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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, September 06, 2009

State awards, 2009 census, Yermoshina, BY space agency, UK, IMF, Iran, Chavez Economics, Opposition; News, Sport, Culture and Polish Scandal

  • From the Top...
  • #442

    Alexander Lukashenko awards distinguished Belarusians

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko conferred state awards on 63 Belarusians who represent different areas of the national economy on 4 September.

    The solemn ceremony of presenting awards has a great civil and public significance: the whole country will learn about people whose work is an example of persistence, spiritual generosity, dedication and devotion to their homeland, the head of state said.

    Addressing the awardees, the President underlined, “It is important that you strive not only to achieve personal success, but to be useful for your homeland. This way you demonstrate patriotism which is so much needed during this time of great ordeal for the future of our country.”

    The awardees include head of Minsk children’s clinical hospital No. 3 Liudmila Kazachkova, Director General of the Interfax West News Agency Vyacheslav Zenkovich, head of the Minsk diagnostic center Anatoly Tolkachev, Chairman of the Beryoza Regional Executive Committee Yuri Narkevich.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Preparation for Belarus’ census 2009 completed

    From: BelTA
    The preparation for the population census that is to be held in Belarus on 14-24 October has been completed, Chairman of the National Statistics Committee of Belarus Vladimir Zinovsky told President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on 4 September, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    The outcome of the population census will to a great extent define the further development strategy of the country. The knowledge of the demographic and social situation enables the country to assess the efficiency of the existing programmes and find new opportunities for the national development and improvement of living standards. Apart from that, a population census is a base for developing national socio-economic and demographic projections.

    According to Vladimir Zinovsky, the National Statistics Committee and local authorities carried out great preparatory work in the run-up to the census. Over 600 census divisions have been set up; some of them are located in hospitals, health resorts, troop units and other institutions that will allow to cover all layers of the population. The personnel has been already recruited: a total of 48,000 people. These are mainly university undergraduates, teachers, engineers and specialists from organisations and companies. They will undergo a ten-day training course in early October and take a qualifications exam.

    The census will be held in Belarusian or Russian.

    According to Vladimir Zinovsky, all requests of general public were taken into account while the census campaign was being prepared.

    More advanced processing techniques will be applied this time. All census papers will be sent to a computer center and will be processed by means of scanning. This will help get the results faster and save budgetary funds. As against the 1999 census, budget spending on the census campaign will be eight times less due to an eight-time decrease in census personnel.

    The issues of the harvest campaign statistics were also touched upon during the report. The grain crops harvest campaign has been completed in the country. Leguminous crops and buckwheat are being harvested now. According to the National Statistics Committee, this year the harvest will be not bad: more than 9 million tons, with the harvest from personal land plots taken into account.

    Lidia Yermoshina partaking in ACEEEO conference in Yerevan

    From: BelTA
    Lydia Yermoshina, Chairperson of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Belarus, is taking part in the 18th Annual Conference of the Association of European Election Officials (ACEEEO) that opened in Yerevan on 3 September, BelTA learnt from the Belarusian Embassy in Armenia.

    The heads of central election commissions of the ACEEEO member states are to discuss the judicial protection of electoral rights, international experience of applying sociology in electoral processes, the lessons learned from the 2009 European parliamentary elections, mechanisms of restoration of active electoral rights.

    An exhibition of technical aids used during elections in developed countries will be opened during the conference.

    Taking part in the conference are representatives of 32 states and 10 international organizations. The conference is financed by the Central Election Commission of Armenia under the auspices of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the OSCE Office in Yerevan.

    The Association of European Election Officials was founded in 1991. The Secretariat of the Association is headquartered in Budapest. ACEEEO holds annual conferences in one of its member states.

    Belarus to set up national space agency

    From: BelTA
    Belarus is planning to set up a national space agency, Chairman of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (NASB) Mikhail Myasnikovich told reporters in Minsk on 4 September.

    Setting up this new organization is envisaged in the national programme for peaceful exploration of outer space for 2008-2012. “We are working out proposals on setting up a national space agency. In late 2009 – early 2010 the proposals will be submitted to the government. The new organization will address all the issues related to space exploration, including with the help of the new Belarusian satellite that will be launched in 2010,” Mikhail Myasnikovich said.

    The new Belarusian satellite will be lighter (around 350kg) and more maneuverable, with 2m resolution. The Belarusian satellite will cover the entire territory of Belarus. The satellite data will be used for conducting ecological and land use monitoring, prevention of emergency situations, upgrading topographic maps, and for other purposes.

    A satellite command and tracking station is being constructed in the Logoisk region, Minsk oblast. The station will have an aerial system that will collect satellite data which will be transferred to the satellite control center headquartered in the NASB Unified Informatics Institute in Minsk.

    New UK ambassador to arrive in Belarus in mid-September

    From: BelTA
    A new Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will arrive in Belarus in mid-September 2009. The statement was made by UK Ambassador Nigel Gould-Davies, who is supposed to quit his position and leave Belarus today.

