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The statement and correction of Igor T. Miecik’s articles (Gazeta Wyborcza, 7 August 2017)

In connection with numerous mistakes (including factographic) and inaccuracies in the articles, we would like to present our position on them in the statement below. The remarks refer to the printed version of the articles (in the online version of GW, both articles were united into one and slightly changed/edited).

Many of them reiterate false information and insinuations from an anonymous study dated March 2016 The position of the Open Dialog Foundation in connection with an anonymous study entitled ’Eight things you should know about the Open Dialog Foundation’“. Many of them are also in contradiction with previous publications by journalists of Gazeta Wyborcza, the facts cited in them and the evaluations given in the previous articles. 

We believe that these articles have seriously infringed our personal interests. However, given the willingness to arrive at an amicable solution of the situation and the obligation of the editorial staff to conduct interviews with the Foundation’s managing personnel (unfortunately, such conversation hadn’t been carried out previously), we are not taking legal action at the moment. We have always had good relationships with the editorial staff of Gazeta Wyborcza, and thus far, its publisher, the management and journalists have supported many initiatives of ours (such as those regarding politial prisoners in Kazakhstan [1], [2], the assistance rendered to Crimean Tatars, or the support for protesters on Maidan [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]). Appreciating the great role and importance of Gazeta Wyborcza in the development of democracy and the rule of law in Poland, as well as the promotion of human rights and the transformation in the East, we are hoping that the good relationships will be maintained in the future.

An update: an interview of Igor T. Miecik with Lyudmyla Kozlovska and Bartosz Kramek was published on 13 September 2017.

Article #1: There will be no dialog, Igor T. Miecik Page 1, GW, 7 August 2017)

1. The quote:

Professionals in the third sector say: the story of this foundation is full of strange coincidences, or provocations, if you wil,. When they are gone, chaos remains. People are no longer sure who is who.

The comment:

We are not aware as to the number of experts with which the author of the article spoke, their identity also remains unknown. Apart from Krzysztof Stanowski (who appears in the further part of the article, speaking about the grant applications, rejected for formal reasons; he is also famous for his unfavourable attitude towards the Foundation), the article doesn’t mention any other persons, indicated by name, which could be considered as part of this group. We are afraid that it is a relatively narrow circle of friends who know one another and recommend one another.

At the same time, we do not conceal that our activity could have been and still may be controversial, but we associate it with the scale of our activity and some sort of aversion /jealousy of the environment (including some other non-governmental organisations). It seems, however, that fairness would oblige the author to get to sources, such as the serious report, issued by the Institute of Public Affairs, entitled EngagEUkraine. The civic engagement of Ukrainians in Poland and Germany which elaborates on the subject of Ukrainian organisations in Poland in a comprehensive way (ODF was classified as such by the authors of the report), and presents the Foundation and its activity as one of the most active and effective. The report (especially pp. 35-37; The civic engagement of Ukrainians In Poland) outlines the background of the relationship and mutual misunderstandings between some part of the environment (here: organisations and ‘Ukrainian’ institutions). It would be also justified to go through the articles of the portal, so essential for the sector, for example ’Polish-Ukrainian Open Dialog’ or the sector’s New Eastern Europe: ’Sorry, this is our law’ (which also includes critical voices regarding us).

2. The quote:

Both Kramek and Kozłowska, as prominent human rights defenders, were introduced to the Sejm by Małgorzata Gosiewska from Law and Justice. Over the years, she worked closely with the ODF, fulfilled the Foundation’s goals, and willingly took its money.

The comment:

The term ‘introduced to the Sejm (although not quite precise) does not correspond to the truth: Open Dialog Foundation’s first contact with M. Gosiewska was in 2013, and the relationships were intensified only in 2014 in connection with the Maidan events and, – later – actions of assistance for Ukraine (humanitarian aid and missions in defence of Nadia Savchenko).   Previously, the Foundation Board had already maintained contacts and co-operated with other members fo parliament, such as Krzysztof Maciejewski and Tadeusz Woźniak (2011), as well as MEPs (Józef Pinior, Marek Migalski), in whose events in the Sejm it had participated at that time.

