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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Business opportunities, EU, partner states, Oman, Russian customs, Nuclear project, Hleb; News, Sport, Culture and Polish scandal...

  • From the Top...
  • #492

    Extra business opportunities in Belarusian towns, villages

    From: BelTA
    Additional opportunities for business development have been created in small towns and villages of Belarus. On 1 March the Belarus President issued decree No 4 to amend decrees No 9 of 20 December 2007 and No 1 of 28 January 2008 for the sake of adjusting the terms of business operation in provinces, the press service of the head of state told BelTA.

    The document is meant to remove obstacles to setting up new enterprises in small towns and in the countryside, to improve investment attractiveness of Belarusian provinces.

    To create equal operation terms for businesses located in the same territory, special business rules will be available to corporations and self-employed businessmen, who live (are located) in a rural area, provided they operate in this area.

    The effect of decree No 9 of 20 December 2007 has been extended to allow corporations and self-employed businessmen to simultaneously perform manufacturing, trading and mediatory activities, provided they keep record of profits for each kind of activities separately.

    To remove administrative barriers, existing preferential customs duties and the value-added tax have been extended onto all kinds of technological equipment. The preference will now be provided by default without having to ask local administrations to verify the imported commodities are technological equipment.

    To enable equal business operation terms, organizations with foreign investments that operate in line with decree No 1 of 28 January 2008 will no longer have to get the correctness of their authorized fund formation verified. Tax concessions will no longer have to be paid back when a party pulls out of a joint business.

    New Belarusian companies will be able to import commodities without paying taxes and dues just like foreign investors can if the goods are contributions to the authorized fund.

    To enable additional payback guarantees for the projects that the companies operating in line with decree No 1 of 28 January 2008 implement, the income tax preference has been extended from five to seven years. For-profit organizations that use the decree can continue using it if they merge with another corporation.

    To stabilize the rules set for potential investors by decree No 1 of 28 January 2008, tax concessions will no longer have to be paid out in full if the company is re-organized or shut down when tax concessions are in place or within three years after they expire.

    According to the Belarus President’s press service, decree No 4 will foster the liberalization of economic activities in Belarus.

    Property pledging on the rise in Belarus

    The practice of property pledging is on the rise in Belarus. The press service of the Belarus President told BelTA that on 1 March Alexander Lukashenko signed decree No 3 “Some aspects of the pledge of property”.

    The document is meant to improve the property pledging procedure.

    The document has expanded the property pledging practice (including real estate mortgage) to allow an organization to pledge property under operational management.

    Pledge holders can now satisfy their demands using the pledged property in an out-of-court manner on the basis of an agreement the pledge holder and the pledger can sign before or after the causes to start recovery proceedings against the mortgaged property have emerged.

    The decree also allows replacing the pledged property with any movable property in line with the rules that regulate the pledge of goods in circulation. It will allow steadily operating SMEs to pledge movable property if they do not have real estate property. They still retain the right to use the property and replace it with other property of equal value.

    In addition, the preferred order of satisfying the demands of creditors when a juridicial person or an individual entrepreneur is liquidated has been changed.

    The new rules are designed to step up business activities in the country and to contribute to liberalizing the economy.

    The decree comes into force two months after the official publication.

    Decree increases lending for subsidized housing construction in Belarus

    Subsidized loans can now cover 100% of the cost of the living space standard, for which preferential loans are granted, for the building and rebuilding of residential homes (except for large families that get a subsidized loan to cover 95% of the construction cost and a one-time subsidy to cover 5% of the construction cost). The change was brought about by Belarus president decree No 120 of 1 March. The decree amended and expanded decree No 185 of 14 April 2000, the press service of the head of state told BelTA.

    The maximum size of preferential loans available for buying homes (except for homes built specifically to be sold) has been increased.

    Large families willing to improve their housing conditions by buying a new home can use 100% of the subsidized loan granted for housing construction (it was 90% earlier).

    Individuals willing to improve their housing conditions by buying a new home can use 90% of the subsidized loan granted for housing construction (it was 70% earlier).

    In order to make preferential loans more affordable for citizens in communities inhabited by less than 20,000 people, the loan use fee will be reduced from 3% to 1% per annum.

    The new regulations are applicable to new credit contracts, contracts without issued loans, and credit contracts for building (rebuilding) homes, which were out of commission before 1 March 2010.

    In addition, large families in communities inhabited by less than 20,000 people have been allowed to get preferential loans to build outbuildings (up to 20% of the cost of the living space standard, for which preferential loans are granted).

    The decree allows joint use of one-time subsidies and subsidized loans by families that have disabled children, group I and II children, who are disabled from childhood.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus puts forward economic initiative for EU, partner states

    From: BelTA
    Belarus has put forward an initiative to set up an Eastern Development Forum. The forum is supposed to bring together manufacturers, traders, investors, banks, economic entities and researchers from European Union member-states and partner states. The initiative was voiced by Belarus Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov at a joint session of the foreign ministers of the Visegrad Group member-states, the Baltic states, and the European Union troika. The event was organized following Hungary’s initiative as the country is the acting president of the Visegrad Group, the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry told BelTA. Sergei Martynov was in Budapest on an official visit on 1-2 March.

