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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, August 23, 2009

President tolerates no West dictate, Agriculture, Investment, Russia, Elections, Opposition, Nationl park reserve, Culture, Sport and Polish scandal

  • From the Top...
  • #438

    Belarus President tolerates no West dictate

    From: BelTA
    The West should not dictate terms to Belarus, thinking that the country is in a lockdown due to the allegedly worsening relations with Russia. The statement was made by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko during his working trip to the Vitebsk oblast on 20 August, BelTA has learnt.

    “I would like to note that we have good, excellent relations with Russia. If the West thinks that they can exploit the situation to pressure Lukashenko in some way, they are mistaken,” stressed the head of state.

    “We are ready to talk to the European Union about any issues. The agenda has been defined and the dialogue seems to go well,” remarked the President. “I don’t want to repeat one more time the good things that we have secured in cooperation with the European Union. Not once I have expressed gratitude for the support from the IMF and individual European nations. Many times we have talked about our country’s investment attractiveness and that Western investors come to us and so on”. “But I would like to mention one problem. I would like to warn Europeans. If they think they can constantly make conditions for Belarus because Belarus-Russia relations are allegedly worse and they can pressure Lukashenko to release all prisoners and scrap all laws, they are mistaken,” stressed the head of state.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, the fact that Belarus has issues in relations with the eastern neighbours does not mean that the actual Belarusian-Russian relations are now worse. “Only those, who do nothing, have no problems,” he said.

    Belarus is ready to cooperate both with the European Union and the USA on an equal and mutually profitable basis. “But the West must not expect that it will be able to pressure the Belarusian leadership into making some steps,” said the head of state.

    “I am often criticized that Lukashenko holds the authority. But I have the authority according to the Constitution,” said Alexander Lukashenko. He added: “If some people of the West believe that through some schemes they can seize the power and hand it over to the opposition, it will not work”.

    The President made it clear that Belarus is intent on pursuing an honest dialogue with Europe and an increasing number of Western politicians are starting to understand it. “But don’t try to break us. We will not die anyway. We will live in shacks, but we will secure our sovereignty,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    Alexander Lukashenko to stay on top of agriculture

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has no intention of abandoning personal control over the situation in the countryside.

    “If one wants to effectively run the system, one has to know how its subsystems operate, the agriculture in this case. If the constitution gives such an authority to a president, who doesn’t know how peasants live, such a president is not worth a lot,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    “I need to see the situation personally out in the field, talking to mechanics, scientists, executives and discussing how the agriculture should be developed,” he added. According to the President, all the efforts are meant to define the strategy for the future development of rural areas.

    The head of state underscored that problems emerge sometimes. “For instance, they say we are potato lovers, but our situation with potato is not the same it used to be. This year we will complete working out a special programme, we will define how much potato will be sold on the home market and abroad. But we will return this crop that is so precious to us. It is profitable and promising,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko.

    Speaking about fruit farming development in the country, the President remarked: “Good gardens have been planted. What’s next? It turns out we have forgotten that processing and storage is the key”. Alexander Lukashenko gave an instruction to step up the construction of vegetable stores. “It means it is important to visit these places, to deal with things, therefore one should not get away from peasants,” concluded the head of state.

    Alexander Lukashenko in favour of investing more in efficient agricultural companies

    It is advisable to change the rules used to distribute the government support among agricultural companies.

    “The idea is worth thinking about. Let’s use effectiveness and profit figures to allocate government aid,” suggested the head of state. “Those, who have larger gains, who demonstrate positive changes, should be given more,” he said.

    Alexander Lukashenko underlined that gross figures should not dominate the decision-making. “Gross figures are the background. Effectiveness and the earning power are the key,” concluded the President.

    In turn, Agriculture and Food Minister Semyon Shapiro told the head of state that the ministry is now working out a new system to assess performance of agricultural companies. Among other things the amount of foreign currency a company earns is taken into account, stressed the Minister.

    Belarus President fairly optimistic about shrinking warehouse stock

    “The speed at which warehouse stock is shrinking is rather encouraging. I would express moderate optimism regarding the reduction of warehouse stock. At present the stockpiled products shrink 7-10%. I would like to see better results, but in the current circumstances we are happy with what we have,” Alexander Lukashenko added.

    In his words, some progress has been recently made in this area, which is largely attributed to the efforts of the mass media.

    “Why did I postpone hearing out the report of the government? I thought they would hardly be able to improve the situation, but they were. We managed to reach some balance. If the government proceeds in the same way, it will stay, if not - the efficiency of its work will be questioned,” the President said.

    Alexander Lukashenko expressed his disapproval of the work of heads of some enterprises. “Yesterday we discussed the work of Horizont CEO. We will scrutinize the performance of the company. Nothing changed there”, the Belarusian leader said. He added that there is a number of such top managers. “If they fail to understand that they should step up their efforts, we will not need them anymore,” Alexander Lukashenko underlined.

    Alexander Lukashenko views Georgia’s withdrawal from CIS as mistake

    “Time will pass and, probably, Georgia will return to the Commonwealth. We would welcome this step. Everyone including Russia,” the President said.

    Alexander Lukashenko stressed that Georgia’s withdrawal from the CIS is just a formality. Georgia will continue fulfilling its Commonwealth commitments. “Georgia has promised to meet all the commitments it had made,” the Belarusian leader said. The President reiterated his hope that Georgia would be back to the CIS. The CIS membership does no harm to Tbilisi, the President emphasized.

