News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, November 22, 2009

Minsk city development, Belarus-Russia Union, Gold and currency reserves, EU, Iran, Ethnology; Sport, Culture, Economics and Polish scandal

  • From the Top...
  • #464

    Belarus President approves changes to Minsk city development plan

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has approved the amendments to the general Minsk city development plan and endorsed the construction plans of a new multifunctional complex with a hotel as part of the preparations for the 2014 IIHF World Championships. The President made such decisions as he heard a report on the further development of the city of Minsk in the Minsk City Hall on 20 November, BelTA has learnt.

    The Belarusian capital will see a lot of changes in the run-up to the forthcoming World Ice Hockey Championships. In particular, one of the facilities which will beautify the Belarusian capital will be a multifunctional complex with a hotel. It will be constructed in 2013 not far from the circus building, within Nezavisimosti Avenue and Yanka Kupala Street.

    New buildings will perfectly blend into the general look of Nezavisimosti Avenue, said the representatives of the Kempinski Group that is to construct the facility. The frontward will be made in a traditional style of the central avenues of the city with a special emphasis on the details made of stone. Special attention will be given to the quay of the Svisloch River.

    The President demanded the construction be of high quality with the use of most advanced eco-friendly materials. The head of state noted that the construction should be carried out in compliance with all the European standards.

    President Lukashenko wants to see top-grade stadium built in Minsk by 2013

    A new technologically advanced football stadium should be built in Minsk (instead of the present Traktor stadium) by late 2013, President o Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at a meeting on the Minsk city development prospects.

    “The stadium should seat 45,000 people and meet all international standards,” the head of state said. The project is estimated at €100-120 million. This should be the stadium with roof-covered stands, which meets the European standards.

    As for the Dynamo stadium, it will remain roofless. It will be modernized; gyms for some kinds of sports and public catering places will be built and the lighting system upgraded.

    Several top-notch hotels will be constructed around the Dynamo stadium by 2014.

    Minsk population should grow mainly due to satellite towns

    ”The population density in the capital will certainly increase, but there is little room for that in Minsk – 2,000-3,000 people, not more than that,” the head of state said.

    The President underlined that new houses should not be built on high-fertile croplands. “Such lands can be involved in construction only in most exceptional circumstances. Land is our major asset and treasure. The products that will be grown within the territory of Minsk will be in great demand and it is very profitable,” the President said. He added that agricultural enterprises may be set up on such lands creating a lot of jobs. He demanded that the municipal authorities develop a scheme of using high-fertile croplands to be included in the General Plan of Minsk.

    The President is going to instruct the Council of Ministers to develop a plan of efficient distribution of manufacturing facilities beyond Minsk.

    In line with the General Plan of Minsk (adopted by a presidential decree in 2003), the Minsk population is projected at 1.9 million by 2030. In the near future, new residential districts will be constructed in satellite towns. In 2011, a residential district will be built in Smolevichi; a similar project is developed for Zaslavl.

    Second ring road to be build around Minsk

    The second ring road that is planned to be built around Minsk will connect two arterial motorways, namely, Moscow-Berlin and Vilnius-Kiev. A corresponding proposal was approved by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko during the meeting on Minsk city development prospects.

    “The second ring road is badly needed. But the project needs to be examined carefully so that the road would meet all advanced standards. It should be something of an autobahn,” the President said.

    According to him, the construction of the new road will help redistribute transit cargo flows, redeploy logistic centers out of the city and reduce air gas pollution.

    Chief architect of Minsk Viktor Nikitin reported to the head of state that the first phase of the project envisages the construction of a 50km half-ring road connecting the two motorways: Moscow-Berlin

    Access of non-resident vehicles to Minsk may be limited

    In the future the access of non-resident vehicles to Minsk may be limited to reduce the heavy traffic in the Belarusian capital. The statement was made by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko as he was informed about the prospects of Minsk’s development on 20 November.

    Minsk Chief Architect Viktor Nikitin said, the rapidly increasing number of automobiles has led to traffic jams and increased air pollution levels.

    The international experience of megacity development testifies that transport problems must be dealt with fast. Certain restrictions on non-residential transport access to Minsk can be a way out.

    If the decision is enforced, the relevant infrastructure will have to be built on approaches to Minsk. In particular, Minsk will need parking lots and smoothly operating urban transport.

    Alexander Lukashenko said it should be done with maximum convenience for people. “It should be convenient for people. They could come, leave cars at a parking lot, for a small fee, and enter the city using public transport,” he said.

    The head of state underlined that building automobile interchanges is unavoidable.

    The discussion also touched upon moving industrial enterprises out of the city. The industrial enterprises that have been relocated beyond Minsk borders should not happen to be inside the city in several years when Minsk grows larger. A document may be developed to regulate the distribution of enterprises across the country.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Political will needed to adopt Belarus-Russia Union constitution

    From: BelTA
    Belarusian-Russian relations lack the political will to make the key step – adoption of the Constitution Act of the Union State. The opinion was voiced by Anatoly Lokot, member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation (KPRF faction) at a roundtable session held in Minsk on 19 November to mark the tenth anniversary of the Union State treaty.

    “The legitimacy of Union administration bodies such as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Belarus-Russia Union raises questions,” noted the politician. “Only after the Union constitution is adopted, the formation of absolute Union State bodies, which decisions can be mandatory throughout the Union State, will become possible”. The MP added that over the last ten years the two countries have advanced a lot in political, economic and other kinds of integration, however, the process is based on the bilateral relations between Belarus and Russia as international law subjects.

    Anatoly Lokot attributed the slowdown of the Union State construction to differences in the economic models of the two countries. “Belarus is a special economic system, it is not capitalistic. The government has powerful levers to regulate the economy. In turn, Russia is ruled by economic oligarchy, which believes that integration with Belarus is limited to grabbing as much Belarusian property as possible,” reminded the MP. He reminded that the KPRF faction had demanded an immediate resignation of Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin after his ill-placed remarks about the Belarusian economy. Anatoly Lokot also attributed the slowdown of the Union State construction to the West opposition. “Some people in the West don’t like our union a lot and they do their best to damage it,” believes the Russian MP.

    Moscow to host Belarus-Russia ministerial consultations 25 November

    The Belarusian-Russian ministerial consultations chaired by foreign ministers of both the countries Sergei Martynov and Sergei Lavrov will be held in Moscow on 25 November, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Belarusian Embassy in Russia.

    The sides are expected to sign the programme of the concerted actions on the foreign policy for 2010-2011 and the plan of the ministerial consultations between the foreign ministries of Belarus and Russia in 2010.

    Before the consultations, a bilateral meeting between Sergei Martynov and Sergei Lavrov is expected to be held.

    National Bank of Belarus builds up gold and foreign currency reserves

    From: BelTA
    In January-October 2009, the Major Monetary Management Guidelines were fulfilled, Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich told President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on 19 November, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    The Belarusian ruble exchange rate against the basket of foreign currencies remains within plus/minus 10% band.

    Over the last years, the National Bank of Belarus has considerably increased gold and foreign currency reserves. In January-October 2009, international reserve assets of Belarus calculated in accordance with the IMF methods, increased more than 1.4 times – from $3.1 billion as of 1 January to $4.43 billion as of 1 November. By 1 January 2010, they are expected to reach $5 billion which will create a good basis for securing the stability of the national currency.

    The President was informed that the MF mission completed its work in Belarus to survey Belarus’ performance under the SBA. As of 1 October 2009 the National Bank implemented all necessary measures to secure successful fulfillment of the Stand-By Arrangement. The IMF Executive Board will soon review the results of the work. “We are confident that another tranche of the IMF loan will be transferred in December,” said Piotr Prokopovich. This will improve the situation in the country, including the one with the gold and foreign currency reserves.

    The banking system provides the necessary amount of financing to the national economy.

