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Belarus-Russia military cooperation at its height
“We’ve come close to holding such large-scale maneuvers several times but only thanks to Dmitry Medvedev we have managed to hold the maneuvers this year for the first time in the history of the Belarusian-Russian military taskforce as a component of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Without the decision of the President of Russia we would not have had such large-scale joint maneuvers,” stressed the President of Belarus.
Alexander Lukashenko remarked that the operative strategic exercise West 2009, which is a major event in the joint combat training of the armed forces of Belarus and Russia, had ended successfully. Exactly on time, all the tasks were accomplished. The scale of the exercise was tremendous. It involved the entire western part of the former Soviet Union. The Belarusian head of state remarked that the exercise had allowed increasing field and flight skills of all the troops. According to Alexander Lukashenko, the decision to hold such large-scale exercises in Belarus and Russia by turn every two years is worth a lot. Apart from Belarusian and Russian military the exercise involved units of the armed forces of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, which, the Belarus President believes, means that other countries are interested in training their armed forces using the principles and the example of the armed forces of Belarus and Russia. “This exercise is an example of protection of our nations in the Union State,” he said.
The Belarus President believes that it is symbolical that the exercise West 2009 was held in the year of the 65th anniversary of Belarus’ liberation from the Nazi and on the eve of the 65th anniversary of the Great Victory. “We are proud of the deed accomplished by the generation of victors and hold dear the memory that our nations, the USSR nations made the decisive contribution to the vanquishing of the Nazi and the survival of the entire humankind,” said the Belarusian leader. “To be worthy of the memory about the elder generation’s great deed means to do one’s best to keep peace, reliably protect the native land from any threats and challenges”.
The Belarusian head of state thanked all the troops for skillful actions during the operative and strategic exercise West 2009. The presidents of Belarus and Russia presented awards to those who excelled during the exercise.
Belarus, Russia to host major army exercises every two years by turn
“We hope to hold such exercises in the future because only such army actions can perfect combat kills and create a reliable defense system for our countries and the Union State. Alexander Grigoryevich [Lukashenko] and I have agreed that such exercises will be held in Belarus or Russia every two years by turn. It is the beginning and I hope, a successful one of our joint army actions,” he said.
The Russia President remarked that all these actions are meant to make the life in Belarus and Russia more comfortable, protected, contemporary and fitting people’s requirements and also meant to protect the Belarusians and the Russians in the best possible way. “It is a sacred task of the state and our armed forces,” stressed Dmitry Medvedev.
The Russian head of state thanked the Belarus President for participation in all the events, “for the hospitality that the Russian troops met in the Belarusian land”.
Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus will be reliable partner for all international organizations
|Belarus to improve state border protection system|
This year Belarus has hosted several important international events dedicated to the operation of border services, including a session of the heads of border services of the International Conference on Border Management in Minsk on 29-30 September. Representatives of several international organizations that work in Belarus also took part in the event.
According to the President, holding such a representative conference in Minsk as well as the presence of respected international organizations testify to Belarus’ active role in strengthening the global and common European security.
The Belarus President remarked that since gaining independence Belarus has directly dealt with illegal migration and other associated criminal phenomena. The degree of negative consequences these phenomena bring is considerably lower in Belarus because the country is not the final destination for those intent on getting to the European Union via Belarus, said Alexander Lukashenko. Between the mid-1990s and now the Belarusian border guard has seized over 20,000 illegal migrants. The number of illegal migrants has spiked now. In 2009 alone Belarusian law enforcement agencies have detected around 8,000 potential migrants, said the President.
The President remarked that holding special joint border operations and events with border services from Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia has become a good tradition. In 2009 alone the joint operations have helped reveal four canals of illegal migration. “Of course, we should encourage such events and we are ready to take part in them. I would like to underline that it will be Belarus’ contribution to the security of the whole European continent,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
Alexander Lukashenko thanked the European Union for their recent appreciation of Belarus’ efforts aimed to suppress illegal migration. In the near future the Belarusian border service is expected to sign an agreement with the European Union border security agency Frontex. The agreement is of special importance for Belarus as the country is located in Europe’s geographic center while its border with the European Union is over 1,200 km long, said the Belarusian head of state.
The Belarusian leader pointed out the importance of concerted efforts in fighting contemporary challenges like terrorism, illegal proliferation of nuclear materials, and others. “Even superpowers cannot handle these challenges on their own. This is why it is important that we have managed to create a common area for border cooperation,” the President underlined.
Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus does not renounce border cooperation with regional or international organizations. In the future Belarus will stay a reliable partner in fighting negative transboundary phenomena.
Since 1996 about $30 million of international technical aid has been spent on Belarusian border projects. Belarus works hard on updating its border service in order to secure entire Europe.
According to the head of state, Belarus will continue paying close attention to enhancing the technical component of its border security and stands ready to participate in joint projects for developing the technical capacity. Every year the national budget allocates over $100 million on border security of the country.
