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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Macro economics, Russian relience, Finland, Liver transplants, China, Austria, Agriculture, Belarus Free Theatre, News, SAport and Polish scandal

  • From the Top...
  • #445

    Belarus chooses international priorities over brief and disputable advantages

    From: BelTA
    Belarus has clearly determined international priorities taking into account national interests and will not change them in order to gain brief and disputable advantages. The statement was made by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko at the V Belarusian-Lithuanian international economic forum in Vilnius on 16 September, BelTA has learnt.

    The President remarked, they try to make Belarus make some choice between Europe and Russia, claiming that the two vectors are incompatible. “I think putting it this way is wrong,” said Alexander Lukashenko. “To be the linking bridge between the East and the West is our cornerstone view”. The Belarusian head of state is convinced that Belarus has geographical, cultural, economic and even political conditions to attain the goal.

    Meeting with his Lithuanian counterpart Dalia Grybauskaite earlier, Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus will not tolerate any pressure. “I would like Europeans to understand that we will not take measures specifically to suit some projects,” stressed the Belarusian head of state. “Due to certain circumstances we have learned how to resist pressure. We will not succumb to anyone but will act in interests of the Belarusian nation without damaging our neighbors,” he said.

    At the same time Alexander Lukashenko remarked that Belarus is ready to listen to foreign opinions. “We are reasonable people and know how to listen. If we are given a good piece of advice, we will use it”. The President underlined that he is in favor of an open-hearted policy and had never failed anyone. “We are a sovereign country. We don’t have the obligations you have before the European Union. We have more freedom in making decisions and you can expect us to deliver once we make a deal,” said the Belarusian head of state.

    Speaking about the private talks, Alexander Lukashenko remarked that they had managed to discuss all matters in an open, honest and principled way. “I liked the openness of our dialogue. I like hearing another opinion about sensitive issues in an open way. Time will tell. We will see who was right about the sensitive issues that Europe puts before us,” he added. Yet Alexander Lukashenko believes that there are no problem things in Belarus-Lithuania relations.

    Alexander Lukashenko underlined that Belarus understands the fact that Lithuania has certain obligations as a member of the European Union. “I understand it. If Poland or Lithuania feel awkward talking to us, let me know,” said Alexander Lukashenko. In his opinion, Belarus and Lithuania have a reliable foundation integrated by the economy. The President assured that Belarus is resolute to implement many economic programmes and overcome various challenges to reach the goal.

    In turn, the Lithuania President remarked that the meeting had touched upon main things regarding the cooperation with Belarus, in particular, cooperation in economy, energy industry, culture as well as possible and future bilateral projects. She underlined that all views regarding political and economic areas had been agreed with all European Union member-states. “This is why we talk as a representative of the European community,” noted Dalia Grybauskaite. Speaking about holding a national expo of Belarus in Lithuania as well as the Belarusian-Lithuanian economic forum, the President of Lithuania said that it would be a good step towards enhancing the economic relations and bringing the two countries closer in politics.

    Belarus expects the European Union to reduce the cost of Schengen visas and simplify visa regulations, said Alexander Lukashenko. The accession of Poland and the Baltic states to the Schengen zone significantly restricted the possibility of the Belarusians to maintain contacts with the neighboring countries. Belarus is the only European country that has to pay €60 for a Schengen visa. According to the Belarusian head of state, the situation is absolutely unacceptable and contradicts the statements that the development of interpersonal contacts is among the key goals of the united Europe.

    The President underlined that Belarus counts on Lithuania’s assistance as this issue directly affects the relations between the Belarusians and the Lithuanians and considerably restrains the development of cultural exchange, tourism and trade.

    Alexander Lukashenko was glad to state that Belarus and Lithuania manage to address this issue on the bilateral level by creating favorable conditions for crossing the border for the residents of transboundary areas.

    The crisis should encourage Belarus and Lithuania to find new areas of cooperation and implement the projects that were ignored in better times due to their complicated fulfillment or not so high profitability, the President believes. Alexander Lukashenko regretted that the world economic and financial crisis has seriously affected the Belarusian-Lithuanian trade and economic ties. However, the President believes that certain profits can be generated by the crisis. “The crisis should drive us towards seeking various ways to establish cooperation in many areas: mechanical engineering, energy industry, agriculture, food industry, tourism,” remarked Alexander Lukashenko.

    “We have to find new schemes of manufacturing cooperation, ways to set up assembly enterprises, ways of investment cooperation,” the Belarusian head of state is convinced.

    Belarus’ resumed participation in the Generalized System of Preferences of the European Union could be an important step meant to enhance Belarus-EU trade. The President remarked that at present there are several factors restraining the export of Belarusian commodities to the European Union market. In particular, the European Union applies trade procedures against Belarus which are similar to those used against the USA, Australia, Japan and other advanced industrial countries. “It is quite obvious that the real economic capabilities of Belarus and of those countries are incommensurable and we enjoy less favorable conditions,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko.

    The President of Belarus also encouraged all businessmen, including Lithuanian ones, to participate in mutually beneficial cooperation in trade and transit, development and implementation of specific joint projects. Alexander Lukashenko believes that there are opportunities for that at the bilateral level and within the framework of international projects such as the Northern Dimension Partnership on Transport and Logistics.

    Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus, Russia will stay closest allies

    Despite minor issues in the mutual relations Belarus and Russia have been and will stay the closest allies, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told Lithuanian mass media in an interview.

