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Enterprises are responsible for the proper maintenance of agricultural equipment, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said after hearing a report on fire safety and maintenance of agricultural equipment, BelTA has learned.

The president noted that the goal of the meeting is to review the progress in the implementation of the instructions given to various agencies.

“According to the information that I have received, no proper work on maintenance of the machine and tractor fleet has been organized yet,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

The head of state explained why he pays close attention to these issues.

“If collective enterprises and others working in agriculture were buying tractors, trucks and trailers for their own money, then they would have the right to criticize me, even say that it were not my business and ask not to intervene. But when agricultural enterprises of all types of ownership ask for subsidies, grants and loans to acquire the equipment then they should show us how they maintain this equipment,” the president said.

The participants of the meeting also discussed fire safety issues. According to Alexander Lukashenko, the situation in the country is far from being ideal. Over 160 fires have damaged the country's organizations since the start of the year. “I am not talking about the housing stock where the number of fires has nearly reached 1,600 fires. God save us from something similar to the recent tragedy in Kemerovo. You know what my requirements are. Every facility must be checked. All the failures must be rectified,” the president said.

Alexander Lukashenko asked about the current fire safety measures in the country, including the agricultural sector, maintenance of farm equipment and the responsibility of officials for incidents of mismanagement.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko will deliver his annual State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly on 24 April, BelTA learned from the president's press service.

The event at the Oval Hall of the Seat of Government will bring together top-ranking officials, members of the government, heads of government bodies and agencies, major enterprises, representatives of the diplomatic corps and mass media.

The speech by the head of state will be broadcast live by the TV channels Belarus 1, Belarus 24, and the First National Channel of the Belarusian Radio. The broadcast will begin at 10:30. The televised version of the Address will be air on Belarusian TV channels in the evening.

All kinds of mass media should bear equal responsibility for the information they distribute. Prime Minister of Belarus Andrei Kobyakov made the statement as he met with the CIS Mass Media Heads Council in Minsk on 19 April, BelTA has learned.

The Belarusian parliament passed the first reading to amendments to the Mass Media Law on 19 April. Andrei Kobyakov pointed out that the planned amendments are not designed to create some filters for Internet content. “At the same time the key task is to make sure that all kinds of mass media — printed media, television, and Internet media — bear equal responsibility for the information they distribute,” stressed the Belarusian head of government.

The prime minister remarked that trust in information comes to the forefront these days. “Reliable and up-to-date information is one of the most important needs for mankind. One can hardly imagine the civilized world can exist without it. This is why the matter of reliability and prompt news delivery is extremely important. It is what news agencies are all about,” said Andrei Kobyakov.

Andrei Kobyakov compared the distribution of negative news by mass media to weapons of mass destruction. Today's technologies for delivering news and their universal adoption only make the influence of mass media stronger.

Even the economy is affected by it. “Information influences not only the state of peace and war — although it is the key matter for the humankind — but also economy and markets of developed nations and developing ones. Trust is one of the most important categories people have been frequently talking about of late. Trust is shaped by the impact of information. If depositors don't trust banks, if investors don't trust governments, then the economy in such countries will be far from reaching its goals,” said the prime minister.

Andrei Kobyakov thanked the heads of news agencies from the CIS member states for their praise of BelTA's work. “We appreciate your evaluation of BelTA's performance. This year the agency will celebrate its 100th anniversary as an up-to-date and rather mobile institution, which lives up to challenges of the time,” said the prime minister.

Sergei Mikhailov, Director General of the Russian news agency TASS, said that during the session of the CIS Mass Media Heads Council on 19 April they discussed creative interaction between state-run news agencies, which have to operate in the face of tough competition with other kinds of mass media and the Internet. The TASS director general noted that the Internet is home to quite a great deal of fake news. Such news spread rather fast. News agencies have to stay competitive in these conditions by separating the wheat from the chaff.

“The precision of information — which sources we can trust and which we can't — comes to the forefront,” believes Sergei Mikhailov. “We are convinced that professionalism, timely delivery, authenticity, and precision in reflecting points of view are crucial to the success of our news agencies. It is important for us to draw attention not to confrontation, not to abusive rhetoric often spread by various mass media, but to the coverage of positive events in the life of our countries, integration processes, and friendly ties between nations.”

The CIS Mass Media Heads Council (CIS Information Council) was established in November 1995. Its members are the heads of state-run news agencies of Azerbaijan (AzerTAc), Armenia (Armenpress), Belarus (BelTA), Kazakhstan (Kazinform), Kyrgyzstan (Kabar), Moldova (Moldpress), Russia (TASS), and Tajikistan (Khovar).

Belarus and Moldova need to step up efforts to develop joint ventures and set up new ones, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said at the extended meeting with Moldova Prime Minister Pavel Filip on 19 April, BelTA has learned.

The head of state agreed with the Moldovan prime minister that the countries are connected not only by sentimental friendly relations but also by pragmatic cooperation. “And we have done a lot in this field, this is a good foundation of our relations. But we must always think what's next,” Alexander Lukashenko remarked.

