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Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus, Ukraine should preserve trade development pace
From: BelTA and the Office of the President
|President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine during their one-on-one talks in Chernigov|
“In recent years our countries has reached high trade growth,” remarked Alexander Lukashenko. The trade between Belarus and Ukraine is developing rapidly and is balanced: the export and import of Ukraine and Belarus are roughly equal. In 2008 the bilateral trade turnover reached $5 billion, almost 100% up in the last two years. According to the Belarusian head of state, Belarus and Ukraine are capable of preserving the good momentum.
The President underscored, Belarus has never had and will never have problems with Ukraine, moreover, problems of public democracy. “We have very good relations and we will maintain them. We have always been together and helped each other in difficult times,” said Alexander Lukashenko. He also added the two countries do a lot and have reached a lot developing regional relations.
Speaking about the meeting, Alexander Lukashenko said several issues are supposed to be discussed, including energy matters and some border issues. After mentioning the transport route from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea Alexander Lukashenko said Belarus is ready to address the issue together with the Baltic states. “We have a lot of issues, after resolving which we can advance far,” underscored the President of Belarus.
Belarus to resume purchases of Ukrainian energy
Belarus will resume purchases of Ukrainian energy, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said during extended talks with President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko on January 20.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus has the technical capability for that.
Summing up results of the one-on-one meeting, the President of Belarus remarked many affairs of the bilateral cooperation had been discussed in detail. The two presidents had discussed the expansion of capabilities of the transport corridor from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea, restoration of roads in the Chernobyl region.
Alexander Lukashenko thanked his Ukrainian counterpart for Ukraine’s support for Belarus at all levels, including the dialogue with Europe and America. He stressed Ukraine had played its part in the smoothening of Belarus’ dialogue with the European Union and the USA.
The President of Belarus remarked they had discussed projects of cooperation with neighbouring states, including cooperation within the policy of the Eastern partnership, in order to polish some projects the European Union is interested in and work out approaches unified with the European Union.
Alexander Lukashenko thanked intergovernmental commissions of Belarus and Ukraine for good work. “Thanks to their productive efforts several proposals emerged, including the memorandum on designing a system of measures to intensify the bilateral trade and economic cooperation in view of the global financial and economic crisis,” said the President. He added the parties are resolute in their intention to preserve the high volume of the trade turnover the next year.
Within the next ten days the prime ministers of the two countries are supposed to meet in order to formalise the agreements reached by the two presidents, said Alexander Lukashenko.
Expanding transit cooperation
Alexander Lukashenko underlined that Belarus is interested in the expansion of cooperation in the energy area. The Belarusian head of state said that if necessary new power lines might be built to transit electric energy to the Baltic states through the territory of Belarus or to sell this energy to Belarus in large amounts. The negotiations touched upon the development of infrastructure, transit via Belarus, setting up a Baltic-Black Sea transport corridor in which the Baltic states are also interested. The sides discussed the Odessa-Brody oil pipeline project which, according to the Belarusian President, might soon start pumping oil. Belarus will be able to carry out the oil transit to the Baltic states and Poland provided the work on the Odessa-Brody pipeline project proceeds. Apart from that, oil refining in Mozyr will provide the northern part of Ukraine and the southern part of Belarus with cheaper oil.
Alexander Lukashenko underlined that the negotiations resulted in a number of promising cooperation areas that can be developed by Belarus and Ukraine.
Apart from that, the sides touched upon the establishment of assembly productions in Belarus and Ukraine, the settlement of visa issues and the registration of citizens. The sides agreed to complete their work on the simplification of short-term visits procedures.
Ukraine will settle payment issues between economic entities
Belarus and Ukraine will resolve all the payment issues between their economic entities in the near future. This decision is articulated in the memorandum signed during the talks on January 20; the national banks of the two countries will tackle the payment issues in the nearest future.
According to the Belarusian head of state, sensible decisions that were taken will give businesses a boost and help preserve the current trade level.
Alexander Lukashenko underlined that the settlement of payment issues is essential for the sustained development of bilateral trade.
During the talks the sides focused on the work of the free trade zone. Alexander Lukashenko underlined that he supports all the initiatives to remove the barriers of crossing the border. No one should restrain business. All the problems regarding the free trade zone should be resolved in the near future, the President said. According to Alexander Lukashenko, we have to think about the post-crisis period, how to provide a concerted response to the global crisis and maintain the production.
Alexander Lukashenko underlined that the relations with Ukraine are of priority importance to him. “Our relations are based on respect, trust, long-standing friendship. We do not have any disagreements with the President of Ukraine,” the Belarusian leader said.
