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Today's Headlines for:
Thursday, August 13, 2009

Harvesting campaign, Collective Rapid Response, Customs Union, Bike marathon, Kozulin, Lenin, Russian relations, Economics, Sport and Polish scandals

  • From the Top...
  • #435

    Belarus President slams harvesting campaign in Grodno region

    From: BelTA
    On his working trip to the Belarusian regions President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has criticized the harvesting campaign in the Grodno region, BelTA has learnt.

    “I was disappointed to see the process of harvesting in the Grodno oblast. Flying over the Volkovysk, Svisloch and Ostrovets regions I saw too many crops unharvested,” the head of state said. “We get used to see you, Grodno residents, work fast and efficiently. This time your performance leaves much to be desired,” he added.

    The President stressed it is necessary to speed up the harvesting campaign. “We need to crop at least 6% a day,” he said.

    Alexander Lukashenko once again raised the issue of straw processing. He noted that many farms are unpractical in straw utilization.

    The region’s average yield capacity totals 47.7 centners per hectare, the same as in 2008. According to Vladimir Savchenko, the region plans to harvest 1.6 million tonnes of grain in 2009. The region also expects to crop more maize (250,000 tonnes in 2008).

    Alexander Lukashenko: rural revival programme will bring Belarus’ agriculture to European level

    “We have implemented just a half of the measures of the state rural revival programme. When we implement the whole programme we will reach the European level,” the President said.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, if all the Belarusian agricultural companies follow an example of the Snov company, the country will not have competitors in agriculture.

    “What do we need in order to reach this goal? Labour discipline, good salary and up-to-date technologies,” the Head of State underscored.

    “Milk should be sold; some of it should be exported. The European Union does not mind certifying our products, but they should be in compliance with certain standards,” the head of state said. “Profitability is what matters most. If a company makes profit, it has the right to exist,” he added.

    Talking about rational structuring of the Belarusian agriculture, the President said, “We should not invest in the projects which will not pay back”. Money should not be spent on endless capital repairs if a company does not generate real profit.

    Apart from that, the head of state reiterated the benefits of gradual enlargement of agricultural enterprises. “If everything is concentrated in one place, it would be easier to manage the production process,” Alexander Lukashenko stated. “We should no way simplify the structures of profitable enterprises,” he added.

    Alexander Lukashenko wants better quality of Belarusian farm machines

    The head of state underlined the urgency to eliminate the flaws in the Lidagroprommash harvesters. “I have been to the Gomel oblast; nobody had any complaints regarding the Gomel-made harvesters. Lidselmash harvesters are made using German constituent parts. Then why do they break?,” the President asked.

    During the visit, the President was informed about a failure to deliver 30 Lida -1600 harvesters to agricultural enterprises of the Grodno oblast because of the delay in the supply of components. Commenting on this incident, the head of state urged to sort out the company and its senior management.

    Alexander Lukashenko expressed disapproval of the quality of some Belarusian harvesters and grain dryers that cause complaint. According to the Belarusian leader, in the time of crisis the products supplied on the domestic market are particularly important. The President commissioned Grodno Oblast Governor Vladimir Savchenko to come to grips with this problem.

    Further development of the agricultural industry of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko said, will largely depend on farm enlargement.

    Alexander Lukashenko stressed the importance of gradual enlargement of farms in the regions. Nearly 10,000 hectares is an optimal area for a farm, according to the President. “No one, however, should be forced into a large farm. If a small farm works stably it should not be transformed,” he said.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, the agricultural industry of the Brest region is “well-structured”. The Belarusian leader acknowledged he used to prefer small farms (not more than 5,000 hectares). “In the age of advanced technologies, my standpoint has changed. Today we need large agricultural companies,” the President stressed. He added that another factor pushing us to enlarging farms is that more and more rural residents move to agro-towns and towns.

    According to the head of state, there are various scenarios for efficient development of agricultural companies. He also reminded that up-to-date technologies should be implemented in every farm.

    Alexander Lukashenko considered a set of important agricultural issues including breeding technologies, grain conservation and seed selection. The President underscored that the country should stop providing unnecessary support to agriculture. “The state is responsible for a certain number of issues: land, roads, social area. Production fully depends on an efficient activity of the heads of the companies,” he said.

    Belarus relies on industrial giants during crisis

    In the time of crisis Belarus attaches a special significance to the development of industrial giants, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told reporters during his working trip to the Minsk oblast on 11 August.

    “We have some industrial giants that have access to global markets. These giants should be modernized and developed. That is what we have actually been doing for a long time. We have to use their potential in full,” the President said. He mentioned MAZ, MTZ and BelAZ as examples. He added that Belarus has to set up new productions that will work on local raw materials. According to the President, if he were to decide which industries to focus on when the Belarusian economy had just started to develop, he would choose the processing industry and tourism. “In the past we built industrial giants for the whole Soviet Union, and now we are left alone to handle them. It was wrong to build such enterprises as we do not have our own resources for them. But since such companies have been built, we have to be ahead of others all the time modernizing them and selling our products what we did before the crisis. When the crisis is over, our products will be in demand again.”

    According to the President, it makes sense to invest in new technology during the crisis. It is necessary to find resources to buy seven rapeseed processing plants at wholesale. The head of state reminded that in the future the rapeseed production should reach 1 million tonnes. Rapeseed can be widely applied in the food industry, in the production of feed-stuff and fuel. On August 10 the President visited the GrodnoBioproduct company that specializes on rapeseed processing. Alexander Lukashenko tried the food cooked on rapeseed oil and liked it a lot. “It is a healthy product which I recommend you to try,” the President said.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Nobody pressured Belarus into signing CRRF agreement in Kyrgyzstan, President says

    From: BelTA
    Nobody has pressurized Belarus into signing the agreement on the Collective Rapid Response Force (CRRF) of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) at the summit in Kyrgyzstan, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told reporters during his working trip to the Minsk oblast.

