Disciplinary measures in the regions
During a press conference on 13 May the Chairman of the Minsk Regional Executive Committee Boris Batura vowed to tighten the control for mismanagement by the local representatives of the "vertical". According to him, the Regional Executive Committee and the State Control Committee of the Minsk Region will monitor the cases of mismanagement in the region on a weekly basis. The worst performing regions will then become a subject of local "debriefings" with the public and media involvement.
Last week, officials of the region circled around the area in a Ministry of Emergencies helicopter. As a result the controlling bodies noted the poor state of roadsides, many deserted houses in the countryside, disorder in some production facilities, farms, in particular, barren spots in agricultural fields due to technology misapplication.
Disciplinary measures by the local governments are meant to restore the control over the state apparatus however they might become an additional factor in population’s loss of confidence to the state.
The demand of Alexander Lukashenko to restore the disciplinary practices of the Soviet Union (introduced by Andropov, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU) is explained by the fact that the authorities lost the ability to ensure social protection of the population, to ensure conditions for the functioning of businesses and trade organizations, and that repressive practices is the only tool available for them at the moment.
One of the purposes of the disciplinary measures is to intimidate the population and prevent all forms of their self-organization. The control over the labour discipline has significantly increased at enterprises and organizations. Intelligence agencies and local governments raid businesses to fix delays for work. For instance, last week in Gomel all exits from the city shopping centre were closed, documents of all buyers were checked and then reported to their work places. In Miadel Executive Committee (Minsk region) officials were checked against late arrivals to work. 15 cases of tardiness were revealed. In order to exclude loyalty towards those being late (the population of the district is around 10,000 people and many relate to one another) a two-step control was implemented: the quality of the checks was controlled too.
Ideology workers have become more active. Meetings with groups of workers were held to explain the temporary nature of the "troubles" with the currency crisis. Cleanness of the streets and work discipline were proposed as replacements of declining well-being of the population, as well as assurances of its recovery in the future.
All these measures were an added value to the growth of social discontent. The obsessive control is regarded by the population as an attempt to shift responsibility from the real culprits of the crisis - Lukashenko and his team onto the population.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.