News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Belarus, Russia military cooperation, OSCE, CIS summit, NPP, IMF, EU wants reform, Activist suicide, Grindeks, Polish scandal, Jah culture and Sport

  • From the Top...
  • #393

    Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus, Russia are reaching new level of military cooperation

    From: BelTA
    Belarus is reaching a brand new level of practical collaboration with Russia in the military area, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said during the discussion of the concept of the West 2009 strategic exercise, BelTA has learnt.

    The head of state pointed out that the West 2009 strategic exercise aims to test readiness of the regional forces of Belarus and Russia and their control in a prearranged local conflict. According to the President, it is the most significant event in terms of forces and means to be involved.

    ‘It is a brand new stage of maintaining security of the Union State. It is so far the highest level of the practical cooperation with Russia in the military area,’ Alexander Lukashenko said.

    He underlined that the common security policy emphasizes raising defense capacities of the Union State regional forces. This is why Belarus regularly carries out military exercises. ‘We managed to convince our citizens and the neighbouring countries that such exercises are not the demonstration of power but an efficient form of military training and maintaining combat effectiveness and readiness,’ the Belarusian leader said.

    Alexander Lukashenko pointed out the necessity to rationally use the material resources and money. The head of state noted that despite the external shocks, Belarus should not postpone the exercise that was planned long ago. ‘We do not have extra money, but I think we will handle the expenses. We will cut down on some expenditure in the military area, but we will definitely carry out this exercise,’ the President underlined.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    OSCE PA President ready to provide all-round support to promote cooperation with Belarus

    From: BelTA
    Head of the Administration of the President of Belarus Vladimir Makei met with a delegation of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly led by OSCE PA President Joao Soares on March 10, BelTA has learnt from the President’s Administration.

    During the meeting the sides exchanged opinions on a wide range of issues connected with cooperation between Belarus and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

    The parties noted the progress in the cooperation between Belarus and the European Union. The OSCE PA President expressed his readiness to provide all-round support to this process.

    The parties also discussed the concrete areas of cooperation, including help in eliminating the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, joint seminars on pressing issues of international agenda, especially in the light of the global financial and economic crisis, and on attracting investments.

    Vladimir Andreichenko: Belarus considers OSCE as platform to hold dialogue about European cooperation

    Belarus considers the OSCE as a platform to hold dialogue about the European cooperation and the European security, Chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus Vladimir Andreichenko noted during his meeting with OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Joao Soares.

    The OSCE PA President will take part in the seminar “Improvement of climate to attract foreign investments” organized by the working group of the OSCE PA in Belarus jointly with the National Assembly.

    According to Vladimir Andreichenko, Belarus welcomes the idea to hold such seminar in the country. “It is a positive example of the constructive cooperation between the OSCE PA and this country,” the Speaker of the lower house of the Belarusian Parliament said. The attraction of foreign investments is a key issue for the economy of any state during the global financial crisis, Vladimir Andreichenko added. Attending the seminar will be Belarusian high-ranking officials, heads of various companies, representatives of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

    The Chairman of the House of Representatives noted that recently the relations between Belarus and Europe have been developing actively. The Belarusian Parliament is ready for open and pragmatic dialogue, he added.

    He also reminded that a parliamentary delegation composed of eight deputies of the House of Representatives and four members of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus has been set up to work at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

    In turn, Joao Soares noted that the OSCE PA has established good contacts with the Belarusian delegation. “We would like to have friendly relations with Belarus to have fruitful cooperation with it,” he said. “Since 1970 – when the organization was founded – we have been involving all the countries in our work. We are against the expulsion of any country or delegation from the organization,” the OSCE PA President added.

    Belarusian MPs intend to vigorously cooperate with OSCE PA

    The delegation of the National Assembly of Belarus intends to actively and fruitfully cooperate with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, said Chairman of the Council of the Republic Boris Batura as he met with OSCE PA President Joao Soares in Minsk on March 10.

    “Our representatives confirmed it by actively participating in the winter session of the Assembly,” said Boris Batura.

    He remarked, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is a good platform for discussing matters of European cooperation and security.

    Speaking about the seminar dedicated to attracting investments into Belarus, in which Joao Soares is expected to participate the next day, Boris Batura said he was confident the event would positively influence the cooperation with European parliamentarians in economic and other spheres. “I am convinced that your visit will provide a vivid example of productive cooperation between the National Assembly of Belarus and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly,” concluded the speaker of the upper chamber of the Belarusian parliament.

