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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Olympic medals, Privatization with Brazil, WTO, IMF, France, Iran, Ukrainain elections, Opposition, Union of Poles and still more Polish corruption...

  • From the Top...
  • #489

    Belarus ready to discuss privatization of companies with Brazil

    From: BelTA
    Belarus is ready to discuss the privatization and corporization of Belarusian companies with Brazil, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said as he met with Governor of Goias state of Brazil Alcides Rodrigues Filho on 19 February, BelTA has learnt.

    “We are aware of your interest in the products manufactured by our companies. If you want, we are ready to discuss the privatization and corporization of these companies directly with Brazil,” the head of state said.

    “The interest of Belarus is clear. Brazil is a vast market for joint companies,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    The President expressed confidence that the bilateral relations will further develop not only in the economic field, but also in the areas of culture, education, sport and the cooperation on the international arena. He reminded that the bilateral trade made up $1.2 billion in 2008.

    “I am glad to state that Belarus and Brazil have similar stance on the majority of issues of the international agenda,” Alexander Lukashenko underlined. In his words, our country would like to be able to rely on Brazil, this most powerful partner in Latin America, where Belarus is already represented. Brazil is among the world’s leading countries; no important decisions are made without it, the President said.

    The Belarusian leader is sure that the cooperation between the Minsk Oblast and Goias state will become an example for other regions of Belarus and Brazil. The active regional cooperation will promote the strengthening of the interstate dialogue. The visit of the representative delegation of Goias state of the Federative Republic of Brazil will give a new impetus to the development of the mutually beneficial Belarusian-Brazilian cooperation in various areas, the President underscored.

    “I am ready to discuss not only the cooperation in general but concrete contracts and projects. If you are ready let’s make concrete plans,” Alexander Lukashenko noted.

    In turn, the Goias Governor noted that at present Brazil is experiencing an important stage of its history – an economic boom. “Our state is a kind of heart of the country, it is like the entire Brazil in miniature,” the guest said. Goias’ economic performance is better than the national average. “We see new horizons and we are ready to reach them,” Alcides Rodrigues Filho underscored.

    Goias state is located in the center of the Federative Republic of Brazil. The total area of the state is 341.3 thousand square kilometers. The population is around 6 million people. The capital of Goias is the city of Goiania (1.8 million people). The pillars of the economy of the state are agriculture (crop growing and cattle breeding), mining industry, metallurgic industry, motor construction, chemical and pharmaceutical industry. In 2009 the export of Goias state made up $3.614 billion. The main exports of the region are soybeans and soy oil meal, meat and meat products, copper, ferrous-based alloys, gold, asbestos, sugar and cotton. The main trade partners are China, the Netherlands, Spain and Russia. In 2009, Belarus ranked twelfth among Goias’ trade partners. Belarus exported there potash fertilizers at the amount of $46.2 million.

    In 2009, the trade between Belarus and Brazil made up $568.3 million.

    All veterans of Great Patriotic War to be awarded one-off premiums

    On 18 February, in advance of the celebrations to mark the 65th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, President Alexander Lukashenko signed Decree No 69 on awarding all the veterans of the Great Patriotic War with one-off premiums, BelTA learnt from the press service of the head of state.

    The premiums will be granted to all categories of the veterans, to family members of the servicemen, partisans, resistance movement activists who were killed or missed in action during the Great Patriotic War; to the people who became disabled as a result of a wound, contusion or severe injury caused by the military actions during the Great Patriotic War or their aftermath; to the former prisoners of Nazi concentration camps, prisons, ghettos; and to former underage prisoners of the other places of forced imprisonment created by the Nazis and their allies during the years of the Great Patriotic War.

    The amount of the premiums to be awarded to the Heroes of the Soviet Union and to the individuals decorated with the Order of Glory of the three classes, and bearers of the Hero of Socialist Labour title, who were awarded this title during the years of the Great Patriotic War, will be Br500,000.

    The payment of the one-off premiums will be made within the period from 1 April 2010 till 1 May 2010 in accordance with the pension payment procedure.

    Belarusian biathletes proved they are world class sportsmen, Alexander Lukashenko says

    President of Belarus and President of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko congratulated biathletes Darya Domrachava and Sergey Novikov upon the medals at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    The Belarusian President said that the bronze medal by Darya Domrachava is a special one, because it was the first medal for Belarus at these Olympics. “It was a vivid and gorgeous performance. The whole country was watching the race on TV and you have lived up to expectations of Belarusian supporters,” the message of congratulations says.

    In his congratulation to Sergey Novikov, who won silver in Men’s 20km Individual race, Alexander Lukashenko said that this result proves that our biathletes are among the best athletes in the world.

    The President congratulated Darya Domrachava and Sergey Novikov for their gift for all Belarusians and wished the athletes more success.

    Alexander Lukashenko also congratulated the coaching staff of Belarus’ biathlon team and noted their role in the successful performances of Belarusian biathletes.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan busy starting WTO entry talks

    From: BelTA
    Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan are getting ready to start negotiations on entering the World Trade Organization together as the Customs Union. The statement was made by Anton Kudasov, Deputy Director of the Foreign Trade Department of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, at a press conference on 19 February.

    Anton Kudasov reminded that the governments of the three countries had decided to enter the WTO as the single customs territory. Following the decision Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan suspended independent talks with the WTO. “We have composed a single negotiating team of the three countries and have held the relevant consultations with WTO member-states. We have asked them about what would be advisable in order to continue the talks in the Customs Union format,” said the Foreign Ministry representative.

    The WTO member-states believe the transparency of the Customs Union to be of utmost importance and have requested detailed information about it. The information is nearly ready. “Our negotiating team met with WTO officials in Geneva yesterday. We reached an agreement regarding the actions we should take and we agreed that the information about the Customs Union will be mailed after it is adjusted taking into account the expressed remarks within the next several weeks,” said the Foreign Ministry representative. The information is supposed to be studied within 4-6 weeks. “After that the decision to resume the troika’s negotiations on WTO entry will be resumed,” added Anton Kudasov.

    The official remarked that the countries had already tried negotiating the WTO entry independently and the process took a long time. He suggested avoiding speculating about possible difficulties regarding the Customs Union’s accession to the WTO. “Let’s try to begin the joint entry process for starters,” said Anton Kudasov. In his words, from the pragmatic point of view WTO member-states are interested in making the WTO larger with such a vast territory the Customs Union is.

    Ukraine out of Customs Union for now

    Ukraine has sent no proposals to the Customs Union Commission regarding the country’s accession to the Customs Union. The information was released by Anton Kudasov, Deputy Director of the Foreign Trade Department of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, at a press conference on 19 February.

    “As far as I know, the Customs Union Commission has received no official proposals so far. If such proposals are made, we will consider them. Personally I would only welcome Ukrainian colleagues joining the negotiations,” said Anton Kudasov.

