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.
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.