Makei goes West, MILEX, and Chernobyl for tourists – State press digest
Alexander Lukashenka meets the President of Moldova, discusses Russia and Ukraine. Foreign Minister Makei flies to Geneva and later meets USAID representatives. Putin’s press-secretary Pescov rebuffs Lukashenka’s statements on the anti-Belarusian sanctions. Minsk prepares for the international military exhibition MILEX.
Belarus wants to expand its cooperation with the World Bank in projects worth $300m. Lukashenka disapproves the agrarian management, suggests that large industrial giants should take up more collective farms. Belarus intends to repair its parts of the “Druzhba” pipeline.
Lukashenka expects the High Tech park to bring the latest information technologies to the court halls. Minsk prepares for the Second European Games. The Belarusian authorities to open up the Chernobyl Exclusion zone for tourists.
The President of Moldova visits Belarus, reports BELTA. On 10 April 2019, Alexander Lukashenka met Igor Dodon, the President of Moldova, in Minsk. The presidents discussed the bilateral relationship, the Ukrainian events, and the relations of both states with Russia. According to Lukashenka, Belarusian-Moldovan relations remain almost flawless. Dodon, on the other hand, praised the Belarusian import to Moldova and expressed the intention to improve the mutual trade relations.
Foreign Minister Makei meets USAID representative, reports BELTA. On 11 April 2019, Uladzimir Makei met with a U.S. delegation led by Brock Bierman, Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Europe and Eurasia. The parties discussed the bilateral relations and the potential enhancement of cooperation, particularly, in the areas of promotion of small and medium-sized entrepreneurship, tourism and culture.
In addition, previously Minister Makei visited Geneva to take part in the 68th session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), reported the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Belarus’s foreign minister emphasized the unique role of UNECE as Europe’s top discussion platform on economic and social development matters.
Putin’s press secretary Peskov disagrees with Lukashenka’s statements on “the sanctions against Belarus”, reports “Soyuznoe Veche”. According to Dmitry Peskov, the temporary closure of the Russian market for several categories of the Belarus-made milk goods has never presumed anti-Belarusian sanctions. Peskov assured that Russia had always followed the political and economic agreements of the Union State and intended to do so in future.
Minsk prepares for the top military exhibition MILEX 2019, reports Belarus Segodnya. The Ninth international arms and military hardware expo MILEX 2019 will feature about 100 samples of weapons. Approximately 35 companies from Azerbaijan, Germany, China, and Russia have already confirmed their participation in the exhibition. The exhibition’s opening ceremony will take place at the historical complex Stalin’s Line on 15 May.
Belarus wants to engage in $300m projects sponsored by the World Bank, reports the Ministry of the Economy. In early April 2019, the Belarusian delegation led by the Minister of Economy Dzmitry Krutoy met with the World Bank’s Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Cyril Muller. The parties discussed the potential new projects in education, energy effectiveness, and infrastructure. Currently, Belarus’s investment portfolio reaches eight investment projects worth $790m.
Lukashenka angry with agricultural management reports Belarus Segodnya. On 9 April 2019, the President of Belarus went for a working trip to Lahoisk district. Alexander Lukashenka expressed particular dissatisfaction with the underperformance of the collective farms and state agricultural enterprises. The Belarusian leader encouraged the industry giants to take up more collective farms under their control:
I think some industry giants, like MTZ and Belorusneft, should take on more collective farms. They have people, some resources, technology and different approaches. They will be able to bring these companies into shape faster.
Belarus wants to repair its parts of the “Druzhba” pipeline, reports “Soyuznoe Veche”. According to the Vice Premier Minister Ihar Petryshenka, Belarus intends to repair all the pipelines passing through its territory. Due to the complicated nature of the maintenance works, several pipeline’s areas will close at times. By 2019, “Druzhba”, the world’s longest oil pipeline, flowing from the Yamal peninsula to Germany, will reach 55 years old.
Lukashenka wants to introduce information technologies in Belarusian courts, reports BELTA. On 5 April 2019, Alexander Lukashenka ordered the government to improve the operation of the general jurisdiction courts by introducing the most advanced information technologies. According to the President of Belarus, the Belarusian judges need to stop using hardcopy protocols of court proceedings: “All the sessions of the Supreme Court should proceed without paper. You can use paper only if someone needs to take hardcopy notes in rare cases.”
Moreover, Lukashenka expressed the intention to digitalize the Belarusian courts all over the country by the specified deadline with the help from the HighTech Park and the Operations and Analysis Center.
Belarusian educators worried about plagiarism reports “Navuka” newspaper. According to Aliaksandr Huchok, the chair of Belarus’s Higher Attestation Commission, the Belarusian segment of the Internet contains 46 websites offering paid thesis writing. Though advertising such services break the Belarusian law, the Ministry of Education unable to trace all the lawbreakers.
The Belarusian language holds a positive therapeutic effect, reports Belarus Segodnya. According to Ala Ryzevich, a popular radio DJ from “Stalitsa” radio station, the Belarusian language helps to balance the daily stress and restore good psychological condition. Ms Ryzevich particularly advises using Belarusian words in conflict resolution.