    According to the press service of the Belarus President, Alexander Lukashenko dispelled claims of a cooling in relations with Russia caused by Belarus’ aim for Europe. According to the President, such claims arise from the lack of factual knowledge about the state of things in Belarus’ relations with Europe and Russia.

    “We have never had the kind of relations we have with the Russian Federation with any other country. Let’s consider any area: diplomacy, politics, economy. We have advanced furthest in relations with Russia in these areas. We are the closest allies,” stressed the President.

    He remarked that there are sometimes “bumps for no reason at all but they are not objective”. The head of state said that the recent milk conflict with Russia was artificial. At present Belarus has no problem with supplying milk to Russia. After re-registration Belarus exports even more dairy titles to Russia.

    “We have survived a lot of these conflicts. They are certainly exaggerated. They say that Lukashenko looks to the West because of the way Russia treats him. Not at all! In Russia there are complicated domestic political configurations and sometimes such ‘undercurrents’ resurface that even the Russian leadership do not always notice them in time. This is why do not think that we have bad relations with Russia,” stated Alexander Lukashenko. He also added that due to the deep manufacturing integration of the economies Belarus is forced to provide political support to relevant economic processes.

    Speaking about the European vector, the President remarked that Belarus has always tried to have good relations with Europe. “We are not turning anywhere. Europe has just noticed Belarus. We have always aimed for good relations with Europe. Always!” the Belarus President made clear. “We cannot be tied to one country, the one that we hold dear. There is another factor – Europe, of which Belarus is the center. Can Europe exist without Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland in this conglomerate? It cannot”.

    “What things do we have to quarrel about with Europe? We don’t like to be the dividing strip the way we usually do. We don’t want to be the barrier between the East and the West,” said the President. “I would like to have good relations with Russia, China, and other countries, and to have good relations with Europe. We are not on the outskirts. We are at the crossroads of all roads. We are in a situation destined to have good relations with Europe”.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus, Finland to discuss economic cooperation

    From: BelTA
    Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Valery Voronetsky and Under-Secretary of State of Finland Pekka Huhtaniemi will discuss the issues of the bilateral economic cooperation on 14 September, BelTA learned from the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

    A delegation of the Finnish officials and businessmen is in Minsk on 14-15 September. The delegation is headed by Under-Secretary of State of Finland Pekka Huhtaniemi, who supervises the external economic relations. The delegation consists of high-ranking officials of the Finnish Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Employment and Economy, and Bank of Finland, alongside with the administration of the Finnish Foreign Trade Association (Finpro). The business circles will be represented by top managers of twenty major Finnish companies.

    The delegation is set to hold talks at the Council of Ministers of Belarus. Apart from that, the Finnish guests are also scheduled to have meetings at the Ministries of Economy, Foreign Affairs, Industry, Architecture and Construction, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Energy, and Forestry of Belarus.

    The Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) will host a contact and cooperation exchange for Belarusian and Finnish businessmen.

    In 2008, Belarusian-Finnish trade turnover totaled $287.6 million that is 4% up on 2007. Belarusian export amounted to $115.6 million (up more than 107%). The import from Finland surged by 67% to $172 million. The trade deficit was $56.4 million.

    The global financial crisis badly affected the Belarusian-Finnish trade. In January-June 2009, the trade turnover plummeted to $72.9 million (55% down on the same period 2008). The Belarusian export plunged by 86.8% and amounted to $9.34 million. The import from Finland decreased by more than 30% down to $63.58 million. The trade deficit was $54.24 million.

    Belarus’ first pediatric liver transplant patient feeling well

    From: BelTA
    The first Belarusian teenager who had liver transplantation has regained consciousness, can talk and get up from bed, anesthesiologist at Minsk clinical hospital No 9 Andrei Zlatogure told reporters on 16 September.

    The 16 year old patient was brought to hospital from Gomel in an extremely grave condition. The boy had mushroom poisoning and was in coma. According to medical estimation, he had just one more day to live: his condition was deteriorating quickly. The liver transplantation was the only option.

    The surgery was performed on the night from 4 September to 5 September. After that the patient stayed in a drug-induced coma for a day. “Now he has come to senses; he understands where he is and his condition is getting better,” Andrei Zlatogure said.

    Adult liver transplant surgeries are rather common in Belarus, but such surgeries had never been performed on children before. “Taking into consideration that the patient had mushroom poisoning which requires a special approach, we can say that this surgery is unique not only for Belarus, but also for the global medical community,” the specialist underlined.

    Minsk to host international conference on spinal diseases

    A scientific and practical conference dedicated to the development of present-day vertebrology will be held in Minsk on 1-2 October, BelTA learnt from deputy director of the National Scientific and Practical Centre for Traumatology and Orthopedics Leonid Lomat.

    Taking part in the conference will be traumatologists, orthopedists and neurosurgeons from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The forum is organized by the Healthcare Ministry of Belarus, the National Scientific and Practical Centre for Traumatology and Orthopedics, and the Scientific Medical Society of Traumatologists and Orthopaedists of Belarus.

    The participants of the forum will deliver reports on the problems of present day vertebrology and treatment of patients suffering from spinal diseases and diseases of the spinal cord. The specialists will also discuss diagnostics and treatment of malformations, tumors, and tumor-like spinal diseases. Apart from that, the participants of the conference will discuss the use of cutting-edge and low-invasive technologies in vertebrology.

    According to Leonid Lomat, such conferences will help raise the level of diagnostics and treatment of patients suffering from severe spinal diseases.