    In his words, Ukraine’s possible accession will not require extensive reworking of the Customs Union legal base. “The documents developed when our Ukrainian colleagues took part in the project to build the single economic space in 2003-2005 were borrowed to work out documents for the Customs Union and the single economic space,” explained the Foreign Ministry representative. Yet over these years the Ukrainian legislation has evolved. If Ukraine started negotiations on joining the Customs Union, it would be necessary to assess the harmonization level, which is by the way quite high between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, for instance, in customs tariffs. But it could be done. For instance, Kazakhstan had to largely modify its customs tariffs. If Ukraine needed to do the same, it would be possible, said Anton Kudasov.

    Ukraine has sent no proposals to the Customs Union Commission regarding the country’s accession to the Customs Union. The information was released by Anton Kudasov, Deputy Director of the Foreign Trade Department of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, at a press conference on 19 February.

    “As far as I know, the Customs Union Commission has received no official proposals so far. If such proposals are made, we will consider them. Personally I would only welcome Ukrainian colleagues joining the negotiations,” said Anton Kudasov.

    In his words, Ukraine’s possible accession will not require extensive reworking of the Customs Union legal base. “The documents developed when our Ukrainian colleagues took part in the project to build the single economic space in 2003-2005 were borrowed to work out documents for the Customs Union and the single economic space,” explained the Foreign Ministry representative. Yet over these years the Ukrainian legislation has evolved. If Ukraine started negotiations on joining the Customs Union, it would be necessary to assess the harmonization level, which is by the way quite high between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, for instance, in customs tariffs. But it could be done. For instance, Kazakhstan had to largely modify its customs tariffs. If Ukraine needed to do the same, it would be possible, said Anton Kudasov.

    French experts to visit Bragin region

    From: BelTA
    A French delegation that includes Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to the Republic of Belarus Michel Raineri, are set tour of the Belarusian regions that were affected by the Chernobyl accident, BelTA learnt from the Embassy of France in Belarus on 18 February.

    On 22 February Michel Raineri together with experts, who study and share their experience in a long-term rehabilitation after the Chernobyl disaster, will travel to the Bragin region. The French guests are set to meet with local authorities and representatives of organizations, which are involved in the post-Chernobyl rehabilitation. The French delegation will also visit the exclusion zones.

    On 23 February Michel Raineri is going to meet with the administration of Gomel and the Gomel oblast and pay visit to the free economic zone and institutions with the in-depth study of French.

    France rendered assistance to Belarus in overcoming the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. The two countries have worked out advanced mechanisms (at local, national and international level) that solve the problems of the long-term rehabilitation of the Belarusian regions affected by the Chernobyl accident.

    The bilateral cooperation between Belarus and France has created a new approach to people’s rehabilitation after a disaster. The new approach is based on the transit from consumer position to the active involvement of the local population in the process.

    Belarus hopes France will support Belarus-EU dialogue

    Belarus hopes France will keep supporting Belarus-EU dialogue, Chairman of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus Boris Batura said as he met with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Belarus Michel Raineri on 18 February, BelTA has learnt.

    “I think that the traditions laid down by the previous French Ambassador Mireille Musso will remain in place, just like the positive cooperation trends in science, education and culture. We also hope that France will remain committed to supporting a constructive dialogue between Belarus and Brussels,” Boris Batura said.

    He pointed out to a breakthrough in the inter-parliamentary relations between Belarus and France that came after a long period of stagnation. For example, the France-Belarus friendship group of the French parliament paid a visit to Belarus, while in May 2010 the friendship group of the Belarusian parliament is expected to return a visit. “We have engaged in a good intensive dialogue and I think the same cooperation pattern will be applied to the relations with the European Parliament and the European Union, as the truth is born in dialogue,” the Speaker said.

    Boris Batura pointed out that Belarus has recently had to defend its development strategy based on a multi-vector principle proving that its choice of the foreign policy was right. “We favor pragmatism, consistency and independence in our foreign policy,” he underlined.

    Sergei Martynov, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discuss bilateral cooperation

    From: BelTA
    Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov and President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have discussed the key avenues of Belarusian-Iranian cooperation at a meeting in Tehran, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus.

    Sergei Martynov visited Iran on 16-17 February. He held talks with Ali Ardashir Larijani, Chairman of the Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran (Parliament), and Head of the Presidential Office of Iran Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie.

    Urgent problems of the bilateral trade and economic interaction and the implementation of major joint Belarusian-Iranian projects were high on the agenda of Sergei Martynov’s meetings with the Iranian Commerce Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari and Masoud Mir Kazemi, Petroleum Minister of Iran.

    Sergei Martynov also held negotiations with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki. The sides discussed bilateral cooperation and possibilities to enhance the all-round interaction. Sergei Martynov and the Iranian Minister of Industry and Mines Mr. Ali Akbar Mehrabyan discussed the progress of joint Belarusian-Iranian industry projects.

  • Economics...

    Russian retail chains eager to buy Belarusian food without mediators

    From: BelTA
    It is important to cut out the middleman in exports of Belarusian food to Russia, Tatiana Minyayeva, Deputy Head of the Wholesale Office of the Murmansk-based holding company EuroRos, told BelTA after the first business forum “Russia-Belarus 2010. Consumer goods: new contracts and sales increase” ended in Minsk on 19 February.

    According to Tatiana Minyayeva, Belarusian food enjoys a steady demand in Murmansk. Belarusian producers could benefit from signing direct contracts while trade companies could benefit from discounts.

    Tatiana Minyayeva said she had arrived in Minsk to establish ties with Belarusian food manufacturers. Negotiations with Grodfood (meat pastes, tinned meat), the Rogachev-based and Glubokoye-based tinned milk factories, confectionery factories Krasny Pishchevik, Kommunarka, ABC (Grodno) have been held.

    No specific agreements have been mentioned but EuroRos remains intent on promoting the cooperation.

    At present Belarusian foods account for 10% in meat and dairy trade of Murmansk. Murmansk also buys Belarusian knitted goods, perfumery, cosmetics, and Milavitsa corsetry. There is an interest in knitted goods for children, knitted outerwear for men and women, footwear and apparel.

    The EuroRos representative said the forum had revealed a major interest of the Belarusian side in establishing direct contacts and it was good the cooperation will be based on mutually beneficial terms.

    Tax burden on Belarus’ economy fell by 7.3 percentage points over four years

    In 2009, the tax burden on the Belarusian economy fell by 7.3 percentage points compared with 2005, Deputy Minister of Taxes and Duties of Belarus Larisa Kondratova said at a session of the permanent committee of the Advisory Council on Foreign Investments run by the Council of Ministers of Belarus on 19 February, BelTA has learnt.

    “If we take into consideration only the taxes paid in line with the Special Part of the Tax Code (not including the revenues from foreign economic transactions), the tax burden in 2005 was 31.7%, while in 2009 24.4%,” the Deputy Minister said.

    This became possible due to the consistent policy to reduce tax payments. The new methods of calculating taxes also played a vital part. “We have done a lot in this area over the recent years. Accountants, tax specialists helped identify those areas that caused confusion among tax payers and allowed various interpretations,” Larisa Kondratova said.

    Another progressive tax reform is introducing an e-declaration. This process has just been launched in Belarus. “The immediate challenge is to enable tax payers to keep tax registers and to automate the calculation of all the declaration indices,” she added. The procedure of submitting declarations and the calculation of taxes will be made automatic. The Ministry of Taxes and Duties will keep the taxpayers updated on the changes in the legislation and provide information services.

