Investors invited to Belarus, CIS prospects, Oil contracts, UPB dispute, Gas prices, Opposition; News, Sport, Culture and Polish scandal...
Investors invited to Belarus’ energy, processing industries
Alexander Lukashenko said that more efforts should be put into attracting foreign investments to Belarus while potential investors should get more favorable business terms without red-tape barriers.
It is a matter of utmost importance, particularly, in the present conditions, the head of state made it clear.
“The government has always tried to convince me that it is impossible to do without foreign investments. So we have started working on it seriously,” said the President.
“I have to admit that the situation around attracting foreign direct investments to the Belarusian economy does not inspire optimism,” stressed the head of state. He also added that gross figures are useless.
Statistics says that since 2008 the net FDI received by Belarus’ real economy has been steadily shrinking. In 2009 FDI totaled a mere $420 million, 38% down on 2008. The President said the fall cannot be explained by the general decline of investment activity across the globe. “The lack of responsibility, unwillingness and inaptitude of some officials to work effectively are some of the reasons behind the situation,” believes the head of state.
“The conclusion comes up after seeing the rising number of applications sent by potential foreign investors directly to the President. It looks like they no longer believe that those in charge of dealing with these matters can do it,” said Alexander Lukashenko.
“It is not the first time I reproach top ranking officials for the lack of action. The government has assured me that they will keep an eye on the most important investment projects. And there are a lot of them,” the head of state reminded. Alexander Lukashenko said that he has to read reports that specify Culture Minister Vladimir Matveichuk (he quit the office long ago) as the one responsible for implementing an investment project. “It means that either you edit old papers and push them off to me or that the papers are compiled by incompetent people. What can I say about the cooperation of the government, oblast administrations and Minsk City Hall with foreign investors? Certainly it is dissatisfactory,” said the head of state.
The President made it clear that there is only one way to cooperate with investors: “If someone comes to Belarus to work and offers his own money to invest in our economy, he should be given the green light. The investor should be made familiar with what taxes he will have to pay and with what preferences we can provide for his project”. According to Alexander Lukashenko, when a potential investor “understands it clearly and sees that we welcome him here instead of counting his money or making up additional conditions, then the investor will work”.
Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky briefed the President about the implementation of investment projects in Belarus. He remarked that they are controlled by the Council of Ministers and generally are on schedule. He said that some projects were lagging behind and some had not even started. Sergei Sidorsky attributed it to objective reasons that are sometimes encountered in the execution of a project. The government should minimize the situation by devising correct schemes and mechanisms for cooperation with investors.
The Prime Minister informed Alexander Lukashenko about industrial and social projects, housing construction projects and separately about projects, which are being implemented in Belarus. A total of 115 projects were discussed, including six accomplished projects and 69 ongoing projects.
Chairman of the State Control Committee Zenon Lomat believes that there are positive achievements as far as the attraction of foreign investments to Belarus is concerned, however, there are major drawbacks regarding the performance of the government and state agencies. In particular, the mechanism used to evaluate investors is not working well for now. Besides, the government has not managed to create an effective scheme for cooperation with foreign investors: there is lengthy letter writing, endless negotiations and business trips. There is no pre-evaluation of investment projects. As an example, Zenon Lomat said, China is ready to pour billions into several investment projects in Belarus. The projects just have to be chosen. The Belarusian Economy Ministry suggested 170 projects but not all of them are vital for the country and look interesting to the Chinese partners. “We should suggest serious projects that China may be interested in. Those should be projects involving high technologies in metallurgy, chemical industry and other areas,” he remarked.
Alexander Lukashenko agreed with Zenon Lomat. The President told the Prime Minister that “This way of dealing with investments won’t do. The government lacks an integral approach to these projects”. The President underlined that he often has to meet with investors, hear out their complaints about the performance of government officials, and deal with certain issues.
Rounding off the session, Alexander Lukashenko remarked that in the future the government should not “grasp the projects they are offered as the last straw and start working on any of them”. The government should offer projects to investors and these projects should meet the top priority goals the state has to reach.
“The priorities are sovereignty and independence of the country. It is the economy that secures sovereignty and independence instead of idle talks in streets and offices. First of all, we should get down to energy industry projects,” said Alexander Lukashenko.
Apart from that, Alexander Lukashenko pointed out that investment efforts should take Belarus’ raw materials into account and projects aimed at processing national resources should be implemented. “Forests occupy 35% of Belarus. Timber often rots although it could have been processed,” believes the head of state. The same is applicable to Belarusian drinking water.
“It is now necessary to invest in building export-oriented enterprises that will make products, which are in demand on foreign markets, as well as enterprises to make products to replace imports. Instead Belarus continues importing billions worth of goods although the country can manufacture them,” said Alexander Lukashenko. It is such projects that should be earmarked for implementation.
The President made it clear that cooperation with investors should have no delays. Investors should not deal with crude projects but should be offered the ones the authorities have polished already.
Alexander Lukashenko instructed the Belarus President Administration, the State Control Committee to request all the projects the head of state had given orders for from the government and the National Bank. The projects should be classified and systematized. Alexander Lukashenko demanded that cooperation with investors must be straightened out by the end of the year. “Everything must be under control,” he said.
Russia suggests opening discussion on CIS prospects
According to Igor Shuvalov, the CIS is a unique international organization. “The CIS has failed to fulfill the goals which were set when it was conceived. But it has fulfilled an important historical function,” he said. The CIS is not an instrument of civilized divorce. It is an instrument of civilized integration, according to Igor Shuvalov.