    The National Scientific and Practical Centre for Traumatology and Orthopedics can perform almost all kinds of invasive treatments of spinal diseases due to new technologies and methods. The new methods include vertebroplasty. Vertebroplasty is mainly used to treat thoracic and lumbar vertebra fractures in patients suffering from osteoporosis. Bone cement is injected into a fractured vertebra in order to stabilize it. Vertebroplasty is a low-invasive method. It helps reduce hospital stay and rehabilitation period.

    Belarus’ Supreme Economic Court becomes IAJ full member

    From: BelTA
    The Supreme Economic Court (SEC) has become a full-fledged member of the International Association of Judges (IAJ). A delegation of the Supreme Economic Court led by Chairman Viktor Kamenkov took part in the IAJ congress in Marseilles on 7-11 September, BelTA has learnt.

    Belarus approved its commitment to develop the methods and forms of the execution of judgments and an interest to develop mutual cooperation between the Belarusian judges and the Association.

    Collaboration with the Association will help strengthen the cooperation between the law enforcement officers of Belarus and other countries, promote implementation of the advanced experience in compulsory execution of judicial acts in Belarus and the execution of the decisions of the Belarusian courts on the territory of other countries, the SEC of Belarus said.

    The congress also considered ratification of the Federal Bailiffs’ Service of the Russian Federation, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Committee for Legal Administration of the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan, court services of Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Chili and Mauritania.

    The cooperation between the Supreme Economic Court of Belarus and the International Association of Judges started in 2007, during a conference marking the 85th anniversary of the economic justice in Belarus. In May 2008 the Supreme Economic Court of Belarus and the International Association of Judges signed an agreement on cooperation. In November 2008 an agreement on cooperation was signed between the Justice Ministry of Belarus, the Supreme Economic Court and the International Association of Judges.

    The International Association of Judges is a very powerful international law organisation encompassing 65 full members from different continents. The association has a consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, the Council of Europe, is involved in the work of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

  • Cultural Scene...

    China’s Symphonic Orchestra to open Days of Chinese Culture in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    A concert of the Radio and Cinema Symphonic Orchestra of China will officially open the Days of the Chinese Culture in the Belarusian State Philharmonic in Minsk on 16 September. Attending the event will be Deputy Culture Minister of China Ouyang Jian, BelTA learnt from the Embassy of China in Belarus.

    The Belarusian people will get familiar with the peculiarities of the Chinese national music as well as hear the classics of Johannes Brahms, Edward Elgar, Henryk Wieniawski, Vincenzo Monti, Antonin Dvorjak and Piotr Tchaikovsky.

    Minsk gymnasium No 23 will play a host to a Chinese calligraphy contest and a Chinese poetry soiree on 16 September.

    A photo-exhibition timed to the 60th anniversary of the PRC Foundation is held at the House of Friendship. The photos demonstrate the country’s rapid development.

    The National Museum of History and Art is hosting an exhibition of modern Chinese ink painting.

    The fifth Days of the Chinese Culture are held on the eve of the 60th anniversary of founding the People’s Republic of China that is marked on 1 October.

    Eleven countries to compete in Animayevka animation film festival

    The International Animation Film Festival Animayevka 2009 will be held in Mogilev on 24-26 September. Competing for the main prize of the festival will be 42 animation films from 11 countries, deputy director of the Kinovideoprokat company Yelena Ruleva told a press conference.

    All in all, 98 cartoons from 16 countries will take part in the 12th International Animation Film Festival Animayevka 2009. Animation films from Azerbaijan, Germany and Iran will take part in the festival for the first time.

    They will compete in five nominations - the best animation film, the best children's animation film, the best experimental animation film, the best creator and people's choice award. The international jury will be led by Distinguished Artiste of Russia Leonid Nosarev.

    The festival is held every year. It aims at popularizing and supporting animation films, introducing the audience to the latest animation works and strengthening cultural links between Belarus and the participating states.

  • Economics...

    Nearly €155m to be put in Belarus-Austria joint venture construction

    From: BelTA
    A preliminary volume of investments in the construction of a woodprocessing facility in Belarus jointly with the Austrian company EGGER will make up almost €155 million, Forestry Minister of Belarus Piotr Latushko told media on 16 September.

    The company will be constructed in the Borisov forestry with all necessary infrastructure provided. The facility is expected to process nearly 800,000 cubic meters of trunk wood a year. 350 new workplaces will be available.

    According to Piotr Semashko, it will be a high-technology production facility fitted with all contemporary equipment. The construction will last for approximately two years. The payback period will make up 10 years. Belarus has prepared all necessary documents and submitted them to the Austrian company.

    According to Piotr Latushko, while choosing a foreign investor, the Forestry Ministry focused on several criteria: a joint project should be economically sound and not harm the environment, it should stimulate production and help develop new competitive products.

    Belarus’ fixed-capital investments 16.9% up in January-Augu

    In January-August 2009 fixed-capital and construction investments totaled Br26.6 trillion in Belarus, 16.9% up on the same period of last year in comparable prices, BelTA learnt from representatives of the National Statistics Committee.

    In January-August 2009 Br12.7 trillion worth of construction and installation work was fulfilled in Belarus, 24% up on January-August 2008.

    Investments into manufacturing totaled Br17.1 trillion, 18.8% up, while other investments amounted to Br9.4 trillion (15% up). Investments into manufacturing accounted for 64.5% of the total investments, which is equal to the figure registered in January-August 2008.