The President of Belarus underlined that the meeting was fruitful, the sides settled many issues, including many of those that were not dealt with for years
Alexander Lukashenko invites Viktor Yushchenko to visit Belarus
“You are welcome in Minsk any time on a working or official visit. Our people are also looking forward to seeing you there,” the Belarusian Head of State said.
Alexander Lukashenko noted that Belarus and Ukraine have developed friendly relations. “Belarus dislikes neither the Ukrainian state nor its leadership. We respect the decisions taken by Ukraine in the interests of its people. We pursue the same policy here”, Alexander Lukashenko added.
Talking about the global financial crisis, Alexander Lukashenko said that it would not last long, but both Belarus and Ukraine should become stronger when it comes to an end.
Viktor Yushchenko, in turn, underlined that Ukraine is determined to develop fraternal relations with Belarus. According to him, mutual understanding and good neighbourliness in the relations with Belarus have always been a must. The Ukrainian President gave a positive estimate of the development of the bilateral trade.
Belarus interested in full cooperation with European Union
“Economic advisability is the most important incentive for stepping up the development of our relations,” said the head of state.
Alexander Lukashenko confirmed that Belarus is ready to continue the initiated productive dialogue with the European Union on the basis of mutual respect and equality of the parties.
“I hope a lot that the new head of the European Commission Representation in Ukraine and Belarus will do his best to advance the cause,” added the President.
The Republic of Belarus continues the sustained development of the productive and comprehensive dialogue with the European Union, taking specific steps to form the steady legal base of the Belarusian-European relations.
On January 6, 2009 Alexander Lukashenko signed the law “Ratification of the agreement between the Republic of Belarus and the Commission of European Communities on the establishment, privileges, and immunities of the Representative Office of the Commission of European Communities in the Republic of Belarus”. The document was passed by the parliament in December 2008.
Signed on March 7, 2008, the agreement stipulates, in particular, that Belarus agrees to the establishment of the representative office in the country and provides rights, privileges and immunities, which are outlined by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961 for diplomatic missions (in particular, inviolability of premises, correspondence and archives, immunity against criminal jurisdiction, tax preferences), to the representative office and its staff on terms of reciprocity.
On November 20, 2008 the President of Belarus signed decree No 633 and decree No 634.
In line with decree No 633 the head of state approved the signing of a framework agreement between the Government of the Republic of Belarus and the Commission of the European Communities on defining the status and conditions for the technical aid the European Union will provide as part of the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. Thus, the cooperation between Belarus and the European Union will become systematic. It will allow effectively implementing joint projects in spheres of mutual interest, in particular, in such priority areas for both the sides as energy, transport, enhancement of the customs infrastructure, fight against illegal migration and international crime, environmental protection.
Decree No 634 is meant to assimilate the principles laid down by the agreement that Belarus and the Commission of the European Communities signed on March 7, 2008 to regulate the establishment, privileges and immunities of the Representative Office of the Commission of the European Communities in Belarus into the Belarusian legislation. The agreement has not come into force yet. Thus, Belarus creates favourable conditions for the operation of the representative office. The step will enable a more effective dialogue about a wide range of issues regarding relations between Belarus and the European Union.
Vojtech Filip: EU should expand cooperation with Belarus
The European Union should step up cooperation with Belarus with the help of the Eastern Partnership project, said Deputy Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic Vojtech Filip as he met with Chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly Vladimir Andreichenko in Minsk on January 20, BelTA has learnt.
“We should openly discuss all the issues in our relations,” Vojtech Filip underlined. “Of course, it is not possible to have the same opinion about all the matters, however, we have much in common and we have many common interests,” he said.
The Czech Deputy Chairman expressed his satisfaction with the growth of the bilateral trade. In 2008, the trade between the two countries reached $400-450 million. “It is natural that responding to the global crisis we have to search for new forms of economic interaction,” he said.
Vojtech Filip noted that the Czech delegation he leads would like to learn more about the stance of the Belarusian parliamentarians on the resumption of the participation of a Belarusian delegation in the work of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Chairman of the House of Representatives Vladimir Andreichenko, in turn, said he would like the visit of the Czech delegation to become a new impetus for the development of the bilateral cooperation and interparliamentary dialogue between Belarus and the Czech Republic. “We hope for an open dialogue,” Vladimir Andreichenko underlined.
The Czech Republic assumed the Presidency of the EU on January 1, 2009.
Boris Batura: joining Council of Europe is Belarus’ foreign policy priority
“We consider it is high time Belarus expanded cooperation with European countries, established new robust interparliamentary links, restored a high volume of the relations between Belarus and the European Union,” said the Speaker of the Upper Chamber of the Belarusian Parliament. “We should use this opportunity,” he added.
According to Boris Batura, Belarus is interested in the work within the Eastern Partnership framework. The Belarusian side believes it is important for the country to partake in the Eastern Partnership projects. “We hope our country will join the Eastern Partnership without any limitations and prior conditions,” Boris Batura said.
