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Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, February 14, 2010

Belarusian-Russian oil supplies, Eastern Partnership, Human lactoferrin, EIA of NPP, Banking; New, Sport, Culture and Polish scandal...

  • From the Top...
  • #487

    Belarusian-Russian oil supplies protocol ratified

    From: BelTA
    On 12 February President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree to approve a protocol on amendments to the Belarusian-Russian intergovernmental agreement on measures meant to regulate trade and economic cooperation in the export of oil and oil products of 12 January 2007, the press service of the Belarusian head of state told BelTA.

    According to the decree, Belarus accepts the protocol’s binding power. Thus, Belarus and Russia have timely completed the intrastate procedures required for the document to come into force.

    The decree tasked the Council of Ministers of Belarus with taking measures required for executing the protocol.

    The decree comes into force on the publication date.

    The protocol designed to introduce amendments to the Belarusian-Russian intergovernmental agreement on measures meant to regulate trade and economic cooperation in the export of oil and oil products of 12 January 2007 was signed in Moscow on 27 January 2010. In line with the document Belarus can import zero-duty Russian oil in the amount sufficient for domestic consumption. The figure has been set at 6.3 million tonnes for 2010. The customs duty on exported oil on top of the figure is set taking into account the effective rates which are regulated by the Russian legislation.

    The Russian parliament completed ratifying the protocol on oil supplies to Belarus on 12 February. The Council of the Federation approved it at an extraordinary session. The State Duma had okayed the document a little earlier.

    Alexander Lukashenko: world community learned nothing from Afghan war

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has sent an address to Afghanistan war veterans and internationalist warriors on the eve of the Memory Day, the press service of the head of state told BelTA.

    “The Afghan war was the last war of the Soviet Union but not the last war on earth. Unfortunately, the world community has learned nothing from it. The internationalist warriors were the first ones to challenge international terrorism and have always remained true to the military oath and brothers in arms,” reads the address.

    “Today we honor the memory of those who died in this war. We share the pain of loss with everyone who has lost their loved ones in Afghanistan. We are grateful to the warriors, who support peace and accord after coming back home, who work on patriotic upbringing of younger Belarusians,” remarked the President.

    Alexander Lukashenko wished health, happiness, wellbeing and success to internationalist warriors and their families.

    Lukashenko congratulates Yanukovich on winning Ukraine presidential elections

    In a phone talk on 12 February President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko congratulated Viktor Yanukovich on winning the presidential elections in Ukraine, the press service of the Belarusian head of state told BelTA.

    Alexander Lukashenko and Viktor Yanukovich talked over topical matters of the Belarusian-Ukrainian cooperation, prospects of developing the trade and economic relations between the two countries.

    Belarus President may visit Iran in 2010

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko may visit Iran this year. The statement was made by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Iran to Belarus Abdollah Hosseini at a press conference held on 11 February. The press conference was dedicated to the Islamic Revolution Day, BelTA has learned.

    The presidents of Belarus and Iran are expected to inaugurate the start of the joint commercial oil production at the oil field Jofeyr.

    The Ambassador remarked that many problems that had emerged in the implementation of the project have been resolved and there are several organizational issues left which are being addressed. Within the next five months commercial oil production will start. According to provisional estimates it may happen in summer or even earlier, said the Ambassador. It is up to Belarusian and Iranian oil workers now.

    The Belarusian-Iranian project provides for extracting 5,000 barrels a day initially and 30,000 barrels a day at the end of the project. “The oil will be sold via our state-run oil companies,” added Abdollah Hosseini.

    In his words, Belarus and Iran are also considering other joint oil industry projects.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Sergei Martynov to attend joint Visegrad Group and Eastern Partnership session

    From: BelTA
    Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov is set to take part in a joint session of the foreign ministers of the Visegrad Group (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia) and Eastern Partnership(Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine) member states in Budapest on 1-3 March, Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Valery Voronetsky told reporters following the meeting with State Secretary of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry Jeno Faller.

    Taking part in the Budapest meeting will be foreign ministers of the EU presiding trio – Spain, Great Britain, and Hungary.

    Sergei Martynov’s visit is envisaged by the plan of action for the development of the Belarus-Hungary cooperation for 2010. The plan was signed by Valery Voronetsky and Jeno Faller on 11 February. The document also supposes a session of the bilateral commission for trade and economic cooperation, Days of Belarusian culture in Hungary, and the development of legal framework of Belarusian-Hungarian relations, including an agreement on mutual protection of investments.

    Jeno Faller, in turn, said: “We can see that the Eastern European initiative is implemented rather slowly. But it is easy to explain: Firstly, the EP is a new initiative and it is just being explored. Secondly, some EU members are more interested in interaction with their eastern neighbors than the others. Hungary is confident that it is a good thing to help Belarus in its rapprochement with EU.” That is why Hungary has initiated the forthcoming meeting in Budapest, Jeno Faller said.

    Hungary will hold the EU presidency after 1 January 2011.

    A delegation of Hungary’s Foreign Ministry is in Minsk on a visit on 11-12 February. The delegation is set to take part in a regular round of ministerial consultations. Jeno Faller is scheduled to meet with the administration of the Economy Ministry of Belarus.

    Belarusian, Russian scientists produce gengineered human lactoferrin

    From: BelTA
    Belarusian and Russian scientists have produced human lactoferrin out of g engineered goat milk, BelTA learned from Alexander Budevich, Candidate of Agricultural Science, supervisor of the Belarusian part of the program BelRosTransgen 2, head of the Livestock Breeding and Genetic Engineering Lab of the Animal Breeding Research Center of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.

