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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nuclear arms, EU relations, Border issues, Polesye reclamation, NATO invasion, Kyrgyzstan revolution; News, Sport, Culture and Polish scandals

  • From the Top...
  • #503

    Removal of nuclear arms from Belarus ‘a major mistake’

    From: BelTA
    The removal of nuclear arms from Belarus was a major mistake, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told media on 14 April.

    “I think that the removal of nuclear arms from Belarus on the terms our nationalists agreed to was a major mistake,” said the President. “I had to ink the document because there was no other way out: both Russia and the USA pressured me to remove the weapons because we had made the promise. We should not have done it, it was a greatest heritage, an expensive product that we would have sold it at a hefty price in the end,” he said.

    The President reminded that Belarus extracted the nuclear weapons in exchange for promised safety from the leading nuclear powers. “If we had these weapons now, they would talk differently. But we’ve removed them. Can we have our security? No”.

    Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus has kept highly enriched uranium, hundreds of kilograms of virtually weapon-grade uranium and lower grade uranium. “For many years they’ve been telling me: remove the uranium. Either to Russia or to America, we will pay you. I tell them: first, why do you dictate our actions? It is our commodity. We keep it under IAEA control. We are not going to make and sell dirty bombs. We use the uranium for research purposes,” he said. “I am now with my back against the wall. With a knife to my throat they demand to give the uranium away. I tell them: we gave away the nuclear weapons once and what do we have now?” remarked the head of state.

    The President stressed that nobody will be allowed to dictate conditions to Belarus. “Let’s negotiate what should be done with this large amount of enriched uranium”. Alexander Lukashenko understands the concern of other countries but pointed out that Belarus can preserve the nuclear material like it has done since the country gained independence.

    Speaking about the decision of the USA administration to hold a world summit on nuclear matters without Belarus, the head of state said that he was not going to participate. “If you don’t want to give away the uranium, we will not invite you to the summit. I tell them: thanks but I was not going to attend. Even if Belarus was invited, I was not going to go there. When Israel expected questions about nuclear arms, it gave up on the summit. My answer was roughly along the same lines”.

    “I will not allow anyone to bend over Belarus. We will talk only respectfully, like partners however hard America or Russia may pressure us. The pressure is from two sides and we feel it”. The head of state also added that Belarus has always been a very reliable and responsible partner for any country and community in all the matters regarding nuclear security and has always honored its obligations. “We are serious and responsible people. We don’t take bribes for that and we are not going to sell this [nuclear] material to anyone, even for much money in a secret manner,” stated the President.

    Alexander Lukashenko believes that the lack of the invitation for Belarus’ participation in the summit means that “neither Americans nor the West on the whole can be trusted”. “Russia would always hear us and understand us. If not for the mess that has been triggered by you know what reasons, the Russians would always understand and support us. It has never been like that with the West or the USA. There can be other considerations. Why we have to invite Lukashenko and up his ratings before the elections? I am good enough with today’s ratings to get elected the president”. Alexander Lukashenko added “if Russia, Kazakhstan and other CIS states had been reliable friends, they would have made it a firm point: Belarus is ours and must attend the summit. Americans would have had nothing to do but agree”. He also remarked that he is calm about the situation. “It is more pleasant for me to talk to you on the bank of the River Pripyat than sweat it out in Washington”.

    Lukashenko: Russia understands fallacy of pressuring Belarus

    Russia is starting to understand the fallacy of trying to pressure Belarus, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told media on 14 April.

    “I think Russia understands that a most severe error has been made – the attempted pressure on Belarus. It is futile,” stressed the Belarus President. “I am convinced that the president of Russia is starting to understand it clearly”.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, he is likely to meet with Dmitry Medvedev in May at the earliest. “I talked to Dmitry Anatolyevich several times a while ago by phone and he told me plainly: it is time for us to meet, to talk, many issues, sometimes small ones, that we can resolve have piled up. I was all for it. At present the heads of the president administrations are working out the optimal time for the meeting. It may take place on the eve of the unofficial CIS summit in Moscow on 8 May, or maybe in late May-early June in Sochi like we usually meet,” said the head of state.

    With his Russian counterpart the Belarus President intends to discuss prospects of Russian capital taking part in the corporization of Belarusian enterprises. In addition, the two presidents will discuss strategic matters of the development of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. “I would like to clearly understand what Russia and Kazakhstan want from the Customs Union and what Belarus will get in that case. If Belarus gets provisos across the board, duties on oil, gas and so on, Belarus’ interest in such a union will be halved,” he said.

    Apart from that Alexander Lukashenko intends to talk to Dmitry Medvedev to discuss the access of Belarusian products to the Russian Federation market. “In principle it is now totally clear that the blocking of our goods on the Russian market has led to very negative consequences for the Russians themselves,” remarked the Belarusian head of state.

    Alexander Lukashenko underlined that Russia’s blocking Belarus is totally futile. Belarus has proved that it is capable of reaching into alternative markets and set up domestic enterprises to substitute imports. “Quarrelling with Russia is senseless. We don’t flirt with anyone. But if we start getting pushed and kicked, we find our luck in other parts of the planet,” remarked the President. Belarus can stop being dependant on Russia’s gas and oil supplies. “Our recent agreements with Venezuela testify to that,” added Alexander Lukashenko.

    “It is important for the forthcoming meeting with the president of Russia to produce concrete results. It is no good when Russia introduces duties on oil exports to Belarus. Then, why we have to pay the oil duty while Kazakhstan, a country with oil surplus, doesn’t? Why the Belarusians are treated like that? I think the president of Russia understands that it has gone too far”.

    “It is time to seriously talk about prospects of our relations with Russia,” concluded Alexander Lukashenko.

    Lukashenko dubs Bishkek events ‘anticonstitutional coup’

    The recent events in Bishkek are an anticonstitutional coup, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told media during his working visit to the Gomel Oblast on 14 April, BelTA has learned.

