Belarusian President reinforces executive branch before elections
Last week, President Lukashenka relieved Aleksander Mezhuev of his duties as the Security Council Secretary “in connection with difficult family circumstances”. In addition, the president has reshuffled staff in the Belarusian army, some ministries and in the regions, inter alia, replaced some deputy chairmen at regional executive committees and chairmen at district executive committees. Ahead of the presidential campaign, President Lukashenka is attempting to strengthen the weakest, in his opinion, links in the executive branch, which will be responsible for organizing and conducting the electoral campaign. In addition, the Belarusian government has focused on keeping the army on high combat alert in the face of possible political tension in the country. Staff changes are also likely in the power structures before the election date is announced.
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.