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BELARUS


  

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 17,493 14,304 12,200 76
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,590 1,360 1,290 122
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Belarus

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
207,595

Population
10,310,520

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

Capital
Minsk

Currency
Rubel 
(Belarusian Rouble)

President
Alexander Lukashenka


Update No: 294 - (28/06/05)

Iron Curtain descends
Human rights activists think that things could not get worse in Belarus. Yet they do. A new decree concerning foreign travel tightens the screws of the dictatorship further. 
Under the decree, even parliament's speakers need President Alexander Lukashenka's consent to go abroad on business trips, including attending the sitting of the Union of Russia and Belarus. The document explicitly says all foreign trips require the "agreement of the Belarus president, for parliamentary delegations of Belarus, persons accompanying such delegations, chairmen of chambers of Belarus National Assembly as well as of their deputies, of other deputies of the Chamber of Representatives and of members of the National Assembly's Council of Belarus." The respective documents (also specified in the decree) are to be submitted at least ten days before the departure.
The term of the foreign trips won't exceed two days. Even the top officials, whose positions are added to the list of the high state chairs of Belarus, are to report to the president in detail about the outstanding results of the foreign tours within ten days on their completion.
Lukashenka, like all dictators, sees treason lurking everywhere, even, indeed especially, in his own entourage. Treason needs to be nipped in the bud. It is not paranoia; because he is quite right to think he is widely loathed in the upper echelons of society. Actually in some of the lower ones too, where his populist allure is flaking, although the former farm boss still has his supporters in the countryside where his folksiness goes down well.
It seems in Belarus now only President Lukashenka is held accountable to no one. Like late last year, he may freely go on a so-called working visit to Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, to ski in the mountains or to play hockey against the women's national team of the country. As for the West, Lukashenka has been long banned from it.

Belarus slams Bush's inititative
Lukashenka would not want to go there anyway. He fears and loathes the West and all it stands for. Lukashenka in recent months has spoken out against national revolutions kicking out strong-arm governments in former Soviet republics, Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, charging that Washington financed the insurrections, which is not of course entirely untrue, particularly in Ukraine.
A statement made by US President George W Bush recently indicates that preparations are underway to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, Belarussian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ruslan Yesin has told the Interfax News Agency, obviously acting on orders from above.
In his statement, Bush proposed creating a corps of government workers to support emerging democracies. "It is obvious that the US is continuing its line of actions that go beyond the boundaries of international law. Its overt preparations for interference in foreign states' international affairs are also evident," Yesin was quoted as saying. "Such initiatives should receive an uncompromising assessment from the international community and should be fended off resolutely," the spokesman said.
Minsk is quite right to be worried, as is shown by a recent spat between Washington and Moscow on the issue.

International spotlight falls on Minsk (Special Report by RFE/RL)
US President George Bush has responded to Moscow's accusations that the US is attempting to provoke a revolution in Belarus by naming Lukashenka Europe's last dictator and calling on US allies to stand up and be counted in the cause of strengthening democracy.
The following report by Robert Parsons is reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036. Funded by the US Congress.

Bush delivered a quick rebuff to Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), on 17 May when the US leader described Belarus as Europe's last dictatorship and praised the efforts of its neighbouring countries to promote freedom in Belarus. He was speaking at the International Republican Institute in Washington, which Patrushev accused recently of plotting to undermine the government of Belarusian President Alexsandar Lukashenka. As RFE/RL reports, there are signs of growing international interest in Belarus as it prepares for next year's presidential election. Fresh from his triumphant visit to two of Europe's newest democracies, Latvia and Georgia, President Bush was in messianic mood when he addressed the International Republican Institute (IRI), an organization that seeks to promote democracy worldwide. Bush urged friends and allies of the US to stand up and be counted in the cause of strengthening democracy around the world. And he noted that some of the most active supporters of democracy were those who had themselves suffered under tyrannies. With the help of the IRI, Bush said, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia were working with civil leaders in Belarus to bring freedom to Europe's last dictatorship.

A calculated slap in the face
It was a calculated slap in the face for Russian FSB head Patrushev, who earlier in May singled out the IRI for particular criticism. Addressing the State Duma, Patrushev said the organization was plotting the continuation of velvet revolutions in the post-Soviet territory, including Belarus. "Five million dollars has been assigned in 2005 for the implementation by this nongovernmental organization of programs to finance opposition movements in Belarus," Patrushev said. "At the present moment, they are looking into how to involve Ukrainian 'orange' activists in training of opposition members in Belarus and creating a network of opposition youth organizations." US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher described Patrushev's remarks as completely false and mostly ridiculous. "Our election aid in Belarus and elsewhere is for civic participation in the election process, balanced media coverage, nonpartisan political party training, election monitoring, and electoral administration. these programs are nonpartisan, they're transparent in nature, and we'll conduct them in Belarus in order to support efforts to build civil society and democracy," Boucher said.

