Belarus-India cooperation, Air crash near Minsk, Spice smoking, Russia, Executions, Culture, Economics, Opposition, Sport and Polish scandal...
Lukashenko urges to expand and intensify Belarus-India cooperation
|President Alexander Lukashenko meets with the Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence of the Government of India, Mallipudi Raju Pallam Mangapati|
“What makes our relations special is that we know what we need to do. We have accomplished a lot, identified certain areas of cooperation and concluded many contracts. We need to expand and intensify cooperation,” the President said. This should be applied not only to the cooperation in military area but also to the cooperation between civilian agencies, he said.
Alexander Lukashenko believes that Belarus and India need to boost the bilateral trade. According to him, the current trade turnover does not meet the huge potential of the two countries. In January-August 2009 it made up $387.2 million. The presidents of the two countries set out a strategic task, namely to increase the Belarusian-Indian trade to $500 million.
“I would like the scope of our relations to be wider,” the Belarusian head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko noted that Belarus “has always been proud of the relations with such a powerful state as India”. “It is a wonderful country with a big potential and hardworking people,” the Belarusian leader said. Alexander Lukashenko stressed that the country made a great impression on him during his visits in 1997 and 2007.
The President congratulated Mallipudi Mangapati Pallam Raju with the victory of the Indian National Congress at the parliamentary elections. “We know that you have played a huge role in this,” Alexander Lukashenko said. The Belarusian head of state assured that Belarus would stay committed to all the agreements with India.
According to Mallipudi Mangapati Pallam Raju, India pays great significance to the relations with Belarus. The Indian official underlined that the two countries have similar viewpoints on the issues on the international agenda and thanked Belarus for the support. “Your visits in 1997 and 2007 considerably strengthened the Belarusian-Indian relations,” said the Indian official addressing the President of Belarus.
Mallipudi Mangapati Pallam Raju stated that the visit of the Foreign Minister of Belarus to India also contributed to the development of the bilateral relations. He praised Belarus’ technological potential and the military-technical cooperation between the two countries.
Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia may grow larger
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko believes that other countries may become part of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Alexander Lukashenko expressed his opinion as he met with EurAsEC Secretary General Tair Mansurov in Minsk on 26 October.
“If we succeed at the Customs Union, I am sure that other countries may join in the process,” said Alexander Lukashenko. “This is why shaping the Customs Union today, one needs to see other countries here”.
“We have been saying for a long time that if someone is not ready, we will neither wait nor leap ahead, we will create the Customs Union of the countries that are ready. Those which are not ready may take their time to have a closer look, the Union is open for joining,” added the Belarus President.
The next session of the EurAsEC Interstate Council involving heads of state will take place in Minsk on 27 November. The agenda includes 19 issues. Among the most important ones is the fulfillment of joint measures aimed at overcoming consequences of the world financial crisis in EurAsEC member-states, cooperation for supporting the order at external borders, creation of a common insurance market of EurAsEC states.
“We have always been proud of Minsk encouraging good operation of integration bodies. Maybe the spirit and the environment in Minsk contribute to good and, most of all, effective work, the making of considered and wise decisions,” remarked Alexander Lukashenko.
According to the Belarus President, the forthcoming EurAsEC Interstate Council session will be phased. It is supposed to table the signing of a Customs Code treaty, to decide on uniform customs, tariff and non-tariff regulations and other matters vital for the Customs Union. “We’ve formed the Customs Union, one might say,” said Alexander Lukashenko. He also noted that the documents are virtually ready, they need just to be signed in Minsk. The Belarus President also expressed hope that the forthcoming summit will be effective.
Tair Mansurov informed Alexander Lukashenko about the progress in compiling the agenda of the oncoming EurAsEC summit, about the readiness of relevant documents, fulfillment of the decisions made at the previous session of the Interstate Council, and about existing shortcomings.
Air crash near Minsk kills five
|The plane wreckage and five bodies were found four kilometers away from the airport’s runway|
The rescue and emergency services have launched a rescue operation immediately.
The plane wreckage and five bodies were found four kilometers away from the airport’s runway near the village of Pyatiletka of the Smolevichi region at 10.45pm.
The crash did not entail any other victims and destructions. The fire was localized and extinguished in the shortest possible time. The National Airport Minsk worked without fails despite bad weather.
Second black box found at jet crash site near Minsk
An inquiry has been launched into the case. Allegedly, a second black box has been found at the crash site of the Russian jet near Minsk, representatives of the Belarusian Transport Prosecution Office told BelTA.
The source explained that the description of the found article is close to that of a flight recorder. An expert is supposed to fly from Moscow to Minsk to confirm or disprove it. The expert is also supposed to give his conclusion regarding the first flight recorder that was found in the morning.
The aircraft BAE-125-800 Hawker of the Russian airlines S-Air was performing a charter flight from the Vnukovo airport to the national airport Minsk in the evening of 26 October. The private jet had five people on board (three crew and two passengers). S-Air Director General Marat Romashkin was on board of the plane.