    In his words, the UK diplomatic mission in Belarus will be headed by Rosemary Thomas. Nigel Gould-Davies knows the next ambassador quite well thanks to working together in a previous post in London. Rosemary Thomas worked for the Foreign Office in the department that specialised in post-Soviet space countries.

    According to Internet sources, Rosemary Thomas is a career diplomat who has been working for the UK Foreign Office since 1991. At different times she worked for the department in charge of preparing a Europe-Asia summit and the office for Russia of the Eastern Europe department. Rosemary Thomas was the head of the office for cooperation with the OSCE and the Council of Europe as well as the military crimes office. Later on in Odessa she worked as a PR advisor in the EU mission for border aid to Moldova and Ukraine.

    “It is my last day in Belarus and I am overwhelmed with sorrow. I have fallen in love with the country and don’t want to leave it. In Belarus I’ve found something precious and wonderful: decent and calm dignity, respect of the people for the nation and each other. I didn’t expect it and was captivated by it,” said Nigel Gould-Davies.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Minsk oblast to hold thematic exhibitions on European Heritage Days

    From: BelTA
    On the European Heritage Days celebrated on 12-13 September this year, the Minsk oblast will organize numerous exhibitions illustrating Belarusian traditions, BelTA learnt from the education department of the Minsk oblast executive committee.

    The cultural programme will include bookfairs, lectures on local lore, folklore and ethnography. The Minsk oblast centre of folk art will house an exhibition of the works of the students and teachers of the Minsk state college of arts.

    According to the education department of the Minsk oblast executive committee, festivities will also take place in the Borisov central regional library, the regional centre of folk art, the Borisov united museum, the children’s art school and the Palace of Culture in Borisov.

    The European Heritage Days will be held in Europe for the 25th time. The first Days took place in France in 1984. Partaking in the action are 49 countries which signed the European Cultural Convention. The theme of the European Cultural Days in Belarus is “Original Belarus. Traditions. Language. Handicrafts”.

    History of Belarusian Written Language gallery to open in BSU on 4 September

    An opening ceremony of the History of the Belarusian Written Language gallery will take place at the philological department of Belarusian State University (BSU). The event is dedicated to the Belarusian Written Language Day, BelTA learned from press centre of the university.

    The exhibition will highlight the history of Belarusian written language of the 11th – 17th centuries. It includes reproductions of rare books and manuscripts from libraries in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland. The visitors will be able to see the copies of the first Belarusian philological publications such as grammar books by Lavrenti Zizani, Meletius Smotrytsky, and Ivan Uzhevych. Some examples of translated and original literature of the three periods of Belarusian history (the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Baroque) will be showcased for the first time.

    The designers of the project, who are the members of the BSU philological department, dedicated the exhibition to the Year of the Native Land and the 70th anniversary of the philological department.

    The Day of Belarusian Written Language has been celebrated on the first Sunday in September since 1994. It will take place in Smorgon, Grodno oblast, this year.

  • Economics...

    Belarus might get next IMF tranche in October

    From: BelTA
    Piotr Prokopovich
    Belarus may get the next tranche of the IMF loan in the second half of October, Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich told President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on 3 September, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    Piotr Prokopovich informed the President about the outcome of the IMF mission in Belarus that concluded on 2 September. The IMF experts said that as of 1 July the major targets defined by the sides were fulfilled. Now the work is in progress to fulfill the targets that should be accomplished by 1 October.

    Apart from that, certain technicalities regarding the provision of IMF tranche to Belarus remain unresolved. The Annual Meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group is to be held in Istanbul in early October. Therefore a session of the IMF Executive Board to discuss the transfer of another tranche of loan is most likely to take place in mid October. This is why Belarus might get this tranche in the second half of October.

    Belarus meets monetary policy targets in January-August

    In January-August the main targets of the monetary and credit policy were met; the national currency remained stable, Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich said as he reported to President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    The exchange rate of the Belarusian rubles against the basket of foreign currencies has practically remained unchanged for the two and half months. This stability will be preserved in the future. The banking system has provided lending to the real production sector in full.

    The President was informed about the results of the work of the IMF mission in Belarus. The IMF experts noted that all performance criteria agreed by the sides had been met by 1 July. Now the work is underway to meet the performance criteria that should be fulfilled by 1 October. Some technicalities remain open regarding the allocation of another tranche of the IMF loan. The Annual Meeting of the World Bank Group and the IMF will be held in Istanbul in early October. This is why the IMF Executive Board is likely to consider the second review of Belarus’ performance under a program supported by a Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) in mid October.

    The head of state required that the National Bank should make sure that all the targets set for 2009 are met and that the groundwork laid for the future. The National Bank is completing drafting the monetary policy guidelines for 2010. Then the document will be considered by the government and submitted to the President.

    Belarus demonstrates positive development trends in January-July

    From: BelTA
    In January-July Belarus has preserved generally positive development trends. Over the seven months the GDP grew 100.4%, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky informed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on 3 September.

    At present securing the required output rate is the biggest problem of the Industry Ministry. While in January 2009 the output rate stood at 83.8% as against the same period of 2008, the figure shrank to 82.2% in Q1 2009 and 76.4% in January-July 2009. In January-July 2009 the industrial output totaled 96.1% as against January-July 2008.

