The most important events of the month. In April, the amendments to the criminal and administrative legislation of Belarus came into force. The criminal liability was imposed on the citizens of Belarus for participation in the hostilities abroad, as well as for recruitment and training of citizens, financing or other material support of such activities. The Belarusian Minister of Internal Affairs Igor Shunevich said that all Belarusians, who take part in hostilities on the territory of Ukraine, will be checked regardless of which side they are fighting on. Currently, it is known that near 130 citizens of Belarus were subjected to such checks. Now the issue of their prosecution is under consideration.
At the same time the liability for extremism became higher. The inciting of language and social hostility or discord is now considered a criminal action. And if earlier the incitement of racial, ethnic, religious or social hostility or discord, associated with violence or calls for violence, was regarded as extremism, now the violence/incitement to violence are not the obligatory condition.
The dynamics of the situation development for the past month. The beginning of April was marked by large-scale battles at the Azerbaijani-Karabakh (Armenian) front. Both sides accused each other in provoking the conflict. Belarus, in fact, took a pro-Azerbaijani stance “… based on compliance with and ensuring of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the state borders”. Although it was expected due to the special significance for Minsk of relations with the official Baku, Yerevan reacted strongly. It is worth noting that being faced with the possibility of a full-scale war with Azerbaijan, Armenia has not received even the moral support of its “allies” in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (hereinafter referred to as the CSTO).
A strategic partnership was formed de facto between Baku and Minsk. There is a deep level of political trust between the governments of the two countries. Belarus is interested in Azerbaijani market, and in the development of relations with Turkey, including using Azerbaijan. In addition, Baku is one of the largest customers of the Belarusian military-industrial complex. As for Armenia, due to the small size of market, this country, it is not that promising for the Belarusian export as Azerbaijan. And due to the relative poverty in Minsk it is considered a competitor in need for the Russian financial support.
On 01.04.2016, Alexander Lukashenko met with the State Secretary of the Security Council Stanislav Zasj. They discussed the state of border security, the criminal situation. According to the Secretary of State, the criminal situation is not getting worse; it is reduced in the number of particularly serious crimes and thefts. Among other things, the head of state was informed about the work done to monitor the preparation of agricultural machinery before the planting season.
On 04.04.2016, speaking at a meeting of the House of Representatives of Belarus, the Minister of Defense Andrei Ravkov said that in the next five years (apparently meaning the period of 2016-2020 years) the army plans to buy 500 units of armaments and equipment and to upgrade about 70 units. Among other things, it is about the purchase of four combat-capable trainer aircrafts Yak-130, 12 Mi-8 helicopters, national multiple launch rocket systems (hereinafter referred to as the MRLS) “Polonez”, radar technical equipment. Besides, it follows from the speech of the Minister of Defense that there was/is an increase in the number of the Armed Forces in Belarus. A more detailed presentation of Ravkov’s speech was reviewed in a separate article (text).
On 04.04.2016, the House of Representatives adopted a new military doctrine of Belarus in the first reading. It is stated that the document is based on the systematic analysis of the military and political situation, the concept of “color revolutions” and the mechanisms of changing the constitutional system, violation of territorial integrity of states by provoking internal armed conflicts. Until recently, the doctrine of the project was not made public, access to it was denied even for the representatives of the state-owned media. Though as it follows from the text of the document posted, nothing revolutionary is contained in it. The variety of internal and external threats to Belarus is listed and detailed. The symptoms of the so-called hybrid war are enumerated, while the term itself is not used in the document. It seems that the text of the doctrine was smoothed: on a par with the need to create the actual document there was a task not to offend any of the regional players. The Military Doctrine of Belarus has not yet been approved. It will be interesting to compare the final version with the already existing one. Some changes and editing are possible. Prior to entry into force of the law approving the new Military Doctrine of Belarus, its detailed analysis would be premature.
On 05.04.2016, Alexander Lukashenko held a meeting on issues of the Belarusian-European relations. During the event the Belarusian leader stated the need to continue working on complete normalization of relations and deepening of cooperation with the European Union “… in the context of our national interests”. Having acknowledged the existence of unresolved problems in relations between Belarus and the EU, Alexander Lukashenko said that they should be solved. The greatest interest for the official Minsk is concentrated in the area of trade and economic relations, investment, finance, as well as joint counteracting together with the Europeans to the cross-border threats.
