To­masz Piątek: “Poles want to know the truth”

“Poles want to know the truth”

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - Olha Vorozh­byt

The au­thor of Macierewicz and His

Se­crets on how the Rus­sian mafia and se­cret ser­vice may be in­flu­enc­ing pol­icy in Poland

The Ukrainian Week talked to Pol­ish jour­nal­ist To­masz Piątek about his 2017 best­seller, Macierewicz and His Se­crets, and about how the Rus­sian mafia and se­cret ser­vice may be in­flu­enc­ing pol­icy in Poland.

Al­ready 250,000 copies of your book have been sold in Poland. What do you think has made it such a suc­cess?

— Poles want the truth and they want to know who has com­mon po­lit­i­cal or busi­ness in­ter­ests with whom. They’re pretty fed up with what they’re see­ing on TV, which is usu­ally the of­fi­cial po­si­tion. It doesn’t show im­por­tant fi­nan­cial ties among var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions and forces that are op­er­at­ing in pol­i­tics and busi­ness. But most of all, this book has been a suc­cess be­cause of who it's about—An­toni Macierewicz. He’s an ex­tremely im­por­tant fig­ure in both Pol­ish pol­i­tics and in his­tory and he has in­flu­enced both for more than half a cen­tury at this point. Yet few peo­ple have heard of him out­side of Poland. For many years, he’s been play­ing the role of Rus­sia’s big­gest en­emy in Poland, but he’s been do­ing this in such a way that even oth­ers who are against the Krem­lin find his var­i­ous con­spir­acy the­o­ries laugh­able. Macierewicz has been the main pro­po­nent of the the­ory that the Rus­sians were be­hind the 2010 tragedy in which the Pol­ish pres­i­dent’s plane crashed out­side Smolensk.

I re­mem­ber a few years ago when I was try­ing to warn peo­ple about Rus­sia’s in­flu­ence in Poland, some folks also tried to mock me, sug­gest­ing that I’m say­ing things that are just as crazy as Macierewicz. Yet some 20% of Poles be­lieve that he is a 100% Pol­ish pa­triot and en­emy of Rus­sia. It’s pos­si­ble that they be­lieve in him even more than in Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski.

With such a group of fa­nat­i­cal sup­port­ers, this politi­cian is in a po­si­tion to desta­bi­lize Pol­ish pol­i­tics in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ways. When I ex­posed the fact that An­toni Macierewicz has at least 10 in­di­rect but close and sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cal and com­mer­cial ties with Rus­sia, its in­fa­mous Sol­nt­sevskaya Bratva mafia and Rus­sianUkrainian ‘capo di tutti capi’ Semion Mogile­vich, as well as to Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary in­ves­tiga­tive arm known as GRU and politi­cians who work in the Krem­lin, it be­came pretty clear to me that Poles had good rea­sons for want­ing to know who this man is.

In­ter­est­ingly, de­spite his core sup­port group, Macierewicz is one of he least trusted politi­cians in Poland. De­pend­ing on the sur­vey, dis­trust in him ranges from 50% to 70%.

Macierewicz is clearly im­por­tant in Pol­ish pol­i­tics, but what made you de­cide to make pre­cisely him the main fo­cus of your book? Did you know some­thing other Poles didn’t know?

— No, I didn’t. My rea­son for writ­ing the book was sim­ple. Dur­ing the last elec­tion cam­paign, the Law & Jus­tice Party (PiS) promised that Macierewicz would not be given the de­fense port­fo­lio. At the time, he had been the vice-pres­i­dent of the party for sev­eral years. It was known that in­tel­li­gence and de­fense had al­ways been a keen in­ter­est of his, and there had been talk of mak­ing him de­fense min­is­ter, but Beata Szydlo, who was in charge of the cam­paign, re­as­sured every­one that this would not hap­pen.

But when PiS won, Macierewicz was im­me­di­ately ap­pointed to this post. That was when I had to ask my­self, how can it be that this man, whom every­one hates—in­clud­ing right-wing vot­ers—, some­one who has caused a se­ries of painful fail­ures and catas­tro­phes in Pol­ish pol­i­tics—in­clud­ing for the right to which he has been linked for decades—for the last quar­ter-cen­tury, is be­ing trusted with the na­tional se­cu­rity of Poland? At that point, I sim­ply as­sumed that some­one had his back. Pos­si­bly some Pol­ish busi­nesses are fund­ing him, which al­lows him to shore up sup­port and al­lies. So I be­gan to look into who Macierewicz the busi­ness­man is and that’s how I came across a mys­te­ri­ous mil­lion­aire from Lublin— well, ac­tu­ally from War­saw, but his com­pany op­er­ates out of Lublin—called Robert Lus­nia.

