Karol Gac is speaking with Zbigniew Ziobro, Polish Minister of Justice
KAROL GAC: The Polish prosecutor’s office initiated an investigation into the war crime against Ukraine. You also announced that a pleading would be sent to the International Criminal Court. Do you think that Vladimir Putin will ever stand trial before the Hague Tribunal?
ZBIGNIEW ZIOBRO: I am counting on it. We are taking action in the belief that they will find the effect of bringing the guilty party to criminal liability. Our neighbors, facing Russian aggression, are now unable to fully document war crimes, which the prosecutor general of Ukraine admitted in an interview with me. That‘s why I offered to help. Almost 2 million refugees have already arrived in Poland. Many of them witnessed Russian crimes. We are collecting their testimony. They will be used as evidence that can also serve us in the process of an international investigation. I just met with the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Karim Khan. We are in the process of establishing close cooperation in this matter.
So what tasks is the Polish prosecutor’s office facing?
Its conduct is part of the great body of actions of the free world states that document Russian crimes. The basic evidence is the testimony of witnesses. However, they must be recorded. They will give an international court a basis for issuing a judgment.
Do you expect a permanent change in the attitude of the West, especially Germany, towards Russia and Vladimir Putin?
Looking at what is happening, we need to make a clear distinction between NATO and the European Union. Putin is afraid of NATO, which is backed by real military obligations. Let us not steer away from the fact that it is mainly the military potential of the US army. Putin is a gangster, and a gangster is always afraid of the stronger. Putin played with the European Union with impunity. It must be said clearly and for all to hear: the EU significantly contributed to building Putin’s power.
It seems that if it were not for the work of Polish diplomacy, the position of the West and the sanctions imposed would not be so hard. There was a lot of fluctuation in some EU countries.
Vladimir Putin is a murderer and power-hungry psychopath. The West was immune to this knowledge, especially Germany, which imposed the pro-Russian direction of EU policy. They ignored Putin’s gangster politics, which was manifested first in the aggression against Chechnya, then Georgia, and the first – ending with the annexation of Crimea – aggression against Ukraine. The Germans were not bothered by Russian war crimes, violations of international law, or the political murders of Putin’s mercenaries on his opponents – independent journalists or leaders of the democratic opposition in Russia.
The cynical and spoiled Western elite gagged about values while filling the Kremlin’s accounts with petrodollars. Putin corrupted them. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has recently made a huge mistake in relations with Russia. He admitted that when Putin committed an act of brutal aggression and took a huge piece of Ukraine, the West let him get away with it. Moreover, Putin began – thanks to the European Union – to sell more Russian gas than ever before, which ultimately made Europe dependent on the Russian dictator.
In addition to financial greed, especially in the case of German politicians, perhaps the incriminating evidence lies with the materials collected by the East German political police of the Stasi. Putin collaborated with it when, as a KGB agent, he spent several years in the GDR under the false name of Platov.
Chancellor Merkel had a personal “contribution” in promoting the monster that is murdering women and children in Ukraine today. When Putin ostentatiously practiced state terrorism, she was building the next lines of the Nord Stream gas pipeline with him. When Ukraine, during the first Russian aggression, asked Germany to lift the blockade on the supply of weapons, it was refused. The training center for Russian armored forces at the Mulino training ground was built with German support. And today the Ukrainian army is discovering German parts in destroyed Russian vehicles.
The position of Chancellor Scholz also leaves much to be desired. Even a few days after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Germany pretended that nothing was happening. They were content with the promise to send helmets to the Ukrainians. They only made a turn when they were at risk of total embarrassment. Contrary to the declarations of Scholz from the Bundestag, they are blocking Russia’s cut-off from the SWIFT banking system, which is still used by Putin’s most important banks, including Gazprom. Germany still does not want to agree to the joint decision of the entire EU to stop buying Russian gas and oil on a large scale. And this provides Putin with streams of money. Thus, Germany takes moral responsibility for Russian crimes in Ukraine. And this state of affairs is fully approved by the EU’s main decision-makers, whose mouths are full of phrases about the values they represent while lecturing Poland.
Since over 2 million refugees have already arrived in Poland, maybe it’s time for Brussels to unblock the National Reconstruction Plan and EU funds?
The absence of such a decision today translates to supporting Putin. He must have burst with laughter when the Union still continued to do business with him despite his crimes, but it was Poland that was accused of breaking the rule of law. Today we are making a giant effort to host Ukrainian refugees. Their number already exceeds half the number of refugees admitted by Turkey after the outbreak of the Russian-backed war in Syria. The EU has allocated EUR 6 billion to help refugees from Syria, and only half a billion for all countries that help refugees from Ukraine today. In this situation, withholding the money owed to Poland from the reconstruction fund, which was a scandal from the beginning, is at this point a shameful matter. Putin triumphs. But today, the EU really wants Poland to take on the main burden of accepting refugees. So, it is now in their own interest to unlock these funds.
Do you think the war will wake up Brussels?
I was counting on it and hoping that the war would also sober up the Polish opposition. But it was vain. There are still billions flowing from the EU for Putin’s war, and the European Parliament is not enforcing sanctions against Russia but wants to impose them on Poland. This is the intention of the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on the 15th day of the war in Ukraine. Its initiators were MEPs of the European People’s Party headed by Donald Tusk. The total opposition in Poland seeks to seize power at all costs, and the EU, and especially Germany, which plays a dominant role in the EU, uses its aggression, cynicism, and stupidity to weaken us. Despite the greatest military conflict since World War II, which is threatening all of Europe, Brussels and Berlin are not giving up on patronizing Poland. That is why I have so much respect for the Ukrainians, who are fighting for their sovereignty with determination. And that can be taken away in different ways – by force or by deception.
Even before the Russian invasion, President Andrzej Duda submitted a draft amendment to the law on the Supreme Court, which provides for the liquidation of the Disciplinary Chamber. Is this a step back in order to communicate with Brussels?
The policy of appeasement leads nowhere and emboldens – on the one hand, the total opposition in Poland, and on the other, the establishment in Brussels and Berlin.
Law and Justice as well as United Poland also submitted their projects. Perhaps, the United Right should first come to an understanding among itself?
I believed that one should approach the Union in a language that they understand, that is, the language of business. We could have successfully undermined the EU’s interests by a veto on matters it deemed important. We could have cornered the EU, forcing it to take into account the Polish point of view as well. It is a mistake to agree on everything and express a subservient position in our body language. The Polish president took his project to Brussels, but the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, did not even bother to refer to it. And the next day, as if in response, in a humiliating way for the President, she sent an invoice to Poland demanding payment of the penalty for not closing the Turów plant. Incidentally, let’s imagine what the current situation would be if we agreed to close the plant in Turów. A few days later, Ursula von der Leyen would have declared her joy at the ruling of the CJEU which sanctioned the economic blackmail against Poland. After the president’s visit, the German press would have triumphed that the policy of economic blackmail towards Poland made sense, because President Duda bowed to their demands.
If the President likes such visits and the policy of submission, it is his business, but he also represents the majesty of the Republic of Poland and is the guardian of our sovereignty. The President was requested to appear in Brussels to show his proposal, and the effect of weakness and concessions in the future will be an escalation of demands towards Poland and its further humiliation. The policy of the white flag only made the Union impetuous. The only thing that changed the situation significantly after the presidential visit was the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. The security interests and the refugee problem will likely prompt the Brussels establishment to change its policy for a while.
This interview was published in March 2022 in “Do Rzeczy” magazine.