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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Hugo Chavez in Belarus, Cooperation with Slovakia, Bog protection, West-2009, Human rights, Belarusian Language, World cup and Polish scandal

  • From the Top...
  • #443

    Belarus ready for comprehensive cooperation with Slovak businessmen

    From: BelTA
    Meeting With Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcák of the Slovak Republic
    Belarus is ready to cooperate with Slovak businessmen in all the areas: from banking sector to industry to agriculture, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said as he met with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Slovakia Miroslav Lajcak on 7 September, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    “We are interested in the close bilateral cooperation with no strings attached. You should find your niche through the competition and Belarus can offer plenty of opportunities for cooperation,” the President said.

    The Belarusian leader believes that Belarus has an edge over other countries, “We have created sound competition in the investment area. I will not talk about the investment appeal or call you to do something. Business people know the climate here very well.” Beginning 1 January 2010 when “a powerful triumvirate in the form of the Customs Union is created”, it will be even more economically advantageous to work with Belarus, the President said.

    One of the advantages of our country, according to Alexander Lukashenko, is fair treatment of investors and business people in general, the fulfillment of all obligations. “If we make arrangements, we honour our commitments. There is nothing to find fault with here. “Businessmen do not like so-called bogus democracy,” the head of state added.

    Businessmen from many countries have opened their businesses in Belarus. “There are factors that demonstrate that it is possible to work here,” the President underlined.

    The Slovak Foreign Minister said that one of the purposes of his visit to Belarus is to discuss relations between the EU and Belarus. According to him, Slovakia tries to influence the EU stance towards Belarus. Miroslav Lajcak welcomed Belarus’ accession to the Eastern Partnership project which offers new opportunities for the bilateral integration. Now the sides should work on developing concrete projects within this programme.

    Miroslav Lajcak informed that he brought a large delegation of Slovak businessmen to Belarus. “I hope that this visit will result in concrete agreements,” he said.

    In the recent years Belarus and Slovakia have been engaged in a fruitful and constructive dialogue. Slovakia tries to maintain pragmatic cooperation with Belarus taking into consideration the common EU policy towards our country and its national interests. Slovakia supported Belarus’ accession to the Eastern Partnership project and favors a more active Belarus’ engagement in the EU projects. The recent years have seen a dynamic development of trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. As of 1 January 2009 there were 14 Slovak-funded companies in Belarus, including six joint ventures and eight foreign firms.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Hugo Chavez arrives in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Hugo Chavez has arrived in Belarus on a two-day working visit. His plane has landed in the Minsk National Airport.

    According to the press service of the Head of State, Hugo Chavez will meet with Belarusian President Alexander Lukasehnko.

    President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez visited Belarus three times – in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In December 2007, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko was on an official visit to Venezuela to sign a range of important documents and attend an opening ceremony of a Belarus-Venezuela oil-extracting joint venture in the State of Anzoategui.

    In 2007 the Belorusneft Production Association opened its office in Venezuela.
    Belarus and Venezuela created a joint oil production companies, Petrolera BeloVenezolana and the Sismica BeloVenesolana joint seismological venture. Belgorkhimprom has opened its representative office in Venezuela.

    In Venezuela there are joint ventures set up jointly with BelAZ (Ven-BelAZ Camiones C.A.), BelavtoMAZ (MAZ Ven C.A.) and MTZ (VeneMinsk Tractores C.A).

    The Belzarubezhstroi company has opened its representative office in Caracas.

    Belarus and Venezuela have been steadily developing cooperation in construction. In particular, the two sides have opened a joint venture to produce construction materials and a company for the implementation of the infrastructure and dwelling project in the Macarrao region in Caracas. The sides also implement the dwelling project in the state of Aragua (5,000 apartments).

    In 2008 the Belarusian-Venezuelan Scientific and Technical Cooperation Centre was created by the Metolit technological cluster of the Belarusian National Technical University and Simon Rodriguez National Experimental University.

    In January-June 2009, Belarusian export to Venezuela doubled over the same period 2008. In the period under review, the Belarusian export made up $132.5 million. Import was virtually non-existent. Belarus major exports to Venezuela are potash fertilizers, trucks, tractors, special-purpose vehicles, topographic devices and instruments, trailers and semi-trailers, tyres, road equipment, soil-tillage machines, fried milk. Belarus imports coffee from Venezuela.

    Hugo Chavez: Venezuela needs thousands of Belarusian buses

    Venezuela is also interested in purchasing a large number of MAZ buses, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said as he visited Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ).

    “We need thousands of buses to replace the bus fleet in Caracas and its suburbs,” Hugo Chavez said.

    The President of Venezuela saw several buses and praised their comfort and competitive price. When he was informed that MAZ buses are fitted with diesel engines, he said that it would be good to fit them with gas engines, too. The Belarusian side expressed readiness to study the possibility of introducing this option for bus deliveries to Venezuela.

    Hugo Chavez visited the assembling department of Minsk Automobile Plant and talked to MAZ employees.

    Venezuela suggests supplying raw materials to Belarus by sea

    Venezuela suggested arranging marine supplies of raw materials to Belarusian machine building enterprises, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said as he visited Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ).

    In particular, Venezuela could ship aluminum, iron, and petrochemical products. In return, Belarus could supply finished automobile products to Venezuela.

    Apart from that, Venezuela is interested in setting up the production of Belarusian machinery on its territory for which it can use local raw materials. “Venezuela has plants that produce and will produce automobiles. We will manufacture all trucks we need and export them to the members of the Bolivarian Alliance, the Caribbean and South America,” the Venezuelan President said.

    He also said that Venezuelan specialists will come to Belarus to study the production of Belarusian automotive equipment. “This will enable us to break barriers between the economies of the two countries,” the Venezuelan leader said.

