Books on Belarus
Principal ethnic groups
Update No: 290 - (25/02/05)
Putin' bugbear; the embarrassing clown
Alexander Lukashenka, the dictator of Belarus, is turning into an embarrassment
for Russia's leaders. He keeps pressing for a union with Russia - but on equal
terms. This is not an attractive proposition to the reformers in charge of the
Russian economy, who do not want to see their country's resources squandered in
baling out the basket-case that is the Belarussian economy.
Recently Lukashenka met with the chairman of Dagestan State Council, Magomedali
Magomedov, where the problem of Russian-Belarussian union was commented upon.
Lukashenka mentioned that Russia's leadership submitted a rather insulting
proposition to Belarus, an unacceptable variant for further integration. This
proposition means that Belarus would be deprived of sovereignty and become equal
to other subjects of the Russian Federation. In Lukashenka's words, the
proposition would be designed to bar the creation of a union state between
Russia and Belarus.
From the very beginning, in the view of Lukashenka, both countries, Russia and
Belarus, intended to create a union where the equality of rights of both members
would be preserved. Champions of unification, pre-eminently himself, hoped that
this union would be a legal successor to the Soviet Union, where the positive
experience accumulated during the Soviet era, as he sees it, would be used.
Another variant of Russian-Belarussian integration is to follow the European
Union model. However, as Lukashenka says, this model would disagree with the
treaty currently in force on the creation of a union state, a treaty concluded
with much effort in the Yeltsin years. At the same time, the Belarussian
president said that the country would never severe relations with Russia.
Alexander Lukashenka said that Belarus would do its best to keep the
Russia-Belarus union and make it attractive for other republics of the former
Soviet Union. Belarus has always been an honest and reliable partner for Russia,
which is why the country demands an adequate attitude, Lukashenka says.
The truth is Putin is far less tolerant of the maestro of Minsk than was
Yeltsin. He regards him as an embarrassing clown, which he is. Yeltsin had his
own clownish side and regarded Lukashenka with a certain amused condescension, a
younger man with wild ideas to be indulged. The prodigal son.
Putin looks on him quite differently as a man of his own age who is an infernal
Lukashenka says that suggestions concerning the future of the union state were
never completely discussed during negotiations with Putin. Indeed! The
Belarussian President said at a press conference recently: "Vladimir Putin
saw documents with the suggestions right before the press-conference and glanced
over the papers in my presence. It was an improvisation right at the press
conference. Among other suggestions, it was mentioned that Belarussia should
hold a referendum; no referendum was mentioned during the negotiations."
Lukashenka said after the press-conference that he had been asked to organize a
referendum to answer three questions: whether Belarus wanted to be an equal
member of the union with Russia, wants to become a RF subject and form seven
regions in the Russian Federation, or whether Belarus agreed to form authorities
of the union based on the Russian Constitution. The last suggestion means that
functions of the current authorities of the Russian-Belarussian union should be
handed over to Russia. What is more, it is nonsense to suggest that Belarus
should become a RF subject and form seven regions. Lukashenka thinks that
someone just wants to let Vladimir Putin down.
Actually it is plain that it is Putin who wants to let Lukashenka down!
The following statement by Lukashenka admits as much. The truth is beginning to
penetrate even the befuddled brain of the Minsk mountebank: "If we take
into consideration what kind of people surround President Putin, it is perfectly
clear that Russian-Belarussian integration will be prevented. It would be
interesting to know whether Vladimir Putin knew himself that he would be given
documents with contradictory suggestions. Did he authorize this farce himself or
not? Were the suggestions voiced at the press-conference an improvisation or a
thoroughly weighed performance?"
Lukashenka leery of Bush
Things are even worse if Lukashenka looks westwards. George Bush's inaugural
address on global television has startled him no end, as have the successful
elections to parliament in Iraq, to be followed by the trial of Saddam Hussein.
In this he is not alone. Every dictator in the world fears being held to account
for their misdeeds and put in the dock likewise.
That is why they all put their hopes on Bush's defeat last November. They
believed or hoped John Kerry would never come after them. Now they know George
Bush just might. Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong Il, Than Shwe, Ayatollah Khameini, and
Fidel Castro all know that there is somebody gunning for them who happens to be
the most powerful man in the world.