    “I believe that the policy of Americans and Russians regarding these events is very bad and short-sighted. They should have stated that such actions of the Kyrgyz opposition were unacceptable,” said the head of state.

    “God forbid, something like that should happen in Belarus. I don’t wish something like that to happen to other countries either,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    The Belarus President believes that drawing parallels between the recent events in Kyrgyzstan and “the tulip revolution” is inappropriate. “First, nobody shot people back then. Second, Askar Akayev quit his office then. The present president has not quit his office. God forbid the Kyrgyz opposition would imprison or worse shoot Bakiyev. It will backfire,” remarked Alexander Lukashenko.

    The Belarus President said he does not have precise information about who is behind the events. He suggested imagining such a situation in Belarus. “Imagine that a Belarusian opposition activist, who has grabbed power, has been overturned. What would happen then? Everyone would be shouting, moaning and lamenting. Today everyone is silent: the USA is and you know the statements Russia has made. For some reason nobody has said that it is an anticonstitutional coup”.

    “I would not want to offend those in power in Kyrgyzstan now. But I would like to tell those who blame Bakiyev for supporting clanism and for breaking down the country… Didn’t we see it before? I am absolutely clean in this regard. A year ago I talked to Bakiyev (we were on good terms). I told him plainly: watch out, Kurmanbek, you can step on the same rake”.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, in Kyrgyzstan it is impossible to have a posh life. “It is a poor country. Blaming Bakiyev for pilfering the country is laughable. He traveled many countries asking for loans. I know where he invested the money. He was building a hydropower plant. Russia promised a loan and then went back on its word. And he told me: I am forced to leave the Manas base because they pay money for rent,” added the head of state.

    The Belarus President also said: “If something like that happened in my country and if someone put people into the line of fire, they wouldn’t know what hit them. Don’t reproach Bakiyev for using force. If the authorities cannot protect themselves and their people, they are no good.”

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, the people in power in Kyrgyzstan now “will have to think hard how to legitimize themselves”.

    Belarus ready to sell shares of any company, but at good price

    Belarus is ready to sell some shares of any enterprise but at a good price and without outside pressure, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told reporters during his working trip to the Gomel Oblast on 14 April, BelTA has learnt.

    “There is a crisis now, so the prices for property have dropped. This is why I am not going to sell anything. Why? Our enterprises work efficiently bringing huge money for the country. However, if someone wants to buy something, they should pay a good price, nothing will be given away, so that the people will not criticize us for that afterwards. “If you want it – pay for it, and we will think of a price for you,” he added.

    The head of state did not rule out a possibility to sell some shares of any enterprise. “However, you should bear in mind that it is not only money that we have invested in them. Some 13 years ago, Belarus was in a dire state. People were threadbare, starving, the salary was $10-30 a month, store shelves were empty. We took away money meant for medicines and put it into the upgrade of the enterprises, because enterprises manufacture products we can sell and get foreign currency, pay salary and live. Now that we have upgraded them, everybody wants to have them. I am aware that the Russians like our oil refineries. Why? Don’t they have enough of them in Russia? They do, but their refineries are not that advanced. We have modernized our enterprises, created cutting-edge complexes. No surprise they have their eyes on them now,” Alexander Lukashenko said. In his view, one of the reasons why these facilities are so attractive is their strategic location on the oil routes, in the center or Europe, where a good logistics system is set up.

    We do not mind selling them, but let us take into consideration the interests of all the parties, the head of state said. In his words, Belarus is interested in selling them at a good price. “We are ready to sell shares of our enterprises, but at a good price and without outside pressure. It is pointless to exert pressure on any state today,” the President said. This is why, those who respect Belarusian people and want to deal with them, are welcome in Belarus for acquisition talks in the interests of Belarusian people, Alexander Lukashenko added.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus supports stronger nuclear security

    From: BelTA
    Belarus supports the need for stepping up nuclear security, the fight against nuclear terrorism, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and hopes that the international efforts in this area will achieve success. The statement was made by Andrei Savinykh, Head of the Information Office, Press Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, regarding the nuclear security summit that took place in Washington on 12-13 April, BelTA has learned.

    Andrei Savinykh remarked that the goals declared by the summit do not fully correlate with the participants Washington selected. The representation was not universal and did not include all the main subjects of international efforts in this area. Washington’s selective approach towards inviting the participating nations is counterproductive from the point of view of nuclear security guarantees for nuclear-free countries.

    Belarus was not represented at the summit although it has made an important contribution to nuclear disarmament by being the first country to scrap the strategic nuclear offensive potential it had, stressed the Press Secretary of the Foreign Ministry. Belarus continues playing an essential role in the area of non-proliferation, preservation of nuclear materials and counteraction to nuclear terrorism by means of responsible fulfillment of international obligations.

    The true success in fighting such a global phenomenon terrorism is, including nuclear terrorism, as well as the reduction of the threat of nuclear materials proliferation can be achieved only through collective efforts of the global community.

    Belarusian MPs to visit Paris in May

    From: BelTA
    A delegation of Belarusian Parliamentarians is set to travel to Paris in May at the invitation of the National Assembly of France, BelTA learnt from the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus to France Alexander Pavlovsky on 13 April.

    Alexander Pavlovsky believes the visit will facilitate the Belarusian-French dialogue, which will become a significant part of the bilateral cooperation.

    The Belarusian Ambassador also noted the importance of the first visit of Secretary of State for European Affairs of the Foreign Ministry of France Pierre Lellouche to the Belarusian capital on 2 April. Pierre Lellouche stated that the decision on the development of political and economic dialogue with Belarus had been taken at the highest level.

    During Pierre Lellouche’s visit to Minsk, the sides agreed to establish an intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation. Energy saving, transport, agriculture, food manufacturing, engineering and farm machinery were outlined as the promising avenues of bilateral cooperation.

