WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s president appointed two senior officers Tuesday to top military positions after two other generals resigned over an apparent spat with the defense minister just days before the country holds a general election.
President Andrzej Duda named Gen. Wieslaw Kukula as chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces and Gen. Maciej Klisz as the armed forces operational commander. Earlier in the day, Duda accepted the resignations of Gen. Rajmund Andrzejczak and Gen. Tomasz Piotrowski from the respective jobs.
The resignations have provoked questions about the state of Poland’s military under the current conservative government at a time of war in neighboring Ukraine.
Duda noted during the appointment ceremony that it was taking place in an “exceptional situation” due to the war across the border. He said it was essential to minimize any disruptions to the command of the armed forces.
The head of the National Security Bureau, Jacek Siewiera, said Andrzejczak and Piotrowski submitted their resignations on Monday.
Polish media had reported on growing tensions between the pair and Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak.
Blaszczak had publicly criticized Piotrowski over the army’s reaction to a stray Russian missile that crashed in a Polish forest in December. No one was hurt, but the defense minister alleged that Piotrowski hadn’t informed him of the incident at the time and that the army had failed to discover the missile. A civilian later found it by chance.
Media reports, including daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita daily, said the two generals objected to the armed forces being used in the government’s election campaign events.
In Sunday’s election, voters are deciding whether the conservative and euroskeptic Law and Justice party should get an unprecedented third term leading Poland’s government or whether the pro-European opposition should take power.
Some political observers suggested the commanders who quit timed the resignations to coincide with the election.
“It is a symbolic decision. They decided to take this step just before the elections to show that they do not have confidence in this political class,” Jacek Czaputowicz, the former foreign minister in the current government, said on news portal Onet.pl.
There was no immediate comment from the two commanders.
According to media reports in Poland, the defense minister had recently kept Piotrowski out of the loop on operational decisions like stepping up defenses on the border with Belarus or the evacuation of Poles from Israel after the weekend Hamas attack.
The final straw that triggered the resignations was Blaszczak putting Kukula, the general who is now the new chief of the General Staff, in charge of the evacuations from Israel, according to the Gazeta Wyborcza daily newspaper.
Opposition leader Donald Tusk said he had information indicating that 10 other generals planned to resign. The military command denied the claim.
Poland is a close NATO ally of the U.S. and has bought billions of dollars worth of military equipment from Washington, South Korea and other countries.