Almost the two-decade history of the CIS allows us to make some conclusions, Igor Shuvalov said. The CIS is not meant to address some complicated tasks. Feasible goals should be set and reached, Igor Shuvalov argues. “We cannot get to everyone and everything. Multi-level integration in the post-Soviet space is a reality,” he noted.
One of the impediments to the integration among the former Soviet Union republics is their desire to preserve the sovereignty in full as well as the resistance to the creation of supra-national bodies, believes Igor Shuvalov. The integration will be developing only when it makes economic sense, he added.
Any serous interaction is accompanied by heated discussions and debates. “This shows that truly serious problems are addressed. The arguments between the states of the Customs Union are the most heated but the issues they are arguing over are very important. I am sure that the CIS can become more effective,” Igor Shuvalov said.
“Changes should be introduced into the work of the CIS. It lacks concrete, clear and attractive initiatives,” Igor Shuvalov concluded.
Andrei Kobyakov: Belarus is strong CIS supporter
Belarus is a strong supporter of the CIS, Vice-Premier of Belarus Andrei Kobyakov said at the CIS International Economic Forum in Moscow on 5 March.
“Being the capital of the CIS, Minsk is and will remain committed to the idea of the CIS,” Andrei Kobyakov said.
He pointed out that the Belarusian side upholds Russia’s new initiatives to build up the cooperation in the area of innovations within the CIS. “Belarus’ own experience has shown that there is no alternative to integration when it comes to innovations. The further concerted effort of the CIS member states is essential for their innovative development,” Andrei Kobyakov said.
The Deputy Prime Minister emphasized that the initiatives put forward by Russia during its current CIS presidency are a logical continuation of the ideas Belarus proposed during its CIS presidency in 2008. According to Andrei Kobyakov, the economy should be the focus of the cooperation.
The development of the institute of leasing can be a powerful mechanism of strengthening integration in the CIS. “This instrument will help accelerate the technical upgrade of the CIS member states,” he said.
According to Andrei Kobyakov, one of the challenges facing the CIS is enhancing investment appeal, which is one of the focal points of Belarus’ economic policy. “The progress Belarus has made in this area is acknowledged by reputable international organizations,” Andrei Kobyakov said.
He added that Belarus favors tighter interregional cooperation among the CIS member states. He reminded that Belarus signed cooperation agreements with almost all the constituents of the Russian Federation and seeks to conclude such agreements with Ukraine, Moldova and other CIS member states.
Russia slow to honor oil contract commitments with Belarus
She reminded that along with the oil supply terms protocol that Belarus First Vice Premier Vladimir Semashko and Russia Vice Premier Igor Sechin signed on 27 January the parties also signed minutes of the talks. According to the document, Russia undertakes to settle down issues concerning customs-free supplies of Russian oil products to Belarus in February 2010. No decisions, however, have been made by Russia yet.
While Russia “is thinking over” the matter, the instruction of Russia’s Customs to collect customs duties from the Russian oil products Belarus imports as of 1 January 2010 is in effect.
Natalia Rynkevich reminded that Belarus and Russia are parties to bilateral international agreements that provide for free mutual trade and no duties on any commodities. Those agreements are the International Trade Agreement of 13 November 1992 and the Protocol on introducing free trade procedures without limitations of 6 January 1995. “In other words, collecting duties in Belarus-Russia trade is not part of the deal. There is only one proviso from these agreements – a proviso concerning Russian oil,” remarked the representative of Belarus’ Customs.
After signing the oil protocol on 27 January 2010 the countries performed the intrastate procedures, which in line with the international law confirm that the commitments must be honored by the parties. At present all problems regarding Russian oil supplies to Belarus have been settled.
As far as oil products are concerned, despite the terms the sides have come to, as of 5 March 2010 the problem of customs duties on Russian oil products was unresolved. The relevant instruction of the Federal Customs Service of Russia has not been cancelled.
The unwillingness to resolve the issue contradicts the bilateral agreements and entails considerable losses for economic operators in the two countries. The collection of customs duties from paraxylene, commercial paraffin, benzole, orthoxylene and other oil products has virtually put a stop to their supplies to petrochemical companies, remarked Natalia Rynkevich. In her words, Belarus does not see any legal grounds for collecting customs duties from the Russian oil products Belarus imports and demands that the customs duties should be lifted.
Belarusian-Polish commission to get busy with UPB dispute on 9 March
“We have been working for four years to create the commission. We would like to have an objective evaluation of our public association, this is why we knowingly agree to such a comprehensive audit of our chartered and business activities. May the international commission examine whether rights of Poles are infringed upon in Belarus. We are ready to provide any documents for auditing. Our union is an open organization,” said Yelena Bogdan.
BelTA reported earlier that the decision to set up the commission to settle down the UPB dispute had been made at a meeting of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland Radoslaw Sikorski in Kyiv on 25 February.
Timed to the folk crafts festival Kazyuki 2010 that is going on in Grodno, the press conference gathered President of the Union of Poles in Belarus Stanislav Semashko, chairman of the UPB’s Grodno city branch Kazimir Znaidinsky, UPB legal advisor Edvard Kolosha, newly elected chairman of the Ivenets branch Stanislav Burachevsky as well as representatives of Lithuanian national organizations. The press conference focused on the UPB’s current operation and prospects.
