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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, December 13, 2009

Union State a major landmark, Sberbank, China, NATO, Eurobonds, Azerbaijan, Weapons From N. Korea, OSCE humiliation; News, Sport and Polish scandals

  • From the Top...
  • #470

    Union State Treaty ‘major landmark in Belarusian-Russian relations’

    From: BelTA
    The Union State Foundation Treaty is a major landmark in the modern history of Belarusian-Russian relations, said Alexander Lukashenko, Chairman of the Supreme State Council of the Union State, President of Belarus, as he opened a session of the Supreme State Council in Moscow on 10 December.

    The President underlined that the Union State Treaty is the foundation for strategic partnership of the two countries.

    Ten years of joint efforts to fulfill articles of the Treaty, vigorous operation of Union State bodies have allowed substantially expanding cooperation in the economic sphere, preserving the industry as well as the scientific and technical potential, said Alexander Lukashenko. Trade and economic ties as well as regional cooperation are fruitful and are developed. Union programs are implemented effectively.

    The President underlined that within the framework of the Union State Belarus and Russia cooperate tightly to enhance the defensive capability and security, coordinate actions in the international arena.

    The Belarusian head of state underlined that virtually all matters had been addressed to secure equal rights of the Belarusians in Russia and the Russians in Belarus. “You must agree that the terms citizens of Belarus and Russia enjoy are rare,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    Belarus President calls for strictly abiding by Union State decisions

    It is not enough to adopt clear and understandable decisions within the Union State, these decisions should be strictly fulfilled by the Union State participants, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said following the session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State in Moscow on 10 December, BelTA has learnt.

    In his words, the decisions should be fulfilled avoiding red tape and narrow-departmental approach, but on the basis of mutual trust and the unity of goals.

    Alexander Lukashenko underlined that Belarusian-Russian relations will be successful only if certainty and determination become an axiom of the bilateral relations at all the levels of the government.

    “I see the complete understanding of the situation by the authorities of the Russian Federation. It is encouraging that many people in Russia and Belarus are sincerely ready to do their best to promote the idea of the Union State project. And they do that,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    “I would like to repeat what I said ten years ago: you, Russians, should know that you have good neighbors on your western border who are always ready to support you,” the President of Belarus said.

    Lukashenko: Union State bodies should get tuned to Customs Union

    Chairman of the Supreme State Council of the Union State, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko believes that it is necessary to thoroughly analyze and prepare proposals to adapt the format and the functions of the Union State bodies to the work within the framework of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan and the single economic territory. The Belarusian leader made this statement as he opened a session of the Supreme State Council in Moscow on 10 December, BelTA has learnt.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, the Council of Ministers of the Union State should outline priority areas in the work of the Union State bodies to avoid the overlapping of functions with the Customs Union.

    He underlined that the consistent work on the implementation of the Union State Treaty contributed to the formation of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. He added that the Union State formation encouraged other countries to follow suit.

    Alexander Lukashenko underlined that the decisions adopted at the session of the EurAsEC Interstate Council on 27 November, including the one on the establishment of the single economic territory of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, require adopting a different approach to the work of the Union State bodies. “It pertains to the cooperation between our ministers and prime ministers,” President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko underlined.

    Alexander Lukashenko: a lot of Union State projects are left on paper

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko stated with regret that a lot in the Union State construction has left undone. “We should work on it,” he stressed after the session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State in Moscow on 10 December.

    “We have not set up the single economic area, but we are determined to do it and include Kazakhstan in the process,” the President of Belarus said.

    Assessing “all pluses and minuses” of the decade activity within the Union State, Alexander Lukashenko stated: “The Union State is not a chimera. It is a real and advanced integration formation on the post-Soviet territory. It has good prospects”.

    Union State anniversary ‘celebration of unity between brotherly nations’

    The 10th anniversary of signing the Union State Treaty is considered a celebration of the unity between the brotherly nations, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told media after the session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State in Moscow on 10 December.

    “10 years ago here in the Kremlin, the heart of Russia we signed an important document for the two brotherly nations, the Union State Treaty between Belarus and Russia,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    The Belarusian head of state noted that the Union State Treaty gave a great impetus to the integration processes and all-round cooperation development. “A lot has been done over the past decade. We have considerably advanced in the economy, increased trade, strengthened cooperation links,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    The Belarusian head of state pointed to the equal treatment of the citizens of Belarus and Russia, coordinated foreign policy, customs control redeployment to the Union State border to be a part of the progress made within the Union State. The two sides set up the unified regional military taskforce and worked out an efficient system of military security of the Union State, the President said.

    “The Union State mutual benefit is evident and covers all areas of our relations,” the President of Belarus stressed.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Sberbank of Russia to partake in major investment projects in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    Sberbank of Russia will participate in major investment projects in Belarus. The idea was discussed at a meeting of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and Sberbank Chairman of the Board German Gref, the press service of the Belarusian head of state told BelTA.

    An agreement on selling 93.27% of BPS-Bank shares to Sberbank of Russia was signed in Minsk on 11 December. An investment agreement on long-term development of BPS-Bank was signed as well.

    Alexander Lukashenko said that the arrival of Russia’s largest bank in Belarus is important not only for Belarus, but also Russia. In his words, President Dmitry Medvedev expressed Russia’s interest in its presence on the Belarusian banking market and backed the deal during the session of the Supreme State Council.

    Alexander Lukashenko said he hopes all the agreements signed by Belarus and Sberbank will be implemented. He drew attention to the realization of the agreement on supporting Belarusian manufacturers on the Russian market. “A way to support our producers via your bank in Russia needs thinking about,” said the President.

    “Today is a very important day for us: we’ve sealed a major deal to sell one of Belarus’ largest banks. It was done during the crisis, too. We believe in the future of the Belarusian market. Presence here is very important for us,” said German Gref. He thanked the Belarusian side for negotiating the deal and signing the agreement within seven months only. It is the best effectiveness indicator.

    The sides have major plans for working together. There are plans to develop the acquired Belarusian bank. In the near future a strategy for its development will be worked out. Hundreds of millions of dollars in direct investments will be poured into the net worth of the bank.

