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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dacha farms, Economic liberalization, Customs Union, Gazprom, Bakiyev wanted, Venezuela, Opposition; News, Sport, Culture and Polish scandal...

  • From the Top...
  • #511

    Belarus President puts focus on private household plots

    From: BelTA
    More attention should be paid to developing private household plots, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko told a government session held on 18 May to discuss the development of private household plots.

    The head of state pointed out that the problem is of considerable economic, social and political importance. At least one third of the nation is engaged in personal subsidiary economy. Those are not only rural Belarusians but also people who live in towns and suburbs of major cities. The President remarked that they make an essential contribution to ensuring the national food security. Using slightly more than 11% of the farmland, the personal subsidiary economy provides around 30% of the gross output of the agricultural industry. Personal subsidiary economy provides environmentally sound products for those involved and supplies food to the market. The personal subsidiary economy raises the most labor-intensive crops – potatoes (88% of the total yield), vegetables (80%), fruits and berries (over 90%).

    Alexander Lukashenko reminded that the personal subsidiary economy contributes to increasing real earnings and wellbeing of rural Belarusians, making an important addition for family budgets. According to the President, such subsidiary husbandry plays an important educational role. People, who are used to labor, catering for animals and gardening since their childhood, are less prone to abuse of alcohol and other negative phenomena, he said.

    Alexander Lukashenko remarked that when he visits provinces, he often asks for reports about the state of things in this area, about how the local authorities care for people. The President always urges the local authorities to help people with gathering in crops, arranging purchases of their products, allocating lands and pastures. The matter has been repeatedly discussed by the national government, specific instructions have been given to the government and oblast governors, and a special program has been designed to develop private household plots in 2006-2010.

    It is time to sum up the results of the program and the earlier issued instructions. “However, it is clearly obvious that there is nothing to boast about. In the last decade the output has been falling year after year, the cattle population is declining. The number of private household plots is declining, too. Since 2000 their number has dropped by 175,000 or 14%. The tendency is registered in all the oblasts of the country,” said the head of state.

    Alexander Lukashenko said he cannot fully agree with those that attribute the decline to the objective reduction of the number of rural Belarusians, aging peasants, the unwillingness of young Belarusians to get involved in private household plots. The President said he is inclined to believe that the indifferent and devil-may-care attitudes of the local authorities to the people, who are engaged in the personal subsidiary economy, are the cause, considering the number of complaints about the lack of opportunities to raise cattle, lack of proper organization of milk purchases and other products. “People are ready to labor, spend their time on useful business but rural hard-working people, their farmsteads and the state as a whole suffer from our disgusting attitude,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    There are regions where executives understand the importance of the problem and support people but no concrete and effective measures are taken in most regions. “Virtually everything is allowed to run free. ‘They may live or may not, we cannot be held responsible for private farms.’ It won’t do!” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    The President told participants of the session that the matter should be viewed more broadly. In his opinion, it is necessary to look at it as the handling of people’s complaints. He added that in the near future it will be discussed at a president-chaired session soon. The preparations have begun: in all regions the situation is monitored to reveal the real picture and to enable taking effective measures to address the existing problems.

    Alexander Lukashenko said he expects participants of the session to come up with an objective evaluation of the situation as well as answers to whether it is necessary to continue developing private household plots, in what form they should exist and what should be done for it.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarusian Economy Ministry presents further economy liberalization plan

    From: BelTA
    The Belarusian Economy Ministry has forwarded an action plan for the further liberalization of the national economy to the Belarus President Administration. The information was released by Deputy Economy Minister Anatoly Filonov at a seminar held for Belarusian parliamentarians on 21 May to discuss the support for and development of small and medium businesses.

    The plan envisages improving mechanisms used to privatize state property, reducing the number of licensable activities from 53 to 38. In addition, the price regulation by the government may be curtailed. The Economy Ministry also forwarded proposals regarding Directive No 4.

    Anatoly Filonov also said that the share of small and medium businesses in the GDP is supposed to reach 30% by 2015 (11.4% in 2009) thanks to the liberalization measures.

    According to the Tax Ministry, at present there are over 80,600 registered small businesses in Belarus. The number has increased by 14.5% since 2009 and by 2.5% since early 2010. In 2009 small businesses provided jobs to 20.4% economically active people. In 2009 small businesses accounted for 9.1% of the overall industrial output (8.4% in 2008).

    Prime ministers of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan begin second round of talks in Saint Petersburg

    From: BelTA
    The second round of talks of the prime ministers of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan has begun in Saint Petersburg, BelTA has learned.

    Before it the first round of talks of the three countries had taken place.

    The agenda of the session of the supreme body of the Customs Union includes 15 items. Among them are the progress in fulfilling the action plan for forming the single economic space, the enforcement of the international treaties that make up the legal foundation of the Customs Union. There are plans to consider the unification of trade regulations of the Customs Union member-states as well as the agreements that regulate the collection and distribution of customs duties on imports.

    Putin: Customs Union formation will require compromises from its members

    The formation of the Customs Union will require compromises from its member-states, Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin said in a session of the EurAsEC Interstate Council, the supreme body of the Customs Union, on 21 May.

    “We are satisfied with the process of the Customs Union development. The Union is taking its purely economic shape, becoming a new geopolitical reality,” the Russian Premier stressed.

    The formation of the single economic territory is a key point in the further integration. According to Vladimir Putin, these processes are profitable for all the parties, create favorable conditions for a rapid economic growth.

