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Sunday, April 05, 2009

The 400th BEING HAD Times

  • From the Top...
  • #400

    Belarus President: funding for priority projects only

    From: BelTA
    In the present day conditions budgetary resources should be spent only on priority projects, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at a session dedicated to the formation and utilization of budgetary funds, including innovation, road and environmental funds, BelTA has learnt.

    The President underlined that the plans and approaches of half a year before have become obsolete. “We should single out priority tasks that can benefit the country most. We should strictly follow the priority avenues of work, investing in what can pay back most. It is crucial to have clear priorities, not to waste our efforts on trifles and to cut non-priority spending,” the head of state said.

    Alexander Lukashenko said that he cannot sign draft normative acts submitted by the government on the formation and utilization of budgetary funds because they do not take into account the drastic changes in the economy. According to the Belarusian President, the government neglects the processes that are taking place globally and affecting Belarus; the government has stuck in the middle of the last century. According to him, big resources envisaged in the presented documents are distributed between various departments and numerous programmes, though the importance of the programmes is not taken into account.

    Today we need to start thinking about the future, the President said. “Crises come and go while the goals set by the people before the government remain. We need to lay the groundwork today for a breakthrough in the future. For that we need to concentrate all available resources,” he said.

    Every ruble to be spent should be scrutinized closely. We need to put aside everything which is irrelevant and analyze whether we will survive without these expenses or not. Today we cannot afford throwing money away,” he said.

    The work on cutting expenses, saving material and financial resources should be made regular. “This is not a one-time campaign,” the President warned.

    Social programmes will not be curtailed even in today’s difficult situation. “Belarus is the state for the people. Social programmes and obligations remain inviolable. Yet people should understand how much it costs us. Today’s possibilities are limited therefore we need to use every ruble in the most efficient way,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    Belarus’ government not planning to revise downward GDP growth projection

    The Government of Belarus is not planning to revise downward the GDP growth projection, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky said when visiting the Keramin company.

    In Q1 the GDP growth in Belarus will be at least 2% over Q1 last year. “This is a very high index for the economy with high industrial potential during the global financial and economic crisis,” the Prime Minister said.

    Sergei Sidorsky noted that this is just the beginning of the year and the stability is very important. “If foreign markets are stable, we will be able to do even more,” the Prime Minister added. Belarus has developed a strong anti-crisis programme and set up a team of specialists which includes independent experts as well, he noted.

    Belarus has taken all necessary measures to give the Russian goods a free access to the market.

    “We have agreed that in April we will finish preparing all the documents concerning the free access of Belarusian and Russian goods to the markets of the two countries. This work could have been completed in February if some Russian managers were more efficient with paperwork,” the Prime Minister noted.

    For its part, Belarus has taken all necessary decisions to give Russian goods a free access to the Belarusian market. The Belarusian side is expecting the same decisions from Russia.

    Sergei Sidorsky also noted that the Russian leadership confirms the adherence to the joint anti-crisis plan. It was confirmed during a telephone conversation with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin last week, Sergei Sidorsky added.

    The volume of social expenditure in 2009 will remain at last year’s level.

    “We confirm we will honour our obligations before the population at the level of 2008,” Sergei Sidorsky said.

    The Prime Minister also said that regardless of the crisis, social expenditures will be quite high in 2009.

    European banks, among them German, Czech, Polish and Italian banks, have resumed lending to the Belarusian economy in Q1 this year, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky said when visiting the Keramin company on April 3.

    European banks do not doubt that Belarus will honour its loan obligations, he said.

    According to him, the Minsk Tractor and Engine Works, Keramin have received big loans. The companies used the loans to purchase the equipment made in the countries where they obtained the loans.

    Sergei Sidorsky said that Belarus will continue upgrading its companies and will pursue its innovation policy independently of the impact of the global financial and economic crisis. In 2009 Belarus is set to build more than 24 modern-day innovation companies. Around Br2.2 trillion will be invested to modernize the production in 2009. The volume of direct domestic and foreign investments is expected to increase by 20% in Q1.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus and Russia make great progress in creating conditions for stable development

    From: BelTA
    Chairman of the Supreme State Council of the Belarus-Russia Union State, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has congratulated the Belarusians and Russians on the Day of Unity of the Belarusian and Russian Peoples, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    Alexander Lukashenko noted that the policy to form the Union State is based on natural intention of Belarusian and Russian peoples to live in peace and cooperate fruitfully within the framework of the common economic, sci-tech and cultural area.

    “Thirteen years is a not big period for any integration organization. At the same time, during this short period of time, Belarus and Russia have amde a significant step towards achieving the main goal – to create the necessary conditions for stable development of our countries, improve well-being and living standard of our peoples,” the message says.