UPB President Stanislav Semashko told media that in the near future he plans to step up the operation of the Union of Poles in Belarus within the framework of the organization’s charter and the Belarusian legislation. In particular, he vowed to resume the operation of regional branches of the organization and mentioned the Lida region branch as an example. He also said that the newspaper Glos znad Niemna and the UPB website will be renewed. According to Stanislav Semashko, the newspaper will soon have an insert in Russian and a blog will be started on the website.
Stanislav Semashko also said that the first company founded by the UPB had been registered. It will be a versatile business with no details available yet. The UPB President remarked that the UPB will need years to enhance its business, but if things go well, in future the Union of Poles in Belarus may get down to social projects such as kindergartens and homes for elderly people.
“Our union is open to everyone, not just Poles,” Stanislav Semashko underscored. “We are not interested in politics and we will try to stay far away from it. I think with time wise people will start thinking right. Only through negotiations we will be able to reach accord,” he said.
According to the UPB, as of 1 March 2010 the Union had 7,117 members, 74 structural units, including 34 ones in the Grodno Oblast.
Belarus’ nuclear industry expo to gather over 50 companies
AtomExpo Belarus will feature the latest technologies used to design, build, operate and secure nuclear power plants. The expo is also supposed to attract investors to finance the nuclear station construction, to shape the public opinion to support the construction of Belarus’ own nuclear power plant, to spur nuclear energy researches, and to aid the establishment of a nuclear industry personnel training system in Belarus.
The expo is supposed to have the following main sections: nuclear power plant design and construction, installation and startup of the main equipment, nuclear reactors and equipment, nuclear fuel cycle, tools and equipment for building nuclear power plants, nuclear and radiation security, personnel training.
A plenary session of the science to practice conference “Prospects of nuclear power engineering development in Belarus” will take place on 11 March. Participants will discuss the government policy in nuclear power engineering and energy security. Top officials of national government agencies and organizations involved in the nuclear station project are expected to attend. Among them are representatives of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, the Nuclear Power Plant Construction Directorate, the Belarusian electrical company Belenergo, the Russian state corporation Rosatom and the Atomstroyexport company.
The conference will also include panel sessions, seminars and presentations, roundtable sessions meant to discuss concepts of designing, building, and ensuring the security of the Belarusian nuclear power plant. The panel sessions will involve scientists and specialists of research institutes and universities, suppliers of technologies and equipment, government agencies.
The event is organized by the Energy Ministry, the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, the Education Ministry, the Information Ministry, the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Ministry, the Architecture and Construction Ministry, other government agencies of Belarus. The Russian side is represented by Atomexpo, the official expo operator of the state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom, as well as Russian nuclear industry companies.
There are plans to build a nuclear power plant in Belarus with the capacity of 2,400MW. The first power unit of the Belarusian power plant is supposed to go online in 2016, the second one — in 2018. The power plant will use a nuclear station project designed by the Saint Petersburg-based institute Atomenergoproject. The Russian company Atomstroyexport is the general contractor. Atomstroyexport is run by Rosatom and implements intergovernmental agreements on building nuclear energy installations abroad. At present Atomstroyexport accounts for around 20% of the global market.
Belarus’ international reserve assets down 1.3% in January-February
In January-February 2010 Belarus’ international reserve assets calculated using the IMF methods were down 1.3% ($75.4 million) to $5577.1 million, BelTA learnt from the information department of the National Bank.
In line with the methods used by the International Monetary Fund, Belarus’ international reserves are defined as marketable foreign assets, which consist of monetary gold, the country’s special drawing rights in the IMF, the country’s reserve position in the IMF and foreign currency reserves. The reserve assets can be promptly used for money market interventions in order to stabilize the exchange rate of the national currency, to finance the import of goods and services by the government, for paying and servicing the foreign national debt and for other purposes.
In January-February 2010 Belarus’ international reserve assets calculated using national methods dwindled by 1.1% ($68.6 million) to $5909.9 million.
As of 1 March hard currency accounted for the larger part of the international reserve assets of Belarus ($2740.9 million, or 46.4%) along with precious metals and gems ($1144.3 million, or 19.4%). In January-February the hard currency assets went up by 8.3%, the volume of precious metals and gems edged by 0.7%. Other assets amounted to $2024.7 million, or 34.3%. in January-February they decreased by 12.4%.
BelTA reported earlier that the NBRB expects the country’s gold and foreign currency reserves to increase by $0.5-1.83 billion in 2010. This is envisaged in the draft monetary policy guidelines of Belarus.
Belarus-Ukraine trade up 42% in January
In January 2010, the trade between Belarus and Ukraine made up $195.6 million, up 42.6%, BelTA learnt form the trade and economy group of the Belarusian diplomatic missions in Kyiv.
In January, Belarusian export to Ukraine exceeded $100.5 million (up almost 63% over the same period a year before), the import $95.1 million (26%). Belarus had a $5.4 million surplus in trade with Ukraine.
In 2010 Belarus and Ukraine intend to restore the five billion trade posted in 2008.
Over the recent years the trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and Ukraine has been developing vigorously: since 2003, the bilateral trade has soared several times, the Embassy said. However, the financial crisis of 2009 affected the trade between the two countries. As a result, the bilateral trade made up only $3 billion with Belarus posting a trade surplus of $403.7 million in 2009.
