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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Belarusian-Ukrainian relations, Schengen visas, IMF programme, KfW bank, Day of Minsk, Lithuania, Russia, Sport, Culture, Polish scandal and more...

  • From the Top...
  • #439

    Alexander Lukashenko: Belarusian-Ukrainian relations will be strengthening

    From: BelTA
    President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko congratulated President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko on the national holiday, Independence Day, on 24 August, BelTA learnt from the presidential press office.

    Belarus highly values friendly relations with Ukraine which are based on mutual respect and good neighbourliness, said Alexander Lukashenko. “The constructive character of our meetings proves again the genuine interest to strengthen the bilateral relations,” said the President.

    The President of Belarus expressed his confidence that Belarus and Ukraine will continue developing all-round cooperation and maintain a high level of interaction in the future.

    Kiev Initiative envisages Polesie development

    The Kiev Initiative of Belarus, Ukraine, and Poland provides for developing the Polesie region, Yuri Zhadobin, State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus, told media on 25 August.

    According to Yuri Zhadobin, at the meeting with his counterparts (the Secretary of the Council for National Security and Defence of Ukraine and the Director of the National Security Agency of Poland) in Kiev in late June 2009 the sides agreed to focus on addressing problems of the Polesie region. The latter combines two oblasts of Ukraine, two voivodships of Poland as well as the Brest and Gomel oblasts of Belarus, specified the State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus.

    The Kiev Initiative envisages developing the economy of these regions, raising their economic security, and protection against man-caused and natural emergencies. The official specified that his counterparts from Poland and Ukraine are expected to visit Belarus in October 2009 in order to discuss a specific action plan. At present a working party has been set up and the necessary documents are being worked out. They will be discussed during the trilateral negotiations.

    BelTA reported earlier that in late June Belarus, Ukraine and Poland came up with a new mechanism dubbed as Kiev Initiative. The mechanism is supposed to implement the trilateral cooperation in various areas as part of the Eastern Partnership Initiative.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Slovakia suggests reducing Schengen visa fees for Belarusians

    From: BelTA
    Slovakia suggests reducing Schengen visa fees for Belarusian citizens, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Slovakia to Belarus Marian Servatka told reporters on 26 August.

    "As the Ambassador of the Slovak Republic I would like to see the visa fees halved, with the standards of the Schengen zone preserved. Slovakia will support the reduction of visa fees for Belarusians. At the same time, all the EU countries should be in agreement in this issue," the diplomat said. According to him, the present visa fee of €60 is rather high. Its reduction will “become a good present and a greeting message to Belarusian citizens from the EU”, the Ambassador noted.

    Annually, around 8,000 Belarusian citizens visit Slovakia. According to Marian Servatka, the embassy does its best so that a greater number of Belarusians could visit Slovakia. He noted that in 2008 the Slovak Embassy issued 1,200 free visas for children who went to Slovakia for recuperation and also for students and professors, artists, sportsmen, scientists, journalists and musicians. In 2009, the embassy issued 800 free visas.

    Belarus does not know much about Slovakia, and Slovakia knows little about Belarus. We should do our utmost so that our citizens meet each other, the diplomat said. He also added that the Slovak side supports the initiative of developing cooperation between towns and regions.

    Belarus, Slovakia might set up joint ventures

    Belarus and Slovakia are studying new forms of economic cooperation, including industrial cooperation and establishment of joint ventures, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Slovakia to Belarus Marian Servatka told reporters on 26 August.

    The diplomat underlined that the two sides are keen on developing cooperation in power engineering, machine-building, transport, agriculture, tourism, standardization, and investment. The relevant arrangements were made during the recent session of Belarus-Slovakia commission for trade, economic and sci-tech cooperation.

    The cooperation between the business circles of the two countries is gaining momentum too. Slovakia has granted Belarus €116,000 for a project aimed to improve the regional business environment.

    According to the Ambassador, the EU welcomes the efforts of the Belarusian leadership to liberalize the national economy and political life. Marian Servatka believes that Belarus’ participation in the Eastern Partnership project is “another positive signal for potential investors.”

    IMF programme to make Belarus stronger after crisis

    From: BelTA
    The IMF’s next programme in Belarus will be focused on building up the country’s economic potential after the crisis, Marek Belka, Director of the IMF’s European Department, told media in Minsk on 26 August.