Spice smoking blend components now illegal in Belarus
|Vasily Losich: We did not have to forestall spice. First, the blends appeared and the information was that they have narcotic influence.|
Components of these smoking blends have been put on the list of “Particularly dangerous narcotic and psychotropic substances, which are not used for medical purposes”. The refreshed document will come into force in Belarus on 1 January 2010.
So far the distribution and storage of smoking blends, which contain narcotic components, are punishable by a fine. Starting 2010 the offense will be prosecuted and punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
“We did not have to forestall spice. First, the blends appeared and information that they have narcotic influence. Then it had to be proved and the legislation had to be changed,” remarked Vasily Losich.
In his words, Belarusian law enforcement agencies have been busy lately tracking down locations and ways used to distribute the spice drugs. In September 2009 17 people have faced administrative charges for selling the smoking blend. The distribution of flyers advertising spice sellers, who operated in educational establishments and night clubs, has been detected. The blends are widely advertised over the Internet.
Vasily Losich underlined that it is extremely hard to stop the spread of any illegal drugs. “It is a business which profits exceed 1,000%,” he added. Nevertheless, Belarusian law enforcers manage to detect more and more drugs smuggling channels and underground labs year after year. In 2008 nine underground labs were shut down, with four labs closed down in 2009. The police has managed to suppress 34 channels used to transport the drugs into and in transit via Belarus in 2008. In January-September 2009 36 channels were cut out.
Rent payment made simpler in Belarus
|Rent payments to be made easier|
“The document sets out a single approach to leasing the property, makes the renting process open and transparent, simplifies rent payment, optimizes the process of concluding rent contracts, and makes the use state-owned property more efficient,” says the State Property Committee.
Decree No518 approves the provisions regulating the order of leasing property and calculating rent payments. For example, the provision on renting buildings, structures, premises and their parts, which are owned by the state specifies that a rent contract is concluded either by agreement of the sides or via auctions to sell the right to conclude rent contracts. The document sets out the criteria of defining the buildings, structures and premises and also the types of activity for which holding of an auction is obligatory. Control over renting will be executed by agreeing bodies and organisations which have taken a decision to rent out the property and other authorized state bodies.
The document introduces the order of calculating rental payment, which will be based on one basic amount of rental payment per 1sq.m. of rented space considering the administrative importance of population centers. The rent payment is calculated in the Belarusian rubles and is pegged to the basic amount. It will be lower for certain types of activity (retail trade, personal services, educational establishments).
The State Property Committee stressed that in order to simplify the calculation of the rent payment, the decree spells out this process for every category of buildings (civil, industrial, administrative buildings and warehouses).
Coefficients of the rent payment vary from 0.5 to 3 depending on the demand for the real property, its technical state and business advantage from its leasing. Additional lowering and raising coefficients are applied only by the relevant decision of the President of Belarus.
The rent payment comprises capital charges, all types of taxes and obligatory budget payments in line with the legislation. The rent payment should be distinguished from the maintenance and exploitation costs, expenditures on utility and other services.
According to the decree, the rent payment for specific buildings is agreed by the two sides and coordinated by the relevant national governmental body, other authorized state organization.
The provision on rent payment calculation sets forth procedures for calculating the amount of rent for leasing equipment, vehicles that are in the state ownership. According to the provision, the rent is calculated a month before on the basis of depreciable value of the rented equipment and coefficient of variation of asset value. The depreciable value is calculated at the amount as of 1 January.
The document also defines procedures for calculating the rent for leasing completely depreciated equipment and vehicles. It also sets forth producers for calculating the rent of buildings, constructions, premises, equipment and vehicles that are the state property but are located abroad.
The document defines the unified procedures for calculating the rent for leasing premises on the market and shopping centres. The leaseholders will have to compensate the expenses related to the maintenance of the premises to the renter.
The decree comes into force on 1 January 2010.
Belarus, Russia Premiers to meet in Moscow on 28 October
|Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) speaks with Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky in Minsk on May 28, 2009.|
Sergei Sidorsky will hold negotiations with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Apart from that, the Belarusian head of government will meet with Chairman of Russia’s Sberbank German Gref.
The agenda of the forthcoming session of the Union State Council of Ministers includes about 25 topical issues of Belarus-Russia integration. According to the Union State Permanent Committee, the sides will analyze the results of the implementation of the joint action plan to mitigate the consequences of the financial crisis, reduce the deficit of the balance of payment, improve the conditions for entrepreneurship and bilateral trade, and review the trade and economic cooperation of the two countries in H1 2009.
In H1 2009 Belarus-Russia trade made up $10.5 billion, down 41.4% over the same period in 2008. At the same time Belarus remains one of major trading partners of Russia; in H1 2009 it occupied the fifth position in the list of Russia’ top trading partners.
