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Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, October 07, 2009

President congratulates educators, Russian relations, Wages, Sidorsky and Putin, Gas, BATE, Georgia, Gay Rights and lots and lots of Polish scandal...

  • From the Top...
  • #451

    Belarus President in favor of lasting and useful school education

    From: BelTA
    Alexander Lukashenko presents the main prize, Crystal Crane, to Yuri Andreichik
    The contemporary school should be up-to-date and should meet modern requirements, said President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko as he met with finalists of the national contest of the best pedagogical workers Teacher of the Year 2009 on 6 October.

    The President stressed that the key purpose of school is to give children an education that will not lie idle. It is necessary to avoid academic manners and abstractedness. “A Latin proverb says that one has to learn to live instead of learning for the sake of education,” remarked the head of state.

    Lessons should not be restricted to repeating textbook information or old lecture notes. They should give the latest information in order to keep up with students, said the President. “Students today are totally different from what we once were. They are more knowledgeable, more advanced as they say”. They can easily handle computers and other modern technologies, getting huge amounts of information not only from textbooks. Alexander Lukashenko believes it is necessary to focus more on language and computer skills. “Every graduate has to be able to write and speak his own language correctly, speak a foreign language fluently and use information technologies for education and in everyday life,” he said.

    The modern school system should also shape a whole independent personality. It should teach children to acquire new knowledge and use it in practice. It should teach them to think and defend their point of view, it should teach them to be responsible for what they say, teach them to be persistent in reaching goals, immunizing them against idleness and wrongdoing, stressed the head of state.

    President to focus on the problem of school textbooks soon

    During a meeting with the finalists of the Teacher of the Year 2009 national contest President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said he would review soon how his instruction to compile good modern-day textbooks had been implemented.

    A school textbook serves as the basis, as the starting point for a teacher. A good teacher will always find the way how to present the material in a simple and comprehensible way, the President believes. Schooling should be interesting, engaging, and stress-free. There should be understanding between teachers and schoolchildren. Sport should play an important role in school life, too, the President believes.

    The head of state stressed that there were a lot of teachers from the regional and small rural schools among the finalists of the Teacher of the Year 2009 contest. The contest gave an opportunity to a new-generation teachers to show their talents. The contest is a good stimulus for enhancing teaching qualifications and wider application of the best education practices.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus, Russia to sign agreement on building nuclear power plant in October

    From: BelTA
    Russia’s nuclear tsar Sergei Kiriyenko.
    Belarus and Russia will sign the intergovernmental agreement on building the Belarusian nuclear power plant in October this year, director of the nuclear energy department of the Belarusian Energy Ministry Nikolai Grusha told a press conference on 6 October.

    At present, the sides are adjusting various articles of the document. “I believe, the intergovernmental agreement will be signed in October,” Nikolai Grusha said.

    He also reminded that on 9 October, Ostrovets will host the public consultations on the preliminary report about the environmental impact of the nuclear power plant. Everybody who wishes may take part in the consultations.

    BelTA reported earlier that a Belarusian-Russian intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy was inked in Minsk on 28 May 2009. It is a framework document outlining major avenues of cooperation in the development, design, construction and operation of the nuclear power plant, provision of nuclear and radiation security as well as scientific cooperation, personnel training and other areas. Signing an agreement on building the nuclear power plant should be the next step.

    There are plans to build a nuclear power plant in Belarus with the capacity close to 2,400MW. The first power unit of the Belarusian power plant is supposed to go online in 2016, the second one — in 2018. The Russian company Atomstroyexport is the general contractor. It is a state engineering company run by Rosatom and implements intergovernmental agreements for building nuclear energy installations abroad. At present the orders Atomstroyexport fulfils account for about 20% of the global market.

    Andreichenko urges to strengthen CSTO’s stands at international organizations

    From: BelTA
    Vladimir Andreichenko
    Chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus Vladimir Andreichenko urges to strengthen the stands of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) at international organizations. He stated about this during a meeting with participants of the on-site session of the CSTO PA permanent commission for defence and security in Minsk on 6 October.

    “The CSTO participating countries carry out the coordinated policy at international organizations. At the same time, this work should be brought to a higher level,” Vladimir Andreichenko said.

    According to the Belarusian Speaker, Belarus attaches great importance to the activity of the CSTO and especially the role of this organization in counteracting the new threats and improving the defence capacity of the CSTO countries.