“I will be frank: we would welcome any support and assistance from you in this area. I would like you to know that every cent, every dollar or euro that is allocated to Belarus to keep the EU eastern border in order is spent on intended purposes,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko.
The President said he was confident that the joint border should not divide nations but contribute to establishing good relations between them.
Participants of the meeting spoke highly of Belarus’ efforts meant to counteract illegal migration, slave trade, spread of illegal drugs and other criminal phenomena.
Chairman of the International Border Conference, head of the Hungarian Border Service Istvan Samu stressed that building trust between border services is the most important goal of the conference. In his opinion, border services would have a hard time trying to work effectively without trust even if they had impressive funding or modern technologies. He also added that the Belarusian border guard had quickly earned trust of other nations.
In turn, the Belarus President confirmed that trust is of utmost importance in cooperation between border services. “In Soviet Union times the border service had no problems with funding, but it lacked trust. We viewed each other as enemies, not even as competitors,” said Alexander Lukashenko. “Times have changed. Each country has its own interest now that the border guard pursues in the final stretches of the land. For us the border line is not an iron curtain or some Berlin Wall now. We are trying to rule out extra problems for people, who cross the border. It should unite us instead of disuniting. Trust is important here”.
The head of state also confirmed that Belarus will always have a confidential and respectful attitude to partners. “We are fully open to the European Union. We do not pursue isolationism policies. We are open to the entire world,” he said.
Rustamas Liubajevas, Director of Operations for the European Union border agency Frontex, remarked that cooperation with Belarusian border guards had always been based on mutual trust, it had always been open and productive. He said that the agreement between Belarus and Frontex will allow the sides to continue promoting mutual cooperation in border guarding. The sides will be able to share information of mutual interest. Belarusian border guards will be able to take part in Frontex training programs. According to Rustamas Liubajevas, good prospects for designing and assimilating research and development projects will open up.
The head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Belarus, Jean-Eric Holzapfel, said that the EU and Belarus have made considerable progress in strengthening border control, modernizing border checkpoints, joint work with the UNDP. The EC has allocated around €30 million for joint programs.
Jean-Eric Holzapfel stressed that the European Commission is ready to step up cooperation with Belarus.
UN/UNDP Representative in Belarus Antonius Broek also pointed out the importance of strengthening cooperation and partnership between neighboring countries. He praised cooperation within the framework of refugee and shelter programs and also cooperation in counteracting trafficking in women and drugs, illegal migration. Antonius Broek underlined that the UN Office in Belarus is ready to continue cooperation in border issues and other areas. Antonius Broek is confident that there is a strong potential for stepping up the cooperation.
The President underlined that Belarus will be a reliable and trustworthy partner for all international organizations and will do its best to make a worthy contribution in fighting the crime. “We will take part in joint actions and you will see that Belarus is a good partner in all endeavors,” concluded the Belarusian head of state.
Lukashenko, Frattini discuss Belarus-Italy economic and political cooperation
According to Franco Frattini, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will visit Belarus in the near future.
“We should get prepared for the visit and address all the issues which, probably, exist in our relations,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
Alexander Lukashenko thanked the Italian guest for his visit to Belarus. “It is very important that you see this country with your own eyes, talk with our people, with the Italian representative in Belarus and draw relevant conclusions. I remember our meeting in Italy very well. Back then we had a long conversation. We discussed a lot of issues. I understood that the Italian leadership and you personally had a certain interest in Belarus,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
“Back then we identified a number of the issues in economy and policy which may be of mutual interest. Time has passed and it is very good that you are here and we may revisit the issues which we have agreed about earlier,” the President said.
The head of the Italian Foreign Ministry underlined that “We highly appreciated the visit of the Belarus President to Rome”. “We have indeed determined the matters that invoke mutual interest and bring Italy and Belarus closer,” said the Minister. He suggested discussing many matters during the meeting that will be worked on in the near future. Those are economic and political matters.
In European institutions Italy will continue promoting the idea of rapprochement with Belarus and building an atmosphere of trust with the country, assured Franco Frattini.
Franco Frattini remarked that in recent years very friendly relations have been established between hundreds and thousands of Belarusian and Italian families. The relations are of great importance for the Italians.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy spoke in favor of promoting cultural ties with Belarus.
Italy and Belarus promote humanitarian cooperation. For more than 20 years since the Chernobyl catastrophe Italy has been Belarus’ key partner in the recreation of Belarusian children abroad. In 1991-2009 following invitations of Italian non-governmental organizations 383,200 Belarusian children have enjoyed recreation in Italy, including 13,000 children in January-September 2009 alone.
The sides also discussed the bilateral trade and economic cooperation. In 2008 Italy was Belarus’ eighth biggest trading partner among non-CIS countries.
