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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lukashenko says Belarus crisis ending, Russian relations, Customs Union, Turkmenistan, CE, Ukraine, Interent, Ski Jumping, Culture and Polish scandal

  • From the Top...
  • #481

    Belarus should leave crisis well behind in 2010, Alexander Lukashenko says

    From: BelTA
    Alexander Lukashenko, at the Conferment of State Awards On Distinguished Belarusians Ceremony in Minsk, this week
    In 2010 Belarus should completely exit the financial and economic crisis and achieve an even higher level of development, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at the ceremony of presenting state awards on 21 January, BelTA has learnt.

    “We should by all means achieve these goals. This is the only way to fulfill the five-year plan and the obligations we took at the Third All-Belarus People’s Assembly,” the head of state said.

    Alexander Lukashenko underlined that all the resources and reserves available should be involved. “Your achievements prove that it is possible to fulfill even the most ambitious goals,” the Belarusian President said as he addressed the awardees.

    Belarus President urges harsher punishment for judgment creditors

    Belarus should introduce harsher punishment for judgment creditors who ignore court decisions, which hurts the interests of other people, companies and the state. This topic was discussed at a working meeting between President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and Justice Minister Viktor Golovanov on 22 January, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    The head of state deems it necessary to toughen the punishment for judgment creditors who do not execute court decisions. The criminal responsibility will be made harsher for those who intentionally ignore court rulings.

    The President heard out a report on the work of the judicial bodies in 2009. Alexander Lukashenko assessed this work as satisfactory and emphasized that notary offices should more actively protect the interests of citizens and legal persons.

    The head of state thinks it necessary to raise the status and prestige of officers of court as representatives of the state authority.

    Alexander Lukashenko underlined that the Justice Ministry should exert a greater influence on the processes going on in the legal field, make sure that law enforcement bodies as well as prosecution agencies and courts fulfill their duties in full. It pertains to the protection of rights and freedoms of citizens, first and foremost.

    Apart from that, the President upheld the initiate of the Justice Ministry to develop the program “State Archives of the Republic of Belarus”.

    KGB needs new approaches and new people

    In the present day conditions, amid the global challenges, new approaches to the national security are becoming vital. The work in this area has already been launched by the development of a new version of the national security concept, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said as he addressed the new heads of the security agencies appointed on 22 January, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    The head of state emphasized that in the present day conditions the work of the KGB is becoming particularly important, as its duty is to protect the national interests of the state. This organization should be the first to identify all the internal and external threats for Belarus, analyze them and work out proposals to give an adequate response.

    “First of all, the KGB should provide carefully verified preventive information which will help make vital decisions,” the President underlined.

    Here a great significance is attached to the training of highly qualified personnel essential to achieve success. “The bottom line is that human resources management and ideological activity should be raised to a brand new level,” the head of state said.

    The Belarusian President noted that the new appointments in the KGB are the beginning of the staff turnover practice which will be introduced in all the other defense and law enforcement agencies.

    Alexander Lukashenko outlined the major problems of the Committee for State Security; to address these issues new approaches and new people are needed. He expressed hope that the new appointments will help achieve this goal.

    Belarus President urges to expand trade with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan

    Belarus should considerably increase the trade with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko stated as he appointed new ambassadors to those countries on 22 January.

    Alexander Lukashenko appointed Valery Brylev Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Kazakhstan and Viktor Denisenko Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Kyrgyzstan.

    Belarus and Kazakhstan are planning to implement several big projects. “We are building the Customs Union. Belarus and Kazakhstan will play an important role in the union. We need open, fair and transparent relations with this country. I believe that our relations will expand considerably once the Customs Union is formed and the Single Economic Space takes effect,” the President said.

    The head of state thinks it is necessary to define the priority areas of cooperation with Kyrgyzstan. “We should offer two or three promising projects and move towards their implementation,” he stressed.

    “Kyrgyzstan is our partner and friend. We need to boost trade with this state, expand the bilateral cooperation,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Customs Union to move towards single economic area with EU

    From: BelTA
    State members of the Customs Union (Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan) will move towards creation of a single economic area with the European Union, First Deputy Premier Minister of Russia Igor Shuvalov said at a conference, Russia and the World: New Decade Challenges, in Moscow.

    After the establishment of the single economic area the state members of the Customs Union are going to harmonize their legislation with that of the EU to facilitate growth of their economies, said Igor Shuvalov. Apart from the harmonization of laws, there are plans for the gradual removal of barriers to the movement of capital, goods, and people between the EU and the Customs Union. “Our goal is to create an area without borders and visa regime from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean,” said the First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia.

    Igor Shuvalov added that in contrast to the single economic area within the Customs Union, the rapprochement with the EU supposes a coordinated economic behavior without any supranational regulatory bodies.

    Igor Shuvalov said that other countries may join the Customs Union in future. A draft treaty on creation of a free trade zone within the CIS is being prepared at the moment. The treaty is likely to be based on the principles that will be used in the rapprochement between the Customs Union and the EU.

    Belarus, Council of Europe sign immunities agreement for GRECO members

    Belarus and the Council of Europe signed the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities for the representatives of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) and members of inspection groups in Strasbourg on 22 January, BelTA learnt from the information and public relations department of the Belarusian Interior Ministry.

    The document was signed by Belarus’ Interior Minister Anatoly Kuleshov and Deputy General Secretary of the Council of Europe Maud de Boer-Buquicchio.