    Belarus, Russia Presidents to meet next week

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are set to have a meeting the coming week.

    “We agreed to work out an agenda that would cover most burning issues. Now the President of Russia is in Sochi and he invited me to have a meeting,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    “We will discuss the whole range of most complicated issues that have not been solved yet,” the head of state added.

    “I stick to the principle: a deal is a deal. This is all that matters. I do not want a situation when we agree on something, then the Russian side is waiting until we do something, we are waiting until they do something, as a result agreements are not implemented, because they fail at the initial stage,” the Belarusian President said.

    The head of state pointed out that the observance of this principle will discourage speculations regarding the direction to which Belarus has veered (western, southern or other).

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus launches exports to 20 new markets in H1 2009

    From: BelTA
    Belarus discovered over twenty new export destinations within the last half a year, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky told reporters as he visited the Svitanak company on 21 August.

    According to the head of government, Belarus is holding negotiations on the development of trade and economic relations with Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. “In September I will pay another visit to Kazakhstan to sign a roadmap agreement on Kazakhstan’s industrialization with the Kazakh Premier. We will play our part in the development of the industrial potential of Kazakhstan. The Prime Minister pointed out that Belarus will help Kazakhstan set up new enterprises. “We will move from direct negotiations to supplies of products. We will set up new production facilities there, including a new plant to manufacture refrigerators,” Sergei Sidorsky said.

    Belarus is negotiating the development of trade and economic relations with other countries too, including African states. “Our delegation has recently been there. We have reached an agreement to supply automobiles and tractors to the African continent. Overall, we are discovering the markets of the third countries today,” Sergei Sidorsky said.

    The Prime Minister emphasized the importance of fulfilling the directives of the President to reduce warehouse stock despite the crisis. “Today we need to seek new managerial solutions that would help fulfill the instructions of the head of state,” he underlined.

    Sergei Sidorsky said that the Svitanak company can exemplify the performance of the whole industry.

    Ukraine attracted by Belarus’ reliability

    From: BelTA
    Ukraine is attracted to Belarus by its predictability and reliability as a partner, said Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Belarus Igor Likhovyi at a press conference on 21 August.

    “Belarus’ economic and technological development level is certainly attractive to Ukraine. If a decision is made in Belarus, it will be fulfilled. Nobody will say that they had money yesterday but they don’t have money now. Ukraine is attracted by Belarus’ reliability,” said Igor Likhovyi.

    The diplomat noted, in late 2008 – early 2009 the volume of bilateral economic relations shrank a bit, mostly due to the global crisis.

    Igor Likhovyi reminded that in 2008 Belarus-Ukraine trade totalled $4.9 billion ($5.3 billion including services). In 2008 Ukrainian farmers bought almost 9,000 Belarus-made tractors.

    The Ambassador mentioned power engineering among priority avenues of the Belarusian-Ukrainian cooperation. In his opinion, it is even more urgent because both Belarus and Ukraine are used for transit of energy resources. Besides, Ukraine supplies electricity to Belarus.

    “Ukraine has always been interested in independent, free and prosperous Belarus. Belarus will always remain an important strategic partner for us,” stressed Igor Likhovyi.

    Belarus, Ukraine remain committed to high level political cooperation

    Belarus and Ukraine will further maintain high level political contacts, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Belarus Igor Likhovyi told a press conference on 21 August.

    “I cannot tell you the exact date but Ukraine is gearing up for an official visit of the President of Belarus to Ukraine. But we should settle a number of issues before the visit is held. I think that this visit will become a reality this year,” the diplomat said.

    According to Igor Likhovyi, a visit of the Ukrainian President to Belarus might be arranged too. “Anyway, Viktor Yushchenko has been invited to pay an official visit to Belarus,” the Ambassador said.

    Belarusians eagerly buy real estate in Ukraine

    Belarusians willingly purchase real estate in Ukraine, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Belarus Igor Likhovyi told a press conference on 21 August.

    “A great number of Belarusians buy estate property in Ukraine, especially in the areas close to the sea,” the Ambassador said.

    According to him, Belarus invests in the Ukrainian economy much more than Ukraine in the Belarusian economy. “So far these investments are not very big, but the very trend demonstrates that the Ukrainians are reliable partners,” he said.

    CSTO Secretary General: Minsk does not disrupt the CSTO exercise

    From: BelTA
    Nikolai Bordiuzha
    Claims that Belarus disrupts CSTO military exercises are contrary to the facts, the press service of the Secretariat of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation quoted CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordiuzha as saying.

    The Secretariat of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation considers commentaries of some mass media about “postponement and disruption of exercises” to be purposeful dissemination of false information aimed at undermining ally relations between the CSTO member-states, Nikolai Bordiuzha was quoted as saying.

    In his words, the information that it is Minsk that allegedly disrupts the CSTO exercise is false as well. Belarus will host one of the most important phases of the joint exercise titled as “Organisation of the application of the CSTO member-states’ military forces in the Eastern Europe collective security region. During the exercise military personnel from Belarus, Russia, Armenia and Kazakhstan will act together, said the CSTO Secretary General.

    The joint CSTO exercise “Training and application of the collective rapid response forces and military forces of the CSTO member-states for the sake of ensuring the collective security” will be held exactly on schedule, underlined Nikolai Bordiuzha.

