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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Belarusian, Russian military, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, World Bank, High-Tech Park, Rubles, Eastern Partnership; Russia, Ukraine and Polish scandal..

  • From the Top...
  • #405

    Civic authorities urged to follow cooperation principles of Belarusian, Russian military

    From: BelTA
    Relations between the Belarusian and Russian ministries of defence are an example of cooperation that civic authorities of the two countries should follow, said President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko as he met with Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov on April 21.

    The head of state remarked: “I believe there are no big problems in cooperation between authorities in matters relating to the protection of our common Fatherland. We don’t have problems with implementing agreements”. All of them, primarily military and technical ones, will be rigorously fulfilled by Belarus, stressed Alexander Lukashenko.

    “Moreover, I would like us to advance further in our military and military technical cooperation from the perspective of producing some defence systems and to more actively make science part of our projects,” stressed the President of Belarus. “We would like the potential of our economy to be in demand not only in Belarus but in Russia, too, just like in the Soviet times”. So far Belarus’ cooperation in this area is more vigorous with China and other countries than Russia, added Alexander Lukashenko. Yet he thanked the Russian side for tight cooperation with Belarusian specialists in military matters.

    In turn, Anatoly Serdyukov praised the level of contacts between the Belarusian and Russian defence ministries.

    Uniting Belarus-Russia defense potential is vital for neutralizing challenges and threats

    The uniting of the defense potentials of Belarus and Russia is an important factor in neutralizing modern-day challenges and threats, Defense Minister of the Russian Federation Anatoly Serdyukov said during a joint session of the Defense Ministries of Belarus and Russia on April 21.

    The present-day military and political situation is characterized by the US aspiration for the global dominance. This is attested to the Nato expansion and Washington plans to install anti-missile defense system in Europe, Anatoly Serdyukov said.

    Belarus and Russia continue developing defense cooperation, which plays an essential role in ensuring security in the Union State and CSTO.

    According to Defense Minister of Belarus Leonid Maltsev, the Defense Ministries of the two countries will keep expanding cooperation. “The two sides have been implementing the Union State military doctrine, creating and improving the united military systems. Military cooperation between Belarus and Russia is not only mutually beneficial for the two countries but also benefits the Union State relations,” Leonid Maltsev said.

    He also reminded that the agreement on joint air protection of the Union State border and creation of the United Regional Air Defense System between Belarus and Russia was signed in Moscow on February 3, 2009. “The two sides are carrying out relevant procedures for the agreement to come into force,” he said.

    Today’s session is also focusing on the draft interstate agreement aimed at technical development of the regional troops, joint operational training of the Armed Forces of Belarus and Russia, drafting of an agreement on military scientific cooperation between the two countries. The session will also consider the preparations for the West 2009 joint operational exercise.

    The two sides are going to sign an agreement on information support of military cooperation between the two countries.

    Belarus, Russia to coordinate military construction

    Anatoly Serdyukov noted that the joint session discussed the draft agreement on joint programme of support and development of armaments, military and special-purpose equipment for the Belarus-Russia regional force. “The programme will allow the Defence Ministries of Belarus and Russia to coordinate steps in military construction and procurement of equipment for the regional force,” he said,

    When compiling annual defence purchase contracts, the Defence Ministries of Belarus and Russia will be able “to take each other’s interests into account while purchasing common armaments under single prices”.

    Anatoly Serdyukov also informed that the session considered the draft agreement between Belarus and Russia on military-scientific cooperation. “When signed, the agreement will significantly simplify the exchange of the results of research,” he believes.

    The Defence Minister of Russia also stressed that the implementation of the agreements will help increase the combat readiness of the Armed Forces and strengthen defensive capacity of Belarus and Russia.
  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus parliament uncertain about recognition of South Ossetia, Abkhazia

    From: BelTA
    At present Belarusian parliamentarians have varying attitudes towards the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus Vladimir Andreichenko told the press on April 21.

    “The recognition is a very complicated issue. The House of Representatives can put the matter on the agenda at any time and there is no problem with that,” stressed Vladimir Andreichenko. “However, at present our MPs have an uncertain attitude towards the matter. There are different points of views. Quite some time has passed since the parliaments of South Ossetia and Abkhazia contacted the National Assembly of Belarus. The commission is discussing it but there is no unity so far”.

    “In my opinion the President of Belarus is concerned about it, too. He would like the parliament to be more united about this matter.

    Then we would probably put the issue on the agenda. So far judging by what MPs say I can see that the time for the issue hasn’t come yet,” noted the Chairman of the House of Representatives.

    He also reminded, Belarus had provided humanitarian aid and had suggested to welcome children for recreation.

    “Parliamentarians of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are present in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Belarus-Russia Union as observers,” added Vladimir Andreichenko.

    WB ready to grant development policy loan to Belarus

    From: BelTA
    The World Bank is ready to grant a development policy loan (DPL) to Belarus, World Bank Country Director for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova Martin Raiser told mass media on April 21.

    Martin Raiser did not mention the sum of the loan but noted that it would be provided by one tranche.

