WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s former Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski came under fire Tuesday from the prime minister and political opponents over a U.S. magazine interview in which he allegedly said Russia’s president offered Poland the opportunity to jointly carve up Ukraine in 2008.
Sikorski, now the parliamentary speaker, was quoted as saying in Sunday’s issue of Politico Magazine that Russian President Vladimir Putin “wanted us to become participants in this partition of Ukraine.”
He said Putin made the offer to then Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Moscow in 2008.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, described Sikorski’s comments as false.
“First, we don’t know much about the work of this publication,” Peskov told Russian news website Gazeta.ru. “In general, this information seems like a fable.”
In a news conference on Tuesday, Sikorski was vague about whether he made those exact remarks to Politico Magazine and told journalists to refer to another interview he gave to a Polish media website. He said there that he didn’t hear Putin’s words firsthand, but stressed that they were treated in 2008 as “surrealistic” or a joke.
Later in the day, he held a second news conference where he said his memory had failed him in the interview with Politico Magazine and that the bilateral meeting between Tusk and Putin didn’t take place in Moscow, as he said earlier, but at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008.
Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, who’s in the same party as Sikorski, criticized him for dodging reporters’ questions on the issue at the first conference. Political opponents want him fired, saying there is no room in politics for what they called irresponsibility.
Kopacz said she expected Sikorski to directly answer reporters’ questions.
“I will not tolerate this kind of behavior. I will not tolerate this kind of standards that Speaker Sikorski tried to present at today’s (news) conference,” Kopacz said.