    The agreement will provide immunities for the members of GRECO and inspection groups coming to Belarus to carry out inspections. The agreement protects them and their personal luggage from arrest; they will also be granted immunity from legal process for all the things they say, write or do in discharge of their duties. They will be able to enter, leave and move freely all over Belarus and visit any places and facilities except those where they will be required to obtain a special permission under the Belarusian legislation.

    At present similar regulations apply to diplomatic and consular officers of foreign states working in Belarus.

    Apart from that, at the meeting with the Council of Europe’s officials the Belarusian Interior Ministry indents to discuss possible cooperation areas in crime fighting.

    Turkmenistan President to visit Belarus next wee

    From: BelTA
    President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is set to visit Belarus next week, Vice-Premier of Belarus Viktor Burya said at a working meeting with the co-chairmen of the Belarus-Turkmenistan Intergovernmental Economic Cooperation Commission on 23 January, BelTA has learnt.

    According to Viktor Burya, Belarus and Turkmenistan have a very good foundation for the development of the bilateral cooperation – last year President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko paid a visit to Turkmenistan. During the visit, the major cooperation areas were outlined. The Vice-Premier was glad to inform that the cooperation proposals translated into real projects. “We should work hard preparing for the return visit. We have set up a task group, developed the relevant program,” Viktor Burya said.

    He informed that Belarus and Turkmenistan intend to define the further cooperation strategies.

    Co-Chair of the Belarus-Turkmenistan Intergovernmental Economic Cooperation Commission, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan Hadyr Sapalyev noted that the meeting is highly symbolic, as it is held in the run-up to the first visit of the President of Turkmenistan to Belarus. Hadyr Sapalyev is convinced that this visit will be historical for the both countries. “This visit, as we see it, is one of the communication forms between partners,” he said. He expressed hope that today’s meeting will give an impetus to the faster implementation of the plans.

    Hadyr Sapalyev noted that Belarus and Turkmenistan have already done a lot to develop the bilateral relations including the cooperation within the framework of the commission. The sides have formed the basis for the joint work of the Turkmenkhimiya Concern and Belgorkhimprom, agreed and signed the contract for the construction of a mining and processing complex. The contract has already been signed. Turkmen students attend Belarusian universities.

    Belarus supplied 1,500 Belarus tractors and 500 machines produced by Lidselmash to Turkmenistan. The sides have drafted an agreement to open Turkmen trade houses in Belarus and Belarusian trade houses in Turkmenistan. Belarus and Turkmenistan launched flights Minsk-Ashgabat (twice a week). The Belarusian side shows an interest in the construction of a railway in Turkmenistan. Belarus intends to take part in an international tender to equip a railway station in that country.

    Both the countries cooperate in the tourism and culture areas. Belarus displayed its exposition at a big exhibition in Turkmenistan. The sides are expected to hold the Days of Turkmen Culture in Belarus and the Days of Belarusian Culture in Turkmenistan. According to the sides, the cooperation in science and technology is promising, too. At present, experts are discussing the creation of the science and technology subcommission within the framework of the Belarus-Turkmenistan Intergovernmental Economic Cooperation Commission.

    Russia to cancel Belarus’ vehicle temporary import registration in February

    From: NLIPRB
    Russia will cancel the registration of temporary import of the Belarusian trucks to the territory of the Russian Federation in February, Chairman of the State Customs Committee (SCC) of Belarus Alexander Shpilevsky told a press conference on 23 January.

    The Russian government has taken the relevant decision. “According to the document, the registration of temporary import of the Belarusian vehicles to Russia will be canceled on 25 February. Bearing in mind these novelties, Belarusians will need to fill in declarations when they import vehicles to Russia,” Alexander Shpilevsky said. These regulations will be, possibly, in force for half a year, till the single customs territory of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan takes effect. The borders between the three countries will be removed on 1 July 2010.

    When asked about a possible increase in duties for individuals in importing vehicles after 1 July 2010, Alexander Shpilevsky noted that this issue is under the consideration, the duties are yet to be coordinated.

    Belarus’ students present cooperation projects to CE delegation

    From: BelTA
    Education, science, sport and youth policy are discussed at a meeting between the students, representatives of youth and children’s public associations and Ralf Rene Weingartner, Director of Youth and Sport of the Council of Europe, in Minsk on 23 January. The meeting with the representative of over 20 most famous youth and children’s public associations is held in the House of Youth, BelTA has learnt.

    Youth leaders have prepared interesting and promising cooperation projects. For example, the students of the Belarusian State University have presented a project to develop and produce a hardware and software complex to prevent an unauthorized access to personal computers; the representatives of the Belarusian National Technical University have proposed to study a possibility to integrate electric energy systems of Belarus and the European Union.

    The Linguapax project of the Belarusian Association of UNESCO Clubs envisages the organization of foreign language camps. The Youth League proposes to hold an annual international art exhibition “Molodezhnaya Subway Station”. The delegation has shown a great interest in the project “Gender Equality in the Republic of Belarus” of the Belaya Rus organization which is to be implemented jointly with the specialists of the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics.

    Ralf Rene Weingartner informed that by 2011 the Council of Europe plans to step up cooperation with volunteer organizations of Eastern Europe. Volunteer organizations of Belarus have amassed a great experience they could share with volunteers from other countries.

    Head of the Youth Department of the Education Ministry of Belarus Irena Dyl told BelTA that during the visit to Belarus the representatives of the Council of Europe discussed cooperation prospects in the youth policy, the implementation of the document “Agenda 2010: Orientation for Europe's Youth Policy in the Next Decade” and a possibility of Belarus’ participation in the Partial Agreement on the Youth Card.