    “We understand that the impact of the external shocks associated with the international financial crisis and the global growth slowdown have been felt in Belarus as well. The Belarusian government takes every effort to liberalize the economy. The Belarusian government addressed the World Bank with a request to grant a loan in order to support the budget. A group of WB experts had worked in Minsk for the last two and a half weeks to study the situation and discuss all possibilities of such financing,” he said.

    “The loans provided by the World Bank should be approved by the Board of Executive Directors. It is too early to speak about the sum of the loan as there is a probability that the pre-set amount will change,” the WB Country Director stressed.

    The World Bank is ready to grant a DPL to Belarus to help the country continue with its macroeconomic stabilization efforts and at the same time speed up and deepen structural reforms. “We hope we will be able to coordinate such a programme with Belarus and provide the assistance to the country. We hope these issues will be decided within the next months,” Martin Raiser said. Thus, the issue of a possible DPL to Belarus will be settled by autumn.

    To get the loan, Belarus would be expected to implement reforms to improve the doing business environment and liberalize the economy, Martin raiser said. “We suppose it is important to lay a foundation for the further economic growth in the country,” he said. The WB representative highlighted the necessity of more efficient management of state resources as they are becoming limited given the global financial crisis. Assistance to the vulnerable categories of people is one of the most important areas of the reform programme.

    Martin Raiser has also stressed that the WB programme enlarges the IMF macroeconomic programme for Belarus. “Unlike the IMF, the WB programme has no intermediate assessment criteria. We provide a loan after the programme of reforms is completed,” he said.

    In the future, if the DPL project with Belarus proves successful, the World Bank does not rule out another similar operation. “It will depend on the results of the first operation and the work with the IMF,” the WB official said.

    The discussions on a possible DPL took place in the context of a mid-term review of the World Bank Country Assistance Strategy for Belarus, approved in December 2007.

    To date, the World Bank’s lending commitments in Belarus total $318 million for 7 projects including three infrastructure projects under implementation. In mid 2009, the Bank will propose to its Board of Executive Directors a $125 million loan to finance an energy efficiency project and a possible operation to support solid waste management is under preparation.

    High-Tech Park to get $1mn grant from India

    From: BelTA
    The Government of India has allocated a $1 million grant to the Belarusian High-Tech Park for setting up a training centre, Director of the High-Tech Park Administration Valery Tsepkalo told reporters on April 22.

    The loan will be used to purchase necessary equipment for the training centre. “India has taken this principled decision and we, as a customer, have agreed to buy the equipment they offered,” Valery Tsepkalo said.

    According to him, the project has been submitted for the consideration of the Belarusian government. “For our part we need to take certain measures including the ones on exempting the equipment imported for the centre from taxes,” the High-Tech Park Director stressed.

    The agreement is expected to be signed within the next three months and the centre will open this year. Everything will depend on the interstate procedures of the two states.

    According to Valery Tsepkalo, the centre will offer trainer-to-trainer programmes. At first training in the centre will be provided by Indian specialists. After the courses the attendees will train the next group of specialists.

    The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is also considering setting up a regional training centre in the High-Tech Park. The High-Tech Park and ITU are expected to sign a memorandum of cooperation. The High-Tech Park has been offered “to become an associated member”.

    Belarus’ High-Tech Park eager to participate in Eastern Partnership projects

    The High-Tech Park (HTP) of Belarus intends to participate in projects of the European Union programme Eastern Partnership, HTP Administration Director Valery Tsepkalo told media on April 22.

    “Naturally we support the EU initiative Eastern Partnership. Belarus’ integration into the global economy is important, especially in such areas as innovation policy and high-tech manufacturing,” noted the HTP head.

    In his words, major areas of the Eastern Partnership programme could be the creation of business incubators for supporting small and medium innovation business, a virtual business incubator hosted by the HTP where all projects of the partnering states will be represented. In this case support of these states and access to venture financing are possible. A startup would bring an idea to the HTP. The expert council would recommend it for the business incubator. The HTP would promote the project to the virtual business platform. The partners (venture funds with which agreements are supposed to be signed) would invest money in the project, promotion and marketing of the technology if it looks promising. Education can be another area of cooperation. First of all, foreign language studies and retraining in prospective professions. There are plans to organise a “train the trainers” programme to train trainers from the partnering states.

    “We would like to offer it as part of the European programme, too,” said Valery Tsepkalo. “The development of an information society is the key point. There are three phases of the development of this society and we are in the first phase. Despite the money allocated by the budget even websites of some government agencies fail to meet modern requirements, even simple information ones,” he stressed.

  • Economics...

    Belarusian ruble exchange rate solid in Q2 2009

    From: BelTA
    The National Bank of the Republic of Belarus plans to keep fluctuations of the Belarusian ruble exchange rate against the basket of foreign currencies down to 1%, NBRB Chairman of the Board Piotr Prokopovich told President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on April 20.

    Alexander Lukashenko was informed about the fulfilment of the Major Monetary Management Guidelines in January-March 2009 and the fulfilment of the guidelines by the banking industry last year.

