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Poland arrests 18 over half a year for suspected sabotage plans on behalf of Russia, Belarus

by Kateryna Hodunova and The Kyiv Independent news desk June 4, 2024 1:06 PM 2 min read
Illustrative purposes only: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko attend a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, in Saint Petersburg on Jan. 29, 2024. (Dmitry Astakhov/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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The Polish authorities have arrested 18 people over the past six months on suspicions of pursuing hostile activities or sabotage in collaboration with Russia or Belarus, Polish Interior Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said on June 3.

At least one of the suspects was involved in an alleged plot to assassinate Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, while 10 others were involved in planning various forms of sabotage, such as arson, across Poland, the minister said during a press conference.

Western intelligence officials have reportedly warned about increasing Russian sabotage operations across Europe.

The individuals who were arrested in recent months were Polish, Belarusian, and Ukrainian nationals, according to the Polish Internal Security Agency.

"We do not doubt that on the bidding of a foreign country, Russia, there are some people active who are ready to threaten the life, health, and property of the Polish citizens," Siemoniak said.

The minister noted that acts of sabotage could be a part of a bigger plan that includes cyberattacks, as well as pushing migrants in Belarus to cross into Poland and threatening the security of a country that has supported Ukraine during Russia's full-scale invasion.

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WTF is wrong with Russia?

In April, a joint operation by Ukrainian and Polish law enforcement agencies led to the detention of a Polish citizen who allegedly offered to Russia to assassinate Zelensky.

On his initiative, the suspect meant to spy on the security of the Rzeszow airport in Poland to help Russian intelligence services plan a potential assassination of Zelensky during the latter's visit to Poland.

The following month, a Ukrainian and a Belarusian man went on trial for their suspected membership in a Russian espionage ring.

The group was allegedly preparing railway sabotages in Poland in 2023 and monitored weapons and humanitarian aid transport routes to Ukraine. The men face up to eight years in prison.

Several other suspects have been arrested in recent months in Germany, Austria, and Estonia for allegedly spying for Russia or other forms of collaboration with Russian intelligence.

FT: Russia plotting ‘violent sabotage’ across Europe, intelligence agencies warn
Several high-profile incidents in recent weeks have put a spotlight on cases of attempted sabotage by people accused of working on the Kremlin’s behalf.

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