President appointed top management of the Investigative Committee
The major challenge President Lukashenko faces while deciding on the personnel of the Investigative Committee is how to keep the balance among the power elites. The key for the continuation of the political career of Lukashenko is not to become a hostage of the elites, close to his eldest son, Viktor.
On 28 November President Lukashenko appointed three deputy heads of the Investigative Committee and 5 heads of its regional offices. Heads of the IC branches of Mogilev and Gomel have not been appointed yet.
As anticipated, while deciding on the staffing of the IC, Aleksandr Lukashenko rests upon the law enforcement agencies the least influenced by his eldest son, Viktor, i.e. on the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Interior. Representatives of these two agencies occupied the above mentioned positions in the IC.
Another agency which is not influenced by Viktor Lukashenko, where Alexander Lukashenko seeks for additional support, is the Ministry of Defense. Since summer 2011 the President has been increasingly and cautiously active in this regard, for instance, he discussed with military officials an idea of creation of an informal “Captains’ Club”, as well, he promotes career advancements of officers of the military justice.
As we have noted, the desire of Lukashenko to ensure support inside the military was reflected in the appointment of a former military judge A. Konyukov as the Prosecutor General and a curator of the IC on 20 September. Lukashenko’s stake on the military is indirectly manifested by the appointment of the top management of the IC on 28 November, when he also stated that the IC should become a paramilitary structure ensuring the national security of Belarus.
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.