It turns out that this per­son was Macierewicz’s clos­est po­lit­i­cal and busi­ness ally for 30 years. At the same time, of course, he was paid by the com­mu­nist se­cret po­lice as an in­former. Now Lus­nia is one of the peo­ple Macierewicz claims he is fight­ing against, against the in­flu­ence of one-time se­cret ser­vice agents in pol­i­tics and busi­ness. Af­ter I be­gan look­ing into Lus­nia a bit more, it turned out that the com­mu­nist of­fi­cers who han­dled him as an agent in the 1980s also worked for Rus­sia’s GRU. Later, it turned out that Lus­nia in­tro­duced Macierewicz to anti-Ukrainian, anti-western, pro-Rus­sian ac­tivist Kon­rad Rękas [Rękas refers to the cur­rent Ukrainian gov­ern­ment as a ‘junta’ in many in­ter­net por­tals.—Ed.]. To­day, Rękas runs the Pol­ish pro-Rus­sian party Zmi­ana [Change]. Zmi­ana’s founder Ma­teusz Pisko­rski is cur­rently un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, as he is sus­pected of spy­ing on Rus­sia’s be­half.

In fact, An­toni Macierewicz has plenty of ties of this kind. In the De­fense Min­istry, he hired such pro-Rus­sian ex­perts as Col. (ret.) Krzysztof Gaj, who said back in 2014 that he sup­ported Vladimir Putin’s ag­gres­sion against Ukraine and in­sisted that Ukraini­ans were just a fas­cist con­fla­gra­tion. In Pol­ish, po­zoga has very neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions, mean­ing both con­fla­gra­tion and plague at the same time—in short, it’s the lan­guage of ha­tred. Macierewicz also hired one Grze­gorz Kwas­niak, who has pub­licly un­der­mined Poland’s trust in its western al­lies.

When these in­di­vid­u­als be­gan to work at the Pol­ish De­fense Min­istry, he en­trusted them with set­ting up pri­vate de­fense units, in other words, a pri­vate am­a­teur army. I call it pri­vate be­cause it is not sub­or­di­nated to the Gen­eral Staff of the Pol­ish Armed Forces, the way other mil­i­tary units do, but was un­der the com­mand of a civil­ian politi­cian, the boss of the Min­istry of De­fense— mean­ing An­toni Macierewicz. He also in­vited other fans of Putin from the Zmi­ana Party and from the X-Falanga to this army. Mem­bers of X-Falanga have flown to Don­bas to sup­port Rus­sia’ prox­ies.

It turns out that the three who put to­gether this odd army—Kwas­niak, Gaj and Deputy Min­is­ter To­masz Sza­tkowski—were all ei­ther mem­bers of or ex­perts from the Na­tional Cen­ter for Strate­gic Stud­ies (NCSS). It’s called a “na­tional” cen­ter but in fact it’s a pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tion founded by Jacek Ko­tas. He’s called Macierewicz’s Rus­sian con­nec­tion and for 14 years he worked for com­pa­nies linked to the Rus­sian mafia in Poland. Yet Macierewicz con­sis­tently gave work to Ko­tas’s ex­perts in the MoD. In 2007 when Macierewicz was in charge of mil­i­tary coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence, this de­part­ment gave Ko­tas right of ac­cess to Pol­ish mil­i­tary se­crets, al­though by then he had been work­ing for more than five years with com­pa­nies linked to the Rus­sian mafia and this was well known. We’re talk­ing about the Sol­nt­sevskaya Bratva, the mafia con­nected to the GRU, Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence arm. These kinds of links are many. They have all been doc­u­mented in de­tail and raise dif­fi­cult ques­tions about those in power and money. We aren’t talk­ing about ca­sual meet­ings or in­di­vid­ual con­ver­sa­tions.

In Jan­uary, you were in­vited to NATO head­quar­ters to talk about your in­ves­ti­ga­tion. How did they re­act to this in­for­ma­tion?