The drop in trade in January-June is attributed to impact of the global financial crisis on the economies of the two countries.
The economy ministries of Belarus and Russia are implementing a joint action plan aimed to boost the bilateral trade and enhance the cooperation between economic entities of the two countries.
The session will analyze a joint work of the ministries and agencies of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation on implementing these measures. Budget issues will be also on the agenda of the session.
The draft decree of the Supreme State Council of the Union State “On the Union State budget 2010” and other budget-related documents will be considered too.
The Union State Council of Ministers will examine the fulfillment of the 2008-2009 programme of joint action in foreign policy of the states-parties to the Union State Treaty. The programme is a conceptual document which envisages that Belarus and Russia will apply joint approaches to the most important international problems and coordinate their efforts in foreign policy. The Union State Treaty determines this programme as one of the priority documents.
The Union State Council of Ministers will hear a report on the preparation of the programme to expand Belarusian-Russian cooperation in fuel and energy areas. The document is being prepared by the Belarusian and Russian ministries and agencies in line with the resolution passed by the Supreme Sate Council of the Union State on 3 February 2009.
The Union State Council of Ministers will review a report on the course of implementation of the Union State social development concept until 2010. The concept has become an important guiding line in developing the concerted social policy in Belarus and the Russian Federation.
In accordance with the resolutions of the Supreme State Council and the Union State Council of Ministers, the two sides are drafting the Union State social development concept for 2011-2015.
The Council of Ministers of the Union State will be reported on the course of formation of the single science and technology space of the Union State. The Council of Ministers is expected to take decisions on the issues relating to defense, security and law-enforcement, concerted migration policy and coordinated measures in counteracting illegal migration and related crimes.
Minsk to host international forum “Belarus and Eastern Partnership”
The 12th Minsk Forum will be held in the Johannes Rau International Educational Center of Minsk on 4-6 November. The main topic of the forum is: “Belarus and Eastern Partnership: development prospects in policy, economy and society”.
Representatives of Belarus’ governmental organizations, political analysts, deputies of the German Bundestag, the European Parliament, diplomats of various European countries intend to attend the forum.
Head of the Belarus President Administration Vladimir Makei, Ambassadors of Germany and Sweden Gebhardt Weiss and Stefan Eriksson, Deputy Foreign Minister of Lithuania Evaldas Ignatavicius, Professor Dr. Klaus Mangold, Chairman of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, Federation of German Industry, are expected to take part in the work of the forum.
The forum will include three sections: “Foreign Policy: Belarus –European Neighbour”, “Economy: New Goals of Economic Policy”, “Society: New Forms of Cooperation between State and Society”.
Sardinian choir concert continues Italian Renaissance in Belarus
|The Sardinian choir “Tenores Mamoiada” has presented in Minsk a Tenore ethnic vocal style proclaimed by UNESCO a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity|
According to Giuseppe Carboni, the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Belarus in Cagliari, the Sardinian choir “Tenores Mamoiada” has presented in Minsk a Tenore ethnic vocal style proclaimed by UNESCO a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. A Tenore oral traditional vocal style embodies the pastoral culture of Sardinia, which has been preserved over centuries.
It is interesting that the four artists of the choir have never studied music. They say they have been singing all their lives imitating old singers and thus preserving this unique vocal style. The Sardinian artists will share the secrets of their art with students of the Belarusian State Academy of Music on 27 October.
A visit of the Italian artists in Minsk was initiated by the Italian province of Nuoro under the auspices of the Embassy of Italy in Belarus, the Embassy of Belarus in Italy and the Belarusian Honorary Consulate in Cagliari.
Giuseppe Carboni noted that Belarusian culture is also well presented in Sardinia in autumn 2009. It attests to the development of Sardinia-Belarus relations. For example, a series of concerts including a concert of the Belarusian State Dance Company Khoroshki were held in late September. A vocal quartet Elegia from Minsk took part in the International Festival of Religious Choir Music in Cagliari on 18-19 October.
Cooperation between Sardinia and Belarus has been made much more intense for the past decade. Cultural events, exchange of students and visits of state officials and businessmen are organized on a regular basis.
In summer 2009 for the first time in the history of the Belarus-Sardinia relations a group of children from Sardinia spent their holidays at children’s camp Zubrenok in Belarus. It was a return visit. Sardinian families have welcomed Belarusian children for 23 years.
Sardinia is the only Italian region, which has passed a special law relating to the cooperation with Belarus. The Belarusian-Italian training center Sardinia-Global was founded in Minsk five years ago.
Belarus’ constructors might build housing in Russia
|The Ministry of Architecture and Construction is also taking part in the construction of a residential area, a number of social and other facilities in Venezuela|
The Belarusian side is holding negotiations with Russia on the construction sites, financing and most-favoured-nation tariffs.
This is aimed to restore and boost the export of Belarus’ construction products, works and services. Apart from that, the Ministry of Architecture and Construction is taking part in the construction of a residential area, a number of social and other facilities in Venezuela.
