Poland breaks up Russian spy network, says minister

NATO defence ministers' meeting in Brussels
Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak makes a statement on the day of the NATO defence ministers' meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 14, 2023. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

WARSAW, March 16 (Reuters) - Poland has broken up a Russian espionage network operating in the country and detained nine people it says were preparing acts of sabotage and monitoring rail routes to Ukraine, the interior minister said on Thursday.

An ally of Ukraine and hub for deliveries of weapons to Kyiv's armed forces, Poland says it has regularly found itself the target of Russian efforts to destabilise the country.

"In recent days, the Internal Security Agency has detained nine people suspected of collaborating with the Russian secret services," Mariusz Kaminski told a news conference.

The suspects were foreigners from countries to the east of Poland.

"The suspects conducted intelligence activities against Poland and prepared acts of sabotage at the request of Russian intelligence," he said.

Kaminski said six of the people detained had been charged with espionage for Russia and participation in an organised criminal group. Prosecution proceedings against three people detained on Wednesday were ongoing, he added.

"Internal Security Agency officers secured cameras, electronic equipment, as well as GPS transmitters that were to be mounted on transports with help for Ukraine," Kaminski said.

The group had also been ordered to carry out propaganda activities to destabilise relations between Poland and Ukraine, and they had been paid for their activities, he said.

Kaminski's statement came after private radio station RMF FM reported on Wednesday that Polish security services had detained six people suspected of spying for Russia. According to RMF, cameras were found close to the Jasionka airport near Rzeszow, which has become a transfer point for weapons and ammunition being delivered to Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda met with CIA Director William Burns. The president's office said they discussed the security situation.

Several European countries have expelled Russian diplomats for alleged spying since the war in Ukraine dragged relations between Moscow and the European Union to historic lows.

In February, a Russian citizen who has been living and conducting business activities in Poland for many years has been charged with spying for Russia between 2015 and April 2022.

Reporting by Alan Charlish and Marek Strzelecki, additional reporting by Karol badohal and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Angus MacSwan

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