top of page

Vitebsk clan coming to power in Belarus

Pavel Latushka: Deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, Head of the National Anti-Crisis Management, Ambassador

An interesting observation and analysis that I would like to share with you is regarding the Vitebsk clan coming to power in Belarus. For the first time in Belarusian history, Alexander Lukashenko, who has usurped power in our country, has decided to introduce the position of his deputy.

Aleksander Kosinets was appointed deputy chairman of the presidium of the so-called All-Belarusian People's Assembly. It's worth noting that there are references to the CPSU Central Committee and the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee. Who is Alexander Kosinets? He is the former rector of Vitebsk Medical University and, more importantly, the former chairman of the Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee.

In 2014, Kosinets was appointed head of Lukashenko's administration. Then, in 2016, Natalya Kochanova, who hails from the Vitebsk region and was formerly the mayor of Novopolotsk, was appointed head of Lukashenko's administration. Now, who invited Kochanova to the capital and facilitated her rise to the position of Deputy Prime Minister in Lukashenko's government and later to the post of head of his administration. It was Kosinets.

We can observe a connection here: Kosinets invites Kochanova to the position of Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs. Subsequently, Kosinets is removed from the post of head of the Presidential Administration, and Kochanova assumes his position. In turn, Kochanova opens the door for the next representative, let's call it, from the Vitebsk school - Igor Sergienko, who succeeds her as the head of Lukashenko's Administration.

Igor Sergienko. Photo:
Igor Sergienko. Photo:

Who is Igor Sergienko? He is a career KGB officer, a former first deputy chairman of the KGB, and a KGB general. In 2019, he assumed the position of head of Lukashenko's administration, replacing Natalya Kochanova. We can observe a pattern of continuity: Kosinets, hailing from the Vitebsk region, served as the head of the administration; Kochanova, also from the Vitebsk region, held the same position, and now Sergienko, also from the Vitebsk region, has taken over.

Each of them took turns advocating for their successor. It is evident that in the highest positions in the country (with the concept of high-ranking positions and senior officials, introduced by Lukashenko himself), representatives of the Vitebsk school hold prominent roles. For instance, Igor Sergienko serves as the Chairman of the House of Representatives, which is the lower house of Lukashenko’s parliament, while Natalya Kochanova is the Chairman of the Council of the Republic, the upper house of Luukashenko’s parliament. Alexander Kosinets holds the position of Lukashenko's deputy as the chairman of the All-Belarusian People's Assembly.

If we carefully analyze the Constitution and determine the rights and responsibilities of different entities, even a cursory examination provides grounds to believe that these three key figures can play a significant role in the event of Lukashenko's incapacity due to health problems or his eventual death. Whether Lukashenko was aware of this when he established a triumvirate of Vitebsk individuals in the most influential positions in the country is a substantial question. Only the dictator himself can answer it. However, it is evident that this group holds considerable influence during times of emergency or crisis in the country.

Alexander Kosinets. Photo source:
Alexander Kosinets. Photo source:

Who is Alexander Kosinets? He is quite an active and ambitious individual, as well as someone who, during my time in the government, reportedly caused the Vitebsk region to accumulate significant debts. It was stated during government meetings that around half a billion US dollars were spent on various projects initiated by Kosinets. Consequently, the entire Vitebsk region became burdened with debt. I believe that these debts still exist. They have either been written off or the Vitebsk region simply has not paid them to the republican budget.

Kosinets sought to establish his success as the chairman of the Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee, viewing it as a stepping stone to a higher position. I recall a conversation with him at the Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee. Every high-ranking official has a personal room for rest  adjacent to their office. Therefore, this conversation took place in Kosinets's personal room in 2011. During this conversation, which lasted several hours, Kosinets outlined his vision for the development of the Vitebsk region and the country as a whole. He made me an offer, expressing his desire to become the prime minister and inviting me to join his team. You can imagine my state upon hearing this proposal. We were in the chairman's office, fully aware that all these premises were under constant surveillance by the KGB and other agencies. Belarus has six services authorized to intercept conversations of both citizens and foreigners within its territory. I understood that if I were to accept his offer and say, "Yes, I agree to join your team," it would undoubtedly result in us leaving the office together in handcuffs, escorted by KGB officers, or I would be taken away in handcuffs alone.

Naturally, I declined his offer, stating that I was content with my current work. However, the very fact of Kosinets' ambition was already apparent. Subsequently, he was appointed as the head of the administration. I later learned that my refusal influenced certain governmental decisions regarding my career. Yet, that is all in the past, and it doesn't bother me at all. What I want to stress here is that Lukashenko appointed a highly ambitious individual to the position. He surely remembers that, as the head of the administration, Kosinets assumed more responsibilities and powers than the role typically entails. This was one of the key reasons why Kosinets was swiftly relieved of his position as the head of the administration. And now Lukashenko appoints him as his deputy - marking the first time in history that Lukashenko has had a deputy.

There is an interesting anecdote from Aleksander Kosinets' biography. Even before assuming the position of chairman of the Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee, Kosinets held the role of Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus and served as the chairman of the organizing committee for the international film festival "Listapad." Alas, this festival can no longer be called international nowadays. Kosinets had set the task of inviting foreign movie stars to the festival's opening ceremony in Minsk. Can you guess whom he wanted to invite? Schwarzenegger! It's a true story.

After a few weeks, the organizing committee of the "Listapad" film festival reconvened, and Kosinets inquired, "So, what about Schwarzenegger? Did he agree to come to the festival in Minsk?" Everyone hesitated, shrugged their shoulders, and Kosinets declared, "You don't know how to do it, you can't do it. Just give me Schwarzenegger's phone number, and I'll invite him myself! I'll call him and invite him personally." Such is the story. Naturally, there may be many more anecdotes like this one.

Kosinets and Kachanova in Novopolotsk. Photo source:
Kosinets and Kachanova in Novopolotsk. Photo source:

So that’s how Belarus has found itself under the rule of the Vitebsk clan. I also recall a story related to my initiative to erect a monument in Kyiv dedicated to Uladzimir Karatkevich. I drafted a memo on this matter and submitted it to the Lukashenko administration, which was headed by Vladimir Makei at the time. I received a negative response, but I persisted, believing it was important to have a monument honoring Uladzimir Karatkevich in Kyiv. He had graduated from the Faculty of Philology at Kyiv State University, and he had several  works written in the Ukrainian language. Karatkevich is the person who unites us, Belarusians and Ukrainians. So I continued to insist on commemorating Uladzimir Karatkevich in Kyiv.

After receiving a negative response from Vladimir Makei, I decided to directly address Lukashenko by writing a report. I still remember the resolution that came back to me from Lukashenko: "Support the proposal of the Minister of Culture to erect a monument to my fellow countryman." Uladzimir Karatkevich was born in Orsha, and Lukashenko himself was born in the Orsha region. Although we often associate Lukashenko with the Mogilev clan or the Mogilev part of the Belarusian establishment, it is true that he was born in the Vitebsk region.

I believe that this Vitebsk triumvirate will have an impact on the current situation in Belarus and, more importantly, on its future when Lukashenko is no longer capable of governing the country.



bottom of page