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Warsaw denounces Macron for comparing Polish leader to Putin

Associated Press logo Associated Press 2/05/2017 By VANESSA GERA, Associated Press
FILE - In this Monday, Mach 13, 2017 file photo, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party speaks at a news conference in Warsaw, Poland. Poland's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, May 2, 2017 that French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron made an "unacceptable" comparison when he likened Poland's government to the "regimes" of Russia's Vladimir Putin and Hungary's Viktor Orban. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Monday, Mach 13, 2017 file photo, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party speaks at a news conference in Warsaw, Poland. Poland's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, May 2, 2017 that French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron made an "unacceptable" comparison when he likened Poland's government to the "regimes" of Russia's Vladimir Putin and Hungary's Viktor Orban. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File)

WARSAW, Poland — Poland's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron made an "unacceptable" comparison when he likened Poland's government to the "regimes" of Russia's Vladimir Putin and Hungary's Viktor Orban.

Macron made his remarks at a Paris rally on Monday while campaigning for the Sunday runoff election between himself and far-right nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen.

"You know the friends and allies of Mrs. Le Pen. These are the regimes of Orban, Kaczynski and Putin. They are not open and free democracies. Every day, freedoms and rules are violated there along with our principles," he said.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski is the chairman of Poland's ruling conservative Law and Justice party and the country's most powerful politician.

The ministry said it noted Macron's words with "regret" and that the centrist candidate used "unacceptable comparisons and mental shortcuts that lead to errors in public opinion." It also denied that Poland is an ally of Le Pen's.

"Let us stress that anyone who knows Poland's history and its internal political scene does not have the right to accuse the Polish people of warm feelings toward imperial Russia," the ministry said.

Hungary's government did not respond to Macron's comments, but Orban earlier this year said he supported the French conservative candidate Francois Fillon, who was eliminated from the presidential race in the first round.

Both Poland and Hungary have been strongly criticized by the European Union and international human rights organizations for consolidating power in a way that has eroded the independence of the courts, the media, and other institutions. Hungary's Orban has stated openly that he is building an "illiberal state."

Macron said last week that if he becomes France's president, he would press the European Union to impose sanctions on Poland, alleging the Central European nation disregards fundamental EU values. Polish government officials also criticized those comments.

Together, Macron's remarks could — should he win the presidency, as polls predict — further strain ties between France and Poland, the largest EU member in Central Europe. Relations are already troubled due to Poland's sudden cancellation last year of a plan to buy military helicopters from France-based Airbus, a deal valued at $3.5 billion.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that Orban's exact phrase is "illiberal state" not "illiberal democracy."

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