Presidents team grows younger
On June 10th, President Lukashenko appointed Kirill Rudy his Assistant for economic issues.
So-called ‘Eurasian’ group forms in the Belarus’ Presidential Administration. This implies Eurasian priority in the Belarus’ foreign policy as well as confirms Lukashenko’s desire to preserve the state’s role in the economy following examples of Kazakhstan and China. In addition, the President consistently rejuvenates his team.
35-year-old Cyril Rudy, appointed Assistant to the President for Economic Affairs, had a successful academic career: he got his PhD at 23 and studied in the U.S. on Fulbright Programme’s scholarship. He started working in the public service, served as Adviser on Economic Issues at the Belarusian Embassy in China and was one of the Sino-Belarusian Industrial Park Project developers. Immediately prior to becoming the Presidential Aide, Rudy was Deputy Director at the Huawei Belarusian Office (Chinese company).
Note, that in February, Lukashenko appointed former Belarusian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Valery Brylev his Assistant, which allows for a logical conclusion that Alexander Lukashenko is interested in using Kazakh modernization experience (high degree of state participation and control) and Chinese (in building up effective economic relations between the state and businesses) more actively.
The context of these appointments is even broader. On June 3rd – 7th, Head of Presidential Administration Andrei Kobyakov visited China, where he held meetings with Communist Party and business representatives to discuss development of bilateral projects in the Sino-Belarusian Industrial Park framework. So-called ‘China lobby’ in Belarus is also supported by Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Tozik, who was Belarus’ Ambassador to China in 2006-2010.
In addition, President’s team grows younger. Apart from Mr. Rudy, the group of ‘young’ presidential aides includes Maxim Rizhenkov (40 y.o., in charge of sport), Natalia Piatkevich (40, in charge of the media), Vsevolod Yanchevsky (37, in charge of the state ideology) and President’s eldest son Viktor Lukashenko (37, in charge of national security, and more recently – potash trade).
Simultaneously, there is no reason to say there is harmony among Presidential Aides, that they are all led by, for example, Viktor Lukashenko. Currently, age is the main unifying factor in this group, unlike common interests.
It should also be borne in mind that conventionally incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko perceives any stable group of officials as a threat to his power and manages them accordingly. In turn, the upcoming presidential elections reduce the likelihood of new resistance pressure groups formations in Belarus.
Following crackdown and arrests of participants in the spring protests, the authorities resumed arrests as punishment for participating in street protests in addition to fines, which for some time were the only punishment for political activity. On September 22nd, 2017, the riot police detained the Belarusian National Congress leader Nikolai Statkevich, the opposition politician was placed in detention centre on Akrestin street. On the same day, after serving seven days of arrest, another BNC leader, Vladimir Neklyaev, was released. He was sentenced for organising a street protest on September 8th against the West-2017 exercises. Other participants in the protest have been fined too. The authorities are likely to continue to use fines and arrests against political activists to punish for their protest activity.