    Sberbank will cooperate with Belarus in several areas relating to making investments into industrial, energy and other projects. “Those are billions of dollars that we will channel via joint efforts,” stressed Sberbank’s head.

    Belarus and Sberbank will also cooperate to raise funding for budget purposes.

    “We discussed these three components today, reached an agreement on all the matters and we will start implementing these agreements. Our arrival in the Belarusian market is a good sign of the development of Belarusian-Russian ties,” said German Gref.

    Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich remarked: “The very fact of Russia’s largest bank’s arrival in Belarus during the global crisis is the most important thing. It means that the Belarusian banking system is stable and attractive to foreign investors.”

    According to the NBRB head, the projects outlined by the sides have good prospects for developing Belarus, the Union State, Sberbank as well as Belarus’ banking system.

    Belarus’ parliamentary delegation to visit China

    From: BelTA
    Vladimir Andreichenko, Chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus will lead a parliamentary delegation to China on 14-17 December, BelTA learnt from the Embassy of Belarus in the People’s Republic of China.

    The official visit will be held on the invitation of Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Wu Bangguo.

    Vladimir Andreichenko is planning to meet with Wu Bangguo, Vice Premier of the State Council Li Keqiang, other officials.

    The Speaker of the Belarusian parliament is also set to meet with Chinese businessmen that are implementing large projects in Belarus.

    The sides will consider a range of issues related to the political cooperation, trade, economic and investment links, mutually beneficial crisis response measures. The sides will identify the areas of further cooperation.

    The official visit stands as a testimony to the high level of Belarusian-Chinese interstate relations and cooperation in various areas, according to the Embassy of Belarus in China.

    Contacts between the parliament of Belarus and the National People’s Congress are maintained on a regular basis. Official parliamentary delegations of Belarus visited China in 1998 and 2002. Chinese parliamentary delegations headed by leaders of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress came to Belarus in 1997, 2000 and 2008. The committees and commissions of the parliaments of the two countries exchange delegations on a regular basis. Parliamentary delegations of Belarus and China hold regular consultations in the course of the assemblies of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus has set up a group for cooperation with the Chinese parliament. There is a Chinese-Belarusian interaction group in the National People’s Congress of China.

    No problems in Belarus-Nato relations

    From: BelTA
    There are no problems in Belarus-Nato relations, Oleg Vonsyak, a representative of the international security and arms control department of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, noted during the seminar “Nato: Present and Future Challenges” in Minsk.

    “I have been invited to make a report at this seminar on the problems of the Belarus-Nato relations. But, from my point of view, there are no such problems,” the diplomat said.

    According to Oleg Vonsyak, the Nato Secretariat and Belarus’ Office in Brussels have enhanced the mutual understanding and strengthened constructive contacts recently.

    Lorry Walker, an official of the Nato division of political affairs and security policy, noted “we would like to improve our understanding and impression about each other. It will help us avoid potential problems and work together effectively”.

    Nato’s new Strategic Concept to be unveiled in autumn 2010

    Nato’s new Strategic Concept will be presented in autumn 2010 during the summit of the North-Atlantic Alliance in Lisbon, Lorry Walker, an official of the Nato division of political affairs and security policy, noted during the Nato: Present and Future Challenges seminar in Minsk.

    According to him, the new concept is now carefully analyzed by experts. A series of open seminars will be held in the near future to discuss the details of the document. For example, Oslo will host a seminar on the Nato open door policy which will also discuss the Nato partnership with European Europe including Belarus.

    The Alliance’s Strategic Concept is being developed by leading political experts such as former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The boards of experts embrace representatives of transnational corporations including Shell Oil.

    Lorry Walker stated that initially the mission of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was to ensure the territorial protection and aggressor containment; “today its activity is mainly focused on consultations, negotiations, crisis management and peace-keeping operations”.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Belarusian circus to storm South Korea

    From: BelTA
    The Belarusian State Circus plans to win the South Korean public with a fantasy show Cirque Nut, BelTA learned from Director of the Belarusian State Circus Tatiana Bondarchuk.

    The Belarusian State Circus will stage around 40 performances at Seoul’s Olympic Park till 31 December.

    According to the source, Cirque Nut is a unique project. Belarusian circus and ballet artistes used Chaikovsky’s music and Hofmann’s Nutcracker fairy tale to produce a synergy of various circus genres, classic and modern ballet, the latest lighting and sound technologies. Apart from artistes of the Belarusian circus the team includes Olympic gymnastics champion Yulia Raskina, trapeze artistes of the Nikulin Circus of Moscow, soloist of the US Modern Dance Ballet Daniel Squire, artistes of the State Choreographic College of Minsk, gymnasts of the Belarusian national free calisthenics team.

    The same days the Korean public are welcome to attend the classic ballet Nutcracker performed by artistes of the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater of Belarus. The tour schedule includes 11 performances in five cities of South Korea between 9 and 23 December.

    The Embassy of Belarus in Korea works hard to organize and ensure tours of Belarusian artistes, including holding talks, press conferences, meetings with officials, mass media, sponsors, information distribution, handling problems. Cirque Nut is the largest project organized since the Belarusian and Korean governments signed a cultural cooperation agreement in 2008. Performances of the Belarusian circus and ballet in Korea will make a major contribution to the development of Belarusian-Korean cultural cooperation.

    Culture ministries of Belarus, Russia to ink agreement on national heritage

    The Belarusian Culture Ministry and the Tourism and Culture Ministry of Ukraine plan to ink an agreement on cooperation in the area of national heritage by the end of the year. The statement was made by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Belarus Igor Likhovyi at the presentation of an electronic edition Book Edition of the Khreptowichs Family on 9 December.

    “I am pleased to watch the Belarusians trying to recover the national legacy. It is certainly difficult. But it is also the global cultural heritage this is why it is important to allow everyone to access it,” said Igor Likhovyi.