    According to the President, Belarus and Russia have settled practically all issues to ensure equal rights of Belarusian and Russian citizens for employment and labour remuneration, education, medicine, choice of the place of residence. Belarus and Russia have a unified position on many international issues, jointly strengthen the defence capacity and security of the Union State, actively develop partnership in science, culture, sport and tourism. The sides have reached a high level of mutually beneficial industrial and sci-tech cooperation, interregional contacts. During the global financial and economic crisis, the sides have developed the mechanism of concerted actions to minimize its impact on the economy of the two countries.

    In the near future, it is necessary to finish the work on ensuring equal conditions for economic entities, creating the real customs union without restrictions and barriers, Alexander Lukashenko noted.

    “Only close cooperation in all the areas and joint use of material and intellectual resources will allow the two countries to bring an additional impetus to the Union
    State formation, guarantee reliable protection of rights and interests of Belarusians and Russians,” the Head of State noted.

    Abkhazia, S.Ossetia recognition not on parliament’s spring agenda, Vladimir Andreichenko says

    From: BelTA
    Recognition requests from Abkhazia and South Ossetia are being considered in the relevant commission of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus, chairman of the House of Representatives Vladimir Andreichenko told reporters on April 2.

    “This issue is not simple. Abkhazia and South Ossetia have sent recognition requests to the Belarusian parliament. Now they are being considered by the permanent commission for international affairs and links with the CIS. The issue has not been put on the agenda of the spring session yet,” Vladimir Andreichenko said.

    The economic and political consequences of possible recognition of these republics are being scrutinized, he added.

    Belarus doctors nurture and cure unborn baby

    From: BelTA
    Doctors of the Mother and Child National Research Centre performed a unique surgery to implant a central venous port catheter system (CVC) in a pregnant woman. Due to the CVC the fetus got the necessary nutrients and medicines, BelTA learnt from Deputy Director of the Centre Olga Kharkevich.

    In her words, it is the first surgery of this kind in the Belarusian medical practice. It became possible thanks to the fruitful cooperation of Belarusian doctors with German and US specialists.

    A woman got to the Mother and Child Centre in her 34th week of pregnancy. Her unborn baby was diagnosed with sever intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). The examination revealed that the fetus weighed about 1.4 kg.

    The doctors decided to implant a venous catheter. The surgery was performed together with Deputy Head of the University Medical Centre Mainz Michael Chirikov. The catheter allowed to perform an intrauterine treatment of the baby. The blood circulation was restored; the IUGR was almost cured, too.

    In the 38th month, the patient had a Cesarean section. The baby girl weighed 2.13 kg. The implanted CVC was removed during the surgery. The woman developed no complications, was discharged from hospital and now undergoes regular follow-up checks.

    Belarus 3rd largest CIS medicines producer

    Belarus ranks third in terms of drugs production among the CIS states. The Russian Federation leads the rating, followed by Ukraine, said Deputy Health Minister Valery Shevchuk at the international symposium “Pharmaceutical markets of Post-Soviet countries. Common Problems – Joint Solutions,” BelTA has learnt.

    Belarus operates a state-run network of drugstores encompassing over 2,500 drugstores of all kinds of ownership, with about 500 drugstores working in the countryside.

    According to Valery Shevchuk, taking into consideration the proposals of domestic drug producers and with a view to improving provision of medicines and getting an equal access of Belarusian medicines to the Russian market, a pharmaceutical cooperation agreement was signed between the governments of Belarus and Russia. In H1 2009, the agreement is expected to come into force. Apart from that, the Belarusian Health Ministry adopted a list of medicines produced in Belarus and Russia that must be available in all drugstores.

    The provision of medicines is closely related to quality issues, the Deputy Health Minister said. In Belarus all medicines have to pass a mandatory state control test before getting to drugstores. In 2008, 112,000 consignments of drugs were checked, of which only 65 were rejected. At the same time, in order to maintain a high-quality of domestically produced drugs and to expand exports, Belarusian pharmaceutical companies started to apply for a certificate of conformity with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). At present, only 6 out of 36 domestic pharmaceutical companies have obtained this certificate.

    The international symposium “Pharmaceutical markets of Post-Soviet countries. Common Problems – Joint Solutions” is aimed to provide information to pharmaceutical companies operating in Belarus. During the forum, its participants will analyze the ways to improve the provision of drugs in the conditions of the global financial crisis, consider measures to optimize the system of drugs provision and touch upon other issues.

  • Economics...

    NBRB drafts regulations on Financial Development Agency

    From: BelTA
    The National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) has drafted a decree of the President on setting up a specialized Financial Development Agency, Sergei Dubkov, chief of the main banking supervision department, member of the Board of Directors of the National Bank of Belarus, told reporters on April 3.

    The draft was discussed with Belarusbank and Belagroprombank which act as government agents in financing the majority of programmes. “The document was finalized making allowances for remarks and proposals of the banks. The document has been now sent to ministries and agencies for consideration,” Sergei Dubkov said.

    Belarus needs an organization which would finance the reforms in the economy within the framework of government programmes and will work with the so-called toxic assets, Sergei Dubkov said.

