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.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.