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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Student Village in Minsk, A visit to China, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Russian energy; News, Sport, Culture and Polish Scandal...

  • From the Top...
  • #480

    Alexander Lukashenko: Student Village should be completed in 2013

    From: BelTA
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko is visiting the first dormitory of the Student Village in Minsk (near Dzerzhinsky Avenue) on 19 January where he gets familiar with the fulfillment of his instructions to construct the Student Village, BelTA has learnt.

    A reminder, on 19 June 2008 the Belarusian President visited the construction site of the Student Village and laid a capsule into the foundation of the first building of the complex.

    The President will hear out a report on the progress in the construction of the complex made by Rector of the Belarusian State University Sergei Ablameiko and Chief Architect of Minsk Viktor Nikitin. After that, the Belarusian head of state will get familiar with living conditions of students. He will see a recreation room, a gym, rooms of students, a computer class and an assembly hall.

    The President will attend a housewarming amateur concert, after that the Belarusian leader will talk with students.

    In line with the construction plan, the Student Village complex will consist of eight dormitories. The complex will feature a multi-functional cultural and entertainment center, a sports facility, a shopping mall, an outpatient clinic, hotels, an underground parking lot, a cinema and other facilities.

    A dormitory of the Belarusian State University has already opened. Some 500 students of the Law Department and 500 students of the International Relations Department have moved to the new dormitory.

    The construction of the Student Village in Minsk should be completed by late 2013, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said as he visited dormitory No 11 of the Student Village on 19 January.

    Alexander Lukashenko urges to attract more foreign students

    Belarus would like to see more foreign students to attend its universities, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said as he visited dormitory No11 of the Student Village in Minsk.

    “We will construct more dormitories for Belarusian and foreign students,” said the President. “The foreign students who get higher education in Belarus are Belarus-friendly people.” “It is important when we can maintain useful contacts with a person who has attended a university in Belarus,” added the President.

    During his visit to dormitory No.11 of the Student Village, Alexander Lukashenko talked to Turkmen and Chinese students at the Belarusian State University. The Belarusian President said that Belarus is friendlier towards foreign citizens in comparison with Russia and Ukraine. “Belarus has been friends with China for a long time, about twenty years, China is becoming a leading world power and we are interested in it,” said the President.

    “We consider you to be our own students and we will count on you in the future,” said the President speaking to the foreign students.

    Database for talented students

    “Talented people are the heart of the nation. Since we discovered them and supported them we should not let them get lost and disappear in the crowd. Therefore we have created the databank of talented youths to keep track of them,” he said.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, the main goal of the special president’s fund to support talented youth is to provide assistance to talented people who cannot provide for themselves financially. “The main mission of the fund is to help those who need financial support, to give them a start position. Not to lose sight of a talented individual is the main principle,” the President said.

    The head of state recalled the case when he was introduced to the art of young Nastia Vinnik. “Back then I demanded that assistance should be provided to her immediately. As you see the information about a talented person can be passed on even to the level of the head of state. It is very important for Belarus. This is the image of the country,” he said.

    According to the head of state, close attention should be paid to the vicinity of the student towns and villages to the educational establishments. “The distance to the university should be taken into account. It is no good if students spend hours commuting. Apart from that, this is a great load on the public transport,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

    “While giving a room in a dormitory, a priority should be given to the students of a nearby educational institution or foreigners,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

    The construction of eight residence halls of the Student Village are to be completed in late 2011 – early 2012. The Triple Company will launch the construction of a Br120-130 billion sports facility in Q2 2010. A large parking lot and a trading center will be built in the Village as well.

    Belarus President: no plans to give up Minsk City project

    Belarus will not abandon the Minsk City project, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said as he visited dormitory No. 11 of the Student Village complex in Minsk on 19 January, BelTA has learnt.

    “This wretched crisis will come to an end and we will speed up the implementation of the Minsk City project. It is a good project and we will not give it up,” the head of state said.

    Acting Chairman of the Minsk City Council Nikolai Ladutko informed the Belarusian President that the construction of three subway stations (along Dzerzhinsky Avenue) will be completed in September 2012 and the Malinovka subway station a year later.

    When asked by a student about the construction of a new building of the International Relations Department of the Belarusian State University at Privokzalnaya Street, the President said that Br1 billion will be additionally allocated from the budget for this purpose in 2010.

    Talking to the students of that department, the President reminded that once he supported a decision to train qualified diplomats in one university. “It is better to develop one center for training diplomats,” Alexander Lukashenko underlined. He added that private universities failed to fulfill this task.

    “We were very careful about privatizing universities; we did not privatize almost anything in this area. This decision proved to be right. We do not need bogus universities that do not teach properly,” Alexander Lukashenko concluded.

    About 3,300 students currently study at the International Relations Department of the Belarusian State University.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Sergei Aleinik on a visit to China

    From: BelTA
    Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Aleinik has started a working visit to the People’s Republic of China on 19 January, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

    “Sergei Aleinik has met with Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Muratbek Imanaliyev to discuss the cooperation between Belarus and this organization. A decision to grant Belarus a dialogue partner status in the organization was made at the ninth summit of the SCO in Yekaterinburg in June 2009,” the Foreign Ministry informed.

    During the meeting with the Director of the Chinese International Research Institute and Director of the Chinese National Center of the SCO the sides shared their views on the establishment of cooperation between policy think tanks of the two countries, the participation of the Belarusian side in the events held by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

    Sergei Aleinik visited the office of the ZTE Corporation in Beijing and met with its Vice-President, Director General for the CIS Li Zeng. The sides discussed cooperation between the corporation and Belarusian companies.

    On 20 January, Sergei Aleinik is scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China Yang Jiechi and Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Guangya to discuss a wide range of issues related to the bilateral cooperation.

    Global crisis strengthens Belarus-China trade, economic relations

    The global financial crisis has not influenced the strategic partnership between Belarus and China. The global meltdown has even helped optimize the Belarusian-Chinese trade and economic cooperation, BelTA learnt from Counselor for Political Issues of the Chinese Embassy in Belarus Cheng Daywen. On 19 January he took part in an event to mark the 18th anniversary of establishing the diplomatic relations between Belarus and China.

    According to the Chinese diplomat, today the bilateral trade and economic cooperation has been successfully developing. There are a lot of interesting and mutually beneficial projects. “We have been doing a lot to promote investment cooperation with Belarus,” the Chinese official said.

    He stressed that China and Belarus are true reliable partners and good friends. The Chinese Counselor noted that the two states have been supporting each other in the international arena and have common views on many international issues.

    Attending the event in the Minsk House of Friendship were Chinese diplomats, representatives of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus and the Belarusian MPs, students and professors of Belarusian State University and Minsk State Linguistics University, members of the Belarus-China society, intellectuals and artists.