The statement ‘willingly took its money’ harms M. Gosiewska’s and the Foundation’s good reputation – it may suggest that the above mentioned person gained financial benefit from collaborating with us. Taking into account the context of our activities and the allegations, brought against us by the propaganda of Russia and Kazakhstan, hostile to the Foundation, it, in fact, duplicates their message that we make politicians corrupt by buying their support for our actions. It’s not true. The Foundation has often borne the costs of travelling of politicians to foreign missions, organised by the Foundation itself, but in the case of M. Gosiewska, it happened in the case of one, perhaps two trips to Russia in defence of Ukrainian political prisoners in 2014. The vast majority of joint actions that the aforementioned person was involved in and which regarded her personally, were financed directly by her, or from the budget of the Chancellery of the Sejm (e.g. in the case of the observation mission to Odessa in 2016). Aleksander Orlow).

Nevertheless, bearing the logistical costs related to participation in foreign missions by the Foundation cannot be perceived as being tantamount to ‘paying money to politicians’. These expenses cover the costs of flights and travelling, accommodation, sometimes telecommunications and daily allowances (daily lump sum calculated in accordance with applicable national regulations). All of them are booked in the form of settlements of the delegation, it is also necessary to document the expenditure incurred. The parliamentarians participating in the missions receive no financial profit.

Article #2: Dialog open to everything 

1. The quote:

And the family made a fortune in Crimea. They still have their business there.

The comment:

It’s not true. Lyudmyla Kozlovska’s family members do not run business in Crimea anymore. It is connected with the Russian occupation of the peninsula. The Foundation has issued this information many times, but the author has ignored numerous statements made by its representatives in this regard, as well as official statements, including those issued in recent days, e.g. ’The statement of the Open Dialog Foundation of 31 July 2017 (financing and donors, or a few words about the soroses)’. The family matters were also referred to in Lyudmyla Kozlovska’s statement of 17 August 2017.

2. The quote:

The primary objective of the organisation was the defence of the post-Soviet oligarch. He fled from the Kazakhstani dictator, but previously, he had been his favourite and the country’s biggest banker.

The comment:

It’s not true. It was only in March 2013, following the direct contact and the request on his part as well as his request for our involvement in the defence of his immediate family (his wife and daugther), illegally deported from Italy, that the Foundation began to deal with the issue of the oligarch, i.e. Mukhtar Ablyazov. Over that period, the Foundation blocked the extradition of one of the leaders of the Kazakhstani opposition party ‘Alga!’ (actually supported by Ablyazov) and Ablyazov’s former co-worker – Muratbek Ketebayev, for the first time. In fact, Gazeta Wyborcza announced this information in the articles ‘An oppositionist from Asia in detention. Will he be rendered to the dictatorship?’ and ‘If Poles extradite him, he’ll end up in prison. Or he will disappear’. It was also then that the Foundation became interested in the practice of politically motivated extradition and the misuse of INTERPOL’s mechanisms by authoritarian countries. The Foundation’s previous projects and activities concerning Kazakhstan had had no direct connection with Mukhtar Ablyazov and we had had no contact with him.

Also, the statement about the long-term primacy of the aforementioned purpose is unjustified. Ablyazov’s defence was part of the broader context of defence of independent environments in Kazakhstan and Kazakhstani political refugees in the EU. This has been a significant part of the Foundation’s activity since mid-2013, but the support of Maidan and Ukraine has become the main priority and the greatest organisational endeavour since late 2013. In turn, before 2013, the Foundation’s main campaign on Kazakhstan was the defence of the rights of striking oil workers from the city of Zhanaozen and those who openly supported them.

The story of Ablyazov’s relationships with the president of Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev is also different from that presented in the article. Ablyazov was one of the founders of the opposition movement ‘Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan’ as early as in 2001 and, as a result of the conflict with Nazarbayev, he was imprisoned for the first time, subsequently becoming a prisoner of conscience. In prison, he was subjected to torture and other forms of inhumane treatment. After his release, he still tacitly financed the democratic opposition, independent media and non-governmental organisations. Hence, it is unjustified to label him ‘Nazarbayev’s long-term favourite’.