Italy to support lifting EU visa restrictions for Belarusian officials
– Italy will support the complete abolition of visa restrictions for Belarusian officials traveling to the European Union, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy Franco Frattini told reporters in Minsk on 30 September.
“Italy not only supports the complete and final settlement of the visa issues (Italy believes that these bans should be lifted instead of suspended), it will also try to consolidate a group of countries having the same stance,” the Italian Foreign Minister said.
In his words, Belarus demonstrates a will for rapprochement and broader engagement with the European Union. Franco Frattini is convinced that Italy will be upheld by other states when it will bring up this issue in the European bodies. In November Brussels will host discussion on the extension of moratorium on visa restrictions for Belarusian officials or their complete abolition.
Franco Frattini stated that Italy is ready to support any progress in Belarus-EU rapprochement and cooperation. It pertains not only to economic relations, but also to political partnership, in particular in the reduction of the Schengen visa cost for the citizens of Belarus.
“I think that the cooperation within the Eastern Partnership programme has room for progress. Italy and its partners in the EU will consistently support the materialization of this potential,” Franco Frattini said.
During his meeting with the leadership of Belarus, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy touched upon Belarus-EU dialogue in human rights. Franco Frattini was informed about the establishment and work of the Public and Advisory Council run by the Presidential Administration. “Apart from that, the Belarusian officials told me that the Belarusian parliament will consider a possibility to introduce moratorium on capital punishment,” Franco Frattini added. He noted that Italy will closely watch the progress in this area.
“Italy believes that the discussion on human rights should be made permanent, open and transparent. It should be held on the highest political level. I think that the Public and Advisor Council meets this requirement,” the head of the Italian Foreign Ministry said.
Minimal environmental impact from Belarusian nuclear station expected
BelNIPIenergoprom is the developer of a report on assessing the environmental impact of the future nuclear power plant. The document is compiled for the Nuclear Power Plant Construction Directorate.
Vladimir Bobrov said, according to the preliminary report, the environmental impact of the nuclear power plant will be lower than that of power plants that burn organic fuels. The data has been confirmed by scientists, he stressed.
The BelNIPIenergoprom Deputy Director also remarked that modern safeguards will ensure high safety and reliability of the station. If an off-design accident occurs, radiation will be contained by the reactor shell.
Head of the Nuclear Power Plant Construction Directorate Mikhail Filimonov stressed that citizens already inquire about the preliminary environmental impact report. “Rationalized answers will be given to all these questions,” he said. Mikhail Filimonov explained that all remarks and proposals of the general public should be taken into account. If necessary, the environmental impact report may be adjusted. Proposals may be declined with a rationalized explanation. An addendum to the report will list the questions asked by the general public.
Public hearings of the preliminary environmental impact report will take place in Ostrovets on 9 October. Anyone is free to participate, said Mikhail Filimonov.
Director of the Nuclear Power Engineering Department of the Belarusian Energy Ministry Nikolai Grusha said, the final edition of the environmental impact report is supposed to be ready by the end of the year. In early 2010 after the feasibility study of the nuclear station construction is approved, a decree on choosing the construction site is supposed to be adopted. The Ostrovets site in the Grodno oblast is now considered as the priority site.
The environmental impact report is posted on websites on the Energy Ministry (www.minenergo.gov.by), the Nuclear Power Plant Construction Directorate (www.dsae.by), the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Ministry (www.minpriroda.by), the Grodno oblast administration (www.region.grodno.by), the Ostrovets region administration (www.ostrovets.grodno-region.by).
The environmental impact report has been compiled in line with Belarusian laws, including the Convention on assessing transboundary environmental impact, taking into account recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The environmental impact report has been compiled examining the modern state of environment components in 2009, research, design and exploration work that was performed when the possible sites for building the nuclear power plant were selected.
The assessment has been made taking into account the total environmental impact of existing and future facilities in the area where the future Belarusian nuclear power plant might be placed as well as social and economic life standards and the public health.
Paris Bordone’s masterpiece to be showcased in Minsk
The National Art Museum is expected to host a presentation of the altarpiece and the Italian Renaissance in Belarus event on 1 October. Paris Bordone’s work (oil on canvas) is presented by Corrado Giaquinto Museum of the Province of Bari.
This work is the artist’s pinnacle of success. The painting is also illustrating the geography of Bona Sforza’s life from Italian Lombardy and Apulia up to the former territories of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
during the exhibition’s opening ceremony Clara Gelao, Director of the provincial museum in Apulia, is expected to present a report “Paris Bordone’s Masterpiece in the Museum of the Province of Bari and the Arrival of the Works of Art in Apulia from Veneto in the 15th-16th Centuries”. A concert of the Renaissance music will include the works of Pierluigi from Palestrina and Gabrieli.