    According to Chairman of the Presidium of the Belarusian Society of Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries Nina Ivanova, Belarus and China have been steadily developing bilateral links.

    A series of documentaries and art films about the People’s Republic of China will be shown in the House of Friendship. The events highlighting the Chinese cultural traditions will be held in February. In autumn the House of Friendship will host the Days of China to mark the 61st anniversary of the foundation of the country.

    Kazakhstan will hold constructive dialogue with all partners, Smirnov says

    From: BelTA
    While presiding in the OSCE Kazakhstan will be guided by the principles of holding an active, fair and constructive dialogue with all partners on the basis of trust, respect and mutual understanding, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Belarus Anatoly Smirnov told a press conference on 19 January.

    According to Anatoly Smirnov, “the key importance will be given to the efficient operation of the European comprehensive security system”. In this context Kazakhstan intends to continue developing the ‘Corfu process’, and is ready to discuss various ideas of strengthening the indivisible security from Vancouver to Vladivostok, including Russia’s initiative on developing a European security treaty.

    Conflict prevention and peaceful settlement will be also in the spotlight. “As for the prolonged conflicts, Kazakhstan will be working on supporting the current formats of negotiations, increasing the OSCE’s role in conflict prevention and post-conflict settlement strictly within the framework of international law and fundamental principles of the OSCE. Kazakhstan will advocate preventive diplomacy to neutralize possible aggravation of the situation,” Anatoly Smirnov said.

    The non-military priorities include the counteaction of new threats and challenges such as terrorism and extremism, organized crime, illicit drug trade and other types of trafficking, the diplomat said. Kazakhstan intends to cooperate closely with the anti-terrorism division of the secretariat, provide donor assistance to certain projects and assist with organizing thematic seminars. A major event in this area will be an anti-terrorism conference in Astana.

    Kazakhstan is also going to focus on Afghanistan, on promotion of projects to strengthen the border security, develop frontier cooperation between the countries of Central Asia and Afghanistan and to strengthen the law-enforcement activities.

    Kazakhstan ready to supply Belarusian oil refineries with oil

    Kazakhstan is ready to deliver the necessary volume of oil to the Belarusian oil refineries, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Belarus Anatoly Smirnov told a press conference dedicated to the priorities of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the OSCE.

    The Ambassador said that the Customs Union creates new opportunities for the transportation of Kazakhstan oil to the Belarusian oil refineries for processing and further export to the EU. “Nobody turned down this idea. It was mentioned in all Belarusian-Kazakhstan documents. It was discussed during the visits of the Prime Ministers and the talks between Presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan,” said Anatoly Smirnov.

    The Ambassador stressed that high customs duties on oil transportation had been a problem. Nowadays, after the establishment of the Customs Union, this issue has been solved. The Belarusian-Kazakhstan interaction in the oil industry was reflected in the joint roadmap for trade and economic cooperation and in the resolution by the intergovernmental trade and economic commission. The co-chairmen of the commission (the Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus and the Emergency Minister of Kazakhstan) are responsible for the roadmap implementation. They will report to the Presidents on the implementation of joint projects. “This is why I think that such an important issue as oil transportation will be solved. The Belarusian refineries will process Kazakhstan oil,” said Anatoly Smirnov. He added that taking into account these extensive plans, the Belarusian oil refineries should undergo upgrading.

    Over 970 Ukrainians come to polling stations in Belarus to vote for Ukrainian president: Yanukovich 1st

    From: BelTA
    Over 970 Ukrainian citizens cast their vote for a new Ukrainian president at two foreign polling stations set up in Belarus. One of them was opened at the Ukrainian Embassy in Minsk, the other one at the Consulate General in Brest. The polling stations stayed open from 8am to 8pm, BelTA learnt from the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in Minsk.

    Some 670 people living in Minsk, the Minsk, Vitebsk, Gomel and Mogilev oblasts showed up at the polling station at the Ukrainian Embassy. The voting list included 6,700 Ukrainian citizens. “The results of the voting are generally similar to those in Ukraine,” the embassy said.

    The Consulate General of Ukraine in Brest informed that 301 Ukrainian citizens cast their votes. Some 4,673 Ukrainians living in the Brest and Grodno oblasts were eligible to vote. The eldest voter was 85. The vote count revealed that the majority of the Ukrainians in Brest cast their vote in favor of Viktor Yanukovich, followed by Yulia Timoshenko. Sergei Tigipko came third, followed by Arseny Yatsenyuk and Viktor Yushchenko.

    Belarus’ local election commissions to be formed by 29 January

    The territorial election commissions for the elections to the local Councils of Deputies in Belarus are to be formed by 29 January, Chairwoman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Lydia Yermoshina said in an interview with the ONT TV Channel.

    According to Lydia Yermoshina, the CEC has prepared a set of documents on the forms of nominating candidates for the membership in the election commissions. The documents will be available for the electorate and political parties on 19 January.

    The elections to the local Councils of Deputies are to take place in Belarus on 25 April 2010. Decree No. 21 “On the Elections to the Local Councils of Deputies of the Republic of Belarus of the 26th Convocation” was signed by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on 18 January.

  • Economics...

    Piotr Prokopovich: no sharp fluctuations of Belarusian ruble in 2010

    From: BelTA
    No sharp fluctuations of the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the basket of foreign currency are expected in 2010. The Belarusian ruble is projected to strengthen, chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Piotr Prokopovich reported to President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    The President was presented a report on the performance of the banking system in December 2009 and the entire year. The meeting also focused on the challenges the banking sector needs to address this year.

    The exchange rate of the national currency in December 2009 was stable and did not fluctuate against the basket of currencies. The exchange rate remained within the projections throughout the year: from 2 January till 31 December 2009 the national currency weakened by 7.9% while the allowed corridor was +/-10%. In January this year the Belarusian ruble remains stable.

    Piotr Prokopovich assured the President that the National Bank will ensure the stability of the national currency.

    A great job was done in 2009 in providing lending to the real production sector. The volume of baking loans last year increased 1.4 times to reach the pre-crisis level.

    The payment system operated efficiently.

    However, the banking sector failed to reduce the interest rates to the pre-crisis level. They remained high throughout the year. Therefore in 2010 the National Bank and the banking system intend to work on reducing the interest rates to the level which is envisaged in the monetary policy guidelines for 2010.

    Piotr Prokopovich assured the head of state that all the targets set out in the monetary policy guidelines will be met in 2010.

    Oil transportation via Belarus up 5.3% in 2009

    In 2009 Belarus transported 89.6 million tonnes of oil, up 5.3% as against the same period in 2008, BelTA learnt from the National Statistics Committee.

    In 2009 the country pumped 62.2 billion cubic meters of gas, down 14% than in 2008.

    Gas is transported in Belarus via Beltransgaz networks and Russian Yamal-Europe gas pipeline. Oil is pumped by Gomeltransneft Druzhba and the Novopolotsk Oil Transportation Company Druzhba.

