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Thursday, April 09, 2009

No government resignation planned, Eastern Partnership, West 2009, Russian rubles, Gazprom, Opposition, Moldova Riots, Azerenko and Polish scandal...

  • From the Top...
  • #401

    Belarus President: speculations about Belarus government resignation are groundless

    From: BelTA
    President Alexander Lukashenko inspects progress in spring fieldwork
    All speculations about resignation of the Belarusian government are groundless, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told reporters in Svetlogorsk on April 7.

    “These speculations are not new. They are spread by people who want to destabilize the situation in the country. May be this way they want to get in the government. But they have already been there and demonstrated their complete incompetence. The government is not going to resign,” the President underlined.

    Alexander Lukashenko said that “if someone stops working, he should leave.” “You will see it in the near future”, Alexander Lukashenko added. But it does not pertain to the government in general. There are some people, some individuals, who are not performing well, are tired, this is why they should pluck up courage to leave,” the President said.

    “They should calm down, stop exaggerating problems which in fact do not exist. There are no enemies in the government, no people opposing the current policies,” the head of state underlined.

    The President reminded that he is going to study the work of heads of enterprises in Q1. Apart from that, a comprehensive assessment will be given to the economic performance in the conditions of the crisis in H1,” the President added.

    Talking about the impact of the global crisis on the Belarusian economy, Alexander Lukashenko noted that this crisis will benefit the country to some extent as it will teach how to produce competitive products, sell them and how to work. “Of course, the crisis has put us in a difficult position, but it has a purging function. Only those who can work will be left,” the Belarusian leader said.

    Alexander Lukashenko praised the work of Svetlogorsk Khimvolokno. In 2009, the company’s production output will grow 14-15% which has already been supported by orders. The profitability of its products was 2-3% over the last months; the enterprise ranks first in terms of the profitability of some products. “Such enterprises of the chemical industry were hit most by the financial and economic crisis. Nevertheless, the enterprise works well. There are some people, however, who gave up and know only one way out: to ask the government to give them money. They should learn to sell products,” the President said.

    Russia does not hurry to make Russian ruble regional currency, Alexander Lukashenko says

    Russia does not hurry to strengthen the influence of the Russian ruble, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said during his working trip to the Gomel oblast on April 7.

    “How can one speak of the intentions to make its currency a regional and, maybe, global one in the future (as US dollar or Yen are) and at the same time do nothing to reach the goal?” the head of state stressed.

    We would like to see real steps showing that the processes such as increasing the use of Russian ruble in payments and strengthening of the Russian ruble – are really worth something, he added. According to Alexander Lukashenko, the Russian side is not eager to make practical steps in this direction yet.

    “If Russia wants to have the regional currency, it is more profitable for them to do it with Belarus,” the President noted. “We can wait; there is no critical moment for us about it now. If they decide to do anything, we will only welcome it,” he said.

    The Belarusian Head of State believes it is early to negotiate the turning of the Russian ruble into the EurAsEC currency. “No one, apart from Belarus, is ready for such proposals,” the President said.

    Belarus not going to give up on nuclear plant, Alexander Lukashenko says

    Belarus is not going to give up on the construction of a nuclear power plant, even during the global financial and economic crisis, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said during his working trip to the Gomel oblast.

    “We will build the nuclear power plant, however hard it might be. At my level, the postponement of the construction for a year or two has not been considered. We are not going to do it,” the head of state said.

    All the works are performed according to schedule, the President said. The Russians are ready to issue a loan for this project. “We have decided to build a super-advanced nuclear power plant to supply people with cheaper energy. So we will do it,” the President said. Alexander Lukashenko cited the data of the sociological poll. More than 60% of Belarusians support now the construction of the nuclear power plant. “We are surrounded by nuclear power plants, and God forbid if something happened, the results would be comparable to the Chernobyl disaster. At the same time we are deprived of the benefit the whole world has. Europe, where once green parties campaigned against nuclear power, has been making strides on the way of development of nuclear power engineering. Today nuclear power plants are built in China, Russia, the countries that have mineral resources, while we import energy resources. This will be the greatest achievement of our time. A nuclear power plant is not only energy. It is a brand new level of the development of the state. We need this. Crises come and go. We need to teach people new technologies,” the President said.

    Belarus President: global crisis will encourage higher competitiveness of Belarusian products

    Notwithstanding all the negative aspects, the global financial and economic crisis will benefit the Belarusian economy in one way: it will encourage the manufacture of products that will be in demand on foreign markets, it will teach efficiency and discipline, said President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko during his working trip to the Gomel oblast on April 7, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    Alexander Lukashenko got familiar with the spring sowing campaign in the Minsk and Gomel oblasts. An active sowing campaign is held in the agricultural companies of the Brest and Grodno oblasts, too.

    The President was informed about the plans to develop plant growing in 2009 and the supplies of domestically produced tractors to Belarusian agricultural enterprises.

    In line with the national programme, over 3,500 units of machinery are to be supplied to agricultural companies for 2009 spring sowing campaign.

    Alexander Lukashenko set forth a task to satisfy the country’s demand for agricultural equipment.

    “During the crisis we should focus on main machinery: trucks, tractors, and other agricultural equipment. It is necessary to satisfy the domestic needs in agricultural and utilities vehicles,” the Belarusian leader said.

    Prices for the equipment should be normal, as the prime costs of the products have fallen down in general, Alexander Lukashenko said. The President proposed paying close attention to the quality and to executing the orders for the products which are really needed by this or that entity. This year Br3.6 trillion will be allocated for new equipment. “I have already instructed the watchdog agencies to look into how the expensive equipment is used,” the head of state said.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, however hard it can be now, there is a need to start making the products, which are in demand, for example, to make buses instead of trucks. Austerity is now welcomed all over the world, the President added.