Belarusian techno art on display in Minsk on 2-18 October
Unique exhibits made of iron will be on display as part of the Techno Art project in Minsk. Director of the art gallery Culture University Denis Barsukov told BelTA, the exposition will be open at the Palace of the Republic on 2-18 October.
Along with traditional sculpture and pictorial art such techno art spheres will be presented as 3D animation, computer graphics, and digital editing. Creative young Belarusians and prominent painters Vladimir Tsesler, Vadim Kachan, Andrei Shchukin, Valery Vedrenko, Yuri Vasilyev, Vitaly Rakovich, Alexander Shchepetov, Alexander Nekrashevich, Sergei Stelmashonok, Sergei Zhdanovich, Vladimir Golubev, Pavel Voinitsky, Darya Ivanovskaya will present their works.
The event is one of the most prominent ones in Minsk’s cultural life, stressed Denis Barsukov. The project will be solemnly opened on October 2.
In January-August Belarus’ foreign trade down 39.2% to $30.8bn
Belarus’ export decreased by 55.5% to $13.039 billion and import dropped by 65.3% to $17.746 billion. In January-August 2009, Belarus’ foreign trade deficit amounted to $4.707 billion. In the period under review, the export performance improved as against Q1 this year (51.2% as against January-March 2008). Moreover, the import has started to reduce.
In January-August 2009, the trade with the CIS countries reached $17.015 billion (58.3% over the same period 2008). The export made up $5.672 billion (54.7%), import - $11.343 billion (60.2%). Over the eight months 2009, the trade between Belarus and Russia decreased to $14.509 billion (58.7%). The export to the Russian Federation reached $4.092 billion (54% as against the same period 2008), import from Russia - $10.417 billion (60.8%).
In January-August 2009, the trade between Belarus and Ukraine decreased to $1.802 billion (51.1% as against January-August last year). The export made up $1017.8 million (49.1%), import - $784.5 million (53.9%).
The trade between Belarus and non-CIS countries reached $13.77 billion (64.1% as against January-August 2008) including export - $7.367 billion (56.1%), import - $6.403 billion (76.7%). The trade between Belarus and Germany made up $1.889, or 81.9% as against the same period last year.
Italy hopes to sign investment cooperation agreement with Belarus soon
Italy hopes to sign an investment cooperation agreement with Belarus soon, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters in Minsk on 30 September.
According to the head of the Italian Foreign Ministry, Italian capital is hugely interested in such economy branches as agriculture, furniture manufacturing, mechanical engineering, high technologies, glass industry, and transport.
Franco Frattini stressed the interest of Italian capital in expanding its presence in the Belarusian banking industry. He reminded about the existing contacts with such Italian concerns as Finmeccanica and Fiat.
The Italian Foreign Minister also informed about the continued preparation of the visit of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to Belarus. “At present my counterpart and I are defining the areas and avenues of cooperation, in which corresponding agreements can be signed and progress can be achieved during the visit,” explained Franco Frattini.
The Italian Foreign Minister also reminded about Silvio Berlusconi’s proposal to set up a joint commission for economic cooperation of Belarus and Italy. “I entirely support this idea,” said Franco Frattini.
The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Belarus and Italy signed a Belarusian-Italian declaration on education programs in Minsk on 30 September.
Slonimmebel starts to export furniture to Germany
Slonimmebel has started to export its furniture to Germany, BelTA learnt from chief economist of the furniture factory Vladimir Markushevsky.
The factory has supplied the first lot of cabinets at the amount of €50,000. By the end of the year, Slonimmebel is expected to supply products at the same sum to Germany. At present, Slonimmebel and German wholesale company BFK Mobel Collection are discussing the further cooperation. If the talks are successful, next year the supplies will be continued and their volume will be increased.
Over the eight months this year, the Slonim-based factory exported furniture at the amount of $2.892, or 78% over the same period last year. At present, the export sales are decreasing. At the same time, the factory tries to withstand the impact of the global financial and economic crisis. Slonimmebel supplies its furniture to Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Poland and Germany. The export makes up 60% of the total output of the factory.
In January-August this year, Slonimmebel produced goods at the amount of Br16.11 billion, or 110% over the same period last year.
Slonimmebel was founded in 1939. In 1997, the factory was reorganized into open joint stock company. Slonimmebel produces furniture for bedrooms (81% of the total output) and small-size furniture.
Russia, Belarus hold joint military exercises
Officials said about 12,500 servicemen took part in the West-2009 exercises, roughly half from each country, in Russia's westernmost Kaliningrad region, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania, and in southern Belarus about 75 miles (125 kilometers) from the Polish border.
The exercises involved aircraft, armor and other heavy weapons.
Russia resents NATO's eastern spread into countries that were once Soviet republics or satellite states. But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who attended the drills with Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, said the exercises this week were strictly defensive.
"They were aimed to help develop our armed forces and protect our nations," Medvedev said after the maneuvers.
