Books on Belarus
Principal ethnic groups
Update No: 292 - (26/04/05)
Lukashenka says revolution impossible in Belarus
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenka, only too well aware of what has
happened in Georgia, Ukraine and now Kyrgyzstan, said that the political
situation in Belarus is stable and there are no prerequisites for a revolution
Talking about the "coloured revolutions" in former Soviet countries at
a press session, Lukashenka said that he has "no concern" related to
this issue. Lukashenka noted that the country's economy is developing and the
citizens' prosperity is growing. "We have no reasons, no prerequisites to
gather on squares," Lukashenka said.
Lukashenka said he is sure that no revolutions will occur in Belarus. "A
revolution will not occur in Belarus. Lukashenka can be taken down, that's
elementary, but only at elections," he told journalists in Baranovichi.
He asserts that a change of authority according to the Georgian or Kyrgyz
scenario would be impossible in Belarus. "These were not even revolutions,
it was banditry, when a couple of people took over the building where the
president's office is. That was it. So what kind of president is it?"
Lukashenka said. It is interesting that he failed to mention the most relevant
and important country from his point of view, Ukraine. Too close to home?
Back to Russia
Lukashenka's main idea for a long time is for Belarus to form a union with
Russia. He has not been successful in winning over the technocrats in Moscow to
the notion. But one person grateful to him right now for his Russophilia is no
less a figure than Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin called the shots
wrong in Ukraine recently, backing the loser in the elections there last year.
He has lost the support of the government in Moldova. For Belarus, the remaining
Slav state in the FSU, to remain loyal is now doubly appreciated.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Lukashenka felt able to describe the talks
with Putin on April 4th in Sochi as being among the most productive in their
relationship. "It was one of the most productive meetings, and it served
the main purposes of our integration," Lukashenka said.
The president emphasized particularly the economic component of the talks.
"The volume of reciprocal trade exceeded $17 billion, going up by more than
40 percent on the past year," Lukashenka said. He described the arrangement
to keep the tariffs for natural gas for Belarus in 2006 at the 2005 level as one
of the most important results of the Sochi meeting.
For its part, Belarus will keep up the most acceptable conditions for the
further development and levelling out of the volumes of transportation of
Russian gas over its territory, the president said. Besides, Lukashenka noted,
there are no problems with concluding long-term, up to 2020, arrangements on the
volumes of supplies of fuel and energy sources to Belarus.
The Belarussian president said the questions of the single currency and of
adopting a constitutional act had been raised at the meeting in Sochi, with what
effect he failed to mention.
Besides, the presidents confirmed the earlier arrangements to coordinate actions
on the international arena, coordinated steps toward acceding to the World Trade
Organization, and also exchanged opinions on the prospects of the development of
the common economic space of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine; the
Eurasian Economic Community; and the future of the Commonwealth of Independent
Belarus no longer the preferred conduit for Russian gas to Europe
One of the key results of the Sochi meeting Lukashenka said was the
agreement on preserving the natural gas tariffs for Belarus in 2006 at the 2005
level. "For our part, our republic will preserve maximally agreeable
conditions for the further development and build-up of Russian gas
transportation via Belarus", Lukashenka said.
He added that "the Belarussian side is ready to grant Gazprom the required
preferences for the development of the gas transport infrastructure in the
territory of our republic". Herein lies obvious mutual benefit for both
Russians and Belarussians. The Belarussian government is ready to interact with
Gazprom in building the second thread of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline,
For the moment the various 'coloured' revolutions in the FSU seem to be playing
into his hands.
Condi meets the opposition
But two events that must have infuriated the Minsk tyrant are as follows:-
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Belarus opposition figures in Vilnius
at the NATO meeting there in mid-April. Various statements were made, obviously
aimed at Lukashenka, about fair elections in Belarus
They are exiles and of little account in his eyes. Russian Foreign Minister
Lavrov was also there but unsurprisingly evinced no desire to meet them. For the
moment the one power that could topple Lukashenka, Russia, is showing no desire
to do so. They have no interest in regime change there, he said.
Secondly, only days after the Lukashenka meeting with Putin in Sochi, the
Russian president was signing a major gas pipeline deal with Germany's
Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, that will bypass Belarus as a transiting country.
This, after Lukashenka had thought that Belarus would be the beneficiary of
Ukraine's new leadership breaking its feudal relationship with Russia. The
Baltic Sea is the chosen route cutting out both Belarus and Ukraine.
Fitch rates Belgazprombank B-, stable outlook
Fitch Ratings, the international ratings agency, assigned the Belarus-based
Belgazprombank (BGB) ratings of long-term foreign currency B-; short-term
foreign currency B; individual E; and support 5, Interfax News Agency reported.
The outlook is stable, the rating agency said in a report. BGB's long-term,
short-term and support ratings are based on Fitch's view of the likelihood of
support for the bank being forthcoming from its main shareholder, Russian
integrated gas utility Gazprom (long-term BB, rating watch positive).
However, the sovereign risk of Belarus limits the extent to which this support
can be factored into the ratings, the statement said. BGB's individual rating
reflects its small size and franchise, weak profitability and moderate
capitalisation. It also takes into account the bank's high dependence on its
main shareholder and concentration levels on both sides of the balance sheet, as
well as significant weaknesses in the operating environment. But it also factors
in BGB's adequate, to date, asset quality and relatively strong management.
BGB's profitability is weak with a return on equity below the estimated
inflation rate and a third of revenue coming from volatile sources of income,
Although asset quality seems to be adequate at present, rapid loan growth could
result in some deterioration of asset quality. The loan book is highly
concentrated by international standards, but reported lending to related
parties, including entities of the Gazprom group, is not significant. The
majority of non-equity funding is from current accounts of customers, which are
Related parties account for a significant 19% of total customer funding. BGB's
capitalisation is undermined by the high level of fixed assets, rapid asset
growth, a highly concentrated loan book and modest loan loss reserves. BGB was
founded in 1991 and at the end of the first half last year was the ninth largest
bank in Belarus by assets and equity. Gazprom, together with its subsidiary,
Gazprombank, owns a 68% stake in the bank, while entities controlled by the
Belarussian government hold a 32% share.
Belarus gold/forex reserves grow 14%
The National Bank of Belarus' gold and forex reserves (national definition)
increased 14% over January-February to US$1.193bn on March 1st, the central bank
said, Interfax News Agency reported.
The reserves had increased 20.1% in February after contracting 5.1% in January.
Of the reserves, deposits in the national currency increased 19.6% to US$897.8m
in January-February, deposits in gold contracted 14.4% to US$169m worth, and
other assets increased 27.9% to US$126.2m.
Belarus looks to increase Mediobanca loan to 100m Euro
Belarus wants to increase the credit line extended by Italy's Mediobanca from
20m Euro to 100m Euro this year, Belarussian Deputy Economics Minister, Leonid
Demidov, said, Interfax News Agency reported.
"There will soon be a meeting with the SACE (Italy's export credit
insurance agency management, at which will be addressed the possibility of
increasing the Italian credit line to 100m Euro," Demidov said. "The
forecast on this is promising, since we have positive relations with the
Italians," he added.
Mediobanca opened the credit line under government guarantee in May last year
following a visit to Italy by Belarussian Prime Minister, Sergei Sidorsky. In
2004 "it was decided to extend government guarantees to an overall US$75m,
which is 2.6 times more than in 2003," Demidov said. But the government has
tasked Belarussian banks with raising foreign loans without governmental
guarantees on US$1bn.