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Inside: leads from a German organization traveling to Africa in Africa lead to a Polish politician suspected of espionage

As I mentioned earlier this year Discover hvg360, Balázs Szabó, a Jobbik representative from Újpest, and former Member of Parliament, Gergő Samu Samu, who recently left the party, also traveled to Central Africa at Christmas last year on a private jet from Paris. The elections they observed were of particular interest to Russia: the Kremlin has deployed almost its entire intelligence arsenal in recent years to gain serious influence in the Central African Republic, which is rich in gold, diamonds and uranium. The costs of the trip were paid for by the Berlin organization of Russia belonging to Mateusz Pesikorsky in the Polish branch. He is the Polish politician accused of spying on the Russians and the Chinese.

Posted on the Visegrád regional fact-finding portal called Vsquare longest writing, which followed the broader context of the “African Mission”. The paper states that Mateusz Pesikorski was one of the first to organize Kremlin-friendly election observation missions in the early 2000s and, as Vsquare pointed out, is linked to the organization through the organization’s Polish branch, which was originally established in 2007. With Europäisches Zentrum für Geopolitische Analyze . It was the organization that organized and financed the expedition to Africa, in which Samo and Szabo also participated.

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Balázs Szabó

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According to the portal, to understand why Russia needs friendly European observers, we need to go back to the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, when the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) participated in its General Assembly and the European Union in observing elections in the former Soviet Union. . (The European Union no longer monitors elections in Eastern Europe.)

When it became clear that independent institutions were reluctant to recognize mock elections in the former post-Soviet states, the Kremlin realized that it had the opportunity to develop an alternative mechanism to legitimize elections and referendums tailored to its interests in order to maintain its support and influence. . Moscow has established election monitoring organizations, the best known and oldest of which are the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) observation missions. Commonwealth of Independent States – Election Monitoring Organization (CIS-EMO) has been operating since 2003. Its founding fathers were various Russian “politicians”, including Alexei Kozhitkov, who began his career as an activist in the fascist movement.

The tasks organized by Kocsetkov appear almost exclusively in places where there are interests of Moscow, as well as in various unrecognized separatist areas occupied by the Russian army. Monitoring reports provided by CIS-EMO always correspond to the Kremlin’s political goals. If the elections are won by political forces that have accepted the influence of the Kremlin, they are considered fair, and if any surprises occur, the CIS-EMO calls for a re-election.

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The sources of funding for CIS-EMO activities are not public and the organization itself does not publish information on this subject. At the same time, according to Vsquare, there is a widespread assumption that he will receive money from the Kremlin, and politicians from many countries from right to left have participated in his missions for years. Many Polish participants in CIS-EMO observation missions hide their participation in these missions and are reluctant to share their comments. However, in fact, the Poles have been very actively involved in these works for years, since Alexei Kocsetkov and Mateusz Piskorski work closely together.

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The portal says that Peskorsky’s organization, the European Center for Geopolitical Analysis (ECAG), has been a de facto subcontractor of CIS-EMO in recruiting monitors in recent years. Although he has spent the past three years in custody thanks to an ongoing espionage lawsuit, Piskorski is now at large, but at the same time he has lost influence over the Polish ECAG. ECAG is actually operated by other people, and Piskorski is monitored by Polish intelligence and the Public Prosecution Service.

According to Vsquare, the fact that Piskorski reacted almost immediately to the publication of the HVG article and commented on the most important pro-government Hungarian newspaper, Magyar Nemzet, within a few hours, suggests that the Polish politician may have had something to do with it. African mission. According to Vsquare, his quick reaction could prove two things: either Jobbik’s representatives are under KGB surveillance and/or Piskorski has a “strangely close relationship” with the liberators of the Hungarian nation. Either way, according to the portal, the case proves that the Kremlin has relinquished its influence in marginal or small parties like Jobbik, and instead focuses its efforts and operations on recruiting certain politicians for their foreign missions.

In addition to the Hungarians, there were two Poles on the 2020 mission: Grzegorz Waliński and Piotr Jastrzębski, who spent three weeks in the Central African Republic, more than the other observers.

The portal depicts Grzegorz Waliński as a “colored individual”. A journalist and former diplomat, he served between 2002 and 2008 as Poland’s ambassador to Nigeria. For years, he was a reporter for the left-wing daily Dziennik Trybuna and a board member of the Polish Communist Party. Piotr Jastrzębski was also a journalist who wrote about his struggle with alcoholism in his book “Powrót z dna” (“Collected Works. Back from the Bottom Line”).