    According to the diplomat, events like the virtual reconstruction of the Khreptowichs’ library performed by Belarusian and Ukrainian specialists are linked by time and space. At present they are searching for Yaroslav the Wise’s library in Ukraine. The library of such a scale could not have gone missing. Where it is now is not as important as people’s ability to access it. The signing of the national heritage cooperation agreement will contribute to reaching the goal.

  • Economics...

    Sberbank to float $2bn of Belarusian eurobonds

    From: BelTA
    Vladimir Semashko
    Sberbank of Russia will organize the floatation of Belarusian eurobonds worth $2 billion. It is laid down by the joint action plan signed in Minsk on 11 December, said Belarus First Vice Premier Vladimir Semashko as he met with Sberbank Chairman of the Board German Gref.

    There are plans to take out syndicated loans to the tune of $300 million and RUB5 billion.

    Sberbank will also organize the floatation of Belarus’ government bonds to the amount of RUB15 billion at most and will provide direct lending to Belarusian companies.

    In 2010-2014 Sberbank plans to build up BPS-Bank’s operation and secure a 12% share in the corporate lending market. There are plans to increase the volume of retail operations. To reach these goals, Sberbank intends to increase BPS-Bank’s net worth by $300 million to $350 million and secure additional funding to the tune of $2 billion at most, including by means of Sberbank’s direct financing.

    German Gref said: “We have launched these projects already and plan to implement them within a short time. We have been working on these projects for the last two months”. He said that some of the projects are related to creating Belarus’ public image on the public debt market, which indicates the quality of an investment climate.

    BelTA reported earlier that an agreement on selling 93.27% of BPS-Bank shares to Sberbank of Russia was signed in Minsk on 11 December. An investment agreement on long-term development of BPS-Bank was signed as well.

    According to German Gref, BPS-Bank is in for re-branding. With no new name available yet German Gref said that everything will be changed: procedures, culture, working hours. No plans for lay-offs were mentioned, however, personnel will be re-trained according to Sberbank standards.

    German Gref said the efforts the sides had put into signing the deal had been effective. He thanked Belarusian partners (the National Bank, BPS-Bank) and particularly Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky, who had taken an active part in sealing the deal.

    The work on signing the deal began more than a year ago. Even at the time of crisis the sides managed to meet the deadlines.

    According to German Gref, Sberbank will honor the obligations it has undertaken. “Belarusian partners perform their obligations scrupulously and we are ready to continue working with them in the future,” he stressed.

    German Gref believes that Belarusian-Russian relations will develop despite certain difficulties. Among promising areas of Sberbank’s cooperation with Belarus he mentioned leasing, cooperation in the energy industry, in energy saving.

    Belarus First Vice Premier Vladimir Semashko said he was satisfied with the deal. He reminded that the Belarusian government and Sberbank signed a cooperation memorandum in February 2009. Vladimir Semashko underscored once again that Belarus does its best to attract foreign capital.

    Customs Union to start WTO entry talks in early 2010

    Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan plan to start practical consultations with the World Trade Organization regarding the entry of the Customs Union into the WTO in early 2010. The information was released by Andrei Slepnev, Deputy Minister for Economic Development of the Russian Federation, in Saint Petersburg on 11 December.

    “We plan to start WTO entry practical consultations at the beginning of 2010. We will address all the technical matters relating to informing WTO members about the Customs Union’s legal base,” said the official.

    Speaking about prospects of forming the customs territory of the Customs Union, Andrei Slepnev said the decisions that have been made are being fulfilled. In addition, an agreement to accelerate the processes has been reached. In particular, customs clearance procedures will be relocated to Kazakhstan’s external border as from July 2010.

    Andrei Slepnev also pointed out the need for common rules in trade between the Customs Union and third countries. “We plan to start negotiations early next year for the sake of unifying national trade rules and working out common trade rules of the Customs Union,” said the Deputy Minister for Economic Development of the Russian Federation.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Sberbank Arranging Syndicated Loans, Credit Facilities for Belarus

    From: I Stock
    German Gref, Minister of Economic Development and Trade of the Russian Federation
    Sberbank (RTS: SBER) is arranging syndicated loans of $300 million and 5 billion Russian rubles for Belarus, Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said at a meeting with German Gref, the Russian bank's chairman, prior to signing a package of agreements with Sberbank.

    Sberbank signed an agreement with the Belarusian government Friday to buy 93.3% of BPS-Bank for $280.73 million.

    They also signed an investment agreement to 2014 and a letter concerning the commitments made by the Belarusian side. The investment agreement states that Sberbank will open a credit facility of up to $2 billion for Belarus by 2014 and pay $340 million into the capital of BPS-Bank. The funds will be invested in the bank in stages by 2014, as the bank's assets grow.

    The package of agreements signed on Friday includes a plan of joint action, by which Sberbank will arrange the syndicated loans and arrange a debut Eurobond issue of up to $2 billion for Belarus maturing in three-to-five years. Sberbank will also arrange the placement of up to 15 billion Russian rubles worth of Belarusian government bonds, also maturing in 3-5 years, on the Russian market. Sberbank might also issue loans directly to key Belarusian companies.

    Sberbank's Gref said of the plan that "some formalities have to be completed early 2010." "Projects are already at the negotiating stage and they can be carried out fairly quickly," he said. "We're creating a public identity for Belarus on the public debt market," he said.

    "We're investing a huge amount in the Belarusian economy and see the potential for it to develop and our business to grow. We're building a major financial bridge between Russia and Belarus. We'll do our best to achieve everything we have stated in our gentleman's agreement. We're trying to form a public debt market in Belarus. In the past we used to be negotiating partners, but now we're business partners," Gref said.

    Sberbank will purchase 835.504 million BPS Bank shares for $0.336 each in 2009. The proceeds from sale of BPS Bank will be allocated to the National Development Budget Fund.

    Sberbank and Belarus have spent much of this year negotiating the deal. Initially Sberbank expected to pay $150 million for BPS based on a valuation performed by Deutsche Bank. Belarusian officials wanted $450 million for the bank based on a valuation performed by a state organization.

