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BELARUS

Key Economic Data 
 
  2002 2001 2000 Ranking(2002)
GDP
Millions of US $ 14,304 12,200 12,700 76
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,360 1,290 1,380 124
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Belarus

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
207,595

Population
10,322,151

Principal ethnic groups
Belarusians 77.9%
Russians 13.2%
Poles 4%

Capital
Minsk

Currency
Rubel 
(Belarusian Rouble)

President
Alexander Lukashenka

  

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."

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AGRICULTURE

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.

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ENERGY

More Belarussian electricity

Belarus plans to increase electricity exports to Poland in 2004, said Brestenergo Deputy Director General, Konstantin Zhebrun, Interfax News Agency reported.
"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.

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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 reported. 
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' principles.

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FOREIGN 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 more difficult. 

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