    Three goats have born young ones and are now lactogenic. A Moscow lab has confirmed that their milk contains lactoferrin, a protein possessing unique anticancer, antimicrobial, and antiallergic qualities. Thus, yet another stage of the Belarusian-Russian program BelRosTransgen 2 has been completed after seven years of research.

    According to Alexander Budevich, it will allow creating technologies to separate lactoferrin in order to manufacture lactoferrin-containing medications and food additives. The milk will be thoroughly studied.

    One liter of the gengineered goat milk contains a little shy of six grams of lactoferrin, the highest figure achieved by the mankind. At present the NASB Animal Breeding Research Center expects another nine gengineered goats to give birth, with the total number of goats as large as 200.

    Alexander Budevich believes it is necessary to build a new facility with a special farm for 250 gengineered goats and a biological lab to make lactoferrin-containing products. Experiments with implanting human genes into goat DNA will continue, a cryobank of gengineered goat sperm will be created.

    The program BelRosTransgen 2 is supposed to run till 2013 to create a pilot production of foods and medications with human lactoferrin. The funding stands at RUB500 million, nearly ten times as much as the funding of the previous program in order to cover higher expenses. The latter include building farms for gengineered herds, breeding the gengineered animals, developing technologies to separate human lactoferrin out of goat milk and technologies to manufacture lactoferrin-containing medications and foods on a small scale. The Russian side allocated RUB325 million for the project, the Belarusian side – RUB175 million.

    EIA of Belarus’ NPP to include foreign recommendations

    From: BelTA
    The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the would-be Belarusian nuclear power plant will be completed by March, the proposals of the neighbor states taken into account, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Vitaly Kulik told reporters on 12 February.

    He said that Belarus has submitted the preliminary EIA data to the neighboring states for any proposals and recommendations on the project. “We are holding talks with the neighboring countries. For instance, we have recently negotiated this problem with Ukraine. Our Ukrainian colleagues are set to put forward their proposals and remarks in the near future. We are looking forward to getting the same information from Lithuania and other states,” Vitaly Kulik said

    The EIA of the Belarusian NPP should be completed by the end of Q1 2010. “I think that we will not drag out this process and complete it by March,” said Vitaly Kulik.

    The final version of the EIA should take into account the public opinion in Belarus and the proposals and recommendations of the countries concerned. Only after that the EIA will be sent for state ecological examination.

    An EIA report contains the environmental, social and economic description of a nuclear power plant site, a report on its compliance with natural and ecological criteria, the characteristics of the nuclear power plant, preliminary analysis of its impact on the environment and other data. The assessment has been performed in accordance with the legislation of Belarus including with the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context and also in line with the IAEA recommendations.

    The EIA report is based on the results of the research into the state of the environment conducted in 2009, design and survey works which were done as the site was selected. The assessment describes the aggregate impact of the NPP facilities on the environment, on the social and economic conditions and health of people.

    Belarus has plans to construct a nuclear power plant of the 2,400MW capacity in the Grodno oblast (Ostrovetskaya site). The first power unit will be put into operation in 2016, the second one – in 2018. The plant will be built under the project of Saint Petersburg Atomenergoprojekt Institute. General contractor will be Atomstroyexport, a state-owned engineering company regulated by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom). Atomstroyexport constructs about 20% of the world’s nuclear plants.

    Belarusian member of IL-76 aircraft crew leaves Thailand

    From: BelTA
    Kazakh Alexandr Zrydnev, who was arrested Dec. 12, 2009, leaves Immigration Bureau for deportation in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Feb. 12, 2010. Thai authorities dropped charges Thursday against a foreign plane crew, including Zrydnev, accused of smuggling arms from North Korea, easing a diplomatic jam but leaving open the vexing question of where the multimillion dollar illicit arms shipment was headed. Thai authorities, acting on a tip from the United States, found 35 tons of weapons on board - a violation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea
    According to the information the Belarusian Foreign Ministry has received, the release of the Belarusian crew member of the IL-76 cargo plane that was arrested in Thailand in December 2009 has been completed, spokesperson of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry Andrei Popov told media on 12 February.

    The Belarusian citizen has left Thailand, said the press secretary.

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was satisfied by the decision of the Thailand authorities to release the IL-76 aircraft crew, including the Belarusian citizen, said Andrei Popov. The Foreign Ministry had repeatedly appealed to the Thailand authorities. The diplomat reminded that for the last several years Belarus’ consul in Vietnam stayed in Bangkok to provide the necessary consultations and legal aid to the Belarusian citizen.

    According to the source, the decision of the Thailand authorities is a just and humane one from the point of view of international legal documents and common human logic.

  • Economics...

    Belarusian banking steady in January

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko heard out a report from Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich on 12 February, the press service of the Belarus President told BelTA.

    The head of state was informed about the fulfillment of the Major Monetary Management Guidelines in January 2010, last year’s performance of the agricultural companies the NBRB is assigned to run.

    According to the NBRB head, in January the Belarusian banking system operated steadily and much better than in January 2009. The exchange rate of the national currency to the basket of foreign currencies edged up by 0.17% in January. While the exchange rate stood at Br1,036 on 1 January 2010, it made up Br1,034 on 1 February. The trend has continued into February.

    The price situation kept steady, too. Last month inflation amounted to 0.8%, the best January figure registered over the last five years. In January 2006 inflation stood at 1.3%, in January 2009 – 4.1%.