    The National Bank is working on improving the interest rate policy. “We have reached an agreement on the IMF that we can start reducing the refinancing rate. We plan to reduce the rate of refinancing by 0.5% to 13.5% per annum on 1 December,” Piotr Prokopovich said. He also assured that in H1 2010 the interest rates on the Belarusian market will reduce to the pre-crisis level.

    The President tasked the National Bank with doing its best to fulfill this year’s Major Monetary Management Guidelines and said he would like the NBRB and the government to finish working out the draft forecast for Belarus’ social and economic development in 2010 soon along with the budget bill and the draft Major Monetary Management Guidelines. Piotr Prokopovich remarked that the President’s instructions regarding these documents had been fulfilled and the documents will be forwarded for consideration of the head of state by 23 November at the latest. The final decision on the documents is supposed to be made next week. “It is very important for us to receive the next year’s social and economic development forecast as well as the Major Monetary Management Guidelines in order to start working on fulfilling them as soon as possible,” said the NBRB head.

    The documents are supposed to lay down figures to secure the fulfillment of the five-year program on the social and economic development of Belarus in 2006-2010. In particular, in 2010 Belarus’ GDP is supposed to increase by at least 11% while inflation is meant to stay at 8-10%.

    Belarus Premier: capital improvement must be stepped up

    From: BelTA
    Capital improvement efforts must be largely stepped up to make Belarus a better place to live. The statement was made by Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky at a plenary session of the committee tasked with holding the Native Land Year. Held in Lida on 18 November, the session also involved Vice Premier Ivan Bambiza, Grodno Oblast Governor Vladimir Savchenko, heads of several ministries and agencies involved in the implementation of the Native Land Year.

    The Prime Minister remarked that this year a lot has been done in this area but the efforts must be tripled within a short period of time. “If we claim that all is well, we will not secure results,” believes Sergei Sidorsky. The fulfillment of measures in the National Land Year has unearthed many new issues that need to be addressed. “They cannot be accomplished right now but they must not be dragged out either,” Sergei Sidorsky made it clear.

    In his opinion, waste utilization still needs to be addressed. “The problem of separate waste collection remains topical. We do nothing but talks and pilot schemes so far,” said the Premier. He also reminded about waste utilization in the forestry industry. It is time to build new enterprises to make pellets, which are in demand in Europe.

    Sergei Sidorsky pointed out the importance of resolving the problem of cattle breeding waste conversion. Biogas plants should be installed in livestock breeding complexes for the sake of the maximum use of waste recycling technologies.

    “Everything gets more and more expensive across the globe and should be spent wisely therefore,” underscored the head of government. He gave instructions to put together certain standards to assess the performance of executives in this area.

    An extensive program will have yet to be implemented to develop Belarus’ motorway service. At present there are 1,500 motorway service outlets in the country while another 550 are needed. Investors should be attracted into this business, with favorable terms granted.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Over 160 scientists to convene in Mogilev for Romanov Readings conference

    From: BelTA
    Mogilev will host the VI international scientific conference Romanov Readings on 19-20 November. The conference is timed to the 75th anniversary of the History Department of the A. Kuleshov State University of Mogilev, BelTA learned from Associate Professor Igor Marzalyuk, Head of the Archeology and Special History Disciplines Chair of the university.

    Over 160 scientists and specialists from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine are expected to deliver their reports at the plenary session and ten panel sessions of the forum. The reports will focus on the history of civilizations, archaeology, ethnic history and ethnography of the Slavs, genesis of Eastern Slavic towns, source-related problems of the Belarus history, social and philosophical problems of education, establishment and development of education and science systems, modern aspects of Belarus’ ethnocultural history, topical problems of linguistics and literature studies and other matters. The best reports will be compiled as a book.

    Yevdokim Romanovich Romanov was born in the town of Novo-Belitsa, Mogilev province, on 11 September 1855. He was an outstanding Belarusian ethnographer, archaeologist, historian, folk lore and local lore specialist, pedagogue, one of the founders of the Belarusian humanitarian science. Author of over 200 research papers, he was focused on the original national culture of the Belarusian people, who has the right to self-determination.

    Writers of Belarus and Russia to found creative union

    Writers of Belarus and Russia are planning to found a creative union, BelTA learnt from Chairman of the Writers’ Union of Belarus Nikolai Cherginets.

    Representative of the writers’ community of Belarus and Russia will consider the opportunity of creating the union during a meeting in Minsk on 4 December. Attending the meeting will be famous Russian writers Valentin Rasputin, Aleksei Isaev, and many others.

    The writers will discuss a draft statute of the Writers’ Union of Belarus and Russia, elect board members and two co-chairmen. The writer of Belarus and Russia are planning to discuss a problem of reading neglect in favor of watching TV programs, creating an image of modern writers and bringing reading back in vogue.

    At present the Writers’ Union of Belarus includes twelve sections of prose, poetry, journalism, humor and satire, drama, literary critics, adventures and fantasy, ethnography, children’s literature, military and patriotic literature, Slavonic literature and translation.

    Vitebsk hosts international festival of modern choreography

    The 22nd International Festival of Modern Choreography (IFMC) started in Vitebsk on 18 November.

    According to the modern dance experts, IFMC is one of the most prestigious dance festivals in the CIS. Apart from the performances of famous choreographic groups it includes a contest program. Traditionally, the international contest alternates with the national one. Nine choreographic groups from Minsk, Grodno and Vitebsk are invited to take part in the contest.

    The jury of the contest chaired by Valentin Elizaryev, the people’s artist of the USSR and Belarus, choreographer, professor of the Academy of Music of Belarus, includes famous choreographers such as Dittmar Seifert, Honorary Chairman of the UNESCO International Dance Council (CID), dean of the directing faculty of Berlin Drama and Dance University, winner of the Golden Mask National Theatre Award of Russia, and Sergei Smirnov, art director of Ekstsentrik Ballet dance group. Assisting the jury will be members of the expert council headed by Larisa Barykina, ballet critic, music theatre analyst, member of the jury of Golden Mask National Theatre Award of Russia.

    The international jury will estimate the dancers in five nominations: Best Staging, Performing Skill, Artistic Skill, Traditions and Innovation, Postscript. The winner of Postscript nomination will be decided by the jury jointly with the members of the expert council.

    Attending the festival will be Ulvi Azizov (the Latvian National Opera), the Ballet of Evgeny Panphilov from Perm (Russia), Ekstsentrik Ballet of Sergey Smirnov and dancers and dance bands from Poland, Ukraine and Estonia.

    The program of the forum includes master classes, displays of films. Organizers of the festival aim at promoting Belarusian modern choreography. They have arranged meetings of the Belarusian dance teams with the representatives of Artbale Polish Association of the Promotion of Cultural Education and Art, Dusseldorf International Dance Fair, the Lithuanian Centre for Information and Modern Dance. Closing of the festival will be held on 21 November.

    The International Festival of Modern Choreography in Vitebsk held since 1987 was founded by the Vitebsk oblast executive committee, the Vitebsk town executive committee, the Culture Ministry, the National Academic Big Theatre of Opera and Ballet. The organizer of the festival is Vitebsk Culture Centre.

  • Economics...

    IMF mission completes third review of stand-by arrangement in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    A mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reached an agreement with Belarus regarding the completion of the third review of the stand-by arrangement fulfillment, BelTA learned from representatives of the IMF Office in Belarus.

    Led by Chris Jarvis, the IMF mission stayed in Minsk on 10-19 November to hold discussions with Belarusian authorities regarding Belarus’ fulfillment of the stand-by arrangement.

    At the end of the visit Chris Jarvis made an announcement: “An IMF staff mission and the Belarusian authorities have reached agreement, subject to approval by the IMF Executive Board, on the completion of the third review of the SBA with Belarus. The third review would be considered by the IMF Executive Board in late December. Upon completion of the review, an amount of SDR437.93 million (close to $700 million) would become available for disbursement”.