    Later, UK investment bank NM Rothschild & Sons carried out an appraisal utilizing three scenarios - optimistic, basic and pessimistic - that valued the bank in the range $150 million-$500 million.

    BPS Bank was founded in December 1991. The State Property Committee owns 93.3% of shares and the overall state stake is 95.9%. The bank has a total of 18,102 corporate and individual shareholders.

    Russia will continue to support Belarusian economy - Medvedev

    From: RIA Novosti
    Russia will continue supporting the Belarusian economy, President Dmitry Medvedev said after talks with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday.

    "We have pursued and will pursue a policy aimed at assisting and supporting the Belarusian economy," Medvedev said after a meeting of the Union State's Supreme State Council in Moscow.

    Ten years ago, Russia and Belarus signed an agreement to establish a union state, but the plan to create greater political, economic and social integration between the two former Soviet republics has remained largely on paper.

    "These 10 years have passed very fast, much has been done and much not done yet," Medvedev said at the Council meeting.

    "Ten years have passed, and we can say absolutely frankly today that these years have not been spent in vain, and despite us moving not so fast on some issues as we would like to, the treaty [on establishing the Union State] reflects our urge for integration, our desire to live in the Union State," he said.

    Oil and gas prices for Minsk in 2010 could be frozen at the 2009 level, the Russia-Belarus Union State's state secretary, Pavel Borodin, said on Thursday after Medvedev and Lukashenko's meeting.

    Medvedev pledged in November a 30-40% discount on natural gas for Belarus in 2010, while Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last week that a cut in energy prices for Belarus should coincide with Minsk's integration into the Union State with Russia.

    Borodin also told journalists that the Union State's Supreme State Council would discuss a draft union constitution and single currency at its next meeting in July 2010 in Minsk.

    Medvedev said Russia and Belarus agreed to speed up the ratification of documents signed at the previous meeting of the Supreme State Council, including those on air defense.

    Lukashenko said the Union State had not exhausted itself and has good prospects.

    "The Union State is not a chimera but a real advanced integration formation on the post-Soviet space. It has clear prospects," he said.

    The two countries also adopted a declaration, saying they were aiming to further strengthen the "economic foundation of the Union State," continue work to form a common economic space, encourage mutual investment, boost efforts to develop cultural potential and stating that bilateral relations are of a strategic nature.

    Putin links Belarus economic aid to political integration

    In a related story, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday said further economic preferences for Belarus would depend on the degree of political integration between the two countries in a union state.

    "The deeper this integration, the greater the possibility we can move to internal Russian prices," said Putin in an annual question-and-answer session with Russian citizens.

    Belarus may sell oil refinery Naftan to LUKOIL

    And, in another related story, Belarus plans to sell oil refinery Naftan to a Russian company, possibly to Russia's No.2 oil producer LUKOIL (LKOH.MM), in near future, Belarus first deputy prime minister Vladimir Semashko told reporters on Friday.

    "We expect the the deal involving Naftan Polymer (to materialise) in the nearest future. It is possible that LUKOIL or another Russian company will take a part," Semashko said.

    In 2009 150 visits organized between Azerbaijan and Belarus

    From: ABC
    The Presidents of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev
    On December 11, a news conference of Belorussian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Nicholas Patskevich, dedicated to the results of work of the embassy in this year and prospects for the next year.

    N. Patskevich said that the visit of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev to Belarus became the most significant event of the expiring year

    “The visit became powerful impetus for development of bilateral relations.

    Seven documents were signed during the visit.

    Presently, a return visit of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to Azerbaijan is being prepared. The visit will take place in 2010.

    Next year, Chairman of Permanent Committee for International Affairs and Interparliamentary Connections of Milli Majlis Samad Saidov is expected to pay a visit to Belarus,” N. Patskevich said.

    “In 2009, 150 visits were organized with participation of the embassy, including 55 ones to Belarus and 95 visits to Azerbaijan.

    Exchange of seven visits was held through the governments and a working visit of Belarus Prime Minister S. Sidorskiy to Baku and 12 visits through leadership of the ministries are among them,” N. Patskevich said.

    During the visit, which took place in November, 2009, both states’ leaders I. Aliyev and A. Lukashenko signed the Joint Declaration.

    There were also signed the Intergovernmental Youth Policy Co-operation Agreement, the Protocol on realization of the Co-operation Agreement (2010-2011) between the Ministries of Education, the Co-operation Agreement between the State Border Service of Azerbaijan and the State Border Committee of Belarus, the Archive Business Co-operation Agreement between the National Archives Department of Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Justice, the Agreement between the Ministry of National Security of Azerbaijan and the Committee for State Security of Belarus on mutual relationships in provision of secret information protection.

    Thais Seize Plane With Weapons From N. Korea

    From: New York Times
    A cargo aircraft flying from North Korea and carrying tons of weapons has been seized by Thai authorities during a refueling stop in Bangkok, Thai officials said.

    A senior Obama administration official said the United States — which fears North Korea will sell some of its nuclear technology — had tipped off the Thai authorities that the plane, which landed here Friday, might be carrying weapons.

    “From our visual inspection there seem to be several types of weapons, components and materials: long tubes, shoulder-fired missiles, certain types of rocket propelled grenades,” Panitan Wattanayagorn, a government spokesman, said in an interview Sunday.

    Mr. Panitan said many crates removed from the aircraft had not yet been opened. The full payload was brought to an air force base in central Thailand and will be inspected Tuesday, he said.

    The United States official said that beyond wanting to know what the plane was carrying, the administration was also signaling North Korea that it intended to keep the pressure up even as it pursued talks with its leaders about possibly restarting nuclear negotiations. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    The aircraft was on its way to Sri Lanka for another refueling stop but its final destination was unknown, Mr. Panitan said. The five-man crew included one man holding a Belarus passport and four men with Kazakhstan passports. They will be charged in a Thai court Monday with offenses related to the illegal possession of weapons, Mr. Panitan said.

    Transporting heavy weaponry to or from North Korea is banned under United Nations Resolution 1874, which was passed after North Korea conducted a nuclear test this year. “Under that resolution we had to seize the weapons,” said Thani Thongphakdi, a spokesman for the Thai Foreign Ministry.

