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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Boarding schools, Dairy factories, Russian, US and EU relations, Slavonic Bazaar, Economics, Tourism, Kazakhstan, Sport, Culture and polisg scandal

  • From the Top...
  • #426

    Alexander Lukashenko: boarding schools for gifted kids in every oblast

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko believes it is necessary to set up boarding schools for gifted children in every oblast. He made the relevant statement on 10 July as he visited the Luzhesno boarding school for talented and gifted children of the Vitebsk oblast.

    “If there is a need and experience, one should think about setting up similar educational establishments everywhere in Belarus,” said the head of state.

    The Luzhesno boarding school for talented and gifted children mainly offers quality education to children who live in rural areas. 40% of the students come from low-income families while 24% of the students are orphans. The school is a versatile educational establishment. A system of tests is used to admit students. At present there are 275 students there. Over the 15 years of its existence the school has educated 1,047 winners of regional academic excellence competitions, 340 winners of oblast ones, 195 winners of national ones and 13 winners of international ones. Besides, 156 students have been awarded prizes of the Belarus President special fund for social support for gifted students. The school closely cooperates with many Belarusian universities. Out of 798 graduates 787 have entered universities, 11 — vocational schools.

    According to the President, the Luzhesno practices used to educate talented children from rural areas should be utilised everywhere in the country. “If there is a need in every oblast, talented kids should be chosen for relevant education,” said the head of state. He underscored that it is necessary to pick out and support talented kids at early stages of a person’s development so that they would not get lost in their lives. “It is the foundation of the state. When we support these children, we will have industry, agriculture, sports and tourism,” said Alexander Lukashenko. Such educational establishments will be created at premises of existing ones using the technologies and methods, which are similar to those the Luzhesno boarding school for talented and gifted children uses.

    Alexander Lukashenko examined classrooms, living rooms, the gym and exercise rooms, the swimming pool and the football field. Students arranged an impromptu performance for the President. Alexander Lukashenko planted a fir tree in the school’s courtyard.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    No plans to sell Belarusian dairy factories to Russia

    From: BelTA
    Belarus has no plans to sell dairy factories to Russia, Belarusian Agriculture and Food Minister Semyon Shapiro told a press conference in Minsk on 8 July.

    “They are property of our state. Any deals to sell Belarusian dairy factories are out of the question,” said the Minister. Yet he remarked that Belarus is interested in attracting foreign investments into the development of dairy factories. “We are open to discussion and invite all investors regardless of what country they come from,” he stressed. “The key thing is that investors should comply with our requirements and invest money in manufacturing”.

    The Minister remarked that, in particular, the Pruzhany and Shklov dairy factories are working to attract investors. “Work is in progress. If the Russian company Unimilk, with which they are negotiating, becomes the investor, we will be glad,” he added.

    Semyon Shapiro said that Belarus is interested in exchanging packages of shares in dairy factories with Russia. During the visit to Voronezh the head of the Belarusian Agriculture and Food Ministry suggested to the Russian side that they should exchange shares, in particular, shares with the company Molvest that owns nine dairy factories. “It is a normal integration process. It is a profitable way for us to work on the Russian market because at present in our country there are many companies that are co-owned by our colleagues from Russia, for example, Belovezhskiye Syry,” he added.

    Belarus will toughen control over antibiotic residue content in Russian cheese. The Minister said that a unique high sensitivity device had been introduced in Belarus to increase the precision of antibiotic residue testing of cheese and dairy products. This device costs about $0.5 million. “It will be used to check the level of antibiotic residues in products imported both from Russia and Europe,” he said.

    Semyon Shapiro noted that the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance of Russia had recently restricted cheese imports from 11 Belarusian dairies because antibiotics were found there. “On 1 July I met with the Russian Agriculture Minister and we tried to sort out the situation. We had agreed not to export dry milk to Russia while increasing cheese exports. And all of a sudden Russia suspends the import of Belarusian cheese. How shall we understand this move?” Semyon Shapiro said. The Russian side accommodated Belarus and resumed the operation of the enterprises, within a month they are to settle the issue related to the presence of antibiotic residues in their products.

    According to Semyon Shapiro, Belarus allows an insignificant amount of antibiotic residues in dairy products. The same rules are in effect in other countries as well, including the European Union and the United States. “According to the Russian regulations, dairy products should be free of these substances, but will Russian producers be able to measure up to this standard?” Semyon Shapiro asked. “We will check it using our new equipment,” he said.

    The Agriculture and Food Minister underlined that in case an insignificant amount of antibiotic residues is found in Russian cheese, Belarus will not close its market for Russian producers. “We just want to show that Russian products can also contain antibiotic residues and their amount should be reduced,” the Minister added.

    The responsibility for the problems with Belarusian dairy supplies to Russia rests in large part on heads of Belarusian dairy enterprises, Semyon Shapiro stated. “Rules should be obeyed and government standards should be based on them. However heads of some dairy enterprises did not observe these rules in a proper way. After all, an omission of even one comma can lead to problems. If we want serious cooperation with Russia, we have to be responsible about our duties,” he said.

    Semyon Shapiro gave an example. Some dairy companies offered restored milk labeled as cow milk. It is not acceptable and should be punished. “I will ask the government to give me the right to decide how to punish the heads of enterprises who do not fulfill the requirements set by Russian importers,” he said.

    The Minister informed that the Belarusian side and head of the Russian Federal Consumer Protection Service Gennady Onishchenko coordinated a schedule to supply samples of Belarusian dairy products to Russian where the relevant tests will be carried out. As of 2 July, 550 samples were sent to Russia, 102 findings have already been issued. Under the protocol signed by Russia and Belarus, Belarusian enterprises will have to apply to Russian standardization bodies to receive certificates of conformity. “We have already received such certificates for 78 products. It is encouraging,” the Minister concluded. He reminded that up till 1 August Belarus will export dairy products to Russia using old papers. At present, the relevant tests are carried out at nine laboratories of Russia.