    Hugo Chavez visited Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant where he attended an exhibition of the company’s products, including wheeled tractors for Topol M intercontinental ballistic missile complex, for short-range and medium-range air defence missile systems, multi-service military machines, etc.

    Chairman of the State Military-Industrial Committee of Belarus Nikolai Azamatov drew the attention of the Venezuelan President to the fact that the company can custom-make virtually any machine.

    Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant produces road and off-road vehicles of heavy payload, trailers and special wheel chassis for transport companies of the construction, oil and gas, engineering areas. The company was founded in 1991.

    Minsk to host international seminar on bog protection

    From: BelTA
    Over 50 scientists will come to Belarus to take part in a seminar on the protection and use of bogs, mapping and classification of bog vegetation that will be held in Minsk on 30 September – 1 October, BelTA learnt from Deputy Director of the Kuprevich Institute of Experimental Botany of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus Dmitry Grummo.

    Taking part in the forum will be environmentalists from Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Germany and Canada. The participants of the seminar will focus on the responsible use of marshlands which includes eco-tourism and creation of berry-fields. The scientists will discuss the processing of bog vegetation biomass into fuel, cardboard, paper and packaging materials. They will also touch upon the rational use of marshlands and creation of cross-border conservation areas.

    The participants of the seminar will review the results of the re-swamping of Belarusian bogs. Over the last three years about 20 peat bogs with a total area of over 42,000 hectares have been restored. The re-swamping substantially reduces the possibility of peat fires, prevents peat mineralization thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The swamp restoration will also improve the living environment for marsh plants, birds and animals, including rare ones.

    The seminar is organized by the Kuprevich Institute of Experimental Botany, Belarusian Botanical Society and Scientific and Practical Centre for Bioresources.

    Minsk hospital No. 6 performs Belarus’ first endoscopy loss weight surgery

    From: BelTA
    Specialists of the Minsk clinical hospital No. 6 have mastered a new method to treat obesity. The first surgery was performed on a 48 year old woman, the whole procedure took 20 minutes, BelTA learnt from the hospital.

    According to Dmitry Sinkevich, M.D, during this surgery air is insufflated into a patient’s stomach; as part of the stomach is filled with air, the patient needs less food to feel satiated which results in a significant weight loss. After six months, the air balloon is removed from the patient’s stomach.

    Due to this surgery, a patient can lose 10-25 kg. A special diet is required during the post-surgery period until the balloon is removed.

    This method has no side-effects, though not all people are eligible for this surgery, it will be performed only on those patients who are dangerously obese.

    According to Dmitry Sinkevich, Minsk clinical hospital No. 6 is so far Belarus’ only hospital where such method is practiced.

    Belarusian-Russian army exercise West-2009 begins

    From: BelTA
    The Belarusian-Russian joint army exercise West-2009 began on 8 September. The exercise is supposed to take place in Russia and Belarus on 8-29 September, head of the press service of the Belarusian Defense Ministry Vyacheslav Remenchik told BelTA.

    The Russian troops of the Belarusian-Russian regional taskforce began maneuvers outlined by the operative and strategic exercise West-2009 on 8 September. The first phase of West-2009 is taking place in Russia. In Belarus the exercise will begin on 18 September.

    On 8 September the Russian troops were put on high alert and began preparations for getting redeployed to Belarus. The first trains with the Russian military are supposed to arrive in Belarus on 9 September.

    In line with the 1999 Vienna Document Belarus has invited observers from Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Poland and Ukraine as well as military attaches of other countries who are accredited with the Belarusian Defense Ministry.

    The West-2009 exercise combines a series of defense maneuvers, which are not related to each other.

    Around 12,500 military personnel, including slightly more than 1,800 reservists, will participate in the West-2009 exercise in Belarus on 18-29 September. The phase will use over 220 tanks, around 470 armored fighting vehicles, 230 self-propelled and towed artillery units, mortars and multiple launch rocket systems as well as 60 aircraft and 40 helicopters.

    The exercise will include two phases to train the preparation and application of the Belarusian-Russian regional taskforce. The exercise is supposed to largely increase the smoothness of operation of military administration bodies and the troops.

    Large-scale combat actions will be held at the 230th army firing range of the Western Operative Command (Obuz-Lesnovsky), the 227th land forces firing range (Borisovsky), the 174th Air Force and Air Defense firing range Domanovo, the 210th Air Force firing range Ruzhany as well as firing ranges of the 38th and 6th mobile brigades and the aviation shooting range of the 206 attack air base.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Smorgon hosts Day of Belarusian Written Language

    From: BelTA
    The Day of Belarusian Written Language was celebrated in the Belarusian town of Smorgon on 6 September. Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Potupchik read out the congratulation message of the Belarusian President to participants and guests of the 16th Day of Belarusian Written Language.

    Chairman of the Grodno Oblast Executive Committee Vladimir Savchenko, Chairman of the Smorgon Regional Executive Committee Mechislav Goi, the Clergy welcomed the guests of the celebration timed to the Day of Belarusian Written Language. Vladimir Potupchik noted that the Day of Belarusian Written Language is a special tribute to those who was developing the Belarusian language, who laid the basis for book publishing, created educational centres in Belarus. The celebration of the Day of Belarusian Written Language is traditionally held in the places which are linked to the centres of culture and book publishing, the places linked to the life and creative activity of many outstanding people of the country.

    This year, the town of Smorgon hosted the celebration of the Day of Belarusian Written Language. Smorgon is a beautiful corner of the Belarusian land, the birth place of famous scientists, politicians and writers including Mikhail Cleofas Oginsky, ethnographer-linguist Jan Karlovich, composer Mechislav Karlovich, Viktor Rovdo and Frantiszek Boguszewicz who was the first one who started to publish his books in Belarusian, Vladimir Potupchik noted.

    According to Governor of the Grodno Oblast Vladimir Savchenko, the Grodno oblast preserved rich heritage including book publishing. Manuscript books and the Lavrishevo Gospel were created here in the 14th century. At present, the region publishes 52 newspapers and magazines.