    The parliamentarian added that Belarus is taking an active part in the work of the CSTO. All 26 agreements signed by Belarus within the framework of the CSTO have been already ratified by the Parliament. “We attach a great importance to the parliamentary constituent of the CSTO which helps the parliaments establish cooperation,” Vladimir Andreichenko said.

    In turn, Vladimir Vasiliev, Chairman of Russian State Duma’s committee for security, head of the CSTO PA permanent commission for defence and security noted that on 6 October the sides will consider the unification of the legislations within the framework of the CSTO. “We have arrived in Belarus to study the situation in the Eastern European region from the standpoint of security issues. The goal of the work of our commission is to establish military and political cooperation between all the CSTO member countries,” Vladimir Vasiliev said.

    BelTA informed earlier, the on-site session of the CSTO PA permanent commission for defence and security is being held in Minsk on 5-7 October.

    Minimum wage should correspond to subsistence wage, Alexander Lukashenko says

    From: BelTA
    The minimum wage in Belarus should be raised to correspond to the subsistence wage, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in a meeting with head of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus Leonid Kozik on 5 October.

    Alexander Lukashenko endorsed the initiative of the trade unions to raise the minimum pay to the level of the subsistence wage. Belarus used to hold leading positions in the CIS in this area (the ratio of the minimum wage to the subsistence wage was 1:1. Today the minimum wage accounts for 0.93 of the subsistence wage). In this respect the head of state said he would give corresponding instructions to improve the situation.

    The President also pointed to the need to pay more attention to the re-training of people who work part-time and who would like to get into a new profession.

    During the meeting with the head of state Leonid Kozik expressed concern over the situation at the Minsk motor and bicycle plant. The trade unions were assured by the plant’s management that the jobs would be preserved. Today it is clear that the process of recovery is very slow. Alexander Lukashenko instructed the Federation of Trade Union of Belarus to monitor the situation and to report back to him about what has been done to stabilize the situation.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Belarusian XIX century photos on display in Minsk

    From: BelTA
    Unique photos of peasant life in the village of Vyaloe, Volozhin region, are presented at a French exhibition of high-quality copies of photos made by Count Benedict Tyszkiewicz. The exhibition opened at the National History Museum in Minsk on 6 October following an initiative of the Embassy of France in Belarus. The event was arranged as part of the Photography Year held in Belarus to mark the 170th anniversary of inventing photography, BelTA has learnt.

    During the presentation of the exhibition Counselor for Cooperation and Culture of the Embassy of France Ludovic Royer said that the exhibition is a bridge of friendship between France and Belarus. Department head of the Culture Ministry Natalia Avdeyeva stressed that Belarusian-French cultural ties will grow stronger in the future.

    A total of 86 photos have been borrowed from the French museum of Nicephore Niepce, which is located in the town of Chalon-upon-Saone. The collection of original photos made by Count Benedict Tyszkiewicz was presented to the museum by the society of friends of the Nicephore Niepce Museum. In turn, the society acquired the collection from an antique dealer in the Paris quarter of Saint-Ouen with financial assistance of the French Culture Ministry. The photos displayed in Minsk have been exhibited only once in France — in 1994. High-quality copies were on display in Vilnius in 2000.

    The unique photo exhibition will stay open in Minsk till 29 October. After that it will be moved to Gomel’s Gavriil Vashchenko Picture Gallery to be available to the general public on 4-17 November. Then the photos will be on display at the art gallery of the Polotsk National Historical and Cultural Museum on 20 November – 8 December.

    Yury Bashmet international festival opens in Minsk

    The 4th Yury Bashmet international festival opened in Minsk on 4 October with the performance “Carmen Night” on stage of the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater of the Republic of Belarus

    Taking part in the opening ceremony were the Symphony Orchestra of New Russia (Novaya Rossiya State Symphony Orchestra) directed by Yury Bashmet, artists of the Belarusian and Bavaria operas, Mariinsky Theater prima ballerina Ulyana Lopatkina, soloists of the ballet of the Bolshoi Academic Theater of Russia, a ballet company of the Opera Theater of Ukraine.

    The playbill of the festival includes concerts featuring world music stars, soloists of the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater of the Republic of Belarus, president’s orchestra of the Republic of Belarus conducted by Viktor Babarikin, state academic symphony orchestra of the Republic of Belarus directed by Alexander Anisimov, symphony orchestra of the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater of the Republic of Belarus.

