Nuclear research, Alternative energy; SIUTSOU wins stage at Giro, Eurovision, CIS and EU, China, Kazakhstan, Investment, Abkhazia and Polish Scandal
Alexander Lukashenko: nuclear research should benefit Belarusian economy, science, defence
|Alexander Lukashenko touring the State Scientific Institution ‘Joint Institute for Power and Nuclear Research – Sosny’|
Thanks to direct support by the head of state the institute avoided its collapse in the 1990s. The President visited the facility in 1998 and 2002. This time Alexander Lukashenko examined and officially launched a research nuclear mini reactor. Codenamed Hyacinth, it was created following his instruction and with assistance of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The President also got familiar with unique cutting-edge technologies and equipment designed by Belarusian scientists.
Alexander Lukashenko was provided detailed information about the development of this international project. The institute designed Hyacinth for researching neutron multiplying assemblies and accomplishing various projects for the Belarusian economy. According to Chairman of the Board of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (NASB) Mikhail Myasnikovich, the critical installation Hyacinth is a unique nuclear research facility. Along with another Sosny-based installation Yalina the Hyacinth installation is in the world’s top ten similar systems. Hyacinth is one of the most technologically advanced objects on par with space, nuclear and nano technologies, stressed Mikhail Myasnikovich.
The new installation will enable an ever burning nuclear reaction without external sources. The facility is designed for examining things relating to the design of nuclear reactors, fuel optimisation (performance coefficient improvement), for testing machines for nuclear stability, for training and apprenticeship of nuclear energy personnel as well as for mutually beneficial scientific and technical cooperation with nuclear centres of foreign nations.
The implementation of the project indicates the innovative nature of the Belarusian economy development. Nuclear powers (in particular, the USA and Russia) show an increased interest in using the Belarusian potential for joint nuclear research projects. According to the NASB, for one dollar invested in the Yalina complex there are four dollars in foreign investments. It is very important that all Sosny projects have been agreed with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Hyacinth project has been implemented using international support.
According to Mikhail Myasnikovich, Belarus is at the forefront of the world’s nuclear research. “It is not just a claim of ours, but the opinion of foreign colleagues, who cooperate with us in the projects Yalina and Hyacinth,” he said.
At present Belarusian scientists are busy with matters relating to the assimilation of hydrogen energy technologies that will replace the nuclear fission energy. Foreign scientists from Japan, China, the USA and other countries demonstrate a huge interest in these projects.
While visiting the Sosny Institute, Alexander Lukashenko heard out reports about Belarus’ nuclear power engineering development. In particular, the head of state was informed about the progress in building Belarus’ first nuclear power plant and the development of the relevant infrastructure.
The United Energy and Nuclear Research Institute Sosny of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus was founded in 2001. It is the successor of the Nuclear Power Engineering Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic. By the time the institute was founded a research nuclear reactor IRT-2000 had been deployed at the site along with a test wing with thermophysical experiment machines, with a physical capacity reactor lab operational. It is the country’s only institution experienced in scientific support for and designing nuclear reactors, critical installations and other nuclear and radiation installations as well as in scientific supervision of projects for designing a mobile nuclear power plant.
Belarus government to step up support for alternative energy
The government intends to enhance support for the introduction of alternative energy sources. Biogas plants, which Belarus has started deploying, will allow avoiding the dependence on imported energy resources, in particular, the natural gas. “We don’t have gas. Today external sources say in the near future the gas will become more expensive. It is a fact which cannot be avoided,” noted the head of government. He underscored Belarus needs such installations.
The Premier was dissatisfied with unequal performance of biogas plants launched roughly at the same time in the Minsk region (Belorussky) and the Brest region (Zapadny) last year. The Brest region project is much slower.
According to Sergei Sidorsky, a serious approach is needed to finding alternative energy sources because the future of the country’s economy depends on the assimilation of biogas plants. Within the next three years the share of Belarus’ heating energy and electricity generation using local and renewable sources should reach 25%. “We will secure the goal but so far the progress stands at 18%,” stated the Premier. It means that efforts aimed at introducing alternative energy sources should be stepped up.
Alexander Lukashenko wants higher efficiency of Belarus energy industry
he energy industry of Belarus should raise production efficiency, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said as visited Minsk CHP No 3 on May 12, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.
Alexander Lukashenko commissioned the Presidential Administration with a task to find out and report why the efficiency of Minsk CHP is about the same as that of a German CHP though the equipment cost and salaries are lower than in Western Europe, and the equipment quality is just the same.
During the visit, the President took stock of the implementation of the state integrated programme on upgrading the major production facilities of the Belarusian energy system.
In 2006-2008, the capital consumption of the Belarusian energy system was reduced by 7%, the number of accidents in heat networks dropped 34% and in power networks 26.5%. Over this time almost 900,000 tonnes of fuel equivalent was saved (or $135 million), 267,500 tonnes of imported fuel equivalent was substituted.