    The Agriculture and Food Ministry, the concerns Belneftekhim, Belgospischeprom, and Belbiopharm have increased their output. The Architecture and Construction Ministry and the Bellegprom concern are steadily reducing the gap between this year’s figures and last year’s ones.

    The Belarusian Industry Ministry was commissioned with a task to secure at least an 82% growth rate of the industrial output in 2009.

    In H1 2009 the foreign trade deficit amounted to $3.1 billion. The export totaled $10.6 billion (54.6% as against January-June 2008), import — $13.7 billion (67%).

    The reduced export of Belarusian products is attributed to the lower output and falling prices for exports. The export will be increased by diversifying market outlets (in H1 2009 the sales area of Belarusian goods grew larger with 11 new countries), preserving and enhancing the grasp on the Russian market, and creating assembly enterprises in foreign markets.

    The Industry Ministry has been charged with setting up 23 new assembly enterprises in the CIS states as well as China, India, Iran, Venezuela, Libya, Sudan, Syria and several other countries.

    The deficit of the merchandise trade will be compensated for by increasing the export of services along with other measures.

    The President studied a report on the accomplishment of his instructions to reduce warehouse stockpiles. The main criteria for assessing the work of heads of enterprises are not the fulfillment of output targets, but good sales of products, full-time employment, timely salary payment, technical upgrade and enhancement of competitiveness of products.

    As of 1 August 2009, warehouse excess stocks of ready-made goods in industry were worth Br6.9 trillion and accounted for 88.3% of the monthly average output. In July 2009 they reduced by Br465.5 billion.

    All the industries posted reduction of warehouse excess stocks in July.

    In order to help manufacturers sell their products, a decision was taken to step up the work of Belarusian institutions abroad and develop the distribution network.

    Draft decrees on the creation of favourable conditions for developing leasing activity and establishment of a national leasing company were put forward for consideration by the head of state.

    A draft decree introducing additional incentives for individual entrepreneurs to sell Belarusian products abroad has been prepared.

    The President was informed about the results of the work of the IMF mission in Belarus. The IMF experts noted that all performance criteria agreed by the sides had been met by 1 July.

    The Belarusian leader was told about the results of the visit of the Belarusian governmental delegation to Gdansk (Poland) on 1-2 September. The Belarusian delegation took part in a day of remembrance in Poland to mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.

    Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky met with his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk. The sides emphasized the importance of efficient economic cooperation for promoting the constructive dialogue between the two states.

    The Prime Minister of Belarus also met with Vice Premier of Poland, Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak to sign a memorandum on cooperation in the power industry. The sides discussed a wide range of issues regarding power engineering, transportation of oil products and transit of natural gas.

    Sergei Sidorsky also met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The Premiers agreed to hold a working meeting of the heads of state of the two countries in the near future.

    Apart from that, the Belarusian Premier met with the Prime Ministers of Lithuania, Ukraine, Italy and Serbia.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    IMF says Belarus should toughen lending policy

    From: Forbes
    The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday it has asked Belarus to toughen its lending policy, but that the government is meeting the conditions of its standby loan programme in a satisfactory manner.

    The IMF, whose mission on Wednesday finished a visit to Minsk to discuss the allocation of further funds from the $3.5 billion loan, said in a statement the economic policy Belarus conducts follows the directives given in the loan agreement.

    'All key criteria for the programme's implementation, given at the end of June, have been met,' the IMF said.

    The fund praised the government's efforts to create a privatisation agency, which would speed up the process of selling state-run entities to increase federal revenues.

    The IMF, which recommended the rouble devaluation that took place at the start of the year as well as cuts in federal spending, also directed the government to be cautious in its lending policy to preserve the country's currency reserves.

    'The mission and the authorities have agreed to toughen the credit policy to slow down domestic demand, as well as improve the balance of payment of Belarus,' it said.

    Chavez to discuss oil, trade during visit to Belarus next week

    From: RIA Novosti
    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will visit Belarus next week to discuss economic cooperation with the former Soviet republic with focus on energy projects, the Belarusian STV television has said.

    Chavez is on an 11-day trip to Libya, Algeria, Syria, Iran, Belarus, Spain and Russia.

    "Hugo Chavez continues his 11-day world tour. His visit to Belarus will focus on economy - the Venezuelan president intends to sign several trade deals," the STV television said late on Friday.

    Chavez visited Belarus last year with a large group of businessmen and met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The presidents issued a joint statement on boosting energy and trade cooperation.

    Belarus, which has no hydrocarbon resources of its own, heavily depends on energy supplies from Russia and is seeking to diversify energy imports.

    State-run Belarusian oil producer, Belorusneft, which opened a representative office in Venezuela in 2007, has already established a joint venture, Petrolera BeloVenezolana, jointly with Venezuela's state-owned petroleum company PdVSA for oil exploration and production.

    Belarus calls for greater industrial cooperation with Iran

    From: Tehran Times
    Presidents Lukashenko and Ahmadinejad
    The newly appointed Belarusian industrial minister called for the expansion of Tehran-Minsk industrial cooperation, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting reported on Friday.