    Such institutions have long been the preferable form of state involvement in the banking system in developed countries. Unlike private financial development institutions, state institutions (development banks, funds, corporations and agencies) do not aim to get as much profit as possible, but to support long-term financing of socially important programmes that promote economic growth and address social tasks. Their main responsibility is to select and finance priority projects that do not get necessary funding from the private sector.

    There are about 750 development banks globally, including in Germany, Japan, Italy, China, Mexico and other states. They account for a significant part of total banking assets; development banks are part of major national banks of foreign countries.

    According to Sergei Dubkov, major Belarusian state banks can further take on state programmes because they proved to be able to successfully handle them. However, some risks may emerge. The National Bank, as a supervisory body, is interested in minimizing these risks, he said.

    Three new banks to open in Belarus soon

    Three new banks will open in Belarus in the near future, Sergei Dubkov, chief of the main banking supervision department, member of the Board of Directors of the National Bank of Belarus, told reporters on April 3.

    “The National Bank is considering three packages of documents. The degree of the preparedness of the documents is high,” Sergei Dubkov said. He also informed that the banks have completed necessary attestation procedures with the National Bank of Belarus.

    Each of the new banks will have the authorized fund worth more than ˆ10 million. One of them will be with Iranian capital, the second one with Cyprian capital, the third one with Belarusian capital.

    As of April 3 there were 31 banks in Belarus.

    European banks resume lending to Belarusian economy in Q1

    European banks, among them German, Czech, Polish and Italian banks, have resumed lending to the Belarusian economy in Q1 this year, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky said when visiting the Keramin company on April 3.

    European banks do not doubt that Belarus will honour its loan obligations, he said.

    According to him, the Minsk Tractor and Engine Works, Keramin have received big loans. The companies used the loans to purchase the equipment made in the countries where they obtained the loans.

    Sergei Sidorsky said that Belarus will continue upgrading its companies and will pursue its innovation policy independently of the impact of the global financial and economic crisis. In 2009 Belarus is set to build more than 24 modern-day innovation companies. Around Br2.2 trillion will be invested to modernize the production in 2009. The volume of direct domestic and foreign investments is expected to increase by 20% in Q1.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Russia, Belarus vow to step up economic integration efforts

    From: Potolino
    Russia and Belarus will step up efforts to create a customs union and a common economic space, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said.

    "The creation of a common economic space and a customs union remains an urgent priority for us, we are ready to reinvigorate bilateral efforts and those within the EurAsEC [post-Soviet economic group] to these ends," Medvedev said speaking at a session of the Supreme State Council, the ruling body for the Union State the two countries have been trying to establish since 1996.

    Earlier it was announced that the customs union would be set up in 2009. The common economic space would include streamlining agricultural legislation, boosting mutual investment, and adopting a common currency. The goals remain largely on paper.

    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, now on a visit to Moscow, said the two countries had agreed to intensify trade.

    The leader of Belarus, which is dependent on cheap energy supplies and loans from Russia, said bilateral trade reached about $35 billion last year, a 30% increase on 2007.

    Russia announced that it would transfer the second part of a $2 billion, 15-year stabilization loan to Belarus earlier than planned. Originally the second $1 billion tranche was due to be transferred at the end of February.

    China, Belarus to promote comprehensive military co-op

    From: Xinhua net
    Guo Boxiong (R), vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of China, shakes hands with Belarussian minister of defense Leonid Maltsev in Beijing, capital of China, April 3, 2009.
    China and Belarus agreed Friday to work together to advance bilateral military friendship of cooperation.

    "China will work with Belarus to promote multi-level and multi-field military cooperation," said Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie when holding talks with his Byelorussian counterpart Leonid Maltsev.

    China attached great importance to developing the state-to-state and military relations with Belarus on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, said Liang, who is also a state counselor.

    The two sides enjoyed sound relationship, frequent high-level exchanges, and increasing pragmatic cooperation in all fields, he added.

    China and Belarus forged diplomatic ties in 1992. A total of 12cooperative documents were signed between Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Byelorussian counterpart in 2005.

    Seeing long-term stability, mutual trust and mutual support in the bilateral relations, China will work with Belarus to implement the consensus reached by the two state leaders, and to promote the comprehensive friendship of cooperation to a higher level, Liang said.

    Maltsev, on his China official goodwill visit from Wednesday, agreed to make efforts to enhance the bilateral military cooperation in all fields.

    He hailed China as Belarus's good and trusted friend in the meeting with China's vice chairman of the Central Military Commission Guo Boxiong on Friday.

    Belarus attached great importance to the development of the bilateral relationship, said Maltsev.

    He appreciated China's firm support for Belarus's internal and foreign policy on safeguarding its national sovereignty and independence as well as improving living standards, while the China side Friday also expressed appreciation of Belarus's support on the Taiwan and Tibet-related issues.

