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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cooperation with Germany, Dairy exports resumed, Medicine, Dollars, Gas, Opposition, Georgia, Ukraine, Sport and Polish scandal

  • From the Top...
  • #419

    Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus firmly intent on cooperation with Germany

    From: BelTA
    Alexander Lukashenko greets Bernd Pfaffenbach, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology of Germany, head of the German party at the Belarus-Germany economic cooperation council
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko confirmed the intention of Belarus to develop comprehensive cooperation with Germany. He made this statement as he met with members of the Belarusian-German Economic Cooperation Council on June 16.

    The President of Belarus thanked the German side for resuming the work of the Council after some ten years. “We are highly interested in it, we have been cooperating with Germany for a long time and our trade is vibrant. We are interested in new technologies that are being developed in Germany. Germany may find Belarus a good partner as our country has a stable and predictable economy,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    The Belarusian head of state underlined that “we will always welcome German business and protect their investment.”

    Belarus-Germany Economic Council activity is vital for bilateral cooperation, Sergei Martynov says

    To resume the activity of the Belarusian-German Economic Cooperation Council is extremely import for the bilateral relations, Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov said in the fifth session of the Belarusian-German Economic Cooperation Council on June 16.

    Sergei Martynov stressed that today’s meeting should not be routine as the previous session was held in Hanover 13 years ago. “Today Belarus and Germany have different relations. The visit of such a big German delegation to Minsk testifies to the fact that Germany shares the interest of Belarus to strengthen the whole range of relations,” the minister said.

    Sergei Martynov expressed hope that today’s meeting would be productive for the both sides. He also praised the recent activity of the Belarusian-German task group for investments: it turned to a robust ground for discussing a wide range of issues of the bilateral cooperation.

    On June 16 the session of the Belarusian-German Council will consider a great amount of issues related to the development of the trade and economic cooperation including intensification of the bilateral trade, attraction of German loans and investments, expansion of cooperation in energy. The businessmen that formed a part of the German delegation will display their investment projects for implementation in Belarus. The Belarusian part of the council is headed by Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov, the German part – by State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology Bernd Pfaffenbach.

    Germany ranked second in Belarus’ foreign trade among the non-CIS countries in 2008. According to the Foreign Ministry, the trade between the two countries stepped up by 24.2% in 2008 as against 2007 and reached $3.6 billion. The export grew 11.1% to $812.4 million, the import increased by 28.6% ($2.8 billion). Belarus posted $2 billion in trade deficit. In January-April 2009 the trade between Belarus and Germany fell 28.8% to the same point of 2008 to $778 million. The export reduced by 45.7% to make up $186.6 million.

    Belarus’ main exports to Germany consist of mineral products, basic metals, equipment and vehicles, gear and instruments, products of the chemical industry, textile, products of the forestry and wood-working, agricultural and food industries, construction materials.

    In 2008 Germany invested $116.8 million in the Belarusian economy including $93.7 million of direct investments. In Belarus there are 338 companies with the German capital (189 joint ventures, 149 foreign firms). There are also 76 representative offices of the German companies in Belarus. Six representative offices of the Belarusian companies have been opened in Germany.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarusian dairy exports to Russia resumed

    From: BelTA
    Belarusian dairy exports to Russia have been resumed following talks of Belarusian Agriculture and Food Minister Semyon Shapiro and Healthcare Minister Vasily Zharko with head of the Russian Federal Consumer Protection Service Gennady Onishchenko in Moscow on June 17.

    The resumed supplies of Belarusian dairy products to Russia have been formalised by a relevant protocol.

    “Soon Belarusian dairy supplies will be resumed,” Semyon Shapiro told media after the talks. He underscored the decision is well-measured and productive.

    According to Gennady Onishchenko, before new permissions compliant with new Russian technical regulations are issued, Belarusian dairy products will be exported to Russia using the papers that were issued earlier. “The signed protocol satisfies both the Belarusian and Russian sides,” said Gennady Onishchenko.

    Speaking about the volume of Belarusian dairy exports to Russia, the head of the Belarusian Agriculture and Food Ministry said that it will not be reduced but the product list will be revised.