    The Yury Bashmet festival provides an opportunity for young talents to perform alongside with great musicians, and this is what distinguishes this festival from others.

    Golshany Castle may host European festival of ghosts

    The Golshany Castle may become the place where the European festival of ghosts can be held, BelTA learnt from Valentina Luzina, a deputy of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus.

    “We would like to hold the festival of ghosts in the Golshany castle. We plan to invite representatives of the places which have castles not only from Belarus, but from Lithuania and Poland. Taking into consideration the fact that the descendants of Sophia Golshanskaya governed in Czechia and Hungary, we may invite participants from other European countries as well. There are no such festivals so far. It would be good to hold the first such festival in 2010 – the year when the Golshany Castle will celebrate its 400th anniversary,” Valentina Luzina said.

    According to the parliamentarian, at present, the Oshmyany Regional Executive Committee jointly with travel organizations are developing the project “Oshmyany Tourist Region” which will include the system of the measures aimed at promoting the historical and natural heritage.

    The culture department of the Oshmyany Regional Executive Committee, the local public and Valentina Luzina personally developed the concept of preservation and maintenance of the Golshany Castle. A team of Minsk architects has proposed a project of landscape design for the castle area.

    A museum dedicated to the Struve Geodetic Arc is expected to be set up in Golshany as well.

  • Economics...

    Sergei Sidorsky concerned about plunging Belarusian-Russian trade

    From: BelTA
    Sergei Sidorsky
    Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky expressed concern over the plunging Belarusian-Russian trade turnover as he met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Moscow region residence of Nova-Ogarevo on 6 October.

    In January-August 2009 the trade between Belarus and Russia shrank by more than 40%, stated the Belarusian Premier. In his opinion, the present trade has shrunk to the level registered in 2005. Meanwhile, the GDP reduction in the two countries is considerably lower and the status of the Belarusian and Russian economies inspires optimism.

    Along with mutual trade the Belarusian head of government suggested discussing several current issues, including oil supplies. Sergei Sidorsky said that Belarus had developed a program for cooperation with Russia in fuel and energy industry. The Russian side is currently considering the program.

    In addition, according to the Belarusian Premier, the sides are supposed to discuss the matters that will be included into the agenda of the next session of the Union State Council of Ministers.

    Increasing VAT to 20% will not affect companies’ financial performance, Finance Ministry says

    Increasing the VAT from 18% to 20% will not affect the financial performance of Belarusian companies, Finance Minister of Belarus Andrei Kharkovets told BelTA.

    The VAT increase is envisaged in the 2010 draft budget of Belarus.

    According to Andrei Kharkovets, the companies will have nearly Br900 billion in their budgets due to the abolishment of the fee to the fund to support agricultural producers and the tax on retail sales.

    At the same time the minister acknowledged that the VAT increase could make some companies search additional turnover resources. “It is no doubt there will be some problems, and we need to help them out. The Finance Ministry has offered several variants to level off the situation,” the minister said.

    First of all, the abolition of the two aforesaid taxes will free up additional funds for companies. They can be, however, insufficient to offset the increase in VAT. Therefore, the VAT repayment period has been reduced from one month to five days.

    Besides, the Finance Ministry has divided the companies into several groups due to a possible impact of the VAT increase.

    The first group consists of companies-exporters. They have zero VAT rate.

    The second group is the companies which have had some privileges as to payment of the fee to the fund to support agricultural producers. They have been almost exempted from this tax, and will gain nothing from the decision to abolish this tax. As a result they will face a problem with their turnover funds. “Therefore the Finance Ministry offers such companies to pay VAT by installments. The companies will be eligible to an interest-free delay in VAT payment within the next four months. According to the estimates, this will help this group of companies address all the issues,” Andrei Kharkovets said.

    The third group includes the companies which have very high value added (hairdressers, laundries, dry-cleaners, others). “We offer to exempt such small businesses from the VAT payment,” he explained.

    Belarus, Lithuania, China to sign memorandum on transit traffic development

    Belarus, Lithuania and China will sign the memorandum on development of the cooperation in the transit traffic area, Minister of Transport and Communications of Belarus Ivan Shcherbo noted during the opening of the international exhibition Transport and Logistics 2009. The document will be signed within the framework of the forum which will be held in Vilnius on 19 October.