    “When we recalculated the old and new values of Belarus’ dairy supplies to Russia, it turned out that the annual value will increase by Br130 billion,” said the Minister. He reminded that the balance of supplies had been revised together with the Russian side. According to the new plans Belarus will ship less milk powder. In Q2 and Q3 2009 the supplies are suspended while in Q4 2009 Belarus plans to export up to 15,000 tonnes of milk powder to Russia. “We will regulate supplies of these products in a routinely matter in order to avoid disrupting the operation of Russian producers,” noted Semyon Shapiro.

    Meanwhile, Belarus will increase cheese export to Russia up to 15,000 tonnes. Russia has also increased Belarus’ quota on whole milk deliveries. The corrections of dairy exports to Russia suit Belarus. “We fulfil our task of increasing export,” stressed the Minister.

    Semyon Shapiro remarked that Belarus had earlier sold milk powder to Russia at a loss. “We bought whole milk from peasants at Br600, dried it up and sold at Br500. We operated in the red but the products were popular with Russian producers,” said the Minister. He remarked that “at present in many regions of Russia the livestock population is falling and tomorrow the Russian market will need our milk powder, we have no doubt”.

    Belarus urged to become EU's full partner

    From: BelTA
    France hopes that Belarus will become a full partner of the European Union, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Belarus Mireille Musso told a press conference on 9 July.

    “France has big plans regarding Belarus and hopes that Belarus will take a decent place in the European family, on the European continent, and will communicate with European neighbours on a fruitful basis,” said Mireille Musso. “We hope that the relations will improve and that Belarus will become a full-fledged partner of the European Union”. She remarked that France would like to see openness of the Belarusian society and to see Belarus as close to European standards as possible.

    The diplomat underscored: “I wish Europe to become a continent of friendship, peace between nations. To make it happen, all countries should share common values despite the fact that each of them has a history of its own”.

    The Ambassador reminded that France presided over the European Union in 2008. “Despite crises Europeans retain the policy with earlier stated priorities and I think that some of them are of interest to Belarus,” she stressed. “In particular, documents concerning power engineering and climate can be of interest. A conference, which is scheduled to take place in Copenhagen in December 2009, should give a boost to resolving many problems in this area and I think that Belarus will take an active part in this work. The matter of enhancing security and defence in Europe, especially the prevention of terrorism, is also important.”

    Mireille Musso underlined that the Mediterranean Union, which foundation had been laid down by France, has been balanced by the Eastern Partnership, of which Belarus is a participant. “I think it is the end of the logical approach to improving EU-Belarus relations,” she said.

    Head of the French diplomatic mission Mireille Musso underlined the importance of visits of Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Secretary General of the Council of the European Union, and European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner to Belarus. “The visits underlined the growing European Union interest in Belarus. But a lot has yet to be done in this area”. In particular, the Ambassador of France mentioned the need to “think about liberalising some articles of the Belarusian Criminal Code, which is somewhat rigid and unfit for European standards”.

    Michael Scanlan appointed head of US Embassy in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    Michael Scanlan, Charge d'Affaires a.i. of the United States of America in Belarus, has been appointed head of the US Embassy in Minsk. Representatives of the US diplomatic mission told BelTA, Michael Scanlan’s previous assignment was the Head of the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Technical Assistance Office at the US Embassy in Kyiv, where he served from 2004 to 2008.

    Michael Scanlan first became a US diplomat at the US Embassy in London in 1991. From 1993 to 1995 he served as the Chief of the Political and Economic Section of the US Embassy in Bishkek, and served in the same capacity in Yerevan from 1995 to 1996. Michael Scanlan was seconded to the United Nations Organisation from 1996 to 1998 and served as the Special Advisor to the Head of the Civil Affairs of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES), Croatia. From 1998 to 2000 Michael Scanlan worked as the Chief of the Political and Economic Section of the US Consulate in Vladivostok, where he also served as the acting Consul General for three months. He then served from 2000 to 2002 as the Head of Office of the US Embassy Branch Office in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, followed by an assignment to the State Department from 2002 to 2004 as the Special Advisor for Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus in the Office of the Coordinator for US Assistance to Europe and Eurasia.

    Michael Scanlan speaks Bosnian, Serbian, Russian, and is studying Belarusian.

    Michael Scanlan replaced Jonathan Moore as US Charge d'Affaires a.i. in Belarus.

    In 2008 the USA ranked 11th among Belarus’ non-CIS trade partners in terms of the foreign trade volume, 17th in terms of Belarus’ export, and 6th in terms of Belarus’ import. Last year Belarus-US trade totalled $628 million, with the US share in Belarus’ total trade as large as 2%.

    The USA supplies high-technology products to Belarus, including medical equipment and computers.

    Over the last few years the United States has been a major investor in Belarus and is second to Russia only in the number of joint ventures and foreign companies set up in Belarus.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk becoming more prestigious

    From: BelTA
    The importance and prestige of the Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk festival is increasing, deputy of the Russian State Duma and the Union State Parliamentary Assembly Anatoly Lokot told a press conference dedicated to the opening of the festival on 10 July.

    Anatoly Lokot underlined that the Union State cannot ignore such a significant event and takes part in it every year. This participation involves financial support: RUB25 million is allocated for this festival from the Union State budget.

    In his words, the festival is important from the political point of view, too: it is an efficient element of public diplomacy as it gives nations an opportunity to reach an agreement where politicians fail. “It is impossible to overestimate the political role of the festival,” the deputy said.

    Anatoly Lokot pointed out that this time the festival is held in the year of the 65th anniversary of Belarus’ liberation from the Nazi invaders. “This event is important for all the peoples of the former Soviet Union and the festival brings it into focus,” he said.