    Guo said that given the complex, volatile international environment, it was in both countries' fundamental interests and conducive to regional and world peace and stability to maintain the bilateral relations.

    Guo stressed that in spite of the changeable international situation, China would continue to follow the path of peaceful development and enhance cooperation with the international community, so as to jointly cope with various challenges and promote world peace and prosperity.

    Contraband guns found on Belarus bus

    From: UPI
    A passenger bus carrying contraband guns and other weapons was detained at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, officials said.

    In addition to the weaponry, the contraband included a wide variety of items from cigarettes to passports, ITAR-TASS reported.

    Belarusian border guards and customs officers found 15 Makarov pistols with magazines where the spare wheel was supposed to be.

    Other hiding places on the bus contained a Kalashnikov gun, two grenade launchers and other arms

    Guards found 148 tuners for satellite antennas among a passenger's belongings. Cigarettes were found in a light cover and two passports were under the driver's rug.

    The bus and the driver were held.

    European Parliament Backs New 'Pragmatism' On Belarus

    From: RFE/RL
    The European Parliament has adopted a resolution that outlines its support for a broader EU policy of engagement with Belarus.

    While it has no binding force, the resolution acts as a useful barometer of where the EU, as an institution, stands on Belarus.

    And where it stands -- as opposed to the isolationism of years past -- is in a place of pragmatic engagement.

    As a clear sign of the new policy, EU officials have extended the suspension of a travel ban and started high-level talks with Minsk on issues like transport and energy.

    Despite lingering concerns over the policies and comport of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Brussels has also included Belarus in its Eastern Partnership initiative, which offers closer ties between the EU and six ex-Soviet neighbors.

    Speaking this week at a conference at the European Parliament, Hugues Mingarelli, the European Commission's deputy director-general for external relations, said the EU's new pragmatic policy consists of a two-track approach -- working with the democratic opposition and civil society on the one hand, but also engaging the authorities on the other.

    "To be clear, I'm not saying that we should be complacent. We have to provide maximum support to civil society and the political opposition. We have to constantly remind the Belarusian authorities that on the European continent, there is no room for several practices that are in place, and that are unacceptable," he said.

    Dismal Rights Record

    The resolution expresses support for the EU's new policy of engagement, but it also voices concern about Belarus's dismal human rights situation.

    Dialogue between Minsk and Brussels, the resolution says, "must be conditional on the lifting of restrictions on freedom and cessation of violence against participants in opposition protests and human rights activists."

    The parliament also sets benchmarks for the next nine months. The resolution calls on Minsk to "demonstrate substantial progress" by reforming electoral legislation, lifting restrictions on the distribution of independent print media and freedom of association and assembly, and by ending "the practice of politically motivated dismissals from jobs and universities."

    Hans-Gert Pottering, the president of the European Parliament, welcomed the warming ties with Belarus but pointed to continued repression of political activists and politically motivated imprisonment, which he said "remains a practice" in the country.

    Pottering said the EU will closely monitor developments in Belarus over the next nine months to see whether there is real change.

    "It is now up to the government of Belarus to demonstrate to the European Union and the European Parliament its commitment in implementing change, and its willingness to respect basic human rights and democratic freedoms," Pottering said.

    Unique Opportunity

    If Minsk fulfills these criteria during the upcoming nine months, the resolution says, it may be considered whether to lift the travel ban permanently. If and when that stage is reached, it adds, the EU should take measures to "speed up the process of Belarus's reintegration into the European family of democratic nations."

    Minsk has a unique opportunity, Pottering says.

    "This chance, which would be linked with increased economic support by the European Union, cannot be missed," he said. "On behalf of the European Parliament, I express my strong hopes that the government of Belarus will take this chance at face value."

    The ultimate hope is that the EU's engagement tactic will lead to the democratization of Belarus.

    Jacek Protasiewicz, a Polish member of the European Parliament and one of the authors of the resolution, says engaging civil society is one way to open up the country. Another is to convince the current political leadership that they, too, can be part of the process.

    "What we want to achieve is to convince those people in power in Belarus that democracy is not against them," Protasiewicz said. "In a democratic country, there is also room for them. And in a democratic country, like in democratic Poland, the former regime people are also accommodated; they are also part of the political and social life."

    To make progress on all both fronts, Protasiewicz said, is possible "only when the policy of isolation will change into one of engagement."

    Others, however, are skeptical of the new approach.

    Jan-Marinus Wiersma, a Socialist MEP from the Netherlands, said there is no magic formula to dealing with Belarus, and that the previous policy of isolation was not without merit, because it forced Lukashenka to "create an opening" himself, by making overtures and offers of reform to the EU.

    Little Has Changed

    For Markus Meckel, a longtime observer of EU-Belarus relations and deputy foreign policy spokesman for the Social Democrats in the German Parliament, spring has not yet reached Minsk.