    The President of Belarus urged not to focus solely on the Russian export market. “Our officials should stop wooing Russian officials. If they do not want us on their market, we will find other markets,” the Belarusian head of state said.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, the current conditions make Belarus diversify exports. “Our products are of a good quality, they are quite competitive. We will always be present on the Russian market, at the same time we should explore other markets,” the President said. He added that Belarusian products are in demand worldwide.

    “Russia is acting not very honestly here. I am not afraid to state it publicly,” the President said. Alexander Lukashenko pointed out that the Russian leadership does not honour economic agreements. “We have agreed to pay $150 for gas every quarter. Then other people come and say that it is not enough. It means that our agreements are not observed,” the President said. “The Russian side also tells us: give us your plants, give this and that. At present, in the conditions of the crisis, nobody will sell anything,” Alexander Lukashenko underlined.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Equal stimulus package for Belarusian, Russian business in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    Belarus has taken necessary measures to provide the Belarusian and Russian companies with equal rights for government support packages, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky informed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on April 6.

    The Belarusian Head of Government informed the President on the implementation of the decisions taken by the Supreme State Council of the Union State in line with the anti-crisis plan signed by the Governments of the Russian Federation and Belarus. The document provides concrete decisions on government support packages for the companies in the real sector of the economy and decisions related to the government purchase in Russia, reactivation of leasing supplies of goods.

    According to the Prime Minister, all necessary decisions have been taken up in Belarus by the end of Q1 2009. Russia has not decided on the conditions securing equal access to the government support packages yet.

    The Head of State stressed that the access to the domestic markets of Belarus and Russia should be equal for the companies of the two countries. In this respect the Government of Belarus has been commissioned to intensify cooperation with the Government of the Russian Federation for prompting mutually beneficial decisions on the agreements elaborated during the February session of the Supreme State Council.

    The President of Belarus and the Prime Minister considered the issues of supporting the Belarusian industry. The Government has submitted for the President’s consideration a proposal to support large companies of the motor-car industry, aggregate plants, other sectors of the economy. Q1 2009 showed some difficulties in the sales of the Belarusian products at the country’s traditional markets. The Government suggested that the country support the national industrial sector in this respect.

    The Prime Minister informed the President about the activity of the organizing committee for preparations to celebrate the 65th anniversary of liberating Belarus from the Nazis. The issues of providing support to war participants are under permanent control of the Council of Ministers. The President stressed, these people should receive the closest attention from the state.

    The meeting also highlighted several issues regarding the economy liberalization, taxation of income and the sowing campaign.

    Sergei Martynov: Belarus for equal participation in Eastern Partnership

    From: BelTA
    Belarus is in favour of a proposal to participate in the Eastern Partnership project, said Foreign Minister of the Republic of Belarus Sergei Martynov following the meeting with Minister-President of German Federal Land Brandenburg Matthias Platzeck on April 6.

    “It is crucial for us that the Eastern Partnership project be based on equal participation of all states,” Sergei Martynov said.

    According to him, the participation of Belarus in this initiative was high on the agenda during the meeting with the German delegation led by Matthias Platzeck.

    According to the Minister-President of German Federal Land Brandenburg, Belarus’ participation in the Eastern Partnership initiative is a positive move.

    Matthias Platzeck praises progress in Belarus-EU relations

    There is progress in the Belarus-EU relations, Minister-President of German Federal Land Brandenburg Matthias Platzeck told reporters in Minsk.

    “I have been watching the development of the relations for a while and can say that there is certain progress. I am very happy about this,” Matthias Platzeck said. He expressed hope that Belarus’ participation in the Eastern Partnership programme will promote this progress.

    “Isolation is never useful. There are cases when it is necessary, yet they are very rare,” Matthias Platzeck said.

    According to Matthias Platzeck, important economic agreements have bee reached in Minsk. They will help strengthen bilateral trade and economic relations.

    West 2009 exercise to test Union State defense strategies

    From: BelTA
    The forthcoming joint Belarus-Russia operative and strategic exercise West 2009 is aimed to test one of the possible scenarios of launching aggression against the Union State of Belarus and Russia, chief of the air force and air defence force of the Armed Forces of Belarus Major-General Igor Azarenok told a press conference in Minsk on April 8.

    According to Igor Azarenok, the Armed Forces of Belarus and Russia are to give an adequate response to the aggression of the enemy and defend the Union State. The participation in the West 2009 exercise will become one of the major events to prepare the air forces and air defence forces of Belarus in 2009.

    A reminder, on March 10 President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko approved the concept of the operative and strategic exercise West 2009. Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Nikolai Makarov and his Belarusian counterpart Sergei Gurulev signed the concept of the forthcoming exercise in Minsk on April 7.

    The aim of the exercise is to drill the skills in joint planning and management of the untied regional defense system in a local conflict.

    The upcoming exercise is going to be the largest in terms of the forces and means to be involved. Up to 13,000 servicemen will take part in the exercise. Russia will send land and air forces including air, air-defence and radio-electronic combat forces. More than 2,000 servicemen will be called out of the reserve in Belarus. The theme of the exercise is “Preparation and use of the regional forces of the armed forces of Belarus and Russia to ensure security of the Union State.”

    The exercise will aim at improving the quality and enhancing the efficient functioning of the regional forces of Belarus and Russia in the context of ensuring military security of the Union State. The exercise will become the most important event for the Belarusian Armed Forces in 2009 and another serious examination of their readiness and ability to secure peace, safety and stability in any military-political and strategic situation.

    During the West 2009 strategic exercise the Belarusian military will carry out a combat task at the Russian firing ranges Ashuluk and Telemba. The precise date of field firing and the exercise will be unveiled by autumn.

