Belarusian President did not succeed in gaining total control over elite leisure activities
On April 19, President Lukashenko held a meeting on hunting and fishing development, and demanded to improve control at the Belarusian Hunters and Fishermen Society.
Presidential efforts to control forest network in Belarus imply that Belarusian leader is concerned about the opportunities such facilities provide for informal communication inside elite. Hunting and fishing is a little advertised, but important part of life in the Belarusian elite.
For instance, a controversial investigation into illegal hunting in one of forests in the Gomel region in 2009 revealed that then-Defense Minister Yuri Zhadobin, as well as high ranking officials from the KGB and Interior Ministry could be involved in it. Today President Lukashenko is not so much concerned about the illegal hunting.
More importantly, he sends the elite a signal about their leisure and informal contacts being controlled at the highest level.
That is why in 2010 President Lukashenko personally supervised the reform of the Belarusian Hunters and Fishermen Society and in 2012 tried to initiate the creation of a special body to exercise state management in hunting and fishing (during a meeting on 19 April).
However, President’s initiative caused elite’s reaction. Deputy Prime Minister Rumas, who chaired the working group on this issue, reported that the establishment of a single supervisory authority was impractical, and the President was forced to agree.
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.