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.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.