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Conservatives aka Russia. How a Polish left-wing activist spins conspiracy theories.

Published: 24.04.2024

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Mysterious links, the Kremlin, Catholic fundamentalism – Polish pro-abortion activist Klementyna Suchanow continues her crusade against her country’s main pro-family, anti-abortion lawyers’ organization, the Ordo Iuris Institute.


Zuzanna Dąbrowska

Anti-abortion international under the Kremlin’s tutelage. We disclose e-mails of the group in which Ordo Iuris operates” – an article with this headline was published in March by the Onet portal. At the same time, a series of similar articles about other conservative and pro-life organizations on the Agenda Europe mailing list appeared in foreign media. The claims in Suchanow’s text are the result of cooperation between several European websites. In addition to Onet, these included the Swedish Dagens ETC, the Dutch De Groene Amsterdammer, the Croatian Novosti, and openDemocracy from the UK. The latter was funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. According to the 2022 donor list, the UK journalist collective received $1,255,000 for purposes such as “exposing threats to sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality”, “supporting investigations into money laundering and corruption in the UK”, and “supporting material on human rights, labour and economic and social issues in the post-Soviet space”, among others.

Christian values

The eponymous “anti-abortion international” is a contact and information network founded in 2013, comprising anti-abortion organizations from around the world. In addition to abortion, those involved in Agenda Europe opposed the sanctioning of ‘same-sex marriage’, as well as the affirmation of persons described as transgender. These issues, however, remained in the background. AE was initiated after a meeting in London attended by anti-abortion leaders from North America and Europe. Their aim was to set up a European think tank to promote Christian values. At the start of Agenda Europe’s operations, Peadar O’Scolai of the Irish organization Family & Life was said to have asked participants to identify “achievable realistic goals for the pro-life movement”, while Austrian conservative activist Gudrun Kugler was said to have stressed the need to “develop a pan-European team to promote Christian values”, noting that “there is no expert community in Europe to analyse current trends, develop answers, arguments, alternatives and definitions”. She pointed out that “the implementation of such complex issues is left to NGOs or legislators”, thus depriving Christians, still the majority (though often silent) in many countries, of a voice.

The left-liberal media became interested in AE in 2017, when documents were leaked as a result of a hacking attack on the Spanish NGO HazteOir. The hackers made them public through WikiLeaks. The documents included details of the aforementioned 2013 founders’ meeting, a list of social media experts the group intended to work with online, and a manifesto entitled “Restoring the Natural Order: an Agenda for Europe”. This drew the critical attention of journalists, to whom slogans like “natural order”, “traditional family” and “Christian values” are like a rag to a bull. If something is traditional, it must be fundamentalist, and that leads directly to the Kremlin – there is no other way. The mentality of “engaged journalists” such as Klementyna Suchanow does not allow for the possibility that not everyone who disagrees with the destruction of Christian civilisation is an “agent of Moscow”. Hence, the “unmasking” text about the Ordo Iuris Institute written by the pro-abortion Nationwide Women’s Strike activist begins with a strong blow. “We have become acquainted with the e-mails of anti-abortion groups cooperating with Russia and we know what they said about the women’s strikes. Among them, the extremely conservative lobby organization Ordo Iuris from Poland is very active, and more specifically, its then chairman Aleksander Stępkowski, today a judge of the Supreme Court, and its current chairman Jerzy Kwaśniewski”, it reads.


Deductions by an ideology-driven activist

Suchanow argues that Agenda Europe has been a tool in the hands of the Kremlin from the beginning, and more specifically of Vladimir Yakunin – a KGB officer and former acquaintance of Vladimir Putin – and politician and businessman Konstantin Malofeev, who has been subject to European sanctions for financially supporting separatists in the Donbass. The journalists were said to have accessed emails exchanged within a group that consulted on ideas and courses of action that allegedly served the Kremlin’s goals. Sukhanov writes of the “likely founders of Agenda Europe”. Listing names, she also mentions Aleksander Stępkowski – co-founder and former chairman of the Ordo Iuris Institute (he led it from 2013 to 2017 with a one-year break), currently a judge of the Supreme Court and also its spokesman.

What is symptomatic is that at the end of this list of “villains” the activist adds a short note indicating that this is only her “deduction based on various materials”. It is therefore important to bear in mind when reading the text that its claims are based on the deduction of a strongly ideology-driven activist who does not conceal her radical, left-wing views. “I have come from a country where abortion is not available at the moment. Abortion in Poland is almost impossible and women are persecuted. What’s more, our government is thinking of banning abortion for Polish women abroad as well”, she said during a UN forum on gender equality organized in Paris in 2021. Klementyna Suchanow outlined a vision of Poland as a police dictatorship. “People like me – I’m an activist and a writer – are watched and targeted by the police. I myself had to undergo a spinal surgery because of this. We lose our jobs, we have visits from the secret service. Our children are in danger”, she claimed alarmingly.

The author of This is War: Women, Fundamentalists and the New Middle Ages not only stressed the need to introduce almost unrestricted abortion in Poland, but also spread her theories about “fundamentalists” at the Paris forum. “Outside the government there is a network of strange pseudo-religious organizations. Let’s call them fundamentalists. They are united all over the world. They try to influence the politics of our countries. Women’s rights are not their only target. Their main intention is to establish new authoritarian democracies. They are trying to set up a hierarchy following the model of the Middle Ages”, Suchanow thundered. Earlier, in 2018, the activist had been detained by police after she tried to write on a building during a pro-abortion protest in front of the Polish parliament: “Time for the final judgment. off!” Asked in an interview whether this was not too harsh a slogan, she replied: “Since they are Catholics, they should off to the final judgment! It’s high time.

