Housing concerns, IMF, Relations with Europe, UNHCR, Chagall, MAZ-MINSK, High-tech park; Russia, News, Sport, Culture and Polish scandal
President urges private developers to shoulder social burden
Apart from high-return housing, private developers should also build social housing and infrastructure facilities, the President said. The organizations already present on the construction market should be taken under tough control. The contracts should be canceled with those private construction companies who have suspended the work due to various reasons, the head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko pointed to the need to restrict an inflow of people to the capital. “Let us take measures to discourage an inflow of people to Minsk. We cannot have the entire nation live in the capital,” the President said. No one closes the gates to Minsk. Yet, the inflow of people here should be restricted. Proceeding from that, we need to make housing construction estimates”.
Some 18,000-19,000 people came to Minsk from other regions annually in 2003-2007. In 2009 the number of people coming to Minsk reduced to almost 11,000, Acting Chairman of the Minsk City Hall Nikolai Ladutko noted when presenting his report to the President.
According to Nikolai Ladutko, the city authorities have recently abandoned a so-called space-saving theory that envisaged the construction of new buildings on the site of old houses that are pulled down. This theory provoked widespread discontent among the dwellers, especially, the owners of the houses that have been demolished.
The authorities are to take a more selective approach to the issue: only sub-standard buildings will be pulled down. Relatively new houses will be kept intact.
Alexander Lukashenko pointed to a necessity of an economical approach to the problem. According to him, “people should not be pressurized”. People, however, should understand the positive side of a space-saving dwelling construction.
Belarus’ President urges to investigate empty homes problem
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko urged the authorities to look into the empty housing problem, in Minsk first and foremost.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, it is unacceptable that property developers leave the constructed houses empty waiting for a rise in housing prices. Aide to the President, Chief Inspector of Minsk Anatoly Kalinin informed the President that about one thousand flats are kept vacant for a variety of reasons in the capital. “We should investigate this situation,” the head of state said.
About 260,000 families and individuals are included in the list of people in need of better housing, of them 60,000 do not own a single square meter of housing; 110,000 are young families. Over the past five years, the volume of housing construction in the capital doubled.
Acting Chairman of the Minsk City Hall Nikolai Ladutko noted that in the future the main focus will be placed on the construction of housing outside Minsk and in the satellite towns. As early as in 2011, the construction of infrastructure outside the Minsk ring road will be launched. As for the Kamennaya Gorka residential area, the housing construction will be completed here by 2012, and by 2014 all the facilities of the social infrastructure will be built. The new residential area will be able to accommodate about 70,000 people. By now 21 houses have been commissioned; by the end of 2009, 290,000 square meters of housing will be built. The average cost of 1 square meter of housing in Kamennaya Gorka is Br1.6 million.
IMF: Belarus makes progress in adjusting its policies in response to global crisis
|Takatoshi Kato, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair of the International Monetary Fund|
On 21 October, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed the second review of Belarus’ performance under an economic program supported by a Stand-By Arrangement (SBA). This decision enables the disbursement of SDR 437.93 million (about US$699.5 million), bringing total disbursements under the program so far to about SDR 1.4 billion (about US$2.23 billion).
The original 15-month SBA was approved on January 12, 2009 . Financial support was subsequently increased to SDR 2.27 billion (about US$3.63 billion) on June 29, 2009.
The Executive Board also concluded the 2009 Article IV consultation with Belarus. A Public Information Notice and the staff report will be published in due course.
Following the Executive Board's discussion on Belarus, Mr. Takatoshi Kato, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, stated: “Belarus has made good progress in adjusting its policies in response to the global crisis. Despite a substantial decline in exports, the economic contraction has been modest relative to other crisis-hit countries.
Exchange rate adjustment has helped reduce external vulnerabilities, with the present exchange regime providing a buffer against external shocks. The adjustment has been supported by a tight fiscal policy, with revenue shortfalls offset by spending cuts, and by an interest rate policy that has kept market rates high in real terms”.
The strategy of expanding lending under various government programs, while helping to cushion the impact of the crisis on output, put pressure on the external position, Takatoshi Kato, IMF Deputy Managing Director, stated. The country’s authorities are committed to a tight credit policy, with a view to reducing the current account deficit and pressure on international reserves.
The decision to limit lending under government programs in the remainder of 2009 will help contain domestic demand and support the stabilization efforts, Takatoshi Kato said.
According to him, Belarus’ authorities “have made important progress in their structural reform agenda aimed at improving the business climate and facilitating private sector development”.
Privatization will play an important part in easing external financing constraints and promoting technological development. The planned setting-up of a Privatization Agency is on track. Reducing the burden of regulation and quantitative targets on the private sector, as well as increasing the commercial orientation of banks, will promote more efficient allocation of resources. It will be important to protect vulnerable groups and enhance the effectiveness of the social safety net, the IMF statement runs.
According to the IMF, the authorities of Belarus have also progressed well on financial sector reforms, including bringing loan classification and provisioning requirements in line with international practice and improving the framework for crisis preparedness. “The commitments to disengage the central bank from non-core business and to enhance its independence are welcome,” Takatoshi Kato said.
