MINSK (AFP) – Belarussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday sacked his prime minister and several other top officials as the ex-Soviet state reels from the effects of Russia’s economic crisis next door.
Lukashenko, who has ruled the country of 10 million with an iron fist for the past 20 years, linked the reshuffle to a presidential vote scheduled for next year and indicated he would seek re-election.
“Presidential elections will be a test for us all,” he was quoted as saying on his website.
“If all goes well, I am ready to work with this cabinet and these officials after elections, too.”
His administration, quoting the president, said the reshuffle was “nothing out of the ordinary.”
The president dismissed Mikhail Myasnikovich, in office since December 2010, and appointed his chief of staff Andrei Kobyakov as his new head of government. He also replaced the head of the central bank and several other top officials including the economy and industry ministers.
The tightly-controlled country’s economic ills present a key challenge to Lukashenko’s grip on power. The president said he would hold the country’s new economic team, including the new premier and the central bank chief, personally responsible for the country’s well-being.