    In January-August 2009 Br10.6 trillion (11.2% up) was spent on buying machines, equipment and vehicles. These expenses accounted for 40% of the total investments, with the share of the money spent on foreign investments as large as 18.1%. A third of the imported equipment was bought in Belarus.

    According to the National Statistics Committee, in January-August 2009 state-run companies used Br13.4 trillion in fixed-capital investments (14.2% up on January-August 2008). National ownership companies used Br6.1 trillion in investments (3% up), municipal ownership ones — Br7.3 trillion (25.7% up).

    As of 1 September 2009 there were 15,300 manufacturing and non-manufacturing premises under construction (excluding individual developers and small business entities), or 7 objects less than on 1 August 2009. Manufacturing facilities accounted for 42.6% of the total premises under construction. The number of temporarily abandoned facilities stood at 2,939 (2,950 as of 1 August 2009). The share of facilities which construction exceeds standard terms (excluding temporarily abandoned and preserved sites) made 34.3%.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Belarus leader stresses ties with Russia

    From: Taiwan News
    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Wednesday he was not about to change his authoritarian ways just to gain favor with Europe, stressing that his country would remain a strategic ally of Russia.

    "Europeans must understand they can't make us to do something that we do not want," he told an economic forum in Lithuanian capital. "We know what are the best interests of our nation. We are not going to tear down the constitutional order."

    Lukashenko made a rare visit to neighboring Lithuania _ the first in 11 years _ and the second trip to a European Union and NATO member since an EU travel ban on top Belarusian officials was lifted earlier this year.

    EU officials have hinted that Belarus needs to implement more democratic and political reforms by November if it wants closer ties and aid from the 27-nation bloc.

    Lukashenko, often described as Europe's last dictator, held talks with President Dalia Grybauskaite and other senior government officials as both countries seek ways to improve bilateral relations, including trade.

    Though wary of closer ties with the Lukashenko regime, foreign policy experts hope the Baltic state can gain economic benefits _ such as handling transit of Belarusian exports _ and encourage reforms of Belarus' authoritarian system.

    "This visit provides us a chance to find new ways of solving old problems," said Laurynas Jonavicius, economic adviser to Lithuania's president. "We need progress after 10 years of mutual silence."

    Lukashenko's visit also took place during a souring of relations with Russia, leading some to speculate that the Belarusian dictator is trying to reach out to the West. But Lukashenko told the forum his country has "old and close ties with Russia. Why should we sacrifice it? Who would benefit from it?"

    Many Lithuanians were critical of the decision to invite Lukashenko. A dozen protesters jeered him near the presidential palace by waving signs and calling for an end to political repression in Belarus.

    Lithuania and Belarus were expected to sign an agreement that would allow residents near the border to travel to the other country without a visa.

    Belarusian officials claim that the cost of visas to the EU are too expensive and that Brussels should reduce them _ a complaint that Lukashenko echoed during his visit.

    Lukashenko's first visit to the West took place in April when he traveled to Italy to see the pope.

    Belarus - Number of audits reduced in Belarus to enhance business climate

    From: Iseria
    The decrease in the number of audits of business entities is aimed at eradicating red-tape practices and enhancing the business climate in Belarus.

    The statement was made by Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky at a joint session of the Council of Ministers Presidium and the boards of the Belarus President Administration and the State Control Committee in Minsk on 15 September. The session tabled a draft presidential decree designed to improve auditing practices.

    Sergei Sidorsky reminded about the instructions issued by the head of state concerning putting auditing practices in order. The draft decree takes into account multiple recommendations of self-employed businessmen and corporations that complained about auditing practices. “Therefore reducing the number of audits is one of the vital things for eradicating red-tape practices and creating a business climate in the country,” stressed the Prime Minister. “There are several things that we believe to be worth discussing together with the Belarus President Administration and the State Control Committee”.

    Belarus Vice Premier Andrei Kobyakov said that audits will be performed in Belarus for preventive purposes instead of punitive ones. He underlined that the draft document is based on the demand stated by the Belarus President in his address to the people and the National Assembly on 23 April 2009. Belarus needs a control system that will enable preventive audits instead of punitive ones without suppressing the business climate development. The draft decree is one of the most important and long-awaited documents in the economic policy of the Government, underlined Andrei Kobyakov. He reminded that decree No 689 of 19 December 2008 suspended control and supervisory audits until a proper auditing system is in place.

    Belarusian business entities will be protected against unreasoned interference of auditing agencies in their operation. The statement was made by Deputy Tax Minister Vasily Kamenko. For the first time a draft decree introduces regulations to limit the interference of auditing bodies and officials, said Vasily Kamenko. The document guarantees protection of rights and interests of business entities against unwarranted interference and arbitrary use of office by civil servants.

    A restrictive list of reasons necessitating scheduled and unscheduled inspections has been introduced. Unscheduled inspections will have to be authorized by the head or deputy head of an auditing body. Thus, an unscheduled inspection will need a warrant.

    Apart from that, auditors will have to keep to the matters that are subject to auditing. Reasons for and procedures for withdrawing original documents have been specified. Such measures as suspension or operation prohibition of a business entity, suspension of account operations, seizure of material valuables for committed offences can be used by the auditing body only if the measures are laid down by a decree or other legal acts.

    The draft decree allows 15 working days for auditing a self-employed businessman and 30 working days for auditing a corporation.