    According to Larisa Kondratova, the tax legislation will be further improved to make tax payment easier.

    Investor confidence in Belarus up to 78%

    In 2009 investor confidence moved up nine notches to 78%, the assistant professor of the global economy department of the Belarusian State Economic University Elena Petrushkevich said at a session of the Advisory Committee for Foreign Investment under the Council of ministers of Belarus.

    She presented the results of the sociological poll among commercial organizations with foreign investments which was held in October-November 2009. The poll shows that the investment climate in Belarus has been improving. The investor confidence in Belarus has been continuously growing for the past four years.

    Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Andrei Yevdochenko said that the poll among commercial organizations with foreign investment which has been held since 2005 allows taking into account and coordinating the interests of investors and the state as the investment policy is improved. In 2009 the poll was conducted on the professional basis. It focused on the investment environment, the nature of the investments and the impact of investment on the Belarusian economy.

    “The results show we are moving in the right direction,” Andrei Yevdochenko said. Therefore the main conclusion of the poll is that we need to continue this work. We are now developing a special strategy of attracting foreign investments for the short-term, mid-term and long-term perspectives.

    Licenses for 16 types of businesses will be canceled, Andrei Tur says

    Licenses for 16 types of businesses will be canceled in Belarus. This step is envisaged in the draft decree on licensing certain types of businesses which is currently being coordinated by the Presidential Administration, Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Tur told reporters before the session of the permanent committee of the Advisory Committee for Foreign Investment under the Council of Ministers of Belarus.

    According to Andrei Tur, the business community of Belarus would want to see the list of licensable businesses reduced. “We propose to abolish 16 types of activities, 7 of which comprise 59 works and services. We also suggest abolishing around 60 positions regarding works and services which make part of other 13 licensable businesses which will remain in force,” Andrei Tur said. Two licensable activities will be united into one. Licenses will be introduced in the field of nuclear power, sources of ionizing radiation. Andrei Tur stressed that licensing in nuclear power is an international practice.

    All in all, some 37 types of licensable businesses will remain in force. As of today, 53 types of activities are licensable. In addition, the document envisages the adjustment of the list of works and services that constitute the respective types of activities (the would-be list will include 210 items positions of 331). If such measures are undertaken, the number of licenses issued in Belarus should dwindle by 62% or 63%. Today, almost 40% of the licenses in Belarus are issued to retail business.

    On the whole the document envisages a complex adjustment of licensing activities. It is the first time that both general terms of licensing and requirements for each licensable activity are compiled into a single regulatory act. This document contains the list of licensable types of activities. In addition, the draft document envisages simplification of the licensing procedures. The timeframe for these procedures is supposed to be reduced to 15 office days (it is a month today). There are plans to ban the suspension, termination and revocation of a license on the grounds that are not related to the licensed activities.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    IMF, Belarus Reach Tentative Staff-Level Agreement On $700M Loan

    From: WSJ
    The International Monetary Fund said Wednesday it has reached a tentative staff-level agreement to loan Belarus roughly $700 million as part of an existing loan package.

    The amount came via the IMF's fourth review of Belarus's economic performance under the loan program. The IMF Executive Board must approve the agreement, which is likely before the end of March, IMF said in a statement.

    The 15-month financial package amounts to roughly $3.52 billion. As of December 2009, total disbursement under the program totaled $2.88 billion when IMF approved a $668 million loan to Belarus after completion of its third review.

    IMF said Belarus' performance under its lending facility has been "good" because the country has met all performance criteria and structural benchmarks at the end of December.

    Additionally, Belarusian authorities have expressed "interest in continued cooperation with the IMF after the expiration of the current program," the IMF said, adding that a possible follow-up program could be considered.

    Russia’s duty on oil exported to Belarus puts customs union into question

    From: Navany
    Belarus questions the expediency of its customs union with Russia and Kazakhstan, as Moscow keeps levying duty on oil exports within the union, Anton Kudasaw, deputy director of the foreign ministry’s external economic relations department, told reporters in Minsk on Friday.

    Russia’s duty on crude oil exported to Belarus runs counter to the principles of a common customs zone, Mr. Kudasaw said.

    He noted that Russian oil deliveries to Belarus are currently governed by a January 27, 2010 agreement, which he said “legalized the application of this duty by the Russian side.” This agreement “contravenes the legal basis for the customs union and the documents that were adopted in pursuance to the decision of the presidents of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan to establish a common customs zone by July 1, 2010,” he said.

    It is necessary to hold trilateral talks that “should result in a clear system of oil exports from Russia to Belarus and Kazakhstan with no customs duty levied,” Mr. Kudasaw said.

    “I hope that such talks will soon be held,” he noted, adding that the negotiation process would be difficult. “The question is whether Russia is ready to modify its system of levying duty on natural resources,” he said. “If this does not happen, the implementation of the governments’ decision to establish a common customs zone will be put into question, as a common customs zone with duty levied within it is unimaginable.”

    Commenting on media reports that Russia might impose export duty on natural gas supplied to Belarus, Mr. Kudasaw said that this would be a direct violation of agreements in existence between the two countries.

    The Russian economic development ministry reportedly plans to draft an agreement by March 1 on oil deliveries within the customs union, which would govern the levying of duty when goods are re-exported from Belarus or Kazakhstan.

    Three activists of the Union of Poles in Belarus have been released after 5 days of arrest.

    From: The News
    Supreme Board chairman Andrzej Poczobut, his deputy, Mieczyslaw Jaskiewicz, and press spokesman Igor Bancer
    Those released are the organization’s Supreme Board chairman Andrzej Poczobut, his deputy, Mieczyslaw Jaskiewicz, and press spokesman Igor Bancer. The three men were sentenced by a court in Grodno for organizing a demonstration in defense of the Polish House in Ivyanets which gathered some 300 ethnic Poles.

    “We were treated in the standard manner during our detention,” Igor Bancer told a Polish Radio reporter. The men claim their arrest had been illegal.

    “Such practice is one of the elements of repression against the authorities and members of our organization,” commented Angelika Borys, head of the Union of Poles in Belarus.

    The recent actions of the Lukashenka regime directed against the organization have received strong contempt from Polish authorities. Warsaw said it would demand action on the part of the European Union, including possible sanctions for Belarusian officials in limiting their travel through Union countries.

  • From the Opposition...

    Polish Sejm calls upon return to the policy of sanctions against Belarus

    From: Charter '97
    the Polish Sejm
    The parliament of the Republic of Poland has adopted a special statement in connection with repressions against the opposition in Belarus.

    The statement of the Polish Sejm is dedicated to human rights violations in Belarus. Radio Racyja published the full text of the statement:

    “Sejm of the Republic of Poland condemns actions of the Belarusian authorities aimed against representatives of the organisation of the Polish national minority, and calls upon Belarus to respect human and citizen’s rights.

