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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Belarus supports youth, Oman, PACE, The arts, Selling, Traffikcing, Azerenko, Russia, Ukraine, Polish scandal and more...

  • From the Top...
  • #414

    Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus will further prioritize youth support projects

    From: BelTA
    Karina Pruss, member of the circus studio ‘Arena’ (Mozyr), winner of a 1st degree diploma at the international contest ‘Wonderland’, has been awarded a grand prix and the title of a laureate of the presidential talented youth special support fund
    The Belarusian state will further prioritize the projects “Children of Belarus”, “Youth of Belarus” and “Young Talents of Belarus”, said President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko as he met with the Belarusian gifted youth on May 25.

    “The growing generation has an opportunity to get modern, high-quality education, develop their skills and creativity, and have a good rest. We will further move in this direction,” Alexander Lukashenko underlined.

    Every school can offer extra-curriculum and other after-school activities to cater for a variety of interests. The brightest children study at 196 gymnasiums and 33 lyceums; young musicians, artists and performers attend 500 children’s art schools.

    The President underlined that the state support system for the fledgling intellectual and creative elite has proved to be working. Its efficiency is demonstrated by excellent results of young Belarusians at various prestigious competitions. The previous year was particularly fruitful, the head of state said. Thirty-three Belarusian schoolchildren became winners of international Olympiads, bringing 7 golden, 14 silver and 12 bronze medals. The Olympiad movement is gaining momentum in Belarus, too.

    Support to talented youth is provided by the special funds of the head of state. Last year alone the prizes and scholarships were given to more than 2,000 pupils, students and professors, more than 300 representatives of creative youth and 36 art groups. Last year Belarus hosted the CIS Youth Delphi Games and won 13 gold, 18 silver and 14 bronze medals. Alexander Lukashenko praised the performance of young singer Kristina Svetlichnaya at the Junior New Wave 2008 song contest. He stated with regret that so far Belarus has not achieved high results at seniour international song contests.

    The President wished that the high awards of the special funds of the head of state will inspire the young talents to get to new highs, to search for new ways in science and art. “But, please, remember about the big efforts that your teachers and parents have invested in every your victory. Please, appreciate their care, their lessons of art and mastery. And the main thing. Remember that you are Belarusians. Love your wonderful Motherland, glorify it through your talent,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus interested in stepping up economic cooperation with Oman

    From: BelTA
    Belarus is interested in enhancing trade and economic cooperation with Oman, said President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko as he met with Chairman of the State Council of Oman Yahya bin Mahfoudh al Manthri on May 26.

    “Your visit to Belarus can be called pivotal. We view your country as one of the most advanced and richest ones in the Persian Gulf. You have established extremely close relations with a very promising and significant country of the region, the United Arab Emirates,” the President said.

    Alexander Lukashenko said that he remembers very well his meeting with the Sultan of Oman during his visit to this country in April 2007. “Your leader knows everything - from peasant’s life to construction of modern day buildings,” the Belarusian head of state said.

    According to the President, he saw the willingness of the Sultan to develop good relations with Belarus. The sides, therefore, had to choose a mechanism to develop such relations. “In order to find the appropriate mechanism, one has to be familiar with the matter. I have already been to Oman, and now you will be able to see the country with which you might develop friendly relations. We will find the areas of common interest which will help us significantly advance our relations. I would like you to have a good memory of Belarus when you come back,” the Belarusian leader said.

    The Chairman of the State Council of Oman, in turn, thanked Alexander Lukashenko for the warm reception and on behalf of the Sultan of Oman wished Belarus prosperity and growth. “The history of our relations goes back to 1992 when the diplomatic relations were established between the two states, but it was your visit to Oman that brought the cooperation on a brand new level. We intend to develop friendly relations with Belarus. We hope that with your support and the support of the Sultan of Oman these relations will further develop,” Yahya bin Mahfoudh al Manthri underlined.

    The diplomatic relations between the Republic of Belarus and the Sultanate of Oman were established on July 23, 1992. In July 2007 Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman in the Russian Federation Abdullah bin Zaher bin Saif Al Hosni was accredited Ambassador in Belarus on-concurrent. The issue on appointing Belarus’ ambassador in Egypt an ambassador in Oman on concurrent is being considered. Honorary consulates operate in the two countries.

    On April 14-15, 2007, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko paid an official visit to the Sultanate of Oman. Invitations to visit Belarus have been sent to Sultan of Oman Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said, members of government and chiefs of research organisations.

    In 2009 Minsk will play host to another round of ministerial consultations.

    Belarus and Oman fruitfully cooperate in the UN bodies providing mutual support to each other in many areas, including protection of human rights. Oman upheld Belarus’ candidacy at the elections to ECOSOC 2006 and the UN Human Rights Council for the period of 2007-2010.

    The legal and treaty basis of the bilateral cooperation is in preparation. The sides have already signed intergovernmental agreements on trade and economic cooperation, mutual protection of investment, prevention of double taxation; a cooperation agreement between the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Oman; a cooperation agreement between Minsk and Muscat and a memorandum of understanding between the foreign ministries of the two states.