Suchanow is keen on connecting the dots so that they confirm her theories. For some media, she quickly became an expert on Russian influence in Poland. “Russia has had Poland worked out for several centuries and knows very well what works and what doesn’t work in our country. Let the Poles be Russophobic, we will get in there in a different way. And they got here with Mary”, she stated. According to the activist, the discussion on abortion is an outright war. “The front line of the ideological war we are talking about runs through the field of human rights, particularly the part that deals with women’s rights. In October 2016 Polish women stepped out to protest against a reprehensible law. It was a spontaneous repudiation of the mad initiatives, driven by fear for our own lives and those of our daughters. Only later did it turn out that it was more than just a protest, that in fact Polish women, by taking to the streets, took to one of the fronts of the great war being waged”, she said in 2020, even before the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling removing the so-called “eugenic motive” from the country’s abortion law. It is worth remembering that Russia is not a refuge of what we on the Vistula recognize as conservatism. “Polish and Russian conservatism are fundamentally different – Russian conservatism is collectivist (and not individualist, as in Poland), in Russia even conservatives are afraid to speak openly about the defense of conceived life, because abortion is almost inscribed in the mentality there”, wrote columnist and Russianist Maciej Pieczyński on the portal. Abortion in Russia can be performed without restriction up to the twelfth week of pregnancy (in cases of danger to the mother’s life, rape, death of the husband during pregnancy, or imprisonment, abortion can be obtained up to the 22nd week). The aggression against Ukraine has only fueled the pro-abortion trend – in 2022 Russian women purchased 60 per cent more pharmacological abortion drugs than in the year before.


Who is threatened by Ordo Iuris?

The question that is worth asking is whether a person with such clearly defined views as Klementyna Suchanow is capable of describing the activities of an organization with opposite goals in an objective manner, unclouded by her own views (which should be required of her, given that she is acting as an investigative journalist)? “The Ordo Iuris Institute, as a new quality on the Polish and European scene, bringing a combination of efficiency, professionalism and successful construction of independent financing thanks to thousands of friends and donors, has been singled out as a symbol of everything that is dangerous for the radical social and political revolution”, argues the chairman of the Institute, Jerzy Kwaśniewski, Attorney-at-Law, in an interview with Do Rzeczy. Referring to the article about Agenda Europe, Kwaśniewski stresses that it was in fact a “simple mailing list”. “An extremely useful tool a few years ago. As the only identified communication platform for conservative circles, it grew in the texts of left-wing activists to become something of a secret order. Meanwhile, when the occasional AE meetings were still held, they were open, and even Bart Staszewski [an activist from the LGBT community – editor’s note] signed up for the 2016 meeting in Warsaw”, points out the chairman of Ordo Iuris.

Jerzy Kwaśniewski stresses that Ordo Iuris could not have been a member of Agenda Europe because “it is difficult to consider being on a mailing list as membership”. “There was no such thing as ‘membership’ of AE”, he adds. Onet argues that “the AE forum is used to whitewash the actions of the Russian government and to spread the Russian ‘point of view’”.

According to Suchanow, there was a lot of emotion among Agenda Europe subscribers about the “Stop Abortion” citizens’ bill, which sought to remove the legal possibility of performing abortions due to an inborn genetic defect of an unborn child. The right to life of such children was affirmed by a ruling of the Constitutional Court in October 2020, which allegedly was enthusiastically welcomed by AE forum members. Klementyna Suchanow claims that Aleksander Stępkowski, as chairman of Ordo Iuris in 2015, “together with Malofeev’s man, Pavel Parfientev, planned to work together to develop provisions at the UN on access to sex education and reproductive rights”. The group’s administrator Gudrun Kugler, asked by journalists about the links to Russia, replied: “I am shocked to hear that the Russians used us.” She added that she did not think that “the attempts of the Russians to influence us at Google Groups were successful”. She also stated that the Russians “never played a key role in our group and rather quickly disappeared”.

Suchanow warns that “the fundamentalist agenda has penetrated the mainstream and is being pursued by the AfD in Germany and Vox in Spain, which are increasingly trying to embed themselves in the politics of their countries and also enter the European Parliament”. She then smoothly blends Russia with Hungary and PiS. “In this whole operation, a major role was played first by Hungary and then mainly by Poland – above all with the help of Ordo Iuris – becoming, with PiS, the forerunner of global legislative changes in line with Agenda Europe. And with Russia’s geopolitical goals”, she argues. What goals, allegedly in line with the Kremlin’s interests, does Agenda Europe want to achieve? This we do not know.

Jerzy Kwaśniewski points out that Klementyna Suchanow has been “sued for a series of lies about Ordo Iuris, promoted in her articles, books, interviews”. “This is a pool of a dozen or so made up and illogically linked alleged ‘proofs’ which, in various configurations, Suchanow has been constantly publishing for years under the heading of ‘new discoveries about Ordo Iuris’. Certainly, these manipulations are harmful to us and require the dedication of precious time that should be devoted to more important matters. The process, unfortunately, has been going on for a long time, and its end is not yet in sight”, he tells Do Rzeczy. The chairman of Ordo Iuris sees a coincidence in timing – the attacks by those labeling others as “Russian agents” intensified after the change of power in Poland. “In view of the cutting off of public funding for almost all conservative organizations, our independence means that Ordo Iuris has brought together many groups that had hitherto worked independently. Today, they need our support to survive, bringing in return the expertise and skills necessary to protect Poles from the chaos of lawlessness and ideological oppression by Donald Tusk’s government”, Kwaśniewski argues.


This article was first published in Polish in the Do Rzeczy weekly and in English on the website (Do Rzeczy´s English-language website).


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