    The main purpose of the manoeuvres is to define the activity of the regional military taskforce. Besides, on February 3, 2009 Belarus and Russia signed an agreement to create the united regional air defence system what needs practical approbation as well.

    Belarus-Russia United Regional Air Defense System set up for defensive purposes only

    The United Regional Air Defense System of Belarus and Russia is being created for defensive purposes only, Air Force and Air Defence Commander of the Armed Forces Major-General Igor Azarenok told press conference in Minsk on April 8.

    “The word-combination “air defense” where the word “defense” is the key one demonstrates a peaceful character of the united regional system development,” Igor Azarenok said.

    According to him, Belarus-Russia cooperation in the air defense issues is based on the Union State common air border, similar armament, unified air traffic control system and common principles of using air defence facilities.

    Within the framework of the Belarus-Russia United Air Defence System, the two sides plan to reduce expenditures for the air defence maintenance, ensure the equal access to new technologies that help them implement the joint projects dealing with the air defence equipment and arms.

    All in all, the United Air Defence System will include 21 military units. The final list of the units is to be approved by the defence ministers of both the countries within three months from the date of signing the agreement. Preliminary, the United Air Defence System will include five aviation units, ten air defence missile units, five radio-technical units and a radioelectronic warfare unit.

    The United Air Defence System is expected to join the Belarusian and Russian military units and formations which are stationed on the territory of the East-European Collective Security Region (Belarus, Kaliningrad region and Russian border regions).

  • Economics...

    Belarusian ruble remains stable against basket of currencies

    From: BelTA
    The exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the basket of currencies remains stable. As of April 9 the value of the basket of foreign currencies will be set at Br960,13. The figure corresponds to the exchange rate of the national currency against the basket set on January 2 after a 20% single-step devaluation of the Belarusian ruble. It has been staying at virtually the same level for the last few days, BelTA has learnt.

    During the trading session at the Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange on April 8 the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the US dollar reached Br2,830 per $1 (Br23 up since the previous trading session).

    The exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the euro rose by Br17 to make up Br3,733 per ˆ1. The exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the Russian ruble went up by Br0.30 to reach Br83.78 per RUB1.

    Thus, since the beginning of the year when the one-time devaluation was enforced, the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the US dollar set by the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus for April 9 has decreased by 6.79%, the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the euro has shrank by 0.81% while the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the Russian ruble has increased by 7.08%.

    BelTA reported earlier, in 2009 the National Bank pegged the Belarusian ruble to the basket of three currencies – the US dollar, the euro and the Russian ruble.

    Belarus, Russia to continue working on making Russian ruble regional reserve currency

    Belarus and Russia will continue working on an agreement to make the Russian ruble the reserve regional currency, Andrei Kuznetsov, economic counselor of the Russian Embassy in Belarus, told reporters in Minsk on April 8.

    This issue has been already discussed before the crisis broke out period. Yet, the implementation of this idea takes time. The finance ministries of the two countries, the Central Bank of Russia and the National Bank of Belarus are now working on the agreement.

    In 2009, Belarus had a huge deficit in the trade with Russia, $13 billion, Andrei Kuznetsov noted. If we exclude the energy goods and raw materials imported by Belarus from Russia, the trade would be more balanced, with Belarus having a $1 billion surplus. In the bilateral trade these goods are paid in Russian and Belarusian rubles.

    At present, the central banks of Belarus and Russia are closely watching trade transactions between the two countries. In 2009, the trade balance will be different as for the two months this year, the trade between the countries downed almost by 50%.

    Beer production down 3.8% in Belarus in Q1

    In January-March, the production of beer in Belarus amounted to 7,763 million decaliters, down 3.8% over the same period 2008, BelTA learnt from the Belgospischeprom concern.

    In January-March, Olivaria Brewery increased the production by 30.2% to 1.6 million decaliters, Krinitsa by 7.8% to 3.3 million decaliters, Lidskoye Pivo by 4.3% to 1 million decaliters. Other breweries reduced the production: Syabar by 35.9% to 906,000 decalitres, Brestskoye Pivo by 16.2% to 497,000 decalitres, Rechitsapivo by 56.3% to 262,000 decalitres.

    The fall in production came on the back of falling sales which is explained in many things by the fact that beer sale through street kiosks has been banned in Minsk. Beer import is still high, the concern said. In January the import was down by 11.7% and in January-February it increased again, by 2.8% over the same period last year, to 913,400 decalitres.

    Krinitsa accounted for 42.7% of the Q1 sales (38.1% in January-March 2008). Olivaria holds the second position with 21.1% (15.6%). Then goes Lidskoye Pivo with 13.6% (12.6%), Syabar 11.7% (7.5%). Brestskoye Pivo holds 6.4% of the market (7.4% in Q1 last year), Rechitsapivo 3.4% (7.4%).

    According to the brewery industry development programme in 2009, the production of beer is projected to make up 55 million decaliters of beer. There are nine breweries in Belarus. In 2008, the output was 35,342 million, down 0.5% from 2007.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Belarus president tells officials not to grovel to Russia

    From: Ria Novosti
    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused Russia on Tuesday of failing to fulfill bilateral economic agreements and called on Belarusian officials to "stop kneeling in Russian offices."

    "As regards Russia, there's not exactly fair treatment here, and I'm not afraid to announce it publicly. We agreed that we will pay $150 for gas each quarter. And then other people come and say it's a bit too little. What we agreed is not getting anywhere," Lukashenko said during a visit to the Gomel Region.

    Russian Ambassador to Minsk Alexander Surikov said in February the price of Russian natural gas for Belarus would average $150 per 1,000 cu m in 2009, adding that everything would depend on crude and oil derivatives prices.

    However, Russian energy giant Gazprom denied in March that any agreement had been reached on an "average" price for gas deliveries in 2009 or that the price would be linked to world oil prices.