    “The Customs Union has made a very good start. All its mechanisms operate properly, though such a large-scale project cannot be implemented within a short period of time. Fortunately we are able to find contact points and take the decisions which accommodate each side,” he said. The regulation of the Customs Union legal base is underway. The process will need compromises, the Russian Premier stressed. All in all, 18 draft documents are to be prepared. Eight of them have already been approved by the Customs Union Commission, with three more in the pipeline.

    The Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky stated that “the work of the experts of the Customs Union Commission makes it favorable for addressing today’s moot issues.” “It is important that today we are aiming at the single customs tariffs, the single customs territory, and there is a wish to make these positions as close as it is possible and work without restrictions,” the Belarusian PM said.

    According to Sergei Sidorsky, the Vice Premiers of the countries have similar opinions on many issues and “work out their suggestions what enables the chairpersons to work smoothly and adopt well-thought decisions”.

    Belarus urges prompt Customs Union full-scale functioning

    Belarus insists to prompt all the decisions necessary to make the Customs Union fully functional, BelTA learnt from a source in the Belarusian government delegation which is taking part in a session of the supreme body of the Customs Union in St Petersburg.

    “It is imperative for the Customs Union member-states to take all the decisions necessary to complete the formation of the single customs territory by 1 July 2010 and start the full-format operation of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia,” said the source while commenting on Belarus’ position ahead of the forthcoming negotiations.

    Russia insists on export oil duties what bars a full abolition of restrictions in the mutual trade, the source said and added that the issue of establishing the single trade regime with third countries remains unsettled today.

    “Only 8 out of 17 international agreements necessary for the Customs Union functioning have been prepared for signing at the session,” the representative of the Belarusian delegation stated.

    In his words, the sides need to sign, ratify and enact a new wording of the EurAsEC Court Status by 1 July 2010. “The status might be signed at the session. But possible difficulties with its ratification in five states can hamper its introduction into effect on the arranged date,” the Belarusian representative said and noted that “a possibility of the temporary introduction of the document into effect is being considered as well”.

    The sides have agreed to transfer all types of the state control to the Customs Union border. “At the same time the Russian side has some problems with transferring its transport control. The work is underway to settle the issue,” the source said.

    Moreover, “taking into account quite a long delay in presenting the draft agreements on the information system of the foreign and mutual trade in the Customs Union by the Russian side, the timely interstate procedures on them were impossible in Belarus”, the representative of the Belarusian delegation stressed.

    Global Fund to grant $25m to Belarus to fight TB and HIV

    From: BelTA
    The Global Fund will provide Belarus with two grants to the tune of almost $25 million to treat multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and HIV in 2010-2013, BelTA has learnt.

    The agreement on providing the grant by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was signed in Minsk on 21 May. Taking part in the ceremony of signing the grant agreement were Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Potupchik and UN/UNDP Representative in Belarus Antonius Broek.

    The first grant is estimated at $17 million. It will be allocated to treat people suffering from MDR-TB, purchase laboratory equipment and upgrade TB dispensaries. About 2,600 patients will receive the necessary treatment.

    The second grant is estimated at $7.5 million. It will be spent on preventing and treating HIV infection, enhancing the capacity of the national healthcare, raising awareness and removing the stigma attached to HIV+ people.

    Vice-Premier of Belarus Vladimir Potupchik praised the efforts of the Global Fund to prevent the spread of the HIV infection and tuberculosis. “The state has adopted a system-based approach to improve the prevention and treatment of these diseases and has increased the relevant financing. We realize that only the concerted effort of international organizations, donors and national bodies and agencies will be able to improve the situation.” Vladimir Potupchik expressed deep confidence that the new grants will materialize a whole range of measures to curb the spread of TB and HIV, make treatment more efficient and improve the quality of life of the patients and their relatives.

    UN/UNDP Representative in Belarus Antonius Broek noted that these are the largest grants in healthcare provided to Belarus by international organizations. He expressed hope that they will help stop the spread of TB and HIV.

    The new TB grant is the second biggest grant provided to Belarus by the Global Fund. It is aimed to enhance Belarus’ capacity to fight TB. The first grant was presented in October 2007. In the time period between 2007 and 2015 Belarus will receive about $35-38 million for TB treatment.

    In 2004 -2015, the Global Fund will allocate a total of $64 million to fight HIV/Aids in Belarus.

    The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was created in 2002. Global Fund financing is enabling countries to strengthen health systems by, for example, making improvements to infrastructure and providing training to those who deliver services. 67% of the projects are financed by UNDP.

  • Economics...

    Grodno Azot, Achema Group on their way towards creating international cluster

    From: BelTA
    The Grodno-based chemical company Grodno Azot and the Lithuanian concern Achema Group made the first step towards creating an international cluster as they signed a protocol of cooperation in Grodno on 21 May.

    Bronislovas Lubys, President of the Confederation of Industrialists of Lithuania, President and Director General of Achema Group concern, told media that apart from Grodno Azot and Achema Group the cluster will include a research institute and a design organization. “We’ve just started out,” said Bronislovas Lubys. He said that the creation of the cluster involves making certain investments, including investments from the Lithuanian side.

    The protocol of the session of the Belarus-Lithuania Business Cooperation Council was signed in Grodno on 21 May along with a declaration and a memorandum after the VI Belarusian-Lithuanian Economic Forum, the protocol of the 15th session of the Belarusian-Lithuanian Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation.

    Part of Belarusian petrochemical concern Belneftekhim, Grodno Azot is a major producer of mineral fertilizers and caprolactam. The enterprise was founded in 1963, it was corporatized as an open joint-stock company in 2002. Grodno Azot specializes in liquid technical grade ammonia, nitrogen fertilizers (carbamide, carbamide-ammoniac mixture, ammonia sulphate), technical methanol, caprolactam, biodiesel fuel, liquid carbon dioxide. The company exports 40% of the make.