    “Absolutely no one tried to pressurize me as they know what my response would be. If someone tried to pressurize me, he would get a boomerang effect. There was no blackmailing,” the President said. There were attempts to find out if Belarus was going to sign the CRRF agreement, the President noted. “I said that this issue is in my scope of competence. I decide what documents to sign and when. Will Belarus assume the CSTO chairmanship? This is also for me to decide,” he added.

    Alexander Lukashenko stressed that his non-participation in the CSTO summit in Moscow does not mean that Belarus is against the integration. The President called all negative reports in mass media on this issue provocative.

    Talking about the CSTO presidency and signing the documents, the President said that “it is our right and we will sign the documents which will be beneficial for us.” “I asked them to tell me why I should protect them, what for our young people should die in case something happens? Russia closed its market for us; I cannot get energy resources from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Russia, and am charged unreasonable prices for them. Is that what our young people should die for? Dead silence in response…” the President said. He added that he did not mince his words during his speech at the summit in Kyrgyzstan. He mentioned Nato as an example of efficient cooperation. “In Nato the strong help the weak. Here we have it vice versa,” the President said.

    Giving general comment on the summit in Cholpon-Ata, Alexander Lukashenko noted that the Presidents openly voiced their positions and many of them had quite a tough stance. According to the Belarusian head of state, this makes such meetings very useful. The treaty on the CSTO Collective Rapid Response Force will be a framework agreement. There will be forces that can be dispatched to a conflict zone if the participants decide that it is necessary. “But if I object, no one will send them anywhere,” the Belarusian leader said. The President underlined that Belarus has “a normal stance towards the CSTO.” The President assured that Belarus does not want to be at loggerheads with anyone, instead, it strives for peace and partnership with both east and west.

    Customs Union Commission forms WTO accession negotiating group

    From: BelTA
    The Commission of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan formed the WTO accession working group, the First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Igor Shuvalov, told reporters on 12 August.

    The negotiating group consists of representatives of the three countries. They are experienced negotiators. The chairman of the group, the Russian expert Maxim Medvedkov, had previously handled the WTO accession negotiations for Russia.

    “The working group will be officially formed by 24 August and will get down to the negotiations without delay,” said Igor Shuvalov.

    “The group will hold talks on behalf of the Customs Union and each country individually. We can join WTO as common customs area on some legal points, and as individual states on the others," said Igor Shuvalov.

    “The simultaneous WTO accession of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan will be the priority of the negotiating group. It is our common strategic goal,” said Igor Shuvalov.

    Sixteen issues regarding the formation of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan have been included into the agenda of the session of the Customs Union Commission. The session will take place in Moscow on 12 August. A Belarusian delegation will be led by Vice Premier Andrei Kobyakov, BelTA learnt from the Embassy of Belarus in Russia.

    First Vice Premier of Russia Igor Shuvalov has told media that the participants of the session are planning to establish a united group that will be in charge of the WTO accession negotiations.

    The concept and draft Customs Code of the Customs Union will highlight the agenda. The participants of the session will discuss distribution principles for customs duties on the single customs territory.

    According to the Foreign Ministry of Belarus, the session will consider conceptual approaches to establishing an order of implementing the decisions made by the Commission of the Customs Union on the territory of its participating states. Among other issues chosen for consideration is a concept of setting up an integrated information system of the foreign and mutual trade and others.

    Belarus, Ukraine to cooperate in peaceful use of outer space

    From: NLIPRB
    The Council of Ministers of Belarus has approved the framework intergovernmental agreement between Belarus and Ukraine on cooperation in peaceful use of outer space.

    The agreement between the Council of Ministers of Belarus and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine was signed in Kiev on 12 June 2009.

    The agreement envisages the joint research in the field of earth sounding, development and introduction of space technologies for environment protection, agriculture, mapmaking, minimization of natural and technological disasters, exchange of specialists.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Konni Schmidt: Belarus is the heart of Paris-Moscow marathon

    From: BelTA
    Olga Ryabikova and Valery Rassolko from Belarus joined the Paris-Moscow 2009 international cycle marathon that arrived in Minsk on 11 August, BelTA learnt at a press conference in the House of Press on 12 August.

    The marathon held by the German society “Bike for Peace and New Energies” has been organized for the fourth time. The Paris-Moscow marathon is aimed at promoting peace, disarmament, non-violence and cooperation between the nations that suffered in World War II as well as protecting the environment and promoting healthy way of life. Konni Schmidt, head of the Bike for Peace and New Energy organisation, who also arrived in Minsk, has been organizing peace events since 1980. He has already organized 19 large marathons across Europe.

    It is still important to campaign for peace, Konni Schmidt further said . There have been wars in Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. The Paris-Moscow bike marathon is only a small part of the global anti-war movement.

    “Belarus is the heart of the marathon. I am thrilled every time I ride along Independence Avenue in Minsk. There is no other country where the power of reconciliation is felt so strong. Probably this is because that Belarus suffered the worst in WWII. Although I am a representative of the country, whose army brought so much harm to the Belarusian people, I have never heard a single bad word directed against me. This is a miracle,” Konni Schmidt said.

    After Minsk the participants of the cycling race will make their way to Moscow through Zhodino, Borisov, Berezinsky biosphere reserve, Lepel, Chashniki, Senno, Baran, Orsha, Dubrovno on 13 August. The cyclists will leave Belarus on 17 August.