    He noted that representatives of Belarusian power-wielding agencies had been most active in designing the plot of the exercise and in preparing it.

    The first stage of the joint exercise will begin in the CSTO United Staff in Moscow on 26 August. The second stage will take place in Belarus in late September, the third one — in Kazakhstan in October. The schedule was worked out by chiefs of general staffs of the CSTO member-states in March 2009 and adjusted during negotiations between representatives of the defence ministries of the member-states, the Secretariat, the CSTO United Staff in April 2009. It has been finalized by interested general staffs of the armed forces of the CSTO member-states.

    The exercise concept was approved by the CSTO Defence Ministers Council on 3 June 2009. “This is why re-scheduling the joint exercise is out of the question,” concluded Nikolai Bordiuzha.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Ten nations to attend Belovezhskaya Pushcha anniversary celebrations in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park
    Delegations of more than ten countries will come to Belarus to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the reserve status of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park on 17-19 September, BelTA learned from the information and public relations service of the Property Management Directorate of the President of the Republic of Belarus.

    About 300,000 tourists visit this unique wildlife sanctuary every year. The national park took part in the international New7Wonders of Nature Contest organized by New7Wonders Foundation, the Swiss non-profit organization, and made it to TOP 77 out 440 nominees.

    This fact was emphasized at a regular session of the organizing committee of charge of the preparation for celebration events. Nikolai Domashkevich, the Chairman of the committee and the President’s Chief of Staff, thanked everybody, who contributed to the preservation of this unique spot of wild nature. More than Br70 million has been used to establish the House of Environmental Education with a museum, not to be found in any other country, a comfortable hotel and the other infrastructural facilities in the park.

    “The 600th anniversary of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is celebrated during the year declared as the Year of Native Land in Belarus, and this makes the preparation for the event even more special,” said Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Bambiza.

    The highlight the celebration events will be a grand concert with the participation of about 500 singers from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania. Alexandra Pakhmutova and Nikloai Dobronravov, the authors of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha popular song, will be also among the participants of the concert.

    Belovezhskaya Pushcha is one of the world’s oldest natural reserves. In 1992 UNESCO included it in the World Heritage List. The national park was awarded the status of a biosphere reserve in 1993 and a special diploma of the Council of Europe in 1997. A photo exhibition timed to the 600th anniversary of the reserve status of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park was held in the central office of the UNESCO headquarters in Paris in June 2009.

    About 2,000 artists to partake in Dazhynki 2009 festival

    About 2,000 artists will partake in Dazhynki 2009 harvest festival in Kobrin (the Brest oblast), Grigory Bysiuk, head of the culture department of the Brest Oblast Executive Committee, told BelTA.

    The best folklore, vocal, instrumental bands and artists of Belarus will perform at the national harvest festival.

    According to the preliminary information, partaking in the festival will be the National Academic Folk Choir named after G.Tsitovich, Chistyi Golos vocal band, Pesniary ensemble and Biaseda folk music ensemble. Yadviga Poplavskaya and Alexander Tikhanovich, Polina Smolova, Alesya, Alexander and Konstantin duet, Anna Sharkunova and others will also perform at the festival.

    The artists will perform all day long. The organizers say that the artists will replace each other every half an hour at every concert ground of the town.

    Opera Theatre to present open-air productions

    In 2010 the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Republic of Belarus plans to organize open air performances, chief administrator of the theatre Alexander Petrovich told representatives of the Belarusian travel agencies on 20 August.

    “We have just started projecting it. It would be good to organize open air plays next summer,” Alexander Petrovich said.

    According to him, the Belarusfilm studio is interested in shooting pictures inside the Opera and Ballet Theatre.

    The theatre chief administrator has stated that the ONT TV Channel is planning to shoot its New Year’s show in the Opera and Ballet Theatre. “We have been actively cooperating with this Belarusian TV channel and this decision can be viewed as a logical continuation of our collaboration,” he said.

  • Economics...

    Belarus needs investors to implement 37 projects

    From: BelTA
    Belarus needs investors to implement 37 important projects, First Deputy Economy Minister Piotr Zhabko told reporters in Minsk on 21 August.

    According to Government’s resolution No2031 of 26 December 2008 on implementation of important investment projects using foreign investments, some 115 projects are expected to be carried out in Belarus. At present, 78 projects are being implemented. “We would like to accelerate their implementation,” Piotr Zhabko noted.

    The state is seeking investors to implement 37 important projects. Presumed investors abandoned these projects because of the global financial crisis. At present, governmental bodies are working with potential investors. For instance, the Industry Ministry and the Minsk City Executive Committee are supervising the project on relocation of the Minsk Based Kirov tool-making plant outside the city.

    In November 2009, the Belarusian Investment and Economic Forum and also the 6th plenary session of the advisory council for foreign investments led by Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky are expected to be held. The forum will include seminars, various meetings, presentations of investment proposals and projects of Belarusian companies. The main goal of the forum is to attract attention of the foreign business community to the economic processes in Belarus. “We intend to present all the developments dealing with the liberalization of the national economy,” Piotr Zhabko said.

    According to the First Deputy Economy Minister noted that in 2009 it is real to attract investments by 17-18% up as against last year.

