On November 27-28, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka carried out a comprehensive reshuffle at the top of the Belarusan KGB (still so named), the Security Council, and the Internal and Foreign Affairs Ministries. Lukashenka ensured ample publicity for the changes, except for one detail: Most of the officials involved are natives of Russia with a background in the Soviet Union’s and the Russian Federation’s intelligence agencies. Most of these Russian officials secured promotions in the Minsk reshuffle. The native Belarusans were, however in most cases, demoted.
Uladzimir Matskevich, the native chief of the Belarusan KGB, lost his post. His replacement is the Russian Leonid Yerin, with Valentin Nikitin as deputy. Major-General Yerin, a career officer of the Soviet Union’s KGB, went on to head the Moscow Regional Directorate of Russia’s Federal Security Service until transferred to Belarus in 1995. He became first deputy to Matskevich and also took over as chief of Lukashenka’s bodyguards earlier this year.
The new head of the Security Council, with the rank of state secretary, is Ural Latypov, with Mikhail Udovikov as his deputy. The Belarus-born Viktar Sheyman has been shifted from the post of Security Council secretary to that of general prosecutor. Latypov is a native of Russia’s republic of Bashkiria and a career officer of the Soviet Union’s KGB. He reemerged in post-Soviet Belarus as an adviser to Lukashenka and took over the post of foreign affairs minister two years ago. Mikhail Khvostov is the new foreign affairs minister.
Lukashenka has cited two rationales for the reshuffle. The first relates to the investigation into the “disappearances” of prominent opposition politicians and, most recently, that of the Russian ORT Television’s Minsk cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski. Lukashenka deems those cases a political embarrassment to him and would like to resolve them ahead of the presidential election which is scheduled for mid-2001. His second stated rationale is the “need to create a tough counterintelligence environment for foreign diplomats in Belarus” as well as the need to “obtain advance information on the intentions and plans of foreign centers.” Those “centers,” according to Lukashenka, are targeting Belarus because of its close ties with Russia and opposition to NATO’s enlargement in Central Europe (Belapan, Belarusan Television, Moskovsky komsomolets, November 27-30; see the Monitor, July 11, November 15; Fortnight in Review, July 21, November 17).
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