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Lex Tusk? How Poland’s Controversial "Russian Influence" Law Will Subvert Democracy

The new “lex Tusk” includes language about companies and their management. But is this likely to be a fair investigation into breaking sanctions on Russia, or a political witch-hunt in the business sphere?


WARSAW — Poland’s new Commission for investigating Russian influence, which President Andrzej Duda signed into law on Monday, will be able to summon representatives of any company for inquiry. It has sparked a major controversy in Polish politics, as political opponents of the government warn that the Commission has been given near absolute power to investigate and punish any citizen, business or organization.

And opposition politicians are expected to be high on the list of would-be suspects, starting with Donald Tusk, who is challenging the ruling PiS government to return to the presidency next fall. For that reason, it has been sardonically dubbed: Lex Tusk.

University of Warsaw law professor Michal Romanowski notes that the interests of any firm can be considered favorable to Russia. “These are instruments which the likes of Putin and Orban would not be ashamed of," Romanowski said.

The law on the Commission for examining Russian influences has "atomic" prerogatives sewn into it. Nine members of the Commission with the rank of secretary of state will be able to summon virtually anyone, with the powers of severe punishment.

Under the new law, these Commissioners will become arbiters of nearly absolute power, and will be able to use the resources of nearly any organ of the state, including the secret services, in order to demand access to every available document. They will be able to prosecute people for acts which were not prohibited at the time they were committed.

Their prerogatives are broader than that of the President or the Prime Minister, wider than those of any court. And there is virtually no oversight over their actions.

Nobody can feel safe. This includes companies, their management, lawyers, journalists, and trade unionists.

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This Happened — June 2: Pope John Paul II Visits Poland

On this day in 1979, Pope John Paul II, born Karol Wojtyła in Poland, visited his home country, marking a crucial moment in Polish history. And beyond...

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Exploiting Auschwitz — How Poland's Ruling Party Reached A New Low

Poland's ruling party has used the Nazi concentration camp, which was located in a Polish town, in one of its political campaigns to sully its opponents. It's the latest step that the ruling government is taking to attack an opposition march planned for this Sunday against a law that some say threatens democracy.


WARSAW — The short video ad hit social media on Wednesday. It begins with a clip of the railroad of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Jews from all of Nazi-occupied Europe were transported. It is the place where those deemed unfit to work — including the elderly and mothers with children — were taken to gas chambers and murdered with zyklon B. In another shot, the release shows a clip of Auschwitz’s gates with their mocking inscription — “Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work will set you free.)

It is against this backdrop that Poland's right-wing ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) chose to show a recent tweet made by Polish journalist Tomasz Lis, who criticized the ruling party’s controversial anti-Russian investigative committee, stating “there will be a chamber for Duda and Kaczor”.

In his tweet, Lis was referring to criticisms from the Polish opposition that the new committee, also being referred to as the “Tusk Law”, will be used to target political rivals, rather than Russian colluders. Lis has since apologized for his statement, and the tweet has been removed from his social media.

“Is this the slogan you want to march under?” — asks the speaker in the advertisement, as the screen shows the date of June 4th. This is how PiS is reacting to the mass mobilization of Poles, who have agreed to come together and demonstrate against its anti-democratic policies in Warsaw.

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Moose In Our Midst: How Poland's Wildlife Preservation Worked A Bit Too Well

Wild moose have been spotted on Polish beaches and even near cities. They're a rare example of successful conservation efforts, but they're increasingly coming into contact with people.

GDANSK — Images of wild moose roaming the streets and beaches of Poland’s Baltic coast have been cropping up online more frequently. What should someone do if they encounter one? According to Mateusz Ciechanowski, a biologist at the University of Gdansk, the best option is to leave them alone.

“This is the result of the consistent protection that has been provided to this species of moose,” said Ciechanowski. “As the numbers increase, so does the animals’ range”.

Various media outlets have been publishing reports about spotted wild moose in the cities of Gdansk, Gdynia, and Sopot with increasing frequency. Perhaps more surprising is that these moose have been seen on beaches as well.

Centuries ago, moose could be found all over the European continent. But, like the European bison, they were often hunted for their value as an attractive game animal.

