Fighting Influence

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A special commission tasked with investigating Russian and Belarusian influence in Poland began its work this week amid growing concerns over attempts to influence elections in the European Union, the Associated Press reported.

Last month, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced the formation of a 12-member commission to probe influence from Moscow and Minsk between 2004 and 2024.

Tusk told reporters Wednesday that the non-partisan body is aimed at protecting national security amid rising concerns across the region of Russian influence campaigns, especially because of Russia’s war with Ukraine, now in its third year.

The prime minister and other officials cited hybrid attacks from Russia and Belarus, including alleged acts of sabotage, cyberattacks and chaos on the Polish-Belarusian border because of migrants from Africa and Asia.

Polish authorities have reported that attempted border crossings from Belarus into Poland have surged to nearly 400 per day, up from just a few earlier this year. Poland’s border guards have also complained about increasingly aggressive behavior from some migrants, including attacks with rocks and other objects.

Last year, Poland’s previous right-wing government passed a bill to set up a committee to probe alleged Russian interference in Poland between 2007 and 2022. The body was to examine politicians or individuals who enabled such influence and bar them from holding public office if found guilty, Euronews noted in 2023.

At the time, the committee came under scrutiny with critics saying that it was being used by the then-ruling Law and Justice party to discredit the opposition, including Tusk, ahead of parliamentary elections later that year.

Meanwhile, the commission’s work begins as voters went to the polls in the European parliamentary elections, amid warnings from EU lawmakers and officials of Moscow’s misinformation and disinformation campaign to influence the vote, Channel News Asia wrote.

The bloc has set up a special task force, in collaboration with academics, journalists, and tech firms, to combat foreign information interference. Their efforts include the use of the EUvsDisinfo platform, which has cataloged over 17,000 cases since 2015.

At the same time, authorities conducted raids on European legislators’ homes and offices in connection with alleged “Russian interference” late last month. The individuals are accused of accepting money from Russia to promote its propaganda via the Voice of Europe website, according to Politico.

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