Last week the Polish government announced the thwarting of a terrorism plot that is worrisome in its audacity and in who was behind it. In a country with minimal experience of terrorism, the discovery of a sophisticated homegrown bomber seeking to decapitate the government by blowing up the parliament and the president has caused shockwaves and introspection.
The would-be bomber, Dr. Brunon Kwiecień, a forty-five year old research scientist at Krakow’s Agricultural University, fits few currently fashionable profiles. Neither a jihadist nor marginally employed or socially bereft, Kwiecień is married with two children, has a respectable income, and is reported to have been exceptionally interested in explosives since his youth. A skilled chemist popular with his students and considered unremarkable by his university colleagues, he came up with a truly audacious plot to blow up the Sejm, the Polish parliament in Warsaw, during a joint session where both houses, the president and the full cabinet would be present. As Kwiecień is reported to have conducted visits to Warsaw to select his targets, this appears to be more than the figment of a demented imagination.
The seriousness of the bomber’s intent was evidenced by the astonishing haul made by Polish police after Kwiecień’s arrest on November 9. Among the items seized were a dozen illegal firearms, some 1,100 rounds of ammunition, body armor of various types, several detonators (including cell phones triggers) and an amazing four tons of high-grade explosives—more than enough to flatten several city blocks—which the bomber had access to due to his job. There seems to be little doubt that Kwiecień had the technical competence to build the bomb, but his efforts to find collaborators fell short.
Drilling Beneath the Surface: Poland Hopes Shale Gas Will Free It From Gazprom - News - International
A gold rush is underway in Poland, where international energy companies are scrambling for the right to drill for shale gas. Poland’s government sees the extraction as a ticket to independence from Russia’s Gazprom, but some residents near the drilling sites are wary of the risks.
On the construction site in the northern Polish village of Trzebielino, bulldozers and graders drive around, and construction workers struggle to dig with their shovels in the icy wind. In the center of the plot is an apparatus, some 20 meters (66 feet) tall, which pumps water from the ground. Shale gas is thought to lie about four kilometers (2.5 miles) below the surface. Four different men approach this reporter. “No camera and no microphone, please,” they say.
Otherwise, the two Americans and two Poles — all employees of the gas company BNK Polska — say they have nothing to hide. “We respect the environment; we respect the Polish laws,” a man with sunglasses and a hood says in English. He says he is a “petroleum engineer,” but declines to give his name.
BNK Polska is a subsidiary of the California-based energy company BNK Petroleum, Inc. The company holds six of the 110 permits granted thus far for test drilling in Poland, the country with the largest shale gas deposits in Europe.
The estimated 5.3 trillion cubic-meter deposit of recoverable natural gas is stored between layers of argillaceous rock that is often also called shale. Of that, at best one-fifth is considered to be accessible, but even that fact has led to a gold-rush-like situation in Poland over the past two years. International companies including Chevron, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, as well as the national energy giant Polish Petroleum and Gas Mining (PGNiG) and some smaller local companies, are currently conducting test drilling in Poland in a “gas strip” stretching from the Gdansk region in the north, past Warsaw, to the southeastern part of the country.
A Possible Break from Gazprom
The Polish government is excited about shale gas because it represents a shot at energy independence. The country is currently one of the largest customers of Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, buying 10.25 billion cubic meters of natural gas from it last year alone. Gazprom’s opaque pricing policies related to Poland are a constant source of tension between the countries. The fact that the Kremlin-cozy company has delivered 7 percent less gas to the Poland since last Thursday, while Europe suffers from a record cold snap, hasn’t helped, either.