    The draft decree unifies auditing procedures and auditing reports.

    Auditing agencies will have to prove malpractices of business entities. A business entity, which is subject to auditing, stays bona fide unless the auditing agency proves otherwise, stressed Vasily Kamenko. If regulations are not totally clear on a disputed issue, a decision in favor of the audited business entity has to be taken.

    The Deputy Tax Minister also named other measures laid down by the draft decree. The measures are generally aimed at perfecting the existing auditing system. The document has been passed by 58 government agencies, without a single remark in most of them.

    With the decree in place, Belarus will have all the necessary conditions for increasing the effectiveness of control by the government. Simultaneously the protection of legal rights of all economic entities will be substantially increased, stated Vasily Kamenko.

    Belarus increased agricultural products output by 3.3%

    From: Agrimarket
    During January-August of 2009, all varieties of agricultural economies in Belarus increased output of agricultural products by 3.3% compared to the same period of the previous year, to the sum of 17.56 trn. BYR (6.32 bln USD), declared the National statistics committee (Belstat).

    According to data of Belstat, during January-August of 2009, the production volumes of agricultural organizations and farming economies grew by 6.6% compared to January-August of 2008. Agrarian economies of the population decreased agricultural output by 5%.

    As of September 1, 2009, grain production in the country totaled 8.32 mln tonnes, a decrease of 3.7% compared to the same date of the previous year.

    Belarusans Basking in -- Not Hiding From -- the Spotlight's Glare

    From: Washington Post
    The Belarus Free Theatre has no official audience in Belarus, because officially the Belarus Free Theatre does not exist. Only state-run theaters exist in Belarus, which has been described as Europe's last dictatorship. Only approved plays exist, by approved, non-revolutionary playwrights. There are no revolutionary playwrights in Belarus. Officially.

    So in Minsk, the company's home city, actors perform in tiny apartments, texting their location at the last minute to avoid harassment by government officials. They perform in bars and tell the authorities the gathering is a holiday party; they perform in the woods and say it's a wedding. Many of the actors have lost their day jobs, some of the audience members have been arrested.

    Tuesday, the Belarus Free Theatre will begin a two-day, two-play performance run at Georgetown University's Davis Performing Arts Center. This evening's production is "Generation Jeans," a monologue about growing up behind the Iron Curtain, where denim and rock music were prohibited. Wednesday brings the U.S. debut of "Discover Love," based on the 1999 Belarus kidnapping and murder of a Washington resident's husband.

    For the company, the visit means a normal performing experience, free from threats of violence. For the audience, it is a reminder that there are still places where going to the theater is an act of treason.

    "Even Chekhov is very rarely produced [in Belarus], because he makes people think," says Natalia Kolyada, co-founder of the Free Theatre. "And when he is, it goes through censorship." Other works, too: When Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Anna in the Tropics" was staged in Minsk, a line suggesting that a cigar chairman should be democratically elected was struck. The government no doubt found the language incendiary: During Belarusan President Alexander Lukashenko's 15-year-rule, he has rigged elections, disbanded parliament and abolished the constitutional two-term limit that should have ended his presidency in 2004. As secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice called his country an "outpost of tyranny."

    This history, this censorship, this daily oppression inspired Kolyada and her husband, Nikolai Khalezin -- who began writing plays while imprisoned for editing an independent newspaper -- to found the Free Theatre in 2005 as a voice for playwrights whose work had been banned. Their first selection was "4.48 Psychosis" by British writer Sarah Kane. "We tried everywhere to stage it but received rejection after rejection," Kolyada says. "We were told, 'There is no psychosis in Belarus. There is no suicide in Belarus. There are no sexual minorities in Belarus.' It's not possible to talk about any of the issues that worry people."

    Finally, the owner of a cafe offered his space. The company performed there until the KGB -- a name Belarus still uses for its intelligence agency 18 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union -- threatened to take away the restaurant's license. They moved on to a private residence; that owner was threatened with eviction.

    The Free Theatre instituted evasive tactics. The text-messaging system began after the troupe's e-mailed announcements were infiltrated. Kolyada began inviting foreign journalists and dignitaries to the performances, knowing that the government would be less likely to interfere with those shows. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't: In 2006, the owner of a nightclub that had hosted the company lost his license. "But what was important is that he called us the next day," Kolyada says. "He said, 'Don't feel guilty, because I understand where we live. The next street action we have, I'll be out there again, still fighting.' "

    "In a course I teach on political theater, we talk a lot about theater as nourishment," says Derek Goldman, the director of Georgetown's theater program, which partnered with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company to bring Belarus Free Theatre to Washington. "But I think it's rare to see a circumstance, working in this illegal and underground situation, where that drive is as urgent and pure as it seems to be in this situation."

    The theater company that does not exist in its home country has won support and acclaim from around the world. Tom Stoppard has written letters of support, the late Harold Pinter allowed his plays to be performed royalty-free, and the company has participated in theater festivals throughout Europe. To be judged on artistic merit, "we need to go outside of Belarus," Kolyada says. The audience back home is simply grateful that they perform at all. The waiting list to attend a show is 2,000 people long, and "everyone comes to our performances with their passports, because they know if they get arrested, they'll need them. The Belarusan audience is the bravest audience in the world."