    In his speech Sergei Martynov explained in detail Belarus’ approaches to promoting cooperation within the partnership, including the partnership’s future project activities and the formation of the parliamentary dimension. The Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs put forward several initiatives meant to make the Eastern Partnership more dynamic and practically minded. In particular, he suggested holding project fairs in European capital cities as part of the Eastern Partnership Initiative for the sake of encouraging major international donors to participate in implementing the projects.

    At the meeting an objective talk about matters concerning the realization of the EU's Eastern Partnership Initiative took place. The partner states said they are interested in filling the initiative with concrete content as soon as possible so that joint projects efforts could start. It was underlined that money of European financial institutes should be attracted to realize Eastern Partnership projects.

    The sides talked a lot discussing ways and schemes to facilitate visa procedures between the European Union and the partner states. The earlier voiced imitative to create “a group of friends of the Eastern Partnership” was supported. The initiative is supposed to encourage third countries to participate in the implementation of future regional projects.

    Sergei Martynov held several bilateral negotiations. He also delivered a lecture at the Hungarian International Politics Institute.

    While in Budapest, Sergei Martynov held talks with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Balazs. The two ministers discussed further enhancement of Belarusian-Hungarian cooperation in detail in all areas of mutual interest. An agreement was reached to expand regular contacts between the ministries of foreign affairs and branch ministries. The sides discussed ways to develop trade and economic relations, including development using the intergovernmental commission for economic cooperation that was created last year. The sides spoke in favor of stepping up the preparation of the investment protection agreement. They also exchanged diplomatic memos, according to which the intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in education, science and culture came into force on 1 March. The agreement was inked in May 2009.

    The talks also focused on promoting the Belarus-EU dialogue and enhancing the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Initiative. The sides discussed regional approaches and projects to be held within the framework of the partnership, ways to attract money of European financial institutions for financing them. The sides agreed that joint efforts are required to facilitate visa regulations for Belarusians traveling to the European Union.

    The Belarusian delegation also held meetings with officials of the Hungarian government and the parliament.

    Belarus and Hungary established diplomatic relations on 12 February 1992. The two ministries of foreign affairs have held regular consultations since 2000. Last year the interparliamentary dialogue was considerably invigorated: the two parliaments created friendship groups and have exchanged visits.

    In 2009 Belarus-Hungary trade totaled $206.5 million, 40.3% down. Belarus’ export amounted to $76.2 million, over 55% down, import - $116.9 million, 27.8% down.

    Belarus to promote products via Oman

    From: BelTA
    Belarus plans to use Oman to promote Belarusian products in the region. The bilateral relations were discussed as Boris Batura, head of the Belarusian parliament delegation, Chairman of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus, met with Prince Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for Cabinet Affairs of Oman, on 2 March.

    Boris Batura said the sides had agreed that the foreign ministries of the two countries should compile a program to promote Belarusian products in Oman and Omani products in Belarus. The head of the Belarusian delegation asked the prince’s aid in the matter. “We will hold an exhibition of our products in Oman. Taking into account Oman’s authority in the region, we plan to use it in order to enter third-country markets, too,” said Boris Batura.

    During the meeting the sides talked over investments. In particular, Boris Batura invited Oman to participate in building medium-class hotels in Belarus for the sake of creating the necessary infrastructure for the 2014 Ice Hockey Championship.

    In turn, Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud al Said thanked the Belarusian side for the interest in promoting relations. “The Sultanate of Oman will do its best to expand cooperation between our countries. Everyone who visits Belarus comes back with good impressions. We are interested in the prospects of developing relations between our countries,” he remarked.

    Boris Batura handed over a message from President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and wishes for good health of Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, his family and for prosperity of the Omani nation. “We are looking forward to the arrival of the Sultan of Oman to Belarus and are ready to give him a warm welcome,” said Boris Batura.

    The head of the Belarusian parliament delegation also visited the vilayet Nizwa and met with its governor on 2 March. The sides discussed prospects of promoting interregional cooperation.

    Belarusians no longer have to fill in customs declarations to drive into Russia

    From: BelTA
    As of 25 February Belarus citizens do not need to fill in customs declarations or any other temporary import papers when they drive into Russia, Sergei Borisyuk, Deputy Chairman of the State Customs Committee of Belarus, told media as he commented on the Belarusian-Russian intergovernmental agreement on temporary import and export of transport vehicles.

    At present Belarus citizens and Russia citizens do not perform any customs formalities to drive over the Belarusian-Russian border, said Sergei Borisyuk.

    Before 25 February several papers had to be filled in, increasing border crossing time. Now the time one has to stay at the border has been reduced. It used to be spent on filling in passenger customs declarations and clearance for temporary import of transport vehicles.

    Now the Russian customs service can only make sure that a Belarus-registered vehicle is driven by a Belarus citizen and the vehicle is registered with a relevant office of the Belarusian Interior Ministry. The new procedure applies to the vehicles registered with the traffic police and not new vehicles without permanent registration, stressed Sergei Borisyuk.

  • Economics...

    Belarus to submit oil export data to Russia

    From: BelTA
    Belarus will submit the data on oil export from its territory to third countries to Russia. The relevant agreement on data exchange is planned to be signed by the State Customs Committee of Belarus and the Federal Customs Service of Russia, as stipulated in Resolution No. 280 of the Council of Ministers of Belarus, BelTA learnt from the office of the Council of Ministers.