    In turn, Joao Soares said it was important that the investment seminar was taking place in Belarus during the world economic crisis. “Attracting investments is important for any country, especially during an economic crisis,” he said.

    Moscow to host CIS Economic Council March 13

    From: BelTA
    A regular session of the CIS Economic Council will be held in Moscow on March 13, BelTA learnt from the CIS Executive Committee.

    The agenda features 19 issues, including the draft action plan to implement the first stage of the economic development strategy of the Commonwealth of Independent States for the period till 2020. The first stage of the strategy runs 2009-2011. The strategy includes measures to mitigate the impact of the global financial crisis.

    The document intends to expand interaction between the member states in industry, implement interstate programmes, in particular in power engineering, transport and agricultural industry. A special attention will be paid to raising competitiveness of products, the introduction of innovation technologies. The social agenda emphasizes measures to maintain employment and create new jobs, to harmonize national employment and labour migration laws.

    The CIS Economic Council will consider the projections regarding production and consumption of energy sources of the CIS participating states for the period till 2020. According to the estimates of the Institute of Energy Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, by 2020 export potential of primary energy resources of the CIS member states will rise 1.7 times from 2006. Higher energy efficiency halves the gap with developed countries. According to experts, gas consumption in the CIS will be decreasing while the use of coal, nuclear power, alternatives will be increasing.

    The draft document on trade in fruits and vegetables will be discussed too. The document will lay the basis for the creation of the international commodity distribution network “Green Corridor”. This will help speed up the trade turnover of fruits and vegetables, organize safe trade, improve the provision of the population with high-quality foodstuffs, increase budget revenues due to transparency of the trade turnover.

    The Economic Council will hear the report of the CIS Executive Committee on the barriers to mutual trade. In 2006-2008 the number of restrictions in import reduced. The countries have recently started applying technical measures or technical regulations to protect domestic markets. The measures proposed by the CIS Executive Committee are designed to minimize the use of restrictive measures in mutual trade.

    The agenda also includes the cooperation in innovation area, the course of the search for the military who went missing during the war in Afghanistan in 1979-1989.

    Belarus, Russia studying financing of nuclear power station construction

    From: BelTA
    Belarus and Russia are jointly studying the financing schemes of the construction of the nuclear power station, First Vice President of Russia’s Atomstroiexport Alexander Glukhov told a press conference on March 10, BelTA has learnt.

    ‘Negotiations are underway. This matter is very complicated, the construction of the first Belarusian nuclear power station can be financed partially through the state export support and probably through private financing,’ Alexander Glukhov said. ‘At present, the situation is becoming more definite, because we are studying the details of the financing schemes’ He added that the sides have made a considerable progress in their negotiations.

    'We live and work in the Union State. This factor will be taken into account while the construction cost estimates of the Belarusian nuclear plant is made', Mikhail Mikhadiuk, Deputy Energy Minister of Belarus, told a press conference.

    'We hope that the issues of price and the sources of financing will be addressed making allowance for the Union State integration. Belarus makes great efforts and keeps in contact with our country in part of comprehensive solution of the issues related to the mechanisms of attracting financing, price formation, delivery of equipment and others,' Alexander Glukhov said. According to him, the situation has been developing in a positive manner. Alexander Glukhov informed that the average cost of the construction of a nuclear plant is around €3,000 per 1kWt.

    Belarus, Russia draft agreement on peaceful nuclear energy use being coordinated

    A draft agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy is undergoing coordination procedures in Belarus and Russia, Deputy Energy Minister of Belarus Mikhail Mikhadiuk told a press conference on March 10, BelTA has learnt.

    The agreement is an important stage in the construction of the nuclear power station in Belarus. According to the Deputy Energy Minister, in 2009 the sides are also to sign an agreement on the construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus.

    Belarus plans to build a 2,000 MW nuclear power plant. The first energy unit is supposed to be commissioned in 2016, the second one — 2018. The power plant will be built at the Ostrovets site in the Grodno oblast. Russian Atomstroyexport is the prime contractor.

  • Economics...

    IMF welcomes Belarus’ steps to ensure macro-economic stability

    From: BelTA
    The IMF welcomes the steps Belarus has taken to ensure the macro-economic stability, BelTA learnt from the IMF Office in Minsk.

    A reminder, a team of IMF experts was in Minsk on March 3-10 to meet with authorities and discuss the latest economic changes as part of the IMF-supported economic programme for Belarus.