    The NBRB and commercial banks bought $92 million more foreign currency than they sold on the home market. Last year the foreign currency market had a deficit of almost $600 million.

    In January 2010 individuals deposits gained over Br500 billion keeping in line with the annual forecasts. Bank resources swelled by 0.5% in January. The targeted annual increase in resources will be secured.

    The President demanded that targets of the Major Monetary Management Guidelines should be hit in Q1 2010 and the banking system should work steadily through the year. He stressed that it is necessary to pay close attention to increasing the lending to real economy and securing the targeted reduction of interest rates in line with the Major Monetary Management Guidelines.

    In complicated conditions of 2009 the agricultural companies run by the National Bank performed well. Their annual earnings from sales increased by 39%, profits – 20%, labor productivity – 21%, profitability - over 17%.

    The President demanded that the National Bank should continue minding the smooth operation of these agricultural companies.

    A program meant to guide the development of these companies should be completed within the next two years. After that the NBRB will be able to start selling the agricultural companies to domestic or foreign investors.

    Inflation in Belarus at 0.8% in January 2010

    In January 2010 inflation in Belarus was running at 0.8%, BelTA learnt from the National Statistics Committee.

    In January 2009 inflation was at 4.1%.

    A reminder, inflation is projected within 8-10% in 2010.

    According to the Ministry of Architecture and Construction, in January 2010 prices for construction works were up by 1.8% from December 2009, prices for industrial products of industrial and technical application edged up by 0.7%.

    Capital investment in Belarus down 10.4% in January

    In January 2009 capital investments and investments in construction in Belarus totaled Br1.993 trillion, down 10.4% from January 2009 in comparable prices, BelTA learnt from the National Statistics Committee.

    Last month building and assembly jobs reached Br990.7 billion, down 5.6% from January 2009. Meanwhile, 295,000 square meters of new homes was built, up 0.1% from January 2009. In rural areas and small urban communities 143,000 square meters was built (18.2% down).

    Belarus’ foreign trade 29.9% down in 2009

    Belarus’ foreign trade in commodities and services amounted to 70.1% as against 2008, the National Statistics Committee told BelTA.

    The foreign trade was expected to go up by 16.2-17.7%.

    In 2009 Belarus’ export plunged to 67% as against 2008 while the annual growth target was set at 17-18.5%. Belarus’ import shrank to 72.9% (15.5-17%).

    Belarus’ foreign trade deficit amounted to $5,550.5 million while the forecast expected it to be as low as $1.47-1.5 billion.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Belarusian Foreign Minister in Warsaw

    From: The News
    Belarusian Foreign Affairs Minister Siarhiej Martynau is on a visit in Poland to respond to the Polish government’s having called its ambassador to Warsaw for consultations.

    Martynau was invited by Polish FM Radoslaw Sikorski to directly discuss the problem of persecution of the Polish minority by Belarusian authorities.

    Repression against the Union of Poles in Belarus has intensified significantly over the past days. On Monday, the police entered the Polish House in Iwieniec, home of the organization run by Angelica Borys, and seized the property. Several days earlier, a court imposed a high fine on Angelica Borys’ company.

    Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he hoped Sikorski would seriously tackle the issue of persecutions with the Belarusian Foreign Minister.

    “This should be the first and major subject of their meeting. If any other topics are to be discussed too, they should come only after the most important issues are cleared up,” said Pawel Wypych of the presidential chancellery.

    Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Piotr Paszkowski assures that the question of persecutions of the Polish minority by Belarusian authorities will be strongly emphasized in the meeting of Polish and Belarusian Foreign Ministers. “Our relations with Belarus depend of course on how fundamental rules in treating Polish minority in Belarus are observed,” he said.

    Yesterday, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that the Belarussian Foreign Minister won't hear anything pleasant from the Polish FM.

    “On one hand, it is in the interest of Poland and of Poles living in Belarus, to involve Belarus in the European game. That's why we are trying to convince Belarus to behave typically for the European political culture, but at the same time we have to be able to react, sometimes very decidedly, when things go wrong. Unfortunately, now is also the time for harsh words,” said PM Tusk. He added that on this issue the presidential and premier's chancelleries speak with one voice.

    Minsk authorities project to draw $1 billion in direct foreign investment this year

    From: Navany
    The Minsk City Executive Committee projects to draw $1 billion in direct foreign investment and spend $760 million of it this year, deputy head Alyaksandr Barysenka said at a news conference on Wednesday.

    Mr. Barysenka said that he personally held negotiations with around 40 delegations representing potential foreign investors in the last three months, which he noted yielded 10 protocols of intent and other accords.

    A total of 10,000 billion rubels ($3.46 billion) in investment is projected to be drawn into "the city's economy" in 2010. Companies under the control of the city executive committee are to account for 4,900 billion rubels, an increase of 25 percent compared with 2009.

    Of the projected investment, 1,200 billion rubels will go toward modernization projects at enterprises and 6,000 billion rubels toward construction work, with 45 to 46 percent of it to be spent on housing construction.

    Mr. Barysenka said that modernization projects would be carried out at the Belkamunmash company that makes streetcars and trackless trolleys, the Minskrybpram fish company, the Minsk Vegetable Plant and state dairy companies.

    He said that the city authorities also plan to use Chinese credit lines to fund projects envisaging the construction of road interchanges, a waste recycling plant and a house-building integrated plant. The city executive committee prepared a total of 27 draft projects that could be financed by China, the official said, noting that Chinese loans, expected to be granted for a period of 10 to 15 years at an annual interest rate of three percent, are very lucrative.