    The marathon started in France on 4 July and included around 50 participants. The participants arrived in Belarus on 8 August and visited Oshmyany, Golshany, Volozhin and Zaslavl. About twenty Belarusian cyclists joined the race. The current team includes 8 cyclists planning to cover the whole distance from Paris to Moscow.

    In Belarus the marathoners will visit cultural and historical sites, meet with representatives of the state, civil and sports organisations, war veterans. The international team includes around 50 participants from Belarus, Poland, Germany, Austria and Russia. In 2008, the race was attended by the participants from 14 countries.

    The marathon spanning 4,067 kilometres is to finish in Red Square in Moscow on 25 August.

    Maria Yesman to represent Belarus at Miss Intercontinental 2009

    From: BelTA
    Maria Yesman from Minsk will present Belarus at the Miss Intercontinental 2009, spokeswoman for the ONT TV Channel Alina Provotorova told BelTA. The 20-year-old girl is a student of the law department of Belarusian State University.

    In 2008 Belarusian Lyubov Yakovina was the second runner-up and the Miss Intercontinental Europe. The most beautiful women all over the world will gather in Belarus in September for the Miss Intercontinental 2009.

    The Miss Intercontinental pageant started off in 1971. It enters the list of the world’s top five beauty contests. The finals will be held under the auspices of the ONT TV Channel. Beauties will spend two weeks in Belarus. Photo sessions and rehearsals will follow a week of sightseeing.

    Dmitry Koldun, Georgy Koldun and Ekaterina Domankova will host the Miss Intercontinental 2009 final on 27 September. The show will be attended by Arash, Morandi, Lou Bega and Dima Bilan.

  • Economics...

    PM urges to create mechanism of creating integrated companies in agriculture

    From: BelTA
    There is a need to develop a clear mechanism of setting up integrated organisations in agriculture, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky said during a session at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food in Minsk on 12 August. The session focused on the ways of setting up integrated companies in agriculture.

    The head of state instructed to continue the practice of setting up such companies in agriculture by involving dairy, meat and brewery producers, Sergei Sidorsky remarked. Certain prerequisites have been created for that. “Yet, to facilitate exports we need to create a clear mechanism of setting up such organisations. These can be companies, corporations, possibly holding companies,” the Prime Minister said. These organisations should be fully independent in their current operations and strategic policies; they should operate on a self-financing basis.

    “These should be well-performing commercial organisations,” Sergei Sidorsky stressed. When setting up such organisations we need to use the experience of international companies, to involve domestic and foreign producers and investors who can bring in capital, latest technologies and ensure good domestic and foreign sales.

    The process of creating integrated companies on the basis of agricultural processing enterprises has been underway in Belarus since 2000. A number of such organisations have been set up already. These are the Dzerzhinsky and Snov agricultural companies, Zarya farm and Grodnokhlebprodukt. Such organisations produce, process and sell products. Financial and economic performance of the companies proves that they are well adjusted to the market economy. They post an annual increase of production of no less than 10-15%. Profitability of some companies reaches more than 30%.

    Sergei Sidorsky noted that the government has already considered the issues relating to the creation of such companies. Further study of the issue needs deeper analysis and certain steps. That is why the government decided to discuss it once again.

    The Prime Minister also underlined the necessity of creating integrated companies at the Belgospischeprom concern.

    The creation of integrated companies in the Belarusian agricultural industry should be grounded and make economic sense. The head of government asked Agriculture Minister Semyon Shapiro and other officials to study the feasibility of setting up integrated agricultural companies and the strategic goals these companies aim to achieve. “Minsk will not tell the local authorities how many integrated companies they should set up, in particular, if they do not think it is necessary,” the Prime Minister said. The establishment of integrated companies should be grounded, the Premier underlined.

    Semyon Shapiro said that such companies are being created very slowly. The enterprises prepared their proposals, and then started to revise them, thus no practical steps have been undertaken so far,” he said. At the same time, the existing integrated companies need a better developed production chain for successful work. There are some enterprises that lack resources and work inefficiently; therefore they should join the integrated companies. That is the essence of setting up such companies.

    Sergei Sidorsky commissioned the participants of the session with a task to develop all the necessary mechanisms to establish integrated companies.

    Olvi Group plans to buy 75% of Lidskoe Pivo shares

    Olvi Group (Finland) intends to acquire 75% of shares of the Lidskoe Pivo Brewery, Peep Akkel, financial manager for the Baltic States and Belarus told reporters on 12 August.

    According to him, Olvi might purchase 75% of Lidskoe Pivo shares in September. At present the company owns 51% of the shares.

    According to Audrius Miksys, Lidskoe Pivo Director General, the investment in the expansion of production and development of the logistics system will total about $26 million within the next two years which would increase Lidskoe Pivo capacities by 30% in 2010.

    The company has already designed a shop floor to bottle beer in special 0.5 litre bottles. The development of a project on the construction of a new building to brew beer and kvass nears completion.

    The Lida brewery was built in 1876. In 2000 it was reorganized into an open joint stock company. The company employs more than 900 people.

    Olvi plc acquired a controlling stake in Lidskoe Pivo last year (51%). The acquisition price was approximately $16 million. Olvi plc is one of Finland’s biggest beer and soft drink producers. It operates in Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In 2009, Olvi plans to make 450 million litres of beer. In 2009, the trade turnover of the companies is projected to make €255 million.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Moscow looking to replace Belarusian president

    From: Kommersant/
    Alexander Kozulin
    Alexander Ostrovsky, head of the State Duma committee on the CIS affairs, has met with Alexander Kozulin, former Belarusian presidential candidate.

    No details of the meeting have been disclosed; analysts believe it was Moscow's way of telling Alexander Lukashenko that the current government of Belarus was not Russia's only and most preferred partner.