    The President was informed that roughly all main goals of this year’s monetary management policy of Belarus are achieved. The NBRB pays close attention to the goals vital for the real economy, namely, lending, the operation of the payment system and the stable exchange rate of the national currency.

    Over the last 12 months (between April 1, 2008 and April 1, 2009) the volume of loans granted by banks increased by 60%.

    The exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the basket of foreign currencies stays within the 5% range allowed in 2009. This year the National Bank pegged the Belarusian ruble to the basket of three currencies — the US dollar, euro, and the Russian ruble. The exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the basket of currencies totalled Br960 on January 2 and April 1.

    Changes inside the basket of currencies were registered in Q1 2009. Since the beginning of the year the US dollar would gain up to 12% against euro and up to 21% against the Russian ruble.

    Meanwhile, the payment system has been developed fast. In January-March over Br233 trillion of payments were made, 72% up on Q1 2008. The figure indicates intensive operation of Belarusian companies.

    The NBRB head assured the President of Belarus that in Q2 2009 all the main goals of the Major Monetary Management Guidelines will be achieved. The lending to the real economy and individuals will stay extensive. The exchange rate of the national currency will remain steady. “We plan that in Q2 fluctuations of the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the basket of foreign currencies will stay under 1%,” said Piotr Prokopovich.

    Spree trend in Belarus’ foreign trade in March

    March saw a glimpse of spree in Belarus’ foreign trade, said Nikolai Bursh, Head of the Customs Control Organisation Department of the State Customs Committee of Belarus, at a press conference on April 22.

    The SSC representative said, the beginning of the year was quite hard for the foreign trade of Belarus, with the volume of both export and import on decline. “In March certain buoyancy emerged, with the export and import rising,” he said.

    Yet Belarus has not reached the figures registered in Q1 2008. In January-March the trade turnover totalled 59.8% as against the same period of last year.

    In his words, in March a positive trend of transit increase via Belarus emerged.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Partnering with Lukashenka

    From: ISN
    As the EU prepares for its Prague Eastern Partnership gathering, the hottest question is whether the contentious Lukashenka will attend and where that would leave Belarus, Jeremy Druker comments for ISN Security Watch.

    Will he or won’t he come to Prague?

    As a critical meeting for the EU's relations with its eastern neighbors approaches, the focus these days seems less on the agenda itself than on whether Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenka will crash the party.

    He has an invitation, sort of. At the end of last week, media around the world reported that Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg had hand-delivered an invitation to “Europe’s last dictator,” as Lukashenka is often labeled, at a meeting in Minsk on 17 April.

    Schwarzenberg was quoted as saying: “He accepted the invitation. It is now for him to decide who will represent Belarus at the summit.”

    The Czech Republic currently holds the rotating EU presidency and will host the first official meeting of the Eastern Partnership - designed to improve ties with six formerly Soviet states - in Prague on 7 May.

    Later on 17 April, after a wave of negative reactions from the press and some European capitals, the Czech Foreign Ministry moved into damage control, clarifying that, in fact, Belarus had been invited and not Lukashenka specifically.

    That has led to widespread speculation that Czech diplomats have managed to strike a deal with Lukashenka: Belarus would be invited, raising the president’s credibility abroad and especially at home, but he would decline attending, instead sending someone else.

    Pavel Vondra, writing in the Czech online newssite, said the invitation was apparently accompanied by a clear recommendation that Belarus would be represented by the “right person,” i.e. not the president. “All sides would in the end manage to save face because it’s expected that Lukashenka would send instead the prime minister or some other representative. Diplomats don’t expect the breaking of this ‘gentlemen’s agreement.’ ”

    One of the reasons the decision generated so much media coverage was that no one had evidently briefed Vaclav Klaus on the notion that Lukashenka himself almost certainly wouldn’t come. Lashing out against supposed “double standards,” Klaus said he was “rather surprised” by the move and would neither shake hands with Lukashenka nor receive him at Prague Castle.

    Klaus, however, is not known for his condemnation of dictators or support for democracy promotion abroad. On the contrary: In the wake of the Russian invasion of Georgia last fall, Klaus’s criticism of Russia was much tamer than that of other European leaders and he had avoided taking Russian leaders such as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to task for their democratic shortcomings.

    “It would be nice if this gesture was the result of a principled stand of Mr Klaus toward the non-observance of democracy and human rights in this country [Belarus],” wrote journalist Lubos Palata, in a commentary in the daily Lidove noviny, on 18 April. “Vaclav Klaus, however, labels people striving to promote such values as “human rightists” and practically doesn’t criticize the Chinese communists or Putin.” (To Klaus’s credit, he did, at least, earlier condemn the conduct of the fraudulent 2006 presidential elections in Belarus.)

    Palata and others see Klaus’s rhetoric as more a part of a campaign to discredit the Eastern Partnership concept and stay in favor with his Russian “friends” who see the EU’s plan as encroachment into Russia’s traditional near abroad.

    The Eastern Partnership seeks an upgrade in ties with Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova as well as Belarus.

