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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, June 21, 2009

Belarus-Turkmenistan, Vilnius and the EU, Energy, Russian ties, Slavonic Bazaar, Budget, Opposition, Sport, Culture and Polish scandal

  • From the Top...
  • #420

    Joint potash deposit exploration to secure breakthrough in Belarus-Turkmenistan relations

    From: BelTA
    Joint exploration of the Garlyk potash deposit will be a genuine breakthrough in long-term cooperation between Belarus and Turkmenistan, said President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko as a time capsule was put into the foundation of an ore mining and processing enterprise on June 19.

    “We give birth to a brand new branch of Turkmenistan’s economy — mining industry. I am especially pleased with the fact that we are not just guests of honour but immediate participants of a major endeavour — a large-scale investment project,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    The presidents of Belarus and Turkmenistan put their signatures on a memorandum now stored in the capsule inside the foundation of the ore mining and processing enterprise. The Belarusian head of state underscored that “Today we put the capsule not only into the foundation of a new enterprise, but the foundation of friendship between our nations”.

    Alexander Lukashenko said he was confident that the Garlyk ore mining and processing enterprise will become the foundation of the Turkmen mining-and-chemical industry in the nearest future and the flagship potash manufacturer in Central Asia. He also underscored that along with quality services cooperation with Belarus guarantees performance and financial discipline.

    The President of Belarus said that in several years he wishes to see the first batch of Turkmen potash fertilisers dispatched to Turkmenistan agribusiness in a solemn manner.

    The first stage of the project envisages the construction of a plant to produce potassium fertilizers with the capacity of 1-1.5 million tonnes a year. After Karabil and Tubegetan deposits are involved in the project, the production of potash fertilizers may reach 4-4.5 million tonnes a year. Belarus believes in the huge export potential of Turkmenistan; however for our country Turkmenistan is not a potential competitor on the international market, but rather a reliable partner.

    Alexander Lukashenko believes that the decision to choose Belarus as a major partner in the implementation of this project is absolutely justified as our country has a great expertise in the development of potassium deposits and production and export of potash fertilizers. Belaruskali is among the world’s biggest mining enterprises, and it is constantly expanding. Apart from that the Belarusian Potash Company is one of the industry leaders selling Belarus’ potash fertilizers all over the globe.

    The project envisages not only the construction of mining facilities and creating new jobs, but also the supply of cutting-edge equipment, providing training for Turkmen specialists and sharing experience. Belgorkhimprom will be the main contractor of the project. The company is an expert in providing scientific support to the producers of potash and phosphorous fertilizers. The company possesses advanced technical and material resources and highly competent staff. Belgorkhimprom is involved in mining projects in Russia, Venezuela and other states.

    Belarus to supply 1,500 tractors to Turkmenistan

    Belarus will supply 1,500 tractors to Turkmenistan to the tune of $33 million, Alexander Pukhovoi, Director General of the Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ trademark), told reporters.

    The contract was signed in Ashkhabad on June 18 in the presence of the presidents of Belarus and Turkmenistan.

    The two sides have discussed all main areas of cooperation from economy to culture, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said. The sides confirmed the need to establish close links between industrial companies of the two countries, agricultural producers, the machinery construction industries. Belarus and Turkmenistan intend to carry out large joint projects with a prospect of advancing to third countries. The President stressed that Belarus and Turkmenistan have similar positions on reliability and stability of energy transportation on the international market.

    The visit of the President of Belarus is intended to give a new impetus to the bilateral relations. “Our main task is to create necessary conditions for the work in all areas. The signing of a package of bilateral documents has laid a good groundwork for that,” the President of Turkmenistan said.

    The issues of regional and international politics were discussed, areas of further interaction identified.

    Belarus and Turkmenistan have great cooperation potential, Alexander Lukashenko says

    Belarus and Turkmenistan have a great potential for expanding the cooperation, Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko said as he met with President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov on June 18.

    The bilateral trade has recently increased 13 times, Alexander Lukashenko said. “But the trade we have now is almost nothing. The potential of our countries is huge and we need to use it,” the President of Belarus said.

    According to him, Belarus welcomes Turkmenistan’s investments and is ready to take all necessary measures to protect them. Alexander Lukashenko also confirmed that all the agreements which will be reached during the visit will be implemented. “I do not feel I have arrived in an alien land. Your nation is very diligent, just like the Belarusian nation is. Turkmenistan has achieved a lot recently,” the Belarusian leader said.

    The President of Turkmenistan has praised the cooperation between the two countries. “Your visit will give a new impetus to the bilateral relations. The sides have a huge potential for boosting the relations,” he said addressing Alexander Lukashenko.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarusian MPs to visit Vilnius on invitation from Lithuanian Seim

    From: BelTA
    A delegation of Belarusian MPs will travel to Vilnius on an official visit on an invitation from the Seim of Lithuania, BelTA learnt from Mikhail Rusyi, chairman of the permanent commission for Chernobyl problems, ecology and nature management of the House of Representatives.

    The National Assembly has set up a working group for cooperation with the parliament of the Republic of Lithuania. The group is headed by Mikhail Rusyi. According to him, the Lithuanian parliament has a similar working group for cooperation with Belarusian colleagues.

