Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree, appointing Presidential Envoy to the Volga Federal District Mikhail Babich as Russia’s Ambassador to Belarus and Special Presidential Envoy for Trade and Economic Cooperation with Belarus.
Two other presidential decrees relieved Babich from his responsibilities as presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, and Alexander Surikov – from the position of Russia’s ambassador to Belarus.
In mid July, it became known that the Belarusian authorities har been requested for agrement to appoint Babich new ambassador to Minsk. Later, the nominee was approved by the Committee on CIS Affairs of the Satet Duma and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Federation Council.
Mikhail Babich, 49 years old, is originally from Ryazan, he served in the Airborne Forces and the KGB, then in the FSB. From 1995 to 1998 he was the head of the corporation “Antey” in Moscow, which develops and manufactures weapons for the air defense forces. From November 2002 to February 2003, he headed the government of the Chechen Republic.
While working for Rosmyasomoltorg state-run company and as vice-governor of Ivanovo region, he was involved in a financial fraud scandal. According to Russian media, in 2001 the General Prosecutor’s Office even authorized the arrest, but all things came right for him in the end.
Analysts describe Babich as an energetic, tough-talk and and decisive person, who has the presidential confidence as well as good friends in the secret services.
After the dismissal of Mikhail Zurabov from the post of Russia’s Ambassador in Kyiv in July 2016, the Babich’s appointment was considered. However, the Ukrainian side opposed the appointment. Among the reasons was the fact that in 2014 Babich supported the annexation of Crimea. Then the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that “the question was removed from the agenda at the initiative of the Ukrainian side.”
The representative of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Volodymyr Ariev, noted that under conditions of continuing aggression of Russia against Ukraine, the appointment of the Russian ambassador is impossible.
According to experts in Kyiv, Babich, who is connected with the Soviet KGB and the Russian FSB, could become the ‘ambassador of war’, that he is a ‘professional saboteur’ and a ‘classic candidate for the Kremlin to work with separatists in Donbas to organize force operations’.