Aside from population declines due to hunting, the drainage of European wetlands also decreased the number of viable moose habitats. The animals, which prefer marshy areas, dwindled without the proper natural environment to flourish in.

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Hanns-Georg Rodek

Where 'The Zone Of Interest' Won't Go On Auschwitz — A German Critique Of New Nazi Film

Rudolf Höss was the commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp who lived with his family close to the camp. Jonathan Glazer's The Zone of Interest, a favorite to win at the Cannes Festival, tells Höss' story, but fails to address the true inhumanity of Nazism, says Die Welt's film critic.


BERLIN — This garden is the pride and joy of Hedwig, the housewife. She has planned and laid out everything — the vegetable beds and fruit trees and the greenhouse and the bathtub.

Her kingdom is bordered on one long side by a high, barbed-wire wall. Gravel paths lead to the family home, a two-story building with clean lines, no architectural frills. Her husband praises her when he comes home after work, and their three children — ages two to five — play carefree in the little "paradise," as the mother calls her refuge.

The wall is the outer wall of the concentration camp Auschwitz; in the "paradise" lives the camp commander Rudolf Höss with his family.

The film is called The Zone of Interest — after the German term "Interessengebiet," which the Nazis used to euphemistically name the restricted zone around Auschwitz — and it is a favorite among critics at this week's Cannes Film Festival.

The audacity of director Jonathan Glazer's style takes your breath away, and it doesn't quickly come back.

It is a British-Polish production in which only German is spoken. The real house of the Höss family was not directly on the wall, but some distance away, but from the upper floor, Höss's daughter Brigitte later recalled, she could see the prisoners' quarters and the chimneys of the old crematorium.

Glazer moved the house right up against the wall for the sake of his experimental arrangement, a piece of artistic license that can certainly be justified.

And so one watches the Höss family go about their daily lives: guiding visitors through the little garden, splashing in the tub, eating dinner in the house, being served by the domestic help, who are all silent prisoners. What happens behind the wall, they could hear and smell. They must have heard and smelled it. You can see the red glow over the crematorium at night. You hear the screams of the tortured and the shots of the guards. The Höss family blocks all this out.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Bartosz T. Wielinski

Why Poland's Ruling Party Has Suddenly Turned On Ukraine — With The Wounds Of History

The Polish government has recently demanded official apologies from Kyiv (which is busy fighting off the Russian invasion) for historic war crimes committed by Ukrainian nationalists against ethnic Poles during World War II. The ruling PiS party is up to its old tricks of scapegoating for votes.


WARSAW — This was no mistake, no slip-of-the tongue. In the midst of rising tensions between the otherwise close allies, Lukasz Jasina, the spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry was unequivocally demanding that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issue a public apology to Poland for historic crimes in the Volhynia region. In that ugly chapter of World War II, Ukrainian nationalists killed up to 100,000 ethnic Poles, including many women and children, in what is widely considered an act of ethnic cleansing.

Jasina's statement, which appeared on May 19 in Onet.pl, Poland's largest online news platform, resulted in exactly what he wanted: a declaration that Poland has stopped unconditionally supporting the Ukrainian war effort, and a forecast that Polish-Ukrainian relations will emerge as a new issue ahead of this coming fall's national elections.

His statements also generated intrigue, especially since Jasina doesn’t belong to PiS, Poland’s conservative ruling party. Nevertheless, the statement was intentional — and has pushed Poland into a diplomatic frenzy, prompting a reaction from Vasyl Zvarych, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Poland.

This is exactly what PiS leaders wanted to happen.

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This Happened

This Happened — May 16: Warsaw Uprising Put Down

The Warsaw Uprising officially ended on this day in 1943, when the remaining Jewish fighters were killed or captured by German forces.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Yury Panchenko and Nadia Koval

No Compromise: What's Driving Poland's New Hard Line On Russia

"We are realists, and therefore we do not believe in the possibility of a compromise between freedom and slavery..." Poland's foreign minister has outlined what the country's foreign strategy will look like in the coming years, built on support of Ukraine and steadfast resistance to the Russian aggressors.