    “The next programme of the IMF and Belarus may be okayed but it depends on desires and intentions of the government and the National Bank of Belarus, the situation inside and outside the country,” said Marek Belka.

    “If there is the next programme, it should be focused on structural changes, matters relating to the enhancement of the potential for the country’s economic growth after the crisis,” he remarked.

    “I cannot talk more specifically yet. At present we are working on implementing the first programme,” stressed the IMF representative.

    Chief of the present IMF mission in Belarus Chris Jarvis remarked that like many other countries Belarus has been seriously affected by the world financial crisis. “We believe it can lead to a minor production decline this year,” he said. Chris Jarvis noted that the economy policy that the government and the National Bank are pursuing now allows dampening negative consequences of the crisis for the Belarusian economy. Apart from that, the IMF’s financial support and advice also contribute to achieving the goal.

    German KfW bank invests €260,000 in UNDP/GEF project in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    KfW, a German development bank, granted €261,300 to complete the UNDP/GEF project “Re-naturalization and sustainable management of peat bogs for preventing soil degradation, climate changes and preserving the globally vital biodiversity” in Belarus, First Deputy Forestry Minister of Belarus and National Coordinator Nikolai Kruk told a session of the Coordination Council of the project on 26 August.

    The participants of the session fine-tuned the action plan for 2009 and adopted a forecast for 2010.

    Nikolai Kruk reminded that this project has been run in Belarus since 2006. “We are already completing the project; the deadline is set as 31 December 2010,” he said. As designing and engineering works grew more expensive, the country had to apply for additional financing.

    UNDP/GEF representatives estimate the implementation of the project as satisfactory; the re-swamping is going on well and is already showing results. The additional funds will help complete the project.

    “This is a pilot project. We have carried out a valuation survey and assessment of the wetlands. The re-swamping has brought the peat bogs back to life. Rare species of animals and birds that once had left their habitat are coming back. What matters most, the bogs started to fulfill their natural function and the possibility of fires has been ruled out,” Nikolai Kruk said.

    At present Belarus is looking for potential investors to implement environmental projects in the Borisov and Pukhovichi regions. The relevant projects have already passed environment impact assessment at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection.

    The re-swamping substantially reduces the possibility of peat fires, prevents peat mineralization thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The swamp restoration will also improve the living environment for marsh plants, birds and animals, including rare ones.

    The project “Re-naturalization and sustainable management of peat bogs for preventing soil degradation, climate changes and preserving the globally vital biodiversity” is financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (Great Britain); it is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme in the Republic of Belarus jointly with the Belarusian Forestry Ministry and the “Protection of Birds in Belarus” public organization. The project is designed to restore the ecological balance of 17 peat bogs with a total area of about 40,000 hectares.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Day of Minsk to be celebrated 12 September

    From: BelTA
    Festivities dedicated to the Day of Minsk will be held in all the districts of the capital on 12 September, head of the culture department of the Minsk City Hall Vladimir Karachevsky told BelTA.

    The new cultural sites will be opened on the Day of the City including the City Library No. 22, the New Drama Theatre (after the reconstruction). Minsk-Arena entertainment and sports complex will host the final of the Miss Minsk 2009 beauty pageant on 10 September.

    Vladimir Karachevsky said that all the citizens will be able to choose an activity for themselves. “My Native City, My Love” youth festival will take place near the Culture and Sport Palace of Railwaymen. Folk art lovers will have a chance to visit the City of Craftsmen fair of goods created by Minsk craftsmen and a concert programme of folk bands near the Sports Palace.

    Minsk international marathon and sports festival dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Belarus from the Nazis and the Year of the Native Land will take place near the Minsk Hero City memorial.

    A lot of events will be held near the National Library including a gala concert of the winners and laureates of Suzorye folk festival dedicated to the 65th anniversary of Belarus’ liberation from the Nazis and the Year of the Native Land, exhibition/fair of goods produced by the Minsk companies, and a concert. The National Concert Orchestra of Belarus will give a performance in the evening.

    Vladimir Karachevsky noted that the Minsk Citizen of the Year award ceremony to be followed by a concert will be held in a more solemn place, at the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre.

    According to the Statute of Minsk adopted in 2001, the Day of Minsk is celebrated on the second Saturday of September.

