Alyaksandr Lukashenka on Thursday appointed Colonel Alyaksandr Bayechka as chairman of the State Border Committee, BelaPAN said.
Prior to the appointment Mr. Bayechka had served as deputy head of one of the Committee's departments, according to the presidential press office.
He succeeds Ihar Rachkowski, who was removed from the position earlier this week over a drop of teddy bears from a foreign plane in July.
On July 4, a single-engine plane piloted by representatives of Sweden’s public relations agency Studio Total invaded Belarus' airspace and dropped hundreds of teddy bears with "pro-free speech" signs on the town of Ivyanets and Minsk before flying back to Lithuania unhindered.
Experts said that the stunt exposed flaws in Belarus’ air defenses.
While meeting with the newly appointed official, Mr. Lukashenka said that the State Border Committee had made a mistake by shifting its focus from military functions to border management. "We were wrong to make border guards politicians rather than military people. Their main task is protecting the state border," he was quoted as saying.
Commenting on Mr. Rachkowski's dismissal, Mr. Lukashenka said that the official should have been penalized more severely. "In the Soviet times [he] would have been sent to prison for such things. It is border guards who are to blame for what happened as the plane was detected by a border control unit, but no order was made to punish the border violators," he said.
Mr. Lukashenka ordered that attempts at illegal entry must be aborted "by all means, including with weapons, no matter what." "Border guards must prove their loyalty to the Fatherland. You know my personal attitude toward the border troops, I won't let them taint the shoulder marks that my children and I wore," he was quoted as saying.
Apparently referring to Mr. Rachkowski's work to attract European Union funding for the modernization of Belarus' border infrastructure, Mr. Lukashenka said, "Protecting the state at its frontiers is the main task of border guards. International activity, other issues are secondary. It is not border guards who should be running around Europe in search of funding, it is Europeans who should come to you if they want us to guard their borders. We must protect our interests in the first place. There must be a worthy response on our part to any provocation."
Mr. Bayechka was trained as an artillery officer in Ukraine and later graduated from the Moscow-based academy of Russia's Federal Border Service. He joined Belarus' border control service in 1999.