Belarusian secret services step up their activities ahead of presidential elections
Independent Belarusian journalist and military analyst Alexander Alesin, who was arrested on suspicion of spying for a foreign country, was released on bail from the KGB jail. Alexander Alesin was charged with treason and cooperating with the secret services of the security or intelligence agency of a foreign state. However, allegedly the main suspect in this case is a foreign diplomat. The Belarusian authorities are trying to restrict access of foreign countries even to open information about Belarus’ defence potential due to increased tensions in the region and mutual distrust. In addition, repressions against the opposition and independent civil society are likely to increase ahead of the presidential election, as well as accusations of cooperation with foreign intelligence services.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.