    The Belarusian minister Radovic (whose first name was not mentioned) and the Iranian envoy Seyyed Abdullah Hosseini in a meeting in Minsk reviewed the status quo of technical and engineering projects underway by Iranian firms in Belarus, dispatching commercial delegations, and holding exclusive Iranian exhibitions in Belarus.

    The ambassador also invited the Belarusian official to take part in the second joint commission of industry and mines which is planned to be held in Tehran.

    Important industrial projects between the two countries include oil extraction from Jofeir field, implementation of the phase 2 of Samand car production, launching a wire producing factory through Iranian private sector investment, and establishing a cement factory and a truck manufacturing plant.

    In May 2007, the two countries signed cooperation accords, following a meeting of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They signed a joint communiqué on the results of the visit to Belarus by President Ahmadinejad. President Lukashenko said that Belarus and Iran have removed all the impediments to the bilateral trade.

    In 2008, Belarus-Iran trade made $93.8 million (up 23.6 percent), with Belarus’ export as high as $83.7 million (up 25.8 percent), import — $10.2 million (up 8.3 percent). The foreign trade surplus totaled $73.5 million. Belarus’ main exports are potash fertilizers, synthetic fibers, synthetic fiber cords, while the main imports are cars, grapes, spare parts for automobiles and tractors.

    Iranian investments in Belarus amounted to $13.1 million in 2008, including $9.9 million in direct investments.

    Belarus and Iran claim that they can raise the mutual trade turnover up to $1 billion

    Belarusian Activist's Spy 'Confession' Yields More Questions Than Answers

    From: RFE/RL
    The Belarusian KGB -- has it lost a mole in the opposition, or cleverly used one to tar activists as corrupt opportunists?
    In a matter of hours, Syarhey Haurylin single-handedly managed to shine a spotlight on Belarus's ill-famed secret services, set the Internet abuzz, and wreak havoc on the country's opposition.

    Not bad for a 26-year-old who modestly describes himself as an "ordinary person."

    The storm around Haurylin began on August 15, the day he went online and posted his "Diary of a Source" -- a rambling confession of what he describes as an almost four-year stint spying on the Belarusian opposition for the KGB secret service.

    The 50-page document (available here in Russian), which Haurylin posted after fleeing to Berlin, recounts in detail how the KGB allegedly recruited him to infiltrate and inform on the opposition movement in his hometown of Homel in southeastern Belarus."Once, we met in the [KGB] Official's car (I think it was a red Ford Fiesta). He said that we had come a long way and that it was time to legalize our collaboration."
    Read more excerpts from 'Diary of a Source'

    It also contains damaging accusations against local opposition leaders.

    But even as he published his scandalous and occasionally self-aggrandizing claims -- several times likening himself to James Bond -- Haurylin has expressed the desire to wipe the slate clean.

    "I made a mistake. I sinned," writes Haurylin in the introduction to his diary. "I don't want to lie to anyone anymore. I want to be honest. I want people to believe me."

    Gaining his readers' trust, however, may prove difficult for Haurylin, as doubts linger both about the authenticity of his story and his motives for publishing the diary.

    History Of Subversion

    While some praise the self-professed ex-mole for coming clean and uncovering the KGB's dirty tricks, others see the diary as an attempt by the secret police to discredit Belarus's already fractured opposition.

    The KGB has so far declined to comment on the case. Haurylin, who gave an interview to Deutsche Welle in Berlin on August 26, has since returned to Belarus and is keeping a low profile.

    "I've already said everything I wanted to say," he wrote in an e-mail from Berlin to decline an interview request from RFE/RL's Belarus Service.

    A former KGB operative, Valery Kostka, says the KGB has a history of infiltrating the opposition to undermine its fight against the country's authoritarian president, Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

    Kostka, for one, believes Haurylin's account. "I am 95 percent convinced that this guy was really recruited, but that he was experiencing an internal battle and consequently felt compelled to tell the truth," he says.

    "This is a courageous step, in the sense that he understood the most important thing -- that he was being used against the country's interests, because secret services should never serve solely either the government or the opposition. There should be an open competition between the two."

    Detailed Information

    Haurylin claims he was paid up to $115 a month to inform on the Homel opposition.

    His diary gives detailed information on the opposition's activities, relates dozens of alleged conversations with KGB officials, and describes the methods used by the secret services to recruit and later manipulate him.

    Haurylin even provides phone numbers -- currently switched off -- that allegedly belong to his KGB supervisors. He also lists the address of a Homel flat that he says the KGB used as a secret meeting point.

    Tsyanyuta, a Youth Front
    opposition activist, says the diary mentions several real conversations he had with Haurylin.

    "I think it's entirely possible that he collaborated with the secret services. His diary contains some real facts. For instance, that he used to print flyers for me, and that he asked me about the investigator in charge of the current criminal case against me," he tells RFE/RL's Belarus Service.

    "I think Syarhey just grew tired of playing a double game and wanted to make a graceful exit. That's his style. He thought this would be an elegant move."

