Fresh Insults Add Chill to Icy Polish-Russian Relations

Article excerpt

THE RESIGNATION of Poland's Prime Minister, Jozef Oleksy, who is under investigation over allegations that he spied for Moscow, is not the only sign that a big chill is freezing Polish-Russian relations. As Mr Oleksy was announcing his departure last Wednesday, the Polish foreign ministry drew attention to the publication of a book in Moscow that is crammed with lies and insults about Poland.

The book, The Katyn Detective Story, by Yuri Mukhin contends that thousands of Polish army officers murdered at Katyn forest during the Second World War were killed by the Nazis, rather than by the Soviet NKVD secret police. It upholds this version of events even though, after years of prevarication, Moscow now officially accepts that the NKVD was responsible.

Worse still, the author contemptuously describes the murdered officers as "aggressive idiots" and brands the pre-1939 Polish state "a gluttonous European prostitute". A Polish foreign ministry spokesman, Pawel Dobrowolski, expressed concern that the book had been distributed in the Russian parliament, where Communists and nationalists are heavily represented.

The affair illustrates how the bitter legacy of history continues to sour relations between Poland and Russia. In Mr Oleksy's case, the decision of Polish military prosecutors to investigate the former Communist prime minister - who was chosen yesterday as leader of the Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland, the core faction of the Democratic Left Alliance - reflects the fact that Poland was under the thumb of a Moscow-controlled Communist Party for four decades.

Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, the successor to the foreign espionage wing of the Soviet KGB, was angered last week by the suggestion that Mr Oleksy had served first as a Soviet agent, and then as a Russian spy, from 1982 to 1995. A spokesman for the Russian agency, Vladimir Karpov, said the Oleksy case was "pure political provocation".

Perhaps so. The allegation originated from the political camp of Lech Walesa last month not long after he was defeated by another former Communist, Aleksander Kwasniewski, in presidential elections. On the other hand, Mr Oleksy has admitted it was "imprudent" of him in the 1980s to have befriended a man, Vladimir Alganov, who later identified himself as the chief KGB agent in Poland. …