    Belarus trades with 180 countries in January-November

    – In January-November 2009 Belarus traded with 180 countries, exporting commodities to 139 countries and importing products from 168 countries, the National Statistics Committee told BelTA.

    The area of Belarus’ trade has expanded since earlier this year. For comparison, in January Belarus traded with 127 countries, exporting commodities to 86 countries and importing products from 118 countries.

    In January-November Belarus’ main trade partners were Russia (47.3% of the total trade), the Netherlands (7.7%), Germany (6.3%), Ukraine (6.1%), Latvia (3.5%), Poland (3.2%), China (2.5%), the UK (2.1%) as well as Italy, Brazil and India.

    In January-November 2009, Belarus’ export of commodities to Russia shrank by 39.5% to $6,039 million over the same period last year, with the country accounting for 31.7% of Belarus’ export volume. The export to the Netherlands went down by 36.7% to $3,234 million. Consequences of the global crisis have affected Belarus’ trade with many other countries. Thus, in January-November Belarus’ export to Ukraine amounted to $1,543 million (57% as against the same period of last year), Poland — $732.9 million (42.4%), Latvia — $1,145 million (70.8%), Lithuania $336 million (57.8%). Meanwhile, in the period under review, the export to India increased by 61.9% to $473.9 million, to Germany by 12.4% to $862.9 million.

    In January-November 2009 Belarus’ merchandise trade amounted to $44.487 billion, or 65.9% as against the same period last year. Belarus’ export shrank to $19.06 billion (61.6% as against January-November 2008), with the import down to $25.427 billion (69.6%). The commodity trade deficit made up $6.367 billion.

  • From the Foriegn Press...

    Russian Oil Supply Cut Hits Belarusian Refineries

    From: Eurasia Daily Monitor
    A pipeline in Minsk is shown with the valve locked
    Moscow is tightening the squeeze on Belarus’ large-capacity, in the absence of an oil supply agreement for 2010, mainly on export-oriented refineries. The Mozyr and Navapolatsk refineries and other oil sector assets in Belarus are targets for Russian acquisition. The two refineries operate at only 60 percent of their normal operating rate since January 15, when Russia’s Transneft oil transport monopoly announced a freeze on any further contracts for oil delivery to Belarus by pipeline.

    Crude oil processing in Belarus is down to 19,000 tons daily, compared with the traditional 30,000 to 31,000 tons per day as last recorded in December 2009 (Interfax, January 18). Apparently, the two refineries operate for the time being on dwindling stocks and possibly some meager oil volumes delivered by railroad and highway transportation.

    Russia-Belarus negotiations on oil deliveries broke down in Moscow on January 9 and have been substituted by long-distance messages exchanged between Moscow and Minsk (a form of negotiations labeled “distantsionniye” in Russian bureaucratic parlance). At the highest level of these exchanges, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin (responsible for the energy sector) reaffirmed Moscow’s uncompromising position in letters of reply to Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and First Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Syamashka on January 18 and 17, respectively.

    Medvedev and Sechin took a long time to reply in a situation in which every passing day inflicts losses on Belarus’ oil-processing industry and the state budget (EDM, January 5, 8, 15). Lukashenka and Syamashka had written to their Russian counterparts on January 13 and 9, respectively. They had urged that the traditional preferential terms on oil deliveries to Belarus should be retained for several months, pending the re-negotiation of the terms (Interfax, Belapan, January 10, 14). The Russian leaders’ responses, however, merely certify for Minsk that the Russian government has already introduced the new terms on oil deliveries since January 1 unilaterally (Interfax, January 15, 18; Izvestiya, January 18).

    Under the new arrangement, Russia is levying the same customs duty on oil exports to Belarus as to any other country. Prior to January 1, the Russian duty on oil exports to Belarus was only 35.6 percent of the standard duty. Belarus was the only country to enjoy this Russian favor. The favor trickled down to Russian oil producing companies that refined their crude in Belarus for export of the derivatives. The Russian side, however, is ending these arrangements. It now imposes the standard export duty (currently $267 per ton) on oil supplies to Belarus. This rate is slashing the profits of Belarusian refineries and threatening them with eventual insolvency, apparently in preparation for a Russian takeover bid.

    Moscow is leaving room for negotiation with Minsk on one issue. It would reinstate the preferential terms on the crude oil portion to be refined in Belarus for the country’s internal consumption of oil derivatives. But it would only consent to this if Minsk accepts Moscow’s cancelation of the preferential terms on the oil portion to be refined in Belarus for export of the derivatives. The two annual portions are 6 million tons and 15 to 16 million tons per year, respectively. Should Belarus not accept this solution, Russia would cancel the preferential terms on the entire quantity of 21.5 million tons of crude oil delivered annually to Belarus by pipeline and also on the 4 to 5 million tons delivered by railroad and highway transportation.

    The demand for Minsk’s acceptance has a subtext amounting to an additional demand. It implies that Belarus should desist from raising the transit fee for Russian oil en route to Europe through the Belarus section of the Druzhba pipeline. During the negotiations with Moscow, and after they broke down, Minsk asked for a substantial raise in that transit fee, as a compensatory measure. Minsk’s counter-move hints at its possible use of the transit country’s leverage on a monopolistic supplier country. It is, however, not a credible option for Minsk to interfere with the oil transit to European countries.

    Minsk takes the position that any Russian customs duties are incompatible with the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Single Economic Space and Customs Union, which Belarus joined in 2009. This union is due to take effect officially in mid-2010. The oil export duty is the only one being levied by Russia on any goods thus far. As Lukashenka and other Belarusian officials constantly point out, export duties in general and this one in particular would make a mockery of the Customs Union. Moreover, Minsk is concerned that an exception for oil could serve as a precedent for Russia to declare similar exceptions on other export commodities and impose export duties on them, regardless of the Customs Union.

    Indeed, Moscow has always introduced exceptions in its favor when trying to create free trade zones and customs unions in the CIS (or bilaterally with Ukraine) during almost two decades. All these projects have been negated by Russian exemptions from the duty-free treatment. Moscow imposed duties on its commodity exports and introduced barriers to partners’ exports to Russia, notwithstanding those declared customs union or free trade zones. Given this experience and the current predicament, Lukashenka is asking aloud (Interfax, Belapan, January 10-16) whether Belarus should join this latest Customs Union at all.

    Minsk-Moscow electricity talks positive

    From: UPI
    Moscow and Minsk expect negotiations on the transit of electricity through Belarus to bring both sides closer to an agreement, officials said Tuesday.

    Officials at Belenergo, the Belarusian electricity monopoly, said Jan. 4 that supply concerns and "inappropriate fees" could force it to cut the power to the Belarusian energy grid and to Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast.

