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.
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.