The bulldogs behind the scenes

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Several information resources (referring to unnamed sources) reported that 4 or 7 investigators of the central apparatus of the Investigative Committee of Belarus (hereinafter referred to as IC), involved into the investigation team in the case of Siarhei Tsikhanouski, refused to sign a decree on accusing him on organization of activities aimed at breaking the public order. Moreover, these courageous people were not stopped even by the threat of dismissal. Which, however, were just threats due to the reluctance of the IC to lose valuable specialists.

The public joyfully hastened to see this fact as another sign of the imminent collapse of the anti-people dictatorship. But people did not notice two points.

First of all, in order the document to be signed, it should first be drawn up. The one who drafted the document (or ordered to draft it) clearly planned to sign it as well. The decision on accusation in cases investigated by the investigative team should be signed by the head of this team, and not by the ordinary investigator. The leader is always one person, not 4 or 7.

But the second part is more interesting: there are people, refusing to sign this kind of documents in the central IC office and the command did not fire them. It should be note, that it is really difficult to get into the central apparatuses of such departments. Once there, people have something to lose: early retirement, status, career prospects, and a much higher salary than their lower-level colleagues have. Therefore, even if this story had some kind of factual basis, it most likely referred to unwillingness of some officers to be included in the investigation team in the Tsikhanouski’s case.

At the same time, without dismissing valuable personnel, the IC command clearly did everything for “riot on the ship” not to go beyond the walls of the office. Given the political moment, information on disloyalty in the IC central office raises the question of the loyalty of the department as a whole. The person who organized this leak simply cannot ignore this factor.

There may be two purposes for the publication of such information. Firstly, to frame the IC command in order to achieve its change. The actors both in the IC and outside it may be interested in this. Secondly, those structures that lost their own investigative apparatus during the creation of the Investigative Committee may be interested in discrediting the IC. Some of them would like to return the investigative units to their office.

When the IC was created, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Department of Financial Investigations of the State Control Committee and the prosecutor’s office lost their investigative apparatuses. Which led to their serious weakening and discontent. The State Security Committee (SSC) managed to keep its investigative apparatus under the pretext that the criminal cases of its jurisdiction often contain secret information.

One should note that the newly appointed State Control Committee (SCC) Ivan Tsertsel, previously serving as the SSC deputy chairman, oversaw the fight against economic crime. Moreover, he was very productive in this position, judging by the financial results of his work. He is very well aware of the possibilities that the availability of own investigative apparatus provides.

Further, none of the three departments that lost their investigative apparatus after the creation of the Investigative Committee have the necessary authority to conduct undercover and technical monitoring (let’s call it that) of the internal situation in the Investigative Committee. But the SSC (which is native for Ivan Tsertsel) is not only capable of this, but also has the appropriate powers in terms of counterintelligence support of state administration bodies and law enforcement agencies. It is also interesting that the first IC Chairman and its actual creator was the current SSC head Valery Vakulchik. Who can have high-level personal contacts inside the Investigative Committee.

The manifestation of disloyalty in the central office of the Investigative Committee (if it did occur) inflicts a serious blow on the IC as a whole and can be used by competing colleagues to try to redistribute powers in the field of preliminary investigation in their favour.

It is worth noting that not only the IC is exposed to attacks during the behind-the-scenes war of law enforcement agencies. Aliaksandr Lukashenka admitted that he was receiving proposals to liquidate an independent State Committee of Judicial Expertise by joining it to one of the departments. Here, either IC or the Ministry of Internal Affairs may act as initiators, as State Committee of Judicial Expertise conducts the bulk of expertises precisely in the interests of these two agencies (62.8% and 30.5% of all expertises, respectively).

While the public is watching the ups and downs of the political struggle, an equally interesting “bulldog fight” is taking place behind the scenes. This struggle is unlikely to result into the liquidation of the IC: Lukashenka has consistently pursued a policy of fragmentation of law enforcement agencies in order to prevent even the possibility of their gaining power-political subjectivity. Separate border, investigation and expert departments were created for this purpose. In the face of a fall in public support for the authorities and an aggressive external background, Lukashenka will not go to a radical strengthening of any of the law enforcement agencies.

Moreover, the cause of the attack on the Investigative Committee may be not only a struggle for authority, but also an attempt to delay Lukashenka’s decision to further fragment the law enforcement agencies. Here the SSC stands as candidate No.1: the Committee combines the functions of foreign intelligence, internal security with law enforcement powers and government communications. In international practice, these functions are often divided between 2-3 independent departments. Lukashenka is definitely thinking about this.

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