    Transport and Logistics 2009 Exhibition showcases all the Belarusian transport system. It features expositions of more than 100 companies from ten countries. The Illichivs’k Seaport (Ukraine) and the Kaliningrad Seaport (Russia) have presented their services for the first time.

    The III Belarusian Transport Congress will be held as part of the expo. Specialists are expected to discuss economic, organizational, scientific and technical problems relating to the development of the country’s transport industry. Participants of the congress will also analyze the state of the Belarusian transport and logistics system, will consider promising areas of its development via analyzing international experience. Specialists of management bodies of all kinds will participate in the discussion as well as representatives of industrial enterprises, education and research institutes. Among the topics to be voiced during the plenary session of the congress are new opportunities for attracting investments, application of information technologies for raising the effectiveness of customs clearance of goods, utilization of automatic identification systems in transport and logistics.

    The exhibition will be running through 9 October.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Russian, Belarusian premiers discuss trade, economic cooperation

    From: Itar-tass
    The Russian and Belarusian prime ministers continue negotiations in Novo-Ogaryovo, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.

    “The prime ministers of Russia and Belarus continue to discuss bilateral trade and economic cooperation, including transport, energy, space and common customs,” he said.

    In his words, the negotiations that started between two national delegations eventually developed into a one-to-one meeting.

    Belarus said it planned to discuss the possibility of a $500 million loan. Russian Vice-Premier and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Monday that Russia did not plan to grant further loans to Belarus. “We are not considering further crediting of Belarus so far,” he said.

    Russia issued two credit tranches worth of $1.5 billion to Belarus earlier.

    Belarus in talks with Gazprom about 2010 gas price, vice premier says

    From: Navany
    The Belarusian government has entered into talks with Russia’s Gazprom to prevent a “surge” in the price of natural gas next year, Belarus’ first deputy prime minister, Uladzimir Syamashka, said at a news conference in Russia’s Yekaterinburg on October 6.

    Prime Minister Syarhey Syadorski has ordered the country’s energy minister to hold talks with Gazprom and draw the monopoly’s attention to “force majeure events that have arisen amid the crisis,” Mr. Syamashka noted.

    The Belarusian government will negotiate about a price within the pricing formula that was agreed upon by the two parties in 2007, he said.

    “It is necessary to fix it today to prevent a surge in the gas price next year,” Mr. Syamashka said.

    The Belarusian government projects the price to be $166 per 1000 cubic meters next year, BelaPAN said.

    In a report released in mid-August, Gazprom said that the contract price of Russian natural gas supplied to Belarus was $157.74 per 1000 cubic meters in the second quarter of 2009.

    Aleksei Miller, head of the Russian monopoly, said last month that Belarus still owed Gazprom around $200 million for natural gas supplied to the country this year.

    Under a five-year contract, signed with Gazprom on December 31, 2006, the price for Belarus was raised to $100 per 1000 cubic meters for 2007 compared with $46.68 in the previous two and a half years. The price was to gradually increase to the European market level by 2011. It was to be 67 percent of the level, excluding delivery costs, in 2008, 80 percent in 2009, 90 percent in 2010, and 100 percent in 2011.

    Russia declines Belarus, Ukraine loan requests

    From: RIA Novosti
    - Russia will not disburse the last $500 million tranche of a $2 billion stabilization loan to Belarus and will not grant a $5 billion loan to Ukraine, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Monday.

    "So far, we are not considering the continuation of the loan disbursement to Belarus," Kudrin said.

    Russia decided late last year to allocate a $2 billion loan to Belarus. The former Soviet republic has already received $1.5 billion, but Russia's Finance Ministry has refused to disburse the last tranche, saying it needed to assess carefully the prospects of loan repayment.

    Apart from Russia, Belarus is also raising money from the International Monetary Fund. On January 12, 2009, the IMF approved a 15-month standby loan worth about $2.46 billion and the Fund's experts later recommended the IMF board to increase the loan facility by $1 billion.

    Kudrin said, however, that Russia would help Belarus and Ukraine obtain loans from the IMF and the anti-crisis fund of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) comprising Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

    Ukraine had earlier sought a loan of around $5 billion from Russia to pump gas into its underground storage facilities to avoid interruptions with gas transit to Europe.

    Ukraine is also borrowing funds from the IMF. In November 2008, the IMF approved a $16.4 billion loan for Ukraine. Ukraine has already received three tranches of $4.5 billion, $2.8 billion and $3.3 billion as part of a stabilization loan program provided by the IMF to stabilize its economy.