In his words, securing sufficient financial resources from the international community is essential for Belarus’ reform efforts. In this context, the authorities stand ready to implement contingency measures in case a financing gap emerges.
Belarus ready for fundamental relations with Europe
|“Some people have started saying that we are trying to liberalize something and please Europe on the eve of the session of the European Union Council of Ministers. This is exactly what I am trying to prevent our Foreign Ministry and the government from doing." remarked the President.|
“We do not build the relations with Europe on the basis of momentary or demonstrative steps. We would like to build substantial and fundamental relations,” said the President. In his opinion, sanctions should be excluded from the Belarus-Europe dialogue. “If you cancel the sanctions, we will thank you, if you don’t, we thank you as well. Maybe it is convenient for you. If you prolong them again, we will consider it an attempt to pressure something out of us again. It is counterproductive and hopeless,” believes the head of state.
Belarus will not make any demonstrative steps on the eve of the consideration of Belarus’ issue by Europe. “Some people have started saying that we are trying to liberalize something and please Europe on the eve of the session of the European Union Council of Ministers,” remarked the President. “This is exactly what I am trying to prevent our Foreign Ministry and the government from doing. I am trying to prevent us from doing anything timed to this moment”. “If Europeans keep us on the hook continuously and demand that we should make this or that step, that we should release these people and imprison those and so on, we cannot agree to such a policy,” he added.
“The European Union has been and will be. But without Ukraine and Belarus you will never have Europe. It is the center of Europe, its huge and important part,” stressed the head of state.
Alexander Lukashenko remarked that Belarus had learned how to live independently and had found friends outside Europe, had diversified its foreign policy. However, Belarus and Europe should cooperate. “The XXI century is not the time for such a practice in relations,” believes Alexander Lukashenko. “It is not terms, ultimatums, military actions that will determine the progress. It will be determined by the weight of a country that it uses to counter challenges”. The President reminded about Belarus’ major contribution to counteracting the spread of illegal drugs, illegal migration and other things. “I think Europe will not do without Belarus,” he said. “If Europe does not understand it now, it will tomorrow”.
“Before democratizing us Europe should see the positive things that we bring and rely on fundamental things,” stated Alexander Lukashenko. “We do not refuse to talk about democracy, but would like Europe to see the other side of the story, which is more essential for Europe itself,” he added.
The President also spoke against using dual standards against Belarus. A good foundation in the form of the Eastern Partnership initiative has been laid down for building substantial relations between Belarus and the European Union. “If Europe wishes to deal with Belarus, let’s do it together in the interests of Europe,” said the President. “But political will and desire are required for that,” he added.
The head of state also touched upon talks about Lukashenko’s fear of losing power. “This idle talk mostly generated in Europe by our opposition sometimes depresses me. I would like to tell you sincerely: Lukashenko has been in office enough, he has been fed up with power and the only question is what I am trying to keep power for. I have always had one goal — preserving the sovereignty, the independence of our country. I would like the people to live well, to be able to feel at home in this tiny piece of land. It is the goal of my entire power policy”.
The Belarus President reminded that he has been pursuing a multiple-vector policy since the first days of his presidency. “Unfortunately, in its time neither West nor East could or wanted to hear it,” stated Alexander Lukashenko. Due to geographical peculiarities Belarus has to pursue this policy and good neighborly relations are the key thing in it. Alexander Lukashenko believes Estonia to be one of the reliable neighbors. “You are a friendly neighbor of ours. We have never expected any threat from Estonia or another Baltic state although they are NATO members,” said the President. In his opinion, it would be wrong to cast away all the good things that were generated in the relations between the two countries during the Soviet times.
Sergei Martynov discusses EU visa facilitation for Belarus in Brussels
During his visit to Brussels Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov discussed the prospects of facilitating the visa regime between Belarus and the European Union, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Foreign Ministry.
The Foreign Minister of Belarus paid a working visit to Brussels on 21-23 October. Sergei Martynov held negotiations with EC Vice-President, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security Jacques Barrot and EC Commissioner in charge of Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia.
Sergei Martynov and Jacques Barrot discussed a wide range of issues related to the prospects of relaxing visa formalities for Belarusian nationals, the ways of strengthening collaboration in border protection and illegal migration control. Belarus’ efforts to counteract the organized crime, human trafficking and other global challenges were highly praised. Jacques Barrot found it necessary to cooperate in addressing the visa issue which Belarus has faced after its neighboring countries joined the Schengen agreement. The two sides agreed upon holding the relevant consultations between the competent Belarusian agencies and EC services.
The negotiations with Joaquin Almunia focused on the prospects of enhancing loan and investment cooperation between Belarus and the European Union including the revised strategy of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development towards Belarus. The two sides agreed on continuing Belarus-EC cooperation in the financial and economic area.
UNHCR working on local integration of refugees in Belarus
|In H1 2009 the number of applications for political asylum went up 10% to reach 185,000. The applicants are mainly from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somali|
The project will be implemented in association with the Interior Ministry. The European Commission is supposed to allocate around €650,000 for the project.
