Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan Create Customs Union; Gas discount, EurAsEC, Abkhazia, S Ossetia, Iran, Human rights; Sport, Culture and Polish scandal...
Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan agree on Customs Union creation terms
The supreme body of the Customs Union has just considered and approved several fundamental strategic decisions that determine prospects of the Customs Union development, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told a private session of the EurAsEC Interstate Council after a meeting of the presidents of Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan.
“During complicated but profound talks we have come up with a compromise and balanced agreement, which implementation can launch deep economic integration with elements of the single economic space,” said Alexander Lukashenko.
He also added: “We have agreed that in H1 2010 we will deal with all the problems and will be able to create the single customs space. We have also agreed that we will meet in Almaty in mid-December and will address issues relating to the creation of the single economic space, will define the time of its creation. We have agreed that as from 1 July 2010 we will approach the single customs territory”.
“I am convinced that if these mechanisms prove their real effectiveness, their efficiency, the Customs Union will attract our other partners in the community,” stressed the Belarus President.
“We are at the dawn of a brand new integration body that will determine the future of not only the national economies,” Alexander Lukashenko told participants of the meeting.
“What the future will be for the national economies, on what terms the Customs Union and the single economic space will be created are the things we have to discuss now,” said the Belarusian head of state.
In his words, the establishment of the Customs Union will make the countries part of global economic and political processes, increase the effectiveness and the competitive ability of the national economies, improve the welfare of the countries.
Alexander Lukashenko said that some resolutions are rather sensitive for Belarus and are not entirely positive. Belarus, however, accepts them because in the end the balanced concern for the interests will result in positive results for each country and the entire community as a whole.
Alexander Lukashenko said he hopes that claims that some partners of Belarus are not genuinely intent on proving their adherence to compromises and flexible decision-making are groundless.
Single economic space of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan ready by 2011
Belarus has suggested accelerating the development of the legal base of the single economic space and commissioning the governments of Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan with preparing an action plan to complete the single economic space establishment by 2011. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko made the statement after a session of the EurAsEC Interstate Council on 27 November.
The heads of state decided they will make the final decision on this matter in Kazakhstan on 18 December. The presidents view equal economic rights as the key goal of the single economic space.
“It is now important for us to avoid slowing down the economic integration, important to work smoothly to achieve tangible results that people will understand,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko. “Then other ex-USSR countries will believe in our economic union and join the process”. According to the Belarusian head of state, it is not as complicated as it seems because the countries have extensive experience of working together, including working in one state.
Alexander Lukashenko said the Customs Union does not prevent the countries from participating in other international economic initiatives. The Belarus President believes it is important to step up propaganda efforts now because the Customs Union idea will be discredited if the sides fail to address these matters fast. “The world financial and economic crisis teaches us to act promptly,” he added.
Although a lot of work has yet to be done, Belarus believes that the single economic space can be created fast if there is good political will and proper determination. “Using principles of mutual profits and equality, the project will become attractive for other post-Soviet countries. It will bring major economic and social profits to our nations,” said the Belarusian head of state.
27 November saw a landmark decision made as all the presidents noted at the session. Alexander Lukashenko reminded that many times Belarus had been the place where landmark decisions were taken. “The step will lead to major economic changes in the Eurasian space and the world as a whole,” the Belarus President believes.
Single economic space to level out energy prices for G3
The single economic space will help identify equal energy prices for Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said following the session of the EurAsEC Interstate Council in Minsk on 27 November.
According to the Belarusian President, the single economic area “will create equal conditions including in such sensitive issues as equal prices for energy resources”.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, some barriers, sanitary, technical and others, will remain intact in the Customs Union. “Recently we have witnessed the use of these barriers for purposes having nothing to do with fair trade,” the Belarusian President said. The presidents agreed that these barriers should be removed in the single economic area, Alexander Lukashenko added.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, the single economic space is considered to be a legitimate, logical and completed form of the economic integration on the post-Soviet area.
Customs Union to boost G3 GDP to 15% by 2015
The creation of the Customs Union will allow Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia to increase their GDP growth up to 15% by 2015, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev told media in Minsk on 27 November as he pointed out advantages of the Customs Union. The Customs Union foundation papers were inked at a session of the EurAsEC Interstate Council on 27 November.
According to Nursultan Nazarbayev, a huge market will be created, with the total oil reserves as large as 90 billion barrels. Its GDP will total $2 trillion, the overall trade turnover - $900 billion, agricultural output — $112 billion.
