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Arrests of oligarchs in Belarus: Lukashenko resorts to his “gold reserves”

Yevgeny Baskin and Yuri Chizh. Photo: ced.by

“Purge of oligarchs” in Belarus is connected with the economic problems and acute budget deficit in the country, experts told EADaily on March 16 commenting of the latest arrests of big businessmen in Belarus - Yuri Chizh of Triple Group and Yevgeny Baskin, CEO of Servolux LLC.

 “Belarus and its irreplaceable ruler need international credits urgently, very urgently, from Moscow, Washington, and Brussels, at once. As the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development delays with the decision to issue a loan to Belarus, and the European Investment Bank and the IMF are not in a hurry to provide loans, the country is in extreme need of money. The state-run factories and plants shift to part-time operation. Alexander Lukashenko has even resorted to unprecedented and extremely unpopular measures to reduce the financial burden on the state budget, hurting his most devoted and active supporters – women. The increase of the state pensions age is a matter of time for Belarus,” says Olga Karatch. Director, International Centre for Civil Initiatives "Our House", the founder of “Vitebski Kurier” (Vitebsk Courier) newspaper.

Since the country has faced money crunch, she said, it is quite logical that the Belarus president has resorted to his “gold reserves” i.e. the big businessmen, who had been called “Lukashenko’s pockets” for a long time.

“It is a very logical process,” she said recalling that once Vladimir Ilyich Lenin launched NEP just to accumulate financial resources in a certain social group to take them back in hard times. “Alexander Lukashenko thinks almost the same way: you were let to earn in good times – now it is time to pay back. In the eyes of Lukashenko, the attempt of Yuri Chizh (and other businessmen proxies) to take the money out of the country and escape, when the social discontent and tension is growing in the country and his chair of president is endangered, is not just betrayal, it is a terrible crime that cannot be forgiven,” Olga Karatch said.

That is exactly why the property of Chizh and all his close relatives was arrested spontaneously. Reportedly, she said, the “damage caused” is assessed at about 45 million dollars. “I think, if Yuri Chizh wants to be set free, though ‘he will not get away scatheless,’ he will have to recompense for the damage, no matter what amount they will demand from him,”

Bogdan Bezpalko, the deputy director of the Center for Ukrainian and Belarussian Studies at Moscow State University, has similar views. He said, “The Belarus leadership began to press oligarchs, as the economic capacities of the country shrinking dramatically.” 

“I see nothing bad in this. As a rule, oligarchs in the post-Soviet area try to establish relations on the example of Latin America i.e. they try to maximize and privatize their profits, leaving the expenses to the government, as heavy burden for the ordinary taxpayers,” he said.

“Yet a few years ago, Belarus political analysts loved to show off the fact that Belarus has no oligarchs and there is people’s regime in the country – the only people’s regime as such in the post-Soviet area,” Bezpalko recalled. “Now, we can see that it’s not the case. There are oligarchs in Belarus, though not as bright and active in politics,” he said.

EADaily reported earlier that Yuri Chizh, the Head of Triple Group, was arrested in Belarus on suspicion of tax evasion in large amounts (based on Article 242.3 of the Criminal Code of Belarus). Yevgeny Baskin, CEO of Servolux LLC, was arrested over similar suspicions.

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