    "We are carefully watching the fulfillment [by Ukraine] of the IMF program. As a member of the IMF, Russia supports the IMF loan disbursement to Ukraine but does not plan to grant a loan on a bilateral basis," Kudrin said.

    Gay rights conference staged in Belarus

    From: www.baywindows
    More than 100 people from nine Belarusian cities and 10 other countries gathered at the Crowne Plaza in Minsk, Belarus, on Sept. 26 for an LGBT rights conference.
    More than 100 people from nine Belarusian cities and 10 other countries gathered at the Crowne Plaza in Minsk, Belarus, on Sept. 26 for an LGBT rights conference, reported.

    Twenty-three reports were presented at the meeting, which was titled "LGBT Movement and NGOs: Prospects for Cooperation With Active Civil Society to Overcome Homophobia in Belarus."

    The reports addressed such issues as public activism, GLBT identity, gay history, homophobia in politics, psychological aspects of homophobia, education of journalists, gay business, and homosexuality and religion.

    The gathering was organized by and

    "You are making history today," Louis-Georges Tin, president of the International Day Against Homophobia Committee, told the delegates.

    Jean-Eric Holzapfel from the European Commission’s Belarus delegation told delegates: "The human rights situation in Belarus is of particular interest to us. This applies of course to the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."

    At the conference’s conclusion, delegates adopted a resolution that will be sent to Belarus’ government and parliament urging passage of laws banning anti-gay and -trans discrimination, criminalizing hate speech, and extending spousal rights to same-sex couples.

    Representatives attended from the French, Hungarian and Swedish embassies, and the Swedish Embassy hosted an evening reception.

    Later, Lika Milovski was crowned "Miss Trans Diva Belarus" at a local nightclub.

  • From the Opposition...

    Lithuanian PM: Border agreement wasn’t signed due to Belarusian side

    From: Charter '97
    Andrius Kubilius
    Andrius Kubilius hopes for signing an agreement on order of border crossing for dwellers of border areas in Belarus and Lithuania.

    Andrius Kubilius told this in an interview to the Belarusian news agency PRIME TASS.

    The agreements provides for a simplified border cross procedures for the citizens of Belarus and Lithuania living within a 50-km radius from the border.

    According to Kubilius, Lithuania was ready to sign the agreement yet in September during the visit of Alyaksandr Lukashenka and other Belarusian officials to Vilnius.

    “We are ready to sign, by the Belarusian side asked for more time to consider some technical details,” the Prime Minister said.

    “I don’t know if it is policy or just technical problems. We are interested in signing this agreement,” he added and stressed that the paper would have positive impacts for both sides.

    Kubilius also said that the only technical problem of Lithuania was that the line, defining the 50-km zone, goes through the town of Alitus, but in Belarus, Smarhon suburbs are included in the zone, while the town lies beyond.

    The Prime Minister added that additional time for preparation of the agreement can solve the problems. “I think these problems are small. I hope we can sign the agreement in the nearest time,” he said.

    The Prime Minister also noted that a number of Lithuanian experts are afraid of increasing trade with alcoholic beverage and tobacco goods by individuals from Belarus at Lithuanian markets due to the difference in prices. However, Kubilius said he didn’t see great problem in this.

    The Prime Minister also expressed an opinion that the Lithuanian business could benefit from the agreement. “I think a possibility to visit at least small towns would be interesting for our people also from a commercial point of view,” Kubilius added.

    ‘Autoradio’ gets warned for joint project with European Radio for Belarus

    From: Viasna
    On 30 September 2009 the management of Autoradio FM-radio station from Minsk received an official warning from the Ministry of Information for ‘non-fulfillment of creative concept of broadcasting’.

    Although the text of the warning contains no reference to any particular violation, it can be linked to the EuroZoom radio program that was broadcasted daily by Autoradio. The program is a joint project by Autoradio and European Radio for Belarus (ERB), held under the patronage of the European Commission. The daily 1-hour radio program is prepared by journalists of ERB, it contains several news and music blocks, The EuroZoom was launched at Autoradio this summer, and it was broadcasted every working day.

    According to Yury Bazan, the General Manager of Autoradio, on 29 September the radio station received a phone call from the Ministry of Information with a request to present an audio file of EuroZoom for ‘monitoring’. The following day the station was officially warned. The Ministry suggests the radio station ‘make steps to keep to the creative concept of its broadcasting’. Otherwise its license can be cancelled.

