Archive for July, 2009

Warm-Warm-… Hot?

Today they say it’s today: the transit of Russian diesel oil through Belarus to Latvia will be resumed. A week ago Minsk ordered to stop the flow through the Belarusian section of the pipeline owned by a Russian company demanding to fix hundreds of defects.

The problems sound conomic but they are political. Latvia is not getting its diesel oil because of the complexities in Belarus-Russia relations.

Minsk is losing the dearest – its reputation of a reliable transit country and the advantage over Ukraine it gained in the ‘gas wars’ – as an outsider, of course. Stable political relations with Russia guaranteed EU predictable relations with Minsk. It seems to be no longer the case.

There were quarrels over Belarusian milk, sugar, meat, agricultural machinery exports and gas and beer imports from Russia. This time it’s diesel oil. It used to concern only bilateral relations but this time it affects Latvia as well.

The experts notice that the transit of Russian diesel oil was stopped after a senior Russian official left Minsk. What have they failed to agree on? Nobody says.

Then Belarusian MFA warned in a statement that entry into Abkhazia and South Ossetia is only allowed from the Georgian municipalities, entry from all other areas without a special permit of the Georgian authority is penalised under the Criminal Code of Georgia. Belarus hasn’t recognized those two countries, but the statement is no accident. As a result Georgia hailed the statement… and a reported illness prevented Moscow governor Luzhkov to come to Belarus to open the long-awaited House of Moscow.

On July 28 Belarus FM will come to Brussels for a Troika meeting. But it’s unlikely that Minsk is complicating its relations with Russia in order to thaw them with Brussels. It is the same as cutting off your nose to spite your face.

But the tensions with Russia are getting dangerous.

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Belarus’ 15 Unique Years

Lukashenka-1994-Belapan

Today it’s the 15th anniversary of Belarusian President Lukashenka in power.

It’s a strange feeling – that’s half of my life. Sometimes I feel as a linguistic invalid. With a new regulation introduced 4 years ago I got used to apply the word president to the one and only position in the country. And feel ill at ease to refer to him as to “the current president”. He is The President here.

But no comments from my part. The quintessence of the years could be followed through Lukashenka’s quotes. I’ve tried to pick out those that don’t lose their meaning without the context. Anyway direct quotations often say more than they read.

- “I am the president of the country and this country will be [=exist] until I am the president.”

- “We falsified the latest election [in March 2006], I’ve already told westerners about this. As many as 93.5 percent voted for President Lukashenka. They say it is not a European figure. We turned it into 86 [percent]. This did take place. And if we now start recounting ballots, I don’t know what we should do with them.”

- “I enjoy playing football and hockey, but most often I play alone.”

- “I want you to wear your own and eat your own [products]. They are probably packed not as good as the foreign things, but today we don’t have enough foreign currency.”

- “I am confident that the Europeans will come crawling to Belarus to ask for co-operation in the fight against drug trafficking and illegal migration.”

- “I think Americans realised that Belarus is the key country in Europe and they need to cooperate with it.”

- “Our “dictatorship” doesn’t hinder anyone’s life or development.”

- “I am pretty tired of the question of the so called political prisoners. There are no political crimes therefore there can be no political prisoners. They are ordinary criminals <…> We released them.”

- “Those <detained during demonstrations> were unconscious and blind drunk, 10-15 days arrests’ were necessary for them to recover themselves.”

- “What kind of opposition is that? They’ve been fighting in the centre of Europe for more than 20 years, I guess, and still can’t put at least one man into the parliament – to be honest, even with the support of the authorities.”

- “Those who drink – you’d better not vote for me, I won’t be a friend of yours.”

- “All these years I’ve been carefully and reverently carrying this clear, crystal vase called Belarus.”

- “The situation in Belarus is unique as I don’t owe anything to anyone.”

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Moral Health Under Supervision

Public Council was founded in Belarus to guard the moral health of the nation.

The 33-member Council on Morals includes representatives of the Orthodox, Catholic, Judaic and Muslim denominations and art unions, as well as educators and scholars, Belapan reports.

The members of the council will study controversial books, films, pictures and other works of art to provide recommendations to the government regarding “particular extremities” that cause “polar opinions and contradict society’s traditional values”.

Among the moral problems specified: the destruction of human personality and family values, the profanation of the biblical commandments, history and patriotic feelings. Who, sorry, what is to blame? Tasteless films, cruel computer games, marginal youth subcultures.

The idea behind the initiative seems to be the protection of the freedom of speech that is apparently being misused and abused in Belarus. The organ will suggest whether from the point of view of state ideology a certain book or film could be considered a piece of art.

It’s not about quality, it’s about supervision and control. There are approved “diseases” and those that should demand an extra effort from the “patient”: you can’t get this book in Minsk? Buy it on the Internet.

By the way, it’s not the first organ of its kind. And I guess not the last one.

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