Russia's customs service responds to Minsk's criticism
The press office said that it was the Central Energy Customs that was responsible for control over the movement of energy resources across the border. It said that the Russian customs authorities were set to "restrict" the number of customs offices where companies may declare crude oil exported to Belarus for processing on a give-and-take basis.
The State Customs Committee of Belarus on Thursday said that it had come up with specific proposals for simplifying the procedure of duty-free deliveries of Russian crude oil to Belarus on a give-and-take basis, but the Russian agency was reluctant to discuss them.
Retail price of compressed natural gas to be raised by 9.4 percent on Friday
The decision to raise the price was made because the price of natural gas for Belarus has risen this year and so has excise tax on it and because the general economic situation has changed, the press office said. The previous increase in the price of compressed natural gas occurred on May 21, 2009, when the price was raised by 9.6 percent to 855 rubels per cubic meter.
Lieberman: There was no illegal Belarus tip-off
Speaking at a press conference in Ramat Gan, he also described the latest investigation to center on him as “baseless,” and renewed his media offensive against the Israel Police.
Lieberman was questioned by police on Tuesday on suspicion of having received the confidential information from former ambassador to Belarus Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh, who in August 2008 was asked by the Israel Police’s National Fraud and Lahav 433 units to pass along a request for assistance to law enforcement authorities in Belarus as part of the investigation into Lieberman’s affairs.
The request, which was sent to the embassy in Minsk via the Justice Ministry, contained confidential information on bank account details and individuals in Belarus, according to reports.
“Nothing will come out of this,” Lieberman declared confidently on Thursday evening. “The whole thing is baseless. This will have no impact on the future.”
The foreign minister said the latest investigation was aimed “at pressuring the attorney-general and state prosecutors and to create a hostile public opinion.”
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and state prosecutors will in the coming weeks or months have to decide whether to indict Lieberman.
In August 2009, the Israel Police said evidence existed to charge Lieberman for taking bribes, fraudulently receiving goods, abuse of public office, obstructing justice, harassing witnesses and laundering millions of shekels using a host of shell companies and bank accounts.
During his press conference, Lieberman said the police “have a right to question any public figure. But what is not acceptable is that I can’t discuss my version of events, yet after I was questioned, every detail was released [by police to the media] in a distorted way, every two hours.”
Lieberman accused the police of “systematically” feeding the media biased information, and questioned reports that the police’s press release on Tuesday detailing the suspicions was coordinated in advance by police, state prosecutors and the attorney general, suggesting instead that the release was a police initiative only.
“No one gave the police permission to put out what they did. The aim was to mislead the public,” he said.
Source in the police have in recent days denied Lieberman’s allegations, telling The Jerusalem Post that the investigation has been guided by “facts and professionalism.”
“There were no leaks to the media. When the investigation reached a certain point, a statement was released. The public is entitled to know about all national public figures who are questioned,” a source said this week.
Lieberman said he would have liked to address the specific suspicions against him, but that he was legally prohibited from doing so.
“Yet on the other hand, they are working to create a hostile public opinion against me,” he said.
Theatre bills about “bilingualism” banned in Belarus
From: Charter '97
In the pedestrian underpass at Kastrychnitskaya metro station the entire programme of Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre is printed on a pink sheet of paper in A4 format. Where have the bills of “Translations” play noticeable from a distance disappeared? The cashier does not know. She says that she is not responsible for pasting promotional posters.
“It is not there, as it has been removed. It had been banned probably,” said a cashier in an interview to Radio Svaboda.
The same situation is in pedestrian underpasses near the State Department Store and at Yakub Kolas metro station, where a brisk trade in tickets is taking place. Though the programme of Yanka Kupala Theatre’s plays is in a larger format there, there is no girl with a silenced mouth there as well.
The administration of the theatre hasn’t said anything specific about that. At least, no written documents have been received on the matter by the board of directors.
The author of the theatre bill, a prominent Belarusian artist Vladimir Tsesler (Uladzimir Tsesler). He is surprised by such a close attention deserved by his work:
“I was told by some people: there were bills, and now they have disappeared. But personally I do not see anything subversive in them. Most likely, the situation was the following. In order to show in which way English language was forced into application in Ireland, artists who are Irish dwellers speak Belarusian, and Englishmen speak Russian. And this parallel has probably become a sort of irritant. But is it a problem, for God’s sake! But what can we do?” the artist said.
It is true, the first spectators of “Translations” say that the plot of the play by an Irish playwright Brian Friel is really relevant or the modern Belarus. Ireland, 19th century. Dwellers of a small village Baile Beag live in their own world: a family, household, love, rows and baptisms, a little school. But once English military men arrive to the village to turn it into an English settlement Ballybeg. In fact, “Translations” is a story about Ireland’s colonisation by England, about how one language squeezes away another. Amid these events a love story of an Irish girl and an English soldier is taking place. They speak different languages and cannot find understanding. And only the force of a true love overcomes language barriers.
This is anyone's guess what high official has been alarmed by the play. There were suspicions that the Public Council on Morality headed by Mikalai Charhinets was had a hand in the decision to ban visual advertising of Mikalai Pinigin’s play. Recently this council tried to ban a concert of cult band Rammstein in Minsk. Yesterday the former police general took part in festive events dedicated to the Day of Police, but his colleague and fellow member of the Council Alyaksandr Medved says that he does not remember that contents of theatre bills were considered at some sessions. However, in any case the opinion of this body has a consultative character and conclusions of its experts could be just taken note of.