    The new chief of the mission Chris Jarvis met with high-ranking officials, businessmen, diplomats and independent economists. Following the meetings, he said that the discussions in the government and the National Bank were very constructive. For the two months since the stand-by arrangement was approved by the IMF Executive Board, the economic problems facing the Republic of Belarus have aggravated. For example, the demand in the countries, Belarus’ major trading partners including Russia, has shrunk which has had a big negative impact on Belarusian exporters.

    Chris Jarvis said that at the start of the programme the authorities took important decisions that are helpful now. “Devaluation of the Belarusian ruble on January 2 and pegging of the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble to the basket of currencies have made the Belarusian currency less exposed to outside risks. The decision to make the 2008 and 2009 budgets balanced, the work of the Finance Ministry in this direction serve as a reliable basis for macro-economic stability. We believe that with proper economic policy in effect, Belarus will be able to overcome the problems it faces. The IMF will be working with the authorities to help the Belarusian nation come through these difficult times,” he said.

    A reminder, on January 12, 2009, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund approved the Stand-By Arrangement for $2.46 billion for Belarus. On January 14, Belarus received the first $800mn tranche of the loan.

    Chris Jarvis and an IMF team of experts will visit Minsk in late April or early May for the first review of the IMF programme.

    Belarus’ micro-finance concept to be ready by May

    A concept of developing micro-finance in Belarus is being designed by the Russian micro-finance centre. The document is expected to be ready in one or one and a half months, Sergei Lugovtsov, the chief of the project financing department of the international operations directorate of the National Bank of Belarus, counselor of the national coordinator of the UNDP project “Assistance to the development of micro-finance in the Republic of Belarus.

    According to the technology of the project, the concept should be prepared by specialists of another country. A representative of the Russian micro-finance centre in charge of the concept was in Belarus a month ago. He met with representatives of all ministries and agencies concerned. “The expert formed the opinion what level micro-finance is in the country. As micro-finance is underdeveloped in the country, main approaches will be designed to what should be done next. The concept will comprise the theoretical part and the findings and proposals on most optimal solutions in this area in Belarus.

    The concept will serve as the basis for drafting a provision on micro-finance organization and “some standard law”. The concept is very important. Yet if no steps follow, it will remain just a document on paper, Sergei Lugovtsov said.

    The micro-finance concept is being prepared within the framework of the project on international technical aid to develop micro-finance in Belarus. This is a joint project of the national bank and the UNDP. The implementation term is from February 1, 2008 to March 31, 2010.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    EU's Ferrero-Waldner calls for more reform in Belarus

    From: Reuters
    Bernita Ferrero Waldner
    Belarus must carry out more political reforms before the European Union will agree to closer ties, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said on Monday before a visit to Minsk.

    Ferrero-Waldner said she would visit Belarus for the first time on Friday for talks with leaders there.

    It is the second visit in a month to Minsk by a top EU official after the bloc's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, went there last month.

    Belarus is trying to end its international isolation over accusations of human rights violations and electoral abuses.

    She said there was an opportunity for Belarus, if it chose to grasp it. "And this is the chance to come closer to the European Union," she said, speaking at the Chatham House thinktank in London.

    "We do see the chance to get Belarus closer to us and we would like to do a lot."

    She said the EU's Neighbourhood Policy and Eastern Partnership scheme, which grant benefits to the EU's eastern neighbours, should "reach out to Belarus".

    "But for that to happen, we want to see more of the political reforms," she said.

    At the moment, she said, the reform process in the ex-Soviet state was "two steps forward, one step back".

    Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has been walking a narrow line between keeping good relations with traditional ally Russia and developing better ties with the West, especially after a row with Moscow in 2006 over gas prices.

    "We are content to see that political prisoners have been released, but we are not content at seeing that others now have been again circumscribed and also put under arrest," Ferrero-Waldner said.

    "On the other hand, some NGOs (non-governmental organisations) have now been registered, some newspapers now can be printed -- opposition newspapers. All of these are good steps (but) we want to see more systemic changes," she said.

    The EU initiated the Eastern Partnership scheme after Russia's brief war with Georgia last year. It offers financial aid, easier travel and conditional free trade pacts to Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova, but not Russia. EU officials have suggested Belarus could qualify for the scheme if it pushes ahead with democratic reforms.

    Ferrero-Waldner said the EU's 27 member states would approve the European Commission's Eastern Partnership proposals next week.

    Russia, Belarus to conduct joint military drill in fall

    From: China view
    Belarus and Russia will hold a large-scale strategic military exercise in the fall, the Belarusian defense minister said Tuesday, Russian news agencies reported.