Provided all the projects are implemented, 727.2 megawatt of electrogenerating capacities will be commissioned by 2011 which will help save about 320,000 tonnes of fuel equivalent (or $42 million a year). About 70,000 of imported fuel and energy resources will be substituted; the reliability of heat and electricity supply will rise. According to First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko, despite the global crisis, all the targets of the programme will be implemented in time.
Belarus actively implements projects to raise the efficiency of the primary fuel.
As for Minsk CHP No 3, the plant is equipped with cutting-edge facilities. When the new gas-steam cycle was introduced, the efficiency coefficient rose from 30% to 53%. This helps significantly reduce energy production cost. Apart from that, the energy consumption of the plant dramatically dropped: the specific fuel consumption at similar plants constructed in the 1960-1970s was 270g per 1 kWh, while at Minsk CHP No 3 this index is just 168.
The same pertains to the plant in Beryoza; in 2010, Minsk CHP No 2 will be inaugurated; the biggest power unit with the capacity of 400 megawatt will be launched at Minsk CHP No 5 in 2011. All in all, the implementation of the state integrated programme on upgrading the major production facilities of the Belarusian energy system will result in the commissioning of capacities worth 1150 megawatt.
Alexander Lukashenko got familiar with the technical upgrading of Minsk CHP.
According to the First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus, the country is interested in external borrowing to implement energy projects. For example, the Chinese loan worth EUR52 million which was granted to Belarus on very favourable terms helped modernize Minsk CHP No 2. Apart from that, in the near future Belarus will receive a EUR280 million Chinese loan to upgrade Minsk CHP No 5. “Almost all the issues related to loans have already been settled,” Vladimir Semashko said.
At present, the modernization of Belarusian energy system is financed mainly by proprietary funds of enterprises and bank loans.
Br 3241.4 billion including Br278.1 billion of foreign investments were put in the revamping of the production facilities of the energy system in 2006-2008.
Foreign Ministry: Belarus will not choose between CIS and EU
Andrei Popov said that Belarus is the venue for CIS HQ location, is one of the CIS founders and one of its most faithful followers. Belarus is going neither “to reconsider any agreements signed within the CIS” nor “to deny cooperation within the Commonwealth” or, what is more, withdraw from the CIS.
In his words, the Eastern Partnership declaration that was adopted at the inaugural summit in Prague does not demand to “alter the national legislation of any participating state and harmonize it with the EU standards”.
As for the choice that would allegedly take place, Andrei Popov reminded that Belarus has outspoken its standpoint at different levels several times. “I would like to emphasize once again: Belarus is not going to make any choice between the interests in the CIS and the relations with the European Union,” he said. These two vectors of the Belarusian foreign policy are fundamentally important. It is an objective state of affairs for the country situated between the two centres of the international influence.
“We will continue to be an active participant of the CIS. At the same time we will be developing our relations with the European Union,” Andrei Popov stressed.
He added that the CIS Executive Secretariat can address the Foreign Ministry of Belarus when it is necessary to receive all interested information on these and other issues of the international importance.
Sergei Lebedev: CIS Economic Development Strategy will highlight innovations
The CIS Economic Development Strategy will focus on innovations, said Sergei Lebedev, Chairman of the CIS Executive Committee, CIS Executive Secretary, at the 16th conference of the CIS education ministers.
According to Sergei Lebedev, the dramatic changes in the economy caused by the introduction of nanotechnologies and the advance of technology set new challenges for the national education systems.
The Chairman of the CIS Executive Committee underlined that the strategy accentuates innovations, formation of new economic patterns, development of present-day productions and services aimed to give the CIS states advantages for many years. “The conference should feature major targets of the CIS Economic Development Strategy that will span till 2020,” Sergei Lebedev said.
A draft action plan to implement the first stage of the strategy (2009-2011) has been elaborated and submitted to the Council of Heads of Government of the CIS sates. It stipulates the realization of joint innovation projects in various branches of economy; a cooperation agreement in fundamental research, applied sciences and education is to be signed, too.
Sergei Lebedev drew attention of the participants of the conference to the fact that 2009 was declared the Year of Youth in the CIS, while 2010 the Year of Science and Innovation. The governments of the CIS member states are to carry out various events dedicated to these years, including a forum of youth unions in Chisinau.
Belarus can become SCO partner
Summing up results of the SCO Ministerial Council session, Sergei Lavrov remarked, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization intends to polish the mechanism new countries use to join the SCO.
The official reminded, a while ago the SCO decided to introduce the SCO dialogue partner status. “After considering a relevant application today, we decided to recommend that the heads of state should provide this status to Belarus and Sri Lanka. A decision has been made to continue working on the membership regulations, primarily, from the point of view of the accession of new countries to the organisation”.