  • Economics...

    Minsk to host Finnish-Belarusian business seminar on 14 September

    From: BelTA
    A Finnish-Belarusian business forum will be held in Minsk on 14 September. The forum will take place within the framework of the visit of Pekka Huhtaniemi, Under-Secretary of State for External Economic Relations of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, and a delegation of Finnish businessmen, BelTA learnt from the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI).

    The delegation is represented by 25 businessmen. The seminar will feature an economic review of business opportunities in Belarus and Finland. A contact and cooperation exchange is to follow the seminar.

    The delegation includes representatives of over 20 Finnish companies, including ABB Oy, a leader in power and automation technologies; Finnfoam Oy which manufactures plastic plates, sheets, tubes and profiles; Mint of Finland Ltd that makes circulation coins, collector coins, medals, gifts and decorations; companies working in the area of machine building, consulting services and banking sector.

    In 2009 Belarus to import $40m worth of Moldova’s wines

    By the end of 2009 Belarus will import wine and wine stock worth $40 million, Nikolai Taran, deputy director general of the Moldova-Vin Agricultural and Industrial Agency, told BelTA.

    In January-July 2009, Belarus imported $24.8 million worth of wine stock from Moldova. Belarus ranked second in the wine export from Moldova following Russia. Belarus also imports bottled wines, cognac spirits and cognacs.

    According to Nikolai Taran, Vinaria din Vale & Co is one of the major wine producers of Moldova. Last year the company processed 25,000 tonnes of grape, or the tenth part of the total grape harvest in Moldova. Vinaria din Vale & Co is a strategic partner of the Minsk Gape Wines Factory, which accounts for up to 80% of its export.

    Minsk Gape Wines Factory holds almost one third of the Belarusian wine market.

    Over 100 companies to partake in international fair in Grodno

    The 11th Diversified Exhibition-Fair Euroregion Neman 2009 will be held at the Neman sports complex in Grodno on 30 September – 2 October, BelTA learnt from the foreign economic department of the Grodno Oblast Executive Committee.

    Taking part in the forum will be over 100 industrial enterprises and trading organizations of the Grodno oblast and the regions of Poland, Lithuania and Russia that are part of the Euroregion Neman. The exhibition is to boost cooperation between the economic entities of the participating countries.

    The exhibition will feature most advanced machinery and equipment for agricultural enterprises, farms, food industry as well as chilling machinery, shop equipment, packaging equipment and materials, consumer goods, household appliances.

    The forum is organized by the BelExpo national exhibition centre.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Chavez pokes fun at US in Belarus

    From: Taiwan News
    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has told the authoritarian leader of Belarus he brings "greetings from the axis of evil."

    Chavez began a two-day visit Tuesday to the Eastern European state, a former Soviet republic that maintains friendly relations with Russia.

    Chavez met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, telling him in televised remarks that "I bring you greetings from the axis of evil." Former U.S. President George W. Bush used that phrase in 2002 to refer to Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

    Chavez also encouraged increased bilateral trade.

    Chavez is on a world tour, taking in Central Asia last week and the Venice Film Festival on Monday.

    Russia, Belarus start Zapad 2009 military exercise

    From: RIA Novosti
    Russia and Belarus are starting a large-scale military exercise involving about 12,500 service personnel and up to 200 items of military equipment and hardware, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

    The drill, called Zapad (West) 2009, takes place in Russia and Belarus and will end on September 29.

    "The plan for the exercises was developed jointly by the Russian and Belarusian Armed Forces General Staffs and is purely defensive," the ministry said, adding that tasks to be practiced include dealing with armed conflicts, natural and man-caused disasters and ensuring strategic deterrence as well as the security of the Russia-Belarus Union State.

    The ex-Soviet neighbors announced plans in the late 1990s to form a union state in a bid to achieve greater political, economic and military integration, but the project has largely existed on paper.

    The exercise will, among other things, rehearse interoperability within the framework of the Belarusian-Russian integrated air defense system, which the two countries agreed to establish recently.

    Russia is represented by the Moscow Military District units, Ground Forces, Air Force, Air Defense Forces, Airborne Troops and Baltic Fleet naval task forces, and Belarus by operational command units, Interior Ministry, Emergencies Ministry and State Security Committee troops.

    The exercise will involve 5,000-6,000 Russian servicemen and 7,000-8,000 Belarusian servicemen, as well as up to 40 aircraft.

    Prinsloo now probed for sex crimes in Belarus

    From: IOL
    Police are investigating Dirk Prinsloo's possible involvement in sexual crimes similar to those for which he evaded trial in South Africa after he skipped bail.

    Lieutenant-Colonel Mikhail Starikovich, head of Interpol's national central bureau in Belarus, yesterday confirmed that the investigation period was prolonged because of information that "there were several episodes connected with sexual crimes, probably committed by Prinsloo in Minsk".

    Some of these allegations referred to "sexual perversions with former girlfriends", Belarusian authorities said.

    As part of the investigation into Prinsloo, a "special psychological forensic examination" will be conducted to determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial.

    Since his arrest in Baranovichi on June 12 this year after a failed bank robbery, further investigations against Prinsloo seemed to expose more possible charges against him. Soon after his arrest in an internet shop in Minsk, he was charged with attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances.

    It then emerged that he would also be charged with "hooliganism", as it was alleged that he had beaten a woman in the street while he was running away from the bank. As Belarusian police delved deeper, it appeared that Prinsloo had also stolen jewellery belonging to one of his girlfriends in a "fraudulent manner".

    Prinsloo, 39, a former Pretoria advocate, skipped bail in 2005 when the Pretoria High Court granted him permission to travel to Russia for "business". He was on trial with his former girlfriend, advocate Cezanne "Barbie" Visser, facing 15 charges pertaining to child pornography and sexual acts on children.