    “This will be a familiarization visit. It will be aimed at strengthening bilateral inter-parliamentary cooperation. We are set to discuss what needs to be done at the legislative level to intensify trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and Lithuania, business communities,” Mikhail Rusyi said.

    The agreement on the visit of Belarusian MPs to Vilnius was reached in the course of a visit of MPs of Lithuania in Belarus on June 17. Lithuanian parliamentarians visited the Zhdanovichi agrokombinat company; they showed a big interest in farm work, hothouse technologies and praised the technological level of the company.

    Belarus, Lithuania to promote joint energy, transport projects as part of Eastern Partnership

    Belarus and Lithuania intend to promote joint projects in the area of power engineering and transport as part of the Eastern Partnership initiative, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Evaldas Ignatavicius told media after two-day consultations between the foreign ministries of the two countries in Minsk on June 19.

    The Lithuanian official underscored that the Minsk talks had touched upon many topics. “We’ve talked about the bilateral cooperation, visa issues, opportunities emerging from cooperation between Belarus and the European Union. We’ve also discussed new initiatives,” said Evaldas Ignatavicius. “We intend to promote joint projects in the area of power engineering, transport, and environmental protection within the Eastern Partnership initiative”.

    In his words, Lithuania has received Belarus’ proposal about possible joint projects regarding transport and energy industry, customs affairs and border checkpoints. Evaldas Ignatavicius especially pointed out the urgency of further cooperation between Belarus and Lithuania in environmental protection.

    Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Valery Voronetsky remarked that during the two-day consultations between the Belarusian and Lithuanian Foreign Ministries the sides had discussed the entire range of affairs pertaining to the political dialogue, economic cooperation, development of the legal base, cooperation in the European Union and international organisations.

    Evaldas Ignatavicius congratulated Belarus on getting the observer status in the Council of the Baltic Sea States. “The Lithuanian side has provided its vision concerning areas of cooperation with Belarus in this organisation,” he added.

    The XV ministerial session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States took place in Denmark in June. At the session ministers of the CBSS member-states univocally voted in favour of providing the observer status to Belarus as from July 1, 2009.

    Lithuania wants more liberal visa regulations between EU, Belarus

    Lithuania would like to see more liberal visa regulations between Belarus and the European Union, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Evaldas Ignatavichus told reporters following two days of Belarus-Lithuania ministerial consultations in Minsk on June 19.

    He confirmed the intention of the Lithuanian side to further the reduction of Schengen visa costs for the Belarusians in the EU. “We will work on this matter,” the Lithuanian guest underlined.

    Evaldas Ignatavichus pointed out that it is important that the two sides sign an agreement regulating the border crossing of the residents of border areas as soon as possible.

    The Vice-Minister commented on the choice of the venue for the forthcoming meeting between the Belarusian and Lithuanian Prime Ministers the coming week. “Grodno is a symbolic part of the common cultural heritage of Belarus and Lithuania,” he said.

    UN discussing energy efficiency on Belarus’ initiative

    From: BelTA
    An interactive topical dialogue of the UN General Assembly “Energy effectiveness, energy saving and new and renewable energy sources” is taking place at the UN HQ in New York on June 18. This dialogue was initiated by Belarus at the 62nd session of the UN GA in 2007, BelTA learnt from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

    The Belarusian delegation is led by Permanent Representative of Belarus in the United Nations Organization Andrei Dapkiunas.

    “Taking part in the discussion are UN member states and heads of various UN agencies and bodies. The debate is aimed to share views and find most efficient ways to raise the availability of cutting-edge energy technologies for developing countries and countries with transitional economy,” the Foreign Ministry said.

    Belarus stands for the establishment of a cohesive multi-faceted energy agenda of the UN that would encourage wider energy efficiency, international cooperation on a global proliferation of technologies of energy saving, alternative and renewable sources of energy.

    Belarus calls on UN to make energy technologies common heritage of mankind

    Belarus has called upon the United Nations to make the innovative energy technologies the common heritage of mankind, Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov has said in his statement to the participants of the UN GA Interactive Thematic Dialogue "Energy Efficiency, Energy Conservation and New and Renewable Sources of Energy". The statement of the Belarusian minister was presented by Belarus’ permanent representative in the UN Andrei Dapkyunas at the UN GA special session, BelTA learnt from the permanent representative office of the Republic of Belarus in the UN.

    The Belarusian minister urged the UN member-states for a stable intergovernmental dialogue to form the UN all-round energy agenda and multilateral international partnership based on a wide use of the advanced energy technologies, more active energy cooperation between the developed and developing countries, considerable enhancement in energy efficiency and energy conservation.

    As a practical contribution to this intergovernmental dialogue, Sergei Martynov named the development of a global mechanism that would secure more fair and wider access to the production technologies and the use of new and renewable energy.

    The Foreign Minister of Belarus offered the UN GA recommendations on assisting the development, application and transfer of innovative energy technologies, setting up the databank of the state-of-the-art energy technologies as well as the UN-led multilateral foundation and the international technology transfer centre. These proposals as well as other recommendations can be discussed in the run-up of the UN GA resolution on new and renewable energy resources in autumn 2009.

    Belarus-initiated thematic dialogue gathered over than 300 participants in the UN headquarters in New York. Partaking in the session was General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, ministers and other top officials.