BelTA reported earlier that President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko in his address to the nation and the National Assembly underscored that the establishment of tight relations with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will contribute to increasing the international authority of Belarus and gaining the SCO partner status in the future.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a sub-regional international organisation of Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The territory of its member-states makes up 61% of Eurasia’s total territory, its total demographic potential — a quarter of the planet’s population, while the economic potential includes the world’s second most powerful economy — China. In 2002 in Saint Petersburg SCO heads signed a charter to formalise the organisation de jure.
SIUTSOU TAKES STAGE EIGHT
From: Sporting Life
After a 10-man break held off the peloton for more than 160 kilometres Siutsou, from Belarus, flew away from the pack with 15km to go before crossing the line 21 seconds ahead of yesterday's winner Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Di Luca recorded the same time in third place to keep his five-minute lead in the overall standings.
The first attack of the day came 29km after this morning's start in Morbegno, in the Valtellina Valley, when Dario Cataldo (QuickStep) and David Garcia Lopez (Caisse d'Epargne) made their move.
They had soon been joined by another eight riders and opened up a gap over the peloton which peaked initially at two and a half minutes.
A minute had been shaved off that by the time the leaders reached the summit of the first climb, Culmine di San Pietro, but it then opened up again to more than four minutes.
During the technically challenging descent of the Culmine, Rabobank's Pedro Horillo crashed and was flung 60 metres down a ravine. He was whisked to hospital where his condition was described as serious but not life-threatening.
As the race moved to within 50km of the finish line in Bergamo, the peloton cut the leading pack's advantage to around a minute.
Stefano Garzelli went over the day's final major climb, Colle del Gallo, in first but his five-man leading pack was swallowed up with 16km to go.
Siutsou attacked moments later and built a 38-second lead before finally crossing the line 21 seconds ahead.
Belarus' Alexander Rybak has Fairytale win for Norway in Eurovision
Belarusian-born Rybak led from the start, finishing with a record 387 points. It’s the third time the Scandinavian country has claimed the prize. The first time was in 1985 when Bobbysocks sang "La det swinge" ("Let It Swing"). Norway did it again in 1995 with Secret Garden's celtic-sounding "Nocturne".
Russia finished a disappointing 11th with Anastasia Prikhodko’s song "Mamo".
But Russia was among the 16 countries to pick the eventual winner. It gave a maximum 12 points to Rybak along with Spain, Belarus, Germany, Sweden, Iceland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland, the Netherlands, Estonia, Denmark, Slovenia and Hungary.
For those lucky enough to get tickets to the Olympiysky Stadium, it was a spectacular show, filled with fireworks, extravagant costumes and amazing special effects.
Organizers said about 20,000 tickets to the final were sold. Many slapped on the party frocks and dusted off the national flags to get that special Eurovision mood.
Around 500 Russian and foreign journalists watched from a special press center. And it was jammed to capacity.
Across the world, a TV audience of 100 million people were expected to have tuned in to watch the show – the most expensive extravaganza in the event’s history.
Famous Russian singer Alsu along with actor and showman, Ivan Urgant, hosted the show in Moscow.
This year saw a change in the voting procedure. As well as text votes from the general public, panels of judges from the 42 participating countries also had a say. The votes were then combined to give a final tally.
The 25 acts put on an unforgettable show in Moscow, each giving it their best shot to win over judges and viewers. The finalists were: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Israel, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK and Ukraine.
Among the bookmakers’ favorites this year were Norway, the UK, Turkey and Armenia.
The winner received a crystal microphone, presented by last year’s champion Dima Bilan, and the first ever Eurovision winner, Lys Assia
Belarus always open to cooperation with investors, Vladimir Semashko says
Belarus and Austria have been steadily developing their relations. The bilateral trade has doubled over the last three years. According to Vladimir Semashko, most successful venue of cooperation is the investment area. There are good examples of cooperation in the manufacturing industry and banking business. One of them is the activity of the Austrian group Raiffeisen in Belarus. The company holds a controlling stake in the Belarusian Priorbank. The investments that the Raiffeisen Group put in Priorbank have paid off two times faster than the company expected. The Austrian company ATEC has also been successful on the Belarusian glass market.
According to Vladimir Semashko, the Belarusian industry has been recently, especially today, during the global financial crisis, undergoing qualitatively new changes. Despite the objective difficulties, the pace of capital investment growth has not slowed down in comparison with previous years. Belarus is always ready to discuss possible areas of cooperation with investors. Vladimir Semashko drew the attention to the fact that the business-climate in the country has improved, which is confirmed by WB experts.
In 2008, Belarus raised $945.6 million of Austrian investments (3.9 times above the target). In Q1 2009 Austria invested $267 million, which is up 5.9% over the same period last year and which accounted for 95.3% of the annual target. A major part of investment was allocated to Priorbank. The main creditors are Raiffeisen Zentralbank, VTB Bank Austria, Bank Austria Creditanstalt AG. The main recipients are the Naftan and Mozyr oil refineries, Belorusneft Production Association, Gomel glass container works.