    Achema Group was founded in 2001. It owns over 30 enterprises engaged in various businesses in Lithuania and abroad, including enterprises manufacturing nitrogen fertilizers, the Klaipeda stevedoring company Klasco, a co-generation plant, two hydropower plants. Power engineering is the second most important area for the company. Achema Group is one of Lithuania’s largest electricity consumers as well as a manufacturer of electricity and heating energy.

    Belarus ready to transit Ukrainian energy to Lithuania

    Belarus is ready to launch the transit of Ukrainian electric energy to Lithuania as soon as Ukraine submits a pricing proposal, First Deputy Director General – Chief Engineer of Belenergo Alexander Sivak said in Grodno at the 15th session of Belarus-Lithuania commission for trade and economic cooperation, BelTA has learnt.

    According to Alexander Sivak, Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine have worked out an electric power trading scheme and prepared all the necessary paperwork. “Now the matter depends on Ukraine. As soon as we receive a pricing proposal from Ukraine, we can launch electric power transit,” he said.

    Alexander Sivak noted that at present Belarus’ transmission capacity is 4 billion kWh of electric energy. Belarus imports 2.5 billion kWh of electric power from Ukraine; therefore, the transit capacity of the country is 1.5 billion kWh.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Russia's Putin says customs union delayed

    From: Reuters
    Russia's planned customs union with neighbouring Belarus and Kazakhstan will not fully come into effect from July as planned, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Mir TV in an interview on Saturday.

    The customs union was envisaged as a first step on the way for the three former Soviet republics and allies of Moscow to create a free trade area, or single economic space, by 2012.

    From July 1, they were meant to adopt a common external tariff and start redistributing the duties they collect.

    "This is correct. It cannot come into full force," Putin told an interviewer who asked him whether the project would take full effect in July, after talks on it failed on Friday during a meeting in St Petersburg.

    A Russian source had earlier told Reuters that finalising the union could be delayed beyond July.

    Russia had pursued the project with fresh interest after putting talks to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the back burner after more than a decade of wrangling.

    But Moscow has recently renewed interest in the WTO talks and said earlier this year it would no longer insist on joining the WTO in a joint bid with Kazakhstan and Belarus, suggesting the customs union might not have the same priority as before.

    Putin gave no sign Russia would abandon its bid to create the common economic space with neighbours, saying he wanted to speed the process up, despite the hitch with the customs union.

    "I have proposed today to accelerate solving the problems linked to a creation of a single economic space," Putin said, according to a transcript of the interview published ahead of the broadcast on the government website.

    Instead of negotiating all the required documents by the end of next year, Putin said he wanted the whole process finished by the end of this year.

    Now oil duties are holding the union back as Russia has refused to abolish export duties on oil it sells to Belarus, something analysts say Minsk had wanted and had seen as the key reason to join the pact.

    Russia has also accused Belarus of not paying enough for gas deliveries and amassing debts while Belarus wants to pay less for oil and gas if Moscow is serious about developing closer ties with Minsk.

    "They unilaterally pay us the 2008 price. They underpay us. There debt is accumulated. But this is still a problem between economic entities (corporations) and I hope the problem will be solved at that level," Putin said.

    Gazprom Says Belarus Breaches Gas Accord as Premiers Meet Today

    From: Bloomberg
    OAO Gazprom, Russia’s natural-gas export monopoly, said Belarus is refusing to pay agreed prices for fuel supplies, as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart meet for economic talks today.

    Belarus owes $192 million for gas so far this year, Sergei Kupriyanov, a Gazprom spokesman, said today. He said the debt expanded by $55 million to that level after Beltransgaz, the state pipeline operator half-owned by Gazprom, underpaid today.

    Beltransgaz spokesman Vladimir Chekov didn’t answer his office or mobile phones when called by Bloomberg.

    Putin said in March that Belarus will receive $4.2 billion in Russian subsidies this year through lower-than-market gas prices and tax-free oil deliveries. Gazprom also paid $625 million this year for 12.5% of Beltransgaz, whose pipelines carry about a fifth of Russia’s Europe-bound gas exports.

    “Beltransgaz decided to pay for supplies not at the contract price, but at a price it determined by itself,” Kupriyanov said. At the current rate, the debt may reach $500 million to $600 million this year, he said. “The unfolding situation concerns us greatly.”

    Gazprom will charge Belarus an average of $171.50 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas this year, Interfax reported March 26, citing the Russian gas exporter.

    Putin is meeting with Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky and counterparts in the Eurasian Economic Union, which also includes the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

    Belarus receives extradition request for ousted Kyrgyz president

    From: Xinua
    The Belarussian prosecutor general's office has received a formal extradition request for Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the ousted Kyrgyzstan president, officials said Friday.

    Kyrgyz interim authorities allege Bakiyev was involved in the shooting of civilians during deadly protests in the country that led to his ouster.

    Belarus also received an 18-page attachment to the extradition request, a prosecutor general's office spokesman told RIA Novosti, without elaborating.

    So far no official statement on a possible decision concerning the extradition request has been made.

    Bakiyev fled to Belarus after he was ousted during violent protests last month.

    The April 7-8 clashes between police and civilians in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek killed more then 80 people. More than 1,500 others were injured.

    Another 80,000-ton shipment of Venezuelan crude to arrive in Belarus in June

    From: Navany
    Another 80,000-ton shipment of Venezuelan crude oil will arrive in Belarus in June, Maria Elena Rojas, of the Venezuelan embassy in Minsk, told reporters in Homyel on Thursday during the Homyel Economic Forum, as quoted by BelaPAN.