    In 2009, the Economy Ministry of Belarus is monitoring the implementation of 681 projects worth Br10.3 trillion. In H1, Br4.864 trillion (47.2% of the planned volume) was invested in these projects. According to the monitoring, the most successful projects are the creation of a flat glass production facility at Gomelsteklo, the construction of the diesel fuel hydrofining plant at the Mozyr oil refinery, the reconstruction of a starters and oscillators production facility at BATE, the creation of a radiators production facility at Lidselmash.

    During the global financial and economic crisis, the Belarusian economy is in need of international capital flows to ensure the high growth rates of investments. In early 2009, the growth rates of investments in the Belarusian economy downed.

    Belarus’ budget surplus at Br337.5bn in H1 2009

    The surplus of the Belarusian budget totaled Br337.5 billion in January-June 2009. That became possible due to saving budget funds, restricting expenses and deferring expenditure across some budget articles, BelTA learnt from the Finance Ministry.

    In H1 the total revenues of the Belarusian budget amounted to Br20.8 trillion or 44.6% of the annual plan. The proceeds from income and profit tax made up Br1.3 trillion (33.1%), value added tax Br3.8 trillion (45.1%). Revenues from the foreign trade totaled Br3.1trillion, or 43.6% of the annual plan.

    As of 1 July, the taxpayer debt came to Br71.3 billion, which is down Br17.8 billion compared with 1 June 2009.

    Expenditures of the national budget made up Br20.5 trillion in H1 (44.3% of the annual forecast). The social expenditures totaled Br9.4 trillion (44.3%), spending on national economy, housing and utilities were Br5.2 trillion (43.8%), expenditure on arranging nationwide events made up Br4.3 trillion (47%).

    Belarus, Russia develop 19 new investment projects

    Belarus and Russia have worked out 19 new joint investment projects, First Deputy Economy Minister of Belarus Piotr Zhabko told media on 21 August.

    According to Piotr Zhabko, Belarus and Russia are currently implementing a big number of projects. The $10.3-billion projects more joined the list of investment proposals which is being mulled over by the two states. “The implementation of the projects will start as soon as the investment agreements are signed,” Piotr Zhabko said.

    Russia is funding the Minsk-city project which cost nears $6 billion. According to Piotr Zhabko, Russian investments in Belarus account for 68%, or $2.7 billion.

    In January-June 2009 Belarus received $4.230 billion of foreign investments, 27% up from H1 2008. An estimated $2.477 billion of direct foreign investments has been put in. The figure is two times more from the amount of investments received during the same period in 2008. Other foreign investments (loans, financial leasing) amounted to $1.752 billion.

    The bulk of investments went to the transport area - $1.881 billion (44% of the total). Over $1 billion (26%) was put in the industry, $653.5 million (15.4%) – to the commercial activity.

    In his words, the priority goal for the government and the Economy Ministry is to create all necessary conditions to attract more investors to Belarus.

    Piotr Zhabko has reminded Belarus has set forth a task to join top 30 countries with the most favourable business climate. According to him, a recently adopted Ordinance No 10 and Decree No 413 “would boost the investment activity which has slowed down in view of the current economic crisis”.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    President says Belarus ready to work with West

    From: AP
    Belarus' authoritarian president said Thursday he was willing to work with the European Union and the United States, but warned they should not expect him to leave office or to abandon ties with Moscow.

    The comments by President Alexander Lukashenko struck notes of both cooperation and defiance.

    Lukashenko has often been characterized in the West as Europe's last dictator, suppressing opposition politicians and independent news media. But in recent months he has adopted reforms that resulted in the EU lifting sanctions such as a travel ban for Belarusian officials; Belarus also has joined the EU's Eastern Partnership program.

    "I would like to warn the Europeans that are mistaken if they think they can permanently place terms upon us because relations between Belarus and Russia supposedly have been spoiled," he said during a visit to the Vitebsk region, referring to increasing tensions with Moscow.

    Belarus was once seen as little more than a client state of Russia, and 1996 the two former Soviet republics signed a union agreement and pledged to move toward a merger into a single state.

    That effort has since fizzled, and this year Lukashenko accused Russia of trying to take over his nation's industries and destroy its sovereignty.

    He was a notable no-show at a June summit of the Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization alliance, and has also refrained from echoing Moscow's recognition of two separatist Georgian regions as independent.

    At the same time, Belarus has made gestures toward meeting U.S. criticisms, including releasing political prisoners. Relations with Washington remain troubled, however, after the U.S. pulled its ambassador from Belarus in 2008 following Belarus' withdrawal of its ambassador.

    "We're ready to work with the Europeans and with the Americans," Lukashenko said Thursday. "But if the West thinks that power can be taken from the current authorities through some kind of manipulation and given over to the opposition, nothing will come of it."

    Lukashenko's relations with the Kremlin have eroded since the 2000 election of Vladimir Putin as president. Putin, now the Russian prime minister, had made it clear that Moscow would be the dominant partner in any future union with Belarus. Lukashenko apparently hoped to become the new unified country's leader.

    U.S. says wants to work for better ties with Belarus

    From: Washington Post
    Phillip Gordon
    Ex-Soviet Belarus moved a small step closer to the West on Friday with a visit by the most senior U.S. official since Minsk ordered Washington's envoy out over a year ago.

    U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Phillip Gordon held talks with presidential officials -- though not veteran President Alexander Lukashenko, whom the West had accused for years of crushing human rights.