    Trade between Iran and Belarus may soon increase to $1 billion, ambassador says

    From: Navany
    Annual trade between Iran and Belarus may soon increase to $1 billion, Seyyed Abdollah Hosseini, told reporters in Minsk on February 11.

    The two countries have signed investment agreements worth more than $3 billion, while the contracts that are being implemented are estimated at more than $1 billion, Mr. Hosseini said. The joint development of Iran’s Jufeyr (Jofeireh) oilfield is the only project in which Belarus is involved as an investor, he noted.

    Meat and dairy products account for a large share of the Belarusian goods that are imported by Iran, Mr. Hosseini said. Iran is ready to buy more meat than Belarus produces, he said.

    The two countries have agreed to give each other priority while deciding between exporters who offer products of comparable quality and at similar prices, Mr. Hosseini said.

    According to official statisticians, Belarusian-Iranian trade in the first 11 months of 2009 totaled $65.2 million, with Belarusian exports dominated by potash, trucks, tractors, metal products and synthetic fibers.

    Belarus` talks with EU on readmission, visa facilitation may take few years, rights activist says

    From: Navany
    Volha Stuzhynskaya
    Belarus` talks with the European Union on readmission and visa facilitation are to take two or three years, Volha Stuzhynskaya, director of the Brussels-based Office for a Democratic Belarus, said at an international conference that wrapped up in Minsk on Wednesday.

    She said that the European Commission`s experts stayed in Belarus on January 27 and 28 to hold negotiations about the possibility of signing the agreements, noting that the experts would prepare a report on their conclusions.

    Ms. Stuzhynskaya expressed the opinion that the EU`s Eastern Partnership program could become a tool for Belarus` "reintegration into Europe." But she noted that the program`s mechanisms had "defects."

    A Russian political expert said at the conference, titled "Belarus` Path in Europe" that Russia "doubts" that the Eastern Partnership will be a success.

    A readmission agreement between Belarus and the European Union would set out obligations and procedures for the authorities of the country and the EU member states as to when and how to transfer back people who are illegally residing in their territories.

    The conclusion of the agreement is the necessary condition for facilitating visa formalities for Belarusian visitors to the EU.

  • From the Opposition...

    Belarusian authorities recognized Abkhazia de facto

    From: Charter '97
    Sergei Bagapsh, president of the unrecognized republic of Abkhazia and Alexander Lukashenko
    Belarus’s Ambassador to Russia is to take part in inauguration of Sergei Bagapsh, the president of the unrecognized republic.

    Besides heads of the Russia regions, the ceremony will be attended by ambassadors of Nicaragua and Venezuela, the countries that recognized independence of Georgia’s breakaway regions.

    According to ITAR TASS, the inauguration of Sergei Bagapsh takes place in the building Abkhazian State Philharmonic Hall on February 12. Before the ceremony, the head of Abkhazia and head of the Federation Council speaker Sergei Mironov will lay flowers to the Glory Memorial in the center of Sukhumi.

    According to Christian Bzhania, the official spokesman for unrecognized Abkhazia, 14 Russian regional governors, president of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity, leader of Dniester region Igor Smirnov, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov are to attend the ceremony.

    The fact that Vasily Dauhalou takes part in the ceremony looks at least odd, as Belarus hasn’t recognized Abkhazia yet.

    Abkhazia and South Ossetia addressed the Belarusian “parliament” a year ago asking to recognize their independence. At the moment, South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been recognized only by Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and ministate Nauru. Other countries consider Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be parts of Georgia.

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka declared in September last year that Belarus would recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Most independent experts regarded this statement as flirting with the European Union to get loans.

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in March 2009 at a meeting with Sergei Bagapsh:

    “The Russian President and I have already discussed economic issues that have relation to this region and to Belarus. There are many matters to discuss, first of all those economic ones. After all, there appears much work to do after gaining independence. We would be happy if Belarus’ involvement could help solve more issues in this region.”

    In August 2009, Lukashenka met with the leaders of the unrecognized Caucasian republics during his trip to Sochi. By order of Lukashenka, members of the “house of representatives” paid a visit to Abkhazia and South Ossetia in November.

    De jure, a question of recognizance of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will be considered by the Belarusian “parliament” at best in April, but de facto, the republics seem to have been recognized.

    Homel: member of constituency commission complains to Chairperson of Central Election Commission about non-democratic election of the commission administration

    From: Viasna
    Leanid Sudalenka, member of the Uladzimirskaya constituency election commission #11 on elections to the Homel oblast Soviet of Deputies, addressed Lidziya Yarmoshyna, Chairperson of the Central Election Commission, concerning the non-democratic election of Chariperson, Deputy Chairperson and Secretary of his commission.

    In his address Mr. Sudalenka expressed disagreement with the order of summoning the first organizational sitting of the commission and its decision concerning the election of Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and Secretary, and explained that according to Article 11, part 3 of the Election Code, commissions aren’t bound with decisions of political parties and civil associations and are independent from the state authorities during preparation to and holding of elections. Article 34, part 4 provides that state officials cannot constitute more than 1/3rd of an election commission.

    According to Sudalenka’s information, the first sitting of his commission was summoned on 9 February by the Savetski district executive committee, whereas it was to have been summoned by the organs that had established the commission, the Homel oblast executive committee and the Presidium of the Homel oblast Soviet of Deputies. Passing this function to the Savetski district executive committee contradicts to provisions of Article 37, part 1 of the Election Code.