    “The Union State will keep participating in the Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk festival,” Anatoly Lokot added.

    First Deputy Culture Minister Vladimir Rylatko said that the format of the Day of Union State held at the festival changed a bit, “on 11 July a large delegation of the Union State Permanent Committee and Parliamentary Assembly will come to Vitebsk. A series of events dedicated to the Union State is to be held within the next two days. The final day of the festival will also be dedicated to the Union State. Prizes of the Permanent Committee and Parliamentary Assembly will be presented during the final concert.

    Slavonic Bazaar to earn Br5bn in 2009

    Commercial projects held within the 18th international festival Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk are to earn about Br5 billion in 2009, Rodion Bass, Director General of the festival, told a press conference on 10 July.

    The revenues will make 60% of the finances spent on the organization of the festival.

    According to Rodion Bass, the amount of money independently earned by the festival is increasing every year. In 2008 the festival earned Br3 billion, the festival’s director said. He added that the commercial projects of the festival will expand.

    And, an international Vitebsk-2009 song contest will be presented in a new concept in 2009, Belarusian Culture Minister Pavel Latushko told a press conference on 10 July.

    According to the Minister, the new concept implies performances of the jury members and pop stars and an impressive stage decoration. The Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk will not leave anyone indifferent, the Minister is convinced.

    The land of Vitebsk abounds in talents. “It is the place of origin of Euphrosyne of Polotsk, Simeon of Polotsk, Francysk Skaryna, Vasil Bykov, and Vladimir Korotkevich. It is enough to make people living in Vitebsk be proud of their native land. I am also convinced that they can take pride in the Slavonic Bazaar that is held in Vitebsk for the 18th time.

    All Belarusians and even foreigners like this event immensely. The festival promotes a very good and positive image of the Republic of Belarus abroad, Pavel Latushko said.

  • Economics...

    Belarus’ external public debt over $5bn on 1 June

    From: BelTA
    Belarus’ external public debt exceeded $5 billion on 1 June, $1.3 billion up (36%) since early this year, Finance Minister Andrei Kharkovets told BelTA in an interview.

    “Despite the facts the level of burden is far from the critical one. Taking into account the loans that Belarus will get from the IMF, the World Bank this year and the Russian public loan economic security indicators of the foreign debt will stay within the affordable range according to both national and international standards,” he explained.

    Andrei Kharkovets remarked that at the end of 2009 the ratio of the external public debt to the GDP is supposed to make 17.1% (the threshold value is 20% according to national standards and 50% according to international ones), the ratio of external public debt service payments to the export of commodities and services — 1.7% (the threshold value is 10% according to national standards and 25% according to international ones) while public debt payments will be close to $418.5 million or 3.8% of budget revenues (the threshold value is 7% according to national standards and 10% according to international ones).

    Following Belarus President Decree No. 264 of 28 May 2009 the limit of the external debt for 2009 has been raised from $6 billion to $8 billion.

    EU to make decision on financial aid to Belarus soon

    Belarus is expecting the EU to make a decision in the near future whether to grant Belarus financial assistance or not, Belarusian Finance Minister Andrei Kharkovets told BelTA.

    He reminded that Belarus had recently applied for financial aid to the European Union. “We did not ask for any specific sum. The EU has a mechanism of providing macroeconomic financial assistance. It is related to the work of the IMF in the states that ask for such financial support,” the Minister said.

    Apart from that, in order to diversify the sources of financial aid, Andrei Kharkovets said, Belarus plans to get an access to international financial markets. “The constant monitoring of the current market conditions shows that the countries with similar credit rating have not been offered acceptable loan terms yet,” the Finance Minister said.

    Belarus still intent on getting Russian loan

    Belarus intends to resume talks about providing the Russian loan, Belarusian Finance Minister Andrei Kharkovets told BelTA in an interview.

    He remarked that the Russian side intends to provide the $500 million public loan that Belarus was supposed to get in May 2009 after the IMF has provided the second part of the standby loan.

    “You know already that the fund has made the decision, confirming the correctness of economic policy measures of Belarus and the country’s ability to pay its debts,” said the Finance Minister.

    In addition, on 30 June Standard & Poor’s confirmed Belarus’ sovereign credit ratings. The agency has not changed the opinion since the first assignment of the rating in 2007. “It means a lot. Not everyone has managed to confirm its capability in conditions of the world financial and economic crisis. Quite many times sovereign ratings were reduced in 2008 and 2009,” remarked Andrei Kharkovets.

    “We believe that after getting this information our Russian colleagues will resume talks about providing the abovementioned loan,” stressed the Finance Minister.

    Belarus also plans to continue discussing the possibility of borrowing RUB100 billion from Russia. “We believe the loan could expand the use of the Russian ruble in bilateral payments, ruling out disruptions in the mutual trade, boosting manufacturing cooperation ties between Russian and Belarusian economic entities,” explained Andrei Kharkovets.

    He also said that Belarus intends to continue talks with Sberbank of Russia about the possibility of borrowing $2 billion against the state guarantees of the Russian Federation.

    At present preparations are underway for holding bilateral consultations about getting Russian financial support for implementing the project to build a nuclear power plant in Belarus, added the Finance Minister.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Russia again mulls joining WTO on its own

    From: New Europe
    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on July 10 at the G8 summit in the Italian town of L’Aquila that plans to join the World Trade Organization as a three-way customs union including Kazakhstan and Belarus could be “problematic.“ He said it would be simpler for Moscow to join on its own.

    Medvedev said Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan had agreed to set up a customs union if “by summer of this year” none had made it into the global free trade body. “The question is what happens now,” he added.

    Medvedev told a news conference that it made sense to coordinate with Belarus and Kazakhstan on common regulations, but that each country should join individually. “There are two ways. The first way is the Customs Union’s accession, which would be nice but is quite problematic, as our colleagues leading the WTO negotiations have told us,” he was quoted as saying by the press.