    Ties between Belarus, Russia unbreakable, Belarus’ Ambassador says

    From: BelTA
    The common past serves the solid foundation for the continuity of links between Belarus and Russia, said Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Russia Vasily Dolgolev addressing a round table “Belarus and our common victory. Sixty-five years later. Present day view” in Moscow on June 18.

    According to the diplomat, the common past is a guarantee that occasional disputes will not ruin the Belarus-Russia integration. “Officials come and go, but political environment has no hold on peoples, their historic and spiritual bonds. This is why I am convinced that everything will turn out right for our countries both in the short term and the long-term perspectives,” Vasily Dolgolev said.

    The Ambassador pointed out that the Union State, its military component first and foremost, speaks volumes about the ability of the leadership of the two countries to learn their lessons and maintain peace in Belarus and Russia.

    The centerpiece of the round table was the contribution of Belarus to the common victory in the Great Patriotic War. According to Vasily Dolgolev, it is encouraging that the event aroused a sincere interest in mass media.

    Taking part in the session were prominent military men and historians, representatives of the memorial complex Brest Hero Fortress and the Belarusian Museum of the Great Patriotic War, Belarusian and Russian Defense Ministries, scientific institutions, veterans’ associations and public organizations. They considered the study and perpetuation of the history of the Great Patriotic War, use of historic heritage in the patriotic upbringing of the youth.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk to gather over 5,000 artists

    From: BelTA
    Over 5,000 artists will take part in the XVIII international art festival Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk, Rodion Bass, Director General of the entertainment centre Vitebsk, told a press conference on June 19.

    The artistic level of the festival promises to be very high, said the irreplaceable director of the festival. The production team has used all the interesting proposals received during last year’s contest meant to determine the best concept for festival concerts and contests. For instance, four production teams have worked on holding the pop singer contest Vitebsk 2009.

    Following the established tradition, Days of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine will be held during the festival along with the Union State Day. Latvia will be represented by a large delegation of artists and painters — around 100 people. Ensembles and performers from Kazakhstan, Israel, China and Vietnam will be present at the festival. All in all, flags of 35 countries will be hoisted at the flagstaff.

    Over 200 reporters will cover the festival’s events. Applications for accreditation can no longer be submitted. As usual a large group of reporters will represent regions of Russia. Concerts will be broadcasted by the Belarusian Teleradiocompany and the TV channel Russia. For the first time Russian viewers will be able to see uncut performances of young singers. Russia will be able to watch recorded concerts held on the opening and closing days as well as days dedicated to the national cultures of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. Belarusian viewers will be able to watch festival events live on the TV-First Channel except for solo night performances.

    Louvre director fascinated by Slavonic civilisation in Belarus

    Getting to know the Slavonic civilisation and discussing the possibility of implementing joint projects are the main purpose of the visit of the Louvre delegation led by Director General Henri Loyrette to Belarus, the head of the world’s most famous museum told media on June 18 as he visited the National Art Museum of Belarus.

    “Both the size and the richness of the Minsk exposition are very impressive. I am already thinking about forms and projects of our cooperation,” said Henri Loyrette. “In my opinion, the central Belarusian museum has gathered a very interesting and extensive collection of exhibits”.

    The Louvre director remarked that he would like to discuss exchange of collections and holding joint events such as seminars for specialists, exchange programmes for Belarusian and French students. Apart from that, Henri Loyrette said he was interested in arranging a joint action dedicated to the 200th anniversary of Berezina events. It will be marked both in France and Belarus in 2012.

    The Louvre delegation led by Director General Henri Loyrette arrived in Minsk the previous evening. Today the delegation got familiar with the National Art Museum and is expected to visit the castles in Mir and Nesvizh in the afternoon. On June 19 the French delegation is expected to visit the National Library of Belarus where a roundtable session dedicated to cooperation development will be held.

  • Economics...

    Senators pass 2008 national budget execution bill

    From: BelTA
    The Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus passed a bill “Approval of the report on the execution of the 2008 national budget” on June 19, BelTA has learnt.

    Finance Minister Andrei Kharkovets told the Council of the Republic that revenues of last year’s national budget had been initially set at Br38.1 trillion, expenses — Br40.3 trillion, with the deficit limited at Br2.2 trillion, or 1.9% of the GDP. In December the budget figures were revised. As a result, the corrected revenues stood at Br46.4 trillion, expenses — Br49.8 trillion, the planned budget deficit — Br3.4 trillion.

    Last year’s budget execution resulted in a surplus of Br921.5 billion. In 2008 the national budget received Br49 trillion in revenues, or 105.7% as against the annual target. The budget expenses totalled Br48.1 trillion, or 96.4% of the annual figure.

    Andrei Kharkovets also said that in 2008 1,100 enterprises received Br2.2 trillion in government support. Subsidies to the economy amounted to Br9.5 trillion.

    As of January 1, 2009 the volume of loans issued against government guarantees stood at Br2.6 trillion, including Br2 trillion allocated for the agriculture. It was made possible thanks to the investment of over Br3 trillion into authorized funds of state-run enterprises and banks.

    Capital investments in Belarus up 18.9% in January-May

    In January-May 2009, capital investments and investments in construction in Belarus totaled Br14.6 trillion, up 18.9% from the same period last year, the National Statistics Committee told BelTA.

    In January-May, building and assembly jobs amounted to Br5.2 trillion, up 22% over January-May 2008.