    Belarus’ full border accomplishment with Baltic states by 2012

    From: BelTA
    The border of Belarus with the Baltic states is expected to be fully accomplished by 2012, BelTA learnt from head of the department of the State Border Committee of Belarus Sergei Tirinov.

    The border accomplishment is envisaged in a special program approved by the border departments of Russia and Belarus. Belarus’ state border exceeds 3,500 kilometers, with 1,200 kilometers of which is the Union State border.

    This part of the border is often used by criminal groups for smuggling goods including drugs to Belarus and Russia. Today the transboundary criminal activity is on the rise, unfortunately, Sergei Tirinov said. In this respect the law enforcement bodies have to work out new methods to combat it. Belarusian frontier guards as well as security forces seized up to 44 kilos of various drugs at the external Union State border in 2009 – Q1 2010.

    Border accomplishment and technical upgrading will be the next efficient step in a fight against drugs trafficking, illegal migration and other border crimes. In particular, upgrading of the automated control systems is among the priorities, according to Sergei Tirinov.

    CIS Antiterrorist Center detects 5,000 extremist websites

    About 5,000 extremist websites were detected by the CIS Antiterrorist Center, representative of the Belarusian KGB Andrei Portnov said at a security seminar of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union State on 14 April, BelTA has learnt.

    According to Andrei Portnov, some 15 years ago there were only 12 websites like that. They can certainly affect the security of Belarus and Russia. This is why the security forces of the two countries have to look for new methods to fight such threats.

    The illicit drug trafficking remains a matter of serious concern. Over the recent years, the inflow of contraband drugs to Belarus alone has increased almost eight times, the influx of psychopharmaceuticals ten times. Some of these substances get to Russia. Security forces will scale up efforts to counteract illegal drug trade.

  • Economics...

    Alexander Lukashenko: Polesye reclamation will top new five-year period agenda

    From: BelTA
    Land reclamation will top the agenda of the next five-year period in the country, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said as he visited the Brest oblast on 13 April.

    Alexander Lukashenko made a tour of the Lopatino agricultural company in the Pinsk region. The President got familiar with the progress in the implementation of his instructions on the Pripyat Polesye development. The head of state was briefed on the sowing campaign in the Brest oblast and the country in the whole.

    Agriculture and Food Minister Semyon Shapiro informed the President that as for today nearly 20% of the sowing area of the country has been sown. The sowing of grain crops will be competed in ten days.

    The President instructed to complete the sowing campaign in the Brest oblast by the end of April and in other regions of Belarus by 9 May.

    The export of the Belarusian agricultural produce should increase by 2.5 times during the next five years, Alexander Lukashenko stated. “This year’s export is set to reach $3 billion. In the future we need to make up $6-7 billion and even 10 billion. It is quite possible for us,” the Belarusian leader said.

    The head of state stressed that the situation at the global market is favorable today for increasing the export of the agricultural products. In this respect the President ordered to make at least $1 billion trade surplus in the sales and purchase of the agricultural produce and food this year.

    The head of state drew special attention to the issue of rapeseed production. The President instructed to harvest 800,000 tonnes of rapeseeds this year.

    “Today rapeseeds are a profitable agricultural culture. There are good markets for it,” the President said.

    As for the plans for the next five years, Alexander Lukashenko said that all top-priority goals for the agricultural industry had been outlined and detailed.

    The head of state paid a visit to the Misyatichi reclamation facility to get familiar with the reclamation process. The President instructed to acquire 70 bulldozers for reclamation works in the country by the end of the year. The Belarusian leader also paid attention to the necessity of working out a national drainage project with the use of the latest technologies. Alexander Lukashenko instructed to allot additional Br20 billion of budget subsidies to advance reclamation works in the Brest oblast.

    “During the next five years we should complete the national reclamation program. Land reclamation will top the agenda of the next five-year period,” the President stressed.

    Average earnings in Belarus up 1.6% in February

    In January-February 2010 the average earnings in Belarus totaled Br1,007,600, up 10.3% over January-February 2009, BelTA learnt from the National Statistics Committee.

    In February the average earnings increased by 1.6% as against January 2010.

    In January-February 2010 the real wages (calculated taking into account consumer prices for goods and services) grew 3.9% as compared to the same months in 2009. In February the index went up by 1.1% from January 2010.

    In Q1 2010 capital and construction investments in Belarus totaled Br8.338 trillion, down 2.4% over the same period last year in comparable prices. In comparison, in January-February 2010 capital investments in Belarus decreased by 9.9% over the same period last year, BelTA learnt from the National Statistics Committee.

    In Q1 2010, Br4.625 trillion worth of construction and installation work was fulfilled in Belarus, up 4.8% from the same period 2009.

    Some 1.409 million square meters of new homes was built that is 6.2% up from Q1 2009. In rural areas and small urban communities 553,000 square meters was built (0.8% down).

    In Q1 2010, Belarus’ GDP was up 4% over the same period in 2009, BelTA learnt from the National Statistics Committee. In line with the socio-economic forecast, GDP is projected to increase by 11-13% in 2010.

    In January-March, the production of industrial goods reached Br33.5 trillion, up 5.9% (the year’s forecast stands at 10-12%) over the same period a year before. The manufacture of consumer goods totaled Br7.8 trillion (up 9.3%), the production of foodstuffs Br4.3 trillion (up 11.1%), that of nonfoods Br3.1 trillion (up 7.7%). The 2010 forecast for consumer goods stands at 14-15%.

    In January-March 2010 inflation in Belarus made up 2.5% as against 6.1% in the same period last year, BelTA learnt from the National Statistics Committee.

    In March 2010, inflation was running at 1.1%.

