Warsaw: A former Polish military counterintelligence chief was detained Wednesday for allegedly collaborating with Russia, in a move the country’s opposition denounced as politically motivated.
General Piotr Pytel was accused earlier this year, along with his predecessor Janusz Nosek, of overstepping his duties by signing a cooperation agreement with Russia’s FSB security service during the withdrawal of Polish troops from NATO operations in Afghanistan via Russia in 2010.
“An investigation against General Pytel is ongoing. He is accused of illegally cooperating with the FSB,” Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz was quoted as saying by the Polish news agency PAP.
The opposition quickly condemned the detention as political.
Pytel is a strong critic of Macierewicz and the governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which he accuses of having done damage to the Polish army since coming to power in 2015.
He was military counterintelligence chief from 2013-15, with Nosek holding the job between 2008-13.
Pytel’s detention is “Macierewicz’s private war against those who have the courage to show what kind of man he is,” said lawmaker Marcin Kierwinski, a member of the liberal Civic Platform (PO) opposition party.
“This is a critical juncture when it comes to Antoni Macierewicz, a crossing of all lines. We are resolutely calling for his resignation and that of the whole government,” said fellow PO lawmaker and former defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak.
Local media reports suggest there may be a government reshuffle on Thursday and some commentators have said Macierewicz could lose his job.
Pytel and Nosek have the support of European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister from the PO party and an arch-rival of powerful PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Tusk was himself called as a witness in the military counterintelligence case in April.
“I am proud of having been able to work with Generals Pytel and Nosek while I was prime minister. They were and continue to be a shining example of responsibility, patriotism and honour,” Tusk wrote on his personal Twitter account on Wednesday.