The global crisis has had the worst impact on the enterprises that export construction materials. As the prices and demand for construction materials on the Russian market, Belarus’ traditional market, dropped, Belarus is seeking to advance to the markets of other countries.
In January-August 2009, the foreign trade of the companies affiliated with the Ministry of Architecture and Construction made up $354 million, of which exports accounted for $170 million, the trade deficit made up $14 million.
Serbia to assemble Belarusian tractors
Belarus and Serbia are currently considering the establishment of a joint tractor production, Srecko Djukic, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Serbia to Belarus, told a press conference dedicated to the 15th anniversary of the establishing of diplomatic relations between Belarus and Serbia.
According to Srecko Djukic, the sides are also discussing the setting up of a joint venture to make road construction machinery. The project is supposed to be implemented by the Belarusian Amkodor and the Serbian 14 Oktobar company in the city of Krusevac. There are plans to create a joint venture with MAZ to manufacture Belarusian passenger buses running on natural gas.
The Ambassador believes these projects are promising and mutually beneficial.
Belarus’ MPs ratify fund management agreement of EurAsEC Anticrisis Fund
Belarusian deputies ratified the agreement on the fund management of the EurAsEC Anticrisis Fund on 27 October.
According to Belarus’ First Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Amarin, the agreement is aimed to establish procedures for the joint management of the Anticrisis Fund. In line with the document the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) will be in charge of managing the funds. The resources of the fund belong to its participants. Although the bank will have the right to dispose the money of the Anticrisis Fund, the bank will not become the owner of the Fund’s resources.
The agreement sets forth the procedures for keeping records of the resources and holding annual independent external audits. The bank will send the annual financial report and the audit report to the participants of the Fund within five days after these reports are completed. These reports will be studied by the council of experts of the Fund and the council of the Fund.
According to the agreement, the bank will be responsible for preventing the illegal use of the resources. Vladimir Amarin added that the sides are mutually responsible for the fulfillment of their obligations.
No survivors found in plane crash at Minsk
Officials said a Hawker-125 jet carrying three passengers and three crew members left from the airport in Moscow Monday, then went off the radar screen as it approached the Minsk facility about an hour later, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.
Russian air traffic control officials said only two passengers were on board because the third missed the flight.
The chief executive officer of S-Air airline, Marat Romashkin, was reportedly on board the plane, RIA Novosti said.
"The emergency services are working at the crash site. An investigation into the causes of the crash will involve an S-Air representative," an official of from the Belarusian emergencies ministry said.
Preliminary information indicated the plane failed to land on its first attempt at Minsk and was lost by traffic controllers after a second try. Officials said wreckage was found about 2 1/2 miles from the runway.
Lower parliamentary house passes ratification bill for Eurasian Economic Community’s anti-crisis fund
|The Belarusian National Assembly|
The first deputy finance minister, Uladzimir Amaryn, presented the legislation to the lower chamber.
The EurAsEC member countries -- Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan – concluded an agreement on the establishment of the fund on June 9. Armenia also joined the accord.
The fund is to be used to distribute sovereign and stabilization loans to EurAsEC member countries and to finance interstate investment projects. Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus are expected to contribute $7.5 billion, $1 billion and $10 million, respectively, to the $10-billion fund. Armenia and Tajikistan will contribute $1 million each, Mr. Amaryn said.
Ten percent of every contribution will come in euro or dollar cash and the rest in the form of bonds, according to the deputy minister.
This past month, Aleksei Kudrin, Russia’s deputy prime minister/finance minister, expressed concern that Belarus was “delaying” the ratification procedures, noting that ratification bill passed Russia’s legislature this past July.
“I know that other participants have already prepared documents needed for the ratification and discussed them at government meetings. Belarus is lagging behind in the process,” Mr. Kudrin said.
Belarusian man sentenced to death for 2 killings
From: E Taiwan News
|The death penalty is carried out with a bullet to the back of the head.|
The Supreme Court in the ex-Soviet nation convicted 25-year-old Andrei Zhuk on murder charges and sentenced him to death.
Belarus is the only country in Europe that still conducts executions, according to human rights group Amnesty International. Rights activists say more than 400 people have been put to death in Belarus since it became independent in 1991.
The death penalty is carried out with a bullet to the back of the head. The time and place is a state secret, and relatives of those executed are never told where the bodies are buried.
Under pressure from the West, Belarus has gradually reduced the number of executions in recent years, but President Alexander Lukashenko has resisted calls to abandon capital punishment.
Zhuk asked the court for clemency, but Supreme Court ruled he deserves capital punishment. Zhuk has 10 days to appeal to the president for a pardon. Lukashenko has pardoned just one person during his 15-year rule.
Earlier this month, Lukashenko let the deadline pass Tuesday for appeals against capital punishment for a man convicted for robbing and murdering six elderly women. The man's lawyers claimed he was tortured into confessing to murder.
