News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gambling industry, Union State, Flyers awarded Order, Taxes, Grid computing, Nukes, Politics, Opposition, Culture, Sport and Polish scandal...

  • From the Top...
  • #494

    Tougher control over gambling industry promised in Belarus

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko believes that instead of banning gambling business the Belarusian government should step up control in this area. Alexander Lukashenko made the statement at a government session held on 9 March to discuss a concept for Belarus’ gambling industry development.

    “If approached wisely, gambling industry can become an additional source of revenue for the national budget through taxes. The industry can create new jobs and attract tourists and investments to our country. In view of the ongoing changes in the Russian and Ukrainian legislation we have every chance to take the leading position in this sensitive area. Decisions should be made very carefully and competently, for the country’s benefit,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    The Belarus President underlined that this peculiar kind of business requires special attention at present. Approaches to organizing and running the business vary across the globe. Some countries foster the gambling business, some countries ban it and some countries restrict and control it.

    The head of state remarked that judging by the experience of Russia and Ukraine the lack of a balanced state policy regarding the gambling business can lead to virtually a complete ban. It forces the highly remunerative business to become illegal. Then the business becomes a prey for criminal circles, damaging the society. “History tells us that bans can produce nothing but harm,” said Alexander Lukashenko. “This is why nothing should be banned except for things that are exceptionally harmful for the country. Things should be controlled and if necessary, negative phenomena should be fought”.

    “I say this for those who will burst into anger tomorrow claiming that we have brought virtually the CIS’ entire criminal world into Belarus. Everything will be all right here if those, who are assigned to control this business, do their jobs and do not destroy the business, do not criminalize it. If government officials do well, everything will be all right,” said Alexander Lukashenko. The head of state remarked that things had gone the other way in Russia and Ukraine where various factions had divided this business.

    Alexander Lukashenko remarked that about six months before he had requested the government and interested agencies to work out guidelines for developing Belarus’ gambling industry taking into account both economic and social factors. The efforts have produced a national gambling business development concept. The government believes it provides for tougher state control and rules out the possibility of criminal bodies taking part in the business. In addition, it will substantially increase budget revenues and protect the nation from becoming addicted to “one-armed bandits”.

    According to the head of state, the 9 March discussion is supposed to assess whether the suggested concept meets such intentions.

    The President stressed that a well-thought-out decision should be taken to make the business comfortable both for commercial entities and the government without creating negative social consequences for the public.

    Belarus' gambling business development concept approved

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko approved a gambling business development concept. The concept was presented by Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky at a session on 9 March.

    “We need to have an honest and open system of gambling business. At the same time we need to ensure tough responsibility. Then everything will get straightened out,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    When preparing the concept the government was considering three scenarios, Sergei Sidorsky informed. The first scenario was about pin-point modernization of the existing system. It envisaged toughening control over operators, introducing the list of gambling machines that could be used in Belarus and imposing restrictions on the area of gambling halls.

    The second scenario provided for the single gambling zone in Belarus. Such zone (near the Minsk national airport) would include a great number of gambling establishments and the necessary infrastructure: hotels, restaurants, malls and others. Yet the experts recognized this scenario as very expensive (requiring around $1 billion of financial input).

    Finally, the third scenario envisages the de-centralization of the Belarusian gambling business, application of advanced technical control means, ensuring the security of players and also financial transparency of gambling establishments. This scenario provides for a special computer-based POS system. It will connect all gambling machines and other equipment, which will allow receiving and systematizing all information on financial flows of gambling establishments in Belarus. Thus the state will have control over financial flows of gambling establishments. This will make it possible to refuse from the flat-sum tax on gambling equipment and move on to transparent taxation of real income of gambling operators.

    A special center will be set up to monitor the POS operations. This center should be run by a big private company that possesses the necessary know-how, experience, financial resources and facilities. According to Sergei Sidorsky, a big US company has shown interest in this project and is ready to invest up to $200 million.

    The concept envisages the introduction of unified technical standards in the gambling business. There are plans to refit casinos and introduce the so-called electronic roulette terminals that send information about stakes and wins to the electronic database.

    Apart from that, only big casinos will be allowed to operate; there will be only one casino in each oblast center and two or three in the capital.

    Apart from that, the State Control Committee deems it necessary to toughen the requirements to applicants seeking gambling licenses, formalize special requirements to the authorized capital of gambling establishments and adopt a set of additional measures to mitigate the negative social consequences of the gambling business (for example, to forbid the construction of casinos in the towns under 50,000 people, to set up a database of gamblers in order to identify certain categories of people banned from gambling, etc).

    The President of Belarus approved the concept put forward by the government. Alexander Lukashenko informed that a tender might be held next month to choose a private company to take part in the establishing of a monitoring center.

    The head of state underlined that the information obtained through the POS should be forwarded only to the agencies that will directly control the tax payments by gambling establishments, and to no one else. Alexander Lukashenko does not think it would be good if this information was made available to each agency. “This is the responsibility of tax authorities. The State Control Committee, the KGB and the Information and Analytical Center affiliated with the President of Belarus have nothing to do with it. If security agencies need information, they can submit a request any time,” the President said.

    Alexander Lukashenko demanded that the draft decree that is being developed based on the concept should meet the world’s standards and expertise. “I do not want you to come to me three months later in order to introduce amendments and addenda. If you get down to developing the decree – do it in due order so that it will work for years,” the head of state said.

    The Belarusian President gave an instruction to finalize the draft decree on the gambling business in Belarus within two months.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Union State MPs to discuss international agenda in Minsk

    From: BelTA
    The parliamentarians of Belarus and Russia are set to review the progress and discuss the prospects of the international activity of the Union State Parliamentary Assembly (PA) at a session of the foreign policy commission in Minsk on 11 March, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Parliamentary Assembly.

    The agenda includes foreign policy issues put forward by the Scientific and Advisory Board of the Parliamentary Assembly, the preparation of an address of the PA Council to the parliaments of the CIS member states in connection with the 65th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War. The MPs intend to discuss draft recommendations for international observers and a set of topics for the scientific and research conference “Topical issues of the Union State construction and development” that will be held in Saint Petersburg in May.

    Apart from that, the Union State MPs will sum up the results of the work of the commission in 2009 focusing on the participation of the PA delegation in a session of the 122nd Assembly of the Inter-parliamentary Union and the observation over the parliamentary elections in Tajikistan.