    Chris Jarvis remarked that performance under the economic program supported by the SBA had been good. All end-September performance criteria and structural benchmarks were met. The agreement reached on the macroeconomic framework for 2010 would help achieving program objectives. Prudent fiscal and monetary policies would narrow the current account deficit and bring inflation to single digits. The monetary policy would continue to support the credibility of the exchange rate regime. Disciplined wage policy would improve Belarus’ competitiveness and prospects for economic growth, as the global economy returns to growth. Social policies aim at providing adequate social safety to the most vulnerable groups of the population.

    The mission and the authorities also discussed the issues that would strengthen the financial system and the independence of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus. Consultations on the focus and the sequence of structural reforms could form the basis for a follow-up program after the expiration of the current program in April 2010, stressed representatives of the IMF Office in Belarus.

    The 15-month SDR1.62 billion (about $2.46 billion) arrangement was approved by the IMF Executive Board on 12 January 2009. The IMF financial support under the SBA was increased to SDR2.27 billion (about $3.52 billion) on 29 June 2009.

    Belarus’ retail trade up 2.6% in January-October

    In January-October 2009 the Belarusian retail trade including public catering totaled Br45.4 trillion, up 2.6% in comparable prices over the same period last year, BelTA learnt from the National Statistics Committee.

    Over the period the retail trade turnover made up Br43.2 trillion, up 2.8% from January-September 2008, public catering organizations – Br2.2 trillion, up 2.8%.

    The retail turnover of trade organizations including public catering grew 2.5% to Br32.7 trillion in January-October this year. Indigenously-made goods accounted for 79.1% of the retail trade turnover, including 86.7% of foodstuffs and 68.3% of nonfoods.

    Staples accounted for 50.4% of the retail trade, nonfoods – 49.6% (49.4% and 50.6% respectively during the same period of 2008).

    On the whole in January-October 2009 the sales of foodstuffs amounted to Br22.9 trillion, nonfoods – Br22.5 trillion.

    In January-October trade organizations sold Br14 trillion worth of nonfoods, 62% of the total sales of nonfoods.

    Over 40 companies from Belarus to attend CIS agricultural forum in Ashkhabad

    More than 40 Belarusian companies will participate in the National Expo of Belarus at the Agricultural Forum of the CIS countries in Ashkhabad on 25-27 November, BelTA learnt from Yelena Musenkova, leading specialist of the Belinterexpo company.

    The list of Belarusian participants features such companies as Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ trademark), Minsk Tractor Plant (MTZ), Belshina, Gomselmash, Lidagroprommash, Lidselmash, Amkodor and Bobruiskagromash, Bellakt, Spartak confectionary, the Slutsk sugar refining plant, the Bereza meat-packing factory, the Novogrudok butter-making plant, the Osipovichi dairy, Orshasyrzavod cheese-making facility and others. A separate booth will showcase technologies and scientific achievements of the Belarusian universities and academic institutions including the Metolit technological cluster of the Belarusian National Technical University, the Belarusian State University, the Gomel Skorina State University, the Belarusian State University of Transport and the Vitebsk State Technological University. The companies of the Bellegprom concern such as BELFA (Zhlobin), Lenta, Mogotex, the headwear factory Liudmila and others will also expose their products.

    Visitors will be able to get acquainted with services and products of the Belarusian producers in mechanical engineering, agriculture, transport, metallurgy, surface engineering of materials, ecology and others. The participation of the Belarusian companies in this forum will give Belarus the opportunity to establish new contacts with business community of Turkmenistan and expand the export geography.

    The CIS agricultural forum is organized by the government and Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Turkmenistan. The exposition of agricultural products, farm machinery and advanced manufacturing technologies will be presented in sections such as farm machinery, mineral fertilizers, seed farming, grain growing, flour, bread and macaroni manufactories, cotton growing, cotton processing, water industry, land reclamation, irrigation and rational water consumption, ecology, forestry, landscape gardening, flower growing, wine growing and making, confectionery and sugar manufactories, dairy and meat and fat and oil industries.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Long-isolated Belarus appeals to foreign investors

    From: EU Business
    Belarus could become a gateway for businesses that want to break into the vast Russian market
    Scorned as Europe's last dictatorship, ranked dismally by rating agencies and possessing few natural resources, Belarus has struggled to attract foreign investors.

    But now, in a push to revive its cash-strapped economy and lessen its dependence on Russia, the reclusive state is seeking to open up to the West and overturn its image as "the last remaining true dictatorship in Europe," a label used by former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

    At an economic forum in the capital Minsk this month, potential investors praised the country's plans to form a new customs union with Russia and Kazakhstan from July 2010.

    As part of the bloc of ex-Soviet states, Belarus could become a gateway for businesses that want to break into the vast Russian market but are deterred by Russia's corruption and red tape, they said.

    Unlike neighbouring Ukraine, Belarus has remained relatively insulated from the global financial crisis and offers investors a measure of political stability under strongman Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994.

    Other advantages touted by officials include the country's pool of skilled labour and its developed infrastructure, as well as recent efforts to ease investment barriers by reducing taxes and reforming property rights.

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) last month praised Belarus' fiscal policies and response to the crisis, saying that authorities had also made progress on reforms to develop the private sector.

    Nevertheless, the reclusive state of 10 million people only has an economy the size of Sudan's. It is one of the world's lowest-rated countries according to Moody's and Standards and Poor's ratings agencies.

    The state still controls some 75 percent of the economy, with investors complaining of heavy-handed bureaucracy, a complex tax system and price controls.

    International businessmen were upbeat at the forum, however. They stressed the importance of the proposed customs union in eliminating trade barriers.

    "The customs union will make things easier. This will turn into a large domestic market," Gerhard Hoesl, who heads German engineering giant Siemens in Belarus, told AFP.

    "This will help Belarus a great deal," he added, comparing the role of the anticipated customs union to that of the EU economic bloc.

    The potential of the new customs union is being underestimated by the West, Dutch businessman Hennie Kuijken said: "Nobody realizes what will happen here in a short time."

    For its part, Belarus is doing its utmost to publicize the impending deal. The executive secretary of the customs union, Sergei Glazyev, said the new bloc would increase the countries' gross domestic product by 19 percent by 2015.

    Nonetheless, Belarus will find it difficult to transform its image as long as its economy remains predominantly under state control and opposition protests are regularly crushed by riot police.

    Belarus Plans Debut Bond, Follows Russia, Kazakhstan

    From: Bloomburg
    Belarus’s government is seeking bids from banks to manage its first sale of international bonds, joining former Soviet republics Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine in preparing for foreign debt sales next year.

    “We are open to offers from potential lead managers,” Pavel Ladik, an aide to Belarus Finance Minister Andrei Kharkovets, said in a phone interview from Minsk today. “We are thinking about a placement next year and we know investors are actively interested.”

    Belarus, a country of 10 million people with an economy the size of Sudan’s, is rated B1, four levels below investment grade, by Moody’s Investors Service, and an equivalent B+ by Standard & Poor’s, the same level as Bosnia & Herzegovina and Ghana. Belarus is already talking with OAO Sberbank, Russia’s biggest lender, about helping with the sale, Ladik said, declining to estimate the size of the offering.

    Neighboring Russia, Belarus’s biggest trading partner, sent officials to London this month to gauge investor interest in the sale of as much as $18 billion of bonds next year to help plug its budget gap. Ukraine, another Belarus neighbor, has said it may seek to raise about $2 billion abroad next year, when it expects to have a 4 percent budget deficit. Kazakhstan plans to borrow about $500 million next year.

    Russia hasn’t offered new foreign debt since 1998, while Kazakhstan last sold an international bond in 2000. Ukraine sold $700 million of 10-year notes in 2007.

    IMF Bailout

    Sri Lanka, which is rated one level lower than Belarus at B by Standard & Poor’s, sold $500 million of five-year notes last month at a yield of 7.4 percent, Bloomberg data show. The yield has since dropped to 6.8 percent.