"Belarus keeps loyal to the tradition of the Soviet Union where execution was considered to be the most reliable way of keeping the public in fear," rights activist Valentin Stefanovich said.
Belarusian Communist Party Changes Its Name
|The opposition Communist congress in Minsk|
Communist Party members agreed at a party congress on October 25 to change the party's name to the Belarusian Party of United Leftists -- A Just World.
Some hard-line delegates at the congress were upset by the decision, saying that it was unacceptable to eliminate the word "communist" from the party's name. Several delegates walked out in protest.
But the majority of the delegates voted for the name change.
Party leader Syarhey Kalyakin told RFE/RL that changing the party's name will not change its principles. He said his party will focus on closer cooperation in working with the country's citizens to protect their rights.
But Kalyakin said Belarusians should know that no one and no party -- no matter what it is called -- can protect their rights; they must protect their rights themselves.
The party's symbols will remain the same: the red flag with the hammer and sickle.
The Belarusian Communist Party has long been in opposition against the government of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Estonian MFA said the aim of military exercise in Belarus was to divide Baltic states from NATO
From: Charter '97
The military exercise close to the Baltic borders demonstrates that Russia still uses significant means to fight against NATO, Urmas Paet, the foreign minister of Estonia, told on October 24, Razeta.ru reports referring to Interfax.
Russia has held the biggest military exercise close to the Baltic states for the last ten years, which aim was to “divide the three Baltic states from NATO”, Paet believes.
“The drills demonstrate the way Moscow still thinks,” the foreign minister concluded.
Minister of defence of Latvia Imants Liegis said earlier incursion into the Baltic states to liberate “besieged Kaliningrad” was one of the tasks of Zapad-2009 Russian–Belarusian military exercise.
We remind that Belarusian military analyst Alyaksandr Alesin said at the end of September that liberation of Kaliningrad by the Russian army and establishing the Baltic lodgement was trained during the exercise.
In response, president of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves offered to hold TATO drills in the Baltic states.
Andrei Zhuk: pardon appeal rejected
Young Front activist Ilyin to appeal illegal arrest
Mikhail Ilyin, member of the Young Front Brest office, has lodged a complaint with the General Prosecutor’s Office against his arrest in August 2009.
According to human rights activist Raman Kisliak, on 17 August Mikhail Ilyin, together with local For Freedom coordinator Dzianis Turchaniak, held a flash-mob action in downtown Brest. The activists were approached by tow persons in plain clothes and as a result they were arrested. They were taken to Brest Leninski police department and charged with ‘disorderly conduct’. On 25 August Brest Leninski Court found Mikhail Ilyin guilty and fined him BYR 140,000.
In his complaint, the activist states that the fact of his arrest, as well as the use of force violate his right to freedom and personal immunity, guaranteed by Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Human rights activist keeps reminding Foreign Ministry about its commitments
Baranavichy human rights activist Siarhei Housha has lodged a repeated complaint with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, voicing his opposition to the Ministry’s reply, which named the Optional Protocol as ‘not having a binding effect’ for the parties to the Treaty to implement the conclusions by the UN Human Rights Committee.
In his complaint, the human rights activist stresses that the conclusions by the Committee ARE binding, which is stated in Article 61 of the Belarusian Constitution, securing everyone’s right, under international legal acts, ratified by Belarus, to address international organizations to protect one’s rights and freedoms, in case he or she is unable to find rehabilitation within the national legal system. According to the universal international law, a country which is a party to an international treaty must implement its provisions, which is enshrined in the Vienna Convention, to which Belarus is a party.
Mr. Housha also reminds the Ministry about its violations of the Law on Public Appeals. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was either to redirect his first complaint to a competent body or provide explanations at which state organ he could address his claim. Therefore, he urges the officials to provide a substantive answer.
The activist’s first complaint was caused by the Ministry’s unwillingness to implement the recommendations by the UN Human Rights Committee on the registration of the Human Rights Center Viasna.
Russia says U.S. to respect its arms treaty concerns
Russian and U.S. negotiators have been working hard to produce a detailed treaty ready for signing by the two nations' leaders in December, when an existing pact known as START-1 regulating the number of long-range nuclear weapons expires.
"The most important of these principles for us is the inter-connection between strategic offensive and defensive weapons, linked to a U.S. program of creating strategic weapons with non-nuclear charges," Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying on board a plane heading from India to Russia.
"On both issues, as we understand, the Americans heard our concerns, are ready to take them into account and promised that within days they would hand over their own proposals, addressing these problems."
Russia Delays $1.7 Bln Gold Sale After Leak
Precious metals export agency Almazyuvelirexport Tuesday said it would delay the planned bullion trade, five days after news agencies reported the possible sale of up to 50 metric tons (1.6 million troy ounces) of gold before the end of the year in London to cover the state budget deficit.