    Relations between the partners in the Union State have grown exceptionally tense of late. Alexander Khramchikhin from the Institute of Political and Military Analysis believes the Belarusian president himself is to blame for the situation: "Lukashenko has always been using the union as a source of economic privilege for his country."

    "The Lukashenko-led Belarus has always been found wanting in its attitude toward Russia. He never requested loans, even though it is an accepted international practice, but demanded them," said Belarusian political analyst Viktor Martinovich.

    Until recently, the Kremlin has had its reasons for turning a blind eye to the Belarusian leader's antics, but the situation is changing now. "Russian officials must have realized that Belarus's ruling elite is incapable of agreement or compromise, but will always be trying to snatch as many privileges as possible using whatever pretexts it can find," believes another political analyst, Andrei Suzdaltsev.

    Martinovich agrees: "Russia has realized that the friendship it used to trust was Belarus's way of providing itself with cheap resources and a vast market for its products."

    "The recession is ongoing, production is declining, and it is unclear if Belarus will be able to rise to the pre-crisis level of development any time soon. People have no confidence in their future, which improves the opposition's chances at the upcoming elections," said political analyst Valery Karbalevich.

    "True, Moscow is unlikely to be able to significantly influence the situation in Belarus now, but it can be trusted to make the 2011 campaign exceptionally difficult for Lukashenko. Moscow is now trying to find a candidate it can rely on," said journalist Pavel Sheremet, an expert on Belarus.

    "It is high time the Russian government found new personalities to rely on in its relations with Belarus," agreed Georgy Chizhov, deputy head of the Center for Political Technologies think tank. Or, at least, show Belarus that there are realistic options, he added.

    Lenin statue collapses, kills man in Belarus

    From: AP
    A massive statue of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin collapsed on a man who was hanging from it Monday, killing him on the spot, authorities said.

    The 21-year-old man was drunk when he climbed onto the five-meter (16-foot)-high plaster monument and hung from its arm, the Emergency Situations ministry said. It then broke into pieces and he was crushed.

    The statue in the southeastern Belarus town of Uvarovichi was built in 1939.

    "The monument's heavy head tumbled on him," said Nataliya Bolbas, a principal at a school in Uvarovichi facing the monument.

    President Alexander Lukashenko is a staunch admirer of the Soviet Union, and the nation still has numerous Soviet-era monuments to the revolutionary leader.

    Town To Restore Lenin Monument

    In a related story, Officials say they will repair a Lenin statue that broke and killed a 21-year-old man in the southeastern Belarusian town of Uvaravichy who climbed it, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

    Uvaravichy Council Chairman Ihar Ivanchykau said on August 11 that the monument will be fully restored. The upper portion of the statue of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin fell on the unnamed young man on August 10 when he climbed atop the seven-meter monument and tried to hang from Lenin's famous outstretched arm. He was seriously injured and died en route to a hospital in the nearby city of Homel.

    Ihar Lebedz, the deputy chief of the Interior Affairs Department in the Buda-Kashalyousky district of Homel Oblast, told RFE/RL that an investigation is under way.

    He said if it is proven that the victim climbed on the monument voluntarily then the case will be closed.

    Lukashenka: Belarus will sign only lucrative documents within Collective Security Treaty Organization

    From: Navany
    Belarus will be signing only lucrative documents within the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which are of benefit to it, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on August 11 when commenting on the country’s failure to take over the Organization’s rotating presidency and ink its agreement on the establishment of a collective rapid response force, BelaPAN said.

    “There is nothing bad in them,” the Belarusian leader said of the documents. “And the agreement on the collective rapid response force is nothing more than just a framework agreement. We will have units that we, by joint decision, will be able to send to some area. But if I am against, no one will send them. If Russia is against, no one will send this force anywhere.”

    The Belarusian leader defended the delay in his decision to take over the presidency of the CSTO. “It is neither a whim nor some indecent behavior on the part of Belarus toward our allies,” he stressed.

    Mr. Lukashenka said that Belarus plays a key role in the Organization, dismissing “concern” that the country is not any longer interested in closer ties with its members. “We want to maintain peace and friendship with both the West and the East,” he said.

    All CSTO member states except Belarus and Uzbekistan signed the agreement on the establishment of a collective rapid response force at a summit held in Moscow on June 14. The Belarusian leader boycotted the meeting in protest against Russia’s decision to ban the import of nearly all dairy products from Belarus earlier that month.

    Rumors had it that the matter was on the agenda of the Organization’s informal summit that took place in Kyrgyzstan on July 31, bringing together the leaders of the bloc’s six member states, including Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

    Mr. Lukashenka denied that any pressure had been put on him at the informal summit.

    “It is impossible to put any pressure on me. If you try to do it, you are sure to get the opposite effect,” he stressed.

    The Belarusian leader acknowledged that he had been asked as to whether he would sign the two documents. “I wouldn’t name the persons, you will understand yourself," he noted.

    “The answer was direct,” he said. “It is our business. I replied that it was my business and I will decide on my own what I will sign and when.”

    “But I asked them as to why I should defend them… Why should my guys die if something happens? Why? Why doesn’t Russia want to give me access to the market? Why can’t I get energy resources from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Russia? Why do they charge wild prices? Why should our guys die for it? And there was a dead silence.”

    “Absolutely nobody attempts to put pressure on me because they know how it will end,” Mr. Lukashenka went on to say. “Of course, there were questions. But I also made a tough statement that if we are going to die for each other, let’s not bully each other. Let’s not put the squeeze on each other. Let’s live as if in a single state, like the EU. And the structure of NATO and their fighting for each other are understood. There are no frontiers or borders there. They are ruled out. The stronger help the weaker there. But here, in this situation, things are different.”

