Warsaw’s secret war against Moscow’s spies: Poland’s intelligence services have gone into overdrive to combat Putin’s covert assault
Sitting on the border of war-torn Ukraine, in the shadowy world of espionage Poland is fighting a secret war against Russian aggression.
Openly supplying President Zelensky’s soldiers with weapons and firepower, in the cloak and dagger world, Warsaw is covertly battling Moscow’s increasingly aggressive subterfuge.
The arrest last week of a spy network in Poland is just the latest in the country’s secret war against Russian intelligence since Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine.
The nine people were seized after agents from Poland’s Internal Security Agency, the ABW, found hidden cameras recording important railway routes for transferring weapons and ammunition to Ukraine.
Captured while secretly monitoring the shipments, according to Polish authorities, the spies were preparing to ‘paralyse the deliveries’, destabilise Polish-Ukrainian relations, incite hostility towards Nato countries in Poland, and attack the policies of the Polish government towards Ukraine.
Poland’s interior minister Mariusz Kamiński said: “The suspects had been conducting intelligence operations against Poland and preparing acts of sabotage ordered by Russian intelligence.
“The suspects had been getting ready to carry out sabotage operations designed to paralyse deliveries of equipment and weapons, as well as humanitarian aid to Ukraine.’
He added that ABW agents had seized cameras, electronic equipment and GPS transmitters which were to be installed on aid transports going to Ukraine.
Kamiński said: “The ABW has at its disposal evidence confirming that the suspects had been receiving payments from the Russian secret services.”
The hidden cameras were found near the small Rzeszow-Jasionka airport, less than 50 miles from Ukraine's border.
Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the airport has become one of the most important places for transferring Western weapons and ammunition.
The arrests come as the decade’s-old spy conflict between Russia and Poland has intensified since Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.
A few weeks ago, Poland’s security service minister Stanislaw Żaryn warned of Russia’s increasingly aggressive intelligence activities.
Revealing that nine other people suspected of collaborating with Russian and Belarusian services had been ‘detained in recent months’ he said: “Russia is looking for new opportunities to act against Poland.
“We are dealing with attempts to obtain sensitive information, including photographing credit cards or browsing the private telephones of Poles.
“All this is used to collect data on what is happening in Poland and what movements our troops are making.”
In January, it was revealed that two men from Russia and Belarus had been seized by Poland’s Military Counterintelligence Service on charges of spying for Russia’s GRU between 2015 and 2022.
Arrested in April last year, the Belarusian sleeper agent is said to have studied at university in the Polish city of Białystok before becoming a parachute trainer.
According to prosecutors, the contacts he made were then ‘used in his activities for the Russian military intelligence.’
The Russian, who was a member of historical reconstruction groups and lived in Poland for 18 years, is accused of using his contacts with Polish military personnel to help Russian intelligence.
Prosecutor spokeswoman Aleksandra Skrzyniarz said: “They carried out tasks consisting of identifying important elements of the Polish Armed Forces and obtaining information, in particular in the area of carrying out tasks by soldiers of the Polish Army in the area of the state border with Belarus.”
She added they had also been monitoring the number of “soldiers performing tasks in the region of the border and the structure of subunits, the use of specialist equipment by the Polish Armed Forces, the state of morale and operational capabilities, [and] the cooperation of military units stationed in north-eastern Poland with the troops of other NATO countries.”
The spying activity also involved obtaining information about the combat capability, morale and functioning of units, “including in times of danger, and then transferring the obtained information to the GRU intelligence service.”
Both men are still in custody.
A month after Russia’s invasion, Warsaw expelled 45 ‘Russian spies pretending to be diplomats’ and arrested another man suspected of espionage.
Security services minister, Stanisław Żaryn, said at the time that: “Forty-five individuals…Russian secret services officers and persons related to them enjoying diplomatic status in Poland were expelled.”
Accused of actions ‘designed to undermine the stability of Poland and its allies in the international arena and pose a threat to the interests and security of our country,’ interior minister Mariusz Kamiński added: “With full consistency and determination, we are breaking up the intelligence operations of the Russian secret services in our country.”
He added: “They were spies posing as cultural attaches or consular employees who were in fact seeking to recruit agents and transmit information back to Moscow.
“They were spies pretending to be diplomats.”
The day before the announcement, smoke was seen rising from the Russian embassy in Warsaw leading to speculation that staff there were burning secret documents.
Posting a photo on Twitter, the OSINTdefender account said: “Smoke can be seen coming from the Russian Embassy in the Polish Capital City of Warsaw, there are claims that Russian Diplomats are burning documents, the same thing was done at the Russian Embassy in the Ukrainian Capital City of Kyiv right before the Invasion of February 24th.
“This does not mean that Russian is Preparing to Invade Poland but it may be a sign that Russian Diplomats may be Preparing to leave the Country for some reason.”
The next day Żaryn revealed that one of the alleged Russian spies was discovered after a Polish man was detained the week before on suspicion of ‘conducting espionage on behalf of Russia.’
The man worked as an archivist in Warsaw’s registry office which gave him access to documents that ‘posed a threat to both the internal and the external security of Poland.’
He is suspected of providing copies of documents to Russian intelligence and of performing checks on specific people, including foreigners living in Poland.
According to Polish Radio Zet, the man had worked at Warsaw’s registry office since 2005.
Following the most recent arrests, Poland’s security services are now said to be searching for more cameras and GPS transmitters.
According to Polish radio RMF FM, this includes viaducts and and bridges on key routes leading to border crossing points with Ukraine as well as the eastern section of the A4 motorway in Podkarpacie.
On Monday, Żaryn said the nine suspects had not been operating for long in Poland.
He told the Polish Press Agency that the ABW had "found their trail sufficiently early to neutralise the greatest threat.
"For sure we are not dealing with an operation lasting since the start of the war, it started recently.
"We do not rule out that further arrests will be necessary because we are aware that the evidence in this case is huge; we are still analysing it and we will see where it leads the (security) services investigating the case.
”Certainly we are not treating this investigation as closed.”
Meanwhile, a former spy chief has called on people living in Poland to invoke ‘Britain’s WWII spirit’ and stay alert for spies and saboteurs working for Russia.
Grzegorz Małecki who was head of Poland’s Foreign Intelligence Agency, said that Poland was facing an increasing risk of ‘sleeper agents’ carrying out ‘acts of sabotage’.
The 55-year-old told Fast newspaper: ‘We can't put a policeman everywhere, because we don't have so many of them, but we have to count on the fact that every person concerned about the appearance of a stranger in their neighbourhood who behaves strangely, will react, pick up the phone and notify the services.
‘It's an old, proven way.
‘It was the basis of the British system that enabled the capture of German spies landing in the British Isles during World War II.
‘At the right moment, they were brought to the state authorities, and thanks to this, a very efficient system was created, which in turn allowed them to win the war.
‘All thanks to the participation of the public.’