NEWS ARCHIVE: March 2004

March 30, 2004 «Vecherniy Minsk» (The Minsk Evening) Newspaper Santa Claus works all year round

Since the New Year the residence of the Belarusian Santa Claus in Belovezhskaya Pushcha has been visited by people from more than 19 countries, the administration of the National Park was quoted. Along with the visitors from the CIS countries, there are many people who come from France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and other parts of Europe. Santa also received guests from Japan, India and Panama.

BelTA News Agency
March 30, 2004 «Sovetskaya Belorussiya» (The Soviet Byelorussia) Newspaper«, #59 Goldmine

I am always struck by those who cannot handle a goldmine in their hands and say then their money is so very tight. Just take that example when a residence of Santa Claus was set up in Belovezhskaya Pushcha in winter. An excellent and profitable idea! But the only one so far…

Boris TROPILO, Minsk city
March 30, 2004 Website News Service Belarusian Embassy in Russia distorts results UNESCO experts' mission to Belovezhskaya Pushcha

From 17–19 March a group of the UNESCO and IUCN experts visited Belovezhskaya Pushcha (Belarus) to study the situation with the conservation of the forest which is on the World Heritage Site (Belarus and Poland), and to study possibilities for a transboundary management of it. The Belarusian part of the World Heritage Site in Pushcha constitutes only 5,000 hectares of primary lowland forest, while the rest of the area which is a unique pristine forest (at least 70,000 hectares today) does not count. The experts visited only a small part of the forest which is on the World Heritage List. That was said at the meeting with the park administration, the representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Protection, the Property Management Department of the President, and a number of environmental organizations.

Nonetheless, the official announcement by the Belarusian Embassy in Russia dated March 26, 2004 says «at the meeting … the experts observed that the conservation work in Pushcha meets all requirements» and «that information will be presented at the 28th session of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee».

The public environmental organizations representatives who participated in the meeting expressed their strong disagreement about such an interpretation on behalf of UNESCO. At the meeting with the UNESCO experts on May 18 they discussed problems in the rest of Pushcha and pointed up the environmental regulations infringements in the area of the forest which is not on the World Heritage List. The Belarusian scientists, the former park workers, and some environmental organizations suggested expanding the wilderness protection zone of Belovezhskaya Pushcha to 50% of the whole forest area and inscribing that area on the World Heritage List. The experts approved this suggestion. They said that in accordance with the regulations the area of 5,000 hectares in Pushcha retains the status of the World Heritage Site, though, they did not mention that the rest of the forest meets the same requirements.

Some unpleasant incidents with respect to several representatives of public organizations were provoked by the organizers during the meeting with the experts. In connection with the incidents, a famous journalist and editor-in-chief of the «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» newspaper, also head of «TERRA-Convention», V.Dranchuk, and representative of the Belarusian Socio-Ecological Union "Chernobyl«, Igor Kutalovsky, addressed a letter to V.P.Senko, Belarus' Ambassador in France and the representative of the UNESCO Office in Belarus, as well as to other international organizations.

The letter says that «the list of people and public organizations invited to the meeting was largely compiled in secret.» «During the 2-day visit to the National Park we were persecuted, our rights were violated and our movement was simply restricted. …We could not even approach the enclosures to see bison, could not even drink tea or coffee, or visit the Nature Museum. The main entrance to the park, a so-called check point, was guarded by three local guards and two policemen. They gave no explanation as to whose orders they were executing, did not get us through with the meeting coordinator.»

«On our second day we went to meet with IUCN expert Mr. Flander, who had agreed to give us an interview the day before… But we were stopped by the guards who referred to an order and said that we were not accredited to meet with the experts. When we tried to hail Mr. Flander who was passing by and noticed us, the guards pulled up a police car to the gate, surrounded one of us, used force and threatened to drive him far away.»

«To our mind, the so-called meeting of public organizations with the experts was carefully planned by bureaucratic authorities under the Belarus' President solely for their selfish purposes, covering up the illegality which is taking place in the National Park and surely have a negative impact on its World Heritage Site. The »scenario« of the authorities … aimed at disinformation regardless of many people's noble attempts to conserve Belovezhskaya Pushcha as the World Heritage Site.»