    Little has changed for the people in Belarus, he says. So even as the EU engages the leadership in Minsk -- and continues to contemplate whether to extend a controversial invitation to Lukashenka to attend the May 7 launch of the Eastern Partnership program -- it must do much more to engage the rest of Belarusian society.

    "If it's right to invite Lukashenka to Prague, then that also means that we need to do something for the civil society and for the democratic opposition quickly, in the short term," Meckel said. "Not only once, but on a permanent level."

    Vladimir Senko, Belarus's EU ambassador, this week praised the bloc for its new pragmatic policy of engagement. The EU and Belarus are now on "a positive track," he said.

    But he insisted that Minsk would only be interested in cooperation as long as it takes place "on equal footing." Belarus was not begging for cooperation, Senko said, adding that the EU has "no direct leverage" to change the political or economic situation in his country.

  • From the Opposition...

    Pavel Seviarynets’ mother is harassed by tax inspection

    From: Viasna
    The well-known Vitsebsk activist Tatsiana Seviarynets suddenly started receiving telephone calls. The people who called her referred to the advertisement in the newspaper Iz Ruk v Ruki about the services of a private tutor. However, the woman didn’t put any ads in the newspaper. In the text of the ad it was specified that the services were expensive. Who and why did it?

    The local tax inspectors immediately paid attention to the ad, that’s why the former teacher had to turn into an investigator and prove that she hadn’t put the ad in the newspaper.

    Tatsiana is well-known in Vitsebsk, not only as the mother of the well-known politician Pavel Seviarynets, but also as a teacher of the Russian language and literature. Two years ago Mrs. Seviarynets was dismissed from job for political reasons. Since then she has helped her son in his political activities. In particular, she deals with the establishment of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party.

    The editorial office of the newspaper apologized to Tatsiana Seviarynets. However, they did not manage to find who and why had put the ad. The activist believes that such provocative means are used to distract her from the party activities in the BHD. Other activists who signed for the state registration of the party, are persecuted as well: they are threatened with dismissals and summonsed to KGB.

    Belarusian oppositionists Anatol Liabedzka, Alexander Kazulin, and Vintsuk Viachorka were detained at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border in the morning on 3 April.

    From: Charter '97
    As BelaPAN learnt from the leader of the United Civil Party Anatol Liabedzka, Belarusian border guards detained the car with him, first deputy head of the BPF party Vintsuk Viachorka, and former political prisoner and former presidential candidate Alexander Kazulin.

    ‘Kazulin has been searched. They haven’t searched Viachorka and me yet. A car must cross the border during 15 minutes, but we have been staying here for an hour,’ the politician said.

    According to him, the border guards didn’t say the reasons for such actions. ‘They say they must obey the orders. They had an order to detain the car and they were fulfilling it. They didn’t say who gave this order,’ A.Liabedzka said.

    The car, driving to Vilnius for a session of the political council of the United Democratic Forces, was detained on the border for an hour. Then the oppositionists could enter Lithuania, Vintsuk Viachorka told.

  • Around the Region...

    Russia says to start nuclear talks with U.S. in April

    From: Reuters
    Russia and the United States will start talks on a new deal to cut nuclear warheads before the end of the month, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying on Saturday.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to pursue a new arms deal on Wednesday, making good a pledge to rebuild relations from a post-Cold War low.

    "We must begin consultations by the end of April," Ryabkov told Russian news agency Interfax.

    Talks would be on the level of Foreign Ministry department heads, he said. Medvedev and Obama said the deal would see nuclear warheads cut below levels agreed in 2002, when both sides committed to reduce arsenal by between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by 2012. They ordered negotiators to report first results in July.

    Russia Keeps Troops in Georgia, Defying Deal

    From: NYTimes
    Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, spoke to reporters on Thursday after touring the U.S.S. Klakring in the port city of Batumi.
    Nearly eight months after the war between Russia and Georgia, Russian troops continue to hold Georgian territory that the Kremlin agreed to vacate as part of a formal cease-fire, leaving a basic condition of that agreement unfulfilled.

    The Russian military, working with the governments and the small military forces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two separatist regions in Georgia, has stationed forces in two large swaths of territory that were under Georgian control before the war. Observers and diplomats say Russia has also used attack helicopters and stationed tanks in areas where none existed before the war.

    The sustained Russian military presence on land captured last summer — evident during two recent days spent in the area by two reporters — provides a backdrop of lingering disagreement between the West and Russia at a crucial time: The Obama administration is pledging to recalibrate the relationship with Russia, restore cooperation in other areas and explore a new treaty on nuclear arms.

    It also underscores the strength of Russia’s military position in the southern Caucasus and its enduring confidence in undermining President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia and standing up to the West, even as Mr. Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia have signaled an intention to improve relations. Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev met on Wednesday, and exchanged warm remarks and pledges to cooperate, raising questions in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, about whether the United States would push to have the cease-fire plan fully honored.