    The sides are preparing interstate agreements on providing legal assistance in investigating criminal and civil cases; intergovernmental agreements on air communications, visa free travels for holders of diplomatic and service passports, and a number of other interagency agreements (in education, tourism, sport, justice, culture and science).

    In 2008, the trade between Belarus and Oman amounted to about $12 million. Belarus is interested in selling its machinery to Oman. There are great prospects for investment cooperation and Belarus has a lot to offer here. Two major investment projects are currently being developed.

    Apart from investment, Oman is interested in the development of high-tech and scientific cooperation with Belarus. Joint projects in the tourism area are deemed promising, too.

    PACE commission recommends to restore Belarus’ special guest status

    From: BelTA
    PACE started to receive unbiased information about Belarus which influenced its decision to recommend the restoration of Belarus’ special guest status, Anatoly Glaz, deputy chairman of the permanent commission for human rights, national relations and mass media of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus, told reporters on May 26.

    The positive decision has mainly been attributed to the fact that PACE representatives have visited Belarus multiple times and could see with their own eyes what was going on in the country, while some ten years ago the opposition was virtually their only source of information about the country, the deputy said.

    According to the PACE charter, a special guest status is a transitional status. Taking into consideration that PACE unanimously voted for the restoration of this status for Belarus, Anatoly Glaz expressed confidence that Belarus will soon be admitted to this organization.

    According to him, the decision of the PACE political commission confirms the efficiency and openness of Belarusian policy towards Europe.

    Belarus, UK sign agreement on recuperation of Belarusian children

    The Republic of Belarus and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland signed an intergovernmental agreement on the terms of recuperation of Belarusian children in Great Britain on May 26. The agreement was concluded through the exchange of notes between the foreign ministries of Belarus and Great Britain, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

    The document establishes a legal framework for recuperation programmes of Belarusian children in the United Kingdom.

    Similar agreements have already been signed with Italy, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands.

    TV channel Belarus-TV now fully digital

    From: BelTA
    The international satellite TV channel Belarus-TV switched to digital broadcasts today, said Valery Radutsky, Head Director of the Belarus-TV Head Directorate, at a presentation of the TV channel in Moldova.

    Valery Radutsky said, the TV channel has plans to switch to HD broadcasts, extend its reach to the Far East of Russia, China, Vietnam and other countries of the region.

    The launch of Belarus-TV broadcasts in the USA, via local cable networks thanks to cooperation with France Telecom was mentioned as one of the key achievements of the company. At present the TV channel is available in 1,100 cities in 39 US states. Apart from that, Belarus-TV has become available to viewers in Canada, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala.

    The international satellite TV channel Belarus-TV has been broadcasting since February 1, 2005. Initially it broadcasted via satellites Intelsat 904, ABS-1. Since May 7, 2007 the TV channel is relayed via the satellite Express-AM22, which covers Russia and other CIS states as well as Europe, Middle East and Northern Africa. Since March 28, 2008 the TV channel is available in North America. Belarus-TV broadcasts are also available via the Internet.

    Belarus-TV channel now available on ten more Moldovan cable networks

    Another ten cable television operators signed contracts on Belarus-TV channel broadcasting at a presentation of the TV channel in Moldova, BelTA has learnt.

    The presentation was arranged by the Belarusian embassy in Moldova with assistance of Valery Radutsky, Head Director of the Belarus-TV Central Directorate, who informed Moldovan cable operators about the establishment of the channel, its development, achievements, future plans.

    The cable operators showed much interest in non-profit re-broadcasting of the Belarus-TV channel. Members of the Association of cable operators of Moldova, which operators already offer Belarus-TV programmes, remarked that Moldovan watchers like Belarus-TV due to the absence of advertising, availability of high-quality shows and interesting movies without crimes, blood and violence. The TV channel also allows ethnic Belarusians in Moldova to stay in touch with the motherland while other nationalities can learn more about Belarus and its people.

    A similar presentation is supposed to take place in Komrat, the central city of the Gagauzia autonomy in south Moldova, the next day. The number of cable operators offering Belarus-TV is expected to increase.

    At present Belarus-TV is available via about 40 cable operators of Moldova or two thirds of the country’s total number of operators.

    The international satellite TV channel Belarus-TV has been broadcasting since February 1, 2005. Initially it broadcasted via satellites Intelsat 904, ABS-1. Since May 7, 2007 the TV channel is relayed via the satellite Express-AM22, which covers Russia and other CIS states as well as Europe, Middle East and Northern Africa. Since March 28, 2008 the TV channel is available in North America. Belarus-TV broadcasts are also available via the Internet.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Новые миры белорусского искусства

    20 мая 2009 в 14.00 в конференц-зале Минской областной библиотеки им. Пушкина (ул. Гикало, 4) состоялась пресс-конференция, посвященная презентации арт-проекта “Белорусский павильон 53-ей Венецианской Биеннале”, который откроется 3 июня 2009 года в НВЦ «БелЭкспо» (ул.Я.Купалы, 27).