    Belarus decreased flour products output by 0.2%

    From: Agrimarket
    During January-July period of 2009, enterprises of the bakery department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of Belarus produced 390.200 tonnes of flour products, a decrease of 0.2% compared to the same period in the previous year.

    Belarus produced 388.900 tonnes of flour, down 0.2% compared to January-July period of 2008, including 256.900 tonnes of wheat flour (up 10.5%), 127.700 tonnes of rye flour (down 17.3%). Production of flour from oats lowered by 7.3% to 595 tonnes, flour from barley output increased by 2.8 times to 1.434 tonnes and flour from buckwheat - by 25 times to 25 tonnes.

    During the period, composite flour production volumes (based on wheat flour) totaled 850 tonnes, down 3.7% compared to the previous year, according to the department.

    During the first seven months of 2009, Belarus produced 38.5 thsd tonnes of packaged flour, up 4.8% compared to January-July of the last year.

    The bakery department owns 16 flour production enterprises.

    Belarus to optimize own agro industrial complex

    Belarus will provide optimization of own agro industrial complex at the expense of consolidation of agricultural economies, however the process will pass in rather natural way, declared Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, on August 8.

    The President marked the expediency of gradual consolidation of agricultural economies in regions of the country. According to him, the average size of such economy should total nearly 10 thsd ha. To date, small-sized economies do not provide effective work, stated the President. According to him, the agricultural sector should introduce up-to-date technologies in all economies, not in separate ones.

    Belarus has 3.3 thsd functioning grain drying complexes and 2.3 thsd separate small-sized grain dryers. In the current year, the country launched 104 complexes. The daily processing capacities total 600 thsd tonnes of grains with average humidity level below 20%.

  • From the Opposition...

    Belarus reserves not enough to save it from default

    From: Charter '97
    In just three weeks gold and currency reserves of Belarus have reduced by 277 million dollars.

    From July 10 to August 1 2009 the gold and currency reserves of Belarus in terms of the International Monetary Fund have reduced from $3.442 to $3.165 billion. In the national description (considering the currency with restricted convertibility, precious metals other from monetary gold, and precious stones), the gold and foreign currency reserves dropped by $253 million, from $3.877 to $3.624 billion. Thus, Belarusian reserves are not enough for financing half a year deficit of foreign trade. According to the figures for the first half a year, the adverse balance of foreign trade of Belarus was minus $3.85 billion, the BDG informs.

    As he National bank states, “the current amount of gold and foreign currency reserves of Belarus allows the National Bank to guarantee stability of the national currency’s dynamics in the margin set by the Guidelines of the Belarus’ monetary policy for the year 2009.” Representatives of the bank also indicate that in the volume of pure foreign reserves the country strictly follows figures recommended by the IMF in the framework of stand-by program.

    But a rather high level of gold and foreign currency reserves is provided by foreign loans and incoming from state property privatization. In January 2009 Belarus received the first tranche of the IMF credit, $788 mln. In July the IMF gave the second tranche, $679.2 mln. Besides, in March the gold and foreign currency reserves increased thanks to another tranche of Russian loan, $500 mln, and in February the country received $625 mln after selling 12.5% of shares of Beltransgaz, and $250 mln of Gazprom’s advance payment for Russian gas transit via the territory of Belarus for the year.

    Considering that Belarus’ gold and foreign currency reserves before these infusions were $3.061 billion according to the IMF, all these loans and other foreign loans except $100 million, were spent by Belarus over 7 month for financing foreign trade deficit and supporting the national currency exchange rate.

    The ratio between the gold and foreign currency reserves and short-term foreign debt of Belarus remains very high, and in these alarming figures we are behind all the developing countries of Europe and Central Asia. In fact, our country is on the list of the states of the region which avoid default only with the help of active foreign loans.

    They seem to become the main strategy of Belarus in the near future. Against the background of decreasing export almost twice as compared to H1 of 2008 and decrease of hard currency proceeds by 41.9%, Belarus does not plan to decrease industrial production, for which imported energy resources, raw materials and component parts are needed.

    Thus, it is obvious that with further remaining low demand for Belarusian goods and insolvency of our trade partners, hopes for economy growth would inevitably cause increase of the negative balance foreign trade, foreign currency vanishing and decrease of gold and foreign currency reserves.

    Supreme Court turned down appeal against non-registration of ‘Nasha Viasna’

    From: Viasna
    The founders of the civil human rights association Nasha Viasna did not manage to get abolished the decision of the Ministry of Justice on the non-registration.

    On 12 August, having heard the explanations of the plaintiffs, a representative of the Ministry of Justice and prosecutor Kostrykava (who upheld the non-registration of Nasha Viasna), the Supreme Court stated that:

    The reason for the state registration denial to the civil human rights association Nasha Viasna was incorrect or distorted information in the list of the founders.

    Besides, the registering organ was denied the opportunity to hold a check-up of the documents concerning the legal address of the organization. The guarantee letter concerning lending an office cannot be recognized as a sufficient document proving that the organization has a legal address. The abovementioned circumstances, mentioned in the letter of the Ministry of Justice, are confirmed by the list of the founders of the civil human rights association Nasha Viasna. The court checked the personal data listed in this document, as well as the attached materials related to the check-up of the guarantee letter concerning the placement of the legal address.

    The court is of the opinion that the Ministry of Justice had reasons to deny the state registration to the civil human rights association Nasha Viasna. That’s why the appeal of Bialiatski, Labkovich and Stefanovich cannot be satisfied.

    The Supreme Court also thinks that the arguments of the plaintiffs that the aforementioned shortcomings could be corrected in the process of the registration are groundless, as it is a right, not an obligation of the Ministry of Justice to provide the opportunity for correction of defects.