    “Joining the WTO separately after coordinating common standards and positions within the Customs Union troika is, I think, the simplest and the most realistic way.“

    Russia, the only major economic power still not belonging to the WTO, began negotiations to join in 1993, but talks have bogged down over disputes on a variety of issues and were set back by Russia’s war with Georgia last year.
    The delays have been marked by growing expressions of Russian frustration over the process.

    Baffling observers, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in mid-June that Russia would change tack on its accession and seek membership as a single customs bloc with Kazakhstan and Belarus. At that time, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan said that they were halting talks on their individual accession to the WTO because of plans to join the organisation as a single customs union. The customs union is scheduled to come into force on January 1, 2010.

    Arkady Dvorkovich, an aide to the Russian president, said late on July 9 that Russia would consider joining the WTO individually, Itar-Tass reported. Experts are currently estimating which form of accession to the WTO is more reasonable, Dvorkovich said, adding that a final decision had not been made yet.

    Consultations show that Russia’s accession to the WTO as a single customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan would be a difficult process and would take several years, Dvorkovich said. “We need to find an option, with which Russia’s accession to the WTO won’t linger for years,” he added.

    European Union Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton and US Trade Representative Ronald Kirk have said that their governments may complete accession talks with Russia this year. Putin initially made joining the WTO a priority during his first presidential term in 2000.

    Sweden said on July 6 that Russia’s WTO accession and fighting the economic crisis would be among its priorities with Moscow during its six months at the helm of the European Union presidency.

    Sweden, which took over the rotating EU presidency from the Czech Republic on July 1, wants to see Russia in the WTO despite its recent decision to drop its membership bid and resubmit it as a joint bid with Belarus and Kazakhstan, Swedish Ambassador Tomas Bertelman said at a news conference, Interfax reported.

    Russia’s top trade negotiator, Maxim Medvedkov, reiterated on July 6 that talks on the joint accession of the three countries to the WTO could start in the fall, RIA-Novosti reported. Bertelman also said Sweden hoped to step up cooperation between the EU and Russia in fighting the economic crisis.

    The EU will also work on energy security, fighting organised crime and the Eastern Partnership programme, which seeks free trade agreements and relaxed visa rules between the 27 EU members and six of Russia’s former Soviet neighbors in exchange for political reforms in those countries, Bertelman said, the Moscow Times reported.
    Earlier, EU officials criticised Moscow’s plans to join the WTO with Kazakhstan and Belarus.

    Marc Franco, the EU’s ambassador to Moscow said on July 6 that talks on a new Russian-EU partnership pact have been “seriously hampered” by Moscow’s plan to seek WTO entry as one customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus.

    “The new scheme (for Russian WTO entry) completely changes the existing picture,” Marc Franco said, quoted by Russian news agencies. Russian WTO membership “was a sort of platform that allowed us to plan the future, but now there is a great deal of uncertainty on how to move forward.”

    “All of this has seriously hampered the process to conclude a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between Russian and the EU,” he added. The PCA was extended one year after trade disputes blocked finding a successor to the pact, which expired in December 2007. Partnership talks were also suspended several months last year over the EU’s objections to Russia’s war with Georgia in August. “Russia was very close to WTO accession, we expected that it would become a member of the WTO by the end of this year,” Franco said.

    Thomas Mirow, head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on July 6 that Russia’s move to form a single customs bloc with Kazakhstan and Belarus must not become a distraction to their bid to obtain WTO membership.

    “The formation of a customs union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan can be beneficial but it must not become a distraction from WTO entry negotiations,” he said. “Equally I would appeal to all negotiators on all sides to show the necessary flexibilities by keeping their eye on the larger goal,” he said at the two-day WTO ‘Aid for Trade’ conference.

    IMF Boosts Belarus Aid To $3.52B From $2.51B

    From: WSJ
    The International Monetary Fund said Monday it will boost aid to Belarus to $3.52 billion, more than $1 billion more than it had initially committed to the struggling Eastern European nation.

    Additionally, the IMF board said it was waiving certain economic performance requirements and modifying other requirements connected to the loan package.

    "Belarus's economy has been hit hard by a fall in external demand and volatile cross-currency movements since the program was approved in January," Takatoshi Kato, the fund's deputy managing director and acting chair, said in a statement.

    The Fund in January promised the country a $2.51 billion 15-month loan.

    The additional loan dollars approved Monday are aimed at helping Belarus contain the effects of the global financial crisis while maintaining a balanced 2009 budget and a tight monetary policy.

    "The revised program envisages stronger efforts to liberalize the economy and prepare for privatization, which are essential to improve prospects for long-run growth and external stability," Kato said.

    Israel, Belarus Tourism Ministers Sign Agreement

    From: Aruts Sheva
    Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov and his Belarusian counterpart Oleg Kachan signed a five-year agreement on Friday to generate an increase in tourist traffic between the two countries. It also calls for increasing joint activities by tourism wholesalers and upgrading relations with existing and new airline companies to break down existing barriers and increase seat capacity. Other issues to be progressed include: exchange of tourism specialists, distribution of tourism material, and exchange of tourism information.

    “In the next few years, the Tourism Ministry will strengthen its activities with the main source countries for incoming tourism to Israel, while also increasing its activities in additional countries in Eastern Europe and Asia,” said Misezhnikov in a statement. “These activities will concentrate on removing obstacles, strengthening ties and implementing targeted marketing activities in order to realize the tourism potential from these countries.”

    Kazakhstan, Belarus discuss prospects of military cooperation in Astana

    From: Trend
    The Kazakh Defense Minister Adilbek Dzhaksibekov met with representatives of Belarus Military Industrial Committee headed by chairman of Nikolai Azamatov at the defense ministry on July 10.