    The government of Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has run Belarus since 1994, shelved plans to issue Eurobonds last November, citing the global financial turmoil. The country borrowed $2.23 billion from the International Monetary Fund to meet spending commitments after export revenue tumbled.

    Belarus’s international reserves, calculated using IMF methodology, rose to $4.43 billion as of Nov. 1 after the fund transferred its third, $700 million, portion to the country last month.

    “The market in general is positive to CIS and other emerging-market risk at the moment,” said Marina Vlasenko, a credit analyst at Commerzbank AG in London. “Belarus is very underleveraged and not represented in the market, so I think there will be a lot of interest for a sale.”

    Belarus might seek 250 million euros ($370 million) to 300 million euros because raising a smaller amount “will make no sense,” Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Kobyakov said, according to an Interfax report today.

    Kokoity 'anticipates' Belarus to recognize South Ossetia

    From: RIA Novosti
    South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity said the former Georgian republic "anticipates" its recognition by Belarus, but "does not insist" on an immediate decision.

    "We are tied by a long history of friendship... we have much in common, in culture, traditions and faith... but we clearly realize the position of Belarus, which is expected by everybody to make a decision," Kokoity said during a meeting with a delegation of Belarusian members of parliament.

    The Belarusian officials arrived in Georgia on Wednesday in order to study the situation on the ground and to better consider Abkhazia and South Ossetia's request for Minsk to recognize their independence.

    "We are not insisting the process be sped up, you should make the decision yourself," Kokoity said, adding "the main thing is to develop inter-parliamentary and inter-government cooperation."

    "There are different forms of recognition [of a country's independence], but we will anticipate an official recognition. It is a matter of crucial importance for our people," he said.

    During their stay in Georgia, the Belarusian delegation met with representatives of the Georgian opposition, the country's parliamentary speaker David Bakradze and Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze.

    On Thursday, Belarusian MPs visited a camp for displaced people at Georgia's borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Parliamentary national security chairman Viktor Guminsky described their living conditions as "terrible".

    "In a civilized world such things should not happen," he told Georgia's Rustavi-2 TV channel.

    "We will provide the Belarusian people and parliament with objective information about what we have seen and heard here," he said.

    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. Abkhazia and South Ossetia have also been recognized by Nicaragua and Venezuela.

    Abkhazia and South Ossetia asked Belarus to recognize their independence last year. However, Belarus has so far refused to join Russia in recognizing the republics.

    Under mutual assistance treaties signed last November, Russia pledged to help South Ossetia and Abkhazia protect their borders, and the signatories granted each other the right to set up military bases in their respective territories.

    Last week, Peru's opposition party submitted a proposal to the Peruvian Congress to recognize the former Georgian republics as independent. Party leader Ollanta Humala said the party is currently holding talks with various political forces and parliamentary blocs to win their support.

    IMF experts praise Belarus’ economic policy

    From: Navany
    The International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s experts have described as “good” the Belarusian government’s performance under an economic program supported by the organization’s stand-by loan arrangement with the country, BelaPAN said.

    An IMF team stayed in Belarus between November 10 and 19 to study the implementation of the economic program tied to the IMF’s loan for the country.

    In a statement issued as a result of the visit, Chris Jarvis, head of the team, said that the Belarusian government had met all “performance criteria and structural benchmarks.” “The agreement reached on the macroeconomic framework for 2010 would help achieving program objectives,” the statement said.

    Mr. Jarvis noted that “prudent fiscal and monetary policies would narrow the current account deficit and bring inflation to single digits,” while “monetary policy would continue to support the credibility of the exchange rate regime.”

    The IMF expert said that “disciplined wage policy would improve Belarus’ competitiveness and prospects for economic growth, as the global economy returns to growth.” “Social policies aim at providing adequate social safety to the most vulnerable groups of population,” he said.

    The IMF experts and the Belarusian authorities also discussed “the issues that would strengthen the financial system and the independence” of the National Bank of Belarus, according to the statement.

    Mr. Jarvis announced that the third review of the stand-by arrangement would be considered by the IMF Executive Board in late December. Upon completion of the review, the IMF is to make available a loan tranche of $700 million, he said.

    In late 2008, the IMF agreed to lend Belarus $2.46 billion. Belarus requested the loan in October 2008, saying that it was needed for replenishing the country’s gold and foreign exchange reserves amid the global financial crisis.

    The international organization made available some $787.9 million in January and said that “the remainder will be phased thereafter, subject to quarterly reviews.”

    The IMF Executive Board on June 29 increased the amount of the loan for Belarus to about $3.52 billion, and approved the disbursement of the second tranche, $679.2 million, to the country.

    The third loan tranche in the amount of $699.5 million was transferred on October 26.

    The IMF has provided a total of $2.23 billion to Belarus under the stand-by arrangement.

    Lithuanian, Belarusian, Ukrainian FMs to discuss cooperation in Kiev

    From: RIA Novosti
    Foreign ministers of Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine will meet in Kiev on November 22-23 in order to discuss cooperation within the framework of the European Union's Eastern Partnership program, a Lithuanian foreign ministry spokesman said.

    During the meeting, Vygaudas Usackas, Sergei Martynov and Petro Poroshenko will focus on the development of joint projects, as well as on energy, transport and cultural cooperation between the three states, the spokesman said.

    He added the ministers will also discuss the possibility of electricity deliveries from Ukraine to Lithuania via the Belarusian electrical network.

    Lithuania is planning to start importing electricity from abroad in 2010, after the Ignalinsk nuclear power station, which produces more than 70% of the country's electricity, is closed in accordance with the EU directive.

    Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland earlier announced their plans to create a combined military unit, in order to boost would-be NATO member Ukraine's ties with the alliance. Lithuania, which joined NATO in 2004, is among the staunchest supporters of ex-Soviet state.

    The Eastern Partnership program, adopted by 27 EU countries in 2008, includes Belarus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova and Georgia and aims to bring these countries in line with EU standards without formal admission to the EU.

    Internal struggle between KGB and Interior Ministry of Belarus to reflect on forthcoming trial

    From: Axis Globe
    Belarusian Minister of the Interior Vladimir Naumov
    Within the next few days a closed court session in Belarus will announce a verdict in the so-called case of policemen-hunters, newspaper Belarusky partizan reports. Several officers of the Ministry of Interior of Belarus, including the former head of the directorate on struggle against corruption, will be strictly punished for hunting in natural preserves. According to magazine Ogonek, they have climbed into another preserve, too, as they were engaged in investigation of corruption cases in the nearest circles of the Belarus President. This also has led to internal war between the Belarus State Security Committee (KGB) and the Ministry of Interior, and still will lead to significant changes among top officials, the magazine writes.

    One of the key figures of the case is former Minister of Interior Vladimir Naumov.

    He was fanatically loyal to President Lukashenko. However he perfectly understood, the more compromising evidence on the closest circle of the President he would report to the boss, the more his own positions become stronger, Belarusky partizan notes. Naumov showed decomposition of the high-ranking officials; he reported all received information on corruption among the top officials to the President and always insisted on acceptance of strict measures.

    One of his mistakes was an attempt to chalk up with the chairman of the Belarus Tennis Federation, founder of the BT Telecommunications company, chairman of Beltexexport company, Vladimir Peftiyev, who is considered now the richest businessman of Belarus. Earlier it was his friendship with the former secretary of the Security Council Viktor Sheiman that secured his influence, now it is provided by affinity to the oldest son of President Lukashenko.

    Lilya Lukashenko, the spouse of Viktor Lukashenko, has been working in one of the key companies of Peftiyev’s business-empire, daily Yezhednevnik notes. The newspaper adds that « some resignations of known security forces officials with whom the businessman could not find common language for longer time, have again made him one of leaders of the Belarus economic establishment». Viktor Lukashenko has found economic base for the projects in Peftiyev’s person, the paper marks.

