Murder of CEC member: new investigative system at work
On August 8th, Belarus learned about the tragic death of Central Election Commission member, 54-year-old Svetlana Khinevich. On August 4th, she was found dead in her apartment with multiple stabs.
The investigation into Khinevich murder is carried out exclusively by the two newly created law enforcement agencies - the Investigative Committee and the State Committee for Forensic Examinations. Belarus’ oldest law enforcement agency - Internal Affairs Ministry - was excluded from the inquest.
The murder case of Svetlana Khinevich demonstrates the new law enforcement system’s capabilities. The Investigative Committee was founded in 2012, and the State Committee for Forensic Examination in July 2013. Investigation and forensic expertise departments were dissolved in the country’s oldest law enforcement agency - MIA.
Svetlana Khinevich worked as Personnel Department Head at the Minsk-based ‘Crystal’ Plant and was a Central Elections Commission member. Before 2011, she worked as Personnel and Ideology Head at the President Administration Management of Affairs Chief Economic Management Directorate.
Investigative Committee representative said that the murder was a domestic violence case, unrelated to her professional and social activities. The suspect, a drug addict man, was detained and examined.
The criminal investigation into the Khinevich murder was instituted by the Investigative Committee and the State Committee for Forensic Examination conducted the forensic expertise. Both agencies were set up by President Lukashenko and managed by descendants from the Prosecutor’s Office, not from the Interior Ministry. Through these agencies the ruling group has strengthened the control over pre-trial investigation in general and in this particular case.
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.