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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Union State construction, Vladimir Putin, WTO, Start II, Victory Parade; Economics, Sport, News, Culture and Polish corruption scandals...

  • From the Top...
  • #468

    Supreme State Council urged to make momentous decisions

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko expects the Supreme State Council (SSC) of the Union State to adopt momentous decisions regarding the Union State construction at a regular session that will be held in Moscow on 10 December. The Belarusian leader made this statement as he met with Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Volga Federal District Grigory Rapota on 3 December, BelTA has learnt.

    The President expressed his confidence that the sides will be able to reach an understanding and adopt decisions of major importance for the Belarus-Russia Union State.

    “Talking about success in other integration associations, we forget that the Union State construction was a catalyst for all the integration associations. The Union State construction served as a direct and indirect stimulus for other leaders. It has always been a good irritant for others. We are criticized a lot for it. Everybody is afraid that we will show an example of unity on the post-Soviet space,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    He noted that a lot of pressure is exerted on the Belarusian leadership, the Belarusian elite but “as you can see, it meets little success sometimes.”

    The President underlined, “We are determined to surmount these difficulties and we will overcome them. The forthcoming session of the Supreme State Council will be another step in the Union State construction.

    Belarus MPs strongly support Belarus-Russia integration

    Belarusian parliamentarians actively support the integration between Belarus and Russia, Chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus Vladimir Andreichenko said as he met with representatives of the economic mission of the Volga Federal District on 3 December, BelTA has learnt.

    Attending the meeting were Chairman of the State Council of the Udmurt Republic of the Russian Federation Alexander Soloviev and Deputy Chairman of the Legislative Assembly of the Orenburg oblast of Russia Alexander Zharkov.

    “The Belarusian people and parliamentarians are ardent supporters of the integration between Belarus and Russia. Some 40-42 Union State programmes are drawn up every year, RUB25 billion has been invested in them over the ten years since the Union State of Belarus and Russia was established. About 200 regulations and agreements have been adopted over this period of time,” the Chairman of the House of Representatives of the Belarusian Parliament said. The citizens of the Union State are entitled to equal rights to employment, salaries, education, and freedom of movement.

    At the same time a lot of work is still ahead. “The Constitutional Act of the Union State has not been signed yet. This issue cannot be settled on the level of parliamentarians, political will is needed,” Vladimir Andreichenko said. He underlined that the Belarusian deputies will do their utmost to bring Belarus and Russia even closer.

    Alexander Soloviev told about the social and economic development of Udmurtia. He expressed the interest of the region in setting up joint ventures; after all they will help create more jobs and bring revenues to the budget. In 2008 a joint venture in Udmurtia produced four combined harvesters. “We would like to produce 50 combined harvesters next year,” Alexander Soloviev said.

    Belarus’ MPs ratify Customs Union documents

    On 4 December, a general report on ratification was presented by Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Andrei Kobyakov.

    The package of documents is composed of 13 bills on the ratification of international agreements that constitute the legal framework of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan.

    Among the ratified documents are agreements on terms and application of tariff quotas, customs clearance and control procedures, declaration of goods and their customs values, types of customs procedures and regimes, calculation and payment of customs duties. The parliament has also ratified protocols on providing tariff preferences, the united system of tariff preferences, terms and application of preferential customs duties in exclusive cases.

    A reminder, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan will introduce the single customs tariff on 1 January 2010. The Customs Union Commission, the supranational body, will be in charge of the formation of the tariffs. The single customs territory of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia will be launched on 1 July 2010. This decision was taken at the session of the EurAsEC Interstate Council at the level of the heads of state in Minsk on 27 November.

    Alexander Lukashenko: Ukraine can join Customs Union

    – Ukraine can join the Customs Union, said President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko as he met with Grigory Rapota, Russia President Plenipotentiary in the Volga Federal District, on 3 December.

    The head of state remarked that when the Customs Union foundation treaty was signed, Belarus insisted that the creation of the single economic space must not be delayed. “We see Russia limiting trade with Belarus with banks, sanitary inspectors, some other people. There is a bunch of bureaucrats. Doing so will not be possible in the single economic space,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    “We could create the single economic space within 2010 but I don’t think that my counterparts want to work that hard and there is a lot of work to do. This is why I think that in Almaty on 18 December we will come to terms that we can create the single economic space within eighteen months,” remarked the President.