Nonetheless, analysts and opposition figures in both countries saw them as anti-West.
Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent Russian military analyst, said they were directed "at NATO and the Americans, the Baltic states and the Poles and all the other enemies."
"These exercises are taking place near Poland on the border with NATO, and that creates nervousness and separates Belarus from Europe, not bringing it closer," said Anatoly Lebedko, leader of Belarus' opposition United Civil Party.
The authoritarian Lukashenko once aimed to bring his country into union with Russia, but a series of disputes with Moscow have frozen those plans.
In recent months Belarus has made tentative efforts to improve relations with the West. But Belarus still relies on its giant neighbor for military supplies and protection.
Medvedev said he and Lukashenko agreed to hold such military exercises every two years.
Belarus to fulfill all European security obligations
From: RIA Novosti
Around 50 delegations from the European Union, Commonwealth of Independent States, China, Mexico, and a number of international organizations are taking part in the international border security conference being held in Belarus for the first time.
"We are prepared to participate in joint projects with the EU in order to reinforce overall European security," Lukashenko said.
The Belarusian leader said Minsk would continue to concentrate on national border security particularly regarding terrorism.
"You know as well as I the challenges being set by criminals, especially terrorist organizations, and how much nuclear material is being traded. Even the largest countries are unable to cope alone," Lukashenko said.
According to Lukashenko, Minsk spends around $100 million annually on border security and has received some $30 million for international joint projects since 1996.
"We value the support and aid and I would like to assert that every cent and dollar that was spent, was spent on this issue," he said.
The last international conference on border security was held in Budapest in May.
BHEL bags Rs 270 cr order from Belarus
From: Hindu Businessline
BHEL received an order to set up a 126 MW gas turbine generator-set-based cogeneration power plant from Belarus, valued at Rs 270 crore,'' a company statement said.
The Gas Turbine Generator set with dedicated Auxiliaries, Compressors, Heat Recovery Boiler, Boiler Auxiliaries and Automatic Process Control system for the project shall be supplied from BHELs manufacturing units at Hyderabad, Tiruchirapally, Ranipet an d Bangalore, respectively, it said.
The company has also signed a MoU with TGR, Hungary for exploring opportunities for conventional boilers and R&M (renovation and modernisation) of boilers in European countries. - PTI
Pastor Of Belarusian Evangelical Church Faces Trial
Vyachaslau Hancharenka has officially been accused of obstruction of justice.
Kiryl Mazouka, the deputy prosecutor of Minsk's Maskouski district, said on September 29 that the Hancharenka-led parish has not allowed police to enter the building housing the New Life Church since August 24.
Minsk officials visited the church last month and told the congregation's leaders that the church building must be vacated by August 19 and that the building's keys be turned over to them.
Meanwhile, members of the congregation have remained in the church around the clock since August 24, refusing to vacate the building -- an old barn in the Minsk suburbs that held livestock in the Soviet era.
It was converted by parishioners into a church in the early 1990s.
Minsk authorities say the property was "illegally privatized by the church."
Gaddafi’s son watched Zapad-2009 military exercise in Belarus
From: Charter '97
Khamis Gaddafi, son of the head of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Muammar Gaddafi, was present at Zapad-2009 military exercise as an observer, the official news agency BelTA reports.
Khamis Gaddafi knows the military science firsthand. He graduated from the military academy in Tripoli and received a bachelor’s degree in military arts and science, then graduated from Frunze Military Academy in Moscow and Academy of the General Staff Academy of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Khamis Gaddafi is a commander of the special reinforced brigade of the Libyan army.
We remind that Zapad-2009 drills involved more than 12000 service personnel and some hundreds of units of military equipment. 6000 troops from Russia entered Belarus, which has never happened before.
The exercise used 103 airborne devices (including 63 aircrafts and 40 helicopters), around 470 armoured fighting vehicles, 228 tanks, 234 self-propelled and towed artillery units, mortars and multiple launch rocket systems.
One of the aims of the exercises is armed conflicts liquidation. However, the democratic forces of Belarus are convinced that the exercises pose a threat to independence of Belarus.
Article 193-1 may be repealed, says Ministry of Justice
Representatives of Belarusian NGOs have presented their reports on the situation in the field of freedom of association in Belarus, including the application of Article 193-1 as a means of harassing members of unregistered NGOs. Valiantsin Stefanovich, lawyer of the Human Rights Center Viasna, spoke on Nasha Viasna’s registration trial at the Supreme Court on 10-12 August 2009.
At the same time, the meeting was visited by representatives of the official Minsk.
‘An official from the Ministry of Justice officially declared that the Ministry was considering the question of reforming the Criminal Code. The responsibility for illegal membership will be transferred to the Civil Code,’ said Ales Bialiatski.
