Approximately 12 out of the 16 operatives from the Russian intelligence network recently exposed in Poland, a joint effort by the Internal Security Agency (AWB) in collaboration with the Lublin prosecutor’s office, have been identified as Ukrainians. The Rzeczpospolita daily reported that some of them hold war refugee status in Poland. The Washington Post clarified this information, further substantiated by intelligence agencies, revealing that the youngest member is a 16-year-old Ukrainian recruit.
The remaining individuals consist of Belarusian students and a Russian national—a young hockey player who formerly played for Zaglebie Sosnowiec, a South Polish club.
“The extensive scope of this spy network, predominantly composed of Ukrainians, underscores a significant challenge for Poland. Our intelligence services were tasked with infiltrating the Eastern foreign community and closely monitoring this group’s online activities,” stated General Waldemar Skrzypczak, former commander of the Polish army’s ground forces.
Stanisław Żaryn, the government’s commissioner for information space security in Poland, drew parallels, stating, “There is a resemblance to the recruitment methods seen with jihadists in the past. This entails assigning progressively complex tasks at the behest of an anonymous source.”
Activities Spanning from Leaflets to Sabotage
“In the Subcarpathian region, a hub for aid-bound trains to Ukraine, Russian military intelligence (GRU)-recruited spies have deployed cameras along rail routes and devised sabotage strategies,” reported Rzeczpospolita.
“In March this year, the Polish AWB apprehended the initial nine members of the Russian intelligence network functioning in Poland. Subsequently, they uncovered more individuals, totaling sixteen,” detailed the Polish newspaper.
The revelation that Ukrainians played a central role in this group was first disclosed by The Washington Post. The newspaper also disclosed that the members were tasked with actions like disrupting aid shipments to Ukraine by derailing train sets.
The exposure of the Russian intelligence network within Poland transpired when a passerby spotted a camera lens in trees near a vital track section close to a bridge where trains decelerate. The camera, powered by solar energy, transmitted footage to GRU headquarters. Polish investigators identified the first operative through camera and phone recordings, which facilitated the identification of others, including the group’s leader.
Russia’s intention was to hinder the transit of weaponry through Poland, responsible for over 80 percent of the military equipment supplied to Ukraine, as per Rzeczpospolita’s estimate.
Concealing Ukrainian Majority to Avoid Tensions
Polish authorities concealed the fact that three-quarters of the network comprised Ukrainians, aiming to prevent the exacerbation of anti-Ukrainian sentiment. Interestingly, among those who fled Ukraine seeking refuge from the war were Russian intelligence agents who were supposed to operate within Europe.
“Russia wouldn’t let such an opportunity pass. Moreover, the AWB’s discovery is likely not the only network. I would estimate that there are several,” General Skrzypczak specified.
The Use of Novices by the GRU
“It’s a matter of cost-efficiency. With a lower risk of losing valuable intelligence assets, the GRU opted for amateurs,” explained Jaroslaw Jakimczyk, an independent intelligence analyst and journalist in Poland.
Instructions were conveyed remotely, with coordination directly overseen by a GRU officer in Moscow.
Beyond Financial Incentives
“A significant portion of Ukrainian refugees originates from eastern Ukraine, which coincides with our findings that the GRU-recruited spies are from these regions. This suggests that their cooperation wasn’t solely motivated by monetary gain, but also by shared origins,” Skrzypczak posited.
Żaryn acknowledged the complication of the spy group’s composition—foreigners who outwardly appear ordinary.
“There was no recruitment process. Instead, they sought individuals willing to carry out specific tasks for money, document the deeds, and receive further assignments,” Żaryn remarked. He admitted that some group members had recently arrived in Poland.
In light of Russia’s hybrid attacks on Poland, the situation is grave. The ABW is investigating, among other things, the Legionella-related deaths in Podkarpackie. According to General Skrzypczak, this aligns with the foundations of sabotage and subversion, which include contaminating water sources.