According to Sholeh Safavi, the UNHCR in Belarus cooperates with governmental and non-governmental organizations. The cooperation within projects is mostly aimed at improving reception and accommodation of asylum seekers, availability of rare language interpreters, improvement of living standards of refugees, including psychological aid, assistance with Russian language studying, assistance with getting civil education, advanced training and creation of employment opportunities.
Belarus faces complicated challenges caused by mixed and illegal migration, stressed Sholeh Safavi. For 15 years the UNHCR has been supporting the Belarusian government in creating modern legislation on refugees and providing shelter. Impressive achievements have been secured in this area, stressed the representative of the UNHCR in Belarus.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees operates in 110 countries across the globe, including hot spots. In H1 2009 the number of applications for political asylum went up 10% to reach 185,000. The applicants are mainly from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somali where the security situation is worsening.
Marc Chagall’s etchings to Gogol’s Dead Souls on display in Vitebsk soon
|Chagall worked on this project from 1923 to 1927, finally making 96 etchings to illustrate the book|
This souvenir edition is a collection of 96 picture post cards with citations from the immortal literary work in Russian and English printed on the back side. This publication of this edition was officially authorized by Marc Chagall’s heirs, Chagall’s Committee, and the Copyright Committee in Paris.
Realizing the significance of the illustrations and the importance of their publication in a complete set, Vitebsk museum workers tried to implement this project several times, but managed to do it only with the help of the Minsk Goznak Publishing House. The edition was designed by member of the Belarusian Union of Artists, prize-holder of international and national competitions Valery Leutin.
“I am happy that this project was completed in 2009 when we marked the 200th anniversary of Nikolai Gogol’s birth,” Lyudmila Khmelnitskaya said. Apart from that, museum workers hope that the collection of illustrations titled “Marc Chagall’s illustrations to Dead Souls poem by Nikolai Gogol” will get into each school of the country, as this poem is included in the school curriculum.
Chagall worked on this project from 1923 to 1927, finally making 96 etchings to illustrate the book. It was Vollard, the great French print publisher and art dealer, who asked him to undertake an illustrated book. An edition of 368 sets was made, of which 335 were eventually offered for sale.
Grodno to host nationwide festival of national cultures 4-6 June 2010
The eighth nationwide festival of national cultures will take place in Grodno on 4-6 June 2010, Irina Senchenkova, deputy chairperson of the Grodno town hall, said at the first meeting of the organizing committee of the festival on 22 October.
Up to 30 national associations and more than 100 artistic groups are expected to take part in the festival. The format of the festival will remain unchanged though there will be some innovation.
A contest of children’s national song will be held for the first time. The organizing committee is planning to give more exposure to students’ art. Opening and closing ceremonies will be held on the stadium of the Neman sports facility.
There are plans to invite artists from the countries-historical homelands of the national associations. “Of course, we will not be able to invite representatives of 30 countries. But we think that artists from Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Moldova, Poland, and Germany could come over to take part in the event. We have long-standing links with these countries,” said executive director of the festival Vladimir Sergeichik.
A campaign to select participants for the festival will start in November in all regions of the country and will finish in March 2010.
The budget of the festival will be drawn up by December. The event is financed from the national and local budgets and with the help of sponsors’ assistance.
Plans for another Belarusian high-tech park unveiled
|There is concern over the growing trade deficit, which now stands at $5.3 billion. A special program has been worked out and a system of measures has been sketched out to turn around the tendency|
The experience of the existing High-Tech Park should be used for other companies operating in such industries as microelectronics, nanotech, laser technologies, including the manufacturing corporation Integral. “Otherwise, we will not save Integral, will not revive it, and will not see it develop,” believes Vladimir Semashko. According to the source, documents are being prepared to enable preferential treatment for nanotech companies.
Vladimir Semashko praised the good operation of the High-Tech Park. With extremely preferential terms, the High-Tech Park more than doubles the export every year and is now one of Belarus’ top ten exporters.
The First Vice Premier expressed concern over the growing trade deficit, which now stands at $5.3 billion. A special program has been worked out and a system of measures has been sketched out to turn around the tendency, he said.
Vladimir Semashko urged industrialists and entrepreneurs to check locally of what the trade balance is made of because even small things are important. “We have a welfare mentality as far as the problem is concerned. We get offended that the National Bank does not allow converting currency to import equipment,” he said. He underlined that the import substitution system works and will work.
At present, recovering from the crisis, the Belarusian industry has started improving its profitability and reducing the finished goods inventory. According to the First Vice Premier fixed-capital investments are expected to grow by at least 20% in 2009. The goal will be achieved partially thanks to the leasing system that is being created.
MAZ to export 1,000 vehicles to Venezuela
Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ trademark) has signed an agreement to ship 1,000 vehicles to Venezuela, MAZ General Director Nikolai Kosten said at a session of Minsk City Hall on 23 October.