    Alexander Lukashenko remarked: “The most important thing is that today, after the first steps in the Customs Union have been made, former USSR republics are ready to join us. But Ukraine is, certainly, the most important one for us. I am convinced that it is understood that they cannot do without us, the closest brothers. This is why the steps we are making and the steps Russia is making are very important. Once Dmitry Medvedev made an unambiguous decision: yes, we will go ahead with it, we managed to sign the Customs Union treaty within a year. It was a compromise, concessions made by Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, but we made it”.

    The President remarked: “We insist on unified pricing regulations, equal terms for economic operators inside the present Customs Union. If these things are done, the Customs Union attractiveness will increase”.

    Belarus President makes personnel decisions

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko also made several personnel decisions on 4 December:

    The President of Belarus appointed:

    Leonid Maltsev – State Secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Belarus;

    Nikolai Korbut – Head of the Belarus President Property Management Directorate;

    Yuri Zhadobin – Defense Minister of Belarus;

    Nikolai Snopkov – Economy Minister;

    Vladimir Poluyan – Tax Minister;

    Oleg Proleskovsky – Information Minister;

    Marianna Shchetkina – Labor and Social Protection Minister;

    Sergei Gurulev – Chairman of the State Committee for Defense Industries;

    Roman Golovchenko – First Deputy Chairman of the State Committee for Defense Industries;

    Piotr Tikhonovsky – Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, First Deputy Defense Minister;

    Mikhail Puzikov – Deputy Defense Minister for Personnel, Chief of the Central Personnel Department of the Defense Ministry;

    Oleg Pekarsky – First Deputy Interior Minister, Chief of the Criminal Police;

    Valentin Mikhnevich – Chief of the Grodno Oblast Police Department.

    The Belarus President also authorized the appointment of:

    Piotr Grushnik as First Deputy Labor and Social Protection Minister;

    Igor Starovoitov as Deputy Labor and Social Protection Minister;

    Vitaly Kulik as First Deputy Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister;

    Anatoly Lis as Deputy Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister;

    Tadeusz Struzhetsky as Deputy Culture Minister;

    Irina Narkevich as Deputy Trade Minister;

    Aleksei Shirma as Director General of the state power engineering corporation Belenergo;

    Alexander Borovsky as Director General of the manufacturing corporation BelavtoMAZ, Director General of the open joint-stock company Minsk Automobile Plant;

    Anatoly Sikorsky as Rector of the Belarusian State Medical University.

    The Belarus President also authorized the appointment of some other minor officials.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Russia Premier has 'warm feelings' towards Belarus

    From: BelTA
    Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin said that he has warm feelings towards Belarus and its leadership. Vladimir Putin made the statement during an annual televised question-and-answer session with Russian citizens on 3 December.

    “We have very kind, warm feelings towards the entire Belarusian nation, the entire country and Belarus’ leadership,” said Vladimir Putin when asked about why he did not respond to criticizing remarks made by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko.

    “Certainly, Belarus’ leadership would like to have more advanced relations with us,” said Vladimir Putin. “It may be possible. But, I strongly believe, it should be synchronized with integration processes inside the Union State. The deeper the integration is, the more opportunities to switch to domestic Russian prices and standards there will be”.

    Speaking about supplies of Belarusian machines to Russia, Vladimir Putin remarked that they are granted free access to the Russian market, but in view of the crisis phenomena in the Russian economy Russia is not ready to let Belarusian producers to participate in subsidized machinery purchases.

    “Routine problems may produce certain tension but, on the whole, Belarus’ leadership and the Belarus President are adherents of integration processes, of rapprochement with Russia, and we value it a lot,” stressed the Russian Prime Minister. “We have seen the most vivid manifestation of these feelings and this policy lately. It is connected with the signing of the documents on creating the single customs space, the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan”.

    Vladimir Putin said the Customs Union creation was an important integration decision. “It may be one of the most important post-Soviet decisions because it is truly the real way towards real integration,” he said. “We strongly expect these processes to advance fast and produce tangible results not only for economic operators but living standards of our people”.

    Speaking about Union State social achievements, Vladimir Putin underlined that a lot had been done. In particular, he mentioned freedom of movement granted to the citizens of the two countries, similar employment standards. “We will continue working with our Belarusian friends in this area,” assured the Russian Premier.

    “We are very happy about the way the formation of the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus is going on now,” Vladimir Putin said. “After the Customs Union is established, we will have to join the WTO either within the Customs Union or independently holding very serious consultations and agreeing all the positions with our partners from the Customs Union,” the Russian Premier added.

    Belarus in favor of more intensive WTO entry talks

    From: BelTA
    Belarus confirmed its interest in intensifying the WTO entry negotiations in view of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia to be launched in January 2010, the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry told BelTA.