    Lukashenko also said Belarus should not "fixate" on selling goods in Russia. "Our officials need to stop kneeling in Russian offices. If they don't want to let us onto their markets, we will seek other export vectors," the president said.

    "Life itself teaches us and forces us to diversify exports. Our products are of normal quality, they are quite competitive. We will always be present on the Russian market, but we need to master other markets as well," he said.

    In February, Lukashenko said there were problems regarding the access of Belarusian goods to the Russian market. In particular, there was talk of restricting the deliveries of Belarusian medicines, meat, dairy products and confectionery.

    Russia to supply advanced surface-to-air missiles to Belarus

    From: Ria
    Russia is to deliver S-400 Triumf (SA-21 Growler) surface-to-air missile systems to Belarus under an integrated air-defense agreement, a senior Belarusian military official said on Wednesday.

    Igor Azarenok, commander of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces, said the countries' defense ministries were currently discussing delivery terms.

    The S-400 is designed to intercept and destroy airborne targets at a distance of up to 400 kilometers (250 miles), twice the range of the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot, and 2 1/2 times that of the S-300PMU-2.

    The system is also believed to be able to destroy stealth aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, and is effective at ranges up to 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) and speeds up to 4.8 kilometers (3 miles) per second.

    Azarenok also said the Russian and Belarusian parliaments would ratify the integrated air-defense agreement in May.

    He said Belarus would modernize its Air Force by buying new warplanes from Russia and upgrading others.

    The official said the Belarusian Air Force and Air Defense Forces had plans to conduct over 200 various drills, exercises, and field training sessions.

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

    It will comprise five Air Force units, 10 anti-aircraft units, five technical service and support units and one electronic warfare unit, and will be placed under the command of a Russian or Belarusian Air Force or Air Defense Force senior commander.

    Eastern Partnership to be launched in Prague in one month

    The informal summit, organised by the Czech EU presidency, that is to launch the Eastern Partnership project with six post-Soviet countries will be held in Prague exactly in a month, the Czech government's EU committee decided today, minister Alexandr Vondra told reporters.

    Deputy PM for European Affairs Vondra added that the decision on inviting authoritarian Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko to the summit would be made at the very last moment.

    Eastern Partnership, which is one of the priorities of the current Czech EU presidency, is to reinforce cooperation with six former Soviet Union countries - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

    Vondra said its strategic goal is to "strengthen sovereignty, independence, democracy and market economy in these countries."

    He stressed that none of these countries is yet prepared for EU membership and that the Eastern Partnership programme should "bridge the period" till the distant future when the EU accession talks with these countries might be launched.

    The Prague summit will result in a joint declaration of the EU and the six countries that will kick off multilateral as well as bilateral cooperation, Vondra added.

    In relation to Belarus, it is important to motivate Minsk to positive rather than negative steps, Vondra said.

    "This European policy has so far produced partial results. However, we are far from saying that the situation has considerably improved," Vondra added.

    The Czech government in resignation decided to host the summit closely before the agreed date of its departure.

    The centre-right coalition cabinet of the Civic Democrats (ODS), the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Greens (SZ), offered its resignation in late March in the middle of the Czech EU presidency after it lost no-confidence vote, initiated by the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), in the Chamber of Deputies.

    The coalition and the CSSD on Sunday agreed on an interim government of unaffiliated experts to be appointed as from May 9. The new cabinet should rule until early elections to be held by October 15, most probably on October 9-10, according to the agreement.

    Belarus to continue the sowing campaign

    From: Agrimarket
    To date, agrarians sowed spring grains and legumes throughout 228.200 ha or 22% of planned areas. Gomel and Brest oblasts show the highest rates of the sowing campaign, where agrarians provided the filed works throughout 54.7% and 47.4% of planned areas respectively. Agricultural economies of Grodno oblast sowed 29% of land areas, Minsk oblast – 13%, Mogilev oblast – 3.5%, Vitebsk oblast – nearly 1%. Favorable weather conditions, sufficient level of preparation of agricultural technical equipment and reserves of fuel allow to agrarians to increase the rates of the sowing campaign, declared Darya Kozlovskaya, the press secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

    Agrarians continue providing additional fertilizing of winter grains. Agricultural economies of Brest oblast introduced fertilizers throughout 77.9% of sowings, Gomel oblast –75.5%, Grodno oblast –63.6%, Minsk oblast –36.6%, Mogilev oblast – 13.2%, Vitebsk oblast –8.2%.

    Belarus to fasten rates of the sowing campaign

    In the current year, Belarus became behindhand with the rates of the sowing campaign by five days compared to the previous year due to the unfavorable weather conditions, declared Darya Kozlovskaya, the press secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, on April 6.

    In such situation, the Ministry charged the agricultural organizations to provide the sowing campaign undertime. At the same time, it is important that the rates of the campaign will not damage the quality of crops, according to the press secretary.

    To date all oblasts of the country started the sowing campaign. Brest oblast sowed spring grains and legumes throughout 61.600 ha or 40% of planned areas, Gomel oblast – 57.700 ha (44.8%), Grodno oblast – 28.200 ha (20%), Minsk oblast – 26.600 ha (9.5%), Mogilev oblast – 3.110 ha (2%), Vitebsk oblast – 680 ha (0.4%).

    Agrarians also prepare for harvesting campaign of forage crops.

    Analyst: Politics Prevent Belarus From Getting Russian Money

    From: RFE/RL
    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) with his Belarusian counterpart Alyaksandr Lukashenka in March
    Russia refused Belarus a 100 billion ruble ($2.96 billion) loan because the two countries have "unresolved problems" like "Belarus's reorientation toward the West, the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, [and] the access of Russian capital to Belarus," political scientist Yury Chavusau told RFE/RL's Belarus Service.