EU report: Georgian attack started war with Russia
The EU-sponsored report supports Russia's insistence that Georgia launched the short but intense war with an indiscriminate rocket and artillery barrage on the separatist capital of South Ossetia — an act the commission said was not justifiable under international law.
Georgia can find support for its claim that Russia taunted and provoked it for years before the assault, then responded with disproportionate force, sending armored vehicles deep into undisputed Georgian territory.
Russia's retaliation went "far beyond the reasonable limits of defense," the report said, rejecting claims the country was trying to prevent genocide with its invasion of its southern neighbor, a former Soviet nation with fervent hopes of joining the EU and NATO.
The beginnings of the August 2008 war had been murky, its aftermath contentious.
It ended in less than a week with Russia crushing Georgia's army and driving its troops out of the separatist Georgian region of South Ossetia and away from the borders of another such region, Abkhazia.
Since then, Russia has recognized both regions as independent countries. But among U.N.-member countries, only Nicaragua and Venezuela have followed suit. Russia continues to keep thousands of troops in the regions, which have blocked EU monitors from operating there.
The findings of the independent commission, led by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini and released Wednesday in Brussels, were based on the work of 30 European military, legal and history experts. Its conclusions are critical to the hopes of both Russia and Georgia.
Overall, Russia seems to have benefited more than Georgia from the report, if only because in the aftermath of the fighting Georgia was viewed in the West as the underdog, a victim of naked aggression.
Russia's EU envoy Vladimir Chizhov said in a statement Wednesday the commission had provided "an unequivocal answer to the main question of 'Who started the war?'" He said the findings should encourage "those leaders who have been hesitant" to blame Georgia to reconsider.
But he rejected the notion that Russia responded with disproportionate force. "Russia's reaction was quite proportional, swift and to the point," he said.
The Russian foreign ministry said in its own statement Wednesday that the Tagliavini commission report "clearly points at the countries which armed and trained the Georgian army," a thinly veiled criticism of Ukraine and, especially, the United States.
Those aspects of the report critical of the Kremlin are not likely to weaken Russia's conviction that it acted completely within its rights. Instead, they seem likely to provoke more complaints from Moscow that the West is biased against Russia and applies a double-standard to its conduct.
Whether the Kremlin admits it or not, it cares about Western public opinion. Russia is just starting to emerge from a deep recession and is desperate for Western investment.
In part to woo investors, the country is seeking to repair ties with the U.S. and especially some of its biggest trading partners, the Netherlands, Germany and other members of the European Union. It is also seeking to persuade NATO to halt its eastward expansion.
"It seems the impact of the report could be a positive development for Russia in its relations with EU and NATO," said Dr. Lt. Col. Marcel de Haas, a senior political military analyst at The Hague-based Clingendael Institute of International Relations.
"Of course, issues remain: Both NATO and the EU continue to tell Moscow it needs to get its troops out" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, de Haas said. "But in the sense that Russia is coming out of this looking reasonably good, it can point toward an improvement in relations."
Not long after the report's release, the Kremlin said it was ready to fully restore cooperation with NATO that was suspended in after the war.
President Dmitry Medvedev's spokeswoman Nataliya Timakova said a planned visit to Moscow by NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen in December should demonstrate that the alliance is also ready to resume ties.
And Russia may take comfort from the likelihood that the Tagliavini commission's criticism of Georgia's military actions will weaken that country's bid for NATO membership.
"It seems to be a bit of a setback for an improvement of relations between Georgia and the West," said de Haas of the Clingendael Institute. "In a sense, this strengthens the impression that for a very long time Georgia could be very unlikely to become a NATO member."
Both Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have tried to portray Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili as a bumptious, erratic figure whom the West should abandon. Russian officials are likely to claim the report offers evidence of this.
For Georgia, the stakes if anything are higher than for Russia. Had Saakashvili's government shouldered all the blame, that would have made it much harder for the U.S. and some of its European allies to continue their massive aid programs — which in the case of the U.S. includes military aid.
As it is, Saakashvili seems likely to use the report to continue to portray Georgia as a reliable friend of the West threatened by an aggressive and unpredictable Russia.
Salome Samadashvili, Georgia's ambassador to the EU, tried Wednesday to downplay the significance of a key finding: The question of who fired first on Aug. 7, 2008, she said, was meaningless outside the context of nearly two decades of Russian economic and military support for the separatist-controlled Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The report did bolster several of Georgia's key allegations, including that, during the fighting, Russian troops stood by while South Ossetian militias burned and looted ethnic Georgian villages inside the breakaway province.
"There was evidence of systematic looting and destruction of ethnic Georgians villages in South Ossetia," the report said. "Consequently, several elements suggest the conclusion that ethnic cleansing was indeed practiced."
As the work of an independent European mission, the report is likely to be viewed by much of the world as an authoritative account of the war, no matter what other allegations Russia or Georgia make in the coming months.