In his words, Belarus does not aim at the EU membership. “We are just interested in the full-fledged cooperation with the European Union,” he said. The Chairman of the Council of the Republic has added that the Belarusian parliament is eager to resume active mutual relations with the European Parliament. “Those years when the mutual relations were limited benefited neither Europe nor Belarus,” the Speaker said.
Boris Batura thanked Finland for its pragmatic approach to the dialogue and assistance in restoring good relations with the European Union.
Belarus partakes in labour market discussions in Vienna
The influence of legal migration on labour markets is discussed during the first part of the XVII OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum, which is taking place in Vienna till January 20. A Belarusian delegation participates in the forum. It includes representatives of the Labour and Social Protection Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representatives of the Foreign Ministry told BelTA.
The forum is dedicated to discussing “Migration management and its linkages with economic, social and environmental policies to the benefit of stability and security in the OSCE region”. Apart from the influence of legal migration on labour markets there are plans to study the practices used to regulate labour migration at the international, regional and national levels.
The meeting is supposed to formulate recommendations for international and regional organisations, including the OSCE, concerning assistance to countries in the region in effective labour migration management.
The exchange of information about the demand on the national labour markets of the CIS countries can be carried out through the Internet, said Alexander Korotkov, deputy head of the labour migration office of the Employment and Labour Migration Department of the Health and Social Development Ministry of the Russian Federation. He takes part in a session of an expert group to develop a system of information exchange about the demand for labour resources on the national labour markets. The session is held at the CIS Executive Committee in Minsk on January 20-21, BelTA learnt from the press service of the CIS Executive Committee.
According to Alexander Korotkov, the necessity to exchange information about the demand for labour resources is getting increasingly urgent. It is prompted, among other reasons, by the annual growth of migration flows. The ultimate goal of the expert group is to develop a mechanism to regulate this exchange.
Belarus among TravelMail’s ten top travel destinations for 2009
According to TravelMail, Belarus has a lot to offer. The top attractions include the national park Belovezhskaya Pushcha, Europe’s oldest national park.
The Belarusian capital, Minsk, is a fascinating city. TravelMail says, “the national symbol of Belarus is the bison, but a phoenix might be more appropriate. Being slap in the middle of the route armies have used on their way to try to conquer Moscow, Minsk has had to recreate itself from the ashes of war many times over: most of the city was flattened during World War II and had to be rebuilt almost from scratch”. In order to get a better feel of the history, travellers are advised to visit the Brest Fortress.
Along with Belarus the top ten travel destinations for 2009 include Australia, the USA, Egypt, Poland, Mexico, the UAE, Aruba (the Caribbean Islands), the Galapagos Islands, and Malaysia.
Direct air service between Minsk and Helsinki in 2009
Direct air service may be established between Minsk and Helsinki in 2009, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Lithuania and Finland (combined office) Vladimir Drazhin said at a meeting with the Finland parliament delegation at the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry on January 20.
According to the diplomat, the possibility was discussed with the management of the company Fin Air. Belarusian air company Belavia has given its approval to the Finnish air service. “We believe the relevant agreement can be signed in 2009,” added the Ambassador.
Vladimir Drazhin asked the MPs to help with opening the air service, which will help avoid the necessity of flying via Riga. While at present the flight via Riga takes around four hours, the direct air service will reduce the time to one hour.
“Possible passenger traffic was examined and it was admitted that some Southeast Asia passengers, who leave from Helsinki, as a rule, will use the service. The flight will be in demand,” believes Vladimir Drazhin.
Sergei Sidorsky: Belarus’ economy demonstrates stable growth
The global financial crisis is seriously affecting the economy of the countries Belarus works with. A set of important measures therefore was taken to attract additional financial resources to the economy. As the global oil prices are dropping, the economies that developed production up to the third or fourth generations appear to have advantage over the high-cost economies that advanced due to energy revenues during the past 10 years. The last 6-8 moths witnessed the collapse of raw-material-intensive economies, both in the post-Soviet and European countries, while the Belarusian economy demonstrates a stable growth, he underlined.
The Belarusian head of government said that the programmes implemented in Belarus during the past 10 years allowed a drastic modernization of production facilities. The programmes adopted 3-4 years ago, especially the innovation development projects, help switch to the higher quality production at all industrial enterprises. During the last three years, the cost of expensive resources in the industrial sector reduced manifold.
Sergei Sidorsky cited an example of Mogilevkhimvolokno which implemented a wide range of ambitious investment projects supported by the Belarusian government. This enabled the company to increase the production up to Br900 billion in 2008, almost twice as much compared with 2000-2001. The enterprise has set up a firm technological foundation to underpin the economy of joint stock companies. It pertains to almost all the country’s enterprises, the Prime Minister concluded.