    No one knows that better than Irina Krasovskaya, whose story is the basis of "Discover Love," which will be performed Wednesday on the 10-year anniversary of her husband's death. Anatoly Krasovsky was a prominent pro-democracy businessman, and friends with one of Lukashenko's political rivals. The two had gone to a steam room -- a common location for anti-regime discussions, as the steam ruins recording devices -- just a few months after the disappearance of another Lukashenko foe. They were supposed to meet Krasovskaya later for drinks to celebrate her birthday. Neither ever came home. When Krasovskaya went looking for Krasovsky at the steam room, she found traces of blood, broken glass and tire marks, she says. But when she reported her husband's disappearance to the police, they searched her house and brought her in for interrogation, claiming she might have killed him herself. Krasovskaya later emigrated to Washington, remarried and became a civil rights activist. She worked with Kolyada and Khalezin for several years to help them develop "Discover Love," and saw it when it premiered in the Netherlands. Though she'll host a reception for the Washington performance, she doesn't know if she'll be able to sit through the play again. "I saw it and remembered all my life," Krasovskaya says. "I saw my husband, I saw myself and I cried."

    But she is happy for the attention to her story -- a story she says is often met with incredulity. "When I tell this story in normal surroundings, nobody believes me," she says. "For this to happen in a modern city," in a country bordering the European Union? It seems impossible. The disbelief is why Kolyada and Khalezin continue, despite the arrests, despite the threats. "We want people to know what is happening. We have two children, 10 and 15 years old," Kolyada says. "That means there are two girls who have never lived in a democratic country. We want our children to live in a free country." And if that's not possible? "We want our children to understand what it means to think freely."

  • From the Opposition...

    Belarusian enterprises lost $11bln in January–July

    From: Charter '97
    The volume of currency gain of Belarusian enterprises has reduced by 41.6% yoy in January–July 2009 amounting to $13229,2mln.

    The volume of currency gain of Belarusian enterprises has reduced by 41.6% yoy in January–July 2009 amounting to $13229,2mln.

    So, the enterprises have lost $11.366bln.

    The export proceeds of goods have fallen by 45.4% to $11167,2 mln amounting 84.4% of the total currency gain. The proceeds of services export has increased by 0.5% up to 1928,4mln amounting 14.6% of the total gain. The gain from domestic trade in currency has declined by 59% amounting to 119,3mln. Other proceeds reach 14.5mln showing a decrease of 21.2%, AFN reports referring to the National Bank of Belarus.

    According to the National Bank, 30.3% of the total currency gain was provided due to supplies to Russia. In particular, proceeds of export to Russia amounted to 4010,7mln falling by 42.8% yoy for the period January to July 2009.

    Secret services to become first readers of Pavel Seviarynet’s new book?

    From: Viasna
    On 6 September Pavel Seviarynets, head of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party, gave the manuscript of his new novel to Dzianis Sadouski for making a Xerox copy. Mr. Sadouski passed the manuscript to a friend. KGB and police searched the apartment that was rented by this friend.

    They left to the owner of the apartment only a document witnessing the fact of the search, but no documents about the confiscation of any things.

    ‘It is a shock for me’, says Pavel Seviarynets. ‘I haven’t faced anything of the kind earlier. It was a literary work about Belarus under the working title Heart of Light. Now officers of security services will be its first readers.’

    Mr. Seviarynets intends to get the novel returned. He has already filed complaints with the police department and the prosecutor’s office of Tsentralny district of Minsk.

  • Russia...

    Medvedev slams US for blocking Russia's WTO bid

    From: AFP
    President Dmitry Medvedev, due to visit the United States shortly, on Tuesday slammed Washington for holding back Russia's long-running bid to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

    "If it weren't for the highly cautious US policy on Russia's WTO accession, and bluntly speaking, if it weren't for the blocking by the United States, we would have been there long ago," Medvedev said.

    Russia began negotiations for WTO membership in 1993 but the talks have hit numerous roadblocks over the years and today Russia remains the world's largest economy still outside the WTO.

    Last year, Washington said Russia's bid to join the global trading body had been put in doubt by its war with Western-allied Georgia, a stance that Moscow criticised as an inappropriate politicisation of the process.

    Russian officials have repeatedly expressed frustration with what they call political obstacles to Russia's accession to the global trade body.

    In June, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would seek accession as a customs bloc with Belarus and Kazakhstan, a decision that took the WTO by surprise and that Washington called "unworkable."

    The move dented what US officials had described as healthy progress towards a US-Russian deal allowing Russia's WTO entry and sparked speculation that Putin had sidelined Medvedev amid disagreement between the two.

    But on Sunday Medvedev denied the reports of discord with Putin.

    "This is a mistake. The decision about how we will accede has been made. We will do it together," he said, speaking to the Valdai Discussion Club, an annual Kremlin-organised meeting of foreign Russia experts.

    "Since they are not taking us into the WTO and holding us in the corridor, at the entrance, then we should work towards the integration of our economies: Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus," he said.

    Medvedev is due to visit the United States later this month to attend a summit of the Group of 20 top developed and developing countries in Pittsburgh and to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

    Russia's entry into the WTO has been held up by various issues including disagreements over Russian restrictions on the import of agricultural products and its protection of intellectual property.

    Meanwhile Russia has repeatedly urged the United States to cancel the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, a Cold War-era measure that imposes trade restrictions on Russia which Moscow says are outdated.

    Russia vows to take on vodka consumption

    From: CSM
    At first blush, it might not seem like a good idea to copy the methods of a leader whom Russians regard as the most disastrous failure in living memory.