    Belarus tightens control over movement of goods on main Russia-Belarus roads

    From: BelTA
    On June 17, at 9am, Belarus enhanced monitoring over the movement of goods on the main Belarusian-Russian roads, Chairman of the State Customs Committee (SCC) of Belarus Alexander Shpilevsky told reporters on June 16.

    The measure was taken following the decision of the Belarusian head of state. The decision is sound, according to the SCC chairman. “For the 15 days in June 2009 the Belarusian customs has seized Br8,620 billion worth of smuggled goods. In 2008 an estimated $10 million of goods vanished on the way to Kaliningrad,” Alexander Shpilevsky said.

    The introduction of a stricter control over the movement of goods by Belarus is a symmetrical response to the actions of the Russian side, State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus Yuri Zhadobin told reporters.

    “Belarus was forced to introduce a tougher control over the movement of goods on the major highways connecting the two countries. This step will be similar to the actions the Russian Federal Customs Service has been taking over many years already,” Yuri Zhadobin said.

    He stressed that these measures are just a mirror-like response to the customs supervision exercised by the Russian side.

    According to Yuri Zhadobin, the Belarusian side is sorry to state that there have been no changes in the attitude of the Russian side towards the cooperation in the recent days. “There is no constructive approach aimed at reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. Using far-fetched pretexts they keep causing damage to our economic security,” the State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus said.

    He added that in no circumstances these measures will affect the interests of ordinary people. “We apologize for possible inconvenience. We believe it is not our fault,” Yuri Zhadobin said.

    Belarus surgeons perform first pancreas-kidney transplantation

    From: BelTA
    A combined pancreas-kidney transplant surgery has been carried out in Belarus for the first time, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Belarusian Health Ministry on June 14.

    The 42-year-old transplant patient suffered from insulin-dependent diabetes. Due to severe destruction of pancreas she developed several complications, including diabetic nephropathy and end-stage renal disease. Beginning August 2008, her life has been maintained by hemodialysis system.

    The surgery was carried out at Minsk clinical hospital No. 9 by a group of surgeons from this hospital and Minsk clinical hospital No. 4. The team of surgeons was led by Oleg Kalachik, Head of the National Research Centre for Neurology and Kidney Replacement Therapy. The specialists who took part in the surgery had received the relevant training in Great Britain and Germany.

    The transplantation lasted six hours. A day after the surgery the patient’s condition was stable; she was feeling as expected after such a surgery. The woman is conscious and is treated in the intensive care ward.

    Such transplant surgeries are among most rare ones. They are indicated only for people suffering from type 1 diabetes with renal failure. Taking into consideration the destructive affect of diabetes and renal failure on other organs, the average life expectancy of patients supported by hemodialysis is about five years. The transplantation prolongs their life by 20-25 years.

  • Economics...

    US dollar down, euro up in Belarus today

    From: BelTA
    The exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the US dollar fell by Br9 during the trading session at the Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange on June 17 to total Br2,840 per $1, BelTA has learnt.

    The exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against euro increased by Br1 and stood at Br3,950 per Ђ1. The exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the Russian ruble gained Br0.26 and reached Br91.23 per RUB1.

    Thus, since the beginning of the year when the one-time devaluation was enforced, the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the US dollar set by the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus for June 18 has decreased by 7.17%, against the euro — by 6.68%, against the Russian ruble — by 1.19%.

    Since early this year the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the basket of foreign currencies has shrank by 4.98% and stands at Br1,007.78 as from June 18. The change is within the 5% range of fluctuations allowed in 2009.

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

    Today commercial exchange offices offer euro at Br3,990-4,045 per Ђ1, US dollar — Br2,885-2,905 per $1, the Russian ruble — Br91.8-94.5 per RUB1.

    Currency returns of Belarus’ companies 43.4% down in January-May

    The volume of currency earnings of the Belarusian companies fell by 43.4% in January-May 2009 from the same period last year to $8.52 billion, BelTA learnt from the information department of the National Bank of Belarus.

    The proceeds from the export reduced by 48.2% to $7 billion and made up 82.2% of the total currency receipts. The export of services accounts for 16.6%, or $1.4 billion (up 6.7%) of the export proceeds; other revenues reached $9 million (down 29%).