The EU countries said in a statement they hoped the report "can contribute toward a better understanding of the origins and the course of last year's conflict."
The EU mandated the report last year to investigate the "causes and roots" of the conflict, but not make any final determination of guilt that could be used for compensation claims.
Russia ready for restoration of ties with NATO
A planned trip to Moscow by NATO's secretary-general should demonstrate that the alliance is also ready for developing ties, said Nataliya Timakova, a spokeswoman for President Dmitry Medvedev.
"Of course, we would like to restore our cooperation in full," Timakova said at a briefing.
Earlier this month, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for closer ties between the alliance and Russia. He said, in particular, that NATO, Russia and the U.S. should explore the possibility of linking missile defense systems.
Relations between NATO and Russia were frozen after the August 2008 war, when NATO accused Russia of using excessive force and occupying Georgian territory.
Timakova said that an EU-commissioned report released Wednesday showed that NATO had made some of its decision in a hurry. The report said that Georgia's attack on its breakaway province of South Ossetia marked the start of the war, but it also concluded that Russia retaliated with excessive force.
Russia launches manned spacecraft to ISS
|The Russian Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft carrying the crew of Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte , Russian cosmonaut Maxim Surayev and U.S. astronaut Jeffrey Williams blasts off from Baikonur cosmodrome September 30, 2009.|
Local TV showed that a Soyuz-FG rocket carrying the Soyuz TMA-16 spaceship lifted off at 11:15 Moscow time (0715 GMT), with the 21st ISS crew Russian and U.S. astronauts Maxim Surayev and Jeffrey Williams on board.
The Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft will separate from the Soyuz-FG carrier rocket nine minutes after takeoff, and start its two-day autonomous flight before docking with the ISS at 12:37 Moscow time (0837 GMT) on Oct. 2.
Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte, founder and CEO of the world-renowned acrobatic group Cirque du Soleil, joined the mission as world's seventh space tourist.
It is reported that Laliberte has spent around 50 million U.S. dollars for the trip, 15 million dollars more than his predecessor.
Before putting on their spacesuits prior to the blastoff on Wednesday, the two astronauts and the space tourist were bathed in alcohol.
"Spirits are high, and we slept like children," the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Surayev as saying.
The 21st ISS crew will complete several tasks at the station in six months, including the unloading of three Russian Progress space freighters and a spacewalk to install a Russian MIM-2 scientific module.
They will also conduct some 50 scientific experiments and work with crews of three U.S. space shuttles.
Laliberte will spend 12 days and nights at the space station, before returning to earth together with the 19th mission, Russian and U.S. astronauts Gennady Padalka and Michael Barratt, who have been at the orbital station since March, on board the Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft.
Fans call for boycott of Poland – Slovakia match
From: Polskie Radio
The organizers of the protest want to demonstrate a lack of support towards PZPN, the governing body of football in Poland, which according to its numerous critics is obsolete and harmful to the progress of the game. They stress that they want to protest merely against PZPN, and not Polish team, its new coach Stefan Majewski or anyone else.
The boycott would have remained as an obscure idea of a few desperate fans, if it hadn’t been for Jerzy Dudek who expressed his opinion on it and paradoxically promoted the idea. Dudek, Polish goalkeeper who has been recalled to Poland’s national team, claims that the idea of protest is good, but it should be conducted by other means. “If fans want to protest against PZPN in a different way, I’d support them, but I can’t accept the idea of boycott. We need fans’ support,” said Dudek.
Critics have along complained of the lack of a will to tackle corruption within Polish football. They also point to lack of investment in the game and a failure to get behind the previous coach, Leo Beenhakker in the middle of qualifying games for the World Cup in South Africa next year.
The match against Slovakia is all but academic as the chances of Poland reaching the finals in 2010 are mathematically slim following a poor run of form in the last few matches in Group 3, against Northern Ireland and Slovenia.
Internal theft in Polish firms skyrockets
From: Polskie Radio
The Euler Hermes report shows that the economic crisis has caused dramatic increase in the amount of internal theft and losses that companies report. One year ago, the figure measured about 50 percent of firms tested, this year, 92 percent of companies in Poland report losses due to employees stealing.
“We expected growth. But, I am shocked at how high [the number] is,” claims Adam Ambrozik, director of the Department of Enterprise in the Confederation of Polish Employers.
This week alone has show two extraordinary examples of internal thievery: 600,000 zloty (142,000 euro) worth of goods were stolen from the shipping warehouse at the Katowice airport and 150 televisions were stolen from the Sharp factory near Torun, central Poland, by employees.
“Not only is the amount of situations quickly going up, but also the value of goods being stolen,” says Bartosz Pikula, head of the risk management office at Euler Hermes.
The report shows that fifteen percent of firms note annual internal losses of over 200,000 zloty (almost 50,000 euro) and the number of firms showing losses between 50,000-100,000 zloty increased from 15 percent in 2008 to 35 percent this year.