“MAZ is aggressively exploring foreign markets. The company has managed to build up sales this year. During the recent visit of the Vice-Premier of Vietnam agreements were reached to deliver 900 vehicles to that region. We are looking to ship a big consignment to Azerbaijan soon,” Nikolai Kosten said.
New projects will be implemented in the neighboring countries. MAZ has recently launched an assembly production in the Yaroslavl oblast of Russia, which will promote the brand in the Russian market, he said. The Belarusian automaker is implementing similar projects in two other regions of Russia.
Other sales promotion measures include the setting up of warehouses in Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Saratov, Ryazan and Novosibirsk. MAZ is launching a new scheme of selling the equipment on Sberbank loans, which interest rate to be partially compensated.
Minsk Automobile Plant was created in 1944. It was converted into an open joint-stock company in 2009. At present the parent enterprise employs around 27,000 people. MAZ offers over 250 modifications of automobiles, including truck tractors, high-sided trucks, medium-capacity automobiles, dump trucks, log trucks, short log trucks, cross-country vehicles, automobiles fit for special equipment as well as buses and trolley buses.
Minsk Tractor Works will also deliver about 14,000 tractors to Pakistan, Manufacturing Director of the company Igor Yemelyanovich told a press conference.
Some 2,000 Belarusian tractors will be shipped to Pakistan in October 2009.
“We have signed a delivery contract with Pakistan and we will keep executing it. Today a customer dictates terms: we supply those models of tractors that he wants,” Igor Yemelyanovich said. The MTZ Manufacturing Director meant the tractors that became popular on the Pakistani market. Belarusian tractors earned a generally good reputation on that market. MTZ has been present there since the 1950s.
IMF Approves $700 Million for Belarus After Review
|Belarus, a conduit for a fifth of Russian gas exports to Europe, has received $2.23 billion under its bailout program|
Belarus, a conduit for a fifth of Russian gas exports to Europe, has received $2.23 billion under its bailout program, the IMF said in a statement late yesterday. The Washington-based fund has agreed to lend the nation about $3.6 billion.
“Exchange-rate adjustment has helped reduce external vulnerabilities, with the present regime providing a buffer against external shocks,” IMF Deputy Managing Director Takatoshi Kato said in the statement. “The adjustment has been supported by a tight fiscal policy, with revenue shortfalls offset by spending cuts, and by an interest-rate policy that has kept market rates high in real terms.”
The IMF, which has handed out more than $65 billion to eastern European nations to fight the financial crisis and subsequent economic recessions, in August urged Belarus to sell assets, curb lending and raise utility prices to cope with the first contraction in output in more than a decade.
“The authorities have made important progress in their structural reform agenda aimed at improving the business climate and facilitating private sector development,” Kato said. “Privatization will play an important part in easing external financing constraints and promoting technological development.”
Belarus devalued its ruble in January, pegging it to a basket of dollars, euros and Russian rubles. The central bank in June widened its exchange-rate band to 10 percent of its target basket to make the currency more flexible. The following month, it banned issuing retail loans denominated in foreign currencies to shore up the ruble and curb risks to bank assets as the economic slump erodes borrowers’ ability to repay debt.
“The strategy of expanding credit under various government programs, while helping to cushion the impact of the crisis on output, put pressure on the external position,” Kato said. “The authorities are committed to a tight credit policy, with a view to reducing the current account deficit and pressure on international reserves. The decision to limit lending under government programs in the remainder of 2009 will help contain domestic demand and support the stabilization efforts.”
The country’s reserves, calculated using IMF methodology, were $3.88 billion as of September, according to the central bank. The stockpile has fallen from a record $4.75 billion reached on April 1, 2008.
Belarus’ trade deficit widened more than 77 percent in the first half of the year to $3.95 billion from a $2.23 billion shortfall in the same period in 2008, according the National Statistics Committee. Exports to Russia, the country’s main trading partner, plummeted to $2.96 billion from $5.57 billion in the first six months of last year.
The government has “progressed well on financial sector reforms, including bringing loan classification and provisioning requirements in line with international practice and improving the framework for crisis preparedness,” Kato said.
“The commitments to disengage the central bank from non- core business and to enhance its independence are welcome,” he added. “Securing sufficient financial resources from the international community is essential for Belarus’ reform efforts. In this context, the authorities stand ready to implement contingency measures should a financing gap emerge.”
Belarusian lawmakers to attend session of Central European Initiative’s Parliamentary Assembly
The agenda of the session is topped by investment and employment amid the global economic downturn, according to the lawmaker.
Mr. Pawlovich, who is deputy chair of the industry committee in the House of Representatives, is expected to speak about Belarus’ investment environment at the session.
The National Assembly’s delegation also will include Antanina Morava, chair of the Committee on Education, Science, Culture and Social Development in the Council of the Republic.
MAZ-MINSK Automobile keen to do business in Pakistan
From: Daily Times
Abdul Majid Haji Muhammad, President-KCCI said although several companies were operating in Pakistan and producing heavy transports viz. trucks, trailers, buses and coaches, however, country is in need of locally assembled automobiles in view of its economical cost. He said that the CBU/ imported automobiles do not fully comply with the road conditions of Pakistan.