    In Belarus, the reaction to the invitation has been mixed. The traditional opposition believes the Czechs and EU in general ignored their pleas that not enough progress had been made on issues such as human rights violations, freedom of the press, prison conditions, forced military conscription and the repression of democracy activists.

    Others are more in favor of the move. “Many people belonging to grassroots initiatives believe that it is better to move to Europe, even at the cost of legitimizing Lukashenka, since the [increased] openness will 100 percent lead to the destruction of this system in an evolutionary way,” a Belarusian journalist who did not wish to be named told ISN Security Watch.

    “However it is necessary that Europe condition each positive move on some political reforms,” the journalist said.

    With the Belarusian economy hit hard by the lack of credit abroad to prop up its state-centered, export-driven model, now is the right time for such a strategy: Lukashenka will be more likely to negotiate if the resulting benefits keep him in power.

    The engagement vs isolation debate has taken on new momentum as of late as relations between Belarus and the EU have warmed. In the wake of the financial crisis, Minsk has already sought and received aid from the West and tried to lessen its dependency on Russia. In turn, some EU member states have pushed for a recognition that isolation hasn’t worked and that Belarus should be rewarded for addressing some of the West’s concerns about jailed oppositionists and freedom of the media, even if minimally.

    Even if Lukashenka decides, in the end, that a visit to Prague would be too provocative, the president’s new strategy is bearing fruit. His travel agenda for April includes a visit to Italy and a meeting with the Pope at the Vatican, both part of his first official trip to a western country since the mid-1990s, according to The Independent.

    While the debate over Lukashenka has overshadowed the Eastern Partnership meeting to some extent, the controversy has at least brought some publicity to an event that some could simply dismiss as yet another humdrum attempt by the EU to come up with a strategy for dealing with its Eastern neighbors.

    The current plan, however, could become much more than that: a way to bring into the fold countries decades away from EU accession by exchanging increased aid and closer relations for democratic and economic reforms.

    Still, the discussion does inevitably come back to Lukashenka.

    “European politicians as well as the Belarusian opposition do want Belarus to become part of the Eastern Partnership, but the royal entrance of Lukashenka to Prague would be too strong a symbol,” Katerina Spacova, the director of Civic Belarus, a Czech NGO that supports initiatives to promote democracy in Belarus, told ISN Security Watch. “We would basically help Lukashenka’s PR campaign in the upcoming presidential elections!”

    “So if EU and Belarusian diplomats really achieved an agreement that another person representing Belarus would come to the summit in Prague, it seems a very good solution The only question is, whether anybody can rely on some unofficial promises from Belarusian officials. This regime and the president have always been extremely unpredictable.”

    NATO-Russia tensions lie behind S-400s for Belarus

    From: UPI
    Russia hopes to deliver its first S-400 state-of-the-art anti-aircraft interceptor missiles to Belarus as soon as next year.

    Lt. Gen. Vadim Volkovitsky, the first deputy commander of the Russian air force, was careful not to commit the Kremlin to an exact delivery schedule for the S-400s when he spoke publicly on April 9. However, a report from RIA Novosti covering his remarks said that Russia hopes to deliver the first S-400s to Belarus as early as 2010.

    That looks like an ambitious deadline to meet, for the Russian defense aerospace industry has only just managed to deliver enough S-400s to equip a second air-defense regiment of their own air force. Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov announced its activation on March 17.

    Therefore, Volkovitsky was careful to avoid committing himself to any hard date for the S-400 deliveries to Belarus. "We are still discussing the dates for delivery of the S-400 systems, but I am certain that it will happen as part of our efforts to develop an integrated air-defense network," he said, according to an April 9 report from RIA Novosti.

    However, even if the first S-400s for Belarus are not delivered on time, the willingness of Russian officials to try to do so reflects the primary importance they give to strengthening Russia's Western air defenses and the historic invasion route to Moscow across Belarus and directly from the West. It was the route taken by Napoleon's Grande Armee in 1812 and by the Nazi Wehrmacht that occupied all of the territory of Belarus mercilessly for three years during World War II, which Russians call the Great Patriotic War.

    Today, no one in the United States or any of its European NATO allies dreams of invading Russia. But tensions between Russia and the West have been growing dramatically, and they broke surface last August when the Russian army invaded the former Soviet republic of Georgia in the Caucasus, which had been seeking to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Russian ground forces occupied one-third of the territory of Georgia in less than five days.

    The willingness of the Kremlin to use its armed forces against a former Soviet republic, and one that had close ties to the Bush administration in the United States at the time, made clear that Russia's rulers have certainly not ruled out the possible use of force as a last resort to maintain their national security and achieve their political goals.

    Relations between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization remain tense. Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to the U.S.-led Alliance, on April 14 angrily protested NATO plans to hold new military exercises in Georgia.

    The Cooperative Longbow/Lancer 2009 exercise is scheduled to be carried out at Georgia's Vaziani military base from May 3 to June 3. The ambitious maneuvers will involve no fewer than 900 troops from 23 of NATO's 28 nations, and they will be conducted as part of NATO's Partnership for Peace program.

