MINSK Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko replaced his prime minister of seven years on Tuesday with another long-time ally in a reshuffle that comes less than two weeks after the presidential election.
The country's opposition and international observers have complained of mistreatment of Lukashenko's opponents and lack of transparency in the vote count. Some former presidential candidates and nearly 700 protesters and journalists were arrested in post-voting demonstrations dispersed by riot police.
Lukashenko, elected to his fourth term on December 19, named Mikhail Myasnikovich as the head of the government and replaced four of the five serving deputy ministers.
"Myasnikovich has been named the prime minister," the president's press service told Reuters on Tuesday.
Myasnikovich replaces Sergei Sidorsky who had been the country's prime minister since 2003.
Of the deputy prime ministers only Vladimir Semashko, who has been responsible for energy negotiations with Russia, including the recent agreement on Moscow scrapping oil export duties to Minsk, has kept his post.
Myasnikovich, 60, has been a close ally of the Belarussian president and had served as deputy prime minister starting before Lukashenko came to power in 1994, until 1995.
From 1995 to 2001 Myasnikovich was the head of the presidential administration and then moved to academia.
"Myasnikovich -- he is a very experienced member of the old guard and I know that people who've met him respect him," Alexander Milinkevich, Lukashenko's sole opponent in the 2006 presidential election, told Reuters.
"But I think that right now, nonetheless, we need to bring young people to the government. The reforms should be done by the young."
The four deputy prime ministers include one of Lukashenko's advisers, an ambassador to China, the former head of the country's second-largest state bank in terms of assets and a deputy governor of the Mogilevsky region.
(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; Writing by Lidia Kelly, Editing by Ralph Boulton)