The story of the conflict between Ablyazov and Nazarbayev as well as our involvement in defending the first, were widely reported by us and described in the media, including by the Gazeta Wyborcza itself in articles, such as:

and, at our request, even Adam Michnik stood in defence of activists associated with Ablyazov.

Ludwika Włodek writes broadly about Kazkhstan, Nazarbayev and Ablyazov

Tomasz Bielecki about Ablyazov’s detention in 2013:

Tomasz Bielecki about the deportation of Ablyazov’s family members:

Tomasz Bielecki about the action of pursuing dissidents from Kazakhstan, Ablyazov, and his associates:

At the same time, Adam Michnik writes to Nazarbayev and urges him to cease the oppression; he demands the release of people and indicates them by name: Kozlov (associated with Ablyazov), Kuramshyn, Tuletayeva:

Adam Michnik meets with Kozlov’s wife and speaks in his defence:

Gazeta Wyborcza about the case of Muratbek Ketebayev, the then Kozlov’s deputy and Ablyazov’s associate, detained in Poland:

3. The quote:

Krzysztof Stanowski, former President of the International Solidarity Foundation: – In 2014, the Open Dialog Foundation filed several applications for co-funding under the Polish-Canadian Democracy Support Programme. All applications were rejected, as they did not meet the formal criteria. The foundation did not have the required experience in managing public funds.

The comment:

It’s true, but some information must be added to it. In 2015, surprisingly, FSM changed the rules of grant competitions and, as a result, the money collected by us (and other organisations) from public collections were no longer classified as public funds, and so we did not meet the formal requirements again, although we had been counting on it based on the previously available information and the rules from previous years.

4. The quote:

This is not for the first time the ODF has caused confusion and chaos. In 2014, the Foundation held open meetings with representatives of Ukrainian presidential candidates in Warsaw. The most important ones spoke in an online conference from Kiev, while those more exotic came to Warsaw, and Dmytro Yarosh, the head of the right-wing rhetoric of The Right Sector, grew to be the main star.   The Ukrainians labelled him ‘the Kremlin’s provocateur’, and he got lost in the election with one percent support, but on the Warsaw street, passions have come to a boil.

The comment:

First, it’s not true. Dmytro Yarosh did not appear at the meeting. He was represented by another representative of the Right Sector. Second, it is not true that only exotic speakers arrived: at the meeting, next to him was the representative of the future Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the current member of the Ukrainian parliament Oksana Yurynets.

It is also unreasonable to attribute to the Foundation, the actions aimed at causing deliberate provocation. This event was organised (for voters – Ukrainian citizens) on the initiative and at the request of the District Electoral Commission at the Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of Poland and was a continuation of previous information meetings on electoral procedures, conducted with the head of the consular department of the embassy. The Foundation only played the role of the host as the entity, authorised to manage the premises of the “Ukrainian World” Centre.

Moreover, as recounted by GW itself (“The Right Sector in Warsaw: “The Borders after the Second World War are inviolable”. And nationalists are protesting“), at the meeting, a representative of the Right Sector officially confirmed the inviolability of the borders and strong willingness to establish good neighbourly cooperation with Poland, thus overthrowing the allegations regarding the anti-Polish nature of Ukrainian nationalism. The meeting evoked great interest of the citizens of Ukraine living in Warsaw; also, activists of Polish NGOs dealing with Ukraine, and members of the Polish Sejm participated in it.

5. The quote:

An attempt to deliver military helmets and bulletproof vests to Ukraine had similar effect. Even the smallest organisation knew that it could have been done calmly and legally, one by one, as shuttle traders would take them through the border. But the ODF sent a van filled with helmets and vests to the most guarded border crossing.

The comment:

It’s not true. The foundation itself – before and after – passed the vests through the border with the help of shuttle traders, in the same way as others did. Still, our activity in this area was carried out on the largest scale. The transport was one of many, while it was also the first one, which, to our surprise and dismay, was stopped at the border (March 2014). The decision to go through the Hrebenne border was made by the volunteers who were in charge of the transport. We do not know (and we didn’t know at the time) that this border crossing is – as the author states – “the most guarded one”. It does not follow from any laws. The opinions are expressed today by those who have not had much in common with these actions and they seem to be ill-willed (seeking our faults everywhere); however, the opinions are not based on facts; they cannot be confirmed by the circumstances at that time).