    Unified Energy Systems, the Russian electricity monopoly, complained Minsk wanted a substantial increase in transit fees.

    Lyudmila Kovich, a representative for the Belarusian energy minister, said negotiations Tuesday were moving in the right direction, Russia's state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reports.

    "We expect that an agreement will be reached very soon," the representative said.

    Belenergo and UES do not have contracts for deliveries of Russian electricity for 2010. Minsk, however, said it continues to deliver power.

    A similar dispute erupted over the transit of Russian oil through Belarus to the Baltic region. That row sent jitters through European states still anxious over a 2009 gas disruption that resulted from disputes between Kiev and Moscow.

    The report from RIA Novosti says the electricity talks, however, are "very different" than the oil dispute.

    Belarus Asks Thailand To Free Belarusian Citizen

    Belarus has again sent a note to Thailand's Foreign Ministry, requesting it to provide assistance in freeing the Belarusian citizen, a member of the Il-76 plane crew detained in Bangkok, Russian news agency, Itar-Tass, reported quoting a spokesman as saying.

    "The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday sent a note to Thailand's Foreign Ministry requesting it to provide assistance in the soonest freeing of the Belarusian citizen," spokesman Andrei Popov told reporters on Tuesday.

    Popov said the Belarusian diplomatic mission in Hanoi was keeping track of the situation related to the detention of the Il-76 plane.

    "All possible measures within intentional law are being taken, aimed at protecting the interests of our citizen," he noted.

    On December 17, 2009, Belarus asked Thailand to release the Belarusian citizen on bail.

    The Il-76 belonging to Air Georgian airline, made a stopover in Bangkok on December 11, 2009 for refuelling. It had flown from North Korea.

    An inspection by Thai authorities found several tonnes of weapons on board, including ground-to-air missiles and explosives.

    The crew comprising four Kazakhs, and one Belarusian - Mikhail Petukhov - was detained. The pilots claimed they were unaware that they were flying an illegal cargo.

    Conscription Used as a Deterrent by Belarusian Government

    From: Eurasia Daily Monitor
    Former leader of the Belarusian Popular Front Vintsuk Vyachorka
    On December 29, Franak Vyachorka, the son of the former leader of the Belarusian Popular Front Vintsuk Vyachorka, was transferred from his military unit in Mazyr to a hospital after having discovered scabies. He also suffers from high blood pressure. However, although the hospital doctor informed him that he would remain there for several days in order to recover, he was discharged on January 5 and returned to his unit (, January 6).

    The case of Franak Vyachorka is the most notorious of several enforced conscriptions into the army of former university students, expelled for their political activities. In February 2008, he was expelled from the Belarusian State University, allegedly because he had been absent from some examinations, and had not performed satisfactorily on his re-examination papers. However, as his father pointed out (Correspondence with Jamestown, December 8), he was one of the best students at the university and almost certainly singled out for his political activities. On July 16, 2008, a medical board linked to the military enlistment office of the Savetsky district in Minsk found Franak to be unfit for service on a number of counts. A further examination in September 2008 revealed that he had high blood pressure and he was thus declared unfit for duty (Vyasna, July 13, 2009).

    However, a regional medical board demanded a further examination, after which a final decision was postponed until March 2009. The military enlistment office in the Savetsky district, nonetheless, held a closed-door session in January 2009 and reversed that verdict, refusing Franak and his lawyer permission to attend the hearing (Vyasna, July 13, 2009). On January 16, 2009 plainclothes officials entered the hospital ward where Franak was recuperating, handcuffed and beat him, and took him to the recruitment office. Although his case was appealed, he was again physically assaulted on the street twelve days later, handcuffed, beaten, and taken to his army regiment, air defense unit 48694 in Mazyr (Correspondence with Jamestown, December 8).

    Since his enforced conscription, Franak Vyachorka has returned to the hospital three times, most recently suffering from scabies. He has noted on an internet site (Facebook, January 11) that from January 1, 2010, the minimum food intake for soldiers serving at Mazyr has been sharply reduced, as the region is no longer considered to be a zone suffering from the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl. According to the Vyasna human rights agency (July 13), Senior Lieutenant Dzianis Kozak has put Franak under pressure because he refused to use the Russian language, and was threatened with criminal punishment as a result. On July 10, 2009, an ensign demanded that he sing in Russian, noting that other soldiers disliked the Belarusian language.

    The case is increasingly typical in Belarus, where monitoring of human rights violations is often confined to head counts of political prisoners or the distribution of opposition newspapers (Nasha Niva and Narodnaya Volya specifically) at official outlets. Officially, members of opposition youth movements cannot be officially targeted for attending rallies and peaceful demonstrations. The reality is that it occurs all the more frequently. Once a male student is expelled from a higher educational institution, then the next step is conscription into the army, where conditions can quickly be made close to intolerable. That situation is exacerbated when the recruits are physically unfit for service.

    In a letter to Jamestown on December 8, Vintsuk Vyachorka highlighted several other cases, including another member of the Belarusian Popular Front, Zmitser Zalezhnichenka, and Ivan Shyla and Zmitser Khvedaruk of the Young Front. Zalezhnichenka, he noted, was the most outstanding student in mathematics at Homel University, but was expelled and became the first to be forcibly conscripted in early 2008. Having finished his service, he now studies in Holland. Shyla, from Salihorsk, the deputy leader of the Young Front’s “youth initiative” was forcibly drafted on January 28, 2009 following his own expulsion.

    An even more disturbing example provided by the senior Vyachorka is that of Zmitser Fedaruk, another young man with a medical condition, but moreover, a student at a Theological College in Minsk, and thereby exempt from military service according to Belarusian law. On January 28, 2009, however, he was detained and accused of taking part in a rally in May 2008. In itself, this was a further violation of the law stating that administrative sentences no longer apply after a three-month period. He was forced to serve a ten-day prison sentence, then promptly taken to the medical center, declared fit for service, and sent to a unit in Zodzhina.

    That expulsions continue to be used as a means of silencing student opposition is demonstrated by the recent case of Tatsiana Shaputska. Also linked are the kidnappings and harassment of youth activists by members of the Special Forces and KGB (EDM, December 16). Recently, the authorities have tried to control access and use of the internet, reportedly instigated by President Alyaskandr Lukashenka, because of a complaint by both the Russian and Belarusian Patriarchs (Kirill and Filaret respectively) regarding the content (Belarusian Telegraph Agency, December 30). Users will not be banned, but made “answerable” for whatever they may write.

    Of all the human rights infringements, enforced conscription of medically unfit young men is perhaps the most glaring. Once recruited, they are essentially isolated, and placed under conditions that threaten both their physical and mental health.

  • From the Opposition...

    Head of Ahmadinejad's administration to visit Belarus

    From: Charter '97
    The head of the Iranian dictator’s administration plans to pay a visit to Belarus in February.