    Yet President Dmitri Medvedev appears determined to tear a page from the playbook of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose policies led to the collapse of the USSR, by attempting to force Russians to cut back on their catastrophically high consumption of vodka.

    Experts say the problem has grown so dire that the Kremlin has little alternative but to attempt a crack down, even though history records that Mr. Gorbachev’s efforts to deprive Russians of their vodka led to an explosion of public outrage – at a moment when he needed to mobilize public support to back his perestroika reforms.

    Rampaging alcoholism is a “national disaster,” Mr. Medvedev said in a recent statement. “The alcohol consumption we have is colossal. … I have been astonished to find that we drink more now than we did in the 1990’s, even though those were very tough times,” he said.

    According to the Kremlin website, annual per capita pure alcohol consumption in Russia is about 5 gallons, which is twice the level the World Health Organization describes as the “danger level.” According to a recent study in The Lancet, a medical journal, half of all Russian deaths between the ages of 15 and 54 can be attributed to alcohol-related causes.

    Overwhelming the system
    According to Russia’s State Service for Consumer Protection, that translated into 75,000 premature deaths in 2007 alone.

    “In our society, drinking has become the norm from top to bottom,” says Alexei Magalif, head doctor of the Magalif Clinic in Moscow, which specializes in substance abuse disorders. “Everyone drinks. No one drinks in moderation; they drink to get drunk, and it’s overwhelming the medical system,” he says.

    Economic crisis has dampened the public mood and led to over 10 percent unemployment, a sure-fire recipe for increased drinking, say experts.

    But wary of Mr. Gorbachev’s fate – polls show he’s still one of the most unpopular public figures in Russia – Medvedev is proceeding much more cautiously than the last Soviet Communist Party chief, who in 1985 simply ordered liquor shops shut down, distilleries closed and vineyards torn up.

    While Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol drive may have contributed to his political downfall, public health experts look back on it more kindly than historians because, they say, it briefly succeeded in its primary mission: to wean Russians off the bottle.

    “For a short period, Gorbachev’s effort was quite successful in lowering alcohol consumption and increasing life expectancy,” says Murray Feshbach a demographer with the Wilson Center in Washington, who specializes in the former Soviet Union.

    “Gorbachev’s campaign saved over a million lives,” agrees Alexander Nemtsov, an expert with the official Institute of Psychiatry in Moscow. “Its defect was its lack of preparation and bureaucratic character. What’s needed is a more gradual and systematic effort.”

    New regulation
    Mr. Medvedev has given Prime Minister Vladimir Putin three months to regulate Russia’s out-of-control market for alcoholic drinks, including stiff criminal penalties for those who sell it to minors, tight restrictions on where liquor can be sold, big health warnings on all containers and tough new regulations for advertisers.

    Experts say that more than 70 percent of Russian alcohol consumption comes in the form of hard liquor, especially vodka. Hopes that commercial promotion of new, lighter alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine would displace vodka have been dashed by evidence that Russians consume the new drinks in addition to their usual doses of vodka.

    To deal with the problem, the Kremlin may be planning to reinstate the old state monopoly on production, instituted 300 years ago by Peter the Great but abandoned following the USSR’s demise in favor of an open market.

    “Up to 60 percent of vodka consumed in Russia is produced illegally,” Gennady Onishenko, head of the State Consumer Protection Service, told the independent Interfax agency this week. “Restoring the state monopoly on alcohol,” would end counterfeit liquor production and enable the government to implement tougher regulations, he said.

    But critics say that more draconian steps will be required if the Kremlin hopes to tackle Russia’s age old curse.

    “Our surveys show that 85 percent of Russians want urgent measures to limit alcohol consumption, and half – mostly women – support a dry law,” says Kirill Danishevsky, co-chair of “Control Alcohol”, a public pressure group. “The alcohol business lobby has made enormous efforts to weaken strict measures,” he says. “Medvedev made a good start, but much more needs to be done.”

    A Most Dangerous Profession in Russia

    From: New York Times
    The Committee to Protect Journalists has published a wide-ranging investigation into the all too frequent tendency of journalists in Russia to turn up dead.

    Since 2000, 17 journalists have been killed in Russia in retaliation for their work. In only one case have the killers been convicted and, even there, the masterminds remain at large. (Three other journalists were killed by crossfire during conflict situations this decade.) Russia is among the deadliest countries in the world for journalists, and it is also among the worst in solving crimes against the press, according to C.P.J. research.

    A C.P.J. delegation released the 72-page report at a press conference at the Independent Press Center in Moscow. Saying an “atmosphere of impunity has undermined the rule of law and encouraged the enemies of press freedom to continue their deadly censorship,” the report said reporters of all stripes, from internationally recognized investigative journalists to local enterprising reporters, have been targeted for murder and the subsequent investigations were riddled with conflicts, obfuscation and ineptitude.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Former Polish football star convicted

    From: Taiwan News
    A Polish court has convicted a former football star and coach of corruption for match-fixing and handed him a three-year suspended prison sentence.

    Kielce provincial court spokesman Marcin Holonski said Wednesday that the former coach for Kolporter Korona Kielce was also fined ($34,000) and banned from professional sport for three years after he confessed to rigging matches in the 2003/2004 season.

    The court identified him as Dariusz W., in line with Poland's privacy law.

    Korona's coach at the time was Dariusz Wdowczyk, who was detained in 2008 in an ongoing investigation into corruption in football.

    The verdict is subject to appeal.