In an interview, deputy chief Sergey Gorny declined to comment further but said some more information may be available after Nov. 10.
Thursday, news agency Interfax had cited an unidentified source saying that the state's Gokhran precious metals depository was planning to use Almazyuvelirexport, which translates as "diamond and jewelry exporter," to sell a large amount of gold for the first time since Soviet days.
Russia's change of plans highlights the dilemma of some governments and central banks that are seeking to diversify their reserves beyond U.S. dollar-denominated assets and yet may be tempted to lock in profits from gold after it advanced to more than $1,000 an ounce. However, revealing plans to buy or sell in advance could affect the market price.
"For sure Russia wants to fix some profits with gold above $1,000 an ounce," said Nikolai Sosnovsky, metals analyst at UralSib Capital in Moscow. "The reason for all this is surging gold prices."
The 50 metric tons of gold mentioned in reports represents "quite a big amount," equal to some 30% of Russia's total gold production last year, Sosnovsky said.
The central bank had said in February, when gold in its reserves totaled 16.7 million troy ounces, that it would continue to buy gold in 2009.
Russia's gold and foreign currency reserves are the world's third-biggest, valued at $418.7 billion as of Oct. 9. First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov last month reiterated the Kremlin's view that the world needs more reserve currencies than the U.S. dollar alone.
Gold for October delivery Tuesday slipped $3.60 to $1,038.50 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The bullion market appears unfazed by the postponement of Russia's gold sale and is trading based on the dollar's movements, according to Barclays Capital analyst Suki Cooper, adding that prices didn't react when news of the sale first was leaked because there was no certainty over how much gold would be sold.
Russia confirms first swine flu deaths: officials
|A Russian doctor innoculates a volunteer patient against the A(H1N1) "swine flu" virus|
Three of the deaths took place in Russia's far eastern Zaibalsky region, while the fourth person died in Moscow, officials said.
"According to information from the Zabaikalsky region health ministry, as of October 27, 2009 there have been three fatalities in the region caused by the A(H1N1) virus," Russia's federal health ministry said in a statement.
The Zabaikalsky regional government said in a statement earlier on Tuesday that two women had died with a preliminary diagnosis of swine flu, while a third woman had died of a severe cold-like illness.
It added that one of the swine flu victims had been in the late stages of pregnancy and that doctors had been unable to save her foetus.
Russia's chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko told news agencies that one of the women, aged 50, had died last Thursday. It was unclear when the other women had died and their names were not given.
Separately, a 53-year-old Moscow woman died of swine flu on Tuesday morning, the Interfax news agency reported, citing the health department of the city government.
"At 9:45 am on October 27... the death of the sick woman was registered," the department was quoted as saying. The Russian health ministry could not be reached by telephone for comment on the report.
In September, the head of a Russian medical academy said a doctor had died of swine flu in what would have been Russia's first death from the global pandemic, but the health ministry later denied the report.
Russia has recorded 1,349 confirmed cases of swine flu, according to the health ministry.
At least 4,999 people have died from swine flu infections worldwide since April, when an outbreak was first reported in Mexico, according to the World Health Organisation.
I am not a cheat, says former anti-corruption chief
From: The News
|Mariusz Kaminski: Guilty as hell|
Former head of Poland’s anti-corruption bureau, Mariusz Kaminski, said today that he will not “shut his mouth” and will continue to defend his reputation and expose unlawful practices within government.
“I’m not a cheat,” said Mariusz Kaminski at a self-organized press conference. The former anticorruption chief announced that he will do everything possible to defend his image as a reliable person in the public eye. “I will not let anyone intimidate me, I will not let anyone shut my mouth” said Kaminski, who says the government and particularly the ruling Civic Platform party are trying presenting him as a liar.
Kaminski was sacked by Prime Minister Donald Tusk as head of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) after he accused ministers - in what is now known as the Blackjack affair - of taking money from the gambling industry and lobbying on their behalf to change betting legislation that would have increased tax on gambling.
Prime Minister Tusk gave details of the latest draft of the gambling bill after Kaminski‘s press conference, which would limit the use of one-armed bandits to casinos and, crucially, significantly raise taxes on betting.
Tusk announced that the government is launching a war on gambling in Poland.
“We want to limit or, if it is possible, completely abolish gambling in Poland,” he said, adding that a growing number of young people are addicted to gambling.
“We aim to reduce the market in [one armed bandits] by 20 to 25 percent a year, leading to their eventual abolition,” he said.
Kaminski (left) said at his press conference today that he will appeal to Prime Minister Tusk against the Internal Security Bureau’s decision to deprive him of the so called “security certificate”, which allows access to classified documents.
“If the PM thinks that the decision was lawful, which I presume he will do, I will appeal to the court,” he said.