    Under a contract signed in Caracas on March 17, up to four million tons of oil is to be supplied to Belarus before the end of the year.

    The first 80,000-ton shipment was brought by a tanker to Ukraine’s Odessa seaport on April 25 and then the oil was delivered to the Mazyr oil refinery by rail.

    The embassy officer noted that Venezuela was taking part in the Homyel Economy Forum for the first time. “Apart from cooperation in the oil sphere, we could be interested in cooperation in the construction sector and, in particular, in the establishment of a joint construction company,” she said.

  • From the Opposition...

    Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu: “I’m frightened by repressive machine of destruction”

    From: Charter '97
    Poet Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, the leader of “Say the Truth!” civil campaign, answered questions of after his release from prison in Akrestsin Street.

    “The events of May 18 are outrage. The mass searches in offices and apartments of activists of “Say the Truth!” campaign, arrests, questionings over a ridiculous far-fetched article, seizure of computers and printed materials. They were evidently looking for “enemy’s money”, but unable to find it, they seized everything related to the campaign. The militia and secret services were most interested in who our partners are and who organize the campaign,” Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu said.

    The poet notes that the texts he had written over the last years were seized during the search. “They’ve taken everything I wrote. It will take a long time to read this. I appeal to the militia through Read faster, please. I have a lot of unfinished works. It’s really funny. If I had had any serious documents, I wouldn’t have kept them on computers, I am not a fool. The main thing that made the authorities angry is that the campaign was effective. We didn’t relate our activity to any person. There were lots of rumours about us, people said we worked for Lukashenka, or for Milinkevich. The authorities were convinced we were preparing for the presidential elections. But our campaign will continue its activity regardless presidential elections,” Nyaklyaeu said.

    The campaign leader notes regarding the computers seized from him and “Say the Truth!” activists: “I don’t know why they need so many computers. has 8 eight computers 8, but we lost 18. Maybe they took them to their summer houses, to saunas. What are they looking for? Perhaps they want to find a text in my computer that may “insult” Lukashenka,” the poet said.

    What to initiating a criminal case under article 250 of the Criminal Code, Nyaklyaeu, a suspect in the case, noted: “in spite of explanations of an investigator, I haven’t understood yet what this article means. How could I violate it if I don’t produce any goods? Well, it would be OK if I had produced jeans and sew famous labels to them. I don’t understand.”

    “Psychology of the authorities is based on a “take away” principle. If they see something that doesn’t belong to them, they take it. I saw about thirty young people during three days in prison. Young people are drug addicts, those who are older are alcoholics. What the young had to go through! They had bruises, they couldn’t move normally. They were beaten and tortured, they admitted both what they had and hadn’t committed. I was frightened not by actions of certain sergeants, but by how the machine works. This is a machine of destruction. This is repressive machine!” Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu said.

    Ales Bialiatski: ‘We must take every measure possible to stop the escalation of tension and hysteria created by the authorities ahead of the presidential election’

    From: Viasna
    Earlier this year the Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’ predicted the intensification of the wave of repressions ahead of the presidential election in Belarus. But then the human rights defenders could not have foreseen whether the authorities would use criminal prosecution or repressions would have a hidden character. In what direction is the situation developing? Ales Bialiatski, head of the HRC ‘Viasna’, vice-president of the International Federation of Human Rights, gives his assessment of the events of the recent weeks.

    The human rights activist noted that the sad forecast about possible deterioration of Belarus’ human rights situation in 2010 appeared to be true. Above all, this is due to two political campaigns: the local council elections are over and the country is gradually moving towards the presidential election. The difficult human rights situation in the country has become even more complicated and human rights activists say that there are grounds to argue that the harassment of the active groups of the Belarusian civil society have become a routine. Ales Bialiatski identified several areas of the repressive actions of the authorities.

    The raid on independent journalists and media

    - One of the groups is active journalists working for independent media. And by some strange coincidence, all these journalists are women - chief editor of the ‘Narodnaya Volia’ newspaper Sviatlana Kalinkina, deputy editor of the ‘Narodnaya Volia’ Maryna Koktysh, a journalist of ‘Novaya Gazeta’ Iryna Khalip and editor of the web-site Natalia Radzina. There is some symbolism in this: the president, the prime minister, the police chief, the KGB head, and the prosecutor general - all men – have been engaged in an insidious struggle against the female journalists who bravely and fiercely protect the right to receive and disseminate information. In order to put pressure on them, the so-called ‘hunting case’ was formally used. The journalists have been repeatedly called in for interrogations as witnesses, but it all just looks like what usually happens to the accused - searches, seizures of office equipment, moral and psychological pressure. Oddly enough, the person who argues that they slandered him is a general, former head of the KGB. And as you know, there are no ‘former’ KGB agents. For the human rights defenders it is clear that the case was cooked up, the main objective of the authorities being, with his hands the security forces, to defeat the three extremely popular sources of information in Belarus – the sites ‘Charter-97’, ‘Belarusian Partisan’ and the newspaper Narodnaya Volia’.

    No doubt, the persecution of independent journalists causes great concern of human right defenders, we see in this another step by the authorities, aimed at limiting the spread of information. And it is a clear signal to all independent journalists - at any moment they could find themselves facing compromising materials and they can be first declared as witnesses and later as defendants, in case the authorities want it. Such a perspective is very justifiable for these journalists. Therefore, I urge the Belarusian society as much as possible to join in their defense.

