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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Polish PM hopeful slams Russia


The man who may be Poland's next prime minister has accused Russia of using methods even the Nazis would eschew in inciting assaults on Polish diplomats in Moscow.

Conservative Jarosław Kaczynski's comparison of Russia with Hitler's Germany seemed likely to further strain ties already tested by the former Soviet ally's integration into the West.

"What Russia has done recently is surprising and unusually drastic -- I can't remember such practices against diplomats even in Berlin when Hitler was in power," Kaczynski told the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza in an interview.

Kaczynski, whose Law and Justice (PiS) party is expected to place first or second in Sunday's general elections, has long been critical of Russia and vows a tough policy towards Poland's former overlord if he leads the next government.

"In our relations with Russia you need to be patient and avoid provocations, but if events like the recent ones take place, you have to tell the truth -- cowardice is only an encouragement," Kaczynski said.

In August, two Polish diplomats and a journalist were beaten up on the streets of Moscow, in apparent revenge attacks after four Russian children were mugged in Warsaw.

Poland's ruling leftist government as well as the opposition have accused President Vladimir Putin of inspiring the beatings of the diplomats.

Independent player

They said Putin's swift condemnation of the incident in Warsaw even before it was investigated and his suggestion it was the result of Polish anti-Russian feeling was irregular for a head of state.

Relations between the two former Warsaw Pact allies, never warm, have sunk to new lows this year.

The Soviet Union lost 20 million at the hands of Nazi invaders in World War Two. Comparisons with the Nazis, sometimes made by critics in east European countries controlled by Moscow for decades after the war, arouse particular anger in Russia.

Russia has been irked by Poland's close ties with the United States, Warsaw's criticism of Russia's military campaign in Chechnya and its support for last year's "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine, which propelled a pro-Western government to power.

Poland in turn suspects Russia of trying to drive a wedge between Warsaw and its new European Union partners by presenting Poles as eternal Russophobes.

"Russia needs to accept that Poland is an independent player in this part of Europe and no doubt this will be a long and difficult process," Kaczynski said.


Blogger Gustav said...

Well, the good thing is that if he wins we'll have plenty of entertaining Poland-Russia spats to talk about. Of course, as soon as the oil and gas run dry, he'll be out of office before you can say "Leszek Miller".

9/24/2005 06:47:00 PM  

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