    Under the conditions of the cease-fire, the armed forces of all sides were to return to the positions they held before the war, which erupted Aug. 7. The agreement required a cessation of fighting, corridors for aid delivery and no use of force. It also granted Russia a loosely defined permission to take further security measures while waiting for international monitors.

    In the weeks after open hostilities ended, Russia did withdraw many armored and infantry units to prewar boundaries, including units posted along Georgia’s main highway and or near Georgia’s military bases.

    The withdrawal eventually allowed many displaced Georgian civilians to return to villages that had been behind the Russian positions.

    But even though European monitors have long been on the ground, Russia still holds large areas that had irrefutably been under Georgian control, and thousands of Georgians have not been allowed free access to homes far from the disputed territory where the war began.

    Several areas under Russian control are at odds with the terms of the cease-fire plan. The most obvious examples are in the Kodori Gorge and the agricultural valley outside the town of Akhalgori — two large parcels of land dotted with Georgian villages that were partly deserted over the winter. No Russian forces were in either place before last August.

    Russian armor remains in defensive positions on the road to Akhalgori, blocking access to the valley beyond. The checkpoint is jointly administered by Russia and South Ossetia, and the senior official present during a visit last week by two The New York Times journalists identified himself as a Russian Army major.

    Russia also holds a fortified position and checkpoint at Perevi, and an observation post near the village of Orkhosani that overlooks Georgia’s highway.

    Further, in recent months, Russia has conducted military patrols on territory it did not hold, landing helicopter-borne units just behind the boundary, according to the European Union Monitoring Mission, which was established after the war.

    The Russian military also conducts aviation patrols just inside the line with helicopter gunships, the monitoring mission said, and has built a military highway through the mountains linking the Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, with Akhalgori.

    The Russian government declined multiple requests to explain the composition and roles of its forces.

    Gilles Janvier, deputy head of the European monitoring mission, said in an interview that Russia had told diplomats that it had entered its own military agreement with the two breakaway regions in Georgia, which the Kremlin recognizes as independent states, and that these newer arrangements rendered the troop withdrawal component of the cease-fire plan obsolete.

    “They say there is now a new bilateral agreement between them and South Ossetian and Abkhaz forces that lets them station troops,” Mr. Janvier said.

    The posture has frustrated diplomats and the Georgian government alike. A senior American official said that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton raised the subject in her meeting in early March with Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, to no apparent effect.

    NATO expects no changes in relations with Ukraine upon election of Rasmussen as Secretary-General

    From: Kiev Post
    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expects no changes in relations with Ukraine upon the election of Anders Fogh Rasmussen as Secretary-General of the Alliance, Michel Duray, Director of the NATO Information and Documentation Centre in Ukraine, has announced to journalists.

    "We have a Bucharest Summit resolution, and from this point of view nothing has changed, because nations make decisions, not the Secretariat," he said.

    Duray found very nice that all the Allies could reach compromise on their leadership.

    As Ukrainian News earlier reported, participants in the NATO Bucharest (Romania) Summit on April 3, 2008, decided that Ukraine and Georgia would become members of the Alliance though postponed the to consideration of Ukraine's joining the Membership Action Plan until December 2008.

    In December 2008, NATO decided to draft Annual National Programs to help Ukraine to advance the reforms necessary for admission to NATO.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    17 sentenced in Polish football corruption trial

    From: USA Today
    Seventeen people, including club officials and referees, were sentenced to up to four years in jail on Friday in the largest corruption trial in the history of Polish football.
    A regional court sentenced the former president of the club Arka Gdynia, identified only as Jacek M. in line with Polish privacy laws, to four years in prison, and Ryszard F., considered the mastermind behind the operation, to 3 1/2 years. Both were convicted of belonging to "an organized criminal group" that rigged Arka Gdynia matches from 2003-05.

    Three other club officials received two-year sentences. A fourth club representative, nine match referees, two match observers and one player received suspended sentences.

    The trial comes amid an ongoing investigation, launched by Wroclaw prosecutors in 2005, into match-fixing in Polish football that has plagued the country's domestic leagues for years.

    So far, prosecutors have charged almost 200 people -- including members of the Polish Football Federation, coaches, referees, players and club officials -- with fixing matches in the top domestic leagues.

    Former Polish sports minister on trial on corruption charges

    From: Earth Times
    Former Polish sports minister Tomasz Lipiec went on trial Thursday on five criminal charges including corruption and fraud between 2004 and 2007. Lipiec, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, faces up to 10 years in prison on conviction, the Polish Press Agency PAP reported. He did not comment to reporters and the trial was closed to media.

    He was accused of taking at least 270,000 zloty (79,886 dollars) in bribes, including paying thousands to a fictitious driver and babysitter, PAP reported.

    Lipiec, 38, is a former light athlete and Olympian in race walking.

    He was sports minister during a conflict between Poland's conservative government and the Polish Football Association which led the prime minister to suspend the executive committee amid claims they were not doing enough to stamp out corruption.

