Situation in the field of national security and defence of Belarus (October 2017)

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The most important events of the month. The main event of October was the death of military serviceman Aliaksandr Korzhych. Until now, it is unclear whether we can speak about bringing the soldier to suicide or a murder. The incident dealt a crushing blow to the reputation of the Ministry of Defense and personally the its head Andrei Raukou.

Behavior of some leaders of the Ministry of Defense in connection with the death of Aliaksandr Korzhyc can be called only the campaign to discredit the Armed Forces. At first it was stated that there was no criminal trace in the death of a soldier. Then, when the facts of mass violations of the legislation in the military unit where the Korzhych served became public, the Ministry of Defense tried to drown out the indignation of the people.

The public reaction of the MoD head to the death of the soldier happened only 2 weeks after the discovery of the body. Andrei Raukou spoke only after the personal condolences of Aliaksandr Lukashenka to the family of the deceased were voiced by the press secretary of the President. Unlike the head of state, Defense Minister limited himself to standard phrases through the state media.

Faced with public outrage, the Investigative Committee of Belarus (IC) instituted more than 10 criminal cases. 10 servicemen are charged under various articles of the Criminal Code. Many middle-level managers of the training center, where Aliaksandr Korzhych died, were removed from their posts, later some of them were dismissed.

In addition, the IC is forced to study all materials of inspections of deaths of the soldiers or injuries to them for the last 6 years. The department explains its decision by the fact that allegedly the people involved in these cases are beginning to give information. Before they were silent. Although, as demonstrated by the trial of Korzhych’s death, it is not difficult to obtain the necessary information for the bodies of preliminary investigation when they wish.

The death of Aliaksandr Korzhych revealed a number of negative trends in the army associated with the violation of the rights of conscripts and the inaction of the officers. It resulted into demands of the resignation of Defense Minister Anrei Raukou. Over 13 thousand signatures were collected for this proposition – an absolute record for Belarus.

The developments within the month. In early October, joint exercises of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs with the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces took place. The search and elimination of subversive and reconnaissance groups, the command of various groups of troops, their rear and technical support in isolation from the points of permanent deployment were trained. According to the plan, the subversives were deployed on the territory of Belarus to attack important facilities. The event involved military liable, called for the exercises.

On October 5, 2017, 7th expert consultations of representatives of security agencies and special services of CIS countries took place in Baku. The main topic of the discussion was the recruitment of new supporters by terrorist organizations (highlighting the category of CIS citizens most problematic in this regard and cooperation to counteract the recruitment). The experts noted the growing popularity of radical ideology, religious hatred, the number of extremist and terrorist crimes in CIS countries.

On October 8-10, the Azerbaijani Defense Minister Colonel-General Zakir Hasanov visited Belarus. On October 9, 2017 during his negotiations with the Minister of Defense of Belarus Andrei Raukou, cooperation in the military, military-technical spheres and in the field of military education was discussed.

The same day Mr. Hasanov was received by President Lukashenka. The latter confirmed Belarus’ intention to develop military-technical cooperation with Azerbaijan. At the same time, Belarus as an independent state “… has the right to determine those areas of cooperation that correspond to the spirit of the times” and the needs of the two countries. Official Minsk, remembering the help that Baku provided to our country, is ready to contribute to the strengthening of the independence of Azerbaijan. Minister of Defense Zakir Hasanov noted the positive development of cooperation in the military-technical field and expressed satisfaction with the quality of the products of the Belarusian military-industrial complex, which were supplied to his country.

On October 12, 2017 the State Border Committee conducted tactical exercises with units of Hrodna Border Group. According to the scenario, due to the deteriorating economic situation in a neighboring country, the activity of organized criminal groups engaged in the smuggling of weapons and drugs intensified. The criminals tried to make an armed breakthrough to the territory of Belarus. In order to eliminate the breakthrough, reinforced border forces equipped with autogyros, UAVs and BRDM-2 were used.