    Alexander Marfitsky, Alexander Zhuravlevich awarded Order for Personal Courage posthumously

    From: BelTA
    The funeral procession took several miles. Thousands of people came for the ceremony. Alexander Marfitsky and Alexander Zhuravlevich have largely contributed to the Belarusian military aviation. "They are the best songs of the nation, who sacrificed their lives to save hundreds of other people", said the Defense Minister Leonid Maltsev.
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has signed a decree to bestow the Order for Personal Courage posthumously upon Deputy Chief of the Western Operative and Tactical Command of the Air Force and Air Defense of Belarus Alexander Marfitsky and Deputy Chief of the 61st Fighter Jet Airbase Alexander Zhuravlevich, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    The perished officers were awarded this order for their courage, decisive actions, valor and professionalism demonstrated in the performance of duties.

    A reminder, the Belarusian military jet Su-27UBM crashed while performing aerial acrobatics at an air show in the Polish town of Radom on 30 August. Both the stunt pilots, namely Alexander Marfitsky and Alexander Zhuravlevich died. According to the press service of the Belarusian Defense Ministry, the jet apparently struck some birds causing an engine failure. The pilots steered the jet away from the crowd and paid with their lives to avoid more gruesome consequences. The Defense Ministry has set up a commission to investigate the accident.

    Immigrants in Belarus exempt from several taxes

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has signed decree No 143 to regulate taxation in Belarus, the press service of the head of state told BelTA.

    The basic rate of the united tax that self-employed businessmen can choose to pay instead of several individual taxes is now calculated in Belarusian rubles instead of euros. The step will simplify calculations of the tax for the tax payers.

    In order to ensure additional revenues for local budgets in 2010, the decree allows them to raise (or reduce) land tax and real estate tax rates for certain categories of tax payers by two times at most.

    The decree exempts revenues of individuals, who have moved into Belarus for permanent residence, from income tax for five years, provided they transfer money into Belarus. The exempted revenues are revenues from sources from abroad such as dividends, royalty fees, operations with securities, real estate sales.

    Among other things the decree brings the terminology of Belarus president decrees into compliance with the Belarus Tax Code.

    The decree comes into force as of 1 January 2010.

    Belarus to set up grid computing center

    From: BelTA
    A national computer grid center will be set up at the United Information Technologies Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Anatoly Krishtofik, employee of the institute, Executive Director of the Union State program SKIF-GRID, told BelTA.

    The new institution will manage Belarus’ computer grid. It will carry out projects for developing and deploying particular services required for the supercomputer network operation. “We have already set up authenticating and operating centers and have developed the software to test and monitor the grid,” said the scientist.

    Anatoly Krishtofik reminded that the first test segment of the national computer grid had been set up at the NASB’s United Information Technologies Institute. The computer grid now includes the United Energy and Nuclear Research Institute Sosny, the Belarusian State University, the Belarusian National Technical University and the Grodno State University. The future grid development will improve the possibilities of using supercomputers through combining computation resources of Belarus’ leading research institutions. The innovations will help companies do without buying expensive high-performance computers and software. They will just need to plug into the united computing infrastructure to use the opportunities it offers.

    The establishment of the grid computing infrastructure is an important step in Belarus’ innovation development. Grid technologies are useful in many branches of the national economy. In mechanical engineering they are used to design and model complicated equipment, to replace expensive live tests with virtual ones, to create new nanotechnologies and nanomaterials. In medicine grid computing technologies are used to study the human gene, develop new medications and to process X-ray images of patients suffering from oncological diseases.

    Taking into account the growing demand for supercomputer technologies, this year there are plans to set up an association of resource centers of the national computer grid in Belarus. It will allow promoting proposals for working out research programs for the development and use of the latest grid computing technologies in specific branches of the national economy more effectively.

  • Economics...

    Belarus creates favorable conditions for agriculture, Sergei Sidorsky says

    From: BelTA
    Belarus has created necessary conditions for the effective development of agriculture, said Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky as he met with the Agriculture ministers of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland on 6 March.

    “We do our best to maintain the development of large scale production in Belarus,” stressed Sergei Sidorsky.

    Belarus is doing a lot for the agricultural development, according to the Prime Minister. “We have introduced market relations into the agriculture over the last ten years. And we have laid stress on the large scale manufacturers,” he said. Sergei Sidorsky also said that Belarus is implementing a number of national programs on the development of agriculture.

    Sergei Sidorsky praised that fact that in 2009 Belarus produced more than ten million tonnes of grain. “We have ensured the economic security of the country. Two years ago we started exporting grain and ceased the import of hard grain,” said the Prime Minister.

    Speaking on vegetable farming, Sergei Sidorsky said that Belarus increased the sugar beet production up to four million tonnes. Four major sugar plants are operating, and one more sugar plant is being constructed.

    “We have solved the problem of rape production and started producing rapeseed biological fuel,” said Sergei Sidorsky.

    On the whole, the profitability of Belarusian agriculture is 8%-9%, which is rather a good figure. In 2009 Belarus exported about $2 billion worth of agricultural goods.

    Sergei Sidorsky paid special attention to the demographic problems of the rural area. Its population is getting older, that is why it is important to get the youth involved in the development of agriculture. But young people are interested in comfortable living conditions. Belarus has built about 1, 500 agrotowns with complete infrastructure. Some 9, 000 houses are constructed annually. All these steps are expected to enhance the attractiveness of living in the rural area.

    When addressing to the Agriculture ministers of Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, Sergei Sidorsky said that the bilateral contacts are very important for the development of trade and economic relations and the exchange of technologies and experience. The personal relations play a significant part too. It is good when you can call your counterpart and solve the problem without long paperwork, the Belarusian Prime Minister believes.

    “Belarus is interested in promoting goods to your markets,” said Sergei Sidorsky. He invited the Latvian, Lithuanian and Polish manufacturers to Belarus, taking into account the prospects of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

    Peugeot-Citroen container train starts running via Belarus

    A new container train with the Peugeot-Citroen-produced component parts has started to run via Belarus, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Belarusian Railways.

    The first train departed France on 5 March and arrived in Brest on 8 March. The new project became possible due to close cooperation between the railways of France, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia, the Transcontainer Company and the French carmaker Peugeot-Citroen.

    The container train will transport the Peugeot-Citroen component parts to an assembly production facility in the Kaluga Oblast of Russia. The train will run via Vesoul (France), Frankfurt on Oder (Germany), Malaszewicze (Poland), Brest (Belarus) and Vorotynsk (Russia).

    By June this year the train is expected to run five times weekly.

    According to the press service, the new project will allow the railways to increase the traffic volume, attract additional flows of freights from the alternative routes. The transportation of goods by means of container trains reduces the delivery time, improves reliability.

    Taking into consideration the growing popularity of container freights all over the world, the Belarusian Railways has intensified the work on organization of goods transportation in containers. In recent years the Belarusian Railways jointly with the railways of other countries have implemented several projects on transportation of freights by containers.

    The Brest-Kaluga-Brest container train which transports component parts for the German carmaker Volkswagen is one of the biggest projects. For the past two years, the Belarusian Railways jointly with Transcontainer have transported 190,000 containers in both directions. The average travel time has reduced from seven days to four days due to the improvements in train handling and document processing.

