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Vol 3, No 4
29 January 2001
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News from Belarus News from

All the important news
since 20 January 2001

Yuri Svirko


Lukašenka unconstitutional?

Miensk city court confirmed on 25 January that Aliaksandar Lukašenka and his cronies may not comply with the Constitution of Belarus. Article 7 (the same in both versions of the Constitution) reads: "Legal acts of all state bodies must be published or introduced to the public in a different way envisaged by law." However, on 12 January 1998 Lukašenka signed a decree which has never been published. This decree limits the rights of those journalists who would like to cover the activities of the president.

Under clause 4.5 of the adopted decree called "Regulations for conducting activities involving the president of Belarus" the coverage of such activities in the mass media is "to be ensured by the presidential press service which, in accordance with the Security Service, sets the proper list of journalists and photo correspondents."

The last quotation is contained in a decision of the Leninsky district court judge Hanna Barodzič of 7 December 2000. Barodzič, who is basing her ruling on the unpublished decree, turned down reporter Yuri Svirko's complaint about the arbitrary behavior of the presidential press service chief Z'micier Žuk. Despite Svirko's permanent accreditation with Belarus's Ministry of Foreign affairs as a BBC correspondent, Žuk refused to sign him up for all Lukašenka's meetings, thus violating the Belarusian law on press and international accords.

It was Žuk who never came to the courtroom but forwarded an excerpt from the secret "Regulations," which influenced the course of the procedures. As long as the decision of the district court is based on an unpublished decree, rather than on the law, Svirko considered it to be an infringement of the Constitution and filed his complaint with the Miensk city court, which decided on 25 January that this unique court ruling would enter into legal force.


Lukašenka criticises CoE

President Aliaksandar Lukašenka characterised the winter session (22 to 26 January 2001) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) which intended to restore Belarus' status as a special guest to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), as "a wild sequence of developments."

According to Lukašenka, "Belarusian MPs should stop begging the PACE on bended knee." The president further added, "Our MPs should stop all trips to the PACE and other organisations which do not recognise them (Belarus). We have elected a Parliament that is recognised by the people," said Lukašenka. "We should co-operate only with those who want to co-operate with us. Nobody should lay down terms for Belarus any longer. We'll hold presidential elections [that will be] no worse than in other countries," he stressed.

The possibility of re-establishing the status of Belarus as a special guest to the PACE was discussed during a session of the Political Bureau on Tuesday. However, the Parliamentary Troika—the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and PACE—will make the final decision. The PACE will next visit Belarus in March 2001.


Lukašenka accuses US of stealing trillions, yet defends Borodin

Lukašenka said he intends to defend Pavel Borodin, state secretary of the Belarus-Russia Union State, who remains detained in the US following a request from the Swiss Prosecutor's Office. "As Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Belarus-Russian Union State I have to defend this person," Lukašenka said upon his arrival in Moscow on 23 January.

According to the Belarusian leader, Borodin was recommended for the post of state secretary by the Russian side. In answer to journalists' questions, Lukašenka noted that Borodin's arrest would not influence the functioning of the Union in any way.

"The point is not whether we are able to hold the session or not. Whether Borodin is a thief or not is not an issue of my competence," he said. At the same time, Lukašenka stated that "the USA should not dress itself up as a defender of Russian capital; it took a trillion dollars out of Russia and laundered it itself."


Lukašenka's unexpected Moscow departure

Aliaksandar Lukašenka returned from Moscow earlier than planned, sources from the Belarusian delegation told Interfax on Tuesday evening. Lukašenka, who arrived in Moscow on Tuesday morning, was expected to return to Miensk on the evening of Wednesday 24 January.

"The programme of the visit has been executed in full," Lukašenka's spokesman Mikola Barysievič told Yu.S.News by phone while heading to the airport from Moscow on Tuesday night.

Barysievich said that the focal point of the visit did take place—President Lukašenka did indeed receive the international fund's award "for an enormous contribution to the reinforcement of the Orthodox peoples' union." This award was granted by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexiy the Second, in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral.

He also made a note that Chairman of the State Duma of Russia Gennady Seleznyov attended the ceremony. "Using the lucky opportunity, the Belarusian leader and the head of the Russian Parliament held the meeting, which had been scheduled for a later date," the press secretary pointed out.

When asked by Yu.S.News if Lukašenka was going to meet with Askar Akayev, president of the Kyrghyz Republic, who had been planning to make a stop in Miensk during his flight to Switzerland, Barysievič said he knew nothing about this. A couple of hours later however he announced at the Miensk airport Akayev's short visit to Belarus was the main reason for cutting short Lukašenka's stay in Moscow.