WARSAW — In 2023, Poland’s six-year foreign policy strategy came to an end. Last week, Polish foreign minister Zbigniew Rau presented a report on the new goals and tasks for Polish foreign policy over the coming years.

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And not surprisingly, Ukraine is by far the most mentioned topic in Rau's report. It has its own section, but it also affects how Poland views the level of cooperation it should have with foreign countries.

That level depends on the position they took in the Russian-Ukrainian war, especially the non-European countries.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Nazar Bobytskyi

Poland's Ban On Ukrainian Agriculture Must Not Stand

Poland's unilateral decision to ban imports of Ukraine's agricultural products, in violation of EU agreements, has caused shock among Ukrainians. Nazar Bobytsky, head of the Ukrainian office of the Polish Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers, says Brussels must show Kyiv it is serious about Ukraine joining the EU.


KYIV — The announcement by Poland's government on Saturday of a ban on grain imports and other agricultural products from Ukraine was motivated by a single reason: to protect the Polish agriculture sector.

Yet the negative consequences of such a step for the Ukrainian economy are clear and immediate: the ban on imports, as well as on transit, threatens to disrupt hard-won export contracts, forces a revision of plans for the planting season, and disrupts the logistics supply chains built up with such difficulty as a much-needed alternative to the sea route.

But the ban also could have longer-term effects, including the undermining of investment plans to build transfer points for bulk agricultural goods on the Ukrainian-Polish border, including with the participation of European and international financial institutions.

The security and geopolitical implications are also becoming evident: the Kremlin will seize the moment to begin trying to sabotage the grain corridor agreements with Ukraine.

However, Ukraine should pay extra attention to the systemic damage that this ill-conceived move by the Polish economic ministry causes to trade relations between Ukraine and the EU. Hungary quickly followed this precedent and introduced a similar ban, and Bulgaria is on the way.

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This Happened

This Happened - April 10: Polish Air Crash Kills President

On this day in 2010, the Polish Air Force Tu-154M crashed near the Russian city of Smolensk. The crash killed all 96 people on board, including Polish President Lech Kaczyński and many other high-ranking officials.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Philipp Fritz

Inside The Polish-Led Push To Send Fighter Jets To Ukraine – Bypassing Germany

A bloc of eastern European countries has distanced themselves from Western Europe — Germany in particular — by sending Soviet era jets to Ukraine, part of growing push to supply the country with Western-made fighter jets.

Following Poland’s lead, Slovakia has now declared its plans to send MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. The U.S. may well have been kept informed of the decisions, but Warsaw did not tell the German government. Some Eastern European allies are distancing themselves from Western Europe. And there’s a good reason for that.

Once again Poland is pushing ahead with supplying weapons to Ukraine. “We can say that we will shortly be sending MiG fighter jets to Ukraine,” said President Andrzej Duda on Thursday in Warsaw, during a visit from the Czech President Petr Pavel – announcing it almost in passing, as seems to be Duda’s way.

Duda went one step further than his Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who only the day before had set out a timeline for Poland to provide jets. He said it would take four to six weeks, then the President and commander-in-chief announced a shorter timeline of only a few days.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Pierre Haski

Paris-Berlin, Warsaw-Kyiv: Europe's Balance Of Power Will Never Be The Same

A new future is unfolding in real time, one that leaders in France, Germany and beyond could not have envisioned even a year ago.


PARIS — Quick question: do you know which country is on its way to having the largest army in Europe? The obvious answer would be France, the Continent's only nuclear power since the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, and a military that has been tested in multiple foreign operations in recent years.

But the answer is about to change: if we put aside the nuclear factor, Europe's leading military will soon be that of Poland.

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This is one more direct consequence Russia's invasion of Ukraine: a close neighbor of the conflict zone, Poland is investing massively in its defense. Last year, it concluded a huge arms purchase contract with South Korea: heavy combat tanks (four times more than France), artillery, fighter jets, for 15 billion euros.

Warsaw also signed a contract last month to purchase two observation satellites from France for 500 million euros.

This former country of the Warsaw Pact, today a leading NATO member, intends to be ever more consequential in European affairs. The investments in defense are one way of doing that. Yet this is not the only impact of the war in Ukraine.

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