Former premier says his trial politically motivated
"I have lived honestly according to the country's laws and my conscience. I have done nothing illegal in my life, and I have nothing to fear," former Premier Mikhail Chyhir said in his final statement to a Minsk court on 10 May 2000, Radio Liberty reported. Chyhir is charged with abuse of power and negligence when he headed a bank and, later, with allowing a company to postpone paying customs duties when he served as Premier from 1994 to 1996.
The prosecution has demanded that he serve a five-year prison sentence. Chyhir said both the prosecutors and judges are well aware that his case is politically motivated. He resigned his cabinet post to protest the controversial 1996 constitutional referendum and was arrested three years later after he had challenged the regime of President Aleksandr Lukashenko in the presidential ballot organized by the opposition.
Foreign Ministry condemns US Congress
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has once again condemned the recent US congressional resolution on Belarus as "undisguised interefernce in the internal affairs of Belarus and Russia." The resolution denounces flagrant violations of human rights in Belarus, and urges Aleksandr Lukashenko to begin talks with the opposition on free and fair elections.
"Paying close attention to Belarus is becoming a tradition for the US legislature," Nikolay Borisevich, Foreign Ministry spokesman said. "It seems that Belarus is being used more and more in battles between the parties over foreign policy, which marks the crucial phase of the run-up to the US presidential election."
Border security operation under way
The Belarusian State Border Troops Committee has reported that about 40 border violators have been detained during the on-going Border-2000 operation aimed at uncovering channels of illegal migration, drug-trafficking, explosives and goods. This is the first large-scale security operation this year and is being conducted by the State Border Troops Committee, the Committee for State Security (KGB), the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Customs Committee and voluntary squad members.
The officers of the above agencies have reportedly seized more than 100 million rubles (around USD 100,000) worth of goods and about USD 5800 in cash. For example, border guards arrested two men near Brest on the Belarus-Polish border. One of them, an Armenian citizen, attempted to cross the border into Poland with the help of a Brest resident. Border guards also stopped three Moldovans, who attempted to cross the border using forged documents, Belapan reports.
Chamber of Commerce expands contacts with Italy
An agreement to hold an exhibition of Italian products in Minsk in 2001 has been reached during a meeting between Mr Vladimir Lesun, President of the Belarus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), and the Italian commercial attache and a representative of the Italian Foreign Trade Institute, Belarus Today reports.
BCCI has already developed close cooperation with the trade chambers of Trieste, Milan and Pesaro, which includes joint exhibitions, fairs, trade missions, business meetings and information exchange. According to Mr Lesun, the Italians have agreed to foster Italian investment in Belarus projects on conditions of sufficient guarantees, as well as to help BCCI develop contacts with chambers of commerce in different parts of Italy.
Oil processing declines
In April 2000, Belarus refineries processed 1,078,000 metric tons of crude oil, 11 per cent less than over the same period last year, Belarusski Rynok reports. Belarus government blames the drop on a cut in oil shipments from Russia, which is in turn linked to the shortage of hard currency in Belarus to be paid for the oil.
GAZ to assemble cars in Belarus
BelGAZautoservice company, general representative of the Russian Gorky Automobile Plant (GAZ) in Belarus, has received the preliminary consent of GAZ’s management to put two assembly lines in operation in Minsk and in Brest for further export of GAZ vehicles to Poland. It is estimated, that the production capacity of the new lines will stand at 10,000 cars per year, BDG daily reports.
Victor Lukyanow, 13 May 2000