    At present, the youth (people under 31) accounts for one fourth of Belarus’ population. Over 160 youth and children’s public organizations are registered in Belarus.

  • Economics...

    Russia reinforcing customs control on border with Belarus

    From: BelTA
    Russia is reinforcing customs control on the Belarus-Russia border, Chairman of the State Customs Committee of Belarus Alexander Shpilevsky told a press conference on 23 January, BelTA has learnt.

    “Indeed, the Russian side is reinforcing the customs control,” Alexander Shpilevsky said.

    Russia has increased the number of customs officers by about 120 people at the Smolensk customs house, at the other customs houses the number of staff has been increased, too. “It is done on the pretext of the redeployment of the Russian customs control to the external border, so the customs terminals will be located closer to the border,” the SCC Chairman said.

    In his words, the Belarusian customs services will not do anything in response to the Russia’s move. “We will not respond to that,” Alexander Shpilevsky said.

    Head of the Customs Control Department of the State Customs Committee of Belarus Nikolai Bursh added that as early as in 2008 Russia had adopted a concept of the redeployment of the customs control from the internal customs clearance offices to the border. “We are not talking about the reinforcement of control right at the border, rather about the creation of customs terminals along the Russian border over a distance of up to 100km from the border,” the specialist said. It means that the customs services will carry out customs clearance and the goods will pass through the terminals that are located along the border,” he said. It may have something to do with the increase in the number of customs personnel on the Belarusian border, Nikolai Bursh assumed.

    British businessmen interested in projects in Minsk

    British businessmen are interested in projects in Minsk, Member of the Executive Board of the Nottingham City Council Alan Clark, told reporters in Minsk. A delegation from Nottingham arrived in Minsk on 22 January.

    “The members of our delegation have already met with the representatives of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. During the talks we realized that Nottingham has a lot of opportunities for cooperation with Minsk, and businessmen of the two cities can implement various joint projects,” said Alan Clark. According to him, the British delegation received a warm welcome at the Minsk City Council. The British guests met with Acting Chairman of the Minsk City Council Nikolai Ladutko. The sides discussed prospects of their partnership. “Civil engineering infrastructure may become one of the avenues of our cooperation,” said Alan Clark.

    Phil McCauley, a representative of the Franklin Ellis company, believes he will manage to establish stable business contacts. “Our company deals with investments both in the United Kingdom and all over the world. We studied the possibilities of cooperation in Minsk. We have met with a lot of potential partners,” Phil McCauley said. He also added that he wants to intensify the interaction and come to Minsk again in a fortnight. “I want to bring people, who work in the high-tech industry, and software and web-technologies fields,” said the Franklin Ellis representative.

    It is the first time that Phil McCauley visits Belarus. He expressed his delight at the country and its people. “Belarus is a beautiful and wonderful country. You are our friends and we are glad to meet with you. You should be proud of your country and your achievements. We have visited the Minsk-Arena. The complex impressed us greatly. It is world class,” said the British guest.

    Minsk and Nottingham are twin-cities. The twinning link between Nottingham and Minsk was established in 1966. Since then the two cities have been maintaining close relationship and implementing joint projects.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Belarus calls Russia's oil export duties illegal

    From: Reuters
    Minsk on Saturday accused Russia of acting illegally in applying full export fees to oil pumped to Belarus, in a sign that the dispute -- which some fear could disrupt supplies to Europe -- is far from resolved.

    "Russia has effectively come out of the agreement one-sidedly and is illegally applying full duties to Russian companies supplying oil to Belarus," Alexander Shpilevsky, the head of the Belarussian customs committee, told a news briefing.

    An unresolved dispute over Russia's oil exports to its neighbour has led to Moscow imposing full export duties from January 1 on most of its crude supplies to Belarus.

    Shpilevsky said that in his opinion, the agreement which expired at the end of 2009 implied that after its expiration oil exports to Belarus should not be subject to customs fees.

    Russia allowed Belarus to import oil in 2009 with only 35.6 percent of the current crude export tariff. This year, it has said that Belarus can buy 6 million tonnes of Russian oil for domestic needs only, duty-free, while the remaining 14.5 million tonnes a year -- that Belarus refines and re-exports to the West -- should not be exempted from duties.

    Russian oil flows to Belarussian refineries have continued, albeit at much lower levels than previously.

    Urals consumers along the Druzhba pipeline say they fear that any escalation of the dispute may affect transit supplies to Europe.

    Another round of Belarus-Russia talks to be held in Moscow

    From: Itar-Tass
    The leadership of Inter RAO UES and Belenergo will hold another round of talks on specification of the contracts on supply and transit of Russian electric power to the Kaliningrad Region, representatives of both countries told ITAR-TASS.

    Previous talks were held in Minsk on Friday and, according to the sides’ representatives, they “promoted considerable rapprochement of stands.” A Belarussian delegation headed by Belenergo general director Alexei Shirma is flying to Moscow to hold Saturday’s talks.

    Representatives of Inter RAO UES and Belenergo assured that they plan to sign the contract on upply and transit of Russian electric power soon, most likely at before the end of the next week. “At present, the sides have already begun coordinating fundamental provisions of additional agreements for 2010 within the framework of long-term mutually connected agreements on supply of electric power to Belarus and transit of electric power through the networks of the Unified Energy System of Belarus and the Kaliningrad Region to the Baltic countries,” a representative of the Russian company specified.