As a result of the actions initiated by the Foundation, the proceedings carried out by the prosecutor’s office were discontinued due to minor social danger of the actions; the Foundation was granted a specialist concession from the Ministry of the Interior, and the regulations of the Minister of Economy regarding the list of arms which require the permission of the Ministry of Economy of 8 May 2014 (JD.2014.627) were also liberalised. The amendment of 12 August 2014 (DZ.U.2014 item 1113) referred to the number of bulletproof vests and helmets which can be owned and transported across the border for the so-called ‘personal use’ without any permit. Helmets and vests were returned and were finally taken to those in need of Ukraine. The Foundation and its counsels also became engaged in assistance for other activists who were facing similar problems as a result of stopping their supplies at the border with Ukraine, and so, our case wasn’t isolated. We assess these actions as necessary and effective. 

Previously, it was broadly covered in the media. It is also comprehensively presented in the Foundation’s statement of 2016, including sources and links to media publications: “The statement of the Open Dialog Foundation in connection with an anonymous study entitled ’Eight things you should know about the Open Dialog Foundation’“.

6. The quote:

When the vests finally crossed the border, Tomasz Maciejczuk, a young activist of the Polish extreme right wing, would take them to the frontline. Today, he works in Moscow.

The comment:

Tomasz Maciejczuk was in charge of only one of the transports with humanitarian aid. It was the period between Christmas and New Year of 2014/2015. He volunteered to be in charge of the transport; it was carried out on his own initiative and he covered the costs of his trip from his pocket (excluding insurance). The Foundation quickly (at the end of January, 2015) terminated the cooperation with him due to the problems with the settlement of part of the humanitarian aid which he was to deliver, and due to some problems with communication. It is mentioned, for example, on the online portal: Two cents about the ‘journalist’- the chameleon Maciejczuk.

The case also ended with the Foundation’s taking legal steps against him (in criminal and civilian proceedings) [1], [2], [3]). As far as we know, in the autumn of 2014, Maciejczuk also cooperated in a similar manner with other organisations, which, in fact, helped him gain our trust. 

7. The quote:

The largest confusion was caused by the case of Nadia Savchenko. When Putin pardoned the pilot and allowed her to return to Ukraine in May 2016, she quickly lost her social support by making foolish and provocative statements.

The comment:

Obviously, the Foundation had no influence on the words, the political career and the fate of Nadia Savchenko following her release. The aim of our campaign was to bring about her release and, in this endeavour, we were supported by numerous public opinion groups, the Ukrainian diaspora, non-governmental organisations, politicians from democratic countries and representatives of international institutions from all over the world. A significant part of our actions was carried out within the framework of the international campaign #LetMyPeopleGo, initiated by the Ukrainian organisation ‘Centre for Civil Liberties’. The actions transpired to be effective.

Savchenko’s attorneys were paid by us for first three months of their work in 2014. Subsequently, these expenses were borne by the Ukrainian party Batkivschina which placed Savchenko on its election lists. It is worth pointing out that gaining a commitment of power-independent and pressure-resistant counsels is not a simple task in Russia. Even today, we are grateful for their courage and persistent attitude. 

Along with Savchenko, we have also defended many other Ukrainian prisoners of the Kremlin, including Oleg Sentsov and Crimean Tatars. The views and subsequent behaviour of those released have a secondary meaning for us.  

8. The quote:

The Foundation [Dialog for Development], however, never took on student affairs. In 2008, it became a hero of an international scandal. During the presidential elections in Georgia, Sherstyuk, presenting himself as a sociologist, organised an exit poll, which was the only one to point to the great advantage of Levan Gachechiladze, a candidate of the united opposition.

