Authorities crumb privatization deals in petrochemical industry
In early July, "Belneftekhim" Head Igor Zhilin was released from office. Until now, official explanation was not provided. In addition, the Belarusian law enforcement agencies do not comment the information, published in some independent media about the alleged arrest of Zhilin.
For example, according to BelaPAN, the General Prosecutor’s Office instituted criminal proceedings under Article 424 of the Criminal Code (abuse of power or of a position of authority). A Russian citizen, Igor Zhilin in 2009 – amid dairy and "gas wars" between Moscow and Minsk and before the abolition of oil preferences – was appointed as ‘Grodno Nitrogen’ Head. In 2011 – amid a dispute over duty-free Russian oil – he was appointed as "Belneftekhim" Head. Experts have interpreted his most recent appointment as a preparation stage for privatisation of Belarus’ petrochemical industry by large Russian business. Today the Belarusian leadership is lacking sufficient resources to continue delaying privatisation in favour of Russian business. However, they might use some old means (eg Baumgertner case) to initiate tension in Russo-Belarusian relations, and put in jail top managers representing Russian oligarchs, interested in Belarusian assets.
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.