    Prinsloo never returned to South Africa. He was put on Interpol's most wanted list. It is expected that his trial will not start before the end of November.

    The foreign ministers of Belarus and Slovakia held talks in Minsk on September 7.

    From: Navany
    “We agreed that the most promising areas of cooperation would be machine-building, energy, transportation, tourism and banking,” Mr. Martynaw told reporters following the meeting. He noted that proposals for cooperation in these fields had already been submitted to the Slovak prime minister for consideration.

    “We also identified areas of cooperation in the framework of the EU’s Eastern Partnership and talked about our specific proposals that could make the Eastern Partnership more intensive and fruitful, and would be of interest to both Belarus and Slovakia,” he said.

    “Although the two countries don’t border on one another, we view Slovakia as a neighbor and an important factor in the strengthening of the relationship between Belarus and the European Union,” Mr. Martynaw said.

    As Dr. Lajcak said, his visit had two major purposes that included, firstly, looking for ways of deepening Slovak-Belarusian relations and increasing cooperation in the economic, cultural and educational spheres, and, secondly, discussing the relationship between Belarus and the EU, of which Slovakia has been a member for five years now. “For the EU, Belarus is a neighboring country,” Dr. Lajcak said. “We maintain a dialogue, above all within the framework of the Eastern partnership program. It’s necessary to find a good content for this program, which would meet the interests of both the EU and Belarus.”

    “I’m here to familiarize myself with the situation in your country and above all, I want to listen because we’ll hold a talk in Brussels about relations with Belarus and I want Slovakia to be well-prepared for that.”

    “We’re glad that there is a favorable atmosphere in the relationship between Belarus and the European Union, which give an opportunity to deepen and expand our contacts,” Dr. Lajcak said. “We want this atmosphere to continue and the mutual trust between Brussels and Minsk to be maintained and deepened.”

  • From the Opposition...

    Zmitser Bandarenka: “Sikorski and Usackas are sponsors of Russia-Lukashenka manoeuvres”

    From: Charter '97
    The coordinator of the civil campaign “European Belarus” calls on the Belarusians to protest against bringing Russian troops to our country.

    “It’s not just military exercises of the two neighbouring armies. For the first time in many years the huge military grouping of the country, that had occupied the Belarusian land for more than 200 years and which new rulers insist that the Belarusians should reject independence and join the empire on the rights of seven regions, enters the country. Those, who are acquainted with history of Russia, know that soldiers of this country like to enter other countries but don’t like to leave them,” Zmitser Bandarenka says.

    The politician thinks these exercises mean a total failure of the policy of western “liberal politicians” who stated “let Lukashenka be a dictator, but we’ll separate Belarus from Russia.”

    “In fact, initiators of this approach are foreign ministers of Poland and Lithuania Sikorski and Usackas, who lobbied many-billion loans by IMF and European banks for the Belarusian dictator and became the main sponsors of the Russia-Lukashenka manoeuvres. The strategy of “separating from Russia” has led to bringing Russian troops to Brest and Hrodna. The situation us very difficult, but it doesn’t free us, Belarusians, from the responsibility to defend our country. The only possibility in this situation and these conditions is street protests,” the coordinator of “European Belarus” believes.

    On September 9, echelons of Russian troops come in Belarus to take part in strategic military exercises Zapad-2009. The Belarusian land has never met such amount of Russian soldiers – 6000 out of 12500 participants of the training are the Russians.

    Carrying out such large-scale military exercises contradicts the Constitution of Belarus. The Consittution says Belarus is a neutral state, so it can’t join any military organizations and carry out military exercises on the territory if foreign armies take part in them.

    Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in July-August 2009

    From: Viasna
    A year has passed since the celebration of the official independence day on 3 July 2008, at which more than 50 people were injured after the explosion of a home-made bomb. A criminal case under the article ‘malignant hooliganism’ was brought on this fact. Aleh Piakarski, head of the organized crime department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, stated to Interfax that during the year that passed between 3 July 2008 and 3 July 2009 120 persons were considered as suspects in the explosion case, but none of them proved to be guilty.

    Police also tried searching for the guilty among oppositionists. The campaign on the dactilography of the population reached an unprecedented scale. About 1.3 million people (out of about 4.5 male adults) were fingerprinted, while 12 000 refused from this procedure. The MIA officers state the investigation is going on 24 hours a day. However, the main result is missing – the protractors still haven’t been found. Soon after the explosion the state secretary of the Security Soviet Viktar Sheiman and the head of the presidential administration Henadz Niavyhlas lost their positions.

    An oppositional entrepreneur Mikalai Autukhovich is accused of the preparation of a terrorist act. On 8 August six months turned since the moment when M.Autukhovich, Yu.Liavonau and U.Asipenka were arrested in Vaukavysk on charges in arson of a policeman’s house. The investigation of the case is closed and the lawyers had to give a written undertaking not to disclose the investigation details. M. Autukhovich kept a hunger-strike for three months, putting his health and life in danger, to protest against the unlawful arrest. Though he feels better after stopping the hunger-strike on 16 July, the prisoner still has serious health problems.

    There were no significant oppositional actions in July-August. However, participants of local and regional actions still underwent administrative pressurization, including detentions, fines, arrests and politically motivated firings. On 16 July, a Solidarity Day, more than 60 people were detained in Belarus. This time the police brought no charges against the detainees.

    Belarusian human rights defenders are concerned with bringing a new criminal case under Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code – ‘Unlawful organization of a civil association or a foundation or participation in them’ against representative of an unregistered religious organization. The Prosecutor General did not agree with the arguments of human rights defenders about the incompatibility of Article 193.1 with the international undertakings of Belarus in the sphere of human rights. This is stated in the official answer of the deputy prosecutor general Siarhei Myshkavets to the inquiry of the international civil association Civil Belarus concerning the proposal for the abolishment of this article. The country’s authorities also ignore the demands to use amnesty towards the youth activists who were punished with personal restraint within the frames of the ‘process of 14’. One of them, prisoner of conscience Artsiom Dubski, has been sent to a penal colony for serving a prison term.

