Tracking of volunteers, threats and offers of bribes. The Foundation awaits the reaction of the Internal Security Agency.
Russian propaganda is hitting the Open Dialogue Foundation, which is fighting for human rights in Kazakhstan and Ukraine, among other places. The Foundation is interested, among other things, in the Russian TV channel Kanal 5, which tried to discredit the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grzegorz Schetyna.
“We have been the target of the attack since the very beginning. We have reported to the Internal Security Agency but we have no information whether anything has been done with our case,” complains Bartosz Kramek, Chair of the Foundation’s Supervisory Board.
According to Marcin Święcicki, an MP from a Civic Platform, a party involved in eastern affairs, the threat may be real.
Mateusz Piskorski, a former Samoobrona MP who often appears in the Russian media criticising the government in Kyiv and Polish involvement on its side, admits that Russian journalists have taken an interest in the Foundation. “I was asked about these issues,” he recently told Rzeczpospolita.
The Open Dialogue Foundation is dedicated to defending human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the post-Soviet area. It has a network of nearly five hundred volunteers who take part in observation missions, including elections, monitoring of human rights in CIS countries, mainly Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. It lobbies for Ukraine’s integration into the EU. It sends bulletproof vests, helmets and haemostatic dressings to Ukrainian soldiers and National Guard members fighting in the east. They are fighting for the release of, among others, Nadia Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot being kept in Russian custody.
Among others, Andrzej Wielowieyski, former MP, MEP and senator, Home Army soldier and oppositionist in the People’s Republic of Poland, sits on the Foundation’s Supervisory Board. The political team also includes Aleksandra Gajewska, a Warsaw Civic Platform councillor.
“I assess the Foundation’s activities very positively,” Święcicki tells us.
ODF complains that its activities are being sabotaged. “When we dealt with the case of Mukhtar Ablyazov, who is awaiting extradition and is being prosecuted for political reasons, we received information that we were under surveillance by the intelligence services of Kazakhstan,” says Kramek, adding, “Our e-mail was hacked, sensitive data was stolen. One day we suddenly had five hard drives in the Foundation’s computers burnt out.”
The Foundation’s activists claim that they have received corrupt offers in exchange for information about individuals who may be considered individuals hostile to the Kazakhstani regime. “We wrote an official letter to the Internal Security Agency, the police and the General Prosecutor asking for help, but we have not heard from anyone,” Kramek laments. Swiecicki does not downplay the issue. “Kazakhstan’s services are capable of anything,” he says.
When Euromaidan broke out and the Foundation began to support it, the attacks intensified. “Obituaries were posted with the name of our volunteer who was in Ukraine, Tomek Maciejczuk. In the village where Marcin Rey lives, in turn, flyers were posted saying that he was a paedophile. Olga Solarz, our volunteer from Przemyśl, was accused of fascism. I am not naïve, I know that such actions are inspired by the services,” says Kramek. On internet forums and blogs, they are accused of supporting “Jewish Bandera murderers”.
They are accused of espionage and fascist ideology. Natalia Panchenko, a Ukrainian who cooperates with the foundation, was the victim of exceptional trolling. “Get out of Poland, you Bandera cattle,” was the mildest of thousands of insults she received.
Kramek and his wife were accosted at home by an aggressive man. “My wife told to him that I didn’t know him and I didn’t wish for any contact with him, but that didn’t help. He suggested that we could be beaten or kidnapped,” she says. At the end of October, they filed a report with the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The investigation is ongoing.
Święcicki believes that the matter should be dealt with by the Polish services. “’If there is suspicion of activity by foreign services, ours should investigate it thoroughly,” he says.
The Internal Security Agency only confirms that “the case is known to it”. But it is not revealing what it has done with Kramek’s report. “The Internal Security Agency is not the addressee of such a report; it is a matter for the police,” an officer of the Agency tells us unofficially.