The Kazakhstan President remarked that the Customs Union will open up great prospects before the countries. It will spur the establishment of joint manufacturing projects. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia will be able to freely trade between each other. New jobs will be created. Competition on the markets of the countries will be higher. The transit potential will be used more effectively. Economic operators will be granted better terms of reaching into international markets.
Nursultan Nazarbayev also underlined that the Customs Union is the foundation for creating the single economic space in the future. The legislation for the single economic space will be completed in 2011.
Minsk hosts EurAsEC summit
The agenda of the summit includes 19 issues concerning the decisions taken by the EurAsEC Interstate Council at the 21st session on 10 October 2008 and at the session held on 4 February 2009.
The session was opened by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko.
The participants of the session are considering implementation of the joint measures to mitigate the consequences of the global financial crisis in the EurAsEC member-states, the EurAsEC international activity concept for 2008-2010.
The heads of state are set to consider the formation of the EurAsEC common insurance market, its major principles, areas of cooperation.
The agenda also includes budget policy issues: the 2008 EurAsEC budget performance, the draft budget address of the EurAsEC Interstate Council, On Budget Policy 2010, the draft EurAsEC budget bill for 2010.
Recognition of Abkhazia, S Ossetia not yet on agenda of Belarusian parliament
“The Council of the House of Representatives has not considered yet putting this issue on the agenda, Viktor Guminsky said. The deputies, who have visited the regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, have presented their reports to the group leaders, who will, in turn, submit them further to the parliament seniour officials.
Victor Guminsky is convinced that Belarus should follow its own national interests while considering the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is a need to solve some other serious problems of the regions including refugees problem, border crossing, medical care, reparation of the damage caused by the conflict.
When asked how he would vote on the issue, the deputy found it difficult to answer.
Sergei Lebedev: Abkhazia, S Ossetia might join CIS
CIS Executive Secretary Sergei Lebedev did not rule out a possibility of the accession of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the CIS. He made this statement in a press conference in Minsk on 26 November.
He noted that the CIS constitutive documents allow new members to join this organization. “A country seeking CIS membership has to be unanimously approved by all the CIS member states. If any of the CIS states disagrees, a country will not be accepted,” he said.
Sergei Lebedev said that now it is too early to talk about a possibility of South Ossetia and Abkhazia’s accession to this organization, because none of the CIS states, except Russia, recognized the independence of these countries.
He reminded that to join the CIS, a country has to carry out the certain mandatory procedures.
Belarus, Iran to settle payments in national currencies
Individuals residing in Belarus and Iran will be able to make non-business banking transfers with or without opening accounts in the authorized banks of Belarus and Iran in national currencies and any other currency. Its official exchange rate against the national currency is established by the National Bank of Belarus and the Central Bank of Iran.
The central banks have also signed a memorandum of understanding in banking supervision.
Governor of the Central Bank of Iran Mahmoud Bahmani noted the documents will become the basis for strengthening the bilateral cooperation, will foster investments and increase the bilateral trade. Cooperation in the banking sector will become the basis for stepping up trade, economic and investment ties between the countries.
According to Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich, the sides have exchanged information on the monetary policy and discussed practical issues. The visit of the delegation of the Central Bank of Iran will result in certain agreements and extension of the bilateral mutually beneficial cooperation.
The National Bank of Belarus jointly with the Iranian side has established a subsidiary of the Iranian bank in Belarus. Onerbank has been founded with the 100% of Iranian capital. Onerbank has been founded by Bank Refah Kargaran, Saderat Bank of Iran and the Export Development Bank of Iran. The bank’s authorized fund is Br46.71 billion (over €11.5 million).
In line with NBRB Resolution No 133 of 12 September 2008, TC Bank was registered, with Iran holding a 96% stake in it.
The Central Bank of Iran and the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus signed an agreement on cooperation and an agreement on personnel training in May 2007.
These agreements strengthen the legal base for the all-round dynamic cooperation between the central banks of the two states.
The participation of Iranian private companies in projects relating to capital construction and infrastructure modernization in Belarus is one of the most promising areas of investment cooperation.
Belarusian theatres partake in MoldFest.Rampa.Ru international festival in Chisinau
One of the main goals of the festival is to promote the Russian language at theatre stages all around the world. The forum is aimed at reviving festival traditions in Moldova and at Moldavian National Youth Dramatic Theater From Rose Street.
