Central Europe Correspondent
Poland's Prime Minister, Jozef Oleksy, resigned last night after military prosecutors announced their intention to investigate allegations that he spied for Moscow for more than a decade. "In the name of reasons of state, I have decided to resign," Mr Oleksy said on Polish television. But he firmly reiterated his position that he is innocent.
Mr Oleksy, a former Communist, firmly denied the accusations, which centre around his long friendship with a former Russian diplomat who was simultaneously working as a colonel within the KGB.
In an interview published earlier this week, however, he conceded that the link had been "imprudent".
"I think I am guilty of a certain imprudence," Mr Oleksy told the weekly magazine Polityka. "I can see it very clearly now, but I did not see it that way at the time,'' he said.
The allegations against Mr Oleksy have dominated Polish political life since they first surfaced in a dramatic final week of Lech Walesa's presidency at the end of last year. According to the then interior minister, Andrzej Milczanowski, Mr Oleksy had passed information, including classified documents, to a KGB agent in Warsaw from the early 1980s until the time he became Prime Minister last March.
Mr Oleksy quickly confessed to having had a long association with the Russian diplomat Vladimir Alganov. But he denied any knowledge of Mr Alganov's KGB activities - or of having provided him with classified information.
For many Poles, the closeness of the relationship - regardless of whether any information was exchanged - has demonstrated a clear lack of judgement by Mr Oleksy. The centre-right opposition, spearheaded by the former President, Lech Walesa, has not surprisingly been baying for his blood. More worrying for the Prime Minister, many members of his own former communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) felt he should go.
"Mr Oleksy is being seen as a liability within his own party," said a Western diplomat, adding that many people regarded close contacts with Russian diplomats as having been "OK" until 1989, but not so afterwards.
A gleeful Mr Walesa yesterday said that in addition to Mr Oleksy resigning, the country should hold fresh parliamentary elections, not officially due until September next year.
Mr Walesa's successor, Aleksander Kwasniewski, another former Communist, has also indicated that early elections may be the only way out of this political crisis, which has almost totally eclipsed the first month of his presidency.