    Late in 2009 Minsk and Moscow failed to coordinate the terms of commercial supplies of Russian electric power to the Baltic countries via Belarus in 2010. Belarus maintains that as a result of the termination of work of the Ignalina nuclear power plant in Lithuania and the emergence of electric power shortages, Belarus’ expenditures connected with the growth of electric power supplies to Lithuania and the Kaliningrad Region will increase. It was reported that Belenergo offered to increase the transit rate by 2.5 times, while during the talks held in Minsk on January 12, the parties discussed the growth of the transit rate by 5.5 times.

    Russian Inter RAO UES reports, that it forwarded its proposals to Belarus late in December. The officials from the Russian company did not mention concrete figures, but said that the parameters proposed by Russia were mutually advantageous and that they took into consideration the growing expenditures, connected with the growing volume of electric power transit, as well as the tariff and balance resolutions of the Russian Federal Tariff Service for 2010.

    Russia's Gazprom, not Belarus co., to build Sochi biathlon facility

    From: RIA Novosti
    Russian energy giant Gazprom, not a Belarusian company, will build a biathlon facility in the southern Russian resort of Sochi, due to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, the government said on its website Saturday.

    Belarusian diversified consumer services group Triple backtracked last week on its plans to invest 257 million rubles (some $8.7 million) in a 20,000-capacity biathlon complex in the Russian Black Sea resort city.

    The Russian government said it had removed Triple's biathlon complex from the list of Olympic facilities to be built.

    Instead, Gazprom which was initially responsible for the construction of a cross-country skiing facility will now have to combine it with a biathlon complex.

    The government said in a resolution the integrated complex would be designed for an audience of 16,000.

    Relations between Moscow and Minsk have been soured by a series economic and political disputes, including Russian energy supplies, last year's milk export row and Belarus' reluctance to sign a deal to set up a post-Soviet rapid reaction force.

    Last March's commitment by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to build one of the Olympic sites in Sochi has been widely seen as a gesture by Minsk to heal growing rifts between the two ex-Soviet states as they seek to build a "union state."

    The Russian government announced last September that more than 1 trillion rubles ($34.1 billion) would be spent between 2009 and 2012 on preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

    Agri Market: Organizations of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of Belarus to increase production

    From: The FINANCIAL
    In 2010, organizations of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of Belarus will increase production volumes by 13-15% in comparable prices of January 2010, organizations of the Belarussian state concern of food industry (Belgospisjeprom) – 14.5-16.5%.

    The decree of the government of Belarus #1740 settled the corresponding tasks in main target values of the forecast of social and economic development of the country in 2010.

    "It is expected that in 2010, the level of profitability of sold commodities, products and services of organizations of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food will total 6%, Belgospisjeprom – 14%, the volume of investments to the basic capital should grew by 24-25% and 29-30% respectively," Agri Market reported.

    Enterprises of the Ministry will increase exports by 24-25% compared to 2009, the balance of foreign trade should total 1.08 bln USD. Belgospisjeprom will increase own exports by 29-30%, and form the positive balance of foreign trade at the level of 65 mln USD.

    According to the decree of the government, production volumes of grains and leguminous plants in all agricultural economies of Belarus will total 10 mln tonnes in clean weight.

  • From the Opposition...

    Hillary Clinton: State censorship in Internet inacceptable

    From: Charter '97
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Internet should be one and common for all users, and each user should have equal access to it
    The US Secretary of State delivered a speech I Washington supporting freedom of expression on the web.

    As said by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Internet should be one and common for all users, and each user should have equal access to it, “Radio Svaboda” reports.

    At the same time Hillary Clinton condemned cyberattacks in the internet ad called upon all the countries to cooperate in counteraction to these attacks.

    Countries or people that "engage in cyberattacks should face consequences and international condemnation," she said. In the interrelated world an attack against communicational networks of one state should be viewed as an attack against all, she stated.

    Hillary Clinton made the statement after Google company accused Chinese authorities of organizing a cyber attack against accounts of Chinese human rights activists at Gmail domain. MRs Clinton called upon China to make a thorough and transparent investigation of cyber attacks.

    In her speech Hillary Clinton also charged three countries, China, Tunisia and Uzbekistan, of state-sponsored censorship which is wider than in other countries.

    We remind that on December 14, 2009 Belarusian media received a draft decree “On measures for revising use of the national segment of the World Wide Web”. The decree makes authorities control over internet users significantly more strict, and imposes a number of new conditions of ByNet functioning.

    The scandalous document includes blocking of websites under a decision of state authorities, identification of internet users, responsibility for dissemination of information on the web, as well as state registration of online media.

    According to the initial version of the decree, hosting of Belarusian web resources should be transferred to Belarus compulsorily, and in order to browse the web even in dial-up mode, Belarusians would have to go to a provider with a passport.

    Teacher quits opposition party due to pressure by authorities

    From: Viasna
    Syarhei Klimyanok, a teacher from Vileika, took a decision to withdraw from the United Civil Party.

    As the website reminds, Taisia Danilevich, the head of the Education Department of the Minsk region executive committee, demanded the teacher to leave the party. In case UCP member Syarhei Klimyanok refuses to obey, the school staff will face problems. As a result, the oppositionist had to quit the party.

    “The decision has been made. It was a difficult decision. I didn’t take the responsibility for the staff. I weighed all pros and cons. I think I should be tactful, I shouldn’t look for trouble in a situation when the whole staff can suffer,” Syarhei Klimyanok said.