    But Rogozin accused the alliance of meddling in Georgia's internal affairs. "NATO is trying to interfere in Georgia's affairs in this way," he told RIA Novosti. The news agency said Rogozin also warned Russia would feel forced to retaliate in reaction to the exercises.

    Supplying S-400 anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems to Belarus therefore has to be seen in the context of the continuing suspicion by Russia's leaders about NATO and the United States, even though U.S. President Barack Obama is eager to improve ties and negotiate a new strategic arms-reduction agreement with the Kremlin.

    Significantly, the S-400 deployment would not come under the definition of the kind of strategic nuclear systems that would be negotiated under such a treaty. But in the event of any future hostilities between Belarus and Lithuania or even Poland, those S-400s could prove of real tactical importance.

    Russia's plans to send its S-400s to Belarus, along with NATO's planned exercises in Georgia, teach the harsh reality that new divisions in Europe are emerging to replace the old ones.

    Belarus could be fine place for Moscow Patriarch meeting with Pope - official

    From: Interfax
    The Belarusian Orthodox Church says that Belarus is a fine place for a possible meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Pope.

    "Belarus as a possible place for a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch has a number of historic peculiarities and advantages. Confessional balance is kept in Belarus," press secretary of the Belarusian Exarchate Andrey Petrashkevich told Interfax.

    "The problem of the union which was imposed in the 17th century did not spread across the Belarusian land because of its bloody nature," he said.

    "Being a relative center of Europe, Belarus could serve as an example of pacifying church-state policy if the church's and the state's approaches to the meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch are coinciding,"

    World Bank could grant Belarus a loan in autumn

    From: Forbes

    The World Bank is ready to grant Belarus a loan as long as Minsk shows commitment to reforms, the bank's regional head said on Tuesday.

    'We hope that we will be able to agree such a programme of economic reform which we will be able to support with the help of our financing. We hope that ... we will be able to present this loan to the World Bank's board of directors in early autumn,' Martin Raiser told a news briefing.

    He declined to specify an amount.

    Belarus has become reliant on foreign financing to overcome the economic crisis, with money pouring in from global lenders such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as from neighbour Russia, its main energy supplier.

  • From the Opposition...

    German police to share experience with Belarusian riot militia

    From: Charter 97
    The Federal Ministry of the Interior of Germany offered the Belarusian militia to study their experience of providing security during the mass events.

    “Issues on training militia officers in public security in the Federal Republic of Germany will be discussed during a visit of the delegation of the German Interior Ministry to Minsk,” Interfax information agency learnt from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus.

    “Questions of organizing a training seminar for Belarusian militia officers will be discussed in Minsk. The German party offered to hold the seminar in Germany,” the Ministry of Internal Affairs said.

    According to the source of the agency, a delegation of the Federal Ministry of the Interior of Germany heading by the commander of Security Alert Jurgen Schubert.

    “The main aim of the visit of the German delegation is to learn how the riot militia in Belarus works,” the Ministry of Internal Affairs said.

    J. Schubert will meet acting interior minister of Belarus general major Anatol Kulyashou, the ministry informs.

    Besides, the German policemen will become familiar with functions and equipment of the special task militia group of the city militia department of the Minsk city executive committee (former Minsk riot militia) and the Tsentralny district militia department of Minsk, will visit the Center on Training, Retraining and Improving Professional Skills of Interior Personnel and the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

    After militia education establishments demonstrate their skills of training militia for public security, J. Schubert will introduce his report to the teaching staff of the Militia Academy on the theme “Use of Alert Police Forces of Germany during Mass Street Events”, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reports.

    Note of the Charter’97 press center: the Minsk riot militia is known in the world for brutal dispersals of peaceful opposition actions and cruel beating of demonstrators. One of the commanders of the Minsk riot police Yury Padabed was banned entry to the EU countries for brutal beating of pro-democratic people by riot militiamen under his command. It should also be reminded that during the last action on Solidarity Day April 16, Minsk riot militiamen were forcing people, who came for the rally with candles and portraits of political prisoners, out of October square and beating them. The riot militiamen were trampling and tearing EU flags.

    Supreme Court to humanize penal system

    From: Viasna
    The Supreme Court of Belarus has adopted a resolution advertising the use of less punitive sentences, which might be another step towards the humanization of the Belarusian penal system. The Supreme Court has admitted that the majority of Belarusian prisoners representing little social danger, and thus recommended using less punitive programs – probation, parole, as well as a graded fines system. On the other hand, grave and repeat offenders are not likely to feel relieved.
    In his interview to the Sovetskaya Belorussia major stet-owned newspaper, Deputy Chair of the Supreme Court Valery Kalinkovich admitted that imprisonment is not an absolute precaution measure, the penal system still remaining the school of crime and such punishment having little to do with actual social issues. It will also help the state save some 4,000,000 Euros annually.

    ‘We should carefully but inevitably prepare the society for the new realities, to make it understand that imprisonment is not the only way an offence may be punished with, but can include other means of punishment,’ said Mr.Kalinkovich, referring to the positive experience in the neighbouring Latvia.
    Meanwhile, President Lukashenka’s administration have drafted a bill providing for several changes to both Criminal and Administrative Codes, namely the possible reduction of punishment for certain business-related crimes – tax evasion, unauthorized business activity etc.