    Owing to the new project, the Belarusian Railways and Transcontainer are expected to double the transportation of container freights.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Ukraine's Greens criticize Belarusian nuclear project

    From: Navany
    The Party of Greens of Ukraine is protesting the construction of Belarus' nuclear power plant, describing the future station as an extremely hazardous facility.

    "Belarus is one of the countries that have been hit worst by the Chernobyl accident," Party Deputy Chairman Pavlo Khazan said in an interview with BelaPAN. "We firmly believe that energy demand should be satisfied through wise energy consumption and energy efficiency efforts and energy sources should be diversified, while plans to increase the capacity of existing nuclear power plants or build new stations should be dropped."

    "Belarus has a great potential of increasing the use of renewable energy sources by, for instance, building wind power plants," Mr. Khazan said. "I think that the matter will be raised at the next session of the European Green Party, and I hope that we will combine our efforts and stop the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant.”

    The Ukrainian party demands a large-scale public hearing on the Belarusian nuclear project in its country.

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

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

    Earlier this week, the Belarusian energy ministry held a public hearing on the project in Vilnius. A similar event is scheduled to take place in Ukraine later this month.

    Belarus' 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.

    One of Barbie's child victims kills herself

    From: IOL
    Dirk Prinsloo and Cezanne Visser
    A victim of convicted sex offender Cezanne Visser and her partner Dirk Prinsloo has committed suicide, nine years after the pair molested her on her 14th birthday.

    Although details were unclear by the time of going to press, it is believed Janine du Plessis, 23, was found hanging from a tree near the Botswana border.

    Apparently Du Plessis, who was recently discharged from a drug rehabilitation centre, was visiting Botswana with the father of her child, who is said to be in the care of her mother, Marie.

    Marie said last night she was not in a position to talk to the media.

    Two weeks ago, the Pretoria High Court sentenced Visser - also known as Advocate Barbie - to seven years in jail for her part in the sexual abuse of children and young women. She is appealing the sentence.

    Prinsloo is currently serving out a 13-year jail sentence in Belarus for a bank robbery.

    Last night, Visser's stepfather, Johan Lemmer, said that Visser and her mother Susan had just received the news of the suicide. "The family is in shock, that is all we have to say," he said.

    Laurie Pieters, Prinsloo's former private assistant and an offender profiler, said she conducted a victim impact assessment on Du Plessis last year.

    Questioned whether the abuse played a role in her psychological development and eventual suicide, Pieters said: "Of course, it did.

    "The fall out from abuse was horrifying for the child's life and her parents.

    "The whole family was devastated," she said.

    Pieters said the impact of the abuse meant Du Plessis never developed from a girl into a woman.

    "The child ran away from home and became a heroin addict, got involved with Nigerians, got raped and was on drugs for years."

    Pieters said when she last heard about Du Plessis, she had been admitted to a drug rehabilitation centre in December for her heroin problem.

    She said her child, presumed to be about 14 months old, was in her mother's care.

    Child Abuse Action Group (CAAG) spokeswoman Lucy Redivo agreed that the abuse had a significant role in Du Plessis' mental well-being. "It must have played a part. I am angry that now there is another orphan.

    "(Du Plessis) was never given proper assistance from the state.

    "Nine years after the abuse and she only has some finality because the case is now going to the appeals court. If you are a victim of trauma, you see that as the perpetrators going free," she said.

    Last year, Visser told the Pretoria High Court that she met Du Plessis through an organisation which housed homeless children.

    Visser testified that she often took Du Plessis out for coffee and shopping and, when she turned 14, Prinsloo suggested they give her a treat at home for her birthday.

    The couple served the child alcoholic drinks and at the end of the evening Visser claimed Prinsloo gave Du Plessis a drug-laced cup of Milo.

    "She became drowsy and Dirk picked her up and said he would lay her down. When I walked to the main bedroom later, I found them in the guest bedroom.

    "She was lying on her back and Dirk had already ejaculated over her stomach," said Visser.

    Du Plessis confirmed in court Visser's claim that she was given Milo and that she felt drowsy after drinking it. She said she was taken to the main bedroom and all she could remember was flashing lights.

    When she woke up she was naked.

    She testified that she had subsequently become involved in drugs and prostitution and that she was, at the time of her testimony, working at a strip club.

    Belarusian-Polish meeting on problem of Union of Poles postponed by a week

    From: Navany
    Andrzej Kremer
    The first meeting of a Belarusian-Polish expert group that was established to discuss possible solutions to the problem of the Union of Poles in Belarus (UPB) has been postponed by a week.

    The meeting, initially scheduled for March 9, has been postponed, tentatively until March 16, because of differences between the parties on the issue, an informed source told BelaPAN.

    The group is reportedly headed by Leanid Hulyaka, the Belarusian government’s commissioner on religious and ethnic affairs, and Andrzej Kremer, the Polish foreign ministry’s undersecretary of state.

    An agreement to set up a group of experts to resolve the Polish minority conflict was reached by Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski at their meeting in Kyiv on February 25.

    “The president of Belarus assured me that the group of experts would try to find solutions satisfactory to both parties,” Polskie Radio quoted Mr. Sikorski as saying. “I accepted this in good faith... I think I managed to convince President Lukashenka that this is a matter of urgency.”

    Messrs. Lukashenka and Sikorski were staying in Kyiv to attend the inauguration of President-elect Viktor Yanukovych.

    Mr. Sikorski noted that he had arrived in the Ukrainian capital city with a special view to meeting with the Belarusian leader.

    The fact that Mr. Lukashenka agreed to the meeting suggests that Belarus “takes seriously the Belarusian-Polish relationship and the Belarusian-European relationship,” Mr. Sikorski said.

    He called on the Polish media and politicians not to stir up passions and let the experts do quiet behind-the-scenes work so that they will be able to generate solutions in an atmosphere free of provocations. In the meantime, the Polish community in Belarus would have two autonomous organizations and the two countries would be able to develop their economic, cultural and political relations, the minister said.

    “I believe the dialogue and our conversation are proof that the government of Belarus realizes the seriousness of the situation and wants to find a solution,” Mr. Sikorski noted.

    “While tackling any issues that exist between Poland and Belarus and especially the issues that you are talking about, you should proceed from the fact that those 200,000 people of Polish origin are my Poles and my voters, and I’m responsible for them personally.” Mr. Lukashenka said. “And I’ll do everything so that they will have a good life in Belarus.”