According to him, practically all Belarusian enterprises are completing the upgrading of their production facilities. It pertains mostly to the processing industry where almost all enterprises were modernized during the last 3-4 years. “We are trying to create almost non-waste technological production. It means that Belarusian goods are competitive,” the head of government noted.
However, Sergei Sidorsky admitted that it became harder to work as the number of export markets is decreasing. “We have set a task not to leave these markets and to continue to promote our goods,” he added.
The Prime Minister mentioned Minsk Tractor Works which produced about 12-19 thousand tractors in 2000-2001 and in 2008, this figure reached 70 thousand. “The production growth should be maintained beyond the Minsk Tractor Works. Joint productions are to be set up in Russia and Ukraine. For the last several years we have managed to establish about 15 works in these countries and our partners are interested in creating more similar enterprises,” he said. Serious negotiations are underway with the countries of South-East Asia and the Persian Gulf. For example, the Syrian Arab Republic has proposed to open a motor-car factory with a capacity of about 3 thousand tractors per year. Similar enterprises are to be opened in Venezuela and Cuba. “It means that during the financial crisis we are not just trying to strengthen our positions on the international markets but also to pursue an aggressive policy on other foreign markets. This is the major task for all enterprises," Sergei Sidorsky said.
Belarus raises gas price for consumers by 9.8 pct
A resolution issued by the economy ministry said the price had climbed to $174.18 from the previous rate of $158.67 per 1,000 cubic metres.
"The gas price for domestic producers was subject to review in connection with a rise in prices from January 1st of gas from the Russian Federation and also in connection with overall changes in economic operations," the resolution said.
The increase could be an indicator of what Belarus can expect to pay for imports from its eastern neighbour in the aftermath of the conclusion of a new gas deal between Russia and Ukraine after Gazprom cut supplies for two weeks.
Neither Belarus nor Russian giant Gazprom has indicated what price will be set for 2009. At the end of last year, both sides said agreement had been reached on conditions of supply and pricing, with details to be announced subsequently.
Belarussian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky is to visit Moscow next week. Belarus paid $128 per tcm last year.
Officials in the country of 10 million had earlier said they expected to pay up to $160 this year, while Russian representatives have suggested the price will be nearer $200.
Belarus, led by President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994, still regards Russia as its strategic partner and long-term plans for a post-Soviet merged state remain in effect, though without great enthusiasm from either side.
But Lukashenko, long accused in the West of crushing fundamental rights, has tried in the past two years to improve ties with Western states after an earlier quarrel with Moscow over energy prices.
Belarus and Gazprom signed a 2007 deal providing for Belarus to pay 80 percent of average European prices by 2009. But gas prices have in recent months been closely linked to oil prices.
Under Gazprom's deal signed with Ukraine, Kiev is to pay no more than $250 per tcm over the course of 2009, with the highest price to be paid in the first quarter.
Following big price increases in 2007, Russia extended Belarus a credit of $1.5 billion and a further $1 billion last year, with $1 billion more promised this year.
Belarus has so far this year received $788 from the International Monetary Fund, the first tranche of a credit of $2.5 billion.
Ukraine, Belarus could deepen cooperation in energy transit, say presidents
From: Kiev Post
"We should be a significant player in the transit sector," Yuschenko said, while summing up the outcome of his meeting with Lukashenko in Chernihiv on Tuesday.
He said that Ukraine and Belarus could play roles in the "Eurasian oil transport corridor."
In this connection, Lukashenko said that the Odesa-Brody project remains a pressing issue for Belarus.
"We can provide the Baltic states and Poland with oil via our transportation system," Lukashenko said.
He also said that and it would be a profitable business for Belarus to refine Caspian oil if the project is implemented.
Yuschenko also pointed to Belarus as a transit route in supplying Ukrainian electricity to the Baltic countries.
He said a trilateral meeting would be held in Lithuania soon to discuss plans for the transmission of Ukrainian electricity to the Baltic states.
Belarus: prices for vegetables and fruits increased
Vegetables went in prices by 4.9%, including prices for beet increased by 24.6%, for hothouse cucumbers - by 11%, for hothouse tomatoes - by 10.7%, for onion - by5.2%, for carrot - by 4.9%. Prices for potatoes increased by 20.4%. At the same time, prices for cabbage decreased by 21.2%, pepper - by 20%. Fruits went in prices by 9.8%, including citrus - by 15.1%, apples - 12.5%. Should be noted that prices for bananas decreased by 2.1%.
As of the end of December 2008, the average prices for cabbage totaled 0.22 euro/kg, for beet - 0.26 euro/kg, for potatoes - 0.24 euro/kg.