    The meeting focused on development prospects of Kazakh- Belarus military cooperation, as well as elaboration of concrete proposals on military technological cooperation projects. This was Dzhaksibekov's one of first meetings on the top as the Kazakh Defense Minister.

    Work over extending the service and modernization of existing weapons and military equipment could be an important area of cooperation with the possible involvement of both countries defense industries, Dzhaksybekov said at a meeting with his Belarusian counterparts.

    The current military cooperation between Kazakhstan and Belarus is well developed. The dynamics of mutual visits and a large number of treaties and agreements of different nature testify for it, the statement said

    Training of military personnel and military-technical cooperation are prospective and relevant directions of bilateral military cooperation. The Kazakh Defense Ministry signed several contracts with the Belarus aircraft refurbishment plant to upgrade and overhaul of aircraft.

    Head of the Belarus delegation, chairman of the Belarus Military Industrial Committee, Nikolai Azamatov, proposed the Kazakh Defense Minister to pay a working visit to Belarus to get familiarized with the activities of the military-industrial enterprises in the country, the same source said.

  • From the Opposition...

    Vitsebsk activists protest against criminal persecution of human rights activist Leanid Svetsik

    From: Viasna
    Civil and political activists of Vitsebsk distributed the following statement concerning the criminal persecution of Vitsebsk human rights defender Leanid Svetsik. Expressing their protest against criminal and court persecution the activists demand an objective and all-sided trial of Leanid Svetsik’s case by a competent, independent and impartial court.


    The trial of the human rights defender Leanid Svetsik has lasted for more a month already, since 10 June. He is charged with fomentation of national and religious enmity by means of sending threat letters on behalf of the Russian neo-Nazi organization Russian National Unity.

    Starting from 1999, Leanid Svetsik many times assisted dissidents at trials and addressed the law enforcement organs and the authorities with the aim to protect civil and political rights of Belarusian citizens. In 1999 he applied to the UN Human Rights Committee on behalf of victims of repressions of the Belarusian authoritarian regime. All six complaints were accepted for consideration. Besides, as a result of his addresses to the authorities some legal acts of the country were amended.

    At the twelve sittings on this case the court listened to testimonies of the witnesses and victims, studied the documents and evidence. The defense made more than 30 petitions pointing at violations of the Criminal Process Code during the preliminary investigation. However, during the trial the judge of Vitsebsk oblast court Halina Urbanovich did not grant any of them. In particular, she declined the motion of L.Svetsik for specification of the results of the expertise of the threat letters that had been sent to citizens of Vitsebsk in 2006, because the printer cartridge, confiscated during a search in Svetsik’s apartment, (by which these letters were allegedly printed) was produced later, in 2007. By such behavior the judge expressed her non-objectiveness and interest in punishing Mr. Svetsik.

    Taking into account all abovementioned facts we express our protest against criminal and court persecution of the human rights defender. We don’t believe he is guilty, because we know Leanid Svetsik as a principled defender of human rights, including the national rights. That’s why we demand an objective and all-sided consideration of the case of Leanid Svetsik by a competent, independent and impartial court.

    We think that criminal persecution from the side of KGB and this trial is revenge to L.Svetsik for his human rights activities. But the main thing is that the authorities want to isolate him as an active human rights defender till the following presidential elections. This process is not a criminal, but a political one!

    July 2009, Vitsebsk

    The statement was signed by: A.Zaleskaya, Ya.Dziarzhautsau, B.Milchyna, H.Limarava, S.Belazeka, S.Parsiukevich, A.Limvis, H.Nasonava, Ya. Talpyha, L.Tserashonkava, N.Tupiakova, V.Kavaliova, K.Smolikau, A.Haurutsikau, A.Pivanos, M.Hryshchanka and Kh.Zhaliapau.

    Just sick of you

    From: Charter '97
    Alyaksandr Lukashenka formulated the main quality a head of state should have on the 15th anniversary of his presidency.

    “One should be close to people, understand them, both adults and children, workers and scientists,” the Belarusian dictator told today answering the questions of pupils of the boarding school and gymnasium in Luzhesno, AFN reports.

    “The main thing is that people feel this,” Lukashenka said. He noted that in that case one can remain the president of the country and not to annoy the people of the country.

    15 years is a rather long time for this “civil marriage”. The people have felt the person they deal with and even learnt to understand this “close” man, whose inaccessibility can be compared with that of Mount Everest. To understand by phrases and intonation when he lies and when not, when he has complexes, what he likes and what irritates him and what he is afraid of.

    15 years is a long term not to make another kitchen quarrel on this anniversary finding out who is right and who is to blame, who made a mistake 5, 7, or 12 years ago. There’s no sense in emotions or long philosophic talks, accusations and insults. Everybody understands everything, every party will remain or pretend it has remained of the same mind.

    15 years suppose the both parties have the right to express its real opinion directly, without end runs and sliding tackles, and show the mistakes of the opponent.

    One can say with certainty that most people in Belarus are not agree with the dictator’s view and would have said low if they had had such an opportunity: “Actually, I‘m sick of you” and dreamt how real can be the only step of Lukashenka that can put paid to all 15-year discussions: “I’m tired. I am leaving.”

    Let it be not original, but it is respectworthy. And, what is important, the big Belarusian family will manage this decision.

  • Around the Region...

    Leaders Say G8 Losing Its Currency

    From: Moscow Times
    Against a growing chorus to expand the Group of Eight, President Dmitry Medvedev spoke on Friday in favor of keeping the G8 format as a useful tool for international policymaking.

    Medvedev, speaking at a news conference at the end of a three-day G8 summit, also said Russia would continue with its individual bid to join the World Trade Organization, even though Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said June 9 that the country would suspend its bid and seek to join with Belarus and Kazakhstan as a customs union.