    The resolution reads as follows: “Agree with the proposal of the State Customs Committee (coordinated with the Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry) concerning the agreement between the State Customs Committee of Belarus and the Federal Customs Service of the Russian Federation on the exchange of data on oil export from Belarus to third countries.”

    Societe Generale may increase BelRosBank capital

    France’s Societe Generale (SC) is considering increasing the capital of BelRosBank, informs the press service of the Belarusian bank.

    Jean-Louis Mattei, Head of SG International Retail Banking, announced these plans at a recent meeting with chief of Belarus’ National Bank Piotr Prokopovich,” informs the bank’s press service. The sides considered the prospects of Societe Generale investing in the banking system of Belarus, further development of Belrosbank as a member of SG Group and also SG assistance in attracting foreign companies to Belarus.

    The Russian assets of SG Group have been recently merged into one universal bank (RosBank Group), which is now one of the top five banks of the Russian Federation.

    The shareholders of the Belarusian BelRosBank are now expecting positive changes too. According to Jean-Lois Mattei, SG Group is ready to build up its presence on the Belarusian market. In particular, Societe Generale is considering an opportunity of increasing the capital of BelRosBank, a member of the Societe Generale Group. Loans will be made more accessible for Belarusian companies and individuals. Operating representative offices in 82 countries, Societe Generale is ready to promote Belarus abroad and attract foreign businessmen to the country.

    A new effective system which will base on the Societe Generale high international standards will help secure long-term competitive advantages of BelRosBank on the Belarusian financial market. BelRosBank is expected to be rebranded as a member of the Societe Generale Group.

    Registered on 22 July 2003, BelRosBank is one of the leading banks of the Republic of Belarus according to the major business indicators (assets, corporate and individual loan portfolios, fixed-time deposits). RosBank, one of the largest banks of the Russian Federation, keeps a 99.99% stake in the bank. The acquisition of 58% of RosBank’s shares by Europe’s third largest financial group Societe Generale enabled the Russian bank to receive the highest international rating among the banks of the Russian Federation (BBB+ according to the Fitch Ratings Agency) and make it into the Societe General Group.

    Belarus to enhance efficiency of marketing services

    Belarusian companies are expected to increase the efficiency of the activity of the foreign trade and marketing services. The issue is envisaged in Resolution No 284 of the Council of Ministers of Belarus, BelTA learnt from the Council of Ministers’ Office.

    The organizations subordinate to the Ministry of Construction and Architecture, the Communications Ministry, the Food and Agriculture Ministry, the Transport, Energy Ministries, the concerns Belbiopharm, Belgospishcheprom, Bellegprom, Bellesbumprom, Belneftekhim, oblast executive committees and the Minsk City Hall are to intensify the work of their foreign economic and marketing services.

    New heads and specialists of the foreign economic and marketing services should meet all necessary qualification requirements including compulsory higher education in the foreign economic, marketing and logistics activity, the international law and international relations, foreign languages.

    A regular performance appraisal process of the personnel of the foreign economic and marketing services will be held by 1 August 2010. If necessary these services will be restructured within the year of 2010. The review will assess the level of the employees’ performance and knowledge of the foreign economic activity and foreign languages.

    The specialists of the foreign economic and marketing services are expected to enhance their qualifications in foreign languages once in three years.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Former Belarus envoy put on leave

    From: JPost
    Israel's former ambassador to Belarus was put on unpaid leave on Wednesday afternoon in the wake of police accusations that he had passed secret investigation materials pertaining to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on to the foreign minister in 2008.

    Ze'ev Ben-Aryeh, who has been serving as the foreign minister’s diplomatic adviser and was designated to be the next ambassador to Latvia and Lithuania, was sent on leave pending Civil Service Commission suspension proceedings. The move was agreed upon by the Foreign Ministry and the Civil Service Commission following a report of criminal misconduct received by the commission from the police.

    Police say the envoy, who was supposed to pass the confidential dossier directly to Belarus authorities in order to request their cooperation on the matter, copied the documents and gave them to Lieberman while the latter was visiting the country. Lieberman’s involvement in Ben Aryeh’s promotion in the foreign service will also come under investigation.

    Earlier today, citing the "mother and father of all investigation disruptions," Avigdor Lieberman filed a temporary injunction to the High Court of Justice to force the attorney general, the state attorney and the Police Investigations Division to explain why an internal investigation of leaks in his criminal case had been closed.

    On Tuesday, Lieberman was questioned by police on suspicion of having received an illegal tip-off from Ben Aryeh in 2008, allowing him to subvert the investigation process under way at that time.

    In August 2009, police said enough evidence existed to charge Lieberman for taking bribes, fraudulently receiving goods, violating public office, obstructing justice, harassing witnesses and laundering millions of shekels using a host of shell companies and bank accounts.

    In response to questions outside the High Court today, Lieberman told reporters that he had no intention of stepping down, and expected to serve as foreign minister through the 2012 elections and beyond that.

    Russian Trade Zone: A Soviet Reunion

    From: Business Week
    The inauguration of the Russia-Kazakhstan-Belarus customs union at the beginning of this year gave a very visible push to the Kremlin's long-term goal of economic reintegration of the former Soviet republics.

