Kremlin May Be Fueling Pro-Walesa Protests, Polish Official Says

  • Protests could be `hybrid warfare' strategy, Zybertowicz says
  • Presidential adviser calls Walesa informant and snitch

Anti-government protests in support of former President Lech Walesa could be part of a clandestine attempt by Russia to destabilize Poland, an adviser to President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday.

Tens of thousands Poles took to the streets across the country last weekend to demonstrate against what they said is a smear campaign by the ruling Law & Justice against the icon of the country’s switch to democracy in 1989. Documents recovered by a government agency last week, which Walesa says are forged, show the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was a paid secret informant in the 1970s before he led the Solidarity union uprising against the communist regime.

“Looking at the marches last Saturday I began to wonder if, regardless of probably the best intentions of the majority of its participants, we aren’t witnessing a new stage in hybrid warfare,” Andrzej Zybertowicz, an adviser to Duda, told TVN24. “It’s the nature of a hybrid warfare that at the beginning you don’t do things that are unacceptable, such as killing people or poisoning water. But poisoning minds is acceptable.”’

After President Vladimir Putin admitted in 2014 that unmarked forces who took control of Crimea from Ukraine were Russian, NATO members on the bloc’s eastern wing have ramped up military exercises to counter hybrid warfare strategies. Yet while many in Poland -- which borders the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad -- see their former Soviet master as a potential threat, opposition supporters have also accused Law & Justice of using it as an excuse to influence public opinion and overcome resistance to the party’s policies.

‘Informant, Snitch’

The government, which has pledged to return the country to traditional Catholic values, has fallen afoul of the European Union, which launched the first ever probe into democratic behavior by a member state last month. Among other issues, the EU is probing an overhaul of state media and a revamp of the constitutional tribunal that makes it more difficult for the body to strike down government-backed laws as illegal.

Zybertowicz said that protesters led by the grassroots Committee in Defense of Democracy were lending their support for “an informant, a snitch and a man, who has prevaricated and in free Poland has tremendous financial means at his disposal.”

Zybertowicz’s comments echo statements from ruling party officials including leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a former political opponent of Walesa. He has argued the new files taint the former president as corrupt and undermine the idea that Poland really won freedom 27 years ago. Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said last week Walesa, now 72 and mostly , may have been a “puppet” of the communists.

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