Cablegate: Lukashenko Removes Belarusian Kgb Chief
DE RUEHSK #0620/01 1991244
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 181244Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MINSK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6284
INFO RUCNMEU/EU INTEREST COLLECTIVE
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1625
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
C O N F I D E N T I A L MINSK 000620
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/18/2017
TAGS: PGOV PINR BO
SUBJECT: LUKASHENKO REMOVES BELARUSIAN KGB CHIEF
REF: A. MINSK 613
B. MINSK 614
C. MINSK 465
Classified By: Ambassador Karen Stewart for reason 1.4 (d)
1. (C) As predicted, President Lukashenko replaced Belarusian KGB (BKGB) Chief Sukharenko with Major General Zhadobin, the former head of the presidential security service. Lukashenko also removed Sukharenko's deputy Dementei, but no replacement has been made. Official statements claim the dismissals were a result of Sukharenko's and Dementei's "transfer to other posts," but embassy contacts and opposition activists attribute the dismissals to Sukharenko's power struggle with Interior Minister Naumov and corruption within the BKGB.
Zhadobin, a close associate of Lukashenko and his son Viktor, has already been tasked with making staff changes within the BKGB and State Security Committee, which we expect is a move to put all law-enforcement agencies and security services under Lukashenko's and Viktor's firm control. End summary.
Do Not Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out
2. (U) The presidential press department announced on July 17 that President Aleksandr Lukashenko relieved Belarusian KGB (BKGB) Chief Stepan Sukharenko and replaced him with Major General Yuriy Zhadobin, the former chief of the presidential security service. Former head of the presidential bodyguard service Andrey Vtyurin replaced Zhadobin. The outgoing Sukharenko, born in a village near Svetlagorsk (Gomel oblast) in 1957, had served as BKGB chief since January 2005. Deputy Head of the BKGB Vasiliy Dementei was also removed from his position. The press department gave few details of Sukharenko's and Dementei's removal, other than it was due to the former Chekists' "transfer to another post." According to the presidential office, Lukashenko tasked Zhadobin to submit proposals on strengthening the staff within the BKGB.
Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss
3. (U) Zhadobin, born in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine in 1954, began his career in 1972 after joining the USSR Armed Forces. He graduated from the Kazan Higher Tank Command School in 1976 and finished the Armored Forces Academy, command department, in Moscow in 1985. In 1990-99, Zhadobin served with the Belarusian Civil Defense organization and Interior Troops. In 1999 he was appointed deputy minister of internal affairs and Interior Troops commander.
4. (U) According to human rights NGO Charter97, Zhadobin - just like Sukharenko before him -- used to provide "evidence" to support Lukashenko's paranoid theories that enemies (particularly the West) were out to destroy him. During a September 2004 meeting with his Security Council, Lukashenko condemned the West's visa ban on senior GOB officials and lambasted the opposition's attempts to destabilize the country, noting "material" provided by Zhadobin that warned of enemy preparations to commit aggressive acts against the GOB leadership, including liquidation of the president.
Sukharenko's Removal Serves Whose Interests?
5. (U) Human rights lawyer and former investigator Oleg xxxxxxxxxxxxx on July 17 opined to reporters that the BKGB Chief's removal resulted from a power struggle between Sukharenko and Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov (ref A). According to xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Sukharenko was very close toSecurity Council Head Viktor Sheyman, leader of one of the power clans in Lukashenko's circle. However, Sheyman would likely become the ambassador to Venezuela, leaving Sukharenko defenseless against other clans, such as Naumov or even Lukashenko's son Viktor, who is a presidential aide, advisor on national and presidential security, and member of the Security Council. Therefore, it was "obvious," according to xxxxxxxxxxxxx, that the new head of the BKGB would be a trusted colleague of Viktor.
6. (C) In a July 16 meeting, xxxxxxxxxxxxx told Poloff that should Sukharenko be removed, Viktor Lukashenko would fill the position with a buddy and much of the BKGB staff with trusted friends and colleagues to bring the BKGB under his full control. According to xxxxxxxxxxxxx, the administration was already threatening to deny senior BKGB agents pensions, even those not near retirement age, if they did not retire by the end of the year. In his July 17 interview with reporters, xxxxxxxxxxxxx claimed that the new BKGB leadership would cause a change in the agency's powers, as the president wants to be sure that the BKGB and all law-enforcement agencies are under his and Viktor's control before 2011 presidential elections. According to xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Zhadobin was "very close" to the president and his son. He predicted Sukharenko would become an ambassador in an Asian country, a previous form of political exile for several former power clan leaders and
close associates of Lukashenko.
7. (U) According to United Civic Party leader Anatoliy Lebedko's July 17 interview with reporters, Sukharenko's removal was the result of a business war among the nomenklatura. Lebedko noted that the BKGB had shady business dealings with the oil industry (reftels) and claimed the agency had set up dummy businesses in Russia to launder money. Lebedko doubted the BKGB's illicit activities would change under Zhadobin's leadership. Leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (BSDP) "Gramada" Nikolai Statkevich opined that Sukharenko knew for a long time his position was in jeopardy, and for that reason "discovered" a Polish spy ring to appease the president (septel). However, even this could not save the former BKGB chief. According to
Statkevich, the BKGB had long ceased to be an "intellectual"
organization as it had been in the USSR. Its first duty was to show absolute loyalty to the president, and professionalism and beliefs came in distant second.
Newspaper Blames Power Shuffle on Scuffle in Mogilyov
8. (C) Journalists from the Belarusian independent website "Your Country's Tomorrow" on July 17 attributed Sukharenko's removal to the July 12 beating of the Head of the State Control Committee (GosKontrol) Zenon Lomat. Political analyst Vladimir Podgol in a July 16 meeting mentioned that a group of "hooligans" pretending to be policemen severely beat Lomat while he was in Mogilyov. According to the website, an angry Naumov sent his anti-mafia division of the Ministry of the Interior (MVD) to Mogilyov to arrest seven BKGB agents
and one Security Council member for the attack. The website
claims the attack was planned with the intention to "compromise" Naumov. The Prosecutor General's Office is conducting the investigation.
9. (C) Sukharenko's removal comes as no surprise, as we had long noticed that the former BKGB chief had fallen out of favor with Lukashenko. Our contacts continuously predicted that Sukharenko's replacement would be a close contact of Viktor Lukashenko, giving the president's son more control of the security services and making him one of the most powerful men, next to his father, in Belarus. We too suspect that Sukharenko's downfall was a result of his battle with Naumov and the corruption within the BKGB ranks. We will continue
to report on this development, particularly on Sukharenko's
future and his replacements.