    "During discussions with Belarussian government officials, he (Gordon) stressed the U.S. desire to continue to engage Belarus in a mutual effort to improve bilateral relations," a statement from the U.S. embassy said.

    Belarussian state agency BelTA cited the president's office as saying "the two sides agreed to keep in regular contact" after Gordon met top administration official, Vladimir Makey.

    The comments by both sides moved Minsk and Washington closer to solving the issues of U.S. sanctions and the return of the envoy. That may irritate Belarus's former Soviet master Russia, which sees Minsk as belonging to its sphere of influence.

    Lukashenko has taken steps toward the West in the past 18 months after rowing with Russia over gas prices. Last August, he released the last of what the West called political prisoners.

    The EU has cautiously praised Minsk for this and suspended a travel ban on Lukashenko who then broke his years-long isolation from Western Europe with a visit to Italy.

    But so far, Washington had made no similar moves. It has sanctions in place on some Belarussian companies including Belneftekhim, an oil products group, which brings in a large portion of the country's foreign currency earnings.

    Belarus asked the U.S. envoy to leave in March 2008, arguing Washington had tightened the sanctions. The United States denied this and Gordon had said the two issues were not linked. Minsk's overtures to the West have irked Moscow. Russia is pressuring Belarus to recognize the independence of Georgia's breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a move the EU has made clear would unwind their rapprochement.

    S.Ossetia wants to join Russia-Belarus union - leader

    From: RIA Novosti
    South Ossetia will seek to join the union being formed by Russia and Belarus, the former Georgian republic's leader said on Friday.

    "We will seek this with great pleasure," Eduard Kokoity told reporters, suggesting that Belarus would recognize South Ossetia as an independent state soon.

    The only country so far to have followed Russia's example in recognizing South Ossetia and the other self-proclaimed Georgian republic, Abkhazia, is Nicaragua. Belarus has sent mixed signals on whether it will recognize the two regions.

    Last month, Belarus's foreign ministry advised Belarusian nationals to abide by Georgian laws when visiting the regions. The comments were welcomed by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and strongly criticized by Moscow.

    Moscow recognized South Ossetia last August following a five-day war with Georgia, which attacked the region to regain control of it.

    Kokoity unveiled a photo exhibition in Moscow earlier on Friday dedicated to the first anniversary of the republic's recognition by Russia.

    He said the exhibit was designed to show that South Ossetia was not only about "war and ruins," but it was a hospitable country, and that it was also a gesture of people's gratitude to Russia.

    "I have no doubt that we will realize our potential in the next few years," the leader said.

    However, Kokoity voiced concerns over Georgia's ongoing military buildup. "Georgia's military strength is much higher now than before August 2008," he said.

    Russia has invested in rebuilding South Ossetia's infrastructure after the war, and pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to support both republics' economies and security. It also deployed more troops there after the conflict.

    Opposition coalition said to have nearly finished devising procedure to nominate common presidential candidate

    From: Navany
    Anatoly Lebedko, one possible choice
    A group devising a procedure to nominate a common presidential candidate for the United Pro-democratic Forces (UPF) is said to have nearly finished its work.

    The nominee will be selected through a series of so-called primaries, Lew Marholin, head of the group, told BelaPAN. Potential nominees will be required to know both Belarusian and Russian, make a public statement explaining why Alyaksandr Lukashenka cannot be president and make a donation to a common campaign fund.

    The registered contenders will be able to conduct their nomination campaigns between October 2009 and April 2010, Mr. Marholin said. The primaries will be held in large cities in April 2010, he said. Between five and seven hopefuls and about 100,000 voters will probably be involved in the primaries, Mr. Marholin said.

    "This is exactly how many signatures will be necessary to obtain registration as a presidential candidate," he said. "But even if between 10,000 and 15,000 people cast their votes in the primaries because of impediments created by authorities, voters will know about the UPF's nomination campaign."

    It is not unlikely that none of the contenders will gain more than 50 percent of the vote, Mr. Marholin said. In this event, it will be necessary to hold another Congress of Pro-democratic Forces as a second stage of the nomination procedure, he said. The number of delegates that each nominee will be able to invite will be proportional to the results of the primaries, Mr. Marholin said.

    The next presidential election is to be held in Belarus in late 2010 or early 2011.

  • From the Opposition...

    Belarusian dictator spat upon Europe again

    From: Charter '97
    Alyaksandr Lukashenka said he wasn’t going to release political prisoners and hold free elections.

    “Europe should understand that is it necessary to respect each other if they want to build good relations with Belarus,” Lukashenka said during his visit to the Vitsebsk region.

    “We are ready for a dialogue with Europe on all issues. This dialogue seems to be going well,” Lukashenka said. He added: “I’ll tell about a problem. If they make conditions for as and think that Lukashenka won’t have another way out, as Russia used to think we had bad relations with Russia, they will fail.” “We have good, excellent relations with Russia. Yes, we have problems. But only those who do nothing have no problems,” the Belarusian ruler said.

    He noted in this relation: “If someone thinks our relations with Russia have spoilt, and Lukashenka will release all criminals from prisons and ruin the legislation if he is pressed, it is a mistake!”

    “We are ready to wok both with Europeans and Americans on an equal mutually advantageous basis. But if West counts to use different schemes to press Lukashenka and pass this power to the opposition, they will fail,” Lukashenka told.

    “I want a sincere, fair, honest dialogue with Europe. They should make us bow. We will survive. We’ll go to dugouts, but will preserve sovereignty and normal living,” Lukashenka said.

