General calls for death penalty to be given to soldier who defected
A Polish soldier who deserted his post to seek asylum in Belarus amid the migrant crisis unraveling on the EU’s borders deserves to pay the price with his life, the former commander of Warsaw’s land forces has claimed.
Speaking to local media outlet wPolityce on Saturday, General Waldemar Skrzypczak remarked that Emil Czeczko, a member of Poland’s 16th Pomeranian Mechanized Division, had “committed the worst thing during the war by defecting to the side of the enemy.”
“If I read in the media today that the prosecutor’s office has opened a case and he faces up to 10 years in prison, I’ll wonder what it’s all about,” he said, referring to Polish law, which stipulates that a soldier who flees abroad while serving in the military could serve up to a decade behind bars.
According to him, the deserter should face “only one sentence: the death penalty. And that’s not even up for discussion," Skrzypczak said. “A bullet in the forehead and that’s it.”
The general’s comments come after the Belarusian Border Committee announced on Friday that Czeczko had crossed over the night before. Officials in the former Soviet republic said he had fled Poland because he disagreed with Warsaw’s “policy regarding the migration crisis and the … inhuman treatment of refugees.”
Czeczko appeared on the Belarusian state TV channel ATN on the same day and claimed that, during his time serving on the demarcation line, he saw two Polish volunteers get shot and killed after coming to the region to help would-be asylum seekers. However, he failed to provide evidence to back up his remarks, and there have been no reports of missing humanitarian workers.
In the wake of his defection, Polish media argued that his story, including the two purported deaths, is part of the narrative that Belarus has been pushing throughout the migrant crisis. Tadeusz Giczan, a journalist from the banned Belarusian news site Nexta and a lobbyist at the NATO-funded Center for European Policy Analysis, also blasted officials for using Czeczko for propaganda purposes.
Minsk has previously pointed the finger at Warsaw for mistreating the tens of thousands of desperate people, mainly from the Middle East, who have gathered at the frontier in recent months. Meanwhile, the Polish authorities have cited reports of violence they allege have been carried out on the Belarusian side, and accused the country’s government of purposefully orchestrating the crisis to wage a “hybrid war” by laying on flights from troubled nations and bringing refugees to the border.
Belarus’ long-term leader, Alexander Lukashenko, has denied the accusations, arguing that his government is no longer able to prevent the surges of people attempting to cross over, due to the effect of sanctions imposed on the country by Brussels. However, in an interview last month, the strongman acknowledged it was possible some of his officials were helping would-be asylum seekers cross over into Poland illegally. He nonetheless insisted this was not worth investigating.