Valiantsin Stefanovich: Elections are always accompanied with repressions and harassment in Belarus
’All elections in our country are accompanied with repressions or harassment in a greater or lesser degree depending on the level of elections,’ says Valiantsin Stefanovich, lawyer of the Human Rights Center Viasna. ‘Pitifully enough, the elections are traditionally organized and held by local executive authorities, not by election commissions, because the authorities are directly responsible for the formation of election commissions of different levels.’
Mr. Stefanovich believes that harassment of independent candidates and members of their initiative groups by the law machinery and state agencies is connected with the wish to prevent any complications in the future, because the local authorities will face certain problems and will have to solve them in loco if some democratic candidates win at the elections and become members of any Soviets of Deputies.
‘The Central Election Commission is working quite well. However, the ongoing pressurization isn’t favorable for holding free elections. If we ignore the cases of persecution and summons to tax and investigative bodies, this year’s elections demonstrate a considerably better numbers than the previous ones – the percent of refusals to register initiative groups is insignificant. However, the things that are taking place on the local level spoil the image the authorities wish to create,’ pointed Mr. Stefanovich.
Valiantsin is sure that it is necessary to attentively watch the formation of the precinct commissions that is a very important stage of the elections. The number of places members of political parties and NGOs managed to take in the commissions will let one judge to which extent the practice of holding the elections changed and whether the Election Code fostered the wider representation in the commissions of all political subjects, not only pro-regime persons and organizations.
’We are waiting for the early voting. It is quite interesting to see who it will happen and whether the mechanisms of forced bringing certain categories of electors to the precincts will be still employed. Another stage of similar importance is the counting of votes. This sphere remained practically unchanged and it will be very important to see whether observers had a real opportunity to see how the votes were calculated.
As far as the organization of the elections aren’t monitored by any international missions except from the Embassies accredited in Belarus, it is very important to analyze the information that is collected by the human rights organizations that are participants of the campaign Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections. An analytical material will be published after the end of registration of candidates and intermediate conclusions will be made,’ stated the Viasna lawyer.
Ukraine may join Unified Economic Space on WTO terms - Yanukovych
From: RIA Novosti
"We have fallen far behind in this process [the creation of the economic space]," Yanukovych said in an interview with Russia's Vesti TV channel.
In December 2009, the presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan agreed to create a single economic space by January 1, 2012. The Customs Union of the three countries started working on January 1, 2010.
"Moreover, Ukraine joined the WTO [in 2008] and now may join this space only on the WTO conditions. We wish our partners to join the WTO as soon as possible," Yanukovych said adding that Ukraine's entry to the Unified Economic Space remains relevant.
Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan intended to establish the Unified Economic Space back in 2003. The process stalled due to Ukraine's position that favored the creation of a free trade zone within the single space but did not want to join the Customs Union. When Viktor Yushchenko took office in 2005, the negotiations were suspended.
Russia May Scrap Ruble for New Customs Union Currency
From: Business Week
“I won’t exclude a transition to a common currency union with these countries in the future,” Igor Shuvalov said at a Moscow conference today. The currency alliance will be modeled on the European Union, which created a new unit rather than using an existing one, he said, though no talks have been held.
Russia and two former Soviet neighbors plan to create a single economic market by 2012 after their customs union took effect on Jan. 1. A new currency is “the next logical step” after economic union, Shuvalov said without giving a timeframe.
Russia has sought to promote regional currencies in trade and diversify its reserves, the world’s third-largest stockpile, to reduce risks posed by the dominance of the dollar. President Dmitry Medvedev last year questioned the dollar’s future as a reserve currency and called for a mix of regional currencies to make the world economy more stable. He said a new supranational currency could reduce vulnerability to movements in the dollar.
The world’s biggest energy supplier may eventually begin selling oil in rubles, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Jan. 22.
The ruble strengthened 0.2 percent to 34.6142, a 14-month high, against the central bank’s target euro-dollar basket in today’s trading. The Russian currency gained 0.6 percent to 40.4529 per euro,the strongest since Dec. 25, 2008, while slipping 0.3 percent to 29.8394 against the dollar.
The central bank steers the ruble against the basket to limit fluctuations that hurt exporters and used a floating corridor of 35 to 38 against the basket between August and February for its daily foreign-currency moves.
Investors have pared bets that the ruble will weaken, with non-deliverable forwards showing the currency at 30.10 per dollar in three months compared with an NDF of 30.21 on March 4. The contracts are a guide to expectations of currency movements as they allow foreign investors and companies to fix the exchange rate at a particular level in the future.
The three countries will need gradually to increase trade in national currencies before switching to a common exchange unit, Andrei Kostin, head of VTB Group, Russia’s second-largest lender, said at today’s conference to mark Russia assuming the rotating chairmanship of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
“This will be a natural step to take since the three countries don’t need visas and share the same language --capital movement would remain the only factor in the way of economic integration,” Alexei Moisseev, senior economist at Renaissance Capital in Moscow. “Forming a new currency would take at least five years, assuming they go ahead with it.”
VEB, Russia’s state development bank, has begun settling accounts with Ukrainian companies in Russian rubles, Chief Executive Officer Vladimir Dmitriev said at the conference.