    According to the preliminary data of the National Bank, nearly 38% of the currency earnings were received due to the export to the CIS countries, including 32.5% - due to the export to Russia.

    Belarus trades with 154 countries in January-April

    In January-April 2009 Belarus traded with 154 countries, exporting to 117 countries and importing from 139 countries, the National Statistics Committee told BelTA.

    The area of Belarus’ trade has expanded since early this year. For comparison, in January Belarus traded with 127 countries, exporting commodities to 86 countries and importing products from 118 countries.

    In January-April Belarus’ main trade partners were Russia (48% of the total trade), the Netherlands (7.8%), Germany (5.6%), Ukraine (5.6%), Poland (3.2%), Latvia (3.2%), China (2.7%), the UK (2%) as well as Italy and India.

    In January-April 2009 the Belarusian export to Russia shrank by 47.6% to $1868.2 million, with the country accounting for 33.4% of Belarus’ export volume. The export to the Netherlands went down by 51.5% to $1008.3 million. Consequences of the global crisis have affected Belarus’ trade with many other countries. Thus, in January-April Belarus’ export to Ukraine amounted to $405 million (40.2% as against the same period last year), Poland — $224.1 million (47.2%), Germany — $186.6 million (54.3%), Latvia — $405.7 million (70.1%). Export to India, meanwhile, shot up by more than two times to $140.4 million,.

    In January-April 2009 Belarus’ merchandise trade amounted to $13.797 billion, or 59.7% as against the same period last year. Belarus’ export shrank to $5.588 billion (51.4% to January-April 2008), with the import down to $8.209 billion (67.1%).

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Russia, Belarus solve milk row but gas row looms

    From: Reuters
    A row over a ban on imports of Belarussian dairy goods to Russia was resolved on Wednesday, but Moscow demanded payment from Minsk of $230 million in gas arrears.

    The milk row further damaged relations between the two Slav neighbours who have long pledged but failed to build a "union state".

    Belarus on Wednesday lifted its day-old strict customs controls imposed on roads to Russia after Russia scrapped its ban on dairy product imports from Belarus.

    But Minsk signalled it can again resort to strict controls.

    "Today the implementation of strict customs controls was suspended. Depending on how the situation develops, the customs committee can take this or that decision," Natalya Petkevich, deputy of the Belarussian president's staff, told reporters.

    Russian television channels showed Gennady Onishchenko, Russian chief health official, saying, "A protocol satisfying the Belarussian and Russian sides has been signed."

    "The movement of Belarussian milk will be restarted across our border very soon," said Belarussian Agriculture Minister Semyon Shapiro.

    Although the milk war may be ending, energy issues remain an irritant.

    Russia's gas export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM) has demanded Belarus pays $230 million in arrears for gas supplies so far this year, said Vadim Gusev, spokesman for the Russian embassy in Minsk.

    Russia supplies a quarter of Europe's gas needs mainly via the territory of Ukraine but also via Belarus, which is a key transit route for Russian gas to Germany and Poland.

    Russia froze a $500-million loan to Belarus last month. Lukashenko said Moscow refused the money because he turned down Kremlin demands to recognise the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.

    The latest spat between the neighbours came to a head on Sunday when Lukashenko snubbed the Kremlin by pulling out of a security summit after Moscow banned Belarussian dairy products on health grounds.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev then called for an end to Belarus's "hysterics". Russia toned down its rhetoric on Monday, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told his cabinet not to say anything that might upset Minsk.

    Lukashenka to travel to Turkmenistan on Wednesday

    From: Navany
    Alyaksandr Lukashenka is expected to arrive in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, on a state visit on the evening of June 17, the Central Asian country’s TDH news agency said.

    When reached by BelaPAN on Wednesday, the Belarusian leader’s press office declined to comment on the report.

    The visit is expected to yield a package of agreements “aimed at laying the firm foundations for intensifying cooperation built with due regard for long-term prospects and the enormous bilateral potential,” the news agency said.

    TDH said that the two countries had stepped up their relations since the first meeting of a bilateral commission on economic cooperation in Minsk in January 2008.

    Turkmenistan supplies Belarus with energy resources, agricultural produce and textiles, and imports Belarusian-made equipment, vehicles, foodstuffs and chemical products, according to TDH.