    Chavusau said the Russian-Belarusian "agenda" is generally known, and it makes it "impossible" for Belarus to get money from Russia.

    Russian authorities told reporters on April 2 that the loan was denied because the country has already loaned Belarus some $4 billion. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said that the loan would help the Russian ruble become a "real full-bodied regional currency" and is necessary for the country's "energy deliveries."

    But some experts say Moscow wants Minsk to recognize the Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

    Russia recognized the independence republics in August and only Nicaragua has joined Moscow in recognizing the regions and countries.

  • From the Opposition...

    Gazprom makes Belarusian regime pay according to contract

    From: Charter '97
    Belarus must pay for gas according to the contracted price, providing price adjustment every three months.

    Interfax learnt this from Andrei Kuznetsov, aide on economic issues of the Russian embassy in Belarus.

    “Paying $150 in January–September means withdrawing of the contract. Who will resolve to do this?” A. Kuznetsov wonders.

    “Gas prices for Belarus in the first and second quarters of the year will meet the terms of the contract,” he added.

    The representative of the embassy also stressed that “in February–March, Gazprom paid in advance about $250 million for a year’s gas transit via Belarus to compensate for additional expenses of the Belarusian party in the first quarter.”

    According to him, “The average price for Belarus for the first half of the year will be calculated taking into account this sum, which is in fact a technical loan. The mechanisms are different, but a result is the same – the average year’s price.

    Kuznetsov also said Gazprom didn’t fine Beltransgaz for incomplete gas sampling in 2008, though the sanctions may have been significant – some tens of millions dollars.

    “I have clarified this issue,” he stressed. He supposed the Belarusian authorities were given incorrect information about the matter.

    It should be reminded that Alyaksandr Lukashenka said during his working visit to the Homel region on April 7:

    “We are not tapping gas, but they impose sanctions on us. We have agreed on a price of $150 for gas, but then others arrive and say we must pay more.”

    In early 2009, Belarus applied Gazprom and the Russian government asking to allow Beltransgaz to pay the calculated year’s average price, 150 per 1,000 cu m of Russian gas, in January–September 2009 with additional calculations in the last quarter of the year.

    The Belarusian side explains its request with sharp increase in gas import prices in the first quarter – 1.6-fold in comparison with the fourth quarter up to $210 per 1,000 cu m, that can be explained with high cost of oil and oil products in the first half if year 2008 (taking into account the time lag, using in the contract to peg gas prices to oil basket). Taking into consideration decline in oil prices since the second half of year 2008, gas prices for Belarus in the second quarter 2009 will decrease down to $160 per 1,000 cu m. It is forecasted that gas prices for Belarus will have declined to $90 per 1,000 cu m by the end of the year.

    Belarus paid for gas at $150 per 1,000 cu m for January–February. Andrei Kruglov, deputy chairman of Gazprom said in late March “Belarus paid for gas deliveries in accordance with the contract. Actually, there had been no doubts.”

    In 2008, Beltransgaz got 21.1 billion cubic metres of gas for inner needs of Belarus that is up 2.4% over 2007 and by 2.4 % less volume planned.

    In 2008 the volume of gas transit via Belarus increased by 3.8% to 51.3 billion cubic metres (6.2% above the projections). Some 18.5 billion cubic metres were pumped through the Beltransgaz gas transport system (up 1.1% over 2007, and 19.2% above the projection); 32.8 billion cubic metres were moved through the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline as it was projected (up 5.5% from 2007).

    Public statement: Human Rights Center

    From: Viasna
    On 31 March 2009 Vitsebsk human rights activist, a founder of the public human rights association Nasha Viasna Leanid Svetsik received charges under two articles of the Criminal Code – fomentation of racial, national or religious enmity (Article 130 of the Criminal Code) and defamation of the president (Article 367 of the Criminal Code).

    Human Rights Center Viasna considers these charges as groundless and absurd. In 2006-2007 Leanid Svetsik gave consultations to the people who had received anonymous threat letters on behalf of the Russian neo-Nazi organization Russian National Unity (RNE) and helped them to compose complaints to the prosecutor’s office. The criminal case on the fact of the RNU threats was brought by Vitsebsk and Vitsebsk oblast KGB department only on 20 May 2000. On 23 May a nine-hour search was conducted in the apartment of the human rights defender. The search was sanctioned by the prosecutor’s warrant, in which Leanid Svetsik was mentioned as a witness. In September 2008 the case against Leanid Svetsik was suspended. In March 2009 it was reopened and our colleague appeared there in the status of the accused.

    Human Rights Center Viasna considers the criminal persecution of Leanid Svetsik as an attempt of the authorities to discredit the human rights activist and take revenge on him for the public activities.

    We call on the Belarusian authorities to stop the unfair persecution of Leanid Svetsik and the Belarusian civil society – to maximally support the human rights defenders by all legal means possible. We call on the international community to influence the Belarusian authorities with the aim to stop the disgraceful reprisal of the human rights defender.

  • Around the Region...

    Protests in Moldova Explode, With Help of Twitter

    From: NYTimes
    Young Moldovan protesters, mostly students, waved European Union (EU) flags and shouted anti-Communist slogans as smoke billowed from a fire outside the parliament building in Chisinau, Moldova's capital. Although Moldova's ruling Communist party gained enough votes to hold on to power in parliament in April 5 elections, they lacked the number of seats to install a new president.
    A crowd of more than 10,000 young Moldovans materialized seemingly out of nowhere on Tuesday to protest against Moldova’s Communist leadership, ransacking government buildings and clashing with the police.

    The sea of young people reflected the deep generation gap that has developed in Moldova, and the protesters used their generation’s tools, gathering the crowd by enlisting text-messaging, Facebook and Twitter, the social messaging network.