    We remind that a probation period the European Union gave to the Belarusian authorities expires in November. Depending on the democracy situation in Belarus, it will be decided in November whether the EU sanctions on the Belarusian regime to be prolonged or lifted. The Belarusian authorities should release political prisoners, stop repressions against opposition, give freedom to the mass media and NGOs, change the Electoral Code to carry out free and democratic elections in the country. None of these conditions has been fulfilled so far.

    Visit to Sochi to Medvedev planned for next week

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka plans to meet with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in Sochi next week and discuss a range of bilateral relations, among them serious problems.

    “We arranged with the Russian president in Kyrgyzstan to put serious issues on the agenda and discuss them. Mr Dmitry suggested meeting in Sochi,” the Belarusian ruler said in an answer to Interfax’s question during his working visit to the Vitsebsk region.

    “I think we will have the meeting next week and we will discuss a wide range of difficult issues that are not solved,” Lukashenka said.

    The Belarusian ruler expressed his wish: “let’s do what we’ve arranged. If we have reached agreements, they should be implemented. In this case, there won’t be rumours and insinuations against the way Lukashenka has chosen,” the head of state noted.

    “We must reach agreements and follow them,” he emphasized.

    We remind that it became known yesterday that the large-scale military exercises of the Collective Rapid Response Forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) “Cooperation 2009” were delayed. However, not all CSTO member-states signed the Agreement on CRRF creation in Moscow on June 14 – Belarus ignored the participation in the document. Minsk refused to sign the agreement due to the so called milk war between Russia and Belarus. Nevertheless, all necessary agreements on the CRRF were reached and Dmitry Medvedev said Belarus would join the document later.

    Belarusian entrepreneurs call for legal appraisal of businessmen’s cases by Eastern Partnership

    From: Viasna
    The criminal cases of Vaukavyssk businessmen Mikalai Autukhovich, Yury Liavonau, Uladzimir Asipenka, as well as that of Artsiom Dubski, may receive legal appraisal in the framework of the Eastern Partnership cooperation project, the BelaPAN news agency reports quoting human rights activist Ihar Lednik.

    According to Mr.Lednik, the Belarusian authorities are trying to manipulate the opinions of European politicians pertaining to the criminal cases initiated after a series of protest rallies against the new staff-employment restrictions. ‘Martin Finke, German criminal law expert, has upon request of the Belarusian authorities studied the case materials. He arrived at a conclusion that there were no legal violations during the investigation. However, Mr.Finke’s conclusions were solely based on the materials provided by the prosecution, with no respect for the defence, being illegal, since the case has not yet reached court. By initiating the expert examination the Belarusian authorities pursued political aims: as a result, the conclusions were sent to the EuroParliament and a number of EU embassies to Belarus,’ says the human rights activist.
    Mr.Lednik also said that the prosecution of Autukhovich, Liavonau and Asipenka endangers the successful implementation of the Eastern Partnership Programme in Belarus.

    ‘We demand an expert appraisal of the cases of Autukhovich, Liavonau, Asipenka and Dubski in the framework of the Eastern Partnership cooperation project,’ said Ihar Lednik.

    The demand signed by over 200 Belarusian entrepreneurs has been sent to the Swedish embassy and the European Commission office in Minsk.

  • Russia...

    Russia dam disaster death toll rises to 66

    From: AFP
    The catastrophe is believed to have been triggered when a technical problem caused a massive surge of water
    The confirmed death toll from the disaster at Russia's largest hydroelectric plant rose to 66 on Saturday, with nine people still listed as missing, a spokesman for the search and rescue team said.

    "Two more bodies have been found which means that the death toll stands at 66", with nine people still missing, said the spokesman for the resuce operation at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power plant in Siberia, according to Russian news agencies.

    The catastrophe is believed to have been triggered Monday when a technical problem caused a massive surge of water in the turbine hall, engulfing around 100 workers.

    Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said there is no hope of finding those listed as missing alive.

    More than 2,000 people have been deployed along the Yenisei River to help with the rescue and clean-up operations.

    Russia Questions Crew and Hijacking Suspects in Ship Disappearance

    From: New York Times
    The Arctic Sea was discovered 300 miles off the Cape Verde islands three weeks after it went missing, triggering speculation of a pirate attack.
    Most of the crew from a cargo ship that vanished three weeks ago were brought to Moscow on Thursday for further questioning by Russian investigators, as were the eight men suspected of hijacking it, Russian officials said.

    The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that 11 of the 15 crew members from the ship, Arctic Sea, would continue to be questioned over the still murky details of its disappearance. The other four, including the captain, would remain on board the Arctic Sea in the Atlantic Ocean until it was given permission to return to its Finnish owner.

    Meanwhile, Russian television showed images of the suspected hijackers being rushed by uniformed soldiers from the back ramp of a Russian Il-76 transport plane at the Chkalovsky airfield near Moscow.

    The men — four Estonians, two Latvians and two Russians — were captured Monday when a Russian anti-submarine ship intercepted the Arctic Sea 300 miles off Cape Verde in the Atlantic, according to the official Russian account.

    Other than their nationalities, little is known about the suspects, and it is still unclear how they supposedly commandeered the ship on July 24 not far from the Swedish coast, piloting it some 2,000 miles through closely monitored European waters out into the open Atlantic.