    There were eight companies involving Belarusian capital in Turkmenistan on May 1, 2009, the news agency said.

    Belarus to halt powdered milk exports to Russia until October

    From: Ria Novosti
    Belarus has agreed that it will stop deliveries of powdered milk to Russia until October, Russia's agriculture minister said on Wednesday.

    "To resolve this situation we together with the Belarusian side have adjusted the balance of supply and demand of the Union State for milk and milk products in 2009 by reducing the supplies of powdered milk from Belarus to Russia," Yelena Skrynnik said.

    The minister said earlier on Wednesday that the sides had signed a "mutually acceptable agreement" under which Russian producers of powdered milk will buy milk from Russian farmers.

    The measure is aimed at preventing the dumping of powdered milk on the Russian market and will allow Russian producers to sell milk at "fair prices" during the "high season," Skrynnik said.

    She added that Belarus would resume supplies in the fourth quarter, but the total figure would not be higher than 15,000 tons before the end of the year.

    Earlier in June, Russia banned imports of more than 1,000 types of dairy products from Belarus, saying producers in the ex-Soviet republic had failed to comply with new Russian standards introduced last year.

    Belarus qualified the measure as "economic discrimination" and boycotted a post-Soviet security summit in Moscow. In a tit-for-tat move it also toughened customs controls on its land border with Russia from Wednesday.

    The Belarusian State Control Committee also said 20% of Russian beer in the former Soviet republic was imported using shadow schemes and proposed establishing new controls.

    Skrynnik said on Wednesday that the issue of regulations "has not yet been settled."

    The Belarusian agriculture and health ministers, Semyon Shapiro and Vasiliy Zharko, were due in Moscow later on Wednesday to discuss the dispute with the Russian minister.

    CSTO leaders sign rapid-reaction force deal without Belarus

    From: Ria Novosti
    The leaders of the post-Soviet CSTO security bloc have signed an agreement on creating a joint rapid-reaction force without a signature from Belarus, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Sunday.

    Belarus pulled out of the summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization comprising Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in protest against Russia's ban on imports of its dairy products.

    "The document that has been signed includes an agreement on collective forces and a decision by the Collective Security Council on the rapid-reaction force structure," Medvedev said.

    Russia already has joint military contingents with Belarus and Armenia through the CSTO.

    The new force will comprise large military units from five countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

    Analysts say the creation of a powerful military contingent in Central Asia reflects Moscow's drive to make the CSTO a pro-Russian military bloc, rivaling NATO forces in Europe.

    Russia's security strategy until 2020, recently approved by President Dmitry Medvedev, envisions the CSTO as "a key mechanism to counter regional military challenges and threats."

    The CSTO rotating presidency, which was expected to be assumed by Belarus, has been passed over to Russia for the time being, Medvedev said.

    "In the absence of our Belarusian partners, we have made a decision to pass temporary presidency to Russia as the country hosting the summit," Medvedev said.

    The Russian president said that Minsk could join the CSTO summit's decisions later, adding that such a move would be welcomed.

    Belarus earlier said no summit decisions would be valid without its involvement.

    The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a note handed to the Collective Security Treaty Organization's secretariat that the country's non-participation "means the lack of approval from the Republic of Belarus of decisions being considered" at the summit, along with the foreign and defense ministers' meetings, and "consequently a lack of consensus for the taking of these decisions."

  • From the Opposition...

    RIA Novosti draws caricatures of Lukashenka

    From: Charter '97
    Mass media of the neighbouring country began to use caricatures in the information war between Russia and Belarus.

    Russian pro-governmental information agency Novosti posted some caricatures of Alyaksandr Lukashenka on its website. One of them has the title “Rat-a-rat, this’s me, cheerful dairyman”, another one is titled “Milk brawler”.

    It should be reminded that Russia imposed a ban on import and sales of Belarusian dairy products. In response Alyaksandr Lukashenka refused to go to Russia for a CSTP summit and ordered to tighten border control with Russia.

    Nasha Viasna to appeal decision by Ministry of Justice

    From: Viasna
    On 16 January the co-founders of the Nasha Viasna human right association Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich and Uladzimir Labkovich have lodged a complaint with the Supreme Court of Belarus against the decision by the Ministry of Justice to deny registration to the NGO.