Moreover, MoldFest.Rampa.Ru will become a good opportunity for training, mutual enrichment and exchange of ideas in stage direction, acting skills and theatre set design between directors, playwrights, theatrical critics and actors.
According to Yuri Kharmelin, founder and permanent chief director of Moldavan National Youth Dramatic Theater From Rose Street, master of arts and honoured education worker of Moldova, Mogilev Oblast Drama Theatre will perform An Extraterrestrial Creature play by E. Ungard on 27 November, the theatre from Bobruisk will perform I Want To Be A Hamster staging on 29 November. Belarusian companies will present their art in Moldova for the first time, Yuri Kharmelin noted.
Taking part in MoldFest.Rampa.Ru organized by Moldavan National Youth Dramatic Theater From Rose Street with the assistance of the Russian World Fund and the Russian Embassy in Moldova are companies, critics, eminent theatre workers from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Lithuania, Israel, Germany, Bulgaria and France. The program of the festival include discussion of stagings by professional theatrical critics, master classes of famous people.
MoldFest.Rampa.Ru will promote creative communication between the companies and establishment of strong cultural relations, support of professional theatrical are and traditions of the Russian theatre.
Three million Internet users in Belarus
According to a research carried out as part of the project, the Minsk oblast is home to 39% of Belarus’ Internet users. It is followed by the Mogilev oblast (13%), the Grodno and Gomel oblasts (12% each).
In view of the arrival of mobile broadband Internet access the figures may change as wireless technologies are popular in provinces. Statistics says that the amount of Internet users in Minsk is less than that outside the capital. “Beyond the ring road the demand for the Internet service is higher, in particular, the demand for the 3G service”, said the specialist.
He also said that men make up 51% of the total number of Belarusian Internet users, women – 49%. Women make up one in four of the total number of mobile Internet users. People aged 15-24 account for 42% of the total number of Internet users in Belarus, people aged 25-34 - 28%, people aged 35-44 - 17%, people aged 45-54 - 11%.
“The number of Internet users is growing monthly and the emergence of new technologies fosters it”, said the project supervisor.
Digital future declaration adopted at Minsk summit
A declaration Towards the Digital Future was adopted at the ITU-sponsored Connect CIS summit in Minsk. Belarusian Information Technologies and Communications Minister Nikolai Pantelei read out the document at the final session, BelTA has learned.
The declaration calls for the recognition of the important role of governments in developing information technologies, assessment of the IT industry contribution to the social and economic development in the CIS, confirmation of the CIS states’ determination to fulfill resolutions of the UN World Summit on the Information Society. The digital future declaration calls upon international organizations, funds and financial institutions to provide resources for the development of the IT industry.
The Connect CIS summit took place in Minsk on 26-27 November. It was organized by the International Telecommunications Union in partnership with the Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications, the CIS Executive Committee, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development. The Connect CIS summit was supposed to foster the development of information technologies in the Commonwealth of Independent States, mobilize human, financial and technical resources to ensure a prompt transition of the region to the digital infrastructure and services, which have been widely recognized as the engine for future employment growth, economic advance and social development. The two-day summit brought together the presidents of Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, top officials of several CIS governments, Georgia, the International Telecommunications Union, heads of relevant ministries and heads of 62 companies and organizations from 27 countries.
Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan agree on customs bloc
|Russia's Dmitry Medvedev meets with Belarus's Alexander Lukashenko and Kazakhstan's Nursultan Nazarbayev|
"This is a very significant and long-awaited decision, resulting from difficult negotiations," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said, quoted by Russian news agencies in the Belarussian capital.
"The switch to a joint economic zone is a completely new economic format," he said, adding that the customs bloc would be open to other members in the future.
"From July 1, the single customs union will start to function on the territory of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan," Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said.
He added the three leaders will meet next in the Kazakh city of Almaty on December 18 to hammer out a timeline for setting in place common tariffs and launching the customs union.
Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said the accord marked the start of difficult talks, which would result in the three states relinquishing decision-making power to a "supranational body".
For his part, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev estimated that the creation of the new trade bloc would push up by 15 percent the gross domestic product of each of the three countries by 2015.
Kazakhstan's Central Asian neighbors Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have already announced their intention to accede to the union, he added.
Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in June shocked the World Trade Organization (WTO) by saying that Russia would apply to join the trade organization as a single customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Moscow has since adopted a more nuanced approach, suggesting that each country would pursue membership with the WTO separately, despite an effort to coordinate the timeline of their accession talks.
But Shuvalov, speaking after Friday's signing, reiterated that Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus would strive to join the WTO "on the same terms and at the same time".