    According to the oppositionist, the school staff can suffer due to pressure by the authorities.

    “Different inspections will begin to visit the school. Our school is a good one, but they will try to finds faults,” Syarhei Klimyanok said. “They can limit the number of children for new a new academic year and our further existence will be doubted. The headmaster can suffer as well if he does not make a decision after the conversation with Danilevich. I do not want to let him down. Besides, I understand that Danilovich followed the orders by her chiefs. Withdrawal from the party is a serious step, it changes a lot, but it cannot change my mind. I will remain the same person.”

    Syarhei Klimyanok is sure his withdrawal from the UCP won’t put a period to the situation. He thinks he will face troubles, moreover, he is going to run for the local elections.

    We remind that on January 15, head of the education department of the Minsk region executive committee demanded the teachers to quit opposition parties or retire. Head of the education department of the Minsk region executive committee Taisia Danilevich threatened the teachers, members of the parties registered by the Ministry of Justice. According to the official, the teachers do not have the right to work in state-run schools.

    The official called Natallya Ilinich, a history teacher from Talka, member of the BPF party; Mikalai Lyashchun, a foreign language teacher from Lahoisk, BPF member; Ales Yazvinski, a sports teacher from Nyasvizh, member of the Conservative Christian Party BPF; Uladzimir Pareika, a geography teacher from the Nyasvizh district, member of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party; and members of the United Civil Party – Syarhei Klimyanok, a sports teacher from Vileika, and Nadzezhda Ahafonava, a speech therapist from Lyuban.

    Two teachers have filed complaints at unlawful actions of officials to a prosecutor’s office.

  • Russia...

    Yanukovych Consistently Russia-Leaning in Ukraine’s Presidential Election

    From: Geirgian Daily
    Russia’s authorities have adopted a position of studied equidistance between the two main candidates during Ukraine’s presidential election campaign.

    Moscow has interfered only to the extent of ostracizing President Viktor Yushchenko, whose re-election chances it knew to be nil. Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Party of Regions leader (formerly two-time prime minister) Viktor Yanukovych will face each other in the February 7 run-off. Moscow as well as Western governments have insisted throughout the campaign that they would work with either winner after the election, only stipulating that the process be free and fair.

    Formal equidistance seems to be the only possible option at this stage, in view of the volatile race with an unpredictable outcome. But this option also reflects the lessons of the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine, when the Kremlin’s Yanukovych project failed outright, and the opposite Yushchenko project unraveled soon afterward. His presidency already sinking in 2006, Yushchenko tried to keep afloat by bringing RosUkrEnergo into Ukraine (as Yanukovych had first decided to do in 2004 as prime minister) and bringing Yanukovych back as prime minister (2006-2007) on a fast track toward the presidency again.

    Yanukovych’s programmatic statements during this campaign differ starkly from Tymoshenko’s positions regarding Ukraine-Russia relations and Ukraine’s place in Europe. Theirs are two different foreign policies. Yanukovych’s stated positions are aligned with Russian policy objectives on some issues of central significance to Ukraine, his prescriptions opposite to those of Tymoshenko.

    On gas supplies and transit, Tymoshenko has signed agreements in 2009 with Russia on supplies and with the European Union on modernizing the transit system. The agreements envisage European-level prices for Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and E.U.-led technical and financial assistance to the transit system’s modernization, keeping Ukrainian ownership intact.

    Yanukovych, however, calls for sharing control of the Ukrainian system with Gazprom, in return for discounted prices on Russian gas supplies. Yanukovych has brought back the old idea of creating a Gazprom-led international consortium to implement that bargain. Apparently reflecting the Donetsk steel and chemical industries’ need for low-priced gas supplies, Yanukovych is turning this issue into a campaign promise of cheap gas for the people, vowing to renegotiate the agreements with Russia (Interfax-Ukraine, Inter TV, January 15, 19).

    Regarding the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Customs Union, Yanukovych considers the possibilities of Ukraine participating in it selectively, with regard to certain categories of goods and commodities (steel, chemicals, and agricultural products presumably topping the list of protectionist interests). Moscow is willing to negotiate the terms of such Ukrainian participation. This would, however, complicate and slow down the negotiations launched by the Tymoshenko government toward an association agreement with the E.U. and a trade agreement with it. Yanukovych claims that Ukraine could have it both ways, in an overarching framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, however, are not WTO members; and their chances have become more remote since Russia insists on their admission as a group, which is unacceptable to WTO countries, including those of the E.U. (Interfax, January 16, 20).

    Yanukovych supports a prolongation of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s stationing on Ukraine’s territory. In return for higher rent payments (currently a derisory $ 95 million per year), Yanukovych says that he would favor extending the Russian fleet’s presence beyond the 2017 deadline, and delaying official debate until the deadline draws closer (thus pre-determining the deadline’s breach). According to him, the Russian fleet enhances Ukraine’s and Russia’s common security; and extending the fleet’s presence would fit within Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s concept of a new European security architecture. Tymoshenko, however, is citing the Ukrainian constitution’s ban on the stationing of foreign forces on Ukraine’s territory beyond 2017 (Inter TV, January 15).

    Following Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, Yanukovych came out in favor of “recognition” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Elements in his Party of Regions submitted resolutions to that effect in the Verkhovna Rada and the Crimean regional legislature in 2009. Yanukovych did not seem to actively support that effort but he did not distance himself from it either.