The president is convinced that the countries need to step up efforts to promote joint projects, set up joint ventures, look for new avenues for cooperation. “Two thousand elevators, according to your government, are not enough. Elevators are made in Belarus, and they are of excellent quality. Why cannot we assemble them here? We can. If you need buses, let's make them together,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

In his opinion, this is how Belarus and Moldova will reach a new level of cooperation. “We do not take money for it. Among other things, we are ready to train your people, it is even more important than joint enterprises and goods. You will have personnel and enterprises,” the president said.

The head of state cited the interaction of Belarusian scientists with the Porumbeni Horticulture Institute as an example of productive cooperation. He visited this institute with Igor Dodon. According to Alexander Lukashenko, Belarusian and Moldovan scientists have not only built reliable and increasingly vibrant relations. They are always thinking about new joint projects. This is beneficial for both states.

The Belarusian parliament will consider the amendments to the Law on Media in its spring session, Belarus' Deputy Information Minister Pavel Lyogky told the media on 13 April, BelTA has learned.

Pavel Lyogky said that streamlining of mass media activities on the internet is the main novelty of the bill widely discussed in the journalistic environment. The Law on Media introduces a number of new terms, including “online publications” and “internet resources”. Online publications will refer to internet resources registered with the Information Ministry. Pavel Lyogky stressed that it will be voluntary. “Nobody obliges internet resources that produce and distribute content to become online resources,” he said. But in this case, those, who prefer to work as before, will not be able to be accredited for official events.

The Information Ministry suggests extending the current registration procedure to internet resources. “We want everyone to work in equal conditions,” Pavel Lyogky said. Meanwhile, a lot of internet resources work as traditional media and, at the same time, do not bear the same responsibility.

The draft law envisages a number of other important novelties. Information propagating or encouraging suicide is banned. A big part of novelties have been developed to protect children against the negative influence of the internet and illegal dissemination of their personal data. There are also plans to introduce the identification of internet resource users. This will protect the owners of online publications from being held accountable for libel or other illegal information posted on their pages. In addition, the document takes into account the requirements to equate employees of such resources to journalists of traditional media.

Heads of ministries and government agencies should publicly state their views and make comments on ongoing important events. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko made the relevant statement as he met with representatives of the country's largest state-run mass media on 10 April, BelTA has learned.

During the meeting reporters said that after headline-making events they sometimes fail to get timely comments from heads of the relevant agencies. Some civil servants resort to dropping “No comments” and running away from cameras. In such situations the interpretation of events in social networks sometimes produces things, which have nothing in common with what really has transpired.

Alexander Lukashenko agreed that the situation is not normal. “It is not normal if the head of state talks more than the minister about the topic the minister should know better,” noted the head of state. He stressed that heads of the relevant government agencies should speak up so that the public could get objective and timely information.

The role of press services, which are also supposed to deliver up-to-date and important information to the general public, was also mentioned during the meeting with the Belarus president.

In 2018-2022 the World Bank will channel about $570 million into financing projects in Belarus, BelTA learned from Alex Kremer, World Bank Country Manager for Belarus, during the presentation of the World Bank Group's framework partnership strategy for Belarus for the 2018-2022 period on 9 April.

Alex Kremer said: “We expect that the World Bank will allocate some $570 million from 1 July 2018 through 31 June 2022. The figure may be above or below that depending on various aspects and events.”

The main targets for the World Bank's financing include private sector growth, increasing the effectiveness of the state sector, and modernizing social services.

Alex Kremer noted that the World Bank is satisfied with the progress of implementation of current projects in Belarus. “Belarus is one of the more effective countries with regard to project implementation in its region,” he believes.

Irina Oleinik, the World Bank's specialist on programs in Belarus, reminded that in the course of implementing the previous strategy the World Bank virtually doubled the volume of funding — from $457 million to nearly $1 billion — as the implementation of projects in new areas began.

Among other things the new strategy for the 2018-2022 period provides for financing the modernization of the state finance management system, providing additional funding for the project to modernize the education system, allocating funds for projects meant to bolster the higher education system, raise the effectiveness and quality of housing and municipal services, and improve the stability of the power engineering sector.

It is necessary to work out principles of cooperation in Europe, which will be acceptable for everyone. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko made the statement as he met with the heads of the delegations participating in the session of the CIS Foreign Ministers Council on 6 April, BelTA has learned.

Alexander Lukashenko reminded that during the 26th session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Belarus suggested starting the discussion about launching a negotiation process meant to overcome the existing contradictions and forming new constructive relations in the OSCE region. “It is necessary to work out universally acceptable principles of cooperation in Europe. A dialogue of experts involving analytics centers, government agencies, and private structures to determine common goals meant to enhance trust between nations at least in political and military affairs could play an important role,” stated the head of state.

In his words, the international expert conference on security in Eastern Europe, which is due in Minsk in May 2018, represents a good opportunity to get the ball rolling.

In 2018 Belarus will also host an OSCE counterterrorism conference on preventing and fighting terrorism in the digital age. A meeting of the Munich Security Conference Core Group will take place in Belarus in 2018, too.