    The investments injected into the production facilities reached Br9.3 trillion (up 22.2% from January-May 2008), into non-production objects – Br5.2 trillion (up 15.2%). Investment in production facilities accounted for 64% of the total investment, almost the same as in the same period a year earlier.

    According to the National Statistics Committee, in January-May the state-owned organisations utilized Br6.5 trillion of capital investments (up 12.1% over January-May 2008).

    As of June 1, 2009, there were 15,900 incomplete facilities. These are 157 facilities more than as of May 1, 2009. Of them production facilities account for 41.1%. As of on May 1 this year the construction of 2,982 was suspended or frozen.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    EU to grant Belarus 10 million euros in aid - commissioner

    From: Financial
    According to RIA Novosti, the European Union is to give Belarus 10 million euros ($13.9 mln) in food safety aid, the European Commission reported on Friday ahead of a visit to Minsk by the EC commissioner for external affairs.

    Benita Ferrero-Waldner will announce the aid package during her visit on June 22 to the ex-Soviet republic for talks with President Alexander Lukashenko, Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov and opposition representatives.

    "The EU stands ready to support Belarus in many different areas and therefore I am pleased that we could allocate an assistance package of 10 million euros to the improvement of Belarusian food safety and quality," Ferrero-Waldner was quoted as saying.

    A European Commission statement described food safety in Belarus, "where some 23% of the national territory remains contaminated after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster," as "a highly sensitive topic."

    Talks between Ferrero-Waldner and the Belarusian authorities will center on the prospects for cooperation between the EU and Minsk. The Eastern Partnership initiative and its potential for Belarus will also be on the agenda.

    Lukashenko, who has run Belarus since 1994 and was once dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by Washington, has moved to rebuild ties with the West, freeing several political prisoners last year in line with EU demands.

    The European Union has suspended a travel ban on the Belarusian leader, and the country has been invited to join the EU's Eastern Partnership program, seen by many as designed to curb Russia's influence on the six former Soviet republics - Ukraine , Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova and Belarus - included in the scheme.

    Earlier in June, the Belarusian president described cooperation with the EU as "part of a strategic plan."

    "What we have with our Western neighbor is not some sort of game. It's the implementation of our long-standing strategic course," Lukashenko said.

    Belarus's president demonstratively rejected a $500 million loan in Russian rubles in May, asking for U.S. dollars instead. He also told his Cabinet to stop bowing down to Russia and seek partners in other countries after the dispute.

    Last year, Lukashenko secured a $2 billion loan from Russia to help the economy through the financial crisis, and a deal to receive Russian natural gas at a subsidized rate. Belarus received the first $1 billion in November 2008. In March 2009, the country received another $500 million.

    However, relations between MOSCOW and Minsk have been strained in recent years, largely due to Russia raising its gas price.

    In the latest clash earlier this month, MOSCOW imposed a ban on Belarusian dairy products over Minsk's alleged failure to comply with new regulations. However the ban was scrapped on June 17, with Belarusian supplies to Russia restored on June 18.

    Aggregate amount of banks’ problem loans reported up 50 percent in first four months

    From: Navany
    The aggregate amount of Belarusian-based banks’ problem loans increased by 50 percent in the first four months to 1.4 trillion rubels, Henadz Barzdow, a departmental head at the National Bank of Belarus (NBB), said at the Sixth Bond Congress of CIS and Baltic Countries, which was held in Minsk on June 18.

    Somewhat alarmingly, the share of such loans rose to 2.4 percent, whereas it should not exceed five percent under the government’s 2009 Monetary Policy Guidelines, Mr. Barzdow said.

    The priority at present is to minimize the impact of adverse external factors on the country's banking sector and the economy as a whole, he said. The NBB's policy of keeping the rubel's exchange rate against a basket of currencies within the projected fluctuation range of five percent will help preserve favorable conditions for foreign trade, allay fears of the national currency's drastic depreciation and thus reduce demand for foreign cash, Mr. Barzdow said. Another important goal is to make rubel deposits more attractive than foreign currency deposits, Mr. Barzdow said. To achieve the goal, interest rates on rubel deposits will be kept high enough to counter the effects of inflation, while interest rates on foreign currency deposits will be lowered, he said.

    Mr. Darzdow described the general situation of Belarus' banking sector as stable and its main performance indicators as being within safe limits.

    As of May 1, Belarus' banking sector comprised 31 banks and 312 subsidiaries. The aggregate amount of their authorized capital totaled about $3 billion, with foreign investments accounting for more than 17 percent of it.

    Minsk region reports 41-percent drop in budget revenues in first five months

    From: Navany
    Tax payments to the Minsk region’s budget amounted to 1,185.4 billion rubels from January through May of this year, a fall of 41.4 percent compared with the first five months of 2008, the tax ministry said.

    The revenues fell short of the five-month target set by the government by 16.5 percent

    In the first five months, payments from the region’s state-owned enterprises totaled 545.3 billion rubels, or 46 percent of all tax revenues, a more than twofold decrease compared with the same period of the previous year.

    Private businesses paid 638.9 billion rubels in taxes and individuals’ taxes contributed 1.2 billion rubels.
    Small businesses paid 258.1 billion rubels in taxes, a year-on-year increase of 3.1 percent.

