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Today's news from Brest Belarus  

12 February 2014
National Bank decides against changing refinance rate in February



The board of the National Bank of Belarus (NBB) decided at a meeting on February 11 that its base refinance rate should remain unchanged in February at 23.5 percent, according to the NBB press office.

“The current refinance rate meets the anti-inflation nature of monetary policy,” the NBB press office said in a statement.

The National Bank will continue to annually consider changing the refinance rate “with due regard for the real and expected dynamics of inflation and the macroeconomic situation,” the press office said.

The NBB last changed its refinance rate on June 10, 2013, reducing it from 25 to 23.5 percent. //BelaPAN

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12 February 2014
Polish MEP expresses solidarity with Belarus ahead of St. Valentine`s Day



The office of Marek Migalski, a Polish member of the European Parliament, has expressed solidarity with the political prisoners and civil society in Belarus on the occasion of St. Valentine`s Day.

“The situation in Ukraine and Russia has eclipsed the situation in Belarus today,” the office says in its message. “That is why we want to show once again that we remember Belarus, and that we are together with all those who love it and wish freedom and democracy to it.”

The office has created a Facebook profile, “I Love Belarus” to inform the public about the organizations and individuals who also want to show their support to Belarus ahead of St. Valentine’s Day.

The office invites people to replace their user icons on social networking sites with an avatar featuring a white-red-white hear and to send in photographs of themselves displaying white-red-white flags. //BelaPAN

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12 February 2014
Belarus ranks 157th out of 180 countries in 2014 World Press Freedom Index



Belarus is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders earlier this month.

Belarus was 157th last year, 168th in 2012 and 154th in 2010.

“Some post-Soviet states have decided they need no oil or gas to crack down on the media,” the report says. “In Belarus, independent journalists continue to fight on unequal terms against ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’ and its propaganda. Those who cover street protests are routinely detained. The KGB and the judicial authorities often use ‘combating extremism’ as a pretext for silencing those who refuse to toe the official line. A book containing the winning photos of the 2011 Belarus Press Photo competition was banned in 2013 and one of the leading independent publishing houses [the Lohvinaw Publishing House] was stripped of its license. The magazine Arche and independent media based abroad such as Belsat TV are subjected to all sorts of administrative harassment.”

Finland, the Netherlands and Norway are at the top of the list for the second consecutive year. The press is said to be the least free in Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.

As for the countries bordering Belarus, Poland is ranked 19th, Lithuania 32nd, Latvia 37th, Ukraine 127th and Russia 148th. //BelaPAN

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12 February 2014
USA welcomes comments about its human rights record, embassy says



The United States welcomes comments about its human rights record, a spokesperson for the US embassy in Minsk told BelaPAN on Wednesday, commenting on the Belarusian foreign ministry’s report about human rights violations around the world.

“The United States is always open to a human rights dialogue with Belarus,” the spokesperson said. “We’re ready to discuss the human rights situation in our country as well as Washington’s conclusions about the situation in Belarus detailed in US State Department’s report.”

In its report, titled, “The Most High-profile Instances of Human Rights Abuse in Certain Countries of the World in 2013,” the Belarusian foreign ministry accuses US authorities of violating the principle of the secrecy of correspondence. The report cites the prosecution of US fugitive ex-CIA analyst Edward Snowden, who fled the United States in June 2013 after leaking details of top-secret US and UK government mass surveillance programs to the media.

The foreign ministry alleges that the right to search for, obtain and disseminate information and ideas is violated in the United States and so is the right to life and freedom from torture. The report notes that the US military carries out extrajudicial killings without giving proper explanations and reporting civilian casualties.

The ministry also criticizes the United States for allegedly violating the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and subjecting people to arbitrary arrest and detention.

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11 February 2014
Great Patriotic War museum’s new building to be opened on Independence Day



The new building of the Belarusian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War on Peramozhtsaw Avenue in Minsk will be opened on July 2 as one of the highlights of Independence Day celebrations, Lyudmila Lebedz, an official at the culture ministry, told reporters on Monday.

The news conference focused on events that will be held in Belarus in 2014 as the Year of Hospitality.

According to Ms. Lebedz, the scenario of the Independence Day celebrations has already been devised.

She said that the city of Smarhon in the Hrodna region would be the focal point of commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. The frontline ran across what is now the Smarhon district, she explained, adding that chemical weapons had been used in the city, killing almost all its residents.

Ms. Lebedz said that Hrodna would host more than 100 events in the capacity of Belarus’ “cultural capital” this year, including a festival of national cultures between June 6 and June 8.

She said that a number of cultural events would be held in Minsk during the Ice Hockey World Championship in May, including crafts exhibitions and concerts near the Palace of Sports.

Ms. Lebedz expressed confidence that guests would not be disappointed with “the abundance and diversity” of cultural events in Belarus this year. //BelaPAN

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