    The resolution calls on countries to “inspect and destroy” certain categories of weapons bound to or from North Korea, including large-caliber artillery, missiles and missile spare parts.

    No major seizures of weapons have been made public since the passage of the resolution. This summer, the United States Navy tracked a North Korean freighter suspected of carrying banned cargo for about three weeks, and the ship eventually turned back to its home port without incident.

    Thai news media reported that the aircraft seized at Don Muang Airport on the outskirts of Bangkok was an Ilyushin 76. That aircraft has a carrying capacity of about 48 tons, according to the Web site .

  • From the Opposition...

    Yarmoshyna: “To send election legislation to OSCE is humiliation”

    From: Charter '97
    The central Elections Commission chairperson has confirmed that she hadn’t submitted the amendments to the Electoral Code to the OSCE for approval.

    As Interfax informs, it has been started by Lidziya Yarmoshyna, CEC chairperson, to journalists in the “parliament” in Minsk.

    “We haven’t sent the draft law for approval of the OSCE. Tell me at least one sovereign state which would send its draft laws for approval of international organisations. It looks like humiliation,” Yarmoshyna said.

    She stated that in February 2009 two joint sessions of the OSCE and Belarusian CEC experts took place. “At these sessions compromise offers were taken into account with the aim to improve the Belarusian electoral legislation. These proposals were also sent for analysis of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus. In fact all the preferences of the OSCE experts have been taken into account, but not for 100%,” Yarmoshyna said.

    She noted that the offers of the OSCE experts mostly concerned facilitation of collection of signatures procedure, and participation of political parties in election commissions, except the CEC. A number of proposals, as Yarmoshyna said, for instance, concerning pre-election agitation, had been made by Belarusian experts. “I assure that Belarus has received constructive proposals on improvement of the Belarusian election legislation of the OSCE well,” said the chair of the Belarusian CEC.

    Today deputies of the “chamber of representatives” have unanimously adopted the amendments to the election legislation in the second reading.

    As website informed, earlier the OSCE stated that they hadn’t received these amendments for examination despite of the previous agreements. As stated by the organisers of the international project “Election observation: theory and practice” they had no illusions that the amendments to the Electoral Code adopted by the “parliament”, would create a breakthrough level of democracy and transparency in the electoral process of the country.

    Milinkevich offers Europe to sponsor Belarusian dictatorship

    From: Charter '97
    The leader of “For Freedom” movement Alyaksandr Milinkevich has stated that the Belarusian regime should be influenced by money, not by sanctions.

    The resolution on the situation in Belarus would be revised by the European Parliament next week. This decision was adopted following the results of the meeting of Alyaksandr Milinkevich during the Congress of the European People’s Party, as well as his previous addresses and adoption of the resolution on Belarus by the EPP Congress. But the issue about return to sanctions won’t be considered. The European Radio for Belarus has been stated about that by “For Freedom” movement leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich.

    “We are not talking about sanctions, and I am not an adherent of sanctions. I am a supported of dozed cooperation. 12 sanctions had no effect: more and more people were imprisoned, there were increasingly more repressions, more students were expelled from universities, fewer freedoms and newspapers. There were no positive results, and the economy was in progressively bad state. That is why sanctions have a symbolic nature and show that the government should not use such methods in te elections and in the political life in general,” the politician said.

    As said by him, Europe should influence on the Belarusian regime not with the help of sanctions, but with the help of money.

    “Completely different acts could be performed, when loans are given, when stabilization funds are created. Then the European Union can make conditions: “we are helping you, but you should make steps too”. There cannot be one-way movement, one side is help and the government makes just cosmetic steps,” Milinkevich said.

    As said by him, 12 recommendations of the EU should remain. And the sides should return to the discussion on their fulfillment by Belarus.

    Celebration of Human Rights Day is virtually banned by Belarusian authorities

    From: Viasna
    Human rights are prohibited to hold pickets or any other actions on the International Day of Human Rights, 10 December.

    Groundless refusals were given to the civil activists who applied for authorization of human rights actions in Baranavichy, Barysau, Biaroza, Homel, Hrodna, Mahiliou, Mazyr, Navapolatsk, Orsha, Smarhon, Vitsebsk and some other towns. In Brest the authorities prohibited holding a picket, but instead permitted a rally at the Locomotive stadium.

    The head of the BPF Youth Andrei Krechka was also denied in holding a picket in Yakub Kolas Square in Minsk at 4-6 p.m. under the pretext that mass events couldn’t be held in less than 200 meters from tube stations and underground crossings. The refusal was signed by the deputy ead of Minsk city executive committee Mikhail Tsitsiankou.

    The real attitude of the authorities to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also demonstrated by their refusal to the Belarusian Trade Union of Radio Electronic Industry, who intended to hold a human rights picket in Banhalor Square – the place the authorities had determined especially for the opposition’s actions. The official reason for the denial is that the action would allegedly hinder the traffic.

    Human rights defenders pass petition to authorities

    On the International Human Rights Day representatives of the Belarusian human rights community passed to the Presidential Administration a petition calling to abolish the death penalty as a kind of punishment that contradicts to the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution and international human rights treaties.

    The member of Belarusian Helsinki Committee Hary Pahaniaila, the members of the Foundation for Legal Technologies Development Alena Tankachova and Volha Smalianka, the member of the Center for Human Rights Raisa Mikhailouskaya, the members of Human Rights Center Viasna Zmitser Salauyou and Iryna Toustsik, the member of the Committee for Protection of the Repressed Salidarnasts Andrei Sushko and the human rights defender from Brest Raman Kisliak came to the Presidential Administration.

    During an audience with the head of the public reception P.Katushkin Hary Pahaniaila and Iryna Toustsik passed the petition. Katushkin promised to pass it for consideration.

    The petition was signed by more than 30 people including well-known cultural and civil activist, human rights defenders, lawyers and scientists.

    ’We, the citizens of the Republic of Belarus who have signed this petition, call on the authorities of Belarus to listen to our arguments and abolish the death penalty in our country,’ reads the petition.