    Tax arrears amounted to 12.3 billion rubels as of June 1.

    The region’s tax authorities conducted 3,729 inspections from January through May, imposing a total of 15 billion rubels on businesses in extra taxes and penalties. Of the amount, only 6.3 billion rubels has been collected so far.

    The inspections also established that businesses had received 3.7 billion rubels in illegal value-added tax refunds.

  • From the Opposition...

    Gazprom demands to pay debt and fines for underutilizing gas

    From: Charter '97
    New conditions of payment debts for gas supplied to Belarus in January–April have been made to official Minsk.

    Gazprom insists that Beltransgaz should pay the debt for gas supplied to Belarus in January–April and penalties for not utilizing the contracted gas volumes amounts; Gazprom hasn’t set concrete terms, PRIME TASS learnt this on Friday from Andrei Kuznetsov, a counsellor on economic affairs of the Russia’s Embassy in Belarus.

    “The issue is in paying $231 million debt for gas supplies in January to April and penalties for not utilizing gas,” the diplomat said.

    To a question if Gazprom set up any terms for payment, Kuznetsov said: “Gazprom didn’t define the terms, it just said the debt must be paid.”

    According to the information the agency got from a source close to the Russian fuel and energy sector, the case is in penalties for not utilizing the contracted gas amounts during all month except for January.

    In May 2009, Kuznetsov said Gazprom wouldn’t insist to pay penalties for not utilizing the con tracted gas amounts in January 2009, but the issue on February and March hadn’t been solved.

    In February–March, Gazprom paid $250 million for gas transit via Belarus in 2009 in advance in hope Beltransgaz will pay for gas according to the contract but not according to the annual average price.

    Amnesty International: Council of Europe must remember about Belarusian political prisoners

    From: Viasna
    On June 23 PACE deputies will vote on the issue of returning Special Guest status to Belarus.

    Whatever the result of the vote would be, the human rights organisation “Amnesty International” calls upon the Assembly not to give up attempts to convince Belarus of necessity to announce official moratorium on capital punishment, and in the future – to abolish capital punishment. Besides, the Assembly should join in calls on immediate and unconditional release of 11 persons recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, the statement of the organisation reads, “Viasna” informs.

    Capital Punishment

    4 persons were executed in Belarus in 2008. Despite of the gradual decrease of the number of executions and the fact that since 2008 no executions have taken place, the government still hasn’t imposed an official moratorium on death penalties.

    “Amnesty International” calls upon the Belarusian authorities to impose a moratorium on all capital punishments, and in the future to abolish capital punishment, in keeping with the resolutions of the UN General Assembly 62/149 and 63/168 adopted in 207 and 2008. Death sentences to all prisoners in a death ward are to be substituted by imprisonment term immediately.

    Prisoners of conscience

    11 young people took part in an unauthorized demonstration against the introduction of a Presidential decree concerning tax and employment regulations for small businesses, which took place on 10 January 2008, and were sentenced under Article 342 of the Criminal Code for "taking part in or organizing actions that gravely disturb public order" and sentenced to between one and a half and two years of restricted freedom. Artsyom Dubski, Mikhail Pashkevich, Tatyana Tishkevich, Paval Vinahgradau, Alyaksei Bondar, Mikhail Kryvau, Ales Straltsou, and Ales Charnyshou were sentenced in April 2008; Mikhail Subach and Maxim Dashuk were sentenced in May 2008, and Alyaksandr Barazenka was sentenced in December 2008. The conditions of restricted freedom that are laid out in Article 48 of the Criminal Procedural Code are so restrictive that Amnesty International considers it to be a form of imprisonment.

    Persons sentenced to restricted freedom, must stay at home all the time, when they are not working, pass alcohol and drugs tests when asked, and regularly report to policemen. Any travels except going to work or studies are banned for them, and it is forbidden for them to exceed the travel time. It is forbidden to visit sports institutions, attend sports events and other events, as well as to enter commercial enterprises where alcohol is sold, and visit other persons. Any violation of these conditions is punished by an official warning, and after three warnings they face a criminal responsibility for violation of the regime. A relevant police officer can change these conditions arbitrarily, making it very difficult for the convicted people to comply with the conditions of their sentence, and offering them no right of appeal against such decisions.

    Amnesty International considers 11 young people, who are currently serving sentences of restricted freedom, to be prisoners of conscience. They have been sentenced to a punishment which amounts to imprisonment for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of assembly and expression. Amnesty International calls upon their immediate and unconditional release.

    The organisation calls upon the Belarusian parliament and authorities to solve these alarming problems and thus clearly demonstrate their intention to comply with the Council of Europe’s standards in the sphere of human rights.

  • Around the Region...

    Voronin calls for lifting the “iron curtain” between Moldova & EU

    From: iTAR tASS
    Moldova’s incumbent president, Vladimir Voronin, has said that an “iron curtain” with the European Union should be raised on Moldova’s border with Romania.

    “The European Union should solve the question of liberalization of the visa regime with the Republic of Moldova as soon as possible,” Voronin said in an exclusive interview with Itar-Tass ahead of his forthcoming working visit to Moscow that starts on Monday.

    “The Iron Curtain erected between our country and the European Union along the Romanian-Moldovan border combined with simultaneous granting of Romanian citizenship is a source of great danger. Not only for Moldova but the stability of the entire region,” Voronin went on to say.

