Pro-Kremlin media leverages divisive narratives in Poland

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  • Pl_30_March17  Ten artykuł jest dostępny w języku polskim
On 18 March, about 200 Poles staged a nationalist protest against Ukrainian workers in the city of Wrocław. On the same day, several dozen members of the ultra-right political group Młodzież Wszechpolska (All-Polish Youth) marched on the Lithuanian Embassy in Warsaw demanding rights for minority Poles living in Lithuania. Pro-Kremlin propaganda connected those two demonstrations in an attempt to create divisions among Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine—three of the most friendly, pro-Atlantic countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

The march against Ukrainian workers in Poland was organized by the Nationalist-Radical Camp (Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny) in Wrocław. Protesters burned an image of Wrocław President Rafał Dutkiewicz, who opposed the march, and Zygmunt Bauman, a Jewish scientist and professor who had collaborated with Poland’s Communist regime.

Propaganda against Ukrainians working in Poland has been a longstanding Kremlin narrative. The pro-Moscow website has argued that Ukrainians steal jobs from Polish workers, and professor Cezary Mech says Ukraine’s higher fertility rate means Poland will eventually be flooded with Ukrainian immigrants. Mech also argued that Ukrainians’ willingness to work for less will drag down wages for Poles. Meanwhile, the obscure website claimed, without evidence, that in the Mielec Special Economic Zone some company executives threatened to replace Polish workers with Ukrainian ones if they do not do not stop agitating for better pay.

On 18 March, Młodzież Wszechpolska, a Polish nationalist NGO linked to the Ruch Narodowy (National Movement) party—which has a small representation in Parliament but has a significant impact on society—organized a protest against Lithuania’s allegedly bad treatment of its Polish minority. Demonstrators marched to the Lithuanian Embassy in Warsaw to demand that the rights of Lithuania’s Polish minority be protected. According to Radio Maryja, a patriotic, nationalist-leaning outlet, protestors criticized every post-Cold War Polish government for neglecting the interests of Poles living in Lithuania.  

The Kremlin-funded Sputnik news service connected the demonstrations, arguing that Poland does not defend the interests of the Polish people either at home or abroad. In so doing, it appears to be pressuring Warsaw’s government to put pressure on both Lithuania and Ukraine.

Moscow’s broader objective in spreading such stories is to undermine security cooperation among Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania. The three countries have created a common army brigade called LITPOLUKRBRIG, based in Lublin, whose soldiers are to support peace and manage crisis situations as directed by the UN Security Council. The three governments also exchange intelligence—an especially important task given Moscow’s approaching Zapad 2017 military exercises, scheduled for this September.

Photo: "Downtown Warsaw at night" by Peter Heeling