    В пресс-конференции принимали участие: Руслан Вашкевич, художник, автор идеи, координатор и куратор проекта “Белорусский павильон 53-ей Венецианской Биеннале” и Лизавета Михальчук, искусствовед, куратор проекта “Белорусский павильон 53-ей Венецианской Биеннале”.


    Размеры и масштабы

    На импровизированном павильоне 53 Венецианского биеннале в Минске будет представлено творчество 30 современных беларусских художников, скульпторов и фотографов. Среди них: Владимир Цеслер, Сергей Кирющенко, Артур Клинов, Владимир Порфенок, а так же молодые авторы: Андрей Ленкевич, Сергей Шабохин, Алексей Лунев, Михаил Гулин, Антонина Слободчикова. Организаторы взяли на себя ответственность выбрать лучших в своем деле авторов и назвать те имена, которые на сегодняшний день определяют направление современного белорусского. Насколько оправдан был выбор, будут судить зрители и авторитетное жюри. Призеров, соответственно, будет два, если только мнение жюри не совпадет с оценкой зрителей.

    Выставка должна поразить не только многообразием участкниов, но и масштабом экспозиции. Выставка расположится в павильоне площадью 81 квадратный метр. Каждому художнику будет предоставлено пространство в виде бокса, что превратит экспозицию во множество индивидуальных выставок, благодаря чему зритель сможет буквально окунуться в творчество каждого художника, а если еще и повезет, пообщаться с самим автором. Организаторы пообещали, что свои стенды будут «охранять» сами художники, так что у каждого посетителя будет возможность встретиться с беларусским искусством тет-а-тет.

    Почему такое название?

    Многие страны представляют свои достижения в области современного искусства на Венецианском биеннале. Это как Олимпийские игры для спортсменов: престиж государства зависит кроме всего прочего еще и от количества медалей. Но похоже нашей стране до Венецианского биеннале еще очень далеко. И эту ситуацию решили своими силами исправить сами художники, ведь они-то есть и творят и выставляются, правда, или подпольно, или в других странах. Этот проект – способ показать всем, что современное искусство в Беларуси не просто есть, а что оно нуждается в осмыслении, понимании и внимании, наконец. И тот факт, что организаторы называют эту выставку импровизированным национальным павильоном Беларуси, свидетельствует о том, что это серьезный шаг в осмыслении, самокритике, желании расшевелить зрителя и, возможно, заинтересовать официальные власти.
    Название 53 Венецианского биеннале «Создавая миры». Выставка в Минске тоже соотноситься с этой темой. Каждый художник – отдельный, уникальный и очень сложный мир, который можно увидеть на холсте, в скульптуре или в фотографии. Окунувшись в эти удивительные миры очень разных художников, можно заново увидеть свой собственный, или создать совершенно новый мир. И кто знает, может именно он вдохновит художника на новые открытия…
  • Note: For more photos from the conference, please click the link...

  • Economics...

    Sergei Sidorsky urges Belarusian producers to sell more

    From: BelTA
    Today we need to sell more than we produce to unload the stocks of ready-made goods, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky said at a session of the Council of Ministers.

    “We have agreed that the stocks of ready-made products at warehouses will not be increased. We do not need the indices for the sake of indices. We need good sales today, the Prime Minister said.

    According to the Premier, not all the sectors of the economy understand this. Sergei Sidorsky cited the example of the Bellesbumprom and Bellegprom Concerns and the Industry Ministry which have the largest volume of stocked goods at warehouses.

    On the whole, the amount of products stocked at warehouses in Belarus has reached almost Br7 trillion. In April it increased by Br191 billion. The situation started changing in March 2009. “We should sell more to avoid stockpiling of products,” Sergei Sidorsky said.Navany

    EuroChem may partake in modernising Belarusian chemical enterprises

    The President of Belarus is ready to consider proposals of the Russian investor concerning the modernisation of Belarusian chemical industry enterprises. Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko made the relevant statement as he met with Andrei Melnichenko, EuroChem Chairman of the Board of Directors, on May 26.

    “I would like us to sincerely discuss all EuroChem proposals and determine future avenues of our cooperation,” said the head of state.
    The President remarked, three Belarusian chemical enterprises are successful at international markets. “We are skilled at manufacturing nitrogenous, phosphorous, potash fertilisers,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko. “We have big plans for modernising these enterprises”. According to the head of state, the refitting of chemical industry enterprises should be accelerated. Belarus invests a lot in it.