    Leaders of the G8 rich nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States — met alone on Wednesday in L’Aquila, Italy. On Thursday, they had sessions with six other countries, forming the so-called G14, and on the closing day they invited a number of additional states from the developing world.

    The major global economies are also working together to combat the crisis as the G20.

    Medvedev said he believed the formats should co-exist for the foreseeable future before being replaced one day by a single format.

    “I believe that on the whole we need to choose an economical format for communication,” he said, without specifying what it should be.

    His foreign policy aide, Sergei Prikhodko, was more blunt on Thursday.

    “It’s too early to bury the G8. We need to continue the collective analysis,” Prikhodko told reporters. “There is a big common range of subjects that the G8 is best suited for.”

    He added, however, that the G20 would take over some issues from the G8 and would likely keep them. He did not elaborate.

    Medvedev said a broader format would be useful to strengthen the legal groundwork for international cooperation, to reform international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund, and to rethink the “stereotypes” of the past years.

    Medvedev found support from Canada and Germany for keeping the G8 format, but the United States, Italy and France argued that the G8’s days should be numbered.

    U.S. President Barack Obama pointed out that big economies outside the G8 were vital for advancing on issues such as the economic crisis and global warming.

    “One thing that is absolutely true is that for us to think we can somehow deal with some of these global challenges in the absence of major powers like China, India and Brazil seems to be wrongheaded,” Obama told reporters.

    He appeared to signal that the G8 was marching toward extinction.

    “We are in a transition period,” Obama said Friday. “The one thing I will be looking forward to are fewer summit meetings. … I think there is a possibility to streamline them and make them more effective.”

    Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he was strongly in favor of having the G14 assume a dominant role in international decision making.

    “As far as I am concerned the G14 is the format that in the future will have the best possibility to take the most important decisions on the world economy, and not just that,” he said.

    The G14 includes Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico and South Africa.

    Berlusconi said he opposed a further widening of the forum and adopting the G20 format permanently. “When more than 15 people sit around a table you have a problem with discussions and debate,” he said. “There isn’t the possibility for direct contact or to interrupt, so it becomes formal and static.”

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy also backed the G14, which represents about 80 percent of the global economy, up from 50 percent that the G8 accounts for. “We will put the G14 in place in 2011 when France chairs the G8,” he told reporters.

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his country would try to create a broader forum but expressed hope that the G8 would survive.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the G8 serves an important role. “There are issues for which the G8 is the appropriate body in our view,” she said.

    The fact that Russia chose not to articulate its support for a larger G8 on Friday doesn’t mean that it doesn’t support such an expansion, said Boris Shmelyov, director of the Center for Comparative Political Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

    “It’s a process that is inevitable and necessary,” he said of the possible formal expansion. “It would strengthen Russia’s position because it has common interests with the major developing countries.”

    Regarding the WTO, Medvedev outlined a different approach for Russia than what Putin announced in June.

    Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan may continue with their individual bids rather than seeking entry as a single customs union, Medvedev said.

    He didn’t outright reject trying to join as a customs union, as Putin proposed, saying it would be “beautiful but quite a problem.”

    Instead, Russia and its two customs union partners could negotiate common standards to apply in their separate bids, Medvedev said. This would be “simpler and more realistic” and would allow them to join at different times, he said.

    U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke last week described the customs union bid as “not workable and unacceptable.”

    Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina denied last week that Russia was still considering a solo bid.

    “We’re joining together. That’s the decision that’s been made and that’s what we’re working toward,” she said.

    Kyrgyzstan grants permission for new Russian military base

    From: Daily Times
    Kyrgyzstan has granted permission for Russia to open a second military base in the Central Asian country, a source in the Kyrgyz government told AFP on Friday.

    The source said the base would be in located in Osh, a city in southern Kyrgyzstan, and would operate under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). The CSTO is a security grouping of Russia and six ex-Soviet states that Moscow has touted as a counterweight to NATO. In addition, Russia will gain control over several Kyrgyz defence-industry sites in exchange for a two-billion-dollar loan package that Moscow offered the impoverished Cental Asian state in February, the source said. The moves boost Russia’s hand in Kyrgyzstan just days after Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed an accord allowing the United States to keep using an airbase in the country to support operations in Afghanistan.

    “Kyrgyzstan will give Russia control over an array of defence sites in exchange for the two-billion-dollar credit. The sides also agreed on the opening in Osh of a second CSTO military base,” the source said. The source specified that Russia would gain control over the Dastan torpedo factory on Kyrgyzstan’s Lake Issyk-Kul, a former top-secret Soviet base that supplies equipment to the Russian navy.

    IMF Tentatively Approves Loan to Help Ukraine

    From: WSJ
    The International Monetary Fund gave tentative approval Friday to the release of a $3.3 billion credit tranche to shore up Ukraine's finances, while issuing a sharply more negative forecast for the country's economic growth this year.

    Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, the IMF's mission chief, said a decision on the loan would be taken by the fund's executive board in the next three to four weeks "pending the completion of prior actions" by the Ukrainian authorities, including approval of amendments to banking legislation in parliament.

    The loan is the third tranche of a $16.4 billion standby credit agreement reached last autumn, of which $7.3 billion has already been disbursed to prop up an economy that contracted 20.3% in the first quarter as demand for its main exports -- steel and chemicals -- dried up.

    "The policies implemented by the government and the central bank have allowed the authorities to manage the crisis and led to stability in the financial system," Ms. Pazarbasioglu said.

    But she stressed the need for Ukraine's warring lawmakers to find "strong political consensus" to continue implementing the IMF program -- such as passing the banking laws and maintaining strict fiscal discipline.

    Parliament has been physically blocked in the past few days by deputies from the opposition Party of Regions, who are demanding an increase in the minimum wage.

    "We have developed a revised anticrisis program," said Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. "On the one hand, this is not very popular for politicians, as it foresees a reduction in government expenditures ... but on the other hand it's the only way out of the crisis for Ukraine."