    The seventh Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization is taking place in Geneva. The Belarusian delegation partakes in it as an observer. It is led by Belarus Resident Representative at the UN Office and other international organizations in Geneva Mikhail Khvostov.

    The head of the Belarusian delegation made a speech at the plenary session of the conference on 2 December. The Belarusian side pointed out the WTO’s importance for counteracting the development of the global economic crisis. The unjustifiably long accession of new participants was pointed out. The interest in intensifying the WTO entry negotiations in view of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia to be launched in January 2010 was confirmed.

    The Ministerial Meeting is the supreme governing body of the World Trade Organization. The seventh Ministerial Meeting is dedicated to reviewing the operation of the World Trade Organization, the multilateral trade system as a whole, and the global economic situation

    Russia, USA confirm nuclear security guarantees for Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan

    From: BelTA
    Russia and the USA have confirmed their adherence to cooperation in the spirit of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) after the treaty expires on 5 December. The sides also confirmed their adherence to security guarantees laid down by the Budapest memorandums according to a joint statement by Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama as well as Russia’s and USA’s statements released by the Kremlin press service on 4 December.

    The presidents of Russia and the United States pledged to keep the strategic stability between the two countries, to keep cooperating after the START expires, and to do their best to enforce a new treaty on strategic armaments.

    The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) will expire on 5 December 2009. During talks between Medvedev and Obama in Moscow on 6 July the sides said that a new legally binding treaty would have to be developed to replace START I. Negotiations on the new document are now in their final stage.

    The statement reads that the Russian Federation and the USA applaud the adherence of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to their status of non-nuclear states. The fulfillment of their obligations laid down by the Lisbon Protocol and their accession to the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty as non-nuclear countries have increased their security, which is in particular reflected by the Budapest memorandums of 5 December 1994.

    The statement stresses that Russia and the USA confirm that the guarantees laid down by the Budapest memorandums will still be applied after 4 December 2009.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Belarus, Russia, Ukraine to organize Victory Parade exhibition

    From: BelTA
    The leading museums of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine are planning to present a unique project, the Victory Parade exhibition, to mark the 65th anniversary of the Victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War. The statement was made by Culture Minister of Belarus Pavel Latushko at a session of the steering committee on preparing and holding the celebrations to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Republic of Belarus from the Nazis and the Victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War on 2 December.

    The exposition will display colours, original documents including the German unconditional surrender document, personal things of outstanding military leaders. The exhibition is expected to open in Moscow in May 2010. It will arrive in Minsk in September 2010 and will be displayed in Kiev in 2011.

    Exhibitions to mark the anniversary will be held in many Belarusian establishments. By 9 May 2010 the National Library of Belarus jointly with the leading museums of the country plans to organize a national exhibition, the Soviet Poster 1941-1945. In 2010 the Belarusian State Academy of Arts is going to hold an art exhibition, We Remember the May of 1945. Libraries, educational establishemnts, museums, clubs throughout the country will hold thematic and museum exhibitions, meetings with war participants and other events.

  • Economics...

    Lower interest rates for new loans in Belarus in 2010

    From: BelTA
    In 2010 interest rates for loans in Belarus will be reduced, Nikolai Luzgin, Deputy Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB), told a session of the Entrepreneurship Promotion Council on 4 December.

    In 2010 the NBRB’s refinancing rate is supposed to stand at 9-12% while the interest rate for new Belarusian ruble loans will vary between 12% and 15% per annum.

    The official remarked that in complicated conditions a policy aimed at raising interest rates for ruble deposits and reducing interest rates for foreign currency deposits, first of all, those of individuals, had been pursued. Belarusian banks had been recommended to keep interest rates for foreign currency deposits under 8% while interest rates for national currency deposits had been expected to be raised.

    Nikolai Luzgin reminded that on 1 December 2009 the NBRB reduced the refinancing rate down to 13.5%. To a certain degree the step should contribute to reducing interest rates for loans and deposits in the future.

    Framework bill to support Belarusian small, medium businesses in works

    The draft law on supporting small and medium businesses in Belarus is a framework one, Vladimir Zinovsky, Chairman of the National Statistics Committee of Belarus, told a session of the Entrepreneurship Promotion Council on 4 December.

