Neglect of union is criminal
Belarusian President Aliaksandar Lukašenka believes "it is a crime to neglect the drive of the Belarusian and Russian peoples to merge." Lukašenka's address to the participants of the Fourth Congress of Peter's Academy of Sciences and Arts in St Petersburg states that "the popular concern about welfare forces peoples and countries to unite."
Lukašenka noted that his main task as head of the Belarus-Russia Union State was the realization of the people's will to keep the historic unity of the Belarusians and Russians. President Lukašenka also said, "Together we will be able to overcome all difficulties and realize the will of the people of Russia and Belarus, creating a union state as the supreme form of two sovereign states' unification."
Spooks' assistance recognized
Lukašenka thanked the visiting chief of Russia's federal foreign intelligence service, Sergey Lebedev, for "informational assistance." "I am grateful to you for partnership links which have been developed between our countries' security services," Lukašenka added. "After the fall of the USSR, the intelligence services did not fall out with each other," he believes.
He also thanked Lebedev for providing professional training in Russia for Belarusian intelligence officers. "There was a powerful intelligence training system in the USSR, which has not fallen apart," the President emphasized. Lebedev said there was complete understanding in the relations of Belarusian and Russian intelligence services, while Russia would sustain business contacts with Belarusian counterparts.
Involvement in disappearance denied
Mixaś Miaśnikovič, head of the presidential administration, has refuted rumors that Belarusian authorities were involved in the disappearance of Źmicier Zavadzki, a cameraman for Russia's main TV channel, ORT. Zavadzki disappeared in Miensk on 7 July 2000 and has not been found. Police do not have any information as to his whereabouts, Miaśnikovič told Interfax-West. He said Belarus's law-enforcement agencies were working hard to investigate the case.
Miaśnikovič has also branded a documentary on the subject, broadcast by ORT on Wednesday, as "gross falsification." According to Lukašenka's chief of staff, the documentary lacks objectivity, as the work of law enforcers in the search for Zavadzki was omitted. "Unfortunately, people disappear in almost every country of the world, and one should not turn these tragedies into a political farce," Miaśnikovič said. He believes that the documentary's maker, Paval Šaramiet, as a Belarusian "had no right to blacken the image of his Motherland."
Push for an upper house
Lukašenka told heads of Belarus's regional executive bodies to take an active part in creating the upper house of the National Assembly. According to Lukašenka, "the pick of society and a minimum of civil servants" should gain seats in the Council of the Republic. This should be the top priority for the heads of regions, he stressed, adding that "It is important that the formation of the territorial representation chamber should be done in a well-organized democratic way, in compliance with the Constitution."
There are 64 seats in the parliament's upper chamber. Miensk and six regions of the country elect eight deputies each, while the President has the right to appoint another eight members of the house. Lukašenka believes "women should become a fresh, sensible and well-balanced force in the Council of the Republic and should make up 25 to 30 percent of the Council."
Constitutional amendments possible
Belarus's Constitutional Court Chairman Ryhor Vasilievič admits there is a possibility of introducing amendments to the country's constitution. In his opinion, there are two possible ways of amending the constitution: initiation by the president or a nationwide referendum requiring at least 150,000 signatures from the public.
As the lower chamber of parliament is to be created on a professional basis, the duration of its session can be increased, Vasilievič said. He also considers it possible to reduce the quorum for passing drafts from two thirds down to a simple majority. Vasilievič believes "all branches of power in Belarus are within the system of checks and balances" and there are no principle differences between Belarus's power division and that of the constitutional systems of the US or France. He added, however, that parliament's controlling functions need some reinforcing.
Unions and parties re-register
The Ministry of Justice has completed the re-registration of public unions and political parties, minister Hienadź Varancow said at a news conference. According to him, all trade unions have passed the procedure of re-registration. However, a number of political parties and over 150 public unions failed to apply for re-registration or have not passed.
Among the most active infringers, Varancow named the United Civic Party, which has received five warnings from the ministry. To date, there are 18 acting political parties, 38 trade unions and 1817 NGOs in Belarus. Some 30 to 40 public organizations are registered monthly.
Belarusian Social Democratic Party (BSDP) members have voiced their intention to form a movement to support a single democratic candidate in the 2001 presidential elections. The formation of Popular Movement for Changes was proposed by nine former parliamentary candidates during a meeting with Hans-Georg Wieck, head of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group (AMG) in Belarus.
More than 20 former candidates attended the meeting, BSDP's leader Mikola Statkievič told BelaPAN. Behind the former candidates are campaign headquarters, hundreds of activists, experience and knowledge of the real situation, Statkievič said at the meeting. Its participants have formed a working group to prepare a conference of former parliamentary candidates. The BSDP members expressed support for the activities of the OSCE AMG in Belarus, which they noted has been subject to unfair criticism lately.
On 7 November, Belarus marked October Revolution Day, which is still a national holiday in the country. In his address to compatriots "dedicated to the 83rd anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution," Aliaksandar Lukašenka stressed that "the October 1917 Revolution enabled the Belarusians to form their state, preserve and develop their national culture."
On 7 November, representatives of the two rival Communist parties registered in Belarus (the pro-Lukašenka Communist Party of Byelorussia and the Party of Communists, which is opposed to him ) and other leftists who were banned from a march in central Miensk laid flowers on the monument to Vladimir Lenin in front of the House of Soviets. The monument stands in the former Lenin Square, now Independence Square. During a short rally, the leftists demanded that Mixaś Pawlaw, head of Miensk's city administration, be dismissed. Belarus's Communists believe he was responsible for the ban.
Anniversary for UCP
The United Civil Party (UCP) of Belarus has marked its fifth anniversary. UCP was formed by merging the Belarusian United Democratic Party of Aliaksandar Dabravol'ski and the Civil Party of Vasil' Šlyndzikaw. On 7 November, a congress hall in Miensk hosted the party's festivities, including a show starring prominent Russian publicists Viktor Shenderovich and Igor Irtenyev (hosts of Russia's well-known NTV show Itogo).
Addressing his colleagues and guests, UCP leader Anatol' Liabiedźka said that "over the past five years the party has managed to become one of the most influential forces in the political life of the country." He added that the UCP planned to take an active part in the presidential elections scheduled for 2001. The party backs the idea of nominating a single candidate from the united democratic opposition. Liabiedźka suggested the following slogan: "Milošević is ready! Lukašenka be ready!"
The highest level of inflation on the consumer commodities market in the Commonwealth of Indepependent States from January to September 2000 was registered in Belarus, where prices have surged up by 78 percent. Prices for foodstuffs experienced a hike of 69 percent, those for non-food products were up 83.3 percent and the cost of services rose 163.4 percent.
According to the information distributed by the CIS Interstate Committee for Statistics, inflation was also high in Tajikistan (33.1 percent) and Ukraine (21.6 percent). The CIS Interstate Committee for Statistics does not have any data on inflation in Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan.
Yuri Svirko, 10 November 2000
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