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Poland’s Russian influence commission could be appointed next week: ruling party official

31.05.2023 14:00
A new Polish commission to investigate Russian influence on internal security could be appointed at the next session of parliament on June 9, a senior official with the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party said on Wednesday.
Rafał Bochenek.
Rafał Bochenek.PAP/Tomasz Gzell

Rafał Bochenek made the statement in an interview with public broadcaster Polish Radio.

Bochenek, who is spokesman for the Law and Justice party, told Polish Radio: “We would like the commission for investigating Russian influence to be appointed at the next session of the Sejm."

The Sejm, which is the lower house of Poland's parliament, holds its next sitting on Friday, June 9, Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported.

Bochenek said in the interview that the new commission would investigate “the influence of Russian agents on the most important decisions regarding Poland’s internal security.”

He referred to the new law as "Lex Anti-Putin."

Bochenek told Polish Radio that the panel would look into possible Russian influences “at the political level and among executives in institutions and companies that were signing certain contracts, engaging in talks with the Russians, or were under their financial and organisational influence.”

US concerns over Polish probe 'based solely on opinions'

Referring to concerns expressed by the US Department of State about the commission’s powers, Bochenek said they “didn’t refer to specific provisions of the law” and were based “solely on the opinions of the observers.”

Bochenek said: ”I would prefer for everyone to look into the law so that we can discuss its technical aspects.”

He added: “I hope there will be an opportunity to outline the provisions of the law to foreign partners.”

Bochenek also told Polish Radio that “the proceedings of the commission will be subject to complete control by the courts.”

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Monday that "the U.S. Government is concerned by the Polish government’s passage of new legislation that could be misused to interfere with Poland’s free and fair elections."

The US State Department called on Poland's government to ensure that the law creating the Russian influence commission “does not preempt voters’ ability to vote for candidate of their choice and that it not be invoked or abused in ways that could affect the perceived legitimacy of elections."

The European Union’s executive Commission also expressed concern that the law setting up the Russian influence probe “could be used to affect the possibility of individuals to run for public office, without fair trial.”

Meanwhile, the European Parliament was on Wednesday due to hold “an urgent debate” on the Polish law, the IAR news agency reported.

Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller said on Tuesday that concerns expressed by the United States and the European Commission over Poland’s new commission to probe Russian influence had “no basis" in fact, denying claims that the panel could ban politicians from holding public office without due process.

'No doubt that the issue of Russian influence needs explaining': Polish president

Poland's President Andrzej Duda announced on Monday that he had decided to sign the disputed measure calling for the establishment of a state commission to investigate alleged Russian influence in Polish politics.

Duda also said on Monday that he was sending the law, proposed by the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, to the country's Constitutional Tribunal "so it could assess those of its provisions that have raised concerns.”

The measure passed parliament on Friday on a final vote of 234 to 219, with one abstention, Polish state news agency PAP reported. 

The president, who is an ally of Poland's conservative government, told reporters that he had "no doubt that the issue of Russian influence needs explaining."

Meanwhile, Polish opposition politicians have slammed the planned probe, saying it is specifically targeted at former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is the leader of the country's largest opposition grouping, the Civic Coalition, ahead of parliamentary elections in the autumn.

The governing conservatives have denied the inquiry is designed to target the opposition.

Wednesday is day 462 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: IAR, politico.eu