    Viktor Lukashenko has been leaning on young, but not less arrogant comrades, chairman of the KGB Vadim Zaitsev, chairman of the Border Guard Committee Igor Rachkovsky whose family is close friends of the Lukashenkos. Viktor Lukashenko has appeared extremely arrogant and high-flying, he is characterised as distrustful and vindictive person, Belarusky partizan writes.

    Victor Lukashenko, the adviser of his father on national security issues, has been also supervising a new security service, the Presidential Operative and Analytical Centre. The centre is in fact a new, private security service of the oldest son of the Belarus President, the paper expands. It has incorporated three key directorates of the previous Security Council and is headed by Valery Vakulchik who many years worked as the chief of department of KGB military counterespionage in the Border Guard Service.

    When in 2008, Minister Naumov turned against Peftiyev, the Ministry of Interior brought the first in history of Belarus criminal case on raider seizures of enterprises in Minsk. The suspects who participated in these actions were detained in Russia and all the threads were leading to top officials. Naumov had obviously gone it too far in struggle for clean ranks of the President’s closest circle.

    From this moment the KGB started to openly hunting for Naumov's environment. Major-General Yevgeny Komarnitsky, the vice-chairman of the Border Guard Committee, was arrested for accepting bribes (he was released after Naumov's resignation).

    The President charged his son Viktor Lukashenko to recheck all the facts on raiders’ case. As a result of this check, the main witness of this case was arrested by the KGB for quite another matter and he was sentenced to 7.5 years of imprisonment.

    In February, 2009, Naumov put reciprocal blow on Viktor Lukashenko's environment. The vice-chairman of the KGB Zaretsky and the deputy head of the KGB directorate of Brest area Gromovich were arrested, the chief of the KGB directorate of Brest area Aksyuchich disappeared in Russia. Former KGB head Stepan Sukhorenko and Valery Vakulchik were standing as the following on turn, according to Ministry of Interior investigators.

    In March operatives of the KGB receive a report that Naumov's right hand, the head of department on struggle against corruption Yermakov, had been periodically hunting together with his subordinate, Zhlobino district interior department official Leonid Minenkov. This was the reason for the criminal case against policemen-hunters. The KGB was carrying out total purge of police officials in the Gomel area.

    In reply the Ministry of Interior started the massive attack on security service officers in the area. At the general session of security forces Naumov cursed Zaitsev, Zhadobin and Viktor Lukashenko and threatened to retire. As a result Naumov's subordinates were punished. As Belarusky partizan puts it, the directorate on struggle against corruption of the Ministry of Interior has been crushed, all criminal cases materials against close followers of Viktor Lukashenko have disappeared, more precisely, they have been taken away to the KGB ostensibly for check.

    Now it is Viktor Lukashenko who is the actual head of the security forces of Belarus, the paper marks. Amendments to the Criminal Code have been initiated in the Belarus parliament, which actually abolish institute of public prosecutor's supervision with transfer of corresponding functions to the heads of the KGB, the Ministry of Interior and State Controlling Committee.

  • From the Opposition...

    Buy foreign currency? You’re almost a terrorist!

    From: Charter '97
    The National Bank of Belarus recommends the commercial banks to tight control over operations of individual entrepreneurs when the latter make withdrawals from an account or buy foreign cash.

    “We recommend to turn special attention to systematic financial transactions by individual entrepreneurs on withdrawing proceeds in cash, transferring them to an account or using foreign cash if sums of financial operations do not correspond the type of client’s business,” the says letter of the National Bank to commercial banks, spread by Interfax news agency.

    The National Bank demands that the banks should “inform financial monitoring bodies if the former suspect a financial operation has an aim to legalize proceeds of crime or to finance terroristic activity”.

    The letter added that the reason for tighter control over financial operations by individual entrepreneurs was information from the State Control Committee on buying significant sums of foreign cash by certain individual entrepreneurs. According to the Committee, a businessman withdrew $1.7mn of foreign cash in 2008, though he didn’t imported goods in Belarus.

    According to the State Control Committee, entrepreneurs systematically have been carrying out similar activities in a range of banks in the recent months; the sums transactions amount to from $100,000 to $300,000.

    Israel indignant Lukashenka’s ties with Ahmadinejad

    From: Charter '97
    Israeli authorities state that only Sudan, Venezuela and Belarus with Iranian president now.

    Israeli tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov has recently returned to Israel from his trip to Latin America. He answered questions of, telling about the results of the trip to Brazil and Argentina, and sharing the most vivid impressions.

    Telling about the visit to Brazil, the minister expressed discontent over the visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to this country.

    “On November 15 I witnessed a huge demonstration against Ahmadinejad’s visit to Brazil, organized by Evangelical Christians and Jews. Ahmadinejad has no future, he is in complete isolation… the Brazilian President has told us that he receives Ahmadinejad as, according to him, one should speak primarily with enemies, not with friends. Otherwise Ahmadinejad’s interlocutors would be only leaders of Syria, Belarus and Venezuela. If he is not received by other countries, he would be like a dog held on a leash, which only gets berserk and bites because of that.

    At the same time, it is clear for Brazilians and Argentineans that it is more beneficial to deal with Israel, as Israel represents new world outlook, the new world, which united the civilized countries, including the US and the EU. Iran can represent only itself and a few terrorist organisations. But as Venezuela and Ecuador’s influence is rather strong in Latin America, Brazilian President is trying to put up a good front and says that meetings with Ahmadinejad are necessary in order to try to influence his world outlook.

    As informed earlier, telling about Belarus and its political leader, Israeli mass media emphasized ties of the former Soviet republic with Sudan, Iraq and Iran, which has become a reason for political isolation of this country from the US and the European Union. Thus, in “Haaretz” newspaper of May 26, 2009 it was noted that over the recent months considerably improvement of relations between Minsk and the EU has taken place, however the US still list Belarus among the rogue countries.

    Israeli mass media also remind that more than a year ago an emotional statement of Lukashenka caused tensions between Israel and Belarus. In particular, “dictator-antisemite” stated that “Jews turned Babrujsk into a pigsty”. After that the Israeli ambassador was recalled to Jerusalem for consultations. In a few weeks through a special envoy Lukashenka made an apology for the scandalous statement, the dispute was patched up, and the Israeli Ambassador returned to Minsk.

    At the same time, reports about demolition of synagogues in Belarus still appear in the press. Thus, recently local authorities in Lyuban destroyed a wooden synagogue, despite of the protests of local dwellers. Before that Yakov Gutman, the Chairman of the World Association of Belarusian Jewry, called upon Alyaksandr Lukashenka to stop destroying of the synagogue of the beginning of the 20t century in the town of Lyuban Minsk region immediately. However, despite of that, the synagogue was destroyed.

    Death convict Andrei Zhuk pleas for mercy

    From: Viasna
    Andrei Zhuk, sentenced to death for alleged murder of two persons, has lodged a plea for mercy with President Lukashenka. This is his last and only chance.

    Belarusian human rights activists believe that Andrei Zhuk should be pardoned. ‘We, as human rights defenders, call upon the Belarusian authorities to display humanism. Andrei Zhuk’s family have also addressed the President with a plea for mercy.

    Albeit lacking any legal effect, we do hope their appeal will be taken into consideration by the authorities, too,’ said Viasna’s lawyer Valiantsin Stefanovich.
    According to the human rights activist, Zhuk’s pardon could be a step towards the declaration of a moratorium on the death penalty in Belarus.

    ‘Zhuk’s pardon would be a good precondition for the declaration of a moratorium on the death penalty, and Belarus could make an efficient step towards the improvement of its contacts with the European Union and the Council of Europe. Since the Council of Europe expects Belarus to declare a moratorium, European officials could be ready to consider the issue of restoring the Special Guest Status of Belarus, frozen back in 1996. We once again call upon the Belarusian authorities to declare a moratorium on the death penalty,’ said Mr. Stefanovich.

