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Top Polish generals quit ahead of NATO military drill

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz

Several top generals in Poland have resigned months ahead of a NATO military drill in a surprise move that rattled the new government, already under fire for its controversial reforms.

“Five generals have submitted their resignations over the last few days,” said the spokesman for the general command of the Polish armed forces, Szczepan Gluszczak, in a televised interview on Friday.

Gluszczak, however, did not reveal the identity of the generals but local media say the Polish military’s Joint Chief of Staff Ireneusz Bartniak and senior commanders of armed forces are among those who have resigned.

Poland’s Deputy Defense Minister Bartosz Kownacki slammed the resignations ahead of the NATO war games, dubbed Anaconda, slated for July. The Western military alliance will also hold a summit in the capital Warsaw at the same time.

NATO has increased its troops and military build-up in Poland and other Baltic nations in order to deter what it calls Russian threats. Moscow is bitterly opposed to the alliance’s expansion at its doorsteps.

NATO troops make a massive amphibious landing off the coast of Ustka, northern Poland, during military drills in the Baltic Sea. ©AFP

“We have Anaconda coming up and the NATO summit in Warsaw, and here we have commanders, the captains of the ships, fleeing,” Kownacki said, without elaborating on the reason behind the resignations.

Former defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, described the atmosphere within the army as “very bad” and said “It’s just the beginning of the end.”

Local media speculate that the resignations may be in reaction to recent plans by new Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz to block promotions of military servicemen who joined the army prior to the disintegration of the former Soviet Union in 1991.

Protesters holding a national flag attend an anti government protest in Warsaw, on February 27, 2016. ©AFP

The new defense chief is believed to be on a crusade to stamp out all traces of the Communist-era in the government and the military amid tensions with Russia.

The development comes as the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) Party, which came to power in October 2015 after eight years in opposition, is facing criticism at home and abroad over a series of controversial reforms.

The PiS reforms grant the government more control over the constitutional court, state media and other institutions, a move that has also alarmed the European Union and prompted street protests.

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