    Vladimir Zinovsky believes the bill is rather of framework nature. He said that in Belarus legislation matters are handled via codification. When a legal act is compiled, some major parts can be taken out of various codes. If the small and medium business support bill fails to take into account the codification principle, the document may be torn out of the context of the existing Belarusian legislation. Vladimir Zinovsky stressed that businessmen are not interested in codification but in being able to clearly read laws to use them for their own benefits. The multiple reference rules the bill has will make it hard to understand for the business community.

    Vladimir Zinovsky also said that the Entrepreneurship Promotion Council will submit its proposals to a special commission of the House of Representatives in order to have them discussed before the spring session of the parliament, during which the bill is supposed to be given the second reading.

    Georgy Badei, President of the Professor M.S. Kunyavsky Business Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers, remarked that the Business Union put forward its proposals regarding the bill back in 2005 when discussions about the document just started. At present the Business Union still insists on amending the bill to include a new section “Guaranteed operation and protection of rights of small and medium businesses”. The section is supposed to specify guarantees for small businesses in detail. “If we introduce such a section, at least this part of the law will have a direct effect,” said Georgy Badei.

    The Business Union also suggests expanding the notion of small entrepreneurship support entities. The bill refers to small entrepreneurship support centers, incubators, and the Belarusian Fund for Financial Support as small entrepreneurship support entities. Yet many organizations, which constituent documents stipulate that their operation is aimed at supporting small businesses, can count on getting the status, first of all, industrial clusters. The Business Union also suggests introducing the notion of family enterprise subjects into the bill.

    Sergei Semashko, Chairman of the Industry, Fuel and Energy Complex, Transport, Communications and Entrepreneurship Commission of the House of Representatives, remarked that the bill is supposed to pass the second reading during the spring session of the parliament. There is enough time to discuss all the proposals and bring the views of developers, businessmen and MPs closer. Sergei Semashko also remarked that not all the proposals tabled on 4 December were accepted without discussions. At present an ad hoc group is sorting out all the remarks and proposals.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Lower gas prices for Minsk should go with union formation - Putin

    From: RIA Novosti
    A cut in energy prices for Belarus should coincide with Minsk's integration into the Union state with Russia, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

    Speaking live during his eighth annual phone-in question and answer session, Putin said Belarus had asked to keep natural gas prices in 2010 at last year's level, though under a contract "the price should slightly rise."

    "Perhaps this is possible, but it should coincide with integration into the Union state. The deeper the integration, the more possibility there will be to switch to domestic Russian prices and standards, including for energy," Putin said.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged in November a 30-40% discount on natural gas for Belarus in 2010.

    "We are currently supplying gas at $122 per 1,000 cubic meters in the fourth quarter, taking into account a 30% discount available this year under a decision that [Russian energy giant] Gazprom took with its counterparties," Medvedev said.

    Russia also supplies Belarus with oil at a discount.

    However, Putin said Russia was not currently ready to include Belarusian producers of agricultural machinery into subsidized programs.

    "Our own plants will be idle then," the prime minister said.

    He described as substantial Russian assistance to its neighbor, which received a $1.5 million Russian loan in 2007, borrowed $1 billion in 2008, and obtained two loans worth $0.5 billion and $650 million in 2009, the latter from Russian energy giant Gazprom.

    Belarus leader sacks ministers as econony stagnates

    From: Reuters
    Nikolai Zaichenko, former Economy Ministry of Belarus
    Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday sacked the economy, trade and tax ministers in the biggest government reshuffle in years as he seeks to overturn economic stagnation.

    Lukashenko's office said Economy Minister Nikolai Zaichenko was replaced with the deputy head of presidential staff, Nikolay Snopkov. Defence Minister Leonid Maltsev and Security Council Secretary Yuri Zhadobin swapped places.

    Belarus, whose economy has been run along Soviet-style command lines by Lukashenko since 1994 and which is heavily dependent on subsidies from neighbouring resource-rich Russia, suffered heavily from the global crisis alongside its bigger neighbour.

    Its exports halved this year as demand and prices for Belarussian machinery and agricultural and chemical products plummeted. Gross domestic product fell 1 percent in the first 10 months after years of growth.

    "Of course this is primarily linked to the crisis, to declining economic indicators," said independent political analyst Alexander Klaskovsky.

    "But looking at the people, who came in, I would not say there are a new generation of people," he added.

    Defence Minister Leonid Maltsev will become secretary of the Security Council -- an appointment likely to be viewed as a promotion rather than a downgrade because his new post is considered one of the most powerful in Belarus.

    The former secretary, Yuri Zhadobin, will become the new defence minister.

    Lukashanko sacked the country's tax, information and trade ministers as well as the head of state truck giant MAZ, whose exports plummeted sharply this year.