On October 12-13, the delegation of the State Border Committee of Belarus visited Latvia. According to the border agencies of the two countries, the main challenges in the current year are illegal migration and smuggling of tobacco products from Belarus to Latvia. It is interesting to note that one of the topics for discussion was the issue of joint projects of international technical assistance.

On October 13, 2017 President Lukashenka held a meeting with the heads of law enforcement agencies. The course of the investigation of a number of criminal cases, which are under the control of the Belarusian leader, was discussed. In addition, operative and investigative materials regarding the work of managers at various levels, as well as unlawful actions of certain law enforcement officers and law enforcement agencies, were considered.

During the meeting, Aliaksandr Lukashenka decided to temporarily remove some of the heads and employees of the Operational Analytical Centre (OAC) from their positions until the end of the investigation on the facts identified by the commission that studied the activities of the Centre.

It was separately stated that the investigation of the Aliaksandr Korzhych’s death is personally controlled by the President.

On October 15-16, the eighth meeting of the Joint Belarusian-UAE Committee for Military-Technical Cooperation took place in Abu Dhabi. The results of the implementation of the decisions taken on the previous meeting were summed up, as well as promising cooperation projects were discussed. The sides noted the high level of cooperation achieved and reaffirmed their interest in developing military-technical cooperation between Belarus and the UAE.

On October 17-20, a meeting of the Mixed Belarusian-Vietnamese Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation was held in Hanoi. The current projects and perspective directions of interaction were discussed. The level of the cooperation is evidenced by the fact that the co-chairmen of the commission are the First Deputy Chairman of the State Military Industrial Committee (SMIC) Ihar Dzemidzenka and the Deputy Minister of National Defense of Vietnam, Colonel-General Be Suan Chuong.

On October 17, 2017 President Lukashenka met the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia, Sergei Naryshkin, who is known as a supporter of allied relations between Moscow and Minsk. The Belarusian leader noted the presence of certain problems between the special services of the two countries, which should be discussed. It is well-known, that there is a correlation and mutual influence of interstate political relations on relations between special services.

The same day, the 10th meeting of the Coordinating Council for Emergency Situations of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was held in Minsk. Participants discussed the mechanism of prompt response to crisis situations. The problems arising in connection with preferential interstate supplies of equipment and facilities for emergency units were discussed as well. The reason is the inadequacy of the procedure for determining prices and packaging.

On October 20, 2017 a representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia announced the readiness to establish temporary border posts on the border with Belarus for the time of the 2018 FIFA World Cup if Belarus and Russia do not unify the migration legislation until March 2018. Control will be carried out not only on highways (which is already practiced), but also on the railway. At the same time, a representative of the Russian government announced the growth of drug trafficking from Belarus to Russia.

On October 23, 2017 Chairman of SMIC of Belarus Major-General Aleh Dvihalyou met with the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the China Aerospace International Trading Company “The Great March” (ALIT) Shi Kalu. The course of implementation of joint projects and the further direction of cooperation were discussed.

On October 23-26, Minsk hosted a meeting of the Joint Belarusian-Turkish Committee on Cooperation in the Field of Defense Industry. The sides discussed the implementation of previously reached agreements. The Turkish delegation also visited a number of organizations of Belarusian military industry.

On October 24-26, the commander of the Air Defense Forces of the Kyrgyz Armed Forces Colonel Kylychbek Aidaraliev visited Belarus. The prospects for the development of military and military-technical cooperation between the armies of the two countries were discussed. The Kyrgyz delegation also got acquainted with the capabilities of the military-industrial complex of Belarus for the production, repair and modernization of the armament and equipment of the air force and air defense forces.

On October 26, 2017 on the territory of Belarus the modernized multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) “Polonaise” was tested: it fired of new missiles with a range of 300 km. According to the developers, there are no air defense weapons capable of hitting this new ammunition. For the first time MLRS “Polonaise” with a 300 km range missile was demonstrated at an exhibition in Baku in 2016. The Belarusian SMIC continues to avoid disclosing information about the origin of the missile used in the “Polonaise”. It is alleged that the production of the MLRS is 95% localized in Belarus. But nothing is said about the missiles. It is known that ammunition has Chinese “roots”. The question is whether they were modernized in Belarus.