    Russia’s Constitutional Court bans death penalty

    The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation has ruled to declare that the death penalty cannot be used even after the termination of the moratorium, the Interfax news agency reports.
    The moratorium on the death penalty expires on 1 January 2010, together with the introduction of the jury trial in Russia’s last region – Chechen Republic. After that there would be no formal obstacles for using the death penalty in Russia. However, the Constitutional Court stresses that the introduction of the jury trial in Russia does not allow for the use of the death penalty.

  • Russia...

    Medvedev Says ‘Backwardness’ Undermines Party

    From: New York Times
    Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev spoke at the opening of the United Russia party congress in St. Petersburg on Saturday.
    President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia accused the governing party, United Russia, of “backwardness” on Saturday, warning its leaders that they must learn to win elections honestly if it is to survive.

    Mr. Medvedev’s remarks, at the party’s annual congress in St. Petersburg, were his most direct criticism of the party yet since it swept regional elections last month amid accusations of widespread fraud.

    Some regional branches of the party “show signs of this backwardness and reduce political activities to bureaucratic intrigues and games,” he said, adding, “Elections, which are intended to express the national will and present competing ideas and programs, are sometimes turned into scenarios in which democratic processes are confused with administrative ones.”

    He continued, “It is necessary to get rid of such people, and of bad political habits as well.”

    United Russia is led by Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, the former president who handpicked Mr. Medvedev as his successor nearly two years ago and is still widely considered the stronger leader.

    Mr. Medvedev’s speeches have taken an increasingly harsh tone toward Putin-era policies, and though the words have been backed up by little in the way of concrete policy, some speculate that the president is challenging his mentor. It is not yet clear whether Mr. Putin will run for the presidency again in 2012.

    Mr. Putin, also speaking at the congress, seemed eager to quiet the chatter about any disagreement by endorsing Mr. Medvedev’s recent state of the nation speech, which called for Russia to modernize its economy and break free of its economic dependence on oil and gas.

    “I am sure this call reflects the mood of all Russian society,” Mr. Putin said Saturday. “The crisis, with all its severity, has shown how costly it is for a country to reject innovation, have low worker productivity, waste resources and have a slow bureaucracy.”

    United Russia’s dominance of Russian politics has grown as the opposition has dwindled away, and many compare its clout to that of the Soviet-era Communist Party.

    After United Russia swept regional elections on Oct. 11, there were widespread complaints about ballot-stuffing and accusations of extensive fraud, but Mr. Medvedev had been muted in his comments until Saturday, when he told members of his party that they “need to learn to win in open contests.”

    “Democracy exists so that people can exercise their exclusive right to determine their government, to decide how their country is to be ruled, and the party is only an instrument,” Mr. Medvedev said. “A very important instrument, it’s true, an absolutely necessary one, but only a tool, a means to an end.”

    Russia's Gorbachev considers political comeback

    From: AP
    Mikhail Gorbachev
    Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev criticized Kremlin policies Friday and toyed with the ambitious idea of attempting a political comeback.

    Gorbachev said that corruption and overdependence on oil exports have aggravated the impact of the global economic crisis on Russia. He urged President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to restructure the economy, cut down government spending and ensure political freedoms.

    But he also suggested everyday Russians must shake their reliance on government largesse that has been boosted by energy price hikes during the past decade.

    "We have paternalistic expectations of government support," he told a conference at his charitable foundation. "The price of oil has gone up a little bit, and we're saying that life is back to normal."

    Gorbachev said his concerns about Russia are prompting him to consider a more active role in politics.

    "What I have said motivates me to create a political force that could oppose, that could pose questions," he said. "Evidently there is a need for it, and we should initiate it."

    He spoke hesitantly, however, and seemed to acknowledge he would have a hard time winning active backing, even from like-minded people.

    "Even those sitting here, I am sure no more than 10 per cent will say there is a need to act," Gorbachev said. "It's a personal choice, so make up your mind."

    Gorbachev, 78, remains popular abroad for the role he played in ending the Cold War and liberating Eastern Europe from Moscow's grip. He was cheered enthusiastically by Germans this month at celebrations commemorating the 20th anniversary of Berlin Wall's fall.

    But he is disliked by many Russians who blame him for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the years of social and economic turmoil that followed it.

    Gorbachev has maintained a relatively low profile since stepping down as Soviet president in 1991 as the country disintegrated, and his political ventures have little success. In 2001, he helped found the Social Democratic Party of Russia, but resigned three years later in a dispute among its leaders about working more closely with the dominant Kremlin-backed party, United Russia.

    The Social Democratic Party later was one of several ordered closed by the Supreme Court under new registration rules critics said were intended to help the Kremlin consolidate power. In 2007, Gorbachev was elected head of the Union of Social Democrats, which was formed with the goal of challenging the Kremlin, but its emergence went widely unnoticed.

    Masked Gunman Kills Russian Priest At Moscow Church

    From: New York Times
    The Russian Orthodox priest Daniil Sysoyev, 35, was shot by a masked gunman
    A masked gunman entered a church and murdered a Russian Orthodox priest who had received death threats for converting Muslims to Christianity and criticizing Islam, prosecutors and church officials said Friday.

    The killing could threaten delicate relations between the powerful majority Russian Orthodox Church, which has close ties to the Kremlin, and the country's growing Muslim minority of about 20 million.

    The gunman approached priest Daniil Sysoyev, 34, in St Thomas Church in southern Moscow Thursday night, checked his name and then opened fire with a pistol, a spokesman for the investigating committee of the Prosecutor-General's office said.

    "The main theory is that religious motives are behind the crime," spokesman Anatoly Bagmet said.

    Sysoyev died on the way to hospital. His choirmaster was injured in the attack, Bagmet said, and is in hospital under armed guard.

    Sysoyev was from Tatarstan, a predominantly Muslim region of Russia on the Volga river. He was threatened after preaching to Muslims and Christians from other denominations.

    "I have received 10 threats via e-mail that I shall have my head cut off (if I do not stop preaching to Muslims)," Sysoyev stated on a television program in February 2008, according to Interfax. "As I see it, it is a sin not to preach to Muslims."

    Russia is home to Europe's largest Muslim community and Islam is the country's second-biggest faith, something which Sysoyev criticized.

    "Islam is far from being a religion in the way we understand it," he said in one of his video lectures posted on YouTube (

    "Islam can be rather compared with projects like National Socialism or the Communist party seeking to create God's kingdom on Earth using humanly instruments," he added.

    He also wrote books including "An Orthodox Response to Islam" and "Marrying a Muslim," in which he advised Russian women against taking a Muslim partner.

    Russia has seen a religious revival after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dominant Orthodox Church has become an important political force. Its leader, Patriarch Kirill, is frequently seen in public with Russian and foreign leaders.

    But Orthodox bishops have complained that rival Christian denominations are seeking to make converts on its territory and Islam is spreading fast among a sprawling community of migrants from predominantly Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union.

    The Russian Patriarch's press service refused to comment on the murder but some of Sysoyev's Orthodox colleagues referred to Muslim attacks on him prior to the killing.

    "Father Daniil ... has been periodically receiving e-mails which said he will be treated as 'infidel' if he did not stop polemics with Muslims," Kiril Frolov, the head of the Orthodox Experts Association, told Interfax news agency.

    Russia's Chief Mufti Ravil Gainuddin expressed his condolences to the Orthodox Church and to Sysoyev's family. He cautioned against assigning blame prematurely or speculating about the motives for the killing.

    "We want to say that we oppose any expressions of terrorism and extremism," he told reporters. "Islam denounces terror and the murder of an imam, an orthodox priest, is an awful sin..."

    Sysoyev also preached against small religious groupings such as Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses, viewed as "totalitarian sects" by the Orthodox Church.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Poland Parliament Approves Gambling Ban

    From: www.casinogamblingweb
    Add Poland to the list of countries that has now banned Internet gambling. A new bill has passed parliament that will ban gambling everywhere outside of casinos. The bill came about after a major government scandal involving gambling.