    Lukashenko has has been long criticised as authoritarian in the West. Relations have improved in the past year after Belarus undertook some political reforms and released detainees deemed political prisoners by the West.

    WB’s loan is of importance to Belarus, vice premier says

    From: Navany
    Belarus will use the World Bank’s $200-million Development Policy Loan (DPL) to fund its efforts in overcoming the effects of the global economic crisis, Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Kabyakow said at an inking ceremony for the loan agreement held in Minsk on December 3.

    The loan is of importance to the country, Mr. Kabyakow said.

    Belarusian Finance Minister Andrey Kharkavets and Martin Reiser, head of the World Bank's office in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, signed the accord at the ceremony.

    Mr. Reiser described the year 2009 as a fruitful period for the WB’s cooperation with the country.

    He said that WB stockholders had warmly welcomed the gradual economic liberalization strategy carried out in Belarus.

    The WB Board of Executive Directors on December 1 approved the DPL for Belarus. The loan is intended to support the Belarusian government’s economic program aimed at addressing the social impact of the crisis and advancing the structural reforms to help enable a sustained economic recovery, the World Bank said in a statement.

    The single-tranche loan has a maturity of 16 years, including a six-year grace period. The loan proceeds would be made available to the borrower "upon loan effectiveness."

    The WB is expected to transfer the funds in the next couple of days.

    Belarusian Activist Fined For Taking Photos

    From: RFE/RL
    A Minsk district court today fined Young Belarus movement activist Anastasiya Mashchava more than 1 million rubles ($360) for taking pictures during a protest mocking the government, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

    Mashchava and fellow activists Andrei Kuzminski, Pavel Prakapovich, and Yahor Babrou were detained on December 2 after they set up a stand in central Minsk with a picture of a moustachioed man meant to represent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

    A sign at the stand said, "If you don't like the regime, throw an egg at me." Boxes of eggs were available at the stand.

    Several passersby expressed their attitude to the regime and threw eggs at the picture, which Mashchava photographed.

    The official charge against Mashchava is "taking pictures without accreditation."

    On December 3, Prakapovich and Babrou were sentenced to 15 days in jail and Kuzminski to seven days for holding an unsanctioned public gathering.

  • From the Opposition...

    KGBzation of army and ideologization of media

    From: Charter '97
    Alyaksandr Lukashenka reshuffled top officials and replaced ministers of defense and information by even more ill-famed personalities.

    Former state secretary of the Security Council Yury Zhadobin has been appointed minister of defense. He was the KGB head before.

    Yury Zhadobin was born in Dnepropetrovsk (Ukraine) in 1954. He moved to Belarus in 1990. it was Zhadobin who said during the presidential campaign 2004 that the EU was preparing assassination attempt on Lukashenka. In response, the Belarusian ruler harshly attacked the EU.

    Leanid Maltsau, the former defense minister, has been appointed state secretary of the Security Council.

    Mikalai Korbut has been appointed head of the Property Management Directorate of the President. The appropriate decree was signed on December 4. Korbut was the first deputy head at the directorate. He has replaced Mikalai Damashkevich, who occupied this post since January 10, 2008.

    Former main ideologist Pralyaskouski appointed minister of information

    Famous for tightening screws in ideology, Pralyaskouski will now deal with the press.

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka has signed a decree appointing Aleh Pralyaskouski, former head of the Information and Analysis Center at Lukashenka’s Administration, minister of information instead of Uladzimir Rusakevich.

    Uladzimir Rusakevich, 62, has headed the Minister of information for more than nine years, since August 3, 2003.

    Aleh Pralyaskouski, 46, was born in Sergiev Pasad near Moscow. He graduated from Minsk air defense missile engineering school in 1985. In 1998, he graduated from law faculty of Belarusian State University (with specialization in jurisprudence).

    He served in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, occupied different posts in Minsk air defense missile engineering school and Military Academy of Belarus, headed a department in the ideological directorate of the President’s Administration. Worked as a director general of Belarusian Telegraph Agency.

    On March 25, 2003, appointed deputy head of the President’s Administration, on January 9, 2007 – president’s aide and head of the Main Ideological Department at the President’s Administration. On January 10, 2008, was appointed director of the Information and Analysis Center at the President’s Administration.

    Pralyaskouski insisted on “strengthening responsibility for information on the internet” when discussing the adoption of the new Law on Mass Media. He also suggested lying responsibility for spreading information via the internet not only on website administrators, but also on an internet-resource owner and provider.