    The complaint stresses that the decision was not legal; the arguments of the Ministry were discriminatory – they violate the rights and the legitimate interests of Nasha Viasna’s founders.
    The human rights activists demand:

    1) to reverse the decision by the Ministry of Justice of 25.05.2009 to deny state registration to the Nasha Viasna human rights public association;

    2) to oblige the Ministry of Justice to grant state registration to the Nasha Viasna human rights public association;

    3) in the course of preparations for the consideration on the merits to oblige the Ministry of Justice to provide an appeal against the complaint, where, through providing evidence on each of the arguments, to advance reasons for the decision to deny state registration, which is stated in the a letter by the Ministry of Justice of 25.05.2009 # 06-14\381.

    On 25 May the Ministry of Justice resolved to deny state registration to the Nasha Viasna human rights association. It was the NGO’s third attempt to obtain the legal status. The previous decisions were supported by the Supreme Court.

  • Around the Region...

    Russia, China to Promote Ruble, Yuan Use in Trade

    From: Bloomburg
    The leaders of Russia and China agreed to expand use of the ruble and yuan in bilateral trade to lessen dependence on the U.S. dollar a day after they took part in the first summit of the so-called BRIC countries.

    “We agreed to take further steps in this direction, including, perhaps, by adjusting contracts and laws that already exist,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told reporters in the Kremlin today after talks with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.

    Russia, the world’s biggest energy supplier, wants to start selling oil to China in rubles, said Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who is also chairman of OAO Rosneft, Russia’s biggest oil company. Energy sales in rubles are a “strategic” issue for Russia, he said, adding that oil exports to China over the next 20 years will surpass $100 billion.

    Brazil, Russia, India and China agreed yesterday to push for more clout in global financial institutions during what Medvedev called BRIC’s “historic” first summit in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg. China and Russia have called for a more diversified financial system to give emerging economies a bigger say in economic affairs, including the creation of alternatives to the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency.

    ‘Symbolic Value’

    “Expanding the use of national currencies in mutual settlements is a separate, important task,” Medvedev said. China has the world’s biggest foreign-currency reserves, almost $2 trillion, while Russia is third with more than $400 billion.

    The ruble weakened 0.1 percent to 31.2396 against the dollar in Moscow today after earlier strengthening as much as 0.4 percent. The yuan was little changed against the dollar on speculation China will prevent appreciation to avoid a prolonged slump in the nation’s exports.

    It will take “at least a couple of years” to start converting the first contracts into domestic currencies, said Elina Ribakova, Citigroup Inc.’s chief economist in Moscow.

    Today’s announcement has “important symbolic value,” she said. “If you take a 10- or 20-year perspective, trade between Russia and China will increase significantly.”

    Total trade between the neighboring countries reached a record $56.8 billion last year, according to the Kremlin.

    After today’s Moscow meeting, Russia and China signed an agreement worth $3 billion to cooperate in trade and investment in areas including light industries, high technology and energy.

    U.S. Deficit

    The dollar’s status has come into question as leaders of the BRIC nations consider substituting other assets for their dollar holdings amid a ballooning budget deficit that keeps the U.S. dependent on foreign financing. China alone owns about $744 billion of U.S. Treasury bonds among its $2 trillion of foreign- exchange reserves.

    Russian central bank First Deputy Chairman Alexei Ulyukayev’s comment on June 10 that Russia may sell some of its U.S. bonds to buy International Monetary Fund notes helped push 10-year yields on Treasuries to the highest level since October.

    Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva today denied that BRIC leaders discussed buying each other’s bonds at the Yekaterinburg summit, after Medvedev’s top economic adviser said the matter might be discussed.

    Dollar bonds sold by China earned 11.4 percent in the past year, more than double the 4.6 percent for debt in yuan, JPMorgan Chase & Co. indexes show. Brazil’s U.S. currency bonds returned 3.6 percent as real-based notes lost 4.9 percent, and Russia’s dollar bonds outperformed with a 1.9 percent loss compared with a 7 percent drop in ruble debt. India doesn’t have dollar-denominated debt.