    Ms. Tymoshenko said that $1.9 billion of the tranche would be used to repay external sovereign debt, in order to "remove in full all risks concerning the payment of Ukraine's foreign debt."

    The IMF also revised its forecast for Ukraine's GDP contraction to 14% from 8% this year, in light of the unexpectedly strong contraction in the first quarter. The budget-deficit target also was revised from 4% to 6% of GDP. Ukraine authorities have committed to "corrective fiscal measures" in order to achieve the revised target, Ms. Pazarbasioglu said, and have agreed to stick to the targets in the run-up to the presidential elections on Jan. 17.

    One significant measure will see quarterly increases in natural gas tariffs, which should help to shore up the finances of Ukraine's natural gas company, Naftogaz. Earlier this week, Naftogaz settled its monthly bill with Russia's Gazprom for natural gas taken in June.

    Naftogaz is now stockpiling natural gas for winter in its underground storage facilities after a cheaper price came into effect in the third quarter. On Monday, Ms. Tymoshenko said that negotiations were continuing with the European Union and Russia on attracting financial support for the purchase of the natural gas, which is needed to ensure stable transportation of Russian gas to Europe. Ukraine says it needs just over $4 billion for purchasing the gas.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Londynczycy goes on a bender

    From: The News
    Some of the crew and director of the TVP Londynczycy (Londoners) series have been arrested in Eastbourne, southeast England, for drunk and disorderly behavior.

    Director Maciej Migas spent the night in a cell at the local police station. Assistant director Krzysztof Lukaszewicz and another crew member were detained as well. All three were released the following morning with a cautionary warning.

    The arrests of the crew members of Londynczycy – a story of Polish migrants in London – brought filming of episodes of the second series to a temporary halt.

    The controversial series has a 3 million pound budget and drew almost six million viewers when it premiered on TVP public television.

    Writers of the show faced criticism after some viewers complained that storylines were full of negative stereotypes of Polish immigrant living in London – including frequent heavy drinking.

    Despite the controversy, the show’s first season received an ‘Honourable Mention’ at the 2009 Hugo Television Awards in Chicago in April.

    Another footballer arrested on corruption charges

    From: POlskie Radio
    Former Poland international, ., has been detained in connection with the on-going investigation into corruption in Polish football.

    The forty year-old footballer has been detained charges of corruption, which took place while he played for the second division Radomsko team in the 2004/2005 season. After the interrogation Slawomir M. was released on 10,000 zlotys bail.

    During a long career, he played for many clubs, including Zaglebie Lubin, LKS Lodz, Widzew Lodz and Hansie Rostock and was a coach at MKS Orlicz Suchedniow.

    Over 200 people – players, referees, officials and members of the Football Federation (PZPN) – have been charged so far for being involved in match fixing schemes since the investigation was launched four years ago.

    Serious financial irregularities at TVP?

    From: Polskie Radio
    TVP spent public money illegally and will have to return millions of zloty back to the Treasury, finds an audit report into the finances of Poland’s public television.

    An audit into TVP finds serious financial irregularities, Treasury Minister Aleksander Grad claimed today.

    “I have turned to the court to appoint an administrator for the company, who will maintain proper supervision and will pass indispensable information [about the company] to the ministry,” Minister Grad said.

    The government is going to ask the National Revenue Office to publish the audit report which, according to Grad, is ‘damning’: TVP spent public money illegally and will have to return millions of zloty back to the Treasury.

    The row over TVP’s finances is another chapter in the battle for control over public media in Poland.

    The opposition Law and Justice party sees the Treasury Minister’s decision as another attempt to wreck public media in Poland.

    “The Civic Platform [the senior coalition partner in the current government] is determined to cause chaos within public media,” Mariusz Blaszczak of Law and Justice commented.

    Minister Grad claims to have evidence against Piotr Farfal, who was suspended as president of TVP last Friday. Grad says Farfal seriously mismanaged the company and that the audit shows certain tax irregularities.

    Minister Grad, told reporters on Wednesday that the fastest and best way to normalize public media is to let the new media bill - which recently passed through both houses of parliament - come into force. But this needs the signature of President Kaczynski, who sides with Law and Justice.

    Civic Platform’s MP Stefan Niesiolowski, hopes that recent events in TVP will convince left wing opposition parties to side with the government in parliament and overthrow the probable veto of the media bill by President Kaczynski.

    "The media bill will clear up the situation in the public media. The current mess shows best why this law is necessary,” Niesiolowski said, referring to reforms to both the way public media is financed and its administration structure.

    Empty high schools as enrollment plummets

    From: The News
    A number of schools in the Lesser Poland region, southern Poland, have not enrolled any students for the next school term.

    In a Krakow technical high school, there are several thousand free places awaiting students. A part of the school will be closed down and several dozen teachers lose their jobs. In the city of Krakow alone, 3,500 places are awaiting students that simply do not exist.

    The daily Dziennik Polski cites the demographic deficit Poland is experiencing as the reason schools are standing empty, even after the enrollment period has finished. People are living longer while Poland has one of the lowest birth rates in the EU.

    “There has never been such a weak enrollment,” states Mariusz Maziarz from the Lesser Poland School Inspectorate. “In Lesser Poland, there are schools to which not a single student has enrolled and a few classes where it will be difficult to start in September because there is only one student,” added the chief inspector.

    The severely reduced enrollment will lead to further closing down of schools and forced redundancy of teachers.

    “The worst scenario is to close down schools. Unfortunately, the weaker ones can expect such a fate,” maintains Waldemar Olszynski from the Education Board in Nowy Sacz, southern Poland.

    Not all are agreed that the enrollment crisis can be attributed exclusively to the demographic dip but point to decreasing demands and lowered standards made by technical and professional high schools.

