Staff reform of the Interior Ministry
Appointment of an ex-KGB official as Deputy Interior Minister should be regarded as strengthening of the power elites close to Viktor Lukashenko, the eldest son of Belarusian President. It is anticipated that Mr. Shunevich will take over the office of Interior Minister Kuleshov shortly.
On 17 January the President appointed the former Head of the Anti-Corruption and Organized Crime Department of the KGB Mr. Shunevich as First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs - Chief of the Criminal Police.
The statement of Lukashenko, which he made while appointing the new Deputy Minister of Interior and the situation inside the Ministry itself, implies there is a high degree of probability of the imminent resignation of the current Minister Kuleshov. According to Alexander Lukashenko, Deputy Shunevich should focus more on “serious work”. During the appointment of Mr. Shunevich, Minister Kuleshov was on a business trip to France.
Kuleshov’s disengagement from the fight for the fate of his closest subordinates implies that his positions in the Ministry are extremely weak. On 16 January in France, the Minister Kuleshov learned about the controversial resignation of his Deputy Oleg Pekarsky, who was fired from the internal affairs for discredit of the rank. In December 2011 another Deputy Minister Mr. Poluden was arrested on corruption charges. At that time Minister Kuleshov was in a hospital and since then he made no comments about the situation in his Ministry.
Appointment of an ex-KGB official as Deputy Interior Minister with a view to become the Minister should be considered as strengthening of the power elites close to Viktor Lukashenko, the eldest son of Belarusian President. Until 2007 Shunevich worked for the MIA however soon after his transfer to the KGB he made a career. Loyalty of Shunevich to the KGB Chairman Zaitsev, who, in turn, is close to Viktor Lukashenko, implies that the Interior Ministry may soon fall under the control of Viktor Lukashenko.
After the reform of the Belarusian law enforcement bodies and the launch of the Investigation Committee, the control over the MIA implies, above all, the opportunity to control the actions of military police units. In political terms, it means that potential street protest actions would be suppressed harshly, but nothing more.
The new balance of powers in Belarus implies the strengthening of the role of Viktor Lukashenko and his environment. However, unlike some media assessed, there are no reasons to talk about the “reign of Viktor”. In today’s Belarus the most “valuable” source of power lies within the Investigation Committee, which has monopolized the right to investigate corruption cases and is controlled by President Lukashenko.
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.