— I was in­vited to talk about Macierewicz’s Rus­sian links with mem­bers of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment at a spe­cial con­fer­ence. Shortly be­fore I was sup­posed to leave, I was also called to NATO head­quar­ters. This was a con­ver­sa­tion with ex­perts. It lasted about an hour and a half and af­ter­wards I was asked to send as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble. They lis­tened to the in­for­ma­tion that I pre­sented with great in­ter­est.

You have said that Pol­ish of­fi­cials have not shown in­ter­est in the in­for­ma­tion that you pre­sented in your book. Is it still true that none of them are show­ing in­ter­est?

— I’ve had un­of­fi­cial sig­nals that some politi­cians in the rul­ing party, but likely more those who are con­nected to the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­min­is­tra­tion, not the Gov­ern­ment, sup­port what I’m do­ing. Of­fi­cially, mem­bers of the Gov­ern­ment and PiS politi­cians have very ag­gres­sively at­tacked me in pub­lic. Now that the min­is­ter has been dis­missed, this has stopped. The fact that he was shunted aside con­firms that what I’ve been writ­ing is the truth. I hope that Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski read my book and drew the nec­es­sary con­clu­sions—al­though he’ll never ad­mit it.

Prior to this there were a lot of pub­lic at­tacks of a very per­sonal na­ture against me, re­lated to my ill­ness: I was ac­cused of be­ing an al­co­holic and a drug ad­dict. In

I’VE HAD UN­OF­FI­CIAL SIG­NALS THAT SOME POLITI­CIANS IN THE RUL­ING PARTY, BUT LIKELY MORE THOSE WHO ARE CON­NECTED TO THE PRES­I­DEN­TIAL AD­MIN­IS­TRA­TION, NOT THE GOV­ERN­MENT, SUP­PORT WHAT I’M DO­ING. OF­FI­CIALLY, MEM­BERS OF THE GOV­ERN­MENT AND PiS POLITI­CIANS HAVE VERY AG­GRES­SIVELY AT­TACKED ME IN PUB­LIC

fact, I haven’t used ei­ther sub­stance for many years now. I was also at­tacked for my re­li­gious beliefs, as I’m a protes­tant. Peo­ple kept say­ing that I was go­ing af­ter Min­is­ter Macierewicz be­cause he was Catholic and I’m Protes­tant so I ob­vi­ously de­spise all Catholics.

These days, no one’s at­tack­ing me any more, but there haven’t been any apolo­gies for the in­sults of the past, ei­ther. Mean­while, the court case against me hasn’t been dropped. When I pub­lished my book, the min­is­ter turned to the mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tor and ac­cused me, not of li­bel or slan­der, be­cause clearly that would have gone nowhere, but of ter­ror­ism. My book is very thor­oughly doc­u­mented, with sev­eral hun­dred foot­notes, and 90% of the in­for­ma­tion is from open sources. And so Macierewicz couldn’t sue me for li­bel, but ac­cused me of ter­ror­ism un­der Art. 224 of the Pol­ish Crim­i­nal Code. I’m also ac­cused of vi­o­lence or il­le­gal threats against a civil ser­vant. This is con­sid­ered a crime of a ter­ror­ist na­ture. The case is still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, al­though it’s been handed over to the civil­ian courts by the mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tor.

The very fact that the case against me, a civil­ian, was be­ing han­dled by the mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tor was an­other level of ab­sur­dity. The ac­cu­sa­tions un­der­stand­ably scared off a lot of jour­nal­ists who were also be­gin­ning to in­ves­ti­gate these kinds of sto­ries. For the first time since Poland be­came in­de­pen­dent, a jour­nal­ist was ac­cused of ter­ror­ism due to the ma­te­rial he was pub­lish­ing. You might say that, in or­der to pro­tect his Rus­sian ties, the min­is­ter chose to use Rus­sian meth­ods.

At this point, Macierewicz has been dis­missed. Do you feel you played a role in his fir­ing?

— I would say, yes. A quar­ter of a mil­lion peo­ple bought my book. The western press has had ma­jor ar­ti­cles on this topic and I’ve been in­ter­viewed as well. In France at least 8 ar­ti­cles have ap­peared, The Guardian has slowly be­gun to write about it, and one of the top Dan­ish week­lies, Poli­tiken, wrote a huge ar­ti­cle about this. These were all di­rectly be­fore the dis­missal. Most likely Kaczyn­ski un­der­stood that it would not be pos­si­ble to pre­tend that noth­ing had hap­pened. And so the min­is­ter re­signed, be­cause he fig­ured it would be eas­i­est to sweep away the story in this way. I, on the other hand, think that it’s time to re­solve this to the very end.