On 06.04.2016, it was reported that almost one-third of the State border of Belarus and Ukraine was already demarcated. In general, near 330 km of the border of the total length of 1084 km was indicated on the area. It is not clear what proportion of these 330 km was carried out by the Ukrainian side. The fact is that the Ukrainian authorities responsible for the demarcation of the border with Belarus, practically failed their duties. For reporting the areas, made up by the Belarusian border guards, are used. And the Ukrainian officials responsible for this work are mispresenting these areas as their part of the works done. The problem lies in the organization: the Belarusian State Border Committee is responsible for demarcation on the part of our country, and in Ukraine the same duties are entrusted to a number of different structures, but not to the border guards themselves.
The State Border Committee of Belarus intends to expand the practice of using UAVs and gyros for border protection. The existing experience with this technology is recognized as positive.
On 08.04.2016, the automotive equipment, created the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant, was presented. It is intended to be used by the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates and Angola. If the UAE is a longtime partner of the military-industrial complex of Belarus, Angola publicly features for the first time as a customer of the Belarusian technology.
On the same day the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Vladimir Makey said that at this stage there is no need to place the Russian military base on the territory of Belarus. It will not improve the regional security situation. The existing infrastructure allows to transfer the additional air forces from Russia, if necessary.
On 08.04.2016, a meeting was held on combating drug trafficking, chaired by A. Lukashenko. It is noted that the adopted strict measures allowed “… to turn the situation in the most threatened areas, but there are still grounds for suspicion”. It is necessary to analyze the situation and prepare new solutions to combat the illegal drug trafficking.
Lukashenko admitted that the main flow of drugs to Belarus comes from Russia.
In prison tough conditions are created for those responsible for drug-related crimes. At the meeting the results of these measures were discussed in detail. Unfortunately, neither the nature of actions nor the results are disclosed. However, it was declared on the need for further worsening of the sentence conditions for this category of convicts.
At the end of 2015 for the first time the proportion of the drug-related crimes has decreased over the last three years in the structure of criminal acts.
On 12.04.2016, Alexander Lukashenko visited the Space Communications Center in Dzerzhinsk district, from which the satellite “Belintersat-1” is being controlled. The device is already in use in the interests of both civil and military users. It is stated that the Belarusian control center can monitor multiple satellites. In case of the commercial demand for the “Belintersat-1” resource, A. Lukashenko made it clear that he was ready to consider the launch of one or two more satellites.
During the visit A. Lukashenko was demonstrated the ability to provide a secure connection and the equipment intended for that purpose. In particular, the communications machine base on the armored vehicle “Cayman”. In addition to communication, the satellite provides reliable transmission of secret data. “Belintersat-1” provides connectivity in a large part of Europe, Asia and Africa, and has the ability to cover the entire Eastern hemisphere.
Lukashenka stated that “… we have something to say”. And the official Minsk will do this by creating “… the necessary for us and demanded on the market armament systems”. Lukashenko has admitted that the rocket for the “Polonez” MRLS was created with the support of China. Currently, two more models of the missile systems are being created.
The delegation of the State Military Industrial Committee of Belarus (hereinafter referred to as the SMIC), headed by the First Deputy Chairman Igor Bykov, visited Pakistan, where on 13.04.2016 it held talks at the Ministry of Defense Industry of the country. They discussed the areas of bilateral cooperation in the defense industry, science and technology, agreed on the principles of technology exchange between the two countries. Belarus is ready to meet the demands of the Pakistani security forces for vehicles and military optics, and is also interested in cooperation with Pakistan in the field of unmanned aircraft.
On 13.04.2016, the representative of the Security Council of Belarus said that raising of the retirement age will affect 98% of the security forces, i.e., all soldiers and personnel up to the rank of colonel, inclusive. Previously, they had the right to retire after reaching 45 years old. It is planned that the exclusion will only refer to those security forces, which nature of service provides for specific requirements to the state of health (for example, flight crews, anti-terrorist units, etc.). In case of recognition by the military and military-medical commission as unfit for the service for health reasons, the retirement age for them will remain the same – 45 years. The list of positions, for which special requirements to the state of health refer, will be approved separately.
On 14.04.2016, Minsk hosted a joint command-staff exercise “Cyber-Antiterror-2016”, which was attended by the representatives of the special services of the CIS countries. The purpose of the event was preparation for prevention, detection and suppression of terrorist acts carried out with the use of information and communication technologies. The participants took part in the interaction during detection and suppression of cyber attacks; worked with the collective-use information systems during events; investigated computer incidents in telecommunication networks.
