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INSINUATE, INGRATIATE, INTERCALATE — RADOSLAW SIKORSKI STANDS FOR FOREIGN MINISTER OF EUROPE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Radoslaw Sikorski (Radek for short) commenced his campaign to be elected High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union in 2009. For openers, he engaged [1] an American graduate student to pronounce him “a strong contender for the position”, “steely-eyed”, and “a dark horse candidate”. Five years is a long time in politics, and in the meantime Sikorski’s campaign to be elected NATO secretary-general, replacing the Dane, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was lost.

From the jaws of this defeat Sikorski has now engaged the deputy editor of the Financial Times, John Thornhill, to promote Sikorski as a runner for Catherine Ashton’s post as the current High Representative (aka foreign minister). According to Thornhill’s promo [2], published on May 24, Sikorski has suffered so much for his all-European convictions recently, he now has “a slight tic under his right eye”.

sikorskiThornhill concedes Sikorski (right) might have been winking. “Many…tip him to take over as the EU’s next foreign affairs representative later this year… Sikorski himself is playing coy on the subject of any potential job move. ‘I am happy where I am,’ he says, flashing a winning grin. ‘I am a victim of these rumours.’”

According to Thornhill, the British government should cast its vote for Sikorski because he was Oxford-educated; speaks “impeccably clipped English”; sends his sons to Eton; belonged to the same club as Prime Minister David Cameron; “reveres Thatcher’s political legacy, and attended her funeral.” Cameron’s vote is essential for Sikorski to get out of the starting-gate. That’s because British Labor Party appointee, Baronness Ashton, is the incumbent; because the French government has at least two candidates it prefers for the job; and because German officials are suspicious that Sikorski plotted to overthrow the February 21 pact he himself signed with ex-Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich, along with the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

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Kiev, February 21: Steinmeier is at far left; Sikorski at far right; Yanukovich in centre, with opposition figures Vitaly Klitschko and Oleg Tyagnibok to the right of Yanukovich. French minister Fabius was on Sikorksi’s left but he is not visible in this picture.

Betraying your word and your signature is not normally a qualification for representative office. The allegations reported in Poland are more dramatic than that. According to a report by Nie (Polish for ‘no’), published on March 28, for many months before Sikorski signed the February 21 treaty, he and his foreign ministry, and the Polish security services, had hosted Ukrainian trainees from among Yanukovich’s opponents.

Specifically, Nie claimed, in September of 2013 Sikorski’s ministry had invited 86 members of the Ukrainian Pravy Sektor organization for training to the Legionowo Police Training Centre, 23 kilometres north of the centre of Warsaw (below). Their 25 days of training, reporter Marek Miszczuk wrote, included crowd management, “behaviour in stressful situations”, building barricades, storming buildings, arms practice, sniper fire, and the use of anti-personnel gas.

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The source for the report was alleged to be a Ukrainian who had participated in the training, and who had taken photographs. He provided Nie with his pictures, video clips, and documents to substantiate his claims. They do not appear in the publication. Nie provided no independent verification.

Sikorski’s spokesman, Marcin Wojciechowski, issued [3] a statement about the Legionowo training on March 28. He said no attempt had been made by the reporter to contact the Foreign Ministry ahead of publication. What followed in print, he said, was “a regrettable April Fool’s joke with scurrilous insinuations . This provocative publication undermines truth and commonsense , not to mention more serious issues such as reasons of state.”

As to the concrete allegations of training for Ukrainians from Pravy Sektor, Sikorski’s spokesman said his ministry “categorically certifies that the information contained [in the Nie article] concerning the activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the context of the crisis in Ukraine was entirely made up.”

Today, when asked to clarify what exactly Sikorski and his ministry are admitting or denying about the Legionowo camp, Wojciechowski said “all the ‘news’ created by Nie [in its Legionowo report] is fake”. He added: “the article in Nie weekly was a journalist’s joke for April 1st. Nie itself admitted that in May (in Polish).”

The second Nie article to which the ministry spokesman referred can be read here [4]. It does not admit to an April Fool’s joke, nor does it issue a retraction or correction of the original publication. It doesn’t add substantiation. It renews its attack on the credibility of the Foreign Ministry.

The Polish media report that the Legionowo centre (CSP) runs training programmes for non-Polish Europeans, and the Foreign Ministry does not dispute that the training can involve weapons and arms handling, crowd control, and other security operations. The European Police College (CEPOL), which is headquartered in the UK – “we contribute to European police cooperation through learning” — confirms [5] that it uses Legionowo for training programmes. According to a press release issued [6] by Legionowo itself, last week it was in Moldavia teaching forensics to the locals.

On April 25, a month after Nie had appeared with its story, the spokesman for Legionowo issued [7] a denial. The CSP “never implemented training for representatives of the Right Sector of Ukraine and other groups associated with the current political situation in Ukraine… The CSP has never conducted this type of training, and the story reported by Mr. Mark Miszczuk absolutely did not take place.” The spokesman, Deputy Inspector Hanna Grochowska, claimed that Nie has acknowledged its story was an April Fool’s joke. “Therefore, all information and comments to the CSP , which appear in the media in connection with the publication of the article…should be considered fraudulent.”

Sources in Warsaw say [8] that in the past denials by the Polish security services to have been hosting comparably secret operations have turned on the fine point of exactly who was doing what on Polish police premises. “The story is plausible”, an experienced Warsaw investigator claims. “Premises at the police centre in Legionowo could indeed have been rented for such activities.”

Sikorski’s spokesman declines to say more. “Regarding questions about Legionowo Police School, we recommend you contact the press office of the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is responsible for police issues.”

The Russian internet media have picked up [9] the Nie report, adding since then allegations of Polish and US involvement in the flow of arms and fighters to eastern Ukraine. There has been no independent verification of the charges.

Towards the German government, Sikorski acknowledges in a Polish press interview [10] more ambivalence than he reveals towards the British in the Financial Times. Berlin, he intimates, isn’t supporting him for the election he thinks he deserves. “Germany has such weight that regardless of how decisions are made (unanimously or by a vote), without this, it’s difficult to achieve something. It is a fact that someone may not like it, but you cannot argue with the facts.”

In his Financial Times campaign launch, Sikorski tries to overcome the facts. “It is hard for any Polish foreign minister to be wildly enthusiastic about Germany but Sikorski has worked hard to deepen relations with Berlin. He has described Germany as Europe’s ‘indispensable nation’ and at the height of the eurozone crisis urged it to take the lead…Poland is the only European country not to have suffered a recession in more than two decades. Its factories have become a crucial cog in Germany’s export engine, providing high quality but cheap labour for components.”