Civic Platform’s Andrzej Halicki (PO) said afterwards that the former head of the CBA is continuing to act as a political activist for the opposition Law and Justice party - which set up the anti-corruption agency while in government in 2006 - and not as an impartial investigator of crime. "Kaminski should be held accountable, should tell the truth and stick to the facts," Halicki said.
He added that if Kaminski has knowledge of any unlawful activities by politicians then he should notify the public prosecutor.
Wozniacki 'scandal' should serve as end to on-court coaching
|Guilty as hell: Caroline Wozniacki had to answer questions about her match retirement last week in Luxembourg.|
For years, many of you have joined me in begging the WTA to euthanize the failed experiment that is "on-court coaching." We may finally get our wish. Though not without the usual whiff of drama.
Playing in Luxembourg last week, Caroline Wozniacki was a few games from beating Anne Kremer in a first-round match. However, an injury was going to prevent Wozniacki from playing her next match. During a changeover, Wozniacki's father/coach instructed her to retire before winning outright -- good form, particularly since Kremer is from Luxembourg.
All good, right? Problem was, he said this in Polish during a changeover and, thanks to on-court coaching, microphones picked up the discourse. Armed with this information, online gamblers quickly bet on Kremer, who did in fact advance when Wozniacki retired leading 7-5, 5-0. The anti-integrity cops were summoned and suddenly this was a big story.
Maybe a gambler can explain this to me: What's the problem? Aren't gamblers always looking for an incremental edge, a piece of information that tips the odds in their favor? There was no "inside information," since anyone watching the match was privy to the dad's instructions. So long as neither Wozniacki nor her father was complicit -- and there's no indication they were -- why is this any different from an attentive viewer noticing a player limping or changing her strings and betting accordingly? Lastly, how did the WTA not anticipate that coaches wired for sound during matches might impart information relevant to gamblers?
Whatever, this "scandal" was the dominant tennis news this week. If the upshot is the WTA finally gives the heave-ho to on-court coaching, that's great. Too bad it wasn't before one of the more marketable young stars had to defend her honor when, it appears, she did nothing wrong.
Poland wants ban on slot machines amid lobbying scandal
|Slot Machines: yea, this is the problem...|
'We propose de-legalizing a considerable part of the gambling industry,' Tusk told reporters in Warsaw. 'In the course of five years, locations with (slot) machines should disappear from Poland by 100 per cent.'
The announcement came weeks after a scandal hit Tusk's party and threatened its image one year before the country's presidential election.
The scandal saw four ministers depart on October 7 after a report alleged that they had unfairly lobbied on behalf of gambling companies to block provisions on a bill that would have increased the companies' taxes.
Tusk said the bill will outlaw slot machines - known as 'one-armed bandits' - anywhere outside of a casino, and will ban online gambling.
The draft bill would also raise taxes on slot machines from the current 180 euros a month to 480 euros a month, Tusk said, during the period of five years before they are banned entirely.
There are some 24,000 slot machines in Poland, local media said, which can commonly be found in shopping malls, fast food restaurants or bus and train stations.
The gambling industry made a profit of some 17 billion zloty (5.9 billion dollars) in 2008, up by some 40 per cent from the previous year, according to a survey on business website money.pl.
Impaired charge withdrawn in bizarre mischief case
From: Wasaga Sun
|On the road again... Just can't wait to get on the road again...|
Speaking in tandem with a Polish interpreter, prosecutor Dean Ring said that at 9:17 p.m. on Mar. 7, 2009, Huronia West OPP officers were called to a car in the ditch on County Road 10 in Clearview Township. Witnesses described the accused's northbound vehicle, which had "signaled a left and then missed the turn" in the fog. The same witnesses allegedly noted a smell of alcohol on the driver's breath before he left the scene on foot.
Police were able to identify the accused and traced him to his nearby home, where in an intoxicated state he was told of the accident. The officers then said "they would return when he was sober," said Ring. A scant 10 minutes after their departure, the OPP received a 911 call from Guzik claiming that his car had just been stolen. The defendant persisted in this vein to the extent of giving statements at the Huronia West detachment. This was despite his having no memory of the night before. Given the evidence, which proved him to be dishonest, the accompanying charge of impaired driving - which in any event was beyond proof in the time frame - was withdrawn in Tuesday's court.
Guzik was forbidden to drive except to and from work, medical appointments, and for sustenance for a year.
"The offence is very serious and the motivation is apparent," wrote Mr. Justice Roland Harris.
Belarus 'have to continue dreaming'
|Bernd Stange's Belarus were unable to reach a first major final tournament|
Stange's contract expired on 30 November and it is unclear if he will remain at the helm, but while results against England, Ukraine and Croatia left the national team short of their target, many positives were also achieved. Workshops and charity events were successfully organised; local players in the domestic top flight, or Vysshaya Liga, were given more of a chance; and Belarus qualified for last summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship, providing talent for the senior squad.
