Opposition activists arrested
Police in Minsk arrested 112 people on 12 November, when young opposition activists began a demonstration, defying the city government's ban. Police claimed they had to end the unsanctioned march because participants were creating a dangerous situation on the street. Some 500 young people amassed in front of the National Academy of Sciences by 6 pm to stage the demonstration. Despite repeated police warnings, the crowd rushed for the city centre.
Demonstrators chanted "Long Live Belarus!" as well as "Changes!" and "Youths for Belarus!" The crowd was stopped by a line of riot police and had to turn back. Police then started grabbing people and taking them away in buses. Similar actions are reported to have taken place in other cities of Belarus.
Attack on diplomat
On his way to the Czech Republic, Belarusian Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Uladzimier Bel'ski, was attacked by a group of unidentified people in Poland. Bel'ski received minor injuries while unsuccessfully attempting to prevent his car from being hijacked.
Polish police have launched a criminal investigation. On 13 November, the Foreign Ministry of Belarus summoned Poland's charge d'affaires in Minsk. The Polish diplomat also focused his attention on the rise in the number of attacks on Belarusian citizens in Poland.
United opposition memo
Political parties of the Coordinating Council of the Democratic Forces (CCDF) have backed up the proposal on preparing a memorandum that would specify principles, objectives and tasks of the United Democratic Opposition of Belarus for the near future. One of the opposition leaders, Anatol' Liabedz'ka, noted that at present, "a large democratic coalition on the basis of the CCDF is being formed, at the same time as preparations are made to participate in the upcoming presidential election."
The memorandum of the United Democratic Opposition is "a platform for all the democratic parties, unions, public politicians, who share in the principles of democracy, human rights, freedom of parliamentarism and the sovereignty of Belarus."
The draft memorandum reads that the key objective of the United Democratic Opposition is "the victory of a single candidate at the presidential election."
The US "views the next year as a real chance" for Belarus to make "a step towards a genuinely open and democratic society," US Ambassador to Belarus Michael Kozak said this week. He said further, that if the Belarusian government managed to meet the OSCE requirements and continued to sustain an open society after the presidential elections were over, they would recognise any election returns.
He emphasized that "we are not seeking to change a personality. The most important thing is to change the whole system, rather than certain persons," Kozak added. At the same time Kozak noted that, "it is up to the Belarusian people to organize themselves and establish all support they can find for the democratic process."
Lukašhenka forecasts struggle
Belarusian President Aliaksndar Lukašhenka forecasts an "extremely intensive struggle" during the upcoming presidential elections in 2001. "These elections will be even more difficult for me than those that resulted in gaining the presidency," he said.
He went on to say,"Pressure will be exerted from many sides... and not because we are bad—either the president or the authorities... but because they do not like our political course," said Lukašhenka. He stressed that Belarus will keep heading for a close union with Russia.
Lukašhenka noted that the US had not made the outcome of its presidential elections public for one week. "And what if we delayed the announcement of our election results? We would be overrun by tanks," he stated.
Lukašhenka also expects the new US president to undertake steps toward the normalisation of Belarusian-American relations. He said that he is prepared to make such steps. "It would be bizarre to say that we do not expect the new US President to improve relations with Belarus," he noted.
"Belarus has been ready for normal relations with the US for a long time," said Lukašhenka. At the same time, he branded the conditions given for such relations by official representatives in Washington as "strange and insubstantial."
New deputy of administration
Lukašhenka appointed ex-Minister of the Interior Jury Sivakow as deputy head of the presidential administration. Lieutenant-General Jury Sivakow, 54, worked in the Security Council of Belarus, was in command of the interior forces, and over two years served as the minister of the interior of Belarus. This past summer he retired "at his own will."
Natural gas price
Piatro Piotux, director general of Beltransgaz (Belarus' state-owned gas transportation and supply enterprise), expressed hope that Russia will not raise the price of natural gas next year. Belarus currently pays Russian suppliers USD 30 for 1000 cubic meters of gas. Piotux told reporters in Minsk the gas price was an indicator of cooperation efficiency within the Belarus-Russia Union.
Piotux said that none of the neighbouring states buys gas at such a low price. Ukraine, for instance, pays USD 50 for 1000 cubic meters and Lithuania USD 76. The world prices of natural gas range between USD 90 and USD 100 for 1000 cubic meters. Belarus considered buying natural gas from Turkmenistan, but the project was rejected.
Turkmenistan offered gas for USD 36 for 1000 cubic meters. However, the transportation of the gas would cost the same amount.
Outgoing House of Representatives
The outgoing House of Representatives held its final session on 14 November. In his concluding remarks, Chairman Anatol' Malafiejew recalled the political crisis of 1996, when "we had to decide where our state ship should be heading." He went on to say that some Supreme Soviet members went over to the House of Representatives, saying that this was "answering the call of the heart." According to the speaker, "the National Assembly has become a center of political and other stability."
The Belarusian Ministry of Statistics and Analysis has reported a five percent year-on-year rise in GDP in the period from January to October 2000. Industrial output is reported to have risen by 8.6 percent, agricultural production by 5.4 percent, and consumer goods production by 3.9 percent in the same period.
Yuri Svirko, 17 November 2000
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