  • Sport...

    Belarus takes fist gold at Universiade 2009

    From: Xinus
    Eight swimming gold medals were split on the last swimming competition day of the Universiade here on Saturday.

    Belarus's Aleksandra Gerasimenya took the first gold medal in the pool today in the women's 50m freestyle by 24.62 seconds, which was a fresh Universiade record.

    Gerasimenya, silver medallist of the women's 100m freestyle and bronze medallist of the 50m backstroke at Universiade, finally grabbed a gold.

    German Dorothea Brandt finished second by 25.03. American Michelle King took the bronze by 25.10.

    Poland claimed its fourth swimming gold as Mateusz Matczak triumphed in the men's 400m individual medley by 4:12.28, 0.2 seconds faster than American Alex Vanderkaay, the silver medallist. Japanese Horihata Yuya came third by 4:15.26.

    Annika Mehlhorn gifted Germany a gold on the women's 200m butterfly, timing 2:07.35 ahead of Lyndsay De Paul of the United States on 2:09.89. Minamizono Haruka brought Japan a bronze by 2:10.01.

    In the men's 50m freestyle, Andrea Rolla of Italy triumphed on 22.16, while Boris Steimetz of France and Sergey Fesikov of Russia both finished 22.19 to take the silver.

    Daria Deeva of Russia denied Kim Dal Eun's efforts to bring South Korea its first gold, timing 31.55 for the women's 50m breaststroke victory. Kim settled for a silver by 31.57.

    Canada also grabbed a gold on Saturday as Kevyn Peterson won the women's 400m freestyle relay by 4:10.01. United States pocketed a silver in the event while South Africa took the bronze.

    The United States and Japan also pocketed one gold each by the women's and men's 4x100m medley relay respectively.

    The United States, which claimed 10 gold, 12 silver and 4 bronze on the swimming competition at Belgrade, ranked first in the medal standing, while Japan came second with 10 gold, 6 silver and 14 bronze.

    Jeffries beats Shakuro in first round

    From: Sunderland Echo
    Tony Jeffries lands a powerful body shot against Ilya Shakuro
    10 July 2009
    Sunderland boxer Tony Jeffries brushed aside Ilya Shakuro to win his third fight as a professional.
    Olympic medalist Jeffries floored the Belarus brawler in the first round in front of a partisan crowd at the Seaburn Centre.

    Shakuro recovered, but was on the back foot under a torrent of blows from Jeffries when the referee stepped in to halt the fight.

    The Belarusian had sparked a war of words earlier in the week by declaring Olympic bronze medallist Jeffries "spoilt".

    But Jeffries responded with a powerful display in the ring.

  • Endnote...

    15 years of Lukashenka’s dictatorship

    From: Charter '97
    Today marks 15 years of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s coming to power in the presidential election. Since that time he held several illegal referendums and usurped power.

    In a year after Lukashenka’s rise to power, in 1995 on his order special services men beat up deputies of the Supreme Council of the 12th convocation of the Belarusian Popular Front faction. Parliamentarians announced a hunger strike protesting against holding the referendum on changing the state symbols and recognizing Russian as the official language.

    In November 1996 the only legal legislative body of the modern Belarus, the Supreme Council of the 13th convocation. The powers of the deputies, who had been elected by people for 5 years, were stopped by Lukashenka. Since that time a decorative organ, “chamber of representatives”, works in the country. Its first members were former deputies of the Supreme Soviet, who submitted applications to Lukashenka with a request to make them “parliamentarians”.

    At the same time the regime’s opponent Viktar Hanchar was removed from the post of the chairman of the Central Election Commission. Other opposition leaders disappeared in the country: former Internal Affairs Minister Yury Zakharanka, a businessman and public leader Anatol Krasouski and a journalist Zmitser Zavadski went missing without traces. The world community suspects the Belarusian authorities in being involved in their abductions.

    Since 1996 all election campaigns in Belarus were recognized by international structures not free and undemocratic. The chairperson of the Central Election Commission Lidziya Yarmoshyna was banned entry to the countries of the EU and to the US for rigging election results.

    Over the years of Lukashenka’s rule independent mass media have been destroyed in Belarus: there is not a single independent TV channel here, all radio stations in FM range are subordinate to the state, practically all independent newspapers have been closed or get to readers with difficulty.

    Over these 15 years hundreds of political prisoners have appeared in the country, dozens of thousands of people were repressed on political grounds.

    “Over 15 years Lukashenka has developed in his ambition to preserve power. He has gained limitless powers, built strong power ministries, the establishment fears him,” stated the former chairman of the Supreme Council of Belarus Stanislau Shushkevich.

    “First we were tolerant to manifestation of Lukashenka’s regime at an early stage, I mean his desire to strengthen personal power, dictatorial ambitions, building a totalitarian system fro the first days. We gave advance to the newly elected president, as the first democratic election in the history of Belarus took place in 1994. But then that system started to work against the nation effectively.

    Ruthless crackdown on the opposition started. One can recall disappearances of Viktar Hanchar, Yury Zakharanka, Anatol Krasouski and the mysterious death of Henadz Karpenka. Then Lukashenka started to get support from the West suddenly. The “new policy” of Europeans hasn’t started today. Europeans always wanted to establish relations with Lukashenka’s regime (not the European Union as a whole, but certain countries). They fed the dictator with credits, developed trade and economic relations, supported transit role of Belarus. He used the international situation around Belarus rather successfully, and undoubtedly “milked” Russia.

    But now the system has run out of steam. The crisis which is progressing now, is exposing all the problems of the political system of Belarus, makes people act more decisively. When people would be fired, their salaries and pensions cut, they won’t wait without complaint for the situation to become worse. It is to bring about pressure on the today’s political system inevitably,” believes the leader of the civil campaign “European Belarus” Andrei Sannikov.