    Yury Bazan says that it is impossible to judge from the text of the warning which program the Ministry of Information actually meant. That is why he sent a letter to the ministry with a request to clarify the essence of the warning. Besides, another letter is sent to the Minister of Information with a request to approve broadcasting of EuroZoom program by Autoradio.

    ‘Broadcasting of the program helps to improve the image of Belarus in Europe and in the world. The European Commission values the possibility of broadcasting of the program in our country’, the appeal to the minister goes.

    Yury Bazan also enclosed a written approval of the concept and contents of EuroZoom program by the head of the EC Delegation to Belarus, Mr. Jean-Eric Holzapfel.

    The General Manager of Autoradio says he is a bit surprised to receive such a warning as information in EuroZoom is neutral and objective. Still, the program is not broadcasted by Autoradio since 1 October until clarifications from the Ministry of Information are received.

    Andrei Bastunets, vice chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, regards this incident as ‘unacceptable interference of the state in the media activity’.

    ‘The concept of the program was approved by the European Commission. The warning of the Ministry of Information is some kind of an answer of Belarus to a suggestion for cooperation of the European Union’, Andrei Bastunets says.

  • Russia...

    Abkhazia to order foreign passports in Russia

    From: RIA Novosti
    Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh
    Authorities from the former Georgian republic of Abkhazia will order passports in Russia giving its citizens the ability to travel abroad, a Russian daily reported on Monday.

    Abkhaz passports are expected to correspond to international standards, Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh said in an interview with Vremya Novostei.

    "We will order passports in the Russian Federation," Bagapsh said, adding: "We expect to start printing passports within one or two months."

    Though Abkhaz internal passports allow citizens of the republic to enter Russia, the Abkhaz president believes the republic's residents should have foreign passports as well.

    "This will allow [Abkhaz citizens] to travel to other countries," the president said, adding he expected Abkhazia and another former Georgian republic, South Ossetia, to be recognized soon by other states.

    According to international law, citizens of Abkhazia are still considered to be Georgian citizens and must receive international passports through Tbilisi.

    "Essential negotiations" on this issue are being held with several states, the president said, adding Belarus's recognition of Abkhazia should "be settled any day now."

    Bagapsh said Abkhazia will never reunite with Georgia.

    "We will create our own independent state," he said. "We will develop friendly relations with Russia in the first place, since we have such a good partner and neighbor."

    Russia recognized the independence of the former Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia last August after a five-day war with Georgia over the latter, which was attacked by Tbilisi in an attempt to bring it back under central control. Besides Russia, only Nicaragua and Venezuela have recognized the former Georgian republics.

    Under mutual assistance treaties signed last November, Russia pledged to help South Ossetia and Abkhazia protect their borders. Moscow promised significant financial support to rebuild the republics, which had been de facto independent since the early 1990s.

    Georgian president says ready to have dialogue with Russia

    From: Xinua
    Mikheil Saakashvili: Mad as hell
    Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said on Tuesday his country is ready to hold talks and cooperate with Russia and is unwilling to see a fresh military conflict.

    The military attacks Georgia launched last August against Tskhinvali, capital of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, was legitimate, Saakashvili told BBC.

    Saakashvili also expressed objections to the EU accusation that Georgia's use of force in South Ossetia was illegal.

    An international fact-finding mission, backed by the European Union, released a report last week, which says Georgia started the war with Russia last August as a result of Russian provocation.

    The report accuses Georgia of violating international laws by using force against Russian peacekeeping troops in South Ossetia, but also describes Russia's subsequent military campaign deeper into Georgia proper as disproportionate.

    South Ossetia, along with another rebel Georgian region of Abkhazia, broke away from Tbilisi's rule during a war in the 1990sthat followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war last summer, when Georgia attacked South Ossetia to retake the renegade region that borders Russia. In response, Moscow sent in troops to drive Georgian forces out of the region.

    Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states two weeks after the conflict ended.

    Ukraine paid Russia $400 mln for September gas - Naftogaz

    From: RIA Novosti
    Ukraine's state-controlled energy company Naftogaz said Tuesday it had paid Russia in full for natural gas consumed in September.

    A company spokesman said Naftogaz had paid about $400 million for 2 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas.

    Under the current contract, payment for a previous month is due before the seventh day of the following month. Should Ukraine fail to pay in time, the system of advance payments is activated.

