Meeting with senior officials of Mogilev Oblast

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko met with senior officials of Mogilev Oblast on 14 December. It was expected that the head of state will introduce the new governor first. However, he did not begin the meeting according to the script.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the beginning: “I don’t think we have something to hide from each other. Let’s talk about items of current interest on today’s agenda, about our life. I think everyone will be interested in learning what our Mogilev Oblast breathes from within.”

Chief of the KGB’s Mogilev Oblast branch Igor Pavlyushchenko was invited to present his report first. He briefly sketched out the social and political situation in the region and responses to new challenges and threats to security. He said: “At present the social and political situation in the region is stable and controllable on the whole. Taking into account the work we’ve done over the past year we’ve suppressed the centers of activity that we’d previously noticed. We believe municipal authorities, directors of enterprises should work on and respond to so-called triggers concerning social and economic problems in the region.”

According to Igor Pavlyushchenko, the situation in worker collectives is the most sensitive problem in the region. “If we contain it at the current level, I believe we won’t face any unexpected things,” he said.

After hearing a report from the chief of the Mogilev Oblast branch of the State Security Committee about the situation in Mogilev Oblast, Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “You have calmed down to an extent. Yes, people in Mogilev Oblast seemingly did not shout as much but you have to understand that what we saw last year is only the tip of the iceberg. The things below that depend on the social and economic development, standards, and accomplishments of Mogilev Oblast.”

The head of state drew attention to various problems in worker collectives, which happened at state-run enterprises and particularly in private companies. The relevant authorities have to take into account this fact in order to keep the situation in the country under control, Aleksandr Lukashenko believes. “We’ve always had problems in private companies. You also have IT professionals and self-employed businessmen. They do not reside solely in the Hi-Tech Park [in Minsk],” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

The social and economic situation in Belarus is not the only reason why things happened in 2020, Aleksandr Lukashenko believes. “There is also our fault in what happened last year,” the head of state said. “We simply became complacent and thought that we were doing our best, working hard, and pulling our weight. We didn’t expect some uprising, some strikes and walkouts and what not. We became self-complacent. We don’t want that to happen now and we don’t want to run with assault rifles along streets once again.”

Moreover, the situation is not simple now, the President believes. In his words, even massed cyberattacks against enterprises are used as part of the hybrid war on Belarus now. Attempts are being made to underline manufacturing processes at enterprises, particularly in power engineering industry but they are stopped by the competent authorities.

“Specialists say that one mouse click can cause billions of rubles worth of damage. They will stop at nothing,” the head of state stressed. “This is why we must not be self-complacent.”

At the same time law enforcement agencies must not go to the extremes, Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out. “I want to warn you, police and oversight agencies: don’t overdo it,” he said.

Chief of the Mogilev Oblast Police Department Igor Shcherbachenya also presented his vision of the situation. In his words, police efforts are now aimed at suppressing destructive activities and finding those participating in extremist activities. “We are working hard in order to prevent terrorist manifestations later on,” the officer said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko wondered what district in Mogilev Oblast is the biggest concern from the point of view of the crime situation. Igor Shcherbachenya said that police primarily focuses on the city of Mogilev and Bobruisk District.

The head of state drew attention to the problem of the loss of cattle. He reminded he had also given the relevant instructions to law enforcement agencies after criminal schemes had been found at enterprises. “I once said we will not put things into order without police. If you don’t get involved, if you don’t put all the local lazybones and thieves where they belong while disregarding faces and ranks, no good will come of it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

The President asked Deputy Chairman of the Mogilev Oblast Executive Committee Valery Malashko about the epidemic situation. In his words, the COVID-19 incidence rate is decreasing. Valery Malashko attributed the positive trend to efforts to raise the population’s awareness about prevention measures. Apart from that, 50% of Mogilev Oblast’s population has already been vaccinated with the first component of the vaccine.

Valery Malashko said: “We have to follow our own way while understanding what is going on in the world and while evaluating the situation our country lives in. Time has demonstrated that we’ve won this battle by introducing timely prevention measures, by providing healthcare institutions with the necessary equipment, and by training the personnel.”

However, Valery Malashko noted that flu cases have become more frequent lately. The overall situation is developing in a positive manner.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “Yes, this COVID has cost us a lot. Among other things the population was scared, particularly during the first wave. It is difficult to walk alone when you get all the blame.”

The head of OAO Mogilevkhimvolokno Piotr Rudnik presented his report, too. He informed those present about the situation at the enterprise, including modernization, manufacturing of new products, efforts to ensure profitable operation.

The head of state asked the Mogilevkhimvolokno director general about the state of affairs in detail and asked a metaphorical question: “Does Mogilevkhimvolokno seem to be more alive or more dead?”

“My workers say it has been resuscitated,” the head of the enterprise said in response. In his words, the enterprise greatly increased output last year, operates in the black and earns profits.