On 21.04.2016, A. Lukashenko delivered his annual message to the National Assembly. We should note its extraordinary brevity, it took only about one hour and a half. The content of the message is of little interest due to its extremely general nature. Even the favorite topic of A. Lukashenko – the fight against corruption – was almost not touched upon. It seemed that this year’s event was a formality. Though earlier it used to be one of the most significant events in the official calendar.
On 22.04.2016, under the guidance of the President of Belarusian SMIC Sergei Gurulyov a meeting of the ministry board was held; it was dedicated to the results of work of the domestic defense industry in the first quarter of 2016. In general, the plans that have been planned for the quarter ahead have been completed. The traditional issues remain the questions of pricing and reduction of the production costs, as well as ensuring the quality. The volume of production in the first quarter of 2016 increased by 108.4% over the same period last year. I.e. more than 2 times. The return on sales amounted to 34.4%. The export of goods and services grew by 31% compared to the same period last year. In the first half of the year it is planned to achieve the volumes of industrial production at the level of 115% over the same period of 2015; the returns on sales is expected to reach 12%, while the export of goods and services will grow by 103% over the same period last year.
Belarus continues developing relations with the major Asian countries. On 28-30 April the Minister of Defense of Indonesia Riamizard Riakudu paid a visit to our country. On 28.04.2016, the Indonesian delegation was received by A. Lukashenko. He said that there are no closed issues in cooperation between the two countries. Belarus intends to develop cooperation with Indonesia in military technology and in the civilian sphere. A. Lukashenko has offered to create a joint venture for the Asian markets. Belarus is ready not only to supply the finished products to the market of Indonesia, but also to transfer the technology through joint ventures. In the nearest future a bilateral working group on cooperation in the military-technical sphere will be created within the framework of the Belarusian-Indonesian intergovernmental commission.
At the meeting in SMIC the Belarusian side expressed interest in working together with Indonesia, development and creation of modern models of military products. The parties identified a number of areas of cooperation for the nearest future.
On 30.04.2016, a meeting of Ministers of Defense of Belarus and Indonesia was held. The both sides discussed the prospects of bilateral cooperation in military and military-technical spheres.
According to the literal interpretation of the April’s amendments to the criminal law of Belarus, the leaders of pro-Russian forces in the Donbas, which include the citizens of Belarus fighting on the Russian side, responsible for the recruitment and training of the citizens of Belarus to take part in combat operations abroad, as well as funding or providing other material support of such activities, may be prosecuted. Thus all persons providing material support to the formations, known for participation of the Belarusian citizens. The new wrongful act is attributed by the Criminal Code to the category of grave crimes against the State. The foreign nationals may be held criminally liable for the acts committed outside the territory of Belarus, in case their crimes are classified as serious or very serious and aimed against the interests of Belarus (Article 6 of the Criminal Code of Belarus). However, the same measure may be applied to the Ukrainian side, which military units include the Belarusian volunteers. Of course, in this case there is a curiosity rather than a fraudulent intent. Though this allows you to understand the level of concern of the official Minsk with the facts of participation of its citizens in the war in Ukraine. And obviously, the reason for concern is not the life or health of the Belarusian combatants, but it is the fears that the achieved combat experience can be applied in Belarus itself. The Belarusian authorities are considering the possibility of internal destabilization as very real.
The concept of social discord, introduced to the Criminal Code of Belarus, seems unspecified very much. That paves the way for legalized arbitrariness: in fact criticism of the government’s actions now also may be considered as incitement to hatred against a particular social group – the civil servants. Of course, this is an extreme case. However, if such tool is required, it means its use is at least not excluded.
At the same time now the extremist and therefore punishable are the public denial of existence of the Belarusians as the independent nation and the Belarusian language as the independent one, but not the neighboring dialect. Moreover, the public anti-Catholic and anti-Protestant statements relevant to certain pro-Russian activists in Belarus, are now considered extremist.
The Armenia’s reaction to the position of Belarus on the fact of another escalation of the situation in Karabakh seems unreasonable. Because military action covered a part of the territory of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic unrecognized even by Armenia, the reference to the agreements in the framework of the CSTO would be inappropriate. However, this does not negate the fact that the organization is has a non-viable structure. By itself, the CSTO as a military-political bloc is absolutely not viable and will exist exactly as long as Moscow is interested in it.