    Belarusian scientist receives SPMage09 prize in Spain

    Svetlana Abetkovskaya, researcher of the A.V. Lykov Heat and Mass Transfer Institute, has been awarded the 3rd prize of the Scanning Probe Microscopy Image Competition 2009 (SPMage09) which was held in Madrid, BelTA learnt from the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.

    Attending the competition were more than 250 scientists from 30 countries. The SPMage09 panel jury included famous researchers from various countries. The main goal of the forum was to attract an interest in new kind of research, encourage achievements of the researchers engaged in the scanning probe microscopy image area, popularize this science in the society.

    At the competition, Belarus was represented by young Belarusian scientist Svetlana Abetkovskaya, a prize winner of the Special Fund of the Belarusian President for support of the talented scientists.

    According to specialists of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, this prize attests to the high international evaluation of results of Belarusian scientists in the field of nanotechnology and microtechnology.

  • Economics...

    IMF approves of Belarus’ currency policy

    From: BelTA
    The IMF advises Belarus against changing the foreign exchange policy and against another devaluation of the Belarusian ruble, Marek Belka, Director of the IMF’s European Department, told media in Minsk on 26 August.

    “We believe the existing exchange rate procedures are correct. They ensure stability and the certain necessary flexibility of the Belarusian ruble,” said the official. “We have not discussed the issue with the government and the National Bank and have not recommended changing the exchange rate procedures. Contrariwise, the entire economic policy programme is aimed at making the system stronger and the Belarusian ruble more stable”.

    “Plainly speaking, there will be no devaluation in the foreseeable future,” explained Marek Belka.

    He reminded that the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble varies within the present range. “It is the right system and we are working to make it stronger,” said the IMF representative.

    Belarus’ foreign trade expected to continue growing

    The National Statistics Committee of Belarus expects the country’s foreign trade to continue growing in January-July 2009. The relevant statement was made by Viktor Mikhno, Deputy Chairman of the National Statistics Committee of Belarus, at a press conference on 25 August.

    In H1 2009 Belarus’ foreign trade faced a complicated but quite manageable situation. Trade figures slumped in January-February but in the following months the growth was small but steady. “We expect the tendency to continue in January-July 2009. There are some relevant preliminary data already,” said Viktor Mikhno.

    The official remarked that in January-June 2009 Belarus’ merchandise trade totalled $21.9 billion, 59.9% as against the same period of last year. Belarus’ export reached $9 billion (52.3%), import — $12.9 billion. The deficit of the merchandise trade increased by 80% in comparison with the same period of last year to a total of $3.9 billion. “In H1 2009 the foreign trade deficit reached 97.1% of the annual forecast,” stated Viktor Mikhno.

    The Statistics Committee attributes the decline in the value of Belarus’ foreign trade to lower average prices for exports and imports as well as to lower volumes of the trade in view of the global crisis.

    Belarus’ merchandise trade is dominated by intermediate goods (energy resources, raw materials, components), which share is close to 70% of the trade turnover. In H1 2009 Belarus exported $3.3 billion worth of energy resources (first of all, refined oil products), or less than 50% as against the same period of last year. In natural terms the export of energy resources swelled by 6% while the average export prices have been more than halved. Meanwhile, in H1 2009 the import of energy resources shrank by 35.4% to $5.1 billion. Belarus imported $3.1 billion worth of oil (the average oil prices went down by 80%), $1.3 billion worth of gas (the gas price went up by 50%).

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    IMF says low reserves main problem for Belarus

    From: Forbes
    The Belarussian economy's main problem is the low level of gold and forex reserves, an International Monetary Fund official said on Tuesday.

    'The low level of gold and forex reserves is the main problem,' Marek Belka, head of the IMF's European department, said at a meeting with the Belarussian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky.

    Belarus had reserves of $3.62 billion on Aug. 1, according to domestic data. IMF calculates the reserves at $3.16 billion.

    Odessa-Brody to supply Belarus

    From: UPI
    With commitments from Azerbaijan, delivery of oil from the Odessa-Brody pipeline in Ukraine to markets in Belarus is a top priority, officials say.

    In May, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko told a council tasked with putting a Eurasian oil corridor into practice that Odessa-Brody should move in its intended direction toward Europe as soon as possible.

