Date: Fri, 12 Jun 2015 16:49:10 +0200 (METDST)

Warsaw, June 12, 2015 (AFP) - European Union citizens no longer need visas to access the Belarussian part of Europe's last primeval forest, the director of the Polish side of the Bialowieza woodland and bison hideout said Friday.   "The first group of tourists crossed the border today to continue on to the Belarussian side," Miroslaw Stepaniuk, director of EU member Poland's Bialowieza national park, told AFP.    Sprawling across 150,000 hectares (370,000 acres), the Bialowieza Forest spans the Polish-Belarussian border and is the final remnant of a massive woodland that spread across Europe after the last Ice Age, which ended about 10,000 years ago.

The decision by the government of Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko only applies to the forest. EU citizens still need a visa to access the rest of Belarus.   But anyone wishing to visit the ancient forest only has to request an entry permit at the Belarusian park's site -- -- in order to cross into Belarus from Poland at the Bialowieza-Pererov border post.   "You can only visit on foot or by bicycle, and stay no more than three days on the Belarusian side," Stepaniuk added.

Named a World Heritage site in 1979, the forest is home to 20,000 animal species, including 250 types of birds and 62 different mammals -- among them Europe's largest, the bison.   Europe's tallest trees, firs towering 50 metres high (164 feet), and oaks and ashes of 40 metres, also flourish here, in an ecosystem untouched by human hands for more than 10 millennia.   Some 150,000 tourists visit the Polish side of the forest each year, of which 10 percent are from abroad.
Date: Thu 3 Apr 2014
Source: [in Russian, trans. ProMed Mod.NP, edited]

_Dirofilaria repens_ infections in humans are increasing in Belarus
In 2013, 21 cases of dirofilariasis were recorded in the country. The  helminths develop and move around in the human body causing pain and inflammation, said Andrey Vedernikov, physician and parasitic diseases specialist of the Republican Center of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health. "Until the middle of the 1990s,  dirofilariasis was not registered in Belarus. Now the disease is not exotic for us," said the specialist. In order to prevent  [the disease] the doctor advised people to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

The infection is caused when the filarial nematode _Dirofilaria repens_ infects the human body. The natural reservoir is cats and dogs and the infection is transmitted to humans through mosquitoes. The incubation period is up to a year. During this time the larva grows up to 15-20 centimetres [6-8 in] in length. A key clinical sign is its ability to move under the skin, where it can move up to 15 centimetres a day. The eyes are favourite place of localization of the larvae.
[A recent paper reviewed the situation of _Dirofilaria repens_ in Russia (Ermakova LA, Nagorny SA, Krivorotova EY, et al. _Dirofilaria repens_ in the Russian Federation: current epidemiology, diagnosis,and treatment from a federal reference center perspective. Int J Infect Dis. 2014; pii: S1201-9712(14)01445-3; <

The epidemiology is believed to be the same in Belarus. Dirofilaria repens has also been described from Northern Germany (Czajka C, Becker N, Joest H, et al. Stable transmission of _Dirofilaria repens_ nematodes, northern Germany. Emerg Infect Dis. 2014; 20(2): 328-31;

<>) and from the Balkans (Vichova B, Miterpakova M, Iglodyova A. Molecular detection of co-infections with _Anaplasma phagocytophilum_ and/or _Babesia canis canis_ in _Dirofilaria_-positive dogs from Slovakia. Vet Parasitol. 2014. pii: S0304-4017(14)00064-8; abstract available at <>. - ProMed Mod.EP]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
Date: Thu 1 Mar 2012
Source: - Ukraine's economic news [summ. edited]

The State Veterinary and Biosecurity Service of Ukraine from 1 Mar 2012 temporarily suspended imports from Belarus of milk and dairy products and animals susceptible to African swine fever (ASF), as well as products made of them.

The State Veterinary and Biosecurity Service said that on 16 Feb 2012, in the settlement of Neznanovo in Belarus, all of the pigs at private households were killed and burnt. According to the statements of the Belarusian Agriculture Ministry and the veterinary and biosecurity control department, however, the above-mentioned actions were carried out as part of an exercise on how to fight ASF.

"Taking into account the fact that Belarus is a member of the Customs Union, which implies the absence of customs and veterinary controls when passing the Russian border, where a difficult situation with ASF has been seen for the past 5 years, and taking into consideration the large number of ASF outbreaks in the central federal area of Russia last year [2011] (near the border with Belarus), there is a chance that the case in Neznanovo is linked to an outbreak of ASF in Belarus," the Ukrainian service said.