In 2008 Belarus-Austria trade went up 23.7% to $254.4 million. Belarus’ export and import soared by 23.7% to reach $36.9 million and $217.5 million respectively. The foreign trade deficit amounted to $180.6 million
In 2008, Belarus major exports to Austria included products from ferrous metals (carbon steel wire, twisted wire, hardware, cable) - 65.7% of all the exports, wood (crude timber, plywood, furniture) – 13%, chemical products (polymers, plastic ware, rubber) – 9.9%, agricultural products (fruit and vegetables, nuts) – 2.4%, glass fiber – 2.3%.In 2008, Belarusian manufacturers started to export new commodities to Austria, including seamless pipes, aluminum hardware, vacuum pumps, radio and measuring equipment and some other products which resulted in a $2 million export growth.
In January-March 2009, the bilateral trade shrank 30.4% compared with the same period in 2008 and amounted to $34.7 million. The Belarusian export made up $7.5 million, down 8.9%, the import from Austria amounted to $27.2 million, down 34.7%. The trade deficit with Austria dropped 1.7 times compared with the same period of 2008 to $19.7 million. Despite some objective difficulties caused by the consequences of the global financial and economic crisis, in Q1 2009, domestic producers managed to start exporting a number of new items, including textile products, plywood, petrochemical products, nonwoven and foundation fabrics. A significant increase in export was contributed by the supplies of reinforcement and reinforcing wire (over 59%), wood and carving wood (over 46%).
Goals of Belarus monetary management policy reached in January-April
All goals outlined by the Major Monetary Management Guidelines of Belarus for January-April 2009 have been reached, Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich informed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on May 14.
The press service of the President of Belarus told BelTA, the head of state had been informed about the fulfilment of the Major Monetary Management Guidelines over the four months and tasks for the near future. Special attention was paid to the fulfilment of the plans, which influence the accomplishment of the national social and economic development forecast.
The Belarusian ruble exchange rate remains steady at plus/minus 5% against the basket of foreign currencies. In April the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble grew stronger against the US dollar and weaker against the euro and the Russian ruble. The President urged to make sure that fluctuations of the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble stay within 5%.
In January-April lending went ahead of schedule. The amount of credit resources granted to the real economy increased by more than 50% in comparison with the same period of last year, while lending to such priority areas as housing construction soared by over 60%.
The country’s payment system has been working flawlessly as well. Over the four months of 2009 the volume of payments increased by 55% in comparison with the same period of last year, testifying to the normal operation of the economy.
The head of state urged rigorous fulfilment of all the goals of the Major Monetary Management Guidelines.
Besides, during the report the fulfilment of several instructions of the President was discussed. In particular, the head of state was informed about the operation of 12 agricultural companies owned by the National Bank. Over the first three months of the year proceeds from selling their products increased by 53% in comparison with the same period of last year, while sales increased by 30% on the average. Alexander Lukashenko urged fulfilment of all his instructions concerning the development of agricultural companies and the implementation of all programmes.
Belarus Deputy Econ Min:No Imminent Need For More External Funds
From: Easy Bourse
"We hope the economic situation in Russia will improve and the European Union demand for our products will stop stagnating - and then everything will be fine," Zhabko said during a presentation at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's annual meeting in London.
However, the deputy minister added that "if there is a need [for further external financing] then the international institutions will help."
Since the economic crisis gripped markets in the summer of 2007, Belarus has become reliant on foreign financing, with money pouring in from global lenders such as the International Monetary Fund as well as from neighboring Russia, its main energy supplier.
The IMF approved a $2.46 billion financial rescue package for Belarus on Jan. 12, 2009. Belarus has already received the first $788 million tranche and the rest is set to be released over the next 14 months.
Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia coordinated 88 % of documents
"T. Mansurov reported on the course of creation of the Customs Union of Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia. Three states have already coordinated 88 % of all the necessary documents. The intensive negotiations on coordination of the remaining documents are being carried out."
According to the press service, EurAsEC Secretary General informed that the officials will sign six more international contracts at the meeting of the prime ministers of the EurAsEC states in June. The leaders of the states will approve customs codes of the Eurasian Economic Community and the Customs Union by the end of the current year.
The prime ministers will pass one more block of documents in the end of the year. It will allow launching in the first half of 2010 the mechanisms of the created Customs Union," T. Mansurov said.
BELARUS-ABKHAZIA: THE START OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP?
The official website of the unrecognized state reported that the head of Belarus’ presidential administration, Uladzimir Makei, and presidential aide Mikalai Korbut met de-facto Abkhaz president Sergei Bagapsh on May 12 to discuss ties between Minsk and Sukhumi. It did not elaborate.