    The government had originally been in the process of raising taxes at casinos in Poland. There were claims that several members of Prime Minister Donald Tusk's administration was involved in attempting to thwart the process because of their ties to the gambling industry.

    In response to the allegations, Tusk immediately began to push for a change in the gambling laws in the country. The prime minister had to ensure that he regained the trust of the people of Poland, and he has now succeeded by limiting their gambling options.

    Slot machines in bars and malls appear to be the target of the new bill. It is projected that over 50,000 machines will be taken out of these locations, a major blow to businesses that rely on the games as another form of income.

    Internet gambling will also be affected. Operations that re licensed in other countries will be losing Polish customers. Several of these operations have already called for the European Union to look into the new laws in Poland.

    Poland joins the US as countries who have tried to ban Internet gambling. In the US, however, many lawmakers are working towards regulating the online gambling industry instead of criminalizing people who enjoy Internet gambling.

    Link into deaths of two Polish men probed by police

    From: Belafast Telegraph
    Detectives were today investigating a possible link between the deaths of two Polish men in Belfast.

    A murder probe was launched following the discovery of a man’s body at a house at Ardenvohr Street in the east of the city around 5.40pm yesterday.

    A post mortem is due to be carried out later to establish the exact cause of death. The victim’s name has not yet been released.

    An inquiry is also under way into the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of a second Polish man, whose body was discovered at a building under construction near Custom House Square in the city centre yesterday morning.

    Police have not released his name either, however it is understood both men lived at the same address.

    A spokeswoman for the PSNI confirmed that they were looking into the possibility of a connection between the murder and the sudden death.

    Local councillor Jim Rodgers described the news as “absolutely dreadful”.

    “My thoughts and prayers go out to the families at this time,” he said.

    “I hope the public can come forward and help the police with their inquiries.”

    Polish Pirate Disc Factory Raided By Italian Police

    From: Top 40 Charts
    Italian police have announced they raided a factory that manufactured counterfeit optical discs intended for export around Europe.
    The Bologna-based plant raided by the Italian Fiscal Police (GdF) produced unlicensed box sets that contained music, film and television programmes. The Italian raid followed industry investigations in countries across Europe into the sale of the 12-disc unlicensed box set Masterbox, which contained music by international artists such as Bob Dylan, Depeche Mode, Eminem, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Tiziano Ferro.

    Masterbox box sets had previously been manufactured in Poland, but the operation moved to

    Italy following raids by Polish police in February 2009.
    At that point, nine million copyright
    infringing albums in total were estimated to have been distributed around Europe, with an estimated trade value of around €19 million being put on the previous 15 editions of the box set series produced in the plant.

    The operators of this profitable criminal enterprise sought to relocate after the Polish raids. Investigators from IFPI, which represents the recording industry worldwide and FPM, the local industry anti-piracy group, worked together when it was discovered that after a gap of a few months the manufacturing operation had been shifted to Bologna.

    FPM worked with the Italian Fiscal Police to investigate the manufacturing plant that was producing new editions of the Masterbox series, while IFPI coordinated industry enquiries across Europe in support of the official investigation.

    A forensic expert from IFPI's specialised London laboratory travelled to Italy to provide support for the Fiscal Police during the action and in their post-raid enquiries. More than 80,000 discs, more than half of which were hidden in waste disposal sacks, were seized in the raid along with a manufacturing line, printing equipment and stampers.

    Jeremy Banks, director, anti-piracy at IFPI, says: 'This investigation highlights the international reach and resources available to the criminals responsible for this pirate release. The Masterbox series distributed in Europe is a classic example of a criminal enterprise involved in the lucrative business of copyright infringement.

    'The music industry will continue to be vigilant and work internationally and locally in partnership with law enforcement to protect its rights. The Italian Fiscal Police have done a magnificent job taking decisive action and sending a strong message that they will actively investigate these types of offences.'

    Undocumented immigrant from Poland arrested in store killing

    From: North
    An undocumented immigrant from Poland was charged with murder Friday in the fatal January shooting of a clerk at a Garfield convenience store, authorities said.

    An undocumented immigrant from Poland was charged with murder Friday in the fatal January shooting of a clerk at a Garfield convenience store, authorities said.

    Krzysztof A. Jastrzebski made his first appearance in Superior Court, Hackensack, on Friday, about 10 months after the shooting of Ahmad Alsurakhi.

    Prosecutors say Jastrzebski, 39, entered Billy’s Deli on MacArthur Avenue on Jan. 24 with a semiautomatic handgun and shot the 30-year-old Alsurakhi, whose father owns the store, according to prosecutors.

    A customer discovered the body of Alsurakhi, a quiet man who was considered polite and friendly with customers at his family’s two delis, lying on the floor behind the counter.

    Mohammed Alsurakhi said he visited his son’s grave site in Paterson to share the news of the arrest.

    "I go tell him police catch the guy and I tell him to be relaxing in his grave," he said.

    Alsurakhi, who visits his son’s grave site every day, said he wished New Jersey still had the death penalty.

    "I feel sad … from my son’s killing to now," he said.

    It’s not known how much money was taken from the store, but cash was missing from the register, prosecutors said. Authorities described the killing as a botched robbery.

    While detectives pursued numerous leads after the shooting, the case remained unsolved.

    Recently, the focus of the investigation turned to Jastrzebski after detectives learned through witnesses that he had committed a burglary on Shaw Street in Garfield on Jan.14 and took cash, jewelry and a semiautomatic handgun.

    At the time of the burglary, he was living down the street from Billy’s Deli, authorities said.

    They also discovered that hours before the murder he had shot a firearm in an Elizabeth Street apartment, missing his intended victim, prosecutors said.

    Prosecutors said they believe he used the stolen handgun from the Shaw Street burglary in the killing.

    Investigators found Jastrzebski in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because of an immigration violation. He was initially arrested Wednesday on aggravated assault and weapons charges related to the Elizabeth Street incident.

    He has since been charged with murder, felony murder, armed robbery and weapons offenses. For the Shaw Street burglary, he’s charged with armed burglary and two counts of theft.

    With the assistance of a Polish interpreter, Jastrzebski, who used crutches because his leg is broken, entered a plea of not guilty to the charges in state Superior Court Friday afternoon.

    Bail was set by Judge Harry G. Carroll at $1.2 million.

    Defense Attorney Michelle Blake-Smith told the judge she would pursue a bail reduction hearing.

    Alsurakhi came to the United States in February 2007 and lived in Lodi above his family’s Station One convenience store. He had planned to return to Jordan to marry his fiancée and bring her to the United States.

    Krzysztof A. Jastrzebski made his first appearance in Superior Court, Hackensack, on Friday, about 10 months after the shooting of Ahmad Alsurakhi.

    Prosecutors say Jastrzebski, 39, entered Billy’s Deli on MacArthur Avenue on Jan. 24 with a semiautomatic handgun and shot the 30-year-old Alsurakhi, whose father owns the store, according to prosecutors.

    A customer discovered the body of Alsurakhi, a quiet man who was considered polite and friendly with customers at his family’s two delis, lying on the floor behind the counter.

    Mohammed Alsurakhi said he visited his son’s grave site in Paterson to share the news of the arrest.

    "I go tell him police catch the guy and I tell him to be relaxing in his grave," he said.

    Alsurakhi, who visits his son’s grave site every day, said he wished New Jersey still had the death penalty.

    "I feel sad … from my son’s killing to now," he said.

    It’s not known how much money was taken from the store, but cash was missing from the register, prosecutors said. Authorities described the killing as a botched robbery.

    While detectives pursued numerous leads after the shooting, the case remained unsolved.

    Recently, the focus of the investigation turned to Jastrzebski after detectives learned through witnesses that he had committed a burglary on Shaw Street in Garfield on Jan.14 and took cash, jewelry and a semiautomatic handgun.