    On 17 August relatives of the missing Belarusian politicians and the independent lawyers who work on their cases, summoned a special press-conference marking the tenth anniversary of the still undisclosed kidnapping of the former vice-speaker of the Supreme Soviet Viktar Hanchar and his friend, businessman Anatol Krasouski. During this long period of time the relatives of the missing opponents of Alexander Lukashenka have been trying to make the authorities conduct an objective investigation into these crimes. The authorities haven’t done anything to give publicity to the truth about them. The human rights defender Hary Pahaniaila stated at the press-conference that from the juridical point of view the cases of the missing politicians had been disclosed. The persons who are suspected in these crimes have been identified. ‘Otherwise we would have received the refutation of the political version of the disappearances’, emphasized the lawyer. On 17 August Zinaida Hanchar (wife of oppositional politician and vice-speaker Viktar Hanchar, kidnapped in September 1999), Volha Zavadskaya (mother of kidnapped cameraman of ORT TV channel Dzmitry Zavadski) and Uliana Zakharanka (mother of kidnapped ex-minister of interior Yury Zakharanka) addressed the Prosecutor General’s office with the demand that by 16 September the Prosecutor General Ryhor Vasilevich reported to the public about the results of the investigation into the disappearances.

    There has been no progress in freedom of press either. According to the BAJ information, only one non-state newspaper out the ‘list of 13’, Bobruiskiy Kurier, has been returned to the state distribution net on the recommendation of the Civil Soviet on mass media.

    In the beginning of August the Belarusian consulate in Paris denied visa to Souhayr Belhassen, president of the International Federation of Human Rights. During her visit Mrs. Belhassen intended to meet with representatives of the civil society, discuss the progress in the democratization of the Belarusian society and attend the hearings in the Supreme Court concerning the registration denial to the civil human rights association Nasha Viasna. In autumn 2007 the FIDH president visited Belarus for the first time. She submitted official letters to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and other state organs, asking for meetings with their administration. These letters were ignored by all officials.

    On 3 August the press-service of the office of the European Commission in Minsk issued an official statement to express its serious concerns with the bringing of another death sentence in Belarus. ‘This death sentence has been issued by Minsk oblast court to Andrei Zhuk. A month earlier another death sentence has been made,’ is pointed in the document. The European Union again called Belarus to abolish the death penalty, and introduce a moratorium for its use as an initial step. Bear in mind that on 23 June the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe decided that Belarus can regain its guest status at the Council of Europe only after introduction of the death penalty moratorium. Nevertheless, two death verdicts have already been issued after the PACE sitting.
  • Note: To read the full tex of this article, please click HERE.

  • Russia...

    Russia closes Microsoft antitrust probe over Windows XP

    From: ARS Technica
    Russia's state anti-monopoly service, FAS, says it did not find any violations of antitrust laws over cutbacks in supplies of the Windows XP operating system within Russia. The organization has thus ended its probe, giving Redmond a reason to celebrate. "Microsoft is committed to full compliance with the laws in Russia," a Microsoft spokesperson told Ars. "We are glad that FAS did not find any violation."

    FAS released its own article on the closing of the probe, naturally in Russian. You can read the translations via Google or Bing. The article notes that Microsoft explained to FAS that there were four ways customers could obtain Windows XP in Russia: on a System Builders custom PC, via Microsoft's Get Genuine Kit, through downgrade rights, and as a preinstall on a nettop or netbook. Microsoft also noted that during the 2008 fiscal year (which ended on June 30, 2008), it sold more than 1.2 million copies of the operating system within the country's borders. As part of the agreement to drop the case, Microsoft is going to take things a step further by giving Windows Vista Home Basic and Home Premium users a free downgrade to Windows XP. The exchange program will start in three weeks and will last until the end of 2009.

    Russia's state antimonopoly service launched a probe against Microsoft in June 2009, saying it thought the company had violated antimonopoly legislation by cutting delivery of Windows XP to Russia via retail and OEM (preinstalled on PCs) channels as well as in its pricing policy.

    Russia Ramps Up Oil Exports as OPEC Cuts Back

    From: NYTimes
    Russia is surpassing Saudi Arabia in oil exports for the first time since the Soviet Union’s collapse as Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin exploits OPEC production cuts to gain market share.

    Exports of crude oil and refined products from Russia rose to 7.4 million barrels a day in the second quarter, from 7.25 million in the first quarter, according to Energy Ministry data. Saudi shipments fell to about 7 million barrels a day, from 7.39 million, according to International Energy Agency estimates of output and domestic demand.

    Investors had expected Russian supplies to decline this year after Mr. Putin’s deputy, Igor Sechin, told the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in December that his government was ready to limit production to support prices. Instead, Russia is providing tax breaks for new fields in Siberia. Rosneft, Lukoil and BP’s Russian venture, TNK-BP, all pumped more as prices rose 54 percent, to near $69 a barrel.

    “In no uncertain terms, Russia has been the biggest beneficiary of OPEC’s sacrifice,” Chris Weafer, chief strategist at UralSib Financial, said during an interview in Moscow. “Higher prices have equaled a $20 billion tax windfall.”

    The extra barrels may undermine OPEC efforts to reduce inventories and keep members from exceeding their quotas after the group’s meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday in Vienna.

    According to the median of 34 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg, the price of oil is predicted to fall 4.7 percent in the third quarter, from the average so far this quarter, to $64.50 a barrel. It rose to a 10-month high of $75 on Aug. 25, and was at $69.50 in early morning trading in New York on Tuesday.