Russia is the sole remaining major economy not to be integrated in the WTO system. Tortuous talks on joining started in 1993, but the United States called Russia's accession into question after its war with Georgia in August 2008.
Medvedev Announces Gas Discount for Belarus
From: MOSCOW TIMES
Gazprom is charging Belarus $122 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas in the fourth quarter of this year, Medvedev told Belarussian media, according to a transcript on Vesti-24’s web site. Gazprom sells gas to Belarus at a discount because it holds a stake in the Belarussian gas transport system.
Tbilisi’s Dilemma: Will Belarus Recognize Independence of the Occupied Georgian Territories?
From: Georgian Daily
The delegation headed by Sergei Maskevich, Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission for Foreign Relations held high-level talks in the legislative and executive branches of the Georgian government. Maskevich outlined his mission by stating that “it was extremely important to communicate with people who suffered most in the course of the conflicts.”
Apart from talking with Georgian officials, including this country’s Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze, the members of the delegation also met with those who have been expelled from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali and now live in villages the Georgian government promptly built for them. The Russian media reported that the Belarusians also planned “to conduct consultations in the Russian Duma” upon concluding their mission to Georgia.
The puppet regimes established by Moscow in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali had long asked Minsk to recognize their independence. Alexander Lukashenka, the mercurial President of Belarus, responded by claiming that given the importance of the issue it should first be carefully studied by the Belarusian parliament before the government makes its decision.
Belarus, squeezed between the European Union and the Russian Federation, found itself in a rather uneasy position. On one hand, it is a member of Russia-led international organizations created by the Kremlin in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, such as the Commonwealth of Independence States (CIS) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). – Even more importantly it has been in alliance with Russia as a constituent state of the Russia-Belarus Union – and feels obligated to support its powerful ally.
On the other hand though, Belarus as the European Union’s neighbor and a member of many European and international organizations does not seem to want to take such steps in the international arena that go against the mainstream trend and which might upset the delicate balance between the West and Russia.
The United States’ and the EU’s strong support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and their adherence to the established norms and principles of the European security architecture was a signal that made Mink feel that it should think twice before recognizing Georgia’s disintegration through military means. As reported in the media, Brussels “threatens to worsen its relations with Minsk” if the latter “recognizes Abkhazia and “South Ossetia.” Apparently, President Lukashenka is not willing to risk further isolating his country and jeopardizing Belarus’ participation in the EU’s newly inaugurated and much promising Eastern Partnership Program.
Valentin Velichko, Ambassador of Belarus to Ukraine, has recently said that Minsk would not make any “rash decisions” on the issue of recognition and the topic “is not included on the Belarusian parliament’s agenda.” The spokesman of Russia’s foreign ministry, Andrei Nesterenko, claimed that “[recognition] is a sovereign right of the Belarusian parliamentarians.
Commenting on the issue, President Medvedev of Russia argued that “the Russian Federation has never requested from other countries to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” although he added that “it would be good for Russia if the list of countries recognizing [them] becomes bigger.”
Earlier, in September, Lukashenka unequivocally blamed the Russian media for the delay in Mink’s recognition of Abkhazia and “South Ossetia” as independent states. He was referring to claims made by Russian newspapers close to the Kremlin that Lukashenka postponed the decision due to Moscow’s refusal to grant $500 million to Minsk as a quid pro quo for the recognition. It is difficult to say whether the Kremlin indeed offered Belarus this amount of money, but it would be fairly logical to argue that Moscow does indeed seek Minsk’s backing on the issue.
It is no secret that by recognizing “the independence” of the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali one in fact recognizes not their independence per se but Russia’s hegemony in the post-Soviet space and the emergence of its sphere of influence. Nicaragua and Venezuela apparently already did so since they recently recognized Abkhazia and “South Ossetia” in one form or another.
For Georgia, it is crucial that the number of countries recognizing the forcible change of its borders not increase in the future and the Belarus dimension in Georgia’s foreign policy acquires a new significance. The United States’ and EU’s pressure on Belarus is important, and even decisive, and Georgia’s friendly relations with Ukraine - Belarus’s important southern neighbor - also seems to be instrumental. But Tbilisi, arguably, should galvanize its relations directly with Minsk.
A recent visit by Belarusian entrepreneurs to Georgia and their meetings with Georgian officials, including President Saakashvili himself, represent auspicious developments in this regard. Some analysts even claim that a meeting between Saakashvili and Lukashenka is on the horizon.