    Tsyanyuta says the KGB recently tried to recruit another Youth Front campaigner, Dzmitry Fiaskou, who refused to cooperate and wrote about his experience on the Internet.

    Both Haurylin's and Fiaskou's accounts, he says, are useful testimonies that can help dissuade the KGB from using moles within the opposition.

    Libeling The Opposition

    But not all opposition members are willing to forgive Haurylin.

    Uladzimer Katsora, a prominent Homel opposition campaigner, dismisses the diary as a KGB-authored fake aimed at spreading lies about the opposition.

    Katsora describes Haurylin as "a very egotistical person who thinks only of his own interests. He worked for money for the KGB and writes that he also took money from the opposition. I think this diary was initiated and drafted by the KGB. Haurylin then added a few artistic flourishes. The opposition now works in open conditions; it has little to hide."

    Although Haurylin writes that he met "wonderful people" within the opposition, he also describes the Belarusian opposition as "totally controlled by the KGB" and accuses opposition leaders -- including Katsora -- of routinely pocketing for personal use foreign grant money meant to fund opposition activity.

    "An electoral victory of [opposition leader Alyaksandr] Milinkevich is not in Katsora's interest," Haurylin quotes his KGB supervisor as saying ahead of the 2006 presidential election, which Lukashenka won in a landslide.

    "After all, Katsora is paid to fight against Lukashenka's regime. As long as the regime exists, Katsora will have money. The others are just the same."

    Haurylin says he himself created a bogus ecological group that won a $7,700 grant from the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a U.S. nonpartisan organization promoting democracy worldwide.

    "Are they complete idiots? Don't they understand they are being duped?" he writes. He goes on to describe how he laundered these funds with the KGB's help.

    An NDI representative told RFE/RL she was aware of the allegations but declined to comment.

    'Merely Players'?

    The "Diary of a Source" ends with a last post dated August 26, in which Haurylin announces his decision to leave Berlin and return to Belarus despite fears that "something bad" may happen to him.

    So far, however, nothing bad seems to have happened to Haurylin. His return to Homel passed without incident, and there have been no reports of his arrest since.

    Nor were there repercussions for Ulad Mikhaylau, another Belarusian activist who confessed two years ago to having spied on the opposition for the secret services.

    Mikhaylau's experience was of interest for Haurylin, who noted in his diary that a KGB official said they decided against "chopping his head off" when Mikhaylau returned from studies in Poland after making his confession, and even allowed him to be reinstated at Homel State University, from which he had previously been expelled.

    So are Mikhaylau's and Haurylin's confessions indeed part of a larger KGB ploy to hurt the opposition? Or are Belarus's secret services simply considerably more accommodating than one could expect from a country dubbed "Europe's last dictatorship?"

    Either way, "Diary of a Source" suggests Haurylin's true talent may lie not in activism or espionage, but the art of self-promotion. "All the world's a stage," Haurylin begins his journal, quoting William Shakespeare. "And all the men and women merely players."

  • From the Opposition...

    Lukashenka's regime sells armaments to Sudan and Syria

    From: Charter '97
    Reports about armaments export by Belarus in 2008 have appeared in the UN Register of Conventional Arms.

    The information reveals that 3 203-mm self-propelled guns 2S7 Pion were supplied to Azerbaijan. Syria has bought 33 Mig-23 attack planes. Sudan has bought 11 Su-25 fighters. Russia bought 15 “air-air” P27-P rockets for Su-27 and MIG-29 fighters from Belarus, “Belorusy i rynok” informs.

    The history of the deliveries in recent years looks the following way.

    In 2007 2 armored personnel carriers BTR-70 were sold to Sudan. Armenia bought 10 122-mm howitzers D-30, Eritrea bought 9 Uragan multiple rocket launchers.

    In 2006 the UN Register of Conventional Arms had only one Belarusian armaments deal: our country sold to Azerbaijan 41 tanks T-72.

    In 2005, according to the UN, Azerbaijan bought 19 main battle tanks from Belarus, Slovakia – 2 Mi-8 transport helicopters, Djibouti – 2 Mi-24 attack helicopters.

    In 2004 the main buyer of arms was Sudan. It bought 21 armoured Scout Cars BRDM-2, 7 BTR-80 armoured personnel carriers, 10 BTR-70 armoured personnel carriers and one BMP-1. Cote d’Ivoire bought 2 Su-25 fighters.

    In 2003 Sudan received from Belarus 9 BMP-2, 39 BRDM-2, 32 items of different artillery systems; Cote d’Ivoire bought 20 different armoured cars and 16 different artillery systems.

    In 2002 Iran bought 15 T-72 tanks, Algeria bought 2 Mig-29 fighter aircrafts, Sudan 14 artillery systems, Cote d’Ivoire 12 BMP-1, 10 120 mm Sani mortars and 2 helicopters Mi-24.

    Many experts are sure however that the period from 1992 till 2001 was the most productive considering the amount of earnings. It wasn’t traced by the UN statistics. According to reports published by the research service of the US Congress, in 1998-2001 Belarus gained $1 billion from armaments trade and occupied the 11th position in the world.