In October, the CSTO exercise “Unbreakable brotherhood – 2017” was held. The formation of CSTO Collective Peacekeeping Forces, their deployment in the area of ​​the peacekeeping operation conducted on the basis of the UN Security Council resolution on the territory of not CSTO member-state, the conduct of a peacekeeping operation, as well as the interaction with international organizations in the performance of peacekeeping tasks were trained.

According to the exercises’ plan, the peacekeeping forces acted in the context of the massive movement of refugees from zones of armed conflicts. The peacekeeping units carried out services at checkpoints and observation posts, patrolled the terrain and settlements, guarded important facilities, cleared the terrain and objects of mines, conducted radiation, chemical and biological reconnaissance, fought with fires, countered mass riots, accompanied humanitarian supplies, blocked and destroyed illegal armed groups. Also, the destruction of “jihadmobiles” and the actions during ambush were trained.

The exercises involved the troops of psychological and information warfare, which, among other things, trained creating a positive information background for a peacekeeping operation.

On October 31, 2017 in Minsk, the 7th consultations of representatives of security departments, special services and law enforcement agencies of the CIS countries on combating terrorism and other violent manifestations of extremism took place. Issues of organization of interstate search for persons who committed crimes of a terrorist and extremist nature were discussed.

Conclusions. It is impossible to restore the reputation of the Armed Forces of Belarus without the resignation of persons, who attempt to conceal crimes in the army as well as are directly responsible for the state of law and educational work in the army. The case of Aliaksandr Korzych and the reaction of the Ministry of Defense officials to this tragedy can be called only a reputational catastrophe for the Defense Ministry. Public confidence in a number of MoD officials has been ruined. We have to state the moral degradation of some colonels and generals from the Ministry’s apparatus: instead of assuming responsibility for what happened and retiring, they tried to accuse disgruntled taxpayers of political disloyalty and of an attempt to undermine national security. Such behavior can be explained only with the stupidity, cowardice and hypocrisy of military officials.

On the first day of the visit on October 8, 2017, which, by the way, was Sunday, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov visited one of the enterprises of the Belarusian military-industrial complex. Where among other products he observed MLRS “Polonaise”. This system is capable of acting as an alternative to the operational-tactical missile complex “Iskander”, which was previously (at least formally) transferred by Russia to the disposal of the Armenian army. Previously, there was information on the presence of export orders for the “Polonaise”. Azerbaijan seems to be one of the most likely buyers.

It should be noted that BRDM were involved in the exercises of the Hrodna Border Group for the first time in the last 7 years. The scenario itself can be linked to the situation in the border area of ​​Ukraine, which hardly suffers from illegal amber mining. The threat of violation of the Belarusian is represented not only by criminal elements, but also by militants and light infantry units of the regular army from any direction.

The State Border Committee is actively working on attraction of external financial support to improve the level of border security. Earlier, the greatest help was provided by Russia. There are prospects for increasing support from the European Union. The problem is that European procedures are extremely bureaucratic. Difficulties also happen in connection with the difference in the technical standards of Belarus and the EU: EU demands compliance with European technical requirements, which is not always possible.

Speaking about the dismissal of the OAC leaders, one should note several points. Firstly, in terms of proximity to President Lukashenka OAC is the second special service after the President’s Security Service. Secondly, previously there was nothing known about the commission that studied the activities of the OAC. Obviously, the commission is interdepartmental. It was created within the framework of optimizing the structure of the Belarusian law enforcement agencies, which affects, in particular, the special services. Or it’s creation may be due to certain facts related to the activities of the OAC. Both options are equally possible. Thirdly, the OAC has special powers and functions. Therefore, according to the results of operational activities, the agency officials could make decisions that do not comply with the criminal procedural legislation. Finally, the tough decision was made after Lukashenka’s participation in the CIS and EEA summits on October 11, 2017, where there were no negotiations between Russian and Belarusian leaders. Therefore, it is quite possible that the rigidity of the reaction was determined not by the severity of the misconduct of OCA officials, but by the bad mood of Aliaksandr Lukashenka.