    The President told the Russian investor that EuroChem is involved in the business, which is widespread in Belarus. EuroChem is Russia’s largest manufacturer of mineral fertilisers, one of Europe’s three largest companies and one of the world’s ten largest companies in the industry. “I like meeting with people doing a specific business,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    In turn, Andrei Melnichenko underscored that Belarus is an extremely interesting market for the company. The importance of the Belarusian market is huge as the country has well-developed agriculture and therefore needs lots of mineral fertilisers. He also remarked that in 2008 the company shipped $200 million worth of products to Belarus.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Belarus making strides in combating human trafficking, UN expert finds

    The United Nations independent expert on human trafficking today commended Belarus – which is creeping towards becoming a source, transit and destination country for victims – for its efforts to combat the scourge.

    “I am very impressed by the political commitment demonstrated at the highest level to combat all forms of trafficking in Belarus,” Joy Ngozi, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, said as she wrapped up a week-long visit to the country on 24 May.

    “Trafficking in persons is a huge global problem that has turned into one of the fastest-growing criminal activities in the world today, affecting virtually every country either as source, transit and/or destination country for women, children and men trafficked for the purposes of sexual labour or labour exploitation,” she stated.

    During the visit, which was carried out at the invitation of the Government, Ms. Ngozi met with senior officials and representatives of state institutions and non-governmental organizations working to combat trafficking. She also visited a shelter run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Territorial Center in the capital, Minsk, which provides a range of social assistance.

    Belarus has ratified the Protocol on Trafficking in Persons to the 2000 UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Protocol), under which States are required to take action to ensure the protection of trafficking victims, prevent trafficking and bring traffickers to justice.

    The country “is on the verge of occupying the unenviable status of being a source, transit and destination country, which undoubtedly is a growing concern to the Government and hence the good leadership it has shown in this field,” the Rapporteur said.

    Belarus has introduced legislation and amended its criminal code to effectively combat the scourge, while an action plan has been developed and is being implemented, she added.

    A high number of cases, also resulting in a high number of convictions, are being prosecuted. “The evidence of this huge success in prosecution indicates that the trafficking problem is not only real and serious in Belarus, but also that measures are being undertaken to deal with the menace,” Ms. Ngozi noted.

    She pointed out some areas in which the country could improve on this issue, such as boosting assistance to victims, ensuring that victims are not stigmatized, and addressing domestic violence which can perpetuate gender inequalities that can increase people’s vulnerability to trafficking.

    The Rapporteur, who was appointed to her position last June, reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity.

    Lieberman asks to meet with shunned Belarus leader

    From: Ha'aretz
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is to arrive in the Belarus capital Minsk on Wednesday, following up on his request for a meeting with President Alexander Lukashenko. About a year ago, Israel-Belarus relations became strained after Lukashenko, known in the West as "Europe's last dictator," made an anti-Semitic statement.

    Lieberman is to arrive in Minsk after a two-day visit to Moscow. He will meet with senior defense officials, the foreign minister and Jewish community leaders. It will be Lieberman's second visit to the city since he was appointed foreign minister. His first visit, a private one, came in February, a few days after the Knesset elections.

    Lieberman has visited Belarus several times in the past. As infrastructure minister in Ariel Sharon's government, Lieberman asked that the Foreign Ministry receive special funding to reopen the Israeli embassy in Minsk. He also sought the appointment of veteran diplomat Ze'ev Gur-Aryeh as ambassador to Belarus. Gur-Aryeh is currently Lieberman's adviser on the countries of the former Soviet Union. Advertisement

    Lukashenko has been close to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, as well as the Iranian and Sudanese regimes. These relationships led to a cooling of Belarus' ties with the United States and the European Union. The isolation has eased in recent months with the EU, though not with the United States.

    About a year ago, Lukashenko told the press that "the Jews have turned [the city] Bobruisk into a pigsty." He added that, "After all, it is a Jewish city, and the Jews do not take care of the place where they live. Look at Israel, I was there and saw it myself."

    Israel recalled its ambassador after the remarks. A few weeks later, Lukashenko sent a special envoy to Jerusalem with an apology.

    Lieberman's bureau said on Monday that Pope Benedict XVI and the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana had recently met with Lukashenko.

    "Most Western countries have representatives in Belarus, including the United States, " the bureau said, noting that Israel had returned its ambassador to Minsk.

    The bureau added that Belarus' response during the war in Gaza was "fair to Israel" and that during Israel's 60th anniversary, Belarus had "sent a plane full of its best artists to celebrate with Israel. Lukashenko apologized for his statement and the ambassador returned during the term of Lieberman's predecessor."

    Moody's reviews four banks in Belarus for downgrade

    From: Financial Mirror
    Moody's Investors Service has placed the ratings of four Belarusian banks on review for possible downgrade. The banks affected are Belagroprombank, Belarusbank, Belinvestbank and Belpromstroibank.

    The review of the deposit ratings will look at the extent to which Belarus's ability to provide support to its banking system, should such support be needed, has changed in the midst of the ongoing global economic and credit crisis.

    Moody's will review the specific circumstances of Belarus to determine the appropriate systemic support for Belarusian bank ratings and the implications for the four banks that have been identified as being potentially affected. Factors that the rating agency will consider in its assessment of systemic support include the size of the banking system in relation to government resources, the level of stress in the banking system, the foreign currency obligations of the banking systems relative to the government's own foreign exchange resources, and changes to government political patterns and priorities.