    New Criminal Code is worked out in Belarus

    In a related story, at a press-conference on 15 April the chairman of the national security committee of the Chamber of Representative Viktar Huminski stated that ‘new criminal code is being worked out’.

    According to him, the Office of the Prosecutor General is drafting the new Criminal Code that can radically change the approach to punishment.

    ‘It is evident that the persons who committed economical crimes unintentionally, who are not socially dangerous, must not be kept in jail at the expense of tax payers’, said Viktar Huminski.

    The MP thinks that instead they should compensate the economical harm by paying fines.

    V.Huminski also said that 47% prisoners are kept in jail for economical crimes. ‘If we distract 20% from this number, our country will have a better rating concerning the number of prisoners,’ he emphasized.

  • Around the Region...

    Russian Communists honor Soviet founder Lenin

    From: AP
    A World War II veteran lays flowers at the monument to Vladimir Lenin in Chisinau, Moldova Wednesday April 22, 2009 to mark Lenin's birthday.
    Russia's Communist Party leader left flowers at the tomb of Vladimir Lenin on the Soviet founder's 139th birthday Wednesday and pledged to resist any plans to remove Lenin's embalmed body from Moscow's Red Square.

    Gennady Zyuganov led hundreds of supporters of the dwindling Communist Party in a procession on the square to commemorate the man they still call a great reformer.

    The small gathering sharply contrasted with the massive Soviet-era cult of Lenin.

    Zyuganov praised Lenin's role in "changing the history of mankind" and said implementation of Lenin's principles in politics and economy could have prevented the ongoing economic crisis.

    Zyuganov said anyone intending to remove Lenin from the mausoleum will face a "proper rebuff." Polls say two thirds of Russians would like Lenin to be buried.

    Lenin's body was embalmed and placed in the mausoleum just outside the Kremlin days after his death in 1924 - despite the protests of his family.

    The Orthodox Church denounces the public display of his body and says it needs a "traditional" burial.

    In 2001, then-President Vladimir Putin said he opposed the removal of Lenin's body because it might disturb civil peace. Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, strongly pushed for the removal, but was stopped by vigorous opposition from the Communist Party.

    During Wednesday's procession, Zyuganov called on the government to allocate more funds to Russia's poor instead of supporting big corporations.

    "Authorities still stuff money into banks that gambled their assets away at stock exchanges," he told reporters standing outside the mausoleum under a red Communist flag.

    After the Soviet collapse, the Communist Party remained a significant force in Russian politics, and Zyuganov came within a hairsbreadth of being elected president in 1996. In 1999, the party held a quarter of the seats in the Russian parliament; now it has just 12 percent.

    Children in Ukraine – victims of cybercriminals

    From: MIG
    More than 30 percent of children’s pornography in Internet is being published by providers from the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States). Most often children from Ukraine and Belarus take part in pornographic reels and photos. The international human rights organization ‘End Child Prostitution Child Pornography & Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes’ (ECPA International) has published these data.

    Most often negative content is being popularized via Internet now. Teenagers are visiting these web-sites, a spokeswoman for the ECPAT International on the CIS territory Olga Shved in an interview with Deutsche Welle told.

    “Children are telling they not only have access to obscene material and they are being used there, but also that they get rather negative content, for example, movies about violence, racism, fascism”, she says.

    In spite of the fact there is no law on regulation of work in Internet in Ukraine, spokeswoman for the ECPAT International claims Ukraine’s law enforcement agents have made progress in struggle against cybercriminals. However, judges in court did not take these cases seriously, Ukrainskaya Pravda cites Shved as saying.

    She considers Ukrainian providers are lobbying for their interests in Internet: they are not interested in loss of their profit and that is why deputies at the Verkhovna Rada do not pass laws on security in Internet.

    Russian gigolo tricks women into plastic surgery for commission

    From: Mos News
    Three Russian young women have undergone expensive plastic surgery in the same clinic for their sweetheart, not knowing that he was a handsome swindler. Investigators allege that the suspect robbed the young ladies in collaboration with the plastic surgeon, Russian website reports.

    The handsome Maxim won the hearts of his victims as soon as he arrived in Smolensk, southwest of Moscow. The black-haired hunk, driving a new black BMW, stood out from the other men of Smolensk with his charisma and good sense of humor. According to reports, some women even fought each other for his attention.

    Maxim met his first victim, 23-year-old Maria, in a student dormitory. Their breathtaking romance developed fast. After some time, Maxim started persuading Maria to get nose and eyelid surgery. He told Maria that she would be much prettier if she would undergo the operations. After two months of Maxim’s pleas Maria agreed to go to the clinic. No sooner had she had the plastic surgery, her sweetheart left the city.

    Maxim went to Demidov, not far from Smolensk. There the brawny macho man seduced two Russian blondes. Inna, 29 years old, underwent a nose correction, and 27-year-old Ekaterina corrected the form of her eyelids and chin. The operations took place in the same clinic as the first woman’s surgery.

