The Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC) is observing the elections for local soviets that began on Tuesday, January 9th, 2007. Members of the human rights group are expected to monitor the poll at the early voting stage and on the main voting day, January 14th, 2007 both in Minsk and in the provinces. Polling stations are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day at January 9 -13 early voting stage. The early voting procedure allows any voter to cast a ballot early without explaining why he/she cannot do this on the official polling day.
“Yesterday, at the traditional meeting with the Government members , Vladimir Putin thanked the Cabinet of Ministers for their persistence at the Russian Belarusian negotiations on oil transit. He estimated the result of the negotiations as a compromise acceptable for both parties. Thus, Putin actually ignored the Sunday’s escapades of his Belarusian colleague, the “Vremya Novostey” Russian newspaper reports today and features that in the course of the meeting,” Putin simply named the real price of the Belarusian sovereignty.”
Since a series of “gas wars” with CIS countries undermined Western consumers` confidence in Gazprom, the Russian monopoly has been concerned with improving its image abroad. Kommersant has learned that OOO Gazprom Export is negotiating with a consortium of PR firms headed by the PBN Company on a three-year contract for a series of campaigns in the United States and European Union. Gazprom is prepared to pay $11 million in 2007 for those services. According to information obtained by Kommersant, the Gazprom campaign will be part of a larger campaign by Russian authorities to improve their image in the West.
Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) members reported "common" violations of election regulations at polling stations on January 14, the main voting day in Belarus` local elections, the party`s chairman, Vintsuk Vyachorka, told reporters in Minsk on Tuesday.
An independent sports newspaper “Pressball” has received an official warning from Information Ministry. The official warning has been signed by a deputy minister Liliya Ananich. The newspaper is charged with not indicating a complete address of the editorial office, and not naming director of the unitary enterprise Yury Arlou, only the editor-in-chief Uladzimir Berazhkou. However, according to the statute of the unitary enterprise “Pressball”, there are two executive posts in the enterprise, a director and the editor-in-chief.
As a result of the crude oil agreement with Russia, Belarus will have to ease the tax burden on refining in the country. Only this will allow to maintain positive efficiency of local refining and preserve attractiveness of working in Belarus for the oil companies of Russia.
The Russian agriculture minister and the vice-premier of Belarus will discuss Wednesday sugar deliveries from Russia`s western neighbor, the ministry said Tuesday. Alexei Gordeyev and Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Bambiza "will discuss certain issues of cooperation between Russia and the Republic of Belarus, including the volume of white sugar imports to Russia from Belarus," the ministry said in a news release.
Belarus has threatened to reignite a dispute with Russia that the two sides said they had resolved last week. Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Kabyakou, in televised comments late on January 15, said Belarus might charge Russia for the two military bases that Russia now uses rent-free and also for the land under the Yamal-Europe pipeline, which transports Russian gas to Germany.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has approved a program of re-equipment of the forest industry. Its main objective is to increase use of timber as fuel, ITAR-TASS informs. The press-service of the head of the state informed that "search for new sources of energy is relevant for the country" because it doesn`t have own oil and gas.
The political council of the united democratic forces by a majority of vote adopted a resolution to shift to a principle of rotation in leading the coalition. It means that the leaders of the structures forming the coalition of the democratic forces are to preside over the coalition in turns. "The history of this issue is rather long, it includes clash of opinions inside the coalition. Yesterday a decision was adopted that every oppositional party would campaign for their leader, but everybody would sit behind a round table and look for an agreement. If we lived and worked in democracy, I would greet the principle of leaders` rotation. But we live under dictatorship, and it is like during the war. We should define a leader and work under his command perfectly. I was ready to take part in the congress with one aim, so that one leader would be elected there. We haven`t held any breakthrough events in the coalition for a year, as there was no manifest eagerness to work together. The coalition was a declarative one. I am not against round tables, but in case the coalition wouldn`t start serious work, we would lose our weight," told he leader of the democratic forces of Belarus Alyaksandr Milinkevich in an interview to the Charter`97 press-center.
News editions of the TV channel Rossiya are broadcasted an hour later in Belarus these days. Previously Belarusians watched Russian news at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Minsk time (simultaneously with people of Russia), and now they start at 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., which is one hour later than in Russia. (There is a one-hour lag between Russia and Belarus). A worker of one of Russian TV channels in an interview to the Charter’97 press-center supposed that in this way the Belarusian authorities had left a possibility for them to censor Russian news if necessary.
Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner has made a statement on the 14 January local elections in Belarus. “I deplore the fact that the 14 January local elections in Belarus did not meet democratic standards.
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC) said that the country`s January 9-14 local elections had failed to meet democratic standards. BHC observers reported multiple flaws in the poll, Garri Pogonyailo, executive director of the organization, told BelaPAN.
A bill authored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) promoting democracy and human rights in Belarus was signed into law over the weekend by President George W. Bush. "Alexander Lukashenka is Europe`s last dictator and he rules Belarus with an iron fist," Smith said. "Lukashenka continues to systematically repress democratic activists and violate the basic human rights of the Belarusian people. By reauthorizing the Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act, we are showing that the U.S. stands on the side of the Belarusian people in their effort to live in a free, democratic state not of the side of their oppressor."
Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy
(CFSP), issued the following statement in response to the agreement reached last night
between the governments of Russia and Belarus on oil transit through Belarus:
Statements of the Russian side that the result of the agreements between Russia and Belarus in the sphere of oil and gas Russia is to subsidise the Belarusian economy for about $5.8 billion, are be in contrary to fact. It was stated by a deputy prime minister Andrei Kabyakou.
The whole world is to be with us today. Thousands of people in Belarus and all over the world are to gather in the streets with lit candles in remembrance of the abducted leaders of opposition and journalists in Belarus, as a sigh of solidarity with political prisoners, with all those who fight for freedom and democracy in Belarus.