    The protesters created their own searchable tag on Twitter, rallying Moldovans to join and propelling events in this small former Soviet state onto a Twitter list of newly popular topics, so people around the world could keep track.

    By Tuesday night, the seat of government had been badly battered and scores of people had been injured. But riot police had regained control of the president’s offices and Parliament Wednesday.

    After hundreds of firsthand accounts flooded onto the Internet via Twitter, Internet service in Chisinau, the capital, was abruptly cut off.

    There was no sign that the authorities would cede to any of the protesters’ demands, and President Vladimir Voronin denounced the organizers as “fascists intoxicated with hatred.”

    But Mihai Fusu, 48, a theater director who spent much of the day on the edges of the crowd, said he believed that a reservoir of political energy had found its way into public life.

    “Moldova is like a sealed jar, and youth want more access to Europe,” he said. “Everyone knows that Moldova is the smallest, poorest and the most disgraceful country. And youth are talking about how they want freedom, Europe and a different life.”

    Young people have increasingly used the Internet to mobilize politically; cellphones and text messages helped swell protests in Ukraine in 2004, and in Belarus in 2006.

    The immediate cause of the protests were parliamentary elections held on Sunday, in which Communists won 50 percent of the vote, enough to allow them to select a new president and amend the Constitution. Though the Communists were expected to win, their showing was stronger than expected, and opposition leaders accused the government of vote-rigging.

    Election observers from the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had tentatively accepted the voting as fair, though they expressed some concern about interference from the authorities. But the results were a deep disappointment in the capital, where Communist candidates lost the last round of municipal elections.

    “In the air, there was a strong expectation of change, but that did not happen,” said Matti Sidoroff, a spokesman for the O.S.C.E.’s mission in Moldova.

    Behind the confrontation is a split in Moldova’s population. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought benefits to much of Eastern Europe, but in Moldova it ushered in economic decline and instability. In 2001, angry citizens backed the return of the Communists and their social programs.

    But Moldova remained desperately poor, and young people flocked overseas to work. They have looked to the West as the best path to economic stability and have defied Mr. Voronin’s government by urging closer integration with Romania.

    The global financial crisis has eliminated overseas jobs, sending many of the young people back to Chisinau, their horizons suddenly narrowed, said Carroll Patterson, who is finishing his doctoral dissertation on economic changes in Moldova.

    “I wouldn’t necessarily call it an anti-Communist movement,” Mr. Patterson said. “This really is a generational squeeze. It’s not really the Communists versus the opposition. It’s the grandmothers versus the grandkids.”

    The protests apparently started on Monday, when organizers from two youth movements, Hyde Park and ThinkMoldova, began calling for people to gather at an event billed as “I am a not a Communist.” Natalia Morar, one of the leaders of ThinkMoldova, described the effort on her blog as “six people, 10 minutes for brainstorming and decision-making, several hours of disseminating information through networks, Facebook, blogs, SMSs and e-mails.”

    “And 15,000 youths came out into the streets!” she wrote.

    The participants at that first gathering, on Monday, dispersed peacefully. But demonstrations on Tuesday spun out of control. News coverage showed protesters throwing stones at the windows of Parliament and the presidential palace, removing furniture and lighting it on fire. Riot police officers shielded their heads as demonstrators pelted them with stones. The police then used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Fires continued to burn late into the night.

    Russia says Moldova riots undermine sovereignty

    From: Reuters
    Russia's foreign ministry said on Wednesday that riots in Moldova were a plot aimed at undermining the sovereignty of the ex-Soviet state, pointing a finger at forces which favour a reunion with Romania.

    "Judging by the slogans shouted in the squares, plenty of Romanian flags in the hands of organisers of these outrages, their aim is to discredit the achievements in strengthening the sovereignty of Moldova," it said in a statement.

    "The Russian foreign ministry hopes that common sense will prevail, public and constitutional order will be restored in the next few days and the choice of the Moldovan citizens will be confirmed by all politically responsible forces," it added.

    Russia's Medvedev reminds Putin party who's boss

    From: Reuters
    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday warned the ruling party of powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that its new powers to nominate regional governors should not create the illusion it can overrule the Kremlin.

    Putin became the head of United Russia when his presidential term ended last year in what was widely seen as a bid to boost his political capital and maintain control from beyond the Kremlin.

    The party's role is set to be boosted further through a proposed law that would give the majority political party in Russia's regional assemblies -- in most cases United Russia -- the exclusive right to nominate powerful governors.

    "This decision will create unique opportunities for the party which comes with unique responsibilities," Medvedev told United Russia leaders at a meeting in his official Barvikha residence outside Moscow.

    "But of course, it will be the president rather than the party that will make the final decision. There should be no illusions here," he said.

    United Russia, whose coalition controls over two-thirds of votes in parliament has the power to veto the hiring and firing of prime ministers and could instigate the impeachment of the president.

    Despite his alliance with Putin, Medvedev has recently shown signs of increasing independence and has suggested Russia needs a more flexible political system. He has criticized the concept of "managed democracy" and has offered less hostility to the West than Putin did.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Dirty Polish Link

    From: Herald
    Costa Nhaominesu
    THE controversial transfer of a Zimbabwean player to a Polish club — whose reputation was battered by its links to a match-fixing web that triggered its forced relegation from the top-flight league last season — has become a key part of investigations into doggy transfers on the domestic scene.

    The investigation has already attracted the interest of world football governing body Fifa.

    Four Zimbabwean players were all cleared to play in Poland on the same day, from the same local club, last year and their bloc transfer has become a big part of investigations involving suspected local ghost clubs.

    One of the Polish clubs involved in the transfers had its reputation soiled when it was involved in a match-fixing scandal which forced football authorities in that country to forcibly relegate it from the top-flight league — the Ekstraklasa — last season.