    Over the period of the recent months authorities of the Republic of Poland have made several tentatives for intensification of the dialogue with the Republic of Belarus. They followed from a conviction that it is to the common interest of Poland, the European Union, but primarily Belarus itself to overcome self-isolation in which the country found itself as a result of autocratic actions of its authorities. In connection with the new upsurge of repressions against the Union of Poles in Belarus, as well as against activists of this organisation, Sejm of the Republic of Poland adheres to the position that the policy of sanctions against Belarus should be contemplated.

    Sejm of the Republic of Poland expresses confidence that the level of cooperation between Poland and the EU with the Belarusian authorities should directly depend on the level of respect to civil rights in Belarus. Sejm of the Republic of Poland is in favour of adopting decisions by Polish authorities concerning the actins aimed at support of the Belarusian society including increase of financing of independent mass media, especially Belsat TV channel. Assistance should be received by repressed public associations independent from, the government, including the Union of Poles in Belarus. The appeal of the Polish Sejm is a result of confidence that by their repressions against the organization of the Polish ethnic minority, authorities of the Republic of Belarus violate basic human and civil rights, which are a foundation of modern Europe. By doing so Belarusian authorities reject assistance, which had been donated to them through Poland, and also doom themselves to further political isolation”.

    We remind that on February 15 in different parts of Belarus activists and leadership of the independent Union of Poles in Belarus (UPB) headed by Andzelika Borys were detained.

    Borys was fined 30 basic units (Br1 mln 50 thousand), representatives of the organisation’s leadership Andrzej Poczobut, Ihar Bantser (Igor Bancer) and Myachyslau Yaskevich (Mieczyslaw Jaskiewicz) sentenced to 5 days of arrest for staging a rally in support of Ivyanets branch of the UPB in Hrodna on February 10.

    On February 17 a group of the UPB activists together with Andzelika Borys were detained by police once again. They were on the way to Valozhyn to support the chair of Ivyanets branch of the independent organisation Tereza Sobal during the trial.

    The chair of Ivyanets branch of the independent organisation Tereza Sobal was charged with seizure of the local Polish House. The suit against Tereza Sobal was filed by the leader of the local branch of the pro-regime Union of Poles Stanislau Syamashka (Stanislaw Siemaszko).

    Human rights defenders insist on negotiations with administration of law-enforcement agencies

    From: Viasna
    On 19 February, members of the Belarusian human rights organizations and movements submitted to the heads of different law-enforcement agencies a written request to enter proposals concerning the format, time and place of negotiations and delegate their representatives for participation in them.

    The collective address of the Belarusian human rights organization reads: ‘on 18 February 2010 the organizing committee of representatives of the Belarusian human rights organizations submitted to You (or an authorized person of the organization headed by You) an invitation to take pat in negotiations concerning freedom of assemblies and enforcement of law during peaceful mass actions.

    The necessity of such negotiations arises from the actions of officers of law-enforcement agencies during the peaceful assemblies on 8, 14 and 16 February and the situation of the Union of Poles in Belarus. The beginning of the negotiations was appointed on 11a.m. – 1p.m. at the hall of the Europe Hotel.

    The organizing committee invited representatives of foreign Embassies, the OSCE mission in Minsk and the European Commission for monitoring the negotiations. Mass media were invited for public information and ensuring the openness of the negotiations.

    Since 11a.m. on 19 February 2010 the organizing committee in full force has been waiting for the beginning of the negotiations at the entrance of the Europe Hotel.

    Despite the fact that none of the invited representatives of the law-enforcement agencies came to the place of the negotiations on 19 February 2010, we consider it necessary to inform You abou he questions that cause a great concern of human rights defenders as a result of analysis of the actions of law-enforcement agencies on enforcement of law during peaceful assemblies of citizens:

    - the renewal of the practice of unlawful preventive detentions before the beginning of peaceful assemblies outside the places where the peaceful assemblies are held;

    - arbitrary detentions and groundless and disproportionate usage of physical violence during detentions in the places of peaceful assemblies;

    - creation of obstacles to professional activities of mass media at peaceful assemblies;

    - cruel treatment of detainees during their transportation to the police departments;

    - the practice of the judicial, departmental and prosecutorial control of unlawful actions of officers of law-enforcement agencies.

    We consider he dialogue on the aforementioned questions as the first necessary action aimed at normalization of the situation concerning the ensuring of the civil right to peaceful assemblies in conformity with the international undertakings of the Republic of Belarus in this sphere of legal relations.

    In view of the above,
    we ask You to express Your proposals on the format, time and place of the negotiations and delegate Your representatives for participation in this work.’

    The organizing committee that initiated the negotiations includes Ales Bialiatski (the Human Rights Center Viasna), Ina Kulei (the Solidarity Committee), Aleh Hulak (the Belarusian Helsinki Committee), Alena Tankachova (educational institution Center of Legal Transformation), Tatsiana Reviaka (Belarusian Human Rights House), Raisa Mikhailouskaya (Center on Human Rights), Aleh Volchak (Legal Assistance to Population).

    The addresses were submitted to Kuliashou Anatol Nilavich, Minister of Interior of the Republic of Belarus, Major General of police; Vasilevich Ryhor Aliakseyevich, Prosecutor General of the Republic of Belarus; Yushkevich Aliaksandr Mikalayevich, Chairperson of the Commission on human rights, national relations and mass media of the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly; Zaitsau Vadzim Yuryievich, Chairperson of the State Security Committee (KGB) of the Republic of Belarus; colonel Kalach Uladzimir Viktaravich, Chairperson of the KGB department in Minsk and the Minsk oblast; colonel Lukomski Aliaksandr Valiantsinavich, commander of the special-purpose police regiment of the main bureau of internal affairs of the Minsk city executive committee; General Major of police Farmahei Leanid Kanstantsinavich, Chairperson of the main bureau of internal affairs of the Minsk city executive committee; and Kulik Mikalai Mikalayevich, Prosecutor of Minsk.

  • Russia...

    Medvedev Hoping Ukraine Will Join Common Economic Area Involving Russia, Belarus, And Kazakhstan

    From: UNA
    Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev is hoping that Ukraine will join the customs union of the common economic involving Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

    This is stated on the official Internet website of the president of Russia.

    During discussion of the process of formation of the customs union with the Russian Federal Customs Service’s Chairman Andrei Belyaninov, Medvedev expressed the hope that the Party of the Regions’ leader Viktor Yanukovych would try to make his own contribution to the strengthening of inter-relations, trade relations, and economic ties not only with Russia, but also with Belarus and Kazakhstan, if he becomes the next president of Ukraine.

    He expressed the confidence that this was fully in the interest of Ukrainian enterprises and consumers.

    Medvedev stressed that preparation to introduce the customs union (which involves unification of customs rules) should be conducted intensively and quickly.

    «We understand that realization of the customs union with the existing decisions is possible, and your coordinated work with your counterparts -- the customs services of Kazakhstan, Belarus, and, hopefully, that of Ukraine in the future -- will create fundamentally new conditions that will be far more convenient for performing operations and providing services,» Medvedev said.

    He said that he was ready to personally participate in the process if intervention at the level of the heads of state and coordination of decisions at the inter-governmental level were necessary.

