Vol 2, No 9
6 March 2000
C E N T R A L E U
R O P E A N N E W S:
News Review for Poland
News from Poland since 6 March 2000
Compiled by Joanna Rohozińska
Police in Poznań detained a TVN (private Polish TV station) cameraman for trying to arrange a stunt outside the Russian consulate where an anti-Russian protest was going on. The cameraman paid a boy to climb onto the wall surrounding the Russian consulate. Police spokesman Andrzej Borowiak said the unnamed cameraman had been questioned and a court date set. TVP showed the footage of the boy being coaxed by the TVN cameraman to climb the wall shortly before police rushed in and hustled the two away. Borowiak said that the cameraman offered money to a 14-year-old boy riding by on his bike. The boy, released after questioning, said he had thought it would be simply be some kind of a gag. This specific incident, where pro-Chechen demonstrators desecrated a Russian flag and daubed the consulate with a swastika, has seriously damaged Poland's already strained relations with Russia (see the spy vs. spy fiasco from a few weeks ago). This time around the rather excitable Russian press, as well as politicians, have dubbed the demonstrators, protesting against the war in Chechnya, as "terrorists" and "bandits" and accused the Polish police of standing idly by during the attack by demonstrators, none of whom have yet been charged. The incident has prompted Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to call off his planned March visit to Warsaw, and Moscow has recalled its ambassador. "Political dialogue has been replaced by the dialogue of the street," Ivanov added. There is considerable support in Poland for rebels fighting for independence for the breakaway region of Chechnya. Some Poles see a parallel between the Chechen fight for independence and their own historical struggle to escape Russian domination.
Don't think deteriorating relations are all the fault of the Poles. Attacks by demonstrators have prompted Poland to ask Russia to provide better protection for its diplomatic missions. Dozens of Russian nationalists demonstrated outside the Polish embassy in Moscow and a consulate building in St Petersburg, and the buildings were pelted with vegetables and tomato paste. "Poland will present the Russian side with a note demanding that Polish legations are ensured of a considerably greater degree of security," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Paweł Dobrowolski. He went on to add that "initial reports from Polish missions in St Petersburg and Moscow indicate that the demonstrations were well-programmed and well-organised, and we regard the reaction of the Russian militia as inadequate."
Poland's Chief of Police Jan Michna has come down hard on Poznań Police. "Police Headquarters Inspectorate has found that the Poznań police... did not protect the consulate during the demonstration," said police spokesman Paweł Biedziak. "After arriving on the scene (the Poznań police) did not take any action against the perpetrators of the crime present there," he said. Police Chief Michna dismissed the Poznań city deputy police chief and chief of the Poznań Jezyce precinct that includes the consulate in its jurisdiction and launched disciplinary action against 12 other officers, including the Poznań province deputy police chief, Poznań city police chief and the duty officer in the Poznań province police headquarters. "Police have also identified and gathered evidence against those who destroyed the Russian flag and smeared the walls of the Russian consulate," Biedziak said.
Maybe a sign of the times, as the bodies of a homeless man and woman were found in the rubble of a vacant Warsaw repair garage. The two, identified only as 46-year-old Zenon S. and 45-year-old Elżbieta S, were found only when the task of clearing the rubble began and an investigation has begun into exactly when and how they died. Police spokesman Ryszard Pietrzykowski said "we are waiting for the results of the autopsy which should show whether the two were dead or alive when the building caved in," he added that warnings had been posted and the demolition crew said they checked for any occupants before setting to work. However it is going to be up to the prosecutor whether to lay charges of neglect of duty. Local residents said the long-disused garage had been the regular haunt of vagrants, both as a shelter and drinking den where some of the more common cocktails was methyl alcohol or anti-freeze.