    He said he was concerned with Romanian plans to step up the issuance of Romanian passports to Moldovan citizens voiced by Romanian President Trajan Basescu.

    “Romania shouldn’t use its advantage of being an EU member to bribe Moldovan citizens with its passports thus deepening a split of our society along the Dniester River,” the Moldovan president said, hinting that Bucharest’s actions are aggravating the settlement of the painful Dniester problem for Moldova.

    ”Romania as Moldova’s neighbour and an EU and NATO member should eventually legitimise our bilateral relations and sign a basic political treaty and a border treaty with Moldova. It regards that in relation to Moldova Romania should do the same as it has already done with regards to other neighbours. As soon as Romania is ready to take this step, we will be able to turn a blind eye even to the buzzwords and ‘historic’ unionist declarations of the Romanian leaders. In fact, after that Romania itself will lose interest in financing its political supporters in Moldova,” Voronin explained.

    “Finding a solution for these tasks will be a serious trial for the European Union, especially for its security policy in the region. But I am sure that with assistance form all Moldova’s genuine European partners the solution will be found, “ the Moldovan president told Itar-Tass.

    Despite the fact that monitors from the OSCE, the European Union, the CIS and other international organisations recognized the April elections as legitimate, the Communist victory in them triggered a wave of opposition protests. On April 7, they grew into street violence. The protesters destroyed the parliament building and the presidential residence and hoisted the Romanian flags over their roofs. They were calling for Moldova’s unification with Romania. The Moldovan authorities regarded that as interference in the country’s internal affairs. They expelled the Romanian ambassador and introduced a visa regime with Romania.

    In the meantime, Moldova is not the only country that wants to normalize its relations with the European Union. The Belarusian authorities also seem to be keen to improve the country’s relations with the West. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbohood Policy, will arrive in Minsk on Sunday at the request of President Alexander Lukashenko. The EU commissioner is not coming to Minsk empty-handed. The European Union has allocated 10 million euros to Belarus to enable it to “improve the quality and increase the production of Belarusian food products.”

    Prior to her visit Benita Ferrero-Waldner said that Belarus had recently made steps in the right direction and the European Union had appreciated it and invited Belarus to join the “Eastern Partnership” program. She described it as a vital step forward in the EU-Belarusian relations but noted that Belarus still had to develop democratic freedoms, i.e. to create opportunities for representatives of civil society to work and meet freely without any pressure or fears of being arrested as well as to create conditions for local and foreign journalists to work freely and distribute the products of their work without restrictions. She also added that the European Union was ready to offer more aid in various spheres if it makes progress on the path of democratisation.

    “Our further relations will depend on what choice Belarus is going to make,” she said.

    In Minsk, Benita Ferrero-Waldner will meet President Alexander Lukashenko and Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov. She will deliver a speech in front of representatives of the ruling authorities and Belarusian civil society.

    Remembrance ceremony for war dead to be held in Russia

    From: Itar Tass
    A remembrance ceremony commemorating more than 26 million Soviet men, women and children who died during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) will be held in Russia on Sunday. It is timed to coincide with the Day of Memory and Grief traditionally marked on June 22, a day when Nazi Germany attacked the USSR without warning in 1941.

    Candles will be lit from 23:00 to 24:00 in the Hall of Military Glory in the Museum of Victory on Poklonnaya Hill in Moscow, the Piskaryev cemetery in St. Petersburg, the Mamayev Kurgan memorial in Volgograd as well as in Kaliningrad, Yaroslavl and Smolensk as part of the “Candle of Memory: June 22” action, a source at the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 told Itar-Tass.

    The “candle of memory” action was established in modern Russia in 2006. The same kind of remembrance ceremonies are expected to be held in the Brest fortress on Belarus’ western border and the Belarusian capital of Minsk as well as in Kiev and Sebastopol in Ukraine.

    Deputies of the Russian State Duma and representatives of religious, public, veteran, youth and patriotic organizations will be present at the ceremony on Moscow’s Poklonnaya Hill. The event has been initiated by the state and patriotic club of the United Russia Party and supported by the Russia television channel.

    Pavel Illarionov, the executive director of the “Candle of Memory” international memorial and public centre, has said that people will be able to light candles in churches, cathedrals and chapels on June 21 and June 22.

    “No one is forgotten and nothing is forgotten” will be the motto under which volunteers will distribute candles ahead of the remembrance ceremony.

    Last year saw 14,000 cybercrimes in Russia - legislator

    From: Itar Tass
    Last year saw 14,000 electronic crimes in Russia, the first deputy chairman of the State Duma’s Security Committee, Mikhail Grishankov told the fifth Infoforum Eurasia – 2009 in Kazan on Friday.

    The theme of the State Duma-sponsored forum is International Aspects of Information Security.

    The electronic war is expanding. Every four to five seconds there is another attack by hackers, who damage corporative sites and penetrate bank accounts.

    This new variety of crimes has grown by 50 percent since 2007. Over the past year hackers caused a 1-billion-dollar-worth damage to electronic systems.

    “In one instance the name of the Federal Migration Service was used by four self-styled ostensibly official sites,” said the FMS chief, Mikhail Tyurkin.

    There are underground organizations trading personal information and banking secrets, the forum was told.