    According to the court opinion, other circumstances, drawn in the letter of the Ministry of Justice on the registration denial to the civil human rights association Nasha Viasna, cannot serve as a ground for the registration denial.

    Taking into account all the abovementioned and being guided by Articles 302 and 306 of the Criminal Process Code of the Republic of Belarus the Supreme Court decided not to satisfy the appeal of Bialiatski A.V., Stefanovich V.K. and Labkovich U.M. against the denial of the state registration to the civil human rights association Nasha Viasna.

    Yury Chavusau: ‘Developments in Belarus haven’t reached even the level of 2003, when ‘Viasna’ was liquidated’

    Political scientist Yury Chavusau made a comment on the decision of the Supreme Court, by which the appeal against the non-registration of the civil human rights association Nasna Viasna was turned down. He is sure that ‘this verdict witnesses only that the real developments in Belarus haven’t reached the level at which Nasha Viasna could be registered’.

    As far as Human Rights Center Viasna was liquidated in 2003, it can be said that the civil and political situation hasn’t been improved even to the level of 2003 and the pressurization of NGOs that persisted throughout 2004, 2005 and 2006 still goes on. The numerous registration denials, observed in 2009 witness that the registration of the For Freedom movement was a one-time politically motivated decision, not a sign of reforms.

    Thus, the Belarusian government hasn’t made anything for a sufficient change. What is left to us is just to hope for the political wisdom of the deputies of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, as the Belarusian side has nothing to boast of on any of the PACE proposals made to it. Even the previous six-month test period, declared by the EU, had some moments that were implemented by the Belarusian regime. Now we don’t see even this. Belarus is doing less and less to meet the conditions of the proposals, made by the Europeans. The only remaining question is to which level the Parliamentary Council of Europe will be of principle.

  • Russia...

    Russia talks to partners over disputed WTO bid

    From: AFP
    Russia and its partners plan to join the WTO as a single customs union but may sign separate entry agreements, a top official said Wednesday, amid bafflement in the West at the Kremlin's membership bid.

    The announcement by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's influential first deputy, Igor Shuvalov, appeared to be a face-saving manoeuvre after Russia's about-turn on its accession strategy confounded Western trade officials.

    In June, Putin stunned the West by saying Russia would stop its 16-year entry process and would seek membership as a single customs union with the former Soviet republics of Belarus and Kazakhstan.

    WTO chief Pascal Lamy said the plan was a cause for "perplexity" as there was no precedent for a customs union joining while the United States has described idea as "unworkable."

    Then, in July, in what many said was a rare example of President Dmitry Medvedev being out of step with Putin, the Kremlin chief said it would be simpler for all three states to enter the WTO separately.

    Shuvalov indicated Wednesday that Russia and its partners might go both ways, in a development that appears to try to marry both approaches but is likely to complicate the talks further.

    "Legally we may enter separately... On certain issues we may enter with the customs union," Shuvalov said after hours of talks in Moscow with his counterparts from Belarus and Kazakhstan.

    "The main thing is that we are carrying out the June decision -- that we are not holding the WTO accession talks separately," he said in televised remarks.

    "We fully trust each other on these issues (and) have established a single group for that."

    He said the officials agreed to establish a single negotiating group that will conduct the talks on behalf of the single customs union.

    "The accession of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan on equal terms and at the same time is the priority."

    The announcement appears to be closer to a statement by Medvedev who said on the sidelines of a G8 summit in L'Aquila in July that Russia and its partners could agree a common position but then join the WTO separately.

    The make-up of the group would be determined by August 24 and the formal talks with the WTO will start immediately after, said an aide to Shuvalov.

    Alexei Portansky, head of the information office on Russia's accession to the WTO, an independent expert group, said the authorities were looking for a compromise.

    "They will look for a happy medium but it will be hard to find the happy medium here," he said, adding that Russia needed to conduct the talks on its own and fast.

    He estimated that as the largest economy outside the global trade body, Russia each year lost around 2.5 billion dollars due to discrimination on the global markets.

    A source close to the talks reiterated Wednesday there was no conflict within the government on the country's accession strategy.

    "There are no contradictions," he told AFP. "During the talks there have not been any passages regarding alleged existing discrepancies within the Russian leadership on the WTO entry," the source said.

    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.

    Among other issues, the ministers also discussed a draft customs code for their three-way customs union, which so far exists on paper only.

    Russians like U.S. better than Ukraine or Georgia - poll

    From: RIA Novosti
    Russians now feel closer toward the United States than to Ukraine and Georgia. Levada Center pollsters put this down to armed conflicts of recent years and the news environment created by Russian media. They stress that the attitude toward the authorities of neighboring countries is filtering down to residents in the states themselves.

    On July 17-20, the center polled 1,600 Russians in 128 villages, towns and cities across Russia.

    The latest poll said some 47% of Russians felt positive toward the U.S. compared with 44% and 25% sympathizing with Ukraine and Georgia. A similar breakdown is seen in Russian votes that view these countries "in a poor or mostly poor light": the U.S. - 40%, Ukraine - 47%, and Georgia - 63%. The Russians' dislike for these countries, compared with findings of a May survey, is now slightly down: in the spring, 50% of respondents felt "badly" toward the U.S., 69% toward Georgia and 56% toward Ukraine.

    "The improvement is rather a general trend, because ratings merely climbed following a fall as a result of the South Ossetian war," said Denis Volkov, of the Levada Center. "These countries are not the focus of attention, and television does broadcast nightmarish stories. Their attitude largely depends on the position taken by central television channels."

    Alexei Grazhdankin, deputy director of the Levada Center, puts the improved attitude of Russians toward the U.S. than to their closest neighbors down to the fact that Russians see the U.S. both as the "main potential opponent" and as a "partner, if a dangerous one," which has the image of a progressive power.