Lukashenka’s administration also remains tight-lipped about the visit. The Belarussian news service Khartiya reported that lawmakers in Minsk are still mulling over whether or not to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In April, Belarussian Parliamentary Speaker Uladzimir Andreichnaka instructed MPs to "study the political and economic consequences" of recognition.
Moscow has used its economic and political muscle to pressure Minsk into recognizing the two Russian protectorates, but, so far, without result. The pressure has been countered by threats from the European Union that such a move would bring serious consequences for ties between the Brussels and Belarus.
Deputy premier says Belarus wants to export electricity to Europe
"Belarus on 7 May signed an agreement with the EU's Energy Commission on cooperation in energy. We will be jointly considering the possibilities of implementing such projects," he noted.
He said that there are technical problems in implementing the projects. "The current power system is not congruent with the European system," he said.
Furthermore, Syamashka said that the Belarusian government was working on attracting foreign loans for modernizing the country's energy system. "We hope to complete soon talks with China on issuing a 280m-euro loan, which would be allocated to increase the capacities of Minsk's TETs-5. The issues are almost resolved," he noted. The first deputy prime minister recalled that Belarus had already attracted a 52m-dollar Chinese loan for modernizing TETs-2.
Syamashka noted that starting from 2006 more than 3,200bn [Belarusian] roubles (around 1.14bn dollars) was already allocated for the reconstruction of the Belarusian energy system in the framework of the state programme. "Despite the global crisis, 340bn roubles (121m dollars) has been spent for this purpose in the first quarter of the current year," he said, adding that "all the facilities will be put into operation within the terms envisaged by the programme".
BeST shares bought by Sweden. Swedish media call the deal “cooperation with dictatorship”
From: Charter '97
The influential Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet calls it “the shady deal of the month”, and warns the leadership of TeliaSonera that cooperation with the Belarusian dictatorship is aimed against democracy, Radio Svaboda informs.
Last year Turkish company Turkcell bought 80% of shares of one of Belarusian mobile operators, the closed joint-stock society BeST. Besides, the company promised to invest additional millions in BeST network.
Then the director general of the Turk company Mekhmet Sureyya Ciliv said:
“We have come here as good partners, we would like to cooperate to make BeST one of the best companies of the world. We believe that Belarus has a rather high potential both in the economy and in technologies. We are very glad to cooperate with Belarus, and we believe that signing of today’s agreement would be another step towards more productive cooperation between Belarus and Turkey”.
Turkcell is the leading mobile phone operator of Turkey, based in Istanbul. The Swedish TeliaSonera owns 37% of Turkcell's shares. Acting together with Turkish partners who own shares of the company, Swedes have done a lot to advance to the post-Soviet markets. As for direct meetings with Belarus and regimes of the kind, as long as the company carries out a policy of “zero-tolerance to corruption”, such deals are highly problematic.
As Svenska Dagbladet writes, thanks to Turkcell Sweden is not involved in cooperation with dictatorship and won’t be responsible for the shady deal. However, in fact Sweden cooperates with Lukashenka’s regime. Swedish reviewers warn their taxpayers that their money could be used for support of undemocratic regime in Belarus.
Starting cooperation with Minsk authorities looks no less than naïve, thinks Russian expert in the sphere of telecommunication technologies Leonid Konik.
“Firstly, you cannot do business in Belarus without paying some illegal money to state officials or Lukashenka’s apparatus,” the expert says. “Secondly, in such countries as Belarus there is great different between the official statements and reality. From the formal point of view, owner of a mobile phone can go to court for wiretapping his or her conversations. In reality all telecommunication companies that cooperate with such regimes are to install equipment for wiretapping”.
The same opinion is held by Swedish experts in human rights sphere. Basing upon materials about Belarus they believe that telecommunication networks in the country are likely to be used for wiretapping or surveillance over political opponents.
MPs approved the decree on extraordinary taking children away from asocial parents
As said by the justice minister Viktar Halavanau, the changes to the decree that were signed by the president on 5 May give the authorities the right to take children away from their parents without trial in the case of real threat to their life and health.
The new document also specifies the orders of new employment of the parents who are to pay for the state upbringing of their children in the case of their dismissal from the previous job for objective reasons. In particular, the employer who dismisses such worker must inform the social employment centers and the police about the necessity of new employment of the dismissed person.
The decree also introduces administrative penalties for evasion of the obliged parents from employment on court verdict about employment. For this they are to be sentenced to administrative arrest with obligatory drawing to labor. The document also corrects the order of criminal punishment of such parents for other actions or inaction resulting in non-implementation or incomplete implementation of the obligation to compensate the expenditures for the state upbringing of their children by introduction of the administrative issue preclusion for drawing such persons to criminal responsibility for such crimes. Those who are ill with dipsomania and systematically violate the labor discipline, will be directed to activity therapy centers.
