Lukašenka security reshuffle
On Monday, Belarusian President Aliaksandar Lukašhenka made several personnel reshuffles to the country's leadership. He has dismissed Viktar Šejman, the state secretary of the Security Council and the President's aide on the issues of national security, "due to his transfer to another post." Alieh Baželka, the general prosecutor, has been relieved of his duties. One day later, Šejman was made Prosecutor General of Belarus.
Ural Latypaw, former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, has been appointed State Secretary of the Security Council. Mixas' Xvastow, the President's aide on foreign policy issues, has been promoted to head the Foreign Ministry.
Uladzimier Mackievič, the chairman of the State Security Committee (KGB) has been dismissed and "placed at the disposal of the KGB chairman." Leanid Jeryn, previously the Chief of the President's Security Agency, has been promoted to the post of KGB chairman. General Mixas' Udovikaw, the former First Deputy Minister of the Interior, has been appointed Deputy Chairman of the State Secretary of the Security Council.
Commenting on the above reshuffles, spokesman for the President Mikalaj Barysievič said that Lukašhenka "has been paying special attention to the investigation of the so-called 'notorious' crimes." In the course of last week's meeting with the leadership of the law-enforcement agencies, Lukašhenka reprimanded them for a very slow investigation into the crimes that received a lot of media coverage in the republic, explained the spokesman.
He did not leave out the fact that the dismissal of the heads of the law enforcement agencies were conditioned by the ineffective work of investigators from the Ministry of the Interior, the KGB and the Public Prosecutor's Office. Barysievič noted that Lukašhenka has appointed Minister of the Interior General Uladzimier Navumaw to head the interdepartmental investigation group that was created last week.
The group consists of specialists from the Ministry, the KGB and the Posecutor's Office, and is to look into the investigation of much-talked-of cases, in particular, the disappearance of ORT cameraman Z'micier Zavadzki, former Minister of the Interior Jury Zaxaranka, ex-chief of the Central Electoral Committee Viktar Hančar, and businessman Anatol' Krasowski.
Representatives of the opposition believe that the personnel reshuffle Lukašhenka has conducted is an "ethnic combing-out," Viačaslaw Siwčyk of the Belarusian People's Front stated. According to him, all the former heads of law enforcement agencies are ethnically Belarusians, and the newly appointed ones are Russian proteges."
Leanid Jeryn had worked for some time in the Federal Security Service of Russia before being designated to the post of Deputy Head of the KGB of Belarus. Former Foreign Minister Ural Latypaw, appointed to the post of State Secretary for the Security Council comes from Bashkiria (Russia). Lukašhenka set Viktar Šejman the task of finding missing people.
"You, as the president's man, as the top security guard, as the man who once sheltered the president from a bullet with his body, you must find these persons for me, at all hazards, by hedge or by stile, by all manner of means. And above all [you must find] Dima [cameraman Dmitry Zavadsky, who disappeared this summer]," the Belarusian leader said.
He also announced his intention to reorganize the Security Council of Belarus. He said that apart from coordinating the activities of the law-enforcement agencies, the council should perform the functions of an analytical center.
On Monday, Lukašhenka also signed an ordinance relieving Cultural Minister Aliaksandar Sasnowski of his post. As reported by the presidential administration, Sasnowski was sacked for "unsatisfactory supervision of the ministry and serious lapses."
Drop in Lukašhenka's ratings
The rating of Lukašhenka "continues to fall slightly but persistently," say social analysts. An opinion poll conducted by the Independent Institute for Social-Economic and Political Studies entitled "Belarus on the threshold of the 21st century: ways for social transformation" has provided further evidence of a drop in Lukašhenka's ratings.
Social analysts interviewed 1461 respondents Belarus-wide. The project revealed that in November 1997 44.3 percent of those polled were ready to cast their votes for Lukašhenka, but at present only 33.2 percent of voters would support the incumbent president. Moreover, in 1997 35.2 percent of those interviewed said they would vote for Lukašhenka at the presidential election in the Belarus-Russia Union State. Today, the above number has fallen to 33.9 percent. In 1997 Lukašhenka was the perfect politician for 50.4 percent of those polled. Today only 34.3 percent of the respondents hold the same view.
According to the national survey, over the past three years the number of staunch supporters of the President has decreased from 26 percent to just 15.4 percent, and the number of his staunch opponents has increased from 20.8 percent to 31.3 percent.
Over 50 percent of the respondents believe that the government is guilty of persistent aggravation of the economic situation in the republic, 38.2 percent blame the President, 35.2 percent blame the local authorities and 15.2 percent blame the Mafia, said the source in the institute.
Europe to aim for democratic conditions
European institutions intend to "make new attempts at providing proper democratic conditions for the elections in Belarus" which would make possible the arrival of independent international observers, said head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Advisory and Monitoring Group in Miensk Hans George Wieck.
The diplomat noted that OSCE missions are ready to assist Belarus's non-governmental organizations in setting up an efficient network for election monitoring. In particular, the creation of a committee for contacts with all candidate representatives and the training of political observers and other election participants representing all parties and organizations, taking into account the complex requirements for signature collection and registration.
Expectedly, OSCE Commissioner on Free Mass Media Freimut Duve, whose task according to Wieck will be supporting the efforts aimed at providing stability for the "endangered independent media and obtaining regular access to the state media for all the candidates and political forces supporting the former," will arrive in Miensk early next year.
"At the present moment the conclusion that the presidential post will be claimed by several candidates can be made. Yet every effort has been exerted with the view of nominating a single candidate on the non-party basis," the diplomat stated. He also specified that, in accordance with opinion polls, the reason behind many people being reluctant to take part in the parliamentary elections this fall had been their disappointment with the existing state policy and the absence of an alternative candidate.
Wieck commented: "Now it is still early to conclude whether any progress will be reached in the democratization of the present authoritarian regime." Wieck also did not rule out the possible boycott of the elections.
"If there was any democratic progress there could be formed a broad coalition comprising the labour unions, reform support groups, the opposition communists led by Siarhiej Kaliakin and Liberal Democrats of Siarhiej Haidukievič," Wieck believes.
Polish Union faces financial problems
The Polish Union in Belarus is facing financial problems. Reportedly, the Polish Union's debts amount to USD 20,000. The staff have not been paid a salary for two months and the Glos znad Niemna newspaper is about to be closed.
The Union, which comprises some 30,000 members, is funded by Poland, notably, by the "Wspolnota Polska" compatriots' support fund and the Polish Assistance Fund. Yet, according to Polish Union representatives, this year's budget does not exceed USD 100,000. Taking into consideration payment of salary to the staff, publishing of the newspaper and cultural events, it becomes evident that the funding is far from sufficient, the Polish Union officials noted.
Population below ten million
The population of Belarus has been reduced by 21,800 people between January and September 2000, and now totals 9,997,700 people as of 1 October. The Ministry of Statistics and Analysis reported that the cause of the decrease is the fact that the number of those who died exceeded the number of those who was born by 30,400.
The natural population loss between January and September 2000 was made up for by a positive migration balance of 28.4 percent. The Viciebsk and Mahiliow regions are reported to suffer most from population loss.
Yuri Svirko, 1 December 2000
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