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BELARUS


  

 

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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Update No: 315 - (29/03/07)

EU Extended Sanctions on Belarus Bureaucrats for Another Year
European Union officially announced on March 20th the extension of sanctions against top bureaucrats of Belarus till April 10, 2008, EUobserver.com has reported. 

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 December. 

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 sides. 

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 countries. 

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 Hanoi. 

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 officials!

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ENERGY

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 reported.
"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.

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FOREIGN LOANS

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. 

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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 reported.
"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.

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