    “In the first place counter-measures must be pooled and a federal center responsible for information security created,” the conference said in a resolution. It was proposed that each CIS member-state and the CIS in general should have a special organization responsible for cooperation by the state and the private sector in the struggle against electronic crime.

    The deputy chief of a department at the CIS Executive, Bakhyt Dosanov, has suggested working a comprehensive program for information security within the United Nations framework.

    Taking part in the conference are 100 delegates from the legislative bodies of Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and the CIS executive.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Car parts for beer?

    From: The News
    Two students from Szczecin, northern Poland, funded their life during their first year of studies by stealing and selling small parts from cars.

    Szczecin residents noticed two young men stealing the signs off of a Ford Focus and telephoned for the police, who caught up with them on a near-by street. Police found aluminum screw from automobile rims and other parts not only from the Ford Focus, but from other cars as well.

    Twenty-year old Artur D. and 21-year old Pawel J. were roommates in the dormitory and first-year students at a Szczecin university. Police found over 150 small auto parts in the boys room, including: antennas, mirrors, symbols and rims.

    After searching the students’ computers, it was determined that Artur D. and Pawel J. were selling the parts on internet auctions and making enough income to support themselves for several months.

    Investigators are now searching for victims of the many crimes the students completed in Szczecin and in the neighbouring cities of Koszalin and Swidwin. Both young men admitted to their crimes, submitted testimonies, remain in police custody and face up to five years in prison.

    Dog holds up traffic in Lodz

    From: The News
    Lodz emergency services have saved a dog that got stuck under a tram, refused to be tempted out by sausage and held up traffic in the central Polish city for several hours.

    The dog ran under a tram at the Pilsudski-Sarnia stop when the vehicle was stopped. Fortunately, the conductor noticed and did not start moving.

    After locals were unable to coax the animal out with sausages, police and firemen arrived on scene with a special crane, lifted the tramcar and removed the dog from harm’s way.

    No one from the area recognized or claimed the dog, so police took it to the local animal shelter.

    Polish gamer faces copyright suit in US

    From: The News
    Krzysztof R. is amongst a group of eight people involved in a copyright case filed by the publishers of books based on the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons.

    The group of eight people illegally disseminated the latest manual for the game published by Wizards of the Coast LLC. The publisher is demanding compensation for losses resulting from the violation of copyright laws.

    Tolena Thorburn, spokesperson for the company, did not reveal the name of the city where the Pole is from. Thorburn stated, however, that Krzysztof R. is amongst eight people who distributed three of latest handbooks on the popular role-playing game on the internet. The books normally sell for 30 USD

    Dungeons & Dragons is the first game of its type in the world: a role-playing fantasy game in which one plays a character in search of treasures. Around 20 million people play the game around the world.

    Wizards of the Coast LLC filed a lawsuit against the Pole and seven others on the 6 April in Seattle, Washington, USA.

  • Sport...

    Belarus cruising in Bergen - European Team Champs First League, Day 1

    From: IAAF
    Yury Bialou
    Belarus got off to a fine start on the first day of the European Team Championships first league in Bergen, Norway.

    Belarus collected only two wins on the first day, but had no bad failures, either. It's leading score is 173 points, well ahead of Finland and Belgium, who have each tallied 152.

    The battle for places two and three and promotion to the top division next year's will be hard: Norway is in fourth with 148 points, just ahead of Hungary with 147. Two from the trio of Switzerland (107), Estonia (101.5) and Serbia (101) will be relegated into the second league.

    Yury Bialou in the men's Shot Put and Krystina Viadzernikava in the Women's 400m Hurdles were the Belarussian winners on Saturday. Bialou set his winning mark of 19.74m in the final round, but would have won also with his second one, which flew 19.66m.

    Finland got three victories, but on the other hand scored no points in two events. In the Long Jump, Tommi Evilä had to fight hard against Switzerland's Julian Fivaz. Both leaped 7.83m in the second round, before the Finn improved to 7.90m with his last attempt.

    In the Field Events only four the best were qualified for the fourth and last round, and after two rounds half of the pack of 12 athletes were eliminated. Evilä, World bronze medallist in 2005, did not like the system.

    "Especially when the wind is tricky, as it was today, everybody wants just to secure the qualifying result in rounds one or two. I think, this system doesn't give very much for the spectators, either," Evilä said.

    The reigning Olympic Hammer Throw champion, Primoz Kozmus of Slovenia, agreed with Evilä.

    "In this system, the final placing is too much up to luck. I think it can't be used in the major championships, because it's not good fot athletes, spectators or athletics itself," said Kozmus.

    Kozmus placed second in Bergen with 77.34m, as Hungary's Krisztian Pars showed again that he is the most consistent Hammer Thrower in the World two months before the IAAF World Champsionships in Berlin.

    But it was not easy even for Pars in the first round: 74.54m, but then 76.89m, 77.35m and 77.78m. Belarussian Pavel Kryvitski made an exceptionm as he set his best mark of 77.21m already in the second round.

    Finland got no points in the Women's 5000m, in which Johanna Lehtinen was eliminated after the last of three elimination rounds. In the Women's 4x100m relay Finland was disqualified.

    Belgium's name of the day was Cedric van Branteghem, who won the men's 400m, but only 0.04 seconds ahead of Finland's Matti Välimäki, who ran his PB 46.83.

