President Lech Kaczyński caused fury among Russian politicians yesterday after he apparently suggested in an interview with Reuters that Poland may not drop its opposition to a new cooperation agreement between the EU and Russia unless the Kremlin accepts NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.

The comments were read in Russia as thinly veiled blackmail and an apparent departure from the policy adopted in recent months by Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski. (The matter lies within the remit of the government, not the President). Konstantin Kosachov, chairman of Duma`s Foreign Affairs Committee, said Poland will not succeed in using its status as an EU member as a `battering ram`". And Leond Słucki, its deputy chairman, said Kaczyński`s comments were short-sighted, had no grounding in international law and suggested that Poland treated Russia as an enemy". Polish diplomats in Moscow scrambled to contain the fall-out. But President Kaczyński yesterday afternoon denied he made the connection, saying it was "A misunderstanding." What he meant was that rushing the issue was not advisable. (Dziennik, p. 7; Gazeta Wyborcza, p. 7, Warsaw Business Journal).