The Belarusian head of state invited all the partners to partake in the events at the highest level.

Alexander Lukashenko said: “Today's international situation is literally oversaturated with tensions. The ongoing destabilization of the system of checks and balances, which kept competing countries and blocs at bay in the past, represents the most dangerous trend in the Euro-Atlantic space. Located in a peculiar geopolitical fissure, Belarus recognizes the disadvantages of the confrontation in the European region spiraling out of control. Experts believe that a cold war is already in progress.”

Alexander Lukashenko stated that attempts to work out a new paradigm of the world order are made not only via negotiations but in war zones, too. The Donbass area in Ukraine is the closest one. “Thanks to the Minsk agreements large-scale combat operations have been stopped over there but, unfortunately, people keep dying. Let me reaffirm once again that we are ready to do everything to restore peace in the Donbass area while observing every letter of the international law and with the approval of the conflicting sides,” said the president.

It is necessary to update the system of ideological work in the country. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko gave the relevant instructions as he appointed Vladimir Zhevnyak Deputy Head of the Belarus President Administration on 5 April, BelTA has learned.

Alexander Lukashenko said: “We need to build a good system in the sphere of ideology. We need a system to work with people directly. We also need to update it. Because going to talk to labor collectives, to have a dialogue with them is very important. It is necessary to always talk to people. But it is not enough today. One cannot talk to all the workers and to ten million people. But everyone starting with the president and ending with the heads of enterprises should take care of ideological work. You will have to work with the head of the administration and your subordinates to reshape the system.”

The president remarked that they had been searching long and hard for a person able to fill this position taking into account peculiarities of ideological work. “Such people are unique. They are few and far between. There are only a handful of them. If we talk not only about your administrative work, but ideological work, too. A very delicate approach is needed in this regard,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko.

The head of state told Vladimir Zhevnyak: “One can say you are a military man. Such people never leave the army behind. It is good, too. We have already talked too much about various matters instead of simply going and doing something, building a system and making demands. In order to make it beautiful and good. And we already need to talk less and act more.”

Alexander Lukashenko underscored the need to work together in these areas with other high-ranking officials of the Belarus President Administration. At the same time he mentioned it is important to have one's own opinion on various matters. “After your appointment you will have only one boss — the president. If you disagree with the head of the administration on something — it is difficult to not agree with her, she has state interests at heart — if the president's press secretary starts dropping hints for you, you should have your own point of view,” said the head of state. “If they tell you things that fit judging from our life, then go ahead and implement them. If you disagree, pick up the phone and tell me. Because your errors — if you commit any — will be solely your errors. Not errors of the head of the administration, not errors of the press secretary or heads of BelTA, television or radio channels. Those will be your errors. It is probably the most difficult position with the most difficult kind of work.”

The president also noted that they had been considering getting rid of the position of the deputy head of the Belarus President Administration in charge of ideology and shifting the workload onto the first deputy head of the administration. “But frankly speaking, I and the head of the administration don't like the idea today. We need someone, who knows how to talk to people and will talk to them. We need someone, who will take care of mass media, organize them, and see to other matters concerning the ideology of our state. It is ideological work, it is the main thing,” stated the Belarusian leader.

It was noted that the new deputy head of the Belarus President Administration will have to oversee ideological work, mass media, and public organizations. In turn, the first deputy head of the administration will continue overseeing education, culture, sport, and international affairs.

Chairman of the Supreme State Council of the Union State, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko extended congratulations as the Belarusians and Russians celebrate the Unity Day of the Peoples of Belarus and Russia on 2 April, BelTA learned from the press service of the Belarusian head of state.

“The Unity Day of the Peoples of Belarus and Russia is a special holiday that embodies our brotherhood and firm friendship, good neighborliness, mutual understanding and all-round cooperation. Every day we work together to achieve the main goal of integration, which is to improve people's lives through successful social and economic development of Belarus and Russia," the message of congratulations runs.

According to Alexander Lukashenko, the allied relations between the two countries contribute to the expansion of mutually beneficial economic and humanitarian ties, the establishment of equal rights and unified social guarantees for citizens. “In the international arena, we act in a consolidated manner, making a significant contribution to peace and security, consistently and effectively strengthening the defense capacity of our countries, uniting efforts in the face of present-day challenges and threats,” the president noted.

The head of state is convinced that the cooperation between Belarus and Russia has great potential. “In order to fulfill it in full, we need to strictly observe the agreements, preserving and developing our achievements and common heritage,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko.

Among the priority areas of long-term Union State construction, he named innovative and knowledge-intensive technologies, which need to be implemented in all areas of life. “With their help, we will be able to build a high-tech economy and an information society,” the head of state said.

The effectiveness of joint actions largely depends on the authority and position of Belarus and Russia in the world community, the competitiveness of our countries and, most importantly, the well-being of citizens, the congratulations say.

“The Union State is our asset that enables the two fraternal peoples to live as one family in peace and harmony. I am confident that the will of the Belarusians and Russians to unite will continue to serve as a solid foundation for integration, further development of multipronged cooperation and the formation of a common new history,” the Belarusian leader said.

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