    The drill, called Zapad 2009 (West 2009), will involve around 13,000 service personnel on both sides, Defense Minister Leonid Maltsev said.

    The Russian military would contribute "Ground Forces, Air Force, Air Defense Forces and reconnaissance units," he said.

    The exercise will, among other things, rehearse interoperability within the framework of the Belarusian-Russian integrated air defense system, which the two countries agreed to establish recently, the minister added.

    Moscow and Minsk signed on Feb. 3 an agreement on the joint protection of the Russia-Belarus Union State's airspace and the establishment of an integrated regional air defense network.

    EU risks 'indulging' Belarus leader: dissidents

    From: EU Business
    Leading Belarussian dissidents warned the European Union on Tuesday that inviting their hardline President Aleksandr Lukashenko to an EU summit would legitimise repression in the country.

    Inviting Lukashenko would show "indulgence of the past 15 years of repression and give him carte blanche for the future," Anatoly Lebedzeko told AFP here on the sidelines of a session of the European Parliament.

    Alexander Kozulin, a former Belarus presidential candidate and political prisoner, told AFP "it would be very improper" for Lukashenko to visit Prague for a summit that would coincide with the anniversary of the city's 1968 uprising against communist repression.

    During the May 7 summit, European leaders aim to launch a partnership to strengthen ties between the EU and six former Soviet states: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.

    The EU has made Lukashenko's participation conditional on an improvement in human rights in the country, which was dubbed "Europe's last dictatorship" by former US president George W. Bush.

    "We support the current dialogue between the EU and Belarus, but it is taking place according to Lukashenko's own rules," with the opposition excluded from the process, Lebedzeko said.

    Grindeks plans to acquire shares in Belarus' largest pharmaceutical company

    From: Baltic Course
    Latvia's largest pharmaceutical company, the joint-stock Grindeks plans to acquire a stake in Borisov Medical Preparations Plant, the largest pharmaceutical producer in Belarus, as the newspaper Biznes&Baltija reports today.

    According to unofficial data, Grindeks could take over up to 75% of the Belarus state-owned company's shares.

    Grindeks launched talks with Borisov Medical Preparations Plant already in 2007. The companies' initial plan envisaged establishing a joint venture and Grindeks making significant investments in the Belarus company.

    Currently, according to Belarus media, Grindeks is ready to make investments only if it is offered a controlling stake in Borisov Medical Preparations Plant.

    So far Belarus representatives have not agreed to several demands made by Grindeks, for example, for the Borisov Medical Preparations Plant to stop operating also in the farming sector and to discontinue production of unprofitable medications.

    However, Borisov Medical Preparations Plant is still interested in receiving Grindeks investments. The director of the plant, Alexander Frando previously said that, although a number of the company's products are outdated, they are still in demand. As a result of cooperation with Grindeks, the company would be modernized and it would start to produce new, modern medications.

    As Biznes&Baltija reports, Grindeks share in the Belarus market continues to increase. In 2008, Grindeks increased sales of its ready-made pharmaceuticals in Belarus by 20.6%.

  • From the Opposition...

    Belarussian dissident commits suicide

    From: Polskie Radio
    Jana Polakowa, jailed for working for human rights issues in Solihorsk, Belarus, took her own life.

    In March, Polakowa, 36-years-old, was sentenced to two and a half years of forced labour in a special camp in Solihorsk, central Belarus, for allegedly filing a false report against an officer of the military.

    The conflict between the woman and military officer started last fall during the campaign for parliamentary elections when Polakowa was apparently forced to nullify signatures nominating Olga Kazulina, daughter of the former jailed politician, Alaksander Kazulin who opposed Aleksander Lukashenko in the 2006 presidential elections.

    Polakowa took the military officer who ordered her to destroy the supporting signatures to court. The hearing was considered an ‘express trial’ – after the formal accusations were made, Polakowa was not given time to prepare the documents required for a case, despite the fact that Belarusian law requires a five-day break.

    “It was a lawsuit like I have never seen,” stated Walery Szczukin, well-known defender of human rights in Belarus. “Jana, having experience in law, after this farce of a court proceeding, felt crushed and broken,” he added.

    Jana Polakowa was found dead on Saturday in her apartment in Solihorsk after having hung herself. The human rights activists funeral took place on Monday and was attended by approximately 200 people.

    Arrests for symbols of European Union continue in Belarus

    From: Charter '97
    Arrests of Belarusian oppositionists for leaflets with depiction of symbols of the European Unio continue.

    An activist of the civil campaign “European Belarus” Alyaksaei Masetych was detained on March 7 in the evening in the town of Byaroza Brest region.