    All of the signers who joined the campaign against the death penalty presented their arguments for the abolishment of this kind of punishment. The essence of all of them is that deliberate and ruthless deprived of a person of life on behalf of the state cannot be justified by anything.

    Till lately the authorities have just allowed public statements about their intention to introduce the death penalty moratorium, but is still hasn’t been introduced. The human rights defenders think that it is high time to do it right now.

    ’This year two death verdicts have been issued in Belarus on the criminal cases against Vasil Yuzepchuk and Andrei Zhuk. And we are very concerned lest these people would become the last people shot in the modern history of Belarus,’ repeatedly stated the member of HRC Viasna Valiantsin Stefanovich.

    Bear in mind that the campaign Human Rights Defenders against Death Penalty in Belarus was launched in January 2009 with the aim to get the death penalty abolished and thus make Belarus respect the common European values. At present Belarus remains the only country in Europe and in the post-Soviet space where the capital punishment is still in use.
  • Note: For more pictures and news from the demonstration, please see the Viasna Website

  • Russia...

    Russia to spell out WTO intentions by year end

    From: Forbes
    Russia plans to give the World Trade Organization a document in the next few weeks aimed at clearing up confusion over its plans for joining the world trade body, a Russian official said Thursday.

    "To my knowledge, by the end of the year," Aleksey Shishayev, head of the economic office at the Russian Embassy in Washington, told reporters when asked when Moscow would deliver the information requested by the WTO's 153 members.

    That would hopefully clear the way for the WTO membership to decide how to proceed, he said during a panel discussion on the issue at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    There has been confusion over Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus' bid to join the WTO since June, when the three surprised the world by announcing they planned to join together as a customs union with a common external tariff.

    Russia is the largest economy still outside the WT0. Just days before the June announcement, Moscow appeared to be headed toward finishing its accession process by the end of this year after falling badly off track in 2008 because of its brief war with WTO member Georgia.

    The three ex-Soviet republics abandoned their joint accession plan at a WTO meeting in Geneva in October, telling members they would pursue their candidacies as separate states while coordinating closely on the talks.

    But work on the countries' accession bids remains suspended until WTO members receive a written explanation of exactly how the three countries intend to proceed, Chiedu Osake, director of accessions at the WTO, said during the panel discussion.

    "The membership is waiting for that note promised by the three delegations" before making a formal decision on whether to relaunch accession talks, Osake said.

    There remains uncertainty over what the customs union, which takes effect Jan 1, will mean for bilateral accession agreements the three countries have already negotiated with other WTO members, he said.

    For example, Kazakhstan would have to raise tariffs on some 3,000 product lines to bring them in line with Russian tariffs in the new customs union, while Belarus would have to adjust 22, Osake said.

    WTO Director General Pascal Lamy has urged Russia not just to clarify the implications of the new customs union on its WTO accession process, but to figure out how to resolve the few remaining commercial issues that stand in its way of joining the world trade body.

    Most importantly, Lamy has told Russian negotiators to "structure a calendar-driven end game. You have to bite the bullet. ... Eventually it has to be done," Osake said.

    Shishayev said Russia remained committed to the goal of becoming a WTO member after 16 years of negotiation.

    Putin Hopes EuRAsEC States Join the Customs Union

    From: Turkish Weekly
    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday expressed hope that all members of the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec) would join the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

    "I would like to thank [my] colleagues from Kazakhstan and Belarus for this joint course. I hope that [other] Eurasec colleagues will actively participate in our work and have the opportunity to join the customs union," Putin told a meeting of Eurasec prime ministers in Russia's second largest city of St. Petersburg.

    The post-Soviet economic bloc, Eurasec comprises Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, with Moldova, Ukraine and Armenia holding observer status.

    The Russian premier praised the customs union as "an important reform in the economic sphere."

    The three post-Soviet countries agreed in early June to form a customs bloc. Its Customs Code was agreed to be presented for approval to the presidents of the three states in November. Unified customs regulations are due to come into effect at the start of 2010.

    Abkhazia holds presidential elections

    From: UPI
    Sergei Bagapsh
    Voters in Abkhazia took to the polls Saturday for the first time since the republic broke away from Georgia last year, election observers said.

    About 174 polling stations were opened, with two located in the Russian cities of Moscow and Cherkessk, where 7,000 ballot papers were delivered, ITAR-Tass reported.

    The Abkhazian Central Electoral Commission told the news agency about 127,000 people were eligible to vote for five candidates running for Abkhazian president. They include incumbent Sergei Bagapsh of the United Abkhazia Party, Vitaly Bganba, ex-Vice President Raul Khadzhimba, Zaur Ardzinba and Beslan Butba of the Economic Development Party.

    The Abkhazian Foreign Ministry told ITAR-Tass 100 international observers from about 20 countries were to observe the elections, including a large group from Russia.

    Russia is only one of three countries to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries after the August 2008 Russia Georgia conflict, RIA Novosti reported. The only other countries to recognize the two republics have been Nicaragua and Venezuela.

    Ukraine PM says her team will not recognize Abkhazia independence

    In a related story, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko pledged on Friday that neither she nor her team would ever recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

    “We don’t recognize things that have led to the existing situation,” the prime minister told Donetsk-based Ukraine television.

    “We will recognize Georgia only as a single state,” she said. “Generally this is a sacred issue for us, as we see a very inadequate attitude to Ukraine as well, and somebody always encroaches on our territories,” Timoshenko said.

    She also pledged to make efforts so that the citizens of the country could “live as a single nation“ and not to allow the split of the country into the East and the West.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Poland receives anti-accolade at COP 15

    From: The News
    At the ongoing climate meet in Copenhagen, Poland has received the anti-accolade of “Fossil of the Day” by the Climate Action Network.

    CAN awards the prize to the country which, according to the environmental group, blocks negotiations in the fight against climate change.

    Poland was awarded First Prize after Poland’s European Minister Dowgielewicz said that the EU’s plan to cut CO2 emissions by 30 percent has no chance of being accepted by all members of the 27-member bloc.

