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Lithuania jails army paramedic for spying for Belarus
by Staff Writers
Vilnius (AFP) March 4, 2016


Polish govt rocked by resignations of several generals
Warsaw (AFP) March 4, 2016 - The surprise resignations of several key Polish generals have rocked the new conservative government, which is facing a barrage of criticism at home and abroad over a host of controversial reforms.

"Five generals have submitted their resignations over the last few days," Szczepan Gluszczak, spokesman for the general command of the Polish armed forces, told commercial television channel Polsat on Friday.

The generals quit just as tensions run high with Poland's Soviet-era master Russia.

The resignations came months ahead of a large NATO exercise in Poland, as well as the western defence alliance's next summit, set for July in Warsaw.

It is the latest hurdle to trip up the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party that came to power in October after eight years in opposition.

The PiS has introduced controversial reforms giving the government more control over the constitutional court, state media and other institutions in a move that has alarmed the European Union and inspired street demonstrations.

Critics also say the new government has weakened the economy and two global ratings agencies have responded with warnings.

Gluszczak did not specify who had resigned, but local media reported that the generals in question included joint staff chief Ireneusz Bartniak and the commanders of land forces, the navy and the armoured and airborne forces.

"We have (the) Anaconda (exercise) coming up and the NATO summit in Warsaw, and here we have commanders, the captains of the ships, fleeing," deputy defence minister Bartosz Kownacki said Friday, according to Polish news agency PAP.

He did not say why the generals had quit, but former defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak said "it's just the beginning of the end. The atmosphere is very bad" in the army.

Local media are speculating that the resignations could be in response to recent announcements by new Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, who is on a crusade to stamp out all traces of the communist era.

Macierewicz wants to block promotions of servicemen who joined the army before the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, especially those who attended military schools in the Soviet Union.

Lithuania on Friday sentenced a former military paramedic to three years in jail for spying for neighbouring Belarus, the second such case in just four months amid tension between the West and Russia.

The court in the NATO and EU Baltic state said Lithuanian citizen Andrej Osurkov had provided Minsk with classified information about military objects and troops after he joined the Lithuanian military in 2007.

The Vilnius regional court said the man had confessed. He was detained in January 2014.

In November, a Lithuanian court handed down a three-year prison term to a civil aviation official found guilty of providing Belarus with photocopies of Vilnius airport documents.

Despite being one of Russia's closest allies, Belarus has recently warmed up to the West.

Last month, the EU agreed to lift nearly all sanctions on Belarus, including those against strongman President Alexander Lukashenko.

Russia's relations with the West have hit their lowest point since the Cold War over the conflict in Ukraine, leading to a spike in spying claims.

Last month, fellow Baltic EU and NATO member Estonia jailed ethnic Russian cigarette smugglers who were convicted of spying for the Russian special services.

That incident followed a Cold War-style spy swap between Russia and Estonia in September on a bridge spanning their shared border.

Russia's role in the Ukraine crisis has prompted eastern European NATO members once ruled from Moscow to demand that the transatlantic alliance permanently station troops on its eastern flank.

NATO leaders are expected to formally endorse the deployment of significant troop rotations to the area at a July summit in Poland, a move that has angered Moscow.

Polish govt rocked by resignations of several generals
Warsaw (AFP) March 4, 2016 - The surprise resignations of several key Polish generals have rocked the new conservative government, which is facing a barrage of criticism at home and abroad over a host of controversial reforms.

"Five generals have submitted their resignations over the last few days," Szczepan Gluszczak, spokesman for the general command of the Polish armed forces, told commercial television channel Polsat on Friday.

The generals quit just as tensions run high with Poland's Soviet-era master Russia.

The resignations came months ahead of a large NATO exercise in Poland, as well as the western defence alliance's next summit, set for July in Warsaw.

It is the latest hurdle to trip up the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party that came to power in October after eight years in opposition.

The PiS has introduced controversial reforms giving the government more control over the constitutional court, state media and other institutions in a move that has alarmed the European Union and inspired street demonstrations.

Critics also say the new government has weakened the economy and two global ratings agencies have responded with warnings.

Gluszczak did not specify who had resigned, but local media reported that the generals in question included joint staff chief Ireneusz Bartniak and the commanders of land forces, the navy and the armoured and airborne forces.

"We have (the) Anaconda (exercise) coming up and the NATO summit in Warsaw, and here we have commanders, the captains of the ships, fleeing," deputy defence minister Bartosz Kownacki said Friday, according to Polish news agency PAP.

He did not say why the generals had quit, but former defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak said "it's just the beginning of the end. The atmosphere is very bad" in the army.

Local media are speculating that the resignations could be in response to recent announcements by new Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, who is on a crusade to stamp out all traces of the communist era.

Macierewicz wants to block promotions of servicemen who joined the army before the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, especially those who attended military schools in the Soviet Union.

.


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