Pikila at Euler Hermes attributes the great jump in losses to the economic recession. According to Pikula, employees find their personal debt increasing but salaries decreasing, driving many to find a means to make up the difference. Additionally, the idea of revenge for being fired has become more popular.
“Layoffs or denying pay raises related to cutting costs has become reason enough for employees to steal from their company,” claims Pikula.
Polish Police Raid Dog Fight, 18 Men Detained
"Our 50-strong task force comprising criminal, riot and anti-terrorist police entered a barn in the village of Kapiel near Gniezno while a dog fight was under way," provincial police spokesman Zbigniew Paszkiewicz told Reuters by telephone.
All the detainees were taken to police headquarters for questioning. The animals, some of them injured, were transported to the local animal shelter, Paszkiewicz said.
Dog fights are not specifically banned under Polish law, but the men could face up to two years in prison if convicted on animal cruelty charges.
News channel TVN24 showed scenes of the dogs, mainly pitbulls but at least one Dalmatian, being loaded into police vans.
"This is the first such dog-fight raid I have ever heard of in Poland," the spokesman added.
Cops: Glens Falls man tried to lure child at Polish Fest
From: Times Online
Aleksander J. Michalski, 51, was arraigned in Colonie Town Court late Sunday on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.
Police said he went to the annual Polish Festival at the Blessed Virgin Mary of Czestochowa on Maxwell Road just after 4 p.m., and tried to entice a 7-year-old into his 2009 Dodge Caliber with a puppy.
After he approached the 7-year-old, police said the child screamed for help, alerting several witnesses. Police arrived and took Michalski into custody. During the Glens Falls man’s court appearance, police said they have eyewitness statements and have spoken to several other children who may have been approached by Michalski.
Colonie Police are still investigating and more charges are pending. Michalski was taken to the Albany County Correctional Facility on $1,000 bail or $7,500 bail bond.
Belarusians win nine medals at Summer Biathlon World Championship in Germany
Irina Babetskaya won gold in sprint; Olga Nazarova won two silver medals: in sprint, and pursuit, Vera Kolbenok became a silver medalist in junior pursuit.
The Belarusian junior team was second at mixed relay. The silver medal was bestowed upon Karina Savosik, Alla Tolkach, Sergei Rutsevich and Vladimir Chepelin. Karina Savosik won silver in the junior rollerski sprint and bronze in the junior rollerski pursuit. Vladimir Chepelin won two bronze medals in the junior rollerski pursuit and sprint.
Alexander Kikinev from Belarus wins bronze at World Wrestling Championship
Alexander Kikinev from Belarus won a bronze medal in Greco-Roman at 74kg in the World Wrestling Championship in Herning, Denmark, on 27 September.
This medal was the only one the Belarusian Greco-Roman team won in Herning. The Belarusian team scored 14 points and ranked 12th in the team standing.
The Belarusian free-style wresters were 6th in the team standing with Rizvan Gadzhiev winning a World bronze medal at 55kg.
Yelena Filipova won bronze in women’s freestyle at 55kg. The Belarusian women’s squad ranked 15th in the team standing.
Patriarch’s visit to Belarus criticized – friendship with dictators is risky
From: Charter '97
As Gazeta.ru runs, the close church-state union can lead to dangerous consequences for both. Ardent friendship with authoritarian regimes is a risky dangerous thing. Patriarch Kirill was accepted in Belarus as a welcome guest. Other attitude could hardly be expected.
The patriarch established excellent relation with Lukashenka. The whole model of state-church relations in Belarus impressed by its completeness. The Belarusian ruler was sincere, as always: “We don’t divide anything here. I don’t understand how such a huge institution as the church can be divided from the state.” His next words were honey for the patriarch – he said the state ideology was based on Christian values. Patriarch, in turn, promised the church’s support in a dialogue between Minsk and Moscow.
The whole visit was held in this manner. The Russian Orthodox Church head meet with secular and religious officials, accepted honourable titles and congratulations, made speeches and conducted services in churches.
Kirill was welcomed; no signs of discontent were noticed. Believers in Vitebsk even kissed the footsteps of the patriarch on the carpet. Compared with a stormy visit to Ukraine, this trip was idyllic.
So, was authoritarian policy of Lukashenka on establishing state-church relations fruitful?
It was, at first sight, but it’s not so easy.
The fervent embrace of Lukashenka doesn’t make the image of the church negative among population so far. On the contrary, this promotes the church. This is the benefit for Lukashenka as well (in any case, he hopes so).
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church promised to contribute to establishing closer ties with Moscow. But history shows that ardent friendship with an authoritarian regime is very risky. When Lukashenka’s power staggers, attitude to his reliable orthodox friends will change. So, no one should be surprised to see next visits of the patriarch to Belarus to be not so smooth as this one.