Iran, Belarus ink 3 banking MOUs
From: TEHRAN TIMES
IRINN news network quoted Iranian Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani saying, “From now on Iran and Belarus will use their own currencies for the mutual trade.”
Iran will arrange training courses for Belarusian specialists to teach them Islamic banking, he added.
Also according to the MOUs, the two countries decided to connect their automated teller machines (ATM) networks. In addition Iran will grant a 50 million euro credit line to Iranian investors in Belarus.
Iran will also mint Belarusian coins.
Petr P. Prokopovich Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus said the agreements will help consolidate economic relations between the two countries.
He stated that hopefully Belarus will open a Belarusian bank in Iran as Iran established two banks in Belarus. Thirty two foreign banks with a total capital of over $4 billion are working in Belarus.
The National Bank of Belarus registered Iranian banks the 'Onerbank' and 'Trading Capital Bank (TC Bank)' respectively in October 2009 and December 2008
“Parliament” to classify report on South Ossetia and Abkhazia recognition
From: Charter '97
According to Interfax news agency, it was told in Minsk by Syarhei Maskevich, the head of the commission at the “house of representatives” on foreign affairs and relations with the CIS.
“I understand that the press wants sharp and broad discussions. But we have another task: it shouldn’t look that we made that trip to “show off”. People there (in Georgia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia) have many problems, but the general situation is stable. We should take into accent interests of the region and our national interests when considering recognition or non-recognition of the Caucasian republics,” Maskevich said.
He also added that a way to peaceful development of the situation would be find, the whole world community wants it.
We remind that a delegation of members of the “house of representatives” and the “council of the republic” paid a visit to Georgia, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia on November 17–20.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been recognized only by Russia and Venezuela. The president of Nicaragua introduced that question for discussion, but the parliament rejected the proposal. The rest countries consider Abkhazia and South Ossetia parts of Georgia.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka declared in September last year that Belarus would recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Most independent experts regarded this statement as flirting with the European Union to get loans.
Human Rights Review Chronicle for October
The construction of the nuclear power plant and the reluctance of the authorities to discuss it remained the daily issues in October. On 9 October the public hearings of the preliminary report about the evaluation of the environmental effects of the NPP were held in Astravets. These were the first hearings organized by the authorities, all previous ones were held by civil activists.
Ecologists, scientists, civil activists and journalists from Belarus and Russia gathered in the town, near which the ground for the station is already being prepared. However, not all of those who wanted to get to the hearings, were admitted to them.
At 10 a.m., when the guards started letting the people in, half of the cinema hall was already occupied. There are many people who were brought just to get the places filled. Most of them are the local dwellers, indifferent to the upcoming construction of the nuclear power station there. As a result of this ‘action’ of the authorities many ecologists and civil activists couldn’t enter the hall and had to stand at the entrance. However, when it was necessary to seat some state officials there, the people with the ‘Volunteer’ badges come and tell some of those who were brought to fill the seats to go out.
Besides, Astravets police detained the nuclear physicist Andrey Azharovskiy, coordinator of the Moscow group Eco-defense. The police confiscated from him about 100 copies of the Critical remarks on the preliminary report about the possible influence of the Belarusian nuclear power plant on the environment. At the same time, the police didn’t confiscate any leaflets in support of the NPP construction. In the evening Azharovskiy was tried and got seven days of arrest on charges of disorderly conduct and insubordination to the police. The activist appealed against this verdict at the prosecutor’s office, but the latter took the side of the court.
On 16 October the regular Solidarity Day action took place in the center of Minsk. This day the chain of concerned people with portraits of the missing persons and political prisoners stood in Kastrychnitskaya Square for two minutes only. About 40 riot policemen in uniform and civvies pulled the action participants in the police busses. The police interfered with the work of journalists and prohibited the present photo correspondents to take any photos. All in all, 22 persons were guarded to the Tsentralny district police department of Minsk. Many of the action participants suffered from the police violence during the dispersal of the action. Human rights defenders believe that this new tactics of the authorities is aimed at the intimidation of demonstrators.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Human Rights Center Viasna prepared and filed a communication on the events of 9 and 16 September to Manfred Novak, special rapporteur of the UN Committee against Torture. Complaints of the victims of unlawful and violent actions of the police and materials of questioning of eyewitnesses of the tortures were attached to this document. The human rights defenders inform that during the last ears the prosecutor’s office has dodged giving the due legal evaluation to such facts and refused to instigate criminal proceedings towards the policemen who abused their duty powers.
