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President says Russian influence could ‘destroy Polish democracy’ if left unchecked

30.05.2023 07:30
Poland’s president has warned that Russian influence “could destroy Polish democracy” if left unchecked, after approving the establishment of a state commission for investigating such influences in Polish politics.
Polish President Andrzej Duda meets the people of the northwestern town of Połczyn-Zdrój, on Monday, May 29, 2023.
Polish President Andrzej Duda meets the people of the northwestern town of Połczyn-Zdrój, on Monday, May 29, 2023. KPRP/Przemysław Keler

Andrzej Duda issued the warning in the northwestern town of Połczyn-Zdrój on Monday, public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported.

During a meeting with local residents, the president said: “There has been a lot of controversy lately surrounding the creation in our country of a commission for investigating Russian influences.”

Duda added: “I don’t quite see how a probe into Russian influence in Poland over the last 16 years could destroy Polish democracy. In my view, it is these Russian influences that would be more likely to destroy Polish democracy, rather than a commission set up to investigate them.”  

Earlier in the day, the president said he had decided to sign a disputed measure to establish a state commission for investigating alleged Russian influence in Polish politics, and called for a similar body to be created “at the European level.”

The measure, proposed by the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, passed parliament on Friday on a final vote of 234 to 219, with one abstention, according to news outlets.

Duda, who is an ally of Poland's conservative government, said he had asked Prime Minister Morawiecki to “raise the issue at the European Council,” which brings together the European Union’s 27 national leaders.

‘Politicians who act in Poland’s interest are not afraid of any probe’

The president said in Połczyn-Zdrój on Monday: “Those politicians who in the past 16 years have acted in Poland’s national interest, who have implemented Polish interests, are not afraid of any commission, any tribunal.”

Polish opposition politicians have slammed the planned probe into Russian influence in Polish politics as a “kangaroo court,” with the upper-house Speaker Tomasz Grodzki saying it would mark the beginning of a “creeping coup” in his country. 

‘New state probe will help eliminate Russian influence from Polish politics’

Rejecting these criticisms, Duda told the people of Połczyn-Zdrój he was confident that the new state commission for investigating Russian influences would be “well-chosen by parliament and well-led by its members.”

He said the probe would help ensure that “Russian influences will come to an end.”

Duda also said that “Russian influences in our media outlets are evident today, in these panic calls, comments and epithets” following his decision to approve the state probe. 

He added: “This fear suggests that these influences have been extensive and some people are in great fear that thanks to the new commission, among other measures, these Russian influences will cease to exist.”

Probe into 'Russian influence in Poland'

Under the law signed by the Polish president, the panel investigating alleged Russian influences will probe “cases involving public officials and top public-sector executives who acted to the detriment of Poland's national interests, under Russian influence, between 2007 and 2022,” the PAP news agency reported.  

The commission has been tasked with "reviewing administrative decisions, processes behind the creation, copying and sharing of information with third parties, and the management of public funds, among other areas," according to officials. 

The panel will also investigate measures taken to influence administrative decisions and the processes behind "harmful policy decisions," they said.

The commission’s powers will include the right to cancel administrative decisions "taken as a result of Russian influences," and it will also be able to ban officials from holding positions involving the management of public funds for up to 10 years, according to reports.

The panel will consist of nine members appointed by the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, who will then elect their chairman. 

After the new law comes into force, parliamentary groups will have two weeks to submit their candidates for membership of the commission, the PAP news agency reported.

'A call for truth'

Ahead of Friday's parliamentary vote, MPs held a stormy debate during which the Civic Coalition’s Borys Budka called the draft law “a disgraceful and Bolshevik bill.”

Lawmakers with the opposition Third Way alliance, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz and Paulina Hennig-Kloska, slammed the proposed panel as “a kangaroo court against the opposition” and called on the president to veto the legislation, according to the PAP news agency.

Opposition politicians have said that the new probe is designed to target former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is the leader of the country's largest opposition grouping, the Civic Coalition.

Meanwhile, conservative MP Łukasz Schreiber told the house on Friday that the commission was "not designed to target anyone" but represented "a call for truth, a call for us to respect and strengthen the constitution and sovereignty."

The governing conservatives have accused Tusk of having been too friendly toward Russia as prime minister from 2007 to 2014 and of making gas deals favourable to Moscow before he went on to become the president of the European Council, a top EU job that he held until 2019, Britain's The Independent newspaper has reported.

Tuesday is day 461 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: IAR, PAP, prezydent.pl