    An unidentified member of the Arctic Sea’s crew, shown on Russia’s Vesti television, said that the ship was able to send a distress call via text message as the hijackers boarded, but that the captain was forced to retract it.

    “With a gun pointed at him, what was the captain supposed to say?” the crew member said. “He said that we were joking.”

    The ship’s captain had radioed the authorities that day, saying that the intruders left after 12 hours and that he would continue on to Algeria. The alarm was raised after the Arctic Sea failed to arrive on Aug. 4.

    Russian officials have still not explained why the men had sought to commandeer the Arctic Sea, with its relatively cheap cargo of lumber. The director of the Russian firm that insured the ship told NTV television on Thursday that his company had received a ransom demand of $1.5 million in early August. The Finnish police have confirmed the report, but they could not say who made the demand.

    The Investigative Committee of the Russian prosecutor general’s office said Thursday that crew members had confirmed details about the hijacking that were reported earlier.

    “During interrogations, members of the crew explained that eight men in black clothing with ‘policia’ written on their backs, had approached the Arctic Sea in an inflatable speedboat,” Vladimir I. Markin, a spokesman for the committee, told reporters. “The men came aboard and, threatening the crew with weapons, demanded that they follow all orders unquestioningly.”

    Russia's 1H FDI Falls 45% On Year To $6.1 Bln

    From: WSJ
    Foreign direct investment into Russia for the first half of the year totaled $6.1 billion, a fall of 45% from the same period in 2008, as foreign companies took a more cautious stance towards Russia's oil-driven economy.

    Foreign investment, which is measured by the Federal Statistics Service, or Rosstat, has been falling for the last year. Russia saw $27.0 billion in FDI in 2008 and $45.1 billion in 2009.

    Russia's economy has contracted sharply since oil prices fell from record highs last summer and private banks slashed lending after last autumn's banking crisis. The Russian government has said it expects GDP to shrink by 8.5% this year.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...


    From: NPE
    Lodz region
    Everything in the Lodz region this week appears to be illegal. We begin with the exclusive British International School, which, Gazeta Lodz reports, doesn’t possess the necessary certification, isn’t registered with the Ministry of Education or the Education Department of the City of Lodz.
    In addition it doesn’t have a sports hall, a library, native speaker teachers and the carer in the crèche doesn’t even speak English and can’t communicate with the toddlers. As a demonstration of their cultural sensitivity, the school served Hindu children beef for their lunch and responded to complaints from parents with letters written in Polish.

    Despite this, they charge a massive EUR 700 per month to the parents of important foreign managers and business people that Lodz is desperate to attract. Antonio Melone, a Managing Director at Indesit Polska took the drastic step of relocating to Warsaw and told Gazeta Lodz, “From the educational point of view my children lost two years there, and now they have to work extra hard to catch up.” Another parent told reporters, “I wouldn’t have even considered moving to Lodz if I’d known there was no school here for my children.”

    Meanwhile, nearby the village of Piatek an illegal alcohol factory has been discovered in a barn by Customs Officers. The discovery began with a standard roadside patrol that stopped a van carrying a large quantity of ethyl alcohol whose driver didn’t want to admit either where he had collected the load, or where he was taking it to. However, he had been spotted driving away from a farm and when Customs Officers investigated they found a primitive production line manufacturing neat alcohol from solvents. Officers seized 3,500 litres of the liquid, enough to prepare 20,000 litres of vodka with a duty value of PLN 340,000. The driver of the van and the farm owner are refusing to speak and will both face a steep fine if convicted.

    Back in Lodz, even the taxi drivers are operating illegally, waiting for customers on the city’s famous Piotrkowski pedestrian precinct during the middle of the day, even though they have been banned from there since January 1st this year. The change in regulations, limiting the hours in which they can trade on the precinct and allowing them a maximum of 10 minute waiting time, appears to have had no effect on the drivers who simply ignore the signs and queue up at the rank all day despite only being allowed to from 6pm to 6am. Approached by reporters from Gazeta Lodz, the taxi companies deny all responsibility, claiming it is the business of the drivers and the City Guard. The City Guard meanwhile say the drivers claim they didn’t realise they had waited too long and that they will leave in a moment, “We can’t wait there looking at our watches until they overstay,” said Lech Wojtas of the City Guard road department.

    25-year-old ran amok with a knife in a Staszow church

    From: NPE
    A 25-year-old ran amok with a knife in a Staszow church in the middle of Mass last Sunday, injuring three female members of the congregation. Elzbieta Lasota, an eye-witness, told TVN24 reporters, “I looked round and there was a man of about 30, slim, tall, blond, holding a knife against someone’s neck. People tried to escape in panic.”

    The man’s last act was to stab himself in the throat, missing his carotid artery by millimetres, before being restrained by male members of the church.

    It later emerged that the young man, who had no previous criminal record, had been on an amphetamine binge. Father Henryk Kozakiewicz said the young man told him, “I’ve felt I’m being followed for several days. I took the knife because I felt someone was going to attack me.”

    The three victims were kept in hospital, but their wounds are superficial and none of their lives is in danger. The attacker has been operated on and will be interviewed by police as soon as his condition allows.

    Smuggler caught with 80 cocaine capsules in stomach

    From: Polskie Radio
    A man has been arrested in Warsaw with 80 capsules filled with cocaine in his stomach.