    The Belarusian banking system is highly concentrated in terms of state ownership and is extensively involved in financing the government-related sector, including state programmes. The government has been active in supporting the state-related banks with both liquidity and capital, as reflected by the recent capital injection of BYR3 trln (US$1.4 bln) in four state-owned banks in December 2008.

    Furthermore, the Belarusian government has been proactive in providing the banking system with various liquidity tools including unsecured lending from the National Bank of Belarus.

    However, Moody's also notes that the large state sector, which takes a prominent place in the Belarusian economy, could potentially require substantial government support, resulting in a strain on the government's resources and undermining its capability to support the banking sector without triggering adverse macroeconomic effects.

    Cuba-Belarus Joint Commission Meets in Minsk

    From: Cuba News
    The delegation from Belarus was headed by the vice-president of the Government of the Republic, Burya Viktor Pavlovich, while Cuba was headed by the Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Ricardo uerrero Blanco.

    The two parties assessed the fulfilment of accords in force as positive and analyzed commercial bilateral exchanges in 2008, verifying significant growth.

    Likewise, they agreed to retake the issue of negotiation for the joint production of medicines and vaccines in Belarus, and a Cooperation Agreement in the veterinary field was signed the governments of the republics of Belarus and Cuba.

    In addition, as part of the agenda of the Commission, Guerrero met with several Byelorussian ministers and other leaders from various spheres, the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s web site reports.

  • From the Opposition...

    National bank tries to make Belarusians to hand over foreign exchange

    From: Charter '97
    Last Friday an interesting fact became clear: buying and selling exchange rates of dollar in banks have become almost the same.

    In Monday, May 25, the difference between the buying and selling rates was little. In Absolutbank it was just 1 ruble. The citizens of Belarus never saw that before: they usually had to at least 100 rubles when buying a dollar as compared to the selling rate on the same day, “Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus” notes.

    “It is very convenient: you can secure yourself. You can buy dollars, wait a little and sell them in a situation… And you lose nothing in that,” noted an economist of the Research Centre of Entrepreneurship and management Institute Alyaksandr Chubrik. “And now, like before the New Year, the buying rate for foreign currency has become higher than in the National bank”.

    And indeed, dollar exchange rate in the National bank on Monday was 2,749 Br, and buying rate in the BPS-bank – 2,790 Br, 2,789 Br in Priorbank. The difference between the buying and selling rates in the banks was from 1 to 14 rubles. And what is going on with the exchange rates?

    “Banks are interested in buying foreign exchange cash,” Anatol Drazdou, head of the information department of the National bank of Belarus explained. “The National bank has set limits for margin at 2 %, and banks cannot raise the e4xchange rate higher than 2,804 Br per dollar. But banks want to buy dollars, so they offer people to sell the dollars they have at a more profitable rate of exchange”.

    - But people understand that the other way around – as an incentive to buy currency.

    - Nobody can make people sell currency. This market instrument is aimed at stimulation of selling.

    Uladzimir Labkovich: ‘As it turns out, since I use Belarusian, it is my personal problem how to take part in a trial’

    From: Viasna
    The famous Belarusian human rights activist and lawyer Uladzimir Labkovich has lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Justice against a judge of Hrodna Regional Court who refused to carry on a court hearing on 21 May in Belarusian. She also refused to provide an interpreter, saying it is the court who decides which language to use.
    The human rights expert hopes that under the circumstances the verdict of Hrodna Regional Court would be reversed and reconsidered.

    ‘It is a flagrant and sad fact, for if I were, say, a Vietnamese, they would have surely provided interpreting. As it turns out, since I use Belarusian, it is my personal problem how to take part in a trial,’ says Mr.Labkovich.

    Participants of anti-nuclear rally stand trial in Lida

    Today, on 25 May Lida Town Court fined a Young Front activist Hanna Bunko BYR 70,000 for participating in the 25 April anti-nuclear action, issuing a warning to another participant of the rally and a European Belarus member Yauhen Rudy. Another activist Yauhen Skrabets had been sentenced to 1 day of imprisonment a few days earlier.

    According to Ms.Bunko, two policemen testified against the teenagers.
    ‘He said I was too young so they will just warn me this time,’ said Yahen Rudy.

    The activists were arrested on 25 April in the town of Lida, as they were holding a banner ‘No to the New Chernobyl!’ and distributing leaflets with information on the danger of the construction of the new nuclear power plant in Belarus.

  • Around the Region...

    Russia, Ameren sign nuclear fuel deal

    From: Bizjournal
    Russia signed a deal Tuesday to supply nuclear fuel directly to U.S. companies, including Ameren Corp.

    Ameren, PG&E and Luminant signed deals to get more than $1 billion in uranium supplies from Russia’s state nuclear fuel exporter Tenex between 2014 and 2020, Reuters reported.