    In general, according to Grazhdankin, the negative trend is due to the Russian authorities' foreign policy: "The attitude to Georgia deteriorated when the 'rose revolution' took place in the country and the Russian propaganda machine started building up a negative image of Georgia." The analyst links the attitude of Russians to Ukraine with the Ukrainian presidential elections and gas conflicts. According to him, "the attitude to the acting authorities" has shifted in the country as a whole, as is demonstrated by the latest findings.

    In the analyst's view, the attitude of Russians toward Ukraine over Tuesday's demarche by the Russian president may worsen "if Medvedev's address marks the start of a large-scale campaign and these statements are repeated by the media for several weeks."

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Polish Ponzi scheme revealed in Great Britain, millions lost

    From: WBJ
    Boguslaw Bagsik
    There is a new potential financial scandal regarding a company called Digit Serve (DS), which was established in Great Britain by one of the most infamous businessmen of the 1990s in Poland, namely Boguslaw Bagsik.

    The venture, controlled by the former creator of Art-B, has been operating as a type of financial ponzi scheme, similar to the fund of convicted criminal Bernard Madoff.

    The company allegedly collected zl.41 million from numerous investors, but returned a sum of only zl.13 million and does not have the remaining capital. For over two years, DS has attracted over 120 people who invested sums ranging from zl.100,000 to zl.2.7 million.

    According to Puls Biznesu, only a few had their funds returned, while most of the clients lost more than 50% of the invested money, and 50 clients lost everything they paid in. The prosecutor is investigating the issue and key decisions are to be made in September.

    Polish man wanted by Interpol arrested in West Reading

    From: Reading Post
    A Polish man wanted by Interpol was arrested by police last night following an hour-long chase through West Reading.

    The 27-year-old fled after being stop checked by Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) Ella Botkowska at 10.15pm on Tuesday.

    Officers from the Oxford Road neighbourhood team set off in hot pursuit and were quickly assisted by sniffer dogs and the police helicopter.

    The chase continued through Catherine Street and Curzon Street before he was arrested at 11.30pm and taken into custody.

    The Polish national – wanted by Interpol on assault and fraud charges – has been handed over to City of Westminster police.

    Neighbourhood specialist officer PC Richard Carter said: “This is a great result which shows really good team work.

    "Because of PCSO Botkowska’s stop and search we were able to arrest a man who is wanted by Interpol on serious assault and fraud offences.

    “She reacted very quickly, contacting the control room and getting the resources that were needed.

    “Quite a few fences were damaged in the pursuit so we would like to reassure residents in the area who may have been concerned about what was going on last night that the suspect is now in custody.

    “It was not an easy search, it was dark and he was moving pretty fast, which is why the assistance from the police dogs and helicopter teams is invaluable in cases like this.”

    Polish man living in Bradford on the run

    From: Telegraph
    Two men – one a fugitive from justice – have been jailed for a total of 16 years for a savage and humiliating attack on a defenceless man in his home.

    Rafal Kamil Krajewski, 31, was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment after being tried in his absence at Bradford Crown Court.

    A European Arrest Warrant is out for Krajewski after he jumped court bail last Christmas.

    West Yorkshire Police believe he may be in Poland after he was allowed home for the festive season.

    Grzegorz Holubowicz, 29, who turned up for the trial, was jailed for seven years.

    Both men denied unlawfully and maliciously wounding fellow countryman Artur Wojtowicz on February 17, 2007.

    It took the jury just minutes today to find the pair guilty.

    The judge, Recorder Jonathan Sandiford, branded Krajewski the ringleader in a vicious and unprovoked attack on Mr Wojtowicz, who was living at Newforth Grove, Bowling, Bradford.

    The court heard that Mr Wojtoicz was struck with a bottle, stabbed with a kitchen knife and stabbed in a two-hour orgy of violence.

    As a final act of humiliation, he was urinated on, the jury heard.

    Krajewski, who was living on Manningham Lane, Bradford, was said to have wielded the bottle.

    Mr Wojtoicz does not know why Krajewski and Holubowicz, of Parsonage Road, Tyersal, Bradford, set about him.

    The pair pretended they had come round for a friendly drink, the court heard.

    Mr Wojtoicz, in his mid-forties, suffered multiple injuries including stab wounds to his shoulder and hand and stamping injuries that left a shoe imprint on his back.

    After the attack, he was dragged to his bathroom, made to wash his wounds and ordered not to report the matter to the police.

    After the case, Mr Wojtoicz said: “It has been a long wait but I am happy today that justice has been done.”

    Detective Constable Julia Tiplady, of Bradford South CID, said: “I am relieved for the victim that he has now received a conclusion. The sentences reflect the serious nature of the offence. Both the victim and the police are pleased with the result of this case.”

  • Sport...

    Belarus 1 Croatia 3

    From: Telegraph
    Two goals from Ivica Olic and one from Arsenal's Eduardo helped Croatia defeat Belarus in Minsk and stay in England's slipstream on the road to the World Cup finals.

    Croatia stay second in Group Six with 14 points, seven behind England, who have a perfect 21.

    Victory for England against the Croatians at Wembley on Sept 9 would clinch their place in South Africa next year.

    Croatia went in front after 22 minutes thanks to Bayern Munich's Olic.

    A fierce drive from Luka Modric was only parried by Belarus goalkeeper Anton Amelchenko for a corner from which Olic headed home.

    Croatia deservedly went further in front after 72 minutes when Eduardo, who was out for a year after suffering a horrific ankle injury in a Premier League game against Birmingham City in February 2008, scored from close range from a pinpoint cross by captain Darijo Srna.