Minsk hosts the Spring Queen 2019 beauty pageant, reports BELTA. On 8 April, the Minsk City staged the nationwide contest of beauty and talent Spring Queen 2019. Students from ten universities competed for the right to represent Minsk at the nationwide final show “Miss Belarus 2019”. Yelizaveta Abramkina, the student of Belarusian State Economic University, won the crown.
Belarus prepares for the Second European Games, reports “Soyuznoe Veche”. From 21 to 30 June 2019, Belarus’s capital will host more than 4000 sportsmen from 50 countries. The fox Lesik, the official symbol of the Games, became the first participant to register in the accreditation centre at the beginning of April.
Belarus to open the Exclusion zone near Chernobyl reports Belarus Segodnya. Tourists will get access to the abandoned villages; however, the tourist routes will retain safe radiation levels. The costs of such excursions should vary between $150-200.
The State Press Digest is based on the review of state-controlled publications in Belarus. Freedom of the press in Belarus remains restricted and state media convey primarily the point of view of the Belarusian authorities. This review attempts to give the English-speaking audience a better understanding of how Belarusian state media shape public opinion in the country.
Ostrogorski Centre in 2018: focus on education
It is my pleasure to present you with an overview of our activities in 2018. It has been a successful year with the Ostrogorski Centre serving as a hub for producing articles, policy papers and events relevant to the transformation of Belarus.
In 2018, education-related work moved to the core of the Centre’s activities. Following an open call for proposals, we selected several applications to tackle important problems, which Belarusian higher education sector faces – from plagiarism and teaching techniques to improve the quality of scholarly publications of Belarusian authors. In collaboration with leading Belarusian think tanks, the Centre arranged a series of meetings with experts from other countries as well as a major conference in Minsk in December.
We already published policy papers on non-formal education in Belarus, reform of legal education, and new forms on practice-oriented business education with more to come in 2019. In addition, we published a major study on Belarus-Lithuania relations. All our papers are normally published in Belarusian or Russian and English.
The Ostrogorski Centre disseminates its work not only using traditional publications, seminars and conferences but also by maintaining a video archive of all conference panels with text summaries of discussions. This approach helps us to multiply the effect of meaningful discussions and the impact on policymakers through the Internet to a much wider audience. All videos are kept in a dedicated archive on Ostro.by.
What our audiences are interested in?
Belarus Digest, our main English-language media outlet, continues to provide balanced information for both Belarusian and foreign audiences who desire to know more about Belarus, its politics, society and economic development.
According to the web site’s statistics, our articles on travelling to Belarus have become more popular than political articles, which is a missed blessing. On the one hand, it is good that the country is becoming more open and people want to visit Belarus – the visa-free regime certainly facilitates it. On the other hand, the reduced interest in Belarusian political and economic problems is an indication of less interesting in Belarus in the world, despite the increasingly assertive Russian foreign policy.
BelarusPolicy.com – our database of policy papers now contains around 400 full-text papers with abstracts in Belarusian, Russian and English and download counters. It is interesting to compare its different language versions. While people visiting the Russian-language version are primarily interested in economic issues, the foreign policy section is the most popular with those visiting the Belarusian-language and the English-language versions. Overall, studies of the Belarusian army, public procurement, the Belarusian ruling elite and the possibility of the authoritarian modernization of Belarus generated most interest in 2018.
The Ostrogorski Academy shows a different trend where most popular videos related to the history of Belarus, more precisely with the Belarusian view of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The views of this course in the Belarusian language by far exceed the second most popular course dealing with theory and practice of economic crisis (in the Russian language). Most people find our videos on YouTube and share them on social networks.
Last year we organised the fourth edition of the London conference on Belarusian Studies and the annual lecture was supported by the British Association for Slavonic & East European Studies. The event was well-attended, and its participants included Stanislaŭ Šuškievič, the first head of independent Belarus (in office 1991-1994), and the
UK ambassador to Belarus, Fionna Gibb.
Our Journal of Belarusian Studies was included into the Scopus database in October 2018, confirming its role as not only the oldest surviving but also the most academically rigorous journal on Belarus in the world. The 2018 issue has already been published featuring high-quality publications of authors from Germany, Czech Republic, Belarus and other countries.
Most of our activities in the United Kingdom are self-funded and help us to fulfil the two important goals of the Centre – to locate and engage Belarusians working in the West in policy analysis and other activities related to Belarus, and to popularise studies of Belarus in Western Europe and the English-speaking world.
In 2019, we plan to strengthen our work on facilitating the reform of the higher education sector in Belarus as well as our policy analysis in the area of foreign policy and civil society. We will continue to work on reversing the brain drain so that Belarusians, regardless of where they are based, contribute to better governance in Belarus, hopefully in cooperation with policymakers.
As the same time, we will continue help Belarusian think tanks, experts and scholars to become more integrated into international scholarly networks, databases and events through Belarus Digest, the Journal of Belarusian studies and other successful projects of the Ostrogorski Centre.
I would like to thank all our supporters and collaborators. We remain open to your ideas about new research projects, events and other initiatives. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.
- The full Annual Report of the Ostrogorski Centre is available here.