    Local streets in a mess

    From: Polskie Radio
    With highways in Poland having their own teething problems, local roads don’t have it much better either. After a long and frosty winter, the city of Krakow has found itself to be severely lacking in resources to fix every road in the southern city.

    Report by John Beauchamp.

    Poland is renowned for its bad roads. With a lack of motorways, major trunk routes through the country are constantly used by long distance trucks criss-crossing the country from north to south and east to west. There has been a boom in the usage of personal cars, so much so that the country’s transport infrastructure is bursting at the seams.

    On a more local scale, city traffic in Poland is not getting a break either. Urban development has been growing rapidly, and city streets and roads are simply crumbling. In Krakow the problem has escalated to such an extent that the local edition of the daily Gazeta Wyborcza organised a reader poll to name and shame the worst thoroughfares in the city, entitled “Akcja Durszlak”: or simply, “Operation Colander”.

    Another problem for the city of Krakow is that it has missed out on 270 million zloty’s worth of EU funding to help get its roads back into shape. With a hole of around 60 million euro, a lot of roads are not going to be touched this season. But with Krakow’s hopes of hosting some of the games during the Euro 2012 football tournament, something has to move. One positive note to finish on though: since the completion of the A4 motorway through Upper Silesia and its near completion near the border with Germany, at least Krakow is connected with the rest of Europe.

  • Sport...

    Victoria Azarenka upsets top-ranked Serena Williams

    From: Seattle Times
    Rising from her chair after the final changeover, Serena Williams glanced at her skirt and brushed away lint, trying to look good in defeat.

    It wasn't easy. A sore leg and erratic strokes were too much to overcome, and the top-ranked Williams was upset 6-3, 6-1 Saturday by 19-year-old Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the final of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla.

    Williams said her left thigh began bothering her in the quarterfinal round, and added she was bothered by a sprained ankle.

    "It was a little difficult moving to the left and a little bit to the right," she said.

    With a chuckle, she said, "A little forward was also difficult."

    The setback ended Williams' reign in Key Biscayne. She was bidding for a record sixth women's title and her third in a row. Instead, she fell to 38-2 in the tournament since 2001, with the other loss to her sister, Venus.

    "I'm not that bummed, because I feel like there's next year," Williams said. "And then there's the year after and the year after."

    The result heralded the emergence of Azarenka, who trains in Scottsdale, Ariz., and will improve to a career-high No. 8 in the world this week.

    Azarenka, who won her first tour title three months ago, improved to 23-2 this year. She earned $700,000, more than the men's first prize of $605,500. The tours offer the same total prize money but distribute it differently.

    Kazakhstan 1-5 Belarus
    Kazakhstan Blitzed By Five-Star Belarus

    Despite going a goal down early on, Belarus smashed five goals past Kazakhstan to keep their faint hopes of 2010 World Cup qualification alive.

    After a mere ten minutes of play, though, the hosts were in front. Ruslan Baltiev whipped in a deep free-kick from the left, with forward Renat Abdulin rising highest to not the ball goalwards.

    They could have gone 2-0 up from a corner that Thanati Nuserbaeva struck goalwards, but he was denied with a great goalline stop from Yuri Zhevnov.

    However, the second half was all Belarus. First of all Aliaksandr Hleb of Barcelona went one-on-one with David Loria to equaliser, and then Timofei Kalachev scored two and set up Igor Stasevich for the other.

    Vitali Rodionov wrapped it up right at the death with yet another one-on-one as the Kazakhs well and truly gave up the ghost.

    This result in Almaty sees Kazakhstan remain second last in the group on three points, above Andorra. Belarus are fourth with six points from four games played, with the rest of the group's teams still to play at time of writing.

  • Endnote...

    400 newspapers and 900 Polish corruption posts…

    From: The Story
    The reason why I am typing right now is because I feel some necessity to say something about another milestone in my blogging history. There are actually two milestones going on here- the Polish Police and Administrative Corruption Page is waiting to have its 900th post posted (I post them in advance to cover my "one yellow story a day" framework) and the Being Had Times is being published for the 400th time today.

    I guess in the end we might say only that these are round numbers and, as I have just celebrated, or better, did not celebrate my 45th birthday for exactly the same reason, round numbers don't really mean crap. This thought actually was not mine but came instead from a 40ish neighbor lady who has obviously given aging some thought herself. But then again, maybe these sorts of things do have meaning. On an average, it takes about 2.5 hours to make a newspaper. Sometimes it takes longer on poor news days and sometimes there were technical snafus and I do remember losing 2 or 3 finished papers which had to be completely redone. I also have not been perfect at this and I think, if I remember correctly, I did not publish one time for computer failure, choosing not to do it at the internet café, something I had done once or twice. I think I have done these a couple of times on the road as well. Generally though, this two and half hours is a reasonable amount of time to plan on being spent every Wednesday and Sunday and I guess this means that I have spent at least 1000 hours of my life making these papers. We can also probably double that number for Story entries and then add in again for letter writing and other such duties and I am not even going to begin thinkinig about the book. So, in any case, this isn't nothing.