    With nine minutes left, Dimitry Verkhovtsov pulled a goal back for the home side, but their joy was short-lived when Croatia went straight down the other end and Olic slotted in from Ivan Rakitic's pass.

    Match details

    Belarus: Zhevnov; Verkhotsov, Kulchy, Omelyanchuk, Yurevich, Kalachev, Kashevsky (Kovel 56), Sosnovsky, Kutuzov (Blizniuk 85), Hleb, Kornilenko (Rodionov 71).
    Croatia: Runje; Krizanac (Rakitic 46), Simunic, Corluka, Pranjic; Vukojevic, Modric, Srna, N Kranjcar (Mandzukic 66); Eduardo (Juric 88), Olic.
    Referee: F Brych (Germany).

    Belarus off to promising start

    From: UEFA
    Belarus made a positive start to their bid to reach a second straight UEFA European Under-21 Championship with victory in their opening 2011 qualifier.

    Filipenko winner
    Having failed to progress from the group stage in Sweden in June, their second final tournament appearance, Belarus are aiming to make it to Denmark in two years' time and 4,150 fans in Molodechno saw the home side make a promising start. Vladimir Yurchenko's early goal was cancelled out by Daniel Beichler but Yegor Filipenko ensured maximum Group 10 points for Yury Kurnenin's team on the hour.

    Familiar faces
    Austria began brightly but six minutes in Yurchenko, one of four survivors from the finals squad in June along with Artyom Gomelko, Oleg Veretilo and Mikhail Sivakov, intercepted a Georg Margreitter pass, went past three defenders and beat goalkeeper Wolfgang Schober. Stanislav Dragun came close to adding a second but on the half-hour Austria were level, Beichler turning in a cross from Julian Baumgartlinger.

    Austria denied
    The visitors began the second half the stronger with Atdhe Nuhiu hitting the post and Haris Bukva shooting wide. Belarus made the most of that let-off as they began to up the pace and substitute Dmitri Rekish forced a save from Schober. A couple of minutes later Rekish found Filipenko and the defender finished neatly under the crossbar. Austria's campaign continues at home to Scotland on 5 September; four days later Belarus visit Azerbaijan.

  • Endnote...

    Cry Your Political Heart Out

    From: EU Oserver
    Aye, talk to me!

    I just love this straightforward way of Belarusian president Lukashenka and his emotive politics.

    This time he commented on the establishment of a rapid response force within the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Out of 7 member states Belarus and Uzbekistan haven’t signed the respective agreements.

    Lukashenka acknowledged that having been asked as to whether he would sign, he replied that it was his business and he would decide on his own what he would sign and when.

    He explained that Belarus would fancy only lucrative documents. “… I asked them as to why I should defend them… Why should my guys die if something happens? Why? Why doesn’t Russia want to give me access to the market? Why can’t I get energy resources from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Russia? Why do they charge wild prices? Why should our guys die for it? And there was a dead silence,” Lukashenka said as quoted by Belapan.

    Surprisingly he cited EU as an example of living as if in a single state and exemplified the structure of NATO where the stronger help the weaker. Whereas in CSTO things are different, he said.

    Apropos response forces. Nothing seems to prevent Minsk from hosting Belarus-Russia military drills in autumn.

    Looks like Russia has to operate on several fronts opened against it. Aggressive statements from actors of all sides show that talks don’t work, there’s no compromise about political or economic interests.

    Not that emotional affronts could be helpful: actions speak louder than words anyway. But at least these loud words make the ongoing reality show “International Affairs-2009- more fun to follow.

  • Endnote II...

    In Minsk, children run the rails

    My wife and I noticed signs on the Minsk subway announcing that the Children's Railway was running. I figured it would be like the little trains I rode as a kid in zoos and amusement parks. I was surprised, then, to see that it's a fairly large-scale model of a real Belarusian passenger train. We saw the train running along the edge of a city park, and we decided to take a ride.

    My real surprise, however, was to discover that the train was operated almost entirely by children in uniform. I'm not around children often enough to guess their ages, but if anybody's voice had changed I didn't hear him speak. Most of them looked to be preteen through about midteens. My wife remembers the railway during her childhood as the first of several such training projects, implemented by the communist party.

    Each car had at least two conductors, and the engine carried one adult engineer and two or three young apprentice engineers. I think there may have been a second adult on the train somewhere, but as far as the public is concerned the operators are all children. The train cars even have child-size cabins for the conductors. I believe each car has a separate public announcement system. In our car we saw a conductor in his office talking into the microphone to announce our trip.

    The whole railroad is devoted to children in a Disneyesque way. The architecture reminded us of many Soviet train stations, but much smaller. And whereas in a real railway station they play tinny patriotic music when a train arrives, here they played tinny children's music continuously. There was also an actor or actress who kept reappearing in various animal suits reminiscent of cartoon characters.

    The exhibits inside the station included a fine electric-train diorama operated by kids in railway uniforms. At the back of the station I found a huge classroom filled with kids in railway uniforms, including a few of the giant hats police and military officers wear here. The kids in the classroom were generally younger than most of the kids running the trains, and if I spoke better Russian I could have tested my theory that this was a training school for future operators of the Children’s Railway.

    Inside the train, families chatted and stared at the scenery as we rode and listened to more of the same tinny children’s music we'd heard at the station. We got off the train at its remote terminus to take a walk in the secluded picnic area. Watching the next train arrive we realized just how serious these kids are. When a train pulls out of the station, all the conductors stand in their doorways holding yellow flags straight out. As each door passes the end of the platform, the conductor lowers his or her flag with an authoritative snap. And the conductors are clearly in charge of their cars. I suspect that many of these kids will end up working at bigger railroads as adults.