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European Council head Tusk refuses to testify in Warsaw probe

European Council head Donald Tusk won't testify in a prosecutor's probe in Warsaw into cooperation between Polish and Russian secret services when he was PM. The battle of words between Warsaw and Brussels rages on.

The questioning has been set for Wednesday and relates to a case against former secret service officials, the prosecutors' office said on Monday.

"Donald Tusk has been summoned as a witness in a case against former heads of military counter-intelligence services (SKW), who were charged with co-operating with intelligence services of another country without the required authorization of the prime minister," prosecutor Michal Dziekanski said.

In December 2016 the commercial television channel TVN and daily newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported that representatives of the SKW and the Russian special services, the FSB, had met on several occasions in 2010. The meetings were reportedly connected with the disengagement of Polish troops from Afghanistan, whose return route home would have crossed Russian territory.

The website "niezalezna.pl" reported that several Russians had visited the SKW headquarters in Poland and that the generals, Janusz Nosek and Piotr Pytel, had been in Russia.

Law and Justice party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski talks to supporters on an election rally.

Law and Justice party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski talks to supporters on an election rally.

Sour grapes?

The call for Tusk to testify comes following a bitter humiliation last week for the Law and Justice (PiS) government in Warsaw, which withdrew its support for an extension of Tusk's term as head of the European Council.

The other 27 member states voted to support a prolongation of Tusk's tenure, much to Warsaw's very public chagrin.

Warsaw later accused the EU of "cheating," adding that it would conduct a "negative" policy towards Brussels.

Tusk was prime minister from 2007 to 2014 and has been in the top EU job since then.

The European Commission has chastised Warsaw since late 2015 for failing to resolve an ongoing constitutional crisis, but has so far failed to take actions. 

"One has to state it openly: EU policy turned out to be a policy of double standards and cheating," Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said in the weekend edition of the "Super Express" tabloid.

The minister added that Poland would not boycott the European Council and will take part in its meetings. "We must be aware that we may be cheated any moment," he said.

Unlocking narrative strands

The PiS government, since coming to office in October 2015 has promoted a narrative of bellicose anti-Russianism. At times, it has also directed its fire at the EU.

This has been buttressed by an ongoing public investigation into a 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, western Russia, that killed a large number of Poland's political and military elite, including the then-president Lech Kaczynski, the twin brother of today's powerful head of PiS, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

PiS has said it does not believe several earlier investigations that indicated a combination of pilot error, bad weather and miscommunication caused the crash. It has pointed the finger at Moscow and Tusk, on various occasions.

Kaczynski has long sought to tar Tusk with allegations of national betrayal, naming him among Poland's foreign enemies and their domestic proxies and in the process evoking and seeking to rekindle a Polish martyrological narrative of self-legitimation.

He talks regularly of US President Donald Trump's relationship with Russia as selling out Polish interests, despite the absence of much evidence.

PiS' anti-Russianism is also closely calibrated with its geopolitical strategy in relation to building support within NATO. 

Poland is one of the few NATO members that is set to meet its obligation of 2 percent of GDP allocated to defense.NATO has recently moved several thousand troops into eastern Poland in response to the perceived threat from Moscow.

jbh/rc (Reuters, AFP)

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