    Russia Vetoes Resolution on U.N. Peacekeepers in Georgia

    From: Washington Post
    Russia on Monday vetoed a U.N. resolution authorizing the continued presence of nearly 150 U.N. peacekeepers in Georgia, abruptly ending a 15-year long U.N. effort to monitor Georgia's fragile border with the separatist territory of Abkhazia.

    The Russian action set the stage for a rift in diplomatic relations with the United States and its European allies, which have vigorously supported Georgia's sovereignty over Abkhazia. It raised concerns about a new flare-up of violence in Georgia.

    In casting its veto, Russia effectively blocked a U.S. and European draft resolution extending the mission's mandate for 15 days to allow the two sides to negotiate a compromise over the future of the United Nations in Georgia. But Russia rejected the draft on the grounds that it continued to endorse Georgia's claim to Abkhazia, which Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, said is "based on old realities."

    The 15-nation council voted 10-1 for the Western-backed resolution. Four countries abstained -- China, Libya, Vietnam and Uganda -- citing the failure of the council's main powers to reach agreement. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has ordered the mission to cease its operations by Tuesday, according to his office.

    The United Nations issued a statement saying Ban regretted that the diplomatic breakdown in the council undercut a proposal by the U.N. chief to expand a line of separation between Georgia and the breakaway Abkhaz province.

    Churkin argued that the government of Georgian President Mikheil Sakaashvili had lost its moral claim to sovereignty over pro-Russian Abkhazia and the separatist South Ossetia, by launching a military strike against Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, last August. In response to the Georgian action, Russia invaded Georgia, recognized the two breakaway territories' independence and signed agreements to establish military bases there.

    "The Sakaashvili regime put an end to the territorial intergity of his country, and on the world map two new states emerged, the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of South Ossetia," Churkin said. The United States, France, Britain, Germany and other allies blamed Russia for the breakdown in negotiations over a U.N. role in the region. But they said they could not accept a Russian proposal to keep talks going for an additional month because it would have required an abandonment of Georgia's sovereignty.

    Rosemary DiCarlo, the United States' third-ranking ambassador at the United Nations, said Washington "deeply regrets" the Russian veto and that it reaffirms its committment to Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty. "It is the civilian population that suffers by facing a tenuous security environment without an international presence in Abkhazia, Georgia."

    EU ministers warn crisis-hit Ukraine

    From: AFP
    The foreign ministers of Germany and Poland warned Ukraine Wednesday to end its chronic political feuding in order to receive more international assistance for its crisis-battered economy.

    The unusual joint visit by Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany and Poland's Radoslaw Sikorski came as the European Union and Russia compete for influence in Ukraine, which saw its old pro-Moscow elite swept from power in 2004.

    Steinmeier said Berlin and Warsaw were "particularly concerned" about Ukraine -- which has borders with four EU states as well as Russia -- as it faces a double-barrelled political and economic crisis.

    "A political crisis clearly because the blockade in parliament and between the president and the government has dragged on so long, and of course an economic crisis that has hit Ukraine particularly hard," he told reporters.

    The ministers, who arrived aboard a German air force plane, held talks with President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich, who are locked in a bitter power struggle.

    Steinmeier and Sikorski said they hoped to persuade Ukraine's leaders to try to break their impasse to ensure the flow of international economic assistance needed for basic services including Russian gas.

    The global economic crisis has delivered a body blow to Ukraine, with the World Bank forecasting a nine-percent contraction this year and production of its export-orientated industry in freefall.

    It is depending on a 16.4-billion-dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund to keep its economy afloat.

    But the IMF has set conditions for Ukraine to qualify for the next, 2.8-billion-dollar tranche of the loan including instituting a measure of stability in its struggling bank sector.

    "Everything is linked to everything else," Steinmeier said.

    "We respect the political rivalry that every democracy needs," said Steinmeier, who is challenging Chancellor Angela Merkel in September general elections.

    But he said "destructive" jockeying for power would block an IMF deal.

    Diplomatic sources said Yushchenko regretted the current political stalemate was hindering a deal with the IMF, while Yanukovich said any lasting resolution of the gas dispute would require dialogue with Russia.