Belarus opposition and Russian sources say the Belarusian leader was frustrated by the fact that Russia's President Vladimir Putin declined to have a meeting with him, therefore Lukašenka decided to go back to Miensk earlier than anticipated.


Newspaper censored in Mahiliow

Mahiliow's printing plant has refused to publish the independent newspaper De-fakto's article under the heading "Will Lukašenka undergo psychiatric tests?" The article was about repercussions caused by a 12 January publication of the conclusions of Belarusian psychiatrist Z'micier Ščyhielski, stating that Belarusian President Lukašenka is suffering from a "moderately pronounced psychopathy with the prevalence of traits of a paranoid and distraught personality disorder."

When the printing plant's shift leader saw the newspaper's layout, he rushed to the phone and spoke to someone for about ten minutes, De-fakto's Valiancina Hliekava told BelaPAN. Then he said that the plant would not publish the issue if the newspaper did not delete the article.

Hliekava argued that the newspaper's contract with the plant did not allow for such interference but the shift leader replied that she should discuss the issue with the plant's director or the KGB, not him. As a result, De-fakto was published without the controversial article. The newspaper regards the incident as interference in its work and illegal censorship.


Premier met Fiat leadership

Although on leave, Belarusian Premier Uladzimier Jarmošyn held a meeting with representatives from the Fiat Company. A source in the Belarusian government explained that the visit of Fiat officials led by vice-president of the company, Sergio de Palen, aims at "familiarization with the economic situation in Belarus and possibilities for investment into economic projects in the territory of the republic."

Purportedly, the talks between the Belarusian premier and Fiat leadership might concentrate on issues related to production of grain harvesters in Belarus. Reportedly, aside from producing cars, Fiat assembles Bizon grain harvesters. The source reminded that Belarus purchased 600 harvesters from a Fiat affiliate in Poland in 2000. Other investment projects may also be considered. The Fiat visit marks the first high-standing business meeting in Belarus in recent months.


Belarus granted millions for border demarcation

The European Commission will grant Belarus EUR 1.3 million for the demarcation of the Belarus-Lithuania border under the framework of the Technical Assistance for the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) program related to trans-border cooperation this year.

Reportedly, on Tuesday a respective memorandum was signed by Raul de Luzenbergern, head of the TACIS representative office in Belarus and Lieutenant General Aliaksandar Pawlowski, Chair of the State Frontier Committee of Belarus in Miensk. Having signed the agreement, Pawlowski noted that necessary documentation for demarcation of 500 kilometres of the Belarus-Lithuania border (total length is 650 kilometres) was prepared.

Approximately USD 200 million will be appropriated from the national budget, thus enabling demarcation of 100 kilometres this year. According to Pawlowski, the Baltic part of the Belarusian border, which is 805 kilometres long, is expected to be demarcated by 2005.


Parents of victims indignant

Parents of those who perished during the tragedy at Niamiha metro station on 30 May 1999 are angry about the decision of the Miensk municipal government to transfer their protests from the site of the tragedy to Bangalore Square (in the outskirts of Miensk). The protest were scheduled for 27 January and the main request of the victims' parents is the construction of a chapel at the site of the tragedy.

However, the municipal government believes that the erection of a chapel in that district is an inexpedient proposition. In the view of the authorities' dismissal of the petition to stage a picket at the site of the tragedy, the organisers of the action refused to stage the action at Bangalore Square and sent an appeal to Miensk Mayor Mixal Pawlaw.

"We are indignant at the dismissal of our petition and can not find an explanation for this decision of the Miensk municipal government. Moreover, we believe it is a humiliation of the broken-hearted relations of the deceased," reads the message. The authors of the message have requested permission to demonstrate at Niamiha station on 10 February. The Miensk municipal government has not yet responded to the parents of the 53 victims of the tragedy at Niamiha metro station.


Monkey caught in Miensk metro

It took over five hours for Miensk metro workers to catch a monkey that escaped from its owner, head of the guard service of Miensk metro Ivan Mikulič told Interfax. According to him, the monkey was being transported in a cage to a wildlife exhibition that opened in Miensk. When the train stopped, the monkey released itself and jumped onto the railing. Traffic was stopped for a few minutes.

The management of Miensk metro resolved not to close the metro and to search for the escapee simultaneously. After a few hours the monkey was caught in the tunnel in immediate proximity to another station. The animal was then fed and washed. It also received a shot of an anti-stress medicine.

Yuri Svirko, 27 January 2001

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