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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)

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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: 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 nuisance.
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. 

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FOREIGN RELATIONS

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 in Minsk. 
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. 

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FOREIGN TRADE

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.

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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

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.

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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.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

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 Minskobltelekom 3.3%.

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.

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