The comment:

President of the ODF’s Management Board, Lyudmyla Kozlovska hasn’t been connected in any way with the ‘Dialog for Development’ Foundation since 2009. Similarly, Bartosz Kramek has never been connected with it in any way. Lyudmyla Kozlovska was not the organiser of the aforementioned observation mission to Georgia, and in 2008, she was focusing on the organisation of humanitarian aid from Poland and Ukraine to victims of the Russian aggression in Georgia. In that year, within the framework of the aforementioned activities, carried out by the Foundation, Lyudmyla Kozlovska organised the International Human Rights Forum in Central Asia (Warsaw, December 2008). Today, we are not responsible for the actions of I. Sherstyuk, carried out at that time, and we are unable to assess the credibility of the quoted information about the ‘international scandal’ or the actual course of the mission. This issue has already been explained in the Foundation’s statement of 2016: “The statement of the Open Dialog Foundation in connection with an anonymous study entitled ’Eight things you should know about the Open Dialog Foundation’“.

9. The quote:

Frequently, Ukrainians themselves were not unanimous when asked about the role of the ODF.

The comment:

That is true, but to a similar extent, it regards other Ukrainian institutions, organisations and initiatives, beginning from the turn of 2013/2014, when their activity was significantly intensified. This environment has always been divided with regard to many issues, which is discussed broadly, based on the research, in the report by the Institute of Public Affairs.

It must be added that, from the very beginning, the Foundation has been cooperating intensively with one of the major organisations and movements, i.e. with EuroMaidan Warsaw and has carried out joint activities with numerous other organisations and institutions (this is part of our presentation from 2014), such as the Crimean Foundation, the Society of Friends of Ukraine, the Embassy of Ukraine, local circles of the Union of Ukrainians in Poland, and others. 

10. The quote:

An anonymous but well-documented article entitled “Eight Facts You Should Know About the Open Dialog Foundation” began to be posted across the Internet. The issues concerned, among others, unclear funding for the organisation and poorly organised public collections.

The comment:

The anonymity of the author of the study and his intentions make us wonder. The article of I. Miecik seems to be largely based on the same allegations which were presented back in 2016 in the aforementioned text. The assertion that it is well-documented, is not justified, as can be judged by the issue of ‘poor organisation of public collections’. The public collections were carried out in a very transparent manner, their course was intensively communicated, and the reports were approved by the competent ministry. More information about the public collections and humanitarian aid can be found in the following summaries: “Summary of the activity of the Open Dialog Foundation andEuroMaidan Warsaw for Ukraine“, “Summary of humanitarian aid rendered by the Open Dialog Foundation in 2015“.

Also, the author of the article completely ignored the fact that back in March 2016, the Foundation issued an exhaustive comment on this study; at the same time, the comment was based on sources: “The statement of the Open Dialog Foundation in connection with an anonymous study entitled ’Eight things you should know about the Open Dialog Foundation’“. This information is easily available, but it seems to be omitted on purpose by the author.

11. The quote:

What does ‘material and financial support’ mean? Material support may be a pack of office paper clips or a free-of-charge rental of a conference room. Financial support, e.g. from members of the European Parliament, could be a ticket for the subway during the trip paid by the ODF and carried out within the framework of its statutory tasks. What would be this kind of support from “Wyborcza”? For example, printing of the Foundation’s account under an article about persecuted Crimean Tatars.

Kramek does not lie, but what he says, means something different than he thinks. Lublin, listed at the top of the list of donors, donated 15,000 to ODF. i.e. less than one percent of contributions made by Kramek and Kozlovska.

The comment:

Lublin is listed as a leading donor because it was one of the first significant institutional donors at the time.

The text is probably taken from one of the sections on the Foundation’s website, but it has to be taken into account that it was written several years ago. The situation has changed significantly, and the updated information about donors is available in the section Annual reports.

It must be pointed out that material support from MEPs was very significant as it had measurable financial value. This was, for example, a free-of-charge rental of rooms for the organisation of large events in the European Parliament. This can also serve as an explanation of differences (pointed out by editor Miecik in another part of the article) between the scale of activity and its costs in the initial period. It was possible, among others, due to significant barter support. We use it even now, and, in the case of the largest benefits, its value is estimated according to the market standards, as was in the case of the Municipal Office of the capital city of Warsaw (the premises at 63 Nowy Świat Street), or the Google company (the Ad Grants program to promote the Foundation’s reports on the Internet).