Moscow police detain scores at gay pride rally
No injuries were reported, but the detentions could damage Russia's desire to be seen as a modern nation as it holds the finals of the Eurovision song contest, a cultural event televised around the world.
City officials had warned that they would not tolerate marches or rallies supporting the rights of gays and lesbians, but activists had targeted Moscow and the Eurovision contest to press their claims that Russia officially sanctions homophobia.
Moscow police spokesman Anatoly Listovetsky said 40 people were detained, but media reports said up to 80 had been seized. None of the protests in central Moscow took place near the capital's Olimpiysky Sports Complex, where the Eurovision concert being held live Saturday night.
Police seized gay rights advocates as well as some religious and nationalist protesters who staged counter-demonstrations. They also took away gay rights activists for talking to reporters, and ripped the bra and shirt off one female protester.
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has drawn international criticism by describing homosexuality as "satanic" and seeking to justify official discrimination against gay people in Russia by claiming they help spread the AIDS virus. Luzhkov has banned gay pride rallies in recent years, and attempted marches by gay activists have typically ended in detentions and attacks by nationalist groups.
Among those detained Saturday were British activist Peter Tatchell and American activist Andy Thayer of Chicago, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network.
Tatchell and most of the others were detained during a hastily organized protest near Moscow State University in southwest Moscow, where about 30 protesters shouted "Homophobia is a disgrace of this country!" and "We are demanding equal rights!"
"This shows the Russian people are not free!" Tatchell yelled as he was being dragged to a police car. He was released a short time later.
"The arrests were done in a very violent, aggressive manner," Tatchell told The Associated Press after his release. "We believe the reaction of the Moscow police was totally unjustified."
Tatchell said Russian gay rights leaders had appealed to Eurovision contestants to denounce the police crackdown from the stage at tonight's competition. The live contest, which pits finalists from 24 different nations against each other, has drawn up to 100 million television viewers previously and is Europe's most prestigious pop song competition.
"Today's arrests go against the principles of Eurovision, which are about peace, harmony, cooperation and unity between all the peoples in Europe," Tatchell said.
Thayer was hustled off by police as he spoke with reporters.
"If ... the right to assemble is taken away from lesbian and gay people here in Russia, then other Russians have to fear for their own freedom," Thayer said, just before police burst through a ring of journalists to take him away.
Police ripped the shirt and bra off one female protester, who identified herself as Ksenia Prilebskaya, and roughly pushed her into a police bus. Her glasses fell and she shrieked in apparent pain.
City authorities had barred Saturday's rally, saying it was morally wrong.
"(Gay pride events) not only destroy moral foundations of our society, but also purposefully provoke disturbances that will threaten the lives and safety of Moscow residents and guests," City Hall spokesman Sergei Tsoi was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency as saying Saturday.
At one rally a short walk from the Kremlin, about 50 demonstrators from nationalist and Orthodox Christian organizations denounced homosexuality. One man was detained when he alleged officials in the Kremlin were gay.
A half-dozen anti-gay rights demonstrators were also seized by police during a demonstration in Moscow's central Pushkin Square.
Decades of official persecution of Russian gays ended in 1993 with the decriminalization of homosexuality, but opposition to gay rights remains widespread.
There are no official estimates of how many gays and lesbians live in Russia, and only a few big cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg have gay nightclubs and gyms.
Gay activists say several gay male couples have attempted to wed since the mid-1990s, but officials rejected those efforts. Last week two homosexual women were denied their application for a marriage license.
Russia to push ruble at G8 summit: Medvedev
Speaking to reporters after talks outside Moscow with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Medvedev said Russia had no say in setting the G8 summit agenda, which will focus on the global financial crisis.
But he stated: "Of course we have our own proposals. We are talking about the creation of foundations for a new financial architecture, indeed, a fair new financial architecture."
Medvedev said this included discussion of making multiple currencies attractive enough for states to hold as reserve currencies and use as means of payment in international trade, alongside the currently dominant US dollar.
"We have spoken about the possibility of using the ruble for this purpose," Medvedev said, adding: "We are not dropping this idea."
Medvedev and his mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, have for years evoked the possibility that the ruble could one day become an international reserve currency like the dollar.
Like Russia, China has also increasingly criticised the dollar-dominated global currency system and has been pushing for wider use of its currency, the yuan.
World economists however regard the prospect of either money supplanting the dollar or, to a lesser extend, the European euro, as a widely-held reserve currency as a long way off at best.
Russia also talked up its ideas for spreading the influence of the ruble ahead of the G20 financial crisis summit last month in London, but the ideas have been greeted coolly in the West and were all but ignored at the meeting.
"These are all issues for the future," Medvedev acknowledged, "but in my opinion they are issues for the near future.
"At the end of the day, we should emerge victorious from this crisis," he said.
