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Russian influence commission to work for months, maybe years says official

A commission examining alleged Russian influence on Polish internal security could work for many months or even years, the government’s spokesman has said.

On Wednesday, at the last sitting scheduled for this term, the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, appointed nine members to the commission, which will cover the years 2007-2022.

All the members were proposed by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party; the opposition did not present their candidates and did not take part in the vote.

The idea to establish the commission has met with a backlash both in Poland and abroad owing to fears that it could be used as a political tool to target opposition politicians who were once in office, in particular Donald Tusk, a former prime minister who is now an leader of the main opposition party.

Speaking to state-owned broadcaster Polish Radio, Piotr Mueller, the spokesman, said the commission itself will set its own schedule.

“The expectation is that… the possibilities of Russian influence in Poland in the energy, military and other areas will be analysed,” said Mueller, adding: “I do not expect any decisions or conclusions in the coming weeks, because there is not enough time for this to happen.

“The commission has a non-term character,” he continued. “All this dispels the myth that it is made as a part of the election campaign, because it will not finish its work before the elections.”

Poland goes to the polls on October 15, and opponents of the commission have said that it could have been used to tarnish opposition politicians ahead of the vote.

When asked whether the commission would summon witnesses who are candidates for elections, the government spokesman replied that it depended on the commission.

“I consider it technically difficult due to the limited time until the elections and this is not the intention. The commission will work for the many months, or maybe years, to determine the facts on influences over Poland in recent years,” he said.

The election of the chairman and possible deputies by the committee’s members, as well as the procedures for obtaining access to classified data for individual members are the next steps in forming the committee. 

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