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05/09/2020 | Belarus strongman Lukashenko replaces intelligence leadership, as protests continue

Joseph Fitsanakis

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko replaced the heads of the intelligence service and other security bodies on Thursday, as he continues to face the most serious challenge to his 26-year rule.

 

Mass protests have been held in urban centers since last month, when Lukashenko claimed victory with over 80 percent of the vote in the presidential elections, and returned to office for a record sixth term.

Over 7,000 people have been arrested by the authorities in recent weeks for participating in anti-government demonstrations, which Lukashenko blames on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and “the European Union states bordering Belarus”. Regional observers point to the Belarusian military and security services as holding the key to what will transpire in former Soviet republic during the coming months. It is believed that, if the Armed Forces and the security services continue to stand by Lukashenko, the Belarusian strongman is unlikely to leave office.

In a surprise move on Thursday, the Belarusian president reshuffled the country’s intelligence and security leadership, including the head of the State Security Council (the highest national security decision-making body in Belarus) and the director of the State Security Service, known as KGB. Former Defense Minister General Andrei Ravkov, who has headed the State Security Council since January of this year, stepped down and was replaced by Valery Vakulchik, who until recently served director of the KGB. His post in the KGB was filled by Ivan Tertel, a KGB career official, who most recently served as chairman of Belarus’ financial investigative force, known as the State Control Committee. In an equally surprising move, the mayor of Minsk, Anatoly Sivak, was named deputy prime minister.

The reshuffle has been interpreted as by regional observers as an attempt by Lukashenko to surround himself with some of his most trusted apparatchiks, as rumors abound about possible divisions in the country’s military and intelligence services. Meanwhile, the Belarussian strongman is scheduled to meet with the Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and a delegation of senior Russian intelligence officials in the coming days.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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