Canada

Lukashenko shakes up security team to stamp out Belarus protests

Lukashenko also ordered the strengthening of armed volunteer militia units, which in theory already exist but in practice have not played a role in the crisis till now.

“NOT YET OVER”

The two other two new presidential aides are Valery Vakulchik, who spent eight years as head of the KGB security police, and former deputy interior minister Alexander Barsukov.

Barsukov will be responsible for Minsk, Vakulchik for Brest on the Polish border, and Karayev for Grodno, near the borders with Poland and Lithuania.

The emphasis on security in regions bordering NATO countries is consistent with repeated allegations by Lukashenko that NATO and the West are whipping up unrest in Belarus. In September he staged a high-profile series of military exercises with his key ally, Russia.

Addressing the three new aides, Lukashenko said they were heading to very important areas of the country “in connection with the events that have occurred and are not yet over – we still don’t know what this may result in.”

“Why you? You are military people, you’re knowledgeable, you don’t need to be brought up to speed and taught.”

Karayev, Barsukov, Vakulchik and Kubrakov were all hit with European Union travel bans and asset freezes earlier this month for their role in the repression, intimidation and arbitrary arrest of protesters since the election. The first three were also accused of responsibility for torture.

The United States has also imposed sanctions on Karayev, Barsukov and Kubrakov.

Belarus denies torturing prisoners and Karayev, the outgoing interior minister, has described its police force as one of the most humane in the world.

U.S. Democratic candidate Joe Biden has said he will expand sanctions on Lukashenko’s “henchmen” if he wins next week’s presidential election. (Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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