    The 419-mile pipeline had run in the reverse direction toward Russia following supply concerns.

    The leaders of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine agreed in 2008 to implement a Eurasian oil-transport corridor, which envisions expansions to Odessa-Brody to Poland and on to Europe.

    The State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan and other partners had agreed to a test run on filling Odessa-Brody with Azeri oil.

    Ihor Likhovy, the Ukrainian envoy to Belarus, said with Azeri commitments for Odessa-Brody oil, Caspian deliveries to eastern European energy customers are a priority, the Interfax news agency in Ukraine reports.

    "The Odessa-Brody project on Caspian oil supplies to the Baltic states has recently become more urgent," he said.

    Energy ties between Russia and Ukraine are tense following a January row that prompted Russian energy giant Gazprom to disrupt gas supplies for weeks.

    The pipeline carries around 105 million barrels of oil per year.

    Belarusian Lithuanians are strong connecting link between the two countries, Lithuanian foreign minister says

    From: Navany
    Vygaudas Usackas
    The historically shaped Lithuanian community in Belarus is a strong connecting link between the two neighboring countries and this link should be further strengthened, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas said, according to his ministry’s press office.

    During his August 24-25 visit to Belarus at the invitation of Foreign Minister Syarhey Martynaw, Mr. Usackas met with ethnic Lithuanians resident in Lida, Hervyaty and Rymdzyuny, Hrodna region.

    It is important not only to preserve the historic heritage of the Grand Duchy of Litva (Lithuania) but also to resolve pressing issues of today, Mr. Usackas suggested.

    He asked the local authorities in Rymdzyuny to take into account the requests of local Lithuanians to tackle the issues of education and emphasized the need to ensure the proper level of instruction in the Lithuanian language at the local Lithuanian school.

    “Lithuania and Belarus should seek to create conditions for maintaining and preserving the national identity of Lithuanians and Belarusians living in the other country,” Mr. Usackas stressed.

    Government set to submit privatization bill to legislature by September 30

    From: Navany
    The Belarusian government plans to submit a draft law governing privatization to the National Assembly before September 30, Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski and Pyotr Prakapovich, chairman of the National Bank of Belarus, said in a letter sent to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

    The English-language text of the letter is available at the International Monetary Fund’s website.

    “We intend to deepen and accelerate our program of privatization,” the letter said. “To this end, we have prepared a draft Privatization Law, and are currently incorporating comments from the World Bank. We intend to submit this law to Parliament by September 30, 2009.”

    In addition, the government plans to come up with a draft presidential decree on the establishment of a privatization agency that will land on Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s desk by September 30, according to the letter. “The agency would be tasked with preparing enterprises for privatization, would have the power to hire advisors from banks, accounting agencies, and other private companies as necessary to support the process,” the letter said.

    The agency is expected to single out five large state-owned enterprises as “candidates for privatization” by November 30.

    The agency is to “select a reputable financial advisor” and offer majority stakes in these enterprises “for sale through an open, international, transparent, and competitive tender by February 28, 2010.”

  • From the Opposition...

    Putin: question to Minsk on recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia is fair

    From: Charter '97
    The Russian Prime Minister made a loud statement a day before an informal meeting of Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Dmitry Medvedev.

    Vladimir Putin made public one of the items of the agenda, to which Lukashenka will have to give a clear answer – recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, AFN reports.

    We remind that Lukashenka promised to consider this issue a year ago.

    After a meeting with head of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity, Putin said he though a question to the Bealrusain leadership on recognition South Ossetia and Abkhazia was “fair”, PRIME-TASS reports.

    Putin noted that the issue should be settled only be the Belarusian authorities. according to him, Russia “never nudged and asked anyone” to recognize independence of the two “republics”.

    However, Putin reminds that Russia and Belarus build a “union state”; moreover, Russia has been rendering economic and political support to Belarus for many years.

    Human rights activists speak against language discrimination in Belarusian army

    From: Viasna
    Representatives of the Human Rights Center Viasna have addressed Belarusian Minister of Defense and Prosecutor General with a demand to put an end to illegal harassment of Private F.Viachorka and other Belarusian-speaking soldiers for using Belarusian during military service.
    The appeal says:

    ‘We, Belarusian human rights activists, have to address you in connection with the information in a number of mass media reporting of threats with criminal prosecution and consequent summary punishment by the command of military unit #48694 to be imposed on Private Franak Viachorka.