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

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Minsk feels hurt by non-invitation to nuclear security summit in Washington

    From: Navany
    Minsk has expressed “bewilderment and regret” over the non-invitation of Belarus to attend the April 12-13 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

    US President Barack Obama has gathered the leaders of 47 nations to discuss measures to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorist organizations and rogue states.

    “Belarus convincingly supports the strengthening of nuclear security, the prevention of nuclear terrorism, and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, which, as was declared, is the focus of the Washington ‘summit,’ and hopes that all international efforts in this regard will be a success,” says the foreign ministry’s spokesman, Andrey Savinykh, in a statement issued on Tuesday.

    According to Mr. Savinykh, the range of summit participants, which he says was determined by Washington, does not include a whole number of major contributors to international efforts in this sphere, with Belarus being one of them.

    Lukashenko: Belarus has large amounts of weapons-grade uranium

    From: Kiev Post
    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Belarus possesses highly-enriched uranium, stored under the International Atomic Energy Agency's control.

    "Honestly, we have remained in possession of highly enriched uranium, hundreds of kilograms of actual weapons-grade and less enriched uranium," Lukashenko said in the Gomel region on Wednesday.

    "Some tell me, get this uranium removed. To America, we'll pay you, or to Russia. I say: First, why are you telling us what to do? This is our commodity and we keep it under IAEA control," the Belarusian president said.

    "Then again, we are not going to make dirty bombs and we are not going to sell it to anyone. We are using this uranium for research purposes," he said.

    "I was driven to the bay with a knife at my throat: 'Give it away!' I said: I had already given away nuclear weapons, and how did we benefit? No one has the right to dictate. Let us sit down at a negotiating table and decide how to deal with this large amount of enriched uranium," Lukashenko said. "We are not a banana republic and we can keep this nuclear material as we have been doing for 20 years now," Lukashenko said.

    "Okay, they told me. Since you don't want to give this uranium away, we'll not invite you to the nuclear security summit. I said, 'Thank you very much. I was not going to go.' When Israel did not want to be asked questions about nuclear weapons, it just waved its hand to them. Bye-Bye! I don't care for your summit! My answer was about the same," he said

    "This suggests that neither Americans, nor the West in general can be trusted," he added.

    "If we had nuclear weapons, they would have dealt with us differently. Minsk would have been given security guarantees and assured that it would be under the protection of these nuclear powers. No security guarantees are being given to us now," he said.

    "We are going to deal with them only in a solid way, as partners, however hard Americans may be trying to pressure us on one side and Russia on the other. Regarding nuclear security, we are very reliable and responsible partners for any country. And we will remain like that," the Belarusian president said.

    Getting back to Belarus not being invited to the Washington summit, he said, "It was silliness and blunt inertia."

    "If Russia had indeed been a reliable friend, if Russia and Kazakhstan and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which attended the summit, had been reliable friends, they would have said this: 'Belarus is one of us, it must attend.' And Americans would have complied. It looks like Russia does not particularly need us. Everyone wants to be a monopoly in a way," he said.

    "But we'll get over it. I will. Quietly. I, for one, find it more enjoyable to talk with you here on the bank of the Pripyat, than to sit sweating in Washington," Lukashenko said.

    Belarus “invaded by NATO from Ukraine”

    From: RT
    Local TV stations in the central Russian region of Lipetsk have reported that refugees from Belarus have arrived after the country was invaded by NATO forces advancing from Ukrainian territory.

    The reports went on to clarify that it was a scenario for field exercises by Interior Ministry forces in the region. The obvious diplomatic gaffe left the Russian military red-faced and they had to concede that journalists had misinterpreted the general’s words, reports Kommersant newspaper.

    The Cold War-esque situation had been voiced to the media by a deputy commander of the Interior Troops in the region, TV correspondent Oksana Korabelnikova told Kommersant. Major General Ryabchikov shared the info with her and her colleagues off the camera.

    Now the military are busy preventing possible diplomatic damage from the story. Head of the Interior Troops press service Lieutenant Colonel Panchenkov said the journalists probably “saw or heard something wrong,” but didn’t comment on whether the exercise was reported correctly.

    “Today we say something; tomorrow we receive a diplomatic note. Let’s leave our brothers alone, we have just started to re-establish relations with them,” Panchenkov said. The colonel added that since some of the regions involved in the war games border with other countries, it “naturally has an impact on the exercises.”

    A source in the force, who did not want to be named, told the newspaper that the “vocal chiefs” received a dressing down for the statements and “won’t state anything like that anymore.” He suggested that the gaffe was due to “the chiefs’ vanity in front of the cameras.”

    Military exercises by interior troops are taking place between April 13 and 17 in several regions in central Russia. Reports on the “NATO invasion of Belarus” were broadcast on Monday evening.

    Russia’s Interior Ministry has got into trouble over controversial exercise scenarios before. In October last winter, the media reported on an exercise where riot police used water cannons to disperse an illegal rally of pensioners, who had blocked a major motorway.

    After the initial confusion by the media and a furious storm in the blogosphere over “police training in brutality” the ministry had to hastily come up with clarification. The exercise involved several cases, and water cannons were not intended to be used against “protesting pensioners”, but the two descriptions merged into one due to badly written material presented to journalists.

    Newly released report, Belarus Business Forecast Report Q2 2010, provides detailed company analysis

    Russian Policy Reversal To Be Key In 2010. Unlike its regional peers, Belarus achieved positive growth in 2009. However, we expect economic conditions within the country to remain fragile over the medium term. Belarus has been forced to pay higher export duties on oil bought from Russia which will likely bring to an end the country's lucrative re-export strategy and weigh on domestic demand as foreign capital inflows decline.

    Furthermore, with an IMF financing agreement due to expire in mid-2010, Belarus will need to turn to international capital markets in order to finance its rising public sector borrowing requirement.

    Indeed, risks to the stability of the country's balance of payments position will persist as we expect sustained pressure on borrowing via foreign banks over the medium term.