Further growth requires modernization of the manufacturing facilities. Piotr Rudnik pointed it out: “We cannot get far with the old technologies. Modernization is necessary.” The cost of energy resources was also mentioned as a matter of current interest for the enterprise. The director general invited the President to visit the enterprise in order to discuss ways to resolve existing problems and sketch out Mogilevkhimvolokno’s ways of development. “Let’s visit it. But in a way to produce results,” the head of state responded and gave instructions to add the visit to his work schedule.

Development and effective operation of the economy and the social sphere are important because they guarantee stability in the country, Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “You have to keep an eye on the economy and enterprises. And certainly on Mogilevkhimvolokno and Belshina [one of the largest enterprises in Mogilev Oblast]. If they fail, we have nothing to replace them with. But it doesn’t mean that they should not work.”

He remarked that civil servants should not attribute underperformance to sanctions: “You understand where these sanctions come from and why they exist. If there are no sanctions, things will not be easier for Mogilevkhimvolokno anyway. Things will not be easier as long as the enterprise makes competitive products. They [initiators of the Western sanctions] will find something else.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed it is important not to lag behind in investments and the development of the production sector. “If our investments lag behind, that’s it. We have no oil, the pipe doesn’t pump, we have no gas,” he said. “This is why everything depends on us. And to expect that things will get easier for us… I didn’t come here to tell you that. It will be very difficult for us. And more and more difficult later on. Our elections, ‘dictatorship’, Lukashenko are not the problem. Look at what’s happening from the USA to Europe. Well, we’ve shown to the entire world already that they are scoundrels. They speak one thing, think a different thing, and do yet another thing. We’ve already demonstrated it to the entire world. It is not the problem. Geopolitics is.”

The President reminded about NATO’s and USA’s activity in the Black Sea and other areas. “They are trying to pressure Russia. The Black Sea, Ukraine, the Baltic states, around Kaliningrad. We see it, we track it. We have a joint air defense system,” he said.

“We have to survive. All these sanctions, pressure, and cyber attacks are extremely dangerous. They don’t need nuclear weapons now. Cyber attacks against critical installations will suffice. This is why it is a most serious danger for us,” the President stated.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also talked about the updating of the Constitution. He stressed the Constitution is being updated for the sake of the country’s security. In his speech Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned the coronavirus pandemic. In his words, without denying that the relevant challenges exist, it is necessary to calmly respond to the situation which is being artificially hyped up in the world. “I don’t want to say [the disease and the relevant treatment problems] do not exist. But there is no need to freak out about it,” he stressed.

The head of state noted that in Belarus they primarily pay attention to treatment methods, the availability of medications and all the necessary things.

“Medics did great. They learned how to treat people, found their bearings fast!” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “There is a peculiarity: our infectologists (notable doctors) don’t treat people as much, I don’t waste their time on it. They come and teach other doctors how – pediatricians, surgeons, and the rest. They have taught them how and now they control how they treat people. It is what a heroic deed in healthcare is! No other country does that.”

“It is what mobilization is all about. It is how a state is supposed to operate. And if we want to survive, we have to mobilize. Nobody will allow us to live a calm life,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

Aleksandr Lukashenko drew attention to how foreign governments respond to their citizens’ protests against lockdowns. “They declare lockdowns, use tear gas against citizens, and nobody complains about them,” he remarked. “Why do they resort to lockdowns? Not because they want to keep people safe. But because the healthcare system cannot treat so many people. Well, since you are rich, you should place more beds, give that oxygen and medications! Come to us, we will tell you how to treat, and it is not a secret anymore. Medical aid costs money over there, and not every private hospital wants to do it. They treat rich people, those who can afford the bills.”

Continuing the line of thought, Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded about tragic results of the coronavirus pandemic in care homes in some Western countries. He said that Belarus had managed to come up with an effective system meanwhile: “I summoned the head of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly and told him: you and members of the parliament will be held responsible for them, go and work out a system and save them. And we still take shifts to take care of these people. The situation is quite simple over there. We’ve saved those people. [The West] gave up on them, there was no one to pay their bills. That’s private and state-run healthcare for you.”

Despite the smoothly operating state healthcare system Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that citizens should pay more attention to their own health and should exercise regularly.

At the meeting Aleksandr Lukashenko thanked the previous governor Leonid Zayats for his work.

Upon the President’s decision Leonid Zayats was appointed member of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus on 13 December.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “I have no big complaints about his work. He demonstrated he is an experienced, skillful, and demanding manager.” In his words, Mogilev Oblast demonstrated substantial gains in the main development parameters. The President noted that during conversations Leonid Zayats had always described Mogilev Oblast as his own. Which means he genuinely viewed it as his native land.

“I’d like to thank him for his work and wish success,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced that the new Mogilev Oblast governor Anatoly Isachenko will be as good as the previous one.