    The Union of Poles in Belarus split into a so-called official UPB, that is, the one recognized and backed by the Belarusian government, and an “unofficial” (unrecognized) UPB after Andzelika Borys was elected leader of the Union at a convention held in March 2005 and the Belarusian justice ministry declared her election illegitimate. At a government-orchestrated repeat convention held a few months later, Jozef Lucznik, a retired Polish language and history teacher, was elected new leader. Supporters of Ms. Borys contested the legitimacy of the repeat convention, accusing the government of installing loyal people at the UPB helm.

    Many of the UPB members, including its founder Tadeusz Gawin, refused to recognize the new leader, siding with Ms. Borys.

    At a conference held in Hrodna in September 2009, Stanislaw Siemaszko, a 57-year-old local businessman was elected to succeed the 73-year-old Lucznik.

    However, the Polish government still regards Ms. Borys as the only legitimate leader of the Union. President Lech Kaczynski expressed solidarity with the unofficial UPB while meeting with Ms. Borys and other prominent members of the Union in Warsaw on February 22.

    “People of the official Union of Poles and those who are regarded as members of the unrecognized union have the right to act as an organization,” Polish politician Jacek Protasiewicz, who chairs the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Belarus, told BelaPAN while on a visit to Minsk last week. “If they cannot cooperate, why should not they be given the opportunity to work separately, as two separate organizations? This could solve the problem,” he said.

  • From the Opposition...

    Bahdankevich: if Belarus decides to abandon national currency, it should choose euro

    From: Charter '97
    The former head of the National Bank is sure that Belarus should orient on the West, not on the East in prospect.

    Russian first deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov doesn’t exclude imposing the single currency within the framework of the Customs Union and Common Economic Area. He said this at the CIS international economic forum in Moscow. How real is the currency union of the three, will Belarus abolish its national currency, why does Russia negotiate an issue of the single currency?

    According to Stanislau Bahdankevich, the former head of the National Bank of Belarus, an idea of introducing the single currency is popular in different parts of the world – in the Near East, North America (Canada, Mexico, and the US). There was a proposal to replace the dollar by the amero; introduction of the single currency is also discussed in South America.

    “First the common economic area should be created, then a question of the single currency can be discussed,” the expert note in an interview to “Zavtra Tvoey Strany”. “I don’t think it is profitable for Belarus. The country lies in the far west of that eastern union, it has close ties with the European Union. If Belarus decides to abandon its national currency, it would be more profitable to choose the euro, not the currency that will work for Asia – the Asian part of Russia, Kazakhstan. We don’t have wide economic interests in that part of the world.

    As Professor Bahdankevich thinks, the issue of the single currency is not acute. Russia has raw-material economy. It is weak risky economy. Belarus also has raw-material economy based on oil products and re-exporting raw oil and potash. Belarus can use the acting currency instruments to settle with Kazakhstan, with which the country has limited interests.

    “I don’t think it is necessary for Belarus, even if it chooses the eastern way, to abolish the national currency. I don’t think the Belarusian ruler and the government will do this,” Stanislau Bahdankevich says. “Moreover, there’s an example of Greece. If Greece had had the national currency, it would have easier for the country to tackle the current crisis. “

    In Bahdankevich’s opinion, Belarus should orient on the West, not on the East in prospect.

    Salihorsk: district commission refused to accredit observer of Belarusian Helsinki Committee

    From: Viasna
    The Salihorsk district election commission refused to accredit Leanid Markhotka as an observer from the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, though the human rights defender presented to it the appropriate extract from the minutes of a sitting of the BHC Council. The human rights defender is going to continue the attempt to obtain the accreditation. Now he is collecting signatures among the local electors in support for his nomination as an observer, in order to use this way of nomination.

    Bear in mind, that opposition activist Ivan Shyla was registered as an observer at the Salihorsk district election commission only on the second attempt. Having received a denial, he collected the necessary number of signatures for the second time.

    Activist of Belarusian Christian Democracy went on hunger-strike

    Andrei Kasheuski, activist of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party (BCD) went on hunger-strike to protest against his arrest. The activist was detained on 3 March in the evening in Minsk metro and was taken to the Leninski district court in Minsk where he was sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest for alleged disorderly conduct, BelaPAN informs. At the moment the activist is kept in the prison in Akrestsin Street.

    Andrei Kasheuski is engaged in distribution of independent newspaper Narodnaya Volia. However during the detention there were no newspapers with him. The activist planned to run in the election to the city council of Zhodzina (Smaliavichy district, Minsk region). However because of the administrative arrest he won’t be able to submit signatures of citizens for his nomination as a candidate for deputy on time.

  • Russia...


    From: Eurasian Home
    Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s new president, may very well prove to all his critics and naysayers that he’s no Russian wannabe, but the burly Donbass boss is still a bear – no less power hungry and ferocious than the ones in Moscow.

    Ever since his failure to take the presidency in 2004, which was backed by the Kremlin but opposed by hundreds of thousands of peaceful street protesters in Kyiv, Yanukovych has had a difficult time trying to shed his image as a pro-Russian politician.

    So when he went to Moscow on March 5, just a week after his inauguration in Kyiv, all eyes were peeled for signs of state treason: Would Yanukovych agree to join Russia’s customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan? Would Russia get to keep its fleet in Sevastopol beyond 2017? And how about the Russian language – would it become official in Ukraine?

    These were some of the fears of those who support Ukraine’s integration with the West. But so far they have proven unfounded. Yanukovych has learned a thing or two about political waffling, even if he’s not the most articulate of public speakers.

    First of all, he (quite likely on the advice of his inner team) was clever enough to make Brussels the first foreign visit of his presidency. Western leaders had been quick in recognizing Yanukovych’s slim electoral victory this time around, and Yanukovych apparently didn’t want to disappoint them or all his industrial backers who depend on the EU for loans or export markets.

    Uncharacteristically for a bear, he tiptoed around the sticky points such as the Russian led customs union. “We must weigh [the issue] and figure out what Ukraine and our partners will get from the union, how it will fit into the framework of our WTO membership,” he said in a recent interview with Euronews.

    On more emotive issues, such as a state award posthumously given by outgoing Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to World War Two anti-Soviet guerilla Stephan Bandera, Yanukovych was even more diplomatic.

    Hoping to diffuse Russian (and for that matter Polish and eastern Ukrainian) indignation over the award, Yanukovych said that its cancellation “was underway,” suggesting that he would find an indirect way to do so.

    As for the future of the Russian language or the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine, Yanukovych danced better than any bear ever did on Red Square.

    “I am convinced that the people of Ukraine are just as wise as the Russian people and that they understand that today comfortable living conditions have to be created for all nationalities, including those with large numbers who speak Russian,” he said in Moscow.

    And “On the Black Sea Fleet, an issue that has a lot of different aspects … I think that we will find answers that will satisfy both Ukraine and Russia,” he said.