At the end of the letter the authors appeal to the international community, in particular: 1. To hold an independent examination of Belovezhskaya Pushcha as the largest European forest and the World Heritage Site for its conservation and future development. 2. To consider the examination conclusions and to study the possibility of including Belovezhskaya Pushcha on the list of the World Heritage which is in danger. 3. To support the initiative of Belarusian public ecological organizations to set up an independent watchdog on Belovezhskaya Pushcha's conservation.
March 29, 2004 «Belorusskiy Rynok» (The Byelorussian Market) Newspaper, #11(595) Pushcha invites intellectuals

Belovezhskaya Pushcha, a place where the presidents of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia put an end to the Soviet Union 13 years ago, now will be playing host to the meeting of intellectuals from these three countries on April 16. The meeting is devoted this event happened 13 years ago.

Yuri OREHOV
March 29, 2004 Website News Service Leaves and … wilderness removed from Pushcha

After a long winter Belovezhskaya Pushcha is reported to be undergoing «tidying up» from last year's leaves and rubbish. A common thing, though, may turn out yet one more ecological sensation. Last week the park research assistants, book accountants and other workers were sent to … remove leaves from the surrounding forest.

In our earlier reports we said that in November 2004 the workers of all services in the National Park and the scientific department had hastily to leave the administrative building and a block of laboratories for mal-adjusted rooms in the industrial zone beside the timber mill. The reason for them to urgently move out was a reconstruction of the administrative building and the block of labs into one more hotel (there are 4 hotels in the National Park at present). The «reconstruction» work is now in full swing and the area around the building looks like a typical construction site.

However it is here that at the end of last week the research workers, accountants and other specialists were sent to… remove leaves from surrounding forest.

One should not forget that the administrative building, hotels, a restaurant and the Nature Museum in the National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» are situated in the place surrounded by a beautiful protected forest. It is in traditions of native Pushcha dwellers to protect this natural territory. That is why, according to sources in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, the clean-up of the surrounding area has never gone beyond sweeping roads and taking away large fallen branches and dead-wood. Such practice has not spoiled the atmosphere of wilderness about Pushcha and tourists could see it.

A few years ago the new administration of the National Park headed by Nikolai Bambiza began major reconstruction of the park's central manor, the administrative centre. People who live in the area of Belovezhskaya Pushcha suppose it was initiated with ambitions for a so-called «Euro-standard», creating a typically park landscape in the area of the reserve and stripping the administrative centre of its originality and atmosphere of wilderness, as well as leaving behind the traditions of careful treatment of wilderness.

The sources in Pushcha say that in 1996 when the Belovezhskaya Pushcha was headed by former collective farm chairman Vasily Zhukov, there was an attempt to clean up the shrubs and «cultivate» the surrounding forest. But the administration then heard the protests of the park workers and scientists and stopped the work saving the original primary landscape of the reserve. Under the present administration no one even tries to question such decisions as all workers have short-term job contracts with the National Park. A year ago the shrubs in this area were cut down and the forest cleaned up. Now the aim is to remove leaves and «rubbish» from this forest area and leave only bare land there. Over a ton of such "rubbish« was removed from the forest. From conservationists' point of view the absurdity of the work is obvious and it one more time proves how ecologically illiterate the present administration of the National Park is. Moreover, the area for »cleaning« adjoins the construction site. No one knows why the administration made that decision. But the native dwellers think this is one more »window-dressing« before a visit of high officials to the park in the mid of this week. Almost everyone is talking about it in the village of Kamenyuki which is the administrative centre of the National Park.
March 26, 2004 «Minskiy kurier» (The Minsk Courier) Newspaper, #291 Bison in freedom in virgin forests

A group of the UNESCO and IUCN experts has visited the National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» to study the situation with the conservation of 5,000 hectares of the virgin forests which are on the World Heritage List. The experts approved of the suggestion by some Belarusian scientists and environmental organizations to expand the wilderness protection zone.

Ivan KUKSA
March 26, 2004 The Belarus Embassy in Russia International experts inspected Pushcha forests

A group of the UNESCO and IUCN experts has visited the National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» to study the situation with the conservation of 5,000 hectares of the virgin forest which is on the World Heritage List. The experts assessed the work, which is carried out in this unique area of Pushcha to support the natural state of its flora and fauna. At the meeting with the park administration, the representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Protection, the Property Management Department of the President, and a number of environmental organizations the experts observed that the conservation work in Pushcha meets all requirements. This will be included in the statement for the 28th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. They also approved of the suggestion by some Belarusian scientists and environmental organizations to expand the wilderness protection zone.
March 19, 2004 «Respublika» (The Republic) Newspaper, #52 UNESCO in Belovezhskaya Pushcha

The specialists of the international environmental organizations are working in the National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» under the auspices of UNESCO. After studying the condition of a surviving the virgin relic forest, they will address a session of the World Heritage Committee with a report, which will form the basis for developing a program on transboundary cooperation in conservation of this European nature beauty.