"We wanted to finish higher," Stange said. "We have 25 to 30 players in our squad and I could not tell them: 'Boys, our goal is fourth place.' We wanted to achieve something significant. But it was a very competitive group with Ukraine, Croatia and especially England, who are all strong sides. We should remain realistic and admit that their level is higher than ours. But we have to continue dreaming to make progress and achieve something bigger. Unfortunately, Belarus is a small country and we do not have enough top players at our disposal. Five of the players who started against England come from the national league. It's not a problem for Fabio Capello to pick two or three world-class players from his reserves. I am upset with the outcome, but not ashamed."
Opinion within Belarus is split. Former national team coach Anatoli Baidachny said "the result is unsatisfactory". On the other hand, Kazakhstan U21 coach Pavel Rodnenok, formerly boss of the Belarus U17 and U19 sides, argued: "I cannot say that Bernd's appointment was a mistake. Let's start by asking who in Belarus is best able to handle Aleksandr Hleb and Co? Stange managed to do that. The best possible players are in the team, and they are glad to be there. There has been a change of generations and Stange oversaw that, laying the foundations for future success. Nor is he just concerned with the senior team – he is looking at the whole national-team setup."
Hleb himself accepted his share of the blame. "Unfortunately, I could not help the team in four qualifiers because of injury, but I think we performed below average," said the VfB Stuttgart midfielder. "We could have finished second and reached the play-offs. We're not worse than Ukraine. If you remember, we could have won or at least drawn in Ukraine, beaten them in Minsk and got three points against Croatia in Zagreb. Sometimes luck was not on our side. But it is us – the players and coaching staff – who are to blame. We have to draw the necessary conclusions and work harder."
Victoria Azarenka is 6th in WTA Ranking List
Last week Azarenka, 20, moved two positions up in the WTA ranking list. The Belarusian surpassed Venus Williams from the USA and Russia’s Vera Zvonareva. Another Russian Dinara Safina heads the ranking list; Serena Williams from the USA is second.
The current standings in the WTA ranking list are the following:
1. Dinara Safina (Russia) - 7731 points;
2. Serena Williams (USA) – 7576;
3. Svetalna Kuznetsova (Russia) – 5772;
4. Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)- 5485;
5. Elena Dementyeva (Russia) – 5415;
6. Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) – 4451;
7. Venus Williams (USA) – 4397;
8. Jelena Jankovic (Serbia) – 3555;
9. Vera Zvonareva (Russia) – 3550;
10. Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) - 3340.
Only one Belarusian, Natalia Zvereva, managed to get into the top-10 of the WTA ranking list before. She was 5th in the mid-1980s.
Other Belarusian women tennis players are ranked as follows: Olga Govortsova moved up from 67th to 58th position, Anastasia Yekimova is 96th, Darya Kustova is 124th, Ekaterina Degolevich is 168th.
Victoria Azarenka will play at the WTA Year End Championships in Doha (Qatar) on 27 October-4 November. Only eight best tennis players of the year can participate in the tournament. Azarenka was drawn in the group together with Safina, Wozniacki and Jankovic. The Williams sisters, Kuznetsova, and Dementyeva will play in the other group.
Fifty-two countries to partake in Listapad 2009 film festival
This is the first time that such a great number of countries will take part in the festival, said Vladimir Rylatko. The popularity of the forum is increasing. The administration of the festival has received more than 270 applications. For the first time in the history of the festival 158 films from 45 countries will be shown in three competition programmes. About 100 festival events will be held, including 55 events in the regions.
The program of the festival includes competition of feature-length fiction films, non-fiction films and feature-length films for children and youth. The competition programs will be assessed by four professional jury panels. The international jury panel for fiction films will be chaired by famous Russian film director Pavel Chukhrai. The press jury panel will be chaired by editor in chief of the Belarusian journal “Na Ekranakh” Ludmila Peregudova. The international jury panel for non-fiction films will be led by one more Russian film director Alexei Pogrebnoi. The international jury for fiction films for children and youth will be chaired by head of Lugansk Ukrainian Music and Drama Theatre Mikhail Golubovich. The viewing audience jury chaired by Rector of the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts Boris Svetlov will award The Gold of Listapad Grand Prize.
Vladimir Rylatko noted that tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies will be sold for the first time. The ceremonies will take place at the Palace of the Republic. The opening movie Tsar by Pavel Lungin will be shown in 5 halls of “Belarus” cinema.
The 16th Listapad film festival will be preceded by the opening of the Listapadzik children’s film festival at the Pioner cinema house on 13 November. The Belarusian movie New Year Adventures in July by Elena Turova and Ivan Pavlov tales part in the children’s film competition.
Two works of Belarusfilm will partake in the competition program: Insight by Renata Gritskova and Sniper. Weapon of Retribution by Alexander Efremov.
Listapad 2009 festival will be held on 14-21 November. Its permanent chairman is Rostisalv Yankovsky, the People’s Artist of the USSR and Belarus. Festival’s director is Alexandra Zakharevich.