Abdul Majid highlighted that business prospects are available in Karachi as it is the largest metropolitan city of Pakistan interconnecting with other districts of Sindh and Balochistan province.
He said that there is a need of modern buses for within city and intercity transportation needs. Moreover, Karachi has the twin deep-sea ports from where daily thousands of heavy vehicles, trucks, trailers ply to upcountry destinations carrying the goods.
Abdul Majid also focused that MAZ Auto if establishes an assembly plant in Pakistan can export vehicles to Emirates and African countries. Alongside, the company will also create more employment opportunities in Pakistan, which would benefit to MAZ also because the manpower of Pakistan holds skilled and expertise in auto sector. President-KCCI appreciated the presentation by the senior representative of MAZ Automobile and assured cooperation from KCCI for establishing assembly plant in Pakistan.
Senior Representative of JSC- MAZ, Minisk Automobile of Belarus, Mikhail Rudzko in his presentation said that MAZ automobile manufacturers over 500 types of vehicles including the vehicles for public, private and defence sector.
He informed that the company was 65 years old having head office and factory in Belarus. Moreover, several assembly plants of MAZ are operating in Poland, Egypt, Ukraine, Vietnam, Iran and other countries. He said that his company can manufacture heavy transportation vehicles like trucks of different load capacities, luxuries buses and coaches for long routes and intercity routes.
He informed that they had meeting with Board of Investment, Engineering Development Board, Pakistan Automobile Corporation and other institutions and received an overwhelming response. He said that the purpose of their presentation at KCCI is to update its members about the great potential and capability of his company to produce vehicles as per the specific requirements of buyers. He added that their company was not new and in the past they had manufactured Belarus tractors for Pakistan. staff report
Ukraine supports cooperation of Belarus with PACE via its joining conventions of Council of Europe
From: Kiev Post
|The Presidents of Belarus and Ukraine Aleksander Lukashenko ans Viktor Yushchenko|
This was announced following a meeting in Kyiv on October 22 between Ukrainian Foreign Minister Petro Poroshenko and PACE Chairman Lluís Maria de Puig.
According to the press service report, the sides considered issues of regional cooperation of the Council of Europe with Belarus, in particular, the prospects for granting the country a special guest status in PACE.
"In connection with this the Ukrainian side voiced support for the more active involvement of Belarus in cooperation with the organization, in particular, via this country's joining the conventions of the Council of Europe," the report says.
The sides also discussed a large number of issues regarding the activity of the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly: strengthening institutional unity in the Council of Europe, the continuation of reforms in the organization, as well as priority directions for further work.
The Ukrainian side acquainted the PACE chairman with priorities of Ukraine's foreign policy course, in particular, in the context of cooperation at European and regional levels.
From: Charter '97
|It is offered to allow candidates to form electoral fund from their own funds, and money of sponsors, except for state enterprises, foreign campaigns and citizens.|
On October 20 at the meeting with Alyaksandr Lukashenka the chair of the Central Election Committee Lidziya Yarmoshyna said about changes planned to the electoral code. Thus, it is planned that a norm, according to which to nominate its candidate for deputy seat in a constituency a political party should have a registered structure at the territory of the constituency, would be annulled. Attesting signature sheets by executive committees before giving them to the Central Election Committee would not be demanded. The list of reasons for which a prospective deputy or a presidential candidate can be denied registration should be defined more exactly. Besides, at the nearest local elections the barrier of voters turnout will be lifted. Local elections would be declared valid with any number of voters. Voter’s turnout remains for parliamentary and presidential campaigns.
It has been also stated that candidates will receive a possibility to buy additional air time on television and radio, organize meetings with voters, rent premises, and publish additional promotional materials.
As “European Belarus” website writes, it is obvious that these insignificant changes would be “sold” to the West as a considerable breakthrough in the sphere of political “liberalization”. And some offered changes could be even viewed as potential democratic candidates as openly derisive.
Thus, it is offered to allow candidates to form electoral fund from their own funds, and money of sponsors, except for state enterprises, foreign campaigns and citizens.
However examples of Anatol Krasouski, Andrei Klimau, Uladzimir Kudzinau and other businessmen who dared to enter the political struggle, show too eloquently how the regime punishes for financial support of the opposition, and in a benefit of whom “voluntary” donations would be made.
It should be noted that starting from 2008, oppositional parties representatives many times addressed the authorities with concrete proposals on changing the electoral code. However, the demands of the oppositional parties were not taken into consideration. No significant amendments are planned. The key part of the electoral code concerning vote count and control over them remains unchanged.
It must be said that the CEC head Lidziya Yarmoshyna admits that. She stated that al the changes in the electoral code would have cosmetic nature, and won’t influence the practice of applying this law.
“One should understand that the amendments which have been announced in no way change the existing system of rigging elections results. I expect publication of the announced changes and adoption of the law without any optimism. So far there are no signs that these changes answer the crucial issues of control over votes count, representation of political forces in the electoral commissions, pressure during the early vote. Anyway, no matter what changes are there, one would be able to say that the elections are free only after the first democratic election. The key role here belongs to the will of the state to hold free elections,” the lawyer of the human rights centre “Viasna” Uladzimir Labkovich said.