    There has never been any doubt that the Russian government would play the leading role in decision making, whether in a customs union or the in the next step foreseen, a single market that could soon become a reality. Many analysts interpret the Kremlin's intent as to re-create a kind of modernized Soviet Union, at least at the economic level.


    The Kremlin's initial moves in support of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's goal of a Russian-dominated zone embracing much of the former Soviet Union have been in the economic sphere. A half-dozen states have been drawn into the Russian economic embrace, and now Belarus and Kazakhstan have accepted Moscow's invitation to begin applying common customs tariffs on the majority of imported goods

    It's early days yet for the customs union. The three countries began applying common tariffs on 1 January, and a few types of products are temporarily exempt. But the impact of the new measures is provoking indignation among consumers in Kazakhstan, who are upset over higher prices for a wide range of goods.

    "Why does a new Toyota Camry made in Russia [now] cost 40,000 American dollars when all over the world the price is just 22,000?" one blogger complained on a Kazakh Internet site.

    The prices of imported clothing, leather goods, shoes, and perfumes have risen on the back of higher duties.

    Many medicines imported from outside the former Soviet countries are also more expensive now. Customs duties rose by 5 percent on imported insulin, hemoglobin, and some kinds of antibiotics, as well as vitamins. The duty on leather goods went from 5 percent of the cost of the goods to 20 percent, a rise of about $7 per kilogram.

    In Kazakhstan you can hear the view that the system of common tariffs is working to strengthen Russia's positions. Some Russian officials are openly saying that the new tariff setup is based largely on the Russian system. And Moscow's ambitions go well beyond the customs union now in place. The Russian, Kazakh, and Belarusian leaders have approved documents to establish a "common economic space" on 1 January 2012 – a single market for goods, investment, and labor.

    When the three countries' presidents signed the documents establishing the customs union in November they promised that it would boost trade, make their countries more competitive, and promote investment opportunities. Kazakhstan's president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, put the combined trade turnover of the three members at $900 billion. Although that is probably an embellishment, as leaders of post-Soviet states often tend to overstate figures relating to intrastate economic schemes, the customs union does have enormous potential, and, as Nazarbaev also declared, it could become a major exporter of oil and grain in the future.

    But these benefits may seem rather abstract to many consumers in Kazakhstan who so far are seeing mostly higher prices. Where products from developed countries used to be comparatively inexpensive, many Kazakhs have noted considerable rises in the retail cost of goods imported from outside the union. Some of the loudest complaints concern the price of cars.

    On 1 January the customs duty on imported cars rose from 10 percent of the price – the old Kazakh rate – to match the Russian rate of 30 to 35 percent. Behind these measures, some see Russia attempting to give an unfair advantage to its own auto industry products – cars that are uncompetitive on world markets.

    The new tariff system could unleash a flood of imports of all sorts, they warn, undermining domestic producers' market positions and perhaps causing an upturn in inflation. In 2007, Kazakhstan exported about $46 billion worth of goods and services, dominated by hydrocarbons, and imported about $30 billion worth, according to the World Bank.


    At first glance it may seem that domestic producers in Kazakhstan now have a price advantage over imports, because of the higher import duties. The truth is that old marketplace rivals have given way to new ones. The Russian government is the dominant influence over common economic policies in the customs union's coordinating structures. Kazakh companies may now face a raft of new competition from Russian firms under less than equal conditions.

    One Kazakh economic analyst thinks local businesses must get ready for cutthroat competition from Russian imports.

    According to Dosym Satpaev, director of the Risk Assessment Group think tank in Amaty, Russian companies are likely to gain the advantage on the Kazakh market over the next several years, thanks to the more competitive products the far larger and comparatively more developed Russian economy can turn out. Meanwhile, he says, the Kazakh economy will continue to be hampered by organizational deficits, quality control, and other problems. Kazakhstan is not yet ready for economic integration of the type Russia is spearheading, he warns.

    Economic data alone underline Russia's leading role in the new customs union and proposed single market. Although the Kazakh economy is one of the largest of the ex-Soviet republics, with a 2008 GDP estimated by the World Bank to be $132 billion, it's less than a tenth the size of Russia's.

    Coming close on the heels of the launch of the customs union, the victory of a close friend in the Ukrainian presidential election will give new impetus and vigor to the Kremlin's aim of further asserting its dominance of the post-Soviet economic space.

    So far Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have indicated strong interest in joining the customs union, and as for the second-largest economy in the post-Soviet sphere, Ukraine, president-elect Viktor Yanukovych told the British Daily Telegraph that he favored joining the growing Russian-led economic zone. Ukrainian entry into the customs union would shift the regional balance of power strongly toward inner Eurasia, and, particularly if no positive steps toward creating a more liberal political system occur in Russia, the European Union could then expect to face stronger Russian pressure in the center and west of the continent.

    Given that the Kremlin is seeking to regain its influence in Eurasia, if Ukraine joins the Russian-led economic zone, the Baltic states and the Central and Eastern European former Warsaw Pact members will take the brunt of that pressure.