    In line with Russia’s policy, Yanukovych supports conferring official status on the Russian language in Ukraine’s regions (not necessarily confined to the east and south). This would be impossible to legislate at the national level because it would necessitate a two-thirds majority in the Verkhovma Rada to amend the constitution. Yanukovych (as well as Moscow) call for adopting the European charter of minority and regional languages in Ukraine, so as to restore what in practice would be a privileged status for Russian at the level of Ukraine’s regions.

    The Party of Regions has a cooperation agreement operating with Russia’s party of power, United Russia. According to the Duma’s international affairs committee chairman, Konstantin Kosachev, the two parties’ relations have a “systemic character” (Interfax, January 17). Tymoshenko’s presidential candidacy, however, has been endorsed in emphatic terms by the European People’s Party, the umbrella organization of Europe’s Christian-Democrat parties.

    Russia to establish special economic zones in North Caucasus: Putin

    From: Xinua
    Russia would establish special economic zones in the North Caucasus as a top priority, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Saturday.

    There were five tasks that needed to be undertaken to boost the federal district's social and economic development, Putin told a conference in the regional capital of Pyatigorsk.

    The district should map out a comprehensive development strategy and every region in the district should make concrete plans in accordance with the strategy, he said.

    Every region should set up special economic zones and improve the environment for investment, he continued.

    Other tasks included the drafting of a special investment plan, the improvement of people's quality of life and the overhauling of government agencies, he added.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev decided on Tuesday to establish the eighth Federal District of Russia in North Caucasus, with Alexander Khloponin, former governor of the Krasnoyarsk region, appointed as deputy prime minister and his special envoy to the turbulent region.

    The North Caucasus Federal District includes Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkarian, Karachayevo-Cherkessian, North Ossetia-Alania, Chechnya, and the Stavropol region.

    The appointment of Khloponin reflected a shift in the Kremlin's tactics in tackling the economic backwardness, rampant militant violence and clan rivalry of the North Caucasus, which Medvedev regarded as vital security threats to Russia.

    In May 2000, the then-President Vladimir Putin ordered the formation of seven federal districts in an effort to consolidate national unification and presidential governance over regional administrations.

    Russia Ongoing With Talks With Hamas

    From: IMEMC
    Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov: talks with the Hamas movement are vital
    Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, stated that his country in ongoing with its talks with the Hamas movement and described the talks are vital.

    Lavrov added that Moscow would push for a Quartet meeting to be held as soon as possible in order to hold talks on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

    He stated that the Road Map peace plan is very essential and is considered the base of any future peace talks.

    His statements came during a press conference in Moscow as he was presenting the main political events of 2009, and to set the priorities of this year’s Russian foreign policy.

    It is worth mentioning that the Russia is a member of the Quartet Committee (Russia, The United States, The United Nations and the European Union).

    The Quartet refuses to hold talks with Hamas, labeled by the United States, Israel and their allies as a terrorist group.

    But several European officials repeatedly held talks with Hamas leaders in Palestine and in exile.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Shocking report on 'corrupt' Central Anti-Corruption Bureau

    From: WBJ
    The results of a recent audit of the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) were revealed by its new head, Pawel Wojtniuk. The report paints a grim picture of the agency.

    "There was corruption, favoritism, the use of public property for personal gain," said Civic Platform MP Konstanty Miodowicz, chairman of the Sejm's Special Services Committee, which heard the report.

    He was reluctant to say more, as the entire 198-page long audit is confidential.

    So what now?

    Allegedly Mr Wojtniuk has not yet offered a new outlook on how the agency should function. "He does not want to be a liquidator, he needs time. So far, the CBA has operated in violation of the rules on civil control over special services. It is also our fault, and we need to change that," commented Mr Miodowicz.

    The directors of the various CBA departments are due to present proposed changes on Friday.
  • Note: Why is this shocking?

    Polish activists detained in Belarus

    From: UPI
    Lukashenko: Let's be perfectly clear- If the UK doesn't want them, why the hell should we?
    The head of the Union of Poles in Belarus said as many as 50 members of the Polish minority in Belarus were detained Thursday by authorities.

    Union of Poles in Belarus leader Andzelika Borys told the Polish news agency PAP the minority members were detained as nearly 100 Polish activists were traveling to Ivyanets, Belarus, to meet with members of the Polish Union in Belarus.

    Borys said Belarus authorities stopped activists' vehicles and surveyed documents before detaining certain individuals.

    "People were stopped on various pretexts: their cars and documents were checked, some had breathalyzer tests, others were taken for medical examinations," she added.
  • Note: It's a good start, but we can do better...

    More bad news: Tougher economic times do not mean Polish workers are returning to their homeland

    From: Guardian
    Be careful: Sometimes they try to move to a third country
    Contrary to some suggestions, Poles are not escaping Britain – we are trying to survive here. Since 2004, more than 2 million Poles – mostly young – have gone abroad in search of work. They left mainly because of the following factors: demographic (the 1980 "baby boom" generation), economic (discrepancies in salaries in Poland) and political (the opportunity to work legally thanks to Poland's entry into the EU).

    It is very difficult to estimate how many of those two million migrated to Britain, and it is even harder to estimate the number who have returned. Different countries adopt different definitions of a "returning migrant". Sometimes people tell researchers they are thinking of returning, but in reality they try to postpone the final decision for as long as possible. Sometimes they return home and, after not being able to find a job, return to the country where they originally emigrated. Sometimes they try to move to a third country.