    Wdowczyk played in 53 matches for Poland's national team as a central defender.

    Polish cashier punished for not serving Italians

    From: The News
    A Polish State Railways cashier from Bialystok, eastern Poland, has been punished for refusing to talk to Italian tourists.

    In August, Italians returning home from the World Esperanto Congress wanted to know if one of them could a student discount ticket to Vienna. The cashier, however, refused to talk to them.

    When a fellow passenger intervened to help the Italians, the cashier screamed: “This is Poland and we speak Polish here. I understand English but I don’t feel like using it.”

    She then called over security guards and sold the tourists tickets without discount.

    Unfortunately for the xenophobic cashier, the women who wanted to help the Italians turned out to be a journalist from Gazeta Wyborcza, who later described the incident in her column.

    One of the readers filed a complaint against the cashier and her employer, PKP Intercity.

    Yesterday the investigation decided that the cashier grossly neglected her duties. “The cashier will have her bonus lowered. We have already admonished her again about her duties towards passengers. We hope that such an incident won’t happen again and our passengers will always be provided with the highest quality services,” says Beata Czemerajda, spokesperson from PKP Intercity S.A.

    Rapper incited fans to beat up teenager?

    From: Polskie Radio
    Rapper Ryszard Andrzejewski, more commonly known as Peja, exhorted people gathered at his concert in the western city of Zielona Gora to beat a teenager who he claims offended him.

    Police from Zielona Gora have opened an investigation into the case after the father of a 15-year-old man who was beaten at the concert filed pressed criminal charges. Two witnesses of the assault and the victim will give statements today. Police officers are checking CCTV recordings from the concert to establish who is responsible for the assault.

    The teenager was beaten on Saturday during a hip-hop concert. Peja was one of the musicians who performed on that night.

    After his show the rapper started screaming at a 15-year-old man who allegedly showed him a middle finger: “You f*****g f****t, when I was rapping, you b***h, you didn’t even know how you should f*****g s**t.” Later, Peja addressed the audience: “You know what to do with him, right? F**k the mother f****r up!” After that, a group of young people severely beat the teenager.

    ASPE, the organizer of the Zielona Gora concert, deny that any illegal incidents took place during the event. Meanwhile, the mayor of Zielona Gora has sent a letter to all town councils in Poland, warning them of inviting Peja as “his behaviour is dangerous for participants of mass events.” The city authorities are also considering pressing charges.

    If found guilty of inciting violence, the rapper may face up to three years in prison.

  • Sport...

    Nadzeya Ostapchuk and Natallia Mikhnevich win medals at IAAF World Final

    From: BelTA
    Belarusian shot-putters Nadzeya Ostapchuk and Natallia Mikhnevich won silver and bronze at the IAAF World Final in Thessaloniki, Greece on 13 September.

    Nadzeya Ostapchuk won silver with the result of 19.56 meters. Natallia Mikhnevich became bronze medalist (19.27 meters). The winner was New Zealand’s Valerie Vili with the record of 21.07 meters.

    Belarus’ team clinches silver at World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships

    The Belarusian team consisting of Alesya Babushkina, Dina Gaityukevich, Marina Goncharova, Anastasia Ivankova, Ksenia Sankovich and Alina Tumilovich collected two medals at the 2009 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Japan, BelTA has learnt.

    Belarusian gymnasts scored 26,600 points for three-ribbon and two-rope event to clinch silver. The team of Italy took the first place with 26,650 points. Russia was the third (26,300).

    The Belarusian team won bronze in the 5-hoop event, scoring 27,225 points.

    Belarusian graces won two medals in the individual events. Melita Staniuta took bronze for her hoop routine and scored 27,150 points.

    The World Championships became another pinnacle of success for Olympic champion Yevgenia Kanayeva who collected gold in all-round and four individual events.

    Belarus women's volleyball team wins international tournament in Mogilev

    Belarus women's national volleyball team won the international tournament, which took place in Mogilev on 11-13 September.

    The tournament was held as part of preparation for the European championship.

    Belarus beat Ukraine (3:2), Turkey (3:0) and Azerbaijan (3:2) and with six points became the winner of the tournament. Azerbaijan was second with five points, Turkey scored four, and Ukraine with three points got the wooden spoon.

    Before the European championship Belarusian team led by Nikolay Karpol will train in Baranovichi and then play Atlant-BarGU, the champion of Belarus, on 19 September.

    The European championship will be held in Poland. Belarus will play in Group C against Belgium (on 25 September), Russia (26 September), and Bulgaria (27 September). The matches will be played in the city of Bydgoszcz. Three best teams from each group qualify for the second round.

  • Endnote...

    Russian bombers and ground-attack aircrafts landed in belarus

    From: Charter '97
    As informed by BelaPAN, the Air Force and Air Defence command of the Military Forces of Belarus, on September 15 in the evening, Russian bobbers and ground-attack aircrafts landed at Belarusian military airfields.

    Eight Su-24M planes arrived from the airbase Morozovka in Nizhny Novgorod region and landed at the 116th Bombing Airbase of the Belarus Air Force, located near the Ross settlement in the Grodno area. Six Su-25 arrived from Budyonovsk (the Stavropol Territory) have landed in Lida at the 206th Ground Attack Airbase.

    On September 16, Su-27, Su-30 jet fighter planes and one of Russia's newest military aircrafts, fighter-bomber Su-34 in which Russian president Medvedev took to the air, are to arrive to the airbase in Baranavichy.