    BelTA learnt this from Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Iran to Belarus Seyyed Abdollah Hosseini.

    According to the official news agency, the visit will highlight the issues of bilateral trade and economic cooperation.

    Seyyed Abdollah Hosseini said last year was very important in terms of establishing economic links between the two countries. “Last year a great work was done to change the situation with the projects that were idle. I figure it has been laid down a very good ground for further development of the contacts in the economy, culture and education,” he said.

    The Ambassador believes the number of mutual visits will increase and facilitate development of ties in economy, culture, and education.

    Belarus and Iran established diplomatic relations in 1992. The two countries maintain close relations by organizing regular meeting and signing agreements.

    Two banks have been opened in Belarus to facilitate rendering financial and banking services between the two countries.

    Valiantsin Stefanovich: ‘Ministry of Education should adequately react to its official’s actions’

    From: Viasna
    On 15 January Mrs. Taisa Danilevich, head of the Education Department of Minsk Regional Executive Committee, urged 6 teachers – Natallia Ilyinich (Talka, BPF), Mikola Liashchun (Lahoisk, BPF), Ales Yazvinski (Niasvizh, CCP-BPF), Uladzimir Pareika (Niasvizh district, BSDP), Siarhei Klimionak (Vileika, UCPB) and Nadzeya Ahafonava (Liuban, UCPB) – to stop their membership in various political parties of Belarus. The official thinks the teachers cannot work at schools.

    Two teachers out of six have lodged complaints with local prosecutor’s offices, RFE/RL reports. Similar complaints have been lodged by heads of the BPF’s and the UCPB’s regional offices. The Ministry of Educations provides no comments on the incident.

    Valiantsin Stefanovich, lawyer of the Human Rights Center Viasna, believes that the harassment is an outrage against human rights and the Constitution of Belarus:

    ‘The Fundamental Law guarantees that everyone can be member of a political party or an NGO, and have his or her own political beliefs. Therefore, the fact can be called a politically-motivated labour discrimination against citizens. Such discrimination is forbidden by the Constitution and Article 14 of the Belarusian Labour Code. None of the known legal act prevents teachers from being members of political parties. The only exception is military men, prosecutors and judges.’

    Article 3 of the Law on Political Parties says that membership in a political party cannot result in any restriction of rights or freedoms, namely the right to labour.

    Belarusian human rights activists believe that the teachers should immediately lodge complaints with local prosecutor’s offices against the official’s illegal actions, since she violated the Constitutional rights of Belarusian citizens.
    ‘It seems to us that the harassment is tied to the upcoming local council elections. It is a very sad practice and we do hope that it is not the official position of the Ministry of Education, but a private initiative by the official,’ says Mr. Stefanovich.

    Human rights activists hope that the Ministry of Education will draw certain conclusions and adequately react to its official’s illegal actions to protect the legitimate interests of Belarusian citizens.

  • Russia...

    Yanukovich -- Man for all seasons

    From: Australia TO
    Ukraine's new president -- unless there is another Orange Revolution -- has fashioned a comeback worthy of Nixon, marvels Eric Walberg

    Ukraine's presidential elections Sunday were remarkable in more ways than one. The winner of the first round and favourite to lead Ukraine at a crucial moment in its history is the one politician observers long ago dismissed as a has-been. Viktor Yanukovich is mocked by his opponents as an illiterate bumpkin, a puppet of Ukrainian business magnates, a former criminal and communist, a conspirer against the brave democrats of the legendary Orange Revolution of 2004. Have I left anything out? Does he kick dogs or beat his mother?

    As the results came in, pro-Western commentators rushed to claim that Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (25 per cent) would surge past Viktor Yanukovich (36 per cent) in the runoff 7 February, Tymoshenko announcing she would immediately seek the support of the also-rans to "move forward with uniting the democratic forces." However, the two candidates who came third and fourth, former Central Bank chief Sergei Tigipko (13 per cent) and former parliament speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk (seven per cent), said they would not support any candidate in the second round. President Viktor Yushchenko polled five per cent and Ukrainians are holding their breath till they see the last of him.

    The real story behind the rivals is not as it appears. Tymoshenko, with her faux peasant blond braids and matriushka doll demeanour, amassed a fortune in her years of speculative buying and selling of Russian gas, for which she spent several months in prison under president Leonid Kuchma. Her pretenses as a populist democrat are skin-deep.

    Yanukovich comes from a working class background and worked his way up honestly literally from rags to hard-won respectability. He lost his mother at the age of two and grew up in bleak post-WWII Ukraine. His attitude towards dogs is unclear, but he was indeed jailed for hooliganism at the age of 17, apparently learned his lesson, was released after eight months for good behaviour and never looked back, at least until the so-called Orange Revolution of 2004. In the waning days of the Soviet Union, he graduated in engineering from the Donetsk Polytehnic Institute and joined the Communist Party, when it was no longer fashionable or of much use, suggesting he is much more a populist than any of his elite rivals (Yushchenko and Tigipko are bankers). He served under president Leonid Kuchma as prime minister, and was the favourite to succeed him.

    Certainly, the 2004 elections were marred by electoral rigging, but to blame Yanukovich is a mistake, as the whole process was infiltrated by US-sponsored NGOs as part of policy of "colour revolutions" across the region. Ukraine is sharply divided -- a legacy of Stalin -- between the anti-Russian west (formerly part of Poland) and the pro-Russian east, with rigging taking place according to these preferences across the country whenever possible.

    The first results in the previous elections were probably more or less fair, with Viktor Yanukovich winning, but Western-organised street protests and the possibility of rioting and bloodshed (a la Iran this past summer) convinced Yanukovich to allow a rerun. Of course, when you blink, people figure you're the loser. Western-backed Viktor Yushchenko dramatically claimed he was poisoned by his rival namesake, a ploy now consigned to storybooks, but with all the media hype, Yushchenko managed to snatch the victor's laurels, so to speak. Ukrainian affairs lurched from one crisis to another under the Orange revolutionaries, including arming the mad Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in his wars against Russia. Doubts about the possibility of a truly fair election this time linger, with 57 per cent saying the results could well be manipulated.

    In an interview with The Times, Yanukovich outlined his policies, stating clearly Ukraine would not join NATO, but that it "can and must take an active part in the creation of a European collective defense system." He wants to return relations with Russia to a friendly basis: "Relations should be natural, as they are between the Ukrainian people and the Russian people." He has expressed sympathy for retaining the Russian Black Sea fleet in Simferopol when its lease expires in 2017, a wise move considering that Crimea has a large Russian population that would be delighted if Russia took it back (it was ceded to Ukraine on a whim by Khrushchev in 1954). He has indicated he would recognise Georgia’s two breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia (as well might Turkey, with its large Abkhazian diaspora) and said he would sign up to a Russian-led economic co-operation agreement between former Soviet republics.