    As Ukrainian News earlier reported, Yanukovych has said that he favors participation of Ukraine in the common economic area involving Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

    Tigipko: Ukraine shouldn't join Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan

    According to the politician, still it isn't clear how this organization [the Customs Union] will work in practice.
    In a related Kiev Post story, Strong Ukraine Party leader Sergiy Tigipko has said that Ukraine shouldn't join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

    "The advantages of customs integration with CIS partners are not obvious, while the losses in negotiations with the European Union on a free trade zone may be large," he said, commenting on news that one of the priorities in the foreign policy of President Elect Viktor Yanukovych will be joining the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

    According to the politician, still it isn't clear how this organization [the Customs Union] will work in practice.

    "It was launched only on January 1, 2010 and the single direct consequence is a significant rise in prices for meat and some other goods in Russia," he said.

    Tigipko noted that three members of the Customs Union are not members of the World Trade Organization, in contrast to Ukraine.

    "They can apply protective measures which Kyiv can't afford to take itself... The Customs Union in the near future will not be an effective mechanism for promoting mutual trade," Tigipko said.

    He also added that joining this union would make negotiations on the creation of a free trade zone with the EU more complicated.

    Ukraine's Tymoshenko drops legal challenge on election

    From: Reuters
    Embattled Tymoshenko says she can't continue to battle country's ‘machine that works beyond justice'
    Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Saturday dropped her legal case challenging the election of rival Viktor Yanukovich as president, saying the court could not be trusted to reach a fair verdict.

    The about-turn by the fiery Tymoshenko left the way clear for Yanukovich to be inaugurated as president on Feb. 25 as scheduled. His first announced trip abroad as president will be to Moscow, according to comments by his party and the Kremlin.

    The charismatic 49-year-old prime minister, who had alleged vote cheating by her opponent in the Feb. 7 runoff and had been pressing for a new round of voting, said she withdrew her case as the court had refused to study the evidence put before it.

    She insisted Yanukovich had not been legitimately elected.

    "It became clear to us that the court has not given itself the aim of establishing the truth," she told the Higher Administrative Court.

    "Under these circumstances, we simply do not see the reason for continuing with this case being considered. We are withdrawing our suit."

    Yanukovich, 59, has denied any vote-rigging by his side. He beat Tymoshenko by 3.5 percentage points in the vote.

    Few commentators had expected Tymoshenko to win the court action, which she launched on Friday with a plea to the 49 judges to "study carefully" the evidence before it. But her sudden announcement on Saturday took most by surprise.

    With her hair plaited in her trademark peasant braid, she looked tired and tense on Saturday as she announced her climb-down after months of battling with Yanukovich for the leadership of the former Soviet republic of 46 million.

    Tymoshenko had been pressing for a new presidential vote as took place in the 2004 "Orange Revolution" which ended with President Viktor Yushchenko being elected. Yanukovich was denied the top job then by protests against electoral fraud.

    "A fraudulent vote took place and the will of the people was fraudulently handled. Sooner or later, an honest prosecutor's office and an honest court will come to the view that Yanukovich was not elected president of Ukraine and that the will of the people was falsified," she said.

    The court later confirmed it would cease studying the case.

    "The court is deprived of the possibility to continue examination of the suit and is obliged to leave the case without its examination," Judge Oleksander Nechytaylo told a closing hearing. "This decision is final and cannot be reviewed."


    Yanukovich is expected to tilt Ukraine towards Russia after relations with Moscow deteriorated under Yushchenko.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev spoke to Yanukovich on the telephone and congratulated him on his "complete and final, legitimate and internationally recognised victory in Ukraine's presidential election", the Kremlin said.

    Yanukovich will visit Moscow in the first 10 days of March.

    Yanukovich has said he wants to renegotiate a gas deal with Russia struck by Tymoshenko after a three-week stand off with Moscow that led to supply cuts to Europe.

    There has been talk of Russia's participation in a group to run Ukraine's pipeline network and of a loan from Moscow. Russia also wants to extend the stay of its Black Sea fleet, stationed on Ukraine's territory under a lease that runs out in 2017. Ukraine now badly needs to return to stability -- its economy took a battering in the global downturn with valuable steel exports losing markets and the state has relied on a $16.4 billion bail-out programme from the International Monetary Fund.

    This has been suspended because of breached promises, and the fund will return only once a stable government emerges.

    After a bitter campaign of smears and insults, Yanukovich has ruled out any alliance with Tymoshenko and has asked her to quit. She has refused and can be replaced only if the Yanukovich camp forges a new coalition among the fickle deputies in parliament -- normally a long and tricky task. If he fails to do this, he may be forced to call early parliamentary election.

    In Russia, summer homes have become a cause célèbre

    From: Washington Post
    When the demolition crews showed up in Rechnik, a quaint district of summer homes on the banks of the Moscow River, Sergei Bobyshev threatened to unleash his pet leopard on them. Alexander Navrodsky vowed to set fire to his house and go down with it in flames. Other residents set up a barricade, and when police broke through, some lay down in the snow to stop the bulldozers.

    The government pressed ahead with plans to clear the area for a park, confident in its time-tested ability to crush the protests of ordinary citizens. But a month has passed and, in a surprise, not only is this little neighborhood still kicking, but its cause has been embraced by the country as a David-and-Goliath struggle, pitting desperate homeowners against one of the nation's most powerful politicians.

    The drama in Rechnik presents a vivid illustration of Russia's incomplete transition to capitalism. Despite nearly two decades of U.S.-backed market reforms since the fall of Communism, including a crash course in privatization, individual ownership of land in the world's largest country remains a tenuous proposition. But if property rights are weak in Russia, the outpouring of support for Rechnik has underscored the nation's growing devotion to a particular kind of property, and delivered an unexpected warning to those who call the shots in Vladimir Putin's increasingly authoritarian state:

    Don't come between Russians and their dachas.

    Unlikely allies

    In the weeks since the first house fell, an unlikely cast has rallied to defend Rechnik, including Putin loyalists in the parliament and the prime minister's most ardent foes in the pro-democracy opposition, as well as prominent lawyers, extreme right-wing nationalists and the leader of a leftist youth movement. Journalists across the country have filed sympathetic reports, and even the tightly controlled nightly news has broadcast images of Rechnik's tearful residents.

    With polls showing only 10 percent of the public backing the city authorities, and nearly 50 percent taking the residents' side, President Dmitry Medvedev intervened, too, warning against any attempt to turn the situation "into a kind of campaign." But he also ordered prosecutors to investigate the demolitions.

    Some analysts say the Kremlin may be trying to sideline Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, who is leading the charge to bulldoze Rechnik. At 73, he has governed the capital since 1992 and is one of the few politicians in the country with a strong local power base. Previous attempts to unseat him have failed, but he has never been portrayed as an enemy of the dacha before.

    More than half of all Russians and perhaps two-thirds of Muscovites own a dacha, giving Russia one of the world's highest rates of second-home ownership. Some are stately manors on city outskirts, others just shacks in distant exurbs without heat or plumbing. Most are built on land allocated to Soviet-era workers for household gardening, which provided a critical supply of food during the shortages of the planned economy.

