Books on Belarus
Update No: 315 - (29/03/07)
EU Extended Sanctions on Belarus Bureaucrats for Another
European Union officially announced on March 20th the extension of sanctions
against top bureaucrats of Belarus till April 10, 2008, EUobserver.com has
European Union first imposed sanctions on Alexander Lukashenka and 34 top-rank
bureaucrats of Belarus in late March of 2006, following the crackdown on the
opposition during presidential elections in Belarus and re-election of President
Alexander Lukashenka by a whopping 76%. The sanctions froze accounts of
blacklisted officials and banned them from entering the EU member states.
Similar restrictions for Belarus are currently in force in the United States.
Even though Belarus made a few attempts to improve relations with Europe in the
recent months, particularly after gas clashes with Russia, EU is adamant.
Belarus will not turn for the better until it carries out large-scale democratic
reforms, EU made clear by extending the sanctions.
Lukashenka does not take things lying down. He immediately announced last year
in retaliation that he had his little black list of EU and US officials and
ministers who are persona non grata in Belarus. Should any of them rashly decide
so much as to holiday in Belarus, they would be put smartly on the next plane
back. We can expect a renewal of the remit of the black list shortly.
Moscow and Minsk in tense talks
Actually relations with Moscow are strained too, even if they still talk. The
dispute between the two former Soviet countries came after Moscow forced Belarus
to accept a major increase in the cost of gas supplies to the country in late
Russia later imposed a hefty duty on oil exports to Belarus, claiming its
neighbour was costing it up to $4bn in lost revenues each year.
In retaliation, Belarus slapped a $45-per-tonne transit tax on oil shipments
from Russia, but withdrew it after tense top-level government talks between both
At its height, the dispute hit Russian oil supplies to Germany, Poland, Ukraine
and other European countries via the Druzhba pipeline.
The closure of the pipe was condemned by the International Energy Agency as a
"grave" incident. Agency boss Claude Mandil said the supply cut-off
undermined faith in Russia as an oil exporter and was "something that
should never have happened."
Russia has agreed to slash duty it will charge Belarus for crude oil, ending a
damaging row between the two states.
Belarus will now pay $53 a tonne for oil it imports, instead of the $180 Russia
had previously demanded, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said. It will
also share with Russia profits from the refined oil products it exports to other
Belarussian president visits Vietnam
Lukashenka actually prefers Hanoi to Moscow these days, making an
end-of-March visit there this year. This is the second Vietnam visit by the
Belarussian President in the past decade after the first in April 1997. Since
then the two countries have exchanged many high-level delegations.
During the visit to Vietnam, President Lukashenka was scheduled to hold talks
with President Nguyen Minh Triet and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, meet with
National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong and pay a courtesy visit to Party
General Secretary Nong Duc Manh.
The Hanoi-Minsk axis; diplomatic, economic ties
Belarussian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorski visited Vietnam in 2004, and
Chairman of the Republic Council of the Belarussian parliament G. Noviski
followed suit in 2005.
The latest visit to Vietnam by a Belarussian official, Deputy Foreign Minister
Viktar Gaisenak, took place in October 2006.
Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong visited Belarus in 1998, followed by Prime
Minister Phan Van Khai in 2000, Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh in 2002
and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Van An in 2003.
Economic-commercial relations between the two countries saw remarkable
development in recent years. Two-way trade turnover in 2006 was US$49.4 million,
$7 million higher than 2005.
Vietnam exports natural rubber, rice, seafood, tea, cashew nuts to Belarus and
imports potassium fertilizer, trucks for mining, tractors and automobile spare
parts from the country.
However, bilateral economic-commercial relations remain modest, not matching the
two countries' potential and political relations.
In December 2005, the Vietnam-Belarus Inter-Governmental Commission on
Economic, Commercial, Scientific and Technological Cooperation held a meeting in
The two sides exchanged views on expanding cooperation in economy, commerce,
industry, energy, agriculture, oil refinery as well as education and training.