In 2008 Belarus increased agricultural production by 9%
In 2008, the gross domestic product of Belarus increased by 10%, which is a rather good result in the terms of the global financial crisis, declared Sergey Sidorskiy, the Prime Minister of the country, on January 15. Also Belarus managed to complete the year in the agro industrial complex. During the year, the production level of agricultural products increased by 8.9%.
However, in the year, the index of consumer prices increased all forecasted indices and totaled 113.3%. The inflation grew due to external reasons – the rise of prices for energy, resources of raw material and other commodities, noticed S.Sidorskiy.
But Belarus entered 2009 with the concrete program of anticrisis measures for work of the economics in the terms of the global economic crisis.
Devastating effects of a catastrophic coincidence
From: The National
While volcanoes were spewing floods of magma over southern Arabia, a meteorite was hurtling through space towards central Europe.
It was only in the last year that researchers have been able to obtain a relatively accurate date of the impact that left a 17km-wide crater in Belarus, then realising that it coincided with the flood volcanism then underway in what is now Yemen.
As the lead researcher, Sarah Sherlock of Britain’s Open University, explains, the interest in the coincidence comes from it being only the second proven example of a catastrophic coincidence. The other example of this double whammy of meteorite impact and flood volcanism is thought to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.
According to research published this month in the Journal of the Geological Society, the meteorite that hit what is now Belarus and the flood volcanism in Yemen are associated with a period of previously unexplained sudden global cooling and sea-level fluctuation.
At the time, the continents were thought to be roughly in the positions they now occupy, with a few notable exceptions.
One was the Arabian peninsula, which by some assessments was still an island before connecting with the Anatolian and Iranian sections of the Eurasian tectonic plate.
The Indian subcontinent also was still in the process of migrating northwards en route to the monumental collision that would create the world’s youngest and highest mountain range, the Himalayas.
The discovery of the catastrophic coincidence in Belarus and Yemen will add extra information to the dispute over the causative role of such events on global temperatures and on sudden extinctions.
No mass extinction is thought to have accompanied that coincidence.The component events of each were smaller than the one blamed for the dinosaur extinctions, 35 million years earlier.
In the latter case, the Chicxulub meteorite crater in what is now Mexico is 170km wide, 10 times as wide as the one in Belarus, while the Deccan Traps constituted a far bigger volcanic flood than the Yemen event, depositing lava 2000m thick over an area of 500,000 sq km in India. A second roughly contemporaneous meteorite impact, in present-day Ukraine, is thought to have multiplied the effect.
With the blocked sunlight, species that relied on photosynthesis succumbed first, followed by species such as herbivorous animals that relied on them. By the end of the geological era, it is thought there were no purely herbivorous or carnivorous mammals remaining.
Omnivores, insectivores and carrion-eaters, including most mammalian and bird species, survived the event with relatively few extinctions. One theory is that they were able to survive the collapse of plant-based food chains by feeding on insects, worms and snails that fed on the plant detritus.
Although only two such coincidences have been proven, researchers postulate they are likely to have happened much more frequently. The preservation of meteorite impact craters on the Earth’s surface is rare so evidence of other catastrophic coincidences may have been lost.
The debate in the scientific community is about the causative roles of the catastrophic coincidences.
At the dinosaur extinction event 65 million years ago, it is thought one of the biggest impacts was the release of about 7 trillion tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, with the impact coming either in the form of acid rain or from acid rain reaching the stratosphere and drastically decreasing the amount of heat reaching the surface of the Earth.
By comparison, the Belarus/Yemen coincidence is estimated to have released 27 billion tonnes of sulphur dioxide.
The dinosaurs were not the only victims of the earlier catastrophic coincidence. The list of extinctions included an estimated 98 per cent of warm shallow-water coral species, and 57 per cent of North American plant species.
According to figures for the frequency of marine extinctions, there was a blip around 30 million years ago. By comparison to the Chicxulub/Deccan Traps coincidence, however, this looks like a speed bump.
But the Chicxulub/Deccan Traps coincidence 65 million years ago is just the most recent event in what are known as the big five extinction events in the earth’s history. Based on marine species that left fossilised remains, there were also equal or bigger extinctions 208m, 245m, 354m and 438m years ago.
In the biggest, the Permian-Triassic extinction event 245m years ago – dubbed by some scientists as “the mother of all extinction events” – the extinction rates are estimated to have included 96 per cent of all marine species, 70 per cent of land species, and 83 per cent of all genera.
And according to the American Museum of Natural History, the Earth is currently undergoing a new mass extinction event, albeit a relatively slow-motion event compared to a catastrophic coincidence.
The combination of climate change caused by human activity, along with displacement of species and depletion of natural environments caused by the earth’s human population quadrupling during the 20th century, is predicted to increase the number of species becoming extinct.
One estimate by the museum claimed that 30,000 species are being lost each year, the fastest rate since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and potentially putting human survival itself at risk.