    In reality, many an observer expects Yanukovych to loosen restrictions against the use of Russian in the media and schools, rather than actually making it a second official language, which would be hard to get past lawmakers anyway. The fleet issue doesn’t come up until 2017, and therefore it’s a non-issue for now.

    In short, the only firm promise that Yanukovych did (publicly) make during his Moscow visit was to attend joint Victory Day celebrations there in May. Not a bad start for a man long considered a Kremlin stooge.

    Ironically, some of the fiercest criticism of Yanukovch’s recent Moscow trip came from the guy who many consider to have been the deciding factor in Yanukovych’s Feb. 7 electoral victory.

    Ex-president Viktor Yushchenko, who spent his entire presidency fighting for nationalistic issues such as the supremacy of the Ukrainian language and recognition of Soviet culpability in the Ukrainian famine (i.e. genocide) of the early 1930s, accused Yanukovych of yielding to Russian cultural imperialism.

    “Unfortunately, President Yanukovych was unable to oppose such politics from the Russian side,” reads a statement released by Yushchenko’s press team.

    What Yushchenko seems to bizarrely ignore is how in his last days as president he did everything in his power to help Yanukovych defeat the latter’s opponent Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko by such tactics as sacking governors loyal to Tymoshenko and endorsing last-minute changes to the election law in the run up to the second round.

    The president’s only motivation seems to have been a personal grudge against Ms. Tymoshenko, his former ally in the 2004 Orange Revolution against Yanukovych. In the same vein, were most of the president’s nationalistic policy initiatives aimed against Russia. In both instances, Mr. Yushchenko and sadly Ukraine came out the loser none the less.

    The Orange Revolution was as much about fighting corruption and putting thugs in jail as it was about promoting Ukrainian culture and righting the country’s history. As it turns out, Yushchenko failed in both, and it’s the utmost in hypocrisy to blame Yanukovych.

    Ukraine is no closer to joining NATO or uniting its Orthodox churches than it was before Yushchenko came to power. Yanukovych has simply cleared a collection of moot issues from the table it shares with Russia. In doing so, he has staked out a position West of his pro-Russian campaign rhetoric and befitting of his new role as the leader of an entire country. Moreover, his latest appearance in Moscow has shown that he can tackle such a task in un-bear-like fashion.

    Nevertheless, all this soft stepping cannot conceal Mr. Yanukovych’s sharp claws, huge paws and hefty hind quarters. He’s bear if not a Russian one.

    But before he can start throwing his weight around the Ukrainian forest, Yanukovych will have to form a coalition. That means bringing on board Yushchenko’s divided Our Ukraine party. The proper way to do so would be to entice the party into a coalition by conceding to some of its pro-Western policies. Instead, expect the bear to bribe enough members out of the Our Ukraine faction to create a parliamentary majority.

    As for constitutional prohibitions against such tactics, Yanukovych has told a national television audience: “I think that our future depends on how we find the possibility, the political will to change this Constitution, which has led us taking on so many negatives.”

    On the economic front, look forward to Yanukovych changing Ukraine’s gas import trade with Russia, which Tymoshenko can take credit for cleaning up as premier. It’s a billion-dollar business and represents the honey that virtually all Ukraine’s powerful people got rich off.

    And lastly, what good is political power and money if you don’t have the teeth to protect it. The only real state post that Mr. Yanukovych has filled since taking power is the head of the country’s SBU (successor to the KGB).

    Mr. Yanukovych doesn’t have to dance like a bear in Russia. He can rule like one in Ukraine, which could well be a lot more frightening prospect.

    Polish Magazine Faces Extremism Charges

    From: Moscow Times
    Moscow prosecutors may slap extremism charges against a Polish literary magazine in a case that threatens to strain Polish-Russian relations just a month before Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with his Polish counterpart for a historic meeting.

    The Novaya Polsha magazine, which is published in the Russian language in Poland and distributed in Russia, has been accused of carrying extremist materials by Stanislav Kunyayev, the nationalist-minded editor-in-chief of Nash Sovremennik, a Russian literary magazine.

    “I think they are doing everything possible to distort the history of our relationship,” Kunyayev told The Moscow Times on Tuesday.

    He declined to elaborate about the precise nature of his complaint with the Moscow prosecutor's office, citing the inquiry.

    Kunyayev said, however, that the complaint was part of a long-time campaign that he has undertaken against the publication of articles that distorted the state of Polish-Russian ties. Last year, Nash Sovremennik accused Novaya Polsha of promoting anti-Russian sentiments and called for readers to initiate a public campaign against it.

    Yelena Parzhkova, head of the MIK publishing house, which distributes Novaya Polsha in Russia, said Moscow police officials had asked her to provide a copy of her company's contract with the magazine and a list of its Russian-based subscribers on Feb. 17.

    She said the police were acting under orders from the prosecutor’s office, but no criminal case had been opened against the magazine as far as she knew. She accused Kunyayev of seeking publicity.

    “I think Kunyayev is trying to pull off a publicity stunt,” she said.

    The press service for the Moscow prosecutor's office declined an immediate comment on the case, and several calls to the Moscow police's department on extremist crime went unanswered Tuesday afternoon.

    Novaya Polsha, founded in 1999, has a circulation of 3,900 in Russia and publishes articles written by Russian and Polish literature critics, social science researchers and historians, some of whom present conflicting views on Polish-Russian relations.

    The magazine says on its web site that its target readership are “all Russians and Poles who are … willing to argue and defend their opinions while listening to and respecting the arguments of the opposite side.”

    Novaya Polsha editor-in-chief Jerzy Pomyanovsky described the extremist complaint against the magazine as “the wildest nonsense” in an interview with Warsaw's Gazeta Wyborcza on Monday.

    If prosecutors determine that the magazine promotes extremism, they can ask a court to include it on a list of materials banned in Russia.

    Kunyayev, like many Russian historical revisionists, disagrees with Poland's account of the Katyn massacre, when 15,000 Polish army officers were killed in a forest near the village of Katyn in the Smolensk region in 1940.

    Although numerous historical documents have been unearthed that support Warsaw's view that the killings were carried out by Soviet soldiers, many Russian commentators insist that the Poles perished at the hands of the Nazis.

    Putin is expected to meet Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk for a historic visit to Katyn on April 7.

    Pomyanovsky called the extremist complaint against his magazine “an attempt to torpedo” the meeting of the two leaders.

    Relations between Poland and Russia have been improving after months of tensions over a number of issues, including Katyn. Warsaw protested last year when an analytical document surfaced on the Russian Defense Ministry's web site that suggested that Poland was responsible for starting World War II. A long-running trade dispute between the two countries helped delay a new partnership agreement between Russia and the European Union for months.
  • Note: Yea, those pesky Polish lies tend to play with you

    Police in Human Shield Probe

    From: Moscow Times
    Moscow traffic police are investigating the complaint of a driver who said police used him and his car as a human shield in an unsuccessful attempt to catch a suspect last week.

