US denies grant for Polish-based NGO alleged for Russian financing

The US State Department has changed its mind over plans to give a grant to a foundation led by Ukrainian activist Lyudmyla Kozlovsky and her husband Bartosz Kramek.

Ms Kozlovsky is head of the Open Dialogue Foundation which was to receive a grant of 18,000 USD from the US State Department for “education on the rule of law and independence of the judiciary”.

Polish public TV’s portal cited an unnamed US diplomat as the source of the story. However, the US Embassy in Warsaw has not made any official comment on the story.

Poland entered Ms Kozlovsky into the EU’s Schengen Information System (SIS) as persona non-grata in August 2018. The Polish counter-intelligence service expressed doubts about where financing for the foundation really came from, pointing the finger at sources in Russia.

Several EU states, including Germany and Belgium, ignored the alert and allowed Ms Kozlovsky to travel and stay on their territory. She is currently living in Brussels where this summer she was granted a five year Belgian residence permit which enables her to travel freely in the Schengen area.

The Open Dialogue Foundation is operating in her absence. It is continuing to focus on issues relating to the rule of law and campaigning against the current Polish government.

The Trump administration has not joined the EU institutions’ chorus of disapproval over Poland’s judicial reform. Therefore, it is not a surprise that the US administration should not wish to support an anti-Polish government NGO pushing this issue.

However, the US Ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, has been critical of the Polish government over attempts to deconcentrate media ownership and attitudes towards LGBT rights. The Trump administration was also critical over Poland’s defamation law and pressure from both the Americans and Israel led to Poland removing attempts to criminalise defamation against Poland’s good name for fear that this would be used to censor debate over Holocaust history.