Speaking about the head of the oblast administration, the President noted he had been watching his career for a long time and has a good opinion of him. “I am absolutely convinced and I say it in the presence of Leonid Konstantinovich [Zayats, the previous Mogilev Oblast governor] that he will be at least as good. I made sure of that using Minsk Oblast as an example,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He recalled when he appointed Anatoly Isachenko Minsk Oblast governor back in the day when Minsk Oblast had its fair share of problems. “He did well, a solid man, he pulled through,” the head of state stated. “But the office got too tight.”

The Belarusian leader said: “I very reverently treat my oblast, Mogilev Oblast, the oblast I grew up in. My entire conscious life went here. I know every meter in Mogilev, I studied here.” The matter of the choice of the head of the region administration was approached very carefully taking into account the head of state’s special attitude to Mogilev Oblast, too. “We evaluated a great deal of candidates. And knowing that we cannot keep Anatoly in his office although there was plenty of work there, I said: let’s try it, he will not be worse, his style is the same as Leonid Konstantinovich’s,” the President said. “But most importantly, the last reason in his favor is that he is yours [he worked in Mogilev Oblast for a long time].”

“He worked here, he became a professional here, he does not need to catch up on things. And certainly he has colossal experience,” Aleksandr Lukashenko summed it up.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that the formation of a capable personnel potential in the region is the first thing the new Mogilev Oblast governor Anatoly Isachenko will have to work on. The President cautioned against hasty decisions and against letting things stand still.

“You should always give people a chance. If he pulls, you should keep him. If he fails to do things on time, either give him a different job or fire him if he is an indecent person,” the head of state said. “It is necessary to make way for young personnel without forgetting about experienced people. Professionalism, experience, and the ability to manage things – it doesn’t matter whether you are young or old. Being capable is the key.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko also noted that nearly the entire personnel registry of the head of state in Mogilev Oblast had been replaced since April 2019, there is an excessive number of vacancies to fill.

Aleksandr Lukashenko drew attention to the fight against corruption. “And let’s say it openly: corruption manifestations have not completely gone away,” the President noted.

The President noted that the opposition often comes up with fake news claiming he has billions in his stash. “It is easy for me to respond to that: if you say that I or my kids have billions stashed somewhere, it means you know the money exists. And I tell you directly: take it. If you need a chit from me or my kids, you will get it right away. I am saying it publicly. They’ve been talking about it for about ten years but nobody has taken anything anywhere. Trust me, I don’t take what doesn’t belong to me. It is the key thing,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “You have to live honestly if you can.”

“This is why don’t come to me with corruption. If you are caught, don’t come to me,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

At the meeting with senior officials of Mogilev Oblast the President said that the region has a sufficient investment potential.

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded about his previous requirements: the region must not be at the bottom of the performance chart. He remarked that the oblast’s eagerness to create new manufacturing enterprises and expand existing ones represents steps in the right direction. “And primarily in backwater areas where unemployment is a major problem. Although it is not such a big problem in Mogilev, but nevertheless there are some points. Work on it, you have everything for it,” the President added.

At the same time the head of state drew attention to a small decrease in investment activity in Mogilev Oblast. Aleksandr Lukashenko expects the oblast administration to secure an increase in this sphere.

“If investments are available, then new enterprises will be set up, then there will be growth. If there are no investments, there will be no growth. And there are opportunities for making investments. There are over 240 promising deposits of commercial minerals in Mogilev Oblast. We used to underestimate deposits of chalk, sand, phosphates, and peat. All of them are in huge demand nowadays,” the President said. “And cement is in demand nowadays, too.”

The head of state mentioned the world’s reorientation towards green technologies and the development of ecofriendly manufacturing. “The reorientation is crazy,” he stressed.

Apart from that, Mogilev Oblast’s existing manufacturing specialization allows it to be a significant manufacturer of products of chemical and petrochemical industries, mechanical engineering industry, woodworking industry, roofing materials and paper. “We can lift the country using woodworking industry,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stated.

It is also necessary to take care of problems at the largest enterprises, the President noted. He primarily referred to Mogilevkhimvolokno and Belshina. “Not everything is bad over there, but it is necessary to mobilize, it is necessary to secure growth and forget about these sanctions,” he urged.

The head of state also noted that soil fertility in Mogilev Oblast is above the country’s average. Which means agribusiness in the region has great prospects.

Aleksandr Lukashenko thanked his fellow Belarusians for support and resilience during last year’s events. “You looked decent. And your governor [Mogilev Oblast former governor Leonid Zayats] was at the forefront like a tribune,” the President stated. “I thank you for protecting the country. And it obliges me to a lot.”

The head of state expects the next leader to also be as passionate about Belarus. “One has to retire sooner or later but what will happen to the country we’ve built with our own hands? Maybe something was not right but we created it the way we could. We built it out of the things we had as the song goes. We have no other country and have to preserve it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.