    But again and again and again, it is not the quality or content of these web spaces that was at the heart of making them, nor was it ever about creating an artificial celebrity for my ego to play with. I mean, I don't actually like drawing attention to myself very much. I like getting attention for work I've done, this is cool, but on me personally, no. It is also not a money making enterprise in any way. Well, getting some money from this would have been nice, but basically about the only positives is that it has led to some interesting encounters and some new friends and I have been written to by students, business people and folks with roots in the region, so this is always nice. Eventually, the whole Being Had Blog was created only for the specific purpose of keeping alive on the web that Polish incident which happened so long ago. It has always been about being pulled out of my life for a year, the resulting damage to the people around me and about trying to create a situation which might make it difficult for this to happen for others. This is not to say that this newspaper and the Story are irrelevant- I have seen many things I have written have an effect on the general argument about Belarus. But it is only an advertiser to lead people to the book which is on the sidebar in WORD or PDF form and has so far been read, well, downloaded, a couple of thousand times. And, it is about corruption.

    I hate corruption.

    Despite the endless arguments I get from idiots (no apology) who seem to think that the highest level of enlightenment available to them is that they understand that there is corruption! (This great knowledge being I suppose their wake up call from the largess of childhood). "Hey Adam," they say, "don't be naïve. You gotta understand how things work!" And this from EVERYBODY. But I say no.

    That's me beating my head against the wall at the bottom of the sidebar. And this is me, sitting next to the computer, a 25 watt bulb lighting the keyboard at four in the morning almost eight years later. And yea, as it always is, I am still griping and still publishing story after story after story about how screwed up and nefarious the people who stole my time were and are. And this is you too George W! This is me still trying to say that the world does need character before nepotism, pride of accomplishment before payoffs and responsibility and vested interest before standing in the road. It must be. Why must we only say that this is the way it is? I mean, why fight cancer if all we want is for things to be the way they are. Why bother?

    What? Not fight cancer? Haven't you ever seen anyone with cancer? Don't you know how horrible it is?

    Yes I have. And you know what? Corruption is cancer.

    And here's one example. How about sport? Do you want to tell me that knowing that one team or player has less of a reason to try hard than another (the standings, the draft, etc) is a factor in making your bets on the game? Ok, this is reasonable. But sometimes teams that want to win lose because of the pressure. Tiger Woods doesn't win the open, Rocco Mediate losses it. And so does Sean O'Hair. But my question is this: would you care about these guys if you found out that O'Hair didn't choke and go 3 over par in the fourth round but was paid to do it? And as for another sport analogy, where are Bonds, McGuire and Sammy? Thousands write in to forums saying that we don't need Saint McGuire in the hall because in addition to all of the time he spent practicing his craft and lifting and running and training, and regardless of how much he gave us by playing how he played, he also added to his testosterone count via something other than Wheaties. Apparently we hate the thought of cheating so much, we happily throw these guys away despite the fact that they were literally gods to us in their time. We throw them and much of our love for the sport away along with them.

    This is an example of corruption.

    But listen to me: 200 players, owners and referees have been arrested in Poland for corruption and bribes in their premier league. You want to bitch about American baseball players being juiced because it makes it harder for you to enjoy strat-o-matic baseball? I'm talking here about a whole country of 1919 Black Sox. I'm talking about 900 entries about Poland and Polish people and Polish politicians- I am talking about an entire geographic entity, an entity which prides itself on being religious by the way, which cannot and does not believe in anything it does as being clean, or right or beautiful or even real.


    So I bother. Of course it is still relevant. It is relevant everywhere. It'll be relevant until we, and that's a cool word there- we, until we decide we don't want it anymore. And I'm saying we shouldn't want it. I'm saying that fighting corruption is important. And all I have been doing is using my own experience as an example. It's not for me. It's never been for me. It's just what I have been given to do as my service to the world and I believe what I am saying is right.

    Well, actually, I do it for that and because of one other little thing: When I was in Poland, the only actual argument ever brought against me in that farce of a trial was that, in the words of Stanislaw Wiesniakowski, the surely to be sainted public prosecutor, the damage to Tomas Zaremba's car could have be cause by a human hand. Now, we are not talking specifically my hand. They had my finger prints, there was very good evidence that the damage was pre-existing and also Zaremba himself used an estimate of damages to his car in court which was made some six weeks after our meeting after yet another vehicular incident. No, they justified taking a year of my life only because the damages to the car could have been caused by a hand.

    So because of that, my argument for the continued publishing of these web objects is simply this:

    After 400 newspapers, about 600 Stories and 900 entries in the Corruption journal, don't you think it is possible that my little affair could have been staged by Poland?

    Anyway, again and again, thanks for reading me and for all the support.