2 top Polish military commanders resign in a spat with the defense minister


WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Two senior Polish military officers resigned over an apparent spat with the defense minister just days before the country holds a general election, with their replacements due to be announced on Tuesday, authorities said.

President Andrzej Duda accepted the resignations of the Chief of General Staff Gen. Rajmund Andrzejczak, and operational commander Gen. Tomasz Piotrowski, and will appoint their successors later in the day, a national security official said.

The resignations have provoked questions about the state of Poland’s military under the current conservative government at a time of war in neighboring Ukraine.

Polish media have long reported on growing tensions between the two commanders and Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak.

The head of the National Security Bureau, Jacek Siewiera, said the resignations were handed in on Monday.

The new appointments will be made Tuesday in order to “maintain continuity of command and of key activities,” Siewiera said following a security meeting that Duda had convened.

Poland will hold an election on Sunday, with voters deciding whether the incumbent conservative and euroskeptic government should stay in office for another four years in an unprecedented third term, or whether the pro-European opposition should take power.

Some political observers suggested that the resignations were timed to coincide with the election.

“It is a symbolic decision. They decided to take this step just before the elections to show that they do not have confidence in this political class,” Jacek Czaputowicz, the former foreign minister in the current government, said on news portal Onet.pl.

There was no immediate comment from the two commanders.

Opposition leader Donald Tusk said that he received information that 10 other top generals were resigning. The military command denied the claim.

Blaszczak has publicly criticised Piotrowski over the army’s reaction to a stray Russian missile that crashed in a Polish forest in December. No one was hurt.

Blaszczak alleged that Piotrowski hadn’t informed him of the incident at the time and that the army failed to find the missile. A civilian later found the missile by chance.

According to media reports, the minister had recently kept Piotrowski out of the loop on operational decisions like stepping up defenses on the border with Belarus or the evacuation of Poles from Israel after the weekend Hamas attack.

Blaszczak turned to one of his trusted commanders in the army, Gen. Wiesław Kukuła, and put him in charge of the evacuations from Israel, which was the last straw triggering the resignations, according to the Gazeta Wyborcza daily. Czaputowicz suggested that Andrzejczak had resigned before that.

Media reports, including the Rzeczpospolita daily, said the two generals objected to the armed forces being used in the government’s election campaign.

Poland is a close NATO ally of the U.S. and has bought billions of dollars worth of military equipment from Washington, South Korea and other countries.

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