Russia to reply to Georgia's claims over South Ossetia
From: RIA Novosti
Georgia lodged the appeal on February 6, 2009, accusing Russia of "indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks committed against civilians and their property...during the armed conflict in August" and "subsequent occupation... of the parts of the Georgian territory which amounted to serious and mass violations of human rights."
"The apparatus of Russia's representative in the European Court of Human Rights has begun to prepare written remarks on the indicated claim," Andrei Nesterenko said, adding court hearings would most likely take place.
He said some of the remarks have already been submitted to the Strasbourg court, together with other documents, including criminal cases initiated over felonies committed by Georgian servicemen against South Ossetia's residents in August 2008.
Russia's Deputy Justice Minister Georgy Matyushkin represents the country in the Strasbourg Court.
Moscow recognized the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia shortly after a five-day war with Georgia in August 2008 that began when Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia in an attempt to bring it back under central control.
The two republics have also been recognized by Nicaragua and Venezuela.
According to South Ossetia's authorities, more than 1,500 people died as a result of Georgia's attack. The Russian General Prosecutor's Office officially confirmed that 162 residents of South Ossetia and 48 Russian servicemen, including 10 peacemakers, had been killed by Georgian troops.
Ukraine, Russia agree to discuss entry bans
From: RIA Novosti
The latest of such incidents took place early this week, when Ukrainian authorities prevented two Russian scientists from entering the country to take part in an international conference on youth policy in Ukraine and Russia.
Pyotr Poroshenko and Sergei Lavrov on Saturday held a phone conversation to discuss the issue on the initiative of the Ukrainian side.
The ministers have agreed to put the issue "on the agenda of the regular political consultations between Ukraine's First Deputy Foreign Minister Volodymyr Khandogiy and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin."
Talks on Deal for Warship Upset Nations Near Russia
From: New York Times
For months, Russian officials have been negotiating with France over the purchase of a Mistral-class amphibious assault ship, at an estimated cost of up to $750 million, and a license to build several more in Russia. The high-tech ship would stand out in Russia’s aging fleet. Vladimir S. Vysotsky, commander of the Russian Navy, noted this fall that if he had access to such a ship during the 2008 war with Georgia, it “would have allowed the Black Sea fleet to complete its mission within 40 minutes, not 26 hours.”
But the potential sale has raised hackles in the region, still reeling from Russia’s military campaign in Georgia.
Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Georgia all have coastlines adjoining or near Russia’s, though the Baltic states, unlike Georgia, have the security guarantee that comes with NATO membership. Georgia’s foreign minister, Grigol Vashadze, told officials in Paris that the consequences of a sale “might be devastating,” And officials from the Baltic states said they would press France for details about the deal, especially on what weapons technology would be included.
Marko Mikhelson, chairman of the European affairs committee in Estonia’s Parliament, said, “I’ll say it quite bluntly — it has implications for NATO’s security, because of what we saw last year.”
This week, an unidentified official from the Élysée Palace sought to calm those fears, telling the French newspaper Le Figaro that the vessels would be sold “bare, without their weapons systems.” At a news conference with Mr. Putin on Friday, Prime Minister François Fillon of France reasoned that his country could not engage Russia unless it shrugged off “reflexes that no longer have anything to do with reality of the situation.”
Mr. Fillon said France was now examining a bid from the Russian government, while for his part, Mr. Putin was coy, saying Russia had not decided whether to make the purchase.
Rolandas Kacinskas, a spokesman for the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, said Lithuanian diplomats were pressing their French counterparts for details about the warship’s abilities. Officials were also asking whether the ship would be deployed in the Black Sea or the Baltic Sea, to cow Russia’s smaller neighbors.
But Kaarel Kaas, a defense analyst at the International Center for Defense Studies, in Tallinn, Estonia, said, “It’s too huge an investment to be solely used in the Baltics or the Black Sea.”
Stephen Fry summoned to Polish embassy to explain his Nazi slur
|Bashed by Poland for telling the truth, Stephen Fry attacked Poles for their role in the Holocaust|
"Yes, he is having lunch at the embassy," confirms a spokesman for the Polish ambassador, Barbara Tuge-Erecinska. "This meeting is connected to Mr Fry's remarks on Channel 4. They will discuss a range of issues. He was invited to attend with his partner [Daniel Cohen], but we are not sure whether he will be attending alone."