    Home team Norway got a jackpot in the 100m races. Jaysuma Saidy Ndure won the men's race in 10.14 and Ezinne Okparaebo in Women's (11.51).

    Worth mentioning are two winners, who have been in the top level of the sport for 20 years: Serbia's Dragutin Topic (age 38) cleared 2.29m in the men's High Jump and Romania's Nicoleta Grasu (37) reached 62.51m in the Women's Discus.

    Verkhovtsov hails Belarus spirit

    From: UEFA
    Belarus defender Dmitri Verkhovtsov hailed his team-mates for their show of character in bouncing back from their 5-1 drubbing by Sweden to claim a hard-earned draw with Serbia on Friday.

    'Nothing to lose'
    The tall FC Naftan Novopolotsk centre-back admitted Belarus had "nothing to lose" after their terrible start to this UEFA European Under-21 Championship, yet by holding the Serbs, they now go into their concluding Group A game against leaders Italy still in contention for a semi-final place. Verkhovtsov, who collected the Carlsberg Man of the Match award for a performance that typified his side's defensive resilience, said: "After the defeat by Sweden, when we might have been completely demoralised, we got together as a team and spoke about our performance.

    Last stand
    "We knew that three of the five goals were completely our fault," added the 22-year-old. "Between ourselves, and with the coach's help, we decided that this match would be our last stand. We told ourselves that we would go out and fight, and asked one another not to let ourselves down as a team or as individuals. We promised to cover each other and not to blame anyone if we lost the ball. We were so determined and that explains the result." It also helps explain how a team with only 39 per cent of possession limited Serbia to two shots on target.

    Coach's return
    Verkhovtsov also paid credit to coach Yuri Kurnenin, back on the bench after his suspension against Sweden. "We felt much more confident with him there. It is much easier to play when you receive instructions from your coach. He could not help us when he was in the stands, but here he passed on instructions and it was a really big advantage to have him back." Kurnenin's players followed one particular pre-match instruction – namely, to play more aggressively – to the letter. Where Belarus committed just nine fouls against Sweden, the count rose to 28 at the Malmö New Stadium.

    'Very hard'
    This had a downside in increasing the number of free-kicks around the Belarus box, with Verkhovtsov the busiest man on the pitch dealing with high crosses. "It was very hard, but the story was the same for every player, including the Serbs," he said. "I was calm enough, though there was one moment when my heart skipped a beat – in the final minute when Serbia earned a free-kick [that Zoran Tosic curled just over]."

    'Task is clear'
    Belarus forward Leonid Kovel felt the game opened up in the closing stages when Kurnenin's team began threatening on the break. "Serbia pushed us hard and we answered with counterattacks. I was afraid of conceding a late goal and that last free-kick was a very nervy moment." Now they have to beat Italy in Helsingborg on Tuesday and hope there is a winner in the group's other match. Midfielder Sergei Krivets added: "Our task is clear now. We have to play for a victory against Italy and we will do that." Hopefully, their fans might add, with the same spirit they showed in front of a couple of thousand Serbian supporters in Malmo and just a dozen of their own.

  • Endnote...

    Lukashenka's administration accused Russia of corporate raid and attempt on sovereignty

    From: Charter '97
    Belarusian officials worry that the peace in the milk war could become a short ceasefire.

    Last Wednesday the short milk war ended in signing an agreement on lifting milk products ban, after that Belarus lifted its customs control on roads to Russia. However, Minsk is cautious in the optimistic estimation of the situation, Reuters informs.

    “The stipulations we have been initially speaking about, are accepted. At least, we can officialy state now, that the process of disputes’ adjustment has been started… we really hope that this difficult situation is on the way to complete fix-up,” Natalya Pyatkevich, deputy of the Belarusian president's staff, told reporters.

    Speaking about the milk war itself, she noted that the decision to ban Belarusian milk imports to Russia was a surprise to Minsk.

    “Belarus didn’t receive any official notice from the Russian Agency for Health and Consumer Rights, and we learnt about everything from the media,” Pyatkevich said.

    She had to explain some publications in the official Belarusian press too.

    “We were not pouring out milk, some milk was used for processing, some for feeding cattle, and cheeses were sent foe starage,” she said.

    “We do not have damage as such, but we have received less profits than we were due. There are no winners in trade wars,” she summed up.

    Recently it was informed Gazprom demanded Beltransgaz to pay off its $230 mln debt for gas supplies in January-April. The sum is the difference between the contracted price of supplies in January-April and de-facto payments by the Belarusian side according to the average annual price.

    Minks called that infringement of gentlemen’s’ agreement.

    “In the talks of Belarusian and Russian presidents verbal agreements were reached on the system of payment. It was said we would pay average annual price for a year. We proceeded from this agreement,” Pyatkevich said.

    Te official Minsk is not sure conflicts with the ally would end at that.

    “All this (trade conflicts) is just not elegant attempts to cover in fact raider’s seizures of Belarusian assets with the aim to deprive Belarus of economic sovereignty, collapsing industry, seize the political sovereignty as well,” a source close to the presidential administration of Belarus said to Reuters.

    Amid the milk row Lukashenka gave a task to the Security Council to make a list of possible “actions which could bring economic damage to Belarus”