This is also a huge prob­lem for Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski. It’s pos­si­bly the big­gest mis­take he’s ever made. Kaczyn­ski was al­ways in­sist­ing that he was a ma­jor en­emy of Rus­sia. He kept pre­sent­ing him­self as a great leader and mean­while he al­lowed Rus­sian agents to run the De­fense Min­istry. For, along with Macierewicz came his col­leagues with even more vis­i­ble Rus­sian ties. This com­pro­mises Kaczyn­ski, both as a leader and as a strate­gist. His main goal right now is to wash his hands of this af­fair, while I in­tend to try to ex­pose it to the very end. I’m al­ready writ­ing my next book.

Will it be a con­tin­u­a­tion of the cur­rent in­ves­ti­ga­tion?

— It’s also about Macierewicz and his ties. It’s sim­ply broader be­cause I know a lot more now.

Your book also brings up a cas­sette scan­dal in Poland prior to the last elec­tions to the Sejm. What role does Macierewicz play in this?

— He’s tan­gen­tial to the scan­dal. I men­tioned Jacek Ko­tas ear­lier, who worked for com­pa­nies linked to the Rus­sian mafia. At the same time, Macierewicz gave Ko­tas ac­cess to Pol­ish mil­i­tary se­crets. Later on, when he be­came DM, he hired Ko­tas’s pro-Rus­sian col­leagues as well. In ad­di­tion to the com­pa­nies Ko­tas man­aged, there were in­di­vid­u­als who owned one of the restau­rants where the Civic Plat­form Party was be­ing eaves­dropped on. This eaves­drop­ping led to the CPP los­ing in the elec­tions [af­ter the con­ver­sa­tions were pub­lished in the Pol­ish press.—Ed.]. PiS won thanks to this scan­dal.

There was an­other restau­rant where politi­cians were also be­ing recorded and that owner is in­volved in busi­ness with An­driy Per­sonа, a Ukrainian who is closely as­so­ci­ated with Mogile­vich. It turned out that the com­pa­nies Ko­tas worked for are con­nected to this first restau­rant, Sowa i Przy­ja­ciele [Owl & Friends] and are also linked to Mogile­vich through the Sol­nt­sevskaya mafia. These com­pa­nies all be­long to the Ra­dius Group, which is con­trolled by the Szustkowski fam­ily. Robert Szustkowski, the head of the fam­ily, has been run­ning busi­nesses with the Sol­nt­sevskaya Bratva for decades. You might even say that he’s the busi­ness part­ner and pos­si­bly even gofer for Lev Kvet­noy and An­drei Skoch, two oli­garchs in the Bratva mafia. Skoch is also fa­mous for be­ing the rich­est deputy in the Rus­sian Duma, as he con­trols mine and steel in­ter­ests in Rus­sia to­gether with Alisher Us­manov, an oli­garch linked to the GRU.

Skoch him­self also works with the GRU, form­ing paramil­i­tary or­ga­ni­za­tions that have been used to pro­vide lo­cal se­cu­rity for Macierewicz. Mogile­vich used to be the fi­nan­cial god­fa­ther of the Sol­nt­sevskaya mafia and has also worked with the GRU for decades.

In re­la­tion to the cas­sette scan­dal, the Sol­nt­sevskaya mafia and Mogile­vich were not di­rectly in­volved, but their fin­ger­prints are vis­i­ble in a va­ri­ety of ways. So that this is per­fectly clear, I should ad that the eaves­drop­ping in those restau­rants was not done by free­lancers. The first time this was done was at Lemon­grass, where the man­ager him­self was do­ing the eaves­drop­ping. When word got out that mem­bers of the Civic Plat­form were be­ing recorded and they stopped go­ing to that restau­rant, the man­ager switched to the other place, where he agreed to be hired as a sim­ple waiter, oddly enough. He did ev­ery­thing he could to en­cour­age guests from the pre­vi­ous restau­rant where he worked to come to the new one. Of course, they knew him as a man­ager, so they ac­cepted the in­vi­ta­tion and be­gan to come to Sowa i Przy­ja­ciele and the same in­di­vid­ual, now as a waiter, con­tin­ued to eaves­drop on them. We can see that this was an op­er­a­tion. Given that both restau­rants were linked to the Rus­sian mafia and the GRU, you can draw your own con­clu­sions as to who was be­hind this scan­dal.

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