    The EU -- which receives a quarter one-quarter of its gas from Russia, most of it piped across Ukraine -- is also deeply concerned about repeated disruptions of its supply.

    Ukraine was forced to tap into its reserves this month to pay a Russian gas bill, with a summer of supply interruptions to Europe from a new Kiev-Moscow gas crisis still a real threat.

    Tymoshenko said Tuesday that Ukraine wanted to borrow four billion dollars (2.9 billion euros) from European banks to pay for Russian gas to refill its storage facilities.

    Russia, meanwhile, has condemned EU moves to bolster ties with countries it sees in its sphere of influence, but has urged the EU to come up with a loan for Kiev to pay for its gas.

    But Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday showed Moscow was prepared to use its capacities, saying that Russia has already paid Ukraine 2.2 billion dollars for its 2009 gas transit fees to Europe.

    "I hope very much that discipline within the framework of existing contracts will be maintained by both sides and in the future," he added, saying the pre-payment of the sum essentially amounted to a loan.

    Steinmeier and Sikorski said Poland and Germany aimed to build on the "Eastern Partnership" extended to Ukraine and five other ex-Soviet republics by the EU in May, which offers financial incentives for crucial reforms.

    Sikorski also announced a new Ukrainian-Polish agreement on opening border traffic that will come into force July 1.

    "The free movement of people is important to the Eastern Partnership and we want to be helpful to the Ukrainians in that way as well," he said.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Polish police arrest 31 pedophile suspects

    From: UPI
    Polish police Wednesday said they arrested 31 people on suspicion of distributing child pornography on the Internet.

    Swiss police provided the address of an Internet site servicing pedophiles, and a special squad combating human trafficking conducted a major raid, searching 28 apartments and offices throughout Poland, Polish Radio reported.

    Police detained 31 people and seized 40 desktops and laptops, as well as 1,400 DVDs and CDs and 28 hard discs, with pornographic content involving children.

    If found guilty, the suspects could be sentenced to up to three years in prison for storing files of children less than 15 years of age, and up to eight years in prison for distributing child pornography.

    Those detained included a teacher, gasoline station attendants, warehouse workers, an information technology expert, a consulting firm manager and several unemployed people, the report said.

    Boy saves drunken mother from blaze

    From: Google
    An eight-year-old Polish boy has saved his sister and three drunken adults from a fire by calling police and fighting the flames before help arrived.

    The fire started outside the door of the boy's apartment in the western town of Miedzyrzecz late on Monday.

    Police said the boy was unable to wake up his mother or two men - all of whom were intoxicated - so called the emergency number himself.

    Polish police stop record number of drunk drivers

    From: M&C
    Polish police stopped a record 2,683 drunk drivers over a five-day holiday weekend, the Polish Press Agency PAP reported Monday.

    Police also reported 612 accidents with 65 fatalities during the Catholic holiday weekend of Corpus Cristi, which began Wednesday.

    'Police forecasts proved true. More drunk drivers got behind the wheel,' a police spokesman told PAP. 'This is a record number driving after consuming alcohol.'

    There were 578 more drunk drivers stopped this year compared to 2008. Accidents also rose by 55 and fatalities rose by 12 compared to the same holiday weekend a year ago.

    Poland, the largest of the former communist countries to enter the European Union in 2004, is notorious for its under-developed motorway network, many just dual carriageways, and lax driving standards.

    Polish police in crisis

    From: The News
    Polish police started saving money. Police officers do not get their salaries on regular basis, despite it is guaranteed by the law. “We can not live this way. I got only 20 % of my regular salary” – said one officer. All officers promised that they would sue Polish state.

    According to the special law about the police, every officer should be given money for paying his bills for house, commute to work and extra bonus connected with his holiday. “I used to get 120 PLN (27 euro) for my ticket, 170 PLN (37 euro) per person to pay for my flat and special subsidy for my holiday, what was around 250 PLN (58 euro) per person. Today I have absolutely nothing” – explained the policeman from Kielce.

    Polish officers are irritated and sees to lose their patience. “My salary is 1800 PLN (418 euro) plus 400 PLN (93 euro) subsidy. It is a lot of money for me. I think that I will sue the state” – adds another policeman.