    In this context experts primarily mention contracts for selling arms to Peru. Starting from 1996 (and even earlier, according to some sources), Lima bought in Minsk: 150 T-72 tanks, about a dozen of tracked self-propelled anti-aircraft weapons Tunguska and Tor missile systems, and 10 Osa or Strela anti-aircraft missiles; 18 Mig-29 fighters (including 2 Mig-29UB) and the same number of close air support aircrafts Su-25.

    Considering the atmosphere of secrecy which surrounds armaments trade in Belarus, one could suppose that information about many deals in this sphere hasn’t become known to researchers at all. Some indirect facts allow supposing they could have taken place.

    It should be also noted that Israeli mass media with a reference to sources in the Kremlin, Iskander-M are to be sold to Iran and Syria by Belarus.

    Supreme Court turned down cassation complaint against non-registration of ‘Brestskaya Viasna’

    From: Viasna
    Uladzimir Valichkin Of Brest's Viasna
    On 3 September the Supreme Court of Belarus considered cassation complaint against the non-registration of the civil association Brestskaya Viasna by the Ministry of Justice. As said by a founder of the organization Uladzimir Vialichkin, ‘the trial ended up predictably. Nobody had any illusions about it. That’s why when the pronounced the verdict: ‘The verdict of Brest oblast court is to be left without changes and the complaint is to be turned down’, for is it witnessed only that we have exhausted the means of struggle for our civil rights on the national level and have only the possibility of applying to the UN Human Rights Committee left to us.’

    Mr. Vialichkin agreed to answer some questions of our correspondent.

    - Recently we have learned that the justice department of Brest oblast executive committee, athwart its on ruling on registration denial, dated 27 August, suddenly gave you some time to correct the shortcomings that were found in your documents. What is the reason for such show of reverence to you, and what is the future perspective?

    - I am convinced that the officials who have taken the decision on the registration denial understand that it was not right. (…) There’s an appropriate presidential decree and corresponding articles of international laws according to which the state must act to the benefit of its citizens. In this case the 17 citizens who founded the human rights organization Breststkaya Viasna were deprived of the right to association. Thus, this determent cannot be considered as a relaxation of restrictions. During the trial I understood some things. First of all, I occasionally found out that immediately after the trial our opponent, who represented the main bureau of Brest oblast executive committee, got a seat at the Ministry of Justice.

    Secondly, I got convinced, that a determent does not guarantee the registration for an organization. They have two times managed to make the landlord refuse from the guarantee letter for providing the legal address to us. I think that now they will study our documents even more attentively and I am afraid for the fate of the organization founders. I don’t think they will continue the old practice of pressurizing the landlords, as in this case it is the editorial board of Brestski Kuryier newspaper. Instead, they can personally pressurize any of the founders of the organization.’

  • Russia...

    INTERVIEW:Russia Min: Econ To Grow In Aug, Outlook Uncertain

    From: WSJ
    The Russian economy will return to growth in August this year but the outlook remains uncertain, particularly as the battered banking sector remains plagued by bad loans, Russia's finance minister Alexei Kudrin said Saturday.

    In an interview with Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of the meeting of the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations in London, Kudrin said; "We expect positive growth in August... but the outlook for the world economy is unclear."

    "So far, our banks have put off the hour of reckoning on their bad loans... but we hope they will recover," he added.

    The Russian government has forecast an economic contraction of up to 8.5% in gross domestic product in 2009 as lower oil prices hit the energy sector and industry suffers a sharp decline in orders from abroad.

    But the recent pickup in energy prices and growing signs of a recovery in Europe, a key export market, has brightened the outlook for the later part of the year.

    Rising oil prices and emerging signs of an economic recovery may mean Russia's banks won't need as much state help - through capital injections via special OFZ treasury bonds - as previously planned.

    The Russian treasury chief stressed that the ruble's current exchange rate was at an appropriate level, with the Russian economy poised to emerge from recession. The ruble is volatile and tends to move in tandem with oil prices.

    "I would say that the current exchange rate is an objective one - one that works efficiently for the recovery," he said.

    Kudrin also said government plans to keep borrowing targets unchanged as oil prices moved higher would enable Russia to save cash from oil wealth funds that were set to be used to covering the budget gap.

    Whether that windfall would be added to reserves or spent to ease the recession will be decided by the government budget commission later this month, Kudrin added.

    "There will certainly be money left in the reserve fund," he said.

    'Mossad staged Russian ship hijacking'

    From: JPost
    The hijackers of the 'Arctic Sea' being arrested.
    A Russian cargo ship that disappeared in the Channel was carrying arms to Iran and was being tracked by Mossad, The Sunday Times reported, quoting unnamed sources in both Russia and Israel.

    The ship, called The Arctic Sea and flying a Maltese flag of convenience, was officially carrying a cargo of timber worth £1.3m and vanished along the route from Finland to Algeria on July 24. It was recovered west of Africa on August 17 when eight alleged pirates were arrested on suspicion of hijacking the vessel.

    Moscow vehemently denied that the ship was carrying any cargo apart from the timber. It said the ship was taken by criminals who demanded a £1m ransom.