    At the time of the burglary, he was living down the street from Billy’s Deli, authorities said.

    They also discovered that hours before the murder he had shot a firearm in an Elizabeth Street apartment, missing his intended victim, prosecutors said.

    Prosecutors said they believe he used the stolen handgun from the Shaw Street burglary in the killing.

    Investigators found Jastrzebski in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because of an immigration violation. He was initially arrested Wednesday on aggravated assault and weapons charges related to the Elizabeth Street incident.

    He has since been charged with murder, felony murder, armed robbery and weapons offenses. For the Shaw Street burglary, he’s charged with armed burglary and two counts of theft.

    With the assistance of a Polish interpreter, Jastrzebski, who used crutches because his leg is broken, entered a plea of not guilty to the charges in state Superior Court Friday afternoon.

    Bail was set by Judge Harry G. Carroll at $1.2 million.

    Defense Attorney Michelle Blake-Smith told the judge she would pursue a bail reduction hearing.

    Alsurakhi came to the United States in February 2007 and lived in Lodi above his family’s Station One convenience store. He had planned to return to Jordan to marry his fiancée and bring her to the United States.

  • Sport...

    Nepal and Belarus join IKF

    From: International Korfball Federation
    The newly established Korfball Federations in Nepal and Belarus joined the International Korfball Federation following admission by the IKF General Meeting. Nepal has already been active internationally by participating in the Asian Championship. Development work in Nepal has been conducted by the Korfball Federation of India. In Belarus, recently an extensive course has taken place, and interest in the school system is huge. Development work in Belarus has been conducted by the Russian Korfball Federation. As a certified English translation of the statutes did not meet the deadline for the meeting's paperwork, the admisison of Belarus is subject to this translation being submitted and meeting the IKF requirements.

    In other membership decisions, the General Meeting ratified the earlier admissions of the Korfball Federations of Pakistan, Botswana and Croatia. Also, due to membership criteria no longer being met, the IKF General Meeting ceased the membership of the korfball federations of Papua New Guinea and Bonaire. The IKF now counts 57 members and it well underway towards reaching its target of 60 member countries in 2011.

    Korfball is the world's only true mixed gender team sport with the rules laid down so that both men and women have equal opportunities.

    The game is fairly simple. You score when you throw the ball through the other team's basket. After two goals the teams change zones: the defenders become attackers and attackers defenders. At half-time the teams change ends. The match lasts 2 * 30 minutes (shorter for the young).

    As long as you keep its philosophy in mind, all rules turn out to be straightforward. What, then, is its philosophy?

    First and foremost, korfball is a team sport. Individual class is essential but there is no room for individual play. Belonging to a team means teamwork; running with the ball or dribbling is not allowed. If you receive the ball while running, stop and pass, preferably to a member of your team!

    Second, korfball is a mixed gender sport. Men and women play side by side. But while women are equal in the tactics of the game, while playing it's man to man only. One man may guard one man and one woman may guard one woman. So it's not two against one and a woman may not defend a man nor may a man defend a woman.

    Third, korfball is a tactical game. Each team tries to win by scoring more goals using tactical skills of the team as a whole. The rules follow this concept and prevent physical strength from dominating the game. That means that physical contact is undesired. Blocking, tackling and holding your opponent are not allowed in korfball. The same goes for kicking the ball or hitting it with your fists. Remember, skills are important, not muscles. And while we're at it, keep your hands of the korfball post: scoring is difficult enough without someone pushing the post.

    Now what else makes this game different? First, each team must have four women and four men. Single sex teams are not allowed. Second, it is not allowed to score when defended. That occurs when the defender is closer to the basket and is facing his/her opponent, and is at arm's length, and is attempting to block the ball.

    Montenegro beats Belarus 1-0 in friendly

    USA reports that Mirko Vucinic scored a late goal Wednesday to give Montenegro a 1-0 win over Belarus in a friendly.

    The AC Roma striker found the net in the 81st minute with a header from a cross by Nikola Drincic.

    Montenegro dominated most of the match but the visitors also had several chances.

    Belarus' Vitaly Rodinov just missed the post in the 13th minute after a mistake by the Montenegrin defense. Sergei Kornylenko broke through the hosts' defense in the 47th but shot straight at substitute goalkeeper Srdjan Blazic.

    Vucinic first had an attempt on goal in the 61st and followed that with a header in the 74th.

  • Endnote...

    Alexander Lukashenko concerned about Belarus’ interests in Customs Union

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko doubts whether Belarus’ interests are well taken care of in Customs Union regulations. The Belarus President made the relevant statement at a cabinet session held on 17 November to discuss the Customs Union formation, BelTA has learned.

    “Speaking directly, I am concerned about whether Belarus’ economic and foreign policy interests are sufficiently protected and fully taken into account as Customs Union terms are agreed,” said the President.

    Minsk is expected to host a session of the EurAsEC Interstate Council in late November. The session will mark the beginning of the operation of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia. “On the eve of the final decision I expect everyone, primarily, the government, to provide a full and comprehensive report about the results secured during the preparations. Will the Customs Union be able to handle the problems we faced in the Union State development?” wondered the President.

    Alexander Lukashenko stressed that the Belarusian side expects the Customs Union to be a quality new integration institution based on equal rights and mutual benefits, free choice of goods and services, universal non-tariff regulations, equal business operation terms, removal of unjustified barriers from the mutual trade. “I know that both Kazakhstan and Russia have negotiated several provisos regarding the most vulnerable things,” remarked the President. In his words, Russia and Kazakhstan are alike in some things because they have hydrocarbon raw materials. According to the Belarusian head of state, it means that they will be consolidated in their actions.

    “Our economy is totally different. For instance, if the Customs Union involved Ukraine, it would be simpler because the two economies are similar. With our economy we can be left alone,” said the President. Alexander Lukashenko remarked that Belarusian negotiators are not sufficiently aggressive. “It seems that we have accepted things as they are (I may be wrong), yielding our positions and getting nothing substantial in return except for assurances and promises,” said the head of state. “I would like to warn you that I will not accept promises that you will deal with things later. Decisions must be made now. We know how these assurances are implemented”. “In the past we often failed to take care of our national interests in time and then later the heads of state would have to work them out. This is not how things should be done,” he added.

    The President remarked that he had several doubts regarding the unified customs tariff which is supposed to be enacted as from 1 January 2010. “The government reports that the document is agreed and prepared to be signed by the heads of state,” said Alexander Lukashenko. “Have pros and cons been calculated for every commodity? Have Belarusian organizations and companies been contacted regarding their interests and preparations for new business operation terms?”

    The President believes that all concessions should be mutual and balanced. Alexander Lukashenko said that at present it is unclear whether Russia will lift export duties on oil and whether the Customs Union will have common pricing regulations for natural gas and other energy resources. “I am not convinced by claims that these issues will be dealt with as part of the Common Economic Space. Assurances, oaths and promises are not acceptable. Decisions must be made now. We should see concrete decisions,” stressed the head of state.

    According to the President it is unclear how customs duties on imports from third countries will be distributed between the budgets of the three countries. It is unclear whether Belarus’ budget will incur losses because of this. “Will we be able to compensate for the lost profits from cooperation with third countries by participating in the Customs Union, which is formed primarily on Russian terms?” wondered the President. “It should be borne in mind that Belarus’ participation in the Customs Union has a deep geopolitical sense. As part of the Customs Union, Belarus loses part of its economic sovereignty in trade dealings with third countries and threatens interests of some domestic producers to some degree”. The Belarusian head of state is also interested whether Belarus will be able to secure better access to and presence in the markets of Russia and Kazakhstan.

    Alexander Lukashenko told government officials that their evaluations of negative consequences for the country’s economic and political security will be used as the foundation for making the final decision on Belarus’ accession to the Customs Union. “You must understand that any error, any misjudgment will cost dearly for the country and the nation. You can make conclusions yourselves,” said the President.