    But as construction soared during the past decade, the dacha has taken on an almost mythic significance in the Russian mind. It is a place to escape the pressures of modern life, a way to get closer to nature, a haven for growing one's own vegetables -- a symbol of freedom, self-reliance and middle-class achievement all in one.

    So word spread quickly among the 200 or so families with dachas in Rechnik when bulldozers were spotted near the neighborhood in mid-December. City officials had been pressuring them to move for nearly three years, cutting off water and power and accusing them of illegally occupying environmentally protected parkland.

    The charge infuriates residents, most of whom have lived in Rechnik for decades. The settlement was established in 1956, when the Soviet government set aside the land for employees of the Moscow Canal, which connects the Moscow and Volga rivers. Only the socialist state could own land back then, but its institutions often distributed garden plots to workers to use in perpetuity.

    "It was kind of a reward, for doing a good job, because there was a long waiting list," said Maria Gurlynina, 79, who was a telephone operator for the canal when she was given her plot. It was just barren sand then, but her family carted in soil, planted trees and flowers, and built a simple house that four generations have used as a summer retreat.

    Now she lives in Rechnik year-round because she can't manage the stairs to her 17th-floor apartment. "I've been here 53 years. What would I do if they took the house away?" she asked, huddling over a stove in a shed that residents are using as a headquarters for their resistance campaign.

    Luzhkov argues that residents were given the plots only for gardening, and that the city rezoned the neighborhood into a national park in 1998. Other officials have insisted that the dachas pose a threat to the ecology of the Moscow River.

    Many residents suspect that the mayor's real motive is commercial, in part because his billionaire wife, Yelena Baturina, is one of the city's most successful real estate developers. "Just come back in five years, and you won't see any park here," said Konstantin Chinsnovych, 70, a retired engineer loading furniture from his dacha into a moving truck. "Instead, you'll find a country club or cottages for the wealthy."

    Such suspicions have been fueled by the fact that a nearby neighborhood of luxury estates has escaped the city's wrath, even though it is also in the park zone. Rechnik's defenders point out that the community, named Fantasy Island, is home to top government officials, security service generals and business titans.

    Middle-class havens

    Some of the dachas in Rechnik might be described as mansions, but most are modest, cabinlike structures built by middle-class professionals who have benefited from Russia's oil-fueled growth during the past decade.

    Their conflict with the city reached a boiling point in late January, when riot police broke through the barricade in a pre-dawn raid. Dozens of residents were tear-gassed, roughed up and detained, said Galina Shorokhova, 49, an interior designer who was dragged from her car when she rushed to the scene.

    Court bailiffs pulled families out of their homes in temperatures approaching 45 degrees below freezing as the bulldozers moved in. In the weeks since, more than 20 dachas have been torn down. The first to fall was Boris Piskunov's, a wood-frame house built by his grandmother in the 1970s.

    "It took just 10 minutes to destroy it," said Piskunov, 32, a manager at a gas-equipment firm, who watched as workers tossed his furniture out a window.

    The laws governing land ownership in Russia are notoriously murky. While state factories were sold off in the 1990s, privatization of land was stymied by ideological debate. Today, though, bureaucrats who don't want to relinquish control of valuable real estate are the problem, said Dmitri Katayev, a former city legislator who helped draft the first post-Soviet property laws.

    "I call it sabotage," he said, noting that Moscow residents have managed to claim ownership of only a tiny fraction of the city's land.

    In 2006, Putin signed a "dacha amnesty" law that was supposed to make it easier for people to privatize garden plots allocated to them in the Soviet era. But the process has been so plagued by corruption that less than 10 percent of the land has been transferred, said Igor Yerdyakov, director of a national union of gardeners and dacha dwellers.

    The Rechnik drama has resonated with people across the country fighting to save their own dachas from rapacious developers and officials, Yerdyakov said, adding, "We're getting 30 to 40 telegrams a day!"

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Opposition councilors punished with blackout

    From: The News
    Councilors in Myslowice, southern Poland, will have street lamps turned off in their neighborhood for voting for budget cuts.

    The municipal office has already sent a list of streets where lamps are to go out on 1 March to the local energy supplier. The decision was taken by the city mayor Grzegorz Osyra. His spokeswoman, Katarzyna Szymanska, admits that the list corresponds with the addresses of unruly councilors, who endorsed cuts in the budget of the municipal road management office.

    “We realize that the councilors do not live on those streets alone. Let the people see whom they have elected,” she told the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

    The municipal council head Bernard Pastuszka, who voted for the austerity budget, says he and his neighbors will manage somehow. But what about the mayor? How long will the people have to tolerate his insane ideas, he wonders.

    The mayor of Myslowice is known for his unorthodox initiatives. Among them was a plan to erect a monument to the popular Myslovitz band, which hails from the city. Its musicians refused the honor.

    It is not clear how much money will be saved thanks to the selective blackout.

    Poland: football fans play with lawyers

    From: MARQUES
    As polite fans would probably say, the condition of Polish football is at least "debatable", and others might use more crude words. The corruption and inefficient management of the Polish national football leagues are the tip of the Iceberg. This situation causes frustration of many people who try to blame the Polish Football Association (PZPN) for all their miseries. Some of these people decided to take matters into their own hands. They formed the Association of Defenders and Supporters of the Polish Football. They registered (end of Polish Football Association) as an Internet domain name and started to host a website with critical publications on PZPN under that domain. One didn't need to wait too long before lawyers representing the Polish Football Association entered "the game". New players acting on behalf of the Polish Football Association requested the court to issue a preliminary injunction in order to secure the case for the future action for trade mark protection and for the protection of personal rights.

    The District Court in Lódz, I Civil Division, in its order of 14 January 2010, case file Ico 203/09, decided to grant the injunction and ordered the prohibition of placing at website the following trade marks owned by the PZPN: R-142616, R-170024, R-188961 i R-188962, the Court also ordered a block on the access to the content of the website available under domain name. The Court set the PZPN a two-week deadline for lodging the petition instituting proceedings for trade mark protection and the protection of personal rights under the pain of withdrawing the injunction in case no lawsuit was filed by that date.

    Polish ferry terminal - port of call for corruption?

    From: WBJ
    Possible corruption which involves PO and PSL politicians is being investigated.

    The former head of Ferry Terminal Swinoujscie (FTS), Agnieszka Szewczyk-Jurczyk, is being investigated by the Prosecutor's Office for allegedly paying for services which were never realized, Gazeta Wyborcza has reported.

    Politicians from Civic Platform (PO) and the Polish People's Party (PSL) are also among the people allegedly involved in the case.

    FTS manages the ferry port Swinoujscie, one of the biggest terminals on the Baltic. It is owned by Polish Terminals, which is headed by Bartlomiej Pachis, the leader of a regional branch of PO. In turn, Polish Terminals is under the control of the Szczecin and Swinoujscie Seaports Authority, whose president is PO politician Jaroslaw Siergiej.

    The transactions in question took place between March and October 2009, when Ms Szewczyk-Jurczyk was head of the FTS. She joined PO in July, but left in October when she resigned from her post at the ferry terminal.

