Russia’s intelligence agencies established a network of “amateur” agents in Poland to carry out operations including sabotage, assassination and arson, the Washington Post newspaper reported in an article published on Friday.
The paper said that Polish intelligence agencies had cracked the network, consisting of Russians, Belarusians and pro-Russian Ukrainians who had been recruited in Poland, most probably by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency.
According to the article a key task of the network was to “disrupt a weapons pipeline through Poland that accounts for more than 80 percent of the military hardware delivered to Ukraine, a massive flow that has altered the course of the war and that Russia has seemed helpless to interdict, according to Polish and Western security officials.”
The newspaper wrote that Poland’s security agencies said that cryptic job listings had begun appearing on Russian-language Telegram channels in Poland at the start of this year and that Russia, unable or unwilling to rely on its own agents, decided to assemble a team of amateurs.
While the tasks were at first menial (posting fliers or hanging signs in public spaces) and the pay the meagre, for a handful of refugees from eastern Ukraine “the promise of quick cash was too good to pass up,” wrote the Washington Post.
In the following weeks, the agents, according to Polish investigators cited by the Post, started to carry out tasks such as scouting Polish seaports, placing cameras along railway lines and hiding tracking devices in military cargo.
Moreover, in March, they received “startling new orders to derail trains carrying weapons to Ukraine.”
According to the Polish authorities, “the foiled operation posed the most serious Russian threat on Nato soil since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine last year.”
Polish intelligence agencies, in interviews, pointed out that the chief motivation for the recruits was financial gain, rather than ideology.
Since the dismantling of the network earlier this year, Poland’s security services have gathered evidence has suggested that Russia has been planning other, deadly operations in Poland.
A representative of Poland’s domestic security service (ABW), who wished to remain anonymous, told the newspaper that the Russian spy agencies remain active in Poland. He warned that recruits had also been tasked with carrying out arson attacks and an assassination, but would not discuss the targets.
“This threat was eliminated, but the broader threat remains,” he added.
The article was based on interviews with over a dozen security service officers in Poland, Ukraine and the United States, as well as on information from documents, accounts of the suspects placed on social media, and interviews with relatives and associates of the arrested recruits.