    All the four Zimbabwean players were transferred from DT Africa United — a local football franchise that turned into a ghost club after it withdrew from the Zifa Division Two league last year, without kicking a ball all season, citing international commitments.

    DT Africa United were also behind the transfer of Zimbabwe international forward Clemence Matawu to Poland this year — a move that has sparked a storm amid revelations that it was plagued by gross irregularities.

    The country’s football leadership has been asked to compile a dossier of international transfers, involving Zimbabwean players, so that Fifa can revisit all the transactions and establish whether there was serious breach of protocol in the deals.

    There are serious concerns that some ghost clubs and agents could be taking advantage of Zimbabwean players — desperate for a move abroad — to short-change them through dubious deals where the players earn peanuts while the clubs pocket the lion’s share from the deals.

    Four Zimbabwean players — Costa Nhaominesu, Patmore Shereni, Ndabenkulu Ncube and Clarence Foroma — were transferred in February last year from DT Africa United to clubs in Poland.

    The 23-year-old Nhamoinesu, a gifted individual who impressed at Masvingo United, was the player with the biggest profile among the quartet whose International Transfer Certificates were issued on the same day in February last year.

    The gangly left-sided midfielder’s contract with Masvingo United expired at the end of the domestic season in 2007 and he was immediately lured to the capital where he signed a deal with DT Africa United.

    He did not play even a single game for the club — who did not kick a ball all season — and, just a month after joining them, he was on his way to Poland where he joined Zaglebie Lubin who had won the Polish championship the previous season.

    Masvingo United, who played a big part in the player’s development and spent a fortune in giving him a platform to showcase his talent and attract the interest of the foreign clubs, did not get even a single cent in return for the investment.

    Instead, DT Africa United, who signed him in the month that he left for Poland, appear to be the club who reaped huge benefits from his transfer.

    Nhamoinesu, though, did not join a club that was in the top-flight league but one that had been forcibly relegated into League One following revelations that they had taken part in a match-fixing web that led to their promotion into the Ekstraklasa at the end of the 2004/2005 season.

    Other Polish clubs — Wiezew Lodz, Arka Gdynia, Gornik Leczna, Gornik Polkowice, Jagiellonia Bialystoc, KSZO Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski and Zaglebie — were also forced down a division by the country’s football authorities due to their involvement in this web of corruption.

    They were also docked points as part of the punishment.

    Seventeen people — including several referees and officials of the Polish Football Federation — received suspended prison sentences for their part in the scandal.

    Nhamoinesu’s International Transfer Certificate was issued on February 28 2008 — the same day that the same documents were issued for the transfer of Shereni, Ncube and Foroma to Polish clubs.

    Shereni, the younger brother of former Zimbabwe international Harlington, is now at Podbeskidzie Beilsko Biala — the same League One club that Matawu joined in February this year.

    Ncube, an unheralded 21-year-old player, and Foroma — a nomadic striker who has played for a number of clubs on the domestic scene — are both at Wisla Ustronianka.

    The International Transfer Certificate Number for Nhamoinesu is 1092, for Shereni is 1093, for Ncube is 1094 and for Foroma is 1095.

    Virtually all the players who are transferred from DT Africa United into Poland go under the pretext that they are either on attachment — or on a free loan — suggesting that there is no financial component involved in their move.

    However, local football authorities suspect that this could be part of a grand scheme to conceal earnings from the transfers, which go into the off-shore accounts of the ghost clubs and agents, by giving an impression that the players are going for free.

    The link between DT Africa United and a club caught up in the corruption web that rocked Polish football could also give an insight into the possibility that there could be a number of secret transactions involving the transfer of Zimbabwean players to that country.

    If a club was found guilty of being part of a match-fixing scandal, chances are that the same club could be coerced to lie about the financial transactions involving the transfer of a player from Zimbabwe and thereby give local football authorities the impression that no money is changing hands.

    Given that player transfers in football involve huge sums of money, the income generated is supposed to be declared for tax purposes but a number of local clubs — especially the ghost franchises — have found a way to evade tax by claiming that players were going on loan for free.

    Yesterday Zifa chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya, who is helping Fifa with their investigations, said it was virtually impossible to believe that all the players who were being transferred from DT Africa United to Poland were going for free.

    "We would like to establish why DT Africa United appear so keen on signing these players, immediately after their contracts
    had expired, and then take them to Poland if there are no financial benefits for the club involved.

    "We would also like to establish whether players are being deliberately tapped from their clubs and influenced, not to extend their contracts, on the basis that if they join DT Africa United then they will be sent to Poland.

    "We also want to look at the direct benefits to the players because we don’t want a situation whereby we encourage something that is close to the export of cheap labour, where our players get peanuts, with these clubs getting all the fortune.

    "The issue of the ghost clubs and agents is also a big one given that it’s not just possible for a player to move from Masvingo United or Motor Action to a club that is not playing football at all here.

    "Then the next thing we hear is that the same player is now in Poland and his last club in Zimbabwe was DT Africa United when that club is not even part of the football family here and when that player has not played even a single game for that club."

    But given all these concerns, why then did Zifa issue the International Transfer Certificates for the players?

    "The key issue here is that we never wanted to place the player at a disadvantage given that we believed it was part of his development to move from the local league to one in Europe," said Rushwaya.

    "We put the football interests of the player first and in, doing so, we felt we were obliged to issue the International Transfer Certificate so that he can continue with his career — given that it is his only source of income.

    "As for the administrative part of things, like the questions we are now raising, it was our decision that this could be done without jeorpadising the football interests of the players and that is why we issued the ITCs.

    "If we had not issued the ITCs, it means that the players would not have completed their move and they would still be here, possibly without a club, while we continue with our investigations and we felt that would not be fair.