Russia has agreements that allow the use of the ruble and yuan in cross-border trade, First Deputy Central Bank Chairman Alexei Ulyukayev said in October. It is also in talks with India and Brazil to use their currencies in trade, he said.
Belarus and China agreed in March 2009 to a $2.9 billion currency swap to facilitate trade between the two countries. The three-year accord is worth 20 billion yuan, or 8 trillion Belarusian rubles, and may be prolonged by mutual consent.
Russia’s central bank isn’t considering similar currency swaps because the yuan is too “insular” for swaps, Sergei Shvetsov, head of financial operations at Bank Rossii, said in an interview on Dec. 10.
The world will probably have “five or six currency unions” similar to the euro region over the next decade to challenge the dollar and help facilitate trade and reduce exchange-rate volatility, Arkady Dvorkovich, President Dmitry Medvedev’s senior economic adviser, said in a speech last year.
Four Gulf states are working toward a single currency which may see them step away from a dollar peg. The board of the monetary council that will determine the new system is made up of the central bank governors of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar. Oman and the United Arab Emirates have opted out.
For the ruble to gain wider acceptance, Russia will have to sell more sovereign domestic debt and more of its main exports, oil and natural gas, in its own currency, Dvorkovich said.
The central bank has started buying Canadian dollars and securities, Ulyukayev said in January. Russia’s reserves were previously made up of 47 percent U.S. dollars, 41 percent euros, 10 percent pounds and 2 percent yen. Bank Rossii is also discussing the possibility of buying Australian dollars, Chairman Sergei Ignatiev said
Energy, including oil and natural gas, last month accounted for 64 percent of Russia’s exports to the CIS, a grouping of post-Soviet nations, the Federal Customs Service said in a report today. Machinery and other manufactured equipment made up 21.5 percent of CIS imports into Russia, while metals accounted for 19.8 percent, according to the report.
17-Year-Old Chatroulette Founder:
'Mom, Dad, the Site Is Expanding'
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Andrey, you're 17 and still in school. How much pocket money do you get from your parents?
Ternovskiy: A thousand rubles a week, that's about 25 euros. Why do you ask?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: We're wondering whether you know how to handle money. Your invention, Chatroulette.com, is already being talked about as the next big thing on the Internet. Some experts have suggested that it may be worth anywhere between €10 and €30 million.
Ternovskiy: Don't worry. I know how to handle money. I'm thrifty and I've always managed to keep my savings together. In the past, I would only buy myself an ice cream once in a while. The rest of the time I was saving up for a new computer, a Webcam and other accessories.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How did you come up with the idea for Chatroulette.com?
Ternovskiy: I've always wanted that kind of site. My friends and I used to video chat over Skype quite often, but that got boring after a while. I always knew who was waiting for me and who I would be speaking to. So I searched Google for a video chat program that operated in a more random way. No such thing existed. So I sat down and wrote software for two days and two nights. And that was the first version of Chatroulette.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did you expect this level of interest? After all, CNN has broadcast a piece about you and the New York Times has written about you. And you really only created the site for yourself and your friends. There was no advertising. But then other people found their way to your site -- first they came in the hundreds, then in the thousands.
Ternovskiy: To be fair, I did publicize it on several Web forums after launching it. I was hoping it would be a success, but I have been overwhelmed by the extent of it. In early November there were 500 visitors per day. A month later there were 50,000. Chatroulette now has around 1.5 million users. Approximately 33 percent come from the United States, 5 percent from Germany -- of those, most are from Berlin. But there is someone in virtually every country that uses Chatroulette.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How did you deal with that tremendous rate of growth? There are people who claim that a 17-year-old couldn't possibly manage such a project, that one would require more resources.
Ternovskiy: It all works out, thanks to the Internet. I manage my site with a free program, Google Analytics. And the server resources can be hired from special Web sites; I pay the bill online too. I have also hired four programmers to work with me on the site.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: We're sitting in your childhood room: There's a bed, a table and two monitors. Where do your employees work? Where is your office?
Ternovskiy: I don't have one. I found my employees on the Web. One of them I've known for five years -- I met him online -- and he lives in Virginia. Another one lives in Belarus.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where do you get the money for all of this from?
Ternovskiy: I said to my parents: "Mom, Dad, the site is expanding. You should invest now." My parents did that and their $10,000 were enough to get things started. I actually paid them back a while ago. And I am making very good money at the moment, thanks to the small advertising links to an online dating service on the site. Once in a while we meet in a Moscow restaurant and I pick up an envelope filled with cash.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you have investors knocking at your door?
Ternovskiy: I have received 200 e-mails from venture capital firms in the Silicon Valley alone. Skype has invited me to come to the United States. And Google has also contacted me.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Will you sell?
Ternovskiy: No, the site will always be mine. I will continue to develop Chatroulette myself. But I could imagine some sort of scheme involving shares in the company.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where did you learn programming skills? You're a student at a Moscow school. Is that where one learns these skills, at school in Russia?
Ternovskiy: It's not all about ability, it's also about luck. But in fact, everything I know, I've learned from the Web. To be honest, I rarely go to school.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why?
Ternovskiy: I am a nerd. The web is everything for me. School bores me. I have my own way of learning: I read Wikipedia. School is a waste of my time and I'd rather use that time to program and for business negotiations.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Russian Web czar Yuri Milner wanted to meet with you recently. His online ventures account for 70 percent of all the traffic on the Russian-speaking Internet. A more typical meeting for him is with President Dmitry Medvedev as part of a commission on the modernization of Russia. He had a private meeting with you that lasted one and a half hours. What was your impression of him?