    Top Investigator Arrested In Belarus

    From: RFE/RL
    A top Belarusian investigator who worked on high-profile corruption cases has been arrested, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

    Svyatlana Baikova, an investigator in the Prosecutor-General's Office, was arrested today by the Belarusian Committee for State Security, or KGB.

    The Belarusian Prosecutor-General's Office confirmed the arrest, but did not give any details.

    At the time of her arrest, Baikova was engaged in probing corruption among high-rankling KGB personnel, including former KGB officer and customs official Anatol Hramovich.

    She is also known for her active role in investigating a number of cases of corruption among police officers.

    In 2000, Baikova began investigating the disappearance of former Interior Minister Yury Zaharanka. She was taken off that case in 2002. Zaharanka's whereabouts are still unknown.

    Protest mars Vilnius public hearing on Belarus` nuclear project

    From: Navany
    A protest marred the Belarusian energy ministry’s public hearing held in Vilnius on the evening of March 2 to discuss the possible environmental impact of Belarus’ future nuclear power plant, BelaPAN reports.

    Several environmental campaigners wearing gas masks and special protective suits of nuclear power plant workers gathered in front of Vilnius State University that hosted the hearing.

    The campaigners distributed leaflets, saying that the Belarusian nuclear power plant, expected to be built near Lithuania`s border, would damage the ecosystem of the River Viliya rising in Belarus and flowing into the neighboring country.

    They also said that the nuclear project envisages the development of a nearby site for the storage of "hazardous waste."

    At the opening of the hearing, the Belarusian delegation expressed hope that the event would take place at "a high level," as was the case in the Hrodna region`s Astravets where a similar hearing was earlier held.

    A representative of the Lithuanian environmental protection ministry suggested that reports should not be translated from Russian into Lithuanian to save time. But following protests voiced by members of the audience, it was decided to use consecutive interpreters.

    Representatives of the nuclear project management directorate and the Belarusian energy ministry’s nuclear industry department took part in the hearing.

    Last year the Belarusian authorities sent a report on the environmental impact of the country’s future nuclear power plant to neighboring states – Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.

    Belarus is required to discuss the environmental effects of the project with its neighbors under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)’s 1991 Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context.

    Public hearings are also to be held in Austria, Latvia, Poland and Ukraine.

    The report will be elaborated following the consultations and submitted to the country’s environmental authorities for final approval, according to the Belarusian energy ministry.

    A special government commission decided in December 2008 that the plant should be built in the area of the village of Mikhalishki some 12 miles from Astravets, a city of 9,000 residents in the Hrodna region, and 10 miles from the Lithuanian border. The commission chose that site over locations near the village of Kukshynava between Horki and Shklow, Mahilyow region, and near the village of Chyrvonaya Palyana near Bykhaw, Mahilyow region.

    The 2,000-MW plant is expected to account for 27 to 30 percent of the total domestic electricity output. One of the two 1000-MW reactors is to be put into operation in 2016 and the other in 2018.

  • From the Opposition...

    Belarus not to get aid in European Neighbourhood Policy

    From: Charter '97
    All participants of the Eastern Partnership initiative expect for Belarus will get aid from Europe.

    The European Union took a decision to increase financing the European Neighbourhood Policy, Brussels reports. The EU is to allocate more than 5.7 billion euros to its neighbours within three years (2011–2013).

    As Radio Svaboda reports, the aid is provided for strengthening political cooperation and developing economic integration between the EU and the neighbouring countries. It is also planned to sponsor projects in such areas as climate change, transport, energy and environment.

    The aid will be granted to all Eastern Partnership participants, expect for Belarus, as well as Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and other countries. Libya has been included in the support programme of the European Neighbourhood Policy for the first time.

    The European Neighbourhood Policy was launched in 2004. The ENP doesn’t extended to Belarus due to human rights violations in the country.

    Hrodna oblast election commission didn’t grant Raman Yurhel’s complaint

    From: Viasna
    The Hrodna oblast territorial election commission considered the complaint lodged by Raman Yurhel against the refusal of the constituency commission to register him as an observer.

    R.Yurhel was nominated as an observer from the Belarusian Helsinki Committee to the Vishniavetskaya election constituency #12. At first he was registered by the commission. However, later the observer was denied accreditation by Siarhei Siamashka, the commission Chairperson.

    Having considered Yurhel’s complaint, the oblast election commission mailed to the observer the answer where it was stated that the constituency commission had lawfully refused to register him as an observer.

    Thus, the Vishniavetskaya election constituency #12 was left without independent observers. Raman Yurhel lodged the Kastryhnitski district procuracy in Hrodna a complaint against the decision of the Hrodna oblast election commission.

    Brest: six multistoried buildings ‘went missing’ during determination of boundaries of election constituencies

    The Brest human rights defender Siarhei Vakulenka turned the attention of the authorities to the fact that multistoried houses 56, 57, 61, 62 and 63 in Mitskevich Street and house 52/1 in Kirau Street weren’t mentioned in the decision of the Brest city executive committee determining the boundaries of the city constituencies on elections t the Brest city Soviet of Deputies of the 26th Convocation.

    The number of the electors living in the ‘missing’ houses could amount to 20% of the present number of electors at precinct #14 (5 037 persons).

