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Visa-free stay increases, cooperation with China intensifies, and Slavianski Bazaar – Belarus State Press Digest

Belarus increases the term of visa-free stay of foreign citizens to 30 days. Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makei meets Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs to discuss the expected visit of Alexander Lukashenka to Latvia. Belarus boosts economic cooperation with China...
Alexander Lukashenka

Alexander Lukashenka visits grain harvesting campaign in Minsk district. Source: BELTA

Belarus increases the term of visa-free stay of foreign citizens to 30 days. Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makei meets Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs to discuss the expected visit of Alexander Lukashenka to Latvia.

Belarus boosts economic cooperation with China and continues petty trade disputes with Russia. Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador to Belarus praises economic cooperation between Belarus and Russia. He also blames Russian counterparties of assisting re-export of sanctioned goods from the European Union to Russia through the Belarusian border.

Alexander Lukashenka demands reforms at the Academy of Management under the President of the Republic of Belarus. Vitebsk hosts an annual Slavianski Bazaar festival.

All of this and more in the latest edition of State Press Digest.

Politics

Latvian Foreign Ministry prepares for the visit of Alexander Lukashenka, reports Belarus Segodnya newspaper. On July 19-20, Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makei met his Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkēvičs in Riga and conducted talks on inter-state visits and economic cooperation between Belarus and Latvia. According to Makei, joint projects in IT might become “ground-breaking” for Belarussian-Latvian collaboration.

Belarus increases visa-free stay of foreign citizens from 5 to 30 days provided they enter and leave via the National Airport Minsk, reports Belarus Segodnya. Alexander Lukashenka signed the corresponding decree on July 24. For visa-free entry to Belarus, foreign citizens have to provide a valid passport, financial means (at least $25 for each day of stay), and a medical travel insurance with a minimum medical coverage of  €10,000. The visa-free entry rules do not extend to any other international border checkpoints or airports of the country.

Alexander Lukashenka denies false rumours about his stroke. On 1 August, Alexander Lukashenka observed the grain harvesting campaign in Minsk district and talked to field workers and journalists, thus demonstrating being in good health, according to the report of the official Internet Portal of the President of Belarus.

Economy

Alexander Lukashenka praises economic cooperation between Belarus and China during the meeting with Chang Zhenming, the Chairman of Board of Directors of Chinese CITIC Group, reports Belarus Segodnya. According to Lukashenka, Belarus should establish a similar state company functioning in accordance with the CITIC’s principles.

CITIC Group Corporation Ltd. remains a state-owned investment company of the People’s Republic of China since 1979. CITIC’s major aims include attraction and utilization of foreign capital, an introduction of advanced technologies, and adoption of the advanced international practice in operation and management. CITIC Group has already implemented several projects in Belarus, including the creation of the first Belarusian automobile plant. Recently CITIC Group has invested into the creation of a  high-tech agro-industrial production in Belarus.

Vitebsk hydropower station Belarus

The new Vitebsk hydroelectric power station built with the help of China’s investment. Source: Vitebskenergo

On 31 July, the Chinese contractor handed over the symbolic key from the Vitebsk hydropower station to Belarusian engineers, reports Belarus Segodnya. The construction of the Vitebsk hydroelectric power station, the most powerful in the country, began in 2012 after the agreement between China’s National Electric Engineering Company and Vitebskenergo. The Vitebsk hydropower station started its operation in 2017. According to Mikhail Luzin, the General Director of Vitebskenergo,  the new hydropower station will help to ensure Belarusian energy security.

Meanwhile, Belarus and Russia continue petty trade disputes. On 24 July, the Russian regulator Rosselkhoznadzor banned the import of Belarusian champignons, reported Soyuz newspaper. The Russian regulator uncovered the cheating scheme of marking Polish-grown champignons as Belarusian ones during the inspection. Belarus, on the other hand, restricted the import of pork from several Russian regions due to the African swine fever.

The Russian Ambassador in Belarus acknowledges trade disputes, yet calls for further economic integration. In an interview to Soyuznoe Veche newspaper, Alexander Surikov blamed Russian counterparties of assisting re-export of sanctioned goods from the European Union through the Belarusian border. At the same time, Surikov maintained that the Belarusian side illegally provided them with fake supporting documents. Still, Belarus remains Russia’s fourth major trade partner. Hence, according to the Ambassador, the countries should “engage in deeper economic integration” and “push their joint enterprises into Eurasian and world markets”.

Education

Alexander Lukashenka demands reforms of Belarusian higher education. In particular, Lukashenka expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of graduates of the Academy of Management under the President of Belarus, reports Belarus Segodnya. According to Lukashenka, no “unsuitable people for a career in management” should enter the Academy after the 1st of September this year. The Academy’s rector Gennady Palchik reported on the conducted optimization of curriculum and the number of students.

Slavyanski Bazaar Vitebsk

Marcel Rosca, the winner of Slavianski Bazaar 2018 annual song contest. Source: BELTA

Culture

The XXVII International Festival of Arts “Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk” announced winners of the annual pop contest, reports Vitebsky Kurier newspaper. The Grand Prix won a tenor from Romania Marcel Rosca. Amre (Ernar Sadirbaev), Kazakhstan’s contestant, received the first prize, despite obtaining a similar score with the winner. Mila Nikitic, Ukraine’s contestant, took the second prize.

Hrodna’s women launch “Femininity flashmob”, reports Evening Hrodna newspaper. On 1 August, a group of well-dressed female participants gathered in the city centre and spread out flowers to passing by women. The flashmob intended to raise awareness about gender issues in Belarus and encourage women to share the burden of domestic work with men more actively.

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.

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Olga Hryniuk
Olga Hryniuk
Olga Hryniuk holds degrees from Coventry University and the European Humanities University. She is based in Minsk, Belarus.
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