    After that Maxim left Demidov. The parents of abandoned women have appealed to the police.

    Investigators have begun a search for the swindler but it has so far yielded no results. His black BMW is registered in Belarus. The police also discovered that Maxim is not his real name. Nobody saw his real documents.

    “It will be very hard to bring him to trial, because all the women underwent the operations voluntarily. They even signed a release and waiver” A spokesman for Smolensk police said.

    “We suppose that the swindler has robbed the women in collaboration with the plastic surgeon, who has left the city too” he added.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Polish life in UK is getting harder

    From: Polskie Radio
    Cezary Olszewski, publisher of the UK weekly Goniec Polski, claims that he is not at all surprised by reports of life getting harder for Polish migrants living in Great Britain.

    “More and more workers feel that they are not well received,” says Olszewski. “In times of economic crisis, the easiest is to resort to selfishness and nationalistic sentiments,” he added, commenting on the recent and more frequent media reports of Brits protesting against the presence of Polish migrants in the country.

    The publisher claims that there are about 1.5 million Poles living in the British Isles and about 750,000 in London alone. Olszewski claims that about 10 percent of migrants have returned to Poland in the first quarter of this year and probably another ten percent will do so in the coming months, especially if the construction and domestic services sectors of the economy continue to suffer as that is where most Poles are employed.

    Employees at Polish Tourism and Travel, a partner of Goniec Polski under the Centre for Polish Culture, are also of the opinion that many Poles are returning home. Teresa Lines, a Pole who moved to the UK forty years ago and is now employed at the travel agency, complains that business is getting worse.

    “Before Christmas we started noticing that many Polish clients were buying one-way tickets [home],” Lines stated.

    Kasa Business Services, an accounting firm that helps Poles set up businesses in the UK, reports having to have closed their work agency because there simply are too few jobs on the market.

    “The economic crisis has really hurt the construction industry,” states Ela Szatkowska, a Pole residing in the UK for eight years. “There are less and less firms hiring than last year,” Szatkowska added.

    While Olszewski claims that he understands the nationalistic sentiments rising out of British society as a result of the economic crisis and increasing unemployment statistics, he maintains that Poles are not taking jobs away from Brits.

    “Even if all the Poles left Britain, unemployment would not go down,” Olszewski adds. “We are not at fault for the economic crisis.”

    Two kids in court for internet bullying

    From: The News
    Two eleven-year-olds are standing before family court in Elk, northern Poland, for having broken into a fellow student's account and bullying him.

    The boys hacked into their classmates account and, according to police spokesperson Monika Bekulard, bullied the boy.

    “They changed what his profile said, putting up vulgar phrases to the extent that the boy was bullied and victimized in school, amongst his fellow colleagues,” Bekulard added. Because the boy’s password was changed, he was not able to access his account to change his profile.

    The child’s mother informed police, who are working together with website administrators to cut down on such occurrences of ‘internet crime.’

    The family court may distribute a wide range of punishments, including court-ordered observation of internet time, stated the police spokesperson. is Poland’s largest social networking platform, launched in November 2006 and numbering 27 million users today.

    Poles want children but not marriage

    From: Polskie Radio
    Every fifth child in Poland is born out of wedlock, writes Dziennik. There are five times more ‘illegitimate’ children than thirty years ago.

    “In the past marriage was synonymous to family. Nowadays a wedding does not imply having children and a child is no longer a reason to get married”, says Prof. Miroslawa Marody from the University of Warsaw, commenting that Poland’s views on family life have changed. There is a growing number of people living in informal relationships who decide to have a child or married couples who decide not to.

    “Nowadays traditional marriage is perceived by many as a restriction”, explains Prof. Krystyna Iglicka-Okolska. “Young people do not want to sign a marriage certificate. They prefer to stay in informal relationships and evolve”. It is easier for them, than for their parents, to abandon the idea of getting married because the social pressure is not that strong any more.

    The drop in the number of marriages in Poland does not necessarily mean the end of a traditional Polish family, claim sociologists. It is possible that the next generation will return to the traditional family model.

    In comparison to the rest of Europe, Poland is still a very traditional country. The latest polls show that, in Great Britain, up to 75 percent of women who had a child before turning 25, did not get married.

  • Sport...

    Belarus wins two bronze medals at FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup

    From: BelTA
    Melita Staniuta
    Belarus won two bronze medals in individual events at the 4th Portimao FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup Series event.

    Melita Staniuta scored 26,275 points for her ribbon routine to settle for the third place. She lost to Russia’s Evgenia Kanaeva (28,050) and Vera Sesina (27,850). Another Belarusian Liubov Cherkashina finished seventh with 25,150 points.

    Liubov Cherkashina claimed bronze in the hoop event having scored 26,725. The gold went to Ukrainian’s Anna Bessonova (28,150). Russian Evgenia Kanaeva placed second (27,925).