    He thinks state control over the internet should contain of a complex of legislative and management measures. “Responsibility for spreading wrongful information on the internet should be strengthened on legislative level. If information appears on a site, an administrator, an owner of the resource and a provider must be responsible for this,” Pralyaskouski said.

    “What concerns the management measures, we need to think about the so called content filtration. It is a technique that allows users and local networks administrators to block access to the sites containing the information that conflicts with the current legal system or contradicts the norms of public morality,” the official stated.

    The official also wrote offensive articles about the opposition and met with Belarusian rock musicians offering them access to TV and radio in exchange for the promise not to play at opposition rallies under Belarusian national white-red-white flags.

    Biaroza authoritites ban human rights picket

    From: Viasna
    Biaroza district executive committee prohibited the civil activists Tamara Shchapiotkina and Siarhei Rusetski to hold a picket on 13 December.

    The applicants asked to authorize the action near the town shop Technika, at which they intended to hand out informational materials dedicated to the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    They guaranteed securing the public order and said they would bring a first-aid kit. They also guaranteed the cleaning of the territory after holding the picket. They also attached the appropriate written undertaking to their application.

    However, Biaroza town executive committee answered that ‘the aforementioned measures haven’t been precisely defined, which arises doubts in the ability of the applicants to secure the public order and provided qualified medical aid’.

    The officials believe that in order to hold even a small picket with the minimal number of participants one needs to present the appropriate agreements with the police, medics and communal services. They forget that according to the law the applicants can also give a written undertaking to secure the public order and the health of the action participants.

    That’s why human rights defenders consider the reasons for the refusal as wire-drawn and by their refusal the authorities once again violated the civil right to peaceful assemblies.

  • Russia...

    U.S. and Russia to forge new nuclear weapons treaty

    From: Examiner
    The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) between the United States and Russia (then the Soviet Union) was signed on July 31, 1991. After the Soviet Union dissolved, Russia and the former Soviet republics with nuclear capabilities (Ukraine, Belarus, Kazahkstan) agreed to hold to the treaty's stipulations by signing the Lisbon Protocol on December 5, 1994.

    According to Arms, START I maintained that no signatory may deploy more than 1,600 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) at any time. It also established specific "counting rules" governing nuclear inventories, and established a 3,600 metric ton "throw-weight" for ballistic missiles, which limits range.

    START I ran for fifteen years, expiring yesterday at midnight.

    The BBC reported that U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to hold talks dedicated to extending START I when they met in July. Russian sources indicate that the basic outline of a new agreement new agreement could be reached as early as next week, when President Obama will visit Europe to accept his Nobel Peace Prize.

    On Friday, as START I was due to expire, the U.S. and Russian presidents issued a joint statement:

    "We express our commitment, as a matter of principle, to continue to work together in the spirit of the START treaty following its expiration, as well as our firm intention to ensure that a new treaty on strategic arms enters into force at the earliest possible date."

    In July 2009, the United States and Russia agreed to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear warheads to 1,700 each within seven years, though they did not sign a formal agreement. Even if the two governments can agree on basic conditions for a START successor within several weeks, the resulting nuclear accord would still need to be approved by both the U.S. Congress and the Russian Parliament - a process which will undoubtedly last several months.

    Presently, the United States has around 3,000 tactical and strategic nuclear weapons, Russia just under 5,000 (these figures do not include weapons awaiting dismantlement).

    Mr. Putin in Perpetuity?

    From: New York Times
    It has long been obvious that Vladimir Putin — the current prime minister and former president of Russia — craves his dominant hold on power. Still, it was disconcerting to hear him signal publicly on Thursday that he might seek the presidency again in 2012.

    Mr. Putin displayed a master politician’s coyness in addressing the issue at a public forum where he took scores of questions. Would he run again? “I’ll think about it,” he replied. Asked at another point if it was time to relax after decades of government service, he said: “Don’t hold your breath.”

    A lot could happen between now and then. Politicians change their minds all the time. Mr. Putin could decide to stay as prime minister and have his sidekick, Dmitri Medvedev, the current president, run again for president. At a minimum, Mr. Putin may be encouraging speculation about his political future to enhance his influence — or to divert attention from more important matters like economic reform or the demographic crisis facing Russia.

    Whether or not the two men trade jobs or try to keep the ones they have, Mr. Putin — who first became president in 2000 and would be eligible to run again in 2012 — could conceivably stay in power until at least 2024.