    OPEC agreed during three meetings last year to reduce supply by 4.2 million barrels a day, the biggest cutback in the group’s history, after the price plunged to a low in December 2008 of $32.40 from a peak of $147.27 in July 2008.

    Russia’s crude oil production climbed 1.3 percent in August from the same month in 2008, to 9.97 million barrels a day, and exports expanded 5.9 percent, according to the Energy Ministry’s data service, CDU-TEK. The increase came after the largest producer, Rosneft, began pumping from its new Vankor field in Siberia.

    In March, while Russian politicians hinted at possible supply cuts, the Lukoil chief executive officer, Vagit Alekperov, said his company aimed to raise output 1.5 percent this year.

    Edward Morse, head of economic research at LCM Commodities in New York, said, “If Russian production had fallen as much as people had forecast, and it were 600,000 to 700,000 barrels a day lower than it is today, the market would be significantly tighter.”

    Whether Russia can sustain the gain “is a question of considerable controversy,” Mr. Morse said. “I’m of the opinion that Russian production is going to grow.” Oil will be needed to fill a Far Eastern pipeline, under construction, that will supply China and the Pacific region, he said.

    Russia already exported more energy than any other country, with shipments from the state-run Gazprom natural gas company, the world’s largest producer, included. The Moscow-based company’s gas production last year was equivalent to 9.9 million barrels of oil a day, compared with Saudi Arabia’s 9.2 million barrels of crude, according to Gazprom and Bloomberg estimates.

    Russian gas sales to Europe would also benefit from OPEC’s effort to raise the value of crude because some gas contracts are linked to oil prices.

    Saudi Arabia had long been the top oil supplier. Only last year, Saudi Arabia was pumping about 10 million barrels a day, but it has now chosen to reduce its output.

    Soviet central planners pushed Russian output to 11.48 million barrels a day in 1987. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and Russia’s 1998 financial crisis, production tumbled to about half that amount by 1999.

    Russia urges tougher U.S.-led action on Afghan drugs

    From: Reuters
    High drug use among Russia's youth is a threat to national security, President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday.

    With Russia the world's top consumer of Afghan heroin, the head of its drug enforcement agency also called on U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan to do more to stem the flow of drugs.

    "The young age of drug users is a threat to the country's national security, a serious challenge to the health of the nation and to the already extremely complicated demographic situation," Medvedev said.

    Russia already faces a shrinking population because of poor diet, smoking and heavy drinking. Russian men have an average life expectancy of 59 years, far lower than in western Europe.

    A declining population, coupled with serious health problems, would undermine Russia's economy by reducing the size of its workforce.

    "Experts believe the real number of (drug) users ranges between 2 million and 2.5 million," Medvedev told a meeting of top officials who make up Russia's Security Council.

    "This is almost two percent of Russian citizens, and the most dangerous thing is that two thirds of this number are youths aged less than 30," he said.

    Official data show that some 30,000 drug users, aged 28 on average, die in Russia each year. This compares to a total of around 15,000 dead in the far more populous Soviet Union lost during the whole of its Afghan war in 1979-89.


    Alarmed by the drug trade and concerned about a spread of hardline Islamist militancy into the former Soviet Central Asian republics, Russia has taken some steps towards cooperating with the United States in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

    It has allowed the United States to move supplies through Russian territory and is looking at ways of increasing international cooperation to stem the heroin trade.

    "One just cannot fight this monster alone," Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia's drug enforcement agency, told reporters.

    "This is why we believe that as long as we support this (U.S.-led) operation conducted there, we have the right to expect that these forces will fight to destroy these drugs." U.N. data show that Afghanistan's opium harvest totalled 6,900 tonnes, down from 7,700 tonnes in 2008. But this year's crop still accounts for some 90 per cent of the world's supply.

    The United Nations believes traders are hoarding stockpiles, perhaps as much as 10,000 tonnes, or double the annual illicit demand for the drug.

    Medvedev said Russia was still lacking a nationwide anti-drug strategy and pressed for tougher punishment against those involved in drug-related crimes.

    Testing students in all Russian educational institutions for drug addiction could be introduced, Medvedev said. Ivanov said Russia's anti-drug strategy would ready in the first half of next year.

    "Greater punishment will also be applied for corruption crimes linked to the illegal drug trade... as well as for crimes linked to laundering cash from drug sales," Medvedev said.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Head of Polish state insurer detained-official

    From: Kiev Post
    The head of Poland's state social insurance body ZUS was detained on Tuesday with four other people on suspicion of corruption, prosecutors said.

    "All five are suspected of corruption. We now have to interrogate them and present charges within 48 hours," said Malgorzata Wojciechowicz, spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office in the northern Polish city of Szczecin.

    A ZUS spokeswoman confirmed Sylwester Rypinski's detention but declined to comment on the matter.

    The social security agency is responsible for gathering fees as well as paying out state pensions, medical and other social benefits in the country of 38 million. Last year, ZUS took care of medical insurance for nearly 15 million people.

    ZUS receives around 20 billion zlotys ($7.03 billion) in state budget subsidies every year.
    Sylwester Rypinski has been heading ZUS since November 2007.

    In a related story, Polskie Radio reports that Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland, said he decided to dismiss Rypinski from the post. Rypinski and four other state insurer officials are to be presented with charges within 48 hours.

    Eels fail to slip through customs

    From: Poleskie Radio
    The largest seizure in the European Union took place in Szczecin, northern Poland where customs officials confiscated 25,000 kilogrammes of endangered frozen eels.

    The eels were smuggled from China and were meant to be delivered to a buyer in the Warminsko-Mazurskie region of Poland, in the northeast.

    A cargo container with the eels – specially protected under international conventions for nature conservancy – declared that they were Japanese eels, which are a not protected as an endangered species.

    Customs officials ordered DNA testing and determined that the eels, which entered the country from Hamburg, Germany, were in fact a rare species of Chinese eel. The total value of the confiscated goods is estimated at about 500,000 zloty (122,000 euro).