The statement of the Secretary of Security Council of Belarus S. Zasj on a stable criminal situation is contrary to the statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Thus, the number of recorded crimes increased by 3.2% and in the Brest region immediately by 9.8% in 2015 in comparison with 2014 year. The crime rate decreased only in Minsk (2.5%). The number of violent crimes increased by 12.8% at once, and especially grave — by 17.6%. The insulting behavior in 2015 was registered by 37.4% more than in 2014. The growth of crimes in the sphere of drug trafficking was 16.7%, and in the sphere of economics crime increased by 14.8%. Obviously, S. Zasj was aware of that, and Alexander Lukashenko did as well. In this case there is an attempt of the senior government officials to calm down the audience and give the appearance of a positive situation. Meanwhile, in view of the current economic crisis, which has hit the labor and employment market (especially in the Belarusian regions), the increase in crime is logical.
Involvement of the Security Council to monitor the preparations for the agricultural work shows a very low level of trust to A. Lukashenko information from industry officials and local authorities. The fact that the mass purges of the state apparatus are not observed is indicating the absence of any reserved staff at the Lukashenko’s disposal at the moment. The problem of quality of public administration arises not for the first year. And improvements in this area are still not visible.
The official Minsk is trying to “sell” to Brussels its role as the European shield in the East against the penetration of terrorism, smuggling of weapons and goods, and illegal migration. Naturally, it is expected that the contribution of Belarus to European security will receive not only positive political, but also a generous financial assessment.
“Belintersat-1” and the control center are essential parts of a unified digital communication system of the military organization of the State, which includes the state mobile operator MTS among other elements of the communication infrastructure of Belarus. It is obvious that the issue of privatization of this company is not relevant in the coming years. The Ukrainian experience has demonstrated the possibility to use the resources of mobile operators, owned by foreign owners, to collect intelligence information in the interests of the enemy.
Let us remind you that the customer and the owner of the national satellite communications and broadcasting system “Belintersat”, created with the support of China, is a state-owned company “Precision Electromechanical Plant”. The company is concurrently an executive of the national missile program. The satellite “Belintersat-1” was made on the basis of the Chinese DFH-4 platform, which is designed to direct the signal relay without intermediate ground stations and can be used to transmit data to several hundred units of ground troops at the same time.
With a high degree of confidence we may assume that two new domestic missile systems, mentioned during the visit of A. Lukashenko to the Satellite Communications Center, represent hard MLRS of 400 mm caliber or more to defeat a range at 300 km, and a cruise missile.
During his visit to Pakistan the Belarusian SMIC delegation visited a number of local MIC enterprises:
— Pakistan Ordnance Factories, which produce a wide range of small arms, ammunition (including tank shells of 125 mm caliber), and explosives;
— Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, which produces avionics among other equipment;
— National Radio and Telecommunication Corp., which specializes in communications and safety, including in the field of cryptographic protection of information.
Regarding the latter two companies the Belarusian interest was gained by the prospects of industrial and technological cooperation in the field of communication systems and avionics. As for the Pakistani artillery plants, it could be discussed about the possibility to purchase of ammunition and explosives.
But the greatest interest was provoked by the visit of the Belarusian delegation of the Defense Export Promotion Organization, which has the task of promoting the Pakistani defense industry products in the international markets. It seems that the topics of the meeting could be a sharing of experiences of foreign trade activities, as well as supply of the Pakistani military-industrial complex for the needs of the Belarusian defense industry.
In light of the changes introduced to the pension legislation it is interesting how widespread will be the positions with special requirements for health, and whether they include EMERCOM rescue units. Among the rescue officers, whose activities are associated with significant and regular physical activity, and the earnings are far behind the national average, such changes to the pension legislation caused discontent. In fact, we are talking about the deterioration of the conditions of service without providing any compensation. It can be expected that a significant proportion of individuals, holding positions with special requirements for health, will make every effort for retirement at 45 years. That in turn will push the government to change the order of calculation (or increase) of the employment period giving the right to receive the pension. For example, the period of study in schools of the law-enforcement agencies will not be taken into account, or the period of service required will increase from the current 20 years to 25 years.
Speaking about the results of the Belarusian defense industry in the first quarter of 2016, we should note that in the first quarter of 2015 the production has almost doubled compared to the same period in 2014. At the same time the export growth amounted only to 2.7%. It should be noted that the domestic defense industry increasingly focuses on meeting the needs of the law-enforcement agencies of Belarus.
During the visit, the Indonesian delegation visited the command center of the Air Forces and Air Defense of Belarus. It is obvious that the visit was organized for promotional purposes. Jakarta is making serious efforts to modernize its Air Forces. The Belarusian technical solutions in the field of aviation management may be of interest to Indonesia. Especially since the domestic defense industry has the experience of creating the Air Forces and Air Defense control systems for a number of foreign customers.