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By John Helmer, Moscow

Edward Lucas, a reporter for The Economist in London, has found fault with the accuracy of the report that Anne Applebaum has been receiving unaccountably large sums of money for her stand on the Ukraine civil war and regime change in Russia. For the full story of Applebaum’s employment and payments, as reported by her husband, ex-Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski, together with the involvement of Lucas and his wife, Cristina Odone, spokesman for Applebaum and the Legatum Institute, click here.

Lucas has written to dispute one point in the report.
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Edward Lucas
edwardlucas.com
edwardlucas@economist.com

Submitted on 2014/11/05 at 7:37 am

This is absurd. Don’t you check what you write? As my website clearly states
Bene Merito award
Without my foreknowledge, I was last year awarded the Bene Merito medal of the Polish Foreign Ministry. Although enormously honoured by this, I have sadly decided that I cannot accept it as it might give rise to at least the appearance of a conflict of interest in my coverage of Poland.

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Lucas is referring to a single line in the Applebaum-Sikorski story: “Lucas is the recipient of a Polish state award from Sikorski. He has told Economist readers Sikorski is “a future president [of Poland].”

According to the published web link, the Polish Foreign Ministry announced on November 13, 2009, that “Minister Radosław Sikorski awards Bene Merito distinctions. On the occasion of the Foreign Service Day, Minister Radosław Sikorski has awarded the following persons with the Bene Merito distinction – an honorary award conferred upon those whose activities enhance Poland’s position on the international arena.” Twenty-five names followed of the recipients. They included a policeman, a papal nuncio, a soldier, a Ukrainian minister, American and Israeli ambassadors, several academics, and several journalists.

The official photographs of the award ceremony indicate Lucas in the receiving line, wine-glass in hand (far left, back to wall):

awards
Source: http://www.mfa.gov.pl

According to the ministry in Warsaw, “the ‘Bene merito’ honorary distinction is conferred upon the citizens of the Republic of Poland and foreign nationals in recognition of their merits in promoting Poland abroad.” The term “promoting” was the ministry’s.

benimeritoFor his medal Lucas was cited “for bringing closer to many readers all over the world issues dealing with Poland’s interests to many readers all over the world in a well-disposed way.” Another reporter, Andrew Nagorski, an American who once worked for Newsweek in Warsaw, and was expelled from Moscow in 1982, was cited beside Lucas with an almost identical gong: “For bringing closer to many readers all over the world issues dealing with Poland’s interests in a well-disposed way.”

Bene Merito is Latin meaning just desserts; Quintilian used the term as a superlative. A search of Lucas’s website for the phrase, and for each word, reveals no renunciation announcement from Lucas. A search of his site for Sikorski confirms that at the start of 2009 Lucas promoted “Radek Sikorski for NATO chief.” A year later, the blog records, Lucas was writing in favour of “Sikorski for President”, adding that “under Radek Sikorski as foreign minister, Poland has managed to improve relations with all its neighbours.” That was three months after the Warsaw award ceremony – no mention that Lucas was having second thoughts about “the appearance of a conflict of interest in my coverage of Poland.”

In the Polish-language Wikipedia, the Lucas entry registers this point: “(bież. | poprz.)( )( ) 11:38, 27 maj 2012‎ Ziel (dyskusja | edycje)‎ . . (4679 bajtów) (+554)‎ . . (+ odmowa Bene merito) (anuluj edycję) [automatycznie przejrzana].” The date of the “refusal of the Bene Merito” is May 27, 2012, two and a half years after Lucas accepted the award.

When Sikorski was ousted from the foreign ministry six weeks ago, Lucas jumped to his defence by belittling his successor, Grzegorz Schetyna: “troubling choice for Polish MFA — “Grzegorz Schetyna v limited FP experience” and “never been heard speaking English in public.”

In Warsaw the Foreign Ministry was asked today to confirm whether Lucas has sent his medal back. There has been no response.

NOTE: Lucas has examined the official Foreign Ministry photograph and says: “I did not receive the medal. The picture you have posted does not show me. I was not there.” A forensic check is under way, and witnesses are called to say whether the figure with the wine-glass is Lucas (below left) or Alexander Smolar (right). Smolar, a Polish academic, was on the same Bene Merito list for 2009 as Lucas. “Whether he was present at the Bene Merito wine tasting party or not,” says a Warsaw source, Lucas “is officially the beneficiary of the Bene Merito order.” In his fresh correction Lucas has not clarified the date when he renounced the award, and the Polish Foreign Ministry is not confirming that he has.

edl

Lucas writes: “I was indeed awarded the Bene Merito medal by the Polish government in I think 2007 [sic]. But I had no idea it was coming and I turned it down instantly and publicly because I felt that as a journalist writing about the region I shouldn’t receive awards from governments. I have turned down other state medals and orders too (I do admit to having the order of the Grand Duke Gediminas, fourth class, from the state of Lithuania which was awarded 20 years ago). The clear inference of your piece is that I am biassed as a journalist because of this medal. This is not only absurd but also quite unfair (and if I were litigious, which I am not, would no doubt be the basis of a nasty lawyer’s letter).”

On October 10, 2010, the Baltic Assembly in Riga – a tri-government organization funded by Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — announced that it had awarded its BA Medal to “Carl Bildt, the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bart Tommelein, President of the Benelux Parliament, and Edward Lucas, international editor of The Economist magazine and correspondent for Central and Eastern Europe, for their outstanding services in strengthening the unity and supporting the cooperation of the Baltic States.” The announcement was issued officially by the Latvian Saeima (legislature). The next day, October 21, 2010, the Baltic Assembly confirmed that Lucas was number 228 on the receiving list for the medal.

The day after, October 22, 2010, Lucas also tweeted his confirmation: “Just got a medal (link in Latvian) http://bit.ly/dle0DP .”

ceremony

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/

The photograph of the presentation appears not to show Lucas “turn[ing] down other state medals and orders”. The remarks Lucas exchanged do not appear to include “as a journalist writing about the region I shouldn’t receive awards from governments.”

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