“Young front” activists beaten for Belarusian language
|“They asked whether we are Young Front members, and when we said yes, they started to beat us”.|
“We collected signatures among passers-by together, when four unknown people in plainclothes came near us,” Maxim Akhrymenka said to mfront.net website. “They asked whether we are Young Front members, and when we said yes, they started to beat us”.
As said by the young activist, when police patrol saw the fight, policemen turned around and went the other way. Then people in plainclothes disappeared.
In Karelichy (Hrodna region) a “Young Front” activists Andrei Lyaukovich was detained for collecting signatures in support of the Belarusian language in apartments.
We informed earlier that such detentions for collection of signatures in support of the Belarusian language took place in Minsk and two times in Baranavichy.
Medvedev says Russia certain to join WTO
From: RIA Novosti
|Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus agreed in early June to form a customs bloc|
Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus agreed in early June to form a customs bloc. Its Customs Code will be presented for approval to the heads of the three states in November. Unified customs regulations are due to come into effect at the start of 2010.
"We will join the WTO despite certain delays caused by the establishment of the Customs Union. There can be no doubt about this," Dmitry Medvedev said during a meeting with the leaders of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.
The three countries earlier announced that they would seek to join the WTO simultaneously, with a joint bid.
Russia's chief WTO negotiator, Maxim Medvedkov, said last week that the date of the next round of talks on joining the trade body would be made by chairmen of the three countries' working groups following consultations with the WTO members.
"We expect the decision to be made by the end of this year. The necessary materials will be submitted to the WTO in the next two or three weeks," he said.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said on Wednesday that Russian, Belarusian and Kazakh officials were expected to sign the Customs Code at a meeting of the EurAsEC State Council to be held in Minsk on November 27.
Russia, U.S. satisfied with Iranian nuclear-fuel talks: Kremlin
|The nuclear-fuel talks held in Vienna among the United States, Russia, France and Iran concluded on Wednesday without a final agreement|
The two leaders held a telephone conversation, during which Obama said Russia had played a decisive role on the positive outcome of the expert-level consultations.
Medvedev in response praised the significance of the U.S. readiness to provide written guarantees for an exchange of uranium for fuel for a research reactor proposed jointly by Russia and the United States.
The two presidents also discussed progress in the Geneva talks on nuclear arsenal cut, expressing satisfaction with the active dialogue between the two delegations and the current level of mutual understanding.
They also believed that a new treaty on strategic arms reduction can be ready by early December, when the current one expires.
The nuclear-fuel talks held in Vienna among the United States, Russia, France and Iran concluded on Wednesday without a final agreement but a proposal from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to be mulled.
The IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei proposed, the enriched uranium with a higher purity needed for research reactor in Iran would be produced abroad.
On Friday when the final answer shall be given, the United States, Russia and France have all voiced their agreement to the proposal. Iran said it would respond next week.
On Oct. 1, in the talks between Iran and a UN-backed group of six nations, the United States, Britain, Russia, France, Germany and China in Geneva, Iran agreed in principle to ship most of its existing low-grade enriched uranium to Russia and France, where it would be processed into fuel rods with a purity of 20 percent.
The enriched uranium would be transported back to Iran to be used in a research reactor for the manufacture of medical radioisotopes.
Russia drops $22.5 bln lawsuit against US bank
|The case stems from a scandal in which a Bank of New York vice president and her husband were convicted of illegally wiring $7.5 billion of Russian money into accounts at the bank in the 1990s|
The agreement, announced in a joint statement, was expected after Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said in September that Russia had reached a settlement with the bank under which it would receive no less than $14 million for court costs — the amount of a non-prosecution fee that the bank paid in the United States.
Kudrin said the government would also receive a $4 billion discounted loan from the bank, which he insisted was not related to the lawsuit.
Russia's federal customs service formally asked the Moscow Arbitration Court to close the case Thursday and the court agreed, bank spokeswoman Natalya Miroyevskaya said from the courtroom.
The case stems from a scandal in which a Bank of New York vice president and her husband were convicted of illegally wiring $7.5 billion of Russian money into accounts at the bank in the 1990s. The customs service went to court in 2007 to claim lost tax revenues on those transfers.
Bank of New York, which later merged with Mellon, was never charged with any wrongdoing in the United States. It reached a non-prosecution agreement with U.S. federal prosecutors in 2005.
The litigation in Russia raised concern among investors about the rule of law.
Andrei Belyaninov, chief of the customs service, said in the joint statement that the case demonstrated Russia's "vigilance in international financial markets" and "the efficiency and independence of Russian courts."
An official explanation of the case from the U.S. Attorney's Office had helped the customs service conclude that "there is no basis to hold the bank liable," Belyaninov said.
Matthew Biben, executive vice president of Bank of New York Mellon, said the bank is "pleased to have this matter behind us."
