Senator Anna Shareiko released as parliamentary election campaign kicked off in Belarus
The high-profile case against one of the most popular state top manager and senator Anna Shareiko has finished with her release from custody in the courtroom. Most likely, the Belarusian authorities wanted to close the case before the parliamentary campaign in order to ensure the unity in the state apparatus. Apparently, amid economic recession in Belarus, tension inside the nomenclature and related business is growing.
Senator Anna Shareiko and six factory employees and representatives of supplier companies were charged with corruption back in 2014. In August 2014, the senator was stripped of parliamentary immunity and arrested.
It should be noted that, as a rule, the president pardons and releases prominent businessmen from jail in exchange for a compensation of large scale losses to the state.
Over the past few years, Anna Shareiko was the third MP to face corruption charges by the authorities. However, unlike other MPs she refused to plead guilty and spent almost two years in jail. For instance, in October 2015, a Council of the Republic deputy Andrei Pavlovsky was arrested by the KGB and was under arrest for a month. The businessman was released after he paid a USD 20 million compensation to the state. In 2014, MP and businessman Vitaly Kostogorov from Mogilev was stripped of parliamentary immunity and arrested right at the meeting of the upper house of the parliament. He spent several months in custody and was pardoned by President Lukashenka after repaying EUR 340,000.
The factory under Shareiko’s management was successful; it implemented a large investment project and was profitable. For example, in late 2014 the factory was in the top twenty most profitable joint stock companies in the country with BYR 150 billion net profit. The factory’s CEO and member of the Upper House of Parliament, Anna Shareiko was respected by her colleagues and employees. That said, after Shareiko’s arrest, the factory became unprofitable and the investment project was put on hold.
According to some analysts, the case against Shareiko could be linked to the fight for the market with other competitors who had ties in the State Control Committee. For example, one of the most influential Belarusian businessmen Evgeny Baskin owns the Servolux Group and is her major competitor with 25% share of the Belarusian broiler meat production market. In the past, CEO Anna Shareiko refused to buy animal feed from the Belarusian producer JSC Ekomol, subsidiary of the Servolux Group.
Interestingly, shortly after Shareiko’s arrest, the president dismissed the Head of the State Control Committee, Aleksandr Yakobson. However, the president publicly thanked him for his service and appointed him as Assistant to the President - Chief Inspector for Minsk.
Former MP Shareiko was found guilty and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison, but was released after the hearing due to the amnesty. The prosecution admitted the absence of material damage to the state in this case, although, initially this was the ground for her arrest.
Amid deepening of economic recession, conflicts inside the nomenclature have increased, leading to a wave of corruption cases against directors of large state enterprises.
Image: Dzmitry Brushko, TUT.BY
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.