Yushchenko proposes international guarantees on behalf of Ukraine
According to an UNIAN correspondent, the President said this speaking at a meeting with Swiss business circles within frames of his visit to Switzerland on Friday, May 15.
Speaking about advantages of Ukraine’s integration with NATO, Victor Yushchenko expressed an opinion that Ukraine will follow the path of eastern European countries, which integrated into the NATO from the Warsaw Treaty after the collapse of the USSR.
He stressed that he understands that the Euro-Atlantic ideology is perceived with difficulty in Ukraine, which “had lived in false ideology, portraying the NATO as an enemy, for much more years”.
“I do not neglect people’s opinion, but they should understand that our country has been living with a foreign base at its territory for 17 years already, and that our constitutional right on withdrawal of these troops is solved so difficultly, and that we are living with the Russian State Duma’s decision that Sevastopol is a Russian city”, Victor Yushchenko said.
He stressed that Europe is not interested that Ukraine be a zone of instability at the continent. The President listed the example of Georgia, which was left without a part of its territory after an armed conflict. “Europe got a red card, for the first time during so many years nobody could guarantee a territorial integrity of the country”, the President of Ukraine said.
At the same time, Victor Yushchenko stressed that Europe will only gain if Ukraine integrates with NATO and becomes a stable zone.
Yet another footballer arrested on corruption charges
From: The News
Yesterday a First Division player, Marcin S., was detained in Lublin
The investigation into corruption in Polish football has been underway since May 2005. So far the Prosecutor’s Office has charged over 200 people: referees, coaches, players, officials and members of the Polish Football Association for fixing matches.
Among the suspects are: a former national team coach Janusz W., a famous referee Grzegorz G., a former football player Dariusz W., a coach Andrzej B. etcetera. In April 2009 a former chairman of the team Arka Gdynia Jacek Milewski was sentenced to four years in prison and Ryszard Forbrich, alias Fryzjer, a member of the Polish Football Association, to 3,5 years in prison on corruption charges.
Wawrzyniaki admits doping mistake
From: Poplskie radio
Wawrzyniaki, who plays his club football for Panathinaikos Athens, defended himself by saying:
“I have been taking medicine to reduce fatty tissue. I did not know that it has an illicit substance.”
Poland’s national team defender was tested on 5 April after a match between Panathinaikos and Skoda Xanthi in the Greek league. Two weeks earlier, Wawrzyniak was training with Poland’s national squad and on 28 March, he played against Northern Ireland.
It has been alleged that the player doped during the time he was training with the Polish national side as a test done just before he left Athens was negative and after he returned it was positive.
But Wawrzyniak said, that his problem has nothing in common with Poland’s squad. He claimed, that his major mistake was not to consult anyone before taking the medicine.
Foul-play suspected in case of MP’s suicide
An inquiry into the suicide of left-wing politician Barbara Blida has taken a new twist following claims from a prosecutor that key documents bearing his signature were forgeries, prompting accusations of political interference in the legal system.
Jacek Krawczyk, a former district prosecutor in Katowice, said that two handwritten letters from him ordering an investigation into the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) MP on possible corruption charges had been forged.
Blida shot herself dead in April 2007 while officers from the Internal Security Agency (ABW) searched her flat.
Mr Krawczyk claims that the letters formed part of a witch-hunt against Blida launched by the then PiS (Law and Justice) government, which was frustrated after an initial investigation by him into possible corrupt links between the SLD (Democratic Left Alliance) politician and Barbara Kmiecik, a leading figure in the coal industry, came up blank.
The PiS government had come into power pledging to crack down on corruption, and had a number of SLD politicians, whom they suspected of illegal activity, in their sights. Both Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the prime minister, and his energetic justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, believed that Blida may have been involved in something termed the “coal mafia”.
Providing more detail, Mr Krawczyk said that his superior, Krzysztof Sierak, had also put pressure on him to return to investigating Blida, but he had refused to do so.
“He suggested that I take a look again at the Blida case,” said Mr Krawczyk. “I said I wasn't interested in politics and that I wouldn't participate in the campaign against the left-wing that the Kaczynski brothers and Mr Ziobro had pledged."
The statement also goes against claims by Mr Sierak that at the time of the alleged discussion he knew nothing of the case.
Investigators have passed on the two letters at the centre of the Krawczyk testimony to handwriting experts, and politicians believe that, if confirmed fake, they provide evidence that the then government was using the powers of law and order for political gain.
“If the graphologists confirm the forgery, the key question will be who did it and why,” asked Marek Wojcik, PO (Civic Platform) MP and member of the inquiry committee. “It would be proof that the prosecutors opened the inquiry into the coal mafia with ill intentions - of discrediting the left-wing.”
Polish teacher stabbed by neo-Nazis
Thomas, a 41-one-year-old P.E. teacher from Gorzow Wielkopolski reacted to a group of youths shouting “Seig Heil” on a street corner and as a result was attacked and stabbed in the neck with a knife.
