Eighteen People Arrested in Poland for Allegedly Planning Sabotage

Polish authorities have arrested 18 people in the past six months on allegations of planning sabotage and other hostile acts under orders of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, showcasing Russia’s continued operations against NATO-aligned nations.

Russia’s Continued Espionage Operations

Those arrested include Polish citizens, Ukrainians, and Belarusians, with one having been involved in the alleged planned assassination of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. This plot was uncovered by authorities in April, with the accused allegedly planning to hand over important information surrounding the Rzeszow-Jasionka airport to Russians who are active in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war. This airport plays an important role in the ongoing war, acting as a key point of transfer for leaders entering and exiting Ukraine, while a number of military and humanitarian supplies pass through the airport, which is under the administered by US forces.

In another case of espionage, nine others were arrested in March 2023 after the group, which authorities allege was a organization of Russian spies, allegedly planned to sabotage railway lines into Ukraine, which are commonly used for the transfer of arms and munitions. The group planned to utilize a number of GPS devices in order to track the supplies entering Ukraine, likely in an effort to transfer the information to Russian forces for planned strikes against the critical supplies. Three of those arrested were Belarusian citizens, showcasing the country’s continued operations against the Polish government.

In May, Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced that three others were arrested for acts of espionage, with the Prime Minister claiming that Russia hired agents hailing from nations such as Ukraine and Belarus and were “sometimes from the criminal world.” Tusk described these acts of espionage as “beatings, arson, and attempted arson,” but failed to mention specifics regarding the three arrested.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk prior to a meeting with Slovakian Prime minister Robert Fico in 2016. (Photo – John Thys/AFP via Getty Images)

These cases showcase Russia’s continued efforts to impede military aid to Ukraine amid the conflict alongside their close ally, whom some consider to be a puppet, Belarus. Numerous reports detailing alleged cyberattacks conducted by Russian actors against Poland and fellow NATO members have surfaced in recent months, with Germany claiming in early May that a Russian hacker group targeted Germany’s defense and aerospace firms alongside the ruling Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), a claim that was corroborated by the Czech Republic, the US Department of State, and NATO. These attacks reportedly targeted “critical infrastructure operators” and a number of entities in several other NATO-aligned nations, including Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Sweden.

In Poland, the State News Agency (PAP) was the victim of two cyberattacks wherein hackers published a story claiming that the government would mobilize two hundred thousand military personnel on the first of July, leading the PAP to deny being the source of the report. The PAP quickly took down the report, only for the article to resurface again in a second cyberattack before being taken down again. Tusk claimed that the attack was conducted by a Russian hacker group, stating in a post on X that the attack “illustrates Russia’s strategy of destabilization on the eve of European elections.”

In another case of Russian espionage, last week a German Bundeswehr officer by the name of Thomas H was convicted of espionage and violating official secrets after supplying military intelligence to Russia, being sentenced to three and a half years in prison. The officer, identified as a captain, claimed that he only provided intelligence to Russia due to his fears that Germany’s support for Ukraine would formally bring the nation into the conflict. The captain’s defense team further stated that he had been radicalized through pro-Russian propaganda on online platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.

Russia targeted German officials again in late January, when discussions relating to Germany’s role in Ukraine were leaked by Russia following a technical blunder by a member of staff. The leaked discussion, likely intercepted by chance through widespread surveillance, focused on the delivery of weapons for Ukraine and a potential strike by the Ukrainian military on a bridge in Crimea. The participant dialed into a Webex meeting [a web conferencing program used by the German government] from Singapore, where it was likely intercepted by Russian intelligence through regular intelligence gathering efforts.

Poland’s Ongoing Struggle With Belarus

Poland is especially affected by these operations due to their shared border with Belarus, which Poland accuses of exacerbating the current migrant crisis by importing refugees from countries in the Middle East and Africa before forcing them to cross the border. In July 2023, following the spotting of an estimated 100 Wagner PMC soldiers, Poland’s Prime Minister at the time, Mateusz Morawiecki, claimed that the private military contractors may have planned to pose as border guards in order to smuggle migrants across the border in an effort to destabilize Poland.

Polish military police at the Polish-Belarusian border. (Photo – Reuters)

The border between the two countries remains volatile, with a knife attack severely injuring a Polish soldier near the village of Dubicze Cerkiewne on Tuesday after a migrant stabbed the soldier in the ribs through bars in the border wall between the two nations. The soldier remains in serious condition in the hospital. Following this attack, Tusk stated that Poland would continue to fortify the border, stating that the government would decide on a $2.5 billion dollar security project that aims to construct a number of professional military fortifications across the border next week.

“We have begun these works to make Poland’s border a safe one in times of peace and impenetrable for an enemy in times of war,” Tusk stated.

These attacks prove to be a continued example of Russia’s interests in shaping the political narrative across Europe and showcase the country’s continued operations in regards to limiting supply to Ukraine, either through the support of politicians who oppose supporting the war or through direct means such as intelligence gathering and acts of sabotage. Attacks have recently stepped up amid the upcoming European Parliamentary elections, which are slated to begin between the 6th and the 9th, and Russia’s opportunity to influence the campaigns of those sympathetic to Russia or wish to pursue a state of neutrality by limiting support for Ukraine.

Trent Barr
Trent Barr
Trent Barr is an Intelligence Analyst for Atlas News. He has years of experience and is trained in open source intelligence gathering. Trent Barr specializes in Latin American, German, and Vatican affairs while also holding an interest in Europe as a whole.


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