    The young oppositionist was pasting leaflets with the flag of the European Union. Alyaksei was held in the police department of Byaroza for about 3 hours and then released.

    On March 6 Maxim Vinyarski, Aleh Ladutska, Marta Kruglova, Iryna Pyatrova, Vlad Ihnatovich were detained in Minsk. They were pasting stickers of the “European Belarus” along Independence Avenue. The young people were detained by riot policemen and taken to a bus where they were searched and then released.

    As we have informed, crackdown for distribution of leaflets and stickers with symbols of the European Union are taking place in Belarus all the time. The flags of the European Union seized from young people are destroyed (burnt down) by policemen.

    Mikhail Pashkevich gets official warning

    From: Viasna
    The head of the youth organization of the United Civil Party Young Democrats Mikhail Pashkevich received a warning for violation of the regime of personal restraint.

    Last year Mikhail Pashkevich was sentenced to two years of personal restraint without direction to an open penitentiary institution within the frames of the ‘process of 14’. On 5 March Pashkevich came home 20 minutes late as a result of a traffic jam. As a result he received a warning. If a person thrice violates the regime, a criminal case under Article 415, ‘evasion from serving of personal restraint’ can be brought.

    Bear in mind that on 3 March another defendant on the ‘process of 14’ Artsiom Dubski received official charges under Article 415.

    The vigilant control over the democratic activists lets the law-enforcement agencies continue their persecution on allegedly legal reasons – for violations of the regime.

  • Around the Region...

    Uralkali settles $218 mln mine costs, shares soar

    From: Reuters
    Chairman of OAO Uralkali Dmitry Rybolovlev
    Russian potash miner Uralkali (URKA.MM) has pledged about $218 million to cover costs related to a mine flood, the company said on Tuesday, easing fears among investors that the company could have faced crippling penalties.

    Uralkali's London-traded stock gained nearly 30 percent in value as the firm, a major supplier of potash to world markets, appeared to have resolved most of the issues related to a renewed probe into the accident at the mine over two years ago.

    Analysts said, however, that compensation to the government over lost potash reserves were still to be calculated.

    "The latest agreement can be taken as a positive driver for the stock, as investors will likely interpret it as a sign of reconciliation between the company and the state," UralSib analyst Anna Kupriyanova said in a research note.

    "Given the existing uncertainty over the compensation for lost reserves, we maintain our generally cautious view of the stock and we still see potential risks to the company's minorities."

    Uralkali, whose Belarus-based export agent is the world's biggest potash exporter, was under investigation over a flood at its Mine 1 in the Ural mountains in 2006. The company said in November its future was at risk should it be found culpable.

    On Tuesday, the company said it had offered to pay 5 billion roubles ($140 million) toward the cost of a 53-km (33-mile) rail bypass around the affected region. The original rail line became impassable as a result of the flood and associated sinkhole. Uralkali President Anatoly Lebedev, in a meeting with senior government officials, reiterated a separate pledge to pay 2.767 billion roubles representing costs incurred by the federal and regional governments and state rail monopoly Russian Railways.

    Uralkali also said it would pay about 36 million roubles to the municipal budget of Berezniki, the city where the mine is located, taking the total costs it has agreed to pay to approximately 7.8 billion roubles, or $218.3 million.


    Uralkali, controlled by billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, enjoyed record profits in the first half of 2008 as the price of potash, a key ingredient in fertilisers, rocketed to all-time highs. But its stock lost nearly 90 percent in value in the second half of last year, as the renewed government investigation and fears of a possible state asset grab exacerbated steep declines in the Russian stock market due to the global financial crisis. Uralkali said the total cost of building the new railway link was estimated at 12.33 billion roubles, citing the results of the meeting chaired by Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and attended by Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev.

    The federal budget would contribute 2.79 billion roubles to the total cost, Russian Railways 3.54 billion roubles and rival potash miner Silvinit (SILV.MM) -- which will also make use of the rail link -- 1 billion roubles, Uralkali said.

    Analysts said the state's apparent willingness to share the costs related to the Mine 1 accident was a positive sign.

    "The proportion of compensation associated with lost reserves is now the only unknown," analysts at investment bank Renaissance Capital said in a research note.

    "There is no methodology for determining this element, and we think it likely that the government will simply request the portion of lost mineral resource tax," RenCap said, estimating the amount at between $30 million and $40 million.

    Uralkali's London-traded stock closed up 29.9 percent at $9.85. In Moscow, its shares climbed 24.7 percent to 67.4 roubles.

