme on Russia-Belarus TV channel. “When I come to the US, I am taken to a hoosegow with illegal aliens, and I have to sit there, dressed in suit, while they phone to somewhere. US border officers don’t understand: a young normal woman, what is she doing here, why can’t she entry? But it was rather quickly... everything was solved during some minutes. However, I am restricted to visit New York. We are restricted to a 25-kilometer zone, so, we can’t go everywhere in New York. “

    It should be reminded that Natallya Pyatkevich and tens of Belarusian officials are on the list of restricted to entry EU countries and the USA for violations of human rights and rigging elections in Belarus. Four more officials – minister of internal affaires Uladzimir Navumau, secretary of the Security Council Viktar Sheiman, former minister of internal affairs Yury Sivakou and special forces commander Dzmitry Paulichenka are on the list for the international community suspects they are involved in kidnapping and murders of leaders of the Belarusian opposition and a journalist.

    Natallya Pyatkevich was deputy head of the president’s administration since November 2004.