    According to the information we have received the threat of punishment was caused by F.Viachorka’s use of one of the state languages of the Republic of Belarus – the Belarusian language.’

    The human rights activists stress that the case of F.Viachorka, as well as that of D.Khvedaruk, who were harassed for using Belarusian, are deemed as an outrage against the constitutional rights of Belarusian citizens.
    ‘Meanwhile, we would like to stress that the orders by Franak Viachorka’s command Senior Lieutenant Dzianis Kazak by the consent of acting commander of the military unit Uladzimir Ihnatsik to force F.Viachorka to speak Russian were illegal and absolutely insulting. Article 20 of the Law on Languages states that both Russian and Belarusian can be used in the Belarusian army. None of military legal acts or regulations provides for the use of Russian only,’ says the appeal.

    Thus, ‘prosecution of a Belarusian citizen for using Belarusian is nothing but language discrimination.’

  • Russia...

    CSTO kicks off joint military exercise in Moscow

    From: Xinua
    The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on Wednesday began the first stage of a joint military exercise aimed at testing the capability of its rapid reaction forces, local media reported.

    The CSTO, a post-Soviet security bloc consisting of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, agreed in early February to form rapid reaction forces. ??

    The forces, which Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says are "just as good and comparable to NATO forces," are expected to counter such threats as military aggression, terrorist activities and drug trafficking.

    During the first stage of the war games, which are being held in Russia, the participants will evaluate the political, military and strategic situation in the CSTO member states and plan the deployment of the rapid reaction forces in Central Asia.

    Uzbekistan, a CSTO member country, has refused to send troops to take part in the first stage of the drills. "Uzbekistan's absence at the first stage of the joint exercise is a result of the country's consistent and principled position with respect to the rapid reaction forces," Valery Semerikov, deputy CSTO secretary general, was quoted as saying by the Itar-Tass news agency.

    The CSTO troops would drill practical issues of providing military, political and technical assistance to Belarus at the second stage, which would be run from Sep. 19 to Sept. 28, followed by a third stage to be held in Kazakhstan in October, media reported.

    Russia vows to protect S Osseti

    From: BBC

    South Ossetia's leader thanked Vladimir Putin for his country's support
    Russia's prime minister has vowed to protect the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a year after it recognised their independence.

    Speaking at the opening of a direct gas pipeline to South Ossetia, Vladimir Putin said his country would not allow any "military escapades" by Georgia.

    The two fought a war last year, during which Georgia's attempts to regain control of South Ossetia were repelled.

    Earlier, Russia's military said it had halved its presence in the two regions.

    Gen Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the general staff, announced that Russia now had about 1,700 troops deployed in South Ossetia and a similar number in Abkhazia.

    'Risk of disruption'

    At the inauguration ceremony for the new pipeline in Moscow on Wednesday, Mr Putin said Russia would defend the independence of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which it officially recognised for the first time after last August's war.

    "I'd like to emphasise once and for all - Russia will not allow any attempts at revenge or new military escapades," he told the South Ossetian leader, Eduard Kokoity.

    Georgia's government insists its assault was a response to a secret Russian invasion, and considers both breakaway regions part of its territory.

    The rest of the international community, with the exception of Nicaragua, has also refused to recognise their declarations of independence.

    Mr Kokoity thanked Mr Putin for his support and criticised Nato and the United States for training the Georgian military, a move which he said might prompt further conflict.

    "What Russia and personally you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, have done for our small nation will be remembered by our people forever, for generations ahead," he said.

    "Decisions you have taken saved a whole nation from extermination."

    The new 163km (98-mile) pipeline, which cost $476m, passes through the southern Russian republic of North Ossetia. South Ossetia has until now received Russian natural gas via a pipeline passing through Georgia proper.

    The Russian gas giant, Gazprom, said the venture was vital since supplies passing through Georgia carried "high risks of disruption due to geopolitical reasons".

    Russia to seek help probing Arctic Sea mystery

    From: AP
    In this video image broadcast by Russia TV Channel on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009 a man identified as the suspected hijacker is led handcuffed by Russian marines to a bus on the Cape Verde island of Sal.
    Russian authorities said Wednesday they will run the investigation into the alleged Arctic Sea hijacking but will ask other nations to help solve the mystery of the cargo ship's bizarre voyage.