    “We are investigating what happened to the money from the contracts,” Jaroslaw Przewolny from the Chief Prosecutor's Office in Kamiel Pomorski told Gazeta Wyborcza. The investigators were alerted by the supervisory board of FTS, which investigated Ms Szewczyk-Jurczyk's activities after she left the firm.

    One of the contracts was signed with Daniel Dziwulski, who helped run several election campaigns for PO MP Magdalena Kochan. He was to be paid zl.500,000 over three years for marketing services. Although he was to receive zl.15,900 a month, a few days after signing the contract he collected zl.140,000. FTS's supervisory board has been unable to find exact details of what services Mr Dziwulski actually provided for the company.

    Another deal was signed with a company headed by Agnieszka Szewczyk-Jurczyk's husband, PSL member Wlodzimierz Jurczyk. She is also a co-owner of the firm.

    In addition, the supervisory board found that some invoices had been paid without any proof that the contractors had actually fulfilled their obligations.

    Polish police release suicide statistics

    From: WBJ
    Polish men are more likely to commit suicide than women, according to statistics released by the police force. As many as 5,900 Poles attempted to take their own lives in 2009 – a figure comparable to the number of lives lost through road accidents.

    Those males who are more statistically likely to commit suicide have problems at work, often turn to alcohol and display noticeable signs of depression.

    According to the police statistics, in 2009, 4,839 men attempted suicide with 3,739 being successful. During the same period 645 women took their own lives.

  • Sport...

    Biathletes Domrachava and Novikovwin win two Olympic medals for Belarus

    From: BelTA
    Belarusian biathletes Darya Domrachava (Domracheva) and Syarhey Novikaw (Novikov) won two medals at the Vancouver Olympics on Thursday.

    The 23-year-old Domrachava finished third in the women's 15 kilometers individual, while Mr. Novikaw, 30, shared the silver medal with Norway's star Ole Einar Bjoerndalen in the men's 20-kilometer race.

    Ms. Domrachava, who missed one shot, trailed winner Tora Berger of Norway and Kazakhstan's Yelena Khrustalyova (Elena Khrustaleva), who formerly competed for Belarus.

    None of the four Belarusian biathletes was outside the top 30 as a result of the women's race. Lyudmila Kalinchyk finished ninth, while Volha Kudrashova came 16th and Nadzeya Skardzina was 28th.

    Mr. Novikaw finished slightly more than nine seconds behind Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen, who took the gold, and shared the second place with biathlon great Ole Einar Bjoerndalen.

    Alyaksandr Syman of Belarus finished 41st, while Rustam Valiulin was 48th and Yawhen Abramenka was 58th.

    The bronze and the silver became the seventh and eight medal earned by Belarus at a winter Olympics since its debut as an independent state at the Lillehammer Games in 1994. Two of the six medals earned by Belarus before the Vancouver Games were won by biathletes - one by Svyatlana Paramyhina in 1994 and the other by Alyaksey Aydaraw in 1998.

    The country won two silver medals at the 1994 Games, two bronze medals at the 1998 Olympics, one bronze at the 2002 Olympics and one silver at the Turin Olympics in 2006.

    Ms. Domrachava is to receive $30,000 for the bronze medal from the Belarusian government, while Mr. Novikaw is eligible for $50,000 in prize money.

    Belarus currently shares the 17th spot with Japan in the Vancouver Olympics medals table.

    Belarus pushes Sweden to limit in physical game

    From: LA Times
    Scrappy, physical Belarus came tantalizingly close to upending defending gold medalist Sweden and pulling off another Olympic hockey upset.

    Konstantin Zakharov clanged a shot off the crossbar about 12 minutes into the third period Friday shortly after his team had pulled to within a goal, and Andrei Stas forced goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to make a quick arm save on a desperate try to tie the score with 40 seconds left, triggering gasps from the crowd at Canada Hockey Place.

    But unlike the 2002 Games, when Belarus upset Sweden in the quarterfinals behind spectacular goalie Andrei Mezin, the Belarusians this time absorbed a noble 4-2 loss.

    "As a positive, you can look at it as a belief in ourselves. We got our confidence back a little bit the last two periods, especially the last five minutes of the game when we scored that goal," said Belarus captain Ruslan Salei of Colorado, a former Duck.

    "You try to tell the guys that you can compete with anybody in the world and until they feel that it's hard to explain. The last 40 minutes of the game I hope they feel that we can compete with them."

    Sweden, which opened the defense of its title with a shutout of Germany, expected and got a tough time Friday. "It was good for us, but I don't know if we wanted it this close," Peter Forsberg said. "We really would have liked to win by more goals."

    In a game punctuated by teeth-rattling hits by both teams, Sweden scored twice on its 17 first-period shots against Mezin.

    On Sweden's first goal, at 6:40, Henrik Sedin threw the puck into the slot, where his twin, Daniel, picked it up and rifled it past Mezin's arm from the inside edge of the right faceoff circle.

    Sweden made it 2-0 on a power play at 9:04. Magnus Johnasson, who plays in the Swedish Elite League, made a cross-ice pass that Daniel Alfredsson converted just before he crashed into the post and dislodged the net.

    Johan Franzen, a late roster substitute for injured Red Wings teammate Tomas Holmstrom, gave Sweden a 3-0 lead when he one-timed a fine backhand pass from former Duck Samuel Pahlsson.

    But then came Belarus.

    "We got too confident," said Sweden Coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson, a fine defensive player in his NHL days. "We started cutting corners."

    Belarus forced Gustavsson to make several stops, including a kick save while on his back, before Dmitri Meleshko flipped the puck over him during a power play to cut Sweden's lead to 3-1 at 14:40 of the second period.

    Meleshko, who plays in Russia's KHL, scored again at 11:33 of the third period on the rebound of a shot by Aleksandr Kulakov off the right wing.

    About 30 seconds later, Zakharov rifled a shot that caromed loudly off the crossbar.

    "It's fun to play these games just because you know how hard they're going to work. They have nothing to lose," Alfredsson said.

    Slap shots

    Ducks winger Teemu Selanne on Friday became the top career scorer in Olympic history with an assist on Finland's third goal against Germany. His 37th point in five Olympic hockey tournaments broke the record he had shared with Canada's Harry Watson, Vlastimil Bubnik of Czechoslovkia and Valeri Kharlamov of Russia. . . . European players are supposed to dislike playing on NHL-size ice, which is 15 feet narrower than international rinks. But defenseman Niklas Kronwall of Sweden and the Red Wings said he likes playing this tournament on the smaller rink because it promotes a more physical game. "It feels good. I think this is the way the game should be played in all the leagues in the world, to be honest with you," he said. "It gives the game a little bit better pace, I think."

    Germany-Belarus Preview

    From: ESPN
    It's been eight years since either Germany or Belarus won a hockey game at the Olympics. The drought is about to end for one of those nations.

    With each team seeking to salvage a victory in its Group C preliminary-round finale, the Germans and Belarusians will face off Saturday night.

    Each team enters this matchup having dropped its first two games in Vancouver. After losing its opener 5-1 to Finland, Belarus gave a gallant effort Friday but fell 4-2 to defending gold medalist Sweden.

