Books on Belarus
Principal ethnic groups
Update No: 308 - (29/08/06)
Chavez comes to Minsk
Belarus may be a pariah state for the West, with its top 50 officials banned
from travelling the EU or the US, but it was on the itinerary of Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez recently, as were Russia and another pariah for the US,
Chavez's performance there was in keeping with the character of an eight-nation
tour that took him from Argentina to Benin. At each stop, the self-styled "Bolivarian
revolutionary" delivered superheated denunciations of the United States and
called for a global coalition to combat "the US imperialist monster."
In Minsk, where he met Belarusan President Alexander Lukashenka, commonly known
as "Europe's last dictator," Chavez received a bear hug from the
hugely delighted Belarus leader. He does not have so many allies left, even the
Russians distancing themselves from the maverick dictator.
It must have been music to his ears to hear Chavez say that the United States is
"a senseless, blind, stupid giant that understands nothing about human
rights, humaneness, culture, consciousness and awareness," his sentiments
to a tee.
Belarus court jails four election monitors
To grasp the notion of "human rights, humaneness, culture, consciousness
and awareness" upheld by Lukashenka, one can review the following.
The Minsk Central Court on August 4 sentenced four independent election monitors
for their affiliation with an "unregistered" organization which
"infringed on citizens' rights." The four were members of the
Partnership monitoring group, which had received monetary assistance from the
US-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs [advocacy
The group had been planning to observe the controversial presidential election
in March, which resulted in five more years of power for incumbent Alexander
Lukashenka amidst allegations of fraud, but the monitors were arrested prior to
The election monitors were sentenced to prison for periods ranging from six
months to two years, and their convictions have been criticized by the US State
Department, which called for Belarus to release all those imprisoned on
politically motivated charges. Defeated presidential candidate Aleksandr
Milinkevich also voiced his opposition to their detentions, saying they had
received a "political punishment."
Belarus' relations with Russia became more pragmatic
Relations between Russia and Belarus have become more pragmatic, Alexander
Lukashenka said at August 1's meeting with the heads of Belarusian diplomatic
missions who flocked to Minsk for annual consultations in late July. He knows
full well that his regime is totally dependent on Russia and must be very
worried about the succession to Putin, due to step down in 2008.
It is not very comfortable for one state to be vitally reliant on anther for its
security and the security of its governance, as the Israelis may one day
discover vis-à-vis the US - and Belarus vis-à-vis Russia.
Lukashenka picks his words gingerly on this delicate subject. "I'm sure
that we will find a reasonable balance in relations with Russia, proceeding from
the strategic importance of ally ties for both sides. Strategy is not
traded," official information sources quoted him as saying.
According to the Belarusian leader, "the union with Russia brings Belarus
both political and economic benefits, including equal rights for Belarusians and
Russians on the territory of both countries, an extremely high level of economic
cooperation and a common defence space."
"Belarus and Russia also can maintain mutually beneficial cooperation in
the space industry," he added.
Lukashenka appoints new ambassador to Russia
On August 4 Lukashenka appointed new ambassadors to Russia, Great Britain
and Kazakstan, as well as two new presidential aides, all key counties for
The Belarusian leader chose regime stalwarts for these posts. He appointed
Vasily Dolgolyov, formerly deputy prime minister/authorized representative of
the president to Russia, as ambassador to the Russian Federation; Vasily Gapeyev,
another former deputy prime minister, as ambassador to Kazakhstan; and Aleksandr
Mikhnevich, formerly a deputy minister of foreign affairs, as ambassador to the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and to the Republic of
In addition, the head of state appointed Vladimir Puzyrevsky as presidential
aide/chief inspector for the Brest region, and Anatoly Sivak as presidential
aide/chief inspector for the city of Minsk.
While speaking to the newly appointed ambassadors, Lukashenka suggested stepping
up efforts to increase Belarus' exports to Kazakstan, Russia and the UK.
He pointed to the advancement of national interests and an increase in trade as
the main tasks of the embassy in Moscow and Belarus' representatives in the
Belarusian-Russian integration agencies.