    The deal, which was announced at a ceremony in Moscow, will give Russia 20 percent of the U.S. uranium market, according to the wire service.

    The Russian fuel would be used initially to provide power to 5 million U.S. homes in Missouri, California and Texas, according to Reuters.

    Until last year, U.S. anti-dumping laws had only allowed Russia to sell the United States uranium recovered from dismantled Soviet nuclear weapons, Reuters reported.

    A request for comment from Ameren was not immediately returned.

    St. Louis-based Ameren Corp. (NYSE: AEE) provides electricity to about 2.4 million customers and natural gas to almost one million customers in eastern Missouri and Illinois. It had plans to build a second nuclear plant in Callaway County but has indefinitely postponed those plans.

    Reality Check For Russia

    From: Forbes
    Any lingering hopes of green shoots in Russia have been dashed after the latest government figures hinted that the former Soviet economy's toughest days in the recession were still ahead.

    Right up until last week, the government had forecast Russia's gross domestic product would contract a mere 2.2% in 2009--but new governmentfigures showed Monday that the economy contracted 9.5% in the first quarter from last year. The huge quarter-on-quarter drop of 23.2% was partly due to a large number of public holidays during the period.

    Figures for April were even worse: the economy contracted 10.5% in April, deputy economy minister Andrei Klepach said on Tuesday, predicting that the budget deficit could rise to as much as 9.0% of GDP. April retail figures slipped 5.0%, according to government figures.

    Monday's data highlighted Russia's official recognition that the collapse of oil prices, from $147 a barrel last July to $32 in January, and a staunch to the flow of credit has had a devastating impact on the economy. President Dmitry Medvedev said the Kremlin would soon introduce a program of strict economizing, and that the global economic crisis was "far from nearing the end."

    Natalia Orlova, an economist at Alfa Bank in Moscow, believes the Russian economy will reach a trough in the third quarter of this year, but says the government has been slow in offering stimulus to the real economy and its impact will only begin to be felt next year. In April, government spending accelerated by 40% compared to the January to March average.

    Gabriel Stein, chief economist at Lombard Street Research in London, said that Russian government policy has focused too much on investment in oil and commodities, neglecting other areas of the economy and leaving the country without other industries to turn to.

    Adding to the problems is Russia's high rate of inflation--driven by the weak ruble--which led the government to hike its base rate to 13.0% at the end of last year, and only bring it down to 12.5% last month.

    The ruble was 0.6% lower against the euro-dollar basket against which it is measured to, 36.82 on Tuesday afternoon in Moscow. The RTS Index of Russia's 50 leading shares fell 3.2%.

    The latest GDP figures will also raise concerns about Russia's sovereign rating, said Bartoszpa Wlowsky, an emerging-market strategist at BNP Paribas.

    President Yushchenko: Ukraine's economy could shrink by 23 percent in 1Q 2009

    From: LATimes
    Ukraine's economy may have contracted by 23 percent in the first three months of this year, President Viktor Yushchenko said Monday, calling it one of the fastest-shrinking economies in Europe.

    Ukraine's economy has been devastated by falling demand for its chief expert, steel, and by a currency and fiscal crisis that has led to a bailout by the International Monetary Fund.

    The government of Yushchenko's bitter rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, has not yet published official data on economic output for the first quarter. Tymoshenko's office declined to comment on Yushchenko's figures, saying she was on a foreign trip.

    The Economy Ministry also declined to comment, saying its spokeswoman was out of town.

    Yet Anastasia Golovach, an economist with investment bank Renaissance Capital Ukraine, dismissed Yushchenko's forecast as overly optimistic. She said the economy is likely to have contracted by up to 30 percent, given that industrial output fell by 32 percent, output in the construction industry fell by nearly 50 percent, the transport industry shrank by about 25 percent and trade fell by 17 percent.

    The International Monetary Fund forecasts an 8 percent contraction of the economy this year, and inflation of 16.8 percent.

    Ukraine is relying on a $16.4 billion emergency loan from the IMF to help Ukraine avoid a complete meltdown. So far Kiev has received less than a half of those funds as the country struggled to meet strict stabilization requirements.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Film producer accused of bribing doctor

    From: The News
    he Prosecutor’s Office in Lodz has accused film producer Lew R. of paying a convicted criminal to bribe doctors so he could avoid a jail sentence.

    Rywin needed the certificate in order to skip an obligatory checkup, which was to assert if he was capable of completing a two-year prison sentence after he was convicted in a corruption case.

    The co-producer of Steven Spielberg’s Schindlers’ List and producer of Roman Polanski’s The Pianist denies the allegation that he offered 400,000 zloty to acquire a false sick note.

    Yesterday he was arrested by the Central Anticorruption Bureau along with nine other people, including his son. The bribery was revealed by middleman Konrad T., a convicted criminal from Warsaw, who decided to cooperate with the Prosecutor’s Office as a crown witness.