    This violation entangled other violations. In particular, having summoned the sitting, Mikalai Maly, the first Deputy Chairperson of the Savetski DEC, proposed the candidacy of another state official for the position of the commission Chairperson, which violates the principle of independence of election commissions from state organs.

    To prevent the law violation, Mr. Sudalenka proposed himself to the position of the commission Chairperson. Later he also proposed his candidacy to the positions of Deputy Chairperson and Secretary. However, he wasn’t elected to any of these positions. He thinks that the real reason for it is that all members of the commission have some kind of professional dependence on the Deputy Chairman of the Savetski DEC and therefore couldn’t oppose the candidacy that was proposed by him.

    Sudalenka proves that the elected Chairperson is also a state official. All members of the commission but Sudalenka voted for the candidacies of the state officials to the positions of Deputy Chairperson and Secretary, proposed by Chairperson.

    As far as the places of work of the commission haven’t been announced, the question about the number of state officials in the commissions remains unanswered.

    Taking into account the aforementioned facts, Leanid Sudalenka asked the CEC Chairperson to abolish the decision of the Uladzimirskaya constituency election commission #11 concerning the election of Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and Secretary and oblige the state organs that established the commission, to summon a new sitting for electing Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and Secretary in line with the legal requirements.

  • Russia...

    EU recognises Yanukovich as winner in Ukraine elections

    From: Earth Times
    Viktor Yanukovich
    European Union representatives congratulated Viktor Yanukovich as the winner of the Ukrainian presidential elections on Friday, quashing loser Yulia Tymoshenko' hopes that her requests for a recount might receive international support. "I would like to offer warmest congratulations on your election as the new President of Ukraine," European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso wrote in a publicly disclosed letter to Yanukovich.

    He assured him the EU remained "fully committed to deepening the process of political association and economic integration between the European Union and Ukraine by completing our negotiations on an EU-Ukraine Association Agreement as soon as possible."

    Barroso's spokeswoman, Pia Ahrenkilde-Hansen, added that the commission president called Ukraine's president-elect to invite him "to visit Brussels at his earliest convenience."

    In a separate message, the head of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek told Yanukovich the assembly "looks forward to working together with you in strengthening the EU-Ukraine relations and in advancing the Eastern Partnership policy."

    Buzek referred to a political and economic cooperation initiative launched by the EU in 2009 with Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, Moldova,
    Armenia and Azerbaijan.

    The parliament president urged the new leader of Ukraine "to build confidence and increase cooperation among all political forces", pursue reforms and push forward the country's European agenda.

    French warship deal opens wound in EU and Nato

    From: EU Observer
    Russian seamen: the country is updating its Cold War-era military capability
    Lithuania and Latvia have said that France's handling of an arms deal with Russia has breached good faith with its EU and Nato allies and may be in violation of an EU weapons code.

    "We learned [about the deal] from media," Lithuanian defence minister Rasa Jukneviciene told EUobserver in an interview on Thursday (11 February). "If our partners would have consulted about the intended sale of the Mistral within EU or Nato this would have certainly enhanced the spirit of solidarity within both organisations."

    Maris Riekstins, the foreign minister of Latvia, said: "We would love to have seen a different sequence of events. We would be in a much better position if we had been consulted beforehand and then there had been a public announcement."

    France on Monday revealed that it is in advanced talks with Russia to sell a Mistral class warship.

    The vessel can deploy 900 marines, 40 assault vehicles and 16 helicopters, as well as acting as a floating command centre for 150 military staff. If the deal goes ahead, it would be the first major arms sale by a Nato country to Russia since World War II.

    The French announcement comes after Russia last September held large scale war games in Kaliningrad and Belarus, described by one Estonian defence analyst as a simulated invasion of Poland and Lithuania.

    Russian admiral Vladimir Vysotsky at the time said that if Russia had had a Mistral ship during the Georgia war in 2008 it could have won the conflict in 40 minutes.

    Lithuania's Ms Jukneviciene plans to raise the Mistral sale at a meeting of EU defence ministers in Mallorca later this month. Latvia's Mr Riekstins denied that Riga is lobbying Nato to block the deal. But he also called for wider debate before it goes through.

    "We haven't given any particular instructions to our diplomats in Nato to enter into a specific campaign. But an exchange of views in the EU and Nato families, a clarification of the issues on the table, is what should be done," he said.

    There is no EU law governing arms sales by member states. But in 2008 the bloc adopted a political commitment not to sell weapons or components to countries which violate human rights, pose a risk to regional stability or hurt the security interests of EU allies.

    The code was signed into life by the French EU presidency four months after the Georgia war.

    "Every EU country is bound by rules regarding the control of exports of arms and dual use technology," Mr Riekstins said.

    "Our lawyers consider that such a sale would allow ambiguous interpretations in regard of compliance with several important criteria of this code," Ms Jukneviciene said. "Having in mind the unpredictability of Russian politics, we cannot exclude that this military equipment may be used for illegitimate purposes inconsistent with our values and principles."

    Kaarel Kaas, an analyst at the International Centre for Defence Studies in Tallinn, noted that Austrian and Finnish-made sniper rifles have in recent years been used by Russian special forces in Chechnya and Georgia's rebel region of South Ossetia.

    Otfried Nassauer from the arms control NGO, the Berlin Information-center for Transatlantic Security, said: "Surely you could make such an argument [that the Mistral sale would violate the code]. But you would run into the problem of double standards. Germany has sold submarines to Pakistan which could theoretically be used to launch nuclear-armed cruise missiles."

    French diplomats and EU officials declined to speak on the record. But one French contact said that Russia "is not the kind of country which is the target of the code," mentioning North Korea instead.