    All cuts are connected with a new plans of Andrzej Trela who has announced that all subsidies would be postponed. Trade unions from every cities from Poland are collecting needed information about problems with salaries. “We will try to get our money back and start talking to our headquarter” – explained Maryla Bieniek who is a chairperson of a trade union in Swiltokszyskie province.

  • Sport...

    "Минск-Арена" откроется 7 ноября матчем хоккейной команды президента Беларуси и сборной мира

    График строительства многофункционального спортивного комплекса "Минск-Арена" расписан по дням. Нет ни малейшего сомнения, что она откроется, как и планировалось, 7 ноября, заявил сегодня журналистам председатель Федерации хоккея Республики Беларусь Владимир Наумов.

    В день открытия одного из крупнейших спорткомплексов Европы состоится хоккейный матч команды президента Беларуси и сборной мира. По словам руководителя ФХРБ, на строительстве "Минск-Арены" ежедневно трудятся около двух тысяч человек. После окончательного ввода в строй этот объект сможет принимать соревнования по 28 видам спорта.

    Первым крупным турниром станет чемпионат Европы по трековым велогонкам, который состоится на велодроме "Минск-Арены" с 15 по 19 июля. Его трибуны сейчас вмещают 2100 зрителей, но в перспективе они будут расширены до 3 тыс. Именно такая вместимость является одним из условий для того, чтобы проводить мировой чемпионат по трековым гонкам, сказал директор комплекса Павел Галкин. По его мнению, в ближайшие два-три года белорусская столица может добиться права принять у себя сильнейших трековиков планеты.

    А на предстоящем континентальном первенстве для участников и зрителей будут созданы оптимальные условия для соревнований и отдыха. К услугам болельщиков - паркинг на 2 тыс. автомобилей, причем, как подчеркнул Павел Галкин, во время проведения чемпионата Европы платить за стоянку не нужно. Для журналистов, которые будут освещать состязания велосипедистов, оборудованы рабочие места с возможностью выхода в интернет (Wi-Fi) и вместительный пресс-центр. Кроме того, к услугам гостей буфеты, спортивные и тренажерные залы.

    Уже сейчас многие залы велодрома активно используются приверженцами здорового образа жизни, рассказал Павел Галкин. Примечательно, что самым большим спросом пользуется, казалось бы, не очень "раскрученный" вид спорта бадминтон. Ежедневно около сотни бадминтонистов приходят поиграть, а раньше в Минске не было ни одного зала, где бы люди и спортсмены могли заниматься бадминтоном. Кстати, стоимость занятий в залах велодрома совсем не заоблачная - всего Br7-8 тыс., что, безусловно, привлекает минчан, считает Павел Галкин.

  • Endnote...

    Unemployment compensation in Belarus amounts to 16 dollars

    From: Charter '97
    Even according to official data involuntary part-time employment in Belarus increased four-fold in January–April.

    233.5 thousand workers of organizations, or 6.6 per cent of the average monthly number, had to work part-time in January–April 2009 in Belarus (this number was 1.6 per cent in January–April 2008), the Ministry of Statistics informs. In comparison with January–April 2008, the number of part-time workers increased more than four-fold, AFN reports.

    The number of workers, transferred to short week increased by 15.8 per cent (75.6 thousand people) in April if compared with March. 125.1 thousand people worked short week in January–April (against 32 thousand people in January–March 2008).

    The number of workers who had to go on vacation on the initiative of an employer increased by 1 per cent in April in comparison with March and amounted to 51.2 thousand people. 28.1 thousand people had to take unpaid vacations. 108.4 thousand people went on holidays on the initiative of an employer in January–April 2009 (against 24.6 thousand in January–April 2008).

    The number of officially registered unemployed was 43.2 thousand people in late May 2009 that is by 1.7 per cent fewer than in April 2009. The unemployed amount to 0.9 per cent of the economically active population.

    In January–May 2009, 132.1 thousand people were registered at employment centers, 90.3 thousand of them were found jobless (68.3 per cent of the number of applicants). 70 thousand people, among them 52.4 thousand unemployed people, were offered jobs in January–May 2009.

    37.4 thousand people, among them 23.3 thousand jobless people, were recruited for public works in Janury–May 2009.