    The history of economic upheavals, such as the oil crisis in 1973, should teach us that recessions do influence the outflow of migrants (it becomes lower). However, they do not stimulate return migration. During recessions most local inhabitants are trying to survive and stop being so mobile (both professionally and within their own country). With jobs insecure or in short supply, it is a time "to wait and see".

    So it is important that journalists, experts and politicians on both sides share the data available. There is plenty of misleading information in this field which, in my opinion, is mainly harmful for Polish migrants. These are just people who migrated to find a better life abroad and decent working conditions. Most of them are trying to survive an economic crisis abroad, which is a very challenging task. So why do I think Poles are not going home in the numbers suggested by the British government?

    The most recent estimates by Poland's Central Statistical Office (CSO), based on census data, put the number of Poles who have migrated for work at 2.21 million in 2008, of whom 650,000 are in Britain. In 2007 the figures were 2.27 million and 690,000 respectively, and in 2006 1.95 million and 580,000.

    So according to our data there were never a million Poles in Britain – as sometimes reported – but nor did half of them come back home. The number of Poles in Britain dropped by only 40,000 in 2008. However, at the same time countries including Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark observed a small increase in the number of Poles. According to the same source, 70% of Poles stay abroad for at least one year.

    In order to know what really happened in 2009, we have to wait until July or August of this year, when all the data from various sources will be available to the Central Statistical Office). The observed drop in remittances (of around 20%, in comparison with the same periods during 2008) recorded by the Polish National Bank for the first three quarters of 2009 may suggest that the economic situation of Polish migrants in Britain deteriorated substantially.

    The history of migration also teaches us that after a period of time – usually five years – migrants' loyalties and ties change from their homeland to the receiving countries, and they therefore stop sending money home. Instead, they try to persuade family members to join them abroad. The small number of dependants of Polish migrants recorded by the Home Office appears to confirm this.
  • Note: These lies were written by somebody named Krystyna Iglicka

    Brain Damaged Pole gets paid

    From: The News
    With that kind of money, he can afford to crash a better class of car
    A 27-year-old Pole residing in Great Britain has received a record-breaking 9.6 million euro in compensation for injuries suffered in a car accident.

    In November 2005, Lukasz Borowski from the northern city of Szczecin was on his way to work in a factory in Cambridgeshire. He was given a lift by a colleague. Suddenly, the car skidded and fell down a ditch.

    As a result of the accident Pole’s spinal cord and spine were fractured and damaged vertebrae blocked the flow of oxygen to brain. Lukasz’s left cerebral hemisphere got damaged.

    The court in the UK has adjudged the Pole with the highest compensation in the history of the country, which amounts to 8.35 million pounds (9.6 million euro).

  • Sport...

    Azarenka is poised to meet her match: another low-profile European

    From: SMH
    FOR three rounds they have crept through the draw undetected, lost in a rush of other Eastern European winners at the Australian Open.

    Now they come face to face after seventh-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and ninth-seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva both strode into the fourth round.

    Azarenka has conceded just eight games in three matches, yesterday beating Italian Tathiana Garbin 6-0, 6-2, while Zvonareva chalked up her third consecutive straight-sets win with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Argentinian Gisela Dulko.

    Azarenka, who has been working to add variety to her game, said she was pleased to be able to execute her pre-match plan. ''It was a good game plan and I did it well,'' she said. ''I was going for my shots and playing comfortably and I was confident.

    ''I just have to now bring a little bit more toughness to my game.''

    Zvonareva is one of five Russians into the fourth round. The others are Dinara Safina (second seed), Svetlana Kuznetsova (third), Nadia Petrova (19th) and Maria Kirilenko (unseeded). Between them all they have lost two sets in the past week.

    Zvonareva is more surprised than content with her progress after returning from ankle surgery late last year only to be forced out of the Sydney International with the same complaint.

    ''I'm just enjoying my time out there - I didn't expect to be even playing the Australian Open,'' Zvonareva said. ''I had my ankle surgery in November and the whole of December I wasn't able to be on the court a lot.

    ''I'm not judging my form, just working hard and trying to improve little by little. My ankle is feeling much better.''

    Azarenka and Zvonareva have met four times in the past three years and the Russian has won each time in straight sets.

    ''I've never beaten her before so it's a good challenge for me,'' Azarenka said.

    ''I hope I turn around our record. I'm just going to try my best and we'll see how it goes.''

    Aerials: Lassila, Kushnir win Lake Placid World Cup

    In a In another story, Aerialists Lydia Lassila of Australia and Anton Kushnir of Belarus won their second World Cup events in as many competitions tonight under the lights at the Nature Valley Freestyle World Cup in Lake Placid, New York. Tonight’s competition was the penultimate World Cup event before the Vancouver Games, less than one month from now.

    World Cup leader Kushnir is red hot thus far this season. The 25-year-old Belarusian has won three World Cups and hasn’t missed a podium yet through five competitions. Kushnir’s middle of the pack winning score, held up as three Canadian jumpers packed the top four. Warren Shouldice finished second, Ryan Blais took third and Kyle Nissen landed fourth as all three claimed their season-high results.