    Russia, despite accumulated grievances over the past five years, has stayed out of the fray this time, bracing itself for the possible election of Tymoshenko, who fancies herself a compromise bridging the east-west divide in Ukraine.

    But in addition to her Orange baggage, she is assiduously courted by Saakashvili, who Russian media reported sent three charter flights with 400 "athletic" Georgians to Kiev and Donetsk, both strongholds of Yanukovich, prior to election day, part of a planned 3,000 Georgian election "observers" apparently approved by Tymoshenko. "Some of them had lists of all polling stations in the region, though they told border guards that the purpose of their visit was to meet with Ukrainian girls they met on social networking sites." The Georgians were to "interfere in the electoral process with an aim to change the outcome of the elections and disrupt the vote," Party of the Regions member Mykola Azarov told a news conference on Saturday. Yanukovich called for them to stay in Tbilisi on Sunday.

    Is this perhaps the latest ploy by Saakashvili and his National Endowment for Democracy advisers to ensure the survival of his fraternal colour revolutionaries? Stranger things have happened when NED gets involved in ensuring democratic procedures are observed.

    Georgia continues to be the region's loose cannon, with both the Russian Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service accusing it of harbouring and funding terrorist groups from the Caucasus. The US continues to pour millions of dollars of weapons into Georgia, and it can only be concluded that Washington is well informed of what Saakashvili is up to. NATO will soon approve the 2010 Action Plan for Georgia. "It is important for us to continue the reforms that bring Georgia to the organisation," Georgia's European Integration Minister Giorgi Baramidze said last week.

    A victory in the runoff for Tymoshenko will be a bitter blow for Ukrainians who seek accommodation with Russia, most of whom according to polls would prefer a union with their neighbour to the present hollow independence. This yearning by Ukrainians and Russians alike for union is perhaps hard for outsiders to understand. Explains James Sherr, at the London-based Chatham House, "Ukraine, for Russia, is not just a neighbour. Ukraine, for Russia, is part of Russia's own identity. Kiyv and Rus is the origin of the Russian, as well as the Ukrainian state."

    Despite the ravages of Stalin in Ukraine in the 1930s, this sense of a common identity is shared by virtually all Ukrainians except for those in the west who identify more with Polish (hence, anti-Russian) history. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the most popular foreign politician and, according to one poll, would have won the Ukrainian presidential election if he had run.

    Bizarre as Ukrainian politics are, both Yanukovich and Tymoshenko acted as prime ministers under the pockmarked president, the former, briefly, because of an early falling-out between Tymoshenko and her democratic comrade-in-arms. Yulia, a shrewd politician, managed to mend fences with both Yushchenko and the Russians and is still PM. She talks now only of her beloved "democratic forces", but her claims that she will breeze past the nasty, undemocratic Yanukovich are belied by the fact that she shares the blame for the disaster of the failed Orange Revolution (she makes no mention of it these days, to be sure). This is confirmed by the refusal of her rivals to have anything to do with her, though her American advisers -- the firm of Obama's closest political adviser David Axelrod -- assure her this problem can be overcome.

    Ukraine PM Offers Premiership to Presidential Election Rival

    From: Novinite
    Ukraine's Prime Minister, Yulia Timoshenko, has offered her premiership to Sergey Tigipko, who came third in the recent presidential ballot
    Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, one of the presidential candidates in the February run-off vote, has announced that she has offered her premiership to Sergey Tigipko, who polled third in Sunday’s first round.

    "I proposed to Sergey Tigipko not only that we unite our programmes, our vision of Ukraine's development, not only to be his reliable partner in the difficult but rewarding work. I offered him the position of prime minister," Tymoshenko said on Wednesday.

    Earlier, Tigipko had said he would support neither opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych nor Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, who will compete in the second round of presidential elections.

    "I decided to adopt a neutral position. Allow them to lead a political battle among themselves," said the former president of the Central Bank Tigipko, who had received 13% of the votes in Sunday's election.

    He said that he had held conversations with both Yanukovych and Timoshenko.

    "There were specific suggestions, but my position has not changed," he said, given his promise not to support any of the favorites.

    The first round of presidential elections in Ukraine was won by Yanukovych with 35% of the vote against 25% for Tymoshenko. Both candidates are trying to attract the votes of the other candidates, to secure victory in the ballot vote on February 7.

    Putin's Spokesman Criticizes U.S. Newspaper

    From: Moscow Times
    Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov has criticized The Washington Post for an editorial about Russian-Belarussian talks in a rare letter to the editor.

    "The Post's editorial assessment of the oil trade negotiations between Russia and Belarus was based on an unwillingness to follow daily news as well as a reliance on false premises and outdated stereotypes," Peskov wrote.

    Peskov's letter was published on the newspaper's web site over the weekend in response to a Jan. 11 editorial titled, "A Seasonal Chill."

    The editorial said: "If it's January, it seems, Russia must be involved in a politically motivated dispute over energy supplies with one of its neighbors. This time it's Belarus."
  • Note: The original artical was posted as the endnote of the January 13, 2010 BHTimes

    Tens of thousands bathe in icy water on Epiphany in Russia

    From: RIA Novosti
    Tens of thousands of people across Russia bathed in icy cold water on Epiphany on Tuesday as air temperatures across the country ranged from plus fifteen to minus sixty degrees Celsius.

    Epiphany, also known as Theophany, is one of the Great Feasts, marking the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River and the beginning of his ministry, and the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates it on January 19 in line with the Julian calendar.

    On this day, while honoring an old Russian tradition, believers dive into ice holes, usually made in the form of a cross, in lakes, rivers and other water bodies.

    Some 30,000 believers dipped themselves in ice holes in 37 fonts in Moscow where waters were blessed by Orthodox priests during the night, with 260 rescuers monitoring the safety of swimming as air temperature was below minus 20 degrees Celsius.

    A Moscow district official and some other 50 people bathed in an Epiphany font in the center of the Russian capital.

    "I feel as if I was reborn. This is the first Epiphany bathing in my life and I am sure it won't be the last," Leonid Sidorov, deputy head of Moscow's Central Administrative District, told journalists.

    The feast's peculiar feature is the rite of the Great Blessing of Water, performed in Russian churches twice - on January 18, on the eve of the feast, and on Epiphany proper, after Divine Liturgy.

    Holy water is then given to believers, who store it for long periods and use it to cure illnesses and bless themselves or things and premises around them. Some people think any water - even from the taps on the kitchen sink - poured or bottled on Epiphany becomes holy.

    Close to 100,000 people came to Moscow's 268 Orthodox churches to bottle holy water on Tuesday.

    In southern Russia's city of Sochi, where the air and water temperature is some 12 degrees Celsius, about 3,000 people jumped into the Black Sea and started swimming at midnight on Tuesday to celebrate the feast.