    Richest Pole’s ex-wife testifies in murder case

    From: The News
    Grazyna Kulczyk, ex-wife of businessman Jan Kulczyk, one of the richest men in Poland, has been testifying in relation to the murder of General Marek Papala.

    Grazyna Kulczyk has been interrogated as a witness at the police headquarters in the western city of Poznan. Police have examined her connection with Edward Mazur, Polish businessman living in the US, who is believed to have ordered the assassination of General Marek Papla. Police have tried to establish if Grazyna Kulczyk contributed money to Mazur while setting up Stary Browar, a modern shopping centre in Poznan.

    Apart from Grazyna Kulczyk, other Polish businessmen will also be interrogated in Papala’s case, announced the Prosecutor’s Office.

    Police chief General Marek Papala was murdered while parking his car meters away from his Warsaw apartment in 1998. It took Polish authorities several years to apprehend Papala’s killer, a previously-unknown assassin. The lengthy investigation has led public prosecutors to Polish businessman Edward Mazur, who’s living in the U.S.

    Mazur is believed to have ordered the assassination. Polish justice authorities tried to extradite Mazur in 2005, but two years later, the Federal Court in Chicago ruled against the extradition, citing insufficient evidence. The Polish Prosecutor’s Office is going to file another motion for extradition of Edward Mazur as new evidence has been discovered in relation to the case.

  • Sport...

    World Cup Qualifying Preview: Belarus - Ukraine

    Ukraine will need three points from their trip to Minsk to stay in the race for second place in World Cup Qualifying Group 6.

    With just three games to go before the end of their World Cup qualifying campaign, Ukraine are still very much in the running to make their second consecutive appearance at the global jamboree next summer in South Africa. While it will be difficult to catch Group 6 leaders England, a runners-up spot, and with that the possibility of entering the play-offs, is still within reach.

    Ukraine’s three remaining games are away against Belarus, England at home, and finally an easy-looking trip to Andorra. Second-placed Croatia are three points ahead but have played one game more, and their final two games are against England away and Kazakhstan away. Beating England is always tough, but home advantage could play a role, and the Andorra game is practically a guaranteed three points, so this trip to Belarus becomes absolutely crucial for Ukraine’s chances.

    Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko’s team have made few mistakes in their qualifying campaign, getting the right results when they needed them, with perhaps the only misstep being the failure to beat their main competitors Croatia at home in October of last year. However, they cannot afford to let their guard drop, as this is a very competitive group, and they’ll have to fight until the end to make it to the finals.

    Before the last World Cup in Germany, Ukraine were the first European team, aside from the hosts, to qualify for the tournament, and it was their first appearance at a major tournament as an independent nation. They ultimately crashed out at the quarter-final stage after a defeat to eventual champions Italy, but it was still a respectable display. However, they then failed to make it to Euro 2008, mostly because they were drawn in a nightmare qualifying group with both World Cup finalists Italy and France, as well as a stubborn Scottish team.

    Things have looked better for Ukraine since Mykhaylychenko took over as coach, as they’ve managed to remain competitive all the way in another tough qualifying group. Nevertheless, his work will ultimately be judged on whether the team will manage to qualify for their second consecutive World Cup.

    Belarus Capable Of Springing A Surprise Against Anyone

    Although they have never made it to a major tournament finals at the senior level, Belarus are never to be underestimated, as in recent years they’ve caused several major teams big problems. They are certainly no pushovers, and usually finish at least fourth in World Cup or European qualifying groups.

    In recent years they have beaten Holland at home, Scotland away, as well as defeating the likes of Poland and Turkey away from home. They were probably at their best in 2002, when they came agonizingly close to making it to the play-offs for the World Cup, and also managed to beat Hungary 5-2 away from home in a friendly.

    In this World Cup qualifying campaign, however, they’ve had to acknowledge the superiority of teams like England, Croatia, and Ukraine, who won their first match against them at home 1-0. Two recent defeats against Croatia have practically canceled out any lingering hopes the Belarusians may have had of finishing second. Currently they are eight points behind second-placed Croatia, although Slaven Bilic’s team have played one game more.

    Belarus remain a dangerous team with a number of quality players, most notably Stuttgart playmaker Aliaksandr Hleb and Bari hitman Vitali Kutuzov. There are few national teams who look forward to playing them, and you could see them qualifying for a tournament in the not too distant future. A testament to their increasing strength is that the outcome of a fixture like this is not a foregone conclusion by any means.



    September 5 v Croatia (A) – LOST 1-0 (WCQ)

    August 12 v Croatia (H) – LOST 3-1 (WCQ)

    June 10 v Moldova (H) – DREW 2-2 (Friendly)

    June 6 v Andorra (H) – WON 5-1 (WCQ)

    April 1 v Kazakhstan (A) – WON 5-1 (WCQ)


    September 5 v Andorra (H) – WON 5-0 (WCQ)

    August 12 v Turkey (H) – LOST 3-0 (Friendly)

    June 10 v Kazakhstan (H) – WON 2-1 (WCQ)

    June 6 v Croatia (A) – DREW 2-2 (WCQ)

    April 1 v England (A) – LOST 2-1 (WCQ)




    Goalkeepers: Yuri Zhevnov, Anton Amelchenko, Pavel Chasnowski;

    Defenders: Sergei Omelyanchuk, Egor Filipenko, Aliaksandr Yurevich, Dmitry Verkhovtsov, Dmitry Lentsevich, Ihar Shytaw, Syarhey Sasnowski, Maksim Bardachow;

    Midfielders: Aliaksandr Kulchiy, Aliaksandr Hleb, Timofei Kalachev, Vyacheslav Hleb, Mykola Kashevsky, Ihar Stasevich, Syarhey Kryvets;

    Strikers: Vitali Kutuzov, Sergei Kornilenko, Vitali Rodionov, Gennadi Bliznyuk, Leonid Kovel.