    "If you look at the focus of our investigations, you will see that it gives the player the benefit of doubt that he was probably coerced into a deal, with the prospects that it was his only way to go to Europe, and he jumped at it.

    "You will also realise that we are also looking at the direct benefits for the players — in these deals — so that they are not abused with the bulk of the money going into the pockets of clubs or agents.

    "We all want our players to go to Europe but we want proper football channels to be followed."

    The case involving the transfer of Zimbabwean players is already being handled by Fifa and Zifa have been in touch with the head of the world football governing body’s disciplinary and governance legal division, Paolo Lombardi.

    The Fifa investigation — precipitated by a complaint raised by Zifa — was sparked by the gross anomalies that surrounded Matawu’s move to Polish side Podbeskidzie Beilsko Biala.

    Matawu spent all his playing days, on the domestic scene, at Premiership club Motor Action who plucked him from obscurity and helped turn him into one of the best players who was good enough to win the Soccer Star of the Year in 2006.

    The anomalies related to his transfer include:

    l The fact that there is no real contract at Zifa, stating the period of attachment for Matawu at DT Africa United, and the details related to his perks.

    l The fact that the contract entered into between DT Africa United and Matawu was never submitted to the relevant football authorities, as should be the case, how then would it be used in the event of conflict resolution mechanisms?

    l The fact that in the event of a dispute, either financial or material that might arise from the marriage between Matawu and DT Africa United, how then can local football authorities intervene given that the club is not part of their structures?

    l Given the apparent desperation that can be detected in the player for a move abroad, to the extent that he signed with such a ghost club, what are the chances that his interests would be well protected in such a deal?

    l Was this deal a free loan transfer, as suggested by DT Africa United in their official correspondence, or was there a secret exchange of money that has been kept away from the relevant football authorities

    Poland raids suspected pedophiles' homes

    From: UPI
    Polish police said they arrested 68 people on suspicion they were involved in pedophilia-related crimes.

    In a large-scale raid against people believed to be distributing pornographic pictures of children, police searched 61 homes and confiscated 76 personal computers, Polish Radio said Wednesday.

    Karol Jakubowski, a head in the Polish Police Department said they also seized about 7,000 CDs, DVDs, diskettes, video cassettes and 19 hard discs.

    Investigating judges are currently processing charges against the detained suspects.

    If put on trial and found guilty, they are facing jail terms of up to eight years, the radio said.

    Goalie plays despite police charges

    From: CPH Post
    Charges for domestic violence have not affected OB’s goalkeeper from continuing to play for the club

    Odense Boldklub’s Polish goalkeeper Arek Onyszko is still the top man in front of the net for the team, despite the fact that he will be tried on charges of domestic violence.

    Onyszko played on Monday evening, when OB defeated Randers FC 3-1. He was given a huge round of applause by the Odense crowd when he headed out onto the pitch at the start of the match.

    Earlier this week, Onyszko was officially charged with assaulting his ex-wife, Anna. According to reports he dragged her by the hair and punched her.
    The media have been silent on the issue of whether the goalkeeper should continue to play or be suspended until his court case is decided.

    14-years-old boy caught speeding at 170 km per hour

    From: The news
    A 14-years-old boy has been caught by police on the motorway in the eastern region of Biala Podlaska driving Audi A3 at 170 km per hour.

    He was accompanied by his mother who was sitting at the front. When the police stopped the car the mother came out and tried to convince them that it was her who drove the vehicle. When it turned out that the driver was her under-age son, she explained she wanted to teach him how to drive. She assured the police that “the situation was under control”.

    The 49-years-old woman was fined with 300 zlotys ticket for giving her car to a person without driving license. She will also be sued by a family court for neglecting her duties as a parent, which results in two years of imprisonment.

    If the court rules that she consciously exposed her son’s life to danger, she may spend up to 5 years in prison.

  • Sport...

    Injured Azarenka to miss Family Circle Cup

    From: CNN
    Belarussian Victoria Azarenka has pulled out of next week's star-studded Family Circle Cup tournament in the United States with a shoulder injury.

    Azarenka, who beat world No.1 Serena Williams to win the Sony Ericsson Open at Key Biscayne on Saturday, said in a statement released by organizers that she was "really sorry" that she would not be able to compete because of a problem with her right shoulder.

    The straight sets victory over Williams in the WTA Top Tier event saw the 19-year-old climb to a career-high eighth in the world rankings after her third tournament victory of 2009.

    Williams, who is the defending champion at the Family Circle Cup, played the final in Miami with a heavily-strapped left thigh, leading to fears that she too would skip next week's event.

    Williams, who beat Vera Zvonarava to win last year, would lose valuable ranking points as she bids to stay world number one if she could not compete.

    Her sister Venus and world number three Elena Dementieva are other star attractions in the line-up for the tournament which sees the players revert to clay courts ahead of the French Open in Paris next month.

    Indian Wells winner Zvonareva and fellow-Russian Nadia Petrova are also in the field with the $1 million tournament starting with qualifying on Saturday.

  • Endnote...

    Poland still hates cyclists: sees drunken cyclists as criminals

    From: UPI
    The Polish Constitutional Court has ruled drunken bicyclists could be punished the same way as drunken motorists and not as intoxicated pedestrians.

    Intoxicated car and motorbike drivers are sanctioned under a penal code that deals with criminal offenders and, as of now, so will drunken cyclists in Poland will be treated likewise, the Polish Web site said Tuesday.

    For driving a bicycle, drunken Poles will face a fine and up to two years in jail, just as drunken motorists do, depending on their ability to "manage movement on land, in water or in air."

    Drunken pedestrians are sanctioned under offensive statutes and face temporary police detention and fines.

    The Constitutional Court was acting on a move submitted by western Poland's regional court in the Lubusz region.