At a display about the six mass extinction events in the museum’s Hall of Biodiversity, the Stanford University entomologist Paul Ehrlich is quoted as saying: “In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it is perched.”
Another chance for Viasna
As a result, Ales Bialiatski, influential human rights expert and FIDH Vice-president, was elected head of the organization.
The closure was followed by numerous attempts to regain state registration; all of them were turned down due to trivial reasons.
In 2007 the UN Human Rights Committee’s decision urged the Belarusian government to re-register the human rights center Viasna, saying that by doing this Article 22(1) of the 1966 UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of association had been violated and considered that the co-authors of the complaint were ‘entitled to an appropriate remedy, including the re-registration of ‘Viasna’, and that Belarus was ‘under an obligation to take steps to prevent similar violations occurring in the future’.
However, both the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court ignored the decision by the Committee.
Shortly after the assembly, Nasha Viasna’s president Ales Bialiatski said: ‘It is another attempt to rejoin the legal community of Belarus, of which we have been deprived for the past 6 years. Considering the complicated situation in the field of human rights in Belarus – political harassment, human rights education, capital punishment, absence of any developed human rights institutes and much more – we are likely to continue our work on the issue. This is what the new association is going to do, both for the sake of our country and the Belarusian civil society. We, on our part, are particularly interested in further cooperation on the above-mentioned issues, both with state bodies and the Belarusian civil society.’
Pro-governmental Union of Poles in Belarus selling out property having bought by Polish government
From: Charter '97
A reason for it is lack of means, Radio Racyja reports.
The council of the Navahrudak district organization is to decide on selling of the Polish House, situated in the district center. The building will be up for auction after this decision is confirmed by the central council, Jozef Lucznik said.
Lucznik doesn’t exclude the Polish House in Navahrudak is the only building, he will have to sell. Lack of money and debts to the state make the leadership of the pro-governmental Union of Poles look for money. Besides, this pro-governmental organization can’t count on Poland’s aid.
Murder incorporated in Russia
From: Boston Globe
Stanislav Markelov, a young lawyer who had been trying to prevent the early release of a Russian army colonel convicted of strangling to death a woman in Chechnya, was shot in the head Monday by a man wearing a ski mask.
The hit man also shot and killed Anastasia Baburova, a university student and intern at the independent paper Novaya Gazeta who had been reporting on neo-Nazi groups in Moscow.
Markelov had received death threats because of his efforts to keep the murderer of the strangled Chechen woman in prison. In the past, he had defended the assassinated reporter Anna Politkovskaya as well as labor unions, human rights groups, and other journalists. He knew his life was at risk because of his legal work, as are the lives of many of the most admirable people in Russia - the lawyers, reporters, environmentalists, and human rights defenders who try to make the Kremlin live up to its claim of presiding over a law-based democratic state.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has spoken of his determination to improve Russia's attractiveness to investors, both foreign and domestic, by strengthening the rule of law. But as long as powerful, hidden bosses can have people like Markelov, Baburova, or Politkovskaya murdered with impunity, Russia will deserve its reputation as a Mafia petrostate crouching behind a Potemkin democracy.
Russia warns against sending weapons to Georgia
Sergey Lavrov said Russia was concerned by some nations talking about the need to rearm the Georgian military. He didn't name any nation, but Russia angrily criticized the United States, Ukraine and other nations for providing Georgia with military equipment before its August war with Russia.
Lavrov spoke to reporters a day after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued a decree ordering the Cabinet to introduce sanctions against nations that ship weapons to Georgia.
"If they continue to send offensive weapons to Georgia, we will make conclusions regarding our relations with such countries," Lavrov said. He didn't specify what sanctions Russia may introduce.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday denounced Medvedev's decree as a "threat to global community." It also accused Russia of arming separatists in Georgia's breakaway regions in the runup to the August war and supplying weapons to "odious regimes" around the world.
Russia: Flow of Natural Gas Resumes
From: NY Times
Three dismissed, Justice Minister resigned over Polish prison death
The prisoner, Robert Pazik, was convicted for murdering the son of a wealthy businessman. Pazik was found dead, hanging from a bed sheet in his cell on Monday morning. Of the men convicted for the kidnap and murder of Krzysztof Olewnik, Pazik was the third to commit suicide.
Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Cwiakalski resigned amid 'political and media hysteria,' and said that Tusk thought a resignation was 'best in this situation.'
Olewnik was held for a ransom of 300,000 euros (388,530 dollars), according to broadcaster Polish Radio, before being tortured and brutally murdered in October 2001. His family's lawyers had accused police officials of corruption and neglect of duty.
The murder victim's sister has claimed the prisoners were murdered to stifle the emergence of further details in the case.