The service also said that if ASF came to Ukraine, grain exports could be banned, and a large number of pigs might have to be killed. Restrictive measures that would cause negative economic consequences would be taken.

"The situation in Russia and uncertainty with ASF in Belarus creates a threat to Ukraine's biosecurity," the service said.
Date: 21 Feb 2012
Source: TUT.BY (Belarusian portal) [machine-trans. summarised, edited]

Today [21 Feb 2012], the Ministry of Agriculture published on its website a comment addressing the mass destruction of pigs in a village in the Novogrudok Neznanova area.

The notice says: "On 16-18 Feb 2012, surprise regional exercises under realistic conditions were conducted in the Novogrudok and Korelichy districts of the Grodno region. Concrete actions and preventive measures were applied. In view of the results of the exercises, it could be concluded all joint actions functioned well, which is indicative of full readiness and all tasks fully accomplished."

On 16 Feb 2012, all pigs owned by the inhabitants of the village Neznanova in the Novogrudok district, Grodno region were collected and burned. This message was received via Twitter@TUT.BY and was confirmed by the villagers; so far, local authorities and the veterinary station refused to comment. According to villagers, a local farmer had cases of disease in the autumn [2011]; he got rid of the pigs and did not inform the veterinary office. According to the farmers, the culling in Neznanova was carried out since "an outbreak of plague has been found."

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, earlier simulation exercises in Belarus had been undertaken:
- on 17-18 Jun 2011 in the Gomel region (joint international exercise to test the veterinary services of the joint action emergency response in case of FMD)
- on 16-17 Dec 2011 in the Mogilev region and 27-28 Jan 2012 in the Vitebsk region, to practise emergency response in case of African swine fever.

"These exercises were conducted at the national level, and their execution was notified to the veterinary services of neighboring countries and the OIE as well as the media and was attended by international observers."
[OIE's WAHID (World Animal Health Information System) maintains, on its website, a page entitled: "Disease introduction simulation exercises". This page is used to disseminate information on the web and announcements received from members on disease introduction simulation exercises taking place in their countries; see at

These simulation exercises are also disseminated to OIE's delegates and to the subscribers of the OIE-Info Distribution List before their implementation.

During 2011, 25 member-countries submitted notifications on their contemplated simulation exercises, 5 of which addressed ASF (namely Croatia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Spain, and Denmark).

The Lithuanian exercise was notified in advance by the State Food and Veterinary Service (SFVS), Ministry of Agriculture, Vilnius, Lithuania. The text was the following: "A simulation exercise on African swine fever, avian influenza, bluetongue, classical swine fever, foot and mouth disease, Newcastle disease, and swine vesicular disease is taking place on 23 Nov 2011 in Vilnius. This exercise includes theoretical training of the personnel of SFVS of Lithuania with the aim of applying emergency measures in compliance with the contingency plans for the above mentioned diseases."

The Danish exercise was carried out cooperatively with the other Baltic and Nordic countries (Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Sweden). A description of the extensive Danish/Baltic/Nordic exercise, carried out from 11 to 13 Oct 2011, can be found in ProMED-mail posting 20111023.3163. The aims and means of each exercise can be studied in the above URL; to the best of our knowledge, none of them included destruction of live animals. As a recent example, see Colombia's announcement, disseminated on 29 Feb 2012, entitled: "Simulation exercise: swine disease in Colombia". It deals with Colombia's plan to carry out a simulation exercise which "will take place in the city of Ipiales, Narino Department, from 5 to 8 Mar 2012"; see at

The text of the Belarus announcement, distributed on 26 Jan 2012 to OIE's delegates and to the subscribers of the OIE-Info Distribution List, was the following:

"Simulation exercise: African swine fever in Belarus. Dr Yury Pivovarchik, chief veterinary officer, Ministry of Agriculture and Food of Belarus, Minsk informed the OIE that a simulation exercise on African swine fever (ASF) is taking place in the base of the Dubrovensky district in the Vitebsk region, Belarus from 27 to 28 Jan 2012. The aim of this exercise is to perfect the joint activities of the emergency response to be implemented in case of an ASF outbreak."

The said notification is available at
>. The other, earlier (2011) Belarus exercises mentioned in the above (2011) could not be found on OIE's website.

Destruction ("burning?" Not preceded by slaughter?) of pigs within the framework of simulation exercises is most unusual; in fact, we are unaware of similar "simulated" measures elsewhere. Taking all that into consideration, the Ukrainian concerns and their response can be understood.

For the location of Neznanovo (Minsk region, distant from the Vitebsk region), see maps at <> and <>).