    But Israeli and Russian sources quoted by the Times claim the ship had been loaded with S-300 missiles, Russia's most advanced anti-aircraft weapon, while it was docking for repairs in the Russian port of Kaliningrad.

    According to the paper, Mossad tipped off the Russian government that the shipment had been sold by former military officers who have crossed over to crime.

    The Kremlin then reportedly ordered a rescue mission which involved destroyers and submarines, to avoid the embarrassment of the advanced system being sold by criminals, so military officials believe a "cover story" was concocted.

    A Russian military official is quoted as saying "The official version is ridiculous and was given to allow the Kremlin to save face, I've spoken to people close to the investigation and they've pretty much confirmed Mossad's involvement. It's laughable to believe all this fuss was over a load of timber. I'm not alone in believing that it was carrying weapons to Iran."

    Sources in Moscow further suggested that Mossad may have used proxies to hijack the ship by establishing a criminal gang which, most likely, was not aware of the true reasoning behind its mission. "The best way for the Israelis to block the cargo from reaching Iran would have been to create a lot of noise around the ship," a former army officer told the paper.

    "Once the news of the hijack broke, the game was up for the arms dealers. The Russians had to act. That's why I don't rule out Mossad being behind the hijacking. It stopped the shipment and gave the Kremlin a way out so that it can now claim it mounted a brilliant rescue mission."

    Israeli military sources told the paper that a decision to inform Russia of the weapons shipment followed intelligence that the ship was being loaded with the system in Kaliningrad, a port notorious for gun runners.

    Israel views the S-300, considered the world's most advanced anti-aircraft missile system, as a weapon tilting the power equilibrium in the region, and has been exerting continuous pressure on Russia not to sell the system to Iran.

    But in Kaliningrad, former high-ranking Russian military officers impoverished since the fall of the Soviet empire have been said to trade in Russian weaponry clandestinely, without Moscow's approval or knowledge.

    The visit of President Shimon Peres to Russia began a day after the ship was rescued. Peres discussed at length the issue of Russian arms sales to Israel's enemies, and a statement issued by his office after the meeting said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev promised that Russia would not supply arms to Iran or Syria.

    A Russian official said the timing of the president's visit to Russia was not coincidental.

    "Clearly the Israelis played a role in the whole Arctic Sea saga," a military source is quoted by the Times as saying. "Peres used the incident as a bargaining chip over the issue of arms sales to Arab states, while Israel allowed the Kremlin a way out with its claims to have successfully foiled a piracy incident."

    Russia, U.S. begin working on new nuclear arms deal

    From: Xinua
    Russia and the United States have started drafting a new nuclear arms reduction treaty, the Foreign Ministry said Saturday.

    "The sides have started working on specific articles of a future treaty, and agreed that work on them will be carried out by special working groups," RIA Novosti and Itar-Tass quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.

    The two countries concluded their fifth round of talks on an arms reduction treaty in Geneva on Sept. 2.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Thursday that another round of talks will be held in Geneva on Sept. 21.

    During their last meeting, the negotiators discussed the parameters of a new treaty, formulating wording that the presidents of both countries can agree to, Nesterenko said.

    President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed in July in Moscow on the outlines of a deal to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 1).

    START I, signed in 1991 and due to expire in December, places a limit of 6,000 strategic or long-range nuclear warheads on both countries and allows the inspection of weapons.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Poland looking to broaden wiretap laws

    From: UPI
    Poland's Ministry of Interior and Administration is moving toward broadening wiretap authority, the draft of a new bill says.

    If the government accepts the bill, police will be able to tap criminals even accused of minor offenses, Poland Radio reported.

    Existing wiretap laws allow surveillance only if police suspect a person of a serious offenses, such as murder, terrorism, corruption and drug dealing. The proposed bill would allow police to tap phone lines, search computers and read personal letters, e-mails and text messages of rapists, pimps, pedophiles and those who have child and animal pornography as well as environmental polluters, stock exchange cheats, people who reveal state secrets and hooligans.

    Increased police powers could be in place in a few months, Poland Radio said.

    Russia - Poland wanted Jews sent to Madagascar

    From: The News
    A new book backed by the Russian government says Poland’s interwar foreign minister was an alcoholic and that Poland wanted to send Jews to Madagascar.

    Who started the war, and when, has a forward written by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and was published in cooperation with the Moscow Commission for Combating the Falsification of History.

    The publication - part of a series of documentaries and statements recently, alleging cooperation between Poland’s 1930s governments and Nazi Germany - says that the then foreign minister in Warsaw, Jozef Beck, was worried by a lack of living space and considered sending the considerable Jewish population in Poland at that time to the island of Madagascar, a plan the Nazis had considered as part of the “Final Solution”.

    “The book is pure science fiction,” says Lukasz Kaminski from Poland’s state-backed Institute of National Remembrance.

    Launched on Wednesday at the 22nd International Book fair in Moscow, writes that, “From 1934 [after Warsaw signed a non-aggression pact with Berlin] Poland and Germany were close partners. Poland’s policy was to extend its territory, at the expense of the Soviet Union.

