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.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.