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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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)

Books on Belarus

Update No: 312 - (20/12/06)

Admission of electoral fraud - against himself
President Alexander Lukashenka is among other things a clown. He is now making out that the vote that saw him elected in March was, indeed, rigged as international observers claimed at the time, but against himself.
On November 23rd he acknowledged that he rigged the March presidential election. But he claimed to have stolen the vote from himself, not from the opposition.
"Yes, we falsified the last election. I have already told the Westerners [about this]. As many as 93.5 per cent of voters voted for President Lukashenka. But they said this was not a 'European' result. So we made it 86 [per cent]. That is true," Lukashenka said. "If we were to start recounting ballots now, I don't know what we would do with them. The Europeans told us before the election that if there were 'European' figures in the election, they would recognize our election. And we tried to make European figures."
If Lukashenka, in fact, went to such lengths to be recognized by Europe to no avail, then it is easy to understand why Lukashenka is becoming increasingly bitter toward Europe, in particular, and the West in general.
He and fifty of his top people are banned from traveling to Europe. He has retaliated by putting 50 high officials of the EU on a black list; they are unable to travel to Belarus. 

Lukashenka Eyes Union With Ukraine 
Belarus's president made some surprising announcements on November 23rd as Minsk prepared to host a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Meeting in the Belarusian capital with a group of Ukrainian journalists, President Lukashenka informed them that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko had "announced" that he would not be coming to the CIS summit on November 28th, proposed the formation of a Ukrainian-Belarusian state, and even admitted to rigging Belarus's last presidential election.

News To Ukraine
The news that the Ukrainian president would not be coming to the summit came as quite a shock to the journalists, as neither Yushchenko nor any of his aides had issued such a statement. Later in the day, Vitaliy Hayduk, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, refuted Lukashenka's comments by saying Yushchenko was, in fact, planning to visit Minsk, which he duly did. 
Apparently out of concern that Yushchenko would not be meeting with Lukashenka, the Belarusian president had touted the potential success of such talks. "If only Belarus and Ukraine could reach an agreement, the configuration of economic and political relations in the region would completely change," Lukashenka said. 
Asked by the Ukrainian journalists to clarify what he had in mind, Lukashenka said Minsk and Kyiv could work out a joint stance on "oil and gas issues," including a coordinated policy on tariffs for Russian gas transit to Europe. "What if we pursued a single policy in talks with Russia on this matter?" Lukashenka said. "Would it be worse? It would be better. So let's do it." 
Lukashenka did not conceal his concern over Moscow's declared intention to increase the price it charges for natural-gas exports to Belarus in 2007. Belarus could find itself paying as much as US$200 per 1,000 cubic meters compared to the current rate of US$47. By insisting on the price hike, Gazprom has made clear that it wants Lukashenka to give up control over Beltranshaz, Belarus's gas pipeline operator.

Ukraine-Belarus State
After complaining to the Ukrainian journalists about the expected price increase and about what he sees as Moscow's intention to put Belarusian economic entities in a disadvantageous position compared to Russian businesses, Lukashenka admitted that he would welcome the idea of forming a union state with Ukraine.
He went so far as to suggest that, because of the "comparable" sizes of the two states, such a union might even be more feasible than one with Russia. 
According to the Belarusian president, such a political formation could face a bright future. "Pray God it happens some time. Believe me, everybody would have to take this [Belarusian-Ukrainian] state into consideration," Lukashenka said. "We would bargain a great deal from the world for our peoples." 
Vintsuk Vyachorka, leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, told RFE/RL's Belarus Service that, in making such comments, Lukashenka is beginning to promote an idea first proposed by the Belarusian opposition 15 years ago. At that time, Vyachorka noted, the opposition sought to seek closer ties and, if possible, a union with Ukraine and the Baltic states in order to counter Russia's political and economic clout. 
According to Vyachorka, such a move on the part of Lukashenka testifies to the desperation of the Belarusian president in the face of Russia's economic pressure. "I think that today Mr. Lukashenka has no response to this challenge, to this deadlock into which he himself has brought our country," he said.

Blackmail Attempt? 
Is Lukashenka in a position to strong-arm Russia? Another prominent opposition activist, United Civic Party deputy head Alyaksandr Dabravolski, agrees with Vyachorka. But Dabravolski does not believe that Lukashenka is serious in speaking about a union with Ukraine. According to Dabravolski, Lukashenka is merely trying to blackmail Moscow.
"Now, when Russia wants to obtain actual money for its energy resources, it has become apparent to everybody that there is nothing behind the [Belarus-Russia] union state," Dabravolski said. "There is neither foundations nor a roof. All opposition forces have warned that it is necessary to talk with Russia about cooperation while taking into account real [national] interests. Now, as usual, Lukashenka will try using blackmail or persuasion." 
Did Lukashenka broach the union idea to Yushchenko when the Ukrainian president did, in fact, go to Minsk? It is quite reasonable to assume that when they met, the issue of Russian gas supplies to, and Russian gas transit across, Belarus and Ukraine came up. Both countries now seem to have similar problems in ensuring their energy security. 
In other respects, however, any potential understanding between Lukashenka and Yushchenko is unlikely. In March, Ukraine held parliamentary elections that were praised in Europe as almost exemplarily fair and democratic. The same month, Lukashenka was re-elected for his third-straight term in a ballot that was internationally decried as deeply flawed and fraudulent.
It would be unrealistic for Lukashenka to expect sympathy, either publicly or privately, from a Ukrainian counterpart enjoying the positive international response to the Orange Revolution and successful parliamentary elections.

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Belarus calls for energy imports diversification 

Belarus is not looking for an alternative to Russian energy resources, but does intend to diversify energy imports, Foreign Minister, Sergei Martynov, told a news conference in Minsk on November 29th, Interfax News Agency reported.
"We have no alternative to Russian oil or gas. It would be short-sighted (not to find an alternative) to say the least, but we must think of energy security and increase the number of supports on which energy security rests," Interfax quoted him as saying. "While advancing strategic cooperation with Russia in the energy sector we are also trying to look for additional sources of necessary energy resources," he said. 
Martynov said that the meeting of the presidents of Azerbaijan, Belarus and Ukraine was held within the framework of these efforts. "The presidents concluded that there are possibilities for such cooperation and there is potential for interaction in the energy sector," he said. The trilateral meeting discussed oil deliveries and refinery, the delivery and transit of electricity and the prospects of cooperation in the gas sector.

Beltransgaz market value at US$10-17 billion 

Beltransgaz's market value is between US$10 billion and US$17 billion, Belarussian Prime Minister, Sergei Sidorsky, said. Gazprom offered Beltransgaz a gas supply contract based on a price of US$200 per 1,000 cubic metres. "From the point of view of Belarus, the market price for Beltransgaz is US$10-17 billion. Proceeding from this, we are in negotiations," Sidorsky said on December 7th. Belarus bases its valuation on the sale of a similar gas transport system in the Czech Republic. Sidorsky also said the sides are to create a joint venture before the year-end. "The work of the appraiser is finished. Individual issues are being agreed," Interfax News Agency quoted him as saying.

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