Books on Belarus
Principal ethnic groups
Update No: 285 - (01/10/04)
Lukashenka wants to stand again
President Alexander Lukashenka, has been isolated by the West for a poor record
on human rights and media freedom. He has announced that he would hold a
referendum on October 17 to extend his rule. Running for a third term in a
presidential election due in 2006 would require changing the Constitution, which
limits a president to two straight five-year terms. Changes to the Constitution
on this issue can only be made after a referendum.
"In line with the current constitution of our state, I signed a decree to
hold a nationwide referendum. It will take place on October 17," Lukashenka
said on national television. "There will be only one issue in the
referendum: whether you allow the first president of Belarus, Alexander
Lukashenka, to participate as a candidate in the next presidential
election." Lukashenka, who had his fiftieth birthday in August, has been in
power since 1994, having restarted his presidency through a referendum in 1996.
That poll and his landslide victory in a presidential election in 2001 were
condemned as fraudulent by the West and opposition.
Lukashenka is in effect asking the electorate if they agree to allow him to
remain in office in perpetuity. If the answer could be honest, it would almost
certainly be a resounding No.
Several thousands came or were forced to come to the central square in the
Belarussian capital of Minsk to listen to the broadcast of Lukashenka's address.
Several people from an unregistered radical youth organization, Young Front,
expressed disagreement with Lukashenka's decision. One of their leaders, Dmitry
Dashkevich, was detained, a normal occurrence in Belarus.
The referendum is set for the day of the coming parliamentary elections in
Belarus. They will be a farce.
So will be the referendum.
The Behemoth of Belarus
Lukashenka was first elected president in July 1994 having received 80.4 percent
of the vote in the second round. In September 2001, he was re-elected with 75.6
percent in the first round. He is a rugged populist, with some genuine support
in the countryside and among those nostalgic for the Soviet Union.
Belarus and Russia are discussing plans on a possible reunification. Indeed the
Union of Belarus and Russia already exists, if only in provisional form. Its
head is Pavel Borodin, one of those Kremlin insiders who made the career of
Putin no less. It, therefore, has mileage.
Slamming the Balts
Belarus is the very antithesis of everything the Baltic states stand for, union
with the West, not Russia. Lukashenka has delivered a tongue lashing to some of
the Baltic nations for their position on relations with Belarus.
"We were not even able to arrange a referendum before Latvia, where
thousands of people are stripped of their basic rights, and Estonia, where
monuments to SS supporters are put up, announced that they were joining European
Union sanctions against Belarus," Lukashenka said at a meeting with
university students and teachers from the Brest region.
He is veritably the dinosaur of the region, a rogue, but as Putin describes him:
"he is our rogue."
Belarus ends grain harvesting at almost 7m tonnes
Belarusian farmers harvested almost 6.71m tonnes of grain as of 31st August, or
35 per cent more than last year, the Agriculture and Food Ministry said, Prime-TASS
news agency reported.
Farmers have exceeded the government's harvesting target of 6.45m tonnes. The
increase in output was achieved on the back of a larger seeded area and more
favourable weather conditions. The production of feed grain is expected to be
sufficient for domestic requirements, and Belarus will not need feed grain
imports in the 2004-05 marketing year (July-June).
But imports of milling grain, mainly wheat, will continue because domestic
production will be below domestic requirements, the ministry forecasts. The
ministry's preliminary estimates put milling wheat import needs at 200,000
tonnes in the 2004-05 marketing year (July-June).
In the last few years, Belarus imported around 600,000 tonnes of feed wheat and
250,000 tonnes of milling wheat annually to cover its needs. Belarus usually
exports only rye.
Meanwhile, Belarusian farmers have started winter grain planting. As of August
31st, crops were planted on 32,500 hectares, or 3 per cent of the total targeted
area. Belarus plans to plant winter grains on 1.163m hectares this year.
More Belarussian electricity
Belarus plans to increase electricity exports to Poland in 2004, said
Brestenergo Deputy Director General, Konstantin Zhebrun, Interfax News Agency
"Preliminary agreement has already been reached between the Belarussian and
Polish sides to increase the average monthly volume of electricity supplies.
Poland will submit its calculations on the increase in electricity imports from
Belarus," he said. According to Brestenergo, in January-July 2004
Belarussian power exports to Poland totalled 494m kWh, up 18.5% on the year.
Belarus resumed energy supplies to Poland on August 24th. Power exports were
suspended from August 1st to August 24th because of repair works on aboveground
electrical wires and substations, and the modernisation of power units involved
in energy transit.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Belarus, Iran sign cooperation documents
The Republic of Belarus and the Islamic Republic of Iran signed six cooperation
documents in the presence of the two countries' presidents, IRNA web site
Mutual cooperation between Iran and Belarus in customs, security, cultural,
agriculture and natural disasters are included in the documents.
Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, and his visiting Iranian
counterpart, Mohammad Khatami, signed the statement for mutual relations'
Belarus, Ukraine sign customs cooperation protocols
Protocols on exchanging information about goods and vehicles crossing the
customs border of Belarus and Ukraine and cooperating in determining the customs
value of goods were signed by the head of the State Customs Committee,
Alyaksandr Shpilewski, and his Ukrainian counterpart, Mykola Kalenskyy, on 27th
August, Belapan News Agency reported.
While speaking at a news conference, Shpilewski said that the signed documents
would boost the ability of the customs agencies of both countries to combat
drugs trafficking, smuggling and other illegal activities. He added that the
customs agencies of Belarus and Ukraine had exchanged information prior to the
signing of these document. He said that these documents would make smuggling
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