    The Maltese-flagged freighter headed to Russia under a navy escort on Wednesday.

    The Arctic Sea seemed to vanish after sailing from Finland on July 21 with a Russian crew and a load of timber. A Russian warship intercepted the freighter last week in the Atlantic and eight suspected hijackers are jailed in Moscow, facing charges of kidnapping and piracy.

    Sparse information has led to speculation the ship could have been carrying sensitive cargo.

    The Foreign Ministry said an initial search conducted shortly after the ship was intercepted revealed no suspicious cargo.

    But the chief of the Russian military general staff, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, said Wednesday a more thorough search would be conducted after the freighter arrives in the Russian port of Novorossiisk in early September, state-run RIA-Novosti news agency reported.

    According to Russian media, hijacking suspects say their case should be heard not in Russia but in Malta, or Sweden — in whose Baltic Sea waters the alleged hijacking occurred. But Alexander Bastrykin, head of the federal Investigative Committee, stressed that Russia has jurisdiction over the ship and the suspects.

    "We have the full legal right to conduct investigative activities with both the ship and its crew," Bastrykin was quoted as saying Wednesday in the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

    "We do not rule out the possibility that they were carrying not only timber," he added.

    In a statement on its Web site, the Investigative Committee said a Russian court had formally impounded the Arctic Sea and Russia plans to ask authorities in Sweden, Finland, Malta and other nations to "conduct investigative actions" in the case.

    The agency also defended the treatment of 11 Arctic Sea crew members, calling them victims but demanding they remain in Moscow for further questioning.

    "The rights of the victims are not being violated in any way," the agency said, adding they have been allowed to contact relatives.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Microsoft in pOLISH Photoshop scandal

    From: TG Daily
    Microsoft has apologized for removing a black person from a picture on its Polish site and replacing him with an unidentified caucasian male.

    Software giant Microsoft was reeling today after it was revealed that a picture on its Polish website was doctored to remove a black person and substitute him with a white male model.

    As reported everywhere, Microsoft was forced to apologise after a Polish version of the company's ad had a black man's head replaced with the head of a white man. The image alteration of the picture was making rounds on the forums last night and Microsoft pulled the picture today.
    "We are looking into the details of this situation," said a Microsoft spokesman in a statement. "We apologise and are in the process of pulling down the image."

    Luckily, TG Daily managed to grab a copy of the shocking picture before it was downed. Image processing experts describe the fake as 'extremely sophisticated' and it was only by chance that the edit job was noticed.

    "It just goes to show you can't be too careful," said one under terms of strict anonymity.
  • Note: It was because.. you know... they know who they are speaking to.

    Polish police search for terrorist cell, paper says

    From: M&C
    Police from Poland's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBS) are searching for a terrorist group sleeper cell that they suspect to be located on the country's Baltic coast, the daily Polska reported Wednesday.

    CBS is investigating friends of a Syrian who lived in Gdansk, northern Poland, from the 1990s untl 2001, Polska said. The man was identified only as Michael Z. because his surname was withheld under Polish law.

    'We are interested in identifying crimes in the scope of terrorism,' Jerzy Stankiewicz, the head of CBS's Gdansk division, told the daily. Stankiewicz declined to give further details.

    Police were led to the Syrian after detaining several other citizens of Arab nations, Polska reported, citing anonymous sources. Police are currently investigating what Micheal Z. did in Poland and are questioning his acquaintances.

    Michael Z. claimed he was an architect studying at the Gdansk University of Technology, his friends told the daily. The acquaintances say, however, that he 'had no clue about construction, didn't work and it wasn't really known how he supported himself,' the daily reported.

    According to Polska, Michael Z. made several trips to Iran and left Poland suddenly after the terrorist attacks in 2001 on the World Trade Center in New York. Michael Z. took with him a son he had with a Polish wife.

    Tourists abandon Poland

    From: The News
    The global finance crisis has eaten into the number of foreign tourists coming to Poland, particularly from the United States.

    Five and a quarter million foreigners visited Poland in the first half of this year, which is 16 percent less than in the same period in 2008, according to the Institute of Tourism.

    Only 90,000 Americans visited Poland, a drop off of 27 percent between January and the end of June, 2009.