Cwiakalski said he didn't feel at fault, but added there is such a thing as 'political responsibility.'
The head of the country's prison service, the national prosecutor and the vice-minister of justice will also be dismissed, Tusk said later on Tuesday. He added that a commission should be called to investigate the death.
'The matter calls for an explanation not only in the sense of justice,' Tusk said, 'but the public also has the right to fully access the information, so that there's no dark mystery hanging over this matter.'
Politicians react to Cwiakalski resignation
In a related story, President Lech Kaczynski has received the news of the resignation of Justice Minister Zbigniew Cwiakalski with contentment.
Cwiakalski decided to resign, Tuesday morning, in relation to the suicide of Robert Pazik, the third murder to commit suicide in prison of Krzysztof Olewnik, the son of a wealthy Polish businessman.
The President's Chancellor Michal Kaminski, says that Kaczynski had reservations towards Cwiakalski from the very beginning of his appointment after the general election of 2007 and added that "at last the Prime Minister [Donald Tusk] agrees with the President and has recalled Cwiakalski."
Kaminski emphasized that the circumstances of the resignation have presented the legal authorities in an unfavourable light. The sister of the murdered man questioned whether it was possible that three men would commit suicide in the same case and wondered whether someone was desperate to cover up further evidence emerging.
Due to the suspicious deaths occurring on the watch of the justice minister he felt that his position was untenable.
Cwiakalski, who met Prime Minister Tuesday morning to tell him about his decision, said cooperation with Donald Tusk was fine and the PM received his resignation "with understanding." According to Cwiakalski, Tusk found the Justice Minister's resignation the best solution.
"Politicians are like sappers: they can commit a mistake only once, but I don't feel guilty (?)," said Cwiakalski.
Other parties have commented on the resignation.
Waclaw Martyniuk, a member of the Left alliance, said that the minister's decision is at least in some part a marketing or PR exercise by the government to fend off further criticism.
"I would be surprised if Civic Platform had not sacked Cwiakalski if he hadn't resigned," said Martyniuk, hoping that the case will be looked into anew by a new group of prosecutors and judges. The Left Democratic Alliance calls for more details to be released about the three suicides.
Zbigniew Cwiakalski will continue to head the Ministry of Justice until his resignation is signed by the President and Prime Minister, which may take a few days.
Polish lawmaker resigns from commission over prostitution remarks
From: Thaindian News
Palikot said he did not agree with the recommendation, but did not want to put fellow party members in an “awkward situation”.
Palikot is well-known for his eccentric antics. He has faced charges of defamation for calling President Lech Kaczynski a “pig”.
He recently offered up a bloodied pig’s head during an appearance on late-night TV as a gift to the “Polish football federation mafia”, amid a spur between the federation and football’s world governing body FIFA over corruption in the sport.
The Friendly State commission works towards creating simpler laws, and less red-tape and bureaucracy.
Polish government intends to change vetting law, dissolve Vetting Bureau
From: Axis Globe
Daily Gazeta Wyborcza writes that the new project is part of an amendment to the controversial vetting law drawn up by the previous Law and Justice party administration. In accordance with the new bill, the bureau will be substituted with a new institution and the contents of files are to be published on the Internet (except for details of private lives).
Public figures will be allowed to write comments on their files and attach additional documents. The bill is to keep the obligation for people in official posts to make declarations as to whether they cooperated or collaborated with communist era secret services, the paper says.
The former vetting law was the subject of much controversy and ended up being referred to the Constitutional Tribunal, Polish Radio notes. The Tribunal questioned some its regulations, including the vetting of journalists and workers in private schools. The tribunal also ruled that proof of collaboration with communist authorities must include, not only evidence that the subject agreed to collaborate, but that there must be evidence of actual collaboration, Polish Radio says.
New coach from Belarus has Big Macs hockey team on the rise
From: Pittsburgh Post
But that hasn't prevented Krivokhija from setting the bar high for his team.
Krivokhija, who last season coached the Pittsburgh Viper Stars AAA under-16 team into the national tournament and spent a few years as an assistant with the highly successful Quaker Valley High School program, has guided Canon-McMillan to an 8-5-1 record before last Thursday night's showdown with North Allegheny.
"Of course, we're looking for the Penguins Cup, no doubt about it," Krivokhija said. "I hate losing. These kids want to be winners. And of course coaching at Quaker Valley, we'd been to the Penguins Cup three times, won the title twice and won a state title once, so I've got some experience [coaching] in high school and I feel as though I know what I'm doing right now."
Krivokhija also believes he has plenty of talent to work with at Canon-McMillan. He has worked extensively with at least four of the players on the team -- senior forward Mario Dalesandro, junior forwards Bret Oldaker and Kyle Almasy and junior defenseman Nilan Nagy with the Viper Stars organization. It was through those connections that he got the Canon-Mac coaching job.