    Kudrin: Russia yet to decide on Ukraine's request for $5 billion loan

    From: Kiev Post
    Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin
    Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin Russia has received Ukraine's request for a loan totaling $5 billion, but has yet to make a decision on the issue, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said at a briefing on Tuesday.

    "The Finance Ministry has received an official proposal from Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. No decisions on allocating the loan have been made yet," he said.

    Ukraine is seeking a $5 billion loan from Russia, Kudrin said.

    It was earlier reported that Ukraine planned to receive a $5 billion loan from Russia to cover its budget deficit. Prime Minister Tymoshenko said in early February that discussions were underway with various countries so that necessary loans would be received on the governmental level to cover the planned budget deficits.

    President Viktor Yuschenko, however, compared the negotiations with Russia for a $5 billion loan with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939. In this way Yuschenko accused Tymoshenko of betraying Ukraine's national interests.

    Asked about the extension of a $500-million loan to Belarus, an agreement on which was signed last week, Kudrin said the money has either been transferred or will be transferred within the next few days.

    The loan is to be extended to Belarus for 15 years with a five-year deferment period on the payment on the principal debt at LIBOR plus 3%.

    Belarus received a $1 billion loan from Russia on the same conditions in November 2008. Russia is financing Belarus under an agreement between the two presidents on providing a $2 billion stabilization loan to Belarus in 2008-2009.

    Russia plans to transfer the remaining $500 million to Belarus after amendments to the 2009 budget are made into law, Kudrin said.

    Putin says Naftogaz raid discredits Ukraine as transit country

    From: Ria Novosti
    The recent raid by Ukraine's security service on the gas company Naftogaz could damage trust in the country and force Russia to consider alternative routes, Russia's prime minister said on Tuesday.

    On March 4, masked security agents raided the headquarters of Naftogaz. Valentyn Zemlyanskiy, spokesman for the Ukrainian state energy company, said the officers demanded to be shown all original documentation relating to the January 19 gas deal between Naftogaz and Russian gas giant Gazprom.

    "Clearly, this is discrediting the country, and is making us think about alternative routes for gas deliveries to Europe," Vladimir Putin told a news conference in Moscow after intergovernmental talks with Hungary.

    Ukraine's SBU security service, which is overseen by President Viktor Yushchenko, has accused Naftogaz of illegally diverting 6.3 billion cubic meters of natural gas bought from Russia.

    The dispute was widely seen as a part of ongoing political wrangling between the president and premier. Following news of the raid, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said the sole aim of the operation was to "paralyze Naftogaz's activities and destroy the gas distribution system in Ukraine and the system of payments."

    The Ukrainian security service said on Thursday it had stopped its investigation into Naftogaz operations after a court ruled the probe was illegal.

    Gazprom suspended gas deliveries to Ukraine on January 1 over non-payment, and the sides' failure to reach a new gas deal. A week later, Gazprom accused Ukraine of stealing gas intended for EU consumers and cut off gas deliveries to the European Union via Ukraine, prompting two weeks of gas shortfalls across much of Eastern Europe.

    The standoff was resolved after negotiations between Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Tymoshenko resulted in the signing of a new gas agreement on January 19.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Poland to create Orwellian centralized database?

    From: Polskie radio
    In two year’s time a centralized data base will be created in Poland, with information about each Pole gathered from ministries, telecommunications and energy providers.

    By 2011 a super database will collate information on how much Poles earn, what taxes they pay, are they insured, do they have criminal record and much more besides.

    The Central Statistical Office will collect the data from ministries of finance, justice, interior and administration, as well as from the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS), the Agricultural Social Insurance Fund (KRUS), the National Health Fund (NFZ) and even the Polish National Fund for the Rehabilitation of Disabled People (PFRON).

    According to initial plans, the statistical office is also to ask for information from local governments and even telecommunications and energy providers.

    The construction of the database will help collate information which will form part of the new census which is to be taken in 2011. The census will be especially intrusive, say critics, with questions not just on age, education and employment but also on religious affiliation and even whether couples plan to have children in the future.

    “These are practices from Orwell’s novels,” says Professor Michal Kulesza, while Adam Bodnar of the Helsinki Federation for Human Rights is concerned that the database could easily be abused by governments.

    IT experts point say that large databases can be threatened by hacker attack and/or leaks.

    Pedophile TV psychologist dead

    From: The News
    Well-known psychologist and convicted pedophile Andrzej Samson died on Sunday in Czestochowa, southern Poland.