    The suspicious behaviour of 55 year old Wieslaw S., attracted attention of Warsaw’s airport customs service. After questioning the man – Wieslaw S. – it was discovered that he had several dozen capsules with cocaine in his pockets and some in his stomach amounting to more than a half of kilogram of the drug in total.

    Wieslaw S. swallowed 80 capsules two days before he took off from Buenos Aires airport on return to Poland. Right after his detention he was taken to hospital. According to the doctors his condition is “well”.

    The 650 grams of cocaine Wieslaw S tried to smuggle to Poland is worth about 200,000 zloty. He faces up to fifteen years imprisonment.

  • Sport...

    Krauchanka is tenth at World Athletics Championships in Berlin

    From: BelTA
    Andrei Krauchanka
    Belarusian decathlete Andrei Krauchanka, the silver medalist of the Beijing Olympic Games, came tenth at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin on 20 August.

    Krauchanka scored 8,281 points after ten events (his personal best is 8,617). And his personal best result this season is 8,336.

    Other Belarusian athletes failed to get through the qualification stages on 20 August.

    Maxim Lynsha set up his personal record in 110m hurdle race, but also failed to qualify for the final.

    Belarusian javelin throwers, Uladzimir Kazlou and Aliaksandr Ashomka, and long jumper Nastassia Mironchyk will participate in qualifications on 21 August.

  • Endnote...

    Tightening the screws in Belarus?

    From: RT
    The President of Belarus wants to strengthen law-enforcement agencies before the 2010 presidential campaign.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko ordered his administration to draft legislation that would create revolutionary changes in the country’s laws on special investigations. Whereas earlier these could have been ordered exclusively on the authorization of a prosecutor or the Prosecutor General’s Office, the President wants to grant such rights to the Minister of Internal Affairs and the heads of the Committee for State Security (KGB) and the Financial Investigations Department of the State Control Committee.

    Many Belarusian experts say this legal innovation could open the door to human rights abuses. A member of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Garry Pogonyaylo says that in case such changes are adopted the authorities will be able to launch campaigns against dissidents on a whim. At the same time the top law enforcement leaders in Belarus have expressed their full support for these measures.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko views this legislation as a means of satisfying the requirements of both legality and operational efficiency. The Belarussian President recently criticized the work of prosecutors’ offices throughout the country at a meeting with these officials. The President accused Belarussian prosecutors of creating stifling bureaucracy which led to lack of operational effectiveness in special investigations and law enforcement across the country. So the president’s proposition at first glance looks like a logical step towards addressing those problems.

    Lukashenko’s critics, however, believe that nepotism is behind the prosecutor shakeup. What arouses suspicion is that Alexander Lukashenko’s oldest son Viktor is going to benefit from the planned changes in Belarusian legislation on special investigation activities. At least one of the three functionaries that will be given the powers to authorize special investigations is widely known to be a close associate of the President’s son – Vadim Zaitsev, the head of the Belarusian KGB. Since the KGB remains powerful in Belarus one can say that Viktor Lukashenko may be assuming leadership over a special service of his own – no less powerful than the Presidential Security Service.

    Yet the State Prosecutor’s office will not give up its powers and special status so easily. At a board sitting held on August 19, the agency decided to fight back. It issued a statement blaming operatives of KGB, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Financial Investigations Department of the State Control Committee for “multiple infringements of citizens’ rights and explicit falsification of criminal cases.” The Prosecutor-General’s office carried out an assessment of activities of the named agencies and upon getting results decided to put their activities “under strict control”.

    It is obvious that there is more in the initiatives of Aleksandr Lukashenko than just succession intrigues behind the scenes. The shakeup of law enforcement agencies is being made in anticipation of two major events. The first is the planned privatization of state enterprises dictated by International Monetary Fund functionaries as a condition for further international loans to prop up the sagging Belarusian economy. Facing this perspective, the president needs a reliable system of checks and balances to prevent any single enforcement agency from monopolizing regulative power during this process. That is why at a meeting with the enforcement institutions on August 8, he also made a proposal of creating the Investigative Committee which would independently carry out investigations for the respective agencies. The head of such a committee could be subordinated directly to the President, thus providing him with the means to intervene if any one agency assumes too much power.

    Another major oncoming event is the presidential election scheduled for late 2010 or early 2011. Facing the deteriorating economic situation and falling public support, together with growing pressure from both the West and Russia, Aleksandr Lukashenko clearly understands that keeping the situation in 2010–2011 under his control might require harsh measures. And it is likely that in such situation the Belarusian president will choose maintaining control over the country to Western recognition of the elections as democratic and legitimate.

    Consolidating law enforcement into the hands of the most active and loyal Lukashenko functionaries is part of an election campaign which has already begun. On August 18, the Belarusian government did not renew its contract with the Bell Pottinger Group – a British PR company that coordinated the Belarusian–Western rapprochement of 2008–2009. That company’s director Timothy Bell – a close associate of the exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky who is also said to be close to Belarusian president – refused to comment on the news. But experts agree that it was justified for the Belarusian side to get rid of all outsiders on the eve of an election campaign that would probably involve massive voter rigging and other undemocratic practices.

    It seems we can expect another crackdown by the regime in Belarus in the nearest future. And in the wake of this the enforcement agencies are waging a war for the right to become the top defenders of the State. But it is unlikely that Aleksandr Lukashenko – a very skilled and cautious politician – will allow any single agency to dominate the game.