Security forces gain more influence on redistribution of languishing state resources
Amid weakening influence of large businessmen from the president’s inner circle, the security forces have enhanced their positions. In all likelihood, the government has decided to redistribute increasingly scarce resources and strip businesses of some profits nesting on public resources. As the economic situation deteriorates, the competition for resources is likely to increase along with the influence of security bodies.
Last week, at a briefing, KGB Chairman Valery Vakulchik said that further criminal inquiries and arrests were to come.
Amid several devaluations, economic recession and languishing public resources, business environment in Belarus has deteriorated, which has bolstered withdrawal of capital from the country. In all likelihood, redistribution of increasingly scarce resources may affect the president’s inner circle. And security forces are likely to play a major role in such a redistribution.
Security forces have somewhat lost their influence as Belarus engaged in normalization of relations with the EU. According to some analysts, the MFA’s weight has been growing consistently. Despite occasional tough actions against journalists, a more systematic attempt to disrupt the Belarusian-European relations could end in dismissals in the law enforcement leadership.
Nevertheless, the law enforcement is beginning to recover its lost positions. Instead of fighting against the possible "colour revolution" and persecuting the opposition, the security forces have focused on tracing financial flows and engaged in the redistribution of public resources.
Some analysts believe, that detention of businessman Yuri Chizh was the KGB’s independent initiative. According to them, head of ‘Triple’ holding Yuri Chizh was not a member of the inner circle, requiring the security forces to obtain the president’s consent for prosecution, which is unlikely.
Most likely, the KGB head provided President Lukashenka with evidence that Yuri Chizh had attempted to transfer his assets abroad and had a plan to move his businesses to a more favourable environment in Lithuania or Poland. KGB Chairman Vakulchik revealed some details about the detention of the disgraced businessman, who was attempting to escape from the country at 220 km per hour, which, incidentally, could be a figurative statement, "an ‘Interception’ plan was applied. He was driving firstly to the west towards the Lithuanian border, then towards the Brest highway”.
That said, last year’s detention of Yuri Chizh’s close business partner, Yaprintsev, who was well aware of all ‘Triple’ affairs, could have indeed been a signal to Chizh to accelerate withdrawal of his capital.
Recently, the Belarusian security forces have held several arrests of large businessman and more are likely to come. In addition, status and belonging to the highest echelons of power are no longer guarantees against prosecution in Belarus.
In October 2015, the third member of the Council of the Republic, the owner of Biokom company, Andrei Pavlovsky, was stripped of parliamentary immunity. However, within a month, he was released and recently pardonedby President Lukashenka after repaying USD 20 million to the state. In addition, media reported about the detention of yet another major businessman, the owner of Servolux group of companies, Evgeny Baskin.
Apparently, the law enforcement agencies have received the green light to reshuffle all large and medium-sized businesses, which nests on public resources. The security agents are likely to have sufficient information to strip most businesses of ‘excessive’ revenues.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.