    Dowgielewicz argued at the conference in Copenhagen that most of the EU states are against raising the bar on carbon emissions, meaning that the 20 percent cut 2020 remains as the key goal.

    Paedophile mugshots to go public?

    From: The News
    Law and Justice MPs want images of sexual offenders and their personal data to go public.

    According to the amendment to the penal code proposed by the conservative Law and Justice party, courts will be obliged to reveal personal data and images of people who committed brutal rapes or sexual crimes against minors and were validly sentenced.

    “So far courts could decided whether they wanted to make sexual offenders’ names public. We want the practice to become a rule,” says Andrzej Dera, author of the draft.

    An Internet register of sexual offenders would contain photos of those who committed sexual offences and notes about the crimes.

    The idea has already stirred a lot of controversy. Former Justice Minister Zbigniew Cwiakalski criticised the draft, saying that minor sexual offenders should not be treated in the same way as serious, notorious offenders.

    Opponents also argue that courts should take the decision as to the publication of offenders’ data because they will not be influenced by public opinion.

    On the other hand supporters praise the idea, saying that similar registers exist, or will exist in other countries, such as the US, Peru and South Korea. Great Britain also has a database of sexual offenders but it is available only for police and the secret services.

    Jakub Spiewak from, a foundation which fights against child pornography and paedophilia, claims that Poland needs a sexual offenders register but a classified one, as the average citizen does not need such information.

    Violent Polish Rapist Jailed

    From: 4Ni
    Sadowski offered the girl's mother money to withdraw her statement
    A Polish man has been jailed for ten years after carrying out a vicious sex attack on a young fellow countrywoman.

    Kazimierz Sadowski, 32, received an eight years prison term for his part in the repeated rape of a 19-year-old student in July 1999.

    The Polish woman, who cannot be named to protect her identity, and female acquaintances were offered a lift by two men after a night out in London.

    The driver of the car was Sadowski, from Essex Road, Barking, Essex.

    After leaving the other females homes, he and his accomplice subjected the 19-year-old woman to an horrific sexual assault.

    She even made a bid to escape on several occasion but was subjected to further violence.

    The victim later reported the incident to police, but was unable to name her attackers.

    DNA evidence taken from the victim's clothing was unable to track the men, as neither were on the national database.

    Despite extensive police inquiries the trail went cold but the suspects DNA was left on the database in case future progress could be made.

    On 23 March 2008 Sadowski was arrested for drink driving and a DNA swab was taken and a one in 1 billion match came up on the DNA database.

    He was subsequently charged with three counts of rape and two counts of indecent assault and was remanded to appear at Horseferry Road Magistrates Court on 4 December 2008.

    Sadowski then breached his bail conditions and absconded back to Poland and on 30 January 2009 he was detained by Polish police under a European arrest warrant.

    On his return to the UK Sadowski then instigated a campaign of intimidation against the victim and her family to try and force her to drop the case.

    The victim refused and the trial went ahead on 28 September 2009 at Southwark Crown Court.

    Sadowski denied culpability claiming, incorrectly, that he had been in a relationship with the victim and that the allegations were as a result of her not being happy that he had ended it.

    The jury returned a verdict of guilty on 5 October 2009.

    The other man is still wanted and the three female acquaintances, who the victim knew only by first names, never came forward or got in contact with the victim again. Police have been unable to trace them.

    DC Claire Watts, from the Metropolitan Police Cold Case Sapphire Investigation Team, said: "Sadowski subjected this woman to a lengthy, terrifying and violent attack.

    "The jury rightly saw through his lies and upheld the victim's account of being repeatedly raped and indecently assaulted.

    "Today's sentencing reflects the seriousness with which all sexual assaults will be dealt with and is some recognition of the bravery of the victim in continuing to support the prosecution despite the intimidation she and her family were subjected to."

    Arrest made in Polish man murder probe

    From: The Independant
    A reward was offered for information about Marek Pudlowski's death
    A 33-year-old man was arrested today by detectives investigating the murder of a Polish man who was found dead on a bench in a seaside town.

    A member of the public found the body of Marek Pudlowski, 51, in Waterloo Square, Bognor Regis, West Sussex, on the afternoon of August 3.

    Detectives from Sussex Police's major crime branch launched a murder inquiry after a post-mortem examination found he had suffered severe bruising to his upper body.

    A police spokesman said a local man was arrested this morning and he will be interviewed later today. Earlier this month a £5,000 reward was put up for information leading to a conviction.

    Extensive inquiries have been carried out among the Polish and Eastern European communities in Bognor, and leaflets and posters were distributed to publicise the reward.

    In the days after the death, police released CCTV footage of Mr Pudlowski, who lived in Bassett Road, Bognor, stumbling into a bank to sit down hours before he was found dead.

    Images showed bank staff handing him a bucket in a branch of HSBC in the town, seemingly unaware that he had been attacked and was in pain.

    A recorded appeal was also made by Mr Pudlowski's daughter, Agniezka Pudlowska, who flew with relatives to the UK from Poland to urge witnesses to come forward.

    In her tearful appeal, Ms Pudlowska said: "Please remember that Marek Pudlowski was a father, he was a husband, he was a brother and he was an uncle. Please, if you can help us, we would be very, very grateful."

  • Sport...

    Dinamo Minsk lose to Nizhnekamsk

    From: BelTA
    Dinamo Minsk lost their scheduled Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) match against Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk in Minsk on 9 December.

    The final score was 3-5 (0-3, 3-0, 0-2). Meleshko, Huvenen and Demagin scored for Dinamo.

    Dinamo’s defender Artem Demkov was severely injured on 6th minute of the first period. He will not be able to play till the beginning of 2010.

    Nizhnekamsk are lead by Vladimir Krikunov, who was the head coach of Belarus at the 2004 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

    Dinamo lost the previous game against Nizhnekamsk on 16th November (1-4).

    Dinamo play the next KHL game against Ak Bars Kazan at home on 11 December.