    Siarhei Vakulenka requested explanations

    In some time the missing dwelling houses were taken into account during the determination of the boundaries of the precincts by the Brest city territorial election commission. As it follows from a publication in Viacherni Brest, houses 56, 57, 61, 62 and 63 in Mitskevich Street were attributed to election precinct #55 and house 52/1 in Kirau Street – to precinct #54.

    The number of electors at precinct #14 must significantly increase after the mistake is corrected.

    Hrodna: independent observer harassed at work

    Independent observer Sviatlana Rudkouskaya was nominated to the Praletarskaya constituency election commission #17 on elections to the Hrodna oblast Soviets of Deputies as an observer from the Belarusian Helsinki Committee.

    The observer has been Chairperson of building and loan association #8 for four years and hasn’t had any admonitions or even minor remarks concerning her work from the side of the Leninski district executive committee in Hrodna, but got in trouble after her nomination as an independent observer. The Leninski district executive committee served her two writs.

    The case was passed to the administrative commission of the Leninski DEC, headed by Aleh Bialinski, the DEC manager. Bear in mind that during the latest election campaigns Bialinski and Arkhipau have invariably occupied the positions of chairperson of precinct and constituency election commissions respectively.

    On 3 March Barys Fiodarau, Chairperson of the Leninski DEC, sent her to Aliaksandr Arkhipau, Chairperson of the department of public services and amenities, who drew up a violation report because the territory adjacent to building and loan association #8 wasn’t cleaned from litter.

    Sviatlana Rudkouskaya categorically disagrees to the violation report that was drawn up on her and considers such actions of the administration as persecution for participation in the election campaign.

  • Russia...

    NATO Plays Down East’s Worry After French Arms Sale to Russia

    From: Bloomberg
    NATO played down security concerns in eastern Europe provoked by France’s decision to sell four warships to Russia, which fought a war against would-be alliance member Georgia less than two years ago.

    In announcing the sale of the Mistral-class amphibious assault ships this week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the West needs to trust Russia and shed Cold War-era stereotypes.

    The sale was denounced by eastern European governments, especially the Baltic Sea states that were once part of the Soviet Union, as an unwarranted gesture to Russia that threatens European security.

    “I understand very well the concerns raised by a number of allies and I think it’s understandable taking into consideration history as well as recent events, but I take it for granted that Russia will not use or misuse such military equipment against any neighbor,” North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a Brussels press conference today.

    The sale of the 200-meter (656-foot) ships, capable of transporting as many as 700 combat troops, 16 helicopters and 60 armored vehicles, would mark Russia’s first big-ticket weapons purchase from a NATO country since the Cold War.

    Sarkozy, who brokered the cease-fire that ended Russia’s five-day war against Georgia in 2008, said March 1 after endorsing the sale that Russia is a “strategic partner” and “friend of France.”

    Rasmussen said there was no need for France to clear the sale with allied headquarters in advance and promised that “NATO has all necessary plans in place to protect and defend all allies.”

    Russia banks at risk from real-estate-backed loans

    From: Reuters
    Over two thirds of Russian loans are guaranteed by real estate, new research by Russia's top lender has shown, an imbalance analysts have warned is a huge risk for the banking sector if the economic situation worsens.

    Unlike Russian stocks, which rallied last year after a deep fall in 2008, real estate prices have lost 30-50 percent since peaking in 2007 and have yet to recover.

    "The structure of collaterals with the top 20 Russian banks shows that the share of real estate property ... exceeds 70 percent," Svetlana Sagaydak, a director for managing problem assets at Sberbank (SBER03.MM), told a conference on Wednesday.

    The data, compiled by Sberbank, came as a surprise for analysts, who previously had no reliable research on the issue.

    "I have tried to estimate the share, but it is too complicated," Olga Veselova, an analyst at Troika Dialog said.

    Analysts see huge potential risk to the banking sector from an uncertain real estate market.

    "It all depends on how the real estate market feels. If it continues to recover, the problem should not be that acute," said VTB Capital analyst Svetlana Aslanova.

    Russian banks including top lenders Sberbank and VTB (VTBR.MM) are heavily exposed to the construction sector and have already seized a huge number of assets, including development companies, residential real estate and shares in development projects. [ID:nLDE60L1BM]

    "The construction sector recovery is very poor ... And this is a headache for the whole banking sector," Sagaydak said.

    Banks suffered hefty losses last year due to increased bad loans charges and were unable to sell the related collateral for enough to cover their losses.

    "Some banks have already loaded up to one third of their balance sheets with non-core assets in a hope to sell them when the prices go up," Alexey Chalenko, an advisor to Uralsib bank's CEO told the conference, adding that the move may not pay off.

    Russian pawnshops outpace banks in lending money to people

    From: RIA Novosti
    Russian pawnshops increased lending to individuals by 18% in 2009 as banks were unwilling to extend loans to citizens over the high risk of defaults, a respected business daily reported on Wednesday.

    Kommersant cited a financial stability report prepared by the Russian Central Bank, which said interest rates on bank loans as high as 25% per month helped pawnshops step up their business last year amid the ongoing crisis.

    The report said the pledged items largely involved highly liquid assets such as gold jewelry.

    The volume of pawnshop business in Russia is hard to assess as pawnshops extend loans for a limited period - on average less than two months - and, therefore, demonstrate high turnover, Kommersant said, referring to Dmitry Terentyev, general director of United Lombard.