    The Germans have fared even worse. They've yet to score in these Olympics, much less win. Germany got blown out 5-0 by the Finns on Friday, two nights after falling 2-0 to the Swedes.

    Times were better for these teams less than a decade ago. Both Belarus and Germany won multiple games in 2002 at Salt Lake City, where the Belarusians finished fourth. Belarus did not send a hockey team to the 2006 Turin Games, while the Germans left Italy with three losses, two ties and a 10th-place finish.

    Belarus enters this matchup with the most cause for optimism following a solid showing against the Swedes. Dmitri Meleshko scored twice and Andrei Mezin made 34 saves to keep the game close.

    "You try to tell the guys that you can compete with anybody in the world. Until they feel that, it's hard to explain it," said Ruslan Salei, one of two NHL players on the Belarus roster along with Sergei Kostitsyn. "Our guys got more comfortable. They started to believe in themselves."

    Kostitsyn, a left wing for the Montreal Canadiens, scored the lone Belarusian goal against Finland. One of Meleshko's goals Friday came on the power play, and Belarus will now try to take advantage of a German penalty kill that yielded three power-play goals to the Finns in the first two periods.

    "Just too much Finland," Germany coach Uwe Krupp said. "I don't need to analyze this game, just got to look ahead."

    Dimitri Patzold stopped 30 shots for Germany but struggled in his Olympic debut.

    "You spend so much time killing penalties you're just wasting energy," he said.

    For this contest, Krupp will likely opt to go with Thomas Greiss, who made 23 saves in the opener against Sweden.

    Offensively, the Germans have been anemic, failing to find the back of the net in 45 shots over their two losses, including six shots on goal by the Buffalo Sabres' Jochen Hecht and four by Boston Bruins forward Marco Sturm.

    "We have to play with more confidence and try to make some plays offensively," said Christian Ehrhoff, a defenseman for the hometown Vancouver Canucks who has been stymied along with the rest of the German players.

    The only previous Olympic meeting between these teams came in 1998, when Belarus beat Germany 8-2 in a preliminary-round matchup in Nagano.

    Belarus' Grabovski taken in to custody in Vancouver

    From: CTV
    Sources tell TSN that the Toronto Maple Leafs' Belarusian forward Mikhail Grabovski was taken into custody on Friday night following an altercation in a Vancouver bar.

    Grabovski, was named to Belarus' Olympic team, but unable to play due to injury, was later released.

    An investigation into the incident is ongoing.

    Maple Leafs' general manager Brian Burke released a statement on Saturday regarding the incident.

    "Our hockey club is aware of reports that forward Mikhail Grabovski was involved in a minor altercation in Vancouver early Saturday morning. Since we are presently investigating this matter, the team will not provide any further comment at this time."

    The National Hockey League is also aware of the incident; however the league will not pursue anything or take any action until such time all information is in and completed by Vancouver police.

    Belarus, China lead in women’s aerials

    From: Toronto Observer
    Alla Tsuper
    Canadian Veronika Bauer failed to qualify for the finals in women’s aerials after placing 15th in Saturday’s qualifiers at Cypress Mountain in Vancouver.

    Despite sitting in third place after her first jump, Bauer could not stick the landing on her second attempt and finished the day with a total score of 160.46.

    Alla Tsuper of Belarus was the best aerialist on the day with a total score of 195.76.

    Chinese skiers Li Nina and Guo Xinxin rounded out the top three, giving China four representatives heading into the finals.

    Evelyne Leu of Switzerland, the Olympic champion in 2006, failed to qualify for the finals finishing in 16th place.

    Oddly enough, the winner of qualifications in women’s aerials has never won an Olympic medal.

    Finals are set to take place Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

  • Endnote...

    Lidia Yermoshina outlines potential candidates for deputies

    From: BelTA
    Lidia Yermoshina
    Potential candidates for deputies are business people and heads of large enterprises, Chairperson of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Lidia Yermoshina told reporters following a CEC session on 18 February, BelTA has learnt.

    “Portrait of a potential candidate is the following: he/she is an entrepreneur or head of a major state-run enterprise,” Lidia Yermoshina said.

    The CEC Chairperson pointed out to the active nomination of candidates seeking to get to local Councils of Deputies. For example, every precinct election commission in Minsk submitted several applications from initiative groups.

    Some candidates are well-known people. For example, the Kamennaya Gorka district of Minsk submitted applications from two initiative groups. One of them seeks to nominate director of the Mapid company, the developer of that district. The other one nominated head of the deceived homebuyers society. It is a real alternative, Lidia Yermoshina said.

    Nearly 17,000 nomination groups for local elections apply for registration

    In a related Navany story, As many as 16,873 applications for the registration of nomination groups have been filed with election commissions for the forthcoming local elections, Mikalay Lazavik, secretary of the central election commission.

    Nomination groups, needed to collect ballot-access signatures, were able to apply for registration between February 14 and 18. Decisions on the applications are to be made within five days of their submission.

    According to Mr. Lazavik, 1,495 soviets with a total membership of 21,300 are to be formed as a result of the April 25 elections.

    A total of 261 applications were filed in the 57 electoral districts for elections for the Minsk City Soviet, Mr. Lazavik said. Thirty-two of the nomination groups would gather signatures for representatives of political parties.

    According to Mr. Lazavik, 433 applications were filed in the 358 electoral districts for elections for the regional soviets. Thirty-two representatives of political parties are seeking to be candidates for the soviets through the collection of signatures, Mr. Lazavik said.

    A total of 2,868 applications were filed for in the 4,109 electoral districts for elections for Belarus' 118 district soviets, Mr. Lazavik said, adding that 122 groups would be collecting signatures for representatives of political parties.

    As many as 612 applications were submitted in the 427 electoral districts for elections for the soviets of the 12 cities of regional subordination; 177 applications were submitted in the 256 electoral districts for elections for the soviets of the 14 cities of district subordination; 478 applications were submitted in the 754 electoral districts for elections for the soviets of urban villages; and 12,044 applications were submitted in the 15,339 electoral districts for elections for village soviets.

    A total of 334 nomination groups would gather signatures for representatives of political parties, Mr. Lazavik said. Among them would be 111 representatives of the Communist Party of Belarus, 71 representatives of the Belarusian Popular Front, 60 representatives of the United Civic Party, 30 representatives of the Hramada Belarusian Social Democratic Party, 25 representatives of the Belarusian Agrarian Party, 25 representatives of the “Spravedlivy Mir” (Just World) Belarusian Party of the Left, three representatives of the Belarusian Party of Greens, three representatives of the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada, two representatives of the Liberal Democratic Party, one representative of the Belarusian Patriotic Party and one representative of the Party of Labor and Justice.

    "As we can see, the number of applications in large cities exceeds that of districts, which means that there will be competition there," Mr. Lazavik commented. "One should remember that contenders will also be nominated by political parties and workers' collectives."

    Nomination groups are required to gather at least 150 signatures to secure ballot access for a candidate for the regional soviets and the Minsk City Soviet, at least 75 signatures for a candidate for a district or a city soviet and at least 20 signatures for a candidate for a village soviet.

    The deadline for nominating candidates is March 15, while the candidate registration process will take place between March 16 and 25.