Poland's Jaruzelski rejects claim he called for invasion

 

Poland’s last communist leader dismissed as untrue allegations made by the state archives institute yesterday that he had called for a Soviet invasion of his country in 1981 to help crush striking workers.

In a statement sent to the state news agency PAP, Gen Wojciech Jaruzelski branded the claims “illogical” and said the Soviet general named in the memo had often denied suggestions that the Polish communists had requested a Soviet invasion.

The memo, published yesterday by the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), cites an aide-de-camp to the head of Warsaw Pact forces at the time, Soviet Marshal Viktor Kulikov, suggesting that Gen Jaruzelski had requested Moscow’s help just days before declaring martial law in Poland.

“If, as alleged, I had not believed we were able to impose martial law using our own forces and had thus asked for help, then on getting a negative reply martial law would not have happened or it would have ended in a suicidal bloodbath. Neither of these things happened, as we all know,” said Gen Jaruzelski.

Gen Jaruzelski, now 86, has always insisted he declared martial law in 1981 precisely to avert the kind of Soviet invasion that had crushed pro-democracy protests in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

The general already faces charges of committing other “communist crimes” in a trial often delayed by his poor health.

Under martial law, which lasted until 1983, the Polish communist authorities imposed a curfew, restricted freedom of movement, jailed hundreds and banned the Solidarity trade union.

Former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, who replaced Gen Jaruzelski in 1990 as Poland’s first post-communist head of state, said the general should stand trial for treason if the claims in the IPN document were verified.

As well as supervising Poland’s communist-era files, the IPN can pursue legal action against those it considers to have committed “crimes against the Polish nation”.

Critics accuse the IPN, which has links with the right-wing opposition, of conducting politically motivated “witch hunts”.