Russian influence a threat to democracy says minister

Attempts by Russia to influence Poland have been, and still are, a threat to Polish democracy, a government minister told PAP on Tuesday.

Maciej Wasik, a deputy interior minister, made the comment in reference to government plans to establish a special commission to investigate alleged Russian influence on Polish governments.

The commission, which is to have the power to ban politicians from public office on the strength of their past contacts with Russia, has been criticised by Poland's opposition, the US State Department and the European Commission owing to fears it could be used to bar opposition leaders, especially Donald Tusk, the leader of main opposition grouping Civic Coalition (KO), from this autumn's general election.

But Wasik defended the law, arguing that the commission was needed.

"Russia’s influence has threatened, and still threatens, democracy in Poland," he said. "This influence is enormous. The commission... could lead to certain circles being deprived of the means and support (they receive - PAP) from the East."

Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, signed into law an act on creating the commission on Monday.