    Konrad T. is well-known to Warsaw police. He worked as an insurance agent and delivery man in a lawyer’s office and specialized in supplying criminals with forged medical certificates. In 2007, he helped the Central Investigation Bureau set up prosecutor Krzysztof W. handing him a 300,000 zlotys bribe, which led to the prosecutor’s arrest.

    Lew R. – name detained under Poland’s privacy law - was a key figure in a major corruption scandal in Poland, revealed in 2002. He was charged with seeking a 17,5 million dollar bribe from Agora, the publisher of the leading Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, in exchange for favourable changes to the media law.

    In 2003 Rywin was sentenced to two years in prison and a 100,000 zlotys fine for fraud. In November 2006, he was released on parole.

    Investigation into Olewnik’s case starts

    From: The News
    The parliamentary investigative commission looking into the abduction and murder of Krzysztof Olewnik has started interrogating witnesses.

    Elzbieta Gielo from the Prosecutor’s Office in Warsaw and Leszek Wawrzyniak from the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Sierpc, central Poland, are testifying today in front of the parliamentary investigative commission. Wawrzyniak directed the investigation of Olewnik’s case in its early stages and is accused of serious negligence in the gathering and investigation of evidence.

    The abduction and a brutal murder of Krzysztof Olewnik, the son of a wealthy businessman, shocked public opinion in Poland. Olewnik was kidnapped in 2001. His family paid 300,000 zlotys ransom but the kidnappers did not set him free. Later, two years after his abduction, Olewnik was tortured and brutally murdered.

    The investigation into the case has been full of mistakes and negligence. Evidence was not secured or analyzed, documents and other evidence were accidentally destroyed. Besides, three men charged with Olewnik’s abduction and murder, Slawomir Kosciuk, Robert Pazik and Wojciech Franiewski, all, mysteriously, committed suicide in prison.

    The family of Krzysztof Olewnik, convinced that the series of bungles and deaths are not a coincidence, and that high-rank politicians may have been involved, called for a parliamentary investigative commission into Olewnik’s abduction and murder.

    Polish Army tenders for maps, loses zl.54 million?

    From: WBJ
    The state budget might have lost as much as zl.54 million on mapping contracts tendered by the Polish Army.

    After Poland joined NATO in 1999, the military's maps were in need of an update, to bring them up the standards required by the alliance. Between 1998 and 2003, the Army signed zl.54 million worth of contracts with companies to rework its maps.

    According to TVN24, which broke the news, the firms were staffed by family members of high-ranking army officers. The winning bidders, moreover, apparently lacked both the manpower and the know-how to produce the maps, and thus had to outsource the the Polish Army.

    To date, the Prosecutor's Office has charged 17 people in the scandal.

  • Sport...

    Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki: not just pretty faces

    From: Times onlne
    NOWHERE in the world of women’s tennis is the link between the sport and glamour more evident than at the chic environs of Roland Garros. Ask why Sony Ericsson decided to sponsor the WTA tour to the tune of $88m four years ago and you will probably find more answers at the French Open than anywhere else. A year ago, Ana Ivanovic was the darling of Court Philippe Chatrier, lifting the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen and flashing a victorious smile that graced the covers of magazines around the world.

    It matters not that the French title is the only one of the sport’s great prizes yet to be won by Maria Sharapova, who once described her playing style on clay as being like a “cow on ice”. She may never become champion here but she has the requisite panache. In seven years she has never missed the tournament and this week she will take to the court wearing a pair of Tiffany gold earrings and customised blue dress complete with one of the famed jewellers’ pearl fasteners at the neck.

    Ivanovic and Sharapova are neither fit enough nor playing well enough to suggest they will contend for the title. The Serbian champion’s defence of her crown was in doubt until a few days ago because of the knee injury that has kept her off court for almost a month. Sharapova, meanwhile, has been absent for more than nine months because of a shoulder injury that needed surgery. She won a couple of matches in Warsaw last week but her aspirations are expected to be even lower than normal this year.

    So who will step into the void? Step forward Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki. Both teenagers are relative newcomers to the world’s top 10 but realise it pays not just to play well but also to look good. Both have been likened to Sharapova, particularly Azarenka, who plays each shot with the same characteristic shriek. “Sure, I’m blond, I’m tall, I play tennis and I like clothes and fashion,” says Azarenka. “I’m not just another Maria, but when she was breaking through people called her another Anna Kournikova so I guess that’s the way it is.

    “Sure, I’ve already got involved in photo shoots. As long as I can separate it from tennis and it does not hurt my game then I’m happy to continue because I enjoy it.”

    Azarenka, born in Belarus 19 years ago but now a resident of Scottsdale, Arizona, is a former world junior No 1. Wozniacki, a year younger and the first Danish player to reach the women’s top 10, won the Wimbledon junior singles title in 2006.

    They are seeded ninth and 10th respectively. A couple of months ago Azarenka, or Vika as she likes to be known, overcame Serena Williams to win the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami; a week ago Wozniacki reached the final of the Madrid Open, losing to the world No 1, Dinara Safina.