    Arsenal Miss Alexander Hleb & Mathieu Flamini - Chelsea Boss Carlo Ancelotti

    Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti believes that Arsenal are unlikely to win this season's Champions League, pinpointing the absence of two former players.

    Midfielders Alexander Hleb, now at Sutttgart, and Mathieu Flamini, at AC Milan, have left a substantial hole in the Gunners side, which manager Arsene Wenger has struggled to fill, according to Ancelotti.

    But the Italian does not see any team as clear favourites for Europe's premier club trophy.

    "I see a very balanced and uncertain tournament," he said, according to The Daily Mail.

    "Besides Liverpool, all the top teams are in the contention. From the group winners, all the teams are difficult.

    "The only one that has less experience is Arsenal, a very young side.

    "They have lost several key players with respect to when they eliminated Milan two years ago in the last 16.

    "In midfield there's always (Cesc) Fabregas, but Flamini and Hleb left the club and those were two big losses."

  • Endnote...

    Lukashenka asked for money but was given nothing

    From: Charter '97
    Yesterday a new record in duration of Belarusian-Russian talks at top level was set– Lukashenka and Medvedev talked for 8 hours. Russian mass media noted that the discussions in the Kremlin were rather harsh.

    Leaving the Kremlin after the exhausting 8-hour marathon of Belarusian-Russian summit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev came out to journalists. He called this “long working day” “a reflection of the whole comprehensiveness of Russia and Belarus’ relations”. As said by Medvedev, these long talks, confirm “both those vast perspectives and unsolved problems we have been diligently engaged in with Alyaksandr Lukashenka for the last eight hours”. Lukashenka himself expressed his opinion in a little different way, observing that for all this time “we have been discussing the existing differences and tried to make the positions of our sides closer”. Judging by the style of this phrase, the attempt was not very successful, “Vremya novostej” writes.

    “Kommersant” newspaper notes that the yesterday’s session of the Supreme State Council of Russia and Belarus seemed as endless as the process of building “the union state”. Moscow and Minsk have been building it for 10 years, but the end of the task started in the last century is not yet in sight.

    Talks can last for so long in two cases usually: when bosom friends meet, or when the sides couldn’t find understanding on something. The first variant is unlikely, at least because besides Dmitry Medvedev, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was at the negotiations table with Alyaksandr Lukashenka. And he had some black marks against the Belarusian leader, as two months ago Lukashenka accused Putin in hindering integration process and military cooperation of the two countries.

    The statment of the Russian president didn’t shed light to the results of the yesterday’s session of the State Council. “These 10 years have passed very fast, much has been done and much not done yet,” Medvedev said. The Russian president mentioned the tone of this meeting by one more phrase: “In our discussions, sometimes very harsh ones, we are forgetting from what we had started, but I must say there is no comparison between the degree of our mutual integration now and what we had 10 years ago”. Medvedev admitted that “rather emotional exchange of opinions has taken place” between him and his Belarusian colleague.

    What was discussed in first 5 hours

    As “Vremya novostej” writes, the only indication that the meeting was not completely fruitless, where Medvedev’s words that “we have adopted a fundamental decision to answer positively to different appeals concerning the way in which cooperation in the oil sphere would be carried out”. Such an over-elaborate phrasing suggests that Moscow has decided to say yes to the request of Minsk to lift import dues for Russian oil imposed by Moscow in 2007.

    Medvedev didn’t go into detail. It was done instead of him by an anonymous source of “Kommersant” in the Russian delegation. He explained that the matter concerns maintaining the favourable tax regime for import of Russian oil to Belarus. “The Belarusian side would like to reduce the present due. And we expressed ourselves in favour of not increasing it, but preserving it at the present level. That was our concession to them,” the source said.

    However, as “Kommersant” has found out, as before Moscow is not eager to give $500 mln and 100 billion Russian rubles’ loans to Minsk.

    In the statements of the both leaders yesterday there were also no hints to such problems of Russian-Belarusian relations as the issue of recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia which is still being reflected on by the Belarusian leadership. However, that was not an obstacle for Dmitry Medvedev to state surely that “I hope that in the area of foreign policy in 2010-2011, like in no other area, the degree of our integration would be the highest”.

    Nevertheless, an agreement on military and technical cooperation development was signed yesterday. Behind this dry name there is an unprecedented mechanism of Moscow and Minsk mutual relations in defence sphere. “Kommersant” sources in the Russian and Belarusian delegations said unanimously: each side would convey to the other side fighting equipment and armament in the same configuration as it is used in its own military forces. There is no need explaining which of the sides would be an arms supplier, and which a consumer. It is no mere chance that after the talks Anatoly Serdyukov, Russian Defence Minister, received Order of Friendship from Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s hands.

    What was discussed in rest 3 hours

    After a united approach to the signed documents was agreed upon (which took 5 hours), the sides continued discussing other vital problems. As it turned out, in the conference hall hidden from strange eyes a real drama took place. One of the participants of the negotiation battles, who escaped from the hall behind the closed doors to take a breath, told “Kommersant” that the Belarusian delegation was not satisfied with what has already been achieved, and decided build on the progress. “We had to explain the same things to our colleagues from Belarus dozens of times: Minsk cannot feed on Russian subsidies forever, without offering in exchange nothing what interests us in their economy,” the interlocutor of “Kommersant” resented.

    “The Belarusian officials were carrying out the discussion under the scenario written in advance. They ‘blasted’ the meaningful and businesslike talk by endless demands of loans, favourable conditions, indulgences and exceptions,” A Kremlin official complaint. “These requests were repeated for dozens of times, so the conversation had an incoherent character”.

    As said by the source of “Kommersant”, amid excitement of the talks the Belarusian side started to offer completely new ideas: they offered to take care of Russian laws amendments which are long overdue as they believe. “An initiative to change our law on the Central Bank was made! It is outrageous!” the Russian negotiator fumed. “I was amazed by our President and Prime Minister who showed patience of an angel. We are ready for integration and even are ready to incur expenses for that, but we cannot patch gaps of the Belarusian budget which are caused by a specific model of their economy”.