    Another part of the authorities’ campaign of pressure on freedom of speech is the adoption of the newly announced Internet Regulatory Act. Now we are all waiting for decisions by the Council of Ministers, which is to clear up the situation - what was meant by passing such a dim decree? Will this decision really make the Internet more secure and protect users from Internet-related crimes, or, as I strongly suspect, there are many pitfalls that could hinder the access of Belarusian citizens to independent information that is provided by hundreds of pro-democratic sites - human rights , youth, education, regional ones. It is very likely that it could first of all affect the sites, which are most popular, consistent and uncompromising with respect to the authorities’ attitude to human rights and democracy in Belarus.

    The use of Article 369-1 of the Criminal Code, which provides liability for discrediting the Republic of Belarus, has already started. For example, one of the leading entrepreneurs, head of the Brest branch of the ‘Perspektyva’ public association, was warned of possible prosecution under the Article for 'biased comments in the media’, including foreign Internet resources. The list of these media sites includes,,,,, This is a real pressure on people. There is a risk that before, during and after the presidential election the criminal article shall be applied to civil activists and journalists.

    Repressions against civil activists

    - 18 May, 2010 will go down in the history of Belarus as the day of ‘cleansing’ the civil initiative ‘Havary Praudu’ (‘Speak the Truth’). It's disgusting that the authorities are struggling with purely peaceful civil initiatives, with arrests, searches, seizures and interrogations, again inventing some mythical claims. It is even more disgusting that one of our best writers Uladzimir Niakliayeu was detained. The man, who would have been protected and honoured by any other civilized country, was put in jail... Lukashenka, who has repeatedly disregarded the Belarusian language and Belarusian writers in his statements, who in my opinion knows very little of what culture and literature are, once again tried to declare that this country does not have any other prophets except him.

    In addition, we are witnessing the case against a Vitsebsk activist Siarhei Kavalenka, who was sentenced to three years' probation. The restriction of freedom, the potential danger that hangs over his head, makes Kavalenka a politically repressed. Knowing his strong public stance, a sincere response to the truth, I am afraid that he can at any moment become a real prisoner. The authorities have tried to create a trap for Kavalenka, but in political terms, they have created a trap for themselves.

    In the future, the list of persons convicted and imprisoned on political grounds in the country (to date we have six such people - Artsiom Dubski, Taras Surhan, Mikalai Autukhovich, Uladzimir Asipenka, Aliaksandr Laryn, Mikhail Kazlou) can be extended.

    Recently, the prosecuting authorities initiated a criminal case against a political activist Ales Zarembiuk from the town of Masty (Hrodna region). The active young man who has created political competition in the area and launched a number of local civil initiatives, which were widely supported by local residents, was compromised and charged with fraud. This case is within a clearly political context. Ales Zarembiuk is not a new man in the socio-political activities. He has been active in youth organizations, then a member of a political party, then he was elected member of a district council, run in the recent local elections. And it was during the election when a new wave of persecution against him began.

    It is impossible not to mention what happened in Navapolatsk – the search and seizure of office equipment in the office of the local human rights activist Dzmitry Salauyou, at the office, where the National organization Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’ tried to register twice last year. Salauyou observed the elections to local councils in Navapolatsk. The search was allegedly associated with the claims that some of the young people, who attended the office, made neo-Nazi inscriptions in the city. No doubt, the authorities’ aim is to halt the only independent place where civil and political activists held various political and cultural events. The same office was searched back in 2006. And now it is searched again, with the new presidential election near at hand.

    All these attacks - on journalists, activists of regional public organizations and political parties in Minsk, Brest, Vitsebsk, Masty, Navapolatsk and many others - form a single picture of so to say the initial stage of the election campaign. I am afraid that we will face dozens more similar cases of forced termination of any public activity by the authorities. The cases may be extremely absurd, as it happened on 17 May with a group of anti-fascists who gathered in the building of the ‘History Workshop’ at 25 Sukhaya Street in Minsk. The screening of a documentary ended up in several detentions, including that of a Belgium national.

    We see that the government have begun a pre-planned and well-prepared campaign of suppressing of civil activities ahead of the presidential election. And this is just the beginning. We must now, with the help of the international community, take every measure possible to stop the escalation of tension and hysteria created by the authorities ahead of the presidential election.

    Issues of principle to the European community are not solved

    - The litmus test in Belarus’ relations with the European community is the issue of the death penalty. On the one hand, it does not have such a significant effect on the relationship between the civil society and the authorities of the country, as the electoral laws do, but, at the same time, it has a great moral and symbolic dimension. The death penalty is part of an ideological set of the Belarusian authorities. That’s what has been happening after the 1996 referendum, where the issue was challenged. But we still remember the meaning of the referendum: the death penalty was then a ‘trailer car’, which actually veiled more important issues - reform of the Constitution, which led to the unlimited power concentrated in one hand. Maybe because of this it is so ‘dear’ for President’s heart. The ideological aspect of the death penalty still remains, along with the green-red flag, all the Komsomol-BRSM-pioneers and other post-Soviet insignia, a symbol of ‘cruelty and justice’ of power. This is precisely what the problem is about- over its political context the matter became extremely significant for the Belarusian authorities.

    Due to the fact that for a year already the Belarusian human rights defenders have been actively campaigned against the death penalty, the problem itself has become more real and personalized: we have seen specific people behind it - sentenced to death and executed, and their relatives. The problem has become more understandable to the public. And the role of the government in this situation has become clearly disadvantageous. The severe defender of peace and order has become a revengeful hangman with a gun in his hand.