    City police have confirmed that they used the cars of several Moscow drivers to try to block the Moscow Ring Road to catch a suspected petty thief, Vedomosti reported Tuesday.

    One driver, Sergei Sutyagin, said on Ekho Moskvy radio and in a YouTube video that a police officer pulled him over at about 5:30 a.m. March 5 and ordered him and several other drivers to block the road with their cars.

    He said he was told to remain in his car.

    Minutes later, a silver Audi slammed into his car and sped away, he said.

    Sutyagin said the policeman told him that no compensation would be paid for the car, which he said was badly damaged, because the suspect had not been caught.

    The traffic police are investigating the claim, spokeswomen Marina Vasilyeva told RIA-Novosti on Tuesday.

    Moscow traffic police chief Sergei Kazantsev has taken the case under his personal control, Vedomosti reported.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Arresting development

    From: FT
    When Pawel Rey and Lech Jeziorny embarked on a complex management buy-out of a failing slaughterhouse not far from the historic centre of Krakow, they knew they were taking a business risk - what they didn't expect was that they would end up jailed and bankrupted for their efforts.

    The project came to the attention of the local prosecutor's office, and the entrepreneurs, along with some partners, were charged with running a criminal enterprise and attempting to steal enormous sums from the company they were trying to buy. They ended up spending nine months in jail while prosecutors hunted for evidence against them. Finally, under prodding from the court system, prosecutors dropped all charges against them at the end of last year - leaving the two men to try to rebuild their businesses and their reputations.

    "We were acting openly and legally. We didn't try to hide anything," says Mr Rey. "We were aware of business risks but we didn't recognise how things really work in Poland."

    The pair's experience with the law is part of a wider problem for Polish businesses, a number of which have been driven into bankruptcy by tax and law enforcement officials making incorrect decisions based on badly drafted and frequently changing regulations.

    "Often before the interpretation of a law has been fixed, it is changed again," says Jeremi Mordasewicz, a labour market expert with Lewiatan, Poland's employers federation. "The real source of the problem in these types of cases is a lack of trust on the part of bureaucrats, who treat business with suspicion."

    The government has promised to make radical changes - Donald Tusk, prime minister, has pledged to take a "machete" to red tape. Although progress has been slow, the government, which has been in power since 2007, has made life slightly easier for business by tweaking the rules about value added tax, making it simpler to register a company, and decreasing the frequency of companies in dispute with officials having their accounts frozen.

    For some, however, the reforms are not fast enough. Roman Kluska is a computer entrepreneur who became the poster boy for the need to reform relations between Polish business and officialdom when he was arrested in 2000 on allegations of tax evasion before being cleared of all charges in 2003. Last year he told the Rzeczpospolita newspaper: "We say that we are a normal European country, but the facts show that we are still rooted in real socialism."

    Mr Kluska was commenting on the 1,220 zlotys ($429, €315, £285) granted to US businessman Mitch Nocula after his machine tools company was driven out of business when inspectors incorrectly accused him of using illegal software.

    When Mr Rey and Mr Jeziorny came up with their business idea, they were not figuring on becoming examples of bureaucratic wrongdoing - they were hoping to save a struggling meat plant, renovate part of their home city and make a bit of money in the process. Both had served time in prison in the 1980s for their anti-communist agitation as members of the Solidarity labour union, and both had shown that they had a knack for making money during the tail end of communist rule and the early years of Poland's turbulent return to market economics after 1989.

    Mr Rey began selling brass candleholders while still in university, then ran an electronics shop in Krakow in the early 1980s. After the end of communism, both his business experience and the funds he had gathered from his earlier ventures made him stand out in a country where few people had an entrepreneurial background. He started a leasing business, then a technology company, which is still listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, before his friend Mr Jeziorny persuaded him to get involved in managing a failing state-owned company in Krakow.

    Amid the tangled mess of the post-communist era, they spotted an opportunity that led them to undertake a series of management buy-outs in 1997 and 1999, leaving them owning a large plot of land with a decrepit milk factory on the outskirts of Krakow, and a meat plant just 1.5km from the mediaeval heart of the city.

    Mr Rey recalls the stench and noise of panicked pigs as they were driven down the street in front of the management building on their way to slaughter. "This place was obviously completely unsuited to any EU regulations. The only answer was to move it to the outskirts of the city," says Mr Jeziorny.

    Their idea was to rezone the land round the meat plant and sell it to a developer, while taking an additional loan and building a meat-packing plant on their land on the edge of the city. As part of the transaction, the proceeds from the first sale went to companies controlled by the two owners, while the cost of building the factory was covered by a loan - something that appeared suspicious to the prosecutor's office.

    By 2003 the partners had sold the old plant to GTC, one of Poland's most successful developers, which has since built a modern shopping mall on the site incorporating the old brick slaughterhouse buildings. They had also succeeded in building and opening a meat company and plant called Krakmeat. The hunt was on for an investor who would take over the new processing plant, allowing the partners at least a partial exit from their venture.

    That was when the prosecutors swooped. Both men and their partners were arrested as part of a wider investigation into business corruption surrounding the privatisation of former state assets. They were charged with heading a criminal conspiracy, money laundering and working to harm their companies to the tune of 20m zlotys. A parallel tax investigation fined them more than 4m zlotys.

    "MBOs are a standard business practice, even if communist-era bureaucrats never heard of them," complains Mr Jeziorny.

    They were packed off to jail, while prosecutors began to look for evidence to make their charges stick.

    "I remember sitting in the police station looking at Pawel's mobile phone, which had been left on a bench," says Mr Jeziorny. "Every few minutes a call would come in from the investor ready to complete the transaction for the meat plant, but we couldn't pick up. What would we say to him?"

    Mr Rey adds: "After the arrests, the potential investor fled, of course."

    Polish law permits long preventative detentions, sometimes dragging on for years - something that has been condemned by human rights groups. The Krakmeat plant, where 300 people worked, had to be sold to repay debts and the company was soon bankrupt.

    After their release from jail, the investigation continued in spite of vigorous attempts by the two to clear their names. Finally, a court ruling in September 2009 gave prosecutors until the end of that year to file charges or drop the case. In his ruling, the judge wrote: "The reason for the long investigation is the improper practice of first presenting accusations and then trying to verify them . . . The procedure should be reversed."

    On the last day of the year, the prosecutor's office released a 96-page report clearing the men of all charges. "Because no one wanted to invest in the meat plant, taking the economic risk was justified," said the report. When contacted by the Financial Times, the prosecutor's office declined to comment further.

    That is little consolation to Mr Rey and Mr Jeziorny, whose appeal against their tax fine is working its way through the courts.