    Meanwhile, Estonia, another small post-Soviet republic, which arguably has the worst relations with Russia of any EU state, has opted to stay out of the dispute for now.

    "Technically speaking Russia is qualified as a partner for both Nato and the EU and there are no restrictions in force against arms sales to this country. Thus it could become only a moral or political issue," Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet told this website.

    "We are not excluding anything but this issue should not become a divisive factor for Nato and the EU."

    Yanukovych May Allow Extension Of Russian Fleet In Ukrainian Port

    From: RTT
    Ukraine's president-elect Viktor Yanukovich has said he may allow Russia to continue its Black Sea Fleet deployed in the port of Sevastopol even after 2017, when it is supposed to withdraw.

    This is in contrast to the pro-Western stance of current President Viktor Yushchenko, who vowed that Russia would have to find other alternatives for its Black Sea Fleet once the current agreement expires.

    A decision on this issue will be taken "in the near future" through discussions without affecting the national interests of Ukraine and Russia, Yanukovych told Russia's state-run 24 TV news channel in an interview Saturday.

    Yanukovych won Ukraine's presidential runoff last Sunday by a narrow margin against his rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

    But Tymoshenko has not accepted the outcome, and has vowed to challenge it in court.

    Tymoshenko held a cabinet meeting Thursday, defying a call to abandon her protests and step down to avert a political crisis.

    The 49-year-old blonde is under pressure to accept the result, which was described by international monitors as free and fair, and endorsed by the EU, US, and Russia.

    Yanukovich's Party of the Regions is allied to the Kremlin's United Russia party, and the 59-year-old former mechanic has pledged to seek better relations with Moscow, as Ukraine transits Russian natural gas to other parts of Europe.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Polish police recover stolen US blood plasma

    From: AP
    The straw-colored fluid in which blood cells are suspended. It makes up about 55% of blood by volume and is composed of approximately 92% water, 6–8% serum proteins, 0.8% salts, 0.6% lipids, and 0.1% glucose (blood sugar). Plasma transports materials needed by cells and materials that must be removed from cells, including various ions (Na+, Ca2+, HCO3-, etc), glucose and traces of other sugars, amino acids, other organic acids, cholesterol and other lipids, hormones, and urea and other wastes.
    Polish police recovered 11 tons of human blood plasma that had been stolen from a U.S. company and was on its way to Austria, officials said Thursday.

    The truck with a freezer unit carrying the plasma, worth more than euro1 million ($1.4 million), was stolen while the driver made a rest stop in Germany, Polish police spokesman Artur Chorazy said. It was taken across the border into Poland, where it was seized on Wednesday.

    Police footage showed frozen salmon-colored plasma packed in boxes originating from Harrisonburg, Virginia, where BioLife Plasma Services, a collection facility owned by Baxter International Inc., has operations.

    BioLife spokeswoman Laura Jacobs said the plasma had come from other facilities as well, but did not elaborate.

    Jacobs said the company was working with local authorities to determine how the theft occurred. "Importantly, the plasma has been recovered and is currently in Baxter's Vienna facility," she said.

    Polish police have made no arrests so far, and believe thieves stole it in hopes of selling it elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Chorazy said.

    Plasma is used to treat a wide variety of medical disorders

    Explosion Levels a House in Poland

    From: WYTV
    There is nothing left of the home which used to sit at 2816 Center Road, after a suspected gas leak caused the house to explode Saturday morning.

    "It was very loud, it was a loud bang, it was very fast.", says Cheryl Solic, who witnessed the explosion from her home next-door.

    "We immediately had fire throughout the house, and within a very short period of time, the entire front of the house collapsed.", says Fire Chief David Comstock, Jr., Western Reserve Joint Fire District.

    When the first crews got on scene they opened the front door to the home and immediately smelled gas. That's when they shut the door and say the home exploded, literally blowing firefighters away from the house and into the snow bank, trapping a few of them underneath the porch, which collapsed.

    A handful of firefighters were taken to the hospital with minor injuries from battling the blaze, and being trapped under the debris. Chief Comstock says,

    "Three were released, two are still being evaluated but they were very fortunate, I have to say the Lord was looking down on them, because it could have been very serious."

    Luckily, no one was inside the home when it blew up. Neighbors say the family who lived there had trouble with their furnace earlier in the week, and reported a possible gas leak to Dominion East Ohio. Apparently they had come back to check on their home right before it exploded.

    "The mother and daughter of the home were very distraught, they were in a car over here, and of course they were very upset, crying and watching their whole house, and their whole life go up in flames.", says Solic.

    We're told the family is staying with relatives. Neighbors say someone from the city or county called to let them know about the leak, and told them to get away from the house minutes before the explosion.

    Solic says the situation wasn't handled well-- especially since Dominion knew there was a gas leak in the home days ago.

    "Somebody dropped the ball somewhere with notifying other neighbors that there was a gas problem over here.", says Solic.

    Fire crews spent the rest of the morning dousing flames and smoke. The Chief says gas is the primary suspect, and the home is a total loss. The State Fire Marshal's Office and local Metro Arson Strike Force continue to investigate.

    Poland’s Former Deputy PM Gets Prison Sentence in Sex Scandal

    From: WSJ
    Former Polish Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Andrzej Lepper
    In Poland’s conflict-ridden years of 2005-2007 when the previous government had to resort to support from populists and nationalists to pass legislation, a simple farmer with a criminal record was made a deputy prime minister to secure parliamentary backing behind the conservative minority.