    "Proceeding from this, the volume of lending in 2008 measured about $1 billion, although pawnshop business assets were estimated at $120-180 million. Last year, lending increased 15-20% to about $1.2 billion," Terentyev said.

    The pawnshop market develops reversely to the banking market. Pawnshops are particularly popular during times of crisis, when people need money urgently and without any checks, and when banks are curtailing their lending operations, the paper said citing analysts' opinion.

    An advantage of pawnshops is that they do not have to make provisions for loan impairment, which cut bank profits last year and prevented them from developing their business, the paper said.

    However, as the economic situation in Russia stabilized in the second half of 2009, the sharp growth in pawnshops' business came to halt, the paper said.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Homosexuals win legal victory against Poland

    From: FT
    Poland may not discriminate against homosexual couples, in spite of a clause in the its constitution stating that marriage is “a union of a man and a woman”, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in Strasbourg.

    The court found, in a unanimous ruling released on Monday, in favour of Piotr Kozak, whose partner died in 1998, and who had his request to continue lining in their municipal flat in the western city of Szczecin turned down, in spite of a provision in Polish law allowing a “person who has lived in de facto cohabitation with the tenant” to succeed to the tenancy.

    The Strasbourg tribunal recognised the difficulty in maintaining a balance between traditional marriage and the rights of sexual minorities but found that the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights is “a living instrument” and has to be interpreted in the light of present-day conditions. It also found that, in this case, Poland did not have a clear interest in discriminating between heterosexual and homosexual couples.

    The case was greeted with joy by gay and lesbian groups in Poland.

    “This is a very important case because it shows a certain inequality before the law,” said Yga Kostrzewa, spokeswoman for Lambda Warsaw, a homosexual rights group. “There will certainly be many more cases like this because there are a lot of laws and regulations that do not treat people equally.”

    The ruling was viewed much more cautiously by conservatives and the Church. In an interview with the Catholic KAI news agency, Bishop Stanislaw Stefaniuk said the decision was dictated more by ideology than by the law. He said: “We still have not reached the ‘success’ of having homosexual unions treated the same as marriages but verdicts like that of the tribunal are supposed to be a guidepost for Polish courts.”

    Gay rights are a controversial issue in overwhelmingly Catholic Poland. Opinion polls show that almost half of Poles feel that homosexuality is a deviance, and, except for the small ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance, no parliamentary parties are interested in pursuing the issue.

    “The current parliament is very conservative, so it is unlikely to undertake any work on this subject,” said Ms Kostrzewa.

    Poland became a gay-rights target after attempts by Lech Kaczynski, then the mayor of Warsaw and now the country's president, to ban a gay rights parade in 2004 and 2005.

    crackdown on 'sponsoring'

    From: NPE
    'sponsoring' is a big problem in Poland
    Katowice police have started a campaign against teenage prostitution amid growing concern that increasing numbers of high-school girls are selling their bodies for fashionable clothes.

    Police officers will tour schools and shopping malls warning girls that while prostitution might provide cash for clothes it brings with it many dangers.

    “We do not want to teach children how to easily earn money, but to show them that prostitution is linked to drug addiction, alcoholism, venereal diseases, HIV / AIDS and trafficking in human beings,” said Sergeant Adrianna Mazur, the programme’s designer from the police in the southern city of Katowice.

    The programme comes amid mounting evidence that more girls are using their bodies as means to access fashionable clothes and gadgets such as mobile phones that are generally beyond the meagre financial resources of a teenage.

    A recent survey of 15-year-old girls in Katowice found that 67 per cent of them had a friend or peer who had engaged in prostitution, and, experts warn that given the shadowy nature of the practice the true level may well be higher than any estimates.

    “We all know that the problem exists, but really no-one really knows the scale of the problem because prostitution is not punishable, and disclosing it is not in the interests of the minors or their customers,” said Sergeant Mazur.

    The problem has been fuelled by the internet, which provides girls with easy advertising. Websites full of girls looking for a “sponsor” are common place on the net, and experts also point out that mobile phones have made it far easier for girls to tout their bodies by texting photographs, and to arrange meetings with clients.

    “Child prostitution is a serious problem, which has now moved to the malls and to the internet,” said Pawel Spiewak, president of, adding that the problem is often compounded by the child’s failure to regard the practice as prostitution.

    “In the minds of these girls, prostitutes are the people who work in brothels or stand by the road. Hopefully the programme developed by the police in Katowice will open the eyes of young people,” he explained.”

    Police have also said parents should shoulder some of the responsibility for the problem through their failure to ask their children where they got the money for any expensive clothes or phone they might have.

    False rape claim

    From: NPE
    A woman who claimed she had been brutally raped has admitted that she had in fact invented the whole thing.

    Anjelika P., of Krosno Odrzanskie, originally told police that the attack had taken place in her own home, but came clean after investigators suspected that the story was false. Another woman, Dorota W., said that they were initially attacked on their way to work, but has since retracted her claim. “Neither of the women can explain why they decided to report a crime that never actually happened,” said police spokeswoman Agata Lubuska.

    They now face up to three years in prison.

  • Sport...