    We expect relations between Belarus and Poland to remain strained over the short term as a result of Belarus' crackdown on leaders of the Polish minority. Furthermore, should Belarus continue to target the Polish minority harshly, the deterioration of relations between the two countries could jeopardise the broader relationship between Belarus and the EU over the medium term, which in the previous year had shown tentative signs of improvement. We continue to stress that Lukashenko is likely to only seek improved relations with the EU so long as it does not impact his domestic political position.

    We anticipate the disinflationary trend in Belarus, which has been in play since February 2009, to come to an end in Q210. Having fallen to 5.9% y-o-y in February, we forecasTheadline inflation to rise back to 9.0% by end-2010, rising further to 9.5% by end-2011. Our view is based on the inflationary pressures that are expected to follow concomitant with Belarus's economic recovery.

    We also point towards the fact that Russia will continue to reduce energy price subsidies to Belarus through to 2011, which will undoubtedly force Minsk to raise regulated energy prices. Finally, we believe that the devaluation of the currency back at the start of 2009 will begin to weigh on households and industry in the form of higher import costs.

    The IMF stated that it had reached a staff-level agreement with Belarusian authorities on Febraury 17 2010 with respect to the final review of the country's Stand-By Arrangement (SBA). The review is expected to be considered by the IMF Executive Board towards the end of March, which will then release the fourth and final tranche of the IMF SBA loan (worth approximately US$700mn).

    According to the IMF statement 'all structural benchmarks were met'. We expect the fourth tranche to be released at some point in Q210 accordingly.

  • From the Opposition...

    Belarusian dictator to blackmail the world with highly enriched uranium

    From: Charter '97
    Alyaksandr Lukashenka said Belarus had highly enriched uranium.

    “I don’t hide: we have highly-enriched uranium, hundreds of kilograms, weapons-grade and less enriched uranium,” Lukashenka said on Wednesday during a working trip to the Homal region, Interfax reports.

    “Some people tell me: remove this uranium, send it either to America or to Russia, we’ll pay. I answer: why are you lecturing us? This is our goods, we keep it under control of the IAEA,“ he said.

    He also added: “We are not going to make dirty bombsand sell them to anybody. We use this uranium for researches.”

    “I am nailed down, I have a pistol put to my head and ordered to give uranium. I say I have already given nuclear weapon. What have we received in exchange? Nobody can dictate anything to us. Let’s talk and decide what can be done with the stores of uranium we have,” Lukashenka said. “We are not a banana republic, we are able to keep the nuclear materials and we have been keeping them for 20 years,” the Belarusian ruler noted.

    “They tell me: if you don’t agree to give this uranium, we won’t invite me to the summit (the nuclear security summit in Washington – Interfax). I say: thanks you, but I wasn’t going to attend the summit,” the Belarusian ruler stressed.

    According to him, “this fact (Belarus’s non-participation in the summit) demonstrates that the country shouldn’t trust both America and West. “The West leaped at an issue, they achieved what the wanted and ran out on us. This is what happened with nuclear weapon,” Lukashenka said. He emphasized: “It was a great mistake to remove the nuclear weapons from Belarus in the way our nationalists did it.”

    Krychau: democratic candidates demand to publish information about income of pro-governmental ones

    From: Viasna
    Information about the income of candidates for the Krychau district Council of Deputies wasn’t published by the state press.

    ’The district newspaper Krychauskaya Zhyttsio published only the list of candidates for deputies. However, the information about their assets and income for 2009 is absent, though its publication is provided by Article 68, part 21 of the Election Code of the Republic of Belarus,’ states the chief editor of the Volny Horad Siarhei Niarouny, a candidate for the district Council of Deputies.

    He states that the reluctance to publish the income information plays against the pro-governmental candidates. It is connected with the fact that they have huge wages, which presents a great contrast to the general poverty in the country.

    ’Mikalai Herdzei has already lodged an appropriate application with the procuracy. Now we are waiting for an official answer. If we will get an answer before publication of the information about the income of candidates for deputies, we will lodge a complaint with the Mahiliou regional election commission.’

    Mahiliou: human rights defenders got authorities increase the number of places for agitation

    The Mahiliou human rights defenders repeatedly addressed the Mahiliou procuracy and the Central Election Commission during the current election campaign with the aim to get the authorities determine more places for electoral agitation.

    Prior to their applications, the only officially determined place for agitation was the former Palace of Culture of Man-made Fiber Plant in Chaliuskintsau Street 64a.

    Now there are two more places – the Palace of Culture of Railway Men in Pershamaiskaya Street 117 and the Palace of Culture of the Car Plant in Autazavodskaya Street 1.

    Human rights defender Barys Bukhel considers the fact that the city executive committee made a concession and increased the number of places for agitation as a victory.

    ’However, it should be noted that one of the places for agitation is in disrepair. What it some of the present people lean on the walls and something falls down on their heads? Who will bear the responsibility in this case?’

    At the same time, Mr. Bukhel still thinks that the number of agitation places is insufficient. Of course, it is good that there is some progress in this respect. However, the number of places for agitation is still very small. Moreover, the agitation campaign is coming to an end. How many electors will care for going to the other end of the country to meet with their candidates? Places for agitation should be determined in every constituency.’

  • Russia...

    U.S., Russia Sign Deal to Cut Plutonium Stocks

    From: New York Times
    The United States and Russia on Tuesday signed a deal to dispose of tons of weapons-grade plutonium, a sign of increased cooperation between the two former Cold War foes towards their joint goal of nuclear non-proliferation.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signed the agreement, which calls on each side to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium by burning it in nuclear reactors.

    Lavrov said Russia would spend about $2.5 billion on the program, with the United States contributing some $400 million to help permanently destroy the material.