    The issue of the death penalty has come to the forefront of Belarus’ relations with the Council of Europe. For our cynics, sitting in the government and operating in financial or post-Soviet political categories for ‘domestic consumption’, a Special Guest status or membership in the Council of Europe has never been so important. But in the end, they realized that the international reputation of the state, its membership in various international political clubs, is also money. But which will win – is not known yet.

    The relations between the Belarusian government and the civil society have been carefully and thoroughly monitored by the EU structures. Today the European Union gives considerably more attention to its relations with Belarus, even in comparison with the previous elections. European officials, who have been engaged in the Belarusian issues for years, understand what is happening here. Therefore, the human rights situation, the death penalty, the civil liberties, which are so actively suppressed in Belarus, are not conducive to better relations with the EU.

    The situation requires the activity of the civil society

    - Today, every subject of the Belarusian civil society, without exception, journalists, human rights defenders, civil, political and trade union activists, should be active in pursuing their rights. Despite the malignance, obstinacy and insidiousness of the Belarusian authorities, we can achieve some progress. A harsh struggle is underway and the main objective of the executive authorities is to paralyze the Belarusian society and remain in power even for a long time. Despite the repressions, the Belarusian society must overcome the difficult situation, through its activity and self-sacrificingness. And this affects us all.

  • Russia...

    U.S. lifts sanctions on Russian arms exporter

    From: Reuters
    The United States has been trying to win Russia's support for a U.N. Security Council resolution to expand sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Russia approved a draft resolution that Washington circulated at the United Nations on Thursday.

    State Department spokesman Andy Laine said Russia's view on Iran "has evolved over time" and noted the country's support for the draft resolution.

    "We felt confident ... that we could lift these sanctions," he said.

    Earlier this month, a senior Kremlin official said Russia expected the United States to lift bans on trade with four Russian companies if Moscow backed new sanctions against Iran. Russia has long criticized sanctions against entities accused of selling technology that could help Iran, Syria or North Korea develop weapons of mass destruction or missile systems.

    The U.S. State Department said it lifted sanctions imposed in 1999 against the Dmitri Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology and the Moscow Aviation Institute. Sanctions imposed in 2008 against Russian state arms trader Rosoboronexport also were terminated.

    The department also removed sanctions set in 1999 against Tula Instrument Design Bureau. The United States has said it imposed sanctions against the firm for arms sales to Iran and Syria.

    The department made public the decision in notices issued on Friday.

    Iran rejects Western allegations its nuclear program is a quest to develop atomic weapons and has ignored U.N. resolutions ordering it to halt its enrichment program.

    Bangladesh, Russia sign nuclear power deal

    From: AP
    Bangladesh and Russia are finalizing a deal on the first nuclear power plants in the energy-starved South Asian nation, an official said.

    An official in the government's Atomic Energy Commission told The Associated Press on Saturday that talks on nuclear cooperation were progressing.

    "We will require signing a few more agreements with Russia to go for the final implementation," he said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

    He said under the agreement, the two countries would design, construct and operate nuclear power plants while Russia would train Bangladeshi officials and engineers. Transfer of technologies and maintenance of the plants are part of the agreement, he said.

    The official said the agreements could be finalized when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visits Russia later this year.

    The government in April approved a draft for the deal with Russia.

    Bangladesh wants to set up a nuclear plant at Rooppur, 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of the capital, Dhaka, to meet its growing power need.

    Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh say power shortages are hampering production in factories because gas-fired, decades-old power plants are failing to generate adequate electricity.

    Bangladesh, a nation of 150 million people, has a daily shortfall of about 2,000 megawatts. The government says gas production has decreased in recent years.

    The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank say Bangladesh's economy, which has grown more than 5 percent in recent years, will suffer if more electricity is not generated to feed industries and support irrigation schemes.

    The country also is looking at options to switch to coal-fired power plants. It has six coal fields with about 3.3 billion tons of estimated reserves.

    Former Miss Russia Anna Malova busted for forging prescription for Vicodin

    From: NY Daily News
    A former Miss Russia was busted for forging a prescription for Vicodin pills on a form that was filched from her Manhattan shrink, authorities said.

    Anna Malova, a leggy blond beauty who held the pageant crown in 1998, was collared Tuesday moments after a West Village pharmacy filled her phony prescription for 85 pills.

    The state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement was wise to her alleged scam and was waiting for her - and a local TV crew that had been tipped off had its cameras rolling for the one-time starlet.

    Malova proved to be ever the fashionista - even in handcuffs.

    When she was pinched, she was wearing a black fur-lined coat and skinny jeans and was toting a Burberry plaid umbrella.

    "I don't know what happened," Malova pleaded to the TV news crew's camera.

    Malova wound up on the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement's radar after her upper West Side shrink, Catharine Fedeli, reported that several prescription forms were missing from her pad following an appointment with Malova in late February.

    The state narcotics cops told pharmacies in Malova's neighborhood to keep an eye out for the hot prescription forms.

    And then early last month, a pharmacist from the pharmacy where Malova was busted Tuesday told cops she had used a similar prescription to obtain pain pills.

    Malova, who lives near the pharmacy where she was busted, was actually a physician in Russia, though she does not have a medical license in New York.

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Brazil arrests Polish pedophile priest

    From: Press TV
    In the latest episode of a sexual abuse scandal surrounding the Roman Catholic Church, Brazil has put a Polish Catholic priest on trial.

    Alexandre Abrahao Teixeira who is overseeing the case described the priest, identified only by his initials as MMS, as "a person compulsively attached to sex with adolescents," AFP reported on Saturday.

    His home was like "a sort of erotic dungeon where these youths were thrown into orgies," said the judge.

    According to Teixeira the priest used his spiritual authority to force teenagers into having sex with him.