    "We want this event to change something in this country, so that bureaucrats are more careful and more responsible for their actions," says Mr Rey. "How long can we live in a country where this sort of thing happens? Poland is beating itself with its own fist."

    Poland: Sex, drugs and scandal

    From: GlobalPost
    Poland's politics are not lily white. The squeaky clean image of the party of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has been sullied by a cross-dressing, drug-taking politician.
    A sex and drugs scandal that has besmirched the reputation of one of Poland’s most respected politicians has now dragged down two opposition party members who refused to join the witch hunt against Senator Krzysztof Piesiewicz.

    Piesiewicz, a well known screenwriter who collaborated with Krzysztof Kieslewski, one of Poland’s most celebrated directors, as well as a lawyer who fought for dissidents in Communist-era courts and a prominent member of the anti-Communist underground, saw his political and professional career destroyed this past December when a Polish tabloid published enormously embarrassing videos of the senator on its webpage.

    The films showed the senator, wearing a flowery dress, in the company of two women and snorting a white powder, that Piesiewicz later said was “crushed medicine” not cocaine.

    The video was peddled to the Super Ekspres tabloid by blackmailers — since arrested — who had reportedly managed to extract about 500,000 zlotys ($170,000) from Piesiewicz before he finally turned to the police for help.

    “It was a set-up,” Piesiewicz told the tabloid. “I don’t know if something was not thrown in my drink. I am completely normal. It was the only incident of its kind in my life.”

    Piesiewicz’s downfall came as an embarrassment to the ruling Civic Platform party. Although Piesiewicz gave up his party membership, Donald Tusk, the prime minister, cut himself off from the errant legislator. Tusk and his party have long presented themselves as squeaky clean in moral and criminal matters, and with presidential elections this year and legislative elections in 2011, being caught up in a messy scandal could damage Civic Platform.

    That was the hope of the right-wing opposition Law and Justice party (PiS), which had counted on turning Piesiewicz’s troubles to its own advantage. Newspaper columnists close to the party denounced the senator’s “immorality” and demanded that he apologize to the Polish people before withdrawing from public life.

    However, a recent vote in the senate to remove Piesiewicz’s parliamentary immunity has now blown up in the face of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, PiS’s leader. Two leading PiS senators, both of them with long traditions in the anti-Communist underground, refused to go along with Kaczynski’s demand that Piesiewicz be stripped of his immunity to face investigation for possible drug possession charges.

    One of the two, Zbigniew Romaszewski, a prickly and argumentative, albeit respected politician, said that he had no intention of taking orders from Kaczynski in a matter of conscience.

    “I do not agree that, whether I am correct or not, someone in an arbitrary way and without discussion prevents me from expressing my views,” said Romaszewski, who was first suspended from and then quit PiS. “I am one of the few senators who knows the situation from up close, and no one asked by opinion before the vote on removing Krzysztof Piesiewicz’s immunity.”

    For Kaczynski, who rules PiS with an iron fist, the issue came down to party discipline and to his long-running crusade against corruption, which has been a lynchpin of PiS’s electoral platform.

    “Mr Romaszewski had a different opinion and he was punished,” said Kaczynski.

    In the end the vote to remove Piesiewicz’s immunity failed, but on the strength of the majority of Civic Platform senators, and not because of the two PiS rebels. Instead of a scandal that damages the ruling party, Kaczynski has again turned the discussion to his tight control over PiS, something that is also likely to damage to re-election chances of his twin brother Lech, currently Poland’s president.

    As for Piesiewicz, he has gone to ground, not even showing up for the immunity vote in the senate.

    In one of his only interviews since his career blew up, Piesiewicz told a religious TV channel that he only blames himself for his “naiveté and thoughtlessness."

    “We will see what will become of me. I’m waiting calmly for the media fuss to die down,” he said, adding that he will “never” know peace again.

    Biker killed by Polish driver after car pulled across road

    From: Droitwich Advertiser
    A motorcyclist died after a man at the wheel of a left-hand drive car turned across the road in front of him to go and buy bottled gas.

    Robert Newland, a 45-year-old beer sales agent from Feckenham, was riding his 900cc Yahama around the 60mph limit on the B4090 Droitwich to Hanbury road.

    But Piotr Kopa, a Polish land worker, failed to observe him approaching and turned his Audi right across the carriageway at the entrance to a farm supplies shop, said Alex Warren, prosecuting at Worcester Crown Court.

    Mr Newland was thrown off his motorbike and suffered multiple injuries. He died at the scene.

    Kopa, aged 30, formerly of Cladswell Lane, Alcester, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving when he appeared in court.

    Judge Toby Hooper QC accepted that the crash was caused by “momentary inattention”.

    The victim had overtaken two cars before the accident, but there was no criticism of his riding.

    It was a “truly tragic” case, the judge added, because Mr Newland’s father had died seven weeks before the collision on October 10, 2008.

    His mother told police that her son’s death had left a gap in her life that could never be filled.

    Kopa was given a six-month community order with 120 hours of unpaid work and banned from driving for 12 months.

    Mr Newland had been to a bank in Droitwich Spa and was travelling towards Hanbury when he was killed, said Mr Warren.

    Kopa had 320 metres visibility of the road ahead, but failed to see the motorcycle until the last minute.

    Shawn Williams, defending, said Kopa had sought psychiatric help for depression after the crash and was still suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome.

    The accident caused a relationship to founder and he was filled with remorse.

    Kopa, who had no previous convictions, stayed at the accident scene and offered assistance.

    He was now of no fixed address, but hoped to live with friends in Kent before returning to Poland.

  • Sport...

    Belarus wins nine medals at CMAS Finswimming World Cup in Hungary

    From: BelTA
    Belarusian athletes won one gold, three silver and five bronze medals at the CMAS Finswimming World Cup in Hajduszoboszlo, Hungary, BelTA learnt from the DOSAAF press office.

    Aleksei Skalozub, a student of the DOSAAF Minsk children’s and youth water sports school, picked up gold and silver medals. Alexander Bezmen and Maxim Khmel from Minsk won silver and bronze medals. Dmitry Gavrilov, the 2008 world champion, a student of the Novopolotsk children’s and youth sports school, claimed two bronze medals. His teammate Vladislav Darovka came in third too.

    Belarus was third in the 4x100m junior relay and second in the men’s relay race. Belarus’ DOSAAF team ranked second in the overall medal standings.

    Belarus has very good traditions in training high-class athletes in finswimming. Last year Belarusian swimmers won 41 medals at the world and European finswimming championships, the DOSAAF press office stressed.

    The next World Cup will be held in Berlin in May.

    Dinamo Minsk 17th after KHL regular season

    Dinamo Minsk won their last Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) game of the season against Avangard (3-2) in Omsk on 7 March.