    That’s not the usual tenure for a democratically elected leader of a country. But under Mr. Putin, Russia has strayed far from the democratic model. It is a place where journalists and human rights activists are murdered with impunity, political and business opponents are thrown in jail and independent media have been seriously degraded.

    Still, Mr. Putin has been in office, either as president or prime minister, during a significant recovery both in terms of Russia’s economy and its standing in international affairs. While experts debate how much credit is due Mr. Putin for all of that (Russia’s greatest boon resulted from a rise in oil prices that he did not control), he is very popular at home.

    We think a system with more vigorous political competition among more candidates and offering a healthy debate about government policies would produce better results. So the prospect of Mr. Putin in perpetuity is not encouraging. Obviously, when the time comes, who leads Russia is a decision for Russians to make. And the United States must work to find common ground with whoever is elected.

    Russia's Perm mourns, anger voiced after club fire

    From: Washington Post
    Russian investigators blamed management negligence for a blaze at a provincial nightclub that killed 110 people as relatives gathered at a central morgue on Sunday to identify the charred remains of loved ones.

    Eyewitnesses said sparks from fireworks set fire to wicker coverings on the walls and ceiling of the packed club on Friday, and that a stampede broke out as more than 200 guests rushed toward a single narrow exit.

    An initial investigation found the club was not equipped with automatic fire extinguishers and that fireworks should not have been used there, Marina Zabbarova, head of the Russian Prosecutor General's Investigative Committee for Perm region, said.

    "When will this complacency end?" Zabbarova asked at a news conference in Perm, an industrial city 1,150 km (720 miles) northeast of Moscow. "It was impossible to save anyone there."

    Four people have been arrested, including the nightclub's management and the director of the company that supplied the fireworks, Zabbarova said.

    Roughly three dozen locals stood in the snow outside the morgue on Sunday, while a small crowd laid red carnations and lit candles in front of the gutted Lame Horse nightclub.

    "The authorities are directly to blame, along with corruption and the criminality of the firemen," 51-year old Leonid Ryabov said while buying flowers near the club. "They have been carrying out inspections for eight years..."

    In addition to the dead, roughly 130 people are suffering from smoke inhalation and extensive burns. About 80 of the victims have been flown to hospitals in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Chelyabinsk.

    "It was monstrous, young people died there, the future of Russia," said Sergei Prokofiev, an 18 year-old student and a stepbrother of one of the victims.

    An all-day memorial service was also under way at the Holy Trinity cathedral in Perm.

    Flags were flying at half mast in the city, and President Dmitry Medvedev has declared Monday a national day of morning.


    Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Russian Prosecutor General's Investigative Committee told the Itar-Tass news agency that prosecutors planned to charge the four suspects with causing reckless death by violating fire safety standards.

    "This is not a premeditated murder, but this does not lessen the gravity of the crime," Medvedev said on Saturday.

    The Prosecutor General's office also said that the fireworks used at the nightclub were not authorized for indoor use.

    Friday's fire was Russia's deadliest in decades, emergency officials said, and the worst nightclub fire worldwide since nearly 200 people died at a party in Buenos Aires in 2004.

    Russian officials have in the past blamed poor fire safety standards for high death tolls in fires at orphanages, hospitals other institutions. More than 15,000 Russians died in fires last year, according to government figures.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Polish FM's wife unhurt after car blast

    From: IOL
    he wife of the Polish foreign minister escaped unhurt when her car blew up in mysterious circumstances, Polish authorities said Sunday.

    Police said Anne Applebaum, an American journalist married to foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski, was driving on Saturday evening in a Warsaw suburb when a "strange noise" from the engine prompted her to stop the car and get out.

    An explosion took place shortly afterwards, seriously damaging the car but leaving Applebaum unscathed.

    Applebaum has been put under police protection while officers try to establish the cause of the blast, a spokesman for the government protection bureau said in comments reported by the PAP news agency.

    Man accused of shooting at buses in Poland

    From: UPI
    Police in Warsaw, Poland, said they arrested a man who allegedly has been shooting at public buses and trains in the Polish capital.

    Polish Radio reported Thursday the 31-year-old suspect, whose identity was not released, is accused of firing on five buses and three trains, damaging the public vehicles but causing no injuries or fatalities.

    Authorities allege after his arrest, the suspect confessed to shooting at a bus in Warsaw last Monday.

    Polish Radio said several air rifles were allegedly found in the suspect's house, leading police to suspect the weapons were used in the rush hour shootings.

    According to Warsaw Police Headquarters, members of the general public in Warsaw helped police capture the alleged shooter.