Patrushev barking up the right tree
Yet Patrushev is undoubtedly correct in thinking that the US and its European allies see the presidential election in Belarus in 2006 as an opportunity to unseat President Lukashenka. The pressure on the man who has systematically crushed all political opposition since his election in 1994 is growing inexorably. A series of European leaders used the summit of the Council of Europe in Warsaw this week to call for change in Belarus. Lukashenka is used to criticism from the US and EU. What makes the new attacks different is that many of them now come from Eastern Europe and former republics of the Soviet Union. On 17 May, Slovakia added its voice to the swelling chorus of condemnation. The detention of yet another prominent opposition leader this week was, it said, further evidence of political motivated pressure on the opposition and media in Belarus. Poland, which borders Belarus, has become one of Lukashenka's most outspoken critics. On Wednesday, it expelled a Belarusian diplomat in retaliation for the expulsion of the first secretary of the Polish Embassy in Minsk one day before. Earlier, at the summit of the Council of Europe, Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski said that "widespread violations of elementary principles of democracy and human rights in Belarus" were not acceptable. His foreign minister, Adam Rotfeld, made much the same point. "In Belarus, the internal system has to change," Rotfeld said. "It is the last example of the sort of museum piece that the Council of Europe does not accept."

Lukashenka can take the heat
Lukashenka might be feeling the heat, but isolation is a condition to which he has grown accustomed. He makes no secret of his contempt for international as well as domestic opinion. His opponents, both at home and abroad, will be encouraged by the collapse of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in the elections in Ukraine in late 2004. But Lukashenka is a tougher proposition altogether. He enjoys a solid nucleus of support in Belarus and he has repeatedly demonstrated his readiness to use force when threatened.

Belarus expels Polish diplomat
Poland is now deemed to be in the dangerous Western camp by Minsk. Belarus expelled a Polish diplomat on May 27th in a tit for tat exchange, Deutsche Presse-Agneur (dpa) reported, citing a ministry of foreign affairs statement. 
Minsk embassy legation member, Marek Butko, was given 24 hours to leave the former Soviet republic. The Belarussian announcement came less than a month after Warsaw expelled a Belarussian diplomat possible involved in espionage in Poland. Butko was kicked out of Belarus because of his "interference in Belarussian internal political processes," the statement said. Butko's further presence in Belarus "poses a danger to Belarussian society," the government said.
Butko had acted as an important link between Western governments and Belarus' often-repressed opposition. He also had maintained contact with ethnic Polish groups living in Belarus. Lukashenka has accused Poland and other NATO-member governments of funding Belarussian opposition groups in an attempt to unseat him. Again, this is not paranoia. It is quite likely to be true. The regime is trapped in a vicious circle of alienation from all and sundry, whether abroad or at home.

Independent radio for Belarus
As if to prove Lukashenka right at what a snake pit lies to the west, Polish and Lithuanian politicians have joined Belarus' opposition in supporting "Radio Free Belarus," a new Polish-based private station aiming at cracking Belarus' authoritarian media monopoly, Polish press reports said recently.
According to Poland's Zycie Warzawy daily, the station will beam news from its headquarters in Bialystok, eastern Poland, over the border into Belarus, providing an alternative to state media which is strictly controlled by Lukashenka. The greatest problem for Belarus citizens is the lack of access to independent information, which the new radio station should do much to correct.

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INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT

Belarus boosts industrial output

Industrial production in Belarus in January-April 2005 amounted to 18.7 trillion Belarussian roubles in current prices, which is 11.2% more in constant prices than in the same period in 2004, a source at the ministry for statistics and analysis said, Interfax News Agency reported.
According to the source, in the first four months of 2005 the largest year-on-year growth in industrial production was recorded in the fuel industry (16.5%), engineering and metal processing (15.4%), food production (14.4%), iron and steel (12.8%), construction material production (11.2%), forestry, timber, pulp and paper production (8%), chemicals and petrochemicals (4.6%) and light industry (3.4%). Belarussian GDP in January-April 2005 increased 9.5% year-on-year to 16.4 trillion Belarussian roubles, the data showed.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Siemens to supply goods to MTS

Germany's Siemens Communications and large Russian cellular operator Mobile TeleSystms have signed a framework agreement worth US$265m for equipment supplies, a Siemens statement said, Interfax News Agency reported.
Siemens will supply equipment to expand the MTS mobile network in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. The main aims of the agreement are to expand switchboard and radio subsystems and also to integrate platforms for IT services. For this Siemens will install additional receiver-transmitter stations, new switchboard equipment and software.

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