A Russian espionage network was deployed in Poland. However, thanks to its support for Ukraine, Germany has also become the focal point of the Russian secret services.
It was private radio station RMF.FM that first reported the deployment of a Russian spy network in Poland last week. Official confirmation came shortly after. “The suspects carried out espionage activities against Poland and also prepared sabotage actions on behalf of the Russian secret service,” said Mariusz Kamiński, Minister of the Interior of Poland.
According to available information, there are nine suspects from Belarus and Ukraine. “Russia likes to use ‘proxies’ for such actions, so not Russian citizens,” military and security expert Nico Lange explains to ZDFheute.
Are Belarusians and Ukrainians recruited?
The particular situation in Poland should not be trivial with this personal information. After protests against Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko, Poland has become a haven for thousands of Belarusians. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, about ten million Ukrainians crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border, of whom 1.5 million currently reside in the country.
These are citizens of two neighboring countries that are now part of everyday life in Poland and therefore have an advantage over the Russians. “Russian citizens would have noticed right away, so people with another nationality were being recruited,” a Polish expert told the newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
Espionage target railway lines
The suspected spies operated in the southeastern Subcarpathian Voivodeship on the Ukrainian border. There, the suspects are said to have spied on and documented the West’s arms shipments to Ukraine with the help of cameras placed on the railway lines. In addition, the Polish internal secret service ABW found GPS transmitters on the suspects that had to be attached to trains.
“Because of its border with Ukraine, Poland plays a central role in the West’s military aid to Ukraine. Particular focus is placed on the airport in Rzeszów, which has become a central hub for military support from the West,” explains military expert Lange.
The decisive factor is not only the proximity to the Ukrainian border – the city of Rzeszów is only 80 kilometers from here – but also the connection of the airport to the highway and railway network to Ukraine.
Knowledge gains uncertain for Russia
However, it is unknown what information the spy network uncovered in Poland was able to collect. “It is possible that the Polish internal secret service provided false information to so-called Russian agents during their investigation,” Lange said. It is also questionable whether the information they gather will have any effect on the Russian war.
In any case, military expert Nico Lange has his doubts. “The Russian Air Force does not have any dominance over the Ukrainian airspace. It cannot attack targets in the west of Ukraine either. Anti-aircraft weapons provided by the West have also ensured this. UAVs and cruise missiles cannot be used to attack trains carrying military goods,” said the expert.
Lange: Germany is not safe from espionage either
However, the claim of the Polish authorities that this spy group in Poland also prepared sabotage acts is explosive. “The GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, is already suspected of such attacks in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria,” says Lange, citing several attacks on ammunition depots in the two countries between 2011 and 2020.
A danger that Germany is not safe either. For example, in the fall of last year, drones made headlines at a Bundeswehr military training ground where Ukrainian soldiers were training. “All places in Germany where Ukrainian soldiers are trained, whether in the Bundeswehr or the US Army, have become the focus of Russian secret services,” Lange warns.
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