Speaking about military-technical cooperation with the UAE, it is necessary to note that on July 3, 2017 during a military parade in Minsk the people could observe a “BELAR YS-EX” UAV, which is a modification of the “YABHON FLASH 20” UAV produced by the UAE company ADCOM Systems (source).

Vietnam is one of the largest partners of Belarus in the field of the military-industrial complex. Hanoi seeks to overcome dependence on Russia in the supply of military equipment, developing cooperation in this area with other countries. The Belarusian-Vietnamese cooperation affects the air defense sphere (modernization of the S-125 air defense system and the delivery of “Vostok” radar stations) as well as unmanned aircraft (the development of a long-range UAV HS-6L, delivery of tactical UAVs “Grif-K” to Vietnam). And these are just known spheres of cooperation.

Judging by the reaction, Aliaksandr Lukashenka has high hopes for the visit of Sergey Naryshkin. The Belarusian leadership seeks to stabilize political relations with Russia, using the topics of cooperation in the field of security as a platform for communication. He considers Russian law enforcement top officials as potential lobbyists. However, such a tactic does not guarantee success: Vladimir Putin himself will decide on further relations with Minsk. He will do this in between the more important things for the Kremlin.

It is typical for post-Soviet structures when there are agreements all the parties are interested in, it is not possible to agree on a mechanism for implementing these agreements. The preferential (i.e., at domestic prices) supplies of rescue equipment are only an episode of a common problem.

Russia’s claims to Belarus on drug trafficking look strange: Russia is a country of import of drugs for Belarus. In addition, the creation of a single visa space will require many years of negotiations. The fact that Russia poses an obviously unattainable timeframe shows only one thing: Russia is shutting off from Belarus and this is a political decision at the highest level. Drugs and the lack of a single visa policy are just pretexts. Reduction of the transparency of the Belarusian-Russian border not only means Minsk’s loss of exclusive Moscow’s partner status. This can create socio-economic problems: a significant part of the inhabitants of the border areas of Belarus depends on cross-border trade (including illegal trade) and daily leaves for work in near regions of Russia. On the Belarusian territory there is often no work at all. With this, Vladimir Putin is much more popular among the inhabitants of the Belarusian borderland than Aliaksandr Lukashenka. The social problems will have the potential to grow into political ones.

The visit of the head of ALIT Shi Kalu could be timed to the October tests of MLRS “Polonaise”. Moreover, the corporation produces similar weapons systems. One of the areas of MLRS “Polonaise” development is the integration into of M20 missile produced by ALIT with subsequent localization (partial) of its production in Belarus (source). However, in addition to this, the work on the creation of a national medium-range anti-aircraft missile system in Belarus with the support of the PRC were most likely discussed. Earlier SMIC had already announced its readiness to present a demonstration sample before the end of this year. ALIT has its own developments in the field of air defense (LY-80), which can be combined with the Belarusian technologies used to create “Polonaise”.

The October meeting of the Belarusian-Turkish Committee on Cooperation in the field of military-industrial complex is not an ordinary event: Deputy Minister of National Defense of Turkey Shuai Alpay took part in the event. He also met with the leaders of SMIC and the Ministry of Defense of Belarus to discuss prospects for joint projects in the field of the military industry. The previous meeting of the Belarusian-Turkish Committee was held in October 2015. One of the enterprises visited by Turkish officials, judging by the photo report, was the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant.

Belarus is consistently expanding the circle of partners in the military-technical sphere, forming an independent from Russia military-industrial complex and a system of interstate military-political communication. Belarus develops relations with the countries, for which issues of democracy and human rights are not sensitive, most intensively. Belarus demonstrates its readiness to find mutual interest not only with large and rich states, but also with countries with limited resources.

The fact that specialists of the CIS countries met twice for a month to discuss anti-terrorism topics evidences its high relevance. Which can be connected, among other things, with the return of the CIS states’ citizens who took part in hostilities as part of various extremist organizations from the Middle East.

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