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Polish Official Lashes Out At Russia After Georgia Shooting

Security forces flank Polish President Lech Kaczynski and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili during their visit to a border area with South Ossetia.
WARSAW (Reuters) -- A senior Polish official has lashed out against what he called Russian "imperialism," a day after the presidents of Poland and Georgia came under fire near a breakaway Georgian province backed by Moscow.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the November 23 shooting, which occurred when a convoy carrying Georgia's Mikheil Saaskashvili and Poland's Lech Kaczynski drove near the de facto border between Georgia proper and breakaway South Ossetia.

Russia and Georgia, which fought a five-day war in August, have accused each other of provocation over the incident.

Kaczynski has also blamed Russian forces for the shooting.

"History teaches us that Russian imperialism is not content with just one stage. There's always another step. If you allow imperialists, there are always more countries in line," Michal Kaminski, an aide to Kaczynski, told Polish television. "Let's not deceive ourselves -- free Poland is somewhere on this list [of countries to be subdued], not so close for now."

Many Poles are deeply suspicious of Russia, which helped carve up their country in the 18th century and again dominated it during the communist period after World War II.

'Nowhere In The World'

Kaczynski, a conservative nationalist, emerged as Europe's most outspoken supporter of Saakashvili during the August conflict, traveling to Georgia to underline NATO member Poland's solidarity with the small ex-Soviet republic.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a political rival of Kaczynski, said he had ordered a detailed report to be drawn up on the shooting incident.

"Nowhere in the world can the Polish president be put at such risk," he told reporters during a trip to London.

After the August war, Moscow recognized South Ossetia and a second breakaway Georgian province as independent states, though most countries continue to regard them as Georgian territory.

In Warsaw, asked why he believed the gunmen were Russians, Kaczynski said: "If we approach a place where a group of uniformed men stand with weapons and then they start to shoot, then this is a good basis to say they were Russians. ... If I remember the sound correctly, this was the sound of Kalashnikovs."

Kaczynski repeated his view that the European Union, which recently began talks with Moscow on closer ties, was too soft toward Russia.

"Even if nothing had happened yesterday, the EU's stand on Russia will bring good neither to the EU, nor to the world, nor to Russia's citizens," he said.