Aleksandr Lukashenko visits construction site of Minsk water park

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The Minsk water park will become operational on 1 May 2014, Minsk Mayor Nikolai Ladutko told Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko during a visit to the construction site of the future water park on 26 July.

By the end of 2013 all the construction and installation works will be completed and the facility will start operating in a testing mode. At present some 72% of the construction works have been done. According to the Minsk mayor, all the necessary equipment for the water park has already been purchased and will be mounted in August.

Nikolai Ladutko admitted that many facilities in Belarus are designed and built by Belarusian specialists. Over 15 years Belarus has amassed considerable experience. “The Minsk water park is no exception. We designed it on our own, from the scratch. It is the fifth biggest water park in Europe and the first facility of this kind in Belarus,” the Minsk mayor said.

He remarked that the initial project was a bit different. The revised version features an outdoor water area, more water rides and water pools. All in all, the water park will offer 11 big water rides (plus children’s water rides), two children’s entertainment facilities (an indoor and an outdoor ones). The longest water ride will be over 200m long and 20m high. The water park will have 11 water pools and five Jacuzzis.

The water park can welcome up to 2,000 visitors in summer and over 1,600 visitors in winter. The water park also caters to people with special needs. A hotel compound featuring an economy class hotel and eight cottages will be located near the water park. The water park and its premises will occupy 38 hectares.

The municipal authorities suggested naming the park Kupalle. However, Aleksandr Lukashenko did not quite like this idea and asked to come up with other ideas.

The President was also informed about the construction of other sports, recreation and recuperation facilities, in particular, the Minsk-based stadium Dinamo. Nikolai Ladutko told the President that the second tender to choose the concept to redesign the stadium had been held. The concept has been worked out by a German company that has been offering these services in Europe for many years already. Now we clearly understand what we are going to build. All the planning decisions are absolutely clear,” the Chairman of the Minsk City Council noted.

At present the process is in the phase of the architectural design development. Belarusian designers are expected to do some of the work. The official remarked that it is possible to launch construction works as early as in four months but then they will have to build and design simultaneously. Waiting for several months for the architectural design to be ready and for the final calculations to be available is another option.

“We will build right away. As far as I understand your calculations we would start building only in a year. Get down to designing and building the stadium right away if it is possible. It is necessary to organize preparations for the project fast, even if it has to be done piece by piece, and start building,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Chairman of the Belarusian Football Federation Sergei Rumas said that if the stadium has to seat 40,000 people, the reconstruction will cost €180-190 million.

The President was also informed about the progress in building the culture, entertainment and sports facility Chizhovka Arena. According to Nikolai Ladutko, as much as 85% of the construction and installation work has been done already. Tenders have been held and the larger part of the equipment has been delivered. There are plans to schedule the solemn opening of Chizhovka Arena for 7 November 2013.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also answered a number of reporters’ questions concerning improvements in the construction industry, the situation with former American intelligence officer Edward Snowden, еру situation with African swine fever, Belarus-China cooperation prospects and preparations for the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia.

The head of state promised that the Belarusian civil engineering industry will be brought to its senses, including with punitive measures. In his words, there is no doubt that the national construction industry will be revitalized. “As far as the problem of corrupt officials is concerned, and there are many of those, I should say that no country in the world has managed to completely safeguard an industry against corruption. Not one. Whatever some people in Russia, in the West, in America may claim, they have a long way to go to reach the level of the fight against corruption that exists in Belarus,” the Belarusian head of state noted.

“This is a very serious process and I constantly caution about it. Some fail to understand me. Since they do not, then they will have to face certain responsibility. Putting them in jail is not the idea. Revitalizing the entire system is,” the President believes.

“The Belarusian civil engineering industry is more than chronically ill. Our kind of construction industry must not exist in our society and the country. Therefore, whatever some may want, we will bring the industry to its senses and will revitalize it. It will work for the benefit of the nation. I am not inclined to hear continuous complaints from people as the president, I have to respond to the public opinion,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President remarked that citizens demand nothing supernatural from construction workers. Citizens just want things built on time, in a quality manner and for the previously agreed price. “We demand the same things. I think many have already grasped the idea that we are not kidding. Today the chairman of the committee reported that about 80 criminal cases in this sphere alone have been opened. We will steamroll the industry starting with executives of government construction agencies and going through designers and construction enterprises. We will level the place so that people would not complain to us. And it is only the beginning,” the head of state warned.