Fedor MUHA
March 19, 2004 BelaPAN News Agency Valeri Dranchuk: Belovezhskaya Pushcha turns into closed institution

The National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» turns into a closed institution, according to Valery Dranchuk, a journalist and the head of the public initiative «Terra-Convention». He made that statement after the park guards and the police had not allowed him and his colleague of the Belarusian Socio-Ecological Union "Chernobyl« enter to the area of Pushcha where Uli Graebener and Jukka-Pekka Flander, the UNESCO and IUCN experts, are working at present.

In an interview to BelaPAN Valery Dranchuk said that he and his colleague from the Socio-Ecological Union «Chernobyl» were accredited to meet with the experts in the National Park on March 18. «We have agreed for an interview today with UNESCO expert Mr. Flander who was interested in it and was waiting for us by the Nature Museum. However, at the entrance to the park three local guards and two policemen met us and told that we could not go to the park's territory as our accreditation had been valid only yesterday. We were not allowed to the park even when they saw my ID of a journalist and my assignment list. They kept referring to a mysterious order,» V.Dranchuk said. He described the incident as excessive use of police power. "The authorities say that Pushcha is open to people and blame «green» activists for «closing» it, but, in reality, it is they who turn Pushcha into a closed institution,« V.Dranchuk added.

As it was reported by BelaPAN, the UNESCO experts have been working in Pushcha since March 17. On completion of their examination of the National Park they will prepare a report on Belovezhskaya Pushcha's conservation for the 28th session of the 2004 UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

On March 18, the experts met with representatives of non-governmental public organizations, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Protection, the Property Management Department of the President, some government committees and scientific research institutions, as well as former workers of the National Park.

The latter, with the «help» of the authorities, would not have been allowed to the meeting but for the demand of the UNESCO experts and representatives of the public initiative «Terra-Convention» and the Socio-Ecological Union "Chernobyl« former workers finally took part in the meeting

That was the first time the world could hear the outspoken viewpoint and suggestions of public activists about the conservation which is carried out in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, the representatives of some public environmental organizations were quoted. The experts, says V.Drunchuk, «understood the situation and so agreed to give an interview», but «some mysterious order of one in power blocked to do it». Mr. Dranchuk is going to sue in connection with today's incident, reports BelaPan.

Valentina KOZLOVICH
March 18, 2004 Website «Charter 97»' News Valery Dranchuk was not able to enter the Belovezhskaya Pushcha

Valery Dranchuk, a journalist, the head of the public initiative «Terra-Convention» and the activist of the European Coalition «Svabodnaya Belarus» (Free Belarus), is going to sue in connection with the incident which happened on March 19. That day the guards of the National Park and the police did not allow him and his colleague from the Belarusian Socio-Ecological Union "Chernobyl« to meet the UNESCO and IUCN experts in Pushcha who were working there. In an interview to BelaPAN Valery Dranchuk said that he and his colleague from the Socio-Ecological Union «Chernobyl» were accredited to meet with the experts in the National Park on March 18. On March 19 UNESCO expert Mr. Flander agreed to give them an interview. «Mr. Flander was waiting for us by the Nature Museum. However, at the entrance to the park three local guards and two policemen met us and told that we could not go to the park's territory as our accreditation had been valid only yesterday. We were not allowed to the park even when they saw my ID of a journalist and my assignment list. They kept referring to a mysterious order,» V.Dranchuk said.

He described the incident as «excessive use of police power while the National Park turns to a close regime institution». «The authorities say that the Park is open to people, but, in reality, it is they who turn Pushcha into a closed institution,» V.Dranchuk added.

Let's remember the UNESCO experts have been working in Pushcha since March 17. On completion of their examination of the National Park they will prepare a report on Belovezhskaya Pushcha's conservation for the 28th session of the 2004 UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
March 18, 2004 Website News Service Meeting with UNESCO experts in Pushcha … guarded by police

From 17–19 March Belovezhskaya Pushcha was visited by Uli Graebener (of the UNESCO office in Moscow) and Jukka-Pekka Flander (Finland), the UNESCO and IUCN experts.

The experts began their visit to Belarus by meeting with the administration of the National Park and visiting the World Heritage Site which is in the centre part of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. The Site borders on the Polish part of Pushcha and forms with it a single whole. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and constitutes one of 5 parts of the wilderness protection zone in the park. There is absolutely no human impact on nature in the zone.

