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RUSSIA BEGINS CONSTRUCTION OF NORTH EUROPEAN GAS PIPELINE. Gazprom announced on 19 August that it has started to lay the new strategic North European Gas Pipeline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April, 14 and 27 June 2005), which runs from Vyborg, Leningrad Oblast, along the floor of the Baltic Sea to the German city of Greiswald, RIA-Novosti reported on 22 August. The route of the new export pipeline bypasses Poland, the Baltic states, Belarus, and Ukraine and, according to Gazprom, should "reduce the sovereign risks and costs of gas transit," RosBalt reported 19 August. The project is to be finished in 2008 and will cost $7.8 billion. It will supply gas to Germany, Sweden, Finland, Great Britain, and other European states. VY
RUSSIA AND UKRAINE DISAGREE ON CIS AGENDA. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in Moscow on 22 August that Russia will reject Ukrainian proposals it wants to add to the agenda for the CIS summit that begins on 26 August in Kazan, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. He said Kyiv proposed inserting such issues as the demarcation of borders within the alliance and the creation of energy transportation corridors, but the proposals were submitted "too late to be adopted," he said. Kamynin also said that such issues will be discussed in the future. The foreign ministers of the CIS member states are to meet in Moscow on 23 August to discuss reforming the organization as well as cooperation in fighting organized crime, ITAR-TASS reported. VY
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PLEDGES PARTICIPATION IN SINGLE ECONOMIC SPACE. President Viktor Yushchenko told journalists in Kyiv on 22 August that Ukraine will continue to take part in the Single Economic Space (SES) that was formally set up in 2003 by Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine, Ukrainian media reported. Yushchenko's statement came after Ukrainian Economy Minister Serhiy Teryokhin announced last week that Kyiv will switch to bilateral economic relations with Moscow and may subsequently withdraw from the SES (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 August 2005). Yushchenko added that Ukraine will contribute to efforts to establish the SES and come up with 10 initiatives concerning "the most complicated and urgent problems" at a CIS summit in Kazan, Russia, on 26-27 August. JM
UKRAINIAN PREMIER SUGGESTS 'PRIVATIZATION AMNESTY.' Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko told a forum of Ukrainian diplomats in Kyiv on 22 August that the government is considering a "procedure for privatization amnesty" with regard to state properties that were sold in the past and are now being disputed in court, Ukrainian media reported. Tymoshenko urged Ukrainian ambassadors abroad to inform the world that Ukraine is not conducting reprivatization. "Who is spreading this information campaign that Ukraine is a reprivatizer?" Tymoshenko said. "These are the well-known people who owned the Kryvorizhstal [steel mill] and the Nikopol Ferroalloy Plant. They have enough money to buy any PR agency in the world, and they do so." The Kryvorizhstal and Nikopol Ferroalloy companies, which have recently been regained by the state, were controlled by Ukrainian oligarchs Rynat Akhmetov and Viktor Pinchuk. JM
NEW SUBWAY STATION OPENS IN KYIV. President Yushchenko and other state officials participated in the inauguration of the Boryspilska metro station in Kyiv on 23 August, on the eve of Ukraine's 14th anniversary of independence, Interfax-Ukraine reported. The Kyiv metro's three lines extend for some 60 kilometers and have 45 stations. JM
In June, Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle announced its plans to launch a Russian-language information program for Belarus called the "Belarusian Chronicle." Official Minsk has so far remained silent about plans for the daily show, which is scheduled to begin in October. But many of Belarus's opposition and pro-democracy circles -- who in theory could only benefit from such an endeavor -- have reacted with alarm, indignation, and even hostility. They want Deutsche Welle to speak Belarusian to Belarusians.
Media have since reported that Deutsche Welle won a European Commission tender to organize radio broadcasts to Belarus. Bidders reportedly included international broadcasters Euronews and BBC World Service. Brussels will spend 138,000 euros ($169,000) annually to support Deutsche Welle's Belarus project, which is to continue for three years. It was initially reported that Deutsche Welle would broadcast 15 minutes a day to Belarus, but Deutsche Welle's Russian Service Director Cornelia Rabitz later signaled that her team might in September come up with a 30-minute daily program in which 15 minutes would be devoted to European developments and another 15 minutes to Belarusian domestic news.
Aleh Trusau -- chairman of the Belarusian Language Society, a nongovernmental group working to support the mother tongue of most Belarusians -- was the first to urge Deutsche Welle to launch its Belarus broadcasts in Belarusian. "[Deutsche Welle broadcasts in Russian] would plunge Belarusian listeners deeper into the Russian information space and increase their isolation from Europe," Trusau argued in an open letter to Deutsche Welle in June. And in an interview with RFE/RL's Belarusian Service later in the month, he clarified his position further by saying, "There are a lot of Russian-language sections in international broadcasters -- Voice of America, BBC, Deutsche Welle -- that employ emigrants from Russia with an imperial point of view. For them, Ukraine and Belarus are not full-fledged nations."
First, nobody in Belarus appears to be imposing such a "bad-good" evaluation on the two languages. The protests are directed primarily against what is perceived as Deutsche Welle's emblematic support for the policies and ideology of Russification promoted by Lukashenka in Belarus. Some might ask, not without reason, why Deutsche Welle found funding five years ago to sponsor Ukrainian-language broadcasting to Ukraine -- the country Russified to a level comparable to that of Belarus -- and was unable to repeat the act with regard to Belarus.
Rabitz's implicit comparison of Belarus with post-Soviet Central Asia, her opponents in Belarus say, does not hold water either, since none of those five post-Soviet republics has launched the kind of nationally traumatic linguistic and cultural policy that Lukashenka did 10 years ago in Belarus. In no former Soviet Union republic is the situation of the titular language so pitiable as in Belarus. Although the 1999 census suggested that 73.7 percent of Belarus's population declared Belarusian as its native language and 36.7 percent said it speaks Belarusian at home, Belarusian has been almost completely replaced by Russian in public life and state-run media.
On the other hand, while many Belarusians (including many with university diplomas) find it difficult to speak or write freely in Belarusian, the overwhelming majority has no problems whatsoever in understanding the language. Therefore, a Belarusian-language broadcaster could reach the same audiences in Belarus as a Russian-language one. This was amply demonstrated by the highly successful, private, Belarusian-language Radio 101.2 in Minsk, which was closed down by the Lukashenka administration in mid-1990s because, as one commentator put it, it broadcast in the language of freedom, not that of suppression.
One of the participants in the "Nasha Niva" discussion about Deutsche Welle's planned broadcasts to Belarus said the use of Russian language strips the project of any practical efficiency. He argued that tuning in to the Deutsche Welle Russian-language program on shortwave (over which Deutsche Welle will broadcast to Belarus) would be incomparably harder than tuning in to a Belarusian-language broadcast because of a multitude of other Russian-language stations on the shortwave spectrum. Thus the use of Belarusian by Deutsche Welle would arguably be a more pragmatic option. Some in Belarus believe that argument is even more appealing than any case based on Belarusian trauma resulting from its government's linguistic and cultural policies.