    Samson was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2004 for the sexual abuse of children, though he later secured early release in January 2009 on health grounds.

    Samson had great success as a family psychologist and psychotherapist and regularly appeared on TV. His books became a canon of knowledge on children’s psychological development for many psychologist as well as for parents.

    In 2004 DVDs and pornographic pictures of children were found in Samson’s flat. Samson argued that this material was a form of “therapy of autistic children” and not for his gratification.

    After the case became public, other victims, including two little girls, reported being sexual abused by Samson.

    Foreign investors flee Poland

    From: The News
    Foreign investors are leaving Poland: in 2008, the bond market lost 20 billion zloty (over 5 billion euro) – a record sum.

    Foreign investors, including investment banks, insurance firms, and investment funds, started to sell their bonds last October, as a reaction to the financial crisis breaking out in the United States.

    “Foreign investors began to doubt in the stability of countries in this part of Europe,” claims Andrzej Bratkowski, former deputy head of the National Bank of Poland.

    In October alone, Poland’s bond market lost 7 billion zloty (almost 2 billion euro) worth of foreign capital. The end of 2008 saw losses in foreign capital to the tune of 19.2 billion zloty.

    Bratkowski added that these losses also greatly affect the stability of the zloty and account for, in part, why the exchange rate has been so volatile since the start of the year.

  • Sport...

    Belarus Best at 8th Stella Zakharova Cup

    From: International Gymnast
    Belarus won both team titles and the women's all-around gold at the Stella Zakharova Cup, held Saturday and Sunday in Kiev.

    Junior Galina Ivanets won the women's all-around over Marina Kostyuchenko, the sole female representing Ukraine. Belarusian Alina Sotnikova finished third.

    Israeli Olympian Alexander Shatilov won the men's all-around over 2008 Italian Olympic alternate Paolo Ottavi and Belarusian Artyom Bykov.

    Kostyuchenko shared the women's event finals with her former Ukrainian teammates Alina Kozich, now representing Uzbekistan, and Valeria Maksyuta, now representing Israel.

    The competition, organized by 1980 Olympic gold medalist Stella Zakharova, was held independently of the Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation. Last fall, UGF President Viktor Korzh announced the federation would not sanction the competition. Korzh wrote in a letter to Zakharova that the federation instead prefered to support a competition in May in honor of the late Boris Shakhlin.

    After Zakharova took the issue to the media, Korzh released an open letter — signed by Ukrainian gymnasts, judges and coaches — asking Zakharova to stop her "aggressive" campaign against Ukrainian gymnastics.

    Despite the ongoing controversy, Zakharova told IG she was very pleased with the competition, which was funded by private sponsors.

    "I am very happy with the tournament and I feel that everything went well," she told IG Monday. "The tournament was held at a high level according to visitors and participants. I am very glad we've succeeded in the hard fight against Viktor Korzh, who used his best efforts to try to prevent us from holding the tournament. The most awful part is that he forbade coaches, judges and gymnasts from participating in the Stella Zakharova Cup."

    Zakharova said she fears Ukrainians who took part in the tournament may be blacklisted.

    "The Ukrainian gymnast Marina Kostyuchenko at her own risk filled out her own application form to participate in the tournament, where she won three medals," Zakharova said. "She personally made it to have an opportunity to practice on a good podium, to test herself against other athletes."

    Qualified coaches and gymnasts like Kozich and Maksyuta are leaving because of the crisis in Ukrainian gymnastics, Zakharova said.

    "Coaches do not attend courses, athletes stay home because they do not have the possibility to train normally," she said. "What will be even more terrible to consider is that soon in Ukraine there will only be memories of gymnastics, and people can see gymnasts and competitions only on TV. We ask the International Gymnastics Federation to pay attention to this situation, to help Ukrainian gymnasts and coaches. Their situation is a terrible pity to me: They do not live, but merely survive."

  • Cultural Scene...


    13 марта в 23.00

    клуб Step
    (ст.м. Кунцевщина, ул. Притыцкого, 62)


    Аддис Абеба ( )
    Тёплые Вещи (Гомель)
    Трайвер Лету
    Botanic project ( )

    a также:
    Papa Bo Selektah
    Dj MagiC
    Dj Alex Skiba
    Dj fireandash

    20000 (предварительно), 30000 (на входе)

  • Endnote...

    AP Interview: Gorbachev criticizes Putin's party

    From: AP
    In some of his strongest criticism of his successors, Mikhail Gorbachev on Thursday likened Vladimir Putin's United Russia party to the worst of the communists he once led and helped bring down, and said Russia is today a country where the parliament and the judiciary are not fully free.