"This is a really great group of talented kids," Krivokhija said. "I don't know how they played so poorly the past couple years. All this team needs is discipline, and now they're playing a system, playing more defensive hockey.
"When you play better defensive hockey, you will get more offensive chances, no question about it."
Almasy and Oldaker were tied for third on the team in goals with five and second on the team in points with nine heading into last week. They have typically been on a line with Dalesandro, who was tied for the team lead in assists with seven.
Joe Mottiqua, who plays for the Pittsburgh Hornets, also had seven assists and nine points. He was often skating on a line with Matt Rivetti and Ryan Thomas. Rivetti led the team in scoring with 11 points (six goals, five assists) and Thomas had a team-high seven goals.
Nagy is the team's top defenseman. He led all Big Macs players at the position with seven points through 11 games. Krivokhija said Nagy is 6 feet 2, 220 pounds and is an elite high school talent who has a chance of playing high-level major junior hockey.
"He has a perfect shot, perfect passing and good vision on the ice," Krivokhija said. "I believe he's now the top defenseman in the whole league, at least from what I've seen."
Nagy was the only Big Macs player selected to play in the PIHL All-Star Game, which will be played Saturday at the Ice Castle in Castle Shannon, although Dalesandro was named as an alternate.
Krivokhija was picked as co-coach of the Class AAA Southwest Conference All-Star team along with Bethel Park's Jim McVay.
"I was definitely surprised," Krivokhija said of receiving the honor as a first-year high school head coach.
A native of Belarus in what was then part of the Soviet Union, Krivokhija played professionally in North America and Europe for more than a decade and was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens. A defenseman, Krivokhija played on the USSR and, later, Belarusian national teams in international competition.
Still only 40 years old, he gets on the ice with the playersat times, notably shooting on goalie Ryan Palonis before practice. Palonis had a 2.56 goals-against average and .901 save percentage entering the week.
Krivokhija has been working on instituting structure and a system for the Big Macs, stressing situational hockey and specialized drills. He's encouraged by the early results.
"So far, so good," Krivokhija said. "But like every coach, I'm still not 100 percent happy. The last game, against [defending Penguins Cup champion] Pine-Richland was [a 7-2 loss], so that was a little disappointing.
"But I believe in the kids right now. I've got a feeling that there are winners on this team, so wei? 1/2ll keep working for this. We'll be ready in two months when the playoffs start.
Petr Elfimov will represent Belarus in the Eurovision Song Contest
The restyled Eurovision.tv announced the complete participants list for the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 tonight. Just like in Belgrade, 43 countries will take part in Moscow. San Marino withdrew. Slovakia makes a comeback. In spite of their earlier intentions to withdraw, Georgia and Latvia will also be present.
The following 38 countries will be represented in the two semifinals of the 54th Eurovision Song Contest on 12th and 14th of May: Albania (RTVSH), Andorra (RTVA), Armenia (ARMTV), Azerbaijan (Ictimai TV), Belarus (BTRC), Belgium (RTBF), Bosnia & Herzegovina (BHRT), Bulgaria (BNT), Croatia (HRT), Cyprus (CyBC), Czech Republic (CT), Denmark (DR), Estonia (ERR), Finland (YLE), FYR Macedonia (MKRTV), Georgia (GPB), Greece (ERT), Hungary (MTV), Iceland (RUV), Ireland (RTE), Israel (IBA), Latvia (LTV), Lithuania (LRT), Malta (PBS), Moldova (TRM), Montenegro (RTCG), the Netherlands (NOS), Norway (NRK), Poland (TVP), Portugal (RTP), Romania (TVR), Serbia (RTS), Slovakia (STV), Slovenia (RTVSLO), Sweden (SVT), Switzerland (SRG SSR idee suisse), Turkey (TRT) and Ukraine (NTU).
The draw to determine on which of the two nights the 38 semifinalists will perform, will take place on 30th January in Moscow. The draws for the running order of the semifinals, the final and voting order take place in mid-March. France (FT3), Germany (NDR/ARD), Russia (Channel One), Spain (TVE) and the United Kingdom (BBC) are automatically qualified for the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2009, scheduled to take place on 16 May.
Svante Stockselius, Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of the EBU, refers to the participants list as a tight family, and said: "42 of last year's 43 represented countries are back in the competition. We are very happy to see that despite a difficult year and the initial intention not to take part, Georgia returns to the competition. It is also fantastic to see Slovakia back, after 10 years of absence! Together with host broadcaster Channel One from Russia we are looking forward to another fantastic Eurovision Song Contest."
Text of President Barack Obama's inaugural address on Tuesday, as delivered.
|Barack Obama takes the oath of office to become the 44th president of the United States in Washington|
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."
America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.