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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08MINSK160 2008-03-06 16:06:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Minsk
Cable title:  

EMBASSY MINSK WEEKLY POL/ECON REPORT - March 07, 2008

Tags:   PGOV PREL PHUM ECON ENRG KIRF BO 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MINSK 000160 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ECON ENRG KIRF BO
SUBJECT: EMBASSY MINSK WEEKLY POL/ECON REPORT - March 07, 2008



1. The following are brief items of interest compiled by Embassy
Minsk.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Civil Society


--------------------------



- Opposition Leader Detained Seven Times in Two Days (para. 2)
- Protestants and Youth Warned About Activities (para. 3)
- Soligorsk Small Business Activist Jailed (para. 4)
- Catholics Urge Return of Former Monastery (para. 5)
- Opposition Youth Detained and Harassed (para. 6)

Domestic Economy


--------------------------



- Ukraine to Cooperate on Nuclea Power Plant Project (para. 7)
- Government Adopts 2008 State Employment Program (para. 8)

International Trade


--------------------------



- China to Invest USD 700 Million in 2008 (para. 9)

Quote of the Week (para. 10)


--------------------------





--------------------------


Civil Society


--------------------------





2. Opposition Leader Detained Seven Times in Two Days

olice detained For Freedom movement leader Aleksandr Milinkevich
seven times during his tour of Brest Oblast. On February 29,
traffic police stopped his vehicle four times on the way to his
destination, and ordered him to appear at a police station for
questioning the same day following an unsanctioned meeting. Police
again stopped his car near Kobrin on March 1, but Milinkevich
refused to go to the station, continuing his tour on foot. Police
then questioned him for one hour after his meeting in Kobrin. The
leader was released without charge and noted that authorities were
apparently "lost" and unsure how to deal with him.



3. Protestants and Youth Warned About Activities

Mozyr authorities issued a warning February 29 to the Jesus Christ
Protestant community. Local ideology and police officers visited
their church service, collected passport information of
parishioners, and warned the community about engaging in political
activities. The pastor filed a complaint with the prosecutor's
office and local authorities. Separately, Mozyr university
administration March 3 warned opposition youth Yekaterina Manchuk
against contacts with democratic activists. The police had
reviously detained Manchuk and associates February16 after linking
her activities to the unregistered political organization Belarusian
Christian Democracy. Authorities at that time threatened Manchuk
with expulsion and a jail term.



4. Soligorsk Small Business Activist Jailed

A Soligorsk district court sentenced entrepreneur Vladimir Shilo
March 4 to 15 days in jail for participating in an unsanctioned
rally. Two days earlier, Shilo had spoken at a rally to protest new
small business regulations. The police dispersed the demonstration
and detained nine activists, releasing everyone but Shilo without
charges.



5. Catholics Urge Return of Former Monastery

The St. Joseph Roman Catholic community collected over 3,000
signatures March 3 urging the return of Minsk's former Bernardine
monastery. The petition calls upon the GOB to abolish plans to
convert the building into a hotel and entertainment center. The
community continues to hold daily prayers outside the monastery.
Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court March 2 rejected a separate
50,000-signature petition pushing for religious laws amendments.
The court maintained it could initiate changes only upon requests
from the President and GOB, but not from individuals. The
GOB-backed Belarusian Orthodox Church supported the current laws
governing religion, and warned its believers against endorsing the
petition.



6. Opposition Youth Detained and Harassed

A Minsk district court March 5 sentenced youth activist Maksim
Sergeyets to five days in jail. The police detained Sergeyets the
previous day and charged him with violating regulations governing

MINSK 00000160 002 OF 002


mass events by distributing leaflets for a March 25 demonstration.
In a separate incident on March 2, the police seized Belarusian
Social Democratic Party "Gramada" activist Ales Streltsov at
gunpoint in downtown Minsk while he was unfolding a "Freedom for
Kozulin" sign. Streltsov's associate Aleksey Morozov escaped the
scene, and Streltsov himself was released without charge.



--------------------------


Domestic Economy


--------------------------





7. Ukraine to Cooperate on Nuclear Power Plant Project

Belarusian Deputy Premier Vladimir Semashko announced February 29
that Ukraine plans to cooperate in securing servicing equipment and
fuel for Belarus' planned nuclear power plant and in handling
nuclear waste. Following a session of the Ukraine-Belarus
Cooperation Committee, Semashko said Belarus' government signed a
contract with Ukraine's Atomproekt to draft a feasibility study for
the plans. Semashko's counterpart in the Ukrainian government
Aleksandr Turchinov said Ukraine is ready to support Belarus in this
construction project.



8. Government Adopts 2008 State Employment Program

The Belarusian Council of Ministers announced March 5 the adoption
of its 2008 State Employment Program. The program aims to lower the
unemployment rate in 36 small Belarusian cities and to provide
148,300 unemployed people with benefits. A total of 155,000 jobs
are to be created in 2008 under the program, including 22,100 in
small cities and 5,200 in rural areas. As many as 2,500 individuals
seeking to start their own businesses are to receive financial
assistance from the Fund for the Social Protection of the
Population. The central government allotted USD 83 million to
implement the program.



--------------------------


International Trade


--------------------------





9. China to Invest USD 700 Million in 2008

The Presidential Administration announced February 29 that China
plans to invest USD 700-800 million in Belarus' economy in 2008. If
the plans come to fruition, bilateral trade will reach approximately
USD 2 billion, double the amount in 2006. In addition, the
Administration announced plans to open a Consulate General in
Shanghai some time this year.



--------------------------




10. Quote of the Week


--------------------------



Secretary of the Central Electoral Commission Nikolay Lozovik,

SIPDIS
observing that Belarusian opposition politicians are sore losers
compared to opposition members in Russia:

"The only difference is that [opposition] politicians there
acknowledged the victory of the leader in Russia and are not intent
on destabilizing the social and economic situation in their country.
Unfortunately, the situation here is different.... Belarusian
[opposition] politicians need to learn not only how to win, but also
how to lose."


Stewart