The head of state directed the new ambassadors to Kazakstan and the UK to
diversify Belarus' exports to those countries. Kazakstan is an old partner of
course. It was the demarche to the UK which was the more intriguing.
The London-Minsk axis
The British have been the least vociferous of the EU states in denouncing
the Minsk regime; and the City of London and big business, as always, are eying
investment trading opportunities there.
Lukashenka noted that the UK is one of the most influential nations in the world
in both the economic and political spheres. Belarus should strengthen and expand
ties with that country and look for new forms of cooperation with it, he said,
suggesting that Belarus should supply Britain with not only tractors but also
machine tools, optical instruments, other goods and even agricultural produce.
Lukashenka said that both the UK and Ireland provide considerable humanitarian
aid to Belarus. According to him, the two countries should switch from purely
charitable activities to the "generation of serious mutually beneficial
investment projects," including those aimed at the rehabilitation of
Belarus' Chernobyl-affected areas. He added that banks could be involved in such
Apart from performing the functions of an ambassador, Mikhnevich will have to
deal with matters concerning Belarus' bid to join the World Trade Organization,
However, one thing that will not happen is that the Queen would ever visit so
long as he remains in power, unlike the Baltic states, which are welcoming Her
Majesty on a three-nation tour on October 17-20. Nor is an invitation to
Buckingham Palace on the cards for him. The last time a communist leader was
invited to stay there, the Romanian dictator Ceaucescu in 1978, he used the
occasion to arrange spying activities on all and sundry, including industrial
Iran establishes new car assembly plant in Belarus
A new assembly plant for Iranian-designed cars has been inaugurated by Iranian
Minister of Industries, Ali-Reza Tahmasbi, in the Belorussian capital of Minsk,
the official IRNA news agency reported.
The assembly line for "Samands," a model of passenger car of Iran's
Khodro Industrial Group, the biggest automobile manufacturing company in the
Middle East, was inaugurated in the Unison Company in Minsk.
The plant will assemble up to 1,000 Iranian-designed "Samands" car by
year's end, and up to 6,000 by next year, according to the report.
Khodro, which "had mapped out plans for entering East European markets five
years ago," picked the Belarus's Unison Company to carry out the project
"taking into account the country's valuable car manufacturing
experience," Tahmasbi was quoted as saying.
The Iranian minister also predicted that the car assembly line would boost the
annual volume of trade exchanges between Iran and Belarus to US$100 million, the
Belorussian Minister of Industry, Anatoly Rusetsky, who also attended the
inaugural ceremony, hailed the importance of bolstering economic relations with
Iran and noted that the two countries were cooperating on several joint
AVIATION & SPACE
Belarus to announce tender for new national satellite
Belarus will announce a tender in the near future for a new national BelKa
satellite to replace the one destroyed when a Russian rocket crashed in
Kazakstan in July, a source involved in the negotiations said, RIA Novosti.
A Dnepr rocket carrying the Belarusian satellite, along with several
international satellites, crashed shortly after lift off from the Baikonur space
centre due to a first stage engine shutdown on July 26th.
"We expect Belarus to announce a tender for a new BelKa national satellite,
in which at least three Russian companies will take part," the source said.
"One option is to build the satellite using the platform created by
[Russian rocket and space corporation] Energia, and another is to use the
production platform of [Russian state research and production space centre]
Khrunichev, with optical and electronic work to be carried out by Belarus,"
Iran starts building cement plant in Belarus
An Iranian company has started building a cement plant in Belarus, MNA reported.
Iran's Azarab Co of Arak has embarked on a major project to design and build a
cement production plant in this republic. The plant will be capable of producing
one million tons of cement per year, the company's managing director said.
Azarab Company's competitive advantages over its rival firms from countries such
as Germany, China and Romania led to its winning the bid for the implementation
of the project, he maintained.
Development of the 160 million Euro project in the former Soviet republic will
take about three years for an average workforce of 500 personnel, he also
Being Azarab company's sixth foreign contract, the company has also concluded
preliminary agreements with the East European republic to build a gas-fuelled
and a hydroelectric power plant there, Nezamabadi further announced.