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When asked by Vsquare journalists about Jastrzębski’s work for Germany’s ECAG, he admitted that “someone recommended” him to monitor the Nagorno-Karabakh elections. (In December 2020, he posted several photos on his Facebook page that appeared to document his visit to the disputed area.) Since then, he has traveled several times on behalf of the German ECAG. According to Jastrzębski, Europäisches Zentrum für Geopolitische Analyze recently established an unofficial news agency, Press Tourt. On his behalf, Jastrzębski visited Greece and Ukraine. “I will write them a note for each flight and send it to them,” the reporter said. But Vsquare discovered that the press tour media agency does not exist in an official form, and it is not clear what the exact purpose of Jastrzębski’s trips is.

According to Jastrzębski, it was Pesikorsky who offered him a trip to Africa on an observation mission in the fall of 2020. Pesikorsky confirmed this to the newspaper.

Matthew Peskorsky

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Pesikorsky told Vsquare that his former association, ECAG, was part of a larger network in which the Europäisches Zentrum für Geopolitische Analyze (Centre for European Geopolitical Analysis) played a major role. According to him, sister organizations of this network operate in France, Austria and Belgium, all under a similar name but without an official relationship.

When asked about the sources of funding for the Europäisches Zentrum für Geopolitische Analyze, Piskorski gave an evasive answer, arguing that associations around the world usually support themselves from three sources: contributions, donations and grants. However, the German ECAG did not publish the list of donors and rejected emailed questions.

When asked about the Press Tour media agency and Jastrzębski’s travels, Pesikorski said that he sometimes uses photos provided by the press tour in his work, such as in reports related to the 2020 US presidential election. According to him, the agency does not produce journalistic content, only photos.

Vsquare was unable to determine who funds the agency, how it operates, and how to contact it. The portal notes that these “intermediary” organizations often act as a general cover for Russian intelligence or other agencies using similar methods. Thus, photos, notes, or other materials captured by press tour observers can be used very well for Russian intelligence or disinformation activities in the Central African Republic or the broader region, even if the PressTour Agency is an intellectual organization that does not. Understand or its true function in public.

Piskorski’s relationship with the Central African Mission may seem surprising: although the Polish ECAG was created specifically to organize election observation missions, Africa is not his field of activity. The shift is likely in response to the fact that the Kremlin’s favorite African election monitoring organization, the Consortium for Free Research and International Cooperation (AFRIC), has received much publicity in recent years.

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Africa, in cooperation with the rest of the Kremlin-backed organs, relied on a large number of European member organizations and representatives for their tasks. The Central African Republic was not the first time that Polish left-wing journalists and activists had taken part in such a mission. In November 2018, several Polish activists and journalists from the left-wing portal Strajk.eu joined a Russian delegation from CIS-EMO that traveled to Madagascar to observe the country’s presidential elections. The portal wrote that the travel and accommodation expenses for Maciej Wiśniowski, Małgorzata Kulbaczewska-Figat and Bojan Stanisławski were paid by CIS-EMO.

When they were interviewed in 2018, Wiśniowski and Kulbaczewska-Figat said they had nothing to do with Russian propaganda. “It is not surprising that a country with great power ambitions, such as Russia, sends an observation mission. Several other countries, including France, the European Union and China, have expressed interest in the Malagasy elections. The arrival of the observation mission is a sign of interference?” Kulbaczewska- responded Fig. “We were invited, and we thought it was a great opportunity for us journalists to go to a country we wouldn’t go to alone,” he added.

What is the cost of organizing a monitoring mission? the Newsweek Poland According to the commission, weekly missions by recognized international actors, such as OSCE/ODIHR, cost about 1,500-3000 euros per person, as these observers spend about a week observing the elections. However, CIS-EMO assignments in Africa can be more expensive (including airline tickets, meals, hotels, interpreters, and drivers), not counting management costs. Vsquare estimates that at the height of its activities (2005 and 2009-2011), CIS-EMO sent about 100 observers simultaneously (official data not available), which means that its budget will be €12 million over several years (between €160,000 and €250,000). for each mission). CIS-EMO spending is also likely to be higher as much larger delegations have been sent to some missions, with the 2010 presidential election in Ukraine being monitored by 566 observers. Some participants recall that the working conditions (hotels and meals) were very good.

These missions are expensive, so it is hard to believe that a small German organization would have invested resources to send a monitoring team to the Central African Republic without a larger supportive initiative. According to Vsquare, the extensive coverage of AFRIC activities “led to unwillingness” by the Russians, so AFRIC has largely disappeared from the public eye. According to the portal, this is why they were finally able to quickly mobilize a network of Kremlin-friendly election observers within the German ECAG.