    Now that simple farmer is on his way to prison for demanding sexual favors from female colleagues in his party.

    Andrzej Lepper has always been the enfant terrible of the Polish political scene, known mostly for his road blockages. Many thought he was unelectable to any public office until 2001 when, amid massive dissatisfaction with sky-high unemployment at the time, his Self-Defense party and the far-right League of Polish Families won seats in Parliament.

    It wasn’t before 2005 that Lepper felt he was finally someone important. His party’s support was instrumental for the largest conservative grouping in Parliament that lacked majority to govern. In 2006, he was finally made a deputy prime minister.

    Because of his rowdy past, in 2007 he had had more than 100 criminal and civil lawsuits and six sentences against him. Many of his party colleagues had a similar past.

    So when in late 2006 a newspaper alleged Lepper demanded sexual favors in return for party jobs, it wasn’t his first criminal case and it wouldn’t be the last. He was finally kicked out of the government amid a corruption scandal the following year before his party failed to get any seats or public funding in the 2007 election, leaving him completely sidelined.

    And now this latest criminal sentence, even though it can be and will be appealed, is somewhat of a wooden stake right through Lepper’s political heart. Two years and three months in prison — that’s pretty bad.

    That he’s not being missed must be much worse to Lepper who for six years of his life considered himself important.

    Polish premier testifies at lobbying commission

    From: Earth Times
    Mariusz Kaminski
    Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Thursday told a commission investigating a recent gambling lobby scandal that he had "limited trust" in the former head of the country's anti-corruption bureau and that the bureau was politically motivated. Poland's Central Anti-Corruption Bureau was investigating the alleged lobbying in an operation code-named Blackjack.

    Tusk later dismissed Mariusz Kaminski, the head of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, amid charges the official overstepped his powers during an unrelated investigation in 2007.

    At the commission Thursday, Tusk said the anti-corruption bureau seemed to carry out investigations for political reasons, or "for a spectacle, or to prove a certain hypothesis."

    The parliamentary commission was established in November and includes seven members of parliament.

    Tusk is facing allegations that members of his Civic Platform party lobbied on behalf of gambling companies in a scandal that has marred his party's image months before the fall elections. Last week, Tusk announced he would not seek the country's presidency and would instead focus on improving Poland's economic performance.

    The gambling scandal saw four top politicians depart on October 7 amid reports that politicians lobbied to block provisions in a bill that would have raised taxes the gambling industry pays to the state.

    Tusk accepted resignations in October from the justice minister, deputy economy minister and deputy prime minister in connection with the gambling scandal.

    Tusk told the commission Thursday that during their meeting in August on the investigation of alleged lobbying, Kaminski spoke "not of crimes being committed, but of unfortunate events." Tusk said the politicians' behavior then raised suspicion, but were not illegal.

  • Sport...

    Belarus gets boost on offence: "Habs clear Andrei Kostitsyn to rehab with his national team for Games."

    From: Montreal Gazette
    Canadiens' Andrei Kostitsyn is going to the Olympics.

    General manager Pierre Gauthier said yesterday he has given the left-winger permission to continue his rehabilitation from a knee injury under the watchful eye of the Belarusian medical staff.

    "He knows that he has to follow the protocol established by (team physician David) Mulder, but, if everyone goes according to schedule, he could be playing by Feb. 23 or 24."

    Kostitsyn hasn't played since he suffered a knee injury on Dec. 31 and he subsequently underwent surgery. During the past week, he has been skating with athletic therapist Graham Rynbend.

    Many teams are reluctant to release players for the Olympics if there are questions about their health, but Gauthier see this as a win-win situation.

    The Belarusians, whose best finish at the Olympics was a fourth at Salt Lake City in 1992, have the possibility of getting an elite player and Kostitsyn will be able to continue his rehab program, which would have been difficult in Montreal because NHL rules call for a moratorium on practice sessions during the Olympic break.

    Gauthier said he has seen Andrei, his younger brother Sergei and Toronto's Mikhail Grabovski play for Belarus and said they could create a surprise in Vancouver.

    Subban makes debut: Defenceman P.K. Subban made his long-awaited debut with the Canadiens and he showed that he's ready for prime time.

    Subban, who was pressed into service when Andrei Markov was unable to play, turned in a strong performance and showed the offensive skills that should make him a crowd-pleaser for years to come.

    Head coach Jacques Martin asked the youngster to play a simple game and he delivered, with a few flourishes. For example, in the first period, he made a neat spin move to elude a Philadelphia player and he took a shot on goal.

    He played 18:04, picked up an assist for his first NHL point and wasn't on the ice for any of the Flyers' goals.

    There's a good chance the hometown crowd will get to see him tonight, because Markov is still doubtful and so is Jaroslav Spacek, who was slammed head-first into the boards by Darroll Powe in the final minute.

    If Markov and Spacek are unable to play, it will be interesting to see how the Canadiens fill the void. They'll probably call on Alex Henry or André Benoit from Hamilton. They can't recall Yannick

    Weber, who has been with the Canadiens as recently as last week, because he's in Vancouver preparing to represent Switzerland in the Olympics.

    Subban wasn't the only player to make a debut last night. Dominic Moore, who was acquired from the Florida Panthers Thursday in exchange for a second-round draft choice, scored one of the Canadiens' two goals.

    He started the night on the third line, but Martin moved him up after the Canadiens fell behind 3-0. Moore played 17:03, had three shots on goal and showed his skill in the faceoff circle as he won three of five draws. He's among the NHL's best faceoff men with a 55.8-per-cent success rate.