    "Together that is enough material for nearly 17,000 nuclear weapons and we will put in place the framework and infrastructure needed to dispose of even more plutonium from defence programs in the future," Clinton said at the signing ceremony, held on the sidelines of a global nuclear security summit convened by President Barack Obama in Washington.

    Plutonium can be recycled by blending it with other materials to make a nuclear fuel for civilian reactors known as MOX. France, Britain, Russia, India and Japan are among the countries that make MOX fuel, with France's Areva a top supplier and likely a beneficiary of the new U.S.-Russian deal.

    Environmental activists and other critics dislike MOX fuel production because it relies on the transportation of spent nuclear fuel and highly toxic plutonium, leaving the nuclear material vulnerable to loss or theft.

    The agreement implements a deal reached in 2000 but not yet in put force due to delays on both sides.

    Lavrov said it would be transparent and mark a step towards the goal set forth in the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of general disarmament under strict and effective international control


    "When this mechanism starts working we expect its positive influence on the process of non-proliferation including making the process of nuclear disarmament multilateral at some point, hopefully not very far from today," Lavrov said.

    Neither side said how long the destruction would take, nor did they give a percentage figure for the amount of their total plutonium stocks covered by the deal.

    Tuesday's signing came after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Obama signed the 'New START' treaty committing the two countries to reducing their deployed nuclear arsenals.

    Matthew Bunn, a nuclear expert at Harvard University, said some U.S. critics question the deal because reactors used for the Russian plutonium could potentially be remodified to produce new weapons-grade plutonium.

    But he said the move to destroy the existing plutonium stock was important in itself.

    "The answer is basically that you're taking weapons-grade plutonium that's in separated form, ready to be put right into a weapon ... and putting it into a form that's in spent fuel," Bunn said.

    "Yes, 30, 40, 50 years down the road they might reprocess that spent fuel and get some plutonium out of it, but you're putting it in a much more secure form for decades to come."

    France, in a separate statement, noted its own expertise with MOX and said it stood ready to help qualified countries reprocess their nuclear material.

    Russia's gas giant Gazprom says it will boost output to 13-year-high on strong global demand

    The chief executive for Russia's Gazprom state-controlled natural gas giant says the company will boost its output in the next three years to a 13-year high by 2013.

    Alexei Miller said in televised remarks Wednesday that Gazprom is planning its gas production in 2013 at 565.5 billion cubic meters, which is "more than the pre-crisis levels in 2008 and is a record-high for Gazprom in the past 13 years." Miller underscored that these are operational guidelines rather than forecasts.

    Gazprom is Russia's largest gas producer and the gas export monopolist. Its output has been declining since 2006.

    Pressed by the global downturn, Gazprom cut its production by 16 percent last year to 461.4 billion cubic meters.

    This year Gazprom plans to produce 520 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

  • The
    Kyrgyzstan revolution...

    Russia pledges $50 mln to replenish Kyrgyz coffers

    From: Reuters and New York Times
    Roza Otunbayeva, the leader of Kyrgyzstan's interim government, with Robert Blake, the American assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, at a news conference in Bishkek on Wednesday.
    Russia agreed on Wednesday to supply $50 million in aid and loans to Kyrgyzstan after the interim leadership of the Central Asian republic said state coffers were empty following the overthrow of the president.

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the first senior official to contact ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan's provisional leadership after last week's uprising, offered money and fuel to help the impoverished nation fund its next harvest.

    "The provisional government says the coffers are bare, that the old leadership stole the lot," Putin said after several ministers in his government met the visiting Kyrgyz delegation.

    "We must support our friends."

    Russia has moved quickly to establish relations with the interim leadership of Kyrgyzstan, which assumed power after an uprising on April 7. At least 84 people were killed and 1,600 more injured when troops fired into a crowd of demonstrators.

    Putin rang Roza Otunbayeva to offer Russian assistance less than 24 hours after she dissolved parliament and said she was in charge of Kyrgyzstan, where a third of the 5.3 million population lives below the poverty line.

    The United States, which operates a military base on Kyrgyz soil to support NATO operations in Afghanistan, also sent Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake to Bishkek on Wednesday in a sign of the big power rivalries in the region.

    Moscow-educated Otunbayeva sent her deputy to Moscow for talks with the Russian government. Moscow's pledge was only a third of the $150 million that Almazbek Atambayev had said he would request, though Putin said the amount could be increased.

    Russia, which also has an air base in the country, has sought to evict U.S. interests in Central Asia, an area between China, Afghanistan and the Caspian Sea that was under Moscow's rule when the Soviet Union existed.

    Alexei Kudrin, Russia's finance minister, said the financial package would comprise a $20 million grant and a $30 million loan from state-run Russian Agriculture Bank, at preferential interest rates.

    Igor Sechin, a powerful deputy to Putin who oversees the energy sector, said Russian oil companies would send 25,000 tonnes of refined products to Kyrgyzstan. This would mainly be used to fuel tractors and allow the country to sow crops.

    Kyrgyzstan's main crops are wheat, barley, cotton and maize.

    The ministers did not specify whether Russia would supply the oil products free of charge, or whether the loans would be used to pay for the fuel.

    US Signals Support for New Kyrgyz Leaders

    The Obama administration signaled its support for the new leadership of Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday, sending a senior diplomat here to meet with the head of the country’s interim government.

    The diplomatic gesture left the deposed president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, ever more isolated in a mountain village in the south, where he fled after an uprising last week and is now trying to arrange a safe exit for his family and relatives, as well as himself.

    The American diplomat, Robert Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, met Wednesday with the new Kyrgyz leader, Roza Otunbayeva. He said he came to “express support for the steps the provisional government has taken to restore democracy,” and to offer American aid.

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke on the phone last week with Ms. Otunbayeva, but Mr. Blake was the most senior United States official to visit Bishkek since the uprising.