12. The quote:

As it appears from the estate record which Kozlovski submitted in court in his divorce case, he is fabulously wealthy. He is still running business in Crimea with the same verve. The newspaper ‘Informer’ in Sevastopol noted that, following the annexation of the peninsula by Russia, Kozlovski “dashed between Kherson and Poland, but he soon found out that he was in no danger”. He returned to the city and today, as a citizen of Ukraine, resides in Sevastopol under the protection of certain Russian power structures”.

It’s not true. How trustworthy is the Russian newspaper ‘Informer’? Why does the author accept its words with unconditional trust and quote them?

The startup and the technological park ‘Technopark Mayak, where Petro Kozłowski was a shareholder, was, according to the new occupation authorities’ announcement, to become the flagship of the ‘Russian’ Crimea. Apart from him, the owners and shareholders of the companies that make up Mayak, are ODF’s other donors and acquaintances of the Kozlovsky family, namely: the wife of Miroshnikov, Olena, Dmitriy Kalinovski, and the mother of Lyudmyla and Petro – Sidonia Kozlovska. Although the Technopark project was frozen due to a lack of funds, a new company was recently registered under the name of Sidonia. One of the industries in which it operates is the trade in visas.

The comment:

It’s not true. Petro Kozlovsky and his family members do not run business in Crimea. Lyudmyla’s mother is a pensioner, an elderly person at the age of 74. She has nothing to do with the visa company and it would not be possible under the circumstances of the current occupation of Crimea. One of the donors of the Foundation was Viktor Miroshnikov, but Olena was his mother, not his wife. On what sources does the author base his information about this family?

(…) Andriy Brovchenko also moved there from Crimea and now he is the head of the Petersburg branch of Mayak; he is the son of its former president Volodymyr. He deals with the same matters as Kozlovsky’s company in Sevastopol, i.e. he supplies the Russian fleet.

To our best knowledge, it’s not true. The safety of A. Brovchenko (as the one, allegedly, still supporting the Foundation) in Crimea has been threatened after the recent media uproar, covered by in the articles: Oppression of Open Dialog’s donors. One of them was transferred from Crimea at night.

13. The quote:

It sounds consistent and reliable. But Lyudmyla and Bartosz’s explanations are harmed by frequent silence, playing games or simply departing from the truth.

The comment:

It is an insinuation, and, what’s worse, it seems to be based on the example below, which, in turn, is based on false information.

14. The quote:

When asked by Sekielski as to what the links were between her and Sherstyuk, Lyudmyla replied: – I asked him as my colleague to set up a foundation, which was my dream, because I myself would not be able to handle it, as I did not know Polish at all. In December 2009? Being fluent in Ukrainian and Russian, two Slavic languages, from your childhood? After five years spent in Poland? Residing in Lublin for the last semesters of university studies? Strange, she seemed so smart!

The comment:

Lyudmyla is right. It is not true that in December 2009, Lyudmyla Kozlovska had been residing in Poland for five years. She arrived in Poland a year earlier, i.e. in 2008. Initially, her language of instruction at the university was English. It was her postgraduate studies; it was only on 30 June 2008 that Lyudmyla gained her Master’s Degree in Sewastopol. Her native language is Russian; she began to learn Ukrainian periodically at school and individually in high school.

We are also bemused by the final sentence which looks like an open mockery; this copies the style of the tabloid press, which, in our opinion, is not appropriate for Gazeta Wyborcza. What is worse, as indicated above, it is based on inaccurate information.

See also:

Read also:

  1. Open Dialog Foundation’s statement of 21 July 2017 on the dismantling of the rule of law in Poland
  2. Open Dialog Foundation’s statement of 23 July 2017
  3. The statement of the decision of the President of the Republic of Poland of 24 July 2017 regarding the judiciary reform
  4. The Open Dialog Foundation’s statement of 31 July 2017 (funding and donors, or a few words about ‘soroses’)