Siamese twins Weronika and Wiktoria Palen are back in Stalowa Wola after a six-month stay in the United States. The twins were separated at Philadelphia Children's Hospital. Scott Adzick, chief surgeon at the hospital and the man who performed the operation, said, "now they can start a normal life." The success is quite a coup for the Philadelphia hospital as it is the only one to have performed more than a dozen such operations. The girls went to the US last August and the separating surgery was started in November. The twins were born connected at their abdomens and chests and shared one liver, one diaphragm and one heart sack. The doctors waived their fees for the surgery, and the hospital didn't charge a penny for the twin girls' stay, which all told would have run somewhere in the neighbourhood of USD 1.5 million. "We did it because we considered it to be the right thing to do and the prognosis was very good," Adzick said. The twins and their mother, Krytyna Palen, were met in Krakow by the proud papa and three brothers. Before the twin's birth the Palen's lived in a house without running water or plumbing. Now they all live in a four-room apartment in Stalowa Wola in Podkarpacie province. The girls will have to undergo physical therapy under the supervision of the Stalowa Wola county hospital and experts at the Lublin medical school hospital, where they were born. Meanwhile the Palens have declare that they are so tired of their fame that they do not want any contacts with the media or even visits from friends during the next couple of weeks.
There is possibly a new scandal brewing as this week as Prime Minister Jerzy Bużek dismissed Sports Minister Jacek Dębski following the latter's disclosure that a top Solidarity functionary is searching for compromising materials on President Aleksander Kwaśniewski. In an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza on 25 February Dębski revealed that a top official in the ruling AWS (Solidarity Electoral Action) asked him to find compromising evidence on Kwaśniewski. Dębski went on to say that he was frankly told (warned?) that if he did not cooperate, compromising materials would be found on him. Bużek demanded that Dębski explain his comments by 15:00 that day or face dismissal. Dębski apparently felt he didn't have much to lose as his term in office was to have ended at midnight that day due to the reorganisation of the Sports Ministry.
Needless to say, Kwaśniewski was a little miffed by the allegations and asked Bużek to clarify the situation, which he said he finds "deeply disturbing." The acting head of the President's Office, Ryszard Kalisz, said that if Dębski 's allegations are true, they constitute an "assault against the essence of democracy in the Polish Republic." AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski on commented that Dębski should have told either him or the AWS presidium about the matter before going to the media. But there certainly is something shady going on as the former head of the Prime Minister's Office, Wiesław Wałendziak, said that Dębski had himself said he could find compromising materials on Kwaśniewski when he first took the job as sports minister. He added that at the time Bużek was "hostile" to such suggestions. However the current head of the Prime Minister's Office maintains that Bużek knew nothing of Dębski 's statements to the media. Some stories are going to have to be straightened out. "The president has sent a letter to the prime minister, in which he refers to alleged actions inspired by an AWS official aimed at discrediting the president," said Marek Siwiec. Dębski declined to disclose who had approached him but said he could do so in the future. Kwaśniewski was sports minister in the last communist government before the 1989. Rightist politicians may have hoped to find evidence of him exploiting his position for personal gain. Desperate times call for desperate measures as the way things are going Kwaśniewski is now certainly heading for almost unchallenged re-election.
The farmers are at it again as some 100 farmers from Samoobrona (Self-Defence - the farmers' union) blocked a major highway near the Southeast city of Rzeszow for three hours demanding outstanding payments for their produce. Over the weekend, Samoobrona leader Andrzej Lepper announced plans to hold similar demonstrations across the country on 6 March to protest the government's agricultural policies. If you plan on travelling maybe consider not driving. A few days later about 1000 people protested government agricultural policies in another Samoobrona organised rally by the radical Self-Defence farmers' trade union in Hrubieszow, Southeast Poland. Władysław Serafin, leader of the Farmers' Circles, said his organisation would not support protests organised by Samoobrona. Serafin also noted that there is no need for protests since the government is scheduled to begin talks with farmers on 8 March.
In other farm-related news the government has rejected a parliamentary bill that called on the AWRSP (Agricultural Property Agency of the State Treasury) to transfer the non-cash assets of state-owned farms to the companies that manage them. The government also opposes offering the shares to farm workers since this would deprive AWRSP of the funds necessary for paying off liabilities incurred by unprofitable farms taken over by the agency.
Compiled by Joanna Rohozińska and Donosy-English, 5 March 2000
News from Donosy's Week in Poland appears in Central Europe Review with
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