    “We look forward to helping,” he said after meeting with Ms. Otunbayeva, who said the two had discussed economic aid but did not specify how much. Later, Mr. Blake paid respects to a makeshift memorial on the central square, where 84 protesters were killed by gunfire while storming the presidential building a week ago.

    While some members of the interim government have expressed resentment toward Washington for its support of Mr. Bakiyev, Ms. Otunbayeva said on Tuesday that the lease on a critical American air base, a logistics hub for the war in Afghanistan, would be “automatically” extended beyond its expiration in July.

    Both Russia and the United States have military airfields in Kyrgyzstan, a strategic Central Asian country that Russia views as part of its post-Soviet sphere of influence.

    Both countries had courted the old government with aid and business deals, and on Wednesday, not to be outdone, Russia also offered economic assistance — proposing $50 million and shipments of gasoline and diesel for the spring harvest.

    The courting of the new government by the major powers underscored the precarious position of Mr. Bakiyev, now holed up in his home village near the southern town of Jalalabad, with reports in the local news media of government troops closing in. Mr. Bakiyev has offered to resign in exchange for a guarantee of security for himself and family members, but Ms. Otunbayeva has turned him down.

    Mr. Bakiyev, she said, must either stand trial in Kyrgyzstan or go into exile alone, leaving behind brothers and allies whom she has accused of corruption and of giving the orders to the police to fire on demonstrators.

    On Wednesday, Ms. Otunbayeva said for the first time she would consider direct talks with Mr. Bakiyev, who had been negotiating through international organizations, but said she would not discuss the fate of the family members.

    Hanging over the negotiations with Mr. Bakiyev has been the potential, regarded as remote by most experts here, for Mr. Bakiyev to muster enough supporters in his southern stronghold to split the country, leading to civil war.

    Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, in Washington for a nuclear summit meeting called by President Obama, told an audience at the Brookings Institution that, “As I understand it, Kyrgyzstan is on the verge of civil war now” and could become a “second Afghanistan.”

    “All the forces in Kyrgyzstan should realize their responsibilities towards the Kyrgyz nation, the Kyrgyz people and the future of the Kyrgyz state,” Mr. Medvedev said, according to television footage of the event at the Brookings Institution. He added that Russia understood “what a civil war means,” forecasting that such a conflict would attract “terrorists and extremists of all kinds.”

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Giertych slams Kaczynski

    From: NPE
    Giertych had a few choice words about Kaczynski's rule
    A former education minister has launched a withering attack on Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, accusing him of trying to obtain “absolute power” when he was prime minister.

    Roman Giertych, who served in the Kaczynski cabinet during the 2005 to 2007 Law and Justice coalition government, pulled no punches in a savage character assessment of Mr Kaczynski.

    Speaking before a parliamentary committee into illegal political influence, Mr Giertych accused the former prime minister of trying to remove the checks and balances that limited his power when in office.

    “The president of Law and Justice wanted not only to guarantee his absolute authority, but to remove the ‘brakes’ on power and all those who interfered with him in the pursuit of this,” said Mr Giertych.

    The ex-education minister, who led the League of Polish Families (LPR) as a junior partner in the PiS coalition government, claimed that Mr Kaczynski’s first target was the constitutional tribunal, which had frustrated PiS’s attempts to create its much lauded fourth republic.

    According to Mr Giertych, the PiS leader instructed Zbigniew Ziobro, his justice minister, to draw up changes to the law that would limit the tribunal’s role and put more power into the hands of the president, Mr Kaczynski’s twin brother Lech.

    He also wanted to shackle the press, which was giving his government a torrid time, by creating a new court, with its officials appointed by the president, to oversee and rule on any complaints against the media.

    Along with striking out at institutions Mr Kaczynski, said the former education minister, also tried to control other politicians by gathering useful information that he could use against them. Along with employing this technique to try and keep his troublesome collation partners under his thumb, he also speculated using it against opposition politicians.

    “He had a plan to gain absolute power by winning elections by pulling strings he had on people in the opposition,” said Mr Giertych.

    He added that Mr Kaczynski had told him that he had information on the family affairs of Civic Platform (PO) leader Donald Tusk that could be used against him, as well as damaging material on other leading PO members.

    Paedophile handed in by crooks

    From: NPE
    A collection of underage pornographic images were discovered when thieves broke into a man’s house in Bogatynia, Lower Silesia.

    During the break-in, Arkadiusz R., 44, had his basement raided and his vast collection of illegal images were found.

    “The thieves broke into his basement and the suspect was found under rather unusual circumstances.” says Pawel Petrykowskie of the Lower Silesia police.

    And unusual circumstances they certainly were. Instead of making off with their intended collection of loot, the robbers stumbled across the disturbing images before passing the information onto the relevant authorities.

    “In the apartment, the suspect had secured more than a dozen albums, all of which contained pornographic material involving minors under the age of 15 years.”

    “To make matter worse, in addition to all of this, we found a number of pictures on his mobile phone.”

    The suspect’s computer and telephone are now in the possession of the police experts and examinations are being carried out on all of the CDs and DVDs.

    Arkadiusz R. has since been taken into police custody where he is now being questioned. For the possession of child pornography, he faces a potential five years behind bars.

    Adoption law opens door to traffickers

    From: NPE
    Poland could see a rise in child trafficking, if proposed changes to the adoption law come into force, experts have warned.

    The proposals, which are currently being debated in parliament, could allow for the adoption of children for money, and this, apparently, could foster an illicit trade in young children.

    “Following the changes to the law this could become the norm: Children will be put up for adoption for money, because there will be no penalty for it,” warned Wieslaw Dolegowski of the Foundation for the Child, Family and Adoption. “We’re concerned that when the law comes into force, adoption will be driven underground.”

    Jerzy Naumann, a lawyer specialising in adoption law, also struck a negative note, saying that in his opinion the proposals “may lead to a flourishing market in the trafficking of children.”