    Mikhnevich and Ostapchuk set national Shot Put records at Belarus indoors

    From: EU Athletics
    Andrey Mikhnevich registered a new national Shot
    Put record 21.81m on the first day of the Belarus
    indoor championships in Mogilyov on Friday.
    Andrey Mikhnevich and Nadezhda Ostapchuk made substantial improvements to their national Shot Put records on the first day of the Belarus indoor championships in Mogilyov on Friday.

    The 2003 world champion and 2006 European Athletics Championships silver medallist Mikhnevich sent the Shot out to 21.81m in third round, to add nearly half a metre onto his previous record of 21.37m, which had stood since 2006.

    In fact, four of his efforts were better than he had ever thrown before indoors. His series was: 21.46m, 21.19m, 21.81m, foul, 21.49m, 21.57m. Mikhnevich leads the European list this year and is now the fifth best European of all-time. He can boast of an outdoor best of 22.00m

    Pavel Lyzhyn also in excellent form with 21.00m, just shy of his recent personal best of 21.12m.

    Ostapchuk, the 2005 world champion and, like Mikhnevich, a silver medallist at the 2006 European Athletics Championships, decimated her personal best indoors and out with 21.70m.

    She already held the Belarus national records with 21.09m outdoors, in 2005, and 20.86m indoors, set in 2006. Her first effort in the competition, indeed 2010 as she was having her first competition, flew out to 21.23m and, after a pass and a foul, she got her massive distance in the fourth round.

    Her complete series was: 21.23m, pass, foul, 21.70m, pass, pass.

    The 29-year-old Ostapchuk becomes the third best performer ever indoors with only the Czech world record hold Helena Fibingerova, who has 22.50m to her name, and Russia's Natalya Lisovskaya ahead of her on the all-time lists.

    "Obviously I'm happy with the national record. It was good to throw with strong opponents and good number of competitors because it provides a bit of an extra push. With a lot of competitors in the competition, there is time to relax between rounds and then tune in again. But we are still at the beginning of the season, there's still lot of work ahead of me," she said.

    Second was 2006 world indoor champion and 2006 European Athletics Championships gold medallist Natalia Mikhnevich, the wife of Andrei, who improved her indoor best to 20.28m.

    It is the second best mark in the world this year and only the two Belarus throwers have gone over 20 metres. In third place was the 2000 Olympic Games winner Yanina Provalinskaya-Karolchik, who posted 18.57m.

    There were good marks on the track as well, as Svetlana Usovich won the 400m in 52.81 while Natalya Koreyvo took the 1500m in 4:10.47, the fifth best time by a European this year.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Minsk book expo unites cultures, space and time, Likhovyi says

    From: BelTA
    The Minsk book expo unites cultures, space and time, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Belarus Igor Likhovyi said at the presentation of the Ukrainian national booth at the 17th Books of Belarus 2010 Expo in Minsk.

    Writers are the spirit of a nation, its pride and soul. A word gives us a chance to feel the connection between generations, promotes cultural contacts between peoples, said Igor Likhovyi.

    Ukrainian book publishers come to the Belarusian capital for the book expo every year starting from 2000, said Oleg Nalivaiko, acting chairman of the State Committee of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine. The book expo is the place where most interesting contracts are concluded, cooperation agreements are signed and new ideas are conceived. One of them was to publish Yakub Kolas’s New Land poem in Ukrainian. New projects are being discussed at this Minsk expo too.

    The guests of the presentation were welcomed by the Ukrainian Song company.

    The Ukrainian national booth includes more than 300 books of state and private publishing houses. On the first day of the exhibition the Information Ministry of Belarus and the State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine signed a plan of action for 2010. The plan of action is part of the agreement on cooperation in the field of information exchange between the governments of the two countries. The plan also facilitates the participation of Belarusian book publishers and sellers in the Kiev international book exhibition in August 2010.

  • Endnote...

    A secret was made out of Lukashenka’s holiday

    From: Charter '97
    A “short-term” visit, as the Lukashenka’s press-service had called it, lasted for almost 10 days.

    Today the Belarusian leader returned to Minsk. All this time Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s stay in Switzerland was kept in strict secret. And that concerned not only “confidential meetings” announced by the spokesperson of the Belarusian leader Pavel Lyohki, but also negotiations with Swiss politicians and businessmen in the so-called “open format” combined with the meetings. The holiday which Lukashenka wanted to “combine with the business part” was made confidential as well.

    Some details have been found out by Radio Svaboda from the circles of Swiss politicians and public leaders, who are related to Belarusian by their work.

    Lukashenka has spent his holiday in an Alpine resort in the east of the country. The weather was fine there. From time to time snowdrifts happen. So many Swiss have cancelled their preplanned trips to favorite Alpine resorts.

    It has been done recently by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers and the Swiss Foreign Ministry Micheline Calmy-Rey. As said by the well-known Swiss politician and PACE member Andreas Gross, it had been planned that she would use the visit of the Belarusian leader to Switzerland and visit him during his holiday there, in order to try to persuade him to cancel death penalty and facilitate the process of rapprochement to Europe.

    But the meeting hadn’t happened because of the weather. Instead of that Micheline Calmy-Rey held a meeting is Munich with the head of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus, and Belarus demonstrated its unwillingness in this issue.

    As for the absolute silence of the local media, it firstly shows that the holiday had been made secret and appropriate safety measures taken. And secondly, absence of interest to this topic especially amid scandals connected with the leak of information about deposits of foreign clients in Swiss banks.