Telling the group not to shout Nazi slogans, they replied, “Poland’s for the Poles. Hitler would have sorted you out.”
They attacked him, unaware that he was a wrestler of 20 years’ experience and a judo instructor. He quickly dealt with two of his assailants, but while phoning the police the third suddenly attacked him with a knife, stabbing him in the neck before running away.
Bleeding profusely, Thomas made it to hospital where the life-threatening wound was treated. Police soon arrested 26-year-old Zbigniew B. who has been remanded in custody.
Thomas says he isn’t a hero or particularly brave but tackles hooliganism head on because, “…that’s the way I was brought up.” Police are still seeking the other two assailants.
Lukashenko takes it all
From: Moscow News
The banned red-and-white flag of the Belarusian opposition was waved and the crowd was dispersed.
"We gathered to express solidarity for the political prisoners Mikalay Autuvich, Yury Liavonau and Uladzmir Asipenka," said Alexander Atroshchankau of opposition group European Belarus.
"Mikalay Autuvich went on hunger strike in the Minsk pre-trial detention centre on April 16, 2009. He demands a public trial for himself and his colleagues or immediate release from prison. ... Amnesty International has recognised them as prisoners of conscience."
Such is the reaction in Belarus to President Lukashenko's human rights record and his assertion that all political prisoners have been released.
Concessions to human rights are one of the key issues in Lukashenko's new relationship with Europe, effectively launched at the Eastern Partnership summit in Prague last week. His claim that he had released all political prisoners earlier this year was considered a milestone.
"The time has come for a visible step change in relations with our East European neighbours", European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told the summit.
The presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, and representatives from Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus met with EU officials to discuss deeper ties between the EU and its eastern neighbours and energy security.
"The Eastern Partnership summit fulfilled our expectations because we got unanimous and very strong support for the project from our fellow EU member states and from the six partner countries", Jan Sliva, a spokesman for the Czech Embassy to the EU, said by telephone. Funding promises of 600 million euros have been secured for the project until 2013.
Europe is pleased to have brought Belarus to the table at last, after years of trying to isolate the country over alleged human rights abuses. But the real success is for Lukashenko, said Stefan Meister, a Russia expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. "The EU had no other choice as it had not been successful with its isolation policy. It is a victory for Lukashenko as he and his policies have now been recognised by the EU", he said.
Minsk residents asked about the summit differed about the level of repression under Lukashenko, but agreed that the country needed to build closer ties with Europe. Significantly, all asked that their names not published for fear of repercussions.
"Europe should not ignore the real political situation here for the sake of some minor economic benefits," said one Minsk teacher. "They're turning a blind eye to real life here and human rights violations. People are still rotting in prisons for no reason, and if there are actually reasons they should be made public."
"When foreign papers say we have a dictator it is not so," said a Minsk student. "We live freely, here I am studying what I want to. It's just that compared with Europe we are considered the unlucky ones, and we should certainly accelerate our growth."
But political freedoms have still got progress to make, she said. "Any opposition is quashed at the roots and therefore there is no balance. The question of the opposition is a complicated one. Students, for example, can't join any opposition groups or they are kicked out of university."
Bringing Belarus closer to Europe would give the bloc stability on its eastern border and the region is crucial to the union's energy flow.
Economic problems at home make the timing apt for Lukashenko, and building bridges to Europe reduces his dependence on Russia, which earlier this year initially stalled on loaning Belarus $3 billion.
Russia has since pledged a smaller sum of $2 billion in credit and disbursed half that sum. The Kremlin announced plans in February to build an air defence system from Belarus' border with three NATO nations, through Russia and to the Chinese border. Nonetheless, a $2.5 billion loan from the IMF has also helped to bolster Belarusian coffers in a difficult time.
Recent overtures to Europe have assisted further. Developing economic relations with Europe is a prime concern for Lukashenko if Belarus is to weather the global economic crisis. The country needs technical expertise and investment as well as oil and gas. The former can be provided by Europe, the latter by Russia.
"We should make friends with Europe. We must make friends with all countries. That is the bottom line," said a Minsk shop assistant. "With Russia it is the same, we are Slavs together and so it is important."
"Belarus was one of the most important allies for Russia - it's a country without a colour revolution and a stable dictator more or less loyal to Moscow. It is Russia's Western neighbour, with a border to the EU, so also of strategic importance," said Meister. "An important sign of Lukashenko's rapprochement towards the EU was that he was not willing to recognise the independence of South Ossetia or Abkhazia."
This is what Moscow had dreaded, that an expanding EU would leave both parties competing for space.
"We will observe that Russia will set a more difficult pattern for the EU on the PCA, Energy and development or tensions in the post-Soviet space like with Georgia or [Ukraine] because of even just this development", Meister said.