Former Law Enforcement Officers Establish a Government in Exile

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April 22, 2016 18:10

On May 14 in Vilnius, Belarusian emigrants and former intelligence officers, Vladimir Baradach and Anufriy Ramanovich, announced the establishment of the Transitional Government of Belarus in exile.

The initiative is currently at the stage of an “auction bid”. So far, Vladimir Baradach has only voiced the structure of the shadow government which would include a Committee, a Shadow Cabinet, an Advisory Board consisting of the leaders of political parties, a Council of Elders consisting of the most reputable Belarusians and other structural units. However, this proposal is unlikely to be widely supported by the Belarusian opposition due to the reputation of the former military and former law enforcement officers who now live abroad. A major obstacle to this would be the charges of collaboration with the KGB and the desire to split them [the opposition], as the opposition pointed out on May 14. Spokespersons for the major opposition movements (The United Civic Party, the “For Freedom” movement, Tell the Truth! and others) have clearly expressed their strong disagreement with the idea of a shadow government being set up.

Moreover, the initiative is unlikely to be supported by the Council of the Belarusian National Republic (BNR) operating in the USA, which claims to be the only legitimate body to represent Belarusinterests abroad. The Council had previously gained support of the highly respected Belarusian cultural and political activists, which significantly hinders the creation of the coordinating units of the government, such as the Advisory Board, the Council of Elders and the Shadow Cabinet.

Finally, no objectives have been set apart from an abstract radical idea to topple Alexander Lukashenko. The initiative was supported by very few Belarusian emigrants (currently, only 4-5 people) who have cooperated with the Security Forces in the past. Therefore, there is little hope for broad support.

The future of the transitional government in exile depends entirely on whether it will gain support within the political opposition. Statements made by leaders of radical movements (the unregistered Belarusian Christian Democracy party, the \"European Belarus\" campaign) give grounds to assume that they are likely to support this initiative. Thus, on 17 May, Vital Rymasheusky, a presidential candidate in 2010, publicly supported this project. He also praised the leadership qualities of Alexander Sannikov, also a 2010 presidential candidate. On 15 May, Sannikov’s close ally, Dmitry Bondarenko said that in his estimation, about 80% of independent journalists cooperate with the KGB. In this case, the probable scenario would be support of the project by most members of the radical opposition under Sannikov’s leadership. After his release, he has not demonstrated any political activity in Belarus although he needs a long-term perspective and field for his activity after the parliamentary election in 2012. 

If the project is successful, it might open up an opportunity for Sannikov. On the other hand, if Sannikov and his team support the project of the former law enforcement emigrants, it would give this initiative political weight. As a consequence, the split within the Belarusian opposition, both inside and outside of the country will enlarge. The division of the opposition into smaller, radical units (headquartered abroad) and more structural units (conducting civil and political campaigns within the country) will continue.

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President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.

President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.

The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.

The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.

The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.