Belarusian authorities anticipate boosting popular support through fight against corruption and economic crimes
Amid the lack of funds to buy the loyalty of voters, the Belarusian authorities have once again bolstered the anti-corruption campaign. Amid falling incomes, the authorities aim to use high-profile anti-corruption cases against public officials and nationalisation of large businesses to step up president’s popular ratings. In addition, the president has in mind imposing discipline on public officials ahead of the presidential campaign.
Last week, the Supreme Court continued hearings on the corruption case in Belkoopsoyz.
In recent months, the authorities have stepped up their fight against corruption among public officials and economic crimes by big business. Apart from low and mid-level officials, high-ranking officials also fall under corruption charges.
State Control Committee Chairman Anfimov said, that Motovelo plant would be nationalised by the Minsk City Executive Committee. The owners and top managers of the plant have been detained by the KGB offices on charges of capital and equipment withdrawal. State Control Committee Chairman Anfimov emphasized that with their actions the owners and top managers of the plant have harmed public interest: "This is an example of how investors should not work and that the government should control the privatisation process. You see what happened to the privatized enterprise. In fact, we almost have lost one of the country’s leading brands”.
In 2007, Austrian ATEC Holding, owned by brothers Muravyov’s and their Russian partners bought the plant. After visiting the plant in September 2013, President Lukashenka demanded to implement Motovelo’s development plans immediately. Back then, Minsk city executive committee Chairman Nikolai Ladutko said that the planned results would be achieved only by 2017. Interestingly, Alexander Muravyov ranks 36th in the top 200 successful and influential businessmen in Belarus.
Another recent high-profile case against top level public official concerned former Deputy Minister of Forestry Lisitsa, who was charged with illegal acquisition of land, illegal construction and privatization of two houses, as well as misuse of budgetary funds. In addition, he was accused of discrediting the state. On June 18th, Lisitsa was sentenced to 5 years in prison and property arrest.
Lisitsa was appointed Deputy Minister in September 2010, following a thorough background check by the Prosecutor General’s Office, the KGB, the Interior Ministry and the State Control Committee. In fact, his career has been developing quite rapidly – he started as Director of Starobinsk Forestry and quickly became the Deputy Minister. The authorities launched an investigation against him in early 2014, which most likely was related to the events in Ukraine. Back then, he was released of his duties for “the failure to comply with restrictions on public service”.
As elections are drawing closer, the authorities may boost their anti-corruption rhetoric in order to improve their ratings and strengthen discipline in the state apparatus.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.