    Referee chief detained on corruption charges

    From: The News
    Former head of the Referees Committee at the Polish Football Association (PZPN) has been detained in Warsaw on corruption charges.

    Sixty three year-old Jerzy G. was detained in his flat in Warsaw and is being interrogated at the Prosecutor’s Office in the south-western city of Wroclaw.

    The referee chief is suspected of having cooperated with Ryszard Forbrich - alias Fryzjer - who was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for fraud in April 2009.

    Over 300 people, including footballers, coaches, referees and football club managers have been arrested so far in relation to an ongoing investigation into corruption in the Polish Football Association (PZPN).

    Well-known referee Grzegorz G., national team coach Janusz W. and former national team player Dariusz W. were among those who face corruption charges.

  • Sport...

    Belarusian champions BATE beaten by Benfica in UEFA Europa League

    From: Navany
    Belarusian soccer champions BATE Barysaw were beaten by Portugal’s Benfica 2-1 in a game of the UEFA Europa League at the Dynama Stadium in Minsk on December 2.

    “It was a very good match by both teams,” BATE Head Coach Viktar Hancharenka told reporters after the game. “We were a poorer side as far as it concerns ball possession, position attacks. We must take this into account and achieve more progress to create more troubles for such opponents. The fact that we had a bad start to the second half is linked to mental rather than physical fatigue, the loss of concentration. Such teams like Benfica do not forgive this. The defeat at the hands of Everton is more painful as Benfica caused us more troubles, although it’s difficult to name a game where the Portuguese would let the opponents create so many chances.”

    Jorge Jesus, head coach of Benfica, noted that “we had prepared for such a hard game because BATE have a completely different style.” “We were surprised at the pace at the beginning of the game and the form of the [BATE] players. Our defending was poor. We talked to the players at half-time, corrected some tactical aspects, motivated the players and their game improved. BATE displayed much better technical skills today than in Lisbon. Good teamwork is the main strength of this side. I will single out number ten player Syarhey Kryvets,” he said.

    The Portuguese club beat BATE 2-0 in their September 17 game in Lisbon. Benfica lead their Europa League group with 12 points from five games, while BATE are third with four points from as many matches.

  • Endnote...

    Tatsyana Shaputska: “Lukashenka shows Europe that it has no influence on his policy”

    From: Charter '97
    The press-secretary of the “Young Front” stated that the decision to expel her from the Belarusian State University had been adopted by “serious government institutions”.

    On December 3 “Young Front” press-secretary Tatsyana Shaputska was expelled from the faculty of law of the Belarusian State University for her participation in the Civil Society Forum of “Eastern Partnership” in Brussels on November 16-17.

    “10 days ago a deputy dean of my faculty told me that serious-minded people in serious agencies took interest in me after my visit to Brussels. On December 3 I was invited to the dean’s office and demonstrated an order on my expulsion signed by the BSU rector. However no reasons were explained for me, and I was said that I could receive a copy of the order in a reception office.

    To say the truth, I was shocked. I have good progress and attendance, and a high average score. I was sure that by three-day absence in connection with participation in the Eastern Partnership Forum would result in just an admonition. Reasons for my expulsion haven’t been stated in the copy of the order. According t this document, my expulsion was based upon my explanation note for three days absence and on two office memorandums. I haven’t been explained what kind of memos they were,” Shaputska said.

    Tatsyana Shaputska states that she plans apply to the dean with a request to give explanation for her expulsion. “It this won’t happen, I will apply to the court and the Education Ministry, for the rector to retract the order for expulsion,” the press-secretary of the “Young Front” said.

    Information about possible expulsion of the activist was received on the first day of the forum. A representative of the European Commission and “Democracy and Human Rights” panel moderator Eugeniusz Smolar posed a question about possible expulsion of Tatsyana Shaputska to the chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions Leanid Kozik, who was taking part in the forum. Kozik answered that in case of Shaputska’s expulsion he would organize a manifestation on her support in the centre of Minsk.

    However Tatsyana Shaputska says she is not surprised she has been banished even after a statement by the European Commission representative.

    “When on December 3 I learnt that oppositionists were sentenced to 15 days of arrest for staging a performance in the Centre of Minsk, and when I heard Lukashenka’s yesterday’s statement about his relations with Russia, I have nothing to wonder,” Tatsyana Shaputska sais. “Lukashenka has demonstrated that the vector of his policy has changed from European to Russian one. Oppositionists’ arrests and the statement of the Belarusian leader are demonstration trick made on the same day to show Europe it does not have influence on Lukashenka’s policy”.