In a debate about the Conservatives' links with Poland's Law and Justice party, Fry appeared to accuse Polish Catholics of being complicit in the Final Solution . "Remember which side of the border Auschwitz was on," he said.
At the time he made the comments, the Polish embassy said: "To suggest, even indirectly, that the Polish people, and Poland as a country, are in some way collectively responsible for the [Auschwitz] death camp, which became the symbol of the horrors of the Holocaust, is completely wrong and frankly – defamatory."
Fry’s policy positions on other issues have brought him as many brickbats as bouquets. Of the MPs’ expenses scandal, he decreed “it’s not that important” and urged the world’s media to back off.
He has, however, 832,430 followers on Twitter, the online social-networking service, which is almost as many as Sarah Brown.
Polish goalkeeper created many scandals in Denmark
From: News at Poland.com
Onyszko’s biography titled – “Fucking Polak” shocked whole country. Everyone, including politicians, journalists and football officials comment the book, but what is the worst, almost everyone is angry because of Onyszko.
The goalkeeper wrote – “I hate gays. I do not tolerate when two men take their hands and kiss on the street. I think that it is disgusting so I strongly support Polish president – Lech Kaczynski whose point of view seems to be the same”. What is more, Onyszko writes that Danish people are double-faced. “When Danish artist published caricatures of Mahomet what insulted all Arabian world, everything was ok. Even the Prime Minister defended him. But when Polish citizen expresses his own point of view everything is wrong. I want to ask Danish politicians: where were you when supporters of Brondby were shouting “You are fuc...g Pole”, “Everybody fu...ked your mother” or “Your wife is a wh...re”.
Scandal in Polish police
“The worst were our meetings during my shifts. It was horrible when he touched me with his privates and licked his lips” – explained female police officer from Interior Department of the Police Headquarter. The woman accused his supervisor – Marcin G. with mobbing and sexual harassment.
Marcin G. started working several years ago and got promotions very fast. As a high-ranked officer, he was moved to the Police Headquarter in Warsaw. “He came to my office and offered me a private meeting. He said he it would be helpful for my career” – explained the officer. She tried to refuse but she was helpless. What is more, the officer was sent many perverted messages, including pictures of man’s privates. But the worst were her individual meetings during the shift. Marcin G. tried to touch her and say perverted things.
The woman decided to inform other supervisors but they ignored her. But fortunately she got help from police trade unions, which gave her a lawyer. Today, this case is being investigated by prosecutor’s office in Mokotów District while the woman decided to sue Marcin G.
Polish Member of Parliament with a verdict of guilty
The decision of the court in Radom is final and binding. Besides this punishment, the woman has to pay 5 thousand zloty fine (1.2 thousand euro) while the decision will be announced in Polish media. What is more Lyzwinska will cover all cost of the trial what means – 6 thousand zloty (1.5 thousand euro).
According to prosecutor’s office, Lyzwinska forged several declarations about candidatures to Polish Parliament and several vetting declarations in Radom district. Six people said that they had never signed similar declaration. One person explained that she had found out about her candidacy two months after election. An expert witness has investigated carefully Lyzwinska’s writing and clearly stated that at least documents were forged by irresponsible Member of Parliament.
Dinamo Minsk beats Dynamo Moscow
The final score was 4-2 (2-2, 1-0, 1-0). Antonov, Westcott, Lintner and Denisov scored for Dinamo.
It was the first game for Belarusian forward Oleg Antonenko in the Dinamo squad after his return from Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg.
Dinamo plays the next KHL game against SKA Saint Petersburg in Minsk on 28 November. One of the SKA coaches is Belarusian specialist Eduard Zankovets.
Belarus’ Anastasia Novikova wins silver at World Weightlifting Championships
Belarusian Anastasia Novikova (-58kg) pressed 225kg (100kg in the snatch and 125kg in the clean and jerk) to win a silver medal of the 2009 World Weightlifting Championships in Goyang, South Korea.
Li Xueying of China won gold with 239kg (107+132). The bronze medal went to Ukraine’s Yulia Kalina with 215kg (96+119).
Belarus sets State award for retired Olympic champions
Monthly state award has been established in Belarus for Olympic champions with a view to stimulating Belarusian athletes to achieve high results at Olympic Games. The respective decree was signed by President Alexander Lukashenko on 17 November, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service on 19 November.