    Bohdan Sokolovskiy, the Ukrainian president's envoy for energy security, said earlier Tuesday that Naftogaz is ready to meet its gas supply and gas transit obligations this winter although its financial position is disastrous.

    He said Ukraine had pumped about 26 billion cubic meters of natural gas into its underground gas storage facilities by today to ensure uninterrupted gas supplies and gas transit to Europe in the upcoming winter season.

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko earlier said that 25.5 billion cubic meters were sufficient for the ex-Soviet republic to live normally through the winter period and ensure uninterrupted gas supplies and transit to European consumers. Ukraine transits around 80% of Russia's Europe-bound gas.

    Russia, which supplies around one fifth of Europe's gas, briefly shut down supplies via Ukraine's pipeline system at the start of the year during a dispute with Kiev over unpaid debt.

    The conflict was resolved in January, when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Tymoshenko, agreed deals on deliveries to and gas transit through Ukraine for 2009.

    Sokolovskiy said that the financial problems of Naftogaz, which defaulted on a $500 million Eurobond issue on September 30, could be attributed to serious miscalculations of the Ukrainian government during the conclusion of gas deals at the start of the year and the government's failure to reform the country's gas sector.

    Tymoshenko, however, has repeatedly stated that the gas deals with Russia were beneficial for the country and would be honored.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Polish Sports Minister Quits Over Casino Scandal

    From: New York Times
    Miroslaw Drzewiecki: Guilty as hell
    Poland's sports minister resigned on Monday over a lobbying scandal that has begun to tarnish the image of Prime Minister Donald Tusk's ruling centre-right Civic Platform (PO).

    Sports Minister Miroslaw Drzewiecki is one of several high profile officials accused by an anti-graft body of acting on behalf of businessmen trying to water down a bill on higher taxes on the gambling business.

    Tusk, who accepted Drzewiecki's resignation, cannot afford any whiff of corruption to infect his party before a presidential election next year in which he is expected to challenge conservative incumbent Lech Kaczynski.

    Poles also elect a new parliament in 2011.

    Drzewiecki said in a statement he had done nothing wrong but that he had stood down to prevent the scandal harming important projects, especially the EURO 2012 football championship that Poland is due to co-host with Ukraine.

    "I believe that when the media frenzy dies down and all the circumstances relating to the gambling bill have been clarified, it will turn out that I have been falsely accused," he said.

    "(But) I cannot allow this situation to affect the Euro 2012 preparations or my beloved Orliki project," he said, referring to plans to build soccer stadiums for children.

    Last week, Tusk also suspended close associate Zbigniew Chlebowski, head of PO's parliamentary group, pending an investigation into the casino bill allegations.

    The anti-PO Rzeczpospolita daily has published a series of transcripts of conversations between Chlebowski and businessmen concerning the gambling bill. The transcripts mention both Drzewiecki and Deputy Prime Minister Grzegorz Schetyna.

    Chlebowski and Schetyna, like Drzewiecki, deny wrongdoing.


    The agency behind the claims, the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA), was set up by Tusk's conservative predecessor Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is the president's twin brother and now heads the main opposition party Law and Justice (PiS).

    Tusk has said the CBA allegations are politically motivated.

    He has also vowed that the casino bill will shortly come before parliament and that it will include hikes in gambling taxes to help net more cash for Poland's strained state coffers.

    An opinion poll published in Monday's Dziennik newspaper had shown more than two thirds of Poles thought Drzewiecki should quit over what Polish media has dubbed "Blackjack-gate."

    The Homo Homini poll also showed support for PO has slipped to 41 percent from 47 percent since the claims first appeared. But opposition parties have so far not been able to profit very much from the case, the poll showed.

    Kaczynski's PiS, a right-wing, eurosceptic party, saw its ratings edge up only slightly to 28 percent from 27 percent. Support for the leftist SLD remained broadly flat at 10 percent.

    Political analysts say the scandal is unlikely to undermine seriously PO's big lead, which is underpinned by Poland's relatively robust performance in the global economic crisis.

    Poland is the only European Union member state to escape recession. Despite a growing budget deficit, the government has signalled it will defer any significant tax hikes or spending cuts aimed at restoring order to the public finances until 2011.