    The majority of travelers - three million - came to Poland from western Europe, a 12 percent decline.

    Most foreign tourists were German (2, 01 million) well ahead of the British (210, 000), the Dutch (170, 000) and Italians (110, 000).

    As far as visitors from Poland’s Eastern neighbours is concerned, most came from Ukraine then Belarus and Russia.

  • Sport...

    Belarus wins 7 medals at Europe’s Water Ski Competitions

    From: BelTA
    Belarusians won seven medals at the European Water Ski Competitions held in Vallensbaek, Denmark, on 22-23 August, BelTA learnt from the Sports and Tourism Ministry.

    Skiers from Belarus dominated the trick discipline, with Herman Belyakov scoring the highest 11,570 points. Silver went to Oleg Devyatkovsky (11,320 points), bronze to Aleksei Zhernosek (11,160 points).

    Natalya Berdnikova from Belarus collected gold in the women's event.

    Belarus wins 4 medals at European Youth Boxing Championships

    Belarus has won silver and three bronze medals at the 21st European Men Youth Boxing Championships in Szczecin, Poland, BelTA has learnt.

    Kirill Romantsevich (60kg) lost to Evaldas Petrauskas to clinch silver. Bronze medals were collected by Dmitry Zhukov (54kg), Alexander Grigorchik (69kg) and Vladislav Kuptsov (91kg).

    Melita Stanyuta takes silver at Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup event

    Belarusian Melita Stanyuta clinched one silver and four bronze medals at the BelSwissBank Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup event that took place in Minsk on 21-23 August, BelTA has learnt.

    Apart from the third place in the all-round event won on 22 August, Melita Stanyuta took four awards more in different exercises. The Belarusian scored 27,400 points for her rope routine to settle for the second place and won three more bronzes: in hoop event - 27,600 points, ball – 27,275 and ribbon – 27,650 points.

    Another Belarusian Lyubov Cherkashina took the fourth place in hoop and ball events and became sixth in the ribbon event. Svetlana Rudanova finished fourth in the rope event.

    In the group finals on 23 August, the Belarusian team collected bronze and silver scoring 26,600 points in 5-hoop exercise. In the 3-ribbon and 2-rope exercises Belarus scored 27,450 points to settle for the second place losing to the Russian team.

    The World Cup event in Minsk gathered gymnasts from 28 countries. The tournament was organized by the Sports and Tourism Ministry of Belarus, the Belarusian Association of Gymnastics, the Presidential Sports Club, the National Olympic Committee of Belarus, the Minsk City Hall.

  • Endnote...

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Kolya swimming in sea in Sochi

    From: Charter '97
    The Belarusian ruler is having time with Russian singer Valeria and her husband Iosif Prigozhin at the resort.

    The Belarusian ruler has been in Sochi for the fifth day. As “Komsomolskaya Pravda v Belarusi” reports, waiting for a meeting with Dmitry Medvedev, Alyaksandr Lukashenka stays in the Grand & Spa Hotel Rodina, owned by oligarch Deripaska.

    The Belarusian ruler leads a healthy life at the resort: he swims in a swimming pool and in the sea (there is a private beach in the hotel), plays tennis. He spends his holidays with his younger son Kolya teaching him to play tennis and volleyball.

    The spa hotel has a reputation in Sochi for hosting only well-off people – stars, politicians, and businessmen. A star couple, singer Valeria and her husband producer Iosif Prigozhin, are staying in the hotel, too. The Russian stars and the Belarusian ruler have found a common language.

    We remind that Alyaksandr Lukashenka flew to Sochi on Friday August 21. On that day, Dmitry Medvedev had a meeting with the president of Moldova and flew away. According to official information, Lukashenka and Medvedev didn’t meet. However, it wasn’t planned: the meeting is scheduled for August 27. The Belarusian ruler surely knew the date of the meeting.

    Experts foresee a serious conversation. The countries have a great deal of unsolved questions: the ended “milk war”; Belarus hasn’t recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia, though they were recognized by Russia a year ago. Besides, the Belarusian ruler didn’t sign the Agreement on creation of the Collective Rapid Response Forces that is so important for Russia; and representatives of the European Union and US pay visits to Belarus. No wonder that Lukashenka must get prepared and organize himself for the talks.