    In particular, adoption experts are concerned the proposed changes fail to include commercial adoption under its definition of human trafficking, thus biological parents could waive their parental rights in return for a fee.

    Forums for couples looking to adopt children from anything from a few thousand zloty to PLN 150,000 currently exist, and with such riches already on offer, if the new proposals become law they could provide easy money for people looking to shed a child.

    The flexibility and anonymity granted by the internet also allows people willing to sell their children the ability to do so with little problem.

    But the insinuation that adoption and child trafficking are on the same immoral level has been rejected by those looking to adopt.

    “You can not immediately claim that adoption is an indication of human trafficking,” said Maria, who set up the internet adoption forum, adding that many people on the forum would not consider buying a child.

    Malgorzata Pomaranska-Bielecka, a doctoral student from Warsaw University who has studied the phenomenon of commercial adoption, said that the new proposals could ease the burden of guilt experienced by some adoptive parents.

    “To date, participants in commercial adoption feared accusations of human trafficking. Now the threat of punishment falls only on the intermediary, the person who arranges the adoption for profit,” she said.

  • Sport...

    Azarenka pulls out

    From: UKPA
    Top seed Victoria Azarenka was forced to retire in her quarter-final against Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez at the Andalucia Tennis Experience in Marbella on Friday.

    The Belarussian was 4-0 up in the first set against her Spanish opponent, seeded five, when a leg injury prompted her retirement after 36 minutes.

    Second seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy progressed with a 6-4 7-6 (7/4) win over Romania's Simona Halep in one hour 42 minutes. Pennetta broke three times to her opponent's two, but got just 56% of first serves in, 42% in the opening set.

    Eighth-seeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro came from a set down to beat Tatjana Malek 4-6 6-1 6-2, claiming eight of the 12 breaks in the match.

    In the other last-eight encounter, Sara Errani was a 6-7 (5/7) 6-4 6-3 winner over Beatriz Garcia Vidagany.

    Belarus wins 8 medals at European Weightlifting Championships

    The winner of the Beijing 2008 Olympics Andrei Aramnou won gold in U-105 kg category at the European Weightlifting Championships in Minsk on 11 April.

    All in all, Belarusian athletes have won eight medals at the Championships. Vitali Dzerbianiou, Nastassia Novikava and Andrei Aramnou took gold, Volha Kniazyshcha, Mikalai Charniak, Valiantsina Liakhavets, Shemshat Tulyaeva and Mikalai Novikau won bronze medals.

    Belarus ranked second in the overall medal standings. Russia was first with nine medals (4 golds, 4 silvers and a bronze).

    The European Weightlifting Championships took place in Minsk on 2 -11 April.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Minsk to host Ethnography and Music Festival 14-20 April

    From: BelTA
    Representatives of seven countries are expected to take part in the Ethnography and Music Festival in Minsk on 14-20 April, BelTA learnt from the Belarusian State Academy of Music.

    Partaking in the forum will be ethnographic groups and music critics from Belarus, Russia, Armenia, Latvia, Iran, China and Japan. The major topic of the forum is Belarus’ musical culture in an abundance of national cultures. The guests of the concert programmes will get familiar with the authentic vocal and instrumental folklore, professional music of the European and Asian cultural regions, national instruments of various nations.

    The exhibition of national Belarusian and Indian instruments will be opened on 14 April. A concert of the Lettish and Belarusian traditional music will take place on the same day.

    On 15 April artistic studios of the World Musical Cultures Center of the Piotr Tchaikovsky State Conservatory of Moscow will offer an exhibition of classical Japanese music instruments, the Japanese tea ceremony and dances. It will be followed by a concert of the folklore ensemble of the Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory of St Petersburg.

    A concert of the Indian dances and music Rangoli with the participation of Sapra, Indivara and Yoga dancing groups will be held on 17 April. The Ethnography and Music Festival will end up with a concert of the Chinese instrumental music on 20 April.

  • Endnote...

    Lukashenko: a bad decision of the top man resulted in the tragedy near Smolensk

    From: BelTA
    The tragedy near Smolensk resulted from a wrong decision by the country’s top man, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told media on 14 April.

    “We regret it. It is a tragedy. Not only the president but also almost 100 people, including top officials of the friendly nation, perished. Certainly the tragedy could not but affect our hearts. Let’s see what the [investigation] commission will find out and you will see that machines were okay. It was a wrong decision of the top man”.

    The head of state said that Belarus had provided all the necessary aid to the Poles willing to cross Belarus to reach the place of the tragedy. An airport in Vitebsk and automobiles have been provided for free. “We have done our best for our neighbor,” he said.

    “I would not like to say who is guilty and who is not although it is absolutely understandable to me. If a president travels by air and things are out of the ordinary, the captain of the crew directly reports to the president. The president may ask whether it is possible to land the plane but it is up to him to make the final decision. He can decide to land the plane or not. But the pilots can disobey,” said the head of state. Alexander Lukashenko told media that Lech Kaczynski’s aircraft once had to land in Azerbaijan instead of Georgia due to bad weather. “Pilots were about to be fired but the defense minister protected them,” said the President. He stressed that such things do not happen on his plane: pilots will always obey his decision. Alexander Lukashenko said he had to make such decisions twice.

    “I am sure that near Smolensk things were exactly like that. The pilot would report to the president that there was zero visibility, they had tried to land four times. The president decided on landing,” said the Belarusian head of state. He also pointed out that the aircraft did not have the navigation tools that modern airliners have. Besides, the Smolensk airport does not have the equipment to land an aircraft automatically.

    “It is understandable with whom the responsibility is. The top man is responsible. We, presidents, should also understand that there are one hundred more people who have families on board,” said Alexander Lukashenko. He also said that the pilots must not be blamed because things do not happen that way.

    “It is a very serious lesson. It is very sad that the president died. When a president dies, it is bad for his country and the welcoming country,” said Alexander Lukashenko.