The award will make up 300% of the highest amount of the per-capita subsistence budget, which is adopted by the Government, over recent two quarters. It will be awarded to the men and women of the Republic of Belarus who have reached the age of 60 (men) and 55 (women), live permanently in the territory of Belarus and who have won Olympic gold medals as members of the national sport teams of Belarus or the former U.S.S.R.
Why Is Berlusconi Visiting Belarus?
|Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is known as a risk-taking politician -- which means Brussels can distance itself from his Minsk visit.|
For years, such visits have been taboo. The European Union largely regards Belarus as a pariah state for its regular crackdowns on opposition and rigging of poll results to keep President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in power.
So why is Berlusconi breaking with tradition now?
The official reason is that he is paying a reciprocal visit to Minsk as customary under international diplomatic protocol.
Lukashenka paid a visit in April to Rome, where he met with Pope Benedict XVI and had dinner with Berlusconi and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. Now, a return visit by Italian head of government is in order.
But the fact that Berlusconi is going to Minsk at a time when Brussels and Lukashenka still have very guarded relations has raised eyebrows.
Brussels has maintained a list of top Belarusian officials -- including Lukashenka -- under a visa ban since 2004 intended to prevent them from visiting EU countries. Over the past three years, the visa ban has been suspended for most of the officials, including the president, but it still remains nominally in effect.
The travel ban remains fully enforced for five people -- Central Election Commission head Lidziya Yarmoshyna and four former officials whom the EU sees as possibly involved in the disappearances of opposition politicians in Belarus.
Still, Brussels has an interest in periodically gauging whether Minsk can be persuaded to be less repressive in exchange for better ties with the EU. And there are some signs Berlusconi's reciprocal visit may fall into that category.
Italy Reaches Out
Jean-Pierre Darnis, deputy head of the security and defense department at Rome's Institute of International Affairs, says that Italy has a long foreign policy tradition of being a pilot in exploring relations with problematic countries, and Berlusconi's trip may fall within that framework.
"The visit of Mr. Berlusconi to Minsk is somehow the illustration of a quite traditional trend in Italian foreign policy,” Darnis said. “Italy is an ally of the U.S.A. through transatlantic relations and NATO. And that is a strong pillar of [Rome's] foreign policy, and it is also a founding member of the European Union, and that is the other strong pillar.”
“But then, outside of those two pillars, there is still a capability of action, of moving, of Italy making contacts with countries that might be perceived as problematic,” he continued. “The example of Libya and the recent relations between Italy and Libya are an illustration."
Darnis explains that Italy's foreign policy reflects the realities of the country's long tradition of constantly exploring business opportunities worldwide. That gives an impetus for seemingly impromptu trips -- even to states that at a given moment might be pariahs.
RFE/RL Belarus Service correspondent Jan Maksymiuk agrees that Berlusconi is one of the few European leaders who can visit Minsk and explore better ties without committing Brussels to follow suit.
But he says that is partly also due to Berlusconi's own personal reputation as a somewhat extravagant politician who takes risks that more cautious leaders might avoid.
"Berlusconi is the best politician for all the people in Brussels for a visit to Lukashenka, because if nothing sensible comes of this visit, everybody in Brussels can say, ‘It’s just Berlusconi, he’s prone to such vagaries in political life, we are not responsible for his behavior,’” Maksymiuk said. “But if Lukashenka proves to be more favorable to courting from the West, then Berlusconi may just see his visit as a success."
Lukashenka’s Balancing Act
Lukashenka has sent signals that he may be interested in shifting Minsk slightly westward as he plays a delicate balancing game with Moscow -- Belarus' main ally and trading partner.
The Belarusian president needs Moscow, and its tolerance for Lukashenka's squashing of any political opposition. But he also wants to maintain independence from the Kremlin.
In what may have been an additional show of independence this year, Lukashenka visited Vilnius in September. He said during that visit that Minsk and Vilnius could jointly add to the "constructive interaction along the East-West axis" and expressed hope that the EU will lower Schengen visa costs for Belarusian citizens.
It remains to be seen what, if anything, will come out of Berlusconi's visit.
But Berlusconi, who most often attracts the media's attention for scandals associated with his private life, is a shrewd deal-maker who rarely travels abroad without advancing Italian business interests, including his own.
Belarus, which has no significant natural resources, is important as a transit state for Russian pipelines delivering energy to the EU. It also has a sizable military industry which seeks Western technology to maintain competitiveness in the global arms export market.
Berlusconi, a media mogul reputed to own half of Italy's television and press, is closely tied to the country's state energy company ENI and the quasi-state aerospace and weapons conglomerate Finmeccanica.