    Possible formation (4-4-2): Zhevnov; Shytaw, Yurevich, Omelyanchuk, Bardachow; Kulchy, Kalachev, A. Hleb, Sasnowski; Kutuzov, Kornilenko.



    Goalkeepers: Oleksandr Shovkovskiy, Andriy Pyatov, Stanislav Bohush;

    Defenders: Andriy Rusol, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Vyacheslav Shevchuk, Oleksandr Kucher, Vitaliy Mandzyuk, Hryhoriy Yarmash, Vasyl Kobin;

    Midfielders: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Oleh Husyev, Serhiy Nazarenko, Ruslan Rotan, Oleksiy Hai, Yevhen Levchenko, Andriy Yarmolenko;

    Strikers: Andriy Shevchenko, Artem Milevskiy, Andriy Voronin, Yevhen Seleznyov, Volodymyr Homenyuk.

    Possible formation (4-3-3): Pyatov; Mandzyuk, Kucher, Chygrynskiy, Kobin; Tymoshchuk, Husyev, Yarmolenko; Milevskiy, Shevchenko, Voronin.


    Aliaksandr Hleb (Belarus)

    While he isn’t certain to play in this match because of a problem to his hip, the 28-year-old playmaker is probably Belarus’ best player. Last summer he was supposed to move to Inter in the mega-swap deal between the Nerazzurri and Barcelona involving Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Hleb felt he would not be first choice with the Italian champions, and opted to be loaned out to his former club Stuttgart.

    Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine)

    It’s been a tough few years for Shevchenko since leaving Milan in 2006. At Chelsea he never became an integral part of the team, but things only got worse when he was loaned back to Milan last summer. The 32-year-old striker failed completely to find back to magic of his extremely successful spell with the Rossoneri, and returned to Stamford Bridge this summer with his tail between his legs. Now the Ukraine captain will play out the final stage of his career at his former club Dynamo Kyiv, with whom he signed a two-year deal just before the transfer deadline.


    Stronger motivation could give Ukraine a narrow victory.

    Belarus-Ukraine 1-2

  • Endnote...

    Chávez touts new gas cartel, walks red carpet with Oliver Stone

    From: CSM and Telegraph
    Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez – who meets today with “Europe’s last dictator” to discuss the formation of a gas cartel akin to OPEC – was all smiles yesterday during his surprise VIP appearance at the star-studded Venice Film Festival.

    He threw a flower to the crowd, touched his heart, and even grabbed a photographer’s camera to take a photo of himself as he strolled the red carpet with American filmmaker Oliver Stone. Mr. Chávez was on hand to be feted for the premier of Mr. Stone’s new documentary “South of the Border,” which aims to portray Chávez and other Latin American leftist leaders in a positive light. (Next up for Stone? A documentary about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.)

    “South of the Border” slams US media for demonizing Chávez. “You can’t get a fair hearing for Chávez. It’s an outrageous caricature they’ve drawn of him in the Western press,” Stone told Variety.

    After a dramatic landing at the Venice Lido on board a carabinieri helicopter, Mr Chavez, who eschewed the typical boat arrival as he suffers from sea sickness, posed on the red carpet along with the director, who he described as a "hard worker".

    Mr Chavez praised Stone's work for depicting what he said were improvements made across Latin America.

    "Rebirth is happening in Latin America, and Stone went to look for it and he found it," Mr Chavez said. "With his cameras and his genius, he's captured a good part of that rebirth."

    Before Mr Chavez arrived in Venice from Turkmenistan, Stone defended him the controversial Latin American leader a press conference to launch the documentary film.

    "Chavez was elected by popular vote in no fewer than 12 different elections. And Venezuela has seen a clear economic improvement with him," Stone said.

    He added that "South of the Border" was an attempt to combat western views that many Latin American countries were not democratic.

    The documentary, he said, was meant "to combat the level of stupidity of the press".

    "If you look now, there are seven presidents, eight countries with Chile, that are really moving away from the Washington consensus control," Stone said. "But in America, they don't get that story."

    ‘Democratizing’ Venezuela’s airwaves

    Apparently, Chávez also can’t get a fair shake in his own country either.

    “Venezuelan officials moved forward on Tuesday with efforts to ‘democratize’ the country’s airwaves by closing nearly 30 more radio stations, a month after 34 media outlets were shuttered for ‘abusing’ free speech,” reports Agence France-Presse. “We are democratizing the communication media and ensuring true freedom of expression,” said Chávez last month.

    A new gas cartel?

    Meanwhile, Chávez continued what he has jokingly called his 11-day “evil axis” tour by paying a visit to Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko. The two were expected to discuss trade deals including the inclusion of Belarus in a forum of natural gas exporters similar to OPEC.

    The visit to Belarus comes one day after Chávez invited Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov to join the fledgling cartel, which Chavez hopes will counterbalance Western political and economic clout. And it comes two days after Chávez struck a deal with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to import fuel to the country at a time when the West is considering sanctions against Iran.

    “Venezuela has agreed to export 20,000 barrels of petrol daily to Iran from October in a deal worth $800 millon,” Chávez was quoted as saying by Iranian media. The arrangement could be key for Iran, which imports some 40 percent of its fuel. It could offset sanctions the US and Europe have threatened to impose on Iran if more progress is not made in efforts to resolve questions over Iran’s nuclear program.

    An olive branch to Obama?

    Despite the deals struck on his trip to some of the least US-friendly countries on the planet, Chávez – who famously called former US President George W. Bush “the devil” – says he hopes he can work with President Obama.

    “I have no reason to call him [Obama] the devil, and I hope that I am right,” Chavez told reporters in Venice. “With Obama we can talk, we are almost from the same generation, one can’t deny that Obama is different [from Bush]. He’s intelligent, he has good intentions and we have to help him.”