    Some 20,000 people dipped into cold water during the night in the city of Nizhny Novgorod in the Volga Federal District.

    Vladimir Grebyonkin, the president of Russia's Cold Treatment and Sports Winter Swimming Federation, earlier said it is impossible to fall ill after dipping into icy water on Epiphany as "on Epiphany the crystalline structure of water changes on Earth" and "water self-purifies, so even an unprepared person won't catch a cold."

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Key cop murder witness found dead

    From: NPE
    Cop killer witness found dead in cell at maximum security prison in Gdansk
    A key witness in one of Poland’s most high-profile murder cases died in mysterious circumstances in prison, prompting immediate calls for an investigation.

    A key witness in one of Poland’s most high-profile murder cases died in mysterious circumstances in prison, prompting immediate calls for an investigation.

    Artur Zirajewski was found dead in a cell of a Gdansk prison hospital on Sunday after, according to some press reports, suffering a pulmonary embolism, although it was widely rumoured that he may have killed himself.

    Serving 15 years for an unrelated crime, Zirajewski was a prime witness in the killing of the former head of the police General Marek Papala.

    The policeman was gunned down in 1998 in a crime that bore all the hallmarks of a mafia hit, and one that remains unsolved.

    In his testimony Zirajewski claimed that Edward Mazur, a Chicago-based, Polish-American businessman had offered another man about $40,000 dollars to kill Papala.

    Following Zirajewski’s death Law and Justice called for an extraordinary meeting of parliament’s justice committee to probe what it described as the “mysterious and questionable death”.

    In particular the party wants an explanation as to just why such a valuable prisoner was left unsupervised despite being unwell, and an answer to the question whether he committed suicide or was foul play involved.

    Citing a reliable source, the newspaper Rzeczpospolita claimed the prisoner had taken a large number of sleeping pills but, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Leszek Urbanowicz, one of the men investigating the death, Zirajewski showed no sign of depression.

    “There was no indication that Arthur Z. wanted to commit suicide,” he told the newspaper. “He was behaving normally and asked only for sleeping pills as he was having trouble sleeping.”

    Experts have pointed out that Zirajewski’s death came after he had tried to get his sentence reduced by offering more information on Papala’s murder.

    “He had made two similar proposals beforehand: both were rejected - in February and then June. The last one was submitted to the court November 19,” said Przemyslaw Banasik, a spokesman for the Gdansk district court.

    Zirajewski is the latest of a number of people linked to high-profile murder cases to die in suspicious circumstances.

    Three people involved in the kidnap and murder of businessman Krzysztof Olewnik have died, and a criminologist has claimed that 10 people connected to corruption cases had died from having “little accidents” or committing suicide.

    Brits to protest against Polish workers

    From: The News
    Thousands of British construction workers are going to stage a protest against foreigners in the workforce, including Poles, on 3 February in London.

    The aim of the demonstration is to remind PM Gordon Brown about his pledge to give “British jobs to British workers”. It will also mark the first anniversary of the protests at the Lindsey Oil Refinery.

    Protesters claim that since last year’s strike the situation on the British labour market has not improved. Sub-contractors still flood construction sites with cheap and poorly skilled workers from Poland, Spain, Italy and Portugal, cliam the protestors.

    Thousands of workers from building sites, power plants and oil refineries will join the protest.
  • Note: A rightious cause...

    Left wing politician accused in Olewnik murder case

    From: The News
    Grzegorz K., former leader of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) in Sierpc, 100 km northwest of Warsaw, has been accused extortion in connection with Krzysztof Olewnik’s abduction and murder.

    The politician is accused of wheedling money out of Wlodzimierz Olewnik, wealthy businessman and Krzysztof’s father, on the pretext of helping him find his son after his abduction.

    The Prosecutor’s Office in the northern city of Gdansk claims that Grzegorz K., together with Eugeniusz D. alias Gienek, wheedled 160,000 zloty (40,000 euro) from Wlodziemierz Olewnik and intended to extort an additional 15,000 dollars.

    Grzegorz K. - full name withheld under Poland’s privacy laws now that he has been charged by prosecutors - denies the allegations.

    Krzysztof Olewnik was abducted in October 2001 and ransom was demanded for his release. In July 2003, the abductors were given 300,000 euro but Krzysztof Olewnik was still not freed. His body was later found and the post mortem concluded that he was tortured and brutally murdered a month after the kidnappers received the money.

    Three men convicted in Olewnik’s case later committed suicide in prison. Parliamentary commission investigating the abduction and murder of Krzysztof Olewnik is now underway.

    Kaminski before Blackjack commission

    From: The News
    Former head of Poland’s anti-corruption bureau (CBA) Mariusz Kaminski will give evidence before the special parliamentary commission into the gambling law scandal, otherwise known as the Blackjack affair.

    Kaminski’s will be landmark evidence in a commission which will run for months.

    It was the CBA which alleged that two business men in Lower Silesia from the betting industry tried to affect the course of a bill going through parliament on the betting industry, which aimed to put tax hikes on betting to go towards investment in the Euro 2012 football championship. The politicians they approached were the now former sports minister Miroslaw Dzewiecki and former head of Civic Platform’s parliamentary party, Zbigniew Chlebowski.

    Mariusz Kaminski was dismissed shortly after he made the allegations that Civic Platform politicians were lobbying on behalf of the gambling industry.

    Prime Minister Donald Tusk dismissed Kaminski as head of the CBA on 13 October 2009, accusing him of using his office for political purposes.

    Man orders attack on pregnant fiancée

    From: NPE
    A woman and her unborn child survived a vicious attack from a thug hired by her boyfriend to beat her up in the town of Zgierz.

    The events came about when 30-year old Arkadiusz K. persuaded his 19-year old cousin Robert K. to attack his fiancée, with the aim of getting rid of their unwanted pregnancy.

    Whilst out, the couple’s car was ‘ambushed’ and Arkadiusz K. was told to drive. When he stopped at the chosen location, he was ordered outside and beaten, the Prosecutor’s Office heard.

    The attacker then turned his attention to the woman, hitting her with force in the stomach, despite her pleas that she was pregnant.

    After the ordeal, the couple went immediately to the Zgierz Provincial Hospital, where staff alerted the police.

    Investigators found a number of inaccuracies in the story and were dubious that the attacker had left the woman’s phone and car keys at the scene. After some questioning, Arkadiusz K. admitted to orchestrating the whole event.

    “It’s the opinion of experts that the beating could have resulted in an abortion,” said Krzysztof Kopania, a spokesman for the Prosecutor’s Office in Lodz.

    “We have to admit, we have never had a case like this before,” said one police source. “It turns out that human stupidity truly knows no boundaries.”

    The woman is said to be in stable condition and not in danger of losing the baby.

    If found guilty, the two men face up to eight years in prison.

  • Sport...