    If convicted, the priest who ran a church in the west of Rio de Janeiro will face 10 years imprisonment.

    The emergence of pedophile priests has sent tremors across the Roman Catholic Church in recent years. Even Pope Benedict XVI has been implicated in the scandal.

    He has been accused of trying to cover up such abuses when he was an Archbishop.

    Non-crew in cockpit when Kaczynski died

    From: Nine
    Non-crew members were in the cockpit of the plane of Polish president Lech Kaczynski before its fatal crash in Russia in April, a top aviation official said.

    "It has been established that in the cockpit there were individuals who were not members of the crew," said Tatyana Anodina, head of the inter-state air committee for the ex-Soviet Union which is investigating the crash.

    "The voice of one of them has been identified exactly, the voice of the other, or the others, will require additional information from the Polish side," she added.

    Ninety-six people, including Kaczynski, his wife and scores of senior Polish officials were killed in the crash on April 10 outside the western Russian city of Smolensk.

    Teams punished after anti-Semitic banners at football match

    From: THE NEWS
    Two football clubs from the south-east city of Rzeszow have been penalized and two people detained after an anti-Semitic banner was held aloft by fans during a local second division derby in southern Poland on May 8.

    The banner was spotted among fans of Resovia Rzeszow during a match against local rivals Stal Rzeszow.

    The fans chanted the “Arian horde is coming” and displayed a huge banner showing a caricatured hook-nosed Jew with a stripped blue and white yarmulke under the slogan: “Death to the Crooked Noses.”

    Colours of the banner corresponded with the flag of Israel, costumes of Auschwitz camp prisoners but also the colour’s of the opposing Stal team’s strip.

    Police from Rzeszow has already detained two 18-year-old Resovia fans responsible for putting up the anti-Semitic banner. They will be charged for violence against people of a different nationality, ethnic background, race, political views or faith, for which they may face up to five years in prison.

    “The charges are serious because the banner calls for death,” says a prosecutor Ewa Lotczyk. Twenty more football fans, who held the banner during the match, are expected to be detained in relation to the case.

    Lock out

    The Polish Football Association (PZPN) has also punished the two rival football clubs from Rzeszow. In the coming month Resovia and Stal will play matches behind locked doors with no crowd and the latter will also have to pay a 2,500 zloty fine (627 euro) as it was the host of the match.

    Polish Football Association (PZPN) representatives, who were present at the stadium, failed to react to the offensive banners at the time, however.

    “It’s a scandal!” Resovia’s chairman and former Justice Minister Aleksander Bentkowski told the PAP news agency.

    Police have already opened an investigation into the case.

    The Anti-Defamation League has called on Andrzej Rusko, president of the Polish football league, to penalize the Resovia team.

    “This sickening display of crude anti-Semitism is an alarming manifestation of a continuing problem in Polish society, where our opinion surveys and other polls have found disturbing levels of anti-Semitic sentiment,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL's national director, quoted by the JTA agnecy.

    Foxman pointed out only 700 of Rzeszow’s 15,000 Jews survived the Holocaust.

    “We call on the league’s president to sanction Resovia Rzeszow and to apply the anti-racism practices of the European football authority, UEFA,” Foxman demanded, adding that “an equally important measure of society is how authorities react to such incidents.”

    Worked like a horse

    From: NPE
    A woman has been freed from torment after being subjected to 15 years of beatings and being forced to pull a plough across farm fields.

    Since the age of 19, Irena Buzniak (now 34), was treated as a donkey by her husband and the rest of his immediate family in the small southern town of Limanowa.

    It was only a few months ago that Irena decided enough was enough and she finally found the courage to flee her torture in order to find help from the authorities.

    Such was the extent of her ordeal, that she has been forced to seek help from doctors in a psychiatric hospital.
    Due to her brave decision to face her problems head-on, her previous family (including her husband) that kept her in a constant state of torment will now be brought to justice.

    As well as being forced to carry the plough through the fields, she was kept locked up in a garage and was beaten and taunted with threats that she should be killed, in order to prevent her from begging for help.

    Her husband Antoni (42), his two brothers Kazimierz (45) and Jozef (39) and their mother, Emilia (81) now face up to 10 years behind bars for their part in the wicked ordeal.

    “I honestly believe the punishment that all of them will hopefully be given will be fully deserved,” says Irena.

    “The past 15 years of my life have been completely horrific and they are 15 years that I would like to forget,” she said with tears in her eyes.

    Less than a year on from her ordeal, Irena is now living safely with her parents and her eight-year old daughter on subsidised government funding.

  • Sport...

    Belarus beat Denmark at 2010 IIHF World Championship

    From: BelTA
    Belarus beat Denmark in their last game at the 2010 IIHF World Championship in Germany on 17 May.

    The final score was 2-1. Stas and Stefanovich scored for Belarus.

    A reminder, Belarus failed to beat Germany in regulation time on 16 May and thus lost all their chances to advance into the quarterfinals.

    Denmark scored a goal on the 1st minute already, but Belarus leveled the score in the second period after Andrei Stas netted the puck assisted by Alexei Ugarov. Then Belarus had several powerplay opportunities, but Denmark succeeded in killing off the penalties up to the end of the third period when Mikhail Grabovski assisted Mikhail Stefanovich, who scored a winner.

    Denmark rushed forward to come back into the game. With 87 seconds remaining Belarus were left down to three men on ice when Mikhalev and Salei were suspended for fighting. Denmark pulled off their goaltender to get a six-on-three powerplay, but Belarus managed to deny all Danish shots.

    Slovakia led by ex-Belarus headcoach Glen Hanlon lose to Finland (2-5) in the other Group E game on 17 May.