    If the pair possess potential in abundance, they also share a refreshing attitude. Though both are committed to their tennis, they want to enjoy other things in life and certainly don’t subscribe to the cat-fighting that seems so prevalent at the top of the game, such as Serena Williams’ recent attack on Safina’s climb to the summit.

    Both have witnessed the hostility of those above them and don’t like it. “I am a very open person, I like to keep in touch with a lot of people and a lot of them are my fellow tennis players,” said Wozniacki. “Vika is one of my really good friends and I don’t see that as a problem. If we play each other we are determined to win but when we leave the court things get back to normal. Isn’t that the way it should be?”

    Azarenka agrees. “The guys in the top 10 seem to respect each other and get on well,” she said. “Look at Nadal and Federer, they have such a healthy relationship based on mutual respect. The players at the top of the women’s game should be a little more like them.”

    Both players have the opportunity to underline their growing reputations at Roland Garros. Azarenka shares the same quarter of the draw as Ivanovic and Safina, while Wozniacki is in with Jelena Jankovic and Elena Dementieva.

  • Endnote...

    Kremlin to play safe: Russia to deliver oil bypassing Belarus

    From: Charter '97
    “Transneft” has named June 10 as the date when construction of BTS-2 (the Baltic Pipeline System-2) is to start.

    This pipeline link is to enable Russia to export oil bypassing Belarus.

    As “” notes, it will give Russia an opportunity to decrease transit risks. However, there could be not enough oil for the new pipeline and the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean oil pipeline (ESPO) which is being constructed now, and that could cause a conflict between Russian oil-industry workers.

    The construction of the second trunk line of the system (BTS-2) is to start on June 10. On this day the first welding on the pipeline will take place near Bryansk. As the head of Transneft company Nikolay Tokarev stated, the event will be organized and held “in a solemn way, which is appropriate to the meaning of the project”.

    The Baltic Pipeline System-2 (BPS-2) is to be 1016 km. It will run from the town of Unecha (Bryansk region) to the Ust-Luga terminal (Leningrad region). Oil will be transported from its port in oil-carrying ships to Europe. Besides, a branch would be constructed to the oil refinery in Kirishy. The he throughput capacity of BPS-2 will be 50 to 75 million tons of oil annually.

    The project’s cost is about 4 billion dollars. Its construction is to be finished by the end of 2012.

    The BPS-2 is intended primarily for cushioning of transit risks of Russia in oil deliveries through Ukraine and especially Belarus.

    “In January 2007 Alyaksandr Lukashenka blocked Russian transit via the territory of its country,” reminds the head of the analytical department of the “Gallion Capital” foreign company Alexandr Razuvaeuv. “Such things cannot be tolerated, and construction of the BTS-2 would decrease risks considerably”.

    The BPS-2 in its full capacity would transport most of oil delivered through the Druzhba pipeline (about 70 mln tons of oil are delivered through it via Ukraine and Belarus to Europe). It goes without saying that our closest neighbours are not happy with that, as their positions as transit countries would become much weaker, and they would lose one of the levers of pressure on Russia.

    Last year Belarusian authorities, concerned by BTS-2 plan, even offered Transneft to take part in privatization of Belarusian oil pipelines, but this initiative hasn’t had any outcome. Partially it is explained by the fact that Belarusian pipelines are worn-down, and their modernization demands serious investments.

    However, the same could be said about the Druzhba pipeline, so from this point of view the BTS-2 is very convenient for Russia too. Instead of reconstruction of its old pipeline which goes through unpredictable transit states, a new pipeline to be fully controlled by Transneft would be constructed.

    However, confusing situation may occur. The BTS-2 pipeline may become a competitor of the ESPO Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean oil pipeline. “We have common oil,” said the senior expert of the Policy environment centre Dmitry Abzalov. “If there won’t be enough oil from Eastern Siberian oil fields, which are being developing rather slowly, to fill the ESPO pipeline, oil from the Western Siberia would be used, which initially was intended for deliveries through the BTS-2”.

    The ESPO is considered to be a priority project, as it allows Russia to reach Asian and Central Asian markets, and which is even more important, of China. It was China that granted a credit for the ESPO construction and siphoning oil into it: Rosneft received 15 billion dollars, and 10 billion went to Trasneft.

    There may be not enough oil for the both pipelines in the next few eyars, and it could cause a conflict between oil companies: Rosneft on the one side and Surgutneftegaz and Gunvor company on the other.

    The problem is that Gunvor is controlled by businessman Gennady Timchenko, who is considered to be close to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. It was Timchenko who lobbyied the BTS-2 project most actively, as his company sells oil via ports of Northern West. However, as believed by Dmitry Abzalov, there won’t be a serious war of the Kremlin groups. “A kind of a strife can occur, but it is most likely to de solved at the level of Transneft,” the political analyst says. “So the struggle for receiving the grace of the company’s head Nikolay Tokarev is likely to take place”.