Authorities did not fall for information provocation
On February 4th, Russia’s Media Group RBC Ukrainian Branch Office, referring to a source in the Belarusian Presidential Administration, reported that Belarus-born Russian businessman Dmitry Mazepin could be appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus in charge of the Belarusian-Russian relations.
Misinformation about Russian businessman Mazepin plans to become Belarus’ Vice Premier imply, that talks about conditions for a new Russian loan for Belarus are ongoing. The disinformation meant to disrupt the talks, but the Belarusian authorities showed restraint and did not fall for the provocation.
This news does not correspond to the reality. The news piece was published on “RBC-Ukraine” website and was removed within a few hours, a disclaimer by Mazepin’s company URALCHIM followed. Presidential Administration refused to comment the news. Notably, the provocation - intentionally or not – coincided with the personnel shifts in the President Lukashenko’s press service: on February 5th PA former spokesman Legki was departing for his new job in the Belarus’ Embassy in Russia.
Nevertheless, the nature of the misinformation implies that Russo-Belarusian negotiations about circa USD 3 billion loan are ongoing. According to RBC journalists, Belarus needs a concessional loan to pay for Russian energy. This could be true, in December 2012 Lukashenko publicly said that he appealed to the Russian leadership for a USD 2 billion loan.
The information provocation indicates that certain elite group in Russia (and possibly in Belarus) is not interested in additional lending to Belarus on the discussed terms and requests their revision. In particular, reports about alleged granting of Belarusian citizenship to Mazepin and his appointment as Deputy Prime Minister for Belarusian-Russian relations look absurd and exaggerate Russia’s abilities to influence the situation in Belarus.
Belarus’ restrained public reaction to this news demonstrates that Belarus intends to continue negotiations with Russian partners. If so, in the near future the political conflict with the EU and the U.S. will remain frozen, unless Minsk receives tangible guarantees of commensurate support from the IMF.
It is also possible that the misinformation about the exaggerated ‘Russian threat’ meant to push foreign counterparts to speed up negotiation processes and to name their price.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.