    The current standings in Group E are as follows: Russia – 12 points, Finland - 9, Denmark – 6, Belarus – 5, Germany – 4, Slovakia – 3. Both Belarus and Denmark played five matches, while other teams played four. Russia, Finland, and Denmark secured their places in the quarterfinals. Germany and Slovakia will compete for the place in the quarterfinals in a game on 18 May.
    Sweden, Switzerland, and Canada qualified for the quarterfinals for Group F. Either Czech Republic or Norway will be the last Group F representative in the play-offs

    After failing to reach the play-offs Belarus, was ranked 10th at the championship.

  • Cultural Scene...

    Belarus retrieves books taken out to Germany during WW2

    From: BelTA
    The books on biology and botany taken out from Belarus to Germany during the Second World War were handed over to Belarusian Ambassador to Germany Andrei Giro in an official ceremony, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

    A collection of 501 copies of scientific literature was found in a library of the Botanic Gardens of the Free University of Berlin. The books were published from 1824 to 1940 in Latin, German, French, Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian and belonged to the Agricultural Academy in the town of Gorky. The collection was taken out to Germany in 1943.

    On behalf of Belarus Andrei Giro thanked the administration of the Botanic Gardens for the gratuitous transfer of the books. He emphasized an important symbolic meaning of this gesture that will contribute to the further reconciliation of the peoples of Belarus and Germany.

    Minsk to host international puppetry festival 24-30 May

    The 6th Belarusian international puppetry theater festival will be held in Minsk on 24-30 May, BelTA learnt from the Belarusian State Puppet Theater.

    Partaking in the festival will be theaters from Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia and Belgium. All Belarusian puppet theaters will demonstrate their latest premieres.

    Both little art amateurs and sophisticated theater goers will have a chance to see the original plays from different countries. The fun-packed programme includes well-known productions A cunning fox and a silly wolf (Riga, Latvia), Sleeping Beauty (Tallinn, Estonia), Cinderella. Extracts of Her Diary and Thumbelina (Ljubljana, Slovenia). Belarusian puppet theaters will entertain both kids and adults with their shows Little Mermaid (Brest), Kvetachka-Vyaselka (Vitebsk), Living Water (Gomel), Poison (Mogilev), Konek-Gorbunok (Molodechno) and Why do People Grow Old? (Minsk).

    Adults will be able to enjoy Facade (Bialystok, Poland), Yevgeny Onegin (Kemerovo, Russia), Antigona (Poltava, Ukraine) and many more.

    The performances will be shown at the Belarusian State Puppet Theater, the Yanka Kupala Academic Theater, the Maksim Gorky Academic Theater and New Theater.

  • Endnote...

    Gazprom threatens to cut off gas for Belarus

    From: CHARTER '97
    Moscow and Minsk can fall out over gas again. Belarus does not pay the contract price, but 50$ per 1000 cubic metres.

    On Monday Gazprom stated that Beltransgaz owes $137 million to for deliveries in the first three months of this year. And yesterday it turned out that the concern threatens by limitations to Belarus in case the debt not paid. It has been stated by a source close to Gazprom, and a Russian official taking part in discussions on the matter. Letters with warnings have been sent to Beltransgaz and the government of Belarus, said one of the sources: there is no direct threat there, but Gazprom reminds that sanctions under the contract could be used for debts, and among others deliveries could be limited, Vedomosti newspaper (Russia) writes.

    The debt has accumulated because Belarus pays $150 for 1000 cubic metres, say the both interlocutors from the Russian side. Though the price of the first quarter is $169.22 according to the formula in the contract. The fact is that in 2010 Belarus wanted to pay for gas $150, which had been stated many times in late 2009, the official explains: the country has a hard economic situation, a serious trade balance deficit, and the presidential election comes in early 2011.

    Sergei Kupriyanov, Gazprom spokesperson, confirmed only that the Beltransgaz debt had been caused by not paying according to the formula. A representative of the Belarusian government denied comments, it was impossible to get comments from Beltransgaz as well.

    Belarus and Gazprom had many disputes over prices. Last time in 2009 the situation was very much like today's. In the first quarter the contract price for Beltransgaz was $210.32 per 1000 cubic metres, and the forecast for the entire year about $150. That is why Belarus decided not to spend spare money in the beginning of the year and paid "average annual" $150 from the beginning. By mid 2009 the debt reached $244 mln. And Alexei Miller, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gazprom, warned that under the contract the concern could go to court or curtail deliveries. However, matters didn't come to that. By the fourth quarter the price for Beltransgaz reduced to $121.98, a little debt remained, but Belarus paid it.

    It would not be possible to repean that, a source close to "Gazprom" states: the forecasted average price for Belarus in 2010 is $185-187. Considering the plan of purchases (about 21 billion cubic metres) it makes $3.9 billion, and at the price paid by Belarus today -- $3.15 billion.

    The Russian official claims there are no negotiations on reducing the price, though Belarussian officials keep asking about that.

    Moscow recalls the Belarusian gas debt very often, when there are other disputable questions between the countries. For instance, last summer Russia limited access of Belarusian milk goods to the market, and Belarus threatened to tighten the control regime for goods travelling by the main Russian-Belarusian main lines, and Gazprom stated that a gas debt exists (though it had been accumulating for a few months). The conflict was solved over a month.

    It is not said by Russian officials whether there are any points at issues now as well. But there is disagreement relating the Customs Union, notes Alexei Portansky from the Trade Policies Institute of the HSE (Higher School of Economics State University), for instance as far as oil duties and import duties for passenge cars are concerned.