Newspaper report unmasks Polish 007
From: The Australian and Times online
|Weronika Marczuk-Pazura says the agent set her up|
He drives a Porsche, rides a Harley-Davidson, wears Armani suits, flashes expensive dental work and seduces women in the line of duty - and has just had his cover blown by newspapers.
The 33-year-old agent, who uses multiple pseudonyms, is the most energetic operative for the controversial Anti-Corruption Agency. But now the publication of the agent's leaked details - his pseudonyms have included Tomasz Malecki and Tom Piotrowski - and a blurred photograph has put his life in danger, his former boss says.
In his most recent coup, a star in a Polish television dance show was allegedly caught out for her role as a go-between in a bribery deal. Weronika Marczuk-Pazura, a curvaceous blonde in the Bond girl tradition, has claimed she was set up by the man known as Agent Tomek. "His eyes were heavy with passion as he tried to seduce me," she said, admitting she took him to meet her parents.
Last year, Polish radio reported, the same agent had an affair with Beata Sawicka, a politician from the Civic Platform group, while investigating her for allegedly accepting bribes in a corrupt land deal.
Agent Tomek also investigated Jolanta Kwasniewska and her husband Aleksander, the former president, on suspicion of not declaring their full income.
“This man is a highly professional and experienced officer who has been conducting special operations aimed at combating organised crime and drug trafficking,” said Mariusz Kaminski, his former boss at the CBA.
Agent Tomek, a former detective, had been chosen for his acting talents and later assigned to infiltrate the world of international drug dealing. "To appear credible, Tomek had to mirror the values of the social group that he was trying to penetrate," said Mariusz Kaminski, his former boss at the CBA, fending off criticism the agency subsidised Tomek K's extravagant lifestyle.
The revelations have also stoked a debate about the limits that should be set on anti-corruption investigations. Donald Tusk, the Prime Minister, dismissed Mr Kaminski last week, making plain that he thought the agency had become politically biased.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk dismissed Mr Kaminski last week, making plain that he thought the agency had become politically biased.
The CBA, set up by Lech Kaczynski, who is now President, has been digging into alleged discrepancies in the planned privatisation of the Gdynia and Szczecin shipyards. It has also been investigating how gaming operators have been lobbying politicians in the prelude to new gambling laws. Both cases could have discredited members of Mr Tusk’s administration and scuppered his chances of replacing Mr Kaczynski as president in elections next year.
2,000 at Polish factory protest job cuts
|Cegielski factory in Poznan|
The demonstration by workers at the Cegielski factory in Poznan was organized by the Solidarity union, which played a critical role in the overthrow of Poland's Communist government, Polish Radio reported. Protesters followed the same route used in 1956 by demonstrators in an uprising.
Police said a few members of the group, including some they described as anarchists, threw stones and small firecrackers at officers and set tires on fire. They also burned a small coffin symbolizing the government.
About 500 people have been laid off at the Cegielski factory.
Polish unemployment up, more redundancies expected
From: Polskie Radio
|Between January and September 2009 about 54,000 people lost their jobs as a result of group redundancies.|
According to the Main Statistical Office, over 1.75 million Poles do not have a job. It is likely that unemployment rate will be even higher during the last months of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 as mass redundancies are expected then, say economists.
Between January and September 2009 about 54,000 people lost their jobs as a result of group redundancies. It is expected that additional 100,000 employees will be made redundant this autumn and winter.
“Contrary to what the government says, we still have an economic crisis, not a success story,” says Andrzej Radzikowski from OPZZ trade union.
Mass redundancies will affect mainly engineering and textile industries, as well as financial institutions
Man cleared of kicking bucket
From: The News
It took 18 months to end legal wrangling between two obstinate inhabitants of Mikowice, southern Poland over a plastic bucket worth less than 3 euros.
In the spring of 2008, Alicja I. took her neighbour, Waldemar J., to court for damaging her bucket. She told police at the time of the incident that he kicked the bucket so hard it landed on a bush outside their block of flats.
The case was referred to a municipal court.
Waldemar J. pleaded not guilty and argued that he, not his neighbour, was the injured party and claimed Alicja L. was still using the allegedly damaged bucket to this very day. To prove this, he presented, as evidence in court, video he took on his mobile phone of Alicja L. using the bucket for various activities.
The court called a video expert, who testified that it was impossible to date the mobile phone footage and could have been taken before Waldemar kicked the bucket.
Last February, after much legal wrangling, a compromise agreement was in sight. The defendant seemed to be ready to give way when he said he wanted to see the bucket to inspect it for damage: “I have not even seen the bucket, so far,” he claimed.
In April, however, Waldemar demanded that experts carry out an experiment to see whether a kick could damage a plastic bucket. An expert witness, who has written a book on plastic buckets - and after consultations with a plastic bucket manufacturer - stated that such a possibility existed.
Waldemar J.’s gamble had failed and he was found guilty by the court. But Waldemar was not about to give in and immediately launched an appeal.
This week, much to Waldamar’s relief , his campaign for justice finally ended. A district court in Opole dropped the case. “It should never have even begun,” said the judge.
