Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs arrested on corruption charges
The ongoing in 2011 law enforcement agencies reform significantly weakens the role of the Ministry of Interior vis-?-vis the Investigative Committee. The arrest of Mr. Poluden downgrades the status the Interior Ministry and puts the new staff of the Investigative Committee through loyalty to President Lukashenko tests.
On 12 December media reported about the arrest of Deputy Minister of Interior of Belarus Mr. Poluden. On 16 December he was charged with abuse of power and official authority under Part 3 of Article 424 of the Criminal Code, which carries a sentence up to 10 years of imprisonment with confiscation of property.
There are two main interpretations of the arrest of Mr. Poluden: 1) the eldest son of President Lukashenko Victor tries to subdue the Interior Ministry and 2) the arrest of the Deputy Interior Minister is a continuation of the departmental war between the KGB and the MIA. Both interpretations do not take into account a fundamentally new situation in the security agencies of Belarus as of 2012 and are short on supporting evidence (both interpretations were disseminated via website BelarusPartisan.org, which quoted anonymous sources in the law enforcement bodies).
It is very likely that conspiracy has nothing to do with it and there are purely political reasons behind it. The country’s leadership needs to redistribute powers among the law enforcement bodies in favour of the Investigative Committee. In 2012 this new body will take over the investigation, which will make the Interior Ministry significantly weaker (the KGB will still be in charge of investigation of causes related to national security).
The authorities decided to consolidate the new “degraded” status of the MIA by arresting a high-ranking corrupt official of the Ministry. The charges of abuse of power seem quite plausible. According to unofficial reports, Mr. Poluden has not passed a bribe test, organized for him.
The arrest of Mr. Poluden also meant to come out as a warning. All Interior Ministry employees, who may have complained about the weakening role of the authority of the Ministry, received an unambiguous message. The main recipient of the message was clearly a Minister of Interior Kuleshov, who was at the hospital during the arrest and refused to comment on the situation.
Apart from improving its positions among the law enforcement agencies, the investigation of corruption cases against top-ranking MIA officials will be a kind of initiation for the new staff of the Investigative Committee, which is based primarily on the personnel of the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Interior Ministry. Finally, it is likely that ex-colleagues of Mr. Poluden in the Ministry of Internal Affairs will be investigating his case, which is also meant to test their loyalty to the main supervisor of the Investigative Committee, President Lukashenko.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.