Ternovskiy: That he was really, really interested in my project. And then I relaxed and enjoyed my success. His office is on the 57th floor and there's a great view of Moscow.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What do you eventually want to accomplish?
Ternovskiy: I always wanted to have a successful Web site. Now I have one. And now I would like my own company, an office, employees. And I want it in the USA, because that's the center of IT culture. All of the biggest names in IT are in the Silicon Valley -- Google, Microsoft.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: But taxes are very high in the USA.
Ternovskiy: I can register the company in Switzerland.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Chatroulette is minimalist and, in a way, a return to the uncivilized and wild days of the Internet. Your site attracts many exhibitionists. Some even say that Chatroulette is the antithesis of Facebook, where almost everything can be controlled. So it has the potential to be a pleasant pastime or it could be an entirely new platform for online interaction. But currently nobody seems to know exactly what it is, or what it could be.
Ternovskiy: To me, it's like the street in some big city, where you see all kinds of unknown faces. Some of those faces appeal to you, some disgust you. Chatroulette is a street that you walk along where you can chat to whomever you like. The program makes the Internet more like real life. As for the "freaks and fuckers," I'm working on a solution. I have integrated a "report" function into Chatroulette. If three users complain about the same bum, then that user is automatically banned from using the system. So there are a lot less of them already.
Polish activists use images of aborted foetuses and Adolf Hitler in billboard campaign
From: Daily Mail
|Controversial: The graphic billboard poster has been put up in Poznan, Poland, by anti-abortion group Pro|
Mariusz Dzierzawski, a campaign organiser, said: 'It is our duty to fight for the rights of murdered children.
'Abortion is a crime and drawing such a parallel is absolutely justified.'
The poster campaign, which is timed to remind Poles of Nazi rule during World War Two, also coincides with International Women's Day on March 8 - where feminists in Poland traditionally stage demonstrations to call for greater equality, including the right for abortion.
It has only been put up in Poznan, western Poland, but Mr Dzierzawski said Pro aimed to put it up in at least 30 other towns across the country.
Abortion in staunchly Roman Catholic Poland is illegal, except in a few cases. A recent survey showed more than two thirds of Pole are opposed to abortion, up slightly from 1998.
But reaction to the poster has been negative.
Aneta Turkiewicz covered her daughter's eyes as they passed the poster in Poznan.
She said: 'Words fail me... let's leave this topic to parents.
'They can explain the issue to their children more delicately.'
Magdalena Sroda, a professor of ethics who specialises in gender issues, said the poster was hypocritical.
She said: 'This is sick... fascism, Stalinism... prohibited abortion, often on pain of death, so bans on abortion are strongly linked to totalitarianism.'
Using Nazi symbols and images is politically sensitive in Poland, which lost around a fifth of its population during the German occupation, many of them in death camps such as Auschwitz built by the Nazis on Polish territory.
Cop execution ad provokes storm
The reason for the anger is that the advertisement, which appeared in the magazine Skateboard, showed a skateboarder pointing a pistol at the head of a cowering policeman under the blunt slogan “On your knees, dog!”
Although the advertisement ran in the January/February edition of the magazine, it re-surfaced just days after the funeral of a Warsaw policeman stabbed to death after accosting some hooligans at a tram stop, and its violent tone drew immediate criticism.
“I don’t know what was going on inside the head of the person who designed this advertisement. Clearly not much goes on there normally,” said Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, the justice minister. “For those of us involved in the protection of public servants the recent terrible event makes it clear that all of us have to ensure that such unacceptable behaviour does not occur again.
“I hope that the most effective punishment for this type of stupidity is that Poles don’t buy this brand of clothing,” he added. “Let this be the most effective method of educating those people who have disgracefully tried to build a career in marketing.”
The police, worried that the picture could encourage people to attack their officers, also wasted little time in attacking the advertisement by starting a criminal investigation.
“We have submitted a complaint to the District Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw-Mokotow,” reported Mariusz Sokolowski, a spokesman for the capital’s police.
To compound the spluttering anger of the authorities, Lukasz Kosy, co-founder of Guru Gomez, the fashion brand in question, appeared quite proud of the advertisement, explaining that it echoed a common sentiment in skateboarding community.
“Such an idea [holding a gun to a policeman] is in the head of every skateboarder,” the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza quoted him as saying. “The boys do not like policemen and security guards.”
But the authorities can take some heart from the reaction of skateboarders to the advertisement published on internet forums dedicated to the pastime. Most condemned the advertisement, with many pledging to not to purchase any Guru Gomez clothes.
While this kind of behaviour is often brushed under the carpet, the newspaper warns that plagiarism is in fact more serious than many believe and that if found guilty, offenders could face a fine, or in some cases, imprisonment.
“During my time at university, it was almost expected of you by other students. Everyone I knew was at it and what’s more you got the impression that lecturers would turn a blind eye to it, which just made it easier to do,” says one ex-student, who wishes to remain nameless.
However not all lecturers share this view. A spokesman for Opole University states that the best ways to clamp down on plagiarism is to focus on building up strong supervisor-student relationships, or to check through the internal computer systems and establish how much has been lifted from other sources.
