Books on Belarus
Principal ethnic groups
After seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR, Belarus attained its independence in 1991. It has retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than any of the other former Soviet republics. Belarus and Russia signed a treaty on a two-state union on 8 December 1999 envisioning greater political and economic integration but, to date, neither side has actively sought to implement the accord.
Update No: 281 - (27/05/04)
The Belarus dictator, Alexander Lukashenka, may be nearing the end of the road, although it is difficult to see what the exact end-game would be. He has fallen out with President Putin, something he was careful never to do with Yeltsin.
He and Yeltsin had something in common, both being farm boys who made it in the big city. A pair of country yokels made good, who like a good drink and a raucous laugh after doing business. Both big burly men, they were chums and boisterous ones at that.
Putin is a very different kettle of fish, a townie from St Petersburg, not known for his warmth or camaraderie. He is abstemious and restrained, as a good former spy should be.
He must regard Lukashenka as a hick of the first order, which, indeed, he is.
February gas spat
Last winter in February the Russians decided to show their annoyance with Lukashenka for Belarus' dilatoriness in paying for its Russian gas by cutting off supplies for a day. It also insisted on a rise in price before gas supply would be resumed to US$50 per 1,000 cu m, a snip on world markets.
At first Lukashenka was furious and abusive, calling the deed an act of economic 'terrorism.' He did not hesitate to point the finger at Putin personally. Then he became more conciliatory, but with a heavy dose of sarcasm, saying that the money to pay back arrears and future bills would come from veterans from the trenches and from Chernobyl victims.
The "5 Plus" bloc
It requires real courage to oppose Lukashenka, but that is, exactly what many exasperated by his domineering buffoonery are now doing. One literally takes one's life in one's hands by doing so. Journalists who say things out of turn simply disappear. The events in Georgia, coming after those in Serbia, are giving the opposition new heart and fresh hope.
There is a new opposition bloc, indeed it calls itself that. It is organising itself ahead of coming parliamentary elections. The Bloc consists of five, embattled democratic parties, joined by a wide array of political and civil rights groups, who are united by one objective, to remove the baleful shadow of the president, who has been astride the pinnacle of power for ten years now. He will not go willingly.
The West needs to keep monitoring the situation and giving whatever help it can. Unfortunately Lukashenka is not without his supporters in the countryside, who like his folksy ways. But among the students and the young people in the towns he is widely
despised and detested.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Belarus, Oman sign investment accord
A strong impetus has been given for the development of Belarusian-Omani bilateral relations in the investment sector. The governments of Belarus and the Sultanate have signed an agreement on the encouragement and mutual protection of investment. Belarusian-Omani relations have not developed over the last decade, although they have a huge potential. Representatives of the two sides have spoken about it with a regret. Cooperation in the oil-refining and petrochemical sectors may become a priority.
"We regard the Sultanate of Oman as a very important strategic partner among the Gulf Arab states," the Belarusian Economics Minister, Mikalay Zaychanka, said, Belarusian television reported.
"Unfortunately, the current level of the development of bilateral trade and economic cooperation does not correspond with the countries' potential and has developed very poorly. Therefore, great opportunities lie ahead," the Omani Minister of National Economy, Ahmad Makki, said.
Belarusian First Deputy Foreign Minister, Vasil Puhachow, said the mutual understanding is deepening between the two countries. The first high-level official contact in the history of Belarusian-Omani relations took place in April. An intergovernmental agreement on trade and economic cooperation and a memorandum on mutual understanding were signed during Belarusian Foreign Minister, Syarhey Martynaw's, visit to Oman. And now the Omani leadership has sent a delegation to Belarus for the first time.
Belarus, Poland sign trade deal
Belarusian Economy Minister, Mikalay Zaychanka, and Polish Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Jerzy Hausner, signed an agreement on economic cooperation and trade between Poland and Belarus in Warsaw, Belarusian Radio reported.
"The agreement we have signed is important because it has filled the legal vacuum which emerged as a result of Poland's accession to the EU and invalidation of the previous agreement," Zaychanka said.
"This document sets forth a framework for the governments' actions to put into place the most advantageous conditions for economic entities of both countries," he added.
Jerzy Hausner pointed out that Belarus was the first non-EU nation with which Poland had concluded such an agreement.
"I would like to stress that this is the first agreement of a new kind, which the Polish government has signed with a non-EU member. It will allow us to further our economic ties within the framework of our EU obligations," Hausner said.
Trade surplus at US$43.6m
The Belarussian foreign trade surplus in January-February 2004 amounted to US$43.6m compared with a trade deficit of US$74m in the first two months of 2003, a source in the ministry for statistics and analysis said, Interfax News Agency reported recently.
Belarussian foreign trade increased 18.9% year-on-year to US$3.96bn in January-February this year. Exports increased 22.9% in the reporting period to US$2.001bn, with imports up 15% to US$1.957bn. The trade deficit for goods in January-February amounted to US$33.5m, an 87% drop year-on-year. The surplus in trade with services increased 1.5% to US$77.1m.
Our analysts and
editorial staff have many years experience in analysing and reporting
events in these nations. This knowledge is available in the form of
geopolitical and/or economic country reports on any individual or grouping
of countries. Such reports may be bespoke to the specification of clients
or by access to one of our existing specialised reports.
For further information email: