On November 9, 2012 during the meeting with President Lukashenko on the situation in the State Security Committee of Belarus, the head of the Committee Lieutenant-General Vadim Zaitsev was dismissed. The decision of Belarusian leader was a great surprise and had no apparent external cause. KGB continues to maintain control of the situation within the country and copes with all the necessary functions, which has been repeatedly and publicly stated by President Lukashenko. Moreover, after the events of December 19, 2010, it can be said that this law enforcement agency has once again taken a leading position among the Belarusian security services.
At the moment the State Secretary of the Security Council, Colonel-General Maltsev is an acting head of the KGB, which is an unprecedented situation. Being a career officer, Mr. Maltsev has no operational experience, and therefore his ability to monitor daily operations of the intelligence is questionable. Moreover, he has not been removed from his duties as head of the Security Council. The fact that Mr. Maltsev has been appointed to control the work of the KGB, is suggested by the appointment to the post of acting head a man from another agency: as a rule, in the absence of the head of the agency, his functions are assigned to one of the deputies. The fact, that this has not happened, can be seen as a demonstration of distrust of authorities to the KGB leaders. And further decisions on the KGB personnel will the range this distrust. Another interesting fact is that Mr. Maltsev has become the first Belarusian head of the KGB (even in a temporary status) after 2007.
It was officially announced that the cause of the dismissal of Vadim Zaitsev was the need for an investigation on a number of issues. And only one of these issues was mentioned: the state of agency personnel policies in connection with the suicide of KGB lieutenant colonel Kazak. A strange thing here is the fact, that during the meeting, as noted by the press service of Alexander Lukashenko, “the Attorney General and the Chairman of the Investigative Committee raised a number of issues” related to the activities of intelligence agencies. Taking into consideration that the Prosecutor General’s Office acts as purely technical body and has no influence in the power structure of Belarus, the fact that the Attorney General has dared to put questions to the all-powerful head of the KGB, seems to be a planned game, the result of which (the dismissal of Vadim Zaitsev) has been planned even before the meeting.
Having no reliable evidence on the causes of dismissal of Mr. Zaitsev, we can advance several leads of what happened, each of which is not certain.
The first version is that the reason for dismissal are deficiencies in organizational and personnel work. It’s necessary to recall, that October 16, 2012 suddenly and without apparent reason the head of Military Intelligence, KGB Major General Zakharov was dismissed. However, this version is insufficient to be the sole reason for the dismissal of Zaitsev.
The second version is connected with the fact that the negative background of KGB capacity was created by the detention in Minsk of lawyer of one of the accused of the riots in Bolotnaya Square in Moscow, as well as the so called “Udaltsov conspiracy” (or rather the fact of its video recording). Externally, it could give the impression of inferiority of Belarusian special services to the Russian ones. Although there is no real reason to think so: the lawyer has been detained by Belarusian law enforcement agencies at the request of the Russian colleagues, and information leaking about Udaltsov’s case has likely occurred as a result of misconduct (or, frankly speaking, betrayal) of one of the meeting’s participants in Minsk.
Thirdly, it is a struggle among the Belarusian top leadership. But this version in turn can be divided into three others.
Mr. Zaitsev, as well as the former head of the State Border Committee, Major General Rachkowski, was one of the close associates of Viktor Lukashenko. At the same time, the ex-head of the KGB was among the “hawks” in the Belarusian top leadership, who were actively opposing the cooperation with the West. Perhaps, the position of Mr. Zaitsev began to differ the opinion of the head of the state. However, taking into consideration the fact that political decisions are taken by one person, it is not clear what prevented Alexander Lukashenko from simply ordering Mr. Zaitsev to change methods of work.
Another point here can be connected with the struggle inside the KGB. Vadim Zaitsev comes from the border agency, and his appointment as head of a closed system wasn’t really welcomed by intelligence officers. But there is one feature of the Belarusian power system, which makes this assumption unrealistic: KGB is a military organization, and any resistance or disobedience to the departmental management is impossible only because of the specifics related to the activities of intelligence agencies.
Finally, the dismissal of Mr. Zaitsev may be connected with the possibility of redistribution of spheres of influence on Alexander Lukashenko by Belarusian security forces. And this version, adjusted for certain suspiciousness of Belarusian leader and his passion for the unexpected and illogical changes in the top leadership, seems to be the most real. Actually, the situation of 2007, when the KGB lost the next stage of institutional confrontation to MIA, repeats. Taking into consideration the events of 2007, we can say that the next two or three years, the most influential Belarusian security official will be Minister of Internal Affairs Major General Shunevich. Until the sympathy of President Lukashenko changes again.
At the same time the conspiracy theories or even treason in favour of external geopolitical players can be considered as another version of dismissal of Mr. Zaytsev, but it shouldn’t be taken seriously. At least, there is nothing that would be evidence of such assumptions.
It is strange that after the meeting on November 9, 2012 the analysts haven’t paid attention to the following words of Alexander Lukashenko: “… No law enforcement agency is not able to work right across the spectrum of threats to national security. And the KGB, not depending on its potential as a major intelligence agency, can’t do anything alone. Therefore, the interchangeability of personnel and transfer from one agency to another is an issue of the existence of an agency.” It can be interpreted in the following way: we are thinking over the possibility of “shake up” in the law enforcement agencies by transferring their leaders to new positions in the other agencies. There is only one purpose of this – to prevent the establishment the “corporate structure” within law enforcement agencies, which in a critical moment can objectively become autonomous centers of influence. And then they can become independent in their decisions.
— dismissal of Mr. Zaitsev wasn’t just ad-lib and had been prepared before;
— now the most influential leader of the security agencies is Interior Minister Mr. Shunevich, who is well informed about the situation inside the KGB;
— major rearrangements within the Belarusian security forces and even within the whole state apparatus can be expected.