Clarification and additional information from informed sources, particularly about any available clinical or laboratory investigations and their results, would be appreciated. - ProMed Mod.AS]
Date: Wed, 25 May 2011 17:26:32 +0200 (METDST)

MINSK, May 25, 2011 (AFP) - A doctor who was seriously wounded in last month's Minsk metro bombing died Wednesday, bringing the dead toll to 15, his wife told the independent Euroradio station.  Andrei Ilyin, 34, who was deputy chief doctor at an emergency medicine hospital, was leaving work when he was caught up in the blast on April 11, caused by a bomb hidden on the platform of a central metro station.

Ilyin's colleagues had been collecting money so that he could have an operation to restore his sight after suffering severe eye injuries, the radio station said, posting a photograph of him being helped out of the metro.

Last month Belarus charged two young men with terrorism in connection with the bombing, which was by far the worst attack in the country's post-Soviet history. The metro attack coincided with an intensifying economic crisis in Belarus, which this week saw the authorities announce an official currency devaluation of more than 30 percent to ease pressure on the ruble.
Date: Mon, 11 Apr 2011 22:30:49 +0200 (METDST)
by Viktor Drachev

MINSK, April 12, 2011 (AFP) - Eleven people were killed and over 100 wounded Monday when a blast described as an act of terror tore through a metro station in the Belarus capital near President Alexander Lukashenko's headquarters.   The explosion left clouds of suffocating smoke inside the city's busiest metro station as bloodied passengers ran for the exits and others sat stunned on the floor inside, their shoulders covered in plaster.

Prosecutors said the blast was an act of terror and Lukashenko described it as a challenge for the authorities, but it was a mystery who was responsible for by far the most serious attack in the country's post-Soviet history.   Confirming the death toll of eleven, Lukashenko immediately called an emergency security session in which he placed the blame on unnamed political opponents, claiming they were seeking to destabilise his regime.   "I warned you that they won't let us live a calm life," the maverick president told a meeting that included the head of the former Soviet republic's feared security service, still known as the KGB.   Promising tough new security measures, Lukashenko said: "Guys, we have been presented with a serious challenge. We need an adequate response -- and it must be found."

The blast came amid rising political tensions in the country following Lukashenko's controversial re-election last year and also a severe economic crisis that has seen the government carry out a partial currency devaluation.   Lukashenko -- a leader once dubbed as Europe's last dictator by the United States who enjoys friendly relations with Iran -- said he could not rule out a foreign hand in the attacks.   "I do not exclude that this is a present from abroad but we must look at home too," he said, ordering the KGB chief to find the perpetrators as soon as possible.   Deputy Prosecutor Andrei Shved described the attack an an "act of terror" and said a criminal probe had been opened, Interfax reported.   "The external signs, the nature of the wounds people received, point towards an act of terror," an unnamed security source told Interfax. The health ministry said a total of 126 people had been wounded.   Belarus is normally considered a safe country and has never been touched by large-scale militant attacks such as those carried out by Islamist militants in Moscow.

On March 29, 2010, 40 people were killed and dozens wounded by two female suicide bombers during the morning rush hour on the Moscow metro and 37 were killed in an attack on the Russian capital's main airport this year.   Belarus has over the last half decade seen two more minor attacks blamed on nationalist fringe groups but never any strike that has resulted in fatalities.   Russian President Dmitry Medvedev swiftly called the explosion a terror act and offered Lukashenko the help of Russia's security service.   In power for one and a half decades, Lukashenko has prided himself on instituting law and order in Belarus, taking credit for stability that has come at the expense of a fierce crackdown on all forms of dissent.   The blast appeared to leave officials momentarily stunned, with some time passing before Lukashenko visited the site, laying flowers alongside his talismanic young son Kolya who accompanies him to almost all state events.

Stunned witnesses outside the station described scenes of mayhem, with shattering glass and thick smoke filling the halls as people returning home from work scrambled in panic.   "The glass started to shake and all the people suddenly fell silent -- it went silent in a flash. Everyone started telling each other to be quiet and not to panic," one woman said.   An AFP correspondent said the explosion paralysed underground traffic across the city of 1.8 million, resulting in traffic jams and grinding travel in the city centre to a halt.   Tens of thousands of people demonstrated through central Minsk on election night last December after Lukashenko's overwhelming victory was announced, with truncneon-wielding police moving in against the protesters and arresting hundreds. The arrests have added to the Lukashenko regime's growing international isolation, with both the European Union and the United States announcing travel bans and economic sanctions against some Belarussian state companies.
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