    Polish PM to sack deputy, justice minister-source

    From: Foxyard
    Grzegorz Schetyna: Guilty as hell
    Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is expected to sack Deputy Prime Minister Grzegorz Schetyna, a close associate, and also the justice minister on Wednesday over a lobbying scandal, a senior government source told Reuters.

    "The decision has been made. Tomorrow the prime minister will most likely announce the dismissal of ministers," the source said late on Tuesday.

    Tusk is also expected to sack Deputy Economy Minister Adam Szejnfeld, the source said.

    Polish anti-corruption chief faces charges

    From: AP
    Mariusz Kaminski: Guilty as hell
    The head of Poland's anti-corruption office was charged with abuse of power Tuesday after a sting operation in which he encouraged his agents to fabricate documents and offer bribes, prosecutors said.

    The official, Mariusz Kaminski, said the charge was baseless and he would prove his innocence if the case went to trial.

    Officials have said that undercover agents offered two businessmen 3 million zlotys ($1 million) to participate in a sting operation in which they would use their close ties with Agriculture Ministry officials to get farmland improperly rezoned for development.

    The then-agriculture minister was fired after two officials at his ministry were arrested in the operation.

    If convicted, Kaminski could face up to eight years in prison.

    Kaminski's office was created in 2006 by the government of then-Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is now Poland's opposition leader. It is supposed to root out corruption in national and local government.

    Poland's sports minister resigned Monday over allegations he illegally tried to influence a new gambling law.

    Miroslaw Drzewiecki announced his decision to step down at a news conference after Rzeczpospolita newspaper last week published transcripts of tapped telephone conversations in which a gambling parlor owner is allegedly heard lobbying a governing party lawmaker to block plans for casino taxes and mentions Drzewiecki as someone who could help.

  • Sport...

    BATE Borisov Pick Up Fourth Consecutive League Title In Belarus

    Argentine striker Javier Saviola tussles with BATE Borisov in a rare appearance for Real Madrid.
    BATE keep on dominating in Belarus with their sixth league title in their storied history winning a fourth successive Belarusian title following a 4-0 mauling of Naftan Novopolotsk on Monday. Last season's UEFA Champions League contenders won the league title with five games to spare, having lost just twice all season.

    Head coach Viktor Goncharenko was more than happy with the result against Naftan, but urged his players to save their celebrations for later.

    "We played at pace and put huge pressure on our opponents. I really liked the way we played in the first half, but we still have five more league matches to play and four more in the Europa League so we have to save our celebrations for later," said Goncharenko to

    "I dedicate this victory to my family. This season has been very successful for me as I earned my place in the starting XI for BATE, the Under-21s and the senior national team. This is my first championship title, so it is special," added young defender Igor Shitov.

    Club president Anatoliy Kapskiy is no newcomer to title champagne, but was nonetheless a happy man after his side's victory.

    "I'm really happy. This is our sixth title but the feelings after another championship are still great. Our work has been of the highest quality."

  • Endnote...

    Corruption perceptions shake more than just political confidence

    From: Warsaw Business Journal
    Corruption and nepotism, which had thrived throughout communist Central and Eastern Europe for decades, continues to this day.

    Though attempts to unmask high-level corruption have improved, as demonstrated by the recent resignation of Sports Minister Miros?aw Drzewiecki due to evidence presented by the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA), the majority of graft takes place at the local and municipal levels. This has long permeated Poland’s local justice system, tax authority, contract procurement, and university entrance and grading practices.

    However, unlike their Warsaw counterparts, local officials lack the required resources and personnel to address these challenges head on.

    According to Transparency International’s 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index, Poland ranks 58th out of 180 countries surveyed. Among Central Europe’s EU members, it outranks only Romania and Bulgaria, two countries that have been openly criticized, even financially reprimanded by the EU for their inability to adequately tackle corruption, fraud and organized crime.

    Recent events in Poland not only highlight the severity of the problem, but demonstrate that repercussions go beyond politics. Specifically, high levels of corruption negatively affect a country’s economic progress and development. For one, perceptions of corruption serve as disincentives for investors considering opening or sustaining business operations in Poland.

    At a time when financial institutions and multinational firms are increasingly risk averse, higher corruption perceptions in Poland may make it increasingly expensive (and more competitive) to tap global capital markets or attract foreign direct investment.

    Both the Polish government and the EU need to take a more active role working with local and high-level officials in setting clear metrics for success. Poland must require greater transparency and follow through with legal enforcement, otherwise it risks not only its political, but also its economic legacy.