Ukraine arrests Belarus nat'l rowing team training in Pridnestrovie
There is something of the clown about Lukashenka and his regime. This
appears to inspire clownish behaviour in others.
Members of the national rowing team from Belarus have been arrested by Ukraine
border guards while training. They are charged with having crossed into
Ukraine's side of the Kuchurgan lake shared by Ukraine and Pridnestrovie. They
are in Pridnestrovie to practice for the upcoming world championship.
Ukraine's coastguard arrested 11 rowers from Belarus who mistakenly crossed into
Ukrainian waters from Pridnestrovie. There are no indications of where the
demarcation line lies. Moreover, rowing skiffs are not exactly war ships.
This rather goes to show that border guards are not the brightest of security
Beltransgaz stake ready to be sold to Gazprom
A deal whereby a stake in the Beltransgaz oil transportation company will be
sold to Russia's Gazprom has been agreed upon with the exception of several
provisions, Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister, Vladimir Semashko, said,
Interfax News Agency reported.
"The Russian side insists that the domestic gas mark-up would be US$18 per
1,000 cubic metres. We are ready to do so, but only from January 1, 2011 when
Gazprom will own a 50 per cent stake in Beltransgaz," he said.
Belarus would agree to do so today, but on the condition that the Russian side
guarantee the full-scale operation of the Belarusian gas transportation system,
which is now operating at 50 per cent of its capacity, he said. The full-scale
operation of the gas pipeline will generate greater income than a mark-up, he
said. "The process of setting up the joint venture is underway. By June 1st
we will have sold 12.5 per cent in Beltransgaz to Gazprom," he said. Russia
insists that the treaty be signed in Moscow and under Russian jurisdiction
instead of in Minsk. "However, the company is located in Belarusian
territory which means they should come here to buy the stake," he said.
Russian representatives earlier said the Belarusian side is trying to cancel the
mark-up fee of US$18 of the gas sold by Beltransgaz to Beltopgaz for further
sale to local consumers. Gazprom claims that if it is cancelled Beltransgaz will
start making losses.
Minsk, Kiev could discuss energy transportation
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has not ruled out that cooperation in energy
transportation might be entered on the agenda of the talks during Belarusian
President, Alexander Lukashenko's, visit to Ukraine, Foreign Ministry spokesman,
Ondriy Deshytsa, said at a press briefing in Kiev on February 27th, New Europe
"If all parties show interest in joint energy transportation and if
agreements are reached at the governmental level and between companies, this
issue could be entered onto the agenda of bilateral or multilateral talks,"
he said. Preliminary talks are being held on cooperation in this area.
"They are being held between agencies interested in implementing such
projects," Deshytsa said.
Belarusbank attracts 20m Euro credit from Bayern LB
Large Belarusian bank Belarusbank has signed a framework agreement with
Germany's Bayern LB for a credit of 20 million Euro, the Belarusian banks said
in a press release, New Europe reported.
The German bank will provide Belarusbank with tied long-term resources to
finance supplies of machinery and equipment to Belarussian companies.
State-controlled Belarusbank was in 16th place in 2005 in the Interfax-1000
rating of CIS banks by assets and in first place among 30 banks in Belarus.
MINERALS & METALS
Resource base for steel industry
Belarus will continue efforts this year to prepare its own resource base for
steel production under a state mineral resource development program for the
period to 2010, the deputy head of geology at the Natural Resources and
Environmental Protection Ministry, Andrei Kovkhuto, said, Interfax News Agency
"This is a priority," he said, adding that the programme aims to carry
out an optimal amount of exploration work, including in terms of financial
resources. Two iron ore deposits have been discovered in Belarus - Okolov in the
Minsk region and Novoselkov in the Grodno region - and exploration is underway
to assess their reserves, Kovkhuto said. Once the commercial reserves are
assessed, "it will be possible to talk about what kind of conditions are
needed to develop the deposits, what method should be used to mine the iron ore
and what technology to use to concentrate it," he said.