Condoleezza Rice specified the new hit list in her testimony to the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee on her confirmation hearing as the secretary of
state. She named six "Outposts of Tyranny" - North Korea, Iran, Cuba,
Belarus, Zimbabwe, Burma.
In Belarus, Lukashenka knows that Ukraine's Orange Revolution is being exported
across his southern border. Putin is not going to come to his rescue. He has
nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
Belarus, Lebanon sign several agreements
The first round of talks between Belarusian President, Alexsandr Lukashenka and
his Lebanese counterpart, Emile Lahhud, finished recently with the signing of
three important documents. The negotiations took place in the Ba'bda Palace of
the Lebanese president, Nationwide TV, Minsk reported.
The Belarusian president's visit had a very busy schedule. He met the speaker of
the Chamber of Deputies, Nabih Birri, and the Lebanese prime minister, Umar
Karami. During the meeting it became known that the Lebanese parliament had
ratified the agreements on military and scientific cooperation previously signed
After that the Belarusian president left for the residence of the Lebanese
president. Both presidents held a confidential meeting in the ambassadors' hall.
After the negotiations, they went out into the garden to plant a Lebanese cedar.
The Belarusian president then made a note in the book of the honourable guests.
Then both presidents moved on to a congress hall where three bilateral
agreements on cooperation in the fields of tourism, international transportation
and counteraction of crime were signed.
Belarus reports record-breaking trade with Russia
Trade between Russia and Belarus has reached a record-breaking US$17.6bn in
2004, the Belarusian News Agency, Belapan, reported on February 3rd, quoting the
Belarusian Foreign Ministry. This represents a year-on-year increase of 41.1 per
cent, the agency added.
Belarusian exports to Russia amounted to US$6.5bn, while imports stood at
US$11.1bn, the agency said.
Belarussian web-hosting up 40%
The web-hosting market in Belarus grew 40% in 2004, according to a survey
conducted by domestic web-hosting firm Extmedia, DM Europe reported recently.
The total web hosting sales volume in the country came to €370,000 in 2004,
some 40 per cent up on 2003. The group expects that by the end of 2005, the
Belarussian web hosting sales volume will climb to €740,000. The country's 3
leading web-hosting companies, Extmedia, Relsoft and Beltelecom, together hold a
30% share of the Belarussian market, with the companies claiming 15.5% (1,500
websites), 8.5% (700 websites) and 6% (500 websites) of the market respectively.
Some 14 companies have between 1 and 3% of the country's web-hosting market
share, which, together, claim a 25% of the market.
MINERALS & METALS
Belarus posts increase in gold, forex reserves in 2004
The gross gold and foreign exchange reserves of the National Bank of Belarus (NBB)
totalled US$1.026bn as of 1 January 2005, an increase from US$721m as of 1
January 2004, the Belarusian News Agency, Belapan, reported on 2 February,
quoting the NBB board chairman, Pyotr Prakapovich.
The net gold and currency reserves of the NBB stood at US$632m as of 1 January
2005, an increase from US$426m year-on-year, the news agency added.
BelCel shares redistributed
The Belarussian government has announced a redistribution of shares in BelCel, a
domestic mobile operator, DM Europe, reported recently.
The ministries of communications and the economy drafted a new agreement between
the shareholders in BelCel, which operates under the brand "Diallog."
The new agreement delivers 47% of the company to the government. Key shareholder
Infobank's holding has been reduced to 3.5% and Comstruat International's
holding has been reduced by approximately 2%, said the online news service.
Prior to the move, the Netherlands-based Comstruat International's holding has
been reduced by approximately 2%, said the online news service. Prior to the
move, the Netherlands-based Comstruat held some 50% of the operator, Infobank
held 17%, the state owned Minsk city telephone network, MGTS, 29.79% and
Bigger cellphone network
Belarussian subscriptions to Russia-based mobile operator MTS have climbed to
1.2m, according to data from Belarussian mobile operators, a growth of 10% over
the course of December, DM Europe reported recently.
MTS has now installed some 700 base stations covering 52% of the country's
territory and also launched WAP services. This coming year, the company is
planning to install a further 500 base stations in Belarus. Rival operator
Velcom currently has 1.14m subscribers, a growth of 7% on the start of December.