According to the President, the approach to private construction companies will change. It will become stricter. “Private companies should understand that they have earned the negative outlook. And we will be phasing out services of private developers in favor of major state-run construction companies. Private companies will get orders only when they prove their competence. If you want to build things, go ahead but show your construction enterprise or at least the money you want to spend on construction,” the head of state said.

“They will not have the free reign they enjoyed in the past. They used to get land plots, resell them without starting construction. If they did start, they would milk people hard without building anything. It will not happen again. If it happens, I have already clearly and resolutely stated that everyone will go to jail. We will use punitive measures so that people will not be offended,” Aleksandr Lukashenko concluded.

Commenting on the situation with African swine fever, Aleksandr Lukashenko urged people to stop panicking over the situation. “This pest came to Belarus from outside. I do not want to blame anyone, but regardless of where it came from, we see that the world is extremely interconnected and we will have to deal with it,” the head of state said.

“I do not see any catastrophe here, contrary to how this situation is usually presented,” the President said. In his words, even the West admitted that Belarus is doing well in fighting this disease.

The President noted that the virus of African swine fever succumbs under the temperature of 60 degrees; therefore thermal treatment is enough to kill the virus.

According to the head of state, the focuses of the disease have already been identified.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the situation with subsidiary plots causes the biggest concern. “We will fix the situation in agricultural companies, it is easier. I have already suggested asking people to slaughter their pigs. Or we can take pigs away in exchange of good money. People can slaughter their pigs on their own or hand them over to be slaughtered in a different place,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that work is underway to prevent the spread of the virus among wild animals.

“It is easier when it comes to compound feeds. We need to use our own compound feeds; we should also be more careful with additives and double check them,” the President said.

“The virus is easy to detect. If animals are infected, they will not be forwarded to meat processing plants. Even if they do, the virus will be killed anyway during thermal processing,” the head of state said.

“Efficient efforts are needed to combat the pest, although it is harmless for human beings. I do not see any big problem here; we approach the matter very seriously,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. The President noted that the KGB and the public prosecutor's office were instructed to monitor the activities of all agencies involved, from the government to veterinarians, and watch how they act in this situation,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“I think you ate pork yesterday and today. Do not worry; do not give up on eating your pork shashlik. But do not buy meat in the street, but on the market or in stores,” the President said.

Speaking about himself, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that he prefers chicken and beef. “However, sometimes I do eat it, and these days, too. Do not think that there are a lot of people over there checking every piece of my food. Nothing of the kind! We buy some products at Komarovka, just like you,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko was also asked about the prospects of Belarusian-Chinese cooperation. According to the head of state, cooperation with China might help bring hi-tech companies to Belarus.

Aleksandr Lukashenko called Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park the most important joint project. “This will be an industrial zone where hi-tech companies from all over the world will be concentrated,” the Belarusian President remarked.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that Belarus seeks to develop modern hi-tech industries, not merely create new jobs. “We boast high-skilled specialists and high-level education. If someone comes to us and if we give them some preferences we would like them to bring hi-tech products here,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the products from the industrial park will be sold abroad, including to Europe and the United States, which is why these should be high-level products. “Moreover, President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping mentioned during the talks that they are ready to develop, design, create and sell products here. In other words, they are ready to deliver a complete manufacturing cycle. Secondly, these should be high-technology products. This is what we need,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stated.

“Specialists say that this will result in $50 billion worth of export products per year. This equals the amount we produce and export today. If this happens we will not have any problems with foreign currency earnings. This is why we need this industrial park, we need to attract investment of hi-tech companies, so that we will be able to make a breakthrough,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also commented on some suspicions and criticism regarding the construction of Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park. He attributed this to the fact that a lot of claimants wanted to create a similar object on their territory: “Both the Ukrainians and Russians wanted it, but our Chinese friends decided to build this park in Belarus. This is not only our merit, though if there had not been suitable conditions here they would not have come here. They also chose us because we boast advantageous geographical position and logistics that suit them. That is why we should be grateful to them for their choice to build the park in our country.”

“There is no need to allege that there is a lack of land here or something else. Everyone will get enough of everything. We are not going to infringe upon people’s interests or treat them badly. If someone finds it inconvenient to live next to this park we will provide them with better land in order not to hurt them,” the Belarusian President added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko named other significant projects pertaining to Belarusian-Chinese cooperation. They are the construction of the Lebyazhy residential compound and the Beijing Hotel.