    Dinamo scored 65 points in 56 games of the regular season. The Belarusian club scored 33 points at home and 32 – in away games. Dinamo became sixth in the Bobrov Division after SKA (122 points), Dynamo Moscow (101), Spartak (92), CSKA (87), and Dinamo Riga (84).

    The Belarusian club occupied the 11th position in the Western Conference. A reminder, eight best teams from each Conference qualify to the play-offs. Dinamo Minsk fell 19 points behind Dinamo Riga (8th).

    Geoff Platt scored 44 points (26 goals+18 assist) to become the best striker of Dinamo this season.

    Had Dinamo played in the Eastern Conference, they would have advanced into the play-offs from the seventh position.

    Dinamo Minsk became 17th in the overall KHL standings.

    In 2008/2009 KHL season Dinamo scored 49 points in 56 games and became 22nd out of 24 clubs.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Minsk to host Week of French Cinema 9-14 March

    From: BelTA
    The Week of French Cinema will be held in Minsk on 9-14 March, BelTA learnt from the Tsentralny Cinema. The Week of French Cinema will be held in Belarus for the fifth time.

    The Belarusian audience will see the most popular pictures including those that took awards at the international cinema festivals. All five works of contemporary producers will be showed in French with Russian subtitles. They include three comedies, a drama and Michel Ocelot’s animated feature film Kirikou and Karaba.

    The Week of French Cinema will be opened on 9 March with Pascal Thomas’s comedy Zero. The picture will also be shown on 11 March. On 9 and 12 March the audience will see Albert Dupontel’s comedy Bernie. The Jean-Marie Poiro’s comedy The Visitors will be demonstrated on 10 and 12 March. Nadir Mokneche’s drama Delice Paloma will be shown on 10 and 11 March. The picture was first presented at the international cinema festival in Cannes and took the Lumiere Cinema Award for “the best picture in the French language” in 2008.

    Lithuania to host Days of Belarusian Culture in 2010

    The Days of Belarusian Culture are expected to be held in Lithuania this year, Belarusian Culture Minister Pavel Latushko told a press conference after the signing the 2010-2011program for cultural cooperation between the Belarusian Culture Ministry and the Lithuanian Culture Ministry, BelTA has learnt.

    The program for cultural cooperation includes the holding the Days of Belarusian Culture in Lithuania and the Days of Lithuanian Culture in Belarus. On 9 March, the sides agreed to hold the Days of Belarusian Culture in the neighboring country in 2010.

    The program also includes the development of the cooperation in cinematography including the joint Belarusian-Lithuanian projects. The Days of Lithuanian Movie are expected to be held in Belarus and the Lithuanian audience will be able to watch Belarusian movies. The Lithuanian filmmakers will take part in the Animaevka Festival in Mogilev and the Listapad Film Festival in Minsk.

    The program is aimed at building up the contacts between the national drama theaters, the theaters of opera and ballet. The program envisages the cooperation between the Belarus National Museum of Arts and the Lithuania National Museum of Arts, exchange tours of the state symphony and chamber orchestras of Belarus and Lithuania.

    The experts also discussed the opportunity to organize training programs for Belarusian specialists, theater and film directors, university professors and students in Lithuania, the joint presentation of the Belarusian and Lithuanian culture in Brussels.

    Lithuanian Culture Minister Remigijus Vilkaitis has been invited to attend the celebrations timed to the 600th anniversary of the Grunwald Battle which will be held in the Belarusian town of Novogrudok on 26-27 June. The culture ministers of Poland, Russia and Ukraine have been invited to Novogrudok as well. Pavel Latushko and Remigijus Vilkaitis also have shared the information about the plans of both the countries to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Grunwald Battle.

    The measures stipulated in the cooperation program will be coordinated by the working group which will be chaired by the deputy culture ministers of both the countries.

    Pavel Latushko added that during the meeting the sides discussed the results of the activity of the joint working group on protection of the common historical and cultural heritage. This group was set up in Minsk in 2009. The Belarusian Culture Minister also noted the creation of the joint culture and tourist project “Castles of Grand Duchy of Lithuania”, the joint project “Famous Families of Grand Duchy of Lithuania” during the Days of European Heritage. The sides also discussed the celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Michal Kleofas Oginsky under the auspices of UNESCO in 2015.

  • Endnote...

    Russia’s Influence Advances in Ukraine; Moscow is making strides in its plan to reestablish its position as a regional power in Eurasia.

    From: The Trumpet
    ewly inaugurated Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovych visited Moscow last Friday and promised Russian officials a “sharp turn” in bilateral relations between the two countries.

    During the last five years, little has vexed the Kremlin more than Ukraine’s drift away from Russia under the pro-Western leadership of Yanukovych’s predecessor, so the shift into a new phase of heightened cooperation is a victory for Moscow.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he hopes the relationship between Ukraine and Russia will “assume a new quality in dynamics, become much closer, and be based on kind sentiments and pragmatism.”

    Yanukovych vowed to “open a new page” in Russo-Ukrainian bilateral ties, and said the relationship should never have fallen to such a poor state.

    “One of my key tasks is to make sure that relations between Ukraine and Russia take a U-turn in the right direction,” Yanukovych said.

    Yanukovych also said that during his presidency Ukraine would be “a European, non-aligned state,” indicating that he has no desire for Ukraine to become a nato member.

    The two presidents signed a statement saying Russia and Ukraine will improve ties in such sectors as aviation, nuclear power and military technology. The top priority, according to the statement, is energy cooperation, particularly in regard to natural gas.

    In recent years, relations between Russia and Ukraine have suffered from arguments over the price of Russian gas flowing to Europe through a major transit route in Ukraine. Yanukovych has said he will seek to create a gas transit consortium involving Ukraine, Russia and the European Union, which would aspire to quell these pricing disputes.

    Yanukovych also met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who invited Ukraine to join a customs union whose current members are Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, with Kyrgyzstan also interested in gaining entrance soon.

    On March 9, the Ukrainian parliament passed a historic law that amends the constitution and eases the requirements to form a majority coalition in parliament. If the ruling stands, it will be a great boon to Yanukovych, allowing him to establish the coalition he needs, and to start filling key positions with his own appointees. The law will permit the new president to steer Ukraine even more swiftly down the pro-Russian path.

    For years, the Trumpet has pointed to Ukraine as crucial turf in a future pact between Russia and Germany. Control of the strategic area will determine the line at which their individual imperialistic aims meet. With the staunchly pro-Russian Yanukovych in power, Ukraine is now essentially in Russia’s hands.

    Watch for Russia to seek to increase its power, and watch for Europe’s response. “As Russia gets stronger, as the world grows more dangerous, as economic problems escalate, the Germans will be crying out for strong leadership!” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in 2008. “[Germans] are looking for a king—with a fierce enough countenance to stand up to Vladimir Putin!”