    Azarenka off to a good start at Australian open

    From: BelTA
    Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka (World No7) won her first match at the Australian Open in Melbourne on 19 January.

    The Belarusian outclassed Stephanie Cohen-Aloro of France (6-2, 6-0) to face Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland (World No74) in the second round.

    Another Belarusian women player Darya Kustova paired with the Ukranian Mariya Koryttseva lose to Lisa Raymond of the USA and Rennae Stubbs of Australia (4-6, 1-6) in the first round of women’s doubles. Victoria Azarenko paired with Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova will play Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) and Jasmin Woehr (Germany), and the Belarusian duo of Olga Govortsova and Tatiana Puchek will play against Hungarian Agnes Szavay and Roberta Vinci of Italy in the first round of women’s doubles.

    The best Belarusian men player Maxim Mirnyi will play in men’s doubles of the Australian Open. Mirnyi is paired with Mahesh Bhupathi. The Belarusian-Indian duo (seeded 4th) will play Michael Kohlmann of Germany and Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen in the first round. Paired with Bhupathi, Mirnyi won men’s doubles of the US Open in 2002, and made to the finals of the Wimbledon in 2003. It is the 13th Australian Open for Maxim Mirnyi. In 2007, the Belarusian, paired with Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman, progressed to the final but lost it to the Bryan brothers of USA.

    The total prize money of the current Australian Open is $21.15 million. The tournament is scheduled to end on 31 January.

    Dinamo Minsk lose to Chelyabinsk

    Dinamo Minsk lost their scheduled Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) match against Traktor Chelyabinsk at the Minsk-Arena on 18 January.

    The final score was 1-2. Kochetkov become the only goalscorer for Dinamo. Dinamo’s defender Richard Lintner was injured in the third period. According to Dinamo’s headcoach Alexander Andrievsky, the Slovakia international suffered a hand fracture that rules him out of the forthcoming Olympics in Vancouver.

    Dinamo won their previous game against Traktor (6-4) this season in Chelyabinsk on 10 October 2009.

    Dinamo scored 53 points after 44 games. The Belarusian club is 11th in the Western Conference and 18th in the overall standings. Dinamo fall 10 points behind the play-off zone.

    Dinamo Minsk play their next two KHL matches in Moscow against Dynamo (on 20 January) and Spartak (22 January).

  • Cultural Scene...

    Minsk to host international landscape festival

    From: BelTA
    Works of landscape artists will be presented at the fourth international festival dedicated to People’s Artist of Belarus Vitaly Tsvirko. The festival will be held at the Rakurs and Labyrinth galleries of the National Library of Belarus from 19 January to 11 February, BelTA learnt from the library.

    The exposition will feature the works of aquarellists, painters, photographers and graphic designers such as Vladimir Kozhukh, Yegor Batalyonok, Yuri Gavrin, Alexander Zabavchik, Vladimir Kachan and Vyacheslav Pavlovets.

    The organizers of the exhibition believe that landscape is the most understandable artistic genre which has made significant inroads not only in painting, but also in photography and computer graphics. This genre helps to depict the inner world of a painter, his attitude to the motherland and impressions most precisely.

    The landscapes of the famous Belarusian artist, Vitaly Tsvirko, are distinguished by their unique artistic vision. His works became the hallmark of the national art and this is why the international landscape festival bears his name.

    The visitors of the exhibition will be shown a documentary about the painter. The descendants of the great artist will deliver a speech at the opening of the ceremony.

    The festival is aimed to reveal new perspectives of the genre and its potential.

    Vitaly Tsvirko is a Soviet painter, the People’s Artist of the BSSR. He painted a number of pictures dedicated to the Great Patriotic War and other historic and revolutionary themes. He taught many famous artists, including People’s Artist of Belarus Leonid Shchemelev. In 1958-1962 he was rector of the Belarusian State Theatre and Art Institute.

    France to host Larisa Noury Shakinko‘s serigraphy exhibition

    A personal exhibition of Belarusian artist Larisa Noury Shakinko who has been living in Paris will take place in the Cultural Center of Massy, the suburb of Paris, in February.

    The exposition will stay open from 3 February to 3 March. Larisa Noury Shakinko is planning to present painting, watercolor, several dresses designed together with couturier Jean Marie Pujol who has previously worked with Dior and Yves Saint-Laurent. Special attention will be drawn to serigraphy on the Korean velour silk.

    In spring Larisa Noury Shakinko is supposed to display her works at an international exhibition in Shanghai and hold an exhibition in Madrid.

    Larisa Noury Shakinko heads the Color, Space, Culture association. She initiates a joint draft agreement on cooperation between the architects and schools of Belarus and France.

    The Belarusian artist creates an original harmony between colors. She says the Belarusian motives are the main source of her inspiration. Larisa Noury Shakinko tries to popularize Belarus, its culture and traditions at every exhibition she attends.

    Pictures by Bialynitski-Birulya to be displayed in Moscow gallery

    An exhibition of pictures by Belarusian artist Vitold Bialynitski-Birulya will be held in the Daev-33 Moscow Art Gallery. The pictures will be displayed from 20 January to 1 March, BelTA learnt from regional national community “Belarusians of Moscow”.

    The exposition will include 40 pictures created by Bialynitski-Birulya from 1900 to 1950 in Belarus and also in the Tver, Moscow and Archangelsk oblasts of Russia. Some of the pictures will be demonstrated for the first time.

    The works for the exhibition were presented by art galleries of Moscow, Kazan, St. Petersburg and private collectors. Pictures “Late Winter”, “Winter Sunny Day”, “Mill in Wood”, “First Flush of Grass”, “Joyful May” and “Apple Blossom” are among the most popular ones.

  • Endnote...

    Competition of cartoons “Russia and Belarus: quarrel over oil

    From: Charter '97
    Ironic Fate
    The slow conflict between Belarus and Russia over customs duties on oil supplies was proposed as a theme for editorial cartoons competition on radio station Echo of Moscow.

    Radio Echo of Moscow finished accepting cartoons for the competition and offers to choose a winner by voting.
    Judging by the number and plots of the cartoons, the Russians are not concerned over the conflict with Belarus. They are sure Russia should have stopped subsidizing the Belarusian economy long ago.

    And maybe you can also take
    some of those potatoes...

    Believe it big brother: You won't catch the rabbits
    and you don't need to give us nightmares...

    Local wisdom:
    The harder the kiss
    the cheaper the oil

    We gave you oil and island palms...
    And we gave you bread and butter
    but you wouldn't take it!

    So they won't buy our potatoes?
    Close the gas to Europe!

    Ironic fate continues...
    Because of the great ratings of the miniseries:
    Ironinic fate: The gas wars",
    It became nessasary to make another installment starring
    A. Lukashenko, D. Medvedev, V. Putin and A. Miller-
    Directed by U. Timoshenko and V Yushenko