    Polish football hooligans threaten to kill Irish

    From: The News
    Polish police are concerned that the Poland - Northern Ireland World Cup qualifier on Saturday could turn into a blood bath.

    Supporters of the Ruch Chorzow football club have threatened to kill Northern Irish fans on Saturday, during the World Cup qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Poland.

    In the first match against the two teams in Belfast earlier this year, rioting broke out before, during and after the game.

    “Your fans had better stay away from my town. They will get stabbed when they come to Chorzow. Maybe they will get killed,” Krzysztof, the leader of the ultra-violent told the Belfast Telepgraph.

    The Northern Irish newspaper warns that ‘Psycho Fans’ will be supported by thousands of football hooligans from across Poland, including the group’s rivals from Katowice, Poznan and Krakow.

    “We carry knives, taser guns, batons, machetes and we have no fear,” Belfast Telegraph quotes Krzysztof.

    The ‘Psycho Fans’ leader announced that after Saturday’s match, played at the Silesian Stadium in the southern city of Chorzow, his group will be known not only all over Poland, but all over Northern Ireland, as they plan to kill at least one Irish football fan.

    Polish hooligans want to take revenge on the Irish for the racist attacks on the homes of Eastern Europeans in Belfast in March after Polish-Irish match at Windsor Park stadium. Northern Ireland won the game 3-2, which resulted in violent riots, in which several people were injured and nine hooligans, mainly Polish were arrested.

    The Irish newspaper writes that it is fairly easy to buy machetes and other weapons, such as swords, knives, taser guns and pepper sprays, in Poland. They cost only 39 zloty (9.5 euro) and can be obtained without a license.

  • Sport...

    Croatia 1 Belarus 0: match report

    From: Telegraph
    England in mind: Croatia coach Slaven Bilic watched his side prepare for their World Cup qualifier with England with a game against Belarus
    Fabio Capello did not have to commit many jottings to his notebook for this one. Whatever is the Italian for "feeble" might have sufficed in the England head coach's summation of Croatia, on the evidence of a toiling win over Belarus on Saturday that did little to back their status as second favourites in Group Six, nor the aura that has been conferred upon them before Wednesday night's visit to Wembley.

    They had to rely on Ivan Rakitic – a player taking part only because of Luka Modric's fractured tibia – to stage the rescue act. Even then, Capello might have observed by way of consolation, the decisive goal was a deflected one.

    Modric's loss was acutely felt by Croatia. Their characteristic counter-attacks were seldom to be seen as they cried out for a playmaker of comparable vision. Slaven Bilic, the head coach, had entrusted the job to Niko Kranjcar, Modric's new Tottenham team-mate, who merely delegated the duties to a deeper-lying midfielder in Ognjen Vukojevic. There were no devilish feints or flourishes for Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry, England's likely central partnership on Wednesday, to lose much sleep over.

    Croatia exuded anxiety as Belarus thwarted them from dictating play, a trait England's strikers would have done well to note. Bilic has spoken of the nerves that have paralysed his side when under strain at home and that trend continued here, a swerving free-kick from Darijo Srna being about the only early threat they could muster.

    It was not as if they had forgotten the task: to beat Belarus, and preferably in emphatic style after Ukraine's 5-0 win over Andorra yesterday brought the question of goal difference into the race for second place in Group Six.

    Bilic proved his attacking intent by encouraging his full-backs to push up, but Croatia were too often an indisciplined shadow of the side that beat England here three years ago.

    Yet Rakitic proved a nuisance with his mazy running and his elusiveness was crucial in the 23rd minute as he escaped some poor marking to unleash a speculative strike that flew off the leg of centre-back Dmitry Verkovtshov and in. Firecrackers, normally the Croatia fans' weapon with which to distract the visiting side, were set off inside the stadium with abandon. But it was not a night to flatter Croatia.

  • Endnote...

    EU not competing with Russia for sphere of influence over Belarus, ambassador says

    From: Navany
    The European Union is not competing with Russia for hardwiring Belarus into its sphere of influence, outgoing British Ambassador Nigel Gould-Davies said at a farewell news conference held in Minsk on September 1.

    “It is an erroneous and harmful way of thinking,” the ambassador said. “The EU is not fighting for spheres of influence. The EU is an institute of the 21st century, not an empire of the 19th century. The EU makes invitations and offers; it doesn’t issue threats or puts pressure. The EU offers stability, peace and prosperity; we would be happy to see Belarus maintaining nice relations with both EU countries and other states.”

    At the same time, Mr. Gould-Davies expressed the opinion that closer relations with the EU could help Belarus strengthen its sovereignty. “The future of Belarus depends on choices and decisions that are made by Belarus, not someone else,” he noted.

    The ambassador said that the EU, however, needs Belarus’ “help to be able to assist the country further.”

    He said that Belarus’ image across the world “differs greatly” from what the country really is, with foreign visitors often “surprised at this sharp contrast.” “But international media is criticizing Belarus not because it has just decided to do it,” he said. “Why do the stereotypes exist? Let me leave the question open for you.”