Speaking about Edward Snowden, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that It is high time Russia granted political asylum to the former American intelligence officer. “The matter has been spun out of control and it is likely that today Russian leadership may not know what to do with Snowden. In their place I would not stress myself too much but would go ahead and grant political asylum to him,” the President of belarus said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko explained his view by saying that America has given shelter to hundreds of Russian traitors. “They have given shelter to so many people, have stolen so many secrets from us, they have sheltered so many terrorists, whose extradition Russia demands,” the Belarusian head of state said.

“Why do they complain about Putin’s alleged misbehavior? He is doing the right thing. Political asylum should have been granted long ago. Then you would have known that the world is global, mutually dependent and that if a terrorist is in Russia, then he may commit something in America tomorrow. It happened in a not too distant past. Therefore, in place of Russian leadership I would act more decisively in this regard and it would be justified,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Yet the Belarusian head of state admitted that the USA’s reasons for calling Snowden a traitor are rather valid.

“We have recently arrested one of the traitors who served in the special services and who was involved with foreign governments through representatives of the Catholic Church. He not only handed over the information. His activities hurt the people who work abroad,” the President said.

“How do you call this? From our point of view, this is treachery. From the American perspective Snowden is a traitor, too. Therefore, there should be no double standards. We should proceed from this,” Aleksandr Lukashenko believes.

“Mr. Snowden was a special service employee for years. Moreover, when he was hired, he clearly understood what he would have to deal with, what special services generally do and what the American special service does in particular. He was trained, he knew that special services strip people naked, tap their phones, x-ray people and so on,” the President remarked. “So if you are part of a special service, do your job. But if you want to defend human rights, then you have to quit your special service job,” he added.

“As for Americans, they were hoisted by their own petard. Americans are always shouting they are the bastion of human rights. What kind of human rights are those then? They may have wiretapped Belarusians and Russians because they believe we are their adversaries, but why did they have to do the same to entire Western Europe, filtering 500 million calls every day? What a huge kind of a system that is! Why did they have to interfere with private lives?!” the Belarusian President wondered.

“It may have been justified but then you have no justification to accuse us of violating human rights. You do not have any human rights, only violations and Snowden is the case in point and there are more cases like that,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

“What happened to Snowden before and after, we see that it is a bluff. It is one of the aspects of the fight waged by Americans and the West against disagreeable countries. The things they do to human rights, to people on the whole are inadmissible,” believes the Belarusian leader. “But we had better stay out of it. They may deal with their Snowden on their own, but for Americans it is only the beginning. They will have to put out many fires. They were the ones to start them and they will have to be the ones to put them out,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

In the run-up to the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia, the President was asked about his view of prospects of Christianity.

Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that the church needs reforms. "The entire world is evolving, changing. Yet it is changing not in the way we would want to, and not in the direction the Church would want to. Changing are systems, structures and people themselves. In my view, if the world is changing, the Church must change too," the head of state said. “I believe we are on the verge of some reform, some evolutionary and gradual reform of the Orthodox Church and maybe not only the Orthodox Church,” he added.

“Thank God, our Church has not been plagued by the things which the Church in the West has caught. Everyone has heard about these things: pedophilia, gayety, and what’s not,” the President said. “But we are starting to pick up those things. And I think that the Orthodox Church and the State have not been doing enough on this front. We may lose the entire generation of young people,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said and noted that Pope Francis is also concerned about it.

The President noted that he is a supporter of gradual reforms of the Church, starting from the language of service to the duration of services. “Prayers and sermons are very long. And in fact, the senior generation, many old ladies just do not endure these long services. We should be more concise, compact, more modern. I do not think it is right when people stand two to three hours during a sermon or prayer and there is no place to take a sit,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. The President noted that he is against the construction of huge churches. "These should be cozy churches, temples for the soul. They should not tower over man," he said. "It is my point of view. You asked me, I gave you a sincere answer,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked.

“Maybe I am wrong, but I believe that the Church of any denomination should go hand in hand with the society. Not indulging the society in its shortcomings. It should fight against them. But in any case the church should not lag behind the overall development,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that Patriarch Kirill could take up the issues of reforming the Church because he is an active person. "He is an absolutely sensible and smart man and, most importantly, is the youngest Patriarch and is respected by the youth. And if he loses time now and does not convince the church and the flock of the need for gradual reform, then we may not revisit the issue for a long time. So we have our hopes on our Patriarch, and on our clergy," the President said.

“I took a chance to voice my own opinion on this. I think there is something to think about. In Belarus, we will think over it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.