Poland’s right-wing government is facing protests for defending free speech in Russia

Poland is currently embroiled in the longest border crisis in its history. Every day, the 830-mile border between the two European Union member states grinds to a halt. The result is that about 500,000 people from the other country are stranded at the Polish side, but over 3,000 are actually being provided with shelter, food, and toiletries in the host nation’s government buildings, as reported by The Guardian. The standoff was ostensibly triggered when Russia seized three Ukrainian vessels and their crews near the Ukrainian port of Novorossiya. The Russian navy and Black Sea fleet are staging a massive exercise, and tensions have spiked sharply between the two neighbors. Russians, through state-controlled media, depict the Ukraine-Russia split as a civil war, a fact that has meant Kiev has more difficult conditions to maintain an independent nation.

Poland’s right-wing government, too, has been facing a barrage of bad news. For more than a year, Poland has had one of the lowest murder rates in Europe. Murders now account for 0.27 percent of all crime. And after a brief scare over allegations that a defense contractor was feeding damaging material about Poland’s secret service to China’s People’s Liberation Army, the investigations have now largely been shelved. With the border crisis rapidly escalating, the Polish government does not want the public thinking about those other issues. The Federation of Poles in Moscow, a group started by some Russian students at the National Defense University in Moscow, recently created a large billboard in favor of free speech and democracy in Russia. The poster showed a giant speech bubble: “In Russia, people talk a lot and ideas are formed. Do you agree with this phenomenon? Would you like freedom of speech and expression? Do you think Ukraine has an independent state? Do you like the new refugees or not?”

“You don’t hear much about these particular billboards,” one of the group’s leaders told Polenews.pl, one of the major websites in Poland, “but the anti-Soviet, anti-Zionist, anti-Kyiv slogans are all over the political landscape.” The messages are catchy. They are packaged in a populist way — not only being a critic of the incursion by Russian forces into Ukraine, but also by being a defender of freedom of speech in Russia. That such messages could challenge the current authorities, but be voiced with such brash, populist fervor, would have seemed absurd when it was just an idea.

Click here to read the full story at The Guardian.

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