    The top Belarusian in the all-round event was seventh-placed Melita Staniuta. Liubov Cherkashina was eighth and Svetlana Rudalova 11th. Belarus scored victory in the all-round team event and 5-hoop exercise and placed seventh in the 3x2 event.

    Belarus wins bronze at ISSF World Cup in Beijing

    Yuri Dolgopolov of Belarus won a bronze medal in the 10m Air Pistol Men at the ISSF World Cup in Beijing, China.

    The Belarusian scored 682.5 points. The winner was Xinglong Shi of China with 683 points. Jiajie Mai of China placed second with 682.8 points. Fifty-five athletes took part in the competition.

    Belarus' Yury Shcherbatsevich placed 11th in the 50m Rifle Prone Men, Sergei Martynov 18th and Vitaly Bubnovich 37th.

    This is the second medal of the Belarusian team at the ISSF World Cup in Beijing, China. On April 19 Viktoria Chaika picked up bronze in the 25m Pistol Women.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Around 100 artists from Israel to take part in Slavonic Bazaar in 2009

    From: BelTA
    Around 100 artists from Israel will take part in the Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk Festival in 2009, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Israel to Belarus Eduard Shapira told reporters in Minsk on April 22.

    Israeli artists have already performed on the stage of the Slavonic Bazaar Festival, the diplomat added.

    A concert of pianists will be organised in Minsk in October 2009. Israel is also planning to bring modern music performers to Minsk.

    Belarusian ballet goes on tour to Egypt and Syria

    The ballet company of the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Republic of Belarus will depart for Egypt and Syria on April 23, BelTA learnt from chief editor of the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre Olga Savitsakaya.

    The Belarusian theatre will present Spartacus in Cairo Opera House, one of the world’s most famous theatres designed by Japanese architects and fitted with most advanced theatrical equipment. On April 25-28 the Belarusian company will give four performances. The accompaniment will be provided by the Cairo Opera orchestra conducted by Belarusian director Nikolai Kolyadko. Then the Belarusian artists will show Spartacus in Alexandria on the stage of the old Sayed Darwish Theatre. According to Egyptian partners, all performances have been sold out. This is the third time the Belarusian theatre will tour Egypt.

    The theatre will visit Syria for the second time. This time it will show five performances of Romeo and Juliet in Dar Al-Assad on May 4-8.

    The ballet company is directed by chief choreographer Yury Troyan. The tours will run until mid May.

    The previous tours in Syria and Egypt, during which the Belarusians theatre performed Nutcracker and Swan Lake, were a great success and received positive reviews.

    Gomel to host Week of French Movie April 21-26

    A Week of the French Movie will be held in Gomel on April 21-26. The week will be organized under the auspices of the French Embassy in Belarus. The event is held twice a year, BelTA learnt from the Gomelkinovideoprokat company.

    During the week, the movies in French with subtitles will be demonstrated in Gomel movie theater “Oktyabr”.

    The organization of such events is the main part of the large-scale programme of the friendly relations established between Belarusian town of Gomel and French Clermont-Ferrand. The two towns constantly exchange delegations at the level of local governments in the area of business, science, culture and sport. The only in Belarus the French-Belarusian Institute of Management successfully works at the Gomel State University.

  • Endnote...

    Greatest treachery by Europe

    From: Charter '97
    According to Swedish media, the European Union has quietly but radically changed its political line towards Minsk.

    The European Union has given up the policy of sanctions and turned to the policy of a dialogue, the western observers write. The dictator, who until recently was banned entry to the EU countries, is welcomed in Italy, he is invited for a summit in Prague, Radio Svaboda reports.

    As Swedish «Kristianstadsbladet», writes, Brussels loosened his hard position towards the Belarusian regime last autumn. A decision on visa ban reprieve for high ranking Belarusian officials was taken in response to release of political prisoners by Minsk. Many European officials thought this gesture would lead to a democratic process in Belarus, to a dialogue and development. Sweden was among those few states that voted against.

    Last week what can be called “greatest treachery the Belarusian opposition and the dissidents by Europe” happened, Kristianstadsbladet writes. The foreign minister of the Czech Republic, holding EU presidency, personally invited Lukashenka to Prague, and the Italian foreign minister said the Belarusian ruler would be accepted in Rome and Vatican.

    According to the author of the article, unfortunately, Swedish media don’t write much about Belarus, the country that is so close to Sweden. Nevertheless, the journalist reminds about two stories published in the local media.

    One of the stories, a presentation of books by Svyatlana Aleksievich, was reported by Goteborgs-Posten. The famous writer, living outside Belarus, whose books are not published in the country, was invited for a Minsk Book Fair by a Moscow publishing house in February.

    A huge number of her readers attended come to meet Aleksievich at the fair, and the Russian publishing house was said neither the company nor the writer with her books are welcomed at such events in Belarus any more.

    Or the other story, mentioned by the Swedish editions. It is a tragedy happened with human rights activist from Salihorsk Yana Palyakova, who committed suicide because of an unfair sentence.

    The author of the article in Kristianstadsbladet concludes he’d like to ask the EU and Vatican how they are going to have a dialogue with the Belarusian regime.