On June 10, 2019 a sleepy Belarusian informational swamp was blown up by the news about the resignation of Belarus’ Interior Minister Ihar Shunevich. According to the general himself, during the report to Aliaksandr Lukashenka the minister asked to be dismissed. Mr. Shunevich motivated his desire by the fact that for a long time he headed the department and it had become more and more difficult for him to meet the changing environment. The Ministry of Internal Affairs needs a person with a new approach and new views.
As far as we know, earlier Ihar Shunevich had already expressed his intention to leave the post for health reason. It is not known how Lukashenka reacted to this, but on June 10, 2019 the ex-minister’s desire was satisfied.
A number of conspiracy theories about the reasons for his resignation immediately arose: from Shunevich’s rather ambiguous statements on issues beyond his professional competence to a tiff with Lukashenka during the report, after which the resignation was accepted.
On June 11, 2019 it became known that the commander of the Interior Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (hereinafter referred to as Interior Troops) General Yury Karayeu became the Shunevich’s successor as the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA).
Taking into account the fact that the MIA is the largest government institution (after the Belkoopsoyuz), the resignations and appointments in the ministry cause interest. The change of leader also raises a number of important questions. We will try to answer them.
The suddenness of Shunevich’s resignation. The speed with which Shunevich’s successor was appointed, virtually eliminates the factor of suddenness of the resignation. At least for Aliaksandr Lukashenka, but not necessarily for Ihar Shunevich himself. It is possible that the resignation report was filed earlier, but the ex-minister found out that the report was accepted only during the meeting with Lukashenka. Appointment to ministerial posts is a procedure furnished with a number of formalities. They can be accelerated, but exactly could not be performed in one day.
As far as can be judged, Lukashenka does not like political surprises. But only for himself. On the eve of the European Games, the resignation of one of the key officials, responsible for the safety of the image event personally for the Belarusian ruler, cannot be sudden. Unless, of course, we are not talking about the perpetrators. But the fact that Shunevich does not exclude his return to power in a new position means his resignation with honour, but not with shame.
Should we congratulate Yury Karayeu? Only if he personally did something bad to you. The post of Interior Minister is, to put it mildly, not an easy job. The MIA performs functions from the cultivation of cabbage to the execution of death sentences.
In this regard, the area of responsibility of the commander of the Interior Troops is narrower and more specific. And he is responsible for fewer people.
Moreover, the new MIA head himself had previously planned, for personal reasons, to leave his post by going to the CIS / CSTO interstate bodies for a more relaxed and well-paid international position.
Should we expect a reform of the Ministry of Interior with the appointment of the new Minister? More likely no than yes. Firstly, reforming in the short term means weakening the MIA’s capacity. Which is hardly acceptable for Lukashenka in the electoral cycle and not the best foreign policy background. Rather, we can expect tightening of the policy in terms of strengthening discipline within the department. Secondly, no system can reform itself. The new MIA head is its flesh and blood. Cosmetic changes, some optimization in unprincipled areas of activity are possible. Fundamental changes — no. Thirdly, any reform is a team work. The system of appointment to senior positions in law enforcement agencies is aimed precisely at ensuring that their leaders do not have the opportunity to form their own team. The same MIA head reports directly to the President, and on certain issues to the Prime Minister. Deputy Ministers are also appointed by the President. For consideration of the main issues of MIA operational activities, there is a special board consisting of the Minister, Deputy State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus, deputy ministers, heads of MIA departments and other officials. In this case, the personal composition of the board is approved by the President on the proposal of the Minister. That is, the independence of the MIA head is very relative: he is subordinate to the President and the Prime Minister, controlled by the Security Council and surrounded by the appointees of the President. Fourthly, for any real reform you need money. Much money. Which is absent in the budget. And the situation is not expected to change.
Why Mr. Karayeu? The appointment to the ministerial post of General Ivan Padhursky — the First Deputy Minister and the head of the criminal police seemed more logical. Moreover, the MIA Interior Troops is still a military organization, while the militia is a militarized one. There are some differences. But Lukashenko chose Mr. Karayeu. It seems that there are two main reasons.
Firstly, General Karayeu proved that he corresponds to Lermontov’s “servant to the tsar, father to the soldiers”. Against the background of scandalous “suicides” in the army and other outrage happening there, the discipline in the MIA Interior Troops looks outwardly exemplary. Although it is worth recalling that the MIA Interior Troops and the army are in different situations. The first are more compact and the selection is tougher there.
Secondly, the appointment of Karayeu may be dictated by political factors. Previously, the ex-commanders of the Interior Troops were promoted to the ministerial positions in the 90s, when the country was in a difficult socio-economic, domestic and foreign policy situation. Then Aliaksandr Lukashenka considered democratic forces as a real threat to his own power. Then, rarely a protest did not end with a fight with the police, and demonstrations in Minsk, in which participated less than 25 thousand people, were considered failures because of their small size.
Now the situation would seem different. Lukashenka himself admits that the opposition is not a threat to the regime. But the country’s economy has been stagnating for 10 years. The goal of USD 500 average salary was set back in 2009 and achieved only this year (for how long?). It is worth recalling that USD 500 in 2009 is now USD 613. As a result of the decade in Belarus, only in 2 (!) cities the average salary exceeds USD 500 of the 2009 sample: Minsk and Salihorsk.
Against the background of a failed socio-economic policy, the situation in the field of regional security has radically changed. Relations with the main formal ally – Russia, at best, can be described as cool. There is no guarantee that they will not become hostile.
It is necessary to recall Lukashenko’s rhetoric: starting in 2014, he has repeatedly stated that external security challenges will become direct threats only in the event of an internal destabilization of the situation in Belarus. On June 11, 2019, addressing the new Minister of the Internal Affairs, Yury Karayeu, Lukashenka gave him the task of not provoking public discontent with the actions of the MIA employees.