    In an interview with The Associated Press some 20 years after the Soviet empire started its rapid collapse on his tumultuous watch, Gorbachev also said the global economic crisis showed capitalism should be tempered with elements of the socialist system he played such a critical role in sweeping away.

    The last Soviet leader was interviewed in the offices of his Gorbachev Foundation, a think tank founded in 1992 to promote "democratic values and moral, humanistic principles" — as well as, some say, Gorbachev himself. A little aged and more heavyset perhaps, Gorbachev, 78, seemed feisty, friendly and often reminiscent of the man who once ruled one of two superpowers on Earth.

    Gorbachev is a paradoxical figure even after all these years — widely credited around the world with a historic convulsion he admits he did not intend. He sought to fix communism, not destroy it, and in the interview said that while he was willing to let Eastern Europe go its own way he very much hoped the republics that formed the Soviet Union would stay united.

    "I was a resolute opponent of the breakup of the union," said Gorbachev, who was forced to step down on Dec. 25, 1991, as the country he led ceased to exist.

    He still holds out hope that one day Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus will join with Russia in forming a new union.

    He seemed to view the global meltdown as partly the result of years of Western hubris and excess.

    "The American media trumpeted ... about the victory in the Cold War, that socialism is down. This disease of extreme self-confidence led to it — the (belief) that things would always go on this way. And it did last long ... I think that now everyone is learning a hard lesson."

    "It is necessary to overcome these mistakes of super-consumerism, of super-profits." he said. "We have to think about finding — through the G20 or other institutions — new models of development (and) cooperation."

    The world should look for a composite system, he said, which incorporates "the past experience of all that the capitalist system brings, like competitiveness, and what socialism gives — especially a social safety net."

    Gorbachev also said the moment was right for improved U.S.-Russia relations, expressed skepticism about the wisdom of Ukraine joining NATO, and called on the world community to head off the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon not with confrontation but rather "a maximal dialogue."

    "Let (Iran) integrate itself into the global community, build normal relations," he said.

    Gorbachev had harsh words for the current Russian leadership, singling out United Russia, the party Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has built into a political juggernaut at the center of a tremendously centralized — albeit popular — power structure.

    "I criticize United Russia a lot, and I do it directly," the last Soviet leader said. "It is a party of bureaucrats and the worst version of the CPSU" — the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. "Regarding our parliament, I cannot say that it is independent (and) also our judiciary does not fully comply with the provisions of the constitution."

    Is the world waiting for such advice? If there are takers, most will be outside Russia, where he has become a rather marginal political figure: For every Russian who appreciates his role in ending communism there are certainly many more inclined to blame him for the privations of the process he unleashed: the impoverishment many suffered in the 1990s, the vastly unequal distribution of wealth that bedevils society even today, the failings of Russian democracy — and the humiliating loss of the once-vast empire ruled from the Kremlin.

    Asked about the fateful Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, Gorbachev said that he never contemplated force to stop the process that within months saw most of the Warsaw Pact break free. He said it was inevitable that the states of that region would be free to do as they wished.

    Yet even in Eastern Europe, as the region gears up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism, Gorbachev gets only the rarest of mentions and he is forced to share credit for the revolution with a slew of others — Poland's Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Ronald Reagan and the late Pope John Paul II.

    "We live more freely now than in the communist era because of what he did and achieved," said Peter Nagy, a 37-year-old public employee in Budapest. "However, he was still the leader of a dictatorial system, not a democrat. I would not accept him today as a leader."

    Havel, the former Czech president, in his memoirs "To the Castle and Back" described Gorbachev as both a special and tragic case and said the collapse of communism would have been much more violent without him.

    In Warsaw, former anti-communist dissident Adam Michnik said he feels "great gratitude" toward Gorbachev. "I don't have the slightest doubt that it was Gorbachev and his policy of glasnost and perestroika that opened the gates for the great changes that first took place in our country and then in this part of the continent," Michnik said.

    In the interview, Gorbachev was philosophical about his declining political fortunes.

    "Personally, as a politician, I lost. But the idea that I conveyed and the project that I carried out, it played a huge role in the world and the country. But now the situation is such that more and more people are starting to understand what Gorbachev did ...

    "But anyway, we have gone far, and there's no return."

    Gorbachev laughed when asked whether his recent appearance in Louis Vuitton ads might not cheapen such a momentous legacy, saying his foundation needed the money. He noted that he had also once appeared in Pizza Hut ads, and asked if any other offers might be forthcoming.