Belarus Coach Hanlon Steps Down From Minsk Job
From: New York Times
|Hanlon, a former N.H.L. goalie and head coach of the Washington Capitals, stepped down from the Minsk Dinamo job|
Hanlon, a former N.H.L. goalie and head coach of the Washington Capitals, stepped down from the Dinamo job after the club from the Belarussian capital lost at home to Amur Khabarovsk, 4-1, and fell to ninth place in the K.H.L. Western Conference, one slot below a playoff position. He took over at Dinamo at the start of the season after coaching Jokerit to a fourth-place finish and a quarterfinal series exit in the Finnish SM-liiga last season. In 2007-8, Hanlon was fired from his second stint as coach in Washington and replaced by Bruce Boudreau.
Hanlon has had his greatest coaching success in Belarus. He took over the national team in 2005 and led it to a best-ever sixth-place finish at the 2006 I.I.H.F. world championship, raising the team’s world ranking to ninth — even though only 2,850 players are registered in the entire country.
He left to coach in Washington, but returned as Belarus coach for the 2009 world championship and led the team to another surprising showing. Belarus finished second to Canada in the first stage with 5 points from three games, then qualified for the knockout round by finishing the second stage with 6 points from five games. The Belarussians finally fell to Russia in the quarterfinal match, but by a close 4-3 score.
That success led to Hanlon’s rehiring for the 2010 Olympics by the Belarussian Ice Hockey Federation, which is heavily influenced by Aleksandr Lukashenko, the country’s hockey-loving strongman president.
However, In a statement on the Belarus Ice Hockey Federation's Web site, Glen Hanlon says he will continue as coach of the country's Olympic team. "Several years ago the Belarussian team began the difficult path to the top," Hanlon said. "It would be wrong to stop halfway. I gladly will work with the Belarussian team at the Olympics and World Championship."
Schiavone to face Govortsova in Moscow final
In Sunday's final, 67th-ranked Govortsova will take on eighth-seeded Italian Francesca Schiavone, who crushed Ukraine's Alona Bondarenko 6-4 6-0 earlier in the day.
Just a handful of spectators turned out to watch the women's semi-finals after most of the top seeds and high-profile players were knocked out of the annual indoor tournament in the first two rounds.
Schiavone, however, paid little attention to a sparse crowd at the 12,000-seat Olympic arena, disposing of the 36th-ranked Ukrainian in just over an hour.
"I played better than her," said the 29-year-old, who was the highest women's seed to reach the quarter-finals.
"I was more aggressive and was dictating the points for most of the match, except for a short period late in the first set.
"I hope I can continue my good form in the final," added world number 24 Schiavone, who has lost nine out of 10 career finals, including the Moscow showpiece against France's Mary Pierce in 2005.
In the second semi, Govortsova took the initiative from the start by breaking Kleybanova's serve in the opening game.
The 20-year-old Muscovite, who stunned second seed and holder Jelena Jankovic in the previous round, looked in distress as she made 39 unforced errors, nearly twice as many as Govortsova.
"No, the match wasn't as easy as the score showed," Govortsova, 21, said after reaching her first final of the year.
"Nearly every game was close and I had to fight really hard to win it."
Russian third seed Mikhail Youzhny faces Kazakh qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin and sixth-seeded Serb Janko Tipsarevic plays Ukrainian qualifier Ilya Marchenko in the men's semi-finals later Saturday.
BATE Barysaw earn first Europa League win
The visitors took the lead through a penalty on 31 minutes but midfielder Alyaksandr Pawlaw leveled the score six minutes into the second half and Alyaksandr Alumona headed home five minutes before time, giving BATE their first three points in the Europa League’s Group I.
AEK had two players sent off during the game.
The teams will play each other again in Athens on November 5.
Using the blog...
From: The Story
But I am thinking that it is time to change all this and to go back to writing here and I have three real reasons for this, all of which are about my daughter Anya and her safety and future possibilities. The first is that I am about to enter into a very serious court fight with Tanya over who has the right to raise Anya. This fight has been brewing for a long time and my hope is that it has finally come to a head, but in any case, the actual description of the events and the details involved will be essential, and I would like things to be as clear as possible. Insofar as that is concerned, though I count myself as being reasonably lucid, there is nothing like a little exercise to clean things out and as of the moment, I can use all of the help I an get.
But the last reason is the most profound and disturbing: I really don’t think I can do this fight without making it public. The reason for this is that I will not simply be fighting Tanya, I will also have to fight the legal and judicial systems as well. Said plainly, the fight has been going on as long as it has for the simple reason that the police, one particular judge and the entire package of Pinsk legal help has been refusing to help me in any way over the course of the last year. And I am not talking about just one or two incidents; I am talking about the active pursuit of sustaining a situation in which Anya turns out to be the loser. So because of this, and because I really do not have such great mobility here, I have been thinking that allowing people (the press, politicians, the US embassy and even the President of Belarus) to know about what has been going on and the results, might be worth it.
I will try to do this a bit every day for a while and to include as many details as I can. In the end though, clarity, reason and making the world to live in the best reason to do anything. So lets see how this goes.