    Armenia 1-3 Belarus: Hleb Goal Inspired Visitors To Victory

    In a 'just for kicks' type international friendly, Belarus managed to put 3 goals past hosts Armenia, who would only manage a single reply.

    Dynamo Minsk's Anton Putsila opened the scoring for the Belarusians, but the hosts forwarded their retort soon after, bringing the teams back to level pegging.

    However, Belarus got the game by the scruff of the neck once more, when Barca-owened Aliaksandr notched another goal for his side and brought the score to 2-1 in favour of the visitors.

    The game was well and truly wrapped up for the travelling side when BATE striker Vitaly Rodionov brought the score to 3-1 after 86 minutes.

    Hleb to decide on future

    In a related story, Alexander Hleb's agent insists his client will decide on his future following the World Cup finals.

    The Belarus star is currently on a season-loan loan at Stuttgart from Spanish giants Barcelona due to lack of first-team football.

    After reportedly falling out with manager Christian Gross, it has now been confirmed that Hleb will return to Camp Nou in the summer.

    However, Hleb's agent Maurizio Gaudino insists there has been no dispute with the Swiss tactician as he remains part of the manager's plans.

    The ex-Arsenal man has been linked with a Premier League return and while Manchester City and Aston Villa have been linked with his services, nothing has been decided.
    Liga return

    "Barcelona have decided to bring the player back to Spain at the end of the season," he told

    "He still has two years left on his Barcelona contract. After the World Cup we'll decide his future with the club.

    "Problems with the coach? This controversy was created by German journalists. Hleb's a great name. They are trying to put the coach against the player, but it's okay.

    "If something happened between them then the coach could keep him on the bench, but that's never happened. There is no problem with Gross.

    "There is interest from many teams. It is normal that a major player like Hleb is being followed."

  • Cultural Scene...

    Five countries to partake in Polotsk chamber music festival

    From: BelTA
    Musicians and performers from Switzerland, Austria, China, Russia and Belarus will participate in the 23rd International Festival of Old and Contemporary Chamber Music in Polotsk on 11 March, BelTA learnt from Liliya Yemelyanova, head of the concert department of the National Polotsk History and Culture Museum.

    The festival will include six chamber music concerts. This year Polotsk has been announced the Capital of Culture at the time when the world community celebrate several birthday anniversaries of renowned composers. All these events will be included into the festival programme. One of the concerts will mark the 65th anniversary of Great Victory.

    The symphonic orchestra of the National State TV and Radio Company will open the festival on 11 March. Musicians invite conductors from different countries. This time Polotsk will welcome well-known Swiss conductor Simon Camartin. He is not only a wonderful conductor but also an author and organizer of chamber music festivals, Liliya Yemelyanova said. The Belarusian-Swiss tandem will present a programme consisting of the works of Mozart, Schumann and Belarusian contemporary composer Galina Gorelova.

    The concert dedicated to the 65th anniversary of Victory will continue the programme of the festival. The Minsk music choir Sonorus, a prize holder of the international contests, will perform Maurice Durufle’s Requiem.

    A piano concert conducted by professor of the St Petersburg Conservatory honored artist of Russia Nina Seryogina will mark the birthday anniversaries of great composers Robert Schumann and Frederic Chopin.

    Well-known Polotsk organist Kseniya Pogorelaya will dedicate her performance to the 325th birthday of Johan Sebastian Bach. Two final concerts will present the soloists of the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus and the Belarusian State Academic Choir of Belarus named after G.Shirma, people’s artist of Belarus Lyudmila Yefimova.

    The festival will close on 28 March.

  • Endnote...

    Israeli mass media: Lieberman’s good fellowship with last dictatorship of Europe is mystery

    From: Charter '97
    A scandal around Foreign Minister of the country and ex-Ambassador to Belarus Avigdor Lieberman starts in Israel.

    Police has interrogated Foreign Minister of Israel Avigdor Lieberman as a suspect in obstructing an investigation and breach of public trust, informs.

    As noted by official sources, the minister was interrogated in the framework of the investigation held against the former envoy to Belarus, Ze'ev Ben Aryeh.

    It is informed that Ben Aryeh is accused of turning classified information about a criminal investigation against him over to Lieberman in Minsk.

    During the investigation Israeli law enforcing agencies addressed through the embassy to their Belarusian colleagues with a request to provide this information.

    Ambassador Ze'ev Ben Aryeh passed that request to the prosecutor’s office of Belarus, however left a copy of the document for him. When Lieberman visited Minsk in 2008, the classified information was passed to him, as police suspects.

    As informed, Lieberman is suspected of advancing Ben Aryeh's position in the Foreign Ministry in exchange for the information.

    Israel-based Haaretz informs that long before Avigdor Lieberman became excessively interested in relations between Israel and Belarus long before he became Foreign Minister. In 2004, when his was transportation minister in the government of Ariel Sharon, Lieberman lobbied actively for Israel to reopen its Minsk embassy, closed following budget cuts the previous year.

    Then as said by anonymous sources in the Foreign Ministry, Lieberman helped Ze'ev Ben Aryeh to be appointed as ambassador. Between October 2008 and June 2009, Lieberman made three visits to Minsk, two times on an official visit and for vacation right after the election. The reason for Avigdor Lieberman's peculiar interest in “the last dictatorship of Europe” is unclear, Haaretz reports.