    Men’s Results
    1 KUSHNIR Anton BLR 253.10
    2 SHOULDICE Warren CAN 251.55
    3 BLAIS Ryan CAN 250.80
    4 NISSEN Kyle CAN 249.59
    5 ULRICH Renato SUI 249.48
    6 ROCHON Olivier CAN 245.29
    7 GRISHIN Alexei BLR 238.32
    8 KRAVCHUK Stanislav UKR 236.21
    9 OMISCHL Steve CAN 233.01
    10 PETERSON Jeret USA 230.61
    11 SLIVETS Timofei BLR 225.89
    12 LIU Zhongqing CHN 205.73
    13 ISOZ Andreas SUI 113.28
    14 BELANGER Remi CAN 110.84
    15 SHAPKIN Yury RUS 109.55
    16 WU Chao 1987 CHN 109.27
    17 FERGUSON Dylan USA 107.30
    18 OSIPAU Denis BLR 105.41
    19 GUSTIK Maxim BLR 102.22
    20 DASHINSKI Dmitri BLR 99.78

  • Cultural Scene...

    Days of Belarusian Culture to be held in CIS and non-CIS states in 2010

    From: BelTA
    In 2010 Belarus will continue to introduce other countries to its national culture. The Days of Belarusian Culture are to be held in a number of CIS and non-CIS states, BelTA learnt from Head of the International Links Department of the Culture Ministry of Belarus Mikhail Kazhuro.

    The Year of Belarusian Culture in the Russian Federation will be the largest-scale event. It will be launched in March and conclude in November.

    Apart from that, Belarus intends to hold cultural events in Lithuania, Armenia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Hungary. Belarusian performers are to give concerts in Vietnam and China.

    The Days of Belarusian Culture abroad are the most representative form of international cooperation in this area. In 2009, apart from the cultural program, the Year of Belarus in Moscow featured the days of economy, education, mass media, the oblasts of Belarus and the city of Minsk.

    The events representing foreign cultures arouse a great interest in Belarusians. In the spring, Belarus will host the Days of the Syrian Culture. In 2009, Minsk hosted the Days of the Chinese Culture, the Days of Israeli Culture, the Days of Kazakh Culture and the Days of St. Petersburg Culture.

    The international cooperation is based on inter-agency agreements. The Culture Ministry of Belarus officially maintains contacts with over 30 countries worldwide.

    Vitebsk suburb to become open air theatre during Slavonic Bazaar

    A suburb of Vitebsk will turn into an open air theatre during the Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk festival, BelTA learnt from Culture Minister of Belarus Pavel Latushko.

    The preparations for the 19th Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk international art festival started on the last day of the 18th festival. It will again become one of the largest and most important events of the country’s cultural life, the minister is convinced. The festival enjoys a great attention: Belarus is the center of Slavonic cultures and unites them due to the Slavonic Bazaar.

    “The 19th festival will be a more festival-like event,” Pavel Latushko said. New projects related to the theatre and the national cuisine will be implemented. An open air theatre will be set up in a suburb of Vitebsk for the first time.

    “As for the concerts, it is too early to specify who will participate, but some European celebrities will definitely come,” the Culture Minister assured.

    Photo exhibition dedicated to Holocaust opens in Vitebsk

    A photo exhibition “Holocaust. A glance 65 years after” opened at Vitebsk Oblast Museum of Local Lore on 21 January, BelTA has learnt.

    The exposition features about 70 photos grouped into two parts. The first group of photos is represented by black and white photos made in Vitebsk in 1941-1944. Those are the photos of civilian victims, Jewish ghettos, mass executions of prisoners which German soldiers sent home as a proof of their military prowess. Today such photos are kept in museums, archives and private collections.

    The second group are the photos shot in the towns and villages of the Dvina region in 2007-2009. They feature monuments erected in the places of mass executions of the Holocaust victims, portraits of war veterans, children and grandchildren of people who fought against the fascism.

    The major goal of the exhibition is to put a question before the visitors whether they know their history, remember people who were killed by the Nazi invaders and who defeated fascism. The exhibition is dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the Great Victory. It is organized by the public association “Jewish Cultural Center Mishpoha” and Vitebsk Oblast Museum of Local Lore.

  • Endnote...

    Pyatkevich: “Barriers should be put in Internet”

    From: Charter '97
    Internet should be subject to regulatory activities, the first deputy head of Lukashenka’s presidential administration said.

    Such an opinion has been expressed by the deputy head of the presidential administration of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Natalya Pyatkevich on January 22 in Rechytsa, where she was taking part in the regional seminar of ideology workers of Homel region.

    As said by Natalya Pyatkevich, today all those who are interested in the problems of authors’ rights are interested in control over the internet. Firstly, these are representatives of the creative community. And If the society agrees that author’s rights should be defended, it means the Internet is to be subject to regulatory activities as all other source of information.

    The first deputy head of Lukashenka’s administration stated: “Parents, the church, the entire society says it is necessary to defend morality. It means that we should put barriers in the internet, for our children not to look at the things we can ban in other sources of information,” she noted.

    Such barriers are needed to secure human rights defence, rights of a performer, rights of the person disseminating information. “Such a practice exists worldwide, and our country is not an exception,” Natalya Pyatkevich underlined.

    We remind that on December 14, 2009 Belarusian media received a draft decree “On measures for revising use of the national segment of the World Wide Web”. The decree makes authorities control over internet users significantly more strict, and imposes a number of new conditions of ByNet functioning.

    The scandalous document includes blocking of websites under a decision of state authorities, identification of internet users, responsibility for dissemination of information on the web, as well as state registration of online media.

    According to the initial version of the decree, hosting of Belarusian web resources should be transferred to Belarus compulsorily, and in order to browse the web even in dial-up mode, Belarusians would have to go to a provider with a passport.

    It has been also informed that this decree is under consideration of Lukashenka’s administration at the moment.