But perhaps one of the most obvious ways to help curb the epidemic is to remind students just how serious the consequences of cheating actually are.
“Students wishing to facilitate their work by copying a part of someone else’s, should remember that, in accordance with Article 115. Paragraph 1. of the copyright law, which deals with taking credit for the authorship of the whole or part of someone else’s work, the maximum penalty can be imprisonment for up to three years,” says Paul Sowislo, a lawyer at Sowislo & Topolewski.
Man hangs himself over cheating wife
|Father Arciszewski cheated with local's wife|
Jacek Zielonka, 39, was told by a neighbour that his naked missus had been cavorting in the local rectory with their 52-year-old priest, Kazmierz Arciszewski.
Zielonka’s cousin told local media: “He should have left the trollop a long time ago but they have a son and he was a good man who loved his family.
At mass the following day, Father Arciszewski told parishioners that nothing had happened between them.
“Everyone just burst out laughing,” said one villager.
Belarus bets that smoking will improve athletes’ performance
“The document was adopted in order to create the necessary conditions for the further development of individual sports, preparing high-class athletes and sports institutions, as well as improving the results of Belarusian clubs in all sports of the international arena,” the text of the decree says.
Belarus win friendly against Armenia
Putsila, Hleb and Rodionov scored for Belarus. Belarus started the game in the following line-up: Veremko, Shytau, Sasnouski, Lentsevich, Yurevich, Kislyak, Tigorev, Kalachev, Alexander Hleb, Krivets, Kornilenko. Amelchenko, Verkhovtsov, Martynovich, Putsila, Vyacheslav Hleb, Rodionov, Kovel were the substitutes.
Belarus’ rivals in the Euro-2012 qualifiers also played friendlies on 3 March. France lost to Spain (0-2) at home, Bosnia and Herzegovina beat Ghana (2-0), Luxembourg lost to Azerbaijan (1-2), Albania got the upper hand in a match against Northern Ireland (1-0), and Romania was outscored by Israel (0-2).
Bernd Stange’s team play their next friendly match against Sweden in Minsk on 2 June. Sweden beat Wales (1-0) on 3 March.
Belarus triumphs at Europe’s Hairdressing Championships in Moscow
“The European Hairdressing Championships in Moscow did not come easy for us. The economic side of the event was one of the reasons. Not everyone who wished to participate could afford it,” Konstantin Voitekhovski said.
Partaking in this year’s championships in hairdressing, decorative makeup and manicure were competitors from 26 countries. “Belarus did extremely well at the contest. Only two countries could show new extravagant trends – China and Belarus,” Konstantin Voitekhovski said.
Kristina Kuznetsova became Europe’s champion in the nomination, Ladies Modern Category (daytime hairdo and modern evening hairstyle). Inna Chaikovskaya took the title of Europe’s champion in manicure in the Art-Design nomination. Aleksandra Pyasetskaya came in third in the same nomination.
“These championships have become the most successful for us,” Konstantin Voitekhovski said.
ABOUT INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY (8 March)
Great unrest and critical debate was occurring amongst women. Women's oppression and inequality was spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. Then in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.
In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman's Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28 February. Women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.
n 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named a Clara Zetkin (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day - to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women's clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin's suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women's Day was the result.
Following the decision agreed at Copenhagen in 1911, International Women's Day (IWD) was honoured the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. However less than a week later on 25 March, the tragic 'Triangle Fire' in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This disastrous event drew significant attention to working conditions and labour legislation in the United States that became a focus of subsequent International Women's Day events. 1911 also saw women's 'Bread and Roses' campaign.
On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women's Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Wommen's Day ever since. In 1914 further women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express women's solidarity.
On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for "bread and peace" in response to the death over 2 million Russian soldiers in war. Opposed by political leaders the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women's strike commenced was Sunday 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was 8 March.
1918 - 1999
Since its birth in the socialist movement, International Women's Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries alike. For decades, IWD has grown from strength to strength annually. For many years the United Nations has held an annual IWD conference to coordinate international efforts for women's rights and participation in social, political and economic processes. 1975 was designated as 'International Women's Year' by the United Nations. Women's organisations and governments around the world have also observed IWD annually on 8 March by holding large-scale events that honour women's advancement and while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women's equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.
2000 and beyond
IWD is now an official holiday in China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women's and society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation feel that 'all the battles have been won for women' while many feminists from the 1970's know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women's visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.
However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.
Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women's craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.
Many global corporations have also started to more actively support IWD by running their own internal events and through supporting external ones. For example, on 8 March search engine and media giant Google some years even changes its logo on its global search pages. Year on year IWD is certainly increasing in status. The United States even designates the whole month of March as 'Women's History Month'.
So make a difference, think globally and act locally !! Make everyday International Women's Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.
Lukashenko: in all spheres Belarusian women display their best qualities – kindness, mercy, professionalism
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko congratulated countrywomen on the spring holiday – the Women’s Day, BelTA learnt from the head of state’s press service.
“In all spheres of activity of the society and the state, in the various areas of human life, you display your best qualities – kindness and consideration, morality and mercy, high professionalism and responsibility. You nourish the vital forces of the Belarusian people, promote the dynamic progress of education and science, culture and arts, healthcare and sport,” reads the message.
“May your talents, work and active citizenship further contribute to the glory, prosperity and beauty of Belarus,” Alexander Lukashenko said.