Having examined the World Heritage Site, the experts held a planned meeting with representatives of non-governmental organizations and former workers of the National Park, who were concerned with the situation in Pushcha and wanted to attend the meeting. Among the participants there were also representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Protection, the Property Management Department of the President, some government committees and scientific research institutions. The meeting was organized by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Protection and the National Committee on the UNESCO.

Up till the last moment the former workers of the park were in doubts of meeting with them, despite the request for the meeting and organizers' assurances of an unimpeded access. The entrance to the park was blocked by the police and the park guards who were given orders to let into Pushcha only people who were included on a special list. The meeting for those «excluded» local people became possible only due to the strong protest against that by the representatives of the public initiative «Terra-Convention» and the Socio-Ecological Union "Chernobyl« and the UNESCO experts.

The participants of the meeting discussed the conservation of the World Heritage Site and cooperation with Poland in this regard. Representatives of most of the public organizations, former workers of the National Park and heads of the scientific research institutions commonly agreed that the Pushcha's core area of 5 thousand hectares which are the World Heritage Site are just a small part of the unique relic forest and neither represent all biological and landscape diversity which are found in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, nor provide for natural development of wilderness and wildlife. In view of that they suggested enlarging the wilderness protection zone to 50 per cent of the whole area of the Reserve and subsequently making it the World Heritage Site. They also stressed the importance of keeping to traditions of conservation in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, widely-acclaimed environmental principles and wilderness protection work. Some criticism was aired about the absence of scientific and legal regulations for the National Park, about the management and social tensions in the area.

The administration of the National Park was more interested in the economic activity to gain commercial profits. Director of the Park Nikolai Bambiza told the participants of his readiness to log 1 million cubic meters of wood in 2004. All workers of the Park who held the floor were strongly against the enlargement of the wilderness protection zone and the World Heritage Site.

Summing up the results of the meeting the UNESCO experts expressed their understanding to the suggestions of the scientists and public organizations about Belovezhskaya Pushcha's conservation. They agreed to support the initiatives for the World Heritage Site enlargement if there are movements in this direction in Belarus. The experts also stressed the importance of a constructive and open dialogue between the administration of the National Park and public organizations. Representatives of the public organizations observed that despite the limitations set up by the organizers of the meeting, it was the first time that they could openly talk of their position and suggestions for conservation in the wilderness protection territories at such a high international level.
March 16, 2004 «Narodnaya Volya» (The People's Will) Newspaper, #46 Shushkevich and Kravchuk agree, Yeltsyn is not sure

It is possible that Stanislav Shushkevich, Boris Yeltsyn and Leonid Kravchuk (former presidents who agreed dissolution of the USSR) will meet again in Belovezhskaya Pushcha in the mid of April. This time, though, only as the dignitaries of the round-table discussion organized by intellectuals from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

Marina KOKTYSH
March 15, 2004 Website News Service UNESCO and IUNC experts are going to visit Belovezhskaya Pushcha

Following the decision of the 27th session of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, a group of the UNESCO and IUNC experts will visit Belovezhskaya Pushcha as part of the work arrangement. Their aim will be to study the situation with the conservation in Belovezhskaya Pushcha as the World Heritage Site (Belarus and Poland), as well as to estimate possibilities for a transboundary management of it. The visit of the experts is to take place from 15–19 March.
March 11, 2004 «Birzha Informacii» (The Information Exchange) Newspaper, #318 New perspectives for Belovezhskaya Pushcha

The perspectives for developing cooperation between Belarus and Poland in the bounds of the Euro-region «Belovezhskaya Pushcha», considering also future Poland's EU membership, were discussed during the session of the Euro-region Committee in the town of Svisloch.

Andrei SEREDA, BelaPAN News Agency
March 10, 2004 «Komsomolskaya Pravda v Belarusi» (The Komsomol Truth in Belarus) Newspaper, #44 (21953) Orchids found in Brest region

Scientists have to map plants' habitats incorrectly to protect them from poachers.

Irina KALININA & Raisa MURASHKINA
March 4, 2004 «Sovetskaya Belorussiya» (The Soviet Byelorussia) Newspaper«, #42 (21952) Decree N 126 by the President of the Republic of Belarus

To appoint